Tube City Almanac

July 01, 2005

School Daze, School Daze

Category: default || By jt3y

McKeesport Area school director David Donato is questioning the "constitutionality" of a state House bill, introduced by Rep. Marc Gergely of White Oak, that would close the loophole that he and one of his political allies used to knock their rivals off of the school board during the primary.

You may recall that Donato and Lori Spando, whose terms on the school board expire in 2007, chose to run in the primary for terms that expire in 2009. In the process, they knocked incumbent school directors Gerry Tedesco and Harry Stratigos (whose terms expire this year) off of the board.

Assuming Donato and Spando get elected in November to the 2009 terms, their current seats will be vacant, and the school board will choose two people to fill those seats. Thus they've effectively thwarted the will of the residents of the McKeesport Area School District --- which includes Our Fair City, Dravosburg, South Versailles Township (Coulter), Versailles and White Oak --- to choose their representation, at least until the next municipal election.

Donato doesn't see it that way. He tells Pat Cloonan of the Daily News that the primary results show that the people "wanted Lori Spando and David Donato and they did not want Gerry Tedesco and Harry Stratigos."

I don't know Dave Donato from the man in the moon. If I saw him in the Giant Eagle I wouldn't recognize him. I couldn't name his positions on any three issues (though from newspaper articles I've read over the years, I'd say he's a libertarian-conservative) and I don't live in his school district. But allow me to say that he's full of hot soup.

As has been pointed out by the Almanac before, most people have no idea who's on their local school board. They may recognize a few of the names --- like, say, Dave Donato, who's been running for various offices in Our Fair City for 20 years --- and that's it.

Chances are that people saw Donato's and Spando's names on the ballot in May, recognized them, and they thought their terms were expiring, so they voted for them. Mr. Donato has to know this, right? Thus, he's playing semantic games. He pulled a fast one on the residents of the school district, and he got away with it.

Rep. Gergely's motives may be partly political, to be sure. Gergely is a longtime Democrat in a family of Democrats, and Donato has been sand in the gears of the local Democratic party for a long time. Also, as Spando has pointed out, she ran against Gergely in 2002 for the state House.

But regardless of what other motivations Gergely may have, he's absolutely right when he tells Cloonan that Donato and Spando "are blatantly distorting the law for their own benefit." Gergely says dirty tricks like this discourage people from participating in local politics, and I tend to agree.

His bill to close this loophole has 51 co-sponsors from both parties, including Reps. Paul Costa of Wilkins Township, Jim Casorio of Irwin, Ken Ruffing of West Mifflin and Ted Harhai of Monessen.

Donato has often billed himself as a reformer and a champion of the people against the powerful. That may be true; as I said before, I don't know enough about him to judge him. But by pulling this stunt, I can say that I don't think he's reforming anything. He's only adding to a long and dubious tradition of sneaky political stagecraft in the Mon-Yough area.


Speaking of the state Legislature, may we present the Honorable Reps. John Myers of Philadelphia and Thomas Yewcic of Conemaugh?

There was a debate on the floor of the state House on Wednesday over a bill that would compel homeowners' associations to allow residents to fly the American flag. (Some planned communities have very strict rules governing what colors people are allowed to paint their houses, what decorations they're allowed to use during the holidays, who they're allowed to date, etc. I couldn't live in a place like that, myself.)

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Yewcic stood up and said that anyone who wanted to fly a flag from a different country should "go back to their ethnic origins and fly it there." (Yewcic wouldn't like International Village much, I suspect.)

To which Rep. Myers responded by calling Yewcic a "cracker."

House Speaker John Perzel called them both to the rostrum and admonished them, at which point Myers apologized. But that wasn't satisfactory Rep. Eugene McGill of Horsham, who complained that several people laughed at Myers' apology and that he didn't think it was sincere enough.

And then they recessed for an hour.

By the way: For the third consecutive year, the state House was unable to pass a budget on time. But they have found time to introduce legislation that would give themselves a $10,000 per year pay raise.

As Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley point out in the Tribune-Review, that would boost their pay to nearly $80,000 per year, or more than twice the average yearly wage in Pennsylvania.

Eighty grand, eh? Some of these guys can't get their work done on time, but they do have the time to debate flag-waving nonsense and to call one another names. Sounds like they're worth every penny.


On a somewhat nicer note, Ann Belser writes in the Post-Gazette that 87 houses in Our Fair City are being torn down this year as part of Mayor Jim Brewster's "Renaissance" program to demolish dilapidated structures and improve the city's neighborhoods.

Her bittersweet story examines the history of the some of the structures being torn down. Some of them have been in the same family for more than 100 years, but with no living heirs able to keep the houses occupied and in good repair, they sit abandoned and unloved. It's well worth a read.


To Do This Weekend: Kennywood's "Grand Victorian Festival" continues through Tuesday with a parade and fireworks every night, along with arts and craft booths, an antique car show, strolling performers and live music. Call (412) 461-0500 or visit their website ... Our Fair City's Independence Day celebration includes live music at the Renzie Park bandshell, beginning at 12 noon and continuing until 9 p.m. Fireworks begin at 9:30, weather permitting ... White Oak holds its annual Community Day at Heritage Hill Pool from 12 noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, including games, food, a demonstration by police dogs, and fireworks after sunset. Call (412) 672-9727.

Your Comments are Welcome!

Let’s not forget the generous meal and travel stipends our hard-working state legislators receive. So they don’t have to worry about many of the day-to-day expenses that schlubs like you and I rack up.
Jonathan Potts (URL) - July 01, 2005

Dude, without flag-waving we’d be just like every other narrow-minded religious country. It’s what makes us us.
Derrick - July 01, 2005

Kudos to the Tube City homepage as a frequent visitor to the site I enjoy the discussions. I’m pleased to give you the inside scoop on the new name for the 15th street bridge. In the early to mid 90’s State Senator Albert “Buddy” Belan kept in the transportation budget the over 15 million dollars that was needed to re-build our bridge to Liberty,Lincoln,Port Vue and beyond. Bud was a supporter of the Mon-Valley in all aspects and so to his memory the 15th street bridge will be renamed the Albert V.“Buddy” Belan bridge. I amended language into a Senate transportation bill and was passed on Sunday. I know this is not the biggest issue of Commonwealth politics at this time but I think of direct interest to the Mon-Valley. Good Luck, I enjoy the almanac and I know that many times we will agree to disagree.
M.J.Gergely - July 06, 2005

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