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Howard Rich http://howardrich.org Just another WordPress weblog Wed, 10 Nov 2010 15:00:06 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Yonkers agency considers taking Ravine Avenue property through eminent domain http://howardrich.org/?p=1338 http://howardrich.org/?p=1338#comments Wed, 10 Nov 2010 15:00:06 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1338 From LoHud.com

YONKERS — The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency is considering forcibly buying a Ravine Avenue property from its owner to turn it over to an affordable housing developer.

The YIDA will hold a public hearing on Nov. 18 on 67 Ravine Ave., a property the agency may acquire through the state’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law.

Eminent domain allows a city to force an owner to sell private property for a public use, such as a park.

In this case, the YIDA argues that the public use will be the creation of approximately 64 units of affordable housing.

The $20 million, six-story building is proposed to be built at 47-75 Ravine Ave. by Ravine Rental Associates LLC, a partnership between the Yonkers-based CURE Development and the Larchmont-based L&M Development Partners.

CURE Development is finishing work on a 12-unit, $3 million development at 304 Warburton Ave., while L&M Development Partners is working on a $51 million, 170-unit building at 314-40 Riverdale Ave.

Both projects are affordable-housing developments.

The property at 67 Ravine Ave. is currently owned by the estate of Anthony Fraioli.

Rental apartments in the proposed complex would be restricted to households earning less than 60 percent of Westchester County’s median income, which in 2010 is $73,300 for a one-person household.

The YIDA’s public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall, 40 S.

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Missing Bush? Why Republican Revisionism Won’t Sell http://howardrich.org/?p=1336 http://howardrich.org/?p=1336#comments Wed, 10 Nov 2010 13:30:31 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1336 As America loudly repudiates the leftist agenda of President Barack Obama and his Congressional allies, a group of partisan GOP opportunists is busy promoting a theory of “Republican revisionism.”

What does this theory hold?

Namely, that the GOP wasn’t “all that bad” – and certainly not as bad as the socialist hordes who have ostensibly pushed America to the brink of financial ruin over the last year. In advancing this theory, the GOP is looking to recast itself as a party that can be trusted with your tax dollars – while simultaneously attempting to reframe the legacy of the President (and dozens of other GOP politicians) who couldn’t be trusted with your tax dollars.

This effort is most clearly visible in the GOP’s recent attempts to co-opt the Tea Party movement. It can also be seen within the opportunistic machinations of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been pushing a new “Contract with America” in spite of his obvious betrayal – and subsequent scuttling – of the original movement fifteen years ago.

The GOP’s new revisionist message was summed up in a billboard that appeared recently on Interstate 35 in Wyoming.

“Miss me yet?” a smiling picture of former President Bush asks passing motorists.

In a word? “No.”

What this theory of “Republican revisionism” lacks is even a tangential basis in fact. That’s because Republicans – at least prior to the election of a Democratic Congress in 2006 and a Democratic President in 2008 – were engaged in precisely the same policies they now spend all of their time railing against.

Honestly – why do you think they were booted out of power in the first place?

Republicans are no strangers to massive government overreaching.

For example, President Bush responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks by creating a huge new government bureaucracy, implementing an Orwellian domestic wiretapping capability and engaging our military in two costly foreign wars with no defined objectives and no exit strategy.

Meanwhile, he supported the unconstitutional suppression of free speech by signing so-called “campaign finance” reform, dramatically stifling the ability of the public to criticize incumbent politicians. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has since overturned several of McCain-Feingold’s most anti-First Amendment provisions.

Bush and his cronies loved pork barrel spending, too. In 2005 – over the strenuous objections of taxpayer advocates – he signed a massive $286 billion transportation bill that included 6,371 pet projects inserted by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The bill was a pork-fest that dwarfed previous Democratic transportation boondoggles.

Why did a Republican President sign such a monstrosity?

“The president has to work with the Congress,” a Bush spokesman said at the time.

In case anyone forgot, Republicans controlled both the U.S. House and Senate in 2005.

Bush and his GOP allies also fought to create new entitlement spending – including a prescription drug benefit to Medicaid that has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. They federalized education with No Child Left Behind, although erasing the “soft bigotry of low expectations” has done nothing to bridge America’s achievement and innovation gap with the rest of the world.

Perhaps most revealing, for the vast majority of his administration, the “conservative” Bush kept his veto pen in his pocket – refusing to wield the one potent weapon (other than the bully pulpit) that could have been employed on behalf of American taxpayers.

As a result of Bush’s fiscal recklessness, budget surpluses turned into deficits and a $5.7 trillion national debt soared to $10 trillion. Also, Republicans are quick to forget that Bush is on the hook for a considerable portion of the unsustainable spending that is currently driving our debt even further into the stratosphere.

Indeed, Bush cemented his anti-free market legacy in late 2008 with the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and tens of billions of dollars worth of automotive bailouts – additional examples of his kneejerk tendency to resolve every crisis faced by the nation with an unprecedented expansion of government power and taxpayer debt.

Was Bush a better steward of your tax dollars than Obama?

Yes – but that’s the problem. Getting mugged worse the second time around doesn’t absolve the first thief of his culpability.

The simple, unavoidable truth is that Bush and his GOP allies were fiscal liberals, and no amount of “Republican revisionism” can erase that fact.

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Turning a New Page on Education Policy http://howardrich.org/?p=1333 http://howardrich.org/?p=1333#comments Tue, 09 Nov 2010 15:25:31 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1333 From The Heritage Foundation

The results of Tuesday’s election sent a clear message about the direction voters want the federal government to take. The recently released 2010 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll What Americans Said about the Public Schools is illustrative.

Whether it’s paying the bills, setting standards, deciding what should be taught, or holding schools accountable, Americans believe state government is the responsible agency for public education in the United States.

With a new batch of conservative leaders heading to Washington, the time is ripe to promote federalism in education, reduce spending, and empower parents with school choice. Incoming Members of Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio (R–FL) and Rand Paul (R–KY)—both of whom have vowed to limit the federal government’s role in education—will likely look toward more conservative solutions to reforming education.

Americans made it clear that they want their problems solved locally, not by a distant and expensive Washington bureaucracy. Education is no exception. If Congress decides to undertake a reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act next year, that will provide an opportunity to significantly reduce bureaucracy and put more power in the hands of local leaders and parents.

Jennifer Marshall, Director of Domestic Policy Studies at Heritage, pointed out on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal last week that Washington’s overreach into local education over the years has created “an accountability chain that is misdirected. So it politicizes the whole education project [and] directs everyone’s attention up to Washington, where it shouldn’t be. Because when that attention is taken off the local level, the student and the primary customers—the parents and taxpayers—it breaks down the whole incentive and accountability chain that once made American education great.” The bottom line is that solutions for local education will not be found in Washington.

As a new Congress comes to Washington:

First, expect efforts to rein in education spending. U.S. Department of Education funding has increased nearly fivefold in the 30 years since its creation, real per-pupil federal education expenditures have more than tripled since the 1960s, and the Obama Administration just inflated the DOE’s coffers by $100 billion through the “stimulus”—on top of the agency’s regular appropriations. As if that weren’t enough, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the entire House of Representatives back to Washington during their August recess to pass a $10 billion public education bailout.

But more spending is not the answer. Massive increases over decades have failed to improve student outcomes. With conservative leaders pledging to cut spending in Washington, watch for new consideration of proposals to grant states flexibility and the freedom to target resources to their most vital education needs.

Second, look for legislative efforts to restore federalism in education. The conservative alternative to No Child Left Behind—called the A-PLUS Act—will likely find more champions in the new Congress. The approach would allow a state to consolidate funding from among dozens of individual federal programs and spend it on state priorities in education. Allowing states freedom from federal red tape would likely produce more examples of policies that are successful in increasing academic achievement, like those seen in innovative states such as Florida.

Florida is narrowing the achievement gap in a way federal education policy has failed to do for decades. Public school choice, private school choice, charter schools, virtual education, performance pay, alternative teacher certification, grading schools on an A–F scale, and putting an end to social promotion are all part of the Florida reform package that has contributed to important gains for students in the Sunshine State.

Third, watch for renewed interest in the school choice solution. Congress can begin by restoring and expanding school choice options for children in the nation’s capital. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers of up to $7,500 for low-income children in the nation’s capital to attend a private school of their choice, has been a lifeline for local families. It has drawn strong support from current and new Members of Congress.

The election results could mean big opportunities for genuine education reform that cuts bureaucracy, better targets and reduces spending, and empowers parents.

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D.C. School Choice Coalition Vows Aggressive Fight to Save Voucher Program after Congressional Gains http://howardrich.org/?p=1331 http://howardrich.org/?p=1331#comments Wed, 03 Nov 2010 19:16:51 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1331 From The Washington Business Wire

WASHINGTON–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–Efforts to reauthorize the endangered D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program—the highly effective initiative that allows low-income D.C. schoolchildren to attend the schools of their parents’ choice—will intensify after yesterday’s historic election results, D.C. education activists promised today. The program was slated for elimination by President Obama and his Congressional allies last year.

With the Republican takeover in the House and a narrower margin between the parties in the Senate, the potential for saving the program has increased, according to D.C. Parents for School Choice, the leading advocacy organization promoting the program’s expansion and protection.

The program, which has allowed children from D.C.’s lowest-income families to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice, has benefited more than 3,500 children. According to studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, the OSP has dramatically increased student graduation rates and is one of the most effective federally-funded education efforts in history.

“Our representatives have the opportunity to right one of the most severe wrongs of the past two years—the elimination of the OSP” said Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. “The time has come for our new Congress to send a clear message to D.C. parents—that their needs will no longer fall on deaf ears in the highest corridors of power.”

In fact, Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio), who will likely be elected by his colleagues as the next Speaker of the House, is the primary House sponsor of the bill to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program, which has received support by a significant majority of D.C. residents and by a majority of the D.C. City Council, has been backed by a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate, with supporters including primary sponsor Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida). The late Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) was also a Democratic supporter.

“All Democrats need to take a new look at this program and see that it should not only be saved, but strengthened,” said former D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). “If our goal as Democrats is to advance the key social justice arguments of our time, we cannot ignore the plight of low-income children in the District of Columbia. All Democrats should join their courageous colleagues in the Senate and embrace this program.”

D.C. Parents for School Choice said that it would be mailing packets of information about the OSP to newly-elected Members of Congress and Senators this week.

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Once Again, City Voters Approve Term Limits http://howardrich.org/?p=1328 http://howardrich.org/?p=1328#comments Wed, 03 Nov 2010 16:23:41 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1328 From The New York Times

New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly to limit politicians to two consecutive terms on Tuesday, undoing a highly contentious change to the law pushed through by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg two years ago.

It was the third time since 1993 that city voters endorsed the notion of two four-year terms and no more for the mayor and other elected city officials.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, 74 percent of city voters supported a two-term limit, while 26 percent opposed it.

The vote was a repudiation of the tactics used in 2008 by Mr. Bloomberg and his allies in the City Council, who supported a bill to allow three terms despite criticism that they had usurped the democratic process.

But much of the frustration of two years ago has cooled, and the vote on Tuesday, overshadowed by a contest for governor and make-or-break Congressional races, seemed more an act of quiet rebellion than a scathing rebuke.

Still, voters said they were pleased to have the opportunity to finally weigh in on the matter, though two years later.

“The way it was slammed through was rather distasteful and disingenuous,” said Gianni Sellers, 54, a banker who lives on the Upper West Side. “The voters have spoken on this before. I hope we don’t have to do it again.”

New Yorkers voted in support of a two-term limit in 1993 and in 1996, riding a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment nationwide epitomized by the slogan “throw the bums out.”

The measure approved on Tuesday was devised to prevent a repeat of the backroom politicking in 2008. Council members will be prohibited from making changes to term-limits laws that affect their own political careers.

But incumbents will be offered some consolation: if they were elected before Tuesday, they will still be allowed to run for a third term. The two-term limit will only apply to those elected this year and beyond.

That will delay putting the law fully into effect until 2021, when the newest class of city politicians, those elected in 2009, has the opportunity to finish a third four-year term.

Opponents of the two-term limit said it would make government less effective by disposing with leaders as soon as they had gained the experience to govern efficiently.

“With two terms, they have to split their time between minding the store and running for their next office,” said Ruth E. Acker, president of the Women’s City Club of New York, a civic organization. “They’re inclined to favor things that win them Brownie points in the short term.”

Supporters of term limits seized on the anti-establishment fervor that swept through much of the country. Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir, financed advertisements comparing politicians to dirty diapers in need of a change.

Even Mr. Bloomberg, who believed so zealously in a third term that he was willing to sacrifice some popularity, said he would vote in favor of a two-term limit.

“I don’t think it’s hypocritical at all,” he said Tuesday. “The public clearly wants to go back to two terms.”

Some feared the term-limits question would be ignored because it was placed on the back of the ballot and formatted in small print. Poll workers made special efforts to point out the referendum questions, but some voters still found the format confusing.

Gloria Hines, 54, a retired postal worker, smiled as she walked out of a poll site in Harlem with her husband, Denny. Then she realized neither of them had filled out the referendum questions.

“I forgot all about it,” Ms. Hines said, her good mood having faded. “Why would they put it on the back?”

In addition to the term-limits question, voters supported, by a vote of 83 percent to 17 percent, a second referendum item that called for several changes to city law, with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

The changes include reducing the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, requiring disclosure of campaign contributions by independent groups and raising the maximum fine for violating conflicts of interest law.

J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

Other term limits news across the country:






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‘Limited’ uprising http://howardrich.org/?p=1325 http://howardrich.org/?p=1325#comments Tue, 02 Nov 2010 19:43:22 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1325 From The New York Post

Written by Michael Goodwin

Across the land, the cry is heard: Throw the bums out! The people are prepared to do exactly that on Tuesday, but there’s a catch. There’s little to stop today’s insurgent from becoming tomorrow’s bum.

Or, as a pessimist once said, many reformers take office to do good and stay to do well.

Take heart, optimists, for there is an antidote to the corrupting disease of permanent poweritis. Term limits. They are a blunt instrument and they work.

They do it by forcing the turnover that the power of incumbency too often thwarts. By using gerrymandering, earmarks, favors for contributors and election laws to thwart challengers, too many incumbents get comfortable in office and make keeping it their mission.

Public service then become private service, which helps to explain how so many lifetime pols leave office filthy rich — emphasis on filthy.

Power corrupts, so prevention is the best medicine.

Presidents are limited to two terms by the Constituion’s 22nd Amendment, passed in 1951, to stop another FDR, who shattered the tradition of two terms by winning four.

Legal limits are popular in the states — about 35 have restrictions on governors and 15 have them on lawmakers. But members of Congress are free to serve as long as voters let them. That’s because the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot set limits for federal officers, meaning Congress would have to do it itself.

That’s not going to happen without overwhelming public demand and persistence. The 1994 Republican takeover of Congress included a pledge on term limits, but various bills all failed to get the required two-thirds majority.

But now, with the spirit of revolution sweeping America, the time and mood are right for congressional limits. The idea was popular among many of the founders, and it is returning as part of the public revolt against the growth and cost of government.

A recent Fox News poll found that 78 percent of Americans want term limits for Congress. Support was dramatic across the spectrum, with 84 percent of Republicans, and 74 percent of both Democrats and independents in favor.

New York City voters are in a position to help lead the movement. A ballot question on Tuesday gives voters the chance to limit elected city officials to two consecutive four-year terms.

That was the rule until last year, when Mayor Bloomberg convinced a pliant and greedy City Council to add a third term to the limits. Public anger over the end run around the referendums that established the limits did not stop Bloomberg’s re-election, and most council members also survived the backlash.

But the issue is back again, and Bloomberg promises he will vote for it. The only rub is that the change would allow anyone already in office to run for a third term.

That’s a small price to pay for this important measure, which is on the back of the ballot. It’s worth the effort to find it and vote “yes.”

Who knows? This could be the first shot heard round the nation and start a new push to prevent today’s reformers from becoming tomorrow’s bums.

Dems win the ‘race’ for irony

To appreciate the “holy s#!t” reaction to Bill Clinton’s bid to get a black candidate to quit the Florida Senate campaign, it helps to understand his cold race-and-ethnic calculation. Indeed, Clinton’s effort illustrates the stereotyping behind all group-identity politics, at which the Democratic Party is the master.

With the first black president now in the White House, Clinton has lost that honorary title and been demoted to doing the dirty work of dividing the racial pie. That meant telling black Rep. Kendrick Meek that he should get out of the Senate race so Dems could unite behind former Republican, and now independent, candidate Gov. Charlie Crist.

The aim of the 11th-hour maneuver wasn’t to boost Crist, who is white; it was to stop Marco Rubio, the GOP candidate who was cruising to victory in the three-way race.

Rubio is not just any Republican. He is Cuban-American, a charismatic rising star and, as a US senator, could be a national magnet for Latinos to vote Republican. That was the red flag that sent the White House and Clinton into action.

Their fear is that Rubio could break the Dem hold on Latinos, and might undo their pandering to illegal-immigration groups. After all, Rubio wants to secure the border and reduce government spending.

Can’t have that, so Meek was set up as the sacrificial lamb. Dems thought they could get away with strong-arming him because of Clinton’s standing among blacks, and because Barack Obama is in the White House. Nobody could accuse them of being anti-black.

True. But they are something else that is also reprehensible. They are slavish group-thinkers.

That’s the Dem way. You’re not you. You’re a member of a racial, ethnic or gender group and you are expected to behave in prescribed “authentic” ways, including buying into group-based appeals.

Fortunately, Meek said no deal. Good for him, and good for America. In some quarters, it’s still the land of individual opportunity.

Bold prince among peers

From Arabia, with wisdom. A billionaire Saudi prince who has supported the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque is joining opponents in calling for the mosque to move.

“People behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York,” Prince Alwaleed bin Talal told a Dubai magazine. “The wound is still there. We can’t just say, ‘Go to hell.’ ”

But “Go to hell” is pretty much what imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is saying, even after the prince’s sound advice.

Still, the door to compromise is now open. Alwaleed, who owns large chunks of Citibank and the Post’s parent company, News Corp., is a heavyweight in world Islamic affairs. His words could embolden other Muslims to break ranks with Rauf over the provocative location.

Pray it is so.

It’s ‘go time’ Charlie

With a GOP takeover of the House, Harlem voters have another reason to dump Charlie Rangel. The don of the New York congressional delegation will have far less clout under Republican control.

Voters shouldn’t need an excuse. Rangel’s name is synonymous with scandal, and his sense of entitlement in avoiding tax and ethical rules is a big strike against all incumbent Democrats.

Fortunately, a solid alternative is on the ballot. His name is Michel Faulkner, a Harlem pastor active in education, youth programs and police-community relations for nearly 20 years.

Faulkner is that rare bird — a black New York Republican. His time has come, if only voters will give him a chance.

Spitzing distance

A state official who knows Eliot Spitzer too well offers a scathing review of his CNN show. “Don’t he and Kathleen Parker sit uncomfortably close? I keep waiting for them to wheel him out strapped to a gurney wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask like in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’

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Letter: No votes for incumbents http://howardrich.org/?p=1320 http://howardrich.org/?p=1320#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 17:00:57 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1320 From The Rockford Register Star

It’s time for term limits in government. It’s time to get rid of the career politicians. It’s time to let someone else play the game.

If the highest elected office in our nation has term limits, then so should every other elected position in the nation. From village boards, to county boards, to state reps, to school boards, to clerks and judges and treasurers and mayors and everyone in between.

It’s time to take back our country from the incumbents and insist on term limits. It doesn’t matter what party you stand for.

We can’t let these politicians sit in office for 10, 15, 20 years and beyond.

And while we’re at it, it’s time to insist on lowering the pay scale for our politicians. The median U.S. household income is about $50,000. No politician should be making even 1.5 times that.

They all claim they’re going to balance the budgets, cut spending and help the economy. The first way is to reduce the astronomical paychecks they’re doling out for themselves. It can be accomplished.

I know I won’t be voting for incumbents this November.

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Eminent Domain in Coal Country Called a Billion-Dollar Land Grab http://howardrich.org/?p=1322 http://howardrich.org/?p=1322#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 16:11:27 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1322 From Courthouse News Service

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (CN) – With help from a law office, Pennsylvania and a county redevelopment agency abused their condemnation powers to help a coal company get its hands on billions of dollars worth of coal deposits, the Borough of Centralia and its citizens say in a federal class action. Centralia claims the conspirators used the pretext of an underground fire to make a land grab: a gross abuse of their powers of eminent domain.

“The original government pretense, if indeed it was ever legitimate, has long since expired,” the complaint states. “In short, the purported ‘Centralia Mine Fire,’ which allegedly threatened the Borough of Centralia, no longer provides, or never did provide, a viable explanation for the application of government power (exercise of eminent domain) and the taking of these American citizens’ property.” (Parentheses in complaint.)

“These defendants covet billions of dollars worth of extremely valuable anthracite coal which lies beneath the surface of the Borough of Centralia. These persons and entities, by and through political connections and the manipulation of governmental agencies and entities, are, among other things, illegally taking the property of the plaintiffs through the unlawful use of government police power.”

The complaint continues: “Plaintiffs allege that their rights are being violated by abusive government officials and entities, in concert with private persons, and that they have been exploited by the defendants to accomplish their unlawful ends. The persistent efforts of this private/government enterprise have resulted in a massive and continuing fraud reflective of both civil and criminal RICO violations. Perhaps the most succinct characterization of this process is expressed in the wisdom of the Hon. Scott Naus of the Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County when he obviously questioned, through the choice of his words, the basis for the suspicious rush to judgment by individuals and government entities who were purportedly seeking to respond to the dangers of a fire that has never materialized as a threat to Centralia. The fire has never been investigated. No court has ever held a hearing to determine whether the fire is, or ever was, a threat to the Borough or these plaintiffs. Despite pervasive conflicts in the ‘evidence’ of the alleged ‘threat’ posed by the fires, and the additional evidence of questionable political rationales, the fire that has never reached, and will never reach, Centralia has been allowed to act as an engine of private aggrandizement resulting in the unlawful denigration of citizens’ rights.”

The class claims that hundreds of fires occur in Pennsylvania abandoned mines, particularly the anthracite coal mining region in and around northeast Pennsylvania. The so-called “Centralia Mine Fire” started in 1962 in an abandoned coal stripping pit that Centralia used as a trash dump.

The class adds that any evidence that the fire actually endangered Centralia was “contrived,” and that “no court has ever held a hearing to determine whether the fire is, or ever was, a threat,” that “certainly it does not threaten Centralia now and is retreating at its worst.”

The class claims the defendants – including the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority and the Rosenn Jenkins and Greenwald law office – used the underground fire as a pretext for a “massive fraud designed to acquire access to the coal under the condemned area.”

The class claims the Borough owns all the coal beneath it and the defendants cannot get their hands on the coal unless Centralia ceases to exist.

The class claims the fraud was carried out by Rosenn, Jenkins and Greenwald on behalf of it client, co-defendant Blaschak Coal Co., in corporation with government entities and individuals, including Rosenn, Jenkins attorneys John Zelinka and Gary Taroli, and Steven Fishman, spokesman and counsel for the defendant state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Rosenn, Jenkins has represented various predecessors in interest of Blaschak, which have asserted rights to the coal since the 1980s, the class says. Blaschak has significant holdings in the condemned area, including roughly 52.8 acres of surface rights in Centralia.

The class claims that any “examination of the applicable maps showing the geology and water table in the area would demonstrate that the ‘Centralia Mine Fire’ would never, and could never reach Centralia.”

They say that the state and county agencies claim to be protecting Centralia through the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Act from the “alleged raging presence of an oncoming fire, but there is no evidence to support the position that the fire presented a real and present unabatable hazard to any of the residents.”

The class adds: “Plaintiffs believe and aver that sometime during the course of the efforts to extinguish the fires that a plan was hatched among and between RJG, Nogard, Blaschak, and their principals to use the fire as a pretext to justify the removal of all the residents of the Borough, and, as such, to extinguish the Borough, so that access to billions of dollars worth of coal under the Borough of Centralia and Conyngham Township could be mined. Plaintiffs further believe and aver that this conspiracy also involved a number of local and state public officials, and other private persons, all of whose identities are not yet known, but will be developed through discovery.”

They add: “(T)he fire that has never reached, and will never reach, Centralia has been allowed to act as an engine of private aggrandizement resulting in the unlawful denigration of citizens’ rights.”

The class claims that Rosenn, Jenkins knew about the tremendous coal vein 20 years after the “Centralia Mine Fire” began, but before the class knew the coal existed, when it made a claim to the subsurface mineral rights under Centralia in 1981, while representing the Nogard Coal Co.

In 1983, the class says, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines Office of Surface Mining “issued a report trumpeting the dangers” of what it called the “Centralia Mine Fire.”

That same year the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority, as agent for the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, “started a voluntary relocation effort for the citizens of Centralia Borough, although the fire is believed to never have existed under the Borough.”

The class claims that citizens of Centralia agreed to settlements because they felt threatened – but they felt threatened because they had been misled about the fire and were unaware of the coal deposits beneath them.

Four hundred of approximately 465 properties were transferred through a “voluntary program,” leaving owners of roughly 60 properties to face formal eminent domain proceedings – all of which were filed in the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas in 1993.

Never in any proceedings was the basis or necessity for the use of eminent domain in Centralia ever explained, the class claims.

As “irrefutable evidence” that the defendants knew there was no real threat from the fire, even as they bought out the residents of the borough, the class says that Blaschak “built a warehouse for mining activities literally right across the Borough line in or around 2004, within the purported fire impact area. Upon information and belief, this facility is to be a hub for mining activity in the Borough after it ceases to exist.”

They add that this “reflected the inside track that RJG’s clients had on manipulating the condemnation issues.”

The class claims that Rosenn, Jenkins and its clients bought them out on the cheap, because they were “feeling threatened, and being misled about the dangers of the fire.”

The complaint continues: “None of these were aware of the incredible value of the coal beneath them nor that there were plans to acquire the coal and mine in the Borough, although the approximate $90,000 amount received by a former Centralia mayor for her property, an amount believed to be far in excess of the values offered to other residents, suggests that persons other than the named defendants, all additionally to be determined through discovery, were complicit in the scheme.”

The class claims their property has been illegally taken through unlawful use of government police power and exercise of eminent domain. It seeks injunctive relief and punitive damages for conspiracy, fraud, civil and criminal misconduct, violations of due process and equal protection, punitive damages.

The class is represented by Don Bailey of Harrisburg

You can find a PDF copy of the filings at the bottom of the story posted on The Courthouse News Website

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‘Waiting for Superman’ a wake-up call for education reform http://howardrich.org/?p=1318 http://howardrich.org/?p=1318#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 15:49:34 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1318 From the Orlando Sentinel

“Waiting for ‘ Superman’ ” certainly won’t top “Toy Story 3″ at the box office. There were five people in the theater when I saw it.

But hopefully it’ll do for the school reform movement what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for the global warming movement.

Both were directed by Davis Guggenheim.

He becomes the latest liberal defector to the conservative cause of overhauling public education.

And he does it well, introducing bleeding-heart liberalism into a battle that has been mired in the wonky, tangled weeds of test scores, learning gains, performance pay and school choice.

Guggenheim shows us the children whose futures are pegged to failing public schools. We see desperate parents trying to get them out. We see their fate riding on the whims of lottery balls rolling out of a turning cage.

Beat the 5 percent odds and you win a first-class education in a top-performing charter school. You get the inside track on a college degree and a ticket out of the inner city.

Lose and you go to the dilapidated blockhouse down the street, a prep academy for a state prison more than a state university.

It is an emotional appeal with victims, villains and heroes.

The villains are unwieldy bureaucracies and teachers unions, which bargain for contracts that stifle excellence and protect incompetence. The priority is job protection, not education. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, comes across as Cruella de Vil, with poor kids the helpless Dalmatian puppies.

One hero is Michelle Rhee, the former public schools chancellor of the District of Columbia who closed failing schools and waged a campaign against incompetent administrators and teachers. Another is Geoffrey Canada, a Harlem educator so frustrated by the system he formed his own charter schools as an alternative.

The reformists’ message boils down to this: Given the right setting and the right teacher, every child can succeed. Good teachers work miracles; bad teachers can ruin lives. Yet there is no recognition of the difference between them.

The film also brings in Bill Gates to make a broader argument. It is that America’s future security depends on our ability to compete with the rest of the world. It is an economic battle for growth and prosperity, with winners and losers determined by who best educates their youth.

International science and math scores show us falling behind at an accelerating pace. Even top-rated suburban schools are failing to keep pace.

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A Clear And Present Threat http://howardrich.org/?p=1315 http://howardrich.org/?p=1315#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 13:19:59 +0000 admin http://howardrich.org/?p=1315 A new Gallup poll shows that forty-six percent of Americans believe the federal government “poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.”

The other fifty-four percent? Obviously they aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in their country.

At first glance, this statistic has barely budged from where it was four years ago – when Democrats seized control of the U.S. Congress. A look at the partisan breakdown of respondents tells a different story, however. Just prior to the 2006 elections, fifty-seven percent of Democrats felt threatened by the government compared to just 21 percent of Republicans. Today those numbers have flip-flopped – with sixty-six percent of Republicans feeling threatened compared to only 21 percent of Democrats.

Meanwhile, the number of independents who feel threatened by the government has remained steady at roughly 50 percent – although that number is seven points higher than when Gallup first asked this question in 2003.

This data highlights several political truisms – most notably the ability of absolute power to corrupt absolutely (no matter which party is in charge), as well as the misplaced faith that certain segments of the electorate still place in the two-party system.

“This complacency is very unfortunate,” writes Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “Republicans presumably want to limit government control over the economy, yet it was the Bush Administration that put in place policies such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the banana-republic TARP bailout, the corrupt farm bills, and the pork-filled transportation bills. Democrats, meanwhile, presumably want to protect our civil liberties, yet the Obama Administration has left in place virtually all of the Bush policies that the left was upset about just two years ago.”

Indeed Republicans and Democrats in Washington have not only collaborated to ring up record deficits over the past decade, they’ve also joined forces to dismantle the free market and steadily erode our civil liberties.

These numbers show something else, though. They are a reminder that the GOP wave likely to wash over Washington this fall is drawing significant strength from unflinching independents – or voters whose convictions are not swayed by partisan rhetoric. Should Republicans achieve the gains many are predicting for them this year, the unavoidable reality is that they will be held accountable by a much more engaged, much more libertarian-leaning constituency that bears little resemblance to the GOP of a decade ago.

The modern GOP emerged from the realigned South – which emphasized religion, morality and tradition – and from Westerners who have always valued our founding ideals of independence and privacy. This “South-West Axis” formed a potent electoral alliance that began producing consistent Republican wins beginning in 1968. In fact prior to the two most recent election cycles, this axis was only really derailed once – by Watergate.

The “South-West Axis” also swept the GOP to a landslide Congressional victory in 1994, despite generic ballot polling that showed Democrats with a slim majority over Republicans just days before the election. Yet every time America has handed Republicans the car keys, GOP politicians have crashed and burned – even when the handwriting was clearly on the wall.

“As the Republican Party embraces the big government it once fought against, and increasingly stakes its political fortunes on cultural hot-buttons such as gay marriage and flag burning, libertarian-minded voters are up for grabs,” one political analyst wrote during the summer of 2006.

And indeed they were. As a result of the GOP’s failure to adhere to its founding principles, Republicans lost thirty House seats and six Senate seats in 2006. Two years later the party lost another twenty-one House seats, eight Senate seats and the presidency.

In both of these elections, Democrats capitalized on Republicans’ fiscal excesses. For example, prior to the 2006 election sixty-five percent of voters agreed that “Republicans used to be the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and limited government, but in recent years, too many Republicans in Washington have become just like the big spenders that they used to oppose.” Two years later, that number had climbed to eighty percent.

Meanwhile, 2008 polling in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia (all of which were carried by Barack Obama) showed that voters trusted Democrats more than Republicans to keep federal spending in check – turning conventional political wisdom on its ear.

The truth is that both parties have demonstrated a contempt for American freedom and free markets that has pushed our nation into its current economic malaise.

The only good news? With unconstitutional individual mandates, massive tax hikes and crushing debt payments looming, it won’t be long before the rest of the country realizes just what a threat to their liberties their own government has become.

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