Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Turzai's party, and he'll cry if he wants to

Is this the reform the Tea Party was looking for?

Rep. Turzai proved to me yesterday what I have thought for a long time. Everything that he does is all about his power. It has never been about representing the people. He has always been looking to gain more personal power. He ran for Congress in 1998. He ran for State Senate in 2001. He ran for Lt. Governor in 2006. Now he has worked his way up at the State House and is the Majority Leader. Yesterday he told the Democrats that if you don’t play my way, I will punish you. Not only has he proposed ‘reform’ measures that would give the majority even MORE power, his proposed changes that would remove 10% of the Democrats from every committee.

When the Democrats took control of the House in 2006, they made sweeping reforms that would give every rank and file member more power. In fairness, this wasn’t just because The Democrats thought it was the right thing to do. This was due to a lot of outrage from voters and I would give the pay raise anger more credit for these changes than the Democratic Leadership in the State House. The sweeping reforms allowed any member to offer amendments on the floor of the House. After years of being closed out from any real legislative negations because they were in the minority, they gave the Republicans (and all House members) the ability to be more
involved in the legislative procedure through the amendment process. The changes led to a lot of amendments being proposed that bogged down bills and debate, but it gives more House members power instead of all the legislative power being in the hands of the Speaker and Majority Leader of the House like in the past.

So the minute the Republicans have control of the State House, after screaming about representation this past election cycle, they are going to take complete control over all the legislation that will be put on the House floor. This move raises questions about whether Mike Turzai and Republican leaders are ready to lead, or are too volatile to govern responsibly. If Republicans are so interested in good government and reform, why are they afraid to debate and vote on improvements to their legislation out in full view of the public? Republicans used the amendment process when they were in the minority the last four years, why do they want to limit the ability of the minority party to introduce amendments? What is Rep. Mike Turzai afraid of now? He has all the votes he needs to accept or reject amendments that are proposed. Offering amendments is the way that good legislation gets made better and silencing debate threatens to derail the democratic process.

Majority Leader Mike Turzai, three weeks ago (Jan. 4, 2011):

I do not fashion myself a clever person. I do not really care to do clever
procedural maneuvers. I would rather us have straightforward, civil policy debates to recognize the differences and then to let democracy take hold. You can vote "yes" or you can vote "no" and we still can be friends afterwards and we can still hold our heads high with respect to the citizens of Pennsylvania. That is how I hope to be as a majority leader, and I am looking forward to working with each and every one of you.”

So what did Mr. Turzai accomplish yesterday? Was he being a leader?

Picture from the November 8, 1998 Post-Gazette: "I'm just so sorry": Mike Turzai, the Republican candidate for Congress in the 4th District, chokes up at a staff meeting Oct. 23 as he apologizes to his friends and volunteers for letting them down.

Picture from the October 29, 1998 Post-Gazette: Turzai apologizes to U.S. Rep. Klink for misconduct by campaign workers. Candidates' trickery catches the eyes of opponent’s days before election. Mike Turzai finishes his apology to applause from his wife, Lidia, and supporters yesterday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

North Hills Elections - County Edition


Do you know anyone who is running for local political office in the North Hills? Please let me know.

When I started this blog my hope was to focus on local elected officials and local political races. While last year, the political process dictated that I focus on the Elections that were held in November that didn't include any municipal offices.

Here is the list of the political Elections at the county level in the North Hills for 2011:

County Executive

Current: Dan Onorato (announced he will not seek re-election)

Possible Challengers: Dems: Mark Patrick Flaherty, Rich Fitzgerald, Michael Lamb Rep: Jan Rea, Jim Roddy, Eileen Watt, Barbara McNees, Mary Beth Buchanan, Melissa Hart, Patricia Weever


Current: Mark Patrick Flaherty

Possible Challengers: Chelsa Wagner, Matt Smith, Nick Kotik, Valerie McDonald Roberts, Brian O'Malley, George Matta, Brenda Frazier

District Attorney

Current: Stephen Zappala

Possible Challengers: ?


Current: John Weinstein

Possible challengers: ?

County Council

At-Large (countywide, one Republican, one Democrat)


Current: John Defazio

Possible Challengers: ?


Current: Chuck McCollough

Challengers: Heather Heidelbaugh, Tom Baker

Council District 2

Current: Jan Rea

Possible Challengers: Sharon Brown, Brad Cline,

Court of Common Pleas [At least two seats will be up for election. The recently appointed judge (Michael Marmo) still must win during the next municipal election]

Current: Michael Marmo

Possible Challengers: Alex Bicket, Leah Williams-Duncan, Carolyn Bengel, Jeffrey Eisenberg, Joseph Luvara, Hugh McGough, Michele Zappala Peck, Jennifer Satler, Michael Sherman

Saturday, January 15, 2011

*UPDATED* Why does everyone want to be Allegheny County Controller?

With the almost announcement that Mark Patrick Flaherty will be running for County Executive no matter what decision Dan Onorato makes, a slew of candidates have been named as possible candidates for a position that doesn’t seem that desirable.

What does the County Controller do anyway? Here is the position according to the Allegheny County website:

The Controller is the chief elected fiscal officer of Allegheny County and provides general supervision and control of the County's fiscal activities.

The Controller has the responsibility to prescribe and maintain the accounting systems of the County and the authority to conduct audits of all County expenditures and offices. The Controller is the final, independent check on the fiscal activities of the executive and legislative branches of County government, as well as the independently elected row offices.

The Controller’s Office is comprised of the Accounting Division, Asset Management and Tax Lien Division, Auditing Division, Weights and Measures Division and the Information Systems Division.

According to the League of Women voters the county controller is paid a $65,500 salary.

I figured that based on the salary and perceived lack of ‘real’ power that this isn’t a position that people line up to run for. However, I have been proven wrong over the last few days.

Here’s the breakdown (so far):

Chelsa Wagner – Current State Representative from Brookline. She was just elected to her third term. This would be a cut in pay ($78,315 + per diems) so I’m not sure the motivation of what I think would be a step down. Maybe she is thinking about running for mayor. I think she would have some strong city support, but might run into the Wagner vs. Ravenstahl mess in the Primary.

Nick Kotik – Current State Representative from Robinson Township. He was just elected to his fifth term. He is considered a ‘blue dog’ Democrat. If they treat him the same way they treat Rep. Jason Altmire for being a blue dog, he will have a tough Primary.

George Matta – Perennial candidate. Seriously, what hasn’t this guy run for? He currently works at the Rivers Casino. He has served as an elected Controller before in Duquesne and also served as the mayor. He also was the Allegheny County Clerk of Courts (2000-07). He ran for State Rep. in 2006 against Marc Gergely and lost. I most remember Mr. Matta for his supposed racial slurs that he used to a Clerk of Courts employee a few years ago.

Valerie McDonald Roberts
- She is the manager of the Allegheny County’s department of real estate. Ms. McDonald Roberts is a former Pittsburgh school board and City Council member. She served as recorder of deeds before the county post was abolished with the consolidation of the county's row offices. In 2006, she ran for Lt. Governor and lost (I voted for her). She could also have some strong city support, and she has always impressed me as a candidate.

Matt Smith - Current State Representative in Mount Lebanon. I am a big fan of Matt Smith and believe he is the right guy for that State Rep district in that area of the county. He won his seat during the 2006 pay raise election. The incumbent (Tom Stevenson) lost in the Republican Primary to a 21 year old extreme right wing nut. Matt Smith appears to do well with the Moderate Republicans in his district.

Brenda Frazier - Former two and a half term Allegheny County Councilwoman. Resigned from council to run for State Representative in the 21st District, but came up just short in a three way race with Dom Costa and Len Bodack. (h/t Jon Delano)

Brian O’Malley – He is a former Richland Township Supervisor and former President of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County. He is planning on running for District Magistrate, but I was told that he mentioned to North Hills Democratic Committee members that he was interested in running for County Controller if the magistrate district is eliminated (as it looks will happen).

I emailed Mr. O’Malley about his plans and this was his response (the whole email was a little long, so I edited it):

Thank you for contacting me about my interest in running for Allegheny County Controller. As of right now I am focused on fighting to save the magistrate district that I was planning on running for. (He went on with his reasons for why they shouldn’t cut the district)…

The position of County Controller is something I have long been interested in and would not rule out a possible candidacy at this point due to the uncertainty of my magistrate campaign. I have a well-rounded background that makes me uniquely qualified for Allegheny County Controller. I have a history of fighting for fiscal responsibility of tax dollars by voting for a multi-municipal merger of our police department and helped to make changes to a proposed municipal building that saved Richland Township taxpayers over a million dollars. One of the main components of the County Controller’s job, that is often ignored, is the inspection of weighing and measuring devices. I have hands on experience with weights and measures. I worked for four summers as a scale technician for an industrial scale company…

I was a fan of Mr. O’Malley while he was on the Richland Township Board of Supervisors. He has some support in the North Hills, but that doesn’t do you much good in a county wide Democratic Primary.

I’m sure more names will come out of nowhere over the next few weeks.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New North Pittsburgh Politics Contributor

As the municipal election of 2011 kicks off we have some exciting news here at the North Pittsburgh Politics blog. We now have a 'West View Ross Junior Correspondent.'

The Ross Renegade has just joined this blog as a occasional contributor. The Ross Renegade will focus on Ross Township, the North Hills School District, and other North Hills political topics.

I am glad to welcome another contributor to this blog. Together we will be able to cover more local government happenings in the North Hills.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hampton School Board appoints newest member |

Hampton School Board appoints newest member |

Is Dan Onorato going to seek a third term?

I've heard rumors that Dan Onorato will announce his decision about re-election at 2PM this afternoon. Everyone has opined that Mr. Onorato will not run for Executive and will focus on running for Auditor General in 2012.

My opinion is that Mark Patrick Flaherty would not be running for Executive unless he was sure that Onorato would not seek re-election this year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

From the Post Gazette: Courts announce DJ closings

Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel has proposed elimination of three district court positions.

She will petition the state Supreme Court to eliminate the offices now held by Judges Ross C. Cioppa, whose district includes Braddock, Rankin and Swissvale; Nathan N. Firestone, whose office covers two wards in Pittsburgh; and Regis C. Welsh Jr., who covers Pine, Richland and Hampton.

They are all leaving office at the end of this year because of retirement.

The move comes in response to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille's request for a 10 percent statewide reduction in magisterial district courts because of state budget problems.

Judge McDaniel also is proposing changing the boundaries of 14 district court jurisdictions to accommodate the closings.

Congratulations to the citizens of Braddock Borough, Richland Township, Hampton Township, Wilkins Township, Braddock Hills Borough, Swissvale Borough, Ward 28 in the City of Pittsburgh, and Rankin Borough. You have just been assigned a magistrate and won't have the ability to vote for or against your newly appointed magistrate during the next municipal election. In some cases there won't be an election until 2015.

Every politician that is appointed to what is normally an elected position in Pennsylvania has to run for a full term by the next possible election. The exception is when the court system decides to take the power of the vote away from a few municipalities as has been done with this decision.

Is this what the Tea Party wanted when they were asking for less government? For the Government to make decisions to take away the average citizen's ability to elect community leaders?

Special Thanks

Just wanted to give a special thanks to those in the blogger community that have added us to their blog roll over the past year.

PG Early Returns


North of the Burgh

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dear Republicans, Congressman Jason Altmire is a Healthcare Hero

I don't try to hide how much I respect Congressman Altmire. The most admirably trait of Congressman Altmire is how much he cares about representing the complex 4th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. During the healthcare debate Altmire was attacked by the extremes of both side and insisted on taking the time to actually wait for the bill to be released and listen to as many constituents as possible before he made his vote. Congressman Altmire has repeatedly said that the 4th Congressional District was overwhelmingly against the so called 'Obamacare' and that was one of the main reasons for his no vote.

My opinion on the healthcare bill is as such. We need healthcare reform on two fronts:

1. We need to bring down the cost of healthcare. The cost is breaking the backs of small businesses and our governments at every level. Healthcare costs are being spent on paperwork and executives instead of true care.

2. We need fair coverage for all that will not bankrupt our Medicare/Medicaid spending and overall government spending.

While the Democrats ran on the platform of going after both fronts of the healthcare battle, at some point they decided one was better than the other. My opinion is that this move was made to appease the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies because all the healthcare bill did was shift the cost to the government. So instead of attacking the biggest healthcare problem facing our economy and small businesses everywhere, the White House and Democratic leadership said we'll try to pull the moral card in the press and just say we are covering everyone!

This didn’t work because unless someone had a personal experience with not getting healthcare coverage or someone close to them (that they don't judge negatively as lazy) that has had an issue with not having insurance the regular citizen isn’t going to (as Bill Clinton would have said) "feel your pain."

So Congressman Jason Altmire made the right decision by doing his job and trying to fight for deficit reducing measures to be included in a healthcare law. At the end of the day, not only did the healthcare bill add billions of dollars to our debt, but the 4th Congressional District didn't want it passed. Congressman Altmire did the right thing by representing the constituents that he serves and not the party he belongs too.

What did Congressman Altmire get for this thoughtful concept of governing for the people and from the middle? He got a lot of right wing candidates that said he was just pandering and Altmire didn't do enough. To me the only issue any Rothfus supporter had was about voting against anyone with a dreaded D next to their name.

“Altmire can say that he voted against it, but he did not stop the agenda,” Rothfus said.

Rothfus says it's not enough that Altmire didn't vote for President Barack Obama's health care law

Even though Mr. Altmire didn't vote for the health care bill, Mr. Rothfus said Altmire should have been more forceful in his denunciation of the bill instead of sitting on the fence for so long.

Although he did come to the right decision, he shouldn't have sat on the fence as long as he has," Ms. Buchanan said. "People in the district have been clear they are opposed to 'Obamacare.'

Keith Rothfus: “Jason Altmire needs to say no to the new packaging of this old plan. We need to provide more options for health care coverage, including interstate marketing of insurance, tax fairness for individuals who buy their own insurance, and tort reform. We do not need a rehash of the legislation that was overwhelmingly rejected less than a year ago.”

So to my Republican neighbors and friends that tell me that Congressman Altmire is just a lapdog for Pelosi (FYI - He didn't vote for her as Minority Leader) and all the other hypocritical right wing talking points you are spewing, remember that according to Sean Hannity Congressman Altmire is a healthcare reform hero and a GREAT AMERICAN. (Altmire clip is around 1:20)