The first meeting of the Delaware and Chester County Black Conservative Federation Thursday hosted Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor as its keynote speaker. DeFoor, a Republican, is the first Black person ever elected to statewide office in the commonwealth.
“I was born toward the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement,” said DeFoor, who is running for reelection in 2024. “It started with a small group of people. They wanted to change their lives. They wanted to change younger people’s lives. And they did it by getting together, talking about what it is that we need to do to impact our community. They got together in small groups, and it grew. That is exactly what is happening here.”
The BCF movement is for making a better life, he said.
“Not only for us but clearing the way for our youth,” DeFoor said. “How? Education. Making sure that our schools are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. And if they’re not — calling them out. And our way of calling them out is by performing audits.”
He praised the group for talking to those who are marginalized.
“You’re here at the beginning of a movement,” DeFoor said. “Have faith in what you’re doing. You have my support.”
“The bottom line is we do what we needed to do in order to make sure your tax dollars are being spent the way they are supposed to be spent. That’s my job. Every single dollar that leaves the state treasury, it’s my job to make sure those dollars are being spent the way they’re supposed to be spent.
“This is something that I’ve done my entire career,” he said.
DeFoor recounted growing up in Ohio and then Harrisburg and hearing his dad and uncle talk about taxes.“As I grew up, I knew I wanted to see how our tax dollars were being spent. That’s the job I’ve been doing for 30 years.”
“I’ve always been a fiscal conservative. That’s who I am. I started that when I was 12,” said DeFoor.
He started in the inspector general’s office, went to the attorney general’s office, then became Dauphin County controller before he was elected auditor general.
One prominent case where he was surprised by what he learned involved his audit of the turnpike.
“The turnpike was $11.2 billion in debt,” he said. “However, it’s not the fault of the turnpike for being in that situation. Years ago, the legislature passed a law where the turnpike had to give $450 million annually to PennDOT.” Even though that amount was eventually reduced, the Turnpike had to borrow to survive.
Another one that surprised him was the school district audit. He found some districts were moving money around so they did not have to file for an emergency referendum to raise taxes. They were just raising taxes.
“We made some commonsense recommendations to the legislature to fix the problem,” he said.
All the audits are on the auditor’s website, he said.
“You deserve to know how your tax dollars are spent. It’s my job to keep government accountable,” he said.
DVJournal asked DeFoor why he was running for a second term.
“My job is not done,” he said. “We have made fantastic strides in the department. We’ve transformed the department to be more efficient, and the work is more effective and transparent.”
He asked the staff for suggestions and added community involvement, starting a Be Money Smart financial literacy campaign.
“It’s my belief financial literacy should be taught in every school,” he said. There are fewer bankruptcies and higher credit scores in states that teach it. All students will graduate and be consumers. They also started an intern-to-hire program to help replace employees who are retiring.
Philadelphia resident Sheila Armstrong, the Black Conservative Federation’s state director, said it started the county group on Juneteenth. Ruth Moton, who ran for state representative in Chester and chairs the Delaware and Chester Counties chapter, said the organization is reaching out to everyone.
“It’s time to flip the script (in the Black community) and not be afraid to flip the switch. Being fiscally responsible. What’s wrong with that?” Moton asked. A video of Moton with former President Donald Trump telling him that her 401 (k) misses him went viral. She was selling T-shirts for BCF to commemorate it.
Jeff Jones, who is running for Delaware County Council, also addressed the group.
“I am going to swear to serve the people of Delaware County,” said Jones. “Not a party. Not a personal agenda.”
“We need this,” Jones said about BCF. “We need to connect. We need people at the polls. We need people watching the polls to ensure that elections are being done soundly, fairly, and balanced.”
He said anyone who wants to be a poll watcher should let the Delaware County GOP know.
“We need to take our county back. (The current all-Democrat county council) is not spending money in a sustainable way…There is a looming tax increase…That is their words. They can’t sustain the spending they’ve done because they’ve got a blank check known as ARPA (COVID) funds.”