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.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/swatara_township_commissioners_11.html

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

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/2015_primary_voters_guide_daup.html?appSession=198152663073691

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.”

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/04/commonwealth_court_judge_to_pr.html#lf_comment=308161164

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:

http://www.dauphincounty.org/government/Elections-and-Voter-Registration/Campaign-Finances/Pages/2015.aspx

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”

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/swatara_twp_ward_dispute_conti.html

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:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/05/2015_primary_voters_guide_daup.html?appSession=111528982321079&RecordID=31&PageID=3&PrevPageID=2&cpipage=1&CPIsortType=&CPIorderBy=&cbCurrentRecordPosition=9

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.

Justice in 2016 !  Wards Restored !

Congrats to Commissioners Bouder, Troxell, Chiavetta and Connelly for refusing to let big outside cash dictate your form of government!  I tried unsuccessfully to propose them here is identically sized neighboring Derry Twp last year.  We’ll have to wait for the fairer representation you have given your citizens.

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About steventodd

Both parties are broken by big money...what to do? I'm a dad, husband, son, taxpayer, voter, civil engineer, reporter, blogger, rabble-rouser and honest guy.
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2 Responses to Swatara Township, Dauphin County, PA – Analysis of a Sea Change

  1. Verna says:

    Read a lot of information about your commissioner’s: new to this township & trying to absorb the political messages for possible election & or voting purposes.

    Like

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