Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dean Browning: A Lehigh County Commissioner Who Will Watch Spending

He's a bean counter, like most Republicans. He's also a breath of fresh air, full of innovative ideas that should serve both Lehigh County and exec Don Cunningham well.

I refer to Dean Browning. Although he's doing rather nicely as the chief financial officer for a private air carrier, he has developed a keen interest in Lehigh County government. He's attended most of their meetings over the past two years, and is currently a candidate for Lehigh County commissioner.

As he explained it to me, he asked himself two questions: "What can I do and where is the need?" His obvious strength is finance, and believes those talents would prove most useful to Lehigh County's part-time commissioners.

Throughout his campaign, he's had a number of good ideas. He proposed a three-point plan that would (1) return $20 million in surplus funds to taxpayers; (2) reduce county spending; and (3) refocus Lehigh County on its core services. Lehigh has increased its spending by $118 million over the past six years, and he'd like to get that under control. He also believes too much public meeting time deals with extraneous issues like Leaser Lake and the zoo business.

In addition to this three-point plan, Browning proposes an affordable housing solution that focuses on individual, private sector, investment instead of the usual reliance on government and bloated non-profits. He also suggests that the county award Iron Pigs box seats to deserving seventh and eighth graders.

He joins both county executives in endorsing a regional approach to the area's many problems, noting that our local governments are far too fragmented. He's right. Pennsylvania has the third largest total of general governments - 2,566 municipalities - in the country.

As far as campaign finance is concerned, nearly all of the $40,000 Dean reported comes from family and friends. There are a few PAC contributions, but this is no candidate who funds his campaign by appealing to special interests.

My only criticism of Browning is that he lives in the wrong county. Northampton County could use a guy like him. Lehigh County will benefit from his service.


A.J. Cordi said...

He doesn't seem like a bad guy, but I'm still not sure about that baseball thing for 7th and 8th graders.

However, I don't have much of a say in this considering I live in Northampton County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What sold me on that idea was when teachers came on and said it would be apprciated, and especially at that age level.

I live in NC, too, but I intend to vote for Browining about six or seven times. I'm a Democrat.

A.J. Cordi said...

I don't agree with what a lot of anonymous comments have to say, but one did say the following:

"These tickets will simply go to kids , mostly in the burbs, who will get straight A's either way."

If the county is going to be spending the money, why not put it towards those who AREN'T getting good grades instead of those who get good grades regardless.

If the Iron Pigs donate the seats, as they should if this reward program is a serious possibility, then I see no problem with it. But when county dollars are involved, they could be used in wiser ways than rewarding those who are already smart.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) The tickets will go to the schools and Allentown has a number of middle schools, more than the 'burbs. They have students who get straight As, too.

2) Browning plans to fund this program by eliminating Commissioners' pay increase ($6,000 savings) and transferring $10,800 from the “Other Special Services” line item which serves as a seldom used catchall fund in the Commissioners' portion of Lehigh County’s budget.

3) You're not rewarding kids who are smart. You're rewarding kids who get good grades. In an inner-city school, this is an incentive that will have some appeal.In view of a rising crime rate, I think it's a very wise investment. Our kids are our greatest asset.

4) I'd agree the IronPigs might benefit by doing this themselves, and perhaps they shall.

A.J. Cordi said...

But Bernie, don't you think the money would be better spent trying to help MORE students achieve good grades? If we can make more services and tutoring available to those who need it, more students will benefit overall (I think).

Bernie O'Hare said...

I like the idea of tix to a sporting event. It's a reward to kids who manage to do well.

A.J. Cordi said...

Like I said, if the Iron Pigs were to donate the seats, I think it's a good idea.

But when county money is involved, it should go to benefit all the students, especially those who need the extra help the most.

a neighbor said...

as a neighbor to mr browning all i can say is he is a hermit. i have never seen the man outside his home. the place is closed tight. even when he passes by in his car never a wave or how you doing. he must be holed up counting his beans

Bernie O'Hare said...

Neighbor, You probably should stop flashing him :-)

Chris Casey said...

I have found Dean to be very personable, and we have traded pictures of our best friends, our dogs. There's a Mark Twain or James Thurber quote here, but even though we belong to different political parties, I like the guy.

Dottie said...

Browning seems like a good guy. AJ,
rewarding middle school kids who have gotten straight A's is a good thing. Sports is a good motivator at that age. The tutoring programs and services you speak of would be much more beneficial at a very early age. Early intervention for at-risk kids is needed- for example pre-k programs in the ASD and full day Kindergarten.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you need to spend money
for an open and transparent government. Besides the manufactured issues being created
and / being spun.

Open and Transparent Government is the number one issue of our time.

I see no problem putting a lot more records online.

Anonymous said...

its amazing that Mr Browning on his political mailer has no mention whatsoever of the republican party... is he ashamed of his affiliation?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:24, Browning is not just an R, but was part of the local party leadership. Having said that, I don't really look at party affiliation that closely, especially in a race for a local office. In local government, there's usually a group affiliated with certain special interests, and a group that's not. It could be either party.