Monthly Archives: December 2014

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    tom wolf 2The Associated Press has announced that Gov.-elect Tom Wolf is filling key positions in his office with more people with connections to his successful campaign and to ex-Gov. Ed Rendell.
    Mary Isenhour, will be his legislative secretary and John Hanger, a former fellow cabinet member under Rendell, will be Wolf’s policy and planning secretary when he succeeds Republican Tom Corbett on Jan. 20.
    Isenhour , held top positions in the state Democratic Party while Rendell was governor, serving as executive director from 2007 to 2010 and directing Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign in Pennsylvania. She has run a political consultancy since 2010 with former Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney.
    Hanger was a member of the Public Utility Commission and founder of the Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy group, PennFuture, before becoming Rendell’s environmental protection secretary in 2008, staying until Rendell left office in 2011.
    Hanger also ran for governor as a Democrat, but dropped out in March amid difficulty raising money, two months before Wolf won a four-way primary. He has been in private law practice since 2011.
    Wolf served in Rendell’s cabinet as revenue secretary for nearly two years, leaving in 2008.
    Wolf also named Obra Kernodle IV to be his public liaison. Kernodle was a deputy campaign manager for Wolf. Kernodle also has served in Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration and worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in Pennsylvania as the southeast political director.
    The only other person named to serve in Wolf’s office thus far is Katie McGinty, another former Rendell cabinet member and candidate for governor.
    McGinty will serve as Wolf’s chief of staff. She was Rendell’s environmental protection secretary from 2003 to 2008, preceding Hanger, and ran for governor against Wolf in the Democratic primary, finishing fourth.
    In the fall campaign, she led Campaign for a Fresh Start, a political action committee that actively supported Wolf and other Democrats in the recent election.
    –AP reports

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    farm show 2
    Agriculture Secretary George Greig invites Pennsylvanians to celebrate agriculture during the 99th Pennsylvania Farm Show, Jan. 10-17 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.
    The eight-day show features 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors.
    “Pennsylvania is home to a diverse agriculture industry, and the Farm Show reflects that in its variety of displays, competitions and activities,” said Greig. “Join us for the 99th edition of a Pennsylvania tradition. It’s a celebration of the best that is made and grown right here, available for you to watch and to sample for free.”
    The unveiling of the 1,000-pound butter sculpture is Thursday, Jan. 8, at 11 a.m.
    The PA Preferred™ Farm Show Reception at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, features Pennsylvania-produced foods and beverages. Tickets for the reception are $35. Preregister online by Dec. 19 at www.farmshow.state.pa.us.
    The 2015 Farm Show will feature many new attractions, including:
    • Fill a Glass with Hope – Donate money to help get fresh milk to Pennsylvanians in need through the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association Fill a Glass with Hope project. Funds benefit the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s milk distribution program, the first of its kind in the nation. Donations will be accepted at the Weis Markets Booth and the Food Court all week long.
    • New High-tech Woodmobile – The new Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council Woodmobile adds a new look, touchscreen technology and more videos to the interior, offering more ways to learn about Pennsylvania’s nation-leading hardwoods industry.
    • Celebrity Chef – Aaron McCargo Jr., winner of The Next Food Network Star and star of “Big Daddy’s House,” will grace the PA Preferred™ Culinary Connection stage Sunday, Jan. 11, at noon and 2 p.m. Aaron whips up mouth-watering recipes inspired by many years of culinary experience with his fun-loving family.
    • Food Court Healthier, Expands Options, Size – New items include fried pickles, grilled cheeseburgers, soft pretzels and pork nachos. A switch by many vendors to using High Oleic Soybean Oil will make for healthier Food Court staples and improve kitchen performance.
    • Lumberjacks, Lumberjills Demonstrate Logging Events – Watch an exhibition of lumberjacking events like axe throwing; crosscut sawing; springboard, standing and underhand chops; and the hot saw by the Pennsylvania Professional Lumberjack Organization. They’ll demonstrate multiple wood harvesting techniques and horse-drawn logging on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Large Arena. Horse-drawn logging demonstrations will also be held through the week.
    • Family Ag Olympics – Have fun competing while learning about agriculture through ten stations in the new Farm Show Ag Olympics Saturday, Jan. 10, at 4 p.m. in the Equine Arena.
    Returning show highlights include:
    • Celebrity Cow Milking Contest – Always a crowd-pleaser, the contest on Friday, Jan. 16, at 2:30 p.m. features Agriculture Secretary George Greig competing with local media personalities and state legislators.
    • Great Grape Stomp – Two barefoot celebrity teams compete for top vintner honors in relay style to stomp the largest amount of juice from 30 pounds of grapes on Thursday, Jan. 15, at 5:30 p.m. Audience members can vote for their favorite team and enter to win prizes.
    • Celebrity Draft Horse Team Driving – Celebrity teams compete in a draft horse team driving competition Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m.
    • “Today’s Agriculture” – An exhibit in a full-size barn displays modern production practices used to efficiently and safely produce our food supply. This year, learn how soybeans become soybean oil that is used in the PA Preferred Food Court.
    • “Parade of Agriculture” – During Opening Ceremonies Saturday, Jan. 10, at 10:30 a.m. representatives from each area of the Farm Show along with state commodity representatives parade through the Large Arena.
    • Farm Show Detectives – Young visitors can investigate Pennsylvania agriculture by visiting learning stations around the complex that offer hands-on lessons and activities. New this year are stops for exploring everyday ways agriculture touches our lives with Penn State, learning the parts of a tractor alongside a tractor amusement ride and discovering the importance of keeping dogs safe with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
    • Rabbit Hopping Competition – Celebrity guides will lead trained rabbits in a competition of speed and agility as the animals hop obstacles, similar to equine jumping, at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 11, in the Small Arena. Vote for the winning rabbit and you will be entered to win a prize.
    • Dairy Oxen Demonstration – Learn how settlers used dairy steers to build the nation during a dairy oxen demonstration on Tuesday, Jan. 12, from 8-10 a.m.
    The Pennsylvania Farm Show runs Jan. 10-16 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Jan. 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $10 in Farm Show lots. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center is easily accessible from nearby Interstate 81.
    For more information, visit www.farmshow.state.pa.us.

     

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    alan c. walkerDepartment of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary C. Alan Walker today issued the following statement in response to the release of the Auditor General’s Special Performance Audit which evaluated funding awarded to businesses from five DCED programs from a prior administration, between 2007 and 2010.
    The five DCED programs included in the review were the: Customized Job Training (CJT); Opportunity Grant Program (OGP); Infrastructure Development Program (IDP); PA Industrial Development Authority (PIDA); and Small Business First (SBF). In 2011, the Corbett administration consolidated the CJT, OGP and IDP programs into the Pennsylvania First program. Additionally, the SBF program will be consolidated under PIDA per Act 161 of 2014.
    “The Auditor General’s report, which evaluates grants awarded prior to the Corbett administration, provides constructive recommendations; however, the report also contains a number of generalized statements rather than facts consistent with a typical audit.
    “The audit asserts that only 56 percent of businesses awarded assistance met projections when in fact our monitoring and compliance office provided data showing that businesses actually created or retained 133,329 jobs of the 137,749 pledged to be created or retained. These figures establish that the programs in question resulted in businesses meeting 96.7 percent of projections during a time period considered by many to be the second largest economic downturn in United States history.
    “DCED will continue strengthening its efforts to support private sector job growth and ensuring transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public funds.”
    A complete copy of DCED’s comprehensive response to the Auditor General’s Special Performance Audit can be found at www.newPA.com/auditresponse

     

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    Dec. 2014 DCEDThe Department of Community and Economic Development needs to improve oversight and transparency of some job creation programs that doled out hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds, according to a report released Wednesday by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
    The 61-page audit report, which focused on about $213 million awarded through five programs from 2007 through 2010, found that 44 percent of the businesses that received the grants or loans did not meet their job creation commitments.
    Projects that failed to meet goals were not a wasted investment, DePasquale said, adding the department should learn from those efforts and work to improve the loan and grant process.
    In some cases, some businesses were granted extensions to try and meet the goal, some hit economic hardships and didn’t create any jobs, and some didn’t quite meet the goal, according to DePasquale’s office.
    The department considers a business that pledged 100 jobs and created only 98 jobs a “sound investment” during one of the worst economic downturns, said DCED spokesman Steve Kratz. Those businesses would still end up in the 44 percent category, according to DePasquale.
    DCED pointed out, as did DePasquale, that the other 56 percent appeared to pull more weight because the total number of jobs created or retained (133,329) met 96.7 percent of projections and was only about 4,000 short of the total promised (137,749).
    DePasquale said his auditors weren’t concerned about the total number.
    “DCED makes a calculation by aggregating the job number, not looking at the statistic overall,” DePasquale said. “Our point is, regardless of which point you want to use, 44 percent didn’t meet their number. We should be looking at why that happened and what needs to be done to fix it.”
    DePasquale said DCED should set overall performance goals for each of its job creation programs, continue to impose penalties against businesses to recoup funds, require businesses to provide actual payroll records to verify jobs created/retained, and monitor and verify job creation numbers for all businesses awarded loans after they are paid off.
    The five programs reviewed were Customizing Job Training (CJT), Opportunity Grant Program (OGP), Infrastructure Development Program (IDP), Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) and Small Business First (SBP) program. CJT, OGP, IDP were merged under Pennsylvania First by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011, partly because of the multiple contracts a single business could hold and voluminous paperwork they would have to fill out, Kratz said. SBP is consolidated along with other programs into PIDA, because of a recent law.
    The audit also looked at DCED’s monitoring efforts during Gov. Tom Corbett’s term. DePasquale credited DCED for making improvements in monitoring businesses and in assessing and collecting penalties from businesses that fail to meet commitments since the department’s last audit in 2007.
    However, annual budget cuts to DCED during Corbett’s term probably contributed to some of the monitoring and accountability problems his auditors uncovered, he said. The department shifted staff around to cover jobs lost through attrition and retirements, Kratz said.
    “In general, Office of Auditor General and DCED have the same goals in mind, and that’s transparency and accountability in the expenditure of these funds,” Kratz said.
    DCED and DePasquale were also at odds on a few points in the audit. In its official response to the audit, DCED said the report “is peppered throughout with general comments that seem more like opinion than fact, incongruous in an audit and, in many cases, are not supported by facts.”
    Auditors “strenuously disagreed” and said DCED provided no basis for the comment.
    DePasquale said 44 percent of the 600 businesses which received a total of about $213 million from 2007 through 2010 failed to create or retain the number of jobs promised when they obtained a grant or loan from DCED. Kratz said the department wouldn’t call them 600 “businesses” but 600 “contracts” since a single business could hold multiple contracts with the five job creation programs audited by DePasquale.
    A footnote in the audit report acknowledges this, and auditors said the term was used for the ease of reporting.
    Another problem identified by DePasquale is what he said was DCED’s failure to independently verify through payroll records the job-created/retained number submitted by businesses. Kratz said DCED obtains signed affidavits from company officials about their reported job numbers, which the department believes is satisfactory.
    Kratz said DCED has not had to pursue legal action against any company over false employment statements.
    –Kevin Zwick, Capitolwire

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    MC  Kathleen KaneAttorney General Kathleen G. Kane has realigned her executive office to strengthen her commitment to public safety by continuing to prosecute drug dealers and child predators, protect consumers, seniors and veterans from fraud, and expose public corruption.
    Blake Rutherford has been appointed Chief of Staff, effective December 15. Rutherford, 36, formerly served as Vice President of McLarty Companies, led by former White House Chief of Staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty. Prior to joining McLarty Companies, Rutherford was Chief of Staff to the Attorney General of Arkansas. During his tenure in Arkansas, the office established a Cyber Crimes Unit to fight Internet predators, and developed a wide-ranging Consumer Protection initiative and website intended to protect consumers against scams and fraud. From 2006 to 2010, Rutherford served as Director of Public Communications at Stone Ward, a full-service advertising and public relations firm. Prior to that, he was an attorney serving in private practice with the firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP. Rutherford is a graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Arkansas School of Law. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Jessica Dean, who is the evening news co-anchor of CBS Philly.
    “We are excited about adding Blake to our team. He has demonstrated his commitment to public service, and he brings extensive experience that will benefit this office and the Commonwealth in the coming year and beyond,” said Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.
    In addition, Attorney General Kane recently appointed Mike Stefan as her Legislative Director and hired Cathryn Hinesley as an Assistant Press Secretary to provide media relations and speech writing.
    Renee Martin, who has been Acting Communications Director for several months, will return to her duties as Education and Outreach Director in January. This section of the office is staffed with agents across the state who work to educate Pennsylvanians of all ages about the myriad of services available to them through the Office of Attorney General. Attorney General Kane has selected a permanent Communications Director and more information about the new director will be announced when the employment process is completed.
    Chief Operating Officer David Tyler has accepted a position outside the agency. His last day with the Office of Attorney General is December 12. During his tenure, Tyler provided critical assistance in passage of legislation that expanded the state’s prescription monitoring program; modernized operational processes and practices throughout the agency, saving more than $7 million; and created a robust Legislative Affairs office that will continue to serve all Pennsylvanians.
    “We thank David for his service and wish him the best of luck in his new position. We look forward to our continued working relationship,” she said.

     

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