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Paul Gordon Collier- At a speech delivered today at Caln Elementary School in Thorndale, PA, Governor Tom Wolf hinted at a move that will be sure to stir up controversy in the gas industry.

During the speech, which was the kickoff to Governor Wolf’s “Schools that Teach Tour”, the Governor outlined a plan for taxing the value of natural gas, as well as adding a fixed state fee based on cubic feet estimates of Marcellus Shale Natural gas. This is being called a severance tax.

The tax revenue Wolf estimates to generate from this plan would amount to $1 billion a year. He has already earmarked that tax revenue to go to public schools. During the speech, Wolf cited the ‘cuts’ his predecessor made, Governor Tom Corbett, to education spending, promising to restore those cuts through this proposed severance tax plan.

(See our October 2014 Article addressing the debate on whether these were cuts or not)

Governor Wolf detailed a plan that would place a 5 percent tax on the estimated value of the gas based on the current market price, as well as a 4.7 cent tax per thousand cubic feet of estimated Marcellus Shale natural gas.

In a key part of this speech, Governor Wolf said, “We can get Pennsylvania back on track, and we can start by passing a commonsense severance tax that will help fund our schools – an idea with bipartisan support. The commonwealth ranks 45th in the nation in percentage of state funding for public education, and, as a result, we have seen larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and vital program cuts. These cuts have made it more difficult for students to get a strong education in Pennsylvania’s public schools. This is the right thing to do for our children and our economy and to move Pennsylvania forward.

In May of 2014, when the Wolf campaign was floating around the idea of a severance tax, Tom Shepstone, in an article on naturalgasnow.org (a pro-natural gas industry organization) had this to say about the plan, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a poor strategy, no matter how much Paul may applaud it. West Virginia, relatively speaking, has the highest state tax burden of any oil and gas state examined. The Pennsylvania severance tax proposal would move us closer to West Virginia and stymie what we have. It’s foolish. Robbing Peter never works.”

In a poll taken back in June of 2014, commissioned by the same group, Natural Gas Now, the numbers present a mixed opinion from Pennsylvanians on the idea of a severance tax:
“Among the three-quarters of voters who have been following the natural gas severance tax debate, 55% favor adding it, 34% oppose it, and the remainder is not sure. Just one-third (33%) favor a severance tax if it results in jobs leaving the state while 58% oppose it if it costs jobs.”

If Pennsylvanians make a connection between jobs and the severance tax, then support for the tax drops to 33 percent. If no connection can be shown between the severance tax and it having a negative effect on jobs, then support is strong at 55%.

The PA State Senate has 30 Republicans and 20 Democrats while the General Assembly has 119 Republicans to 84 Democrats. By coupling the severance tax with increases in the PA Education Budget, Wolf has a chance to put pressure on the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate. A battle in the legislature, which, at present, may seem to be a losing battle for Wolf, could set up a key issue for democrats to run on in 2016.

The Education budget was a central theme of the Wolf campaign, and many view the recent election as a mandate by Pennsylvania voters to increase spending in the education budget. Republicans counter that there is no such mandate, that Corbett’s handling of the Joe Paterno firing had more of an effect on the election than did the debate over education spending.

It should be noted that the same electorate that sent Governor Wolf to Harrisburg also sent record numbers of Republicans to Harrisburg in the Assembly and the Senate. However, the Wolf campaign did run on a platform focused on education spending.

Regardless of whether or not the Governor has a mandate, the fight in the legislature is sure to be a fiery one. If the Governor does have a mandate, if the Pennsylvania voters do not make a connection between the severance tax and potential job losses, then the democrats may just have a winning issue for 2016.

Here is the full policy memorandum outlined by Wolf to PA Legislators:

Pennsylvania’s schools have suffered from $1 billion in funding cuts and a lack of resources. We have seen larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and program cuts that make it more difficult for students to get a strong education in Pennsylvania’s public schools. If we are going to get our Commonwealth back on track and be competitive in the 21st century economy, we must provide our young people with the educational foundation necessary to be successful.

Pennsylvania currently ranks 45th in the nation in the percentage of funding the state provides for public education. This is intolerable. Pennsylvania must take the lead in investing in early childhood, K-12, and higher education.
With Pennsylvania sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, it is up to us to use this resource wisely so it benefits all Pennsylvanians and helps to fund our schools.

Pennsylvania is currently the only major gas-producing state in the country that does not charge a tax on oil and natural gas extraction – and we’re failing to tax this resource at a time when our schools need more funding. If states like Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma are able to charge a severance tax to fund key priorities, it is long past time Pennsylvania does too.

In order to ensure that we are appropriately funding education at all levels, I am today proposing the Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act. This will raise needed new revenue for our state’s public education system by imposing a reasonable tax – in line with our neighbors – on the extraction of natural gas within the state.

The tax proposed in the Education Reinvestment Act will be modeled after the severance tax in neighboring West Virginia, which like Pennsylvania has seen a recent boom in production of natural gas from unconventional drilling.

Implementing a similar structure to West Virginia will ensure that Pennsylvania is competitive with neighboring states. In addition, this approach has the benefit of being field tested. West Virginia offers proof that a state can build a thriving unconventional natural gas industry while simultaneously using a portion of the proceeds to help make a better future for its citizens.

I am proposing a 5% plus 4.7 cents per MCF tax. My proposal would not be on top of the existing impact fee but includes it. My proposal would continue the payments made to communities impacted by drilling that are currently funded by the impact fee.

We can get Pennsylvania back on track, and we can start by passing a commonsense severance tax that will help fund our schools – an idea with bipartisan support. At a time when our budget is facing significant challenges and our schools are struggling, it simply makes sense to pass a competitive, commonsense severance tax.

Key Features
Tax of:
• 5% of the value of gas at the wellhead;
• 4.7¢ per thousand cubic feet of volume severed.
Reasonable exemptions for:
• gas given away free;
• gas from low producing wells;
• wells brought back into production after not having produced marketable quantities of gas.
A tax with this structure is expected to generate over a billion dollars in fiscal year 2017 with revenue expected to grow with production. This number is based on the following estimates of production from both conventional and unconventional wells:
• 2015: 4,915.0 bcf
• 2016: 4,978.2 bcf
• 2017: 5,065.3 bcf
• 2018: 5,114.0 bcf
• 2019: 5,186.2 bcf
• 2020: 5,265.5 bcf
Finally, the Education Reinvestment Act will contain provisions to protect property owners who lease land for natural gas exploration. No portion of the tax imposed in this legislation will be allowed to be deducted from royalty payments.

 

Thomas F. Vroman Obituary

obituary candle

 

Susan Laurie Graver – Thomas F. Vroman, of Gaines, PA (Watrous), world-renowned artist, husband, father, brother and son passed away at his home on Saturday, February 7th, 2015. He was born in Olean, NY in 1924, attended the Beaux Art School in Paris and graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

His career in painting and design won him over 150 awards and honors from national and international art organizations. He taught at the University of the Arts as well as Temple University.

During World War II, Vroman worked as an artist in the European Theatre Headquarters based in London.

In 1974, he was honored as one of America’s outstanding contemporary artists. Only thirteen other artists have received this honor, a list that includes Norman Rockwell.

Thomas was married for 50 years to Thelma E. Vroman who preceded him in death. He enjoyed loving relationships with daughters Jan, Jill (Reimann, of Middlebury Center), Joy, Jennifer and Jeanette.  He was also adored by his grandchildren Jamie, Jacqueline, Rachel, Jocelyn, Jenavieve (Reimann, of Middlebury Center), Sarah, Ryan,  and Leah.  He was loved by and laughed with great-grandchildren Jonathan and Avery, and he cherished his sister Ruth.

Calling hours will be held at the Tussey-Mosher Funeral Home, “A Life Celebration Home,” 139 Main Street, Wellsboro, PA, on Tuesday, February 10th from 6 pm to 8 pm. Additional calling hours will be available from 10 am to 11 am on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 with Thomas’s Life Celebration Service following at 11am. The family requests that any memorial contributions go to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

To share your fondest memories of Thomas, visit www.lifecelebration.com.

Governor Tom Wolf
Governor Tom Wolf
Governor Tom Wolf

STAFF- Governor Tom Wolf has raised the pay for government employees, lifting a freeze on COLAs (Cost of Living Increase) which previous Governor Tom Corbett imposed.

Governor Wolf will be raising the salaries of his Cabinet officials to levels that assumed COLAs would have been applied for the years in which they were imposed. This lifting of the COLA freeze will affect 19 government departments and cost an additional $230,346 this year, a year in which Governor Wolf comes in facing a $4.2 billion deficit.

We find this perspective from the Tioga County PA Dems-
” I wonder why the right thinks a boss should not give his employees raises just because he works in government? I think Wolf is just trying to take care of his employees like a good boss. – Jason”

We find this from an editorial carried by triblive.com

“Think greed, arrogance, entitlement and self-service before public service.  So much for Tom Wolf’s “unconventional governor” pledge. Making a show of his own frugality, he plunders taxpayers’ pockets to fill those of his top officials.”

What’s your opinion? Is this a demonstration of a good boss doing right by his employees or is this a demonstration of bad government taking money away from the citizens to pay itself? Share your opinion with us on our Facebook page or email us at tioga@freedomist.com

Acting PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown
Acting PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown
Acting PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown

Paul Gordon Collier- Before Governor Tom Wolf took office, he selected a new PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown, to replace Col. Frank R. Noonon.  Noonan was from Clarks Summit PA, Brown was coming off of a position as the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

At the time, Tom Wolf had this to say about his selection, “Colonel Marcus Brown has been in law enforcement for 25 years and has improved each law agency he has led.  As the head of the Maryland State Police, he led a commitment to a diverse workforce by recruiting in areas with high minority populations and historically black colleges.  As a result of his leadership, the Maryland State Police is one of the most diverse agencies in the region.”

Brown is the current acting commissioner until he gets confirmed in the PA Senate.  That confirmation faces a new challenge, not based on Brown’s law enforcement experience, but on what he wears.

Brown’s previous law enforcement experience was in California.  What’s missing from Brown’s resume is any PA State Police experience or certification. Coming in from the outside, Brown’s selection is causing waves in the department that may have found expression in a Facebook group started by retired PSP Trooper, Thomas Stuckey.  The Name of the Facebook page is “he didn’t earn it, he shouldn’t wear it.”

he didnt earn it he shouldnt wear it

What Stuckey is referring to is the uniform that Brown now wears, one which, Stuckey claims, is only earned if you go through the PSP Academy, which Brown has not.  The Facebook group has over 2400 members and counting, mostly retired PSP troopers.

Stuckey does not have an issue with Brown being the Police Commissioner, he only has a problem with Brown wearing the uniform.  Stuckey explains,  “You don’t see the secretary of defense putting on an army uniform. You don’t see the secretary of the navy putting on a navy uniform. Those uniforms are earned.”

The Wolf administration has answered this critique through their spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, who said,“Colonel Brown believes that he should wear the uniform in order to represent the organization because he has such tremendous respect for the men and women who every day wear that uniform and are out on the streets.”

It should be noted that two other PA State Police Commissioners, Dan Dunn and Frank Noonan, who did not go through the PSP Academy chose not to wear the uniform.

While the Stuckey group was created in response to Brown’s decision to wear the PA State uniform, the issue of Governor Wolf hiring a PA State Commissioner from outside the PA State Police ranks has riled some.  Wolf’s move is seen by some within the PSP community as telegraphing an adversarial nature with the PSP right at the beginning of his 4-year term.  Others applaud Wolf, believing that the PSP needs a fresh perspective to help create more diversity in the ranks.

Here are some of the comments from the Facebook page:

It takes a LOT to EARN that uniform. Most people don’t even KNOW what it takes, even BEFORE putting your life on the line. For this POLITICIAN to wear the PSP uniform MAKES ME SICK!

Were there not any PSP officers that could fill this position?

This is a joke. My husband EARNED the right to wear a Pennsylvania State Police uniform. He put in the time and is still protecting and enforcing to the bestof his ability.

You want to wear it? Earn it. Just because you are appointed doesn’t give you the right to act like you went through the paces for that honor.

That’s a disgrace!

Dan Dunn and Frank Noonan had respect for the uniform and those who DID earn it, so they did not wear it. This new poser, wannabe statie obviously has no respect for either.

I am the daughter of a retired state police men and I think this is absolutely appalling. Troopers put blood, sweat, and hard work into finishing the academy and the uniform is a symbol for that, among other things. Brown wearing this violates that symbol and is an insult to all troopers who have put in the hours. That he would have the audacity to think he deserves wearing it says a lot about him

Here is the latest from Tom Stuckey himself,

All !!! I want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement!! I have just completed calling all the Pa Senate reps. and asking them to NOT confirm Mr. Brown. I did an interview with FOX43 today that will be on at 5&6 tonight. Please call your Senators!!! Some have not heard of this. I will continue to push until Mr. Brown is removed. Grey88 / Grey Nation!!

The group has gained an additional 500+ likes in the past 24 hours and appears to be catching momentum, with an effort galvanizing around stopping the confirmation of Brown in the Republican-controlled PA State Senate.

Our region’s State Senator is Republican Joe Scarnati.  If you would like to call Scarnati to either support or oppose the confirmation of Col. Marcus Brown, you can call his Harrisburg office at 717-787-7084

Route 6 History

STAFF- Terri Dennison, Executive Director of the PA Route 6 Alliance  sent  us a fascinating press release detailing the historical connection that Route 6 has to two prominent American historical figures, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

George Washington’s connection dates to December of 1753, when a young George Washington delivered a key message during the French and Indian war.

Abraham Lincoln connection comes through the Bucktails, a famous regiment from this area that traveled the route to answer Lincoln’s call to arms in the Civil War.  Below follows the details of just some of the historical connections of Route 6 to American history.

WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN’S CONNECTION TO THE HISTORY OF PENNSYLVANIA ROUTE 6

While US Route 6 was not officially a cross-country driving route until the 20th century, excerpts from the “History of Route 6” show a connection to stories relating to the times of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. There were battles for ownership of what would become the northern tier of Pennsylvania as our young nation was developing pre- and post Revolutionary War.  During Lincoln’s era, the region was also a supplier of Union Soldiers; leading to the designation of US Route 6 as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.

Traces of Washington can be found across the corridor, but probably the most significant site is the statue of George Washington in what is commonly thought of as a British uniform in the town of Waterford, Erie County. In reality, Washington had been sent by the Governor of Virginia and is wearing the uniform of an officer in the Virginia Militia. In December 1753, at age 21, Washington was asked by Governor Dinwiddie to carry a British ultimatum to the French Canadians on the Ohio frontier. Washington delivered the message to the French Canadians at Fort Le Boeuf in Waterford. The unheeded message called for the French Canadians to abandon their development of the Ohio country to the south. The two colonial powers were heading toward the French – Indian War.

The “History of PA Route 6” tells how Northern Pennsylvania was a key frontier during the American Revolution; while at the same time, it was also in a state of hostility due to the conflicting claims of Connecticut and Pennsylvania and threatened by British Loyalists (Tories) and their Native American allies. The Pennamite–Yankee War was the intermittent conflict between 1769 and 1799 between settlers from Connecticut, who claimed the land along the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in the present Wyoming Valley, and settlers from brutal actions by both patriots and loyalists, called the Battle for Wyoming.

Historical markers can be found in the Endless Mountains Region that interpret the story of Sullivan’s March, led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton, which was an military campaign against Loyalists (“Tories”) and the four Amerindian nations of the Iroquois who had sided with the British in the American Revolutionary War.

Many of the connections to Washington were people who took orders from the First President as the nation was developing. Wayne County, on the eastern side of the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor, is named after General Anthony Wayne, who served as the first Commander-in-Chief of the army under Washington. Wayne’s treaty with the Iroquois is credited with opening up northwestern Pennsylvania for settlement in the 1790’s.

The only known artifact of Abraham Lincoln that is housed along PA Route 6 is the American Flag used to hold Lincoln’s head after his assassination, which is on display at the Column’s Museum in Milford; however, during Lincoln’s Presidency, the northern tier of Pennsylvania served as a source of soldiers for the Civil War. While neither President Lincoln nor the Civil War have footprints in the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor, the reminders of the war and times can still be found here.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteer troops to rise to the defense of the Union.  Thomas Leiper Kane, a prominent businessman in McKean County, began recruiting young men from northern Pennsylvania.  Approximately 700 lumberjacks, raftsmen, and farmers from the “Wildcat” district (Elk, McKean, Tioga, and Cameron counties) heard the call, and headed off to Camp Curtin, near Harrisburg.  While there, they were joined by companies from Chester and Perry counties, and were designated the 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps.  When called to join the federal Army of the Potomac, the regiment was renamed the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, but these sharpshooters were more commonly identified by their Bucktail insignia, and became known as the Bucktail Regiment.

The Bucktails served with distinction in most of the major engagements of the Civil War, including Antietam, Gettysburg and the Wilderness.  The unit completed its service on May 31, 1864.

 General Kane founded the town that bears his name in the early 1860s.  Originally known as Clarion Summit, then Kane Summit, he came to the region with his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Kane. Dr. Kane supposedly talked her way through enemy lines to be by his side and treat him when he was wounded and captured during the war.  After the war, Dr. Kane and her sons Evan and Thomas founded the first hospital in Kane.  General Kane became an ardent supporter of human rights, and, in particular rallied to end the persecution of the Mormons.  He is credited with averting a war between the Mormons and the U. S. Government in the late 1800s.

After the Civil War, veterans of the “late unpleasantness,” like veterans of many wars before and since, faced the task of returning to families, friends and jobs. Veterans of the Civil War joined together, first informally, into organizations based on the need for the continued camaraderie of friendships forged in battle.  One of these, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) emerged as a powerful political force. By 1890, it had more than 409,000 members. The GAR became a serious political body. Five members were elected President of the United States, and Republican candidates vied for the endorsement of the GAR.  The GAR founded soldiers’ homes, and was active in relief work and pension legislation.  The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War lobbied strongly to have a transcontinental highway designated the Grand Army of the Republic Highway as a memorial.  In 1937, the Pennsylvania legislature recognized U. S. Route 6 in the Commonwealth as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.

The “History of Route 6” contains many more stories about the northern tier of Pennsylvania’s connection to the growth of the nation. To learn more about the History of PA Route 6, its themes, and historic sites, see the heritage corridor section of the PA Route 6 Alliance website: www.paroute6.com .

Winter Weather Driving Tips

By State Rep. Matt Baker (Tioga/Bradford/Potter)

Due to the frequent winter storms Pennsylvania has been experiencing this season, I thought it was a good time to share some sensible winter weather driving tips for motorists.

 

When driving during freezing temperatures, ice and snow, you should always be prepared. Carry a shovel, ice melt or kitty litter for traction, flashlight, boots, warm blanket, flares or hazard triangle, and even food and water in the event you become stranded. Also always carry a fully charged cell phone in case you need to call for help.

 

Motorists are reminded that state law requires you to turn on your headlights when your wipers are on, and also to remove snow and ice from the hood and roof of your vehicle before hitting the road. According to the law, if snow or ice from your vehicle strikes a vehicle or person and causes death or injury, you can be ticketed.

 

Some other winter driving tips include:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Slow down and increase following distance.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and ramps where ice can often form without warning.
  • Do not use cruise control while driving on snow-covered roads.
  • Use your low beams in bad weather, especially in cases of heavy or blowing snow.
  • Make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you expect to arrive. In case you run into an emergency and need help, someone will know where to look for you.
  • If you do become stranded, it’s better to stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Run the engine every hour or so, but make sure the tailpipe is clear and keep the downwind window cracked open.

 

In addition, when winter weather is occurring, PennDOT asks drivers to be extra cautious around snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:

  • Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
  • Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
  • When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
  • Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.
  • Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
  • Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle.

To help make decisions as to whether to travel during winter weather, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, by visitingwww.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 700 traffic cameras.

 

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

 

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at www.JustDrivePA.com.

Paul Gordon Collier- Last week, I stopped by From My Shelf Books and Gifts in Wellsboro to talk to Kevin and Kasey Coolidge about their move coming up this March 1st.  Their bookstore will be moving from 25 Main Street in Wellsboro to 7 East Avenue in Wellsboro.  I talked with them a little of how they have grown where they are now and what new opportunities the location on East Avenue brings them.

Kasey and Kevin moved their bacon-loving bookstore into 25 Main Street in March of 2012, almost exactly 3 years ago.  At the time, they had 30,000 books, which was quite a hefty haul to transfer to their then-new digs.

At their old location, also on Main Street in Wellsboro (they were then located where Goodies for Our Troops is now located), they were doing some community outreach, but not to the scale that the bookstore currently does.  They were also only known as From My Shelf Books.

“When we were in the basement, we were just From My Shelf Books,” Kevin said, “when we moved here to this location we were From My Shelf Books AND Gifts.”

At their current location, they added ‘Gifts” to the end of their business name, which also includes one of the most impressive bacon gift displays in the region (trust me, I am a regular consumer of their bacon offerings).  They have just about doubled the size of their book inventory from 30,000 to 60,000.

They have also extended their community outreach to include a Teen Book Club, Games, and even created a web series about the bookstore called “From My Shelf Books versus the Evil Empire.”

“This gave us more opportunity to…have more groups and to have more products to choose from”, Kasey stated when asked about how this current location changed their business from what it was in the basement.

Kasey wanted to let fans of the book store know that their “doing a lot on Facebook to reach out to our friends and followers on Facebook and letting people know specific sales that we’re having, specific dates that things will be moved or that people can help with moving.”

She also explained that this information is also available on their website, wellsborobookstore.com.

When we transferred our interview to the new location on 7 Main Street, I noticed that the book store would be just across from Dunham’s Do it Center.  As a matter of fact, you can see the big sign with the orange letters through their storefront window.

In the video interview, which you can find at Tiogafreedomist.com, I mention a secret room that is off-camera.  Come March 1st, you can visit Kasey and Kevin at their new digs on 7 East Avenue and find out about the secret room.

I asked Kevin and Kasey how this new space will present new opportunities for them.  Keven replied that, “one of the great things about this location is that we have our own parking spot for Brooks Plaza customers….and another nice thing is, the building we are located at now…is not handicapped accessible….right here we are handicapped accessible.”

Kasey answered that she was ‘excited because it is all one level.”  At the current location, their inventory is stocked in the basement, which means walking up and down ‘old stairs’ multiple times throughout the day.  Here, they can just in to the ‘secret room’ and fetch books as they need them.

The new location will also help Kevin and Kasey with the shipping part of their business, with a space located within the secret room being designated as their packing and shipping area.  This is good news not only for their online buyers, but for people throughout Tioga County who currently get their books shipped to them by the bookstore.

I saved the most important question for last.  I asked them how this move would affect the Evil Empire Series.  So far, the series has 6 episodes, which are available at their youtube channel, youtube.com/frommyshelfbookstore.  They have a 7th episode which is still being edited.

“If we add more on, if we start a second season, we could start it in our news space, remains to be seen,” Kasey answered.

I informed Kasey and Kevin that there will be a second season, hoping my words would convince them to do the second season.  Kevin answered that, “the most important thing is to watch the episodes we have now and let us know (that you want a second season).”

All in all, I gathered that the move would be a good one both for From My Shelf Books and Gifts as well as the customers and fans of the bookstore.  Be sure to stop by on March 1st at 7 East Main Street in Wellsboro to wish Kevin and Kasey well in their new digs, and ask for the secret room tour while you are there.

 

 

Erik Arneson
Erik Arneson
Erik Arneson

Paul Gordon Collier- On January 9th, Office of Open Records Executive Director Terry Mutchler resigned from her post a news conference in the Capital Rotunda.  She was originally appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in 2008.  The appointment followed the signing of the Right to Know Law, which gives Pennsylvanians a right to access to public records.   The office was created to oversee the execution of the Right to Know law.

The timing of Mutchler’s resignation is questionable, as it opened the door for then-Governor Tom Corbett to appoint a new Director to a six year term, which he did 2 days later.  Governor Corbett selected a republican senate staffer, on Januaary 11th. The move was met with ciriticism from the democrats and then-governor-elect Tom Wolf.  Mutchler’s term officially expired in April, but Governor Corbett had not chosen to re-appoint her or replace her.  Mutchler’s reason for resigning was given as taking an opportunity to work for a Philadelphia law firm.

Arneson is a Republican Senate Aid, who was the communications and policy director for Republican Sen. Dominic Pileggi since 2005.  He was also one of the  architects of the rewriting of the Right to Know law.

At the time of the appointment, then-Governor-elect Wolf questioned the ‘closed door’ nature of the 11th hour appointment.  While he did not question Arneson’s ability to do the job, he questioned the political motivation behind such a late move by Governor Tom Corbett.

He stated, at the time of the appointment, “I think this is the kind of thing that makes people skeptical. It makes them suspicious that something isn’t right.”

After being sworn in, Tom Wolf quickly moved to fire Arneson, who initially found out he lost his job when he showed up only to be denied access to his office.

Now Arneson is responding to the firing by suing Governor Tom Wolf.  The legal issue here is whether Governor Wolf has the constitutional right to fire a Corbett appointee on the basis that the appointee was made in the last days of the Corbett administration.  The lawsuit was joined by the Senate Majority Caucus.  It seeks an immediate injunction against Wolf’s actions, which would restore Arneson to the director position, at least until a final ruling could be made.  A hearing is scheduled for February 3rd.  We will follow up when we get the results of that hearing.

Here is a part of Governor Wolf’s response to the lawsuit:

By removing Mr. Arneson, I am standing up against an effort to destroy the integrity of the Office of Open Records and turn it into a political operation.  These attempts to change the office, which exists to protect the public’s right to know, are the exact reasons people distrust their state government. When given the choice between protecting the public and playing politics, I will stand with the people of Pennsylvania.”

“The actions taken by my predecessor in the eleventh hour, when he named Erik Arneson, a longtime Republican staffer, as executive director of the Office of Open Records, were anything but open and transparent.  As a public servant I strive to promote democracy and change the culture in Harrisburg. I will continue to fight for the integrity of the Office of Open Records. Today’s lawsuit does nothing to alter my conviction.”

Republicans argue that Wolf’s firing of Arneson because he didn’t like the way Arneson was appointed is a violation not only of the people’s trust in ways that far surpass Corbett’s 11th hour action, but is also overtly illegal.

The political wrangling over an office which is all about government accountability to the people it serves is not lost on any political observer, no matter their political persuasion

Paul Gordon Collier- The Southeast PA town of Downingtown, in Chester County PA, was hit by a 2.7 earthquake this Sunday evening according to the US Geological Survey.  According to the report, the quake struck just outside of the town at 6:25pm.  While some reported feeling the rumbling, the quake appeared to be harmless.

One of our readers, a former Tioga County PA resident who now lives in the Downingtown area reported that while she did not feel the quake, she did see a couple hundred or more geese suddenly take to the air and honk vociferously.  The image of a geese-filled sky left a noticeable impression on her.

The Chester County Department of Emergency Services verified the report from the USGS.  At this moment and time, the USGS has no concerns this quake will portent and more serious quakes.

Here is the official USGS report-

An earthquake with magnitude 2.7 occurred near Downingtown, PA at 23:25:10.30 UTC on Jan 25, 2015. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)
3 miles (4 km) E of Downingtown, PA; 3 miles (5 km) SSW of Exton, PA; 4 miles (6 km) S of Lionville-Marchwood, PA; 27 miles (44 km) W of Philadelphia, PA
Magnitude- 2.7
Depth- 2.1 Miles

Governor Tom Wolf drilling ban

With Governor Tom Wolf now taking the helm, one of his campaign pledges, to ban drilling on public lands, was challenged before he ever took office  Here is a recap of the ruling by a PA Commonwealth Court on January 7th:

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled on Wednesday, January 7th, against an environmental activist organization seeking to stop natural gas and oil drilling on public lands.  In that same ruling, the court also ruled against Governor Tom Corbett’s assertion that the final decision about whether to grant drilling leases on public lands should be made by the Governor.  The Court ruled that the final authority for that decision rests with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR).

The decision was 2-1, with Judge P. Kevin Brobson writing the opinion.  Governor Tom Wolf, has yet to indicate if he will appeal this decision or not.  However, given his stance against leases on public lands, most legal experts expect him to appeal the decision.  He has indicated he might ban drilling on public lands, but after this ruling, that power might be in question.

“There is no constitutional mandate that monies derived from the leasing of state lands for oil and natural gas development be reinvested into the conservation and maintenance of the commonwealth’s public natural resources,” exclaimed Brobson.

In answer to the Corbett challenge, Brobson wrote, “Officials within DCNR serve at the pleasure of the governor. But so long as they serve, they serve the people of this commonwealth.”

To this date, the Governor’s office has yet to telegraph exactly what he will do in response to this ruling, or whether he will move to ban drilling on public lands despite the ruling.

220px-Tom_Marino_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressPaul Gordon Collier- Representative Tom Marino (R) has introduced legislation to start off the 114th congress.  The bill called the Defund Amnesty Act has the same focus as the amendments Marion introduced in the Cromnibus Bill passed at the end of the 113th congress.

The bill aims to hem in the Presidential memorandum issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, called the “Modernizing and Streamlining the US Immigrant Visa System for the 21st century.”  The memorandum is also simply known as the Executive Amnesty Order.

In introducing the legislation, Marino stated:

“The new Republican majority is well-positioned to demonstrate just how serious we are at reigning in this president’s executive overreach. His executive order, or memorandum, is the most egregious example.

When I think of our Founding Fathers and their intention for the executive branch, Barack Obama is the exact antithesis of that vision. As I have said before, the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate the naturalization processes and provide for the defense of our borders.

My bill is simple yet effective. It prohibits the use of any appropriated funds for the purpose of carrying out the president’s executive order. This is something every member of Congress, regardless of party, should be supporting because at its core, it maintains an all-too-fragile balance of power among the branches and reinforces Congress’ constitutional role in these matters.”

The introduction of the bill follows conservative criticism of Marino and other Republicans for passing the Cromnibus legislation in December 2014.  Conservatives believed that Cromnibus was a capitulation to the President, while others within the GOP argued it reflected a more deliberative, long term strategizing with the same end-goal, to prevent ‘executive amnesty.’

 

 

Loyalsock Creek Winter Snow. By Photographer Dwaine Gipe.
Loyalsock Creek Winter Snow.  By Photographer Dwaine Gipe.
Loyalsock Creek Winter Snow. By Photographer Dwaine Gipe.

Photographer Tony Sweet’s Video To Be Shared By Photo Club

Press Release

The Grand Canyon Photography Club will kick off 2015 with a New Year’s celebration at their January 13th meeting.  The meeting will begin at 7 pm at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center  located on Wellsboro’s Main Street.   At this time a segment of photographer Tony Sweet’s Visual Literacy  video, will be introduced by David Ralph.  

Back in August 2010, renowned fine art photographer Tony Sweet led a weekend workshop for the club.  In the segment of the video that will be featured, Sweet takes viewers into his studio to teach his digital image workflows.  He describes the real working environment of a successful professional photographer.  He discusses how to build a photography business, presents hard criticism of examples of his early portfolio, and talks about the utility of belonging to a photo club, as well as, having a mentor.  The video will end with a review of his more recent portfolio, where he discusses his thoughts behind the compositions and techniques chosen for the shots.

Club President, Bruce Dart will give away two signed editions of Sweet’s books: Water, Ice and Fog: Photographic Techniques and the Art of Interpretation; and, Fine Art Digital and Nature Photography: Tips, Techniques, and Creative Options for Serious Novices to Advanced Digital Photographers.   
During the second half of the photo club meeting, Mia Lisa Anderson will unveil the slideshow of members’ favorite images of 2014.  The slideshow was originally scheduled for the club’s December holiday party, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather.

Club members are asked to bring finger foods and snacks to share.  The club will provide the beverages. 

The public is invited to attend the meeting and see what the Grand Canyon Photography Club offers beginners to professionals.  If you enjoy photography please feel free to ask about memberships, as well.
The GCPC hopes all the photographers out there have a wonderful year full of amazing photo opportunities in 2015.  Check out the Grand Canyon Photography Cub’s Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/gcphotoclub  .

Pittsburgh Police Department threats

Paul Gordon Collier- In the wake of the assassination of two NYPD officers sitting in their patrol car this past Saturday, many police departments, especially in major metropolitan areas, are on high alert.  The nearest major metropolitan area to our Tioga County PA residents is in Pittsburgh.  This police department is now being directly affected by the same type of threat that continues to hang over the NYPD.

An internal FBI memo reveals that a direct threat was made to the Pittsburgh Police department back on December 12th, 2014.  The memo revealed that a group was threatening to kill not only law enforcement officers, but even ‘white civilians.”  The FBI considered it a credible threat and revealed that the group seems to have connections to ‘violent criminal enterprises’ in Pittsburgh proper.

According to a statewide officer safety memo sent this weekend, “a gang is en route to Pittsburgh with the intent to be pulled over to commit violence against the police.”

As a precaution, the Pittsburgh Police department will be doubling up on officers sent out on a patrol.

 

One Dollar Bill

Paul Gordon Collier- We picked this story up from Pittsburgh’s WTAE Channel four.

An 85 year old man named James Munroe had an encounter with two men (one armed) this past Sunday that didn’t go quite like you would expect it would.  According to Munroe, two men approached him as he was making his way back home from the grocery store.

The two men approached him and demanded that Munroe give them all the money he had.  One man then pulled out a gun and pointed it at the unarmed Munroe.  The 85 year old informed the men he only had $2 in cash on him.  Munroe went on to explain that he took the money out of his pockets and handed it over to the two men, with the one man still pointing his gun at Munroe.

So far, this armed robbery is going about like you would expect it would.  Munroe was not armed and gave no resistance to the two men.  The story should end with the two men walking away and Munroe reporting an armed robbery.  For $2, two men just committed a felony.  End of story, right?

Well, the story didn’t end there.  If it did, we would not be reporting on a $2 heist in Pittsburgh.  What happened next surprised Munroe and made this a story with telling.  According to Munroe, after the two men took the two dollars, one of the men had second thoughts.  The one that had second thoughts was the one pointing the gun at Munroe.

Munroe claims that the gunman said, “That’s alright,” and then handed the $2 back to Munroe.  Munroe had no explanation as to why the two men had a change of heart.  Maybe it was the spirit of Christmas?

So far, the two men have not been located.  We hope if they are caught, their act of contrition may weigh in their favor for leniency.

Pittsburgh Mayor Undercover- courtesy CBS
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto goes Undercover- Courtesy CBS

Paul Gordon Collier- This past Sunday, December 21st, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto made his national TV debut on CBS’ long-running series “Undercover Boss.”  The Mayor dramatically altered his appearance, going from the clean-cut politician look to the rough and tumble outdoors man look.

During the episode, the Mayor went undercover as a man who was auditioning to become employed by the city.  He collected trash, helped remove a downed tree and even worked on building a door.

The Mayor explained his motivation for doing the show this way,  “My hope all along was to highlight what makes Pittsburgh and its workers special, and the show did that in ways I never could have dreamed.  For those who didn’t already know, ‘Undercover Boss’ showed the world the greatness we see and live in our city every day.”

The Mayor went undercover as Ed Chadwick.  He did work with the Sanitation Department collecting garbage, with the Housing Authority and as a city Maintenance Worker.  While working to cut down a tree with a chain saw, one fellow worker recognized him through his disguise.

This is the second time Undercover Boss featured a Mayor of a major city.  The first Mayor featured was Mark Mallory, the first directly elected African-American mayor of Cincinnati.

The show ended up being a positive reflection of the City of Pittsburgh, as well as the people who work for the city.  Here is a clip from the show:

Paul Gordon Collier- The Fallout from the Sony/Theaters capitulations to Cyber Hackers may be seen in a Cyber Attack threat made to a PA Private School in Berks County, Pine Forge Academy.  A group calling themselves the “Heart of the People” is threatening the private school with a hack that will, according to the self identified “Heart hacker”, cause irreparable damage to the school’s computer system.

The school received an anonymous email this past Tuesday that demanded $1 million from the school, else they will face a cyber attack.

The group, through the email, claims that it has already destroyed 57 institutions.  They claim to have been paid by Pine Forge alumni to conduct the cyber attack.  The group claims to have received over $900,000 from the school’s own alumni to conduct the attack.  The school notified authorities and are cooperating fully with them.  The headmistress of the academy, Nicole Falconer, stated, “We have no information about why this monetary ransom was made, the school authorities are cooperating with police authorities as they investigate this matter and will keep us posted on any further developments.”

The credibility of the claim has yet to be determined by authorities, though school officials are taking precautionary measures.

King of Prussia Mall
Update 6:15pm- The execution of two NYPD cops has now overshadowed the King of Prussia Mall die-in. Though no clear motive is yet revealed why a lone gunman executed two NYPD officers, who were sitting in their vehicles, before taking his own life, there is some speculation the murders may be in retaliation for Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Whether the executions are related to Garner and Brown or not, social media appears to be picking up that narrative.
While the Die-In continues, its impact in social media is being diminished by the now-viral trending hashtag, #NYPD.

This screenshot from the alleged gunman’s social media account is the reason many suspect the gunman was motivated by Garner and Brown:

UPDATE 5:27pm:  The Protests are underway at the King of Prussia Mall.  Despite the statements by mall security, the protests have been allowed to go on.  By most accounts, the estimated number of protesters is between 20-50 people. Here are some Live Tweets from the Protests:


This tweet is in response to this news:

Paul Gordon Collier- The No Justice No Peace Facebook page   recently made this announcement: “Join us the Saturday before Christmas, as we shut down the largest mall on the East Coast.  They can try to gloss over it with the holiday, shove it under the rug, and move on with life. But we will not be silenced.”

The targeted mall?  King of Prussia Mall.  The protesters have announced their plans to gather at the Mall’s food court on Saturday, December 20th, today, at 5 pm.  From there, they will coordinate to stage a ‘die in’, which will involve participants dropping to the floor at 5:15pm, 5:25pm and 5:45pm.  So far, over 180 people have committed to participate in this die in.

The die-in is in protest of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both of whom died after encounters with Police.  The protest is designed to highlight what the group is calling “injustice against black people”, especiall black men.

Security officials issued the following statement ahead of the scheduled protests:  “We respect anyone’s right to assemble on public property, however… our shopping center is private property.  Our first concern is always to maintain a welcoming and safe environment for tenants and guests. Should a demonstration occur, keeping that environment would be our first goal.  However, our ongoing policy has been that demonstrations are not permitted on mall property.”

The event is being carefully watched due to the statement made by security, specifically that their ongoing policy is not to allow demonstrations on Mall Property.  Given the fact that the Mall is private property, the legal rights of protesters to disrupt shopping is in question.

The professed goal of the protest, to “shut down the largest mall on the East Coast”, also calls into question their legal standing and the legal standing of the Mall Security to prevent them from staging their schedule ‘shut down.’

So far, official police authorities have not offered any response ahead of the potential showdown between protesters and mall security.

STAFF- If you’re travelling on the PA Turnpike this holiday season, plan ahead.   The PA Department of Transportation is expecting a record number of vehicles on the Turnpike.  They’re expecting so much traffic that they are making some special allowances to meet the expected record traffic.

600,oo0 vehicles are expected on the Turnpike on December 26th alone.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton stated, “Drivers are never alone on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  In addition to our maintenance crews …, we also have our State Farm Safety Patrol out there ready to assist stranded motorists.  We want to remind our travelers that they should never pass a working plow truck and always keep a safe distance behind these vehicles.  Our crews are clearing the roadway ahead of them to make it safer for the drivers behind.”

The PA Department of Transportation announced the following changes to accommodate the expected surge in traffic:

To keep the highway safe during the holiday, all construction and maintenance work will be suspended to allow full use of the roadway. All lanes will be available beginning at noon Friday until 6 a.m. Jan. 2.

You can get up-to-the-date information on road conditions and traffic by calling 866-976-TRIP (8747).

You can also check the website for updates as well:  http://www.paturnpike.com

Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Robert Brady
Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Robert Brady
Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Robert Brady

Paul Gordon Collier- US House Rep and Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Robert Brady has just made a statement this week that shows a division in the PA Democratic Party.  The division centers around a decision made by PA State Attorney General Kathleen Kane who recently decided to prosecute two Philadelphia Area state lawmakers on bribery charges.

Kane accused the investigators of conducting a racist investigation.  Brady stated that he had no faith in Kane as the Attorney General and accused her of being  “asleep at the switch.”

State Reps. Vanessa Lowery Brown, 48, and Ronald G. Waters, 64, were under investigation for allegedly taking bribes.  When the case was presented to Kane, she dismissed it as “half-a$%ed” and “dead on arrival.’

The State Reps were caught on tape accepting money in what appeared to be payment for political favors.  Both Representatives are African-American.

Democrat Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, on Tuesday, accused Kane of being irresponsible, of accusing the investigation of being racist in nature without offering any evidence as proof.  He made this statement at a press conference announcing his intention to prosecute both Brown and Waters on bribery charges.

According to DA Williams, the lawmakers have admitted to a grand jury that they did, in fact, accept payment in exchange for political favors.  Waters admitted to accepting $8,750 while Brown admitted tot aking $4000

While Governor-Elect Tom Wolf has declined to speak directly about the strong words directed at Kane by both DA Williams and Representative Brady, he did state back in march, in reference to the case and Kane’s refusal to press charges, this: “If we have people who have broken the rules, they need to be called to account, whoever they are.”

In April, in the midst of a Democratic Party Primary, Wolf offered a direct criticism of Kane’s handling of the case.

 

DA Williams had stronger words directed at Kane than Representative Brady had, claiming that Kane’s reasons for not prosecuted were “out of pure incompetence, to gain political favor, or because of a grudge against other personalities.”

Kane did offer a statement defending her decision on Tuesday, but has since issued no intention to make any further comments on this case.

It should be noted that Brady was a strong supporter of Kane’s opponent in the 2012 primary.  Some members of the party, including state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burns, have criticized Brady and Williams for airing their grievances in public.  Burns stated, “I always discourage Democrats from taking shots at each other in the media.  It doesn’t help the institution.”

Despite the charges against Waters and Brown, they both just won re-election and will be sworn in for their next terms this January 6th.

 

Pipeline Impact Fees

Paul Gordon Collier- Two PA State Senators, a Republican and a Democrat, have introduced legislation that would create a state gas piepline impact fee, with the revenues collected being distributed to local communities that experience environmental and/or safety consequences as a result of the pipeline construction.

The Two Senators are  John Rafferty (R-Collegeville) and Andrew Dinniman (D-West Chester).  The two lawmakers will be presenting this legislation at the beginning of the new session this January.  The lawmakers joined forces in October to propose similar legislation, but were unable, at that time, to get the legislation to the Senate Floor.

In their joint press release, they stated, “Many communities experience a period of reduced quality of life and long-term impacts to the environment as a result of the construction process.  Increased traffic congestion, noise, environmental risks and associated safety risks are experienced by those who live, work, or commute in proximity to these projects.”

Currently, there is a state impact fee that applies to Marcellus Gas Wells.  This fee is applied to the companies that do the drilling.  The proposed legislation would extend that impact fee to include charges on linear feet acreage, as well as right-of-way width of the pipeline.  The distribution would be handled by the State Public Utility Commission.

Pennsylvania Independent oil & Gas Association are opposed to the legislation, stating, through their President, Lou D’Amico, “We just can’t afford another nickel of taxation at this point.”

D’Amico went on to claim that gas drillers are already cutting back on operations because of the oversupply of natural gas currently on the market.  The additional fees would further cause drillers to cut back operations.

There is a counter-proposal offered by PA State Senator James Brewster (D-McKeesport). This legislation would apply a simply 5 percent severance tax, but will permit the drillers to include in that fee the amount they currently pay through impact fees.

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