Kowalko Gives Markell The Knockout Punch Over NY Times Op/Ed Piece

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this week called “Let’s Stop Government Giveaways To Corporations”.  In it, he urged states not to get sucked into giving away the farm for huge corporations.  Something, even Markell noted, he did himself during his tenure as Delaware Governor from 2009-2017.  I found the irony behind Markell’s piece astounding as I felt he sold Delaware public education students down the river with his insane Race To The Top and Common Core antics.  State Rep. John Kowalko takes it a step further n an open letter to Markell.  Some of Markell’s many corporate giveaways in Delaware still haunt us to this day.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER GOVERNOR MARKELL

Dear Jack,

I’ve just finished reading your N.Y. Times op-ed and I feel it’s my obligation to Delaware’s taxpayers to respond. I’d like to think that your most recent missive has merely added to my disappointment in you but I think I’ve already passed the minimum expectations level in regard to your performance and legacy. I will try to be objective in my analysis and critique.

First, I find it unbecoming for you to use “revisionist history” as a crutch to support your crippling economic decisions. That pejorative explanation has become the trademark of Trumpism and the Republican Conservative ideologues and should be an embarrassing reference for any legitimate public servant who wears a “D” after his title. I’d suggest that you cease evading responsibilities, casting blame and rewriting reality or remove that “D”.

Your statement that “I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game” fails to adequately express the reality that you were much more “guilty” then other Delaware elected officials. You blithely dismiss the seriousness of this ongoing “economic/corporate welfare” threat by writing “And I don’t blame public officials, either, for their efforts to attract businesses with enticements, since they otherwise would risk losing out on new jobs, the transfer of old ones elsewhere and the bad publicity that could come with abandoning efforts to entice or retain companies”. That attitude and admission would be better relegated to a confessional for your personal “mea culpa” and forgiveness ask.

In your article some of the revisions you make to your economic tenure as Governor are merely omissions, others are misrepresentative of reality and others seem to be deliberate distortions. So I will attempt to briefly summarize what you’ve conveniently forgotten. During your 8 years as Chief Executive your DEDO/Strategic Fund doled out over $250 million (in grants and subsidies) in taxpayer money. Approximately 37% of the recipients were huge fortune 400 companies. This number does not include the more than $80 million in lost corporate revenue from your hastily contrived “Delaware Competes Act” (House Bill 235 quickly ushered through the Delaware General Assembly during the first few weeks of 2016 session) along with the “Commitment to Innovation Act” (SB 200). You mention the failed Fisker debacle but choose to ignore/deny your other expensive yet failed economic enterprise the “Bloom” subsidy. Not only has the cash grant/subsidy failed to produce the promised jobs but you’ve ensured that 300,000 individual and commercial Delmarva ratepayers would be burdened with an additional 20 years of subsidies to a private speculator/entrepreneur at a cost of $12-$15 million per year. Your remarkably optimistic speculation that the two of three Dow/DuPont spinoffs was a victory belies the reality that a preponderance of the research jobs are gone and Delaware is left with a comparative handful of jobs at the two headquarters. This type of Pyrrhic victory should not be heralded as the sign of an economic boon to Delaware. You also failed to mention the layoffs of 1700 (six-figure) DuPont researchers especially in light of your Secretary of Finance Tom Cook’s testimony on the House floor in response to my query that those jobs are gone and not coming back despite the Competes/Innovates corporate tax cuts and the 13 million cash giveaways that Ed Breen publicly said would not affect DuPont’s plans for job cuts. To paraphrase Mr. Breen’s remarks in the News Journal article “that money won’t make a difference in our plans but I’m not going to turn it down”. And lest we forget Jack, $10 million to JP Morgan (declared $24 billion in profit the year before), $2.5 million to Sallie Mae ($71 million profit 2nd qtr. 2017), $70 million infrastructure improvements to the Astra Zeneca campus (dramatically improving the value of their property now being sold) housing an ever dwindling workforce.

I do agree with your sentiments expressed as such but it would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure”. Maybe that will happen under your successor’s tutelage via the newly minted taxpayer giveaway mechanism named the “Delaware Prosperity Partnership”. Perhaps that corporate dominated cabal will accept applications for funding to restore the $27 million in cuts to education you made in 2009 that have continued to date (under the guise of flexible spending block grants) or the additional $31 million in cuts to public education in this year’s budget or maybe some of those poor and elderly former pharmaceutical assistance recipients could make their anguished cries heard.

Wow! Kowalko nailed it!  Jack Markell, you had your time as leader of Delaware.  I know you like to pontificate over your imagined “success” as Delaware Governor but far too many of us see past your hypocrisy.  And for the most recent news on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the following happened this week with that:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday announced that John Riley, a former state Director of Business Development, will serve as interim CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership – the newly-established public-private partnership that will lead the state’s economic development efforts.

In the position, Riley will help launch operations, develop a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, and conduct a search for a permanent chief executive.

“John is well-known and respected across our state, and has significant experience in economic development,” said Governor Carney, who will serve as co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “I’m pleased he has agreed to help us launch the partnership. We are committed to changing the way we do business, fostering innovation, and growing our economy. I’m confident John will help position the partnership to succeed.”

“Establishment of this entity was a critical step to enhance the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies; to build a stronger entrepreneurial culture and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent,” said Rod Ward, President of CSC and co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “As Interim CEO, John will work with the board on the recruitment of a permanent CEO and development of a strategic plan for Delaware.”

“Thank you to Governor Carney and the entire board of the partnership for this opportunity,” said John Riley. “Delaware has great assets – a talented workforce, a strategic location along I-95, responsive leadership, and great communities up and down our state. I look forward to doing everything I can to attract investment and additional good-paying jobs to our state, and setting up this new partnership to succeed in helping grow our economy.”

Riley served as Director of Business Development under then-Governor Thomas R. Carper. He retired from Ashland where he was Director of Government Relations and previously served as Director of Public Affairs for Hercules Incorporated. Riley has continued to be active in economic development and assisted Governor Jack Markell’s Administration with Delaware’s strategy in responding to the DuPont-Dow merger.

Members of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board approved the hiring of Riley at an organizational meeting this week.

Governor Carney, who took office in January, has made it a top priority to restructure Delaware’s economic development efforts, and strategically partnering with the private sector on economic growth was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Action Plan for Delaware. Last month, Governor Carney signed House Bill 226, creating the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and a new division within the Department of State to support small business growth.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be run day-to-day by the chief executive officer and a full-time staff. The nonprofit will lead business marketing efforts for the state, with a focus on attracting early-stage and technology-focused businesses, recruitment of large employers, and expansion of international business opportunities for Delaware companies. Its leaders also will work with employers and Delaware educators to fill key talent gaps in the state. The state will jointly fund the partnership’s operations with private business.

 

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Homeowners Set To Get Screwed With Governor Carney’s “Shared Sacrifice”

Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars.  This is up ten million from the last time the committee met.  Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers.  Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.

Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers.  In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario.  Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.

This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st.  State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most.  State employees will see higher insurance rates.  Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear.  Services will be cut.  It is all rather bleak.  Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear.  State revenue does not match state expenses.  Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs.  Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.

With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values.  While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that.  But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.

Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues.  Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities.  The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year.  By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services.  Either way, it has a negative effect.  If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding.  If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation.  So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.

Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award.  Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools.  This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00.  The overall winner would get $1,500.00.  While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators.  Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money.  If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill.  But not now.

Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday.  This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009.  This is Delaware created.  We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper.  Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit.  I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.

State Rep. John Kowalko Weighs In On Delaware Taxpayer Money Getting Flushed Down The Toilet

In my article on our Non-Transparent Delaware, State Rep. John Kowalko left a comment that deserved its own post.

As regards the “Commitment (of taxpayer money) To Innovation Act” please read the following:

I certainly have not and will not support any of these corporate tax welfare bills. DuPont/Dow moved the majority of research and other jobs in the agricultural spinoff to Iowa and Delaware taxpayers are left with some extremely costly crumbs (headquarters only) in Wilmington. Let me point out to all that there was and will continue to be opposition to this ravaging of the taxpayers’ wallet and I certainly will do my best to expose my colleagues to the illegitimacy of such policies that offer no return on investment for Delaware taxpayers.

My point is that making a product (Oreos for instance), moving 600 jobs from Chicago to Mexico across the border for dirt cheap wages and rueful working conditions benefits only those multi-billion dollar corporations and their CEOs (see DuPont/Dow $80 million bonuses) while idling thousands of American workers who no longer have spendable income to support the consumer spending that is needed for local businesses to survive. Ross Perot was right about that sucking sound. For example: DuPont $200 million factory built in China (recently opened) employing thousands of Chinese workers manufacturing solar panels for sale back here, or Johnson Controls recently constructed and opened battery manufacturing facility ($150 million) in China for distribution from the Delaware distribution center in Middletown that taxpayers invested millions in infrastructural and road improvements. For example DuPont spinoff headquarters staying in Wilmington while a significant majority of the actual jobs of the agricultural research branch goes to Iowa leaving Delaware with 1700 layoffs of well-paid positions and only a potential for job growth with a price tag of $16 million for Delaware taxpayers. The list goes on and on.

The “Corporate Welfare” policies of this Administration have cost the Delaware taxpayers $250 million during Governor Markell’s term. This irresponsible wasting of the taxpayer dollars has resulted in no discernible return on investment and has stopped absolutely no job losses from these wealthy corporations. Further compounding this administration’s erroneous economic missteps is the recent policy that was passed, despite my and Representative Williams objections, labelled the Delaware Competes Act. This corporate giveaway will cost over $48 million in lost revenue to Delaware with absolutely no appreciable effect to retain or grow jobs. Now the Administration has filed more legislation branded as “The Commitment to Innovation Act” that will further erode necessary revenue that provides basic, necessary services to Delawareans. Neither of these misguided economic policies will reinforce local business growth or stability and will leave a gaping hole in Delaware’s budget that this Administration will attempt to fill on the backs of state employees, seniors and the poorer families in Delaware.

Adding to the insult of these types of corporate giveaways is the actual statistical proof that these types of bribes and irresponsible economic policies have been marked by failure after failure at an unaffordable expense. Read the linked article and please note that $22 million went to JPMorgan which profited to the tune of $24.5 billion last year with “promises” of job growth that would inevitably have occurred without this taxpayer outlay. Note also the proposed $14.16 million to DuPont which totally dismisses the fact that there has been 1700 well-paid jobs recently and irretrievably cut by DuPont in Delaware. And the bulk of its future jobs with the newly created agricultural spinoff (Pioneer) will be lost to Iowa. Consider the $11 million gift to Incyte Corp. with the promise of creating 130 jobs in the future on the heels of the announcement by Incyte that they were laying off 137 Delawareans. The Fisker and Bloom debacles speak for themselves as monuments to irrational and irresponsible wastes of taxpayer dollars. One tenth of that $250 million diverted to supporting locally based businesses for job growth, infrastructural investments and production improvements via tax credits and subsidies would ensure a healthy and robust growth in our local communities and not end up in the pockets of corporate profiteers. Call your legislators and demand that they resist this callous and flawed attempt to redistribute and divert revenues from Delaware families into the coffers of wealthy corporations.

Is The DuPont Hay Road Dioxin Pile Already Leaking? All Delaware Citizens Need To Read This!

The below information was forwarded to me today.  It is an email from John Kearney with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to Delaware State Representative John Kowalko.  Yesterday, Kowalko started a petition for the removal of a dangerous toxic pile of waste at the former DuPont currently Chemours site at 1201 Hays Road in Wilmington, DE.  The petition stated the following:
Protect the health of Delaware’s residents by mandating the total removal of the hazardous waste pile built from 1997-2001 by DuPont at its Edge Moor facility, containing titanium dioxide, benzene and other life-threatening toxins and carcinogens.
Governor Markell, we the undersigned demand that you protect the health and welfare of Delaware’s residents by mandating the total removal of the hazardous waste pile containing titanium dioxide, benzene, and a host of other life-threatening toxins at the Edge Moor facility, holding both DuPont and Chemours fully liable (jointly and severally) for any costs borne by taxpayers for cleanup.
This caught the eye of John Kearney with the Department of Children and Families over in New Jersey who did some rather clever detective work on this issue, and the below results are startling.  If I were a family living in this area, and you are facing any potential health issues, I would seek advice immediately.
Is DuPont’s Hay Road dioxin Pile already leaking?  I’m unsure whether DuPont passed this liability off via its recently conceived Chemours entity, but that veil can be legally pierced to hold DuPont responsible for this location; therefore I am going to continue to refer to this as the DuPont Dioxin Pile.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a lifetime cap solution?  Is their lifetime solution already starting to wear down?
Earlier today I read Jeff Montgomery’s New Journal story about the closing of the Chemours Facility on Hay Road and then I went to Google Maps to look at satellite images of the caped Dioxin Pile.  While looking at the Google images of the Dioxin pile on Hay Road, I noticed something interesting.  It looks like the pile has already been leaking and that they have patched it.  Grey material can been seen in the recent pictures of the location that is not shown in older pictures.   This grey material clearly looks like a patch that has been added by DuPont.
This first set of pictures was from the satellite pictures included with the August 21, 2015, News Journal story  regarding  the closing of the Chemours,  Edgemoor facility.    From these pictures, it looks like some green runoff has pooled in the south east corner of  the capped DuPont Edgemoor site (see below).  If you look close, it looks like the green material goes all the way up to the base of the cap.  See the next set of pictures below.  I have marked the locations with red arrows and labels.  The patch is not in the picture included with the  August 21, 2015, News Journal story.    
The pictures and News Journal story can be found here:
This is the picture included with the August 21, 2015, News Journal story: 
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image001.png@01D0E180.6950F080
Close up showing that the green wastewater extends all the way up to the edge of the pile:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image002.png@01D0E182.28BAC030
The red arrows show what looks like could be the source of the leak because the green color can been seen all the way up here, the furthest west that this material can be seen.
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image003.png@01D0E182.28BAC030
Now, if you go to the current pictures on Google Maps.  There is a cap in this exact location.  The cap appears to be made of the same material that they have placed around the edge of the pile and the same material as a patch on top of the pile.  This ridge of material around the edge of the pile, almost looks like a bad caulking job in an old bathtub.  The patch in the latest Google pictures is clearly made of the same material.  Again, this patch is not present in the pictures included with the News Journal Edgemoor closing story.   There also appears to be less standing green wastewater in the more recent pictures.  See below. 
Another close up showing this cap is not present in the older Google Maps pictures:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image004.png@01D0E182.99862D90
This series of pictures is taken from the current Google Maps pictures.  You can follow this link and see for yourself:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image005.png@01D0E182.F04D72F0
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image008.png@01D0E186.85487550
Here is a close up of that same location shown above near the source of the leak.   A comparison between the picture included in the August 21, 2015, News Journal story and the current pictures found at the Google Maps website on August 28, 2015, indicates that this is a recent patch.  Current Google Maps images in use on the Google website can be anywhere from a few months old to, approximately, two years old. 
This is a closeup of the patch.  The grey material can be seen covering the entire area, where in the older pictures, no grey material can be seen at this location.
Conspicuous black line and current leak without the red markup.  This line also was not in the August 21, 2015  New Journal article about the closing of the Edge Moor facility:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image011.png@01D0E185.CBE66B80
Why would this patch be there, if the pile wasn’t leaking?  Did DuPont report this leak to DNREC?  What is in this green wastewater runoff?  What toxins are contained in the runoff?  I sure would like to know.
Please see this recent story from the Huffington Post regarding DuPont and C8 as an example of how honest DuPont has been with these types of leaks:
John Kearney
Yesterday, James Dawson with WDDE/Delaware Public Media published an article about the toxic pile.  In this article, he wrote:

The nearly 23-acre site sits next to the Delaware River, east of I-495 and within a mile of surrounding neighborhoods and other waterways. Earlier this spring, Dupont installed more than 4,000 solar panels on part of the encapsulated pile that generate enough electricity to power nearly 150 homes for a year, on average.

Kowalko proposed legislation in 2007 and 2009 that would have forced companies to safely treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste they generate in Delaware according to federal standards.

“Once we allow these things to accumulate, eventually, we’re looking tragedy in the eye,” said Kowalko. “I think that we have to be more respectful of what we are using, what we are making, what we are distributing and how we are storing it in between distribution.”

The legislation did not pass.  While I don’t normally write about matters outside of the education/disabilities realm, this concerns me.  The Delaware DOE and their standardized testing vendor, American Institutes for Research questioned the overdiagnosing of special education needs for students with disabilities and openly stated Delaware’s percentage of students with IEPs was too high compared to most states.  I took great offense to this.  Delaware is known to be one of the most polluted states in the country.  Disabilities are on the rise across America, especially in Delaware.  The Autism Task Force stated they expect the number of Autism cases in this state to rise significantly in the future.  Is there a connection between the rise of disabilities in Delaware and situations like these that happen right before our very eyes while the Delaware government looks the other way?  In addition, how many cases of cancer and dangerous diseases could be attributed to these man-made environmental poisons?  Questions to ponder as this “capped” pile of toxic waste continues to pose a grave danger for all around it.

Longwood Foundation Giving Millions In Grants To Charters, TFA, and ISI

Last fall, I started seeing more and more comments in charter school board minutes (I know, an oxymoron in itself) about charters submitting grants to the Longwood Foundation, the charity arm of DuPont.  After seeing one charter school put in their board minutes how they received $1.4 million dollars, I thought I might want to check the Longwood Foundation out, and I found this on their website:

“The most recent opportunity to emerge is in leadership development. After grants made to Teach for America (TFA) and Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), we have discovered that Delaware has a growing annual cohort of leaders in their twenties (it will grow to be over two hundred people each year) – most of whom are here in short term programs (two years or less) and most of whom will leave us if we don’t make a concerted effort to keep them. We have partnered with the Delaware Business Roundtable, TFA, ISI, Public Allies, and others to develop an annual program called Delaware Talent Live (DTL) designed to attract, develop, and retain these great young leaders. It’s our hope that we can convince many, if not most of them, to stay in Delaware and accelerate their growth into leadership positions in the nonprofit, for profit, and government sectors.

We remain committed to improving Delaware’s educational opportunities — with emphasis on the K-12 system. Specifically, we want to see the academic achievement gap closed and all of our students learn in a system that seeks results that are excellent on an international scale. We are honored that Bank of America chose to work with us to develop the Community Education Building in Wilmington and have designed it to serve low-income Wilmington children – closing the achievement gap for them and pointing them towards international excellence. Separately, we recognize that there are just as many low-income children in Delaware’s southern two counties as there are in Wilmington and seek to support schools there that align with these same objectives.”

Does the DOE have a contract with this Intercollegiate Studies Institute? I’m sure they will soon if they don’t already! I bolded the part about them wanting to see the achievement gap closed. I would like to see that too. But the way I want it is for all this standardized testing crap to end so kids aren’t measure for their proficiency on these horrible assessments.   Close the tests, close the achievement gap!  Cause if I hear one more discriminatory person say all special needs kids can do as well as their peers, they are living in dreamland!  If I haven’t said it today, OPT OUT OF THE SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT NOW DELAWARE PARENTS!

Oh wait, which beloved Delaware charter got the cha-ching from the Longwood Foundation?  This one:

Does the DOE