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Baldwin-Whitehall activist to seek seat on school board

Published by Janice Crompton on .

A parent activist who has served as a watchdog during the past year has tossed his hat into the ring for a seat on the Baldwin-Whitehall school board.

Lou Rainaldi Jr., 45, of Whitehall, announced his candidacy this week for the nine-member board -- the same body which took a monumental amount of criticism from taxpayers last year for its actions involving a current board member.

A year ago, parents, including Mr. Rainaldi, began swarming board meetings by the hundreds after it was learned that board member Martin Schmotzer had been appointed to an administrative job in the district with no public input or discussion.

After the initial public outcry, Mr. Schmotzer resigned the $120,000-per-year job and retook his seat on the school board. Mr. Rainaldi and others were critical of the board's actions involving Mr. Schmotzer and other issues, such as a tax decrease last year.

The parent of two school-aged children, Mr. Rainaldi works full time as a software engineer but he spent several hours a day cleaning up what many residents see as a corrupt school board. He videotapes board meetings and posts them on the Internet.

He and other parents created a group called "Baldwin-Whitehall Citizens for School Board Excellence," at www.bwaction.com.

"I was deeply moved over the past year by what I have seen and heard from our school board. Many of you have stood with me as we told the board 'no' to the job creation and appointment," Mr. Rainaldi said in his announcement. "We watched as a 2 mill tax cut was advanced from board comments without any vetting and against the recommendation of the administration. Now, we are hearing that a tax increase will be needed in order to balance the budget along with the possibility of cuts to avoid using our fund balance."

Mr. Rainaldi said his goals as a board member would be increased transparency, public participation and professionalism.

"I believe there is so much more work to do in our district. After much thought and many calls from you, I have decided that I would like to have a seat on the school board. I ask for your support and help to sit on the board and represent you," said Mr. Rainaldi. "I feel that I can better help my fellow citizens and our students from a seat on the board."

 

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

(Associated Press photo)(Associated Press photo)

1) We all had a chance to speak – or, uh, tweet – directly with Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday morning, when he held the first of what he said would be occasional Twitter town hall meetings. During the 30-minute session, Governor Go Time answered questions about his priorities, his moratorium on executions and whether his Jeep is a stick or an automatic (spoiler alert: it's a stick). He clearly had links ready for questions that required answers of more than 140 characters. You can take a look at the Storify of the entire session here.

2) When you go through that Storify, you'll probably notice that Mr. Wolf didn't respond to any questions about his tax plan, which he'll reveal during his budget address next week. Don't take it personally, though – he's not talking to us about that stuff either.

3) The dean of Duquesne University's law school won't get a shot at serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after all. Dean Ken Gormley's nomination to fill out one of two vacant seats on the court died on Tuesday, the day after fellow nominee Thomas Kistler, Centre County's president judge, withdrew his name from consideration. Mr. Wolf took pains to nominate one candidate from each party, so when Judge Kistler, a Republican, withdrew after a controversy over a racially insensitive email he sent two years ago, the compromise that would have also seated Mr. Gormley fell apart.

4) Also from the Falling Apart Department: Republicans in Washington are finding that holding a majority in both houses of Congress isn't a guarantee that things are going to be easy.

5) Also from the No Guarantees Department: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual – you know, President Obama's former chief of staff – couldn't muster a clean majority in his re-election bid Tuesday night. The result? The famously hot-headed Mayor Rahmbo has to contend with a runoff election against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in April.

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Catch up with Tom Wolf on Twitter

Published by Mike Pound on .

wolftwittertownhall

Have a question for Gov. Tom Wolf? You have a 30-minute window this morning to ask him directly.

Govenor Go Time will hold a Twitter town hall meeting at 11 a.m. today to answer questions about his first month in office. Point your questions towards the @GovernorTomWolf Twitter account and maybe you'll get an answer from the Mr. Wolf himself.

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Jesse White seeks Washington County DJ seat

Published by Mike Pound on .

Jesse White

Jesse White didn't stay out of politics for long.

Mr. White, ousted from his seat in the state House last year, will seek nominations to serve as a district judge covering Mt. Pleasant, Robinson, McDonald and his hometown of Cecil. Mr. White, 36, has cross-filed to appear on Democratic and Republican ballots in May's primary election.

Mr. White served four terms as a Democratic state representative, but he lost a challenge in November to newcomer Jason Ortitay, a Republican. The loss was the Mr. White's first election following a controversy in 2013, when it was revealed that he had been impersonating other people on social media sites to take on political rivals

And things haven't been quiet for Mr. White since the loss. Earlier this month, he was sued in Washington County Court by his mother, Sharlene Watazychyn, who claimed that Mr. White racked up debts totaling $28,000 on a credit card he used her name to obtain. In response, Mr. White said his mother filed false claims because she was upset over not being permitted to see her grandson.

On a website touting his candidacy, Mr. White said his court would offer evening hours and be respectful to all. In a statement, he also said he would work with local law enforcement to get a grip on drug problems in the community.

"As a legislator, it was no secret that I often shown my passionate and aggressive side while fighting for my constituents and community," Mr. White said. "However, I understand that a judicial role requires a different and more measured approach, which is what I plan to bring into the courtroom every single day. My courtroom will be one of respect, fairness and justice, with no strings attached."

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Wolf nominee withdraws name from Supreme Court consideration

Published by Mike Pound on .

Judge Thomas Kistler (Philadelphia Inquirer photo)Judge Thomas Kistler (Philadelphia Inquirer photo)

Centre County's president judge has withdrawn his name for consideration for a seat on the state Supreme Court after a controversy over – wait for it – a forwarded email message percolated over the weekend.

Judge Thomas Kistler didn't mention the message in a statement he released on Monday, but Gov. Tom Wolf said on Friday he was reviewing the content of the message, said by some to be racially insensitive: with the title "Merry Christmas from the Johnsons," the message depicts an African-American couple during what appears to be a prison visit; the man is wearing an orange jumpsuit and it sitting behind a glass partition.

The message's subject line? "best Christmas card ever."

Judge Kistler's statement didn't reference the message; instead, it mentioned unnamed circumstances in Centre County that required his attention:

Since November, when I first offered to serve the Commonwealth on the highest court in Pennsylvania, several circumstances have developed here, at home, in Centre County, which have dramatically altered the legal system, and require my full attention. I cannot with a clear conscience abandon my responsibilities to Centre County in this time of uncertainty.

Judge Kistler confirmed last week that he had forwarded the message. He said there was no ill intent.

Of course, one of the reasons Judge Kistler was nominated to serve on the high court was because of a controversy over pornographic emails that swept through the state Attorney General's office when former Gov. Tom Corbett held that position; that web snared state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who retired from the court last year under pressure from then-Chief Justice Ronald Castille.