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Harrisburg City: One Political Party’s Complete Catastrophe

Harrisburg City is a complete catastrophe.

By any measure, my beloved city and the home of my father’s family in an unbroken chain since 1745, is now a non-functional wreck. A shambles. A disaster.

Our combined city millage rate is an incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal record of 71 Mills! See the official Dauphin County millage rates below. Harrisburg City is at the bottom.

Those readers who do not understand what millage is, it is the local tax rate for public services like fire, water, police, sewers, and sometimes schools. Most Pennsylvania communities have a millage rate of about 6-10, total.

Millage rates are supposed to reflect the quality of public services that taxpayers receive. After all, we are paying these incredibly high tax rates for a reason.

But here in Harrisburg, we taxpayers have no such illusions or expectation of receiving much of anything in return for our hard-earned money. Most of our city taxes are squandered by unaccountable bureaucrats and politicized mayors who come and go, come and go, spending all the way. Our city council is completely non-functional, filled with bitter personality disputes and zero achievements for the actual people underwriting the bills.

And then there is the Harrisburg School District, a study in unabated and completely open incompetence and corruption. Our city school district has been run by the state, only to be set aside and allowed to fester and rot, for the whole public to see. And still nothing is done to fix it. The school children here, mostly black kids, suffer the worst, because for all their time spent inside four classroom walls, they actually get very little education.

And now the latest example of just how badly Harrisburg is run is revealed in a lawsuit by Michael Brenner, owner of the building where the Harrisburg City Public Works Department is housed. Brenner has leased the building to the city for many years, and he is owed $717,000.00 by the city in back rent, unpaid taxes, and damage to the building that the city cannot or will not fix.

For those readers who do not understand what a city Public Works Department is or does, it is the one place where taxpayers expect to see something happen, because it is all about the roads, streets, sidewalks, potholes, etc. No matter where you go in America, the city’s Public Works Department is the place where the can-do guys work, the guys who know how to fix things, weld things, bend metal, pour concrete, and operate machinery to get snow plowed and fallen trees out of the roads.

Except here in Harrisburg, it seems our city Public Works employees don’t do much of that kind of work on their own building. And it turns out the city won’t pay the owner the rent the city agreed to pay.

Folks, this is a failed government. This is a failed city. When the government cannot or will not pay its most basic bills, or properly run its most basic departments and school functions, then we have a failed government. Plain and simple.

And like almost every other American city with high taxes, poor services, failed schools, and bad government, Harrisburg shares the distinction of being overwhelmingly Democrat, black, and poor. And yet… black people run very few of the city’s functions! Those jobs are reserved for the oh-so-sophisticated White Liberals, who lord it over their Democrat plantation serfs like they are running one of their old Democrat plantations back in the 1850s Deep South.

This abject failure is the price of having just one political party in power, endlessly and forever. That one political party is the Democrat Party.

At some point, city residents will begin to ask the simple question: “What have I got to lose by voting for a different political party that has different ideas of how to run things?”

To my black city neighbors, all I can say is that the solution to this bad situation is fully in your hands. You are the majority of the voters here. If you want things to change for the better, and we know you do, then you can start voting differently. Vote for candidates who represent different values and behaviors than the same-old White Liberals who have led you down this proverbial garden path for how many decades….

Dauphin County 2018 Millage July

Letter to Candidate Josh Feldman

Dear Josh Feldman,

It brought me no pleasure of any sort when I became the plaintiff in a court challenge against your Republican ballot petitions for the local Magistrate job here in Uptown Harrisburg several days ago.

The magistrate seat is currently held by Judge Barb Pianka, and she is seeking re-election. You are a declared candidate seeking to unseat Pianka, as you have a right to do as an American citizen. In fact, as an aside, I am glad you are running, in the sense that I think more people ought to run for all elected offices. Additionally, I am totally opposed to the current ballot petition process, because it artificially and unfairly favors incumbents and establishment political parties and their political machines, which works against individual citizens and against the collective interest of We The People, the citizenry.

America needs fewer career politicians, fewer elected officials who are simply owned by special interests who use government for their own personal/ private enrichment, and we need more solid citizens who view elected office as a temporary public service to their fellow citizens, not as a taxpayer-funded career.

So, in that broad, philosophical sense, I support your run for office.

And, I must accept and work with the specific ballot petition process as it is now, not as I wish it were (not).

Josh, you are challenging a judge whom I and many others in this area hold in good regard. Judge Pianka has not only done a good job, she has also not done the bad things that normally earn a sitting official a strong challenge. For example, no one has accused Judge Pianka of taking bribes, falling asleep in the court room, abusing people in her court room, malpractice, erratic behavior, or other typically disqualifying actions. Had she done any of that, you would probably have my emphatic support, or at least my tacit support, depending on other candidates in the race.

Uptown Harrisburg is an oasis, and Midtown Harrisburg is becoming an oasis through continued investment and re-development. By oasis I mean these places are locations with bona fide residential taxpayers, businesses, relatively low crime, and a good quality of life, as opposed to a greater proportion of the city proper. Judge Barb Pianka is to a fair degree responsible for this status, because of her measured judicial approach in this district. So losing Judge Pianka could lead to a loss of stability and quality of life in these areas. Too many of us have homes and investments here to justify risking a change with a new, unproven magistrate.

Thus, I support Judge Pianka and will continue to support her until she develops a fatal flaw or faces a superior candidate. Neither of those conditions are in play now.

I am a Republican plaintiff complaining about your Republican (cross-filed) ballot petitions because as I have come to understand, those petitions are deeply flawed. I signed as a plaintiff with that understanding. If, in the course of the unfolding legal proceeding, your petitions are determined to be not faulty and are acceptable, then I will do the two following things: First, I will issue you a public apology. Though I am acting as plaintiff in good faith, I believe in taking responsibility for my mistakes. Second, I will contribute $250.00 toward your legal fees incurred while defending your petitions.

After all of this is settled one way or another, Josh, I hope that you will become more active in the city’s political and cultural landscape. Hopefully this first foray of yours is not your last. State representative Patty Kim has become far too comfortable, too partisan, too passive, and remains unproductive; we would all do well to see a change in that seat. Or perhaps city council would be a place to try out your political interests.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and good luck in all things but your pursuit of unseating Judge Pianka.

 

Josh First

Citizen

 

Harrisburg City makes legal mistake after legal mistake

I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Harrisburg City, over his unwillingness to comply with longstanding state law and remove anti-gun ordinances from the city laws.

Papenfuse is a 1960s-1970s-style liberal, for whom ignoring the law, subverting the law, abandoning the law, undermining the law all represent some vague “Yeah, man!” hippie stand against laws he personally believes are wrong.

The problem with this approach is that once elected to office, a mayor cannot pick and choose which laws to follow or ignore.  The rule of law requires that all laws be upheld equally, or changed through the political process.

Being an elected leader means that you accept the legal and law-making process.  But then again, Papenfuse is an adoring fan of Obama, who also believes that he is a Government of One, able to do whatever he wants, rule by fiat, contrary to democratic norms.

Under Papenfuse’s hippie-fist-in-the-air don’t-have-a-care approach, Harrisburg City is making huge legal mistakes right and left in this lawsuit.

Two days ago, our attorney, Josh Prince, scored a default judgment against the city for $21,000 plus additional costs.  The city lawyers failed to file the correct paper work, failed to correctly fill out the paper work they did file, and missed key deadlines, and so the city failed on many counts to respond in court to legal documents presented to them.

While Papenfuse struts and preens to prove some undemocratic point, the city taxpayers are on the hook for ever increasing amounts of legal fees and judgments.  Eric fails, and the taxpayers here pay for his arrogant attitude.

If this is not failed government, then nothing is.

Harrisburg politics as usual from someone we should not expect it from

“Politics as usual.”

That is a statement, a curse, a wry observation, an accusation, a vexation to the free citizen, and most surely, it is a threat to good government.

Wherever there is “politics as usual,” we find double standards, empty promises, hypocrisy, a lack of forethought, an absence of careful or diligent thought, and an act of putting political gain ahead of citizen gain. And please don’t kid yourself that only “their” political party does it.  Both main political parties engage in politics as usual, and even some of the fringe political parties are awash in it, because for their single issue cause to succeed they must overlook tons of contrary evidence to keep selling their purist issue.

This past week saw a classic example of politics as usual, and it disappointed me, because the person who engaged in it ought to know better.  I certainly believe that he is better than that, and that he has a capacity to act bigger than his silly politicized statement.

What happened was that Governor Tom Corbett line-item-vetoed some “legislative” funding (that is taxpayer dollars used by the legislature for their office coffee, cars, walking-around-money, and parking on Capitol Hill), and state senator Rob Teplitz claimed that it would damage Harrisburg’s recovery plan.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, because that money vetoed out of the budget belongs to taxpayers and has zero to do with Harrisburg’s recovery.  Only an overly creative imagination can find some vague link between the loss of cheap cash for legislators and the loss of economic advance for Harrisburg City.

Making it worse is that Senator Teplitz voted against the state budget to begin with.  If he votes against something, how can he then claim that someone else shouldn’t vote against it, too?

The simple reason that Teplitz said this is for cheap political gain, a lame attempt to damage Corbett among voters in Harrisburg City. This qualifies as politics as usual, and it is destructive of the political process because it cheapens the political process.  It dumbs it down.  Instead of talking about Big Important Issues, we end up talking about nonsense that has nothing to do with anything material or substantial, and voters walk away from it.

When voters walk away from the political process, America is damaged.  Maximum voter participation is needed for the nation to function properly.

Teplitz should know better than to do this.  He is a bright guy, and I think he is a good guy.  Although principled, he is overwhelmingly partisan, and that is why this kind of silly waste of time came naturally to him.  Like all other partisans, Democrat and Republican, Teplitz only really cares about the party enterprise.  He forgets about the citizens, their Constitutional rights, their personal money they remove from their pockets and place in the state coffers.

It is no secret I hope to be the Republican nominee in 2016 for the 15th PA senate district.  If he runs for re-election then, Teplitz will be my opponent.  I have no problem publicly singing his praises where he has earned them, and I can attest to several good things he has done for me and other people in the district.  If Teplitz has had one strength so far, that I have seen, one truly laudable characteristic, it has been his willingness to wade into bad government, force a meeting or two, confront recalcitrant bureaucrats, and represent well a constituent’s interests. That is a real skill, and we should all recognize it.

That is why Teplitz disappoints so badly with his spurious attack on Corbett.  I just know he can be bigger and better than this politics as usual.

 

No snow plows: Harrisburg’s new policy

Former Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson had issues, no question about it, and she’d probably be the first to admit it.

But at least she got the snowy streets plowed.

This is something the new “brilliant” administration is not doing. They’re a failure on this basic count.

I guess that if your election competition is artificially removed, so that “winning” is practically guaranteed, you might think that it’s easy, this governing stuff.

If our streets are not going to be plowed, then what is the role of government?

UPDATE: Fifteen minutes after this post went up, a snow plow cleared a lane here in Uptown Harrisburg.  First time all winter. I cannot claim responsibility, but I will admit to being surprised. I had been under the impression that the city’s snow plows had all been sold off to pay for Andy Giorgione’s incinerator debt.

Harrisburg’s descent marked by stupid stuff

Harrisburg City now charges cars at over-time meters $30.00, and $50.00 if you don’t respond within four days.

It’s an egregious amount of money to pay for a stupid meter violation.

Four days is hardly enough time in this day and age to do anything. If you’ve got a job, kids, and volunteer work, the ticket either lays on your car seat for two days or sits on your kitchen desk for a week before you get to it. That’s normal. Now, Harrisburg City is engaging in predatory behavior.

Remind me to avoid meetings downtown, and to invite people to meetings away from the city, where parking is not a predatory scheme to rip off citizens so rip-off artists can stay out of jail.

That’s what this is about: Making money to cover costs that were incurred through the incinerator scandal.

Good luck with rebuilding our beloved city by chasing away the people you need.

Nevin Mindlin Endorses Dan Miller for Mayor of Harrisburg

Yesterday, one-time Independent candidate for Harrisburg City mayor, Nevin Mindlin, endorsed one-time Democratic candidate Dan Miller.

Miller is now running as the Republican-endorsed candidate, because he collected over 300 Republican signatures for that position on the ballot. Just in case.

Miller is a strong threat to the Papenfuse campaign that was literally measuring the draperies and assigning executive positions a day after winning the four-way Democratic primary, assuming they had de facto won the general election.

This race is a rare toss-up. What role the elected mayor has vis-a-vis the state-appointed Harrisburg Receiver (Gen. Lynch) is unclear, but at least it is a bully pulpit. The mayor can call for criminal investigations into the Harrisburg Debt Debacle, or he can not do so. Dan is likely to call for investigations, Papenfuse is disinclined.

With just weeks to go until Election Day, it is hard to know how this will end. One thing for sure I do know, and that is how politics makes for strange bedfellows….

You vs. Machine

Since the days of the Luddites, Human versus Machine has been a persistent theme, with the human being the “good” side, and the machine wearing the black hat. It’s easy to see why.

This theme has been fully developed by Hollywood, with movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Terminator series, and plenty of other sci-fi fiction, with future dystopias where humans battle cruel robots and machines that are either under their own control or under some robotic impulse, either way sparing the humans no quarter.

Truth is often the father of fiction, and this week we have seen three real-life Human vs. Machine stories that are much more compelling than the fake thrillers on screen. One is local, one is regional, and one is national.

First up is the local story, where Harrisburg mayoral candidate Nevin Mindlin argued his court appeal this Wednesday in front of a three-judge panel. A former Republican, the hyper-qualified Mindlin is now an Independent. He was removed from the ballot by a bizarre last-second technical objection by his opponent’s friends, after a hearing in a heavily politicized Dauphin County courtroom. See, Mindlin represents a threat to the combined and congruent interests of both the Democratic Party establishment machine and the Republican Party establishment machine, both of which fed in a bipartisan parasitic manner off of the body of Harrisburg City. Mindlin is completely independent of party bosses, and he will run the city (to the extent he can) in a way that is fairest for the Taxpayer. The establishments of both major parties have much to lose if Mindlin wins, because he will demand a criminal investigation into the debt shenanigans that destroyed the city, as opposed to Eric Papenfuse, who will simply look the other way and let the problems slip into the past, while the taxpayers are saddled with yet more unjustified losses. It is Man vs. machine, or really, vs. machines.

Regionally, the Mid-West has been a political toss-up, with one-time Republican Colorado becoming more liberal as Californians flee their home disaster and seek to bring the same bad ideas to an innocent, rural wonderland. This week we saw the recall of two defiantly arrogant state senators who had led the charge for insane gun laws. These laws do zero to effect crime and do everything to hamper lawful gun ownership, the kind Americans have enjoyed since the very beginning of the nation. The fact that both state senators were Democrats and the fact that their opponents did not include the Republican Party, but rather were an assembly of pissed-off citizens makes this a true-life Human vs. Machine contest. The local citizens who led the recall effort faced down and beat the Michael Bloomberg anti-gun machine, the Democratic Party machine, and several other political machines.

Naturally, the mainstream media has said very little if anything about this incredible feat. Naturally they haven’t, because to inform the voters out there that their future might really be in their hands, then their favored political party might lose power. So they hush it up. Recall that the failed effort to recall Wisconsin’s governor and several allied state senators was reported heavily every day for months and months, until it in fact failed. And then the mainstream media quickly slunk away and said “Never mind, folks.”

Finally, one Human vs. Machine story is still playing out in front of us on the national stage. That is the effort to define who is a journalist and what is journalism. No kidding.

With traditional and mainstream media sources dying left and right, this effort to exclude citizen journalists and artificially buoy up the legacy media is really just an effort to retain an old power that is quickly slipping through away, but which the Democrats need.

The advent of Internet media, blogs, and email have greatly leveled the playing field between citizen, voter, and political machine. At one time the only place where a voter could get news was from the news media, which is heavily invested in liberal and Leftist values (witness the 100th major media personality to leave the mainstream media and join the 0bama administration, this week, going from “satellite” duty to “in-house” role). Now, voters can get all kinds of reporting and information, without subjecting themselves to the heavy filtering and manipulation of the mainstream media, as best represented by CBS, NPR, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. This threat to one of the most important sources of power and control has one political party scrambling. And so is no surprise that US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is now leading the charge to make only the failing legacy media be defined as “real” journalism, and the new media, with citizen reporters like me, as somehow unfit and thus, not “real” journalists.

Never mind that any website is pretty much the same website as the New York Times, except that with many others (like here) you get no advertisements. Never mind that journalism school is really just an advocacy training system, teaching young liberals how to go out and spread their Gospel of Leftism and liberalism.

I mean, really, how much training does it really take to make calls, knock on doors, interview people, look up facts, and then write about them? Journalism school should be about one semester long.

So now we see the Human vs. Machine playing out with us citizens fighting to maintain our right to free speech, our right to be heard like anyone else, our right to have our desktop printing presses be just as valued as someone else’s larger printing press. And the machine we are battling is a national political party.

As usual, I sign off by asking you dear readers to do something practical about this problem. Do something to support the little guy, like help Nevin Mindlin by going door-to-door for him in Harrisburg City. Donate ten bucks to your favorite gun rights group. And write an op-ed or a comment on some website, as a symbol of your own independent thinking, free of the hatchet jobs of political parties or the mainstream media.

Harrisburg Auction Does Well

With the moose head, elk rack, and bison skull in the back of my pickup truck, I can look past Guernsey’s poor organization that kept me and dozens of other buyers standing in line, in the heat, for no apparent reason.

Today’s bidding at the carousel on City Island was surprising. People were paying top dollar for every little item brought before them. Auctions typically have “nests” of buyers who are interested in particular types of things. Today, bidding was highly competitive across the entire audience and from all corners of the room.

Once again, Steve Reed may have screwed up, but it’s rare that screw-ups get redeemed so well. The cit
-tay is raking in big cash. Ironic as it is that the warehouse full of artifacts is literally in the shadow of the anchor, errr, incinerator.

I’m sad to see this part of our city’s history end. But if the address on the crate holding my moose is any indication, it’s a period and way of doing business we need to improve on in the future. The crate says :”To Brian Kelley, Museum, S 19th Street…,” which is the exact location of the city’s incinerator. What kind of a loony bin was being run here?

Trees for Harrisburg City, A Community Effort

Harrisburg is a historic, award-winning “All-America City” often noted for its majestic trees throughout its neighborhoods. Trees naturally die with age, and it was that slow but steady attrition that has had me and many of my neighbors re-planting trees and talking in recent years about how bare some of the blocks along Second Street look, in particular. Now, it appears that the city is going to take a big, exciting step forward on this issue. In a city that is going through acrimonious debate about its precarious financial situation (Act 47 takeover by the state, or a sad declaration of bankruptcy that nevertheless gives city leaders and citizens more control), good news is hard to come by and therefore all the more enjoyed by everyone. We need a breath of fresh air here, and it can’t come too soon. Stay tuned.
Josh