Governor Corbett, you've got a mountain to climb. But I believe I can help you win re-election here in Pennsylvania.
For the most part, you'd think I'd be a big supporter of yours. You're a Republican. I'm a Republican. You're a fiscal conservative. I'm a fiscal conservative. You want less government and more privatization (like our state store and lottery systems) and I agree with this too. You want to reform our bloated pension system and who can argue with that (unless of course you're a beneficiary of said system)? And even though you're a private enterprise guy like me, you also want the state to increase its oversight over the "fracking" activities to minimize their environmental impact. I think that's a good idea too. You're a low tax, pro-business Governor and of course I like that. And best of all... you're a middle aged white guy with a nice family. Hey, me too!
But you've got some big, big problems. It seems that every time I look at a news story about you it's negative. You're being trashed everywhere dude! Your austerity measures over the past few years have been met with heavy resistance and as a result the state's budget deficit has topped $1 billion. From what I read, you're struggling to create jobs and increase income levels. Teachers and unions hate you. You fight, mostly unsuccessfully, to win over members of your own party in the state legislature. Your agenda seems mostly stalled. Even the passing of a recent highway bill brought along with it higher taxes, which is something you specifically vowed not to do. Your poll ratings are in the basement. Let's face it - Dennis Rodman, even when he's sober, is more popular than you.
And yet you're trying to fix this. Last week you announced a new budget and you'd think that people, particularly teachers, would be cheering. You proposed creating a $240 million block grant that would be available to schools to train teachers and develop curriculum (though not to pay teacher salaries). You want to add another $20 million to a base of special education funding that has remained level, at $1.026 billion, for six years and you proposed to keep basic education funding level at $5.5 billion. And what was the result? Thud! A representative of the Pennsylvania State Education Association dismissed the block grant proposal as "an election-year gimmick designed to distract from previous cuts to education funding." Man, there's no just no pleasing some people, right?
But you have to please them. And you can. You still have time to fix this. You can be re-elected. How?
For starters, move to Philadelphia. That's right. Move. We are under 2 hours from Harrisburg. It's not a big deal. You can commute there when you need. Live right in Center City. Eat at our restaurants. Suffer through a few Sixers game. Show up unannounced at bars and neighborhoods and malls. Go on local TV. Do some charity work. Visit schools. Schedule a return, apologetic visit to Central High. Take a few small business people to lunch. Shop at Wegmans. Speak to the unions. We don't see you. We don't know you. We are more than half of the state's population. You want to be our governor? Live here for the next nine months.
Next, compromise. You've made your budget proposals. Now get them passed. Show the world that you can work with the state legislature, even members of your party. Demonstrate to your citizens, and even to the President of the United States, that our elected leaders who were given the opportunity to lead will actually do just that. Govern. Manage. Compromise. Concede. Empathize. Move things forward in the direction that you've been mandated but bring along others with you because they're getting something too. We've seen little of this the past three years in Harrisburg (and in Washington). Show the world that you've learned this lesson. You've got time to change.
Finally stop being so...well...Republican. Lose the suit. Toss the hairspray. Curse. Spit. Show us a little of that 12-year old boy that you once were and you know is still inside of you. You're probably fun to be with...we just don't see much of that. Philadelphia, and its suburbs, is not like you. The city is made up predominantly of black, Asian, Indian and other races and cultures. Do you think these people have even a remote connection to you right now? They just see a middle aged white guy who could probably care less about them. Even Rendell, another middle aged white guy, was more endearing. He shared common interests with everyone - food, sports, the love of the city. He wasn't a better governor, just a better politician.
I bet if I get to know you better I'll like you more. And so will others. You want to be re-elected? Then come and live here, Governor Corbett. Loosen up. You've got a long road to climb. But if you win Philly you'll win the state.
A version of this blog previously appeared on Phillymag.com.