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Triblive Monroeville Mayoral Primary Coverage

Triblive Monroeville Mayoral Primary Coverage

The Trib/ Times Express covered the Mayoral Primary pretty succinctly, but, my entire responses to the questions are as follows:

 

Why am I running?

 

My sole reason for running is out of a sense of obligation and service to this community. Many decry the present as less than the glorious past. I do not think one needs to attempt holding on to a past that may or may not have existed save for a sense of nostalgia. The present and the future can be shaped by decency and a positive view of the opportunities before us. I gain no advantage running for Mayor. In many respects the Mayor Office is defined as an incredibly weaker position than a Council Member Office by Home Rule Charter. Understand, my family, my business commitments, my church and the Boy Scout Troop 184 where I volunteer have plenty to do, that is, quite frankly, more enjoyable and far more rewarding. My wife doesn’t want me to be involved in this race. When I announced I would not seek re-election I received scores of calls and people who to my face said I needed to run again – either for that seat, or for Mayor. It is at the behest of many constituents who watch our meetings that I am running.

 

What am I passionate about?

 

People tell me that our meetings cause us to be the best comedy on cable. The Mayor is to run a meeting with dignity and encourage substantive debate. I will bring this to our meetings, something last seen when Jim Lomeo was Mayor.

 

We face numerous issues for the foreseeable future.  We need to find ways to address the money we need without stripping wealth in order to hold to the commitments made to residents and Municipal employees. We need to find ways to more effectively create realistic expectations given the money we have in order to weather the changing economics of being a government. This must be done in a way that encourages business activity, wealth building and a great quality of life for a wide array of people who chose to become part of a unified community. Without a vote, I think I can influence and help develop this debate more effectively. This is the one thing the Charter provides for. The Mayor is to guide debate in a sensible, calm, collaborative manner even in the face of the most astounding controversies we may face.

 

All of the issues are not negative. We must deal with the opportunity for deep drilling that exists in our community for three reasons: we have land that can bring real revenue, land owners have land that can increase their wealth, and we are at a location in SWPA that puts us in a prime spot for ancillary services that can bring jobs to this community. We still have enormous budget issues and retirement commitments that we need to address. Only a Mayor that unifies members while encouraging debate can get these dealt with.

 

Look we either find ways to encourage new money coming here, find ways to address our budget concerns, and help create an atmosphere that allows our residents to grow their wealth, or we will need to strip the wealth of this community in order to maintain the status quo thus harming all residents. The status quo tends to favor a long standing cronyism establishment that is upset that things are changing. Ultimately, the council must establish guidelines and a policy agenda, while recognizing that they must get out of the building, and have the manager deliver that vision according to precepts of the Charter and to the benefits of the people not the elected or appointed officials.

 

My Background: I spent a number of years in service in my twenties. I have a BA from Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY in Political Economics and an MBA from PITT through the EMBA program. Most of my career was in sales and operations in the Computer Networking Industry. I was promoted to VP Operations and transferred to Pittsburgh in September 2001. The experiences give me a perspective dealing with change, financial challenges and pressure that is likely unique among candidates. I’ve served on the Planning Commission, including as Chair for two years. I have been a member of Monroeville council since 2010.

 

Current Employment: Currently in my day job, I work for the Commonwealth as a District Administrator in the Department of Revenue. I am also founding executive of a company, Sagamore Group, Inc. in RI (all three other founders are from Eastern sea board states) focused on healthcare and medical sales. We are a privately held company that currently in its fourth year has 12 employees and is growing.

 

Family: Married, Laura, 2 children, Sophia, college sophomore and Max, Eagle Scout

 

Birthdate: 4/17/64

 

Organizations: Cross Roads Presbyterian Church, Monroville Area Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scout Troop 184, Infragard; as a council member – Library Board Liason, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments, Monroeville Foundation

Resolved 2013 – Get or Knit More Funky Socks

Certainly Funky Socks

My 2013 Resolution

This I can do. No weight-loss/ -gain/ -stay-the-same, reading more, watching less/ better TV or other potentially failed resolutions. But we all need one right? I have one dilemma I need to fix this year, and I am resolved to get it done.

Blue, Grey or Olive Double Breasted Suits. Love ‘em. Glenn Plaid Two or Three Piece. Ditto. Traditional Blue Blazer. Wouldn’t think my wardrobe complete without it. The same goes for my traditional 120’s tab collar double cuff (French) white shirts. I can’t get by without having wing tips, cap toes, and I sure would love to include bluchers in the shoe set. White executive fold pocket squares are a daily mainstay. Certainly silk squares are great for the celebratory evening.And while they tend on the traditional side , the ties I sport and the braces I wear are heavily colored (braces from Brooks Brothers and Burberry’s; ties mostly from Paul Frederick or Macy’s).

Which altogether begs the question regarding accessories in general, more specifically socks.Why, why must socks be black, blue, brown or short? Maybe you’ve noticed it too. Maybe not. In a general sense we are captive to the overbearing regulation of the fashionistas and other experts who hawk clothing.

The socks pictured I received for a stocking stuffer.

They are mid calf. Okay. Most of my argyles are low calf and 40% of the time when I sit they show part of my leg. And no, my trousers aren’t short, they are properly tailored with a heavy break when I stand. This year I am changing the game. All the socks I buy, except white ankle length, will be both long and funky. If I have to I will do as the sailors of yore – I will knit proper length over-calf knee highs.

This is certainly a resolution I can keep. What’s yours?

Keep Promises Through Partnerships

So many services, so many commitments, so many costs. The only way to preserve the commitments that government has made locally, statewide, or federally is to increase tax takings. Well so the supporters of “continuance of service” would have us believe. They typically don’t say things exactly that way. They say things that sound more benign and foreboding at the same time, “If we increase taxes we won’t cut any services”.

This fallacy is too fraught with problems to address adequately. But three points bear listing. First, it is not axiomatic that taking more from people means services remain. Insolvency is a growing option for many governments. SW PA is filled with communities that could be midwestern ghost towns, often due to ever-increasing taxes that produced destitution for residents who stayed. Second, it is not axiomatic that cutting costs reduces services. Third, it is not axiomatic that all government services are worth keeping by the government at least. Regarding the first point understand this – taxes are exercising of the power governments have to legally hold up their residents and citizens, and sometimes simply people who work in a location. Taxes are not voluntary.

The second and third points are somewhat related to each other. Too many times governments take on roles that have nothing to do with the scope of government. This contributes to untoward costs from commitments related mostly to retirement commitments governments make to employees (see earlier blog: Why Unions aren’t the solution – Employees aren’t the Problem). Private entities, whether for or non-profit, typically deliver offer expertise, efficiency, and economies of scale that governments often don’t have otherwise. This stems from the first point – taxes are taken not voluntarily given. Third parties have the market to contend with – deliver value or get no donations or customers. Thus by taking strategic steps governments can cut costs and guarantee sustainable services, often better services than the government can provide alone.

Still wish to preserve every service?

Interestingly, Private Public Partnerships are mostly used for what they should be used for least, economic and real estate development or redevelopment, and often propounded by the keep-current-services crowd. Economic development is served by strong policies that support growth, at the lowest feasible tax rates. Austin’s evidence is that services can be performed better by third parties and for less. It’s time to make American style privatization and outsourcing the public norm as the way to improve, not preserve, the commitments made to citizens. Infrastructure projects to save the failing infrastructure of the USA governments is one key area that has proven more than successful.

San Bernardino has led the way showing ethics can be improved by eliminating nepotism. Maywood, CA outsourced in order to avoid the plight of Stockton, CA and forced outsourcing. Sandy Springs incorporated without incurring the infrastructure and costs of personnel. With the proper will, lots of effort, and clear direction, the evidence shows through these communities that vibrant important and even vital services can and must be outsourced if governments are going to deliver on the promises made.

We can and must improve services, and this points the way, but I ask again, still wish to preserve services?

Spending is the Problem

deficitspending

For the Monroeville 2013 budget, on Tuesday I made a balanced budget amendment using recommendations from the manager which is also posted in excel 2007.
The budget was calculated based on a fiction of a tax millage increase that has not been voted on or approved. In order to effectively determine a spending level, the first thing that must be done is correct the expected tax receipts by reducing the total expected income from roughly 27m to roughly 24m. This presents a realistic view of what we are currently able to spend. It also presents opportunities for savings since it is quite a bit less. Like many communities Monroeville has committed itself to zero based budgeting. Yet every year we fail to operate zero based, instead we have run losses for 10 years running. We raise everything across the board and use deficit spending from reserves to keep on spending willy nilly. We make commitments to our employees and to the public, but never do the hard work of reducing a penny for every penny increased in spending. The other option is only to increase what is taken from those we are to represent and whose money once taken forcibly we are morally and legally obligated to protect.
My solution to the dilemma is based on the manager’s recommendations – consolidate the dispatch to the county 911 center which is mandated by state law to run dispatch. Eliminate the ring down. Admit finally that ISO has rated the official 911 safer than our dispatch. 1.5 million People including our own residents are dependent on the county all day everyday anytime they are not in Monroeville.
The manager also recommended that the Local Services Tax and the Delinquent Earned Income Tax Collections be outsourced. Given that EIT flow has worked fine since Keystone was awarded the Eastern Area EIT collections, the additional savings are warranted.
Leave the library funded. Leave the Senior Center funded. Leave the pool. Leave refuse. With that we have adopted some of the manager’s cuts and have saved money and improved service. The manager and his employees, many of whom have told me independently that there is anywhere from 5% to 20% savings that the elected officials can never find, are left with 8% to extract out as professionals.
Austin, TX has done the work and calculated the insourcing of services. Whether due to economies of scale, focus, or an interest in turning a profit, the private sector was demonstrated to be on average six times less, excluding infrastructure and equipment startup costs. To preserve the greatness of Monroeville there currently no other way.

In Response – How Much Does Punditry Matter? – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

How Much Does Punditry Matter? – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan.

Ironically, the conclusion I find incorrect. Democrats are as authoritarian as most Republicans. In Fact, more so. Consider the current regulation of smoking (outdoors), transfats, sugars and a whole host of “vices”. While many of the attacks have found an unfortunate champion in Mayor Bloomberg, nationally it is the Democrats who are the driving force in eliminating our freedoms.

Regardless of the rhetoric, it was originally the GOP that drove integration. It is the GOP that has and continues to support responsibility, self-determination and economic vitality through free markets.

The LGBT community has made headway throughout the political spectrum and will continue to do so, there will be continued opposition from elitist Republicans. The recent comments about Ann Romney not having worked a day in her life are not libertarian, they are elitist Democrat. Is a woman who works for free at home for 50 – 90 hours a week any less of a person than a woman who works 50 – 90 hours a week for 30, 50, 100, or 1,000K? I think not. Is a man who stays at home any less than a man that works for money? I think not. I couldn’t do it personally whether married as I am now to my beautiful wife, who has stayed at home, gone to college and worked for pay, or as the husband of a husband who gets paid. That’s the point. Republicans by and large support freedom to make these decisions as adults.

As a nation of incalculable rights for citizens, we must examine every new law in light of rights first, and the public good second. Yes, rights come before the public good. Otherwise rights will become enumerated and we will be a nation subject to the whims of our government. And this too is a reason that while in the short term it may be expedient for libertarians to align left, it is incomprehensible in the long-term since the left will relegate “the public good” above the rights of the individual.

We Were All Immigrants Once

Maybe it’s that first generation thing. Maybe it’s that my earliest memories of home are Germany. Maybe it’s that in Miami I met so many people helped by the Gipper, and so many that still would be illegal. Maybe it’s that until the 1900s borders were more fluid. Maybe it’s that empirical evidence supports that innovation comes from those on the move. And maybe, just maybe it’s because it’s the right thing to do.

Those maybes point to a larger issue. Immigration isn’t as simple as they versus we. If it were, we could put up a force field barrier like they had in the movie zardOz and get on with our lives. On my father’s side my siblings and I were only 4 generations deep. On my mom’s it was her then us. For me, the youngest of the Army brat’s, for all practical intents and purposes, I am the immigrant. Come to think of it, my one brother, born in France, even had to make a citizenship decision at 18. It is interesting that he gave up his claim to be French in order to be a US Citizen, but I have a friend who can still claim to be a US Citizen even after becoming French.

It was the open borders of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries that shaped where we are today in the 21st. Those fluid borders are why anyone other than North American Indians is here. What enables the level of innovation in this country is that immigrants and their descendants are wired for it. Go to other countries built on immigration and you’ll find a frenetic US like pace. Go to other countries with little immigration and you’ll find a much more quiet pace.  For economic vitality you need innovation.

We need a comprehensive solution, one that won’t put us back in today’s situation in twenty years. Kids born here and then raised here, are US. Even many kids who weren’t born here, but were raised here, some who hardly speak their parents’ language are for practical purposes US also.  Right now isn’t a time to rush through some program or fiat willy nilly, but the time has come to evaluate how to effectively open our borders for our prosperity and the protection of US.

Defined Contribution vs Defined Benefit Plans

In case you haven’t seen the news, retirement benefits in all forms are destroying our governments. This is true of Federal, State and certainly Local.

In Monroeville, we have a two million shortfall related just to funding of Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) due to prior officials commitments through collective bargaining or in the case of administrative employees simply by the will of Council. Keep in mind this doesn’t include the currently required payments of direct retirement pay owed due to the defined benefit plans we have instituted and that the private sector ran from starting in the 1980s.

The solution is simple and legal. We need to switch our employees from defined benefit plans to more rational 457 plans. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? The reality is these are simply 401k plans for government. Anyone who has participated in 401ks realizes that they work. It is the retirement plan of the 21st Century and the plan that will save Monroeville and all other governments of the the USA. And you know that wealth gap everyone talks about? Passing the money down from generation to generation through proper planning will increase the overall prosperity of this country like nothing else.

Tere’s more more information at 457 Wiki, and some great details from Center for State and Local Government Excellence. For a really indepth consideration look at this article from American City and County (subscription may be required).

This impacts you and your tax obligations regardless of whether you are a citizen who works in the private sector or public sector. What do you think?

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