Friday, July 06, 2007

Five Lehigh Valley Legislators Demand Civil Discourse in Harrisburg

On Wednesday, June 27, I emailed thirteen members of the LV delegation to the state house and senate with one simple request. I asked them to condemn sexist and misogynistic comments made on this blog by state senator Lisa Boscola's chief of staff, Bernie Kieklak. Email went to senators Pat Browne, Jim Rhoades, Rob Wonderling, and representatives Karen Beyer, Jenn Mann, Joe Brennan, Doug Reichley, Steve Samuelson, Bob Freeman, Rich Grucela, Craig Dally, Julie Harhart and Carl Mantz. I was careful to send a copy of each email to Boscola. The text of my message is here.

This is budget season, which undoubtedly explains the severe weather and other strange occurrences as state legislators vainly try to solve our annual fiscal dilemma before darkness envelops us all. It's probably the worst time of the year to ask our Harrisburg team about anything else.

But amazingly, five of our state legislators have come through. They've found time to share their displeasure with Kieklak's comments. They also disagree strongly with Express Times Editor Joe Owens' assertion that Kieklak's brayings are typical of "what is said at every Harrisburg, Trenton and D.C. saloon within walking distance of bureaucratic fatcats." I thank them for being leaders and having the courage to speak out.

1) State representative Doug Reichley:

Thanks for your e-mail. As you probably saw, I was quoted in the Morning Call as stating the purported dismissal of Kieklak was warranted and "good riddance." However, I am unaware of what this Joe Owens person wrote or what he was trying to imply about how the legislators in Harrisburg talk amongst ourselves. I can tell you if he is trying to compare to what Kieklak wrote to how we speak, he is dead wrong.

I will talk to other Republican House members about a public response, but I did note last week in speaking with Charlie Dent that if Kieklak's comments were anti-African American or anti-Semitic, I don't think Sen. Boscola could have weathered the storm this easily. For some reason, there seems to be a double standard in place.

2) State representative Karen Beyer

Thank you for emailing me. I wanted you to know that I believe the comments made by Sen. Boscola's Chief of Staff were outrageous and disgusting. Additionally, you should know that I believe those kinds of comments should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

3) State representative Jenn Mann:

I am surprised that you would even think anyone would find those comments appropriate or acceptable, regardless of their profession. I don’t see this particular occurrence having anything to do with the rest of our delegation, but if your confidence in elected officials is confirmed by me saying so, I don’t, nor would members of my staff be comfortable or find those comments acceptable or appropriate.

Feel free to call me next time.


4) State representative Joe Brennan:

Needless to say, I have been extremely busy with our budget process and negotiations. I wanted to take a moment to reply to your correspondence about the unfortunate and repugnant comments made by Bernie Kieklak. While I don’t agree with you that what he said reflects poorly on the Lehigh Valley Delegation, I want to be clear that I do not agree with, nor would I condone vicious verbal attacks by my staff. Each of us fortunate to be entrusted by our respective electorate to represent their interest in Harrisburg is responsible for their own votes as well as their staffing decisions. Many times I’ve seen elected officials take credit for situations that they had little or nothing to do with. Likewise, I’ve seen many shoulder the blame for situations that are out of their control.

I also do not agree with Joe Owens that it is the norm for those kinds of statements to be common occurrences in and around Harrisburg, Trenton or DC. I would challenge Joe or anyone else who covers government to cite specific examples. The discussions that I have been involved in Harrisburg, 11 years as a staffer and 6 months as a Representative, have been very civil and policy oriented.


5) State representative Craig Dally: Craig responded to my email with a telephone call last night. As far as Bernie Kieklak's remarks are concerned, Craig tells me, "I couldn't even dream up comments like that." He also claims Joe Owens assertion about state legislators is "absolutely as far from the truth as you can get." And he gives me a good reason. The Lehigh Valley's ten house members consist of five Dems and five Republicans. They have to work together because that's what the people expect and because otherwise, the Lehigh Valley will be shortchanged in Harrisburg. For that reasons, members are civil with each other even when there are honest disagreements.

25 comments:

A.J. Cordi said...

I'm surprised Jennifer Mann was one of those who responded.

Anyway, where is this whole Kieklak fiasco headed? I haven’t heard anything in a few days. Boscola, as far as I know, hasn’t said anything, nor has Keiklak. What’s the update? And are any of these politicians going to just comment and agree with you to ensure confidence, or do they plan to take action against Boscola and Keiklak? What's up?

Reichley's response seems most promising, IF they actually follow through with a public response against Keiklak.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Boscola will continue to try and avoid this. Our ultimate remedy is at the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

seems to me the pols around here are a good reflection of the people who live here. what a mess lately.god only knows what would happen if a decent candidate would run.probably would be eaten alive by all the land sharks

A.J. Cordi said...

The polls do reflect the people, but I'd say it's more people are unaware than just land sharks.

Anonymous said...

There are good people in both parties who run for office. They don't always get the contributions and coverage of the $$$and media favorites. They are often written off as also rans. Listen to all candidates , weight their education, experience, their past , their actions, their words. Don't just vote for a name, its really up to all of us to make a difference.

LVDem said...

a.j... why are you surprised Mann responded? She's very open and accessible.

Anonymous said...

It's no surprise that Mr. Mantz has not responded. In fact, I suspect he thinks the comments are totally appropriate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

Do you have any factual basis for the implied accusation that Mantz is a sexist and bigot? Someone can make the same claim about you, too. It means nothing unless you can back it up, right?

LVDem said...

Give Archie Follweiler a call Bernie. In the 2006 election, it was revealed that back in 2005, Carl Mantz made some horribly inappropriate comments in an email to other borough council members about candidates being considered for a hiring in Kutztown, including a comment that can be paraphrased as "let's put this hottie on display on main street so we can attract hot shot investors." It was actually the subject of a campaign mailer during the election. That anonymous comment is not without factual basis.

My guess is that archie still has the information if you are really looking for it. It was the kind of thing that makes you gasp when you read it. And then Mantz had the nerve to say that Archie was making hay out of nothing both at the time of the email and during the campaign. The comments were sexist and reflect a terrible perception of what women can bring to municipal gov't.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, Thanks for supplying a factual foundation for the Mantz allegation. While that remark is insensitive, it is nowhere near the Bernie Kieklak level, and I would not call him a sexist on that basis alone.

Les Ismore said...

It's curious that a decent guy like Bob Freeman hasn't responded. I disagree with his politics, but he's always exhibited statesmanship and courtesy. Perhaps he's on vacation; all should have this benefit of doubt until next week. Then we'll learn who's a true statesman/woman vs. who's hopelessly partisan to the point of defending the hateful BK Broiler and his erstwhile liege.

Bob, I'm waiting.

Aphrodite's daughter said...

Thank you for doing this Mr. O"Hare, I'm not a big time Blog God like you. You would think the representatives in Bethlem and Easton would not want to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the way Lisa Boscola handled this.
I understand the budget problem will impact many working people's lives, so for now it takes priority, but that doesn't mean I will forget about this

LVDem said...

Bernie,

The guy said that the borough should hire a candidate for a position, put her on display and use her looks to attract investors. He did this in the context of an email discussion with other borough council members and borough staff. I'm sorry, but that is sexist and then his response was to tell Archie (who received that email) to stop acting all holy and that political correctness was running amuck.

Don't try to excuse Mantz' comment by comparing it to somebody else's. The point raised by the anonymous commentor above is a fair comment in light of Mantz' previous behavior.

To my knowledge, Mantz never apologized for those comments and has been seen/heard in public making light of the fuss raised. It just didn't get any paper coverage.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem,

I don't know exactly what Mantz wrote. It sounds incredibly dumb and insensitive. But it strikes me more as sophomoric than sexist. It seems to me like a failed attempt at humor.

Remember the anonymous accusation was that Mantz may think Kieklak's comments were appropriate. I just would not draw that conclusion based on what you report.

Anonymous said...

Mantz thinks History had treated Hitler unfairly, just ask him! and i'm not joking!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:06, I'll tell you what. I will. I'll send another email to him next week and call him, too.

LVDem said...

It's both sophmoric and sexist. Would he have said the same thing about a man or anything of a similar nature? Probably not, which by its nature is sexist. He made the comments in a way that demeaned a woman for being a woman. Given the comments that he made and the fact that he just blew them off when confronted (not even apologizing or clarifying), I think the comment about Mantz finding them to be appropriate to not be out of line.

I will try to find those comments and let you decide for yourself. The fact that he is a state representative and is not being taken to task for this is simply mind-boggling to me.

And don't be shocked if that email fails to receive attention. This is a candidate that never launched a website and my guess is that he doesn't know how to use email very well.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's why I said I would call as well.

Remember, the accusation was that Mantz would think Kieklak's comments were appropriate. Now we have a new one telling us Mantz will admit, if asked, that history was unkind to Hitler.

I will make sure I get through to him somehow. I'd like his side of the story.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Aphrodite's daughter,

I don't think most of those folks would know me if they tripped over me. The five who have not answered are probably the ones who do know me.

LVDem said...

Hey Bernie, it's all good. I still love you man. Not sure about Casey though. He's mad that you won't share your doll with him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, I'll make sure I check it out next week.

Anonymous said...

"A BIG TIME BLOG GOD"! Good Lord, please don't swell that mellon on his shoulders any more than it already is. Stoffa already refers to him as His Holiness.
Hey when will the super pure Holy three; Samuelson, Freeman, Grucella reply. Maybe the armor isn't pure gold.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:23,

Don't hate me cuz' you can't be me.

Most legislators (and nearly everyone else) have the good sense to ignore emails from me. I'll call their offices next week and see if I can get a response. I realize they're all busy right now, blaming the other side for the budget impasse.

Chris Casey said...

LVDEm, I'm married, I don't need Bernie's Doll, what's her name, blow me up Bertie?
Bertie and Bernie, almost like Sesame street!
One of these blogs is not like the others!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't need Bernie's Doll

That's not what he was saying last night.