The West End Rotary Club welcomed Louis J. Barletta, mayor of Hazleton, to its Thursday morning meeting to talk about his upcoming run for Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district of the northeastern part of the state which is now filled by Democrat Paul Kanjorski, who is running for his 14th term. Barletta ran unsuccessfully against him in 2008 and is going to try to unseat him in the next election.
Barletta, born and raised in Hazleton, left his family's business to start his own successful business with his wife. Elected to Hazleton City Council in 1998, he became mayor in 2000. Inheriting a massive budget shortfall, he turned the city around, earning statewide praise and recognition. In 2004 he was appointed by the White House to serve as a member of the United Nation Advisory Committee of Local Authorities representing the United States of America. In 2006, he was appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities Legislative Committee and appointed to serve on the Republican National Committee Chairman's Advisory Committee on Catholic Outreach.
Mayor Barletta is on the National Board of Advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, (FAIR). He is a Board Member of the Northeast District of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Luzerne County Community College.
In 2008, he was named "Mayor of the Year" by the Pennsylvania State Mayor's Association.
Barletta told the Rotary Club members how everything seemed to be going good in Hazleton when it started having trouble with illegal immigrants. A murder terrorized the city and more and more violent crimes occurred.
"We didn't know how to deal with it. It was draining our budget. We noticed gangs coming in. I went to Washington in 2005 where I was able to discuss what problems our city was facing. I got a mug, a smile and a pat on the back and I didn't know anymore than when I got there. After there was another murder in our city, I had had enough."
In 2006, Barletta introduced an ordinance that made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire illegal aliens and for landlords to knowingly rent to illegal aliens. Hazleton City Council passed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act and Mayor Barletta signed it into law.
"Little did I know how it would strike America," he said of the national recognition that act created.
He learned he was not alone, that other Americans had the same belief.
"Politicians turn their heads. We need people to have the courage to go to Washington to stand up to the professional politicians. I tried in 2008. I thought change was coming," he said.
"My campaign is all about solutions. I want to make sure America is the best competitive and innovative country. We can do this if we have the courage to stand up. Not by having government bailing everyone out. I want to stimulate our country, bring businesses back to this country. We need someone in Washington with business acumen. And lets bring back the Mom and Pop businesses."
He said he loves his grandson and wants to see his generation leave this country better off for everyone's grandchildren.
"We don't want America to change. We want Washington to change."
He doesn't believe that our forefathers ever intended for there to be career politicians and would like to see term limits for politicians.
"I really believe politicians have lost touch with the people."
He thinks the money of special interest groups makes it hard to change Washington.
"I still believe it's not too late to tell Washington we want to take control back. We have to keep fighting. If we don't have the courage to stand up and fight, we'll lose the battle.
"I believe in America and I believe her best days are coming," he said.