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The Wolfes at the Gate

Political Commentary by John Buffington is another installment in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.

My friend, Matt Wolfe, is running in a special election Tuesday. This is Matt Wolfe the insurgent Republican, not Tom Wolf the Democrat who looks likely to get the nomination to challenge the catastrophic current Governor Corbett.

I decided long ago that I prefer Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to be the one to go after Corbett.  Any of the current four candidates would be a vast improvement over Corbett, but I have observed Allyson Schwartz for years and she looks like the best choice in that race to me.

Philadelphia city council however is a whole different matter from the governor’s race.  We need some competition in local politics to put a cork in corruption, nepotism and waste.

I can’t imagine trying to take on the thoroughly entrenched machinery of Philadelphia politics so I had some questions for Matt Wolfe:

JB: “What makes you interested in an utterly hopeless run for an at-large city council seat?

MW: “I wouldn’t have done this if I thought it was hopeless. People are starting to recognize just what bad financial shape this city is in. “

JB: “You seem to be taking out after Mayor Nutter as much as the fools on the current city council. Isn’t the mayor the kind of reformer that the city needs?”

MW: “He talks the talk but he doesn’t walk the walk.  The city’s biggest problem right now is the bankruptcy of public education.  There is no greater municipal responsibility than educating our children and no facet of government is currently failing more than public education.

The core responsibilities of city government are public safety, public education, keeping the city clean, and maintaining infrastructure.  The current crowd is neglecting those duties and spending money on secondary stuff.”

JB: “How did your opponent get on the ballot?”

MW: “He used to be the political director of John Dougherty’s local of the electricians union.”

He might turn out to be a little better than the turkeys currently in place. I hope so, since Matt’s candidacy is clearly hopeless at present. The only Republican on the ballot isn’t going to do all that well on a day when it’s mostly Democratic primaries, in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Still, if anybody is listening, please think about casting a vote Tuesday for Matt Wolfe and competition in local politics. We need to encourage whatever brave souls step up to challenge the stupidity on the current Council.

Also there is a ballot question Tuesday.  Current city council members want to be allowed to keep collecting their salaries while they run for higher office.  Please vote against that atrocity.

John Buffington
May 2014
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The Savaging of Tina Tartaglione

Political Commentary by John Buffington is the first in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.

My friend Joe Menkevich and I were planted on adjacent bar stools when Danny Savage strolled up looking for the possible vote.

Joe is always ready with conversation for a politician. This time my ears started to vibrate when Danny said that his opponent, Sen. Tartaglione, voted twice against taxing Marcellus Shale gas production. I got Danny to repeat that one directly to me, and he promised to send me the details.

No follow-up from Danny has ever arrived. Danny’s campaign literature doesn’t include a phone number. The number at Danny’s website is disconnected; it forwards to another number that is also disconnected. Danny is unreachable by telephone.

So I researched Sen. Tartaglione’s record on shale gas taxation without further help from Danny.

What Sen. T voted against was Act 13, which includes a modest “extraction fee”. Republicans who have sworn to avoid new taxes need euphemisms, so the Act 13 tax became an “extraction fee”.

Tina Tartaglione wasn’t alone in voting against Act 13. Every Democrat in the state Senate voted No on final passage.

Act 13 is the Corbett administration’s vehicle for turning Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of Shale gas production. It isn’t especially controversial hereabouts, yet, because there’s a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River basin and the pipelines haven’t been built through here yet. So you can’t smell or taste fracking in Philadelphia. Yet.

Danny Savage’s campaign flyers claim that he will “fight to pass a real tax will on natural gas drilling…”. Maybe so, but it’s not good to start the effort by lying about your opponent’s record.

On March 31, Sen. T. and four other senators started circulating a request for additional sponsors for SB 1333, which would impose a 5% tax on shale gas extraction.

I have been observing politics with horrible fascination for more than 50 years. I have seen plenty of politicians blowing smoke like Danny. It is a pleasure; believe me, when I occasionally stumble on a politician who is doing the right thing for purely virtuous reasons, and doing it quietly.

It isn’t politically correct around here, yet, to do the right thing about shale gas extraction because you can’t smell or taste the poison here, yet. Tina Tartaglione looks to me like a politician who is doing the right thing quietly.

I asked the Brendan Boyle campaign about his position on taxing fracking proceeds and learned that he voted against Act 13.

I asked the Daylin Leach campaign and they referred me to a staff member in Senator Leach’s office. It turns out that Sen. Leach is devoting a lot of resources to this also, despite the lack of promotional potential.

Imagine that. I stumbled on not one but two politicians in the same campaign season who actively care about the public interest.

Senator Leach voted against Act 13 and has signed on as a sponsor of SB 1333. His staff member gave me enough material to write a book on fracking.

I also heard from a third school of thought. The Delaware Riverkeeper takes the position that fracking to produce natural gas is inherently disastrous for both air and water, and taxing it is just a distraction. Their website is a good place to start finding out about the issue.

I plan to do an occasional piece on local politics for the Gazette. If you spot a politician blowing smoke, please let me know.

John Buffington
May 2014
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Today is Luther Holcomb Day

From John Buffington of the Historical Society of Frankford:

The Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Frankford, in the City of Philadelphia, wish to express our deep sorrow to the families of the three people murdered in the course of the assault on the Patriots’ Day celebration in Boston and the MIT security officer who apparently fell to the same killers.  We hope for healthy recoveries for all of those maimed or wounded, and send our best wishes to their families as well.

Patriots’ Day is a celebration of the devotion of the heroes of Lexington and Concord.  Because this year’s event was so tragically marred, and because we so admire the resilience of the citizens of Boston, and because there are plenty of American sacrifices for freedom to celebrate in addition to those particular skirmishes,


On April 26, 1777, Luther Holcomb spotted British troops advancing on Danbury, CT, to destroy a Continental ammunition cache.  Luther mounted his horse, rode to a hilltop, and when the enemy were just within earshot, shouted “Halt the whole universe!  Break off into kingdoms!”  Which he followed with gesticulations deploying phantom troops on the other side of the hill.  British General Tryon, somewhat confused, halted his troops long enough to allow the evacuation of Danbury.  (Thanks to Lt. Col. Horace S. Mazet, in Yankee Magazine, 1976.)

So we urge our fellow Frankfordians to raise a glass, a prayer, or a meditation, whichever suits, on the 26th of this sad month, in honor of Luther Holcomb, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, William Dawes, Jack Jouett, Lydia Darrah, Crispus Attucks, Nathan Hale, and everyone else before or since who has hazarded life, fortune, and/or sacred honor to secure American freedom; religious, racial, and ethnic tolerance; pluralism; female emancipation; universal education; a progressive tax structure, and all of the other values of the Enlightenment that our assailants hate.