Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back and forth in the 11th CD

The fur sure has been flying in the Pennsylvania 11th Congressional District race between incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski and Republican challenger Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta and it's only July.

The Republicans smell blood in the water after Kanjo polled only 49% in the primary against a underfunded challenger and a fringe candidate who got 17%. If that 3rd name wasn't on the ballot I may not be writting this post and we would be discussing Corey O'Brien's fundraising/poll numbers, etc. Add in the history of the President's Party losing seats in the mid-terms during his first term

Since then Kanjo has said some things that gave ammunition to his opponents such as the "minorities and defective" flap that was taken way out of context and his decision to conduct telephone town halls instead of the real thing then saying “We will do everything we can to meet with people, but I’m not going to set myself up for, you know, nuts to hit me with a camera.” In 2008 his campaign hired a guy with a video camera to follow around Barletta hoping to catch a Macca Moment so he knows the danger of the video/internet age.

The Kanjorski camp has been on the attack the last few days about Barletta's management of Hazleton's pension plan and the unemployment rate in the city.

"Makes you wonder how much more the people of Hazleton can take. They have the highest unemployment rate in the state, skyrocketing city taxes and fees, reduced services, arguably polluted sludge being dumped in their landfill, broken down infrastructure and now, unfunded pensions for their workers. Lou is a one man wrecking crew," Ed Mitchell, Kanjorski campaign spokesman, said.

This brought a furious response from Barletta spokesman Shawn Kelly:

Once again, the Kanjorski campaign is stretching the facts in a desperate bid to stay in power.
Kanjorski spokesman Ed Mitchell lied to you about the City of Hazleton’s pension fund. Mitchell said Tuesday: "Other cities have pension problems, but like the jobless rate, Hazleton's is the worst.”
Completely false.

Here’s what the Scranton Times published today:
“Scranton, compared to cities of similar size, has one of the most poorly funded pension plans in the state, the report states, while 55 percent of pension systems in the region are in some form of distressed status. … Scranton has $64.3 million in its pension fund, but obligations of twice that, $138 million, for a funding ratio of 47 percent. Any funding ratio under 50 percent is deemed severely distressed by the Public Employee Retirement Commission.” (“State: 55 percent of NEPA municipal pensions distressed,” Scranton Times, July 28, 2010)
Hazleton’s funding ratio, for comparison, is 52 percent, and the city is considered “moderately distressed” by the state. (“Pa.: 28 pension plans distressed,” Times Leader, July 27, 2010) ...
Mitchell continues to lie on behalf of his desperate boss, and reporters continue to report their bogus claims as fact.
I know it’s easy to get drawn in by the lies of Kanjorski and his spokesman. Kanjorski and his Mitchell-led spin machine are getting incredibly desperate.


Anonymous said...

What Kelley doesnt tell you is Barletta has paid money back to the pension for payouts that were improper!
Wagner said the city instead used the money to pay for retirees' health-care benefits and to buy back unused vacation and sick leave from employees who accepted an early retirement incentive.

it was just shy of 200K,

Anonymous said...

Who was that Brian Kelly funded by and why didnt anyone go after him. He should be thrown out of the party.

Mark said...

If it's this bitterly contentious this early, I cannot wait to see the tracer rounds firing back and forth come September.

Blogger fodder, girls.


Anonymous said...

Barletta will be out of money by September. He is foolishly wasting it now.
Maybe he should give out towels with vote lou and get rid of wet backs

Anonymous said...

Maybe Lou should have just paid more attention to the affairs of government and not running around the country on an ego trip. If he did, Halzleton would not be in the fiscal condition it is today. Shame on Lou!

McGruff said...

First off, neither Barletta nor any City Official, heck any municipal official in any municipality, MANAGES the pension funds. All they do is contribute the line item amount from the budget into the fund. Investment firms and Superboards have the active role to govern and manage the money. But what would Mitchell know about that. He still thinks the street running through downtown Hazleton is Main Street.

Hazleton has consistently contributed at least the MMO(minimum municipal obligation) provided by the actuaries. For several years the City has superfunded its contribution.

Its status is nothing new. This issue can be traced back to the days of Mayor Quigley.

The real reason the pension plans are in some sort of distress status has to do with the national economy. If you invest in national companies and the economy goes in the tank so does the fund.

From 1998
Pennsylvania officials who control billions in statewide pension funds and other public investment pools say they have no plans to change the makeup of their portfolios in the wake of Wall Street's recent sell-off.

Instead, they are continuing to bank on historical long-term results rather than playing a guessing game as to when the markets will hit bottom and rebound.

"People who try to time the market sometimes hit home runs, but more often than not, they strike out," said Robert Patterson, chief investment officer to state Treasurer Barbara Hafer.

If you check the results of the Hazleton pensions in 2006 and 2008 they were in much better shape. This is a non-issue as it is just a snapshot in time. You look at mutual fund performances at 1 yr, 5 yr, and 10 year returns. Same applies to pension funds.

Since the economy hasn't rebounded due to the failed policies of Washington it can be sometime until we see a brighter picture for these pension funds.

Anonymous said...

you state "For several years the City has superfunded its contribution."

do you think we are idiots? the contributions you want us to think Barletta put in was taxpayers hard earned MONEY>>>>>>> what i should be grateful that Lou Barletta over taxed me?

you claim Mitchell doesnt know shit, you know even less!!!!!
you want us to think Lou did some great thing by over taxing hard working familys in Hazleton.....

Maybe that is the reason major businesses wont come to downtown Hazleton, that along with raising property taxes 70%, what company would relocate to that City?

Thank Gawd there are NO parking decks on that white elephant of an intermodel center, there is NO need for parking, you dont have shoppers, you dont have shops, you dont have businesses. you have squat........

so MrGruff go back and raise some cash to pay for the paid vacation and sick leave your buddy was forced to pay back and admitted was improper!

McGruff said...

I don't think everyone is an idiot but you represent that class to a T.

How can you whack the City of Hazleton for having a distressed pension then state any effort to put more money into it to make it more solvent is "over taxing"? Did that actually come out of the same brain?

The MMO or "minimum municipal obligation" is just that, the minimum. If you don't put more in than the minimum you can risk in an economic downturn such as this one of becoming severly distressed or insolvent. By putting more money in isn't over taxing. Minimum doesn't mean maximum but then again having brains doesn't mean you can't be an idiot too.

Kanjorski and Eachus both told Barletta that the cost per parking space is the reason they won't help fund the parking deck. So I guess their generous healthcare and pension benefits are something we should withhold from them as well because they cost too much. How about the tax free per diems?? If you are truly a hard working person as you say you are why aren't you decrying those over taxing costs to hard working families? Eachus makes over $120,000 per year and Kanjo is north of $175,000 per year not including benefits that take both amounts substantially higher. Why aren't you complaining about those tax funded costs? Wagging the dog is a popular political trick.

Major businesses won't come to downtown? Major businesses usually don't come to small town downtowns. However, Mea's Restaurant located there. Hazle Drug built a multi million dollar facility there. Cyber-Calf and Dragon Fly located there. Hayden Tower's $9 million dollar renovation is downtown. Heck, even Eachus's office is downtown.

You should join Mitchell. Both of you can learn that it isn't Main Street, it's Broad Street, and the Hazleton City Authority is separate from the City of Hazleton. Then again Mitchell and Kanjorski would have to know where Hazleton is..oh but I forgot..Kanjorski does know where Ferdinand's restaurant is.

Anonymous said...

i agree with the statement Barletta overtaxed the hard working people of Hazleton. to super fund is to take more than you need. so are you saying the City can only put money in the pension that comes from earned income? what about if Barletta had taken all the money he was promised by the dredge guys, he couldnt have put that money in?

all of those businesses you mentioned have their own parking, so why a 40 million dollar parking garage?

the money i have seen Eachus bring into hazleton shows me he earns his pay....i wonder if Barletta earns his? i haven't seen him at a public event, i haven't see him addressing this area on what his vision is for the City, i DO see him trying to succeed in securing his vision for his own life....

are you saying if Barletta wins he wont take the 170K paid to Congressmen? or the health care, or the other perks? would that be a statement his campaign would stand behind?

also i seem to remember the City had to pay 170k or so back to the pension or the state for paying for unused sick and vacation time, is that correct? if so, i think he isnt worth the salary he gets....

PJ the WB Lefty said...

If Lou wins and acts in Congress the same way he acted as Mayor and as a candidate (running up big debts for the city chasing a frivilous lawsuit, constantly complaining about the political attacks of Kanjorski, mismanaging pensions, putting the city into the 'moderately distressed' category), how the hell is he going to handle anything in Washington? He won't. If he gets in he's a rubber stamp for Boehner and Cantor. And if the Republicans stay in the minority somehow but Lou wins, the 11th is in trouble for sure.

Mark said...

" the hell is he going to handle anything in Washington?"

Uh, while in Washington he can do as the elected and appointed Washingtonians typically do--eff up everything he touches.

Anonymous said...

McGruff, Wake up! Lou Barletta does not manage the fund but he sure as hell destroyed it. He gave the benefits that were not allowable and certainly not affordable so your right, he didn't manage it, it completely mismanaged it! Let's not forget that Lou Barletta insisted on this stupid ordinance which caused huge legal bills because he was enjoying the national attention so went forward with causing a huge debt for Hazleton taxpayers. You Republicans make me sick! You people screw up government on every level and then point fingers at the Democrats. Like Honest Abe said, you can't full all of the people all of the time. Lou does not belong in government office, he is a complete ego maniac who could not care less about taxpayers. Wake up McGruff and come to realize that all your verbiage will not cover up the Republican screw ups, especially the Lou Barletta screw ups.

McGruff said...

Those health benefits had to be paid some way. The benefit was earned during their working years and a trust fund should have been set up putting those costs away when they were incurred. However, It was Pay As You Go similar to Social Security. The money we are paying into Social Security goes to pay present beneficiaries, not put away for our retirement.

But why don't you be honest with your attack. The PA legislature passed new legislation that puts those healthcare benefits into the pension fund calculations, just like Hazleton City's actions, and the new MMO's will be through the roof because of the funding. So what you are blaming Barletta for, Eachus and the Democrats actually made legal because they recognised the predicament municipalities across the state face today.

Huge Legal Bills? There is no award to the opposition for one dime of legal bills. Hazleton City's bills have been funded by the SmallTownDefenders fund to the tune of over $500,000.00 to date. Not one cent of Hazleton City property tax has been used for that purpose. Again a disingenuous attack.

McGruff said...

Frivoulous lawsuit. Read this Cornell Law School paper talking about this issue.

Less than a year after the Lozano decision, a district court in the
Eastern District of Missouri considered a challenge to a Valley Park,Missouri ordinance similar to the Hazleton ordinance in Gray v. City ofValley Park, Missouri. Despite the similarities between the two statutes, the Gray court dismissed the expansive Lozano opinion as nonbinding,
mentioning it only once, in a footnote.

Although the plaintiffs argued that the court should consider congressional intent like the Lozano court, the Gray court reasoned that considering congressional intent was not necessary to determine“whether the ordinance is a licensing or other similar law." [In effect they tossed out the congressional intent reasoning used by Judge Munley in his opinion.]

The plaintiffs also argued that the ordinance was not a licensing law because it applied to businesses exempt from obtaining a business permit. The court rejected this argument, however, holding that the ordinance was “similar” to a licensing law in that context. In addition,
the court reasoned that the ordinance, which exempted certain businesses from licensing requirements, was itself a licensing regulation.

Although the Gray court determined that the language of § 1324a(h)(2) was unambiguous, the court proceeded, in dicta, to look at congressional intent. Looking at the same congressional reports
as the Lozano court, the Gray court reached the opposite conclusion.

Because the Valley Park ordinance
is a licensing law, the court held it valid under § 1324a(h)(2).86

Last year the 8th Circuit Court of Appleal upheld Judge Weber's decision. Munley has yet to have his decision upheld.

McGruff said...

So the Democrats make law on the actions that you slam Republican Lou Bareltta for. Evidently they came to the same conclusion that is was the RIGHT thing to do.

Republican screw ups?? Cornerstone was who's issue? SCHOTT North American discriminates against women and Kanjorski gives them an earmark the next year!!

I guess it is Lou Barletta's fault that Scranton's pension is at 47% funding?? Why won't Ed Mitchell and Paul Kanjorski talk about that? Oh that's right Kanjorski doesn't say too much because almost every time it is a ripe Youtube moment.

I guess is it Lou Barletta's fault Scranton is in Act 47 status since 1992. Mitchell isn't asking Doherty when he is coming out of it is he???

I guess it is Lou Barletta's fault Overdrive Magazine again rated Pennsylvania for having the worst roads, a title they have held for the last 13 out of 19 years.

Moderately distressed...why aren't you pointing out that Scranton is "severly distressed" Why aren't you talking about Wilkes Barre City and Wilkes Barre Township both being "minimally distressed" Dunmore "moderately distressed" Kingston Borough "Minimally Distressed" Butler Township (Eachus's home municipality) "Moderately Distressed" Hmmm...somebody didn't do their homework.

Anonymous said...

Its Lou that is running for Congress and it is you trying to defend him!
So will Lou forgo the large pay check given to Congressman? Will he not take the benefits and perks they get? Will he sign a pledge to all of the above>

Remember everyone, it is Lou Barletta the candidate for Congress that we are all commenting on, it is his record as a Mayor of a City that is in a financial spin downward, so everyone can try and put the blame on others but they aren’t running for Congress , Lou is.......

I wonder if his defenders will show us the list of contributors to his small town defender account, I wonder if most of the money was to pay for Lou's lawyer from Oklahoma who is as political as they get, Kris Kobash.... The election brought Kobach some national attention, due to Kobach's stance against illegal immigration and contributions from groups reportedly tied to white supremacists
A Federal Elections Commission audit strongly criticized Kobach's financial management of the Kansas Republican Party. An FEC audit found that when the Kobach led the party, state and federal taxes weren't paid and illegal contributions were accepted.
Nice guy Lou hangs with,.

Anonymous said...

I went online and looked up the pensions of Hazleton and Butler; you didn’t state the details though.
Hazleton’s Police are underfunded by 5.2 MILLION dollars, and its Fire pension by 2.9 MILLION!

When you look at Butlers, their Police are underfunded by 181 thousand,

HMMMMMMMM only a minor detail.

Anonymous said...

McGruff, You have a way of getting in front fof your own words and then runnng over yourself. The pension benefits were NOT earned and should not have been paid. That's a fact and that'swhy Hazleton had to pay back the money spent on them. The state is not creating new rules to allow for helath benefits and in fact, the state stoped paying health benefits for state retirees years ago. Your simply full of shit!

Anonymous said...

How dare you insult the Mayor and his lap dog!