Sunday, August 19, 2012

Following the Path of Reason

The more I read, the more reaffirmed I become about our life here, and how we must care for one another.  It doesn't matter where your spiritual nature derives its direction, I know we all are heading in the same direction of purpose, if we are true to that guiding voice.  I got into this race because of my firm belief in the power of the individual.  Each one of us has a brilliant spark of God in us.
Ron Rabenold gets his message out to eager Democratic
voters this July in Jim Thorpe.

One writer, Joseph M. Marshall III, brings that point home and how our lives are full of contradictions.  Within us is the will to win, and the willingness to lose.  Within our hearts is the ability to feel compassion as well as the smallness to be arrogant.  Within us is the way to face life as well as the fear to turn away from it.

Being on this campaign trail for many months has shown me a lot about the people of Carbon County.  People who wish to aspire and people who are in despair.  People who want to succeed and people facing failures.  And, living in a county with the second highest unemployment in the state for such a long time, people seem to be immured by the grimness of it all.

As a teacher who takes his mission to bring out the best in each child seriously, I can see these contradictions every day.   Our society has a responsibility to our youth to engage and evoke the best within each one, whether that student’s aptitude leans toward a technical profession, a service job or one with entrepreneurial skill.

We have one of the wealthiest societies on the planet, yet so many are stuck in a cycle of poverty.  The number one predictor of academic success is not the strength of our schools, but the socio-economic level of the child’s family. 

If we continue to underfund and devalue our educational system, we risk losing important leveling programs such as Headstart and remedial programs that boost skills at the crucial early years of a child’s development.  Some schools have not only scaled back from having full-day Kindergarten to not having any Kindergarten at all.  Some schools have eliminated school librarians all as a reaction to the deepest educational cuts in anyone’s memory.

Show me how someone votes and you will see their values.  My opponent voted for the nearly $1 billion in cuts to the education funding, the hardest hit area by far of any of the state cuts last year.  My opponent also voted to allow the natural gas hydraulic fracturing industry to avoid paying a commensurate royalty of the Commonwealth’s resource, as other states have done, which could have helped defray some of these harmful cuts.
Hydraulic fracturing is in full boom in PA, while other
states are taking a cautious approach, PA doesn't seem
to be concerned for long-term ill effects nor does it
seem to capitalize on the resource for benefit of PA.

I can say that I am happy our legislature was able to deliver a balanced budget, something I have done in my own household.  I can’t say though I would have achieved it in the same way.  The boom of natural gas being produced here may be coming at a cost to the water supply of the surrounding areas and we are not collecting much of any fee to remediate any problems to the land.  (See Duke University study from July 2012 that shows connectivity from the shale to the aquifer.)

Opponents of a severance tax cite we will all pay more in the end for the gas.  This is not good logic, as the price is traded on the free market, subject to global demands and speculation.  We are alone among states with gas, barely collecting any revenue from it.  Other states collect four to seven percent and reap the benefit of lower property taxes from their drilling revenues.

What I find most disheartening of our current political climate is how facts are intentionally misrepresented for political popularity.   My opponent states on his campaign literature that he does not accept the state owned vehicle, a very noble aim if you wish to truly save on taxpayer expense.  But what he doesn’t state is how much he collects from taxpayers on mileage and lodging.  In his year and a half as our state representative, he has billed the taxpayer $57,794.64.  Perhaps the state owned car would have been less expensive.

Another time, when we both were speaking to the Carbon Labor Council in April, my opponent stated that the governor’s budget actually increased spending in education.  What he was hoping everyone would believe is that by coupling pension costs with the basic education subsidy it would appear to the public as an increase when in fact it was decreased by approximately $800,000.
A July report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School
of Law, a public policy group that opposed many of the voting rule changes nationally,
estimated that more than 10 million eligible voters nationwide live more than 10 miles
from a state center that issues IDs.

No one that I know, Democrat or Republican wants to allow anyone to vote who doesn’t have the right to do so.  Rep. Heffley stated that it is a problem “seen in heavy doses across the state.”  But our current governor and legislature passed a measure to stop in-person voter fraud when not a single case of it has occurred in Pennsylvania. 
On his recent ruling on the case, Judge Robert E.
Simpson Jr. said those without proper ID can
simply vote by Absentee Ballot.  But the ballot
clearly states only 2 reasons to be eligible:
1. Absence from your voting precinct on election day,
and 2. medical reasons.  Is the judge giving his legal
blessing to ignore this legal entanglement?

It is estimated that 12.34% of the 37,777 Carbon voters do not have acceptable PennDOT identification.  And by my opponent’s own admission, “voter fraud cases haven’t been recorded in Carbon County”, he is sticking by his decision to vote for a measure that could prevent some of our law-abiding citizens their most basic constitutional right.  We have Rep. Turzai’s own admission the bill was passed to get Gov. Romney elected. 

This political climate speculates on fear and the game of politics rather than working toward solid policy.  This, in the absence of reason, is most troubling.  We must put this aside so that we can provide opportunities for our youth that will prepare them to contribute to our society in ways still unknown even to them.  We must instill that education is not a burden on our society, but rather it is the very thing that sustains it, and causes it to thrive.

We need politicians who will use their wisdom for reason, not for politics.