IT’S YOUR FAULT, NOT THE EMPLOYEES

Over the past few years, the legislature and administration have been concerned about the large obligation that the two pension funds obligated to by the state are way underfunded. In the PSERS (teachers) system, it is underfunded to the tune of about 50 billion dollars. That means that if everyone retired now, there would not be enough dough to pay them off.

Lots of legislators have put forth plans that would essentially change the retirement of those in the system right now, as well as those who would be coming into the system in the future. The hint is that these avaricious people have taken advantage of the generous taxpayers who have taken money out of their own budgets to pay the taxes to fund the system. How can we punish these scoundrels?

We could take away the present system of paying their retirement by going to some sort of 401k payout (and we know how that will work from the 2008 major recession). We can also screw the new people coming in by going to something like a defined benefit plan (of which no one knows what that means). It would also mean less of a  payout.

How did these horrible people screw the public? The answer is- they didn’t. They really didn’t. They had NADA to do with it. The stories about how the teachers and state workers worked their magic to increase their payouts are a bunch of caca de toro. Those who were responsible for the mess are those who make the laws and decided to underfund the system and enrich their own retirement payouts.

It started in 1998-99, when the employee’s contribution percentage was lower than the employers (state and local school district) rate. I had started my career in PA when everyone paid the same percent. That went on for years. Somehow, that started not to work. The state and local school districts began to contribute more sometime in the early 1980’s. The tide completely changed in 1998-99 when the combined contribution of the state and local school districts descended to a lower rate than the employees.

That scene stayed the same for twelve years. In the early 1990’s there was a laws passed that gave employees additional years beyond those that they had accumulated. Then in 2005, the legislature increased the employees multiplier from 2.0 to 2.5  t AND increased their own multiplier to 3.0. That also included the judges. That was later changed back again. However with that action and with the diminution of the stock market investments we wound up in our current situation.

What’s a multiplier- if you take your three highest years of salary and multiply it my .02 (now) and then by your number of years worked, you get your total retirement. You must have 35 years in to get a full retirement in (the state system is 25 years), or age 65. You can see how that would work. Check it out for yourself. In 2010 the actuaries kind of changed the number of years needed to completely fund the system.

The blame is still being placed on the workers. Even with a change to current and future employees, it will not diminish the 50 or so billion that is needed to pay off the current workers. Blame the victim; it’s always a good stratagem.

Advertisements

IMPEACH THEM ALL

I normally am not a person concerned with the judicial system here in Pennsylvania. I am more attuned to the Supreme Court of the United States and its machinations. I have a degree in political science and have been a somewhat follower of many of the Supremes landmark decisions. I very rarely am cognizant of what our Commonwealth, Superior, or Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has to say.

They are normally pretty political in their decisions and do not seem to have the capacity to make any landmark decisions. They neither turn to the left or right, but turn with the political winds. Our Supreme Court has been rife with individuals who have been quite nutty, openly political, removed from office, or forced to resign. You can see the reason that I have not paid much attention to them.

However, there have been two times when I have paid attention. Both times, they affected me and rural schools personally. In, 1991 our organization, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) filed a suit saying that the state was inequitable in its distribution of funds to its school districts. It was pretty obvious to everyone that the state (legislature and administrations) were not following the “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth” strictures in the state constitution. No one doubted that the then current system was screwed up.

The case was in Commonwealth Court till 1999. At the end of the case, the judge, at the time, wrote a decision that would not have been in our favor. We had 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court before that decision was made final. It is called King’s Bench. The Supreme Court said that our claims were not justiciable. That was the last straw after so many years. Our case could not really be decided by the courts. Only the legislature could change, or make the system more equitable.

The surprise was that they made no decision. We were one of two cases out of about 25 in the nation where the courts said that they had no right to decide. All the other cases were yes or no verdicts about the fairness of the funding system.

As a result, we lobbied hard to get funds to rural schools and were pretty successful. However, by the time 2008 rolled around, the system had fallen on its head. Federal dollars that were used to prop up the system were withdrawn and a new administration cut over one billion dollars from the funding streams. That caused a group of interest groups to gather to see whether there had been any changes to allow a real decision about school funding.

The new group, which included school districts, PARSS (again), the NAACP, individual kids and parents thought that since we had new standards and testing, we could actually show what “thorough and efficient” really meant. The case was filed in November of 2014. The arguments were made about a month ago. The hearing before the Commonwealth court was en banc with the same judge that in 1999 had made a negative decision now the chief judge of the court.

The hearing was a disaster and smacked of a circus. One of the lawyers from the state called the hearing “Groundhog Day.” He felt that we had returned again. That would have been funny in other circumstances, but not in this case talking about 1,700,000 children. Since 1979 there have only been three cases of this sort challenging the distribution of funds.

One of the judges said that the case that they heard about a political appointment earlier in the day would be the most important case that the Commonwealth Court had ever seen. The conclusion seemed to be that the only responsibility of the government and the definition of “thorough and efficient” was that turning on of the lights was all that was required.

The actual decision was made this past Tuesday (April 21, 2015). These are the words of one of the lobbying groups for public schools, Education Voters. “We are disappointed that on Tuesday, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dismissed the school funding lawsuit, citing that the Courts have no role to play in ensuring that the state legislature adhere to the constitution by providing a “thorough and efficient” system of funding public education that provides all children in the Commonwealth with the most basic resources they need to meet state standards.”

How can a court defend its position when the state constitution had education as one of its major duties? Who then determines if the system of public schools is being run properly? Is it the legislature that decides whether their actions are legal and proper? It does not seem to be in any other case that the final decisions on such things as ethics, municipal procedures, labor relations and so on. This is all very strange.

The case will now come before our supreme court. I am not at all hopeful. They could just say, as they did in the earlier case in 1999 that this is not a justiciable issue. It is now time to look into what the responsibilities are of our judicial system. Is it time to revisit Rodriguez in federal court (1973 case voted 5-4 that the feds do not have responsibility for education)?

DEATH IN THE CAPITOL-CHAPTER XXXX

It’s been a year since the story of the Sons of Liberty concluded. My family is now back in our new home. Margaret has been back at her job. Jonathan has concluded his high school career and is taking a year off before he enters college. We are very proud of him for all of the help that he gave us during a trying period of time in our family’s life. He decided that he needed another year to mature before he left for the next four years. Sara is now a senior at the University of Seattle and is planning on going to law school. What a surprise! I thought that I was kind of done with college loans after she graduated.

Our lives are back to normal, or some semblance of normal. The investigation of the Sons of Liberty goes on and on. In many cases proving that members had done anything illegal was almost impossible. However, the materials that were found in Bill McIntosh’s home sounded a death knell for the organization. Somehow, McIntosh got wind of the Attorney General’s task force and the federal grand jury that was empaneled to determine the scope of the organizations activities.

McIntosh was found in his home in Framingham, Massachusetts dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. The end of his life did not seem to match what he had been planning. I thought that he might want a show trial to espouse his views. We were never going to hear anything from him, other than some papers that he had left behind. He also left behind a treasure trove of information about what was going on in each state. Although he did not list all of the activities, he listed all of the Masters in each state and a somewhat rambling report of the officials who were part of the plot.

I was not given that kind of information. However, Commander Waslewski, who was in the middle of the Pennsylvania investigation stopped by our house one evening to let me in on some things. I was shocked by what he told me. A number of members of the legislature, both parties, were part of the eventual plan to take over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In fact, the Lt. Governor, who resigned three months ago, was set to take over the top spot, when the current governor had an unfortunate accident.

I would never be the same again. The names that Waslewski gave me were folks that I had lobbied  on behalf of rural schools. I wonder what they were thinking when they spoke to me and other lobbyists. I guess I’ll never know. I get a call from the AG once in a while, just checking on my welfare and thanking me for uncovering the Pennsylvania part of the plot. I thank him and ask no more questions. Frankly, I don’t really want to know more.

DEATH IN THE CAPITOL-CHAPTER XXXIX

I had one thing to do before all of this became public. I had to find out what Steve McElroy had to do with the Sons of Liberty. I could not believe that he was involved with such a nefarious plot. After we got back from Washington I called Steve and asked him if I could come over. He seemed to be happy to hear from me. When I entered his home, he greeted me with a sense of relief. “I am so happy that you are o.k. Chet. I was really worried about you and your family,” he intoned.

“Steve, I have something to ask you. When I asked you to call the state police commander, you said that you had done it and I found out that you hadn’t. Are you part of this plan to take over both the state and the national government by the Sons of Liberty?” Steve looked at me and smiled. “Chet, I am so happy that this is finally out in the open. I did not call Commander Waslewski because the Attorney General asked me not to. We could not be sure that he was not in cahoots with the Sons of Liberty.” I was shocked. How did Steve know about the Attorney General and why didn’t I know about his involvement? “Listen Chet, I was also Sam Ellis’ friend. He confided in me about what was going on and the threats and entreaties that were made to him by the Sons of Liberty. He told me that he could not do it himself, but wanted me to contact the U.S. Attorney’s office and maybe even the AG and tell him what was going on. I eventually got to Grover Melbourne who was glad to get any of the information that Sam Ellis had. He told me not to say anything to anyone about what we had found out.

After the senator was killed, I called Melbourne and he told me that my life was probably in danger and to keep my head down. I was both happy and sad to find out that you were in the same position as I was. That is why I was concerned enough to help you be safe.”

I am sure that the look on my face told Steve that I was so happy to find out that he was still my friend and not my enemy.

DEATH IN THE CAPITOL-CHAPTER XXXVIII

On our way back from Washington, Commander Waslewski got a call on his cell with and interesting piece of information. As I mentioned before, both the local cops and state police were going past my new rental home at odd times during the day and night. Evidently, one of the police was cruising through the neighborhood when he notices what appeared to be light coming from the home that I was renting. He knew that I was in Washington and could not have been home. He called headquarters and requested some backup with local police.

Upon surrounding the house, they apprehended two men who seemed to be searching the house from top to bottom. Both were carrying weapons and one had a concealed garrote attached to his belt buckle. Since this was a very unusual finding, they called both the local police chief Banion and Commander Waslewski’s office. The two were now in custody for breaking and entering and there was a thought that maybe these two might have something to do with the murder of Senator Ellis and the fire at Chet Wainright’s house and the attempt on his life.

A great burden was lifted from my shoulders. I could honestly say that this was the kind of news that I had been waiting for. I was never sure that someone might try to kill me again, but I knew that I was being watched for both positive and negative reasons. The two men who were caught refused to give their names. They had no identification. The police were in the process of taking their fingerprints and going through all of the fingerprint data bases.

They did not turn out to have a criminal record. Interestingly enough, they were from the Philadelphia area and had some connection to the person on city council called Ebenezer Edes. That was a name that was known to us. He was the city councilman from Philadelphia that we had run across before. Things seemed to be tied together at that moment. Could it be that Edes was the master of Pennsylvania, assigned to keep things about the Sons of Liberty quiet?

All of this could be disclosed when the Attorney General and his people investigated the house in Framingham Massachusetts owned by William McIntosh.

DEATH IN THE CAPITOL-CHAPTER XXXVII

How can I go any further with my efforts when I know that someone that I have respected for many years is part of a nefarious plot to take over the government of both state and federal governments? What will happen if we are successful and Steve McElroy is caught up in the net that must be cast to drag in all of the members of the Sons of Liberty? Am I going to regret going this far, or will I know that I am doing the right thing.

There are no choices now. Although I am just a small fish in a large ocean, my conscience yells at me that I must go ahead. Whatever happens at the end can only be better for our country if these people can be stopped. If that means that Steve is caught up in it, so be it.

Within a few days, Commander Waslewski had somehow managed to finagle a meeting with the Attorney General. I was surprised that he was able to get a private meeting with Grover Melbourne. Seems to me that he must have spoken to him directly and not to some subordinate. When we drove down to Washington together, he told me how he did it.

His first call was to inform the Attorney General, via a message, of who he was and referred to the community policing program that he ran in Pennsylvania. He then was able to convince one of the Deputy Attorneys General that he had a matter of state and national security to discuss with the AG. Although the deputy wanted to know what it was, Commander Waslewski insisted that this was for the AG’s ears only. That is how we got the appointment.

When we arrived, we were led into the AG’s office. There was a stenographer sitting to the side of the AG. Melbourne greeted us warmly and asked if we wanted any refreshments. Commander Waslewski introduced me as a good friend and also a good friend of Senator Sam Ellis, recently deceased (murdered) state senator from Northeastern Pennsylvania. The AG’s faced changed its demeanor as Commander Waslewski proceeded to describe Senator Ellis death.

At that moment, the AG must have seen where this was heading and asked the stenographer to leave the room. Melbourne said, “I have a feeling that I am going to learn something at this meeting that I really do not want to discuss outside of this room.” We both agreed. I then told the AG all of the happenings of the last two months. He listened intently. He took no notes and asked no questions. Commander Waslewski told of his phone call from the person who had offered to help him.

After we spoke, the AG looked at us and said, “Fortunately for us both, I believe your entire story. I have no doubt that the Sons of Liberty are behind the murder of Senator Ellis, as well as an attempt on my own life some months ago.”

Waslewski and I both looked at each other. “You then know of the Sons of Liberty,” I asked. “Yes, I have known about them for some time. During my time as Attorney General for the state of New York, I was apprised of them in a number of ways, mostly from a stool pigeon, who traded his membership in the Sons of Liberty for a reduced sentence on a felony charge.” The President is also aware of the organization and takes its activities very seriously. Your visit to me here today is very propitious. I have gathered a task force of special agents to break the back of the organization, destroy its command and control center in Framingham, Massachusetts and arrest a number of state officials in the fifty states, including Pennsylvania for treasonous activity.”

DEATH IN THE CAPITOL- CHAPTER XXXVI

The question now arose, what do we do with all of the information that we had gathered? Who could we trust that would actually believe us and not be a part of the Sons of Liberty? We had drawn a number of conclusions about membership in the Sons of Liberty. Without being too prejudiced, we have determined that the Sons of Liberty may be mostly comprised of men attached in some way to the families of the original Sons of Liberty. We would therefore, not be out of line to assume that all, or almost all of those involved now are men. That would eliminate 50% of the population.

Furthermore, from the scant information that we have gleaned from some research and some family names associated with the original Sons of Liberty, we could eliminate certain religious and ethnic groups. We then come up with a pretty carefully constructed group of those with ancestors that go back to the Revolutionary War Years and not those who have come to our welcoming shores after that. We understood that those were very broad generalizations to work with. We had to trust some people with what we have found out. We scanned a list of possible candidates for inclusion and came up with a clear choice- Grover Melbourne, the federal Attorney General.

Melbourne did not fall into the Sons of Liberty category and was known as a straight shooter with a clean bill of political health. Now came the question of how to reach him without going through a series of people who might be part of the conspiracy. Commander Waslewski thought that he might have direct access to the AG by dint of some federal programs that his organization had applied for and gotten. He actually met the AG once in Washington a number of years ago. He knew that the AG would not remember him, but might remember the program- a novel way of involving the community in policing various neighborhoods.

We, Jane, the Commander and I, agreed that would be, at least, a good effort.