Is it a debate if no one disagrees? They all agreed that crime, drugs and jobs are the pressing issues for Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding towns. What a freshman state representative can do about those things is the hard part. A summary of their positions from the CV and TL.
The best known of the contenders is probably Luzerne County Clerk of Courts Bob Reilly. An informed Dominicks Cafe waitress told me he has a website but I can't find it. Education, including better workforce training, is key, Reilly said. Better and earlier education is one possible solution to the district's drug problem, the candidates agreed. Reilly proposed looking to how other countries such as Canada and Australia successfully coped with their drug problems. Questioned on the future of gambling in the state, all candidates said they believe slots are here to stay. Reilly said he expected the scope of gambling to expand. Reilly said he would vote for anti-abortion legislation but respected the decision of the courts on the issue.
Wilkes-Barre Area School Board member Brian O'Donnell has received some press over a push poll and his ties to Scientology. Bringing in companies for better employment opportunities begins with making people feel safe and changing the perception of the area, O'Donnell said. O'Donnell would like to see more grant money for police and first responders to get better equipment and training, and rewarding departments with bilingual officers. The need for insurance reform came up several times. O'Donnell cited a recent Los Angeles Times article that 2005 was the most profitable year ever for insurance companies.
Eddie Day Pashinski is best known for his music. Pashinski, who reminded the audience of his musical career in his closing statements, came back repeatedly to the issue of health insurance costs and the cost of pharmaceuticals. The insurance industry and drug companies are behind the increasing cost of health care that is inflating municipal and state budgets, he said. "Until we stop them," he said, "I guarantee you we're going to have budget problems from now until the day we pass."
Former Wilkes-Barre administrator Jim Haywood was Tom McGroarty's top guy. Hayward said state legislators must look at how insurance companies pass their costs on. In 2001-02, OB-GYN medical malpractice insurance doubled, but payouts from lawsuits declined, he said. On how to achieve regionalization - municipalities combining services or working together -Hayward said hard legislation from the state would be the answer. Hayward spoke most forcefully about crime and drugs, calling them the number one problem in the district.
The lone Republican Christine Katsock said her top priority would be property tax reform. Better and earlier education is one possible solution to the district's drug problem, the candidates agreed. As a teacher of young children, Katsock said she believes the DARE program is good, but it only starts in fifth grade."When a 3-year-old comes in and asks you what crack is, that's when you need to worry," Katsock said. On how to achieve regionalization Katsock said there should be more state incentives to support councils of government, using the Back Mountain Area Council of Government as an example of successful municipal cooperation. Katsock also spoke out against what she called unnecessary expenses of legislators in Harrisburg. She called for legislatures to "cut the fat out of budgets."
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