Responding to Speaker Turzai
In his August 15th letter to the editor, Dave Majernik, the vice chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, wrote “The system we have now works just fine.”
This is not true.
Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Our Congressional map was so rigged that the State Supreme Court had to intervene with a temporary band-aid solution, and Speaker Turzai’s lawyer’s defense in the court of his 2011 gerrymander was essentially, ‘We used partisan meta-data to draw the lines, but nobody was prevented from voting.’ Yes, people could still vote… in predetermined elections.
The most responsible action for responsible citizens of Pennsylvania on July 13th was to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience by ringing Speaker Turzai doorbell and trying to talk to him about ending gerrymandering.
Instead of talking with us, he had six of us arrested.
The six democracy warriors recently pled guilty to summary charges, each carrying a fine of $466.
In his July 19th letter to the editor, Speaker Turzai claims there was nothing he could do, and guilt lies with other politicians. He is certainly not the only guilty party. Guilt for the tactics of gutting bills, poisoning bills, sandbagging bills with amendments, and stalling bills is shared to varying degrees among Speaker Turzai, Chairman Metcalfe, Minority Leader Dermody, Ranking Member Bradford, Senator Aument, Senate Majority Leader Corman, Senate President Scarnati, and too many others.
Protecting corruption and killing reform was a team effort.
Some are guilty, but all are responsible. Speaker Turzai is guilty of protecting and maintaining a culture of corruption in Harrisburg that makes us the 5th most corrupt state in the country and one of the most gerrymandered.
- He placed reform bills in Chairman Metcalfe’s committee, knowing that they would languish there.
- He refused to sponsor reform bills or whip caucus support.
- He refused to call the House back to Harrisburg after he adjourned them a week early for summer vacation.
- As Speaker of the House, he refused to lead in any way, instead hoping that he could ignore Pennsylvanians and quietly continue to protect a culture of corruption.
Vice Chairman Majernik concluded his article with this bizarre twist of logic, “If politics is so bad, why are they participating in it?”
We participate in politics because power is not with the people, and it needs to be for our state to survive and thrive.
We consider Article 1 Section 2 of our PA Constitution to be a call to action: “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”
Speaker Turzai and Vice Chairman Majernik:
Why do you participate in politics?
Is it to take power away from the people?
....Because that's what you're doing.
We hope to one day have this conversation with Speaker Turzai and/or Chairman Majernik and discuss ways to end gerrymandering with him in his Harrisburg office.
A version of this piece was published by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for publication by Rabbi Michael Pollack, Executive Director of MarchOnHarrisburg