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Op-Ed: Being a Representative Means Knowing the Issues…Here and In Harrisburg

An Op-Ed from Rep. Justin Simmons (R-131)

On October 10th, I received the endorsement of The Express-Times in my re-election campaign for State Representative.  I am proud to have received this endorsement and for the primary reasons they chose to support me.  In their words: "Based on his stronger grasp of the issues and determination to protect taxpayers, The Express-Times editorial board endorses Republican Justin Simmons."

After nearly two years of representing the people of the 131st District, I can say without hesitation that having a strong grasp of the issues is imperative to doing the job well. Not just the big issues being debated in Harrisburg, but the issues that affect our local communities – issues that will never see the light of day in the state capital unless I bring them to the forefront.

I grew up in our community and graduated from Southern Lehigh.  My wife and I look forward to raising our own children here.  I have given my time and energy to local charities and civic organizations.  What does this mean in terms of being a Representative? It means I understand that SOCIAL SECURITY and MEDICARE are federal issues and are not decided at the state level.  I also have an understanding of what issues our local communities face such as the Lower Milford Quarry and the rising crime rate in Allentown – and can fight for those issues in Harrisburg.

I believe knowledge of the issues should be one of the first things that the people of our area demand and deserve in their State Representative.  I assumed it was something that anyone running for office would realize – and would take the time to adequately research. That's why I was so amazed by Kevin Deely’s commercials and mail pieces saying I am going to cut Social Security and Medicare (which I would like to point out again are federal issues not state issues) and during WFMZ's Business Matters candidate debate when my opponent admitted that he was "currently uninformed on that issue" when asked for his position on the Lower Milford Quarry.

I understand that no candidate running for office can be discerning on every issue.  I admit that there was more to learn upon arriving in Harrisburg even though I had spent many months studying in preparation for my legislative duties.  With that being said, I strongly believe that running for office without having knowledge about one of the biggest issues facing our local community over the past seven years is inexcusable.

Just as important as knowing the issues, is being willing to focus on all of them…not just one.  Unfortunately, this is also where my opponent falls short.  As many know, Mr. Deely is a former teachers union president who led the fight for a massive contract that caused property taxes to rise and resulted in a massive budget deficit in the Easton area school district.  Running for Representative, he has focused almost entirely on issues espoused by that union – issues that will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers even more.

The Express-Times noticed this single focus as well, calling Mr. Deely, "a newcomer who is spending most of his energy on one subject" and saying, "his argument that he could be a strong advocate for all taxpayers – not just teachers – isn't very convincing."

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing on the issues, and neither should any other citizen; that is the basis of our representative democracy.  However, not knowing the issues that are so vital to our communities should be of great concern to every citizen.

Jeremy October 19, 2012 at 02:57 PM
17 days until the election and Deely didn't know about the Quarry? I am sure he knows the names of every illegal immigrant in Allentown that will vote for him! What a joke. Hey Dip Sh_t you would have to represent more then just Allentown.
Tanya Bryant October 19, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I received one of those mailers the other day. Typical lets scare senior citizens. Maybe Deely thinks he is running against Tom Smith or Charlie Dent. Remember he is an English teacher not a civics teacher.
Mark Spengler October 19, 2012 at 08:25 PM
According to the PA Municipal Planning Code, if a landowner decides to build a quarry, that is a matter for the local government in Lower Milford Twsp. not a state matter. Please correct me if I'm wrong but that is governed by local zoning laws. The State EPA may review the case but that is not within the grasp of the State House of Reps. A lot is being made of the Easton contract by the Simmons campaign. Nothing at all about the pay freeze they agreed to a short time later or the Corbett education cuts which are still being denied. Still no support of real charter reform that would save tons for taxpayers offered by the Fleck Bill: http://www.repfleck.com/NewsItem.aspx?NewsID=14514 Fleck is a Republican and is not a teacher.
Robert Sentner October 19, 2012 at 08:32 PM
your state rep is there to help you on all matters, We have reached out to State reps in the past on various needs. They usually can help get the ball rolling.
Mark Spengler October 19, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I would agree Rob. However, having a position one way or the other would not seem to matter here. I don't like what is happening with overdevelopment in Lower Mac. but Rep. Mackenzie can't do anything. That is a matter for Lower Mac. Board of Comis. correct? That is unless Harrisburg is going to change the entire Municipal Planning Code.
Bob Thomas October 19, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Hey Mark having a clue about what is going on in the community you want to represent may be a good idea. Just shows that what the Express Times said is right Deely is a one issue candidate. Just like you are a one issue commenter. Education, Education, Education, blah, blah, blah. Oh and another Pay Freeze? Yea Easton teachers got that one year pay freeze back this year. Deely's pay went up $8600 in one year. You want to help taxpayers how about taking a pay cut?
Bob Thomas October 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Even your PSEA President said the Legislators did a good job. What's your problem? “Legislators worked hard to find funds to fill the school funding cuts Gov. Corbett proposed in February,” Crossey said. “There is still a lot more work to be done to solve the school funding crisis and ensure public schools can meet the needs of our students, but we are grateful that legislators stood up and fought for this funding.” http://www.psea.org/general.aspx?id=9566 But I guess he gets paid the same even if you would eventually have to take a pay cut right? Mandatory Union Dues. So maybe he is the only one in your organization that actually cares about the kids, not their paycheck.
Mark Spengler October 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Bob if you want my salary cut I respect your opinion. They agreed to a pay freeze and renegotiated a new contract saving the district $28 million http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2012/07/teachers_union_president_says.html Crossey is talking about the fact that Corbett proposed cuts last year to the block grant but the legislators put the $ back in when the budget revenues came in higher than expected. Cutting the block grant was also said not to be a cut when it was 1st propsed. I agree that a Rep. should know the issues. Not sure a quarry in Lower Milford is an issue for a state race.
John Fox October 19, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Maybe Deely should use his lunch break to sit in on a government class at school, he might learn a thing or two. Unfortunately that would only cure one of the problems, he would at least have a basic understanding of how the government works, but he still wouldn't know any of the issues affecting the district. (although most carpet baggers don't understand the local concerns, so I guess it is to be expected) There are many issues that state representatives cannot control, but being able to understand the people you represent is important. No Mark, I meant the people of the 131st district, not the Teacher Union
Tanya Bryant October 20, 2012 at 01:08 AM
So Mark as Kevin Deely's spokesperson you are saying Kevin Deely doesn't care about the Quarry. And if he is elected he wouldn't do anything to try and help the people of Lower Milford. I see he is a big picture guy and thinks that the problems of the people of Lower Milford are beneath him. Because if he really cared he would have at least found out about the issue. Does he even know where Lower Milford is? Has he been there? You would think the signs may have at least intrigued him to ask a question,
Bob Thomas October 20, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Kevin Deely doesn't know the district period end of story! Look at his website www.kevindeely.com
Bob Thomas October 20, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Mark, Thanks for making my point with your link. Easton is still in trouble, still having problems because of deely's contract and they got an average 6% raise this year. People on Social Security are getting 1.7% more this year. Me less then last year. Hope everyone that got a 6% or higher raise votes for Deely and everyone else for Simmons. Simmons wins 99% to 1%. Funny you are the 1%. If you even lived in the district.
Gramma24 October 20, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Hey Simmons, thanks for the mailer.......ran out of TP and hadn't had a chance to get to the store. Only thing YOUR opinion is worth.
Tanya Bryant October 20, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Pretty rude comment from someone claiming to be a Gramma. In my opinion a comment like that disqualifies you from even commenting. If that is the way you act my guess is your kids and grand kids are probably in Mr. Spengler's classes
Rich Cranium October 20, 2012 at 02:20 AM
If Simmons opinion on his mailers is only worth TP what does that make your opinion worth? Apparently somewhere lower then something used to polish off one's hindquarters...
careless fills October 20, 2012 at 02:25 AM
What happened in Easton is avctually quite simple, and it demonstrates one of the dangers of having a large fund balance. It becomes a target for excess spending that is unsustainable because its one time non-recurring money, as opposed to being continuing revenue. As you know, at Easton, a 5 year contract was agreed to early in 2008. The line item for regular instruction salaries increased 21% between 08-09 and 09-10. I suspect some of that was an increase in the number of positions, but much was pay rate and benefit increases. EASD's 09-10 budget planned a $6.5 million decrease in fund balance, and it turned out to be a $7,5 million deficit. They couldn't hide the problem any more, and the rest is history. Pay freeeze in 2011, layoffs in 2012. East Penn had a similar problem two decades ago, and had consecutive 22% and 10% tax increases. There's no doubt that the meager revenue increases resulting from the economy didn't help EASD, but the bigger problem was the huge pay increases. I have a young friend who survived the cuts so far, but (s)he is laughing to the bank now.
Rich Cranium October 20, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Kind of funny when you think about it, Mr. Deely's mouthpiece, that doesn't even live in the 131st district, knows more about the area that Mr. Deely claims he wants to represent. I think Mr. Fox is right, Deely is a big time carpetbagger. I guess he didn't get the memo that you have at least SEEM like you know the area you want to represent. At least have the people working for you say "hey just so you know there is this quarry thing in Lower Milford, I know it means nothing to you, but just FYI" When confronted about this fact that he knows nothing about the district he just has his mouthpiece deflect back to the same thing Deely has been harping on the entire elections cycle. Education and Teachers, ok Kevin we got it in your first 7 mailers, you will fight for education funding. But that is actually a lie isn't it Kevin? Your really only care about teacher funding. We have already seen that you don't ACTUALLY care about the kids, because you shot down the "race to the top" money because you were afraid you and your fellow teachers might not get as big of a raise the next year if your raises were partially tied to student performance. The fact that the Democrats thought of this guy as a "rising star" is pretty pathetic, more like a black hole if you ask me, ready to suck up all the money the Teacher Union and the Dems want to throw at him. The return... just an empty void with an appetite for more.
Mark Spengler October 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Tanya I'm sorry if you can't see the difference bewtween what state and local government controls. If you think Justin Simmons cares more because he knows about the quarry good for you.
Mark Spengler October 20, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Wow you are insulting children in a class! I think political discussions are important and it is good when people disagree or support different candidates. However, I will no longer be responding to you Tanya. you are a hateful person and need help.
Rich Cranium October 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Mark, the problem is how can Deely claim to represent an area if he doesn't even know what is going on in it? He is going to only care about the teachers union and the rest of the district could burn for all he cares. Maybe as someone who doesn't live in the 131 that means nothing to you, (you know because Deely would really be your Rep because you are a member of the Teacher Union, which is all he cares about) but to the people of the 131 it is important that OUR Representative knows OUR problems.
Robert Sentner October 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I don't know how any one can look at his record in Easton and want to elect this possible dope smoking, union loving, carpet bagger. Really how do you compare Deely to Simmons, and trust me I don't agree with Simmons all the time but I do think he is much much more qualified for the job. I don't know how you fix the schooling problems but I do know that electing someone that is all about protecting his precious union and could give a crap about the kids is not the way to go. look at his record !!!!
careless fills October 20, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Technically, Mr. Spengler is correct - that the municipality controls the zoning, but people seek assistance from their state representatives all the time to help them with problems up or down the government. Your legislator's influence counts, use it! (and as a minimum, we'd expect them to be informed on the issues of the day, wouldn't we?)
Jeremy October 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Mark, You say that the Quarry is a local issue yet you don't mention the Deely commercials and mail that say Simmons is going to cut Social Security and Medicare. Do you agree that these ads are false since these are federal issues not state issues?
Mark Spengler October 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Jeremy I did not see the add. I would agree that state Reps. cannpt cut those programs unless I'm missing something. So one thing I would need to look at is if state have some kind of say as to how the propgrams are implemented. I also want to see the commercial to see the exact language. Do you admit tht Simmons is using this quarry even though he has no say?
Gramma24 October 21, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Oh Tanya, thank you for pointing out my rudeness and ignorance, as alas, I have been told, that being registered a Democrat makes me a godless piece of sh*t. Sweet, huh, I got that from a local church........I stand my ground.......I think Simmons is a worthless sycophant (used a big word for you there) who does just what his handlers, the money bags behind Corbett, Dent, et. al. tell him to do. IF, and I state, IF he had a platform that wasn't premade for him, maybe, just MAYBE it might be worth looking at....for now it's laughable. Sorry, as 'Gramma' I'm not sitting and knitting and letting the 'menfolks' tell me how to vote (Romney-vision).....I tell my kids, and my grandkids, you don't like something, change it.......and certain don't like Simmons or the crap he spews straight from his party line. So, you want rude, Tanya.......bite me.

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