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Row Office Reform?
by donahue Tuesday, May. 03, 2005 at 8:28 AM

This ain’t as boring as it sounds; well it is but give me a break.

Hey there fellow sheep. Those who are neither Democrats nor Republicans are being asked to flock to the polls on May 17 because Pennsylvania law makers have got a couple of questions put on the ballot that day.

One ballot question is called Growing Greener II and it asks us if we want to let, “the commonwealth borrow up to $625 million for the maintenance and protection of the environment, open space and farmland preservation, watershed protection, abandoned mine remediation, and other environmental initiatives?"

The other ballot question is called “Row Office Reform.” It will ask, "Shall the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter be amended to: a) replace the Clerk of Courts, Jury Commissioners, Prothonotary and Register of Wills with an appointed Director of Court Records; b) replace the Coroner with an appointed Medical Examiner, retaining all powers enumerated in 16 Pennsylvania Statues Sections 4232-4248; and c) replace the Recorder of Deeds with an appointed Real Estate Manager; each appointment by the County Manager commencing upon expiration of the elected officials' current term?"

Row Office Reform is being touted as a sort of cure all by its proponents. First of all they call it “reform.” Just what is “reform” anyhow? Beware of politicians when they throw around that reform word. In this case reform means that we get to elect fewer county officers, while the county executive and the county manager get to appoint more county officers. The elected County Council won’t have any oversight over these appointments. So in this instance “reform” seems to mean that voters get less power and the county executive gets more power.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh says that voting YES for Row Office Reform “will ensure that Allegheny County takes an important next step in building a 21st century government.” What does that mean? What is a “21st century government” anyhow? I mean really, that statement makes no sense at all unless perhaps they plan on eventually replacing the Clerk of Courts with a robot. That sounds 21st centuryish. How about a robotic sheriff? Robocop DeFazio. (Actually we still get to elect a flesh and blood human as our sheriff – for now.)

County Executive Dan Onorato and some business folks in the county have set up a special committee to promote this reform called strangely enough “The Committee for Row Office Reform.” On their web page they say that voting YES will make Allegheny County “a more attractive place to build new and expand existing businesses.” Neat, I can hear them up on Wall Street now on May 18. “Hey, did you hear that they voted to no longer elect their Coroner down in Allegheny County, PA?” “Wow, I’m moving my business there!”

There is one common theme that runs through all the political b.s. about “reform” and “21st century government” and that theme is that it is good for business. Unelected officials are good for business and elected officials are bad for business. This explains everything.

One serious concern with this reform measure is the replacement of the elected County Coroner with a Medical Examiner appointed by the County Executive. To whom will this appointed medical examiner answer? I hope not to the District Attorney. Will this person function to help the police and the district attorney win their cases? The answer lies in the ballot question reference to 16 Pennsylvania Statues Sections 4232-4248. What do those statutes say? It’s hard to know because Pennsylvania is the only state in the country without a free version of its statutes on the internet. (Any lawyers have a copy of the PA Statutes?) Still, the folks over at the Committee for Row Office Reform assured me that an appointed medical examiner will remain independent of law enforcement.

Good sheep that I am I will go to the poll on May 17 to vote on these two ballot questions. It is worth the trouble just to see the surprised look on the nice poll workers’ faces when they meet a 9th ward resident who is not a registered Democrat.

Growing Greener II is a no brainer for me but this reform stuff is harder. Combining offices seems fine but how does limiting our ability to vote for county officers save money and streamline government. This “reform” just seems like a way of increasing the power of the executive and I don’t know if I like that kind of reform.

bahh, bahh, bahh

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power to the ???
by karl roenfanz ( rosey ) Sunday, May. 15, 2005 at 8:10 PM

appointed - means that the pointer gets more power over our lives. why not merit controlled ? coroner - do you want someone who has been to school to do the job / or someone who won a popularity contest ?

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