Yes, Virginia, there is a US Congress but…

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, December 25, 2017

Dear Virginia and friends,

It has come to our attention that you may be wondering if there is a United States Congress.

“Why,” some of you are asking, “Should we believe in you when you don’t bring us any presents or do anything nice for us any more?”

Some of you are wondering if we really exist when children just like you go hungry at night, fall sick and can’t see a doctor, aren’t getting the education they need, and are being shot in malls and movie theaters.

Please, dear Children, be patient. Some day, you will understand how difficult it is to change anything in the business we work in….

read more at Politics: A View from West Chester

Who enforces the electoral rules?

By Nathaniel Smith, The Times of Chester County
Three years ago, a candidate for the 158th district seat in the PA House withdrew from the race more than a month after the deadline to be replaced on the ballot. The court let a replacement candidate get on the ballot anyhow.

Now a candidate for West Chester Area School Board files his financial papers late and Voter Services says it is up to the School District to decide if the candidate can be on the ballot or not.

Meanwhile, a local supermarket gathers signatures to make East Bradford a liquor-friendly community and turns the petitions in to Voter Services. Many of the signers do not have East Bradford addresses; some used abbreviations and ditto marks, both not allowed; some manifestly signed for relatives; some dates are not legitimate; and in a couple of cases, someone other than the signer has changed the municipality from the actual one of residence to East Bradford….

keep reading at The Times of Chester County

H.R. 610 Choices in Education Act: a disaster if it passes in Congress

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, February 16, 2017

A pro-education rally at 21 West Market St. in West Chester tomorrow Friday Feb. 17, 11:30a.m. to 12 p.m., is specifically directed against House Bill 610, which was introduced in Washington last month.

The bill’s own short description does not do justice to the damage this bill would cause…

read more at Politics: A View from West Chester

Was BuzzFeed right to publish alleged Trump dossier?

By Nathaniel Smith, The Times of Chester County, Jan 13th, 2017

If those allegations weren’t news before January 10, they sure are now.

The post that contains the download to the full 35-page version of the allegations was viewed over 5,000,000 times in its first 3 days online. (The 2-page executive summary has not been posted.) Here is Buzzfeed’s self-justification:

“BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”

Are Americans really qualified to make up their own minds about any matter of public policy? If not, they need more practice. The 2016 presidential campaign centered on allegations and counter-allegations.

Now that we can see the current lurid and potentially damaging document, we can look at the evidence and at what public figures and commentators have to say. And of course we need to figure out why they say what they say, not just their surface explanations but also their built-in interests: partisanship, job security, preconceived notions.

Here are what I think are the underlying questions:

1) Should the allegations be treated as news?

Yes. These allegations involve no military secrets, have been circulating for years, and have been under scrutiny by US intelligence since at least June 2016. The time has come for proper airing.

2) What if Trump is being blackmailed by Russia?

Then it would have been better if these allegations had been made public a long time ago….

read more at The Times of Chester County

“Rep. Costello, do your job!”

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 6/29/16

“Rep. Costello, do your job!” was the first of several chants by the 25 people assembled under his office window on West Market St. on June 27.

Then, it was on to “Background checks now!” and “No guns for terrorists!”

And “What did Congress do after Sandy Hook?” Reply: “Nothing!” And the chants went on to a list of other mass shootings after which Congress likewise did nothing.

Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence leader Tom Buglio pointed out that 80-90% of Americans poll as wanting background checks and gun denials for individuals on the terrorist watch list—issues about which Rep. Ryan Costello (R PA-06) won’t meet with CCCPGV personally, though his office staff has.

According to Buglio, Costello is typical of today’s US House: he took $10,000 in NRA funding 2 years ago and avoids every chance to engage with gun violence prevention advocates…

CCCPGV Costello rally.jpgread more at Politics: A View from West Chester. Photo: Marty Molloy, candidate for PA Senate 9, speaks at the rally.

The President and the Price of Gas

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 11/2/14

In February 2012, Newt Gingrich pledged that if elected president he would reduce the gas price to $2.50 a gallon.

Not to be outdone, his Republican colleague and intended presidential candidate
Michele Bachmann had already promised in August 2011 that she would bring us $2 gas.

Of course, the Republican line was that the high gas prices back then were all president Obama’s fault….

keep reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

Some issues with primary election articles

Letter, Daily Local News, 5/17/13

The article “Board hopefuls represent competing camps in primary,” printed in the May 13 Daily Local News, deals with a vital race in the May 21 primary but has some issues, as they say.

The print article says that the “Better Directions” slate of Ricky Swalm, Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, and Chris McCune “were endorsed by the Democratic committee, though they are all registered Republicans.”

There were two errors there: the Democratic committee does not “endorse” Republicans (and vice versa) and one of those four is a Democrat.

The online edition (under the title “8 West Chester school board hopefuls represent 2 slates“) changed that quote to:

“Chester, the only registered Democrat is endorsed by the Democratic committee. Though Swalm, Kaliner and McCune are registered Republicans, they received a recommendation from the committee, but cannot be fully endorsed.”

That is a lot better, but a candidate cannot be partly endorsed. The proper term, used by the Dem committee, is “supported.”

For further confusion, the bipartisan group just described and the other four candidates, representing the current board majority (with one substitution for an outgoing board member), are all cross-filed in the primary, meaning that all eight will appear on both ballots on May 21.

Why is this such a mess? Because the whole system of electing school boards is faulty in Pennsylvania–one of only three states to put board candidates on primary ballots. Such a vital community resource as public education should not be part of the business-as-usual political process.

State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) and state representative Dan Truitt (R-156) have both filed bills to remove school board elections from the primary ballot. Rather, candidates would get on the November ballot by filing petitions over the summer, with a required number of signatures.

One of the benefits would be to give Independents–20% of the electorate, who currently have virtually zero chance of getting on a school board in our state–a chance to serve.

Finally, the print edition headline’s term “camps” suggests that electing school boards is a military or political maneuver. Rather it should be a chance for voters to mull over a diversity of candidates’ backgrounds and positions on education and our communities’ ability to support education for the common good.

NATHANIEL SMITH
West Chester