Cheers to 'Raise the Region;' jeers to corruption
Cheers to the First Community Foundation Partnership (FCFP) and the thousands of people and businesses who contributed nearly three quarters of a million dollars in FCFP's inaugural Raise the Region online fundraising project last Tuesday. No one knew what this unique new project would produce, but it's likely no one was figuring on a collection of $726,827! The ease of contributing online combined with having 161 organizations from which to choose allowed the dollars to pile up in a hurry, making this perhaps the single most successful fundraiser this region has ever seen. Cheers as well to Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships for its upfront matching contribution of $125,000, which demonstrated from the start that this was no half-hearted effort. Certainly, the region has been raised.
Jeers to the number of Pennsylvania legislators who continue to view expense payments as income rather than reimbursements. Under IRS rules, the maximum reimbursement amount for Harrisburg during the 2011-12 fiscal year was $163 a day. But many lawmakers took that as the base rate. Without so much as a receipt for any expense, many lawmakers collected that $163 regardless of their actual costs. That's a lousy way to do business - try it with your employer. Some lawmakers have begun to claim, with receipts, only what they have spent on food, transportation and lodging. Some have posted those expenses on their websites. That group should demand such transparency as a standard and press to make that protocol the rule rather than exception.
Jeers as well on the matter of overall government transparency, where Pennsylvania was given a "C" by The Sunlight Foundation, which monitors government transparency and released its annual openness report on state governments in conjunction with Sunshine Week March 10-16. Part of the problem is the failure of the state government to keep up with technology. Another is the provision of large amounts of unsearchable digital data that often proves useless. A greater focus on transparency also would enable state lawmakers and administrators to overcome the technological obstacles to better disclosure. State lawmakers should use the Sunlight Foundation findings to shoot for an "A" rating.
Cheers, finally, to Our Lady of Lourdes Regional and Mount Carmel Area girls basketball teams for their successful seasons, even if they didn't end with the ultimate goal of a state championship. Lourdes won its fifth consecutive PIAA Class A District 4 championship, a string of titles that few other local high school sports teams - save for Southern football - can beat. The Lady Red Raiders also gave coach Mike Klembara his 600th win during the playoffs to add the pride of this special season. MCA's girls have also demonstrated the value of teamwork and commitment that sports can teach, having pulled off their third straight Class AA district title en route to another state playoff appearance. We look forward to more success next season.