Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Gracedale Can't Be Decided By the Voters

When financially-strapped Allegheny County imposed a highly controversial ten per cent "Drink Tax," boozehounds everywhere united to kill it with a referendum. County Council responded with their own referendum, seeking to abolish the tax and replace it with an unpopular property tax increase. But Pennsylvania's Supremes told both Council and the voters to pound sand. You see, judicial nostrils turn up at initiative and referenda.

They say things like this:

"[W]e note that unlike states such as California, governance by referenda is a relatively rare occurrence in Pennsylvania, where we hold strong to the ideals of representative democracy and have no general constitutional provision for voter initiative or referenda."

Or this:

“Advisory, government-initiated referenda will crop up whenever a governing body wants to duck its duty to represent the people. Pennsylvania will become a ‘proposition state’ but with a twist: a host of provincial referendum questions will clog an already inefficient local government labyrinth.”

Judges tend to think people can express themselves at the ballot box, and are leery of anything approaching mob rule.

With that background, I have to ask whether Gracedale's fate should really be decided by the voters. In the unlikely event that 20,000 legitimate signatures are obtained, I believe a Court, if asked, will refuse to place the question on the ballot.

Here's why.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter expressly states that "The power of initiative and referendum shall not extend to the budget."

County lawyers passed on the legitimacy of the Gracedale ballot question before the 2011 budget was adopted, and saw no problem. But there's a problem now. The 2011 budget only funds Gracedale for the first six months of 2011, assuming that it will be sold within that time. But the Gracedale question being posed to voters will ban a sale for the next five years, and that has a direct and immediate effect on the 2011 budget.

It would send County lawmakers scrambling to find the money for the last six months, and without the means to secure the revenue. It directly interferes with lawmakers' ability to decide how County revenue is best spent.

So even if the necessary signatures are somehow obtained, I believe the Court will decide against this exercise in mob rule.

"We, the People" tends too often to lead to lynch mobs.


Anonymous said...

For someone that thinks they will never reach 20000 signatures you sure are keeping tabs on things, and posting reasons why it shouldn't be decided by a vote.

Makes me wonder if you truly believe what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

I read it was for 3 years?
They should just give up and refocus. Gracedale begone. Council members who vote for the sale begone as well. Lynching through the ballot box.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"For someone that thinks they will never reach 20000 signatures you sure are keeping tabs on things, and posting reasons why it shouldn't be decided by a vote."

Instead of wondering about me, you should be wondering about the Supreme Court. As for me, I am relatively convinced they will fail to get the requisite signatures. They had to do better at the polls. It is now virtually impossible to get more.

But in the unlikely event that they do, I believe there's better than even chance of getting the question bounced.

Anonymous said...

The signatures will be there. The referendum will be on the ballot. If County Council with the help of you and Mr. Stoffa wish to bury the will of the people, so be it.

Many people are amazed at how vehement the criticism of Gracedale is by Angle and his minions. In fact they are appalled at the rush to sell, the shoddy consulting and when presented with real unbiased facts are sure there is something sinister at play.

The Court may decide not to allow the results but not before the people make their will known.

So to the people and the ideal of "open and free government", you and Angle say, "Let them eat cake".

You, Angle and Stoffa will decide what are rights can be? The Church Bells will ring to the heavens when the County is finally voted to rid itself of Angle, Stoffa and you.

We never knew how good the people had it until you lot of elitist swine came along.


Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, there is very little difference between "We, the People" and a lynch mob out to string someone up. That is what I have seen. I have seen people claim to be speaking for the people and against the very people who were elected in the last election. I have seen a small group of very nasty people repeatedly go after Angle and attempt to string him up. I have seen them claim some sort of legitimacy they simply don't have.

America is a representative democracy. And Pa. is not a proposition state.

I have seen the mob before attempt to bully Council into doing its bidding. That's precisely what is being attempted here.

I doubt you'll get the 10% you need, but if you do, I think there's a better than even chance that the question will be stricken.

Courts exist to protect people like me from people like you. I am certainly no elitist, but know damn well that no phony preacher speaks for me. I elect my leaders.

Anonymous said...

The law is good when it is used to destroy Gracedale but bad when it stops Angle from illegally serving on two elected positions. Is that your position?

I believe at the time you and he cried, "let the people decide, the people have spoken".

Of course this is meaningless to you as you are the symbol of te hypocrisy that is Ron Angle and his County Council and County government.

The same group believes in getting rid of anything the County should not have to do. Yet Dowd and Cusick vote to keep a multi-million dollar "optional" County Health Department alive. Hypocrisy served here?

People are well aware of who the hypocrites are on this issue.

We believe the law will ultimately protect the poorest and most needy citizens at Gracedale from professional political extremists and opportunists like your sponsors.

Are cause is just and our motives are pure. As opposed to those of the vultures in county leadership.

Anonymous said...

Wow..Doesnt anybody sleep around here? ( Two and three oclock postings lol.) Have to agree with one thing writtten..Dowd and Cusick are supporting closing gracedale while opting to support a health bureau that no one wants or needs.or can afford for that matter...Absolutely crazy!
As far as Referendums go Pa. certainly needs the option to some degree, Gracedale aside..It would probably stop this pathetic redistricting process which locks in most of the legislative jobs for a lifetime..I'm sure there are many other reasons for referendums.This idea about the Supreme court saying these issues should be decided at the ballot box is pathetically ridiculous when legislators carve out districts that disenfranchise most voters of both parties.

Anonymous said...

The people did decide. They elected a council that would sell Gracedale. I love that they are actually keeping a promise. The majority of county residents, including seniors, are getting exactly what they voted for; and they're happy about it.

Anonymous said...

The reason that the Home Rule Charter has provisions for referendum is because of the district lines that are in place.

Note that if angle was running at large, he would have lost every time, the fact that he runs in his district, and can change parties to suit his needs, is why is is on council.

I believe however, he is in for a rude awakening in the upcoming 2011election. He offended his own by way of the prison he want to put in his neck of the woods. The people in his district have demonstrated that too are fed up with him.

Sanctifying Grace said...

I have been following this sparingly. But someone finally pointed out the proper perspective. Anon comment at 7:21 AM, speaks volumes.

Have a safe, blessed, peaceful, and fruitful Christmas and new year. Peace be with you, ~~~alex+

Anonymous said...

Have to laugh at last comment and 7:21's comment...Voters elected a Coucil that would sell Gracedale?
Didnt hear one of them mention that during the campaign..No one did...Cause they didnt..How incredibly dumb was that statement?

Anonymous said...

In 2009, voters in four Wisconsin Counties were afforded referendums related to the sell of County-owned nursing homes. The results were mixed. Two favored selling and two opposed selling.

Anon 721, was this really a campaign issue? It was my understanding that there was no pre judgement on what to do with Gracedale when the CHR study was commissioned.

Anonymous said...

As Bernie has stated before and now is silent on the subject. Gracedale WAS NOT A CAMPAIGN ISSUE.
Your welcome, must have been a brain fart.

Anonymous said...

The primary campaign issue was fiscal responsibility in the face of a looming budget crisis brought about by years of poor stewardship and blind acquiescence to unions that were bleeding taxpayers - including seniors - dry.

I remember Stoffa proposing massive new debt to pay for goodies that included an overly expensive parking garage. I remember Wayne Grube's strongest response to stunning cost overruns on the county chambers refurb. He said the job was "nice."

Voters loudly chose fiscal responsibility and getting out of the nursing home business is fiscally responsible. Council is doing exactly as they said they would. What a refreshing change.

Anonymous said...

Anyone find out who's campaigns Ron Angle contributed money to get elected on council? Follow the money!!!!

Anonymous said...

Elections have consequences. Sell Gracedale.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Anyone find out who's campaigns Ron Angle contributed money to get elected on council?"

Is this a sentence in English?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I remember Stoffa proposing massive new debt to pay for goodies that included an overly expensive parking garage. I remember Wayne Grube's strongest response to stunning cost overruns on the county chambers refurb. He said the job was 'nice.'"

This is true, but is only part of the story. Stoffa withdrew his propsal because of the cost. You fail to mention that. And Wayne's comment was made at the end of his period on Council, when he was ill. You fail to mention that, too.

I agree that the current Council is the best I've seen in many years.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hop in my wayback machine and have the fiscal candidates run on
I wonder would there have been a different outcome
wait let me go into the future
when the candidates run on
This will be interesting

Anonymous said...

If they sell Gracedale, they get my vote.

Anonymous said...

You and the twenty other extremists in the County. No one campaigned on "selling Gracedale", frankly because they would have lost.

This has always been an Angle/Stoffa production. Bernie praises it because his patron wants to do it.

The new guys on Council think they have some mandate to destroy a County asset. People like Dowd are just politcal opportunists who see dollars for a Health Department.

Many will have the chance to defend their decisions in upcoming elections. Their opponents will have the real "facts" that won't be controlled by Angle and Stoffa "consultants".

I have seen the factual information that will be sent to taxpayers and it is amazing how the facts have been distorted to make the "sell Gracedale' case.

Once You know the "truth", you realize selling Gracedale is a huge human service policy mistake by the County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The message above was brought to you by the LongDems, the same group that ran NC into the ground for 8 years.
Despite reference to the truth and facts, no truths or facts are cited. What they are hoping for is an issue they can use in the upcoming election. But because their concerns are political as opposed to doing what is right for Northampton County, they will fail.

Anonymous said...


In 2013 many of those who won council seats in 2009 will lose their seats..Just the way of things..the Gracedale issue will definitely cost them also..Never ever will all five of these candidates be reelected together again..No way!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:57, That sounds more like a wish than reality. Bruce Gilbert, who has a big base in Easton and is held in high regard there by Dems and Rs alike, will easily be re-elected. Tom Dietrich was a fluke who was elected mostly bc his last name sounds familiar. Barb Thierry is very hard-working. She's quiet, but that's a good thing for a Council person in his or her first year.

I believe two of three will be re-elected, assuming all three run.

Anonymous said...

Why do politicians release info on their opponents close to election day. You really don't expect them to take your bait, do you?
I've seen a partial fact sheet and to me it looks like
there is lots of
"splainin' to do"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

We spend a lot of breath in this country calling the U.S. a "democracy" when it isn't. It is a republic, with representatives making our decisions for us.

Referendums don't bother me, because they are truly democratic. For all we say about our "democracy" it wouldn't be so bad to occasionally make a decision using this form of government.

I think the term "mob rule" is an exaggeration. I have only heard it used by entrenched politicians and their cronies who are threatened by any perceived loss of their power.

Let the people decide.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It doesn't matter what does or does not bother you. What matters is the law, and my reading of it is that a referendum on Gracedale's sale extends to the budget and is barred by the Home Rule Charter.