Saturday, October 28, 2006

Todd Elliott Koger Candidate Pa. State Rep.: Immigrants' Rights



Public Session for Immigrants’ Rights

Todd Elliott Koger, candidate for state representative (District 24) ask that you join PFOI to protect Immigrants, Tuesday, October 31, 2006, at 10:00 A.M.. Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pa 15219.

To speak call: 412-255-2138.

First, a simple but often-forgotten note, in federal law, there is no such thing as an “illegal immigrant.” A person who is legally in the United States either is here as a legal immigrant or has a “non-immigrant VISA,” meaning a tourist, student or temporary worker VISA. In short, immigrants have the same rights as the rest of us. They must be treated, exactly the same as any other person. The bottom line: there are just a few exceptions: immigrants can’t become president or vice-president, and green-card holders’ can’t vote.

At issue, however, is the status of illegal aliens on the state and local level.

Congress recently passed legislation authorizing the construction of a multibillion dollar fence along the U.S. - Mexico border and appropriated money for detention centers and an additional 1,500 border agents. But, at the same time, other immigrant-friendly “rational middle ground” proposals (compromise between mass deportation and amnesty) have stalled in Washington, including legislation that will give millions of illegal aliens already in the United States a chance to become a citizen.

There is a deliberate tactic designed to advance an “enforcement first” political agenda at the state and local level that PFOI and others, will address this Tuesday, October 31, 2006, at 10:00 A.M., at the Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, 414 Grant Street.

Enforcement first advocates want to change the sequencing of border security, interior enforcement, and guest worker plans. Their strategy (partisan maneuvering) aims to force passage at the state and local level of enforcement laws in lieu of federal action. Among the policy goals of the “enforcement first” initiative PFOI protest are as follow: (1) new state laws for employment eligibility verification and denial of business licenses; (2) new state laws mandating local law enforcement agencies to identify and turn over to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) all aliens who pass through local jails and state prisons; (3) prohibition of aliens access to social services; and (4) outlawing of “sanctuary cities” through penalties in state funding. Their plan is to elect pro-enforcement officials.

What PFOI suggests an alternative policy, to foster cooperation between state and local officials, law enforcement, the human service system and the region’s immigrant communities are needed. Without cooperation an entire segment of Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) becomes alienated from the system. That is, non-citizens, even during the recent wave of gun-violence, will be reluctant to report incidents of crime or come forward as witnesses for fear of exposing themselves to immigration related charges. Consider this, while domestic-abuse survivors are typically terrified or reporting abuse under any circumstances, in households with undocumented non-citizens, the fear is compounded by the chance that they or someone they love could be deported.

Direction and inspiration at the state and local level to foster cooperation should come from our concern for those who are most affected by the “enforcement first” initiative and partisan maneuvering. When the discrimination is truly a remnant, PFOI will be able to put down their signs and petitions and call it a day. Nonetheless, until then, don’t expect PFOI to be quiet and what they say will reverberate far beyond Pittsburgh city council chambers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

KDKA's Voter's Guide: Unequal Time, Censorship

PLEASE NOTE: FOR UNEXPLAINED REASONS KDKA FAILED TO LIST TODD ELLIOTT KOGER AS JOE PRESTON'S OPPONENT IN THEIR VOTER'S GUIDE FOR TWO DAYS.

LAST NIGHT MR. KOGER COMPLAINED.




THEREAFTER, KDKA FORWARDED ITS CANDIDATE'S QUESTIONNAIRE.

TODAY, KDKA PROVIDED THAT LISTED BELOW VIS-A-VIS AN EMAIL.


Mr. Koger:

Thank you for your submission for our 2006 voter guide. We appreciate your cooperation

Since the guide is a part of our website, we reserve the right to review all responses and edit for clarity and content.

Before we publish your responses, though, we wanted to make you aware that our voter guide is meant to give candidates the opportunity to present their platforms to potential voters, not as a forum to criticize their opponents. We do provide a link to your own campaign website.

That said, we have decided to omit some of your responses which specifically reference Mr. Preston.

I'm forwarding the revised version for your approval. If you would like to add any other comments, please feel free to send them directly to me at and I will see that they get posted. Otherwise, if you approve our revisions as listed below, I can publish your page immediately.

Thank you for your participation.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Pollard
KDKA Website Manager

Campaign Message (WILL NOT BE INCLUDED FOR REASONS DISCUSSED ABOVE):

Before Act 201 passed, utility and power companies donated $4,650 to Joe Preston. Next, Mr. Preston rushed from committee Act 201 -- made it easier for the utility companies to terminate service.

Q:

What do you think is the most important issue facing Pennsylvania?

Your Original Response:

I am a democrat running as an independent. Finding a permanent solutions for the fiscal problems of school districts (school property tax relief) is important. However, in district 24, specifically, a trusted advocate steadfast to the challenge of canvassing the most dangerous neighborhoods -- door-to-door, corner-to-corner, housing project-to-housing project -- to redress the complaints, concerns and needs of inner-city residents. Lethal gun-violence is tearing our great city apart. Every murder is a senseless loss for a family and the wave of violence is an intolerable epidemic for the region as a whole.

In district 24 the approach of nightfall is dreaded. Our fear is punctuated by sound of gunfire, screams and wailing. However, missing from Mr. Preston's is sadness, anger or outrage over the rising body count, or how close gun-violence is to our schools. In fact, when thugs began selling drugs in front of Mr. Preston's office, rather than address the issue, he moved his office!

Edited Response:

I am a Democrat running as an Independent. Finding a permanent solution for the fiscal problems of school districts (school property tax relief) is important. However, in District 24, specifically, a trusted advocate steadfast to the challenge of canvassing the most dangerous neighborhoods -- door-to-door, corner-to-corner, housing project-to-housing project -- to redress the complaints, concerns and needs of inner-city residents. Lethal gun-violence is tearing our great city apart. Every murder is a senseless loss for a family and the wave of violence is an intolerable epidemic for the region as a whole.

In District 24 the approach of nightfall is dreaded. Our fear is punctuated by sound of gunfire, screams and wailing. However, missing is sadness, anger or outrage over the rising body count, or how close gun-violence is to our schools.

Q:

Should there be a constitutional convention to reduce the size of the Legislature?

Your Original Response:

Many residents of District 24 have formed certain perceptions about our leaders and system of government that represents an overall lack of trust. That is, public confidence plays a significant role in the ability to advocate. Perceptions influence and even shape behavior. We must reform our current system of government. For example, on April 17, 2006, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board decided: "It's time for an unapologetic Joe Preston to go!" On October 13, 2006, Joe Preston continued to demonstrate a lack of remorse telling the editorial board that he, in fact, will not return the pay raise. Thus, democratic community leaders requested that I run as an independent against Joe Preston.

Edited Response:

Many residents of District 24 have formed certain perceptions about our leaders and system of government that represents an overall lack of trust. That is, public confidence plays a significant role in the ability to advocate. Perceptions influence and even shape behavior. We must reform our current system of government.

Q:

What is the best way to handle the pay of legislators, executive branch members and judges?

Your Original Response:

Legislators, the executive branch and judges are already paid too much. In fact, since Joe Preston rushed from the committee, without any public hearing, legislation (Act 201) that made it much easier for the utility companies to terminate the gas, electric and water service of poor, low-income customers and reversed the longstanding state moratorium on shutting off heat and electric during winter, a moratorium should now be applied to legislators’ pay. Nonetheless, after needed reform, pay could be tied to the rate of inflation. But only, if funding for public transit operation is additionally tied to the rate of inflation. Democratic community leaders requested that I run as an independent against Joe Preston.

Edited Response:

Legislators, the executive branch and judges are already paid too much. Nonetheless, after needed reform, pay could be tied to the rate of inflation. But only, if funding for public transit operation is additionally tied to the rate of inflation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rep. Joe Preston Tells Post-Gazette: "Other Transit Systems Have Found a Way to Operate Without Saturday Service"



Joe who? For decades we looked to state Rep. Joe Preston to become more accountable. But as the years have drifted by, he drifted further and further away. A good example: On October 13, 2006, Mr. Preston suggested the following to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board "Other transit systems have found a way to operate without Saturday service" as a response to $32.5 million deficit facing the Port Authority. In short, it appears that Mr. Preston prefers Port Authority raising the base fare, cutting service and/or laying off employees, although he says he supports dedicated funding. That is, to evoke public anger (pitting riders against workers) he has adopted spin that suggests Port Authority "must learn to make do with less and balance their operating budgets with service cuts and/or fare hikes."

Port Authority announced $36 million as the projected deficit for 2006-07. Because the federal government does little to subsidize urban public transit operations, the deficit burden falls on the state and local government. Governor Rendell has proposed raising the authority's subsidy 2 percent for next year, generating about $2 million. But such doesn't change the fact that the legislature must provide dedicated, predictable long-term funding. Hopes for such funding sit partly with a nine-member transportation reform and funding commission that the governor formed through executive order. The commission is looking at highways, bridges, aviation and rail freight programs as well as transit. However, its final report isn't due until November 15 (after the Nov. 7, General Election).

The familiar spin that Mr. Preston offered to the editorial board is commentary attempting to force the state's transit systems and their union employees to accept competitive bidding in their labor agreements. To impress reluctant legislators like Rep. Preston the Port Authority has reduced management personnel and administrative expenses and has made an effort to reduce the annual deficit in all the areas which are within their control. That is, Port Authority's operating costs have grown by 1.9 percent per year, well below the rate of inflation. In fact, the cost of bus service per passenger mile is 26 percent less than the average of comparable systems and the general administrative costs per unit of service were 40 percent less. Thus, Port Authority costs per vehicle hour and vehicle mile of service are considerably less than other transit agencies of similar size.

However, funding for public transit operations in Pennsylvania does not keep up with inflation. Had the state's General Fund operating subsidy grown by the rate of inflation over the past 14 years, more than $500 million would have been available to Pennsylvania transit systems, including $125 million to Port Authority (far more than would have been needed to offset current operating deficits). In short, there are two main funding streams for public transit operations in Pennsylvania. One is called the General Fund for Mass Transit Operating Assistance Budget Line Item. In 1995 this fund provided around $247 million for public transit operating assistance statewide. In 2004, the same fund provided around $270 million ( a 1 percent annual increases in funding over a 10-year period). The other funding system is called the Public Transit Assistance Fund. It is supplied by such sources as a $1 fee per tire on new tire sales, a $2 per day fee on car rentals, a 3 percent tax on motor vehicles leases, and 1.22 percent of the state sales and uses tax capped at $75 million. This funding stream has grown by only 1.3 percent over the past several years. Groups such as Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (33 congregational and organizational members) have called for dedicated funding because public transit is an essential public service, much like our education system and the construction and maintenance of our highway system. Like public transportation, those services are subsidized, and for a good reason. They benefit society as a whole. Public transportation is no different.

For almost 43 years the Port Authority has been providing comprehensive public transportation services safely and effectively to the poor and low-income of District 24 (one of the Nation's most difficult transit environments). Every year, we worry about whether we can depend on our bus being there when we need it to "connect us to life." Eliminating Saturday service as Rep. Preston suggested to the Post-Gazette editorial board is "just out of the question." Reliable convenient schedules, clean comfortable equipment, and economical fares for the 68 million rides provided annually (240,000 on the average weekday) will only come to pass with dedicated and predictable funding streams. If public transit budgets are to be balanced by reducing (non-peak) Saturday services, then potential new riders will stay in their cars and increase traffic congestion, and the costs of maintenance of our road and highway system.




Todd Elliott Koger, candidate for State Representative (District 24), requests that you take action during Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network's Public Action, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Thursday, October 26, 2006, at Petra International Ministries, 235 Eastgate Drive (Old East Hills Shopping Center). More than 1500 or more concerned residents from this region will be present.

http://koger.7p.com

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Time For an Unapologetic Rep. Joe Preston To Go!"



On April 17, 2006, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board decided: "It's time for an unapologetic Preston to go!"

On October 13, 2006, Joe Preston continued to demonstrate a lack of remorse telling the editorial board that he, in fact, will not return the pay raise.

It's this simple: Mr. Preston is one of the lone symbols of this controversy who still believes a nod-nod, wink-wink from the Governor, local political leaders and the media can protect him from any further public ridicule.

In short, Mr. Preston has recently demonstrated unprecedented arrogance suggesting an attitude and confidence that are embarrassing.

Possibly nothing more than just election year theatrics, at one point his Consumer Affairs Committee had the majority of us believing landmark legislation (HB 2880) calling for cable choice and competition was poised to advance to the floor of the House for a vote. Although an apparent majority of the public, education, and government access channels, and pertinent union membership groups testified during statewide public hearings that they approved the proposed legislation, last week Joe Preston pulled the bill from consideration. The proposed streamlined franchising process would better benefit customers by ushering in a myriad of TV choices and lower prices. Since 1995 cable rates have increased more than 86 percent. Since 2001 cable prices have increased four times faster than the rate of the consumer price index.

In the months before Act 201 passed two years ago, utility and power companies donated $4,650 to Preston's reelection campaign. And, after accepting lucrative campaign contributions from the utility and power companies, Joe Preston wrapped a "moral responsibility" cloak around Act 201 (Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act), and rushed from committee legislation that makes it much easier for the seediest financial interest in the country to terminate the gas, electric and water service of poor, low-income customers. That is, his leadership reversed a long-standing state ban on shutting off heat during winter. Note: Throughout the entire process, there was not a single public hearing on the measure.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board, under Mr. Preston's leadership voted to raise rates this year and next (third and fourth consecutive years). The increase affects around 65,000 city households that get their water from the authority. Another 30,000 households in the city's southern neighborhoods, which are served by Pennsylvania American Water Co., will also see their rates rise, because those rates are pegged to the authority's. The hikes also hit commercial and industrial users, who pay less than households, and health and educational institutions, which pay more. The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, which levies a separate charge based on water usage, increased rates 10 percent effective Jan. 1. Although voters had shot down a referendum to build two new stadiums officials proceeded with the plan anyway and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority paid $550,000 to build sewer lines for the new Steelers stadium and surrounding area on the North Side. In addition, two former Authority employees were paid $210,000 to settle whistle-blower lawsuits. Former executive director John Hanna claimed in his federal lawsuit that he had been fired for testifying before a federal grand jury that was investigating authority operations and for refusing to approve payments for a faulty sewer project at PNC Park. Dr. Michael Stallard's lawsuit claimed he was pressured to approve work that was not completed properly and fired after he protested payments. Finally, the Authority is paying Adam Filippo & Associates $90,750 to learn how customers feel about water and sewer service. At least $500 of that money was spent to treat the authority's business customers to lunch at the Duquesne Club, Downtown, during a February focus-group session. Seventeen people dined at the club.

But, in many of Joe Preston's District 24 neighborhoods the approach of nightfall is still dreaded. Our fear is punctuated by sound of gunfire, screams and wailing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cable Choice and Competition Act Withdrawn to Allow Comcast Free Ticket



There is a sobering reality present in Pennsylvania today, which incumbent Joe Preston and the people who blindly support him may have yet to fully comprehend – there is so much more to politics than what State Representative Joe Preston has offered District 24.

Possibly nothing more than just election year theatrics, at one point Mr. Preston's Consumer Affairs Committee had the majority of us believing landmark legislation (HB 2880) calling for cable choice and competition was poised to advance to the floor of the House for a vote. Two years ago he had surprised his constituents by quickly advancing from the committee, without a single public hearing, Act 201 (legislation that made it much easier for the seediest financial interest in the country to terminate the electric, gas, and water service of poor and low-income customers).

Nonetheless, on this occasion public hearings were held statewide to gather input and make things appear legitimate. And, together with Raymond Bunt, Jr. (R-147th District) and more than 80 additional cosponsors, the nearly flawless legislation (only lacked language to outlaw corporate redlining) was presented as an answer to the antiquated franchise system put in place decades ago. The redundant town-by-town franchises processes currently in place dramatically delays' consumer choice and, in fact, increase the cost of doing business, i.e., constituents not cable companies actually foot the franchises revenues.

Cable companies with long-standing franchises (Comcast) argued against the legislation, and opposition centered on a big lie: "municipalities won't get their franchise fees." Telecommunications firms (Verizon) and consumer agencies argued the proposed streamlined franchising process would better benefit customers by ushering in a myriad of TV choices and lower prices. And, although an apparent majority of the public, education, and government access channels, and pertinent union membership groups testified that they approved the proposed legislation, last week Joe Preston pulled the bill from consideration.

Since 1995 cable rates have increased more than 86 percent. Since 2001 cable prices have increased four times faster than the rate of the consumer price index.

JOE PRESTON MUST GO!

http://koger.7p.com

Under Joe Preston's Leadership City Water Rates Rise (Third and Fourth Consecutive Years)



JOE PRESTON MUST GO!

That is, on February 11, 2006, Rich Lord of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the following:

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board voted to raise rates this year and next, in moves it said would hike the average household's monthly water and sewer bill by $5.

Authority Executive Director Greg Tutsock said the increases would allow the authority to weather jumps in chemical, utilities and labor costs, and continue working on improvements demanded by federal and state regulators. They may also help it reduce its reliance on debt, which devours half its revenue.

The authority's minimum monthly rate, for the first 1,000 gallons of water use, will rise from $13.88 to $14.42 on March 1, and to $14.67 on Jan. 1. Rates for each additional 1,000 gallons will rise from $6.46 to $6.99 in March, and to $7.50 next year.

For a typical household, using 5,000 gallons, that's a 12.5 percent hike by next year. That comes on top of rate increases of 19 percent in 2004 and 17 percent last year.

The increase affects around 65,000 city households that get their water from the authority. Another 30,000 households in the city's southern neighborhoods, which are served by Pennsylvania American Water Co., will also see their rates rise, because those rates are pegged to the authority's.

The hikes also hit commercial and industrial users, who pay less than households, and health and educational institutions, which pay more.

Top private sector water users include Del Monte Food, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the West Penn Allegheny Health System. None responded to requests for comment.
To minimize the impact on households, the authority board raised some fees on businesses. It will now charge when it helps to design piping for new buildings larger than a duplex; make contractors pay for temporary meters for construction projects; and bill more for special water lines for fire sprinklers.

"We wanted to really make the increases as minimal as possible," Mr. Tutsock said.

The hikes will bring $4.6 million to the authority this year and $4.7 million next year, he said. That should allow it to reduce its dependence on borrowing, he said. It owes $622 million, a burden called "not healthy" by a consultant.

The authority is under orders from federal and state environmental regulators to improve sewer lines to stop sewage from flowing into the rivers when it rains. It expects to spend $300 million on those improvements over coming years.

Yesterday the board approved two contracts, totalling $4.9 million, with consultants on that effort.

In a submission to regulators in May, the authority indicated that its water rates were the second-highest among a dozen large public water suppliers in the area.

That analysis did not include sewer rates, which are included in water bills.

City households will still pay less than residents of some suburbs served by Pennsylvania American. Mt. Lebanon residents, for instance, pay a total of $8.18 per thousand gallons.

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, which levies a separate charge based on water usage, increased rates 10 percent effective Jan. 1.

Water authority board Chairman Joe Preston, a state representative from East Liberty, led the charge for the increase, which passed on a voice vote. He wished staff and consultants in attendance a "Merry Christmas" at the meeting's end.

http://koger.7p.com

Note: On March 13, 1999, John Bull wrote the following for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will spend $550,000 to build sewer lines for the new Steelers stadium and surrounding area on the North Side.

"I'm sure the ratepayers are in strong, adamant opposition," complained city Councilman Gene Ricciardi, a board member who voted against the plan. "This is a raid on the ratepayer."

Ricciardi, a staunch foe of new stadiums, said he is against the sewer expenditure because voters shot down a referendum to build two new stadiums but officials proceeded with the plan anyway.

The authority routinely pays for sewer and water line construction and relocation as an incentive for city economic development and housing developments, but Ricciardi insisted that it shouldn't in this case because it would benefit "million dollar athletes."

But supporters contended new sewers will benefit the entire 25-acre parcel that will house new stadiums for the Steelers and Pirates, and the expected construction of stores, restaurants and businesses that will accompany the stadiums.

"This will benefit not just the Steelers, not just the Pirates, but the entire city of Pittsburgh," said John Hanna, the authority's acting executive director.

The board voted 2-1 for the plan. Members Ann Davis and Joe Preston voted yes.

Source: http://www.post-gazette.com/regionstate/19990313water5.asp


In addition, on June 8, 2004, David M. Brown, Pittsburgh Tribune-review, wrote:

You might think that a government agency with a monopoly wouldn't have to pamper its customers with a pricey lunch at the exclusive Duquesne Club.

The people who run the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority don't agree. They're paying Adam Filippo & Associates $90,750 to learn how customers feel about water and sewer service.

At least $500 of that money was spent to treat the authority's business customers to lunch at the Duquesne Club, Downtown, during a February focus-group session. Seventeen people dined at the club.

Jim Roddey, a member of the state oversight board looking into the city's finances, questioned the study.

Finally, two former Authority employees were paid $210,000 to settle whistle-blower lawsuits. Former executive director John Hanna claimed in his federal lawsuit that he had been fired for testifying before a federal grand jury that was investigating authority operations and for refusing to approve payments for a faulty sewer project at PNC Park. Dr. Michael Stallard's lawsuit claimed he was pressured to approve work that was not completed properly and fired after he protested payments.


http://koger.7p.com