DISCLAIMER: None of what follows is intended to be a personal physical threat to anyone regardleas of what Seth Grove or any member of the media may claim.
I made a lengthy post a few weeks back concerning the excuses related to HB/SB 76 and that can be read at this link for those interested: https://jmrodkey.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/excuses-without-solutions/
For those willing to buy into the narrative that I’m some crazy individual out spewing hate and encouraging actions of violence towards our legislators I would encourage spending some time on this blog and reading some of my previous posts, especially those related to the property tax. Otherwise just accept what you are told by a media that refuses to do their job and the legislators who don’t really represent you. Read no further.
Becoming the center of a controversy is not a pleasant experience. As most of the readers of this blog know, I have been very vocal in my support of HB/SB 76. As part of my expression and frustration at the leadership in the House in their unwillingness to give Property Tax Independence a fair shot I created a wanted poster that carried a picture of Mike Turzai. I am including the poster in this blog so that you, the reader, can evaluate it as you read on. Double disclaimer: The inclusion of this poster is not to incite any violence or any threat outside of the threat of a ballot box removal of certain legislators from office. Since most media outlets are talking about it but few are actually showing it in its entirety in the nature of fairness I have included it here.
I posted this on facebook on June 9th, almost 5 months ago. Comments followed, none of them threatening, and after a few days I removed the post. Then 4 months later Rep. Grove posts it on his facebook page following a debacle in the house claiming he won’t be intimidated and attached the Bon Jovi song to it – Wanted: Dead or Alive.
When I created this poster I deliberately left the words Dead Or Alive from the poster so as not to include any sense of violence and, as you can see from the poster itself, it is purely an election issue concerning using the ballot box to remove these legislators from office.
Suddenly this poster is being used by Seth Grove who is pushing the “Dead Or Alive” nature even though he was the one to make the connection not me.
Apparently there has been some aggressive threats towards the representatives and Seth Grove and Kerry Benninghoff are blaming this poster and asking everyone to look beyond their own actions in the House and ignore their statements as the possible cause for hostile responses, if such responses actually exist. I say if because one of the claims is an outright distortion of the truth.
When the House reconvened 4 bills related to property tax were introduced, none of which were given any scrutiny at all. They were not only introduced but they were rushed through committee and brought up on the floor for consideration. In the meantime HB 76 was still being attacked using a series of excuses by these legislators in the picture. Rep. Grove posted on his facebook page that David Baldinger was the Great Deceiver while accusing Rep. Jim Cox of being unwilling to work with others and with being incompetent in his presentation of the bill.
When news of the 4 bills broke and we had a chance to actually read the bills we saw right through the attempt to offer the same type of phony relief instead of real property tax reform. News of the bills reached the facebook group that supports HB/SB 76 and one member responded to these bills by saying Kill Them All and sort ’em out later. That’s the quote Rep. Grove is using and he’s taking this quote entirely out of context. The full paragraph written by this individual makes it clear that he’s talking about these bills and not the legislators. If Grove saw the comment then he saw the paragraph and he knows darn well he is deliberately misrepresenting what this individual stated. If he’s willing to stoop to that level of misrepresentation how much lower is he willing to go in these other allegations.
During the House consideration of these bills Rep Cox attempted to introduce HB 76 as an amendment to one of the other property tax bills, HB 1189 (Seth Grove’s Bill) which led to a lengthy debate on the House Floor where an IFO report that had not been released to other House members was twisted to create a negative spin. Since no House member could actually look at the IFO report and the public had not had a chance to review it yet tempers began to rise. Then in the debate, Rep Evankovic went on a 20 minute tirade on the floor stating that the property tax elimination would not provide the necessary revenue to pay for the Public Sector Employees pensions. Tempers flared even higher. There are many senior citizens who have come out of retirement to pay their property tax bills in the hopes of keeping their homes and yet they were expected to foot the bill for the early retirement of others, and a very comfortable retirement at that. There are other younger, especially lower income families, who can simply not keep up with property taxes that grow 2 and 3 times the rate of inflation. To then hear legislators in this debate using the “bought too much house” excuse only further aggravated that anger.
None of this is an excuse for any threat of violence but to point to the poster, after almost 5 months and claim the poster and not the words and actions of the representatives was the possibility for such a response is irresponsible journalism.
Seth Grove then took the story of the poster and “threats” and began running to the media with it conveniently leaving out large portions of the narrative. The news media has not requested verification of any information they are being told and merely taking the legislators word for what’s being said because apparently politicians never tell an untruth.
I have never hid my intention of making this an election issue. I stated as much during the rally on September 24th. As a citizen, it is my responsibility to be as informed on the issues as possible and to vote my conscience. The rally brings up another very important issue that none of the media outlets have addressed even though I clearly explained this to them in the interviews with me.
There have been two public hearings since the poster was made back in June. One in the House and one more recently in the Senate related to the IFO report. Nothing happened….no threats, no violence. Kerry Benninghoff, by his own admission, attended a town hall in Shillington with a room full of ardent and vocal supporters of HB 76 and again, nothing happened. No Threats and no violence. Seth Grove also admits to holding a town hall and again, nothing happened, no threats, no violence.
On September 24th 400 supporters of HB/SB 76 converged on Harrisburg. They spent from 10 am until 12:30 going from legislator to legislator offices and speaking with them in a citizen lobbying effort of support for HB/SB 76. There were no incidents, no problems, no threats and no violence.
In the media representation of this narrative there is a very large and untold story that isn’t a very popular story to be told. In the third quarter of this year the State now faces 1 billion….(that’s not a typo, billion, not million) in unpaid property tax related debt. Foreclosures, bankruptcy, tax liens, reverse mortgages and seized properties are all on the rise across the state. The IFO report clearly shows why. In the past 20 years we have seen an increase of 147% in the property tax. It also shows that this is going to continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation and it shows the inevitable….property tax in its current form is absolutely unsustainable.
In these articles Rep Benninghoff has stated that he’s never seen such response related to a piece of legislation. I’m sorry Mr. Benninghoff but you are missing the point, it’s not just about the legislation, it’s about peoples homes. It’s about people who decide between food and meds or paying their property tax bills. It’s about young families who desperately want to break free from rental servitude and move into home ownership but can’t because they look at property taxes and it stops them from making that step.
Throughout this debate we have seen constant excuses in the opposition to HB/SB 76 in the House and those excuses have all been spearheaded by the individuals on the poster. They weren’t chosen at random to be included here. They are the most vocal of the opponents. Rather than take a stand for the citizens of this state they have hid behind excuses and sought to blame everyone else for their own inaction on this effort.
Now we get more of the same and a media outlet that used to be there to look out for the people is defending them, simply taking their word for everything and making no attempts of verifying if there is any truth in any of their claims. At times, they are not simply just repeating the misrepresentation of Grove, as in the case of the Kill Them All comment, they are adding to the fire.
I created the poster on my own. It was not sanctioned nor was it promoted by the PTCA nor the PTCC. I did it and I am willing to accept full accountability for the poster. My question however is are the legislators also willing to take full responsibility for their actions.
Is my retirement or my home to be jeopardized because the legislators are not willing to deal with the pension debacle and are comfortable with pushing it down to us through local property taxes? Yes or no!
You see, we are talking about people’s homes and just as people will deny them self proper food or healthcare in an attempt to keep their homes, they are also being pushed to a point where they might say or do something very stupid in an attempt to cling to that property. That’s not an excuse for such action but it is also a possible reason that these legislators refuse to accept.
To many Pennsylvanians there is a very real danger, not just a threat of a danger. That moment in life when the inevitable comes and you realize you can no longer afford to stay in your home through no actions or fault of your own. Your property taxes have exceeded your ability to pay and now a lifetime of investment and memories can be gone. In a down market, selling a home can be very difficult and when you only have two years from the time you can no longer afford to pay the taxes to the time the house is sold you could very well see the sheriff turn up at your home and have you removed from your property. Your home will then be sold on the auction block with the only considerations being remaining debt (if there is any), back taxes and fees associated with the collection of those taxes. Your 100,000 to 200,000 home can be sold for pennies on the dollar and you lose it all. But that’s okay, we’ll just blame angry responses to such an action on a digital poster that calls for replacing those who aren’t fighting to actually stop this and are in fact doing everything to stop the only piece of legislation that will.
To then get behind a bill like 1189 or Benninghoff’s own bill which expands the taxing powers of the school districts with no voter referendums necessary at all and try and pass this off as a solution and again, the anger is about a digital poster and not their own actions and deeds. How convenient!
The runaway spending in education is not a result of band uniforms as Mr Benninghoff told us at the Shillington town hall. Rising school taxes have nothing to do with fire engines regardless of what Mr. Benninghoff said at the same meeting. We see through this and we know these statements for what they are….excuses and more attempts to push the blame down to someone else.
Telling us that we’ve been fighting for elimination for 30 years and we got nothing has not one single thing to do with us…it is the legislators. Blame us if you will but we elected you to do something about it, not to stand in the way of getting it done. Like the pension; Like the ever increasing unfunded mandates; like prevailing wage reform; like countless other needed reforms in the state-it’s not happening because of a handful of legislators who constantly are more interested in obstructing this type of legislation then they are with fighting for the constitutionally protected rights of the people.
Just as you have sought to blame everyone else for runaway school taxes you have refused to accept your own accountability for the pension problem you have created and have instead chosen to keep pushing this down on homeowners. Just as you have ignored your responsibility to cap the growth of spending to inflation in relation to the property tax, you blame the school districts while ignoring the unfunded mandates coming out of the legislative bodies and the departments and agencies you have created.
That’s what we get, excuses and blame. Apparently business as usual in Harrisburg isn’t that different from business as usual in Washington DC.
So here is my only threat to you personally: I will do everything in my power to work to unseat those who have deliberately chosen to ignore their Constitutional responsibilities through their oath of office and I will not be intimidated by anyone. Your attempt to use this poster to hide behind while you ignore your own actions and highly offensive words to the supporters of this legislation might be missed by those who prefer perception to truth. It is not missed by those who have followed this legislation very closely.
While you have implied that the poster incited these alleged threats, I state that the poster was created in response to your actions. That doesn’t make the poster right or wrong. It’s just applying the same logic you are using. If we want to trace this back historically, as Seth Grove has claimed in his interviews, lets go all the way back and lets start looking at what he posted on facebook that is, perhaps, the real reason for the alleged incited anger.
I would also ask you to look to the Senate. The Senate has engaged in reasonable and responsible debate on these bills. We are not hearing excuses and we’ve see no attempts at blaming everyone else for the problems. We are also not seeing the same anger and frustration from the citizens because here, at least for now, they seem to have heard us and are willing to look for solutions, not someone to blame.