Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Let's put the Pa. Society weekend back in Pa.

“What am I, chopped liver?”

Let's put the Pa. Society weekend back in Pa.

Gov. Corbett talks with guests during the Pennsylvania Society meeting in December 2012 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. ASHLEE ESPINAL / For the Inquirer
Gov. Corbett talks with guests during the Pennsylvania Society meeting in December 2012 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. ASHLEE ESPINAL / For the Inquirer

“What am I, chopped liver?”

Ever wonder where that expression came from?

There are two competing theories. One says that chopped liver is sometimes not as appreciated as much as other foods, and is often thrown out in favor of a food that is more desirable. The other one says that chopped liver is often considered a side dish and not a main course.

Both theories drive home the same point: That we feel hurt and amazed when we feel we’ve been overlooked and treated like a side dish.

Well, this weekend, I feel like chopped liver.

I am not alone.

As of last night, according to an informal, non-scientific poll taken by PoliticsPA.com, 57 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t like being treated like chopped liver either.

Specifically, they said to move The Pennsylvania Society’s annual weekend retreat to Pennsylvania.

Makes sense to me. Why on earth should our state's most popular political social event take place outside of Pennsylvania? That's tens of millions of dollars - each year - that should be staying in Pennsylvania.

I put that question to Carol Fitzgerald, the executive director of The Pennsylvania Society.

Here’s her response:

“The Pennsylvania Society is charitable, patriotic, non-profit organization which honors the accomplishments of citizens who have brought glory to our Commonwealth. The Society awards the gold medal for distinguished achievement to a prominent person in recognition of his or her leadership, citizenship or worthy accomplishments in the arts, science, education and industry. Each year, the Society donates $50,000 to a Pennsylvania charity or charities in his or her honor. We go to New York to celebrate our gold medalist, our Commonwealth, each other, and the joyous season. We gather in good fellowship. More is done in New York City for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians than can be done elsewhere. We leave our troubles behind us as we gather in New York and enjoy the beauty of the season of peace and joy. We rotate the annual meeting and luncheon throughout the Commonwealth: from Lancaster to Pittsburgh, from Gettysburg to Erie, from Philadelphia to Moosic, from Allentown to Hershey."

I admire the charitable work the PA Society does.

And I love New York City.

So does Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy – the government watchdog group, which even put out its own guide to this weekend’s event.

“I love Manhattan at Christmastime as much as the next guy, but I personally think the event should be in Pennsylvania,” said Stalberg. “The obvious reason is that all the bucks that are spent on and around this shindig should remain in this state. But there is an intangible reason, too. In many ways, the public’s business is being done during Pennsylvania Society weekend. If it were held in Pennsylvania, the participants would probably be a little more sensitive to that fact. For the record, I don’t attend.”

Neither do I. Never have and never will – until it’s held in the Keystone State.

I do commend The Pennsylvania Society for rotating its annual meetings and luncheons throughout the state – even to places like, yes, Moosic.

(Note to self: please Google Moosic, Pa.)

Yes, I do know there are alternative celebrations going on around the state this weekend.

And, yes, I know there are some who will boycott any self-indulgent event – whether it’s in Pennsylvania, New York City or anywhere else. Some of those people took over our City Hall back in 2011.

Back in 2012, Paul Davies penned a piece entitled “PA’s One-Percenters Party in NYC This Weekend: Why Occupy Philly should pitch tents at the Waldorf Astoria.” I caught up with Davies this week, looking to see if his views had changed.

"That event is a disgrace. A black tie gala celebrating another year of insider back scratching," Davies told me on Tuesday.

Well, my beef here is with the dollars – dollars that experts have pegged at $20-$40 million in lost revenues just for that one weekend. These are dollars that could be spent on our restaurants, our hotels, our bars, our shops – and benefit our workers, both unionized and non-unionized. How any union could hold an expensive party in another state with someone else’s labor is the greatest of hypocrisy.

Back in 2005, Philadelphia’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution to bring the event back to Pennsylvania. Former City Councilman Frank DiCicco said at the time, "Look, I'm not trying to mess up anyone's vacation here," adding, "It's just business."

Well, I think it’s pretty disgraceful to have a Pennsylvania group meet in New York City. It denigrates our state. I know that it started out that way because the people that owned the Pennsylvania Railroad lived in New York, and they wanted to exert some real control over Pennsylvania politics. So they held it in New York City, allowing the fat cats to raise money or be anointed.

What’s the excuse now? Does New York still control Pennsylvania? Quite frankly, it’s insulting to Pennsylvanians.

It’s an unethical thing to do considering the needs of people in this state.

People are free to spend their money wherever they want. But you have to worry about the integrity of Pennsylvania politicians who choose to spend their money and time in another state when they want to represent our state.

There’s no excuse for hosting a major event out of our state when serious potential political leaders want to showcase themselves and serious political sponsors like to host them.

There’s no excuse. Move it to Pennsylvania next year.

John Featherman
About this blog
John Featherman is a contributor at Philly.com and writes about politics and consumer-related issues. Reach John at john@featherman.com.

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