Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: The Politics of Progress

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Book Review: The Politics of Progress

This book provides informative insights into the Administration of Democratic Governor George Leader, a young reformer who served as Pennsylvania Governor from 1955 through 1959. Not only did his term end a long period of Republican political control, Leader decided to change the usual form of governing and, with a fair amount of success, he alered the governance of Pennsylvania into one that was more responsive to the public and less controlled by the existing political machinery. This book points out how it was both Leader’s vision and his wise choice of appointments of people who undertook their positions with zeal and with goals of improving their departments that helped the Leader Administration to reshape of Pennsylvania government.

George Leader was a politician with principles. He believed his campaign promises were his word and not rhetoric that could be forgotten. He demanded and achieved passage of legislation he had campaigned supporting on prohibiting conflicts of interest in government services and vastly expanding placing state employment under civil service. He insisted that school segregation be halted, began a Civil Rights division with the Attorney General’s office, fought and won the passage of legislation creating a Fair Employment Practice Council and then successfully fought Republican legislators in seeing that it was funded. Leader not only fought for increased employment for members of racial minorities, he appointed Pennsylvania’s first African American Cabinet member and increased the employment of African Americans in Executive offices from 98 to 450.

Leader was willing to turn to others for assistance, and he preferred to ask advice from people who he thought best knew the answers regardless of political party. He asked the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Society for Public Administration to study state government and recommend changers. Leader then acted to adopt many of their recommendations. This process of adopting these changes also had the benefit of attracting qualified people to administer these programs, rather than the past reliance on political patronage appointees to be the administrators. By Executive order, he moved 10,000 professional and technical positions from patronage to civil service employment.

Some managerial changes Leader implemented reshaped how government operated. He created the Office of Administration, which has provided all Governors with more direct responsibility over administering policies. He moved the state’s accounting methods from a cash basis to one that let everyone know outstanding obligations.

Leader was a believer in citizen participation. He often used citizens committees to advise him on issues. He felt they both could provide useful information as well as increase the opportunities for a greater voice from citizens.

Education was an area where Leader made an effective difference. He consolidated 81 school districts, increased teacher salaries so more graduates of Pennsylvania’s teacher’s college would stay within Pennsylvania, and he increased aide to community colleges and to student scholarships through a one cent tax on soft drinks.

Expanding special education was another of Leader’s accomplishments. In so doing over 100,000 children were added to the school roles. He created a Commission on Handicapped Children and convinced Pearl Buck to be its chair. This Commission reviewed and advised local governments on how to increase services to children with disabilities.

Leader looked at the Health Department, whose mission was to eliminate several diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis, and he expanded it to increase working against air pollution, drug addiction, alcoholism, and for research on cancer and heart disease.

Floods and hurricanes hit Pennsylvania during Leader’s years as Governor, leading to a study of flood control and 394 flood control projects. Leader also directed that state parks be improved, which helped increase attendance to these parks from 8 million in 1955 to 20 million in 1958.

Readers learn of effective lobbying efforts. Leader’s Agriculture Secretary convinced legislators to approve the construction of a new department building by inviting them to a meeting in the old building during a particularly warm and sticky day. Agriculture also advanced during the Leader years, with 20 soil conservation districts established during Leader’s four years compared to 30 over the previous decade.

This book serves as a tremendous guide to how one Administration helped to transform Pennsylvania governance. It also presents the human side, such as Governor Leader’s political break with his Lt. Governor and Leader’s forced resignation of his Labor and Industry Secretary for resisting his efforts to reduce political influences. The new Secretary than transformed the Department into one that opened the nation’s first state rehabilitation center, instituted inspections of migrant camps, and increased the minimum wage for women and children. Readers also see how Leader antagonized some Republican legislators by the previous Republican Administration in his inaugural address, and how the legislature then killed some of his proposals, including one for a breathalyzer analysis. While the passage of time makes this more of an historical analysis than a useful current guide to improving government, the basic qualities that Leader presented: truthfulness, dedication, and above all, placing the needs of the citizens as the goal of government, remain useful as a guide to all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get the joke in this posting.

7:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leader us not into temptation.

11:41 AM


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