Kane's shakeup can start with PUC Playground epitome of community action
Kathleen Kane's campaign for attorney general was based largely on the differences between her priorities and those of the "boys in Harrisburg." Kane is the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected state attorney general, but the differences she stressed have to do with much more than gender and party.
The attorney general-elect, the highest statewide vote-getter with more than 3 million, will have an early opportunity to demonstrate what she meant.
Consumer Advocate Irwin "Sonny" Popowski, 61, who was appointed by former Attorney General Ernest D. Preate Jr. in 1990, recently retired after 22 years in that position and 33 years in the office. Kane, then, will have the opportunity to name his replacement.
The consumer advocate's office is independent. Its main mission is to represent consumer interests before the state Public Utility Commission, which some believe has a checkered history in recognizing the public interest.
Popowsky, who at the time of his retirement was the longest-serving state consumer advocate in the nation, was hard-working and genuinely interested in the consumers' interests.
He had served for 11 years in the office before becoming consumer advocate, however. With his retirement, Kane has the opportunity to apply an independent, outside analysis to the office. She should look nationally for someone with an established track record as an innovative, aggressive consumer advocate who can shake up the routine PUC-utility relationship as much as she has vowed to shake up Harrisburg itself. Consumer protection is a great place to begin. The effort to erect beautiful new playground equipment, plus install sidewalk, fencing and other infrastructure, at the Terry-Miriello Sports Complex in Kulpmont is a perfect representation of a private-public partnership making a difference in the community.
The borough obtained a grant of more than $40,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as well as $5,000 from the Degenstein Foundation and $2,500 from the Northumberland County Recreation Board. From there, resident Joe Cesari led the charge in raising another $10,000 through the Kulpmont Cruise and Mahoney Brothers concerts at Mount Carmel Area High School.
Construction and installation were completed by Kulpmont Street Department workers and volunteers - including a number of union workers from throughout the region - who gave of their time and talents. One key work party on a Saturday back in August involved 40 people. It started at 6 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. Now that's commitment.
To top it off, Cesari and Company also organized a thank you party and were able to get sponsors who took care of the food (including a uniquely decorated cake), beverages and hall rental.
If nothing else, this project tell us that, with the right organization - and a good cause - the community will respond and make a difference. It can serve as a model for future efforts in Kulpmont and elsewhere.