Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What deserves our attention in 2015?

Last week's column caught me off guard, but I'm already gearing up for my first column of the New Year. What's the biggest issue facing us in 2015? Property taxes are still in my cross hairs, but is there something else that deserves more attention? Just in case you missed it, here's last week's rant. And, when you're sitting around the house this weekend, take a moment or two to think about what really gets you fired up. It might just be something we should all be a little ticked off about.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Trying to put a bow on 2014 just won't work

More people than I imagined actually showed up in this year’s mid-term election. I was predicting somewhere along the lines of our primary, which was dismal. Less than 19 percent of voters in the county level and less than 7 percent in the county seat decided it was worth their while to vote back in May. The general election was much healthier, with more than 40 percent turnout on the county level. But honestly, I can’t in good conscious put a bow on turnout until we get a little closer to the 70 and 80 percent turnout, and sometimes 90 percent, we see in third-world countries. When we do get there, or at least get close to those numbers, perhaps then we could take a look at the size of our government on the state and federal levels. For this week’s rant, though, let’s concentrate on state government. Did you know we have the second largest state legislature in the United States? Well, did you know our second largest state legislature actually costs twice as much as the largest, California’s, by about double? Let’s try putting a bow on this slippery little devil when 2015 rolls around, shall we? There have been several attempts in the past. A couple of years ago Speaker of the House Sam Smith offered up a bill to reduce the size of state government. The first time around it died in the Senate because of inaction. Surprise, surprise. The second time around, just last year, the speaker split his effort into two bills, one for the House and one for the Senate, but of course, members of both bodies decided to tack amendments on that, I’m speculating, they knew would probably table the proposals. There’s a lot going on in Harrisburg that even the most experienced bow tier would have trouble getting into one shiny box, but we simply cannot give up on the effort. Closer to home, we did pull off a major redesign of all of our newspapers in the Philadelphia area. And, we actually put some bows on them during Breast Cancer Awareness month. On a personal level, I joined the newly formed board of the Greater Norristown Society of the Arts and we’ve been working extremely hard this year to breathe new life into the Centre Theater. We’re nowhere near putting a bow on the theater, but we are making strides toward getting the society to a solvent level. We’re launching a new music school that we’re hoping will become all the rage. Think about it, a music school in Norristown. What’s next, a symphony orchestra? And, of course, it wouldn’t be a rant if I didn’t end this week’s column with the biggest missing bow of the year, property tax reform. We just don’t seem to be able to get that bowed tied, even a little bit. Just when you think we at least have a piece of ribbon wrapped around a portion of the problem someone comes along with a pair of scissors.

Monday, December 8, 2014

To be fair, state legislator pay should be frozen

As I look back on my columns for 2014 it seems like I’ve written one long column, I’m talking novel long, about the need for property tax reform in Pennsylvania. Along the way I complained about some of the things our state legislature deemed more important than providing relief to property owners, who are being held hostage in the name of public education, and while I know my words have not fallen on deaf ears, our elected officials have been successful in sidestepping the issue the entire legislative session. In their defense they have been busy, though. This past legislative session a total of 369 proposals were enacted, according to, a Harrisburg-based media outlet. House members introduced 3,160 proposals, and 1,091 resolutions, while their counterparts in the Senate introduce 1,981 proposals and more than 500 resolutions. Man, that’s a lot of paperwork. Somehow or another, our state legislature found a way to come together to pass 369 bills during this past legislative session. And yet not a single measure on property tax relief found its way to the governor’s desk. To be fair, though, neither did a measure on liquor privatization or pension reform. You know that guy in the office that always looks like he’s busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest, that’s our state legislature. While I’m not one to complain, as I tried to explain in my complete rant in this week's column, which you can find in its entirety right here, I’m suggesting we freeze the salaries of our state legislators right where they are.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Our elected officials give life to bills, or crush them

This entire year I've written about property tax reform. Now, while I'm not political expert by any stretch of the imagination, I do pay attention to what's going on in the world of politics, both here and abroad. One thing that has become perfectly clear to me is that our elected officials can give life to a bill in a matter of days. They can also sit on a bill until it suffocates. Or, they can simply crush it. In my latest rant, I talk about, you guessed it, property tax reform. How are the bills designed to bring some form of relief to property tax owners doing?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Venting about something other than politics

With just a few weeks left until Election Day, I thought it would be a good time to vent about something other than politics. In this week's rant, I take on drivers, or more accurately, people who don't know how to drive.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Time to put ISIS in deep freeze

It's not often that I agree with our president, but when it comes to ISIS, or ISEL or whatever you want to call them, our president has it right. We need to bomb them right off the face of the planet. In my latest rant I talk about a particularly disturbing segment of a recent 60 Minutes airing that should have gotten everyone's attention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Real quick, where will you be on Oct. 4?

Next up on the agenda...Oct. 4 craft beer and food fundraiser for The Centre Theater Who needs tickets? I describe it all in my latest rant in The Times Herald. We have a fundraiser coming up on Oct. 4 for the Centre Theater. We’re doing a craft beer and food pairing event to raise money for the venerable venue. It promises to be a great afternoon, starting around 4:30 and going until 7:30. I’ll be the guest bartender, so come on by and say hello if you’re in the neighborhood. If you’re not in the neighborhood, make a U-turn and come on over anyway. The fundraiser is going to help the entire theater, but just in case you had no idea what goes on at 208 DeKalb, I’ll let you in on a few of the events. Wallafest is held every summer and features about 16 bands over two days. There are plays and poetry readings, and there are kids programs as well, lots of programs for kids. Citizen Paine is an off-Broadway show that will be making a return appearance this fall, and we’re in the planning stages for the upcoming theatrical season. Oh, and we’re just about to launch a music school. Did you know there was a music school in Norristown? We’ve been lucky enough to get a couple of donations from our two local state representatives, Matt Bradford and Mike Vereb, and we’ve purchased a few instruments. We’re teaming up with the Police Athletic League to brings kids over after school to give them a taste of the arts through this incredibly low cost program. Come down Oct. 4 and I’ll tell you all about it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The new Times Herald is turning heads

I don't know if you had a chance to see it yet, but we've changed! I talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of going through a redesign in my latest rant.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Naming names in the war on property taxes in Pennsylvania

It's time to start naming names in the war on property taxes, and I do it here, in this week's rant. We've been talking about property tax reform for so long I can now type property tax reform with my eyes closed. Unfortunately, our elected officials don't seem to care about how long we've been talking about. Why should they when they know they have a few more years in office to mull it over. But guess what, those years are up, at least for our House members, and for half the state Senate.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pennsylvania property tax 'mistake'

Sometimes something you do wrong can lead to something right. With my vow to keep the pressure on our state legislators to address property tax reform, I was trying to come up with a theme for this week's column. A mistake I made in last week's column was weighing on me, and then it hit me what a huge mistake connecting property taxes to public education was when it was first conceived, which led me to this week's rant. Only back then property taxes really didn't affect that many people because the cost to educate a child was so low. Those were the days!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wedding bells and newspapers, a match made in heaven

Something happened at the wedding of Nik Bucha and Amanda Culp that brought a smile to my face, and no I didn't catch the garter belt. Find out what happened right here!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stall tactics won't work with property tax reform

If you were a betting person, where would you put the odds of property tax relief actually happening this year? I am a betting man, and I'm will to go out on a limb and say it will happen this year. There is more support for reform now than there has been in the past decade, so we need our elected officials to get it done this year. In this week's rant I talk about how we all try to get out of doing things, like taking out the trash. This is one issue we should not let our state legislators get away with not doing. That is, if they want to be our state legislators next year.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Advice to graduates; wear sunscreen...and vote

There's a lot of good advice floating around for seniors just getting ready to either make their way in the world or make their way into college. In this week's rant I dispense what I believe to be some very sound advice, with one specific!

Monday, June 2, 2014

What's the difference between a pension plan and a Ponzi scheme?

As I wrote in my column, don't answer. It's a trick question. In this week's rant I talk, half jokingly, about the differences between a Ponzi scheme and our taxpayer funded state pensions in PA. Personally, I think we're all being hoodwinked. What do you think?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Now's the time to bring the property tax reform heat in PA

With the primary in our rear view mirror, it's time to start demanding answers from those who want to be elected, and from those already in office. When and how will property tax reform take shape? That's it. Nothing else. Not if, when. In my latest rant I'm sounding the bell. It's not personal. It's business. Let's take care of it now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What do you fret about?

When you stop to think about it, there are very few of life's major events that we actually have control over. In this week's rant I talk a little bit about my daughter's graduation and the primary election. Two events that I have little control over, so my advice is pretty solid. I tell myself and anyone who will listen...don't fret about it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Column took a backseat to daughter's graduation

I missed writing my column last week. It would have been in today's print edition as well, but I had bigger fish to fry. My daughter graduated from the University of Georgia last week. I know I make part of my living putting words to work, but I really can't think of any nouns, verbs or adjectives good enough to express how proud I am of my daughter. Since words are failing me at this particular time, which is highly unusual for me, as most of you know, I thought I would just post this photo and let it speak for itself.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I have a couple of reasons for voting, how about you?

While I would normally be all on board the property tax reform train when it comes to pounding the drums to get everyone out to vote in the upcoming primary, there's just one little catch this year. There's only one district on the state level that has a competitive race, and that's only on the Republican side of a House race. In this week's rant I look at the upcoming primary, and mostly at the fact that we're not going to make one bit of difference with our votes this time around.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How well is the Affordable Care Act doing?

Honest opinions only. I mean, I was all for the concept. Everyone should have access to healthcare. Who wouldn't be? That's like saying you don't like kids. Who does that? OK, some people actually do say that. But I was ready, willing and able to give the Affordable Care Act the grade it deserved. And while the Obama administration is touting the 7-plus million people who signed up as achieving their original goal, there's a couple of key points that were left out. I take a look at the act in this week's rant. So, I'll ask again. How well do you think the Affordable Care Act is doing?

Monday, April 7, 2014

You reap what you sow

We've been talking about property tax reform for so long, another season is upon us. Planting season. In this week's rant, I talk about the idea of planting your garden while planting the property tax reform seed with your local legislator.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Unbolting from our 'normal' way of doing things

When you do things the same way for so long, they just become normal. Sometimes you don't even think about why you do something they way you do, it's just that you've always done it that way, so... In my latest rant I talk about an ongoing experiment at The Times Herald. We're unbolting our journalists from their 'normal' routines. We want them to think digital first in everything they do when it comes to reporting, editing and publishing. Last week, we ran a story on the front page of The Times Herald because, and only because, it was incredible popular online. My question is whether our print readers found it as interesting. If you happen to be one of those people who read print and digital. Let me know that you thought of the story about the vanity plates PennDOT refused to issue.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Great Huskey Compromise of 2014

We've been pushing for property tax reform for two years, at least. Property tax reform has been an issue for more than two decades. The latest round of bills don't seem to have what it takes to get it done, so in my latest rant I've come up with a solution. It will take a couple of years to get it done, but in the end, it will be worth it. Let me know what you think.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Honesty, integrity and Voter ID

When you spend months ranting and raving about an injustice, shouldn't you make sure your own house is in order first? I was absolutely blown away when I saw a letter from the Montgomery County Democratic Committee inviting everyone to their nominating convention, because about two thirds of the way down the letter, it basically stated that members will be required to show ID if asked. Isn't this the same group that went ballistic when the Republican Party attempted to bring a little order to the voting process by asking for identification? Check out this week's rant for the rest of the story.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Putting a real face on property tax reform

I have been ranting about property tax reform for more than a year now. I would say now is the best time we've ever had to get it done, but I've been burned before. In my latest rant I try to put a real face on property taxes and what they're doing to our senior population.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I don't know which is more difficult, property tax reform or tiling your in-laws' house.

I've taken on a lot of big projects in my life, and in my latest rant I talk about the not-so-clear thinking I displayed in taking on the latest. But the real question here is whether it is a project worth taking on. You tell me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Property tax reform from a different perspective

Since I've been beating the property tax drum for what seems like years now, I thought I would look at it from a different perspective...literally. I wrote this week's rant standing up!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Competition makes me want to push harder on property tax reform

Competition makes us better. No doubt about it. The hyper local news site, Patch, was sold last week. The sites are still up, but they're basically running canned copy through. I'm guessing they're holding them together for the new owner to decide what to do with them. Patch made us a little bit better because they beat us to the punch on more than one story. Nothing huge, just your run of the mill stories that most people don’t pay a whole lot of attention to, but as a former police reporter, I didn’t like getting beat on any story. Just for the record, I still don’t. When they first launched a few years ago they did their hiring right through our ranks. I believe every local Patch site was started with a journalist that was at the time working for our company, so it wasn’t your typical hyper local site started by someone who thought it would be cool to have their own news outlet. These were real, workaday journalists, some with more experience than others, but trained journalists nonetheless. And when I thought about that, the original “I’m glad they’re gone” feeling started fading away. Anytime colleagues, even former colleagues, are left without a beat to cover, it leaves a bit of an empty feeling. In this week's rant I talk a little bit about Patch, but the focus is on journalism. Hopefully, people will realize, someday soon, that local journalism is their voice, their eyes and ears on government.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Another 'Breakfastgate' brewing in Montco?

Who knew what when is always a pertinent question to ask, especially when a subpoena is involved. In this week's rant I look at the sale of Parkhouse, the Montgomery County geriatric center, and why a subpoena has been issued in connection with the agreement of sale. The whole mess, thus far, reeks of some kind of back door dealings, but we're not quite sure if it will rise to Breakfastgate status. We do know we'll keep digging until we find out exactly what is going on with the sale of the building, and perhaps just as important, the sale of the adjacent land.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What will your legacy be?

We have all have dreams of leaving behind a legacy that will carry on for years to come. In this week's rant I pose the question of whether what we believe we're leaving behind is actually what people will remember us for.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Change is good...when it comes to property tax reform

While we've been changing a few things in the print edition of The Times Herald, they haven't been as well received as, say, asking for change in the way we fund public education. In my latest rant I try to smooth things over with a fix for the puzzle players by making them a little bit larger, while using the opportunity to push for property tax reform yet again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Caught between a rock and property tax reform

On many occasions I’ve found myself between a rock and a hard place. Nine times out of 10, I usually choose the hard place, since, well, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. On a few occasions I’ve found myself between a rock and a crazy place, and that’s when I usually choose the rock because, well, you know, crazy is as crazy does. Property tax reform will be one of the key issues facing our state legislators this year. Here's to hoping they're prepared to act, or prepared to not be re-elected this year. This week's rant takes a look at the rock, which is the state legislature, and the hard place, which is being populated by those we’ve elected to office but have somehow forgotten the reason they’re in Harrisburg in the first place. And of course, what’s stuck in the middle is property tax reform.