Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bread and Circuses*

*(Kudos to Anonymous @ 3:00pm)

Posted by: DRL

I could not respond to Noel's post on the Democratic Committee situation within the space allotted for comments. Here is my take.

The two party system - like all other economic, social, educational and management systems in America - is failing. We are a society blindfolded and headed off a cliff - and doing it at a happy and vigorous trot. The roots of this dilemma are decades old but that doesn't mean we are any better at recognizing them.

I ran for Democratic precinct rep in the West Ward's Eight-West voting, that's not accurate. I wrote my own name in for a vacant position and won with one vote. This outcome occurred for a number of reasons:

A) I have one, overarching goal that will become apparent later in this post.

B) Total voter apathy. To be expected surely.

C) I had been needled for months about this being some kind of duty I should perform to "help save the party" in Easton, although

I never said I'd do it.

D) The ballot position was empty when I entered the voting booth and I'm always annoyed by lack of representation.

E) Sometimes you just say what-the-fuck and do things on the spur of the moment. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

In retrospect it was probably a futile gesture on my part, best left to someone who still sees benefit in such repugnant processes as political committees. I'd much relate it to a quote often mis-attributed to Otto von Bismark, first Chancellor of Germany; "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." Although this is probably not the literal translation, the same goes for committee dealings.

The Northampton County Committee meeting I attended at Louise Moore Park last month was a fiasco. I expected a certain level of bafoonery from Charles (I-never-met-an-office-I-didn't-want-to-run-for) Dertinger and he certainly didn't disappoint me. His little Hitleresque sidekick (name unknown - at least to me) kept hopping up and down from his seat with points of order like an organ grinder's monkey. Their shenanigans, combined with the lack of an advance agenda, seemingly no order to the conduction of the meeting and constant interference with Easton members attempts to get committee business done, pegged the needle on my bullshit meter into the red zone after about 90 minutes.

I left quickly and quietly before the urge to punch somebody in the head got the best of me, but with the contented resolve that it would be my last meeting and that I certainly don't need any more emotional turmoil in my life at a time when I am trying to hold what's left of my economic existance together, as I'm sure most of those reading this are as well. Whether I actually resign officially is up in the air at this point and I reserve the right to sit on the sidelines for a while and let the more strong-stomached among us have at it for a while. If and when things get straightened out I can always re-enter the fray.

I told everyone and anyone who would listen exactly why I was on the committee in the first place and what they needed to do to get my committee vote:

Get rid of the Flecks, Vulcanos and Joe Longs of the world (see reason "A" above). Until this is achieved all else matters little. Their skills are well honed for the positions they aspire to. They are wonderful at playing the political game: backslapping, glad handing, cultivating backroom deals and knowing where their bread is buttered: valuable skills for those whose lives revolve around the allusion to power. Governing is quite another matter and none of these people have shown me the slightest leadership ability in the eleven years I've been active in Easton. The only thing they've lead in is the line to the banquet table.

Look, we're in trouble. Obama was elected on "change". So far it's the same old shit with a new face. Banks, auto companies, energy extraction corporations...they are bleeding us to death but I don't even see wrists being slapped let alone any heads rolling. I've spoken to Callahan twice very briefly - once about train service. I'll see him in a more intimate setting in a few weeks and probably have a chance to make some evaluations about him but I don't know jack about what he stands for. Onarato: wouldn't know him if I fell over him. I did get a phone call from his campaign last week - a real person, not a recording. Maybe that's because I'm a committee person now instead of a regular schmuck voter. The woman ended the conversation by saying how great I was going to do the rest of this year now that real estate was taking off again. Huh!?! What freaking world are these people living in.

This state now faces the biggest threat to it's physical existence in history; natural gas drilling at the expense of the largest unfiltered water supply on planet earth and the only un-dammed river east of the Mississippi. Under this threat, Rendell is negotiating for gas extraction taxes in exchange for "pooling" laws which will make it legal for gas corporations to take private property by eminent domain if a certain percentage of surrounding owners sell out first. Good-bye Constitution.

Under these clouds, the EDC/NCDC infighting is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I am looking for a better way. Hoping won't get it don't



Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I’ve sat on the sidelines while a lot of Vulcano bashing has been posted on this blog because I felt that I didn’t have enough information to weigh in.

At this juncture, I think it’s only fair to say that I disagree that we should “get rid of” the Vulcanos. As a member of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership’s Community and Economic Opportunity Committee, Sandra Vulcano has reliably supported ongoing development and new initiatives in the West Ward. She is one of the few committee members to consistently attend meetings, at which she lends valuable insight and support. Sandra Vulcano is also a friend and ally to the West Ward’s community newspaper, The West Word, giving her early support for the concept when others on the committee could not wrap their minds around the paper’s mission or potential. Sandra Vulcano is not even the West Ward’s representative to City Council, but represents another district, so her commitment to the West Ward is admirable.

Yes, politicians that have served for a long time can get tired and complacent, but in my opinion, Sandra Vulcano has served well and continues to work energetically on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

Doing what it takes to keep power by making friends and when their issue comes up being on their side. Nice if issue is reasonable and for the good of the community.

You still don't have enough info to weigh in but congrats on your new friend.

Carinne said...

Can anyone please name a goal or positive achievement that the Volcanos or Flecks have accomplished in the last 5 years? I am not looking for wordy paragraphs about them attending meetings, sharing opinions, and liking out load every idea shared. I am also not looking for “got another person in office” answers. I would like to know anything positive and real that came as a direct and non arguable result, of their attendance, opinion sharing, etc.
Hypothetical Example to be clear: the Easton Area School board was going to make a bad decision (state specifically what) on this date, but then a Volcano and or Fleck acted (did or said specifically this) and a better result occurred.
Or something like,“hey remember when the city was going to foolishly use that grant money, and if it wasn’t for this Fleck or that Volcano, it would have happened?
These are the kinds of facts I wish I could find out.
Unfortunately, in the very short time of my presence and interest in these issues, I can only honestly post 2 facts.
1.Pat Volcano was completely absent from all final school board meetings were his vote GREATLY mattered to the entire community. His health was blamed, but he was not absent from other meetings only days before or after.
2.Mike Fleck attended the final school board meeting only to grandstand, or as he said later “really give ‘em hell” about their poor choices along the way. Most of the crowd really liked the yelling but I couldn’t help but think “too little too late”.
As people, both families seem nice, and very friendly for sure. I just know that being "really nice" and having free time to attend stuff isn't good enough when it comes to being a leader or getting things done.

Anonymous said...

Sandra Vulcano is on CACLV's Board of Directors. Thats how she came to be on the committee. She was asked.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

The other comments have addressed the Vulcano/Fleck question quite adequately. Her position on CACLV's board may appear as a plus to some (I won't try to persuade anyone otherwise if that is their perception) but behind the scenes it has been a hindrance to getting anything done since the WWNP was formed. Both her and Fleck's outrageous behavior at council meetings during their tenures has been an insult to the public that attends and tries to be progressive.

It would be too wordy for me to get into all the uncooperative and/or downright counter-productive incidents I've encountered while dealing with them, but just two examples:

When those of us who saw the Riverwalk project for the potential disaster it could become went to council for help, Vulcano used the new CVS pharmacy on Southside as a comparison. Her quote: "I don't like that project in my neighborhood but you can't fight progress."

When another person and I went to city council to ask why they had been sitting on the Rental Unit Licensing Ordinace for over nine months without implimenting it and informed them how things were deteriorating in the West Ward, both Fleck and Vulcano lead a character bashing session against us, said there was nothing wrong with the West Ward and that people like us were th problem - we should move out of Easton.

This is what we have to look forward to at times of crisis.


Carinne said...

Dennis, thank you for your examples. It’s unfortunate that they are 2 more examples on the negative side. I know that the truth is not always positive, but still always prefer to hear it. To the anonymous post before Dennis, I hope that is not a response to my questions. I don’t know how much clearer I could be. I don’t care what board of directors someone is on; I care what they actually DID on that board. What did she personally DO on that board that was an accomplishment or positive result for the community? Why was she asked to be on it? What positive qualities were observed in her that lead to this? Qualities such as “saying yes when invited to be part of committees”, is not what I am looking for. Neither is “she’s not afraid to stand up and criticizes others, or tell ‘em to leave town if they don’t love everything about it”.
I am not on a side here, just really new to the people and process involved with local politics. I am asking questions, eager to know the recent history of it all. Dennis, since you seem to understand the definition of “fact” and “did do/ did not do” I would like to get a beer with you sometime to learn more about your personal experiences. I respect anyone who has been active in the community longer than me (Volcanos and Flecks too), if for no other reason than being involved. Now I would like to know who that is involved deserves any respect,for any other reasons.

noel jones said...

Way to dive in, Carinne. I know you are an independent thinker and will give a open ear to all sides and then form your own opinion. And I like it that you are both assertively engaging locally and yet smart enough to recognize that others have put in years--even decades--involved in the community (both through political engagement and otherwise) and that you have respect for what you don't know.

If more residents dive in this unabashedly and engage in our locally democracy, we'll be able to revitalize Easton. Thanks for stepping up to be a precinct captain and being willing to put yourself through this crash course in local politics!

Anonymous said...

Point is that her service on the committee is not "admirable." She is there as the eyes and ears of CACLV. Even more valuable to them is her position as a City Council member. CACLV has business before council every once in a while.

No one will have read it in any minutes or heard Sandra Vulcano in any meetings be against the community initiative to keep Cottingham for the community two years ago. But Pat Vulcano was against it. He wanted to sell the building. And without any explanation to the community CACLV refused to support the initiative even though it was started and developed in the WWNP committee meetings. Behind the scenes, friends doing friends a is so human and so natural. But whats fair to say is that we all need to cut it out.

DRL said...


Thank You


Beer is doable. I'll get in touch.

Everyone else...

I have prejudices towards certain people in the public realm based on my own experiences. I simply have reached the point where I'm no longer willing to camoflauge them for the good of the cause. Make your own character decisions based on the facts: on what you experience first hand...both what is said and done in public and what really gets said and done behind closed doors.


Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I stand by my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Julie your post says it all. Yes the Vulcanos have been involved in the community a long time and yes they have served in many capacities. But look at their record and you will see that for the most part they have represented the working class of Easton residents. Of course they are political, that's what allows them to keep getting elected. However, they are both good in a group elected position like school board and council but when Pat ran for mayor he was soundly defeated. But he came back and continues to serve.

I laugh at people who whine about "career politicians" but never place their name in the fray.

noel jones said...

Anon 11:33 I trust that you're not referring to Dennis, who has put his name on the ticket twice at the urging of West Ward neighbors...and has been "in the fray" as a community watchdog for the last decade, taking plenty of heat when others were afraid to stick their necks out. None of us is perfect, and Dennis has his shortcomings like anyone posting to this blog (particularly--aHEM--with regard to DIPLOMACY) but what cannot be lobbed with any integrity as a criticism against him is that he is one of those 'people who whine(s) about "career politicians" but never place their name in the fray.'

This is an odd criticism from someone posting to a blog anonymously--never mind putting one's name on the ballot.

Carinne has also put her name "in the fray" and is asking a specific question question here--not asking for generalities like "works for working families"--supporters of the Vulcanos are invited to post specific votes and initiatives here that have benefitting working families (or done other good things for Easton).

Anonymous said...

My comments were not directed at anyone but rather in support of the Vulcanos, especially Sandy and to others who choose to serven in public office. I will say however that it would be difficult for anyone to win a write in election placing their name just twp weeks prior. If GRL would run agaion I would again vote for him. But today's political campaigns are unfortuynately becomming longer, not shorter.

noel jones said...

"But today's political campaigns are unfortuynately becomming longer, not shorter."

Agreed--an almost nonstop vocation--especially on the national level...

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Thanks for the kind words. I know I screw up regularly. I also try to adjust my tactics based on past experience...And I'm know longer interested in diplomacy in the face of the problems we face.


Not interested in changing your opinion. You are capable of forming your own. Just giving my opinion of the status quo based on 11 years of dealing with it.

For the record, if anyone out there remembers, Pat Vulcano's bumbling, embarrassing attempt at running for mayor set the democratic party in Easton back a decade and guaranteed placement of the city in the hands of Tom Goldsmith for three terms: in my opinion clearly the worst mayor in Easton's history.