Mike Turzai, the Speaker of Pennsylvania’s House, is the fourth candidate to announce a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next spring. He joins Scott Wagner, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth in the race for the opportunity to unseat Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2018.
by J. Wesley Leckrone
Delaware County (PA) Democrats had a good day at the polls on Tuesday November 7. They captured seats on the county board and a number of row offices. There are a number of explanations in this article from the Delaware County Times. Here is some commentary related to how I interpret the results:
“I think one thing that’s really important to keep in mind here is that suburbs in general and Philadelphia suburbs, including Delaware County, have been trending Democratic anyway,” he said. “This is not the beginning of a trend. This is a trend in a sense that has been going on for more than a decade. Basically what Trump did was to accentuate and accelerate the Democrats against the Republicans.”
What occurred Tuesday, Leckrone said, was a long-term process coming to fruit.
“This is probably the beginning of a long term change that’s been following the voter registration,” Leckrone added. “I think a lot of it has to do with cultural and social values that people have … It’s almost as if geography determines the way people vote nowadays.”
On a cultural basis, Republicans tend to fare more conservatively with values centered on religion, marriage and guns while Democrats, a substantial number of whom live in metropolitan areas, are more cosmopolitan and less tied to these issues, but of course, he said, Republicans can be found in cities and Democrats can be found in rural areas.
Yet, Leckrone warned Republicans still have traction, adding that even in this environment, Delaware County’s election results were relatively close.
“If you take a look at the numbers – county council, it’s only 2,000 votes,” Leckrone said, adding that the Libertarian candidate received 2,040 votes. “I think you still have remnants of people voting Republican.”
Leckrone said this election showed that Democrats do come out to vote.
“I think for the Democrats, it’s a good sign that they were able to get their voters out,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a voter registration edge, it’s another thing to get them out.”
“If they can continue to turn people out and they can tap into anger against the Republicans, they could potentially have a shot at next year,” he added, although he said that will be tough because of the way the district is drawn.
However, if voters retain a large feeling of angst, that could translate at the polls.
“People are more motivated by what they oppose,” Leckrone said. “That could be a big driving factor next year.”
A new report is out concerning the state of cyber schools in Pennsylvania. It finds that
Cyber charter[s] have become an inequitable corner of Pennsylvania’s school-choice system, leaving the state’s neediest students with another bad option that their peers from better-off school districts largely avoid.
Read the full Education Week article here.
Keystone Crossroads profiled the Chester-Upland School District’s attempts to increase revenue by attracting more special education students. Here’s the logic:
In the tangled world of Pennsylvania public school financing, special education payments to charters are a particularly thorny problem.
The payments are not calculated based on the actual cost of services, which can vary widely depending on a given student’s needs. Nor are they based on the actual number of students served.
Instead, payments are calculated by a bafflingly complex formula that treats all districts and disabilities equally. The results can seem absurd, but bust budgets nonetheless.
Read the full article here.
by Autumn Herring
He dramatically changed his views on gay marriage. Here’s how he says the nation can come together. David Blankenhorn, the co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council, spoke out in 2010 saying that he was against gay marriage. He was against gay marriage because he believed that people were not taking it seriously politically. However, one of his friends showed him a book that changed his outlook on same-sex marriage.
He completely flipped his views on the matter and is not the founder of an organization called Better Angels. Better Angels works with people from all sides to try and encourage them to be more open minded on the subject.
Blankenhorn invited both Trump and Hillary voters after the presidential election as part of the Better Angels mission to try and dispel stereotypes and get the people to agree. The discussion was around thirteen hours long, but the two groups managed to come together and find some common ground amongst one another. David now has been devoting the majority of his time to try and engage people in the act of depolarizing the nation. He most recently wrote about seven ways that you can be an effective depolarizer. I agree with what he wrote where he stated “reframing your thinking to see issues differently, or at least, not as black and white.”
Blankenhorn is a perfect person to advocate depolarizing the nation, because he himself changed his opinion about gay marriage. He was so against it and looked at it so negatively until he stopped being close minded. I think it is a good example that he can show to to people to show them that even he himself can change his political opinion on issues. To me, it is important to be open-minded, especially in regards to politics and topics such as same-sex marriage. If people were more open-minded and willing to see the other side of things our nation would not be so polarized. Diversity is important in regards to politics, and I strongly agree with David as he stated “Diverse groups make better decisions than the smartest individual. If that’s a fact and I really believe it, then no one person knows everything.”
by Mohamed Mohamedali
My action plan is to advocate for the institution of mandatory treatment, rather than jail time, prescribed by mandatory sentencing policy, for minor and nonviolent drug offenders. One political activity that has been in the news headlines in recent times in relation to this topic is the changing attitudes toward drug offenses. In 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to reduce sentences in most drug cases arguing that it was not fair and justified to sentence someone for 25 years for selling a small amount of drugs. The AG sought to reset the sentencing policies for federal judges and reduce sentencing for such crimes by an average of nearly a year (Zuckerman, 2014).
This indicated the changing wind of times and in a recent article by Alan Greenblatt on the wave of new district attorneys who are redefining justice, the author notes that new attorneys, a case in example being Kim Ogg, Harris County new attorney who wants her office along with law enforcement as a whole to pay less attention to minor drug offenses and in fact, she announced in February 2017 that she would no longer seek jail time in most cases for the crime of possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, but instead, the offenders would be diverted toward treatment instead (Greenblatt, 2017). Her sentiments are supported by Dwight Boykins, a member of the Houston City Council who notes that is that two-thirds of the people in jail are minorities and nonviolent based on minor drug offenses and this is not proof of an effective criminal justice system.
Greenblatt, A. (2017, April). Law and the New Order: A Fresh Wave of District Attorneys Is Redefining Justice. Retrieved from Governing:http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-district-attorneys-houston-criminal-justice-reform.html
Zuckerman, M. B. (2014, May 9). Get a little less tough on crime. Retrieved from U.S. News: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/05/09/its-time-for-prison-reform-and-an-end-to-mandatory-minimum-sentences
by Philip Erdman
Michele Callan and her fiancé, Josue Chinchilla are a New Jersey couple that are suing their landlord for their $2,250 deposit on a Toms River home that they claim is haunted. They have claimed that they are the victims of various forms of paranormal activity, including menacing voices, flickering lights, moving bedsheets, and clothing flying from their closet. Chinchilla even went as far as telling ABC News that he did not believe in this type of stuff, but was forced to once he felt an invisible hand on his shoulder and had to go to the hospital briefly because of the paranormal experience.
The couple and her two children claim that they fled the Lowell Avenue rental and have been living in a single room at a motel in Point Pleasant Beach and they refuse to move back as their lives are in mortal danger if they return. The couple’s landlord, Richard Lopez, does not believe the story. He is countersuing the couple and believes they are creating a hoax to get out of paying $1,500 a month and to break the year lease they have signed. The landlord’s lawyer believes that because Michele is a single mom, she must be over her head and unable to afford the monthly payments.
Callan countered the lawyer’s claims by explaining that Chinchilla and her children fled only one week after moving in and that they already paid the entire first month, so if anything, they are losing money right now.
The article goes on to reveal exactly why tenants need the protection of landlord disclosure of potentially haunted residences before they sign their lease: “In any case, if Lopez had consciously rented the couple a home with any shady or ghost-ridden history, he wouldn’t have had to reveal it. Most states in the United States do not have formal renter/seller disclosure laws regarding a home’s non-material facts (i.e. outside structural concerns, leaks in the foundation or walls, etc.) and do not require Realtors to tell prospective buyers about a home’s grisly past or purported hauntings, though that’s strongly recommended.
There was such disclosure in the case of the Lutz family, who moved into the now world famous Amityville Horror house in New York and were supposedly haunted by the demonic images and supernatural activity of the home’s murdered tenants.
But there was apparently no warning for the Callas-Chinchilla household: they reportedly were so spooked that they even hired paranormal investigators, who set up five cameras, electronic voice phenomena recorders and electromagnetic field meters in the rental. The Asbury Park Press reported that the presence of paranormal activity appeared in the videos, including bowling pins falling over in the recreation room while the infrared cameras were recording.”
The ABC News interview and following notes clearly show why there is a problem when a landlord knows that they are renting out an apartment or house, knowing that it is haunted and they refrain from telling the potential buyers even after they sign their lease. This creates situations like the one in the article above. Had the landlord disclosed the residence’s haunted past then the renters would never have signed the lease and would not be stuck with a $1,500 a month bill for a place that they do not even live anymore. The rent, plus the security deposit comes out to about a $20,000 loss for the renters by the end of a year, that is almost just as bad as purchasing a home only to find out it is haunted or has a haunted history and then losing money on the sale of the home because all the locals know its history and will not pay your asking price.
Because renting an apartment or house that is haunted produces the same if not worse consequences then the purchase of a haunted house (you can at-least rent out the house and recoup some of your loss) and people who are living in apartments may not have the financial means to seek out another apartment, which would result in the burden of paying two leases each month, there should be laws in place to protect them.