Some sad truths behind upcoming elections

Posted: May 13, 2014

I KNOW you're all fiercely focused on the Democratic primary for governor.

It's got snappy TV ads, a final debate tonight at Drexel University and actual voting just a week away.

And it's been a blast.

Started with rich guy Tom Wolf smiling, waving, driving a Jeep; ending with Rob McCord throwing race bombs, Allyson Schwartz dealing gender cards and Katie McGinty watching both play "Let's Tar Tom."

But, listen: As you're sorting it out and wondering about the nature of elective politics in America, I hope you'll consider other races.

Take your Legislature (please).

All 203 state House seats (26 in Philly), plus half the 50-member Senate (three in Philly), are on the May 20 primary ballot.

This, I feel certain, gets your blood flowing.

And guess what? Depending on where you live, half of you actually have choices.

The other half, not so much.

That's because 50 percent of the city's House seats (13 of 26) and one Senate seat are uncontested. As in, that's right, half the city's stellar get-er-done delegation to Harrisburg has no primary opposition.

Must be doing a great job.

And 12 of the city's House members and one senator have no opposition in the general election.

Gotta love a one-party town.

Actually, there is one Republican: the city's only Republican, longtime House member John Taylor. He has no opposition either, I assume on the "Why Not Just One?" theory.

(Ballot and voting info is on the City Commissioners' website, philadelphiavotes.com.)

But there is some good news.

This year, only six of the city's legislative wonders are on the ballot under a legal cloud. So that's encouraging.

Rep. J.P. Miranda, charged with criminal conspiracy for allegedly paying his sister through a ghost employee; Sen. LeAnna Washington, charged with using state employees for political fundraising; Reps. Ron Waters, Louise Bishop, Vanessa Brown and Michelle Brownlee, caught (but not charged with) taking thousands of dollars in unreported cash during a sting operation.

But, hey, they're incumbents. And we know what to do with incumbents, right? Re-elect them.

How else can they continue a tradition of excellence in Harrisburg?

Why, just recently - before taking three weeks off for the one-day primary; they're gone until June 2 - they tackled the task of what to put into our schools.

Not actual resources, of course. Not a funding formula reflecting the fact that student needs vary among districts.

No. They're working on whether posting the words "In God We Trust" in school buildings should be mandatory or voluntary.

I wish them well, because that decision should solve a bunch of educations woes.

Speaking of woes, they're also working to address teen suicide.

A Senate-passed bill pushed by conservative Lebanon County Republican Sen. Mike Folmer requires teachers and students to focus on awareness and prevention.

For teachers, four hours every five years; for students, one or two health-class periods. Because lesson material already exists, backers say it costs nothing.

But it was weakened in the Republican House, which is more conservative than the Republican Senate - some say more conservative than Vlad the Impaler.

The House made attention to teen suicide optional. It became something that schools "may" - rather than "shall" - do, because the House opposes gubment mandates. So it's back in the Senate with an uncertain future.

All this makes for a twisted balance.

In Philadelphia, one-party-ruling Democrats maintain a reputation for committing and tolerating corruption; in Harrisburg, one-party-ruling Republicans continue placing ideology above public good.

Next week, Pennsylvania voters and nonvoters get to affirm this balance.

Because despite living where American self-governance and civic engagement were born, we are neutered - by an electoral process that, from overt gerrymandering to regressive voting rules, protects incumbents; and by our own sad, self-imposed disengagement, which enables those who run the process and make the rules to keep things as they are.


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|