BAD JUDGMENT - LancasterOnline: Editorials


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Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2011 12:01 am | Updated: 10:52 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

Things that make us go hmmmmm….

• It's not often that federal prosecutors appeal a judge's sentence as too lenient. But when it came to federal Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter's ruling that former state Sen. Vince Fumo, of Philadelphia, has to serve only 55 months in jail for fraud, an appeal was unavoidable.

Last week, an appellate court panel agreed with prosecutors, ordering Judge Buckwalter - once a Lancaster County Court jurist - to hold a new sentencing hearing for The Vince.

The appeals court said Judge Buckwalter erred in calculating the amount of the fraud at $2.5 million rather than $4 million. Other errors included Judge Buckwalter's conclusion that sophisticated tactics weren't used in the fraud and his refusal to consider Mr. Fumo's skimming of money from a charity in setting the punishment. All that points toward a longer sentence.

We were appalled by Judge Buckwalter's sentence. Legislative corruption, especially corruption on the scale of The Vince's, deserves more than a slap on the wrist. When the public's trust is broken, the consequences have to be tough enough to punish the offender and deter bad behavior by anyone else. So here's hoping Judge Buckwalter has a change of heart.

• Looks as if the state Gaming Control Board wants to wash its hands of the scandal of gamblers leaving children in their cars at the Parx Casino in suburban Philadelphia.

Three cases were reported in 2011, and nine in 2010. When the issue came before the gaming board this month, some members suggested only tougher law enforcement would solve the problem. Chairman Gregory Fajt and member James Ginty also blamed irresponsible parenting.

"There's only so much that this board can do. There is, quite frankly, only so much that you can do," Mr. Ginty told Parx officials, according to The Associated Press. "Sooner or later, one of these kids is going to die."

Let's make one thing perfectly clear: Parents are responsible for their children's safety, and that includes abandoning their kids to go play the slots.

But addicts tend to be irresponsible, whether the addiction is to drugs or gambling.

We properly blame drug dealers for feeding those addictions and for profiting from them. So why shouldn't society blame the gambling industry for exploiting addictions to gambling?

For that matter, why shouldn't society blame the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for legalizing gambling and making (tax) money from it?

Gambling opponents warned repeatedly that Pennsylvania would bear incalculable societal costs associated with problem gamblers if the Legislature allowed casinos to set up shop here. The critics are being proved prescient.

If a child dies, the parents who left the child in the car won't be the only ones with blood on their hands.

• Speaking of kids, congratulations to the School District of Lancaster for winning almost $5 million in federal grants for three schools that have been struggling to make " adequate yearly progress," or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

One of the schools, La Academia, is a charter school; the other two are Wheatland Middle School and Price Elementary School.

We were curious, though, about the breakdown of how the grant money will be used at Wheatland and Price. Plans for the funding at those schools include the hiring of at least two, and possibly three, more administrators.

SDoL has come under fire before, understandably, for being top-heavy on administration. (We've always puzzled over the district's Office of Teaching and Learning. Aren't teaching and learning the whole purpose of schools?)

Do schools that are failing to meet standards need more bureaucracy, or more teachers?

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