Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Wayne Allyn Root
Master of Ceremonies: Ken Krawchuk
Expert Panelist: Michael Badnarik
After watching, please take a moment to answer the poll question on the right.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Under the current system, providing for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education is a commonwealth responsibility as stated in the Commonwealth Constitution. To carry out this responsibility, the General Assembly created school districts and school boards. It conferred broad legal powers to the local boards, making them autonomous in many of their operations. Rules and regulations of the State Board, guidelines of the Department of Education, opinions and interpretations of the state attorney general and court decrees all influence local board operation. State and federal mandates also pose significant restrictions on the authority of school boards.
School boards have three main functions: planning, setting policy and evaluating results. School boards can elect superintendents, hire employees, levy taxes, provide for school buildings and grounds, adopt rules and regulations for school activities, and provide for special education in addition to other functions. This can be an excellent opportunity for a candidate to be involved in the local community, provided the candidate is prepared to address the numerous functions and restrictions school board members must face.
Counties serve as agents of the commonwealth for law enforcement, judicial administration, and the conduct of elections. They are also responsible for property assessment and planning. They maintain hospitals, provide homes for the aged and perform welfare functions. They may be involved in solid waste disposal and public health, and may support public libraries and community colleges.
Generally, the governing body of counties is a three-member board of commissioners, with a number of other offices generally independent of the commissioners. These include sheriff, district attorney, prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills, recorder of deeds, and two jury commissioners. There is also either a controller or three auditors and the treasurer who serve as the financial officers. The governing body has the power to appoint certain officers and levy certain taxes.
This is the basic layout of county government. Six counties, Allegheny, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, and Northampton have adopted home rule charters, which may modify how the county government is constructed. This may include a county executive or alternative in place of three commissioners, and may alter the number and structure of row offices. In these counties it is beneficial to determine what elected offices are available. There are many elected positions that may be suitable for candidates with an interest in a specific area at the county level.
Cities, town(s), boroughs and townships also have governing bodies that have authority to make policy decisions, levy taxes, borrow money, and direct the administration of government through appointees. These entities have broad powers to secure the health and welfare of residents, maintain local roads, and provide for fire and police protection, parking and traffic control, local planning and zoning, parks and recreation, garbage collection, health services, libraries, licensing of businesses, and code enforcement. These functions may vary slightly depending on the stated powers within the specific codes, however they all perform the same basic functions.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton all have home rule charters. All have strong mayors with broad appointive powers and with veto power that may be overridden with a two-thirds vote of the city council. Candidates for these offices should be aware of the mayoral authority and the limitation of council positions before seeking office.
Third Class Cities:
These cities operate under a commission form of government. The mayor and four other council members are elected at-large, constituting the commission. A controller and treasurer are also elected. Some cities have adopted a council-mayor form of government with five, seven or nine members of council, where the mayor is elected separately. Others have adopted a council-manager form whereby a manager is appointed by the council. Still, 16 others have adopted a home rule plan. Please check with the particular city to determine what offices are up for election.
Most boroughs operate under a weak-mayor form of government. The mayor is one of seven council members elected at-large. In boroughs divided into wards, at least one and no more than two council members are elected from each ward. A tax collector and auditors are also elected. There are 20 boroughs with home rule charters, and this may modify offices up for election.
First class townships are governed by 5 commissioners elected at-large or up to 15 elected by wards. A treasurer, tax collector and three auditors or a controller are also elected.
Far and away, most municipal corporations (over 1,400) in Pennsylvania are second class townships. These are governed by a three-member board of supervisors, or by referendum, a five-member board. A tax collector and three auditors are also elected.
There are also a small number of townships that have adopted home rule charters, so it may be worthwhile to inquire about elected offices in your municipality before seeking elected office.
These are not general government entities and do not have elected positions. They are established by municipalities, however often function independently. They may only operate within the authority granted to them by the establishing bodies.
The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania would like to encourage citizens to participate in their local government by becoming elected officials. It is an opportunity to be involved in the community and have an impact on decisions affecting the lives of you and your neighbors.
The information in this article was provided in large part by The Pennsylvania Manual, which is published through the Bureau of Publications and Paperwork Management, Department of General Services of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Michael J. Robertson
Libertarian Party Candidate for
Clarion County Commissioner
Michael J. “Mik” Robertson is pleased to announce his nomination as the Libertarian Party candidate for Clarion County Commissioner. Mr. Robertson was born in Pittsburgh in 1964 and was raised in southern Allegheny County. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1982 then attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he graduated with a degree in geology.
In 1991 he joined the Business/Environment program of the United States Peace Corps, working for two years in Wigry National Park in northeastern Poland. In that time, he performed evaluations of surface water bodies in the park and sought funding sources to conduct baseline environmental studies to determine cleanup standards for industrially polluted areas of Poland. It was during this time that Mr. Robertson was able to observe firsthand the devastating effects an authoritarian form of government can have environmentally, economically and socially.
Mr. Robertson and his wife Margaret moved to their current residence in Licking Township in January 1999. The couple currently operates a farm specializing in certified naturally grown produce with their daughter Claire, age two. Mr. Robertson also works as a geologist with an environmental consulting firm. For the past seven years Mr. Robertson has served as chairman of the Licking Township Board of Supervisors, and also serves on the executive boards of the Clarion County Association of Township Officials and Clarion County Sewage Association.
Mr. Robertson believes that his candidacy for county commissioner will offer a clear choice for Clarion County voters, and looks forward to discussing issues with Clarion County residents. As a Libertarian, he believes in the importance of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and small government, with an emphasis on local control. Local control is important because that is the way individual voters can have the most impact on the government. This is something that neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party seems to want.
From a Libertarian perspective, Mr. Robertson believes the primary function of government is to secure the rights of the individual. There must be a fair set of laws that do not favor certain interests to the detriment of others. There must be a justice system that can prosecute those who use force or fraud to violate individual rights or unduly place others in harm’s way. It is not the role of government to forcibly take money or property from individuals to give to other private entities or promote special business interests.
What is needed in Clarion County is local government that operates efficiently, effectively, and coordinates efforts of the county, boroughs and townships. County government must be open to residents and businesses, with a clear open records policy. The county needs efficient methods to record property changes and share information with municipalities. The county must have broad and general subdivision and land development regulations that respect the rights of property owners and can be readily modified by municipalities to meet specific local needs.
The county government must utilize the resources available to remove impediments to local business development and allow local communities to determine their own futures. This cannot be done through additional regulation, but by working with other agencies and institutions in the area to create opportunities that foster free enterprise and promote a sense of community. In this way, the quality of life in Clarion County can improve for generations to come.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The Importance of Voter Registration
Michael J. “Mik” Robertson
Chair, Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
Municipal elections are around the corner and a presidential election is looming before us. Now is the time to focus on the importance of voter registration to the Libertarian Party. When legislators, political analysts, members of the press, and many in the general public evaluate the strength and support of a political party, voter registration numbers are viewed as a key measure.
Using this standard, the Libertarian Party remains the third largest political party in the commonwealth, with many more registered voters than the Green Party and Constitution Party (fourth and fifth largest, respectively) combined. Even so, there remains a substantial gap between the second largest political party and us. To bring a consistent challenge the political culture in Pennsylvania, it would help to close that gap.
While over 35,000 voters in Pennsylvania have expressed their discontent with the current system and registered to vote as a Libertarian, I have spoken to many people who agree with the ideas of the Libertarian Party and would like to see a different direction in government, but are reluctant to change their voter registration.
One reason for this is the two major parties perpetuate the myth that the United States has a two-party system and any change must be brought about within this framework. The myth is enhanced by publicly funded nominations and conventions for two political parties, gerrymandered election districts, unequal ballot access laws, and campaign finance laws that deter any real opposition.
This leaves us two political parties claiming at every general election that a vote for the other major party candidate will result in the end of western civilization. Any vote not for them is a vote for the other major party. This appalling scare tactic is used more often in presidential elections. Rest assured, it is not true and you can safely vote for the candidate of your choice.
A more subtle tactic used to perpetuate the current system is to suggest that support for a particular candidate in one of the major parties in the primary election can help change that party and therefore bring about change in government. This is another myth. The leaders of both major parties have become addicted to money and principles have gone out the window.
Although it may seem like a good idea to vote for a major party maverick candidate in the primary election to foster change, the net effect is negative. Party leaders see the participation as a sign of support for their party, and once the candidate is done, it’s back to square one. On the unusual occasions when such a candidate is successful, major party leadership will step in to mute any significant change in the status quo.
Just as the effort to clean sweep legislators in the general assembly, replacing them with candidates of the same two parties, resulted in no significant change in our Commonwealth, so is it likely that support for any national candidates in the major parties result in no significant change in national politics. The two major parties have essentially become two sides of the same coin, with larger, more intrusive government for all.
Most major changes in American politics and government have been when a challenger political party arises to bring about or follow through with change. Political parties may be hard to define in our country’s early stages, at least until federal nominations were no longer made by congress. However, it is clear that the entrenched two-party system we currently have is a relatively recent development, not an American tradition. When substantial changes in American government occurred, it was often spurred by the rise of challenger political parties.
Examples include what became known as the Democratic-Republicans in 1800, the Whigs in the 1830’s, the Republicans in the 1850’s, the Socialist and Progressive Parties in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and more recently Ross Perot’s Reform Party. Even though not all of these parties enjoyed significant electoral success, many did have broad popular support and substantial impact, albeit in some cases briefly. Sadly, in many of these cases the impact was to increase the scope and authority of government or was short-lived.
In order to reverse the trend of expanding government, we must learn some lessons from the past. We will be most effective if we consolidate our efforts to build a credible political party for the long term. While there certainly are major party candidates meriting our support, the best support we can give them is to develop a party where their views are not downplayed, where they will not be hushed by party leadership, and where they can do their job as elected officials to secure the rights of the individual.
This is why it is important that we show the strength of our party whenever and wherever we can. Maintaining a Libertarian voter registration is one unequivocal way to show the two major parties there are still those who believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government. It cannot be construed as support for another party or a system that suppresses opposition views.
If you are not currently registered Libertarian, go to the post office or county election office and change! To bring about a lasting reversal of the trend toward more government, we should all be proudly registered Libertarian voters!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The 2007 election year gives us a very good opportunity to get Libertarians on the ballot and to get them elected. Numerous local and county-level positions are often left “open” at the Primary Election Date (May 15th) and also on election day (Nov. 6th).
There are two ways to get on the ballot for Nov. 6, 2007:
Method One: Write-in on May 15th.
By checking with your county election officer and asking for a copy of the D and R Primary Ballot, you can then see at a glance the “open” positions. The D and R have not even bothered to get a couple signatures, or they forgot to get the minimal amount of signatures! What can you do? Just prepare about 30 small slips of paper to hand out outside the polling place. An example for Auditor might read like this:
Please write in:
For: Township Auditor
6 Year Term
Vote for one only.
Do not leave this in the booth.
Begin passing these slips out to the D or R ‘s as they come to the polling place. You may pass them out to all, depending on the “open” situation! Don’t begin until 5 P.M. Why? We don’t want to awaken them to their own lack of action, and they may track down a bunch of their voters to keep you from being on the Nov. 6 ballot. This actually happened twice locally!
If enough votes are written in for you, either on the D or R, or both, you will be on the November ballot. Ballot position is everything!
Method Two: The day after the Primary is over, you can begin collecting signatures on the “Nomination Paper” to get on the ballot as a Libertarian. Be sure that this is not a “Petition” paper used by the D/R’s.
The nomination papers can be signed by any registered voter of the district. Collect more than the minimum required number for that position. It may be as few as 10, but get 20 or 30 to be sure that all are officially registered. You have until July 31st to submit the paper to the county election office.
If successful on Method 1 and Method 2, your name will be listed in the Libertarian, Republican, and/or the Democratic positions on the ballot.
Some positions of Auditor, Constable, Township Supervisor, Tax Collector, Sheriff, District Attorney, Magistrates, County Commissioners, etc. are up for election this year.
For example, the Auditors’ positions are in all precincts, rotating in 6 year terms. My wife, Rochelle, and I, have been auditors of our township. In our second-class township, we had the opportunity to control spending, stop fraudulent bidding processes and set the wages and benefits of the working supervisors. We believe that the auditors position for Libertarians is perfect for our limited-government stand.
I would like to add that the auditor does not need to be a certified accountant, or CPA. You are elected, and can immediately check-the-books, so to speak! An annual audit is done in January. There is the opportunity to go to a one-day training provided by the township and the Auditor-General of Pa. (Fully paid by the township.)
At the present time, I am an elected Constable, and Rochelle is the tax assessor. She does not prefer this position, but until the taxes are reduced or eliminated, they ought to be correct.
In whatever township, borough, town, or city you live, please check out the possibilities, and help to replace the D/R controllers with true Libertarians!
Berlie Etzel is the LPPa Western Vice Chair and currently serves as Constable of Ashland Township.
Looking forward for the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania there are some exciting times ahead. Not only do we have our state convention coming up on May 5 (and I hope everyone can attend) this is a year for municipal elections. We have some information in this edition we hope will inspire more Libertarians to get involved in the decision-making process in their local communities.
Being an elected official in local government can be challenging and often not very financially rewarding, but can offer a lot of insight into the way government functions in our commonwealth. This insight can help to clarify some of the problems with government and lead people to develop solutions. I encourage anyone who is interested to run for office.
Also in the future we have some significant issues to address with the commonwealth legislature. Not only do current election laws limit the choices of the voter by unreasonably restricting ballot access, but votes cast by some voters are not counted and reported in the same way as others. This must change if we are to meet the free and equal election mandate of our Commonwealth Constitution.
Some states have taken the bold step of declining to enforce the provisions of the federally mandated REAL ID act. This act would require the creation of a national database based on the state driver’s license and provide for linking that information to a number of other entities, creating immense control over personal information in the hands of a few. We will support any action of the legislature to stop this intrusion into the personal lives of individuals.
In addition to these issues and the promotion of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government, there is another item on which I would like the input of all our members. There is continued talk of a constitutional convention in the Commonwealth. This means re-writing the Commonwealth Constitution is being considered. If this were to take place, how would the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania write our constitution?
I ask all of our members to read, or re-read the Pennsylvania Constitution, over the next couple of months. Think about what you would like it to say. Pick parts you like and parts you don’t like. Let us know which sections you would change or keep and why. This is an issue I would like to explore and share with our readers. Please e-mail your suggestions to email@example.com, or you may leave a voice mail or send a fax to 1-800-R-RIGHTS (1-800-774-4487). Thank you and your support is greatly appreciated.
Michael J. “Mik” Robertson is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. He currently serves as Licking Township Supervisor.
In order to understand what it means to be a local elected official in Pennsylvania, first it may help to identify how local government is set up. Local government in Pennsylvania is divided into a number of overlapping government entities in which each citizen lives. The four main types of entities are: Political Subdivisions, Municipalities, Municipal Corporations, and Local Authorities.
Political Subdivisions include municipalities and school districts.
Municipalities include municipal corporations and counties.
Municipal Corporations include cities, boroughs, town(s) and townships.
Local Authorities include municipal authorities and other bodies created by one or more political subdivisions pursuant to law. Examples are economic development authorities, recreation boards, and water or sewer authorities.
In January 2003, there were 67 counties, 56 cities, 961 boroughs, 1 incorporated town, 1,548 townships, 501 school districts, and 2,015 authorities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All Pennsylvanians reside within one county, one school district, and one city, town, borough or township. Local authorities are not present in all parts of the commonwealth.
In addition to these, political subdivisions, except boroughs, are further divided into classes based on but not necessarily conforming to population. The General Assembly can adopt legislation specific to any single class of political subdivision. The different classes are:
Counties: 9 Classes (First Class, Second Class, Second Class A, and Third through Eighth).
Townships: 2 Classes (First and Second Class)
Cities: 4 Classes (First Class, Second Class, Second Class A, and Third Class)
School Districts: 5 Classes (First Class, First Class A, and Second through Fourth)
Each class of municipality operates under its own code of laws setting the structure and powers of local government. These are the County Code, Third Class City Code, Borough Code, First Class Township Code, Second Class Township Code, and Public School Code.
Cities of the First Class, Second Class and Second Class A each contain only one municipality, those being Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, respectively. There are also only one first class county (Philadelphia) and one second class county (Allegheny).
There is extensive general legislation regarding municipalities that both grant powers and place restrictions on local government activities. These include things like the Municipalities Planning Code, the Sewage Facilities Act, and the Local Government Unit Debt Act. The Sunshine Law requires public agencies to discuss and act upon business only at meetings open to the public.
There are also provisions in the Commonwealth Constitution allowing municipalities to select home rule or optional forms of local government, allowing citizens to determine what structure their local government will have and what services it will perform. A home rule municipality does not have its powers and organization determined by the commonwealth legislature.
A home rule municipality can exercise any power and perform any function not prohibited by the Commonwealth Constitution, the General Assembly, or its home rule charter. There are 71 municipalities that have adopted home rule charters, including 6 counties, 19 cities, 19 boroughs and 27 townships.
One distinct benefit to Pennsylvania’s system of local government is that it allows citizens ample opportunity to participate in local government and address issues of concern to the community. In order to be more comfortable seeking an elected office in one of Pennsylvania’s municipalities, it may help to see generally what they do.
Look for part 2 in the next issue where we explore the functions of government in Pennsylvania.
The review is highly critical of Rendell’s plans to increase spending, raise a number of taxes and extend Harrisburg’s meddling even further into the marketplace and into individual lives.
Ron Satz, Ph.D., the research chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania, remarked that, “The governor’s budget proposal accelerates us in the wrong direction. While history shows that small government, low taxes and free enterprise are necessary for prosperity, this budget only gives us higher taxes and more spending on new and expanded Harrisburg government programs.”
Rendell’s budget would increase total state general-fund spending by 3.6% to $27.3 billion. Rendell’s increased spending will be funded by:
• A higher PA sales tax
• A new electricity consumption tax
• A new tax on oil producers and suppliers
• Higher cigarette taxes and new taxes on other forms of tobacco
• A new payroll tax on employers who do not provide employee health care benefits
• Increased municipal solid-waste disposal fees
• Higher taxpayer debt obligations via more state bonds
Rendell plans to use this money to expand the state government’s involvement in pre-K and primary education as well as health care. Parents, students and health care consumers will pay more yet lose control of these most personal aspects of their private lives.
“This is a bad budget for Pennsylvanians” concluded Satz. “Governor Rendell continues to adopt the failed big government approach of trying to ‘run’ Pennsylvania from the top down. The key to reviving Pennsylvania is for Harrisburg to stand aside to let individuals keep more of their money, and let Pennsylvanians’ personal situations and choices target real needs.”
The report, which consists of a summary of 18 critical concerns regarding the proposed budget, along with the LPPa’s comments and alternatives, is available on the Lib Penn blog (www.libpenn.blogspot.com).
The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in both Pennsylvania and the United States. Nationwide there are over 200,000 registered Libertarians with organizations in all 50 states. Libertarians serve in hundreds of elected offices throughout the nation.
LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF PENNSYLVANIA
RESEARCH CHAIR REPORT
March 3, 2007 Board Meeting
Ronald W. Satz, Ph.D., RP
Critique of Governor Rendell’s New Budget Proposals
I will summarize each of the Governor’s proposals together with what I consider to be the appropriate LPPa response.
1. Governor: Increase total state general-fund spending by 3.6% to $27.3 billion.
LPPa: Reduce total state general funding spending to provide for the police, courts, part-time legislature, and one executive department to protect life, liberty, and property. Nothing else.
2. Governor: Increase the state sales tax from 6% to 7% to help provide property tax cuts, along with gambling revenues, of $900 million next year.
LPPa: Eliminate all income taxes and begin reducing the sales tax. Property taxes should be based on the actual cost of protecting buildings and land, not for raising money for schools. Schools should be paid for by their users.
3. Governor: Impose a new electricity consumption tax to pay off $850 million in borrowing for alternative power development and energy conservation.
LPPa: Eliminate or reduce regulations on power companies so that they will make private investments to improve energy efficiency.
4. Governor: Increase municipal solid-waste disposal fees by $2.75 per ton for hazardous-waste cleanup.
LPPa: Privatize solid-waste disposal operations.
5. Governor: Impose a new tax on oil companies’ gross profits and exempt those companies from the state’s corporate net income tax.
LPPa: Eliminate all income taxes. Don’t single out an industry.
6. Governor: Increase the cigarette tax from $1.35 to $1.45 per pack, levy a new tax on other forms of tobacco and impose a new 3% payroll tax on employers who do not provide employee health care benefits.
LPPa: Stop levying special taxes on products the government doesn’t like. Let the free market handle health care benefits.
7. Governor: Boost overall education spending by 6%.
LPPa: Privatize education.
8. Governor: Expand accountability block grants for pre-K and kindergarten by $100 million.
LPPa: Let parents decide on pre-K and kindergarten programs for their children.
9. Governor: Expand programs for special education students, improve elementary science education, make academic programs in 30 high schools more rigorous and provide laptops.
LPPa: Ask Corporate America to get involved in the education of young people, at no charge to taxpayers.
10. Governor: Ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and bars.
LPPa: Let workplaces, restaurants, and bars decide for themselves whether to have smoke-free areas or not.
11. Governor: Expand by more than 18% an early intervention program for 76000 children age 5 and younger.
LPPa: No evidence exists for the benefits of such a program. Stop wasting taxpayer money!
12. Governor: Increase Corrections Department spending by 13% to handle growth in the state prison population by adding beds and to reduce recidivism by treating substance abuse and better monitoring inmates after they are released.
LPPa: Release non-violent drug offenders, which should eliminate the need for additional spending here.
13. Governor: Make possession of a stolen gun a felony, require police notification whenever a gun is lost or stolen, let local communities restrict the distribution and use of handguns, and limit gun purchases to one per month.
LPPa: Quit encroaching on our Second Amendment rights.
14. Governor: Establish the “Energy Independence Fund” to pay for such items as conservation initiatives, solar energy, research, research, support for emerging clean-energy products and companies, and purchase of low-power appliances.
LPPa: Get out of the way of a free market in energy.
15. Governor: Seek legislative and voter approval for $850 million in bonds to encourage alternative energy development and energy conservation.
LPPa: Repeat--get out of the way of a free market in energy.
16. Governor: Create a $500 million Jonas Salk Legacy Fund to foster biomedical research funded by tobacco settlement revenue.
LPPa: Tobacco settlement money should only go to those affected by tobacco company fraud, if any. Otherwise the money should be returned to the tobacco companies.
17. Governor: Lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company to raise $965 million for roads and bridges.
LPPa: Sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the highest bidder; let them handle the maintenance.
18. Governor: Tax oil companies’ gross profits to raise $750 million for mass transit.
LPPa: Privatize mass transit. Stop stealing from oil companies.