I study published this week by Freedom House held what should be troubling news for most residents of these United States. Democracy has suffered some setbacks in some little-expected places.
Since 2006, only 62 of the world’s nations have seen an increase in their citizens’ democracy. The United States was not one of them. In fact, the past dozen years have, according to the report, seen the opposite effect on the planet’s so far longest-lived democracy.
Our annual school tax check – about 75 percent of it goes to public schools – is on the dining room table. Yes, it’s mostly a school tax and, truth be told, a reasonable investment in our communities’ offspring. Still, it’s taxes, and it’s a large enough check to pay for a trip I’d like to take later this year.
Wednesday morning’s newspaper had a front page story about Darlene Brown earning more than $168,000 plus nearly $34,000 benefits for her role in providing housing to poor people. Clearly, those numbers were what the writer wanted readers to take away – he mentioned them several times – and in a county that considers $30,000 to be a pretty OK salary, those numbers are certainly worthy of note.
Several years ago, when I was in the daily news game covering a school district near my home, came a discussion of the districts indebtedness and its need for a new elementary school. The district had undertaken a large number of improvements, and was about maxed out on what it could get its taxpayers to cough up.
“Never fear,” the superintendent told his Board of Directors. “According to state law, the new school won’t cost us anything.”
“With our debt load limited out, the state will pay for everything,” he said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week it had fined Chesapeake Appalachia LLC “$565,000 for multiple violations” in its Marcellus operations. Chesapeake Appalachia is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, an Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company which claims to be the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas.
In Potter County, the company was found to have insufficient erosion and sedimentation controls. The deficiency was discovered when heavy rains washed dirt off a road and a nearby well pad, into the Right Branch of Wetmore Run, am environmentally high-quality stream.
“High-quality streams receive some of the highest levels of protection in the state,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a prepared statement, “and (natural gas drilling) operators are expected to ensure their work does not negatively affect them.
The sediment carried by the stream also “impacted” Galeton Borough Authority’s water treatment filters, which, to be fair, Chesapeake paid to repair. Continue reading →