NEW CASTLE —
(Second of two editorials)
The most dramatic local race in the April 24 primary is likely to be for Congress in the 4th District.
Two Democratic congressional incumbents, Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, are facing off against each other for a seat that was crafted in the aftermath of congressional redistricting. Population losses in western Pennsylvania forced the elimination of one of the commonwealth’s congressional districts, and Republicans who controlled the redistricting process in Harrisburg decided to set up this intraparty tussle.
It almost didn’t happen. Altmire came close to being tossed off the ballot over questions about the validity of some of his nominating petitions. In the end, a judge ruled in Altmire’s favor. But the decision hinged upon the residency of one of the petition circulators and could have gone either way.
It’s worth noting that the individual who circulated these petitions was not a volunteer, but rather a paid member of Altmire’s campaign staff. And last year, she worked in Altmire’s congressional office on the public payroll.
This is perfectly legal, but such shifting between government employment and campaign work raises questions. That’s particularly true in light of Pennsylvania’s Bonusgate scandal.
Bonusgate and related wrongdoing dealt largely with the use of government staff to perform campaign work on taxpayer time. While that line wasn’t crossed by Altmire, there’s a lesson here about the dysfunctional nature of modern politics in America.
Ideally, the circulating of petitions and performing of much campaign work would come from volunteers or party loyalists. Instead, an industry has arisen, oftentimes with individual candidates operating free of party systems and funding all campaign activities.
This setup, we believe, reflects a fundamental disconnect between the people and their elected representatives. Too often, candidates find it easier to use financial resources to hire people and to run ads instead of employing more personal outreach efforts.
In turn, campaign donations become the tail that wags the dog. And the sense that money dominates the political process serves to further alienate many citizens.
We assume that scandals such as Bonusgate serve as huge embarrassments for elected officials, even those not implicated. They ought to be eager to implement standards that give their line of work more respect.
There are many ways to do this, ranging from less partisan redistricting methods to tougher ethics rules for office holders and penalties to back them up.
But the response — especially in Harrisburg — is no response at all. Like an addict afraid to get clean, Pennsylvania’s politicians persist in embracing the status quo.
NEW CASTLE —
(Second of two editorials)
Our Opinion: Lousy voter turnout is a missed opportunity
Tuesday’s primary in Lawrence County had its share of winners and losers. But — based on the numbers — the biggest winner has to be voter apathy. Countywide, voter turnout in the primary was a whopping 17.1 percent. In case you missed it, our use of the term “whopping” is sarcasm.
Our Opinion: Pennsylvania’s primary system is controlled by parties
Should Pennsylvania’s primaries be open to independent voters? That’s an interesting question and one we have explored in the past on this page.
Our Opinion: State audit says city school district failed to collect from non-residents
Audit information about non-resident students who didn’t pay tuition at New Castle raises more questions than it answers. At least so far. We expect more details when the Pennsylvania auditor general’s office completes its report and the New Castle school district provides its response.
Our Opinion: Make the most of your power to vote by casting ballot tomorrow
So what kind of turnout will there be for tomorrow’s primary? Recent history suggests somewhere between low and lousy. This year’s elections are devoted to local races, and there are few major ones being contested in the primary.
Our Opinion: Privatization of county jail is worthy of examination
Generally speaking, we support government efforts to seek more efficient ways to provide essential services. So we have no problem with the decision by the Lawrence County commissioners to solicit proposals for the private operation of the county jail.
Our Opinion: We endorse candidates for New Castle board
The New Castle school district is often a study in contrasts. There are complaints about the district on everything from taxes to nepotism, from test scores to ethical slights. Yet at the same time, plenty of students within the district excel. It’s a tribute to the hard work of those students, their families and the educators who support them.
Our Opinion: You should be frightened, outraged by IRS abuse of power
When people talk about government posing a threat to citizens, a common topic these days is unmanned drones. But a more credible threat may be the Internal Revenue Service. This agency, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing related rules, has the ability to make life miserable for the average individual.
Our Opinion: Our endorsements for City Council race
The city of New Castle needs help. Financially distressed and operating under Pennsylvania’s Act 47, New Castle must find ways to reverse its population loss and fiscal challenges.
Our Opinion: Court frowns on gerrymandering, but only slightly
Pennsylvania legislators have received the green light to put their own political interests ahead of yours. That’s a key point in the latest Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on legislative apportionment in the commonwealth.
Our Opinion: Study says distracted driving deaths are under reported
Suppose you operated a piece of heavy machinery at your job. And suppose it’s machinery that moves quickly with little effort. What would happen if you decided to take one hand off that equipment — while it was still in motion — and instead focused your attention on a telephone call?
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- Our Opinion: Lousy voter turnout is a missed opportunity