KU Polling Place Change Stirs Controversy

Kutztown University isn’t actually in Kutztown but Maxatawny Township and students there have been voting on campus for a number of years.  The poll has been in the lobby and hallway of an athletic building with ample parking just outside.  It seems numerous complaints over the years from voters and poll workers prompted the Berks County Elections Commissioner Deb Olivieri to finally move the precinct four miles away to the Township building.  This happened when a suitable polling place became available for Maxatawny 1 which had been in the township building (out of the precinct) and now is in a church within its precinct.

Olivieri notified Tom Herman, Chair of the Berks County Democratic Committee, of the proposed switch on July 19th and on August 8th the County Commissioners (two Republicans and a Democrat often referred to as “the third Republican”) sitting as the Board of Elections approved the change.  Since then allegations of voter suppression arose as local Democrats saw the switch as an attempt to limit voter participation by KU students.

On the surface that might appear so as registered voters in Maxatawny 3 are comprised of 72% students at the University.  However when one looks at actual voter turnout it is abysmal except in presidential years.  In 2010 227 voters turned out but only 3 in that year’s primary.   2011 had 2 primary voters and 5 in the general.  2012 had 10 primary voters and 943 for the presidential general election.  This spring just one voter turned out for the primary.

As Commissioners Chair Christian Leinbach correctly pointed out college students generally have no interest in local municipal elections so those turnouts are very bad.  They do have interest in presidential races however and that is when KU students do turn out in large numbers.  Moving the precinct off campus and four miles away will have an effect in those races.  KU President Javier Cevallos has promised the Board the University will provide shuttle service to the polling place.  As long as the students are adequately informed about that availability I don’t this being a huge issue.

I’ve known Olivieri for years and she is a thorough and capable elections director and doesn’t do things on a partisan basis.   The thought that a Democrat would decide to disenfranchise fellow Democratic voters doesn’t make sense.  Berks County Democratic Chair Tom Herman had ample notice of the proposed change and had no reaction until after the fact and then shamelessly accused Olivieri of voter suppression.

The facts show that over eight years only 33% of the voter turnout in Max 3 were KU students.  If they really want a campus polling place perhaps they should vote more often and be more involved in the process.  I visit this polling place on election days because a local GOP committee person is known to practice active voter suppression there (like telling students if they vote they’ll lose their student aid) and I want to report on it if and when it occurs.  I never have trouble finding parking but have no personal knowledge of the physical facility because I don’t enter it.  I do know a lot of foot traffic into and out of the building are football players reporting for practice and other normal student activity not related to voting.  If this presents problems for poll workers moving the poll might make sense.  Olivieri obviously sincerely thought this change would be good.  Time will tell.

Update:  The numbers provided by Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, which I quoted here, are NOT accurate according to the County’s own website.  For example, in the 2011 primary election Leinbach himself garnered 94 votes at Maxatawny 3.  I am trying to contact him for an explanation.

Update II:  Leinbach is claiming his numbers were for registered students on campus only.  He presented them as voter turnout figures.  I will check the video for exact quotes.  If he intentionally misrepresented these numbers at a public, televised meeting to justify previous actions this is a serious matter.

Berks County Investigating Johnny “Doc”

The Berks County Elections Board is investigating John Dougherty, Business Manager of IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia.  The subject of the independent investigation, for which they hired outside counsel, is a $30,000 contribution the union made to the campaign of Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer.  Commissioner Mark Scott spearheaded the action and fellow Republican Christian Leinbach voted with him.  Democrat Kevin Barnhardt abstained due to a conflict of interest.  Berks County DA John Adams seems to have opted not to investigate.

The gist of the investigation surrounds two $10,000 contributions the Spencer campaign gave to Bill Rubin and Bill Green.  Scott is claiming the $30,000 was provided to Spencer with the understanding that $10K each would go tot he two Philadelphia candidates.  A source tells me that the Spencer campaign requested $10,000 from Dougherty to pay for election day expenses but got $30K instead.  They opted to spread the rest around to other candidates on their own.  

Political committees spread funds around all the time.  It’s almost impossible to go through campaign finance reports and not see candidates and elected officials contributing to one another.  Leinbach got a contribution from Friends of Joe Pitts ($250 on 10/13/11) and Rafferty For Senate ($1,000 on 11/2/07) for example.

Most interestingly, if Scott thinks funneling money through other political entities is illegal he’s in trouble.  In 2007 he gave $32,800 to the Berks County Republican Committee (10/19/07).  Four days later the Republican State Committee of PA gave him an in-kind contribution of $32,430.80 (a direct mail piece).  Was that money laundering also?  Was there any collusion in the transference of those funds?  If Mark Scott thinks John Dougherty and the IBEW was laundering campaign contributions he’s guilty of the same thing by running money through two GOP Committees to pay for his campaign mailer.

I asked Scott about this today and he refused comment.  His face was another matter and said volumes.  Berks County taxpayers are wasting $8,000 on this bogus investigation.

News & Notes April 1, 2012

Happy April Fools Day.  Rick Santorum decided to play one on the country by running for president.

I have oral surgery Monday morning so I may be AWOL for the day.  I’m having a wisdom tooth pulled, start the jokes now.

I was in Allentown today for an Equality Pennsylvania roast of their Board President Adrian Shanker.  Roasting him were Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Easton Councilman Mike Fleck, Lehigh County Chair Bar Johnston and emcee Ryan Hill.  I have video but I’m afraid to post it to the blog.  Opposition researchers could have a field day with it sometime.  I’ll have more on that later.

John Callahan did the joke about the difference between a gay man and a straight one:  five drinks.  I hung around after the event when I saw him by the bar.  He was already up to number two and I was willing to buy three more.

Our servers were down yesterday so I apologize for the blog not being accessible.  So much for moving to new cloud servers.  We’ll just blame it on the weather.

I didn’t win Mega Millions Friday so you’re stuck with me a little longer.  I needed the cash to pay my gas bill.  I’m not saying I’ve been driving much but I got into the car after Thursday nights debate in Annville and couldn’t remember where I was and which direction home was…  Thank goodness I have GPS on my iPhone.

Speaking of the Lehigh Valley former DA candidate Ed Koren is suing the Keystone Kops for disclosing what they thought was damaging information about him to the Morning Call.  It was dirty politics by an agency which shouldn’t be involved in anything political.  its yet another example of how political the current Governor’s office has become.

I love this story about how an abortion clinic’s landlord has turned the table on its protesters.

There’s a lot of new pressure on Santorum to exit the presidential field after he used the “N” word on President Obama this week.  It slipped through his lips like the comment about Blah people a while back.  Excuse yourself Rick, your racism is showing.

Former NBA player, Penn State alumnus and my Skull and Bones Brother John Ameachi had a few words to say on the subject:

PA Just Powers is running a powerful ad against Corbett:

Seven municipalities sued the state over the new law which strips them of their democratic right to govern their own towns, boroughs and townships.

Republicans were busy in DC last week.  They all voted to allow employers to demand your facebook password, further eroding personal privacy rights, then voted, once more, to dismantle and privatize Medicare.  Then they voted to keep corporate welfare payments to “struggling” oil companies and expand tax cuts for the very rich.  Explain to me again why you voted for all these fools?  On April 1st, you’re the fool if you did.

Here in Berks County the Commissioners are busy implementing a $60 million emergency radio system.  Tea Party moron Christian Leinbach ran against the $80 rainy day fund his Democratic predecessors socked away and promised to return it to the voters.  Instead he spent it on this monstrous system.  Now it may be endangering beautiful raptors near Hawk Mountain.  It’s for the birds Christian.

Also in Reading City Council has been giving new Mayor Vaughn Spencer nothing but grief.  Most of is personal animosity by some of them who are putting their grudges ahead of the good of the City.  At the same time they’re screaming about paying his staff they gave $6,000 raises to their own employees.

With all the lawsuits resulting from various state laws which are clearly unconstitutional I’d like to know from “conservatives” and Tea baggers where their cherished fiscal responsibility went.  These are going to begin costing taxpayers a chunk of money.  How do they explain their irrational actions going against our constitutions after they spent the past four years screaming about upholding them.

Pennsylvania did get some positive news this week when Monroe County resident David Gonzalez saved a Jet Blue flight after its pilot went berserk.

Longtime readers of this blog know I’m a huge baseball and Phillies fan.  experts are predicting this to be the year for a young and talented Pittsburgh team however.  The Pirates are a lock to break their 19 year losing record for sure.

Happy April Fools everyone, especially the Pirates fans.

News & Notes October 13, 2011

The City of Harrisburg has filed for bankruptcy.  Mired in disagreements about implementing Act 47 requirements which gut negotiated union contracts the Mayor and City Council have been at an impasse.

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, running for MontCo Commissioners, released a non discrimination policy and were endorsed bby Equality Pennsylvania.

In Berks County Christian Leinbach, darling of the local Tea baggers, has erected billboards saying “promises made, promises kept” for his four years as County Commissioner.  The problem is he didn’t keep his central promise from four years ago.  Leinbach ran then criticizing the $80 million rainy day fund established and nourished by Judy Schwank and Tom Gajewski.  He promised to return those funds to the taxpayers via a tax decrease.  Not only did he not do that he never even introduced a resolution to do so.  Leinbach’s current campaign message is as hollow as his promises were four years ago.

As our state legislature is debating Marcellus shale impact fees several provisions being discussed are very disturbing.  One would allow forced pooling which seizes your rights as a property owner and transfers them to the gas companies.  The other would prohibit local governments from any restrictive ordinances targeting drilling.  This means your municipality has no say about what happens there.  Both of these efforts would severely reduce your rights in a “democracy.”  Wake up, democracy died in America.

Tim Burns and Steve Welch both are expected to officially enter the 2012 Senate race for Bob Casey’s seat.

Sen. Pat Toomey, after running for Senate promising to create jobs, voted against the American Jobs Act.  He’s more interested in keeping the rich rich than in getting you a job.

Patrick Murphy has raised a million bucks in his AG race.  The Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (no connection with us) will host an Attorney General debate in February.

The Obama Administration still has yet to prosecute a single crooked banker for the massive fraud which cost you your home.

Another of those pesky government regulations hampering business says restaurants must maintain refrigerated food at a certain temperature so it doesn’t spoil and kill you.

Sheeler Goes After Berks Commissioners for Political Action in Office

Berks County Recorder of Deeds Fred Sheeler went after two County Commissioners yesterday for political advocacy in their official capacities.  Mark Scott and Christian Leinbach recorded a radio ad for Larry Medaglia Jr. and identified themselves as County Commissioners.  The ad begins by saying it wa spaid for by “Friends of Larry Medaglia” then each of the Republicans identifies himself as “Commissioner Mark Scott” and “Commissioner Christian Leinbach.”  

Taking political action in one’s official role is bad ethics.  Of course Mark Scott has never seen ethics for which he agreed or abided by and has absolutely no sense of what ethics are.   Being chided for violating ethics by one of his row officers he had nothing to say in his defense other than what he does on his time is his own business.  The problem is he didn’t do this on his wn time, he did it in his official capacity as County Commissioner.  That makes it unethical.  

Sheeler went on to ask whether or not he regrets his vote to raise taxes, regrets not returning the county surplus to taxpayers as promised or whether he will raise taxes in the next four years to balance a projected revenue deficit.  He said he would raise taxes.  So, after slamming Judy Schwank for raising taxes with him, he admitted he will have to raise them yet again but what was done prior because of his bad financial management skills is bad.

I’m confused…where do Mark Scott and Christian Leinbach stand on this?  Are you for it or against it?  Were you for it before you were against it and then for it yet again?  My head is spinning.

News & Notes February 7, 2011

Arianna Huffington announced this morning she has sold The Huffington Post to AOL.  I imagine the old internet service provider is starving for content but why would she sell her signature accomplishment?  I mean other than for the $315 million?  I wrote for HuffPo last fall and got this letter:

We are writing with some very exciting news.  As you will see if you click on the HuffPost home page, The Huffington Post has been acquired by AOL, instantly creating one of the biggest media companies in the world, with global, national, and local reach — combining original reporting, opinion, video, social engagement and community, and leveraged across every platform, including the web, mobile, and tablets.

Central to all of this will be the kind of fresh, insightful, and influential takes on the issues of the day that you and the rest of our bloggers regularly deliver.  Our bloggers have always been a very big part of HuffPost’s identity – and will continue to be a very big part of who we are.

When the Huffington Post launched in May 2005, we had high hopes.  But we would have been hard pressed to predict that less than six years later we would be able to announce a deal that now makes it possible for us to execute our vision at light speed.

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL’s content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month — and 250 million around the world — so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation.  That’s the only real change you’ll notice — more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing the Huffington Post’s editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet.  We’re still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we’re now going to get there much, much faster.

Thank you for being such a vital part of the HuffPost family – which has suddenly gotten a whole lot bigger.

All the best,

Arianna, Roy, David, and the HuffPost Blog Team

Berks County Commissioners Mark Scott and Christian Leinbach, both Republicans, got into it last week over promoting practices for County employees.  This is interesting because Scott is delaying several temporary promotions for department heads due to the fact the County didn’t advertise or conduct searches outside the courthouse.  While promoting from within is good for the career paths of dedicated civil servants he does have a point about finding the best available people.  He went about it all wrong however.  Why mention these people by name along with their salaries on public access TV?  This is a good way to deter good people not attract them.  The kicker was when it was pointed out his Executive Assistant Michelle Kircher, also his partner, was hired for a similar capacity.  Then she illustrated her low level of intelligence by showing her pay stub for the work to a reporter.  Kircher tried claiming she was paid only $5000 when the stub showed $9000.  Mark Scott an dhis Executive Assistant have carried on a relationship for many years, back before he was divorced.  If anyone should be questioning hiring practices it should be the County Solicitor concerned about potential sexual harrassment issues.

Green Bay kicked some Pittsburgh butt yesterday in the Stupor Bowl.  Christina Aguilira botched the national anthem and Cooper mooned the world with its tasteless “cram it in the boot” commercial which was roundly ridiculed on Twitter all night. What were best and worst commercials?  The halftime show was so bad I asked if Michelle Bachmann would do a response after the game blaming it on Obama.  Of course the NFL is a socialistic entity and Green Bay is owned by its fans.  I expect a Tea Party protest.

VP Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia Tuesday morning as part of the President’s initiative to expand mass transit.  I doubt I’ll be there since I don’t have a train I can take and I refuse to battle the morning rush hour into the city.

Keith McCall went directly from the State House to the Gaming Commission.  Let’s never allow revolving doors for political hacks get int he way of the public interest.  No sooner was the appointment criticized by Republicans than they appointed a hack of their own.  Harrisburg is a cesspool of corruption and nothing ever changes.