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Issue Home September 20, 2005 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

It’s The Law

I received a letter in response to the letter to the editor I wrote in the September 7 edition of the Susquehanna County Transcript. The following is a response to that individual, who apparently missed the point of my letter. It is taken from the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services Borough Council Handbook, which is a very informative, plain language outline of what an elected official’s duties and responsibilities are.

“The Sunshine Act requires all public agencies to take all official actions and conduct all deliberations leading up to official actions at public meetings. The Act covers all actions by council and its committees and by all boards and commissions of the borough. Official actions include making recommendations, establishment of policy, decisions on municipal business and votes taken on any motion, resolution, ordinance, rule, regulation, proposal, report or order. Borough councils are required to provide an opportunity for public comments at each advertised regular and special meeting. A 1998 amendment to the Sunshine Law requires that council must allow for public comment prior to taking official action. The right of citizens to make comments is limited to matters of concern, official action or deliberation which are or may be before the governing body. A board may limit the right to speak during this period to residents and taxpayers of the borough.”

I would expect that any elected official not only be familiar with the Sunshine Act, but take particular care to see that it is not violated.


Barbara Whitehead

Susquehanna, PA

Supreme Court Supremely Corrupted

Chief Justice William Rehnquist has passed away. Who will the President choose to replace him? President Bush faces an impossible choice. Lines in the sand have been drawn: conservatives vs. liberals, men vs. women, blacks vs. whites, and feminists vs. everyone. With the nation fractured into so many opposing camps it's a no-win choice. Whoever is chosen, most will be dissatisfied with the choice. What's wrong here? Here's what's wrong: The Supreme Court of the United States has succumbed to politicization and surrendered to political correctness.

The real choice the President has to make is this: Should the nominee be a "constructionist," one who abides by a strict reading of the Constitution, or a "reconstructionist," one who regards the Constitution as a "living document," i.e., one which conforms to the spirit of the times, or more narrowly, to the particular prejudices of a justice?

Let's take a brief look at each.

It's easy to see exactly what a constructionist stands for, just read the Constitution it's there for all to read. Fidelity to the Constitution is the sine qua non for a constructionist, but reality can get in the way. One simply cannot press "delete" and eliminate all personal bias. Perfect unanimity is impossible, but there is a common philosophic basis---faithfulness to the Constitution---resulting in broad agreement in wide areas.

However, defining what a reconstruction stands for is like grasping a slippery eel. Here the Constitution is unabashedly colored by the jurist's sense of what he thinks should be law. Activists judges take it upon themselves to decide what is right, then interpret the Constitution to fit their views. Often the Constitution is so loosely interpreted that it is almost an obstacle to be overcome. These are muddy waters indeed.

Activists jurists are usually credited with civil rights legislation, rights which they see were thwarted by the Constitution but made possible by activism. But a constructionist would argue that the opposite is true. A

strict reading of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that "No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law" was the correct constitutional platform from which to address slavery and in more recent times, civil rights.

In 1964 activists passed the Civil Rights Act banning segregation based on of all things interstate commerce. Interstate commerce! But once again, the Constitution provides ample basis for outlawing segregation based on the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment as well which says "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States...."

The court is further bedeviled by political correctness (PC). Justice O'Connor is now perceived to occupy the woman's chair. Extending the same line of reasoning, Rehnquist had the conservation chair, Ginsberg the Jewish chair, and Thomas the black chair. Waiting to be filled are the liberal, feminist, environmentalist, Hispanic, and physical and mentally challenged chairs. Obviously PC, usually presented in the guise of balance, leads to an impossible and ludicrous end.

Depending on the mercurial favors of an activist court or on the Zeitgeist of the times is standing on uncertain ground. Rights so easily bestowed can just as easily, under different judges and in different times, be withdrawn. But there is a way to extricate ourselves from the imponderables of despotic judges.

Anchoring ourselves firmly to the rights granted to all in the Constitution, to the specified limits of governmental authority, and to those issues defined therein will restore the court to its historic role. As to the myriad of controversial issues presented before the court we have further protection in the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." To the people....

In the end it comes down to a simple choice between the Constitution and the people, or activists jurists. Neither choice is perfect but the former, it seems, is less imperfect than the latter.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

Remembering A Childhood Visit

I happened upon your website by chance, and seeing it brought back a lot of old memories I had from my childhood.

My father, Stephen L. Carmalt took my mother, sister and I to visit friends in Montrose, or a neighboring town when I was either eight or nine years old. I don’t remember their names, and I am unable to find out because they passed away years ago.

I do remember things like going to Carmalt Lake to wade in the water and catch a few salamanders which I took home and kept in an aquarium for many years. It was Autumn, the leaves had changed to fountains of brilliant color.

That afternoon we visited a meeting hall or church, I’m not sure which, where a band was setting up equipment for a dance that night, and I was allowed to try my hand at the drums. Little did I know at that time it would influence me to become a musician. I learned to play the guitar though and not the drums, because the cost of a set of drums was too high. I had a good voice, and through the years learned to sing country music.

I formed a few bands, and sang here in Martins Ferry, Ohio from 1975 until I moved to California to become a technician at Lockheed Martin.

That trip is probably the best trip I ever took with my family, and among the best in my life.

I am seriously considering subscribing to your paper in a few months because I want to learn more about your area, maybe even some information about my father’s family.


Lawrence J. Carmalt, Sr.

Martins Ferry, Ohio

I Am Ashamed

In the early 1970s, veterans in this country came home to public sentiment, in America, that was less than favorable. Many told employers that they didn’t get into action across the ocean for fear of rejection from the work pool. Within five minutes of passing through customs, I was spit upon. I thought those days were gone. In our local parades, the public supports the veterans, but in the backrooms of politics, veterans are collectively being slapped in the face. I am referring to the unbelievable vote in the recent commissioner’s meeting. There was a motion from Commissioner Loomis to replace the missing members of the Restoration Committee with three very qualified veterans. They had even said as much when their names were first submitted. Though the motion was made for all three at once, the effect was quite different. The representative from the American Legion was not chosen because of a lack of second by Commissioner Kelly or Commissioner Warren. The representative from the Veterans of Foreign Wars was not chosen because of a lack of second by Commissioner Kelly or Commissioner Warren. The representative from the Marine Corps League was not chosen because of a lack of second by Commissioner Kelly or Commissioner Warren.

Ellen O’Malley is the Restoration Committee. Betty Smith is supposed to be on it too, but several incidents in the past lead me to believe that Ms. O’Malley takes no input from her at all and has kept her in the dark on actions, and lack thereof, of the committee. The other member, according to the commissioners, is Lee Smith. At the commissioner’s meeting Wednesday, I asked him if he had received any communication to attend any meeting of the Restoration Committee in the last two years; he replied he did not. It became apparent to me that Ms. O’Malley did not wish to share her authority with anyone else. Especially someone who may be more qualified. Even with Restoration Committee’s obvious need for good, qualified members, the veterans are not to be considered.


Fred B. Baker II

Meshoppen, PA

Gossip Is Cheap

I am responding promptly to B. Shaw’s letter alerting us of a “toxic waste danger in the community” at East Lake Camp, because it is very important to all of us who live here that her presentation of false information be exposed for what it is before it creates undue alarm in our community. I have given Ms. Shaw the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the misinformation she has shared with us comes from ignorance, rather than malice.

Regarding the health concerns: E. coli is a bacteria (not a virus) present in human and animal feces, and as such is considered by our public health agencies (DEP and DOH) to indicate presumptive (not proven) evidence of possible septic contamination when found in the drinking water supply. It causes disease in humans by the oral route – eating, drinking, and very often from soiled hands. It is not an airborne pathogen, as Ms. Shaw has suggested. To this date, there has been no evidence of the presence of the bacteria E. coli in soil/water samples taken by the SEO of New Milford Township on East Lake Camp property or on the township road #629. An independent environmental lab in New York has also tested with the same results. Despite the lack of evidence of septic contamination, the owners of the camp property agreed to submit to rigorous tank and dye testing by the SEO in mid-August, which has resulted in the reopening of the camp because no malfunctions were found. Local residents can rest assured that the camp presents no threat to their health or to the pollution of East Lake.

Secondly, I must refute Ms. Shaw’s unfounded statement that the Youngs “never got permission to do anything!” It has been well-documented that from August, 1996 through December, 1999 the Youngs presented planning and received licenses and approvals from the following officials and agencies: Susquehanna County Planning Commission; New Milford Township SEOs Harris, Laurie and Cook; New Milford Township Supervisors; PA Dept. of Environmental Protection; PA Dept. of Health; PA Dept. of Agriculture; PA Fish and Boat Commission – dock permits (the only permitted docks on the lake); PA Department of Conservation – sedimentation and erosion planning. It is obvious that the Youngs have complied with all the regulatory agencies in their reopening of the camp. This documentation is available to the public in the township, county, and state offices, while all licenses are prominently displayed, as required in the camp office.

Last of all, I wish to address Ms. Shaw’s expressed desire to keep East Lake in its pristine condition for all to enjoy, because I share that goal, and realize that not everyone in our lake community is as committed as “Ranger” Scott Young to the protection of the lake. Thanks to his efforts and those of the East Lake Conservation Association, the lake is once again in good health. Back in September, 2001, Mr. Young was pro-active in the investigation of a massive algae bloom (that killed approximately 10,000 fish). Through careful observation and water sampling that he sent to a toxicology lab, the fish are now thriving. Unfortunately, there are new property owners on East Lake who have been very careless with their road construction leading to the lake, using unwashed gravel that led to an enormous deposit of silt on the north shore, disrupting the ecology of the water for many weeks. Mr. Young served as vice president of the ELCA for two years, and continues to actively protect the lake.

In closing, I’d like to remind Barbara Shaw that gossip is cheap and always available, but it can do harm to spread it so freely around our community.


Virginia Young, BSMT, ASCP – microbiology

Concerned community member

County Commissioners’ Update

Our 911 department has been diligent in overseeing our mapping and readdressing project, with completion due within one year. This project has required the cooperation of our municipalities and boroughs, and when complete will encourage more efficient response to emergencies.

The long overdue project of the replacement of the County Office Building roof was completed on time and on budget.

In the very near future we will be relocating two of our District Justice offices. With the old leases expiring, the timing provided us with the opportunity to enhance safety and provide more modern facilities. The two new locations in New Milford Township and Clifford Township will include state funding, for state-of-the-art security measures. These enhancements are provided by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and were a combined effort lead by our Sheriff and a committee designated by the Judge.

A Courthouse security system will be implemented, with the cost secured through Homeland Security monies, recommended by our EMA department. Sheriff Benedict is overseeing this endeavor, with the help of our IT department, EMA department, Judge Seamans and the Commissioners. We intend to work together on this much-needed project.

Through the efforts of our Probation Department we have received monies that will  help pay for a new vehicle in that department and also help cover cost of programs through the County for our youth (that state funding reduced).

The County, along with the Economic Development board and CBPA are in the process of creating a plan that would include an Enterprise Zone designation. This program will be a first, sought through a DCED planning grant. The Enterprise Zone corridors will identify and address business development initiatives and encourage private investments by providing low interest loans and other incentives. There continues to be activity and interest shown in existing properties that we feel will improve the overall economic future for the county. We are currently in negotiations with a company seeking to not only relocate in  our county, but also expand their operation.

There is much progress being made on the transportation issues facing Susquehanna County. Tom Swan, Bill Ord and Commissioner Kelly are actively involved in promoting transportation improvements in Susquehanna County. Route 706 will see improvements and recently was given an added 1.6 million dollars to the total project by Congressman Don Sherwood. Roberta was given the opportunity to represent Susquehanna County at the Transportation hearings and used the time to explain the challenges we face.

The “Help America Vote Act” will provide the county with funding to implement upgrades for an improved election process required by federal and state guidelines. This process is moving forward through the efforts of our excellent Voter Registration office and IT department.

Our West Nile Program has had a very busy summer and we are pleased to announce that we have had no “positives” in our county.

We continue to support and attend Susquehanna County Rail Authority meetings, as well as the many other organizations in the county.

We’ve also joined efforts with Penn State to support the hiring of a Dairy/Ag Educator to assist in the sustainability of our existing farms and encourage the initiation of other agricultural possibilities in the county.

We will continue to make improvements on every level of county government and will make an effort to keep you informed of the correct information.


Roberta Kelly, MaryAnn Warren

Susquehanna County Commissioners

Money, Blood, Time

Money – I'm sure we've all started by giving generously to the Red Cross and other major organizations. If you use the Internet, I'd also like to recommend a much smaller charity called Modest Needs (ModestNeeds.org). They specialize in helping struggling families and individuals with small, emergency expenses (they investigate carefully and pay the bill directly). Modest Needs' Hurricane Katrina fund is earmarked for people living outside the affected area who are housing evacuees, or evacuees sheltering in motels.

Blood – If you are able to give blood, please make it part of your regular routine! A catastrophe like Katrina wakes us all up, and that's great. But blood is needed year-round, and our stocks are often dangerously low. If you donate at every drive, you'll have peace of mind that your blood is already out there helping when the next disaster strikes. It's simple – after donating blood, while you're enjoying the delicious food in the canteen, just sign yourself up for the next drive (usually 2-3 months away). A friendly volunteer will remind you!

Time – One thing I'm doing is writing to our representatives asking for an independent commission to investigate what went wrong in the federal response to Katrina, and saying "Please, no more tax cuts for the wealthy!" Over the next 5 years, the richest 1 percent of Americans are scheduled to get $336 billion in tax cuts. Republicans want to permanently repeal the inheritance tax, which only kicks in on amounts over one million. (I'm sure most of us would be thrilled to be able to inherit or bequeath a million dollars!) The reason we have taxes is so that as a nation we can pay for projects that are too big for individuals, cities, and states – like recovering from Katrina. We've burned through all the surpluses we accumulated in the 90s and are now running record-high deficits. We've been acting as though there will be no more rainy days – but that's clearly not the case.


Hilary Caws-Elwitt

Friendsville, PA

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