Friday, October 24, 2008

Bob Freeman & Ron Shegda in Grave Cellar Debate

Last night's public tête-à-tête between Pennsylvania state representative Bob Freeman and challenger Ron Shegda had all the makings of a sleepfest. For one thing, it was conducted in a frickin' "grave cellar" at some Easton church. I half-expected to be sitting with a bunch of dead bodies. Aside from a few borough mayors, the grave cellar was filled with seventy very live bodies and decaffienated coffee, as we all waited for the showdown. By evening's end, Bob Freeman was very nearly assaulted, people were screaming and a church sexton was ready to knock someone out. My kind of debate!

That was a shocker in a debate run by the LV League of Women Voters and AAUW, which ask questions like "How about those energy rates?" They do allow the audience to submit questions on index cards, but we were told that "All card questions must be respectful and written with dignity." How the hell do I write with dignity? Do I put on a suit?

For years, I've submitted question after question to the LWV. They've always ended up in the trash. Maybe tonight would be my lucky night. In my best handwriting, I penned a question asking why county human services are being shortchanged by the state.

Once the debate started, Freeman exuded a quiet confidence about state issues. revealing himnself as a very careful and detail-oriented thinker. At times he was eloquent, quoting Humphrey and FDR. Yes, his thinking his liberal, but what impresses me about Freeman isd the same quality I find most impressive in Congressman Charlie Dent. Both of these public servants take their jobs seriously, work very hard, understand the issues and have thoughtful responses. They understand that they work for us, and not the other way around.

Shegda, who did appear to be more relaxed and friendly than I expected, was in way over his head. For a guy who has been running for this job for the last two years, he was pitifully unprepared. He seems to think elimination of property taxes is the answer to every question. His idea of alternative energy is digging for coal. At his low point, Shegda actually claimed young people are "invincible" and need no health insurance. That elicited a few boos. When asked whether county seats are entited to some kind of tax relief because of the large number of tax exempt properties, the challenger simply did not understand the question. In contrast, Freeman has introduced legislation to provide some relief to places like Easton, where 27% of the property is tax exempt.

When audience questions were posed at the end of the debate, one Shegda supporter got very upset and insisted on reading his own question. He wanted to know why Freeman never answered a letter written over six years ago. It was a question about diabetes.

"Gee, my office is pretty good about answering mail," is all Freeman got out before this dude got really upset and started screaming, getting closer and closer to Freeman, accusing him of medical fraud. People tried to quiet the guy down, but he got more upset, claiming that Freeman is a "smooth talker like Obama" and a "son of a bitch."

He was so loud that the church sexton came flying down from his apartment, where he was praying or reading the Bible or something. He walked the guy off the property and told me later he had been ready to drop him.

Praise the Lord!

My question was scheduled right after the one this idiot posed, but how can I top that? I told them all we should be watching the Phillies and ran out of the "grave cellar."


Anonymous said...

who is that church sexton? maybe he can bring some order to NorCo Council?

Anonymous said...

7am dark cold and a bit sad
and Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,
you made me laugh! you are a heartthrob for sure. why can't i attend debates like this one. you must bring out the best in folks.

Anonymous said...

Only proves that anybody who runs against Bob Freeman has to be insane.

Anonymous said...

Bob Freeman is quite simply a political dynamo. Charles Dertinger is following in his steps on Northampton County Council.

A.J.C. said...

Shegda is an idiot. To assume that young people don't need health insurance is crazy! I can't believe this guy actually has supporters. That are as crazy as he is!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"who is that church sexton? maybe he can bring some order to NorCo Council?"

That's a good idea. The county should hire the guy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"why can't i attend debates like this one. you must bring out the best in folks."

It's a gift. You should see how poor Dertinger gets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Charles Dertinger is following in his steps on Northampton County Council."

Dertinger's behavior is more akin to the guy with the question about diabetes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

AJ, On the bright side, they all had prayer cards.

Anonymous said...

Bob seems like a nice guy, but he's been part of the problem, despite his engaging smile and quiet demeanor. State government is a mess and he's been part of the mess for many years. I believe he needs to be replaced, and not just for his party line devotion to all schemes Rendell. It's a shame Rs have put forth such a weak option. Government is filled with lots of nice guys who'd better serve our interest if challenged regularly.

Anonymous said...

Bob Freeman is not part of the Harrisburg problem. How he continues to fight in Harrisburg with all the crap that goes on around him is baffling. He cares, more than anybody out there.

I've been in the room when Bill DeWeese threatened Bob prior to the pay raise vote. Bob was pointed and direct: I will not vote for this, even as Bill DeWeese was turning red with anger and threatening Bob to make sure that he never had a meaningful leadership position in the house. Bill DeWeese followed through on that promise after the pay raise vote, stripping Bob of his committee chairmanship.

I've also worked around Ron. I find him lacking in critical thinking skills. Introduce something to him that is outside his world view and he looks like a computer ready for a meltdown. Disagree with him and he'll call you an idiot or try to mock you. Bob may not agree with you, but he'll try to understand what you are saying.

I'm glad somebody is running against Bob, not b/c I don't like him (quite the opposite). I think Democracy needs competition. The more competition that exists in the political system, the better the results. I give Ron credit for running against one of the truly good, carring public servants. Ron's decision to engage in this campaign will force Bob to continue serving the people who elected him to serve. That's what is most important.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:59,

Thanks for the comment. I don't equate Freeman with the land of midnight payraises or what goes on there. He spoke with passion last night about the need for redistricting and campaign finance reform. He called these critical issues. No one who feels like that will be in DeWeese's good graces, but he has managed to advance legislation in spite of that handicap.

Although I'm sure Bob does not feel this way, you're right about the need for competition, too. I was very pleased that seventy people showed up to watch one debate. That was about twice the turnout for the congressional debate in the slate belt.

Anonymous said...

One issue does not an independent legislator make. He's almost exclusively a team player. He's honest and ethical and polite - and an easy vote for anything Ed Rendell wants. Please refer to the entirety of his reliable voting record. I'm with Barack. It's time for change.

Anonymous said...

so your contention is to reject him b/c of his philosophy of gov't (he makes no secret about his view that gov't should work to help people, similar to rendell's perspective... yes they may deviate on occasion, but that's the difference between politics and philosophy). That is no different than saying we should vote for Sam Bennett based on her philosophy of gov't. I base my vote on a person's ethics, character and intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Rendell, with the undying support of his faithful lapdogs, like Bob Freeman, has "helped" this state into a financial mess. The only proposed solutions are crazy gambling schemes, lies about tax rebates, higher taxes and tolls.

Bob and Ed have hurt not helped. Good intentions leading to bad results still leave us with bad results. Bob Freeman is a nice, friendly, honest to goodness rubber stamp on almost every single issue. I'm with Barack. It's time for change.

Anonymous said...

Rendell is a big supporter of Charlie Dertinger.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And here we have an anony who is so proud of Dertinger he will go OT but is too afraid to identify himself.