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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A State Budget Forum For Real People With Real Stories

They're called consumers or clients by human services agencies. But that's not how Lehigh County resident Susan Johnson, a participant of the SHAPE program, would put it. "We're real people with real stories," she insisted. At least 200 people just like her were crammed into Northampton Community College's Fowler Center, ready to tell their stories to state lawmakers considering a proposed budget that will slash an unprecedented 20% ($168 million) from county human services programs.

But only four of the Lehigh Valley's 12-member legislative delegation were there to hear these stories. State Senator Lisa Boscola, along with State Representatives Joe Brennan, Bob Freeman and Steve Samuelson, were the only legislators present.

CACLV's Alan Jennings, who facilitated the discussion, pointed to an empty table in the front of the room, and then began calling out the names of state lawmakers who were absent. State Senators Bob Mensch and Pat Browne did send representatives, as did State Representative Justin Simmons. But the remaining members of the Lehigh Valley delegation - Gary Day, Joe Emrick, Marcia Hahn, Julie Harhart and Jennifer Mann - were absent, and failed to send anyone to act as their eyes and ears.

Gary Day and Joe Emrick never responded to inquiries about their absence. Hahn, Harhart and Mann explained they had scheduling conflicts and were unable to send staffers because of sickness and budget cuts within their own offices. Harhart apologized for her absence, stating she has been meeting "one on one with a lot of individuals regarding Corbett's budget cuts in health and human services, along with cuts in education and early childhood, conservation, and many other budget issues."

They missed an opportunity to hear from real people with real stories.

People like Allentown's Lisa Sportelli, who spoke of her special needs teenaged son Ean and who lacks the resources to provide him all the help that is out there. "The guilt I and so many others in my shoes feel is unexplainable," she remarked. If the services he does receive are suspended or reduced, he will regress, she claimed. "I can't imagine a system that would want to rob a child of a future by denying necessary services now," she argued.

George Clark suffered from depression after losing his fiance to Hurricane Katrina. With help, he was finally getting better and was three weeks into a new job when he was involved in a car accident. He now has $300,000 in medical bills. But for the Conference of Churches and Daybreak, Clark said he'd be on the "wayside."

Eva Cupeles, a one-time business owner who has mental health issues, credits Daybreak with helping her remain functional.

"They make cuts to us, but they're building a hockey stadium," she complained. Cupeles was referring to a planned hockey stadium in Allentown, which will be financed with state and local tax revenue.

After everyone had spoken, State Rep. Joe Brennan observed that county governments will be forced to cut 1/5 of their local programs. "They're gonna' be the bad guys because we have a Governor who refuses to prioritize," Brennan declared. He also predicted that many of the people who could be helped by human service programs will end up in the correctional system.

State Rep. Bob Freeman called Corbett's proposed budget "a failure," imploring people to reach out to absent legislators. Echoing Freeman, State Rep. Steve Samuelson called the budget cuts "devastating to the Lehigh Valley.

But the lawmaker most affected by these real stories from real people was State Senator Lisa Boscola. She claimed she had come "to learn." And she did. "I don't even know if i would have been as strong as some of you," marveled the feisty state senator. She described her own experience as a caregiver to her quadriplegic brother, who has passed away, explaining that sometimes, all he wanted was someone to scratch his head.

Then she broke down in tears.

Ellen Kern, Chief of Staff for Republican Majority Whip Pat Browne, was able to dig out a few tissues for Democrat Boscola, demonstrating that real people - no matter what their political affiliation - will listen to and help each other.


Anonymous said...


Good article, It's easy to say cut the Budget, we have a spending problem, Harrisburg is broken or some other one liner, our local State Representatives, especially Simmons
should have to listen and see these real people.

Marc Grammes said...

Lisa Sportelli-Wright is an outstanding individual with a passion for life, and a concern for those who live a life with many challenges, to say the least. Our state delegation would be wise to visit with her and spend some time to listen and learn outside of a public forum. See, in my heart of hearts Bernie, that is the key: to reach out to people and interface with them without a podium or dais running interference. Simple issues such as respite care are issues which they would come to learn about. Human services are so easily tossed aside. Scheduling conflicts are easy to cite, but there is always another day in the calendar. Tired of the political speak of some..they really have to get out more TO LEARN ABOUT THEIR CONSTITUENTS instead of planting yard signs.Kudos to those who attended. I think your post has truly inspired me to become involved again. I miss being able to make a difference, and I am so tired of hearing about scheduling conflicts.

michael molovinsky said...

political correctness is a hammer that alan jennings welds with great experience. ms. sportelli was a vocal advocate for the handicapped accessible playground in cedar park. although that playground is an enormous success with children without disabilities, it's popularity almost assures that children with disabilities have neither the space or quietness to enjoy that facility, which was touted for them. i do not dispute the consequences of cutbacks in the human service sector, but likewise do not need an alan jennings staged production.

Mark Baker said...

These cuts have little do do with a hockey arena.

The two faced AJ was gracious enough to leave his seat in NIZville to attend this event for the needy. Perhaps he would be willing to donate 50% of his outrageous salary to the cause. This would be a better contribution than just being a blowhard.

Most everything is being cut these days. Our chickens have come home to roost. The government honey pot is drying up. A casualty of the welfare state mindset of the masses and government.

Well now it is time to stand up on your own two feet. there are other ways to obtain funds other than government handouts. Think outside the government box and move on.

Lastly quit thinking that your local, state or federal reps are there for you. They are in it for themselves, not you. Just look at their salaries/perks and you will see for yourself.

Those who showed up are just smarter and more media savvy than the other state leeches.

Anonymous said...

2 faced state representative Republican's, Hahn & Emerick will tout compassion in their rhetoric yet turn around at every corner to vote party line regardless of the local conditions.

Shame on you 2 and let's hope you are 1 term reps.

Oh and bullshit on your sickness and staff budget cuts. The one and only time I had to visit Hahn's office, there were 4 desks with 3 people sitting there doing nothing and took several moments before anyone even acknowledged I was in the room, shame on you!

Anonymous said...

"Quit your whining, quit your bitching"


Anonymous said...

The good part is there will be plenty of jobs selling beer and hot dogs to rich white people.

Sure it's part time, no benefits, hard manual work and odd hours which makes holding another job, one with actual benefits and a future, a challenge. But Jon Geeting thinks it's great that his rich white friends will be well taken care of by the poor, so all is well.

Anonymous said...

Funny how one never hears What-Am-I-Gettings-From-Big-Government? bitch and moan about Chairman Pawlowski and HIS special kind of NIZ Crony Capitalism ...

... but I guess I have no choice to conclude everything is cool so long as the righteous Progressive Liberal Dummyrats are in absoute power!

Always remember, "Rubber-stamping ain't easy"


Bernie O'Hare said...

"The two faced AJ was gracious enough to leave his seat in NIZville to attend this event for the needy. Perhaps he would be willing to donate 50% of his outrageous salary to the cause. This would be a better contribution than just being a blowhard."

I have taken Alan to task myself over his NIZ cheerleading, in which he lends his voice to the wealthy instead of those who really need him. But having said that, he has been an effective voice for the area's poor as well. His salary is by no means outrageous, and is probably much lower than is common for people who run operations his size. I know he has turned down pay raises.

So I might disagree with Alana about the NIZ, but do not question his sincerity or effectiveness.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Lisa Sportelli-Wright is an outstanding individual with a passion for life"

She was very effective on Friday. I remember her as an advocate for the playground in A-town, as does MM.

Anonymous said...

People see a Jennings setup two miles away. He hasn't produced a solution to the problem he's "passionate" about in his entire career. Talks a lot, delivers next to nothing. Advocacy is great because you're never asked nor required to produce anything.

That being said, Pennsylvania has had a recent affliction of electing really bad governors. Rendell couldn't stop spending and Corbett just doesn't know what he's doing. For a start why we don't tax MS and close the Delaware loophole and use the profits for education and human services escapes me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's see Pa. has the second worst tax rate on corporations in this country. Sure, let's close the Delaware loophole. I'm with you. But at the same time, we need to reduce the corporate net income tax rate. Are you with me?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious...the Republicans will listen - and then vote yes for all of the Corbett cuts.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:13:

As all politicians, in one ear and out the other!

Anonymous said...

Living beyond reasonable means for far too long.

The massive bill has not even begun to fully come due.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania made its bed, perhaps, lying in it will be unavoidable.

But, the Chairman and his NIZ Cheerleaders want YOU to enjoy the $ 160.0 million dollar Palace of Sport all the same.

Democrat caring and compassion on full parade, all it takes is one or two co-opted RINOs with wives who need cushy jobs.

Brilliant how Gubner Corbitt is now the fall guy ...


Unknown said...

Thanks, Marc and Bernie for the kind words! The majority of people out there think we are just looking for a handout, and that is NOT the case!!! Cutting much needed services now, will only lead to catastropic financial burden later, but the human toll it will take is unforgiveable!
As for Michael Molovinsky, the playground at cedar beach WAS worth fighting for and IS a huge success! Even though it is a very busy, popular place...the point of it being handicapped accessible was a playground for ALL...not to exclude people without disabilities either!! I frequent the playground with my son, and even when it is packed, he is playing on the equiptment WITH others...some with a disability and some without ... i think you are missing the point....you din't "get it" then, and it looks like you still don't!!!

Anonymous said...

Corbett and Simmons want to cut these programs while they enjoy the best Health Care coverage available. They even get free Birth control!!!

michael molovinsky said...

ruyoukiddinme, i got it then, and i get it now. you and others tried to portray legitimate opposition to the playground as everything from racism to being against inclusion. very unbecoming of you. i have posted on my blog about how successful the playground is, and the delight of the children there. I have visited there several times. the playground is built, so i'm no longer an opposer. i would not want to take a disabled child there and compete with hundreds of kids for space. i would not want to submit an autistic child to that much commotion. there was never a plan to exclude anyone from anything. on the contrary, that playground was promoted and sold as a special place for the handicapped, but it's grandioseness, ironically, attracts so many children, that special use is diminished, not enhanced.

Mark Baker said...

BO 9:34,

Whatever. I will agree AJ has his place. He just doesn't know where it is.I still think he is over paid, two faced and a grand stander.

Mark Baker said...

MM 2:30,

Understand that it is painful to the so called rightous people when YOU TELL THE TRUTH. Keep up the good work

Unknown said...

R U KIDDING me Molovinsly??? Watch yourself...your ignorance is showing, and very unbecoming of YOU!!!
I suppose you are just immune to anything outside of your little box, and I'm sorry for that!

Q:How would you know by driving by or being IN the playground which child had special needs or not?

A:Unless they were physcially handicapped and/or in a wheelchair....YOU WOULDN'T!!!!

So..good luck with "getting it", unfortunately, some never will!!!!!

P.S. my AUTISTIC child loves the playground...

Mark Baker said...

wicked and crazed person at 5:05,

your butt is showing. try concentrating on facts instead of your personal attacks. You might even enjoy a little respect if you do.

I believe your give me,I'm entitled attitude is a large part of the problem.

"catastrophic financial burden" is exactly what your ilk has caused. So live with it

Anonymous said...

It is far too easy to take the position that government needs to fund this and that program. There are always those who need help. However, the real question is, is the government the best entity to provide the solution? The clear answer to that question is no.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

Scott, I'll agree that government is sometimes the worst entity to provide help, but more often then we'd like to admit, it is the only entity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Corbett and Simmons want to cut these programs while they enjoy the best Health Care coverage available. They even get free Birth control!!!"

I give Simmons credit for having someone from his office there. Where was Simmons' opponent, Deely? I guess if it doesn't involve the teachers' union, he's not interested.

Anonymous said...

"For a start why we don't tax MS and close the Delaware loophole and use the profits for education and human services escapes me.

9:44 AM"

For a start, why don't we stop overpaying, overpensioning, overstaffing, overbuilding, and all around overgoverning? Stop providing the goverment and education bureaucracies with everything they desire and there will be more than enough money to help those truly in need. The argument could then be where it belongs: How to deliver the help most efficiently and effectively.

If so-called conservatives like Corbett, and that pig-eyed sack of shit in Trenton, would lead rather than grandstand, we'd have a shot at selling conservatism to those who see handouts as the great equalizer. Instead, these guvs do nothing but give the Geeting crowd a rallying cry.


Anonymous said...

That's because when the government steps in everyone else gets out.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

While many of us instinctively seek a compromise-bipartisanship, this forum unfortunately shows the bifurcation present in government--one side is concerned about the implications of cuts in social services, the other side is AWOL or offering the 2nd string fully aware where they are heading. Knowing all those present, I am proud of messrs Boscola, Brennan, Freeman and Samuelson. While i never agree with all, they do redeem the import of the individual in making difference. Re-elect them all and by respective landslides.

Anonymous said...

While this site eschews the pejorative, Mr. Scott Armstrong is a bit historically dyslexic. The only reason government has ever intervened is the result of private sector failure to solve a pressing problem. Trust me, if the private sector would solve social problems, most progressives would welcome such a result. History proves government action is the result of private sector failure to meet the issues around since the Sermon on the Mount.