Moving boxes

Article posted on July 31, 2007

I was in Harrisburg today for my Chief of Staff’s last day on the job.  Brian Turk took a position in the private sector but will remain a friend and will do some consulting for me in the future.  We reviewed a lot of things that are in process (there are always a lot of things in process).  Charlie States was with me today.  We took a long drive home, through Greencastle, so that we could see the man who is doing the window signage for our district offices.  After weeks of emails and calls, our face-to-face meeting resolved a problem we had with the design of the Senate seal.  I always have boxes of stationary and materials to carry back to the office, I feel like a pack mule every time I go to Harrisburg.  The good news is that we save a ton of postage for the taxpayers with each trip.  Carrying boxes from my truck to the district office late at night is one of the glamorous duties of this job.

– John

You just can’t please some people

Article posted on July 30, 2007

Met with people this morning, did some constituent work and finished the day in Shade Gap (Huntingdon County) with a parade and a visit to the Shade Gap Picnic.  I had a couple of comments about the budget tonight, thanking me for voting no, and talked to a lady about charter cyber schools.  This is a very passionate topic to the people who’s children use these schools.  My email numbers are lower now than during the budget process, but still pretty heavy.  I am surprised how many people, engaged in government enough to email their state senator, send me questions about federal bills and issues.  I email them back with an explanation and some respond back with an apology.  Most emailers are pretty nice but there is that percentage you just can’t please.

– John

People are unhappy with the budget

Article posted on July 29, 2007

I attended two surprise parties today.  One was in Bedford County, the occasion was the 25th wedding anniversary of good friends and the other was in Altoona and was in honor of a friend’s birthday.  I saw a lot of people and talked a lot of politics.  The people, (of this area at least) are generally not happy with the budget.  They may like certain special project funding but truly understand that the process is broken and the spending levels are way too high.  I am surprised how many people complain to me about passing the budget late.  It is not an overwhelming amount of folks, but more than I expected.  The furlough situation with the shutdown of parks and some services made this year’s budget fiasco a real fiasco for many people who normally don’t get involved in government issues.  These people just wanted to go to a state park for vacation or a family reunion or get their driver’s license renewed.  It is a sad commentary when our Commonwealth literally shutdown many functions for any reason.  Hopefully this won’t happen again.

– John

I wish I could do more

Article posted on July 28, 2007

Had one of the busiest Saturdays as a Senator today.  I went to my men’s fellowship this morning at 7:00, came home to wash the truck and get ready for the day.  Charlotte and I left at 9:30 for a parade in Wells Tannery (Fulton County), then went to the Bedford County Fair livestock sale where I bought a pig, then went to an Eagle Scout ceremony in Ft. Littleton (Fulton County), then went to the African Anerican Heritage Festival at Penn State Altoona where we had a booth staffed by my office personel.  I got home at 7:15 and went to see The Simpson’s movie with my son, Johnny who is home from college for the weekend.  We had a great day with a lot of nice people.  This is a big and diverse district with a lot going on.  I try to get around as much as possible, sometimes I wish I could do more.

– John

Some events in the district

Article posted on July 27, 2007

ot a few things done at home this morning then went to Bedford for a Southern Alleghenies R. C. & D. meeting.  If you aren’t familiar with what Resource, Conservation and Development district councils are or do, I can tell you briefly that they are part of a federal program started in the Kennedy administration by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.  They are regional groups, ours has 6 counties, and include County Commissioners, Conservation District Directors and interested individuals who come together quarterly to work on land use and water resource issues.  I was very active in our council when I was a Commissioner and was glad to make the meeting today.  The people involved are salt of the earth types who work hard on good, common sense conservation issues.  I left this meeting early and headed to Tyrone Borough (at the northern tip of Blair County) for their 150th anniversary ceremony.  A number of their former mayors and council members attended along with the public and media.  Tyrone always appreciated my visits to their community over the years and several people said so again today.  It has always been apparent to me that the smaller boroughs and villages don’t get the attention they deserve from their elected county, state and federal officials and they know it.  Having been raised in the county and being the only County Commissioner elected from outside of the City of Altoona for almost 30 years, I always worked with all areas of the county, now all areas of the senate district.  People should never expect anything less

– John

And it makes me wonder

Article posted on July 26, 2007

Took a tour of the Easter Seals facility in Altoona this morning.  I learned a lot about their programs and funding and history.  They do a great job for people of all ages with disabilities.  I spent most of the afternoon working on distict office issues including signage, painting and furniture.  Boy, will I be glad when these offices are finished.  And so will everyone else for that matter.  It is interesting to hear the Governor and others try to cover for themselves after discovering that the transportation bill they forced down the legislature’s collective throat may not receive federal approval.  Aside from being just plain bad policy, why would anyone vote for a 40 year program that we don’t know is legal?  Makes you wonder about some people’s motives, doesn’t it?

– John

Driving trucks

Article posted on July 25, 2007

I spent the afternoon in Huntingdon County.  Stopped by our office there then went to the Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center for a presentation on a driving simulation machine.  This machine is used to teach people how to drive large trucks, buses, snow plows, etc.  I got to take a big rig through a town.  The machine operator changed weather conditions on me and created obstacles like dogs running on to the road and cars pulling out into intersections.  It was a lot of fun for everyone to watch me try to get through this.  This is, of course, a very serious piece of equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It will train a lot of people in the coming years for good jobs in the trucking industry and other driving vocations.  I finished my day in Huntingdon at the Rotary Club chicken bar-b-que.  I served dinners for a couple of hours.  The club members were great and the customers loved the food.

– John

Maybe I’m just getting old

Article posted on July 24, 2007

View As Web PageToday was the first in a long time that I did not have any scheduled appointments.  I met with staff and did paperwork.  I have a lot to get through but made a dent in some things today.  When I am in Harrisburg, I get behind reading the local papers and have a stack waiting when I get home.  I read through some more of those this morning before and after my 6 mile run.  Of course the office gets all of the papers published in the district, many more than I get at home, and goes through them daily.  We are far behind in our Hollidaysburg office renovation work.  The construction was to be done at the end of June and it is not even close to being done as we enter the last week of July.  Working there is difficult and meeting people there is even worse.  The steel studs are in place and the wiring but there are no walls.  Everything is dusty and the lighting is temporary and not very bright.  I feel sorry for the staff that endures this every day.  I am in and out a lot and away often.  I work better in quiet conditions with plenty of light, maybe I’m just getting old.

– John

Reformers push dock in pay for state lawmakers

Article posted on July 24, 2007

Lawmakers, Gov. Ed Rendell and his Cabinet should be docked a day’s pay for each day Pennsylvania is late with a state budget, a coalition of reform groups said Monday.A 16-day budget impasse that ended one week ago was not the first time a state spending plan hasn’t been adopted by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Nearly 25,000 state workers were furloughed for one day on July 9, and state parks, driver’s license centers and museums were forced to temporarily close.

Read the full Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story here.

A record to be ashamed of

Article posted on July 23, 2007

I got to the Bedford County Fair this afternoon for a few hours.  The Fair board chairman gave me a tour of the fair including all of the livestock barns.  I talked to a lot of people involved with the 4H program and others as well.  Went to the Bedford office for a while and did a couple of newspaper interviews, one on the proposal to fine all of the parties involved in the budget process if the budget is late.  I think that the per day fines would be effective and accountability is always a good thing, but, two things need to be part of this legislation 1. The discussions need to be limited to the budget.  The Governor can’t present a wish list of all of his whims and say he won’t sign a budget until he gets these things.  2.  The Governorand all parties for that matter, must come to the table and work.  The Governor’s Cabinet must also be available to work on the budget, not like they were this year when they refused to attend meetings and even ignored a subpoena.  Ed Rendell might be the biggest reason that he has not had a budget passed on time in the five years he has been Governor.  This is a new state record, one I wouldn’t be proud of.

– John