Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gee, a tax increase for Middletown. What a surprise.

I hope that Middletown residents now realize what their reward is for voting Tom Gallagher, Drew Kreiling and Pat Mallon into office last year. It is no secret that the cops wanted them in and now we know why. According to the Courier Times, "Middletown faces a nearly $2 million deficit in 2011," finance manager Dennis Pemko said. The police department is forecast to cost 12 percent more next year. The annual minimum contribution to the police pension fund could rise to $1.5 million in 2011 from $764,000 in 2010."

At a recent meeting, when asked why this contribution was so high, Pemko said because of the number of officers who have retired on disability pensions. Gallgher, Kreiling and Mallon rushed to approve every one in their first few months in office.

For the last few months, these three along with the cop-in-residence on the Board, George Leonhauser, have been rewarding all their friends with, in some cases, unnecessary contracts, already costing the taxpayers of Middletown thousands of dollars. And now the bill comes in from the police. The cost for the owner of an "average assessed home" next year could be shelling out a whopping $116 more for their tax bill.

Maybe it is time to start laying off some of the cops. As often as one can see them hiding out behind the Department of Public Works building, it should be obvious that a reduction in force is possible without jeopardizing public safety -- that was just a ruse by Gallagher, Kreiling and Mallon to scare voters. Now you can see what the tab is going to be.

Click here to read the full story. If it makes you angry, show up at the next meeting on Monday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. and let them know about it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism.

The 14 characteristics are:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Cisco Kid and Pancho

At the May 17 meeting, an item on the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors consent agenda provided for the purchase of a tractor with mowers for $96,841. Supervisor Robert McMonagle asked that item be removed. When it came up for discussion, Mr. McMonagle suggested that the equipment should be put out for bid. He felt that in these economic times, the Township should not rely on the state bid list. If the equipment were put out to bid, he said, the Township could perhaps save $10,000 or more.

Mr. McMonagle’s motion carried. The approved bid on this past Monday’s agenda was $86,969. Since both Supervisors Chairman Tom Gallagher and Supervisor George Leonhauser had voted against the motion to bid the tractor, Mr. McMonagle decided to reinforce the notion that bidding an item would always save money by reminding them of the discussion in May.

Rather than acknowledging the validity of the cost-saving measure, Mr. Gallagher turned the fiery red we have all come to love and went into defense mode. I think it was only (only?) a $5,000 savings, he said. After being corrected by Acting Township Manager Debbie Lamanna that it was indeed almost a $10,000 savings, he then went on to say he only wanted to get it approved so it would be ready for grass cutting season, forgetting that the representative of the company that was going to supply the tractor said it probably wouldn’t be delivered until after the summer anyway.

How much overtime did we have to pay because we didn’t have that equipment, Mr. Gallagher huffed. When someone said none, he followed up with How was I to know that we would have a summer so hot that the grass wouldn’t grow much. Are you kidding me?

But wait, as the TV commercials often say, there’s more. Now it is time for the ethics-challenged Mr. Leonhauser to jump in and say, with that evil chuckle of his, well after all it was (former) Township Manager Ray Stepnoski who put the item on the agenda.

Perhaps someone should explain to Mr. Leonhauser – very slowly now – that items on the agenda must either be approved or denied by the Board. It is the responsibility of each and every member of the Board to review agenda items before the meetings and then decide if they have merit or should be questioned.

These two are a better comedy act than the Cisco Kid and his jovial sidekick Pancho. (Google the TV series if you are too young to remember.)

After note: In case anyone hasn’t noticed, there are icons at the end of the blogs now that allow one to e-mail the blog to a friend or post it to a Facebook page. Feel free to do either.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Thugs are in Charge … and Now They Have Their Chief

The mob took over the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night and proved once and for all that they now rule in Middletown.

I’m not talking about the full-moon crowd that Supervisors Chairman Tom Gallagher whipped into a fury last year and now forms the base of his support. These are the people who have been attending meetings since the beginning of this year, cheering, shouting people down and generally disrupting the meetings. Unfortunately, they have turned Middletown Township into the laughing stock of Bucks County municipalities.

What we saw Monday night was much more serious than that. This mob literally took over the meeting. What was frightening – and yes, as one member of the audience remarked, intimidating – was that a significant number of those comprising this mob were Middletown Township police officers. This was gleefully confirmed by the ethically challenged, former police officer and Supervisor, George Leonhauser.

If you weren’t at the meeting Monday night, you should watch the replays. Meetings are re-broadcast on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 2:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

If you were there, keep in mind that many of those shouting and intimidating members of the audience were officers sworn to protect and serve the residents of Middletown Township. Andrew Flager, a resident of Levittown for 53 years, said he, his wife and several neighbors who came to observe the meeting were intimidated by the behavior of these police officers and their supporters – “especially the women,” he said during the meeting. These are the same people who came out in force last November and openly intimidated people at the polls.

And their greatest supporter is our new chief, James Kane. They now have free reign to continue this behavior. It is indeed a sad day for Middletown Township.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Middletown Township's Tea Party

The tea party mindless automatons were out in force at the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night to support their hero, Supervisor Chairman Tom Gallagher. I find myself wondering when I attend meetings now whether or not I ended up in some bizarre theater by mistake. It certainly doesn’t resemble what should be the sobering business of discussing what is needed to protect the health, safety and welfare of Middletown Township residents.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gallagher seems unable to carry on a discussion if it doesn’t follow the script given to him by his Tea/Republican Party operatives. Take, for example, when Julie Smith asked Mr. Gallagher why the Board would decide in one of its famous “other business” sessions to appoint, with no discussion, “Divorce Done Right” attorney Tracy Anne Timby as its labor counsel. The faux labor lawyer will be negotiating a new contract with the Policeman’s Benevolent Association this year and the Township needs much more than a divorce lawyer to keep from giving away the keys to the taxpayers’ purse. This is kind of like going to a chiropractor for quadruple bypass surgery. A chiropractor may be great at helping with back pain, but I sure wouldn’t want one carving open my chest.

Did Mr. Gallagher even acknowledge anything Ms. Smith suggested? Of course not. If the questioner isn’t one of his cheering fans, he goes into a catatonic state that is quite scary at times.

Mr. Gallagher should take note. That great movement of government by slogans known as the Tea Party is faltering, as most of these movements with brainless, bullying bigots for leaders inevitably do. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week, 50 percent of the respondents said they hold an "unfavorable impression" of this conservative, anti-Obama, anti-government movement – an increase from 39 percent in March. Those with a favorable view dropped from 41 to 36 percent, and those folks with no opinion fell from 20 percent to 14 percent. Put this all together, in the words of Columnist David Corn, and it appears that the more Americans see of the Tea Party, the less they like it.

Maybe, Mr. Gallagher, you should start listening to people with reasoned opinions rather than ramming through the dictates of your handlers. You might actually learn something.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hiding Behind “Other Business”

Middletown Township publishes on its Web site and provides newspapers with the agendas for upcoming meetings of the Board of Supervisors. That way residents can look over the agenda and, if there is nothing of interest to them, they can stay home and watch American Idol, secure in the knowledge that nothing untoward will take place at the meeting.

This current Board, however, is playing a shell game with the agendas. Look back over the agendas for the meetings since they have taken office and they all look pretty bland, containing mainly items dealing with the day-to-day operation of the Township. Business that might be of interest to a large number of citizens is hidden under the title “Other Business.”

Consider these items that were brought up under “Other Business:”

  • On February 16, there was a presentation by the fire companies and a subsequent vote to disband the ad hoc committee on emergency services.
  • On March 1, the job description for the position of police chief was discussed and then a vote was taken to advertise it.
  • On March 15, votes were taken to approve disability retirements for Officer Rosenstein and Officer McDonough, both of which were controversial.
  • On March 15, a vote was taken to change the rate for the Zoning Board attorney, the legality of which is suspect.
  • On April 5, Supervisor H. George Leonhauser posed a number of questions about police hiring requirements to Acting Director of Public Safety Patrick McGinty. There was really no excuse for this not being on the agenda since Mr. Leonhauser requested that Director McGinty attend the April 5 meeting to answer questions.
  • Also on April 5, without any warning or advance discussion, the Middletown Township Police Chief Selection Committee was formed and all members appointed.
  • On May 3, there was a 45-minute presentation by the PBA, a presentation filled with misstatements.
  • And, on May 17, Supervisor Andrew Kreiling nominated a new labor attorney, which, of course, passed muster with this clueless group. This new “labor attorney” is Tracy Anne Timby whose Web site is DivorceDoneRight.com. It is no surprise that negotiations on the new PBA contract begin this year, negotiations that require a tough, experienced labor attorney to reign in on some of the abuses that take place under the current contract.

Middletown Township residents should attend the next meeting and demand the Board of Supervisors stop hiding substantive issues behind the cloak of “Other Business.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Disingenuous Rage

I don’t know about you, but I never was able to figure out which thimble covered the pea as Middletown Police Officer Steven Forman shuffled and re-shuffled the “facts” during his 40-minute rant at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

But make no mistake: Officer Forman’s disingenuous rage was clearly designed to intimidate anyone with the temerity to question the culture of entitlement that exists among some members of the Middletown Township Police Department. Their contract is up for re-negotiation this year and this is Officer Forman’s first salvo to obfuscate facts that may make Middletown residents question whether we can continue to afford the demands of Officer Forman and his small band of sycophants.

New Board of Supervisor members should familiarize themselves with the Garipoli Report. Last year, the Township entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services to conduct a management review of the Middletown Township Police Department.

The peer-to-peer consultant for the project was Richard F. Garipoli, who is a 33-year veteran of municipal law enforcement in Pennsylvania with a long list of credentials. At the time, he was the Lancaster Police Chief. In one of our meetings, Mr. Garipoli commented on what he called “the generosity of the current contract.” He added he wouldn’t want his officers to get a look at that because his community couldn’t afford it.

More to the point of Officer Forman’s behavior Monday evening, in his official report Mr. Garipoli noted because of the “ugly” lack of respect being accorded PSD McGinty, the “supervisors of the Middletown Township Police Department need to reinstitute this culture back to the officers. Officers should be respectful at all times.”

That ugly lack of respect is indicative of real problems in the Police Department. I would venture to say that in most departments many of Officer Forman’s public rants would fall into the category of conduct unbecoming a police officer. Hopefully the new chief chosen by the Board will enforce some discipline.

We are fortunate, however, in that rmore than half of the Middletown Township Police Department is comprised of proud officers who are embarrassed by Forman, who is only in the position of PBA contract negotiator because he was elected to a job nobody wanted at a meeting that only about a third of the membership attended.

Of course one of the difficulties of gaining control of the department is the fact that Supervisor George Leonhauser is a virtual lobbyist for the Police Department – in direct and continual violation of a State Ethics Commission ruling of March 10, 2008. Because of the fact that Leonhauser has two sons on the force, the Ethics Commission ruled that in any matter that could affect his son’s financial interests, he would be required to not only abstain from voting but he is also prohibited from “using his authority of office, such as discussing, conferring with others or lobbying for a particular result.”

You can make your own judgment on how many times he has violated this part of the ruling. There is no question as to the Ethics Commission’s ruling pertaining to the PBA contract, which was finally ratified by the Board of Supervisors last year:

“Pursuant to Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act, Leonhauser would have a conflict of interest in voting as to the execution of the finalized” PBA contract. Not only did he vote for its passage, he is also an official signatory to the contract.

This is how little regard Mr. Leonhauser has for the law he is obliged to uphold. It is an attitude that permeates down through Officer Forman and those other members of his posse. If you would like to file a complaint against Mr. Leonhauser, go to the Ethics Commission Web site, and follow the instructions in the box titled “File a Complaint.”