Lt. Gov. hopeful visits Warren

Democrat Brad Koplinski is focusing his campaign for lieutenant governor on being an advocate for local governments. His inspiration for the advocacy comes from his experience with the commonwealth as a Harrisburg city councilman, and the difficulties he’s encountered.

“All municipalities need a better relationship (with the commonwealth), and all boroughs, townships and cities are under financial distress,” he said, during a visit to Warren this week.

He said the Lieutenant Governor’s Local Government Advisory Board should be used to help with that goal.

“This (Warren County) is our 62nd county that we’ve visited, talking to local officials to see what they need. Many times the concerns are infrastructure, pension liabilities, drugs and crime. I’ve been talking to mayors of towns with 200 residents to the biggest cities to get a feel what they are going through, he added.”

He moved to Pennsylvania from Washington, D.C., after working as an attorney for the Justice and Treasury departments. “One of the issues I looked at was the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Person Act,” he said, noting that one of the duties of the lieutenant governor is sitting on the Board of Pardons as the chairman.

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) of 1980 is a federal law intended to protect the rights of people in state or local correctional facilities, nursing homes, mental health facilities and institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Koplinski continued, “I worked with (former governor) Jack Wagner on issues like gaming and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), (John) Kerry’s campaign in 15 counties around Harrisburg, the CommonWealth Court campaign in 2011, ran the central Pennsylvania campaign for Hillary Clinton, and I was Arlen Specter’s political director. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as he did.”

He said the recent failed transportation bill that would have meant tens of thousands of jobs, although it would only affect the 44 thousand miles of state roads without dealing with the 77 thousand miles of local roads in Pennsylvania. “We have a quarter of the structurally deficient bridges in the country.”

Speaking of the liquor store issue, he said the state needs to “modernize, not privatize. Five thousand jobs in the stores would be lost. I don’t want to lose those jobs. They are also able to get a quality check on IDs.” He also said he would like to see beer distributors be allowed to sell other items.

He added, “There was a block-long sinkhole In Harrisburg from wooden and clay pipes dating to the 1890’s, two blocks from the Governor’s mansion.”

Another duty of the lieutenant governor is chairing the Marcellus Shale Commission. “Of the 15 states with Marcellus, everyone taxes the gas except Pennsylvania. We have a commonwealth here that is an important word. Everyone shares the natural resources. They take our assets without paying what they’re worth. They hurt the roads and potentially the environment, and when the assets are gone, they skip town and leave us holding the bag.”

Koplinski volunteered that Harrisburg was in trouble, but said that the state stepped in and tried to implement Act 47, a measure to try to help distressed communities, but the act has an unimpressive record. He said that after council voted to turn down the measure, the state forced them to raise taxes and put the city into a receivership.

He said if Harrisburg could get a “haircut from Wall Street,” or a reduction in the money owed like other communities have received, then the planned sale of assets and responsible management would wipe out the debt, and a tax increase would be “the last resort.” The receivership went to court on Monday.

Receiverships are a remedy involving the conduct of executive agencies that fail to comply with statutory obligations to populations that rely on those agencies for their basic human rights. The state has appointed a receiver to take over running the city.