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Editor's Voice: Making a bad impression

When is a donation not a donation? When you demand your money back. That’s what Middletown Borough Council did with a $200 donation it gave toward a party honoring long-time mayor Robert Reid – council voted 6-3 to contribute to it, then voted to ask for its money back in an attempt to secure a receipt that would satisfy auditors in the future.

What began as an attempt to follow Good Accounting Practices – or, at least, head off any questions an auditor might have about the donation – degenerated into a mess because of local political gamesmanship. It’s too bad it did, for council’s original vote to make the donation was a move that rose above the politics that plague Middletown. Reid was a popular mayor – he served for more than 25 years, a political popularity galvanized by his dogged handling of the Three Mile Island accident early in his first term – and one does not have to agree with his politics to honor someone who has served the public for so long.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 18:05

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Without debates, how does the public know?

Debates have long been a part of running a campaign for public office – particularly if you’re not the incumbent, and want as many voters as possible to know where you stand.


But there has developed a disturbing trend this spring leading up to the May 20 primary election: A refusal by candidates to debate.


Take what happened in Elizabethtown recently. The endorsed Democratic candidate in a race for a state House of Representatives seat has refused to debate another Democratic candidate for his party’s nomination, saying it was pointless.


“Your typical debate – 50 of my supporters, 50 of the other guy’s supporters,’’ explained Tony Crocamo, seeking the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent Rep. David Hickernell in November, in a story that appeared in the April 3 edition of the Elizabethtown Advocate.


He believes he can sway more undecided voters going door-to-door than by debating his opponent. Even if he wins his party’s nomination, he has no plans to challenge Hickernell to a debate, either, he told the newspaper.


Crocamo isn’t the only one who didn’t see the merits of a debate: The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania – Citizens Education Fund cancelled a debate among Democratic candidates for governor that was scheduled for April 11 in Gettysburg because of a lack of participation. “It is unfortunate that this opportunity will not proceed as planned,’’ said Susan J. Carty, president of the league.


Such a cynical view of debates misses an important function of such events: They give voters who choose to listen access to candidates and their positions. How do we know where they stand if they’re not willing to tell us publicly? It’s doubtful any candidate will knock on every door of every voter before an election. This is one way we know whether a candidate should get our vote.


To that end, the Press And Journal attempted to inform local voters about the candidates for Middletown mayor, Middletown Borough Council and local offices in Londonderry Twp. and Royalton in a special voters’ guide last May. While many candidates participated, providing their stand on issues in their own words, we were surprised at how many refused the opportunity – and the opportunity to do the same in pre-election stories by a rival newspaper and website.


It should be no secret where a candidate stands on the issues of the day. Indeed, if the public’s business is done in public, it would be impossible for an elected official to hide where they stand.


Why not tell them why you’re worthy of their vote?


Rejecting debates outright denies voters a chance to learn enough about you to decide if they’ll vote for you. A video of a mayoral debate at Penn State Harrisburg last fall drew a number of viewers to our website. We've found that many people are paying attention.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 20:00

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Editor's Voice: Does this really require an "investigation?'


Middletown Borough Council has voted to direct its solicitor to investigate the conduct of a Middletown Borough Authority member whose conduct toward a citizen speaking at an authority meeting was, frankly, rude. While we appreciate council’s attempt to get the facts before possible action, we can’t help but think an “investigation’’ is unnecessary, producing billable hours for a lawyer in a situation that could be more easily handled.


Here is what has led to this latest borough investigation: Authority member Robert Louer Jr. snapped at resident Dawn Knull at an authority meeting on Thursday, April 3 as Knull voiced her concerns about the safety of children along a proposed detour for the future upgrades of Union Street infrastructure. There was no reason to take her concerns personally – and do you really want to be rude to someone like Knull, who has been a tireless volunteer in community projects, including some borough initiatives? Our story on what happened appears on A1 of this edition.


Couldn’t council simply ask for the authority’s recording of the meeting? Or the opinion of the council members – at least two attended the meeting – who were present?


We doubt the borough’s solicitor will draw a conclusion on whether Louer’s conduct was morally right. That is a conclusion that each councilor will have to reach. Eventually, this investigation will land squarely in council’s lap anyway.


And though council, which appoints authority members, could use its political clout to ask for, or demand, an apology, or a resignation, we doubt it could forcibly remove an authority member for being rude. Council had to go to court to remove former authority chairman Pete Pappas, who had fallen out of favor – and council had law on its side.


You can’t help but wonder if an investigation could have been avoided if someone at the meeting had defended Knull, or reprimanded Louer for his comments. Perhaps the authority will do so at a future meeting.


We do agree, as some of our political leaders have stated, that public officials should be held to a higher standard of conduct. While we understand that councilors who weren’t at the authority meeting in question want to hear what happened for themselves before rendering judgment – a motion to direct the solicitor to investigate was approved by an 8-1 vote – we think an “investigation’’ by the solicitor is unnecessary.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 19:49

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Editor's Voice: An effort that restores our faith in today's youth

If you’re one of those people who are convinced that today’s youth lack character, motivation and work ethic, you may be surprised to learn what students accomplished recently at Steelton-Highspire High School.

Unhappy that this year’s commencement ceremony was scheduled for the high school auditorium – limited seating would give each graduate a maximum of five tickets, meaning only five family members and friends could attend – students took it upon themselves to change it.

They devised a plan to move commencement to War Memorial Field at Cottage Hill, including a vow to raise the money needed to rent a stage – $2,600, according to their research. Bake sales and other fundraisers, some already held, will pay the cost.

Students even agreed to ban high heels for the ceremony, to assuage fears that grads might fall while walking on the field.

Senior class officers presented the proposal at a recent Steelton-Highspire School Board meeting, and their presentation was so impressive that school district officials agreed to it soon after the meeting was over. It would have been easier for officials to simply preserve the plans for the auditorium and dismiss the students’ concerns, but the work that students put into drawing up a reasonable alternative – and the passion they had for it  – was so impressive, and so compelling, it was impossible to ignore.

“We were thrilled,’’ said Justice Pendleton, vice president of the Class of 2014. “We were extremely excited because they told us how it was well written and how dedicated and passionate we are.’’

So much for the myth that today’s youth lack the maturity to achieve. That myth is shattered by so many students who have the intellect and drive to accomplish their goals. We’ve discovered that in events like the recent career fair at Middletown Area High School. You’d be surprised how many students – and not just seniors – know what they want to do in life, and are working toward that goal already.

School teaches kids what they need to know – everything from writing a composition to solving an algebra problem – but also nurtures maturity and poise, through classroom work, arts and sports. It’s a joy to see the result – and you don’t have to search hard to find it. You can see it in public events like a basketball game, or a school play, or a music recital, or in the marks written by a teacher on a homework assignment or test.

It was revealed by Steelton-Highspire seniors at a school board meeting. We have a feeling it will be on display on War Memorial Field at commencement later this year. Let’s hope for good weather.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 20:10

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Editor's Voice: Christmas arrived early for the Elks and Middletown

By Jim Lewis

Perhaps it was the Christmas spirit that moved a record number of people – 200! –  to buy tickets for the Middletown Holiday Candlelight Tour of Homes on Dec. 8 and 9. And maybe the 224 people who paid to see the

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 22:53

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