By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
Finally, an elected official has gone on the record concerning the order by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille that the seat now held by retiring Magisterial District Judge Joseph Solomon be abolished at year’s end as a cost-cutting move.
It’s about time. In a Patriot News article, State Rep. Ron Buxton, D-Harrisburg, states, “The timing of the whole situation stinks.”
And he’s right. It stinks. The order to shut Solomon’s office, which covers the midtown and downtown areas of Harrisburg that includes the state Capitol Complex, came towards the end of the primary election. Not only did the Supreme Court’s order cause substantial disruption to a legal, ongoing, officially-called electoral process, it infringed upon my constitutional and statutory rights.
That’s why I decided to file a federal lawsuit, alleging violations of my rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Joining me in Goodwin v. Castille et al, filed in U.S. Middle District Court, are my former opponents, Roy E. Christ, Jr., Ronald G. Chapel, Leonard J. Lemelle, Jr., and Lynette Paszek. Chapel and Lemelle are also alleging violation of their rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
We’ve joined together in the fight because all of us were denied the right to seek the office by order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on April 15 that dissolved Magisterial District 12-1-03 and cancelled the primary election for which we had qualified as candidates.
Named as defendants are Ronald D. Castille in his official capacity as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and the Dauphin County Board of Elections.
We seek relief in the form of a special primary election with the winners to be placed on the general election ballot in November. We also seek the court to enjoin Chief Justice Castille from eliminating the position for a period of six years.
Our suit alleges the Supreme Court’s eleventh-hour cancellation of the election without re-assignment of the voters of the district to surrounding judicial districts denied to all residents of the district the right to seek the position of magisterial district judge in any surrounding district to which they might have been assigned.
In addition, our suit contends the Supreme Court has eliminated the voting right of a large bloc of the African-American voting population by its order. We allege that by failing to re-assign such disenfranchised voters to another magisterial district, the Court has unfairly discriminated against this population.
Additionally, our suit addresses the fact that while African-Americans within Magisterial District 12-1-03 have been denied a right to choose the district judge of their choice, their white counterparts in other parts of Dauphin County outside the City of Harrisburg have not been so affected.
For example, the office of District Judge Robert V. Manlove, who retired in 2009, has been allowed to remain open without a permanent replacement, leaving some to wonder if the court truly wanted to save money then why wasn’t this office permanently eliminated. Manlove was the Magisterial District Judge for the Camp Hill, Lemoyne and Wormleysburg judicial district, a predominately white neighborhood.
Even so, Dauphin County President Judge Todd A. Hoover believes the decision to abolish Judge Solomon’s office a good one, although Solomon has called the closure ruling a “travesty” because no plan to redistribute his district is in place.
“We will save about $850,000 a year by closing that office,” Hoover told the Patriot News. “His was the right office to close.”
There are two huge errors here. First, the operating budget (which includes all salaries, wages and benefits) for Solomon’s office in 2010 was approximately $500,000 while revenue was approximately $900,000. That is a $400,000 “profit.” In prior years the “profit” was as high as $650,000. Thus, the notion of saving $850,000 is ludicrous. How can you save $850,000 when it only cost $500,000 to operate?
Secondly, despite knowing of the pending retirement since Oct. 8, 2010, the president judge did nothing to prepare for the closing. The first step wasn’t taken until April 15, 2011 and there is still no known plan as to how to distribute the existing cases.
While Castille has ordered the county court to devise one for the state court consideration, Hoover said work on a plan is under way, but didn’t know if redistricting could be instituted before the November election. As this column goes to press, there is no plan in place.
The First Amendment, as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right of the people to vote. An election, once called and for which candidates have qualified for ballot placement, cannot be cancelled without impairment of the electorate’s First Amendment right to vote.
If the state court wants to close district judge offices statewide, it needs to do it legally. It should not violate my constitutional rights or interfere with the election process.
The filing of the federal lawsuit is not about the “job” the “money” or the “budget.” It’s about closing the office and redistricting before the electorate nominated candidates. It’s about allowing the electorate to choose their judge in its new magisterial district. It’s about disenfranchising a large segment of African-American voters.
In the end, it’s about the right to vote. . .a right many Americans have died to protect.
It’s official. The state Supreme Court has issued an order to close District Judge Joseph S. Solomon’s office, which serves sections of Harrisburg’s downtown and midtown, at the end of the year. And in doing so, Pennsylvania’s highest court has denied six hopefuls the chance to become a magisterial district judge.
As one of those vying to become Solomon’s replacement, I saw my political career disappear in a New York second. As fast as I could say, “Jack Rabbit,” my political career ended. One minute I was delivering campaign literature, erecting yard signs, and knocking on doors, and the next, I was sitting on my living room sofa, watching TV and pigging out on junk food. Talk about a flash in the pan.
Before I filed my papers, garnered signatures and paid my filing fees, there had been rumors that the office might be closed. The Dauphin County Election Bureau even posted a notice on its web site warning hopefuls about the uncertainty regarding the office’s fate. But with no official ruling from the Supreme Court, the election bureau still accepted nominating petitions for the seat for the May 17 primary.
Even though I had been warned that the position might be eliminated, I had hoped the office would be spared. Why would Solomon’s office, which generated roughly $400,000 a year from fines and other costs, be the one destined for closure? It just didn’t make sense. And the fact that no other midstate district judge posts were on the chopping block just made the whole idea even more remote.
Last year, Dauphin County President Judge Todd A. Hoover confirmed that the option of closing magisterial district offices was on the table. Caseloads, relocation difficulty and other issues would be under consideration by Judge Hoover in making a recommendation to the state Supreme Court.
His review was prompted by a request from Chief Justice Ronald Castille, who asked president judges to take a look at their district courts to determine which could be eliminated through retirements or vacancies.
At the time, Art Heinz, a spokesman with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said the state was looking to close about 10 percent of its 550 magisterial district offices–or about 50 statewide. Reviews of the offices were being conducted by president judges, and the remainder through a mandated process triggered by the 2010 Census.
“When you don’t have enough money and you keep adding judges, you run out of money and that’s where we are now,” Heinz said.
For each magisterial district eliminated, Heinz said the state would save the judges’ salaries, averaging $78,000 a year, along with benefits and office expenses. Cases and staff members would be reassigned to other offices. With Judge Solomon’s annual caseload over 12,000 civil and criminal cases, I still held out hope. I continued to campaign. I invested in campaign materials, a website, and spent a large amount of time getting to know the voters in my district.
On April 19, I received a letter in the mail telling me that the entire office was off the ballot. I would not have the chance to be elected judge. Judge Jackie was not to be. So much for “A GoodWin for Justice.”
The decision to close Judge Solomon’s seat bars those of us who live in the city’s 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 12th Wards from voting for a district judge in this year’s elections. With the district judge seat removed from the May 17 primary, we will now have our judge picked for us by those who live and vote in other districts.
While the fact that I am now part of a large group of disenfranchised voters is distressing in its own right, I am troubled that there was no forethought as to how the district would be divided among Harrisburg’s four other district offices before the court order was issued. In addition, the timing of the announcement should have been made before the filing period began.
I am also disturbed at the lack of voter outrage in Harrisburg over the decision to close the office. In other areas of the state, opponents of the decision to close magisterial district offices have been quite vocal.
One of those urging that a magisterial district court office be kept open is Mayor of Braddock, John Fetterman.
Unlike Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson who has been mute on the subject, Fetterman has repeatedly spoken out against eliminating the local office of District Judge Ross C. Cioppa, describing the decision as an unfair burden to Braddock, a former steel town straining to get back on its feet.
“I think it’s important to maintain the office in this area,” said Fetterman. “It’s important to know the neighborhood, it’s important to know the context, and it’s important to know the people.”
In retrospect, with state government services on the guillotine all over Pennsylvania, it really was no surprise that the state judiciary — faced with a possible $17 million deficit – decided to eliminate Solomon’s office. And the fact that Judge Solomon had announced that he was planning to retire at the end of the year probably made the selection process that much easier.
The state Supreme Court looked at eliminating only magisterial district judges because the number of common pleas courts judges is set by the state Legislature, and therefore, cannot be reduced. But the number of magisterial district courts is set by the state Supreme Court and can be changed.
Even though there’s no recourse to overturn the decision, a public comment of support to keep the office open by our local officials would have been nice. To date, no one has stepped up and uttered a complaint. And that to me, is a big disappointment.
By Deena C. Malley
This year’s budget began with an exciting, technological bang. Governor Corbett unveiled his proposal with an online dashboard where any taxpayer, anywhere in Pennsylvania could go to a website and take a look at the details by general fund, program or agency.
The rainbow colored pie charts are dazzling.
Then there are the reports. The options are bountiful. They even come complete with historical data. They are enough to make any analyst or policy wonk drool over the blinding blizzard of numbers.
The dashboard does have a few imperfections but overall it is an admirable start at presenting data with a meaningful use. It also goes a long way toward creating a window of transparency into a process that has traditionally only been privy to an anointed few.
While it is a good first step, this dashboard is at risk for falling into what is referred to by the technology community as flash and dash. Flash and dash is a generally derogatory phrase used to describe a dashboard that was created for the sole purpose of a dog and pony show presentation designed only to impress executives and make a sale.
The flash and dash is always disappointing because a big effort goes into creating them but their usefulness quickly dissipates pretty much as soon as the sales execs get their commissions.
Not all dashboards fall prey to this sentence of being locked away in a digital archive and neither should Governor Corbett’s.
In this age of analytics and comparative analysis, dashboards play a big role. Consumers use comparative data analysis every day. Whether it is booking an airline ticket or shopping, who does not relish at using sites such as shopzilla.com or farecompare.com to find the best deal. Heck, even Captain Kirk is a priceline.com negotiator.
We are all bargain hunters at heart. These sites give us data dashboards to compare leading companies so we can pick our best price.
Now that our governor has started Pennsylvania down the dashboard path, the application needs to go further and think bigger.
Be prepared. This next idea will be a boat rocker in the halls of the state capitol.
Why not have the governor and all four caucuses submit their budget proposals, including any amendments to a real-time, online dashboard.
Think about it for a second.
At any given time, taxpayers could see line-by-line the differences in what is being proposed. They could do their own comparisons, draw their own conclusions, and make their own decisions.
No more waiting for newspaper articles or press releases giving us the writer’s view and opinion of what is important. There are many budget items that are over looked and under reported year after year.
All the proposed numbers just a click away.
From a technology standpoint, it would be easy to do. All of these budgets are created in Excel spreadsheets or similar programs so it is just a simple data extract and comparisons of matching fields. In the world of IT, it would be a cake walk for a good programmer.
So why not do it? Why not step out of the budget box and let taxpayers have more than flash and dash.
See fraud and waste in Philadelphia? There’s an app for that. City Controller and former House member, Alan Butkovitz, unleashed Philly WatchDog. iPhone and iPad users can go to iTunes, download it for free, and begin cleaning up government.
Provide a description of the abuse of tax dollars, upload a photo or video, or use the GPS feature to pinpoint the exact address of the maleficence and it sends the report directly to the fraud unit for investigation. At a touch of a button, and you’re on the Controller’s hotline.
Critics are already calling this application a waste of taxpayer dollars on frivolous technology. Philly Clout reported it cost $5,400. Unions are also reported not to be fans.
At the heart of the appeal for this type of digital government is the power it gives citizens to directly communicate with public entities. There is also a feeling of empowerment of being part of saving taxpayer dollars and cleaning up government. Most of all, behind every download is a person who thrives on instantaneous connection and will expect quick responses without bureaucracy or middle men.
While Philly WatchDog is one of the first of its kind in the nation and certainly a new innovation for Philadelphia government, more of these applications will be expected from citizens.
State government needs to start changing meet citizens where they live – virtually. They want information fast. They want to interact. They want answers in real-time.
They do not want to pick up the phone and go through a hellacious maze of options. They do not want to go to a website, print a .pdf form, fill it out by hand and mail it in. They do not want to be confined to processing only on weekdays from 9 to 5.
Government must be ready to move. This is one of those rare moments in time where public entities have the opportunity to prove they are really about serving the needs of their citizens instead of reacting to their complaints.
The rapid adoption of smartphones and tablet technologies should be sounding an alarm for every person involved with technology implementation the time for change is now.
Of course, the state is in a budget crunch but there is still a lot of money being spent on information technology projects. To help defray costs and bring fresh ideas to the table, the state could also sponsor a program like Code for America to get technology professionals to contribute their talents to the greater public good.
Code for America helps cities who need to reduce administrative costs and engage citizens more effectively through web-based solutions to become more transparent and collaborative. Cities are then paired with a tech-savvy, civic-minded development team of individuals who are serving through an 11-month fellowship program.
It is time to let the dogs out and let the best of tech serve the rest.
A recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article quoted House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, and a spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, both saying that they are looking into consolidating duplicate printing services done between the two chambers.
If it comes to pass, it could potentially be a big savings for taxpayers. It will also address one of the items listed in the May 2010 grand jury report that talked about partisan operations in the state House.
Both Smith and Dermody should be commended for taking this first step of business process improvement. Share services are always a good thing and save money in virtually every business around the globe.
We taxpayers need the state to save every penny they can get their hands on.
While this is an exciting step in the right direction, there is that really nagging issue of root cause analysis. Sure the shared services model of consolidating printing operations solves the obvious problems of duplication of services and cost of two separate staffs but it does not get to the heart of the real issue.
To get to the real issue, the question has to be asked. Why is all this printing going on in the first place?
All across the Commonwealth too much printing is still going on for this modern digital age. This may seem trivial but each piece of printed material that is handed out or mailed is one more nail in the state’s coffin of being forever buried in a paper world that is rapidly disappearing.
The state needs to take that leap once and for all and go entirely digital. I have heard all the reasons why this will never work. My favorite one is not everyone has access to a computer. That raises a big old red flag to me and only furthers every reason in the world why we need to do this.
For every citizen that does not have access to technology is a person that we, as a state, have just locked away and forever disenfranchised. Being able to get on the internet is a crucial necessity to be connected to the global economy. It enables education, provides access to more books than the Library of Congress could ever hold, and it is a must for finding a job.
Do not say it cannot be done or you need these mailings to reach constituents. For years, Senator Jeff Piccola used to send me a printed newsletter every three or four months. He has gone digital in recent years and today his beautiful newsletter pops up in my InBox every two weeks or so. Not only can I read about his initiatives but the online newsletter gives me access to his upcoming events, links to more information and a way to instantly interact with his office. If I have a question, it is answered within hours. Much better response time and better constituent service all the way around.
If all this printing is going on because people do not have access to technology, fix that problem. In the end the savings across the board will be astronomical. More importantly, it will set a higher bar for our citizens.
This legislative session, the often-criticized (and, for the most part, deservedly so) Electoral College system will be coming under scrutiny in Pennsylvania under legislation that would change the way the state’s electoral votes are allocated. This could be Pennsylvania State legislature’s chance to withdraw from the outdated process in which we pick our chief executive.
Under the current system, Pennsylvania’s electors, as in most states, are committed to voting for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. The measure would have Pennsylvania commit its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
The current Electoral College method for choosing the president is flawed because it can result in a candidate winning the presidency without winning the national popular vote. That’s because most states’ electors are committed to casting their ballots for the candidate who the wins the most votes in their state. This allows candidates who win key large states to collect enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency, even if they don’t win the national popular vote.
The Electoral College itself was born of cynicism. One of the reasons it was put in place by the framers of the Constitution was to serve as a mechanism to safeguard against upstart, rabble-rousing candidates from the distant rural reaches of the young, vulnerable republic creating political bedlam. Electors were meant to ensure that only “proper” candidates could ascend to power. You might say it was an effort to rig the game.
Each state now gets as many electoral votes as it has representatives in Congress. Pennsylvania, for example, has 21 electoral votes, and whoever wins the most votes in Pennsylvania gets all 21.
But the outdated system has morphed into something else. Now, a presidential candidate needs to win only 10 states to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. That’s why presidential hopefuls practically live in places like Florida, Ohio, Illinois and California. Doing away with the Electoral College would, in theory, change all that.
The National Popular Vote bill has already made significant progress. It has been enacted by six states and the District of Columbia with over a quarter of the electoral votes needed to bring the new system into effect. To date, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington, and the District of Columbia have embraced the idea.
The concept is a fascinating idea, for it would eliminate the archaic process that, in effect, prevents the American people from voting directly for their president.
It would also eliminate the specter of electing a president who did not win the popular vote. It’s been over a decade since George W. Bush came in second to U.S. Sen. Al Gore in the popular vote but took the White House after a disputed Florida outcome gave him an Electoral College victory. Bush also won the popular vote over U.S. Sen. John Kerry by more than 3 million votes in 2004. But if 60,000 Ohioans had switched their votes from Bush to Kerry, Kerry would have won the Electoral College and the presidency.
Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. It would no longer matter who won a state. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote would be counted for and assist the candidate for whom it was cast – just as votes from every county are equal and important when a vote is cast in a Governor’s race. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.
Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio did in 2004.
The national popular vote initiative is long overdue. Now legislatures have the chance to make presidential elections even more democratic by agreeing to give their electors to the winner of the national popular vote, effectively negating the unfairness of the Electoral College. Let’s hope Pennsylvania joins the bandwagon.
How many bloody Gs are there? Ozzy Osbourne wanted to know in his Super Bowl commercial with Justin Bieber. Apparently, he isn’t alone.
At a recent House Consumer Affairs information meeting, Rep. John Payne asked a panel of wireless industry experts the burning questions: What is a G? How do I know if I have a good G? Is 3G better than 4G or should I wait for 5? How many Gs will there be?
With all the knowing nods from other committee members and the big smile on Minority Chairman Joe Preston’s face, Payne was not alone on this crazy train.
Panelist Gary Horewitz for Sprint’s government affairs cleared the air and explained a G stands for generation. In the wireless world, a G is a marketing term that has come to mean an individual company’s product has achieved the next iteration of innovation.
There are no industry standards for Gs. Therefore, a G from Sprint is different than T-Mobile’s G, which is different from the Gs offered by Verizon or AT&T. Each company has its own standards for upping their G and defining what constitutes the next level. One thing the wireless panel representing Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all agreed upon is that they agree to disagree on what constitutes say a 3G versus a 4G.
The G could also go to infinity and beyond. There could be an endless number of Gs. With the speed in which the industry is growing and innovating, consumers could theoretically see 100 G in a few years. Maybe every new year will usher in a new G or two.
Ahhh – lots of lightbulbs went on for committee members that never knew what a G really was.
A recent purchase of a Droid is what prompted Rep. Payne’s question and he does not want to see consumers disappointed who are expecting faster speeds with the higher number Gs. He is right to be concerned for consumers. In a recent blog by AT&T’s Chief Technology Officer, John Donovan, he talks about meeting consumer expectations for speed. He points to a recent survey of their Smartphone consumers showing 75 percent rank consistent speeds as a top concern.
This is not Rep. Payne’s chief concern. He has a background and experience in emergency management services. He sees the burgeoning consumer demand for Smartphones and iPads which increases the demand for data transmission. He wants to make sure that the data needs of first responders and 911 centers are met first and not impacted because people are downloading the latest episode of their favorite television show.
So kids, just because you have a higher number G, it does not mean it is better or faster than the next guy. It just means it is better than what that company had before. The bottom line it is part of how the industry peddles their product to outsell the competition.
While the mystery of the G is solved, it is important for the wireless industry and the General Assembly to stay committed to meeting the needs of consumers while not losing sight to first meet the needs of emergency management services.
So the next time you might think you’re going off the rails on this wireless crazy train, count on Rep. Payne to ask the questions we all want to know – or call Ozzy.
By Deena C. Malley
It is always a magical time in Pennsylvania when a new administration takes the helm. It is the hope of a new dream and a better tomorrow. The Commonwealth’s technology community should be feeling particularly excited about the possibilities of Governor-Elect Corbett’s administration.
In just five short years, Corbett completely transformed the technological makeup of the Attorney General’s office. No stone was left unturned or untouched as everything from the infrastructure, computers, and applications were brought out of the dark ages.
I have seen the pictures of back office operations that were once a tangled mess of wires are now a more structured and efficient managed data center. There were also issues with different computer platforms, outdated technologies, applications that did not support business objectives, and employees who did not have the right equipment or training.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the talents of Corbett’s Chief Information Officer, George White, who worked diligently to make it all happen.
This transformation is just not a laundry list of technical accomplishments that only a true geek could understand and love. It is also about the public face of the Attorney General’s office and not forgetting it is the people of Pennsylvania who they serve.
For example, little things like securing the domain name www.attorneygeneral.gov and making that website easy to navigate so the average person can get to the exact information he or she may need.
It is also about the office’s ability to incorporate social media while at the same time creating a whole host of educational outreach programs geared toward both kids and parents on the dangers of these exact same popular online sites.
What makes Corbett different is he just really gets it. Unlike many technology proponents who profess technology advancements and are always chasing the latest and greatest thing, Corbett actually understands that without a practical, pragmatic purpose it gets you nowhere.
He also is very hands on with technology. Corbett is not one of those guys who tells you the importance of technology but has never laid a finger on a computer. He actually has used his Blackberry as a prop in some of his speeches and jokes about how it has become part of his life.
Corbett also does not try to pretend to be something he is not. He readily admits he is not a technical person but he surrounds himself with bright, highly qualified people who understand that technology cannot wag the dog. The business goals must be met and supported by technology that makes sense.
If Corbett can do all of this with just one office, imagine the difference he can make now that he has been elected governor and starts pulling back the onion skin at state agencies. It truly is a time of great expectations and hope for a better tomorrow.
But by time they’re over, they stay pretty much true to formBy Vincent P. Carocci
When it comes to gubernatorial inaugurations, there are four constants always in the mix: Cold weather in January; the inaugural speech; the afore-mentioned signature moment which gives each celebration its historical imprint; and the first-day-after initiative of the new or (in the context of two-term governors) renewed Administration.
The Weather—The cold in January, even in the moderate climate of Central Pennsylvania, always is a factor. Rendell’s second inaugural was blessed by an unusually temperate day (temperatures in the low 40’s) but no inaugural organizing committee dare not factor the weather into their plans. Govs. Edward Martin in 1940 and David L. Lawrence in 1959 had their swearings-in moved indoors (Martin’s to the Forum, Lawrence’s to the State Farm Show Building) because of inclement weather (read that snow). The next two gubernatorial oath takings—Scranton, 1963 and Shafer, 1967—simply were planned for the Farm Show to remove the weather as an unknown. Milton Shapp in 1971 decided to return the inaugural to the outdoors, the first chief executive to risk the elements since Gov. George M. Leader in 1955. Shapp II in 1975 and, in their order, Richard Thornburgh (1979 and 1983), Robert P. Casey Sr. (1987, 1991), Tom Ridge (1995, 1999) and Rendell (2003, 2007) each followed suit. All survived nicely, the cold not withstanding.
Inaugural Speeches—Gubernatorial inaugural speeches have had one distinguishing characteristic, certainly for the last half-century, and probably longer. They all have been less than memorable. Confining ourselves for discussion purposes to only those inaugurals I attended or observed, William W. Scranton’s address in 1963 was praised in press accounts for its “Sandburgian” quality. But it also was panned for being “more an exposition of faith in the people than a blue print of things to come.” Raymond P. Shafer, in succeeding Scranton, committed his Administration to a “Commonwealth of Excellence” dedicated to “leading the nation.” But the address also was tweaked for being “highly philosophical with only the vaguest outline” of how the Commonwealth was going to get there.
The aforementioned Shapp dedicated himself and his Administration to be the “people’s advocate.” Yet his first-term inaugural is remembered as one of the most elaborate certainly in modern times (to include a $100 cocktail party hosted by former Gov. Leader two days before the swearing in; a pre-inaugural brunch honoring the first and second ladies to-be the day before the installation ceremonies; a pre-inaugural fund-raiser at which 500 silver medallions could be purchased at $500 each and 275 gold medallions at a bargain price of $1,000 each with a champagne dinner and a $50/person pre-inaugural ball that night as part of the festivities; and on inaugural night, not one but three inaugural balls, hosted for television coincidentally by former First Lady Mary Jane Leader and Philadelphia television personality Roy Nassau, who later would become one in a series of press secretaries to Gov. Shapp ). Is it any wonder Shapp’s speech was lost in the flurry?
Shapp’s second-term inaugural address ran only 10 minutes and was interrupted by applause only once, when he pledged no increase in taxes the next four years (after having been required by national economic conditions and the state’s dire fiscal circumstances to raise them twice in the first term).
Richard Thornburgh, who rode the Shapp Administration’s second-term scandals to an overwhelming victory in 1978, pledged to “govern with a sense of purpose characterized by frugality, simplicity, a sense of humanity and obtainable expectations.” He also couldn’t resist taking a shot at the air of corruption which plagued Shapp’s second term when he promised, with his predecessor on the platform, to “restore people’s belief in the ability of their government to serve them with strong, effective, forthright leadership.” (Thornburgh went to such lengths to distance himself from his predecessor that years later, he would insist that when Milton Shapp’s gubernatorial portrait was hung in the Governor’s Office as tradition required, he (Thornburgh) would be away from the capital city of Harrisburg that day.)
In their initial inaugurals, Robert P. Casey in 1987 pledged to create a New Pennsylvania, and Tom Ridge eight years later essentially pledged to do him one better. Rendell’s second-term speech was a noticeable break with tradition when, with a laundry list of accomplishments claimed for the first term and the promise of specific advances in specific areas of government in the second, he delivered what seemed to many to be more of a State of the Commonwealth address rather than an inaugural speech.
Signature Moments—Judge Mrs. Rendell was no doubt the spotlight performer at her husband’s second inaugural celebration ball, singing along with Bon Jovi at the ball. But each preceding swearing-in certainly had memorable moments of its own. Gov. Scranton wowed the standing-room-only crowd at his ball with a rousing Charleston before taking the baton to lead the Inaugural band in song. Shafer’s swearing-in had a slight odor to it because working crews (carpenters, cleaners, movers and associated colleagues) had to work through the weekend to transform the Farm Show Building from an agricultural exposition to a ceremonial forum.
Milton Shapp’s first Inaugural had its spotlight stolen more than just a bit when Shafer’s outgoing attorney general, Fred Speaker, ordered the electric chair dismantled just minutes before the power of office was transferred to the new governor. His second was marred by an announcement just days prior from his attorney general pledging a “full investigation” into missing state insurance payments and possible pay-offs to former state officials. It was just a hint of the scandals to come that would haunt the Administration for most of its second term.
Richard and Mrs. Thornburgh were welcomed in the first term by a 2:30 p.m. “Royal Salute from the Royal American Regiment artillery unit.” The salute was dropped from second-term festivities four years later. But his repeat inaugural featured a political fund-raiser at the Governor’s residence prior to the Inaugural Ball. The principle of using the Governor’s Residence (built with public funds) to host a fund-raising event for political purposes was so universally abhorrent that legislation was enacted shortly thereafter to make political fund-raising in public facilities like the residence an illegal act. It’s ironic that a former U. S. Attorney and corruption-fighting prosecutor (and an U. S. Attorney General in waiting) would have condoned the practice in the first instance.
Gov. Casey’s first inaugural was relatively moment free. But three-days before he took his oath in 1987, the then governor-elect called on State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer to resign following his conviction in a federal trial on a charge of corruption. (Two days after the inaugural, Dwyer shot himself to death at an unforgettable press conference in the Treasurer’s internal office before he was scheduled to depart for sentencing by the court.) The second-term Casey inaugural was interrupted by hoots, catcalls and shrill whistles from HIV-Aids protestors cordoned off on Third St. in Harrisburg just across from the inaugural platform. At one point, Casey addressed the demonstrators directly. Now that they had exercised their Constitutional right to free speech by their demonstration, he exhorted, would they please afford him the same privilege to address the people of Pennsylvania without interruption? They wouldn’t and didn’t.
Gov. Tom Ridge, Casey’s successor in 1995, was the first Governor to take his oath at the entry to the new Capitol extension in the rear of the main Capitol Building. The Act-Up protestors were present again, but this time they were cordoned off some distance from the platform. They could be heard in the background, but not sufficiently to disrupt the proceedings.
Finally, first-day initiatives—Since Pennsylvania governors in the tenures of Scranton and Shafer lived at the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation some 20 miles away, both newly sworn executives stayed their first night as Governor in downtown hotels near the Capitol. Scranton arrived at his office at 8:30 a.m. as promised. Later that day, his executive secretary, William Murphy, issued an executive order declaring the Governor’s inner staff offices “off-limits” to the press and everyone else “without appointment.” It did not sit well with the capitol correspondents, who had a relatively free run at the staff in prior administrations.
Shafer beat his predecessor to the office by 15 minutes, convened a half-hour meeting with his gubernatorial staff, an hour meeting with his cabinet and, faced with a tenuous national and state economy, announced later in the day the formation of a special tax study commission to “evaluate the immediate revenue needs of the Commonwealth.”
Shapp and Thornburgh ordered immediate freezes on the state payroll, par for the course for new governors. Gov. Casey spent his first day in office traveling to the small town of Monessen in southwestern Pennsylvania, fulfilling a campaign promise to return after he took office to demonstrate his commitment that economically stressed communities like that would not be forgotten in his administration. Gov. Rendell went each of his predecessors a giant step further. On Day One of Term Two, he unveiled a massive (47 separate legislative proposals) and comprehensive plan, almost four years in the making, to provide health care coverage to more Pennsylvanians, children and adult, at more affordable prices. .
The announcement, without question, was the most ambitious start up of any second-term governor these last 30-some years. It also was, without question, an unequivocal declaration from this governor that any one thinking he would coast in “lame duck” status through his new term had better think again. But coming from a governor so high-energy with his exemplary political and persuasive skills, it wasn’t surprising at all.
There is, however, another side to this coin. The undeniable fact is that the political and power clock begins to run on any second-term chief executive the moment he lowers his hand at the conclusion of his oath. The obstacles to success on major second term achievements are not insurmountable, to be sure. But it is undeniable that time and state history, particularly once mid-term is reached, are not on his side. The next two years will be critical to him and his stated goals.
Vincent P. Carocci covered state politics in Harrisburg during the 1960s for UPI and AP and then again in the early 1970s for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He then served on the Democratic staff of the Pennsylvania Senate for thirteen years. From 1987 to 1995 he was a senior staffer for Governor Robert Casey during his two terms in office. From 1995 to 2003 he was Director of Government Affairs for Capital Blue Cross. Now retired, he lives near Harrisburg. He is the author of A Capitol Journey
Reflections on the Press, Politics, and the Making of Public Policy in Pennsylvania.
By Deena C. Malley
Ingrained in the American spirit is a fascination with man versus machine. Who does not cheer for John Henry and his hammer battling the railroad’s steam-powered drill? In the 1990s, there was the first match up with a computer when IBM’s Deep Blue took on reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
IBM has done it again. On February 14, 2011, their new computer, Watson, will take on Jeopardy! all-time champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. What makes this match up incredible is it deals with a whole new level of technology innovation. It is a scientific breakthrough that takes advanced data management and analytics and applies it to natural language and all of its subtle nuances.
This new challenge should be exciting particularly to state governments. The engineering effort that went behind this challenge will usher in a whole new way data can be evaluated. Ask any IBM expert and they will tell you state governments are great at collecting all kinds of data. While there is no shortage of data, there has been a continual challenge of what to do with it and for what purpose.
Then there are the silos. State governments still continue the battle of not sharing data between agencies and, sometimes, within agencies.
What is so exciting about Watson is that it will usher in the Age of Analytics. Not only will it forever change how we interact with computers, it will change what it means to interpret and analyze data. For technology professionals it will put into the marketplace a demand for specialized analytical skills and open up new career paths. More importantly, it will be transformative for citizens of state governments who take advantage of this giant leap forward in technology.
At a time of unprecedented deficits leading to extreme budget constraints, this new technology can bring new meaning and cost savings to virtually every major government service. Apply advanced analytics to healthcare and you help support family physicians and other medical professionals to evaluate patients with real-time monitoring and decision support decisions that can predict and respond to significant events, like those that occur in emergency rooms and intensive care units. Use it in education and it links student, financial and operational performance to student results giving the Department of Education a 360 degree view of each school district. Public safety applications bring new ways to identify threats, respond to emergencies, and increase incident awareness.
IBM is already putting its analytics technology to the test in New York in the area of fraud and abuse in delinquent tax collection. Since 2004, IBM and the State have developed analytical applications to identify questionable refund claims which have resulted in savings of over $1 billion.
Their latest advancement called, the Tax Collections Optimizer, is based on advanced analytics, and will equip the New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance with individualized action plans based on each case using a unique combination of data analytics and other models. The plan optimizes the order of activities agents will take in order to maximize the total amount of debts collected while taking in to consideration the case load, personnel resources, and the anticipated effectiveness of the suggested actions.
The project is expected to bring in an additional $100 million in revenue over a three-year period. This new approach to tax collection is not inherent to New York. IBM has identified several states where analytics could be used to recover or prevent fraud, abuse or waste in programs like Medicaid in addition to fraudulent tax activity. The opportunity in Pennsylvania alone could be multiple billions over the term of our incoming Governor.
The Age of Analytics is here. If Pennsylvania capitalizes on this innovation and puts itself in the forefront, its citizens will benefit from improved services and it will give us a new, technically advanced addition to our workforce.