Editorials from around Pennsylvania…Tom Wolf: The nonpolitician

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TOM WOLF: THE NONPOLITICIAN

During a one-on-one telephone interview last week, Tom Wolf was asked to name the biggest obstacle to winning the Democratic nomination for governor. Was it the union support for Treasurer Rob McCord? Or the veiled racial accusations McCord and Allyson Schwartz threw at him for chairing York Mayor Charlie Robertson’s 2001 campaign? Or Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent jobs claim?

“I haven’t seen much of an obstacle,” he said before apologizing for the way that sounded.

As the saying goes, if you can back it up, it ain’t bragging. Given his victory Tuesday over a strong field, Wolf need not apologize.

Since the earliest days of his campaign, which began 15 months ago, Wolf said he has gotten the sense from voters that they are looking for a different type of leader.

He cited his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, an academic, a businessman and a former state revenue secretary.

The voters, he said, are making a hiring decision and they like what they see on his resume.

Franklin & Marshall College Pollster G. Terry Madonna agrees.

“The race,” he said, “has turned into a debate about who has the best background and which life experiences matter most.”

And getting his story before the public “in a positive way” was a part of Wolf’s strategy. It enabled Wolf to define himself rather than allowing others to define him.

Indeed, Wolf’s early TV ad blitz – look for that to be a staple in future statewide races – enabled him to get a lead and maintain it throughout the campaign. The initial Franklin & Marshall Poll on Feb. 26 showed him with a 27-point lead over his nearest competitor. The final pre-primary poll, released one week before the primary, gave him a solid 17-point advantage.

Now that the primary is out of the way, Wolf aims to make Tom Corbett the first governor in state history to be ousted after a single term. (Footnote: Pennsylvania governors could only serve a single four-year term until 1968 when the state Constitution was amended to allow two terms.)

Unlike the Democratic primary, where there was little to distinguish between the four candidates, there are significant policy differences between Wolf and Corbett.

According to the F&M Poll, voters rank education and employment as the top two issues facing the commonwealth. Those are two areas where Corbett is vulnerable.

Under Corbett, the state’s portion of education funding has fallen. That has forced local school boards to hike property taxes.

And while Pennsylvania has added jobs under Corbett, the state’s job growth ranked 48th in the nation in 2013 compared to seventh in 2010.

During the primary, Wolf was able to deflect attacks involving his personal finances, his decision to buy back his company and his support of Robertson and former state Rep. Steve Stetler.

Robertson, a former police officer, dropped out of that 2001 race after being charged and later acquitted in the 1969 shooting death of Lillie Belle Allen. Stetler, who briefly succeeded Wolf as state revenue secretary, was indicted by a grand jury on theft and conflict of interest charges that grew out of the Bonusgate investigation overseen by then-Attorney General Corbett.

Look for those issues to be brought up again – and with greater zeal – in the fall campaign.

Whether they become obstacles or stepping stones remains to be seen.

-(Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal

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SOME A-GRADE, POLITICALLY CORRECT SILLINESS

Anyone who has ever rambled through the undergraduate experience at any of America’s hundreds of colleges and universities has surely encountered something along the way that rattled their sensibilities or simply rubbed them the wrong way. Most of the time, it’s a course they wish they never signed up for, or a numbingly tedious required text they can’t wait to haul back to the bookstore once they’re finished with it.

There are some campus activists, though, who want to shear any of the rough edges off the classroom experience by mandating that “trigger warnings” be placed on the syllabi of courses where the readings, films, or whatever else they might confront in the lecture hall, could be upsetting.

It goes like this: Your American Literature 101 class is about to dip into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” a common offering and a novel that, almost everyone agrees, is a supreme artistic achievement. However, according to The New York Times, a Rutgers University student suggested a warning “The Great Gatsby” contains “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence” be served up before a page is turned.

Some advocates of trigger warnings said they should be used on such undisputed classics as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or “Things Fall Apart,” the great work by the recently departed Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe, because they deal with sticky issues like racism and colonialism. The Times reported a draft proposal at Oberlin College, about 180 miles to our west in Ohio, would extend trigger warnings to “anything that might cause trauma,” which is a pretty broad realm, and that instructors should be on the lookout for such bugaboos as racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and, our favorite, “ableism,” in reference to those with disabilities.

Let’s be blunt -this A-grade, politically correct silliness.

Many observers of higher education and more than a few instructors decried the whole notion of trigger warnings, saying they would stifle debate and the types of material that can be brought into the classroom. They’re right. How can anyone correctly predict, out of a sea of students, what might roil someone’s feelings? Would taking in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” bring back traumatic memories of parental divorce? Would Finny’s broken leg in John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” send some sensitive soul into a post-traumatic spiral if it summons memories of when they fell off the jungle gym in fifth grade and snapped a tibia in two? There’s absolutely no predicting what might make someone, in a group of strangers, wince.

And though the four years that elapse between high school and “real” adulthood is not meant to be like boot camp, it’s hard to escape the impression that some of today’s collegians could handle some toughening up.

Mom and dad are always a phone call or text message away, and some parents don’t hesitate to call instructors to protest grades or plead for weekly updates on how their cherub is faring.

Part of adulthood is confronting things that discomfit you, and sometimes that is not a bad thing, if it confers greater insight or understanding of the world.

As the debate spread through the media in recent days, Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic magazine raised a good point – why single out classroom material for trigger warnings when it is, in fact, “more tame than what they encounter in daily life … network TV shows, hip hop albums, standup comics and Hollywood films.”

The joke sometimes has it that this region is behind the times, but let’s hope this is one of those trends that bypasses our local campuses entirely.

-(Washington) Observer Reporter

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WHY LOCAL POLICE NEED RADAR

The third time is the charm for state Rep. Mario Scavello, R-176, who will hold a public hearing Thursday to talk about radar. Scavello seeks public support for a bill that would let local and regional police use radar to combat speeding. Area residents should attend this hearing and voice their support. Here’s why.

Right now, only the state police are authorized to deploy radar. The result is that drivers on miles and miles of Monroe County’s roadways are essentially on the honor system.

And what roads!

Many of them originated as footpaths or carriage trails. Sure, they’ve been reengineered, paved and lined. But it’s not only farmers and other hardy rural folk who use them. Thousands of residents have plunked down in far-flung housing developments. Commuters, parents and teenagers live far from schools, stores, jobs – all driving considerable distances, raising their risk of a crash. There is no safe passage for walkers.

Rarely do these drivers encounter a state trooper doing speed checks. In fact, about the only time speeding enters the public consciousness is when someone dies in a crash.

When police don’t – or can’t – enforce the speed limit, the human toll isn’t the only cost. Consider the hours that emergency responders put in and that police invest in crash investigations. The rising insurance premiums.

It took Scavello three years to get a hearing on the radar bill. The first Transportation Committee chairman was not re-elected. The second died last summer. The third and current chairman, Nicholas Miccozzie, R-163, authorized Thursday’s hearing.

Pennsylvania is the only state not to authorize its regional and local police to use radar, forcing them to use far less efficient methods to enforce speed limits. Yet without aggressive enforcement, heedless drivers will continue to speed, risking their own and other people’s lives. Your voice will help push this worthy measure into law and could very well save the life of someone you know and love.

-Pocono Record

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