Friday, July 11, 2014

It Is Said This Democrat Was the Best Republican Governor Pennsylvania Had

Ed Rendell. A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great. New York, N.Y : John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2012.

Ed Rendell began his political involvement putting up “Stevenson for Presient” signs when he was eight years old. He has grown to believe that government exists to serve the people.  He is upset by people who sees government “as the enemy”. That view he believes, is dividing the country and increasing hatred. What people should do is fight for effective government for, as Rendell notes, “you can’t be effective if you’re a wuss.”

Rendell worked as an Assistant District Attorney, rising to Chief of the Homicide Unit, under District Attorney Arlen Specter. Specter “made us believe that our office of 65 attorney and fewer than 200 people were the sole guardians who kept Philadelphia from falling through the gates of hell.” When Emmett Fitzpatrick defeated Specter, Fitzpatrick asked if Rendell would be willing to back away from his “hard line approach” and to use more plea bargains. Rendell refused and resigned, going into private practice.

Governor Milton Shapp asked Rendell to serve as Deputy Special Prosecutor under Bernie Segal to investigate political and police corruption. Fitzpatrick refused to investigate public wrongdoings. The legislature, some of whom where under investigation by this body, cut its funding.

Rendell ran against Fitzpatrick, He campaigned all day including campaigning at night in bars. Rendell had trouble raising funds. He borrowed $10000 for billboards around the city. He won the primary and then the election.

Rendell ran for Governor in 1986. He lost the Democratic Primary to Bob Casey by 56% to 44%. He admits that Casey “was the right man at the righ time and he went on to e a fine Governor.”

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1987 against incumbent W. Wilson Goode. He reflects that this was a “terrible decision” because “my heart wasn’t in it” and “Wilson Goode was a very decent man.” Goode defeated Rendell in the primary and won reelection.

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1991 and was elected.

As Mayor, he agreed to let Buzz Bissinger to be with him at every meeting while he wrote his book “A Prayer for the City”.

As Mayor, he cut waste, renegotiated lease agreements for less rent, closed two trash transfer stations, hired civilians in non-uniformed Police Department positions instead of using higher paid police officers, improved efficiencies and streamlines some government functions, oversaw insurance agreements and obtained lower costs, and improved technology services.

Few city employees were laid off. If jobs switched to a private contractor, he saw to it that city employees were hired. He gave preference to awarding contracts to unionized contractors.

As Mayor, Rendell improved tax collections, gaining $75 million in the first two years and $50 million afterwards by giving overdue tax files to collection agencies or attorney who then kept 18% of what they collected.

Rendell noted that in 1992 Philadelphia city government paid 56 cents in benefits for every dollar in salary compared to 24 cents of benefits for every dollar in salary in the private sector, He sought employee contributions towards their health care benefits.

Rendell was reelected Mayor in 1993 receiving 85% of the vote.

Rendell ran for Governor. He notes he was still a political outsider as 51 of Philadelphia’s 67 ward leaders supported Bob Casey, Jr. As Rendell is pro-choice and Casey is pro-life, he sent a letter with a voter registration change of party form to get proc-choice Republicans to switch to vote for him in the Democratic Primary. This helped him win the primary by 56% to 44% for Casey. Rendell then defeated Mike Fisher in the general election.

As Governor, Rendell sought to limit handgun purchases to one per month. The NRA lobbied hard to stop this.

Rendell increased programs for education including kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. This, though, led to a nine month budget deadlock with the Republican majority legislature yet he is glad he won many gains for children.

Governor Rendell increased investments in economic development and in infrastructure. He invested in green energy jobs, His programs helped move Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate to two percentage points below the national average.

When a federal regulatory commission ordered Philadelphia city government to build a water treatment plant to improve oxygen content for fish, Rendell observed that the fish were not dying He stated he “won’t comply and if the judge winds up putting me in jail for contempt I will end up being the mayor who went to jail for refusing to spend $125 million of his taxpayers money to build a third treatment plant to make fish more comfortable.” The plant was not built.

As Governor, he learned how to give and take with his Republican majority legislature. He achieved some of his education program goals while allowing Republicans to obtain an accountability bloc grant program they favored that gave local school districts more say in how they spent their funds.

Governor Rendell sought a $2.3 billion economic stimulus plan financed by bonds. Many Republican legislators, knowing tax exempt non-profits did not benefit from bond being tax exempt, urged that they receive upfront financing for construction improvements. Many Republicans legislators wanted to create a Commonwealth Financing Authority that could politicized some projects. Rendell opposed the authority yet knew if he did not accept the authority the entire package was dead. He knew when to fold and he agreed to a compromise that included the authority.

Rendell believes the nation needs to improve its infrastructure. It needs to do this before further deterioration escalates costs. American ports are falling behind ports in other countries. He seeks improving our freight rails to move freight off of congested roads and to reduce vehicular carbon dioxide emissions.

Rendelll views politicians who sign pledges not to raise taxes as not considering the consequences. He sees them as he real political “wusses”.

Rendell believes legislatures were “wusses” when they refused to back his play for a 2.5% surcharge on Blue Cross and Blue Shield health care plan premiums in order to pay for specialist physicians’ insurance premiums. He notes Blue Cross and Blue don’t pay state taxes. He believes legislators gave into special interest lobbyists. Forced to find revenues from someplace, the legislature enacted a 25 cent per pack tax on cigarettes.

The legislature also refused to add a $6 annual surcharge on electric bill to pay for alternative energy services. The Commonwealth thus had to pay,

Rendell believes government can create jobs by decreasing business taxes, workers’ compensation costs, and health care costs as well as creating predictable regulatory programs

Rendell states politicians who are “wusses” are those who don’t give credit to a rival, won’t admit a mistake, won’t answer media questions, are unable to disagree with their base voters, won’t debate, won’t stand behind their positions, won’t speak to protestors, often change positions just to win votes, distance themselves from troubled alies, take credit for something they didn’t did do or even did the opposite,

Rendell recommends allowed absentee voting at political party caucuses, electing the President by popular voe, and limiting he impact of issue advocacy groups,


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