2019 Chester County News

December 22, 2019
Audit: Chesco Deeds clerk got $200K in automatic overtime

WEST CHESTER — An internal audit conducted by the Chester County Controller’s Office determined that an accounts clerk in the county Recorder of Deeds Office was given a work schedule that included built-in extra hours that allowed her to collect more than $209,000 in overtime over a 17-year period, according to a report.

That overtime ranged from $11,738 in 2003 to a high of $14,276 in 2008, and $13,424 in 2018, the last full calendar year the bookkeeper worked, according to the report, which has been posted to the county controller’s website. The schedule that the employee was given by the current and past recorders allowed her to come in an hour or so before the office opened and stay after it had closed, and then claim an average of 1½ extra hours each day.

The overtime was either paid at a “straight time” rate, or the standard “time-and-a-half” rate paid for those hours worked beyond the county’s standard 35-hour workweek, the report stated. The clerk also used vacation and personal time as hours worked for the purposes of calculating overtime, meaning she was able to claim the extra income even in weeks where she did not work the normal 35 or 40 hours, the report found.

The extra hours were added to the employee’s schedule in order to allow her to reconcile the office’s cash accounts. She closed out the daily cash drawers at the end of the day, preparing for the next’s day’s work, then came in as much as an hour before the office opened to set up the drawers for that day’s business.

Her schedule was set, the report noted, despite other county departments — including Row Offices such as the county Treasurer, Clerk of Courts, or Prothonotary — performing the same functions without having an accounts clerk working with built-in overtime. The cash reconciliation tasks were completed within a regular workday.

“As a result of these observations, internal audit finds (the clerk’s) overtime pay to be unnecessary and in some instances the result of an inaccurate reporting of hours,” the report states.

Both Rick Lougherty, the current county recorder, and Ryan Costello, the former county commissioner and U.S. congressman who served in that position from 2008 to 2011, denied any wrongdoing in paying the overtime.

In a statement, Lougherty, who will leave the post in January after opting not to run for re-election, called the clerk “integral to making the office run in accordance with our legal and financial obligations.

“We feel her financial duties typically require more hours than the county norm,” he said. “Her reporting to the state, municipalities and school districts is more involved and requires a high level of expertise. We are different than many row offices in these ways.”

In addition to the practice of paying automatic overtime, the auditors determined that beginning in 2009, the clerk was paid for that overtime not out of the Recorder of Deed’s general budget funds, but from fees collected by those users of the office’s services.

Those fees, known as Act 8 funds, were nominally meant to be used for records improvement within the Recorder’s Office. The auditors determined that the use of such funds was “an attempt to circumvent the county overtime freeze put in place on Dec. 5, 2008,” as the nation’s financial crisis was having a negative impact on county finances.

“It remains Internal Audit’s position that the Act 8 Funds should be used ‘to support development and improvement of office records management,” and not for any salary, overtime and corresponding benefits for a bookkeeper to perform daily reconciliation tasks,” the report states. About $66,900 in Act 8 Funds were used for her overtime from 2009 to 2019.

In an interview, Chester County Controller Margaret Reif said the overtime payments represented a “waste of taxpayer” funds, as well as improper use of user fees. She called the examination of the Recorder’s Office a proper function of her office’s mission to be the watchdog for the county’s taxpayers and noted that since her staff began looking into the situation, the Recorder’s Office has stopped paying the clerk’s overtime out of Act 8 funds, although the practice of having the clerk come in early and leave late had continued even after the auditors called attention to it.

“We have been in conversations with the Recorder of Deeds, and we are trying to find a reasonable solution to the situation,” she said earlier this month. “So far, no luck. But once I brought it to their attention, they did stop taking the money out of Act 8 funds.

“The objective is to make taxpayers whole. Essentially that money that was being used should have been used for something else,” Reif said. “In the same position, no one else needs overtime to complete this responsibility. It is not done anywhere else.”

She said the examination of practices in the Recorder’s Office came as the result of an anonymous complaint that came to her office in July in the form of a letter that made a host of accusations about the way that office was being run under Lougherty. The auditor’s report found that many of the complaints were either outdated, out of the controller’s jurisdiction, or unable to be substantiated. But Reif said the fact that the “whistleblower” felt compelled to report what he or she felt were problems was “a good thing” for the county.
“I remember when I first came into office I wondered whether anyone used the (Controller’s waste, fraud, and abuse) tip line. Now we can’t keep up. It’s a good thing. People now understand we are following through on their concerns.”

The employee at issue was not named in the audit, and was not identified by Lougherty or Costello in their statements about the controller’s findings. However, MediaNews Group was able to independently identify the employee, who is an account clerk who started her employment with the Recorder’s Office in 2003, and who was paid a base salary of $65,678 in 2019.
Attempts to reach the clerk were unsuccessful. She ended her employment with the county as of Friday, Dec. 13, after having submitted her resignation following the election of Democrat Chris Pielli to the recorder of deed’s position in November. The auditor’s report was first published on Dec. 3.

Because she has not been charged with a crime, and because she was unreachable for comment, the Daily Local News is withholding her name. The “whistleblower’s” letter identified her one of Lougherty’s “favorite special people.”

In an email to MediaNews Group, Costello defended the practice of having a clerk work extra time to reconcile financial accounts, the basis for the clerk’s overtime.
“I do not know how other offices function in terms of reconciliation, but it is a critical office function to reconcile accounts following close of business hours, and prior to opening the office for business in the morning, which necessarily requires working outside of normal office hours,” he said.

He also said that he had acted within his purview as recorder in using the Act 8 funds to pay the overtime. The statute setting up the fees, even though it specifies that they should be spent on records improvement, allows each Recorder of Deeds to determine how to spend the funds.

“The statute clearly establishes that the recorder can utilize Act 8 funds, at the express direction of the recorder, to pay for overtime in this instance,” he said. “Not only is the statute clear, but I then received written approval from (then Controller Val DiGiorgio), then advised (human resources), finance and the auditors, all of whom were aware and assented, which I thought was prudent given the overtime freeze.
“My decision irrefutably saved the county money. So I not only acted lawfully, but did so with transparency, obtained approvals that actually weren’t required, and saved the county money, all so that everything was clear, express, lawful, and above board,” he said.

Lougherty, who took over the office from Costello, said that the overtime was, indeed, necessary.

“I understand the concern,” he said in a statement. “However, Pennsylvania is a race-to-the-courthouse state, which means the Recorder of Deeds office must be prepared to record real estate documents from open to close, our accounts are swept daily by the state and we manage more than $106 million dollars in real estate transfer taxes and fees associated with our legal responsibilities. It is a unique Row Office and its functions do not directly compare to others.”

It will now be up to Pielli, who was elected to the office after sharply criticizing Lougherty’s work practices in office, to determine how to proceed with the reconciliation schedule in the future.

“I am concerned and disappointed about the serious findings that have been cited in the controller’s recent report,” he said. “In fairness to Mr. Lougherty, I have been informed that he has addressed some but not all of the matters cited in the report. Since he is still the recorder I will defer to him as to what further action he may seek while he remains in office and hope that it would lead to a fair and appropriate disposition of all outstanding issues.

“For the record, I have worked with this office as an attorney on many occasions and I have always been impressed with their professionalism and their service,” Pielli said. “There are good, hardworking folks in this office who are dedicated to making it the best recording outfit in the state. Their efforts have earned them a stellar reputation that is well deserved.”   Source

Nov 18, 2019
Chesco controller issues warning on county debt

WEST CHESTER — The Chester County Controller has issued a warning that the amount of long-term debt in the county’s operating budget has grown uncomfortably large over the past 15 years, and is having an impact not only on the county’s ability to provide certain services but may also affect its tax rates in the coming years.

“I realize that debt can be necessary,” Controller Margaret Reif said in a statement issued earlier this month. “I realize that some of this debt has been used for open space (preservation) and the (county’s) Public Safety Training Center, things that are good for the county.

“But I also realize that this level of borrowing cannot be sustained indefinitely. We simply cannot afford it,” Reif said. “We have been living through a historic 10 years of economic expansion, a time during which we should have been working on paying down our debt to put ourselves in a better position to handle whatever downturn is likely to come.”

Her comments come as the county commissioners are preparing to hold a public hearing on the proposed 2020 $446 million county budget on Tuesday. The budget contains no property tax increase on the current 4.369 millage rate, but it does show an increase in debt from general obligation bonds from $527 million in 2019 to $532 million in 2020.

Reif, the county’s elected financial watchdog, noted that the proposed debt rate for 2020 is more than two times what it was in 2004, before the Great Recession of 2008.

“What concerns me is we have 15 years of debt, increasing from $237 million to $532 million, and we should have been coming up with a plan to pay it down. The county is paying $50 million a year for debt service, but continues to borrow.”

Reif said the county’s budget shows it will borrow an additional $42 million in debt to its books in 2020.

“Where is the plan to pay this down?” She said. “We are kicking the can down the lane right now. It is not sustainable.”

On Thursday, the commissioners responded to Reif’s warnings by agreeing that the county’s total debt “should be reduced,” but took issue as to whether there is not “a plan to address our overall debt burden.”

“We watch our debt and work very hard to invest only in projects that we must,” the three commissioners, Chairwoman Michelle Kichline, Vice Chairwoman Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell, said in the statement. “Every year we pay down tens of millions of dollars in debt, and often the amount of principal that we pay is equal to, or exceeds the amount that we are borrowing.

“Future projections show us that at the rate we pay down our debt, even if we continue to borrow at $30 million a year over the next 20 years, our debt will be significantly decreased at the end of those 20 years,” the trio said. “Our long-term strategy of making key investments and reducing spending will allow us to continue to address the critical issues in Chester County while keeping taxes at one of the lowest levels in the region.”

In her analysis of the county’s debt trends, Reif said that today more than 27 cents of every dollar a property owner in the county pays in taxes goes towards debt service. By contrast, in 2004, only 13 cents of every dollar was used for debt service, less than half of its current amount.

She said the impact was felt in the way the county spends its money on general services. In 2004, those expenses accounted for more than 76 cents per dollar; it has now shrunk to 65 cents per dollar. The county’s expenses for parks have dropped from four cents per dollar to less than two cents per dollar of taxes. “Libraries, as well, have taken a hit,” Reif said. “They used to account for 5.6 cents per dollar, but now show only 4.2 cents per dollar.”

According to the county’s preliminary budget presentation, the $51.1 million in debt service set for 2020 makes up about 10 percent of overall expenditures.

Reif noted in an interview that tax millage rates in the county have tended to be increased in the year following a county election in which commissioners’ seats were on the ballot, such as this past Election Day, in which Democrats won a historic victory by taking two of the three seats on the board, with only Kichline winning re-election.

She said that the debt that the county has taken on in the past decade had gone to the construction of the Public Safety Training Center in South Coatesville, a facility that emergency responders in the county had said was desperately needed to keep police, fire, and ambulance personnel up to date. It also continues to fund the county’s popular Office of Open Space Preservation, which grants tax dollars to certified projects that save land from being gobbled up by development.

Most recently, the commissioners announced that the county planned to give $5 million to West Bradford to help in its acquisition efforts of the former Embreeville State Hospital grounds. While Reif stressed that she had no opposition to either of those efforts, decisions on the amount of debt could have been made and still accommodated them.

“I appreciate open space (preservation),” the controller said. “But the goal was always (to save) 30 percent of the county’s acreage, and we are now at 29 percent.” She argued that the county could continue to invest in open space without additional large borrowing.

Reif noted as well that in the near future, the county faces additional capital projects that will require new debt, such as the construction of a county morgue and renovation work at its Government Services Center in West Goshen.

In addition, in 2031 it will have to choose whether to purchase the six-story administrative office building it now rents from developer Eli Kahn on West Market Street, or find new space for those offices, she said.

“There are multiple issues coming up,” she said, “Where is the plan to pay this down?”

Reif noted that her concerns were not a partisan political critique since the budgets in which the debt is contained have always been passed with bi-partisan support.”

In their response, the commissioners said that the county maintains “a five-year capital plan, which is included in our annual budget reporting. We will continue to publish the five-year plan, but to take financial planning to the next level, at the beginning of this year we started to put together an internal 10-year capital plan.

“This gives us a greater understanding of necessary projects and investments that the County will be facing longer-term. We have consistently made smart investments in those areas that our citizens say are the most important, including open space and public safety.”

The public hearing on the county’s proposed 202O budget will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the commissioners boardroom at 313 W. Market Street, West Chester. A vote on the final budget is not scheduled until Dec.12.   Source


November 8, 2019
SEPTA poised to shift to Democrats’ control for first time in its history

SEPTA is dominated by Republicans.

That’s been an ironclad reality since the agency was founded in 1963, but it’s likely to be turned upside down, thanks to the results of Tuesday’s elections.

Democrats’ newly won control of boards of commissioners in Chester, Delaware, and Bucks Counties means the Republicans representing those counties on SEPTA’s board will likely be replaced by members of the victorious party when current terms expire.

The three boards that went Democratic will remain that way until the next election in 2023. In 2022, Chester County’s commissioners will be the first of the newly flipped bodies to make SEPTA board appointments. Adding two Democrats would give that party a three-vote majority on SEPTA’s 15-member board, which oversees an agency with a $2 billion combined operating and capital budget.

It’s too soon to say what the change could mean for SEPTA’s 430,000 daily riders, said Marian Moskowitz, one of two Democrats elected Tuesday as a Chester County commissioner, giving her party the majority there for the first time.

“You don’t want to assume anything, and now it’s just one night that I won,” she said. “It’s going to take me a while to understand the roles and how they all work.”

The transit agency’s governing board is made up of two representatives from each of the five counties it serves; four appointees from the legislature, with both parties in both houses represented; and one member appointed by the governor. Chester, Delaware, and Bucks Counties’ six board members are Republican. Along with the legislative appointees, that gives the current board an 8-7 tilt in favor of the GOP.

It is unclear whether a shift in parties will change one of the fundamental dynamics of SEPTA’s board: the tension between urban and suburban interests. Philadelphia, strongly Democratic, has more public transit riders than the surrounding four counties combined, census data show, but the city has only two board seats.

City government has been increasingly engaged with SEPTA in recent years. Efforts to reduce congestion and increase transportation access for people in the city’s poorer neighborhoods have required greater cooperation between city government and the transit agency, and the two have not always seen eye to eye. The city has been a driving force pushing for a revamped bus service, which has been bleeding riders and is due for a shakeup in the next two years. Most recently, the city has pushed for SEPTA to eliminate transfer fees for riders switching from one mode of travel.

In Chester County, Moskowitz, a businesswoman, backs a rail extension to Phoenixville, something SEPTA has discussed but has no tangible plans to build. SEPTA has prioritized a program of Regional Rail station upgrades and replacements throughout its rail network and has described a light rail extension to King of Prussia as a priority.

Helen Gym, a City Council member who has been critical of SEPTA, is hopeful a leadership change on the board could usher in a new vision to reverse the trend of declining ridership since 2014.

“Public transit has an enormous role to play getting people to jobs, education, and schools,” Gym said. “I really do hope that a Democratic SEPTA leadership will be more responsive to that than what we’ve seen in the past.”

SEPTA’s current management emphasizes that good transportation boosts economic development and job access, and supporting Philadelphia ultimately helps the entire region and state. Gym said she hoped new Democrat board members would embrace that ideal.

Democratic control of the board could jeopardize chairman Pasquale M. “Pat” Deon’s 20-year dominance at the transit agency. Deon, a Bucks County businessman and an influential Republican statewide, is described by members of both parties as a unique asset to SEPTA as an advocate for transit in Southeastern Pennsylvania who has clout in Harrisburg, where Republicans have a legislative majority.

In 2022, when Chester County is due to appoint new board members, Pennsylvania will face the possibility of losing $400 million in transportation funding, part of which goes to SEPTA. Should Republicans continue to control the legislature then, Deon is expected to play a significant role in lobbying for transportation funding.

Deon was not available for an interview Thursday, a SEPTA spokesperson said. He has said he may retire in 2024 at the end of his current five-year board term. The board selects a new chairman annually.

Transportation’s effect on the environment was an important element of the winning Democrats’ platform in Chester County, Moskowitz said.

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, an environmental advocacy group, spent $250,000 on mailings, canvassing, and ads to support the Democratic candidates in Chester County. The greatest concern among environmentally minded voters was the Mariner East pipeline, which carries Marcellus Shale natural gas liquid to Marcus Hook, and plans to build another pipeline, said the organization’s executive director, Josh McNeil. But the group also focused on the ways SEPTA could be more environmentally friendly.

SEPTA recently committed to obtaining almost 20% of its energy through solar power and has plans to run 35 electric buses in a fleet of about 1,500.

The group focused on Chester County because it seemed more likely Republicans would perform more strongly there than in Delaware County, he said, and because its residents seemed receptive to an environmentally friendly campaign.

“There’s a connection to nature,” McNeil said, “that is very real and deep in that county.”

This story has been updated to clarify the city’s role in revamping SEPTA’s bus network, and to state Republicans were expected to be more competitive in Chester County.   Source

November 5, 2019
Commissioners race won by Chesco Democrats

WEST GOSHEN — Two first-time countywide candidates for Chester County commissioner on Tuesday accomplished what none of their party predecessors ever could — gaining control of the three-member board for the next four years and with it the reins of government in the county courthouse.

Unofficial election returns showed the two Democrats asserting firm control over the contest, with more than 8,500 votes separating the leading candidate from the last.

Heading the pack was Tredyffrin Marian Moskowitz, followed closely by Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell, both making their first attempts at county office, although each had run for state seats before.

They never trailed their Republican opponents, incumbent commissioners Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline, as the results came in, and made history as the first Democratic team to win the coveted seats.

With 100 percent of the county’s 228 precincts counted, Moskowitz had 370,842 votes, followed by Maxwell’s 68,914. Kichline was in third place with 63,779, while Farrell brought up the rear with 62,287 votes.

Moskowitz and Maxwell held leads of 26 percent and 25 percent of the total, versus Kichline’s and Farrell’s 23 percent. The top three candidates win seats on the board — the two majority commissioners and one minority commissioner.

Voter turnout was also higher than expected, with about 33 percent of the county’s 352,000 registered voters making their way to the polls in the off-year election, slightly above the results of the 2017 Municipal Election.

Given the success that candidates from the county’s Democratic Party have had in recent national, state and local elections — including a “blue wave” of county Row Office seat victories in 2017 — many observers had been bracing for the possibility that the county commissioners could see two of its three seats taken by Democrats this year — a first in modern history.

But despite those victories, Chester County remained the sole suburban county in southeastern Pennsylvania where the Republican Party still maintains a voter-registration edge, although narrowly 148,422 to 141,446. The county remains prosperous, its taxes low, and government relatively crisis-free, giving Republicans a “quality of life” message to deliver.

But Moskowitz and Maxwell were able to convince voters that it was time to change the county leadership, following a trend established in the past but not capitalized on at the top level of county government until now.

Two years ago, the Democratic candidates for county Row Office swept into power with election night victories of 7 percentage points on average. In 2018, the party’s candidates for U.S. Senate and state Governor won by margins of 20 percent and 24 percent, while the first time candidate in the new 6th Congressional District beat her GOP challenger by 18 points. The Democratic candidates who won seats in the state House of Representatives scored their victories by an average of 13 percentage points.

As of October, the county’s Democrats and Republicans were nearly equal in strength, although the GOP still held a lead, with 148,422 voters to the Democrats’ 144,446. There are 62,467 independent or third-party voters, making them a significant swing factor in county-wide races.

This year, the Democrats were offering a chance to change the composition of the commissioners with Maxwell, the mayor of Downingtown, and Moskowitz, a local businesswoman. The Republicans countered with its two incumbent commissioners, Farrell and Kichline.

“We have run a very organized campaign with incredible candidates,” said Moskowitz in an interview last month about her party’s prospects. “We have never had a campaign run with such a diverse set of bright and energetic people in it for all the right reasons. This could be a monumental election.”

“I have watched the cycle unfold,” as the two parties has come closer together in their respective voter bases, said Kichline in a later interview. “But out in the community campaigning, I’ve found most people have been receptive to our message and our track record.”

The candidates were:

Farrell, 72, of West Chester, who has served as county commissioner since 2009 and is seeking his fourth term in the office. He previously served as county Recorder of Deeds.

Kichline, 52, of Tredyffrin was appointed to the board in 2014 to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Costello went he became congressman, and was elected to a full term on the board in 2015. She previously served as supervisor in Tredyffrin.

Maxwell, 36, has served as mayor of Downingtown, the county’s third-largest borough, since first being elected in 2010. He has run for the state House of Representatives previously, but is making his first run for county office.

Moskowitz, 63, of Tredyffrin is also making her first run for elective office in the county after having run for state representative in 2014. She is credited with creating the commercial and educational development known as Franklin Common in Phoenixville.

The Republican candidates point to their “quality of life” efforts to make the county a safe and healthy place to live, including local planning and economic development efforts as the clearest reasons for their re-election, with Farrell noting the challenges the county faces in the years ahead as the population continues to swell.

Farrell said the ironic nature of the county’s changing political scene is that its population growth has been fueled by the “quality of life” benefits accrued to Republican leadership, even as that boom has meant the erosion of the GOP’s voter registration edge. “They still vote the same as they did in their previous communities,” he said, meaning Democratic.

Both Maxwell and Moskowitz pointed to their commitment to making the process of county government more transparent and accountable if elected. While the county may have benefits, there is room for improvement in both fiscal discipline and program development.

Moskowitz, for one, was adamant that the county has fallen behind in acting against gun safety and climate change, for her pressing priorities. Now, she and Maxwell will be able to put their ideas into practice. Source

November 5, 2019
Historic wins for Ryan, Maddox

The key races at the top of the Chester County Row Office ballot, for District Attorney and Sheriff, gave Democratic women historic victories in the races.

With all of the county’s 228 precincts reporting, Democrats Deb Ryan, seeking election as DA, and Fredda Maddox, running for county Sheriff, were victorious over their Republican challengers, Michael Noone and Jim Fitzgerald, each by comfortable margins after never trailing in the count.

In the DA’s race, Ryan outpaced Noone by 76,251 votes to 62,958 votes, or 54 percent to 45 percent. Meanwhile, in the Sheriff’s race, Maddox had 73,072 votes to Fitzgerald’s 65,837 votes, or 52 percent to 47 percent edge. All totals are unofficial.

The two races were just part of a sweep by Democrats of the five Row Office seats up for grabs in the election, meaning that the party now occupies all of those traditionally Republican seats. With the win, Ryan becomes the county first female District Attorney, while Maddox takes over as its first African American Sheriff. Both victories mark firsts for the county Democratic Party.

The offices represent the top law enforcement positions in the county, even though the duties of the office holders re markedly different: the District Attorney oversees prosecutions of crimes both minor and major, and oversees the county Detectives Office, which investigates major crimes in tandem with local and state police departments, while the Sheriff acts as an arm of the courts, protecting county buildings including the courthouse, transporting prisoners, and serving civil complaints.

Each race pitted candidates whose background were in some cases similar, Noone and Ryan having served together in the DA’s Office as trial prosecutors and administrators, and Fitzgerald and Maddox both having spent time in law enforcement agencies,

In her campaign, Ryan stressed that fundamental changes needed to be made in the way the District Attorney’s Office is run to re-establish its reputation among victims, community members, and police, a reputation claims has faltered in the eight years in which current District Attorney Tom Hogan has led the office.

“We need new leadership,” Ryan said in an interview last month. “Tough on crime doesn’t work. Smart on crime does.”

Noone, on the other hand, maintained that the office in which he serves as second-in-command is among the leading prosecutor’s offices in the state, and that the policies and programs put in place under his watch have proven successful in both punishing and preventing crime — illustrated by a historically low homicide rate in 2019.

“I have the experience and qualifications to do the job successfully and effectively,” he told a reporter in an interview. “What we do is a cooperative effort. Law enforcement is the ultimate team effort.”

For their parts, Fitzgerald and Maddox agreed on one consequence of the election: the Sheriff’s Office would see changes in the policies that allowed incumbent Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh to employe her live-in boyfriend, L:t. Harry McKinney. The relationship and role that McKinney Tok in the office’s popular K-9 unit led to a series of financial investigations led by the county Controller, Margaret Reif.

“Were there mistakes made?” Said Fitzgerald in a recent interview, promising a “top to bottom” review in office personnel and policies. “I am absolutely certain of that. And if they haven’t already been corrected, they will be”

“I want a change in the era of nepotism that has occurred in the sheriff’s office (under Welsh),” said Maddox in an interview. “I want to make sure there is a change in that environment. The stain at the top has affected morale.”

Both, however, expressed praise for the men and women who serve in the office as sheriff’s deputies, agreeing that whatever taint may have befallen the office o ver the past few years, it had not extended to the work done by those in uniform.

Ryan, 48, of Birmingham, served as a prosecutor in the DA’s Office for nine years, from 2008 to 2017. As a deputy district attorney, she headed the DA’s Child Abuse Unit, prosecuting sexual and physical crimes against children, and was named “Prosecutor of the Year” in 2014.

Noone, 44, of West Chester, graduated from Wilkes University, where he was class valedictorian. He earned his law degree from the Villanova University School of Law and then worked as a trial prosecutor in the office from 2003 until 2007. He took over as first assistant district attorney when Hogan took office in 2012.

Fitzgerald, 60, of West Goshen is a retired special agent with the FBI, having served for 26 years, most of that time in the agency’s Philadelphia office. He is also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Maddox, 59, of Birmingham, is a former Pennsylvania State Police trooper and member of the state Attorney General’s Office Drug Strike Task Force. She served in those positions from 1982 to 2000, before attending Widener University School of Law.

In addition to sheriff, county voters also cast ballots for county Prothonotary, Recorder of Deeds, and Register of Wills.

Both parties fielded a full slate of candidates for those offices. Incumbent Prothonotary Matt Holliday of West Chester, a Republican, is facing Democrat Debbie Bookman of Coatesville, while fellow incumbent Register of Willis Terri Clarke of West Goshen, another Republican, is facing Democrat Michelle Vaughn of East Whiteland. Democrat Chris Pielli of West Goshen is running against Republican Amber Little-Turner of Coatesville for Recorder of Deeds.

The Democrats claimed victories in each, with the party candidates claiming margins of between 5 and 7 percent.   Source

November 3, 2019
Chesco balance of power on line in Tuesday vote

WEST CHESTER — Is Chester County ready for Democratic Party leadership at the top of county government? Or has the Republican Party’s majority served residents’ needs enough to warrant them staying in control?

Essentially, that is a question that will be answered on Tuesday, when the county’s 350,000 or so voters have the chance to go to the polls and choose the people they want to lead the county Board of Commissioners, and other county offices, for the next four years.

Given the success that candidates from the county’s Democratic Party have had in recent national, state and local elections – including a “blue wave” of county Row Office seat victories in 2017 – many are bracing for the possibility that the county commissioners could see two of its three seats taken by Democrats this year – a first in modern history.

But despite those victories, Chester County remains the sole suburban county in southeastern Pennsylvania where the Republican Party still maintains a voter-registration edge, although narrowly 148,422 to 141,446. The county remains prosperous, its taxes low, and government relatively crisis-free.

This year, the Democrats have are offering a chance to change the composition of the commissioners with candidates Josh Maxwell, the mayor of Downingtown, and Marian Moskowitz, a local businesswoman. The Republicans have countered with its two incumbent commissioners, Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline.

“We have run a very organized campaign with incredible candidates,” said Moskowitz in an interview last month about her party’s prospects. “We have never had a campaign run with such a diverse set of bright and energetic people in it for all the right reasons. This could be a monumental election.”

“I have watched the cycle unfold,” as the two parties has come closer together in their respective voter bases, said Kichline in a later interview. “But out in the community campaigning, I’ve found most people have been receptive to our message and our track record.”

The candidates are:

Farrell, 72, of West Chester, who has served as county commissioner since 2009 and is seeking his fourth term in the office. He previously served as county Recorder of Deeds, and has a host of business and professional accomplishments. He is a native of southern Chester County.

Kichline, 52, of Tredyffrin, was appointed to the board in 2014 to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Costello when he won a seat in Congress, and was elected to a full term on the board in 2015. A native of the county, she is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Temple University School of Law. She served as supervisor in Tredyffrin.

Maxwell, 36, has served as mayor of Downingtown, the county’s third-largest borough, since first being elected in 2010. He is a native of the Downingtown area, and graduated from West Chester University and the University of Pennsylvania. He has run for the state House of Representatives previously, but is making his first run for county office.

Moskowitz, 63, of Tredyffrin, is also making her first run for elective office in the county after having run for state representative in 2014. She is a graduate of Neumann University and began a career in real estate, successfully creating the re-use commercial and educational project known as Franklin Common in Phoenixville.

The Republican candidates point to their “quality of life” efforts to make the county a safe and healthy place to live, including local planning and economic development efforts as the clearest reasons for their re-election, with Farrell noting the challenges the county faces in the years ahead as the population continues to swell.

“We are perhaps a victim of our own success,” he said. “We are going to see significant growth and with the 17 years of experience Michelle and I have as commissioners I think we are in a great position to help the county navigate those rough waters.”

For her part, Kichline said that among the other financial and governmental successes the county has seen in the past four years the accomplishment she remains proudest of is the anti-opioid addiction efforts of the county. She pointed to the Community Outreach and Prevention Education (COPE) program that includes help for those who suffer accidental overdoses get immediate rehabilitation assistance.

“I said this is something that is starting to peak in Chester County and we need to do something about it,” Kichline stated. “I’ve been at the front lines of this.”

Both Maxwell and Moskowitz point to their commitment to making the process of county government more transparent and accountable if elected. While the county may have benefits, there is room for improvement in both fiscal discipline and program development.

“I want to see us doing a better job of managing the county budget,” said Maxwell, pointing to a large debt service amount – $51 million in the proposed 2020 budget and close to $600 million overall to allow the county to invest in pressing needs, such more domestic violence shelters and drug treatment facilities. “We want to be thinking 10 years down the road, not election to election.”

Moskowitz was adamant that the county has fallen behind in acting against climate change, for her a pressing priority.

“I am concerned with the environmental sustainability of county government,” she said. “We have do to everything in our power to address the future of climate change, and I do not see the county government doing things that are easy and cheap to do.”

One of the other reforms she believes could easily be achieved to address transparency would be to begin having evening commissioner meetings to give those who work a chance to attend. “I want to make the public part of the process,” she said.  Source

October 22, 2019
Trump a Chesco tipping point in November election?


While the voter registration gap in Chester County between Republicans and Democrats continues to shrink ahead of the Nov. 5 General Election, the heads of the county’s two major parties have differing thoughts on what impact the turmoil in state and national capitals will have on local election results.

As of last Wednesday, current registrations in the county show a total of 352,035 voters, far short of the record 357,307 number of voters in 2018, but significantly more than the 345,528 registrants in the 2017 municipal election, when Democratic candidates swept four row office seats at the county level.

Of the total, a plurality are still registered Republicans, with 148,422 voters, or 42 percent, compared with 141,446 Democrats, or 40 percent. There are 62,467 voters who are registered in third parties such as the Libertarian or Green parties, or who claim no party identification.

The gap between registered Republicans, who have dominated county politics since the Civil War, and Democrats, whose numbers have grown steadily in the 21st century, now stands at 6,976, the smallest edge for the GOP in modern history. According to observers, the GOP edge tipped below 10,000 voters sometime in mid-June.

The shrinkage comes as no surprise, given the demographic and political changes in the Philadelphia suburbs, but the edge still gives hope to county Republican Committee Chairman Rick Loughery, who is counting on the top of the ticket next month to help keep the party in power in the county courthouse.

Incumbent GOP commissioners Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline are facing Democrat challengers Josh Maxwell and Marian Moskowitz for the majority on the three-member board. (The top three finishers are elected.)

“I think that suburban voters are in an interesting time,” said Loughery in a recent interview. “But our Republican candidates in Chester County have always shown broad bi-partisan appeal, and I think you will see Terence and Michelle receive a lot of support from Democrats, independents and Republicans, who look at their records and see two good public servants focused on local issues.”

The tug-of-wars playing out in Washington and Harrisburg might work nationally or statewide with each party’s base, he said, but at the county level voters tend to focus on issues that are closer to home, he said.

“I think the Trump factor and the Pelosi factor, the impeachment, the scandals and drummed-up innuendo, all of that helps build up enthusiasm in the base, both Republican and Democrat. But voters in the county look at issues here and make a determination on those issues and what candidates are doing for us in Chester County.”

But his counterpart, county Democratic Chairman Dick Bingham, says the steady drumbeat of the party’s successes in the suburbs and the state Capitol, coupled with dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, bode well for its chances.

“At a minimum, (the narrowing numbers) are certainly not going to hurt,” he said, responding to the new registration numbers and lessening of the GOP numerical edge. “People are fed up with what is going on in Washington. My expectation is that we are going to see a very significant turnout and will see strong results for Democrats.”

Trump is a huge factor for voters in his party, Bingham said. “I can tell you for sure that his popularity among Democrats is non-existent,” he said. “And I hear that there are an awful lot of Republicans that are looking in that direction or have gone there already. They cannot tolerate the kind of things Trump is doing.”

Even with the narrowing of the gap, the political landscape in the county remains largely unchanged since two years ago.

Of the county’s 73 municipalities, all but 20 are still dominated by a Republican registration edge. The 20 boroughs and townships where Democrats have larger numbers than Republicans, most are along the Route 30 corridor from Tredyffrin to Coatesville, while the majority of Republican-dominated townships are west of the Route 100 north-south axis.

Of the 10 municipalities with the largest populations. In the county, six — Caln, Coatesville, Phoenixville, West Whiteland, Tredyffrin, and West Chester — have more registered Democrats than Republicans, while the remaining four — East Goshen, New Garden, Uwchlan, and West Goshen — are Republican strongholds.

The municipality with the widest margin of Democrats to Republicans is Coatesville — with 4,770 Democrats to 985 Republicans from a total of 6,707 (71 percent to 14 percent) — while the opposite margin is in East Goshen 7,300 Republicans to 4,884 Democrats from a total of 14,346 (50 percent to 33 percent). The slimmest margin for Democrats is in West Whiteland, where they hold a plurality of only 584 voters, and in Uwchlan for Republicans, where they hold an edge of only 147 registered voters.

In the coming Municipal Elections, county voters will elect Row Officers alongside the commissioners, as well two Common Pleas judges. At the municipal level, township supervisors, borough council members and school board members are on all 73 municipal ballots.  Source

Oct 12, 2019
Former Kennett Township supervisor arrested for stealing political signs

KENNETT TOWNSHIP—A former Kennett Township supervisor has been arrested and charged with stealing political signs belonging to a current supervisor who is running for reelection.

Michael E. Elling, 87, a Republican and former long-time supervisors’ chairman of Kennett Township supervisors, was arrested this week and charged with stealing the signs from the same property on several occasions belonging to Dr. Richard Leff. Elling is still active in Kennett Township matters, and a gold shovel bearing his name still is on display in the lobby of the Kennett Township municipal office.

Like many crimes being solved by technology today, Elling was caught by video surveillance cameras.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Kennett Township Lydell Nolt received a report on Oct. 3. Regarding the reoccurring theft of campaign sings from a property located at Bayard Road and East Hillendale Road in Kennett Township.

The signs were purchased by Leff and placed on the property, which is owned by the DuPont estate. Leff told authorities that he has had long-standing permission from the property owner to place his signs on their property. Leff said that someone, without his permission, took between four to six of his signs from the property on Oct. 3.

The signs are valued at $4 each.

The following day, Nolt ordered officers to look into the crime. That same morning, Kennett Township police learned that replacement signs had been posted on the same intersection of Bayard Road and Hillendale Road.

Police placed two trail cameras on the property Oct. 4 in the event someone would attempt to steal the campaign signs again.

On Oct. 5, Jeff Yetter, Leff’s campaign manager, told authorities that four of the five replacement signs had been stolen, with a loss of $16.

Upon reviewing the images captured by the cameras, one camera captured images of a man physically holding one sign and pulling another sign up from the ground. The images were taken on Oct. 4 at 12:27 p.m. Police said the man depicted in the photographs is Elling, who was immediately identified by township personnel.

The second trail camera captured a photo of a red Chevrolet Tracker, arriving at the intersection just before the signs were removed. The images were taken at 12:35 p.m., the affidavit states. The Tracker is registered to Elling Exploration Inc. Kennett Township Police Department has records of prior traffic stops on this vehicle, displaying the same registration captured on camera, while operated by Elling, police said.

“I must admit I have driven down the road and have seen an opponent’s campaign sign, and I wanted to drive over it, but we have something called the First Amendment.,” Yetter said. “Let the voters decide.”

The criminal complaint was filed in Magisterial District Court 15-3-04. The crime is a misdemeanor.

In November 2013, Leff, a Democrat with no prior experience in Kennett Township politics, defeated Jim Przywitowski, a Republican to earn the six-year seat on Kennett Township.  Source


August 23, 2019
West Chester Borough Council calls for Bill Scott to resign after racial remark

WEST CHESTER — Several members of Borough Council Wednesday night called for longtime Councilman Bill Scott to resign, after reports that he made a racially charged remark to one of the cast involved in a popular play about local history.

Scott is said to have made offensive remarks to a member of the cast of the popular play, “Mud Row,” following a performance that was attended by a number of borough residents to celebrate its connect to the borough.

The well known and longtime member of council begged for forgiveness, but refused to surrender the seat he holds representing the borough’s First Ward.

“I know that we all know that I can’t unsay what I said,” Scott said at the council meeting. “I appreciate the references to my past but that does not excuse me for what I did. I ask for your forgiveness. It doesn’t seem right for me to resign. Please forgive my trespass.”

Council voted 6-0, with Scott abstaining, to have the borough solicitor prepare a resolution of censure, an unprecedented move that could prevent Scott from continuing as member of the council committees he now serves on.

Although some had called for his removal from office, Borough Council cannot eject an elected member unless they have been found to violated the provisions of the Home Rule Charter, or no longer live in the borough. Council President Diane LeBold said the censure resolution would likely contain language that Scott’s comments do not represent the position of the borough or the council.

According to sources who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, after a recent performance of People’s Light & Theater Co.’s theatrical production of “Mud Row” – a well-reviewed play about a black family who lives in a section of West Chester on the borough’s East Side, Scott is said to have approached one of the actresses in the cast. Community members had been invited to attend the performance by Mayor Dianne Herrin.

During his conversation with the woman, Scott, a Democrat serving his second term on council, reportedly made a comment about the comparatively light shade of her skin. In doing so, he also used the word “Negro,” an antiquated term previously used to refer to black people.

It is those comments, and Scott’s subsequent initial refusal to apologize for having made them, that raised the ire of those on and off Borough Council, those familiar with the matter said.

Among the black community, the lightness or darkness of one’s skin is considered a volatile subject, one that is not normally raised in polite conversation. The term “Negro” is also several years out of fashion and considered by many to be offensive.

Councilwoman Denise Polk said she was “crazy disturbed” by Scott’s actions, which he admitted to making. She said that if the board did not act to censure, she would resign. “We are elected to represent everyone in our community,” she said. “We are leaders.”

Councilman Michael Galey said Scott should resign. “The most important thing is to listen to the folks who have spoken,” Galey said. Councilman Don Braceland also sought a resignation, while crediting Scott for getting him involved as a councilman. “This has been tearing me up the last week,” Braceland said. “This is an uncomfortable situation.”

Councilman Bernie Flynn said he can pray for Scott.

“I’m personally embarrassed,” Flynn said. “I cannot forgive him. He needs to be censured.”

Councilman Michel Stefano asked Scott to step down and said that “an apology is not enough.”

Scott, a longtime member of the council with a history of work in the borough involving civil rights, did apologize. Bur he said he would not resign.

“I did something terribly wrong,” Scott said. “It was not a small mistake but an egregious mistake. I meant it in a lighthearted way and it was stupid and ignorant.”

Resident Jim Salvas, a Democratic activism and Scott supporter, said that he would still vote for Scott and noted the councilman’s record as a person who works for racial equality.

“I know that we all know that I can’t unsay what I said,” Scott said. “I appreciate the references to my past but that does not excuse me for what I did.

“I ask for your forgiveness. It doesn’t seem right for me to resign. Please forgive my trespass.”

The discussion occurred during the public comment portion of the meeting. The item was not on the agenda.

Lisa Dorsey, president of the board of directors at the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center, acknowledged it’s a difficult topic for many to grasp.

“Racism is uncomfortable for many people to talk about,” Dorsey said. “Elected officials must be held up to the highest standard of accountability.”

The Rev. Kyle J. Boyer, president of the West Chester branch of the NAACP and minister at Mount Carmel Church of God in Christ, said it is important to bring truth to light about race-based discrimination.

“It would be a great thing to honor your legacy by stepping down,” Boyer said to Scott.

Lawyer Sam Stretton said that racial comments by “other people are just wrong.”

“I supported (Scott) in the election,” Stretton said. “He’s supported the ward system and many other issues.

“I say to an old friend, step down.”

“This is a beginning to hold our member accountable,” said LeBold.

Herrin called for a meeting to be held Monday, Sept. 9 at Stetson Middle School.

Council voted unanimously to undertake sensitivity training and then again every two years during reorganization.

Scott, a Democrat, represents the First Ward. He has served two different stints on borough council. He was first elected and served two terms in the 1990s, serving the maximum eight years before having to give up his post under the borough’s term limits guidelines. He ran again and was victorious in November 2013. He serves on the Events and Quality of Life, Small Growth, Public Safety and Finance committees.

In other business, the board also voted 7-0 to draft a general code prohibiting racism.


July 28, 2019
Chester County starts wiping slate clean on arrest records

Chester County Clerk of Courts Yolanda Van de Krol

WEST CHESTER — Imagine you are a West Chester University graduate, Class of 2010. When you were a sophomore in 2008, you had too much to drink one night and shoplifted a bunch of stuff from the local grocery store. The thought of the arrest still haunts you.

But you admitted your mistake, pleaded guilty in court, and served the probation order by the judge without any problems.

Now, 11 years later, you’ve settled down, gotten married, and started a family. You’ve also applied for a new job that would help secure your family’s financial future. But that college arrest hangs over you like a cloud, and you are nervous that your chances at getting the job will be scuttled by a quick background check.

Relax. Yolanda Van de Krol has a plan for that.

Actually, its not just Van De Krol who is in on the plan, but every county Clerk of Courts across Pennsylvania. All are beginning the process of sealing the arrest and conviction records for non-violent, low level offenders under the state’s new “Clean Slate” program, which went into effect last month.

“Things like these can flow people for the rest of their lives,” said van de Krol last week, discussing the Clean Slate work her staff has undertaken in the past month, sealing the records of some 150,000 people and almost 300,000 offenses in the county.

“What is so great about this legislation is that now the records will be sealed” and people can finally “move on” with their lives, she said. People whose employment, housing, or financial futures were affected by long ago arrests will now see that black cloud drift away.

Chester County has joined all other counties across the state of Pennsylvania in automatically sealing non-violent criminal records and non-convictions for anyone who has remained crime-free for 10 years. Because of the Clean Slate legislation, no longer will people have to file motions and pay to seal their records, as long as they meet the law’s criteria.

“In Chester County alone, 2 million people will have their low-level offenses or non-convictions automatically sealed in the next year. That means we are sealing about 163,000 cases every month for the next year to clean up the backlog of cases,” said Van de Krol in a press release. “It is very exciting to be at the forefront of this type of criminal justice reform. Because of Clean Slate, a mistake will no longer define a person’s life and limit their opportunities.

“And people won’t even know we’re doing it,” she said. The process takes place under a schedule from the state.

Van de Krol said she was most pleased with the idea that those records of arrests that did not lead to convictions, or which were dismissed by a judge or withdrawal by the prosecution, will now be sealed from public view.

Van de Krol pointed out that a person’s criminal record will not be expunged, unless the defendant asks a court to order such a removal – as is permitted for those who completed the county’s diversionary sentencing program for first time drunk drivers say. They will remain visible to law enforcement and judicial officers and can still be seen on FBI background checks, used by schools, hospitals and casinos — employers for whom a lack of a criminal background is essential.

Since June 28, when the law took effect, Van de Krol’s staff has sealed about 160,000 cases. “It’s remarkably easy,” she said. The state sends a list of cases to be sealed, a clerk in the office uploads the list and presents it to President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody for her approval, and the list is sealed.

“Within minutes, they are sealed,” said Van de Krol’s chief deputy, Kirsten Schurr.

“I think we are really helping people who are not so savvy about their rights,” Van de Krol said. “And we are doing it at no cost to them.”

The Clean Slate legislation passed in July of 2018. The first phase began in December and allowed for people who had old misdemeanors on their records and who had not been in trouble for a decade to apply for their records to be sealed. Chester County is in the top five counties in Pennsylvania for volume of cases.      Source

July 28, 2019
Former State Rep Eric Roe listed here on Michele Kitchline’s staff, a position he held prior to winning the 158th House seat which he lost last November to State Rep. Christina Sappey. Word is that he is also running Michele Kitchline and Terence Farrell’s Commissioners’ race.
Conflict of interest? Is he paid for both positions? If so, should he resign from one of them for transparency?

(Click photo to view listing online)

July 7, 2019
June Swoon: Summer of distraction, shifting voter registration rattle Chesco GOP

DiGiorgio Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh poses with Les Neri Vigil 2.jpg                 WEST CHESTER — The summer has not been kind to Chester County Republicans.
In the past two-plus weeks since the solstice on June 21, the county’s once dominant political party has seen a continued erosion of its voter registration edge; two media scandals involving top GOP figures; and the sudden departure from the 2019 local election ballot of one of its most recognizable county officials.
“It hasn’t helped the brand,” said John Kennedy, a professor of political science at West Chester University who has studied local and state political trends for years.

But what will it mean for Election Day in November?
On Monday, June 25, the Pennsylvania Department of State updated its voter registration numbers for each of the 67 counties. For the first time in modern history, the number of registered Republicans versus registered Democrats dipped below the 10,000 mark, leading by only 9,747 voters, or 42 percent to 38 percent, a virtual dead heat, according to one Republican observer.

By July 1, that edge had been reduced even further, with the plurality of GOP voters at 9,518 out of a total of 348,929. Was it a harbinger of things to come?

The following day, the chairman of the state Republican Committee, Uwchlan attorney Val DiGiorgio, resigned the position he held for more than two years after he was named publicly as having exchanged sexually suggestive text messages with a former Philadelphia City Council candidate. DiGiorgio was expected to play a central role in the re-election efforts of President Donald Trump, who won the state in 2016 and needs it to compete in 2020.

Then on Friday, June 28, the county controller, Democrat Margaret Reif, announced that she had filed civil charges against county Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, among the county’s most well-known Republican politicians. Reif contended that Welsh had been using her authority to enrich herself by approving exorbitant overtime payments to the man she lived and worked with, Lt. Harry McKinney. Reif said she wanted the sheriff to repay the county taxpayers more than $67,000 in overtime costs that should not have been approved.
Before the dust could settle from those charges – which Welsh has vigorously denied – and leading into the July 4 holiday, incumbent Republican District Attorney Tom Hogan stunned GOP leaders (and almost everyone else) by saying that he was quitting the D.A.’s race. Hogan had easily won the party’s nomination to oppose Democrat Deb Ryan, a former assistant prosecutor in his office. Hogan, who likely was going to face a stiff challenge from Ryan, cited the need to pay more attention to his wife and children as the motivation behind his withdrawal. There is no clear successor at this point.
“It is hard to imagine the (Republican) party having a more difficult time than it has had lately,” going back to the election last year, Kennedy said in an interview Friday.
“During the last year or so the Chester County GOP has exhibited a monumental display of political self-immolation that is breathtaking,” he continued, pointing to its loss of four county Row Office seats in 2017 and Congressional and state Legislature defeats in 2018. “The big question now is whether incumbent commissioners (Michelle) Kichline and (Terence) Farrell and their record can prove to be the last firewall for the party, because the Democrats are preparing to storm the gates.

“And I guarantee you if they do lose control of county government this November, they will no longer be the majority party come election day 2020,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”

Taking an opposite view was former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, who while not downplaying the bruises the one-after-another turmoils had inflicted on the local party, said that what happens in the coming November election is not likely to hinge on those headlines.

Rather, he said national news might have more of an impact, if moderate Republicans and independents continue to recoil from the Trump White House and switch their votes to local Democrats.

“Terence and Michelle have done everything you are supposed to do (to win re-election) and haven’t done anything they are not supposed to do,” Costello said in an interview, speaking of Farrell and Kichline. “But for all intents and purposes, (voter) registration is even up. So the real issue is where do voters who are registered as Republicans but who see themselves as independents, and independents themselves, go?
“If this is another referendum on Washington, D.C., that is a problem for Republicans,” he said.

The decrease in the Chester County GOP’s traditional edge in voter registration –what built the party’s control over positions in county government and at the local level – has been happening for years, largely because of demographic changes. But it has picked up speed in the last decade as voters turn away from what some refer to as Republican extremism.

A similar shift has taken place next door in Delaware County, where Democrats now outnumber the once all-powerful GOP, which at one time held a nearly 3-1 edge in voter registration.

The county, after having not supported a Democrat for president since 1964 in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, has voted for the Democratic candidate in two of the last three presidential elections — and went for GOP candidate Mitt Romney by only the thinnest of margins in 2012.
As of April 22, the final day to register for the May 21 primary election, there were 148,638 registered Republicans, versus 138,261 registered Democrats. There were also 61,296 voters registered either as independents or as members of the Green or Libertarian or other parties.
Those figures mean that 42.6 percent of the county’s voters are Republicans, versus 39.7 percent Democrats and 17.6 percent others.

Although the percentages had changed little since the November 2018 election, the gap between the two parties closed by almost 900 voters from then until now — 877 to be exact — showing a continuing trend of voters favoring the Democrats. The gap between the two parties stood at 10,377 voters.
But now that gap has dwindled, closer to 8,000 voters than it is to 10,000. The state’s numbers show 148,533 GOP voters, 139,015 Democrats, and 61,381 independents and Third Party voters.

“I think the Republicans are still well-positioned at the top of the ticket,” said Costello. “But the ‘drip-drip-drip’ (of bad news) does not indicate positive momentum.”   Source

July 3, 2019
Hogan drops out of Chesco DA’s race

WEST CHESTER — In a stunning development, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced on Wednesday that he would not seek a third term as the county’s top prosecutor, leaving the race that pitted him against the most formidable political opponent he had faced.

In a statement, Hogan, who was first elected district attorney in 2011 and would have been the first DA to be elected to three consecutive terms in the county’s history if elected, said he had discussed his continued candidacy with his family and colleagues and had decided to withdraw from the race to seek new challenges after having accomplished a host of improvements to the DA’s Office, and to be more of a father and husband to his children and wife.

“That’s it,” he said in the lengthy statement. “No scandals. I am still happily married to my wife of 22 years and have two great kids. No back story. I am still the nerd who never even tried marijuana. Nope, I am just somebody recognizing that there is a time to leave public life. I will complete my second term, then help my replacement take over the (District Attorney’s Office). After that, I am off to a new adventure.”

Hogan would have faced Democratic candidate Deborah Ryan in the November election. Ryan is a former prosecutor in the county DA’s Office, and has a list of courtroom accomplishments that make her a highly qualified candidate for the job, including being named “Prosecutor of the Year” by Hogan himself in 2015. In his two elections prior to this, the candidates offered by the Democrats had no prosecution experience.

Ryan had earned the support of Hogan’s predecessor in the position, Joe Carroll, as well as the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge of state police in the county. She received more votes than Hogan did in the primary — both were running unopposed — and even though that was not a head-to-head competition, some saw it as a clear indicator that Hogan had his work cut out for him if he hoped to win re-election. She also raised more than $66,000 for her campaign in the first five months of the year.

According to one source in the county’s Republican Party who asked not to be identified because he had not been granted permission to speak on the committee’s behalf, Hogan had apparently look at his chances and arrived at a gloomy assessment.

“He didn’t think he could win,” the party official said Wednesday after hearing the news about Hogan’s decision. “Deb Ryan is a strong candidate and we all knew that. But he just didn’t ant to lose. This is unexpected, and a lot of people in the party are very upset that he has withdrawn.”

Another person who spoke on condition of anonymity but who had contacts within the county GOP agreed. “My guess was that when he initially agreed to run for a third term, he did it for the party” which was coming off two bruising election cycles that saw an increasingly successful Democratic Party. “And he just doesn’t have the stomach for it.”

An attempt to reach Hogan for comment was unsuccessful.

In his statement, which was sent to supporters early Wednesday and then posted on Hogan’s Facebook page at noon, Hogan gave his support for a replacement on the Republican ticket to his colleague in the DA’s Office, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone. Noone, he said, “knows the operations of the DAO intimately” and had chaired the county’s Overdose Prevention Task Force and supervises all sexual assault prosecutions. “Mike is well-known to law enforcement and our judges. He will keep Chester County safe.”

Noone sent out a statement thanking Hogan for his support and indicating that he would seek the GOP’s nod in replacing him on th ballot.

“I hope to earn the same confidence of the Republican Committee of Chester County and the voters of our great county,” Noone said.” It has been a privilege to serve as First Assistant District Attorney for the past seven years. The Chester County District Attorney’s Office has a long tradition of hard-working, smart prosecutors, detectives, and staff who hold themselves to the highest ethical standards in the pursuit of justice.

“I hope to continue to work with them, law enforcement, and our community as District Attorney. Working together as a team, we can continue to keep Chester County a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said.

Hogan has until Aug. 12 to formally withdraw, and the county Republican Committee has until Aug. 22 to name a replacement. The decision as to whose name to place o the ballot is an internal one, likely to be made by members of its executive committee.

Party Chairman Rick Loughery could not be reached for comment.

The statement Hogan issued was addressed to “My Beloved Chester County.”

In it, he said his decision was on three factors, the first of which was that he and his team of prosecutors and police departments “have accomplished everything we set out to achieve and more … to deliver justice to Chester County.”

“We made Chester County the safest county in southeastern Pennsylvania,” he wrote, citing new efforts in active shooter protocols, homicide investigations, child abuse prosecutions and other types of criminal behavior.

“We responded early and hard to the opioid epidemic, bringing every tool available to the job, and have kept Chester County’s overdose levels down and falling,” he wrote. “We inherited a dysfunctional office, modernized it, recruited outstanding people, then trained them to be even better. We built a new Computer Forensics Lab, a new Drug Unit work space, and a new Crime Scene Forensics Unit work area.

He boasted about his office’s convictions in a number of high profile cases, including the killers of young “Scotty” McMillan; the road rage shooter of Bianca Roberson; and the murderer of West Goshen resident Brook Jennings. But he said his office had also pursued meaningful criminal justice reforms in polic investigations.

“ Our prison population is at a historically low level, because we have robust diversionary programs for non-violent criminals. We did the right thing, the hard thing, for the right reasons” he said.

He said that his family’ desire not to have him run for a third ter was also a reason for his decision, noting that as DA he had been called away from family duties for a variety of office responsibilities.

“As the District Attorney, I am often gone,” he said. “And even when I am there, I am often someplace else in my head, thinking about a case. Nobody’s family should have to put up with a life like this forever. My family never wanted me to run for another term. Should I have listened to them at the end of last year? Of course. But I was too busy being District Attorney to even think about it. My family deserves a break.”

Hogan, 52, of Willistown, joined the county DA’s office in 1998 as an assistant district attorney. He left the office after several years as a trial prosecutor to work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia. He then left that office to work in the politically powerful West Chester law firm of Lamb McErlane, headed by former District Attorney William Lamb, to plot his run for district attorney.   Source

May 28, 2019
Primary Election Results

The races for various school board, borough council, supervisor, and county-wide positions have now been clarified following the Primary Election on May 21.

Turnout was low, as expected during an off-year Primary Election. But turnout was higher in places with compelling races or issues that are of high importance to voters.

Republicans still hold an edge in the number of registered voters across the county, 148,629 to 138,281, but the margin has been narrowing in recent years. In 2018, Democrats made historic gains, winning all the county row offices that were on the ballot that year.

Will this be the year that Democrats win two of the seats on the three-person Chester County Board of Commissioners? The Primary Election results suggest that it’s at least possible. According to the election data, more Democrats went to the polls last Tuesday than Republicans. There were 30,070 ballots cast on the Democratic side, while Republicans cast 26,272 ballots. Total voter turnout was at 19.60 percent. Democrats turned out at 21.75 percent, while Republicans turned out at 17.68 percent. In November, many of the races throughout Chester County could be decided based on get-out-the-vote efforts.

Here’s a look at some of the results from last Tuesday:

County races

In the race for three seats on the Chester County Board of Commissioners, incumbents Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline emerged as the nominees on the Republican side—they were unopposed in the Primary Election. On the Democratic side, Josh Maxwell (17,952 votes) and Marian Moskowitz (13,689) earned the nominations over Kathi Cozzone and Ginny Kerslake. This means that there will be at least one new county commissioner at the start of 2020 as Cozzone is the incumbent Democrat on the board.

In the Chester County District Attorney race, incumbent Republican Tom Hogan will be challenged in November by Democrat Deb Ryan. Both candidates were unopposed in the Primary Election.

In the Chester County Sheriff race, where the incumbent, Carolyn Welsh, is retiring, Republicans backed Jim Fitzgerald, while Democrats selected Fredda Maddox by a wide margin from among four candidates.

The Chester County Prothonotary race will be between incumbent Matt Holliday, who earned the Republican nomination, and Democrat Debbie Bookman, who won by a wide margin in the Primary.

The Register of Wills contest will be between Republican incumbent Terri Clark and Michele Vaughn, who earned the Democratic nomination over Lisa Longo.

Amber Little-Turner earned the Republican nomination for the position of Recorder of Deeds, and will face Democrat Chris Pielli in the November election.

Chester County residents will be electing two judges to serve on the Court of Common Pleas. Republicans nominated Charles Gaza and Andrea Cardamone, while Democrats selected Analisa Sondergaard and Brett Binder.

Borough council races

Voters will have a lot of choices to make in some of the borough council races in the area. With three seats up for election in Kennett Square Borough, Mayra Zavala (336 votes), Doug Doerfler (312 votes), Rosa Garza Moore (232 votes) were the top three vote-getters to earn the Democratic nominations. Doerfler is the borough council president and the only one of three incumbents who are seeking reelection this time around. On the Republican side, 358 write-in votes were cast. The Republicans nominees will have an uphill battle to win seats on council in November as Democrats in Kennett Square have been effective in get-out-the-vote efforts.

One similarity between the Kennett Square Borough Council race and the Oxford Borough Council race is that there are three seats up for election. Another similarity is that there is just one incumbent seeking reelection. In Oxford Borough, that incumbent is Peggy Ann Russell, and she was the top vote-getter on the Democratic side. Also winning Democratic nominations were Marybeth Rizzo Moore and Kathryn Goodley Cloyd. On the Republican side, Philip Harris, Mary Lou Baily and Michele Rich-Ianieri won nominations to move to the November election.

There are eight candidates vying for four seats on West Grove Borough Council: Elizabeth Garduno, Karen Beltran, Kristin Proto, and Fred Boyce earned the Democratic nominations, while Mark Johnson, Charles Donovan, Michael Ranieri and Clyde Jacobs, II won the Republican nominations.

Supervisor races

Kennett Township, London Grove Township, and Franklin Township are a few of the municipalities that will have contested races for seats on the board of supervisors in November, while in many other municipalities the longtime incumbents have a clear path to reelection.

In Kennett Township, incumbent Richard Leff earned the Democratic nomination, while the Republican nomination was won by Hunter Tower.

Franklin Township has two supervisor seats up for election this year. David Gerstenhaber and Mary McVeigh emerged with the Democratic nominations, while on the Republican side it was Brent Van Lith and incumbent David Snyder who earned nominations.

In London Grove Township, where two seats are up for election, Christine Allison and Dina Manceva won the Democratic nominations, while the Republican nominees are Kevin Runey and Richard Scott-Harper. Scott-Harper is an incumbent.

Eric Matuszk and Robert Jerger are the Democratic nominees in East Marlborough Township, while the Republican nominees are incumbent John Sarro and Shelley May Mincer.

There is also an unexpired two-year term up for election in East Marlborough Township. Significant write-in votes were cast on the Democratic side, while Bruce Jameson was the Republican nominee for the two-year term.

Republican incumbents Randy Geouque and Richard Ayotte are seeking reelection to the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors. On the Democratic side, David Unger locked up the nomination. A significant number of write-in votes were cast on the Democratic side as well.

In Penn Township, there will be three candidates vying for two seats on the Penn Township Board of Supervisors. Longtime incumbent Victor Mantegna earned the Democratic nomination, while on the Republican side, Laura Sperratore and Ken Bryson earned the nominations.

In New London Township, Mary Anne Steel earned the Democratic nomination.

In West Nottingham Township, Antonio Pedulla earned the Democratic nomination in the Primary Election, while incumbent William Winand locked up the Republican nomination.

In East Nottingham Township, Republican P. David Smoker locked up the nomination for one seat on the board. For an unexpired two year-term, write-in candidates received votes on the Democratic side, while on the Republican side it was William Weaver who received the nomination.

Then, for an unexpired four-year term, Philip Brenner, Jr. is the Democratic nominee, while John Wallace was the nominee among Republicans. Brenner and Wallace will be vying for the seat in November.

In Elk Township, Republican nominee Milt Rudy is seeking election to the board of supervisors.

In London Britain Township, Russell McKinnon earned the Republican nomination, while Brian Samuel Sachs earned the Democratic nomination.

Upper Oxford Township supervisor Scott Rugen is seeking reelection and locked up the Republican nomination. The same can be said of Joel Brown in Lower Oxford Township.

All Primary Election results were still unofficial at the time this was written. For a full list of results from the Primary Election, visit the Chester County government website and follow the link from the Voter Services page.   Source

March 17, 2019
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Southern Poverty Law Center

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Identity Evropa members insist they’re not racist, but “identitarians” who are interested in preserving Western culture. The group owes its style and ideology to the European identitarian movement.

Founded in 2016 by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo, Identity Evropa has always operated with an eye toward branding. The organization has a simplistic and replicable logo — a teal triangle with three lines that join in the middle — and builds name recognition by distributing flyers around college campuses printed with images of classical European statues and phrases like “Our Future Belongs to Us” and “Keep Your Diversity We Want Identity.” It’s self-aware and eminently meme-able aesthetics are meant to lure in young people who are then encouraged to engage in real-world activism on college campuses — the “epicenter of Cultural Marxism in America,” according to Damigo. The organization’s overarching goal — implemented through their #ProjectSiege campus flyering operation, banner drops broadcast over social media, demonstrations and “open dialogue” campaigns — is “taking up space” with their ideas and imagery in the hopes of eventually, through the sheer force of repetition, mainstreaming their ideology.

Identity Evropa members, including Damigo, helped to plan the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, but have since attempted to publicly distance themselves from events that could both tarnish their image and land them in legal trouble. As a result, they’ve made multiple leadership changes, doubled down on their identitarian label, and become pickier when it comes to the group’s membership and public appearances.

In its own words

“I think one of the major books that got me started was David Duke’s My Awakening, and I think from there the rest was really history.”
—Nathan Damigo on Red Ice Radio, June 16, 2016

“America was founded as a white country — as a country for people of European heritage. And in 1965 they passed the Harts-Cellar Act and the people who passed that said, ‘this is going to change the demographic makeup of the country, this is not going to increase the amount of immigration every year,’ — all of it was bogus … even here in California [not only] are we a minority, but they are actively trying to disenfranchise us from the institutions that our ancestors created.”
—Nathan Damigo on Red Elephants, July 13, 2017

“I work in HR firing niggers and spics all day. Before that, I was in the army and I got to kill Muslims for fun. I’m not sure which one was better: watching niggers and spics cry because they can’t feed their little mud children or watching Muslims brains spray on the wall. Honestly both probably suck compared to listening to a kike’s scream while in the oven.”
Eli Mosley on The War Room, March 20, 2017

“We don’t believe America needs to be 100.00 percent white, but we do think that America isn’t going to be America if there isn’t a European-America super-majority. So when it comes to policies and so forth we’re concerned with reversing these trends. We want to end immigration for the time being. And in the future we would like to have immigration policies that favor high-skilled immigrants from, you know, Europe, Canada, Australia and so forth. And we also do want to have programs of re-migration wherein people who feel more of a connection to another part of the world, another race, another culture, even another religion in the case of Islam can return to their native homelands essentially.”
—Patrick Casey in an interview with Brittany Pettibone, January 16, 2018


Nathan Damigo launched Identity Evropa (IE) in March 2016, but his journey toward “racial awareness” began long before. Born in Lewiston, Maine, Damigo grew up in San Jose, California, with his patriotic, “flag-waving cuckservative” family, as he would later call them during an interview with Red Ice Radio. His parents were “fundamentalist Baptists,” and he attended a private Christian school that taught creationism and reinforced the conservatism he encountered at home.

As an adult looking back on his childhood, Damigo claimed that he always felt out of place in San Jose. “There were all of these different neighborhoods and I noticed that many of my friends who were non-white — were perhaps Filipino or something like that — they had their own cultures and a very tight-knit kind of group thing going on,” he explained on a Counter-Currents Radio podcast, “I would go and I would hang and there was always something was kind of off, that wasn’t really fitting.” The racial makeup of his hometown also shifted during his adolescent and young adulthood, rendering whites the minority as the Asian and Latino populations increased. “I’ve been dispossessed,” he insisted, claiming he had some right of ownership over California because “my ancestors, actually, like were among the founders of the state.”

It wasn’t until he joined the Marine Corps at 18 that Damigo finally felt like he belonged. “There were a lot of white guys from the Midwest and other parts of the country and it was really the first time I had spent a lot of time with my own people,” he explained. Unlike the Filipinos and Latinos he had grown up with, his white fellow soldiers seemed to share his views of culture and politics. “For some reason it was just really comfortable,” he said. He contrasted his growing sense of racial comradery with the conflict that continuously surrounded him in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province, and concluded that multi-ethnic, religiously diverse societies simply didn’t work.

Damigo completed two tours in Iraq and struggled upon his return. Three of his friends had died in combat, and he began drinking heavily to cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One night, on the anniversary of a friend’s death, an inebriated Damigo used a gun to rob an Arab cab driver he mistook for an Iraqi. For robbing the man of $43 dollars, he received an Other than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the military and spent four years in prison. An HBO film crew producing a documentary about the lives of veterans struggling with PTSD followed Damigo’s transition and, after his sentencing, interviewed his mother. “They took him when he was 18 and put him through a paper shredder and then sent him back to us,” she told them. “We get to try to put all the pieces back together. Sometimes it’s like Humpty Dumpty: they don’t go back together.”

In prison, Damigo attempted to reassemble the pieces of his life through education, taking advantage of his abundant free time to read. He felt “ betrayed by the government,” and was trying to figure out why the United States had launched a war in Iraq in the first place. He was also reassessing his Christian faith — if he was never taught about evolution growing up, what else had he missed? Damigo read about biology, genetics, atheism and, after a recommendation from a fellow prisoner, landed on the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke’s book, My Awakening. He scanned Duke’s sources and picked up other works from racist academics like J. Phillipe RushtonNicholas Wade and John Baker. “It was very clear to me that there are these differences between people that are very powerful,” Damigo concluded after immersing himself in the long-discredited literature linking race and biology, “and there are these distributions even within those populations that will affect individual outcome as well as group outcome.”

After gaining “racial awareness” in prison, Damigo started to think strategically about how to spread his newly discovered ideas upon his release in 2014. Much of his inspiration came from his ideological opposition, including the community organizer often demonized by the right, Saul Alinsky. He also looked to his contemporaries, especially activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. In a 2015 podcast, Damigo reflected on how black student organizers at the University of Missouri had successfully drawn attention to racial discrimination on their campus through a series of recent protests. He was critical of the students’ motivations — and claimed they were guilty of “ethnic intimidation” — but was nevertheless impressed by their results. “When we’re doing activism ourselves we have to understand that taking actions that create strong emotions and dramatize the situation is far more effective than facts will ever be,” he said.

He found his way into real-life activism through an online connection when he commented on a YouTube video posted by a fellow veteran named Angelo Gage. After Gage responded, the two became friends and together launched a youth wing of the white supremacist American Freedom Party called the National Youth Front (NYF), aimed at “all you teens out there who are aware of what’s going on,” according to Gage’s announcement on the white nationalist site Stormfront. It was in NYF that Damigo — then studying for a degree in social science at California State University, Stanislaus — first began trying to make ideological recruits on college campuses. In their most notable campaign, NYF staged protests at Arizona State University in an attempt to make the school cancel an “anti-white hate-class” called “U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness.” They also unsuccessfully tried to pressure colleges in the Northeast into firing professors they deemed “anti-white” as part of a campaign dubbed “Operation Grumpy Grundy.”

Though NYF was able to establish at least five chapters around the country, the group was short-lived. Its chairman — a man named Caleb Shumaker who Damigo met on Twitter — was ousted from the organization after it came to light that he was married to a Hispanic woman. Legal trouble followed: GoFundMe suspended the group for violating their terms of service, and an organization called Youthfront threatened to sue NYF if they didn’t cease using their current name. Damigo rechristened his organization “The Dispossessed” on Facebook before scrapping it entirely in order the retool and refine his message.

Damigo, looking to make his organization “more explicitly pro-white,” found himself inspired by the growing cadre of identitarians in Europe. The youth-led movement is the ideological offspring of the French New Right, or Nouvelle Droite, a far-right faction that formed in academic circles in the late 1960s. The New Right’s opposition to multiculturalism, paired with its emphasis on European identity and localism, helped inspire a new generation of European far-right activists reacting to increasing non-European immigration in the early 2000s.

In 2003, the French identitarian movement found its formal expression in Bloc Identitaire, which held anti-Muslim events like a 2010 “pork sausage and booze” party aimed at “resisting the Islamization of France.” The organization created a youth wing in 2012, called Génération Identitaire, that has placed even more emphasis on real-world activism and branding. Their simple and sleek logo — a yellow and black lambda — clearly helped to inspire Identity Evropa’s. Identitarian organizations based upon those in France mushroomed throughout Europe, organizing demonstrations and dramatic banner drops, like in 2016 in Germany when members of the identitarian movement unfurled a banner atop the Brandenburg Gate reading “Secure Borders—Secure Future.” But the biggest identitarian stunt came a year later, when activists from the umbrella organization Defend Europe raised more than $100,000 to try and physically block NGO ships carrying refugees from entering Europe. Though it largely ended in failure, the actions — like all the “activism” they perform — were promoted across social media in stylized videos. From across the Atlantic, Damigo took note.

Identitarians see white people as their own distinct political constituency, with a unique set of interests that need to be articulated and defended. It’s a savvy branding strategy: identitarians contend they’re simply interested in promoting their own self-interest rather than attacking others, making them harder to condemn than someone who denigrates non-whites by using racial slurs. “This isn’t about being negative toward other people, people of color and stuff like that,” Damigo told Red Ice Radio, “this is about finding a way for us to have a future for our own people.”

The ideology’s adherents are attempting to discursively reconstruct whiteness: by talking about whites as just another ethnic group in our multiethnic society (or “racializing” whiteness), identitarians gloss over the impact of both historical and contemporary forms of white supremacy. They also help to build legitimacy for a white separatist or “ ethnopluralistic” society in which racial groups are deemed culturally distinct, and therefore best suited to live separately. In an ethnic studies class at Cal State, for instance, Damigo once drew a comparison between the interests of white people and Native Americans. “Even though horrible things did happen to indigenous people,” hetold his classmates, “there was land set aside where they could be who they were and express themselves how they wanted to, and they could form a government that reflected them. And I think that is something that we want.” He’s also expressed support for “Calexit” — the secession of California from the rest of the United States.

For Damigo and other identitarians, this reframing is part of an explicit strategy borrowed from the European New Right thinkers who, in turn, drew on the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci (New Right adherents have referred to themselves as the “Gramscians of the Right”). In his scholarship, Gramsci theorized that society’s ruling class normalized and maintained their political and economic control through cultural hegemony. As Guillaume Faye — a foundational figure in the French New Right who’s writing has been translated into English by Arktos Media, an identitarian publishing house that would come to form a partnership with IE in late 2017 — put it, Europeans should focus on “metapolitics,” defined as the “social diffusion of ideas and cultural values for the sake of provoking a profound, long-term, political transformation.”

In order to bend culture, language, and, eventually, politics toward his own ends, Damigo drew on the philosophy and strategies of European identitarians and, in March 2016, launched Identity Evropa as an American outpost of the movement. Members are heavily vetted and must be of “European, non-Semitic heritage.”

The organization was founded with two goals in mind: first, to occupy both figurative and literal space with their ideas and, second, to build “European identity and solidarity.” White nationalists “should be spending, goodness, 20 minutes a day commenting on YouTube channels,” Damigo urged in a 2015 podcast where he spoke broadly about the organizational strategy he hoped to someday implement. “We cannot leave any safe space for people not to think about these things … over time it becomes normalized, they get used to it, and they’re like ‘oh, this guy again.’” “Next thing you know,” he continued, “hook, line, and sinker — they’re visiting our website, they’re posting dank memes on the internet and they’re creating accounts themselves and going further and red pilling other people.”

Part of promoting pride in white identity involved changing the way people thought about racism and, indeed, lending the word a more expansive definition. Damigo wanted IE to focus on “seeding the meme ‘anti-white,’” or, in other words, pushing the notion that racism could also include discrimination against white people. At an “open dialogue” event IE held at Berkeley in May 2016, Damigo challenged counter-protesters who called his followers racists. “I just turned around and told them that that word was anti-white hate speech and used to undermine legitimate European interests,” he later explained. It’s a talking point Damigo has since delivered repeatedly in interviews with journalists. His expressed goal is to make the racist label meaningless.

Richard Spencer , the white nationalist leader who heads the National Policy Institute, appeared alongside Damigo at the small Berkeley event. At the time, Spencer was busy building his emerging alt-right coalition and IE was a welcome addition. The group not only promised to recruit young people to the movement, but to lend the alt-right a veneer of respectability by counting among their followers college-aged men in khakis. And colleges, of course, stand at the frontlines of the cultural and political battles waged by the alt-right. Damigo has stated that college campuses are IE’s “number one target” because they represent “the epicenter of cultural Marxism in America.” In other words, colleges — one of the institutions non-whites “are actively trying to disenfranchise us from” — are attempting to subvert real American values and spread “anti-white rhetoric.” So-called race realists, he and Spencer believe, deserve a seat at the seminar table.

During its first months of existence, IE only had about 15 members, but their membership increased dramatically thanks to Donald Trump’s presidential win in 2016. Damigo, like the rest of the alt-right, was excited about candidate Trump, explaining that he thought electing the Republican nominee “would be very beneficial for people of European heritage.” After the election, he used Periscope to live-stream his reaction. “We as the alt-right are the reason why Trump won,” he told his viewers, before yelling “You have to go back!” to people on the sidewalk that he, presumably, believed to be immigrants. When CBS interviewed two IE members several months after Trump took office, they explained that they were “riding this wave of Donald Trump,” and that the president was “the closest to us that we’ve ever had in recent memory.” When the interviewer noted that most people would see their rhetoric as racist, one of the men loyally repeated one of Damigo’s talking points: “I think those slurs like ‘racist,’ ‘white supremacist,’ ‘Nazi,’ these are anti-white slurs.’”

IE’s membership experienced a boost thanks to Trump , but most recruitment was done through a campus flyering campaign begun in September 2016 called #ProjectSiege. The organization’s flyers feature classical European sculptures and, in a bold white text, phrases like “Protect Your Heritage” and “Serve Your People.” In just the first month of the campaign, IE managed to hit more than two dozen campuses stretching across the country from Evergreen State College in Washington to Bates College in Maine. IE posted pictures of the hanging flyers on their Twitter account so their messages could reach more than those who happened to pass them on campus. The campaign aligned closely with IE’s larger strategic vision, which involved establishing a clear set of talking points and simple phrases and slogans that held, in Damigo’s words, “memetic power.”

IE also has its members participate in communal activities and demonstrations, including dramatic banner drops. In the summer of 2017, IE hung banners with the phrases “Secure Our Border Secure Our Future” and “A New Dawn is Breaking, Rise and Get Active” from overpasses and buildings in placing ranging from Plymouth, Minnesota, to Boone, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. In June of 2017, IE members disrupted a racial justice seminar held at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Stonewall Museum, which documents LGBT history and culture in America. The students stood silently with a banner that claimed they “apologize for nothing.” A couple months later in Miami, six young IE members used the same tactic to interrupt a panel discussion on sanctuary cities and later promoted the action on their website with a bizarre “Miami Vice”-themed video.

These real-world activities served not only to create tweet-able content, but also to help build fraternity among the IE members — something that was also sustained through chapter meetings and other formal organizational events. Their activities weren’t all political. One chapter participated together in a Warrior Dash, “promoting health, fraternity, and community.” Real-world interaction, Damigo insisted, would lead to greater investment in the organization and its mission.

Despite their attempts to cultivate an image that was youthful and wholesome, IE was one of the primary participants in what neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin would dub the “ Summer of Hate .” Over a period of several months in 2017, a coalition of white supremacist groups held a series of rallies around the country as the primarily online alt-right movement made the leap into real-world action. A number of those demonstrations took place in Berkeley, emerging over disagreements about controversial speakers who were scheduled to visit the campus. It was at an April 15 Berkeley protest, after Ann Coulter canceled her appearance at the university, that Damigo and IE gained a degree of notoriety. Normally somewhat diffident during interviews, the public saw a harsher side of Damigo when he was filmed punching a petite female counter-protestor in the face as the chaos of the “Battle of Berkeley” seethed around him.

Within the alt-right, the video possessed a kind of memetic power Damigo was always trying to harness. Almost two weeks after the clip appeared online, IE tweeted a graph of membership applications that showed an enormous spike beginning the day after the protest. “What could possibly have caused this spike in applications? Hmm….” they asked in a tweet. In mid-May, they told their followers they would be slow to contact aspiring members because of a recent influx of applications. At the American Renaissance conference at the end of July, Damigo reported that IE had 700 members nationwide.

The Summer of Hate culminated in the August Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which Damigo and other members of IE attended alongside Klansman, militia members and an assortment of other racists. A video of Damigo at the event shows him linking arms with four other men and charging into a wall of state police in riot gear. It was a hopeless effort — the police had mostly cleared Emancipation Park of rally-goers after declaring the gathering unlawful, but Damigo and his compatriots continued to resist, yelling and digging their heels into the ground as the officers cleared the remaining stragglers. When the rally concluded, with one counter-protester dead, alt-right leaders quickly set about constructing a narrative that would absolve them of guilt. Unable to find a venue that would host them, Spencer held a press conference in his living room — with Damigo standing quietly by his side — and laid the blame on the City of Charlottesville for failing to adequately prepare for the event.

Damigo’s tenure as IE’s leader was cut short when, just after the events at Charlottesville, he left due to undisclosed “personal issues,” according to the group’s new leader , Eli Mosley. Born Elliot Kline, he changed his name to pay homage to the British fascist Oswald Mosley. The new leader was one of the principle organizers of the Charlottesville rally, having worked his way quickly up the ranks in the preceding months. He even produced the “General Orders ” document that provided instructions and a schedule of the weekend’s events for participants in “EXTREMLY [sic] VETTED circles.” Like Damigo, Mosley took an aggressive stand during the event. VICE reported that he screamed at attendees who suggested leaving in order to avoid arrest. “I’m the fucking organizer. Listen to what I say, goddamnit!” He also put out a call for men who had guns, apparently to protect his fellow protestors. “I’m about to send at least 200 people with guns to go get them out if you guys do not get our people out,” he said on a call to the Charlottesville police . Spencer, Damigo and Mosley have all been named defendants in state and federal lawsuits seeking damages for the violence that broke out at Unite the Right.

Before connecting with Richard Spencer and others on the racist far right, Mosley was a libertarian and Ron Paul enthusiast who worked a desk job as a human resources professional in Reading, Pennsylvania. His disillusionment with libertarianism coincided with the growth of the alt-right and “so from like 2015 to, you know, now,” he explained after taking the reins at Identity Evropa, “I started essentially digesting alt-right media,” including Red Ice Radio, The Right Stuff, Radix Journal and older racist outlets like American Renaissance. He chatted with alt-righters on the video game messaging platform Discord and, through connections forged online, received an invite to an alt-right event around the 2016 presidential election. There, he met Mike Peinovich and Jesse Craig Dunstan — hosts of “The Daily Shoah” podcast — as well as members of IE. He got involved with the movement, joining both the Proud Boys and Identity Evropa.

Mosley claims he saw the alt-right as “half serious, half joking,” until he saw the footage of Richard Spencer getting punched on Inauguration Day, after which everything “became incredibly serious.” He hadn’t met Spencer yet, but reached out and was soon devoting his weekends to helping the leader of the National Policy Institute coordinate events, including a number of speeches on college campuses. “In the span of like eight months, nine months, I went from being an anonymous, like, Twitter shit lord to, you know, one of the people who was really pushing the alt-right into real life activism,” he told Red Ice Radio.

Mosley tried to appear polished and stuck to IE talking points — focusing on “metapolitics” and claiming he wanted members of the organization to “take up space” — but his politics were forged in the crasser spaces of the racist right. On March 4, 2017 he attended a Philadelphia pro-Trump rally and, in a report he later wrote for the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer , described the counter-protesters as “hooked-nose Philadelphians” and held special animus for one “filthy Jewess” in the crowd. He took the tension between the two factions as a sign that “we have moved into a new era in the Nazification of America. Normie Trump supporters are becoming racially aware and Jew wise” — a positive development, in his opinion.

More of his hatred came to the surface during his March 20 appearance on “The War Room,” the “official podcast for right-wing veterans.” Mosley said he served in Iraq, and it was during his time in the military that he acquired his political education and became “Thot aware” — or conscious of women’s promiscuity and the ways they manipulate men. “That was a big red pill for me, just like feminism bullshit,” he explained. The conversation in the episode mostly centered on how useless women were in the military, and how they should simply serve as “mattresses.” “There’s no reason that these females should be near our highest T guys, and it’s just a distraction. It’s ridiculous,” Mosley said. They discussed the trials of dating in a multicultural society, and Mosley proposed creating a “Jew-detecting app” so he wouldn’t accidentally sleep with a Jewish woman. Another guest suggested they just “Jack the Ripper the thots.”

The show wrapped up with Mosley describing an exchange he had with a woman on Twitter. He laughed as he told the other men he sent her a message that read, “I work in HR firing niggers and spics all day. Before that, I was in the army and I got to kill Muslims for fun. I’m not sure which one was better: watching niggers and spics cry because they can’t feed their little mud children or watching Muslims brains spray on the wall. Honestly both probably suck compared to listening to a kike’s scream while in the oven.”

Like Damigo, Mosley claimed that his time in Iraq led him to the far right. “I did become jaded in the fact that I didn’t understand, like, why are we in Iraq? And I saw first-hand how silly it was,” he told a reporter. Indeed, his entire political conversion narrative is remarkably close to Damigo’s, just without the stint in prison. He, too, claims to have become disillusioned by the war and returned to take refuge in literature, reading “over 500 books” to educate himself about the realities of race as well as leftist organizational tactics. “I’m fascinated by leftist tactics, I read Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King … This is our ‘60s movement,” he told ProPublica .

As it turned out, he made up his claims about serving in Iraq. According to an investigation by The New York Times , Mosley had served in the National Guard but was never deployed. All the stories he had told about his tour of duty were almost certainly fabricated — like one he recounted on “The War Room” about a married, female lieutenant colonel who trolled the military base’s bar every weekend desperately looking for enlisted men to seduce. As Mosley apparently intended, the other guests reacted with revulsion, agreeing she should be “fucking shot” in order to “clear up some room for some good white men to get promoted.” The fact that he fabricated stories to prove his misogynist bona fides throws into question his entire personal narrative, and it seems likely he simply borrowed Damigo’s story whole cloth, concluding that an intellectual conversion would play better than one of a man who came to his politics just by being “an anonymous Twitter troll” who dubbed himself “the Judenjager,” or “the Jew hunter,” in his bio.

Mosley’s time at Identity Evropa ended before his lies came to light. He stepped down on November 27 after only three months of serving as the organization’s leader, explaining in a Gab post that “we had irreconcilable differences on what the relationship with the rest of the #AltRight should look like.” After his resignation, Mosley began to work more closely with Spencer on a project called Operation Homeland aimed at creating more real-world alt-right activism. After the news of his fake Army career came to light in February of 2018, Spencer’s National Policy Institute released a statement explaining that they plan to give Mosley time to “document his military background and correct what The New York Times has reported about him.”

Whatever Mosley’s disagreements with IE might be, his resignation seems to be part of a plan to rebrand the organization after the fallout from Charlottesville. After Mosely stepped aside, the boyish Patrick Casey — who had previously gone by the name Reinhard Wolff — took his place. Casey/Wolf has been a member of Identity Evropa since its early days, during which time he has also hosted the online video series “Operation Reinhard” and “Seeking Insight” on the white nationalist media platform Red Ice Radio. His segments focus on culture and the state of right-wing politics, with titles like “Pepe and the War on Memes,” “Metapolitics and Social Capital,” and “How the Alt-Right Should Relate to the Alt-Lite.”

The latter segment helps explain why Casey made a good candidate for Identity Evropa leadership: unlike Mosley, who wanted to “uncuck” those in the alt-lite, Casey called for partnership. “Directing vitriol toward other Trump supporters because they aren’t fully red pilled is counterproductive and unnecessary,” he explained in the video. “The ideal relationship between the alt-right and the alt-lite should thus be one of cooperation, dialogue, and constructive criticism.” If Identity Evropa is supposed to be the welcoming face of white supremacy — a place where “Trump supporters [can] realize that identity politics needn’t involve genocide and hatred,” as Casey put it — then his leadership makes sense. After Charlottesville, Identity Evropa is less interested in being associated with the alt-right and, according to Casey, will be portraying themselves more as a specifically identitarian organization than an alt-right one.

Casey’s revamp is aimed at mainstreaming identitarianism and appealing to “normies” outside the white nationalist movement, a strategy he outlined in an online debate in early 2018 with Brad Griffin , a member of the neo-Confederate League of the South and founder of the blog Occidental Dissent. Griffin wrote that that it was “a waste of time to try to appeal to the average person” because, in doing do, they are asking people to betray the “biggest taboo in American politics.” Casey disagreed, arguing that people within the movement can “explicitly advocate for their respective people’s interests without being completely barred from polite society.” “We want to depathologize ethnic/racial identity, and [Génération Identitaire] has proven that it’s can be done,” he wrote. Casey drew a distinction between “1.0” white nationalists like Griffin and idenititarians like himself who, through the creation of their own culture, memes, and unique content, have created a space that appeals to a younger generation.

Identity Evropa members want to protect their brand while still growing their movement. According to Casey, IE plans to host more private, invite-only events instead of big rallies like Unite the Right, where they have little control over what groups might show up. They’ll be focusing more on community-building by creating fitness clubs and meetup groups, and already had members host a beach cleanup in southern California and march in a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. Their flyering and banner drops continue, and in some cases have become more dramatic. In February, for instance, IE tweeted a video of members littering flyers down on a city from a propeller plane, because “Aviation is an American tradition.” They also plan to hold more demonstrations that tap into immigration anxiety and attract the sympathy of those outside their movement, like memorials they created for Justine Damond and Kate Steinle — white women who were, respectively, killed by a Somali-American police officer and an undocumented Mexican immigrant.

Casey has brought Identity Evropa into more mainstream conservative spaces, like the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, and noted later in a blog post that he found many attendees amenable to his ideas thanks to “the Left’s anti-White rhetoric and blatant unwillingness to tolerate any restrictions on immigration.” He has also attempted to create distance between IE and Spencer, whose now-defunct college tour led to a number of violent clashes and arrests. IE members present at Spencer’s chaotic March speech at Michigan State University were reportedly expelled from the organization. Spencer called Casey’s decision “detrimental to a functioning movement.”

Casey has tried to hold IE above the fray of movement infighting and claims that Identity Evropa’s high-profile actions have been effective when it comes to recruitment, with many applications citing their flyers or social media posts. According to their own account, Identity Evropa had roughly 1,000 members during the first month of 2018 and aims to reach 5,000 by the end of the year.   Source

March 1, 2019
Chester County joins lawsuit against Sunoco over Mariner East construction

Pipeline Generic

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Chester County is joining Delaware County and several other parties in a suit against Sunoco, arguing the company continues to refuse to cooperate with public safety officials regarding the Mariner East pipelines.

The suit was started by several residents, then municipalities and school districts like Rose Tree-Media and Downingtown got on board. Delaware County signed on a week ago, now Chester County is getting involved.

“We have been and continue to be concerned about the lack of communication from Sunoco Corporate and their folks and our emergency services,” Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said.

RELATED: New Chester County lawsuit seeks to kick pipeline construction to the curb

A temporary easement for pipeline construction on a county library property in Exton is expired, and Cozzone says they’ve notified Sunoco they will not renew it.

“They will need to remove all of their equipment and pull up their stakes and everything else they had done in preparation,” she said.

Sunoco has public utility status from the state, which gives them powers over the county and municipalities, including eminent domain, which they could use to seize the property.

READ: Mariner East 1 completely shut down across Pa.

Cozzone declined to address that, and says while she expects a legal challenge from Sunoco, she won’t speculate what that move could be.

February 18, 2019
Department of Health Highlights 2018 Nursing Home Inspection and Sanction Information

HARRISBURG, PA — During 2018, Pennsylvania Department of Health surveyors conducted 4,716 surveys at Pennsylvania nursing homes, issuing 169 sanctions and finalizing civil penalties totaling more than $1.5 million, according to Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

“Every day, our staff of surveyors are visiting nursing homes to ensure owners and operators are providing proper patient care and building safety standards are being met,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We visit nursing homes for regular inspections and when we receive a complaint about a facility. This information is important to the families and loved ones of the residents receiving care at nursing homes, so each month we will highlight what we find and the actions we take.”

The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient-care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved.

The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being inspected every six months. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all deficiencies were corrected and it is warranted.

In the January 2019 report, nursing home surveyors conducted 504 inspections at 315 nursing homes, including 295 complaint investigations. In addition, 43 sanctions were issued against nursing care facilities with civil penalties totaling more than $706,000.

“If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up,” Dr. Levine said. “You can make a complaint anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing c-ncomplai@pa.gov or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.”

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.

Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

Additional information on Pennsylvania’s nursing homes can be found on the Department of Health’s website at www.health.pa.gov.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health    Source

February 14, 2019
‘Zombie Deer’ Disease Now In PA: Here’s Why You Should Care
What the heck is Zombie Deer disease and why should we care if it’s in Pennsylvania? Read on:

'Zombie Deer' Disease Now In PA: Here's Why You Should Care

“Zombie deer disease,” a deadly infection that causes deer to dramatically lose weight and coordination and turn aggressive, is spreading across North America, a government report warns.

The disease, officially known chronic wasting disease, affects deer, elk and moose. As of January 2019, it has been reported in Pennsylvania and 23 other U.S. states, as well as two provinces in Canada.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the warning, said there’s no evidence people will be harmed if they eat meat from infected wildlife.

So why should we care?

Although the CDC has stopped short of warning people not eat venison from infected animals, there’s some evidence it might not be a good idea. A separate study from the agency found that laboratory mice with some human genes could become infected with chronic wasting disease.

For now, the CDC recommends that hunters in the areas where chronic wasting disease has been found have their game tested. The agency also advised hunters against shooting or handling meat from deer or elk that look or act strangely, but added that the animal’s behavior isn’t a fail-safe way of knowing if it is infected, because it can take years for the symptoms to appear.

In Pennsylvania, the disease has been reported in five counties: Blair; Bedford; Cambria; Clearfield; and Fulton.

The disease got its nickname — “zombie deer disease” — because of the horrifying effects on the animals that contract it. The sick animals sometimes take on the vacant stare associated with “zombies” and they become so gaunt their rib cages are visible.

Chronic wasting disease was first detected in captive deer and other members of the hoofed Cervidae family in the late 1960s in Colorado and wild deer in 1981, and gradually has spread to the Midwest, Southwest and, to a more limited degree, to the East Coast.

It’s possible, however, that chronic wasting disease may be in other states that don’t have strong animal surveillance systems, but haven’t been detected yet, the CDC said.

In another study, macaques, a type of monkey that is genetically closer to people than the other animals infected with the disease, became sick after eating meat from infected deer and elk. Of the five monkeys fed infected meat from white-tailed deer, three tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to The Tyee, a Canadian news outlet. The Associated Press said that was the first time the disease has been found to spread in primates through the consumption of infected meat.

Chronic wasting disease is steadily spreading. The CDC said that in several areas where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent, but localized rates of infection may be as high as 25 percent.

Infection rates appear to be higher in captive deer. In one captive herd, the infection rate was nearly four in five, or 79 percent, according to the report.

Once the disease is established, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.

“The risk can remain for a long time in the environment,” the CDC said. “The affected areas are likely to continue to expand.”  Source

**Chester County votes on paper ballots
February 14, 2019
Auditor General DePasquale Calls on Counties to be Transparent in Selection of New Voting Machines

HARRISBURG, PA — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported this week that nine counties missed his Feb. 8 deadline to provide information about how they are selecting new voting equipment for the 2020 election, including Chester County.

“I am continuing my work across Pennsylvania to make sure that our next election is secure, that every eligible voter has a chance to vote, and that all votes are counted properly,” DePasquale said.

In December, DePasquale announced that he would review purchasing of voting machines by counties after it was reported that Luzerne County’s elections director accepted trips from a vendor that was selected to provide voting equipment.

Last month DePasquale asked every county election office to answer six questions related to the selection of new voting equipment. The nine counties that failed to respond by the Feb. 8 deadline were Armstrong, Cameron, Chester, Forest, Greene, Huntingdon, Mercer, Philadelphia and Westmoreland.

“There is a lot of taxpayer money at stake and we need to make sure everything is done right,” Depasquale said. “I believe that the people of Pennsylvania have a right to know the answers to my six questions, especially as we prepare for the next election. My job is to do everything I can to make sure that the selection process is open and transparent as possible.”

In April 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of State told counties they have until the end of 2019 to select new voting systems that feature a paper record, which allows for more accurate post-election audits. The new systems are to be in use no later than the 2020 primary, and preferably by the November 2019 general election. Counties may choose from among any of the voting systems that are certified by both the federal and state governments.

DePasquale is also auditing the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors within the Department of State. He launched that review after the Department of Homeland Security said Pennsylvania was one of 21 states targeted for hacking by Russian government operatives ahead of the 2016 election.

To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, please visit www.PaAuditor.gov. Source

February 11, 2019

January 24, 2019
10 Ways The Shutdown Is Now Directly Impacting Pennsylvanians
“We don’t know what will happen” to SNAP and WIC programs if the shutdown continues, state officials warned Thursday.

HARRISBURG, PA —The federal shutdown, which has entered its second month, is now having direct impacts at the state level, authorities said Thursday in an outlined explanation.

The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, could soon impact Pennsylvanians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said. It is also delaying some grant funding and small business loans, and is causing the state to spend non-reimbursable funds on public transit, according to information from the governor’s office.

“We are temporarily using state funds to fill the gaps where we can. We are working to assist affected workers however we can. I urge businesses and creditors to show compassion for federal employees that are not being paid,” Wolf said.

As lawmakers in Washington continue to be at an impasse over funding for a border wall, 1.8 million Pennsylvanians on SNAP benefits last week received their final benefits until the shutdown ends.

“These benefits must stretch through February, after which the fate of the program is unknown. The department notified SNAP recipients of the change,” Wolf said.

In addition to the impacts on the SNAP program, here are nine other ways the shutdown is impacting Pennsylvania, according to state authorities:

The Women, Infants and Children Program

The state’s WIC program, which provides food for more than 205,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under five, has enough federal funding to continue through February. After that, the fate of the program is unknown.

“It is essential that our leaders in Washington work to resolve this impasse, as the impacts will be felt far and wide throughout this country the longer it continues,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “WIC is funded through February, but we don’t know what will happen after that. We cannot let mothers, infants and children to go hungry while Washington sorts out their issues.”

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments will continue through at least mid-April by using prior-year federal funds. “The commonwealth has provided $4.2 million for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program that funds 100,500 child care slots for low-income families,” the governor’s office explained.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

Trainings and exercises for first responders and emergency management practitioners that involve federal agencies have been canceled.

Department of Environmental Protection

Final approvals on grant funding and permitting have begun to be affected by the shutdown, the state said. The state DEP is reviewing and processing what they can, “but final action is needed at the federal level,” the governor’s office said.

Drinking Water

A report on PFAS contamination in drinking water has been delayed by the shutdown. “DEP and the PFAS Action team continue to work to address this issue, calling on leadership at the federal level to take up this critical issue,” the governor’s office said.

Public Transit

The state has provided $7.1 million in unreimbursed federal expenses for operating and capital costs for rural and urban public transportation providers.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Preparation for an elevation mapping project that includes federal funds is on hold. “The high-resolution, elevation data will be used for flood management, natural resource management and conservation, land use planning, geologic mapping and hazard reduction, and infrastructure development,” information from the governor’s office said.

Small Business Administration Loans

Small businesses waiting for approvals of federal Small Business Administration loans are currently being assisted by the Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop. “The department is also exploring options for other business owners,” the state said.

Payroll for Federally Funded Employees

The commonwealth continues to use state funds to cover payroll for federally funded employees at state agencies. The commonwealth expects to be reimbursed after the shutdown ends.

Governor Wolf called on lawmakers to come to an agreement to end the shutdown “before the consequences are even more dire.”

January 21, 2019
Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected as record turnout encountered Pa.’s tight deadlines

Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected as record turnout encountered Pa.’s tight deadlines

Brianna Robbins had no idea she hadn’t voted.

As far as she was concerned, she had done her civic duty. She had requested an absentee ballot before the deadline, since she lives in Philadelphia but works in Delaware. She had considered the candidates, filled out the ballot, and dropped it in a mailbox outside a nearby school.

It was a week before Election Day. All done, she figured. She had voted, and with time to spare.

Or so she thought.

But as was the case with thousands of other would-be voters last election, Robbins’ ballot arrived too late. It showed up in City Hall that Saturday, three days before the election. She had just missed Pennsylvania’s deadline: Absentee ballots must be received by county election officials by 5 p.m. the Friday before the election.

“That really sucks,” she said. And while the election generally turned out the way Robbins, a Democrat, wanted, she said, “that’s still a really big shame that I tried — I followed the rules — and it still didn’t work.”

Robbins had followed the law — but by law her vote couldn’t be counted. And she had no idea.

Nor do thousands of other Pennsylvanians who attempted to vote by mail in November.

As turnout surged to record levels in the November 2018 election, data show, so too did the number of requests for absentee ballots. But with Pennsylvania’s tight deadlines, the number of rejected ballots also increased, far surpassing recent midterm elections.

Statewide, there were 2,162 rejected late ballots in 2010. There were 2,030 in 2014.

Last election?

More than 4,600 ballots were rejected because they came in late to Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. (Statewide figures aren’t yet available.)

“Isn’t that a shame?” said Susan Carty, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “And that’s a weakness of that system, where ideally, the concept of absentee ballots should be to help support and encourage voters who are not able to be there on Election Day.”

Pennsylvania’s absentee ballot deadlines are set by the state Election Code: Ballots can be requested until the Tuesday before Election Day, and they must be in the hands of election officials by 5 p.m. that Friday.

“It’s a ridiculous deadline,” said Kevin A. Kelly, the acting supervisor of elections in Philadelphia who has overseen elections for a decade.

For voters who do not request ballots until the deadline, that leaves almost no room for delays. And the problem has only grown in recent years after changes to mail delivery times.

As a result, Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of voters missing the deadlines

In Bucks County, 777 domestic civilian absentee ballots arrived after the deadline and were not counted. There were 935 in Chester County; 636 in Delaware County’ 1,327 in Montgomery County; and more than 1,000 in the city, where officials stopped counting after a while.

It’s a problem that’s receiving increased attention.

After losing her bid for state Senate by 74 votes in November, State Rep. Tina Davis, a Democrat from Bucks County, sued to have counted at least 216 late absentee ballots that arrived between the deadline and Election Day. A judge dismissed the challenge without providing an explanation.

While Davis said she believed she had “a decent chance of winning” if those votes were counted, she doesn’t attribute her loss to the uncounted ballots. But the encounter with the deadlines was eye-opening, she said.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t realize,” she said. “I knew we were tough on these laws, I always knew that, but after doing homework I found out we were the strictest in the whole country.”

Davis is preparing legislation that would change the absentee-ballot deadlines to give voters more time to submit their ballots. She expects to introduce it in a few weeks, she said, and hopes it will find bipartisan support.

“Obviously, being in the minority, we don’t get as many bills through, so I have to look through my bills and decide what are the most important for this year and decide what to prioritize. And that’s one of them,” she said. “I feel like it’s an issue we can get through this year.”

Meanwhile, litigation is ongoing.

In November, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and nine voters, with lawyers from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sued over the deadlines, saying they disenfranchise voters in violation of the state and federal constitutions. They request the court overturn the current deadlines and set new ones.

The defendants responded last week with their preliminary objections.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), in separate filings, argued the court cannot impose new deadlines without violating separation of powers and legislating from the bench. They also seek to remove the ACLU as plaintiffs because the organization does not itself vote and cannot be disenfranchised.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and other defendants from the executive branch raised multiple objections, including that the lawsuit fails to include county officials, who actually run elections, that overturning the deadlines would not fix the voters’ inability to cast ballots in November 2018, and that the voters can’t prove the deadlines will disenfranchise them in the future.

Wolf and the two other executive defendants, former acting Secretary of State Robert Torres and Elections Commissioner Jonathan Marks, seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“Here, there is no allegation that [the state] prevented or delayed Petitioners from applying for absentee ballots. Indeed, the Petition makes clear that there are many Pennsylvanians who vote by absentee ballot,” they wrote in their filing last week. “Put another way, it was Petitioners’ conduct — not seeking an absentee ballot until very late in the process — that contributed to their ‘disenfranchisement.’ ”

This original version of this article contained an incorrect reference to the law regarding the submission deadline. The deadline is stipulated in the Election Code.  Source

Sheriff Bunny Welsh with Trump at White House – January 11, 2019

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