Thursday, November 03, 2011

Raja for Allegheny County Executive

Last night (11/2) I had the honor of attending a town hall-style campaign meeting of D. Raja ("Raja"), a local Allegheny County entrepreneur and CEO who is the Republican candidate for Allegheny County Executive in next Tuesday's (11/8) election. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support Raja's candidacy.

Raja is an immigrant to our great Nation. His success is proof of the American Dream: hard work and perseverance will lead to success. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1989 and from my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, with an MBA (with honors) in 2001.

Raja has published policy position papers in eight key areas that our county government must improve. I encourage my readers to check them all out via the link. The eight areas are:

  • Jobs
  • Taxes, Regulations & Fees
  • Port Authority/Mass Transit
  • Modernizing Government
  • Fostering Innovation
  • Pittsburgh International Airport Plan
  • Education
  • Senior Citizens

Here are my take-aways from Raja's policy positions, and the core of why I support him.

County Government Must Be Reformed. Allegheny County contains 130 individual municipalities and 43 school districts. Personally, I am quite happy with how both my municipality (Richland Township) and school district (Pine-Richland) have managed their affairs. They are both good, effective stewards of my tax dollars. The same can't be said of the rest of our area. All county residents and taxpayers will benefit from consolidation and rationalization of public services where it can be done effectively and without negative impact on the local systems and services that do work well. My own area is a great example. Richland Township shares its police force with three other municipalities - the Northern Regional Police (Bradford Woods, Marshall, Pine, and Richland). This consolidation has saved us money and has not reduced the effectiveness or response of our public safety responders. Raja has also promised to bring back merit hiring within county government, rejecting the patronage or "pay to play" that has been all to common in this region.

Taxes, Regulations, and Fees. Right now in Allegheny County, we have a 7% alcoholic drinks tax levied on all bars and restaurants and some of the highest car rental and hotel taxes in the nation. Both of these make Allegheny County less attractive for businesses, conventions, and other events and must be dealt with. Raja has pledged to end the drinks tax and greatly reduce the others to make Allegheny County more attractive. Where other taxes and regulations impact Allegheny County's ability to attract new business, he has pledged to work in cooperation with other local leaders to get the necessary changes out of Harrisburg or Washington, DC.

It's All About the Gas. Marcellus Shale natural gas, that is. Allegheny County is sitting on top of a treasure trove of energy supplies, and Raja is the candidate committed to develop them so we can all profit. He recognizes that there are environmental concerns but also knows, as do I, that it is possible to develop the resources we have while mitigating the risk to our homes, water, etc. It is essential that we do so. Raja wants to make Allegheny County a hub for Marcellus Shale development, and that would be fantastic. He has proposed converting all public transit buses to natural gas - gas that can be drilled for and obtained right here. His plan for the airport includes not just exploiting the natural gas resources underneath, but developing the county-owned land around the airport as a hub for innovation, particularly in the energy sector. Local energy development will create many jobs on its own, to say nothing of the thousands of jobs that will be created in supporting industries and other, non-related businesses due to increased overall employment and population.

I believe Raja's leadership is what Allegheny County needs for the second decade of the 21st century. His opponent comes out of the entrenched local Democratic machine. More of the same of Allegheny County local government will not move our region forward. At best, we'd get stagnation. At worst, we'll lose the great area we've worked so hard to rebuild out of the departure of large industrial manufacturing in the 1980s.

Vote Raja on November 8th!

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