Thursday, January 21, 2010

When pink pigs fly

WAYNESBURG, Pa. - It didn't take long for Gene Stilp and Dennis Baylor to attract quite a bit of attention in front of Bill DeWeese's district office.

The two political activists arrived in Greene County this morning to call for the embattled state representative to forgo running for re-election this year. They did it with a little flare, too, by blowing up an inflatable pink pig and placing it directly in front of DeWeese's district office.

The event -- and pig -- attracted a few newspaper and television reporters, but several people continued to stream into DeWeese's office for constituency services. A sign on one side of the pig read, "DeWeese: Time To Resign." One woman -- appearing dumbfounded by the sight of an inflatable pig the size of a cow blocking her way into the office -- asked a reporter if she was permitted to walk into the office.

Some motorists paid little attention to the pig as they drove along Elm Drive. But several honked or waved to Stilp as he spoke to reporters. While discussing the Bonusgate charges against various state lawmakers, a guard driving an armored truck stopped and gave the crew a thumbs up. As Stilp reciprocated the greeting, the guard briefly blared the truck's siren and continued on his way. Stilp then went on with the discussion about how the greedy ways of Harrisburg need to be changed.

"The pig is angry," Stilp said, "because the state legislature gives him a bad name."

Stilp, of Harrisburg, started touring the state nearly five years ago following the illegal paygrab in 2005. Tugging around a 15-foot-tall inflatable pig -- too large for the small strip of grass in front of DeWeese's office -- he and others pushed state lawmakers into giving back the pay raises. The activists were able to stoke the voters' anger a year later by forcing a 20 percent turnover in the state legislature, either through elections or retirements.

The Bonusgate investigation and subsequent indictments have brought him out of the woodwork once again with his group, Taxpayers and Ratepayers United. Numerous lawmakers, including DeWeese, and some of their staffers have been charged with using public funds to campaign. Others have been charged with giving staffers large bonuses with tax money.

So moments after Stilp and Baylor set up the pig, they walked into DeWeese's office and asked to speak with the representative. He was not around, though, so Stilp instead spoke to a receptionist. She nodded her head and tapped at the computer keyboard as Stilp apologized "for the fuss outside" and asked her to pass on a message that he wants the Democrat to resign. The receptionist and a few other staffers barely paid any attention to Stilp as he made his remarks.

"The people of Greene County and the people of this state deserve better," Stilp said.

Stilp suggested a resident living inside the 50th District should gather the 300 signatures needed to run for election and challenge DeWeese. After an hour, Stilp and Baylor pulled the plug on a generator feeding air to the pig and packed the wrinkled swine into a duffel bag. The duo was heading north to greet another lucky politician in Erie, Pa.

(Photos and story by Michael Jones/Bread Line Blog)

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