Please pray for their families and the church through this difficult time

Article posted on November 30, 2016

Today, Charlotte and I learned of the deaths of one of our pastors, Jerry Hayward and his wife, Kathy.  They were killed in a car accident last evening in Altoona.  Jerry pastored St. John’s Reformed Church in Hollidaysburg, where Charlotte plays the organ and I attend.  Jerry was working on his doctorate and brought a lot of historical detail to his messages.  He was a runner and ran the Turkey Trot this past Saturday.  Johnny and I spent some time with him before the race, and chatted about it after church on Sunday.  I had him at the Capitol this year as the Senate’s chaplain.  Kathy was a great asset to the church and read this Blog daily.  They were both friends.  Please pray for their families and the church through this difficult time.  We’ve posted a video of Jerry’s prayer at the Senate.  It gives you an idea of his commitment to the Lord and his ability to communicate God’s message.

-John

The money would all go to system improvements

Article posted on November 29, 2016

Found out more about the Unemployment Call Center closings.  We checked on what we heard yesterday about the employees not doing any more work.  What we learned is that the employees are not taking any new cases.  Apparently, the computer programs are so outdated that another employee couldn’t finish a case that was started by someone else, which is not consistent with how other state departments operate.  We’ll continue to look into this issue.  I would also emphasize a point that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere.  The four-year funding provision that expires in December, and was to be extended in the bill the Governor wanted the Senate to pass, was to go for infrastructure improvements, not operating costs.  If the money was being used correctly, the salaries of the employees wouldn’t be a factor in the additional $57.5 million of spending, the money would all go to system improvements.

-John

He should do a better job of transitioning the operations that serve the public

Article posted on November 28, 2016

My phone is now in full working order.  It’s scary how much I depend on this thing.  I have three email accounts and two Facebook accounts on it, plus hundreds of contacts and apps I look at for weather, news, my schedule, etc.  I was slow coming around to a smart phone, but with the way I work, it’s pretty much a necessity.  SEIU had a rally at the Unemployment Compensation Call Center in Altoona today.  The Governor is closing that office and laying off the staff effective December 19th.  We had a call in the office today saying the employees are not permitted to do any work at that location.  We don’t know if that’s true or not; we’ll try to find out.  We did learn that a program they worked with to provide training dollars to dislocated workers has been relocated to the staff at another office, a staff that doesn’t do that work now.  Switching to a new staff cold is causing delays with that program for the people who use it.  The closing of these centers is not necessary at this point, but that is what the Governor decided to do.  He should, however, do a better job of transitioning the operations that serve the public.

-John

Going back to the good old days of pork is a very bad idea

Article posted on November 27, 2016

My new phone is in much better shape than it was yesterday, but I’m still having email problems and no access to my personal Facebook page.  Hopefully, I can get the problems resolved tomorrow.  Johnny went back to Texas this afternoon, and will be missed.  The good news is that he’ll return for Christmas, which will be here before we know it.  The Altoona Mirror’s editorial today on earmarks was disappointing, but not surprising.  They seem to always support tax money coming into this area for any reason, regardless of how it got here or how effectively it will be used.  “Bringing home the bacon,” to them, is more important than good public policy.  Their theory today was that this area could grab more federal dollars for the next two years with earmarks than we could get through the current system because of the position of one federal official that represents this area.  There are many reasons why this is a bad idea, including the fact that this official, according to legislative rules, will not be in the same position after this term.  So, with a change like they’re advocating, a new official, someone probably far, far away, will get more money for his or her local projects making it more difficult for good projects in our area to obtain funding for a very long time to come.  An even bigger point is that the reason the system changed in Washington was because of the inherent corruption that comes about when individuals have too much say over where public funds are spent.  The current system may need improvement, but going back to the good old days of pork and the transactional politics that went with it, is a very bad idea.

-John

Thanks to the Y for another well done race

Article posted on November 26, 2016

Charlotte needed a new phone and we made time Friday evening to go to the Verizon store and make a decision about her phone and our plan, which hasn’t been updated for several years.  One thing led to another with the Black Friday specials, and we got her an iPhone 7 Plus, we got an iPad mini, and I got an iPhone 7.  I’m not as technologically savvy as I should be, and I’ve had a difficult time transferring information from my old to my new phone, including setting up my email accounts, so, my Blog post last night didn’t make to my personal Facebook page.  I hope that I can have things worked out tonight; Johnny’s going to help me.  We did the Hollidaysburg YMCA’s Turkey Trot this morning, a 4.5 miler.  We did pretty well, 33:53, averaging 7:32 per mile.  It was colder than expected and a little windy, but it’s Thanksgiving weekend in PA.  Thanks to the Y for another well done race.

-John

Another story to watch

Article posted on November 25, 2016

Johnny and I got Oakley out this morning for some field training.  He’s been doing pretty well, as far as I’m concerned, but he’s the first dog I’ve trained, so I’m not an expert.  He goes to the gun dog trainer next week, we’ll know more then.  I saw a national story today that could have an impact on PA.  President-Elect Trump picked a lady to be the Education Secretary who has a background in advocating for school choice.  Several years ago, we had a school choice bill get through the Senate, but it didn’t make it through the House.  If federal funding or other incentives are tied to more opportunities for students, we may have another shot at similar legislation next session.  It will be interesting to see how changes in Washington affect what we’ll do here, and there could be big ones in health care, welfare, education, and transportation.  How the administration in Harrisburg works with President Trump will be another story to watch.

-John

If you’re heading out for shopping, be careful!

Article posted on November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!  We had a nice time and a great meal at my sister Gail and her husband Mark’s house.  We have friends coming over this evening to watch the Steelers game so my Blog time is very limited.  I didn’t see anything state-related in the news today; most government facilities were closed except for the 24/7 operations, and I didn’t get any calls or emails on any problems there.  Thanks to everyone for the holiday greetings.  If you’re heading out for shopping tomorrow, be careful!

-John

Give thanks for the many blessings given to us

Article posted on November 23, 2016

Johnny got home today for the weekend.  I’m looking forward to spending time doing a number of different things, mostly just hanging out.  The staff in Hollidaysburg decorated the office for Christmas today.  I had to spring for a new tree this year; the old one had lights attached to it and most were inoperable, it also was a little too tall for the window.  The office will be closed tomorrow and Friday for Thanksgiving.  Hope everyone has a great time with family and friends and gives thanks for the many blessings given to us.

-John

Sensationalizing the emails

Article posted on November 22, 2016

The “porn” emails were released today, and from what I’ve read in the press, there wasn’t much of substance to report.  A few judges may find themselves under review for what they said, but little else seems to be of concern, at least so far.  I saw some of the emails a year or so ago, and what I saw was inappropriate and off-color humor, not pornography.  Unfortunately, Kathleen Kane used the word pornographic initially when describing the emails, and the press willingly repeated that description over and over again.  What was written in these emails was not right, but sensationalizing the emails for political purposes or to sell newspapers isn’t either.

-John

It’s time to get these emails out for public view

Article posted on November 21, 2016

One of the state union leaders today said the Dept. of Labor and Industry didn’t need to lay off call center employees and blamed the administration for doing so.  It’s not often that a union leader sides with the Republican Senate over our Democrat Governor, but his grandstanding at the expense of his employees and their families didn’t sit well.  I detected in the Capitolwire story today, from comments of the Governor’s spokesman, that he may find a way to bring back the furloughed employees; we’ll see.  The big story tomorrow will be the release of the so-called “porn” emails, the same emails Kathleen Kane spent years tracking and threatening to release.  Although the names will be redacted, it’s time to get these emails out for public view.

-John