Time for Costello to show just a hint of courage

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Sometime later this afternoon, U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6) will hold a town hall meeting.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that he’s holding it in Historic Courtroom 1, limiting it to 100 people, it was announced Thursday and filled up within minutes — and no one can record the video. Some sort of modern-day Stasi will be at the door, demanding “papers, please” to make sure those lucky few who get to attend live in the Sixth Congressional District.

There are some additional criticisms that all of the questions are being pre-screened — Costello’s office says to prevent repetition, but it smells a bit fishy.

Oh and the whole event will last one whole hour. Generous.

While Costello, in published reports this week, suggests that no matter what he does he will face criticism, that doesn’t justify doing the wrong thing.

This is the wrong thing.

The right thing is holding an open to the public session at a local high school — announced well in advance, allow the questions as they come, allow videography/photography — hell, livestream the damn thing and take questions from Twitter — and take whatever verbal abuse you’re going to get like a grownup.

In other words, man up and do your job: face your employers, especially the ones you disagree with.

Yes, Costello and his supporters will complain about the potential for video being misused and repackaged for later TV commercials and how somehow that’s so unfair. They won’t note that as an incumbent — and one for whose party the congressional district was drawn — he already has vast advantages such as free media, gobs of cash from both his party and special interest groups, name ID and a bazillion other advantages.

Basically, all he has to do is not screw up too badly to get reelected.

Spoiler alert: he’s screwing up badly.

So when Chester County Democrats chair Brian McGinnis — new contender for the Valentino DiGiorgio Most Likely to Spontaneously Burst Into Flames While Issuing Incendiary Political Statements Award — says:

“Congressman Costello’s so-called town hall is nothing but a farce. Announced on Thursday afternoon for a Saturday event doesn’t give his constituents sufficient notice to register. The event is only open to 100 people and is located within a restricted setting. The Congressman is a coward, plain and simple. We pay his salary and for his benefits. The least he can do is pay the good people of the 6th Congressional district some respect by answering questions for more than an hour of his time.”

He kind of has a point when you scrape away the napalm.

Let’s set aside the fact that Costello’s Chester County colleagues Pat Meehan and Lloyd Smucker (beyond press releases) can only be found on the back of milk cartons, I know Costello knows better, but is caving in to fear.

Frightened people shouldn’t serve in government.

Unlike the vast majority of journalists, whose big worries (besides the fact that the entire industry is screwed) are either whether they have enough hair product for their next TV spot or whether their food stains clash with their outfits (yes, we really still have that sort of dichotomy), I’ve had to deal with angry voters. Really angry ones.

As a Democrat running in Chester County back in the aughts, I had to deal with angry voters, a lot. As in screaming, spittle spewing, faux fetus-carrying, middle finger extending, tire slashing, swastika in front of my house painting fine citizens (and this will shock you, but most of them were Republicans). And that doesn’t even count the people in my own party who trashed me regularly because I was fiscally conservative, funny looking, the wrong gender/sexual orientation/race, opinionated, and actually willing to get off my ass and try and do something.

So, you can imagine my utter lack of sympathy here.

But aside from that, once again, Costello is listening to either the wrong voices in his head, or advisers who are deeply disconnected from reality. This kind of behavior is exactly why people hate politicians — and the kind of thing that leads to losing races. See 1994, 2006 and 2010 for references.

Typically, he has been smarter than this.

I suspect that today will come back to haunt Costello, which is too bad, because I think he is capable of doing great things in public life.


Maybe the most overlooked news of the week is that Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget and the one just passed by the state House and Senate Republicans aren’t all that far apart — and it is early April. It actually seems like a safe bet that the two will find enough common ground to get the budget done in June, well before the deadline of July 1.

Neither budget is one that makes anyone celebrate, mind you, as no one really wants to engage on fixing the structural deficit, the pension mess, school funding, and so on — but I suppose anything that makes it seem like our state government has a few grown ups in it is some progress.

One interesting issue that seems likely to come up: making local municipalities that use State Police begin to pay for it.

Personally, I think that’s a great idea. Because so many townships and boroughs use the State Police — and won’t fund local, regional police — the state has been sucking money out of road repair fund to pay additional policing costs. It is not fair that there is no consequence for local municipalities to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to public safety.

One of the current proposals calls for $25 per resident to be charged to those communities not funding police. I would argue that an additional $10 per resident should be added to pay for local fire/EMS service for those municipalities not funding it at an appropriate rate per resident.

This will lead to two positives: one, local municipalities will get serious about regional policing, instead of letting egos get in the way; second, more money will be directed to fix and rebuild failing roadways and bridges in the commonwealth.

This is an idea whose time has come.

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One Comment

  1. Miriam says:

    I complained on Costello’s FB about being waitlisted for the town hall. I called him a coward for removing previous posts from FB and told him not to remove this post. He removed my post and blocked me from every commenting on his FB page – proving me right – he is a coward. I agree with you. RyRy should not be in public service if confrontation is too scary for him.

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