Thoughts on Indictment of Former Harrisburg Mayor Steven Reed

(Last updated July 16, 2015) – Pretty damning stuff. We always knew our system was for sale. We never expected that the prices and conversations about it were so cavalierly and openly discussed. Just skip to former Harrisburg Council member Richard House’s testimony, for a taste.

I sat a few rows behind Reed at his Senate testimony, when he was asked point blank about his use of a special projects fund created at The Harrisburg Authority during his tenure. His answer, and I quote, because it was so brazen: “What special fund?” The most profound part was that none of the PA Senators hearing that could give Reed any specific info about this fund to help him answer. Maybe that will change now.

And remember Sen Mike Folmer’s prescient quote, during those same hearings. Why no one else thought of it, and everyone has ignored it till now is a huge mystery. I don’t think anyone will be able to after Reed is given clarification of the special projects fund created at The Harrisburg Authority during his tenure.

Folmer: “For the $328 million of debt, there’s almost $50 million of consulting fees,” he said. “What were they (third-party professionals, who signed off on high-risk financing deals) consulting?”

The reason is the same reason the underlying problems are allowed to continue unchecked nationwide at all levels: We are too timid to call The Political Class to task.

Yes, kudos to the persistent voices that wouldn’t shut up, even when we all called him rude and disrespectful. It was really just honesty all along…they oft sound the same.

Nevertheless, I look for this to lead to no structural changes to prevent its recurrence. We’ll pretend it is an isolated incident, and blame Reed and as few as he can get away with fingering as possible. It is systemic, by both broken parties and at all levels of government.

The Political Class – those who fund, pull the strings and profit so unimaginably off each of these isolated incidences – will again escape unscathed. And good thing: it needs all its resources to begin greasing the next set of skids, for the next swindle.

And this may be the misstep that brings The Political Class at least to a public shaming. They almost never are; they hide themselves behind a wall of legal mumbo jumbo that makes their brazenly immoral action perfectly legal, or so council has advised.. But I hope this is the case where they stepped too far…or that we found enough songbirds who have to squeal. I don’t expect any of them to actually get punished like you or I would if we stole a box of Twinkies from Turkey Hill, but a little embarrassment is good comeuppance.

Timely, if not prescient: Mike Fleck rats out mayor Ed Pawlowski link between campaign contributions and Allentown city contractors.

Thank God these problems are finally, at too long last, beginning to be connected to their true sources:

For-profit political campaign financing.

We can have it, or we can have a functioning democratic republic. We can not have both.

I hope we are NOT thinking this is just a problem with Mayors, or with one of the only two teams allowed at the political table (which George Washington warned us not to allow). Just look at the many costs we bear to provide for those who can afford “$46.8 million spent lobbying Pennsylvania officials and $8.2 million contributed to Pennsylvania candidates and PACs.”

How is your elected official – you know, the one who in theory represents YOU – doing in the Great Oil & Gas Lobby Giveaway?  Check, the list grows each campaign finance reporting cycle.

Campaign donors can and do exact unjust reward from those in every position at all levels of government, as a very few and I have documented for years…and as the lame stream media has largely if not totally ignored.

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Will One Man Kill Medical Marijuana, Despite 88% of PA’s People?

The blog has had 829 unique reads in two days!  Keep sharing / Keep shaming.

Thanks and spread the word.  This is ALL of OUR democratic republic.  You wouldn’t know from our #BrokenSystem.

PA House Chair Rep Matt Baker will kill medical marijuana: “House Health Committee Chairman Matt Baker said Friday he has no plans to take up the Senate’s medical marijuana bill — or any medical marijuana bill, for that matter.”

Meanwhile, the latest Quinnipiac poll = 88% PA wants it:

The Pa Senate passed medical marijuana by over 80%. For the second session in a row. Recall that last session, then Majority Leader (now Speaker) Mike Turzai refused to bring it to a vote. So it died. And the whole process went to square one.

And there we have “OUR” process.

Many years ago Russ Diamond painstakingly documented how a small handful of General Assembly leadership plays this game with every, single piece of legislation. I recall he used a number less than 30 individuals who matter, but it has been a while. Mainstream media normally does nothing to reveal this charade of our elected officials working together to blah blah, so bravo to PennLive here. Diamond did so in his perennial masterpiece “Tip of the Spear,” which I continue to recommend all read.

He was roundly scoffed at by members of The Political Class – a term I believe he coined, or at least brought into common use. PA State Rep. Russ Diamond is now an elected legislator. I hope he has retained the scorn for this very process he so accurately showed us.

“I think there are a lot of unresolved issues and when you talk with the scientific groups and the medical community…” Baker says:

There are few issues that haven’t been resolved (beaten to death, actually) during the years of PA Senate hearings and testimony. I can’t understand why the House members can’t just review some of that. It is not like they don’t have the staff to help them. That seems like a smokescreen.

If nothing other than mainstream exposure of our #‎BrokenSystem comes out of this, at least it is something.

In seemingly (no really, I assure you) unrelated news:

Health Committee Leader Who is “Skeptical of Medical Marijuana” Has Ties to Pain Killer Lobby

Yes, that would be the same PA House Chair Rep Matt Baker.  Shame on you.

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Swatara Township, Dauphin County, PA – Analysis of a Sea Change

Swatara Splits Again, 4-4 Blocks

After splitting 5-4 against the will of most Swatara citizens who spoke in public on the issue of Ward vs At-Large local governance, Swatara Township commissioners fail to replace John Weikle. Weikle was the deciding vote, who sold his home immediately after that vote and shortly after publicly scoffing at the notion that he was moving. That same split (minus Weikle) reared its head, and I suspect it will continue to.

That Commission is now a 4-4 deadlock. Who wins the 2015 race will determine how that 5-4 split falls in the future. Powers that have been want it to remain with the big money control. Powers that exist would like it to represent those it is supposed to represent.

What Matters to Swatara’s Candidates?

“The most critical issue facing the residents of Swatara is their representation in the township.”

~ Swatara Commissioner incumbent Ed Troxell

“…change in government by electing commissioners at large in place of the nine wards…despite the vast majority of citizens at our public meetings on this matter voicing their opposition”

~ Swatara Commissioner incumbent Richard Bouder

“I feel the change from 9 Wards to an at-large township is a big concern.”

~ Swatara Commissioner candidate Cyndie Zalek

No mention of Wards, At-Large or Swatara’s system of representation:

~ Swatara Commissioner incumbent candidate Jeff Varner
~ Swatara Commissioner candidates Shane Steele, Stephen Holmes, Brian Faleshock, Toby Radosevic
~ Swatara Commissioner returning candidate Tony Spagnolo

Forward For Wards

On April 23, I wrote on PennLive:

“Swatara is one of the very few to even have a challenged Primary, and for both parties. Given that, the electorate must demand candidates of both parties address this one issue, within the next month.

They need yard signs simply saying “Return our Wards, GOP Elect: Bouder and Troxell”. “Return our Wards, Dems Elect: …” and list the first three of the four candidates names who come forth on this.

Let Musser’s guys then explain their opposition to Wards.

Otherwise, the three with the most signs and mailers win. As usual. And that is the three with the most outside cash flowing in. And all of us in Dauphin County know whose team that is.”

I see Bouder and Troxell have begun using “Restore our Wards,” almost as the slogan I recommended first. I have not seen any Dem signs mention it, and that – in my opinion, as a Dem candidate elsewhere – is a huge mistake.

Restore Our Wards

Restore Our Wards

In what has become a rare blessing anywhere in Dauphin County, both parties have challenged primaries. The results of that will set the stage for how realistic (or maybe even how relevant) getting the wards most in Swatara want is during the General.

If Varner, Radosevic, and Faleshock sweep the GOP Primary, it will be a very daunting task to even force the issue in the General.

Muss-y Money

Speaking of which: I sense a familiar PAC convolution coming up:

None of Varner, Radosevic, and Faleshock’s finance reports claim any expenditure for their very numerous signs.

Three Candidate Together

Three Candidates Together

The three candidate’s signs almost always appear together. At least one of those signs says “Paid for by the Committee for a Stronger Swatara.”

Candidates PAC

Candidates PAC

Fine, and certainly legal. But, and as usual here in Dauphin County: Who is REALLY paying for it?

Recall Derry Township’s mysteriously appearing ’Moving Derry Forward’ (MDF) PAC, in 2013, ended up funded in large part (almost solely) by Mike Musser’s perennial ‘Better Govt PA’ (BGP) PAC.  See my blog “Funny Money in Derry Twp” on this page:

Funny Money in Derry Township?

MDF exercised its freedom of speech to buy my opponents over $10,000 worth of mailers. One of them beat me, but my running mate was seated despite, and I am back running this cycle in Derry.  MDF’s address was that of by David and Amy  Feidt, Derry Twp GOP committee members.  David now signs as Treasurer of BGP.

Musser PAC

On all three of their almost identical campaign reports, ‘Committee for a Stronger Swatara’ is at incumbent Jeff Varner’s address of 523 High Street, Bressler, PA 17113. Each candidate reports having loaned that entity over a thousand dollars.

Committee for a Stronger Swatara

Per Jerry Feaser, the Elections lead at Dauphin County: “The Committee is filed as one that will support “all” candidates. Faleshock is the chair and Varner is the Treasurer. Also, it is a committee that is intended to operate “indefinitely.””

In other words, it is NOT the Authorized Committee for any or all of the three candidates who loaned (did not donate or contribute) over a grand each. That is why no candidate signed the report. It also means that one of the Musser PACs is free to legally jump in the day after it is too late to run in PennLive and pay back the “loans”. Then, no one except those reading my blog will know anything about before voting. Pretty slick system, and bet heavily that it happens.  (and it did!  See “June 25 – Post Primary UPDATE” below)

UPDATE per Expanded PennLive Article

A PennLive article later claims that “ward dispute and finances are rising to the top as the main issues cited by candidates”

Democratic Candidate Shane “Steele said if the commissioners understood civility, a majority wouldn’t have done away with the ward system,” according to PennLive.

The article says Democratic Candidate Tony Spagnolo says Wards v At-Large are “a “big factor” in the election.” It did not say where Spagnolo stands on them, though, and his response to PennLive doesn’t mention the issue:

Republican Candidate Brian “Faleshock — who said the newly enacted at-large system better serves the public — claimed that the ward issue is “smoke and mirrors”…”

Republican Candidate Jeff Varner stood by his vote to change, and said: “I don’t know how the argument can be made that it’s (changing to At-Large) not beneficial.”

Post-Primary UPDATE

Troxell and Bouder sent 2/3 of Team Musser GOP field packing, Varner survives Primary. Probably over the Wards removal, but regardless, it is good to see the will of the many trump tons of cash.

Cyndie Zalek, the only Dem to put Swatara Wards as top issue, finishes with comfortable lead. Look for her to hammer Varner’s yes vote to remove Wards, in the General election, where I think she could unseat him.

June 25 Post Primary UPDATE:

And Like Clockwork…

BGP gave Committee For A Stronger Swatara (CSS) a $6,034.08 donation, on May 6, 2015. Two days later CSS mails WS Group that exact amount for mailers.

BGP May 2015 Report

This donation is not to be confused with a donation on that same day for the exact same odd amount, to another PAC, “Friends of Swatara” (FS). FS gave WS Group $6,034.08, with no description of the expenditure. The donation from Musser’s PAC to WS Group are the only transactions ever for Friends of Swatara

FS May 2015 Report

BGP and Mike Musser report the same address – 813 Chambers St, 17113.

Each of the Team At-Large candidates reports $2,011.36 contibuted in-kind (spent on their behalf), from each CSS and FS, for mailers.  Here’s incumbent candidate Jeff Varners.  Toby Radosovic’s and Brian Faleshock’s reports are identical in content, if arguably in handwriting.

Varner May 2015 Report

Result? People Power Wins Anyway

Team At-large came up with a one for three…After spending over $16,000, depending on how you count all the PAC to PAC and in-kind donations and loans, and candidate direct expenditures over the two reporting periods.

Ed Troxell (Wards defender) spent less than $340 and beat them.

Richard Bouder (Wards defender) spent $714.18 and beat them.

Note that with Troxell and Bouder, there is no need to count ANY convolutions of donations, loans and expenditures.  All are reported straight-forward, in a fashion all can see easily and transparently.

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Derry Citizens Raise Concerns Over Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Great minds and all that. See John Dunn’s, Susan Reider’s, and my LTE’s on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) currently being debated.

NONE were pre-coordinated, to my knowledge.

One gentleman who is a Milt called me from Harrisburg to thank me and offer to help my campaign that very day it ran.

All available at, which is a paid site; and by hardcopy.


January 22, 2015

The Township is heavily promoting the merits of TIF, Tax Increment Financing. It is a tool used for public financing to subsidize redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement for “blighted areas”. It appears this is how the downtown corridor is definitively being spun as a blighted area to qualify for a TIF which is far from what one would define as a blighted area.

On the surface, TIF sounds great and works nicely for the Township, but it has conditions that negatively impacts the School District’s ability on a yearly basis to generate incremental revenue from real estate taxes from appreciated properties from development. When TIF is enacted, it freezes the current real estate value of that property for a period of some 20 years and the advantages of that goes back to the operational handling of the TIF. This is very reminiscent to the Amusement Tax where Hershey Interests contracted the Township into freezing that rate for a 50 year timeframe directly at the expense of the private property owner. They have an agenda and it is not you.

To give an example, the 19 East Chocolate property, which was the plant, has a current assessed value of $5.9 million. Under TIF, that value would be frozen for some twenty years regardless of the development that would ensue adding appreciated value to our community. If developed to the potential value that parcel demands, it would easily be a $50 million assessed real estate value that would add incremental tax dollars to the School District. Unfortunately, the consequence to the School District would be that the development of that property would be frozen at $5.9 million over the following 20 years while its real value would be $50 million. Not garnering the true value of that development over the 20 year period would cost the School District over some $14 million in lost tax revenue.

Is this good for our community that our School District is denied that revenue stream so that business subsidizes the Hershey Interests to comprehensively develop their personal plan at the expense of the private homeowner? Without this potential incremental monies coming into the School District, who picks up the bill? Yup, it’s us, homeowners, who are the only avenue the school has to tax to meet their obligations. Another classic case of one of the richest Trusts in the United States putting it to the private citizens of Derry Township.

Don’t accept this shell game. Google “what are the shortcomings of TIF” and one will quickly see multiple examples how this funding scheme has gone array. Interestingly, the state of California who invented TIF has axed it. A concept too good to be true; you bet and which it is. Don’t allow this to be a funding tool for Derry Township.

John BN Dunn


January 29, 2015

If Derry Twp’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district is authorized, it will help fight “blight” in Hershey.

Huh? Developers who can afford to develop in Hershey – wherever these “blighted” areas downtown may be – rarely show signs of struggling to make ends meet. My taxpaying family is currently. If there is a 2015 General Fund budget balance of over $2M, as predicted, return that cash to we who struggle to pay it.

Several years ago, our terribly regressive OPT (Occupational Privilege Tax) was increased by 25%, in one fell swoop. The deficit was caused by frivolous expenditures, of little benefit to those most hurt by OPT’s increase. Decrease that first, as I wrote in these pages on Jan. 19, 2012.

We The People of Derry need fiscally responsible leadership. First and foremost, this requires saying no to those who don’t need help, in favor of those who do.

Before subsidizing lucrative ventures largely undertaken by comfortable people, how about a little relief to the working stiffs?

Steve Todd
Derry Township


April 16, 2015

I read the Downtown Hershey Association’s plan with enthusiasm, until I got to the action item regarding Tax Increment Financing. The Association considers this a necessary condition for downtown revitalization, and I think any alert taxpayer in Derry Township should ask why.

Tax incentive financing is a tool used to attract developers to blighted neighborhoods. According to my research, the financing scheme basically works like this: a committee of representatives from all local taxing authorities gets together and determines what the taxable value of a particular property or area (TIF district) might be after development. The difference between the pre-development tax revenue and the post-development anticipated revenue – the “increment” – is used to borrow money on the municipal bond market to cover the cost of public infrastructure associated with the development, such as sidewalks, parking, lighting, etc. This money is given up front to the developers. The bond is repaid by the taxing authorities, by sacrificing some portion of the increased revenue from the TIF district.

Here are some of my questions. First, given the tourist traffic and relative wealth of our township, why the sweetener for developers? It seems to me that this creates private wealth at public expense – very bad public policy!

Second, why the rush to create a TIF district in downtown Hershey when action on our comprehensive plan seems to have stalled? Wouldn’t it be better to determine what is best for the entire township, before raising funds to support private development in downtown alone?

Third, our Board of Supervisors has no conflict of interest policy and two supervisors are developers. Are they prepared to recuse themselves from voting on this matter to prevent the appearance, if not the fact, of a conflict of interest?

Finally, why are the taxpayers of Derry Township paying developers to correct a situation largely created by the Hershey interests when they decimated West Chocolate Avenue in the first place? Yes, more people are participating in public meetings about these issues, but what difference will it make in the end? In this company town, it seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Susan Reider
Derry Township


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Bernie Sanders has Raised $1.5M…in One Day! So…

“That one day haul is more than the first-day hauls of any presidential candidate that’s released their data:”

Let’s look at that, not with rose glasses, but analytically.

$1.5M divided by 35,000 donors means the average donor gave less than $43! That is far more welcome than the amount he raised, which is also impressive, but will not hold a candle to the $2.5B HRC has pledged to raise.

If 25% of 72 Million registered Democrats were to donate $100, that would be $1.8B. A prudently realistic barometer; if Elizabeth Warren for President doesn’t run, I will give him $100, for example. Plus, Indies and Third Parties will pour money on him. Even some conservatives, I think.

He is the first real voice recognizing our #BrokenSystem – not one party saving us from an evil only other choice – in a long, long time. If Warren doesn’t run, he will certainly be the only one in this race to allow for that debate, which I believe most voters crave.

Sanders’ presence will drag the debate leftward. If he only does that, it will be the first time in decades anyone has been able to significantly do so. For that alone, America should be thankful.

This could be the peaceful revolution that we’ve been waiting for. But I’ve said that before…

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Supremely Curious – The Case of the Non-Partisan, Non-Political Office That Wasn’t

The “mere possibility that judges’ decisions might be motivated by the desire to repay campaign contributions” will undermine public faith in our courts.” ~ Chief Justice Roberts, April 29, 2015, Williams-Yulee opinion:

Exactly. So Overturn Citizens United, so we don’t undermine public faith in the rest of our elected government. Why the double standard? Well…

“Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot.” ~ Chief Justice John Roberts, same ruling.

By what measure, Mr. Chief Justice? To compete in the PA Supreme Court 2015 race…JUST THE PRIMARY…is a half a million dollars, according to both Dems and GOP going in. All competitive candidates have exceeded that, or gotten very close. Look at the endorsements for that race. They fall lockstep along party ideology for both Dem and GOP candidates. I can’t imagine an endorsement falling another way, by definition of endorsement.

There is no case that has come out of SCOTUS along party lines that one could imagine coming out the other way, if the party representation were reversed.  Sounds like Congress, and POTUS.  And we don’t seem to trust them with for-profit campaign cash either:

“But voters, regardless of party affiliation, continue to question the honesty of Congress. Fifty-eight percent (58%) believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for either cash or a campaign contribution, although this is down slightly from past surveying. Just 16% disagree. Twenty-six percent (26%) are undecided.” ~ Rasmussen, March 31, 2015

Most support public finance of elections, and 80% would limit private financing. But most don’t count, if we ever truly did.

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Rally for Marriage Equality, US Federal Courthouse, Harrisburg, PA

In honor of the SCOTUS hearing of gay marriage, about 50 joined CRSD at our Tues, 4/28, 5 pm Rally to Show Support for Marriage Equality and to End Discrimination of LGBTQ Community, at the US Federal Courthouse For The Middle District Of Pennsylvania
228 Walnut St, Harrisburg to tell the Federal Courts that we hold these truths to be self-evident:

Human Rights are Civil Rights. All deserve to marry those they love and we all deserve to provide for our families, as Jeanine and I do for ours.

And Justice for ALL - Photo Credit: J. Rizzo Mertz

Me Demanding Justice for ALL – Photo Credit: J. Rizzo Mertz

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