Published: The Huffington Post 2010-12-09
The Norristown Times Herald screams the headlines about a county commissioner being served a subpoena for Grand Jury testimony about the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law (Link).
The newspaper eavesdropped on conversations two commissioners were having at a local restaurant. Since there are only 3 commissioners in Montgomery County, PA (Montco) -- 2 of them is a quorum. It is a no-no to discuss county business away from a public forum like that. Sunshine Laws were set up for this purpose.
I am not going to comment on what these guys were talking about over their cheesesteaks, I want to go a little further back into the motivations of this newspaper's stalking project. The Times Herald wants to go after the Commissioners on an abuse of power jag -- that is fine. However, their hands need to be clean to do it.
First off, I think this newspaper is a GOP mouthpiece. The editor, Stan Huskey, has used his media outlets to ask the public for ways the GOP can gain control of the political structure. Dragging the government down to get your aims met is now a tried and true method. Stan has been working the press for the last three years with his opportunity.
Bruce Castor, one of the 3 Commissioners, is a hyperventilating Republican -- the reason the Times Herald loves him.
He is also a rejected suitor. Castor felt he was 'owed' the position of being Chairman of the County Commissioners by virtue of his vote totals. Castor essentially demanded that the other GOP Commissioner Jim Matthews, the brother of Hardball's Chris Matthews, give him his vote. Castor was acting like a child. Matthews realized this is not in the public's best interest he went - Bi - yes he started swinging both ways: he came out as a bipartisan (which is saying a lot, as Jim Matthews used to be a frothing-at-the-mouth GOP Official). Matthews and the Democratic Commissioner Joe Hoeffel cut a deal to allow Matthews to be the Chairman.
Apoplectic is too tame of a word to describe the Castor reaction to this crushing defeat. I now understand why they call it Castor oil. Over the last 3 years my teenage daughter acts more mature than Bruce Castor, even when we try to get her to clean her room. Every peccadillo that Castor whines about is dutifully noted by the Times Herald for greater distribution and to stoke the fire.
As the elongated Castor hissy-fit continued the two commissioners put the practice of Bipartisanship into action. It is painful to watch the county meetings, the other two public servants realize there is work to do and have moved around this loser. Castor has isolated himself by his petulance, and essentially forfeited his office by his personality. Part of being in politics is having at least some baseline ability to work with people you may not like.
If he was working in the real world I wonder if he would be fired for his inability to act as a team member?
With all this drama, Montco is running smoothly, there is actually a balance of power in our local courthouse. Montco has a AAA bond rating, that's pretty good. There are burps here and there, but then again, where aren't there rough spots these days.
This Bipartisanship junk might actually work.
The party structures don't like the fact that these two guys are working together. Candidates are being recruited to step up against those who would injure the party orthodoxy. In other words, instead of supporting guys who are working like adults, the Party Structure is aligning itself for paybacks. Both the Democratic and GOP Chairmen are on the record at taking potshots at the Bipartisan Commissioners (Link).
There must be the uniformity of hatred. Each party needs the others' animus in order to keep the hate alive. With a closed primary system in Pennsylvania, the parties can get away with this.
The Times Herald is there to stoke the fire.
While all this is going on, the Times Herald is being subsidized by the county. Because of Sunshine Laws, governments are required to advertise in newspapers. The county needs to have a newspaper of record. In Montco it is the Times Herald. They get a couple of hundred grand from the county every year to print Sheriff Sale notifications among other things. The only problem is, the county puts what appears to be the entire surveyor's report in the paper, driving up the costs. If you are not a surveyor, can you make sense of it? It is kind of a cynical thing to do, but we are talking about the Times Herald and a formerly fully GOP controlled courthouse. It takes time to correct stuff.
Since the Times Herald wants to gather evidence against the Commissioners, and the Commissioners actually approve the advertising payments to the Times Herald, are these conflicts of interest that need to be resolved immediately?
In Montco there is a plant run by Philadelphia newspapers (The Inquirer and The Daily News). They employ more people than the Times Herald. They also have a larger circulation than the Times Herald. They also only put the pertinent information about sheriff sales in the papers -- to keep costs down.
Would a fair solution to the problem here be to move the county's paper of record to another outfit that can do it better and for less taxpayer dollars?
If the Times Herald wants to call itself pure and wrap the Constitution's Freedom of the Press around itself, I am certainly cool with that. But I don't think that I need my tax dollars going to an outfit that is trying to take down an operational Bipartisan Government.
It's kinda like asking for money for people with minds that hate...