Monday, May 18, 2020

Auditor General Candidates

The offices on the primary ballot are US President, PA State Attorney General, PA Auditor General, PA Treasurer, US Representative, State Senator, State Rep, and Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Presidential Conventions. I'm starting with Auditor General because on the Democratic ballot, 6 choices are listed, and they aren't well-known names for most people (neither is the GOP candidate--I'll do him too). I'll list a short bio (most from for each, but feel free to research all the candidates on your own. That's the nice thing about doing a mail-in ballot. You can take your time and fact-check these candidates before deciding.

Pennsylvania's Auditor General is the chief fiscal watchdog of the commonwealth. The office is responsible for using audits to ensure that all state money is spent legally and properly. So keep in mind that you'd probably want someone who understands money to do this job.


Harry Scott Conklin is in the PA House of Representatives for the 77th legislative district in Centre County (where State College is). Conklin studied Carpentry at Clearfield County Vocational Technical School, then worked as a Carpenter's Apprentice. His professional experience includes being the owner/operator of a carpentry business for 17 years and as the current owner and operator of Conklin's Corner Antique Mall.

Michael Lamb is the Pittsburgh City Controller in Pennsylvania. He assumed office in 2007. Lamb is  an attorney. In addition to his government work, he serves on the boards of the Kane Foundation, the Catholic Youth Association, the Downtown Pittsburgh YMCA, and the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Project. He was also a founding co-chair of the community group A Plus Schools in Pittsburgh.

Tracie Fountain was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She worked in the Pennsylvania Auditor General's office for 29 years, most recently as the Audit Bureau Director, before resigning to run for the Auditor General position. In her work for the office, Fountain directed the following bureaus: School Audits, State-Aided Audits, Volunteer Firefighters Relief Association Audits, Liquor Audits, and Children and Youth Services Audits. She is a Certified Public Accountant. Of all the candidates, she has the most experience for the job.

Rose Rosie Marie Davis was born in Oklahoma. She is a Certified Public Accountant and the current Vice-Chairman of the Smithfield Township Board of Auditors, first elected in 2018. Davis' professional experience includes working in financial management consulting. She is a member of the Finance Committee of the Shawnee Valley Owners Association and the Monroe County NAACP.

Nina Ahmad is from Philadelphia and has worked as a molecular biologist and entrepreneur. Prior to running for auditor general, she was Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement in Philadelphia. She has served as president of the Philadelphia NOW and on the board of the Philadelphia Foundation. She was also a member of the National Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under President Obama.

Christina Hartman is from Lancaster and has worked as both an independent consultant and a consultant for Cygnet Strategy and BroderickHaight Consulting. Her consulting work focuses on providing operational, strategic planning, fundraising, and management guidance to non-profit organizations and trade associations. Hartman has also worked with a variety of organizations in the international development and humanitarian fields, including Joyful Heart Foundation, National Democratic Institute, The Prince's Trust, and Freedom House.


Timothy DeFoor is the only GOP candidate for Auditor General. He was elected as Dauphin County Controller in 2015. Before that, he served in the Attorney General’s Office and is a retired special agent. He worked in the State Inspector General’s office as a special investigator, and worked for UPMC Health Plan and various federal contractors as a former Internal Auditor, Quality Manager, and Fraud Investigator.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Change in Polling Locations

As I said in my last Diary entry, Norristown is consolidating polling locations for the primary on June 2.  They'll all be in schools, because schools are closed right now and no other people will be on the premises, and they've been closed, so they won't have to be deep cleaned the night before.
Here are the new locations.

If you aren't sure what ward you're in go to this link, type in your address, and your polling location will come up.

If you vote in person, PLEASE WEAR A MASK. Help protect the other voters and the election workers that day. And please don't bring your children.

Better yet, sign up for Vote-By-Mail. That way, you'll stay safe at home. Please encourage older voters to do this. For info, go to this link.

If you've already applied, you can check your status at this link. My ballot arrived in the mail today. I'll be doing a Diary about offices on the ballots and candidates soon.

However you decide to do it, VOTE! Let's have a great turnout for Norristown this time.

Stay safe and well.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Voting in PA in Times of COVID19

On June 2, Pennsylvania will hold its primary election. Some of you will say, "What does it matter? The presidential nominees have already been decided." But if you want to vote against either of those choices, there are choices on both parties' ballots (I'll cover them in another blog). There are other offices on the ballot, too. No choices on the GOP Ballot, but Democrats have choices for Auditor General and State Senator.

But you may also be saying you don't feel safe going to the polls this year with a virus on the loose. No problem. This year in PA, you can vote by mail. It's like an absentee ballot, but you don't need a reason for absence. Every registered voter can do it.

Some people think absentee ballots aren't counted. Not true. I've worked at the local precinct on voting day and I can tell you that we stay late and count absentee ballots every time. This year workers will stay even later and count all the mail-in ballots. And election workers this year would RATHER be counting mail-in ballots than see voters who might potentially be carriers of COVID19 in person. It's going to be a 15-hour day for them at least, and despite masks, face shields and gloves, there will be few breaks for hand-washing. So do them a favor and, if you haven't already, apply for a mail-in ballot.

Here's how: First go to Click on "Apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot." Follow the instructions. If you have a PA Drivers License #, you can request an ballot online. Easy. The State sends the request to your county, who'll look you up and approve or not approve your request (you might have to register to vote first, which you can also do on that website). If you're approved, a ballot will be mailed to you. They just started sending out ballots this week, so if you already applied, you'll likely have your ballot soon.

You have until May 18th to register to vote and until May 26th to request a mail-in ballot. Ballots must be received at your courthouse by June 2 at 8 pm. DO NOT bring them to your polling place. Don't wait until the last minute to do any of the above. PLEASE use Vote-By-Mail, for everyone's safety, your own and your family's included. If you insist on voting in person, WEAR A MASK to your polling place and this year, DON'T BRING YOUR CHILDREN. I love to see parents teaching their kids how voting is done, but this year it's too dangerous. Some kids who get COVID are getting a dangerous inflammation of the bloodstream with it. Come alone and observe physical distancing guidelines.

Some polling locations will change this year. Montgomery County will probably be using schools as locations because they're already closed. If you usually vote in a school, probably no change. They'll be deciding by May 11, and then I'll post the link where you can find your polling location. But hey, it won't matter if you sign-up for Vote-By-Mail.

I made the difficult decision this year not to work this election. I love doing it, but this year it's a job for younger, healthier people. If you're currently not working and need some extra money, the Montgomery County courthouse is looking for pollworkers. If you're interested, go to for more information.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Stop The Stupidity, Norristown

When I started this blog in 2012, my thought was to point out the good things about the town to quiet naysayers, and to point out what needed work so residents could nudge their council reps towards better solutions. Instead, I found council making worse and worse decisions, and residents not showing up for council meetings and if they did contact their reps, they were being ignored. I contacted my reps about problems in my neighborhood, and was treated politely, but nothing improved. And readers of the blog even sent me their own problems, somehow expecting an out-of-work, disabled writer, composing this blog for free to solve their woes for them and getting mad at me when I couldn't. So I stopped writing the blog except for election information twice a year.

What brought me out of the woodwork this time was the sheer stupidity of what our local government has become. And in this day and age of stupidity in the US Senate and Executive Branch and in our state legislature, I've finally become sick of all of it. The final straw was a notice I saw this morning that our Council had approved $100,000 to be spent on a stormwater study, including a $20,000 use of a helicopter. And it sounds like they'll be slapping us taxpayers with stormwater fees of some sort in the future.

To be truthful, I was actually thinking of writing a blog the last week about trees, about big old growth trees being cut down all over town and how that's bad for Norristown for a whole number of reasons. (Stay with me, it ties in.) In the last few years, I've counted about 3 dozen large trees taken down in the North End alone and I've seen cleared lots in other parts of town.

Back in 2012, we had a Shade Tree Commission that regularly encouraged property owners to plant trees on their properties because a) nice trees could raise property values and b) trees provide shade. With increasing heat waves every summer the last 3 years, we desperately need shade to counteract the reflected heat from all the paving and brick houses in town. There used to be incentives to plant trees. There were classes on how to do it. Whatever happened to that commission?

Besides shade, trees clean our air by absorbing carbon dioxide, and they sequester that carbon while they're alive so that it won't contribute to global warming (which gives us the heat waves). The 3 dozen trees I've seen cut down would have absorbed about a TON of carbon dioxide EVERY YEAR.

But one of the most important gifts trees give us is that their roots absorb water. I have two small trees in my side yard. In warm months when I use a rain barrel for my garden, I run the overflow hose around those trees. The roots can absorb runoff from storms of as much as 2 inches or more of rain, depending how fast it comes down. Large trees like those I've seen cut down, would absorb much more stormwater.

In the last 10 years, developers like Sarah Peck have used Norristown taxpayer funding to cut down trees and pave over large lots. She has done her darnedest to get around laws requiring the replanting of trees. At Arbor Mews she removed some very large, very old trees and put a scattering of tall bushes in their place that barely absorb any water. She at least supposedly put in an underground cistern there. At Arbor Knoll, farther up Dekalb St, Norristown had to update the stormwater drains (at taxpayer expense) to handle the added runoff because of the paving. I'm on record as the one who went to Zoning and Council meetings and spoke about how Ms. Peck's plans for these 2 developments would bring on stormwater runoff problems.

(Fun fact:  The word "arbor" originally meant a shady garden alcove where trees form a roof. "Arbor" Day is a day set aside for celebrating and planting trees. Ms. Peck's use of the word Arbor in all her development names is a bad joke.)

I'm not saying there aren't reasons to cut down some trees. Some die after a long life, some fall in storms, and some have been destroyed by spotted lantern flies (ALL invasive trees-of-heaven should be cut down because of that).  PennDOT's been cutting down all the old growth trees along Markley to widen the street, which I guess can't be avoided. But others seem to be coming down simply because property owners don't want them (especially landlords).

Here we are, after years of letting developers cut down old growth trees, after years of no incentives for planting trees to beautify the town, NOW Norristown Council decides we might have a stormwater problem.

So here's a solution. Take a fraction of that $100,000 and instead, replant native trees in public areas all over town, especially where stormwater collects. Require anyone who's let a building lot sit vacant for more than a year to plant native trees on it. Give property owners incentives to plant small trees, at least, on their properties, and maybe also incentives for the planting of rain gardens (that is, smaller plants and native grasses that absorb water well, planted in places where runoff is currently eroding soil). We don't need more concrete infrastructure to solve the problem when a natural solution would work better (and cheaper) and make the town so much prettier.

I'm tired of taxpayers always having to bail out the stupidity and short-sightedness of Council's decisions. It's happened over and over in the 60+ years I've lived in this town. But at least, paying for trees should help solve stormwater problems for many years to come, and trees benefit every resident in other ways. Plus they're good for the planet, too. Win, win, win.

Or will it be more stupidity, Council?

Friday, November 1, 2019

Election ~ Judge Candidates

Yesterday I talked about Judge Retentions, but when a seat on the courts is vacated, we have a regular election for judges. If you vote straight party, and want it to apply to judge candidates, you don't need to do anything else. If you want to split your ticket, you need to fill in the ovals for as many candidates as you want but within the limit set. You can write in candidates, too.

If you want to know more about these candidates, I encourage you to look them up on (though some aren't listed or have very little information). Here are their names and parties.

SUPERIOR COURT (vote for no more than 2)

Amanda Green-Hawkins, Democrat
Daniel D. McCafferty, Democrat (who showed absolutely no wisdom or prudence when he put DOZENS of ugly campaign posters all over the ground in a public park in my neighborhood ~ I'm guessing he didn't do that in his own neighborhood.)
Megan McCarthy King, Republican
Christylee Peck, Republican

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS (vote for not more than 3)

Melissa Schwartz Sterling, Democrat
Virgil B Walker, Democrat
Henry S. Hilles, III, Democrat
Matthew Hovey, Republican
Gregg Richman, Republican
Robert A. Zigmund, Republican

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Election ~ Judge Retentions

I'll start by reminding you that if you vote straight party, you still MUST flip the ballot over and vote yes or no for all the judge retentions. Don't forget to do it. Also, I apologize for not being able to post an image of the actual ballot on the blog, but Blogger isn't cooperating this morning.

In Pennsylvania, when a judge reaches the end of their 10-year term, they don't have to run against anyone to retain their job. We just vote yes or no, sort of the equivalent of old Roman Coliseum rules: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. The problem is, all that's listed on the ballot is their name and office. No political party and no other info that would tell us which way these judges would rule on a potentially political or otherwise sensitive case. Those in higher offices might certainly have those kinds of cases come in front of them.

Below is some information on all those running for retention. I've gotten most of the information from Ballotpedia (clink on the link and type the names into the search field for more info on the candidates), but I've also added their political party affiliations at the time of their last election. I've listed any major awards, endorsements that seem to heavily favor one side or the other on major issues, or important rulings. I only mention case details as facts, not judgment calls.


Anne Lazarus, Democrat. Recipient of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award in 2013 by the Philadelphia Bar.
Judith Olson, Republican. Endorsed by Pennsylvania Pro-Life and Firearm Owners Against Crime.


Kevin Brobson, Republican.  In 2017, he ruled that the 2011 state congressional map, though agreeing that it favored Republicans, was not against the state constitution. The PA Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 2018.
Patricia McCullough, Republican.


Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio, Republican.
Patricia Coonahan, Republican.
Wendy Demchick-Alloy, Republican. Sentenced Attorney General Kathleen Kane to 10 to 23 months in prison and 8 years probation (maximum sentence would have been 12-24 years).
Lois E. Murphy, Democrat.
Garrett D. Page, Republican.
Gary Silow, Republican.
Kelly C. Wall, Republican.

There are your judge retention candidates. I'll do another blog about judges up for election and other candidates.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Folks Who Work At The Courthouse

This election is the one where we vote for those County elected offices who many of us will deal with at some point in our lifetimes ~ Clerk of Courts, Register of Wills, Recorder of Deeds, Prothonotary (filing of other legal documents), Controller (if you owe money to the county or they owe you money ~ they also do payroll for the county). Also if you ever have someone die in your home, even of natural causes, you'll probably meet someone from the Coroner's office. The Treasurer handles county funds and investments, and of course, I hope you'll never have to deal with the District Attorney or Sheriff (which is in charge of transporting prisoners and serving bench warrants, among other duties. It has 7 specialty units and 7 divisions. More info at this link.)

You probably can't get out of meeting the Commissioners at some point. They show up everywhere and talk your ear off.

But you need to take part in the hiring of all these offices by voting.

The current commissioners are Val Arkoosh, Kenneth Lawrence, and Joe Gale. 2 Democrats and a Republican respectively. Fred Conner is the other GOP running. You can google all their names for info. You'll vote for no more than 2 of them.

The other incumbents who are running again are all Democrats. The offices where no incumbents are running are Clerk of Courts and Prothonotary. And again, all candidates can be researched online, though some failed to answer voter guide questions. These office are for the most part, non-partisan in nature. If you're voting straight party for some noble reason, then go into the courthouse to get a marriage license, or record a deed, or close a loved one's estate, and are met with incompetence, well, it may be your own fault for hiring the wrong person in that job. Or for not voting at all.

For instance, one candidate for Coroner is a non-invasive cardiologist (doesn't do surgery) and isn't giving up his medical practice to be coroner. The other has a master's in Forensic Medicine, and has worked as an investigator for the Coroner's office and as a sexual assault ER nurse, and intends to work as Coroner full-time.

In the office of Sheriff, the incumbent is a full-time lawyer who owns his own law firm that serves as township/municipal solicitor to 20 different communities, most of which are in Montgomery County. This is a HUGE conflict of interest (though no politician in the county seems to care). He's a part-time sheriff (collecting the full paycheck). Yet, the challenger is young, but at least has a criminal justice degree and security experience, and she'd be full-time. There's always that write-in line, too.

So do your homework. It's important. And come out to vote on November 5 between 7 am and 8 pm.