Monday, October 29, 2007

Peg Ferraro Will Do Some Branco-Bustin' Tonight!

Tonight, at 7 PM, the Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters will sponsor a candidates' night for all Northampton County Council wannabes. This forum will be hosted by St. John’s United Church of Christ, Broad and Prospect Streets, Nazareth, PA. The LWV has a lousy debate format, unlike Pen Argyl's Debate at the Slate or the Express Times' Debate at the State. But as is usual here in the People's Republic of Northampton County, two of the races have become downright squirrelly. Anonymous robo calls have targeted both Ron Angle and Peg Ferraro with vicious smears, and their opponents refuse to intervene and stop it. So I suspect Angle will be lighting a few firecrackers against his hapless opponent, Machine Man Maher. And Peg Ferraro will do some Branco-busting.

I've always wanted to be in the League of Women Voters. If I were, I'd blow Tony Branco a few kisses and ask these questions before the voters send him packing on November 6.

1) Who does Tony represent anyway, citizens or pay to play developers?

That's a question that The Express Times' Sarah Cassi seems to ask. You see, Tony wants the county to buy a Lou "Pay to Play" Pektor property in West Easton and then team up with Allentown's Rajah of Rezoning, Abe Atiyeh, to build some goofy combination assisted-living and prison center for nonviolent types. Sarah notes that Branco accepted $1,000 from Atiyeh before the primary.

Here's how Tony explains everything. "Just because I got a donation doesn't mean they own my vote. If it's a good property, I'll vote for it. If it's a bad property I won't vote for it." Incidentally, Branco thinks it's a good property.

When I asked Branco myself about this on Friday night, he told me, "If you think $1,000 buys my vote, I have a bridge ... ."

OK. How about $2,000? You see, Lou "Pay to Play" Pektor gave Tony a $1,000 check too, and that was on October 13.

No? How about $4,400? Last time Branco ran for county council, and lost, he raked in $2,400 from Atiyeh, Pektor and another developer named Tuskes.

No? How about $5,400? You see, this dude named Ramzi Haddad also kicked in $1,000 for Branco's campaign on October 1. Who's he? Why, he just happens to be Atiyeh's business partner at Brookside Construction and Easton Ventures. They've worked together on everything from Easton's Cinema Paradiso to Nazareth's racetrack to Hellertown's movie theater.

2) Who does Tony represent anyway, citizens or prospective county contractors?

That's a question that Morning Call columnist Bill White seems to ask. You see, Tony is part of a Northampton County Council majority that incredibly tried to force county exec Stoffa to accept a bloated IT contract that was $1.8 million higher than the amount that was finally bid. Tony told Bill he was concerned about "the process." Here's Bill's retort: "I prefer to talk about the election process, which we'll be conducting this November.

If you live in a district being served by McClure, McHale or Branco -- all of whom are facing opposition for re-election -- write '$1.8 million' on a slip of paper and stick it someplace where you'll see it every day."

3) Does Tony let his day job interfere with his gig on county council?

According to mapquest, Branco has a 1 1/2 hour daily commute to his new, $62,000 per year, day job as Topton Borough manager. Last week, he missed an important county council annual budget hearing because his day job had him at a seminar. Branco's previous gig, Douglas Township manager, also involved a long commute and resulted in him missing meetings. Where do his loyalties lie, with the county or whatever municipality he happens to be working for this week?

4) Why did Tony break his promise to meet with municipalities?

When he auditioned for county council, Tony claimed his top priority was to "sit down with local municipalities to discuss a lot of the problems they are facing. A lot of local zoning plans did not foresee the large influx of growth actually taking place." Sounds pretty good, huh? After all, three times over the past three years, communities along the Delaware River have been ravaged by floods. Council not only appointed Branco; they named him their intergovernmental committee chair.

Branco repaid council by failing to conduct a single meeting in 2006.

He's conducted two or three meetings this election year, but has come up with no proposals for zoning or flooding. Although a top county priority is regionalization, that can't happen when the intergovernmental committee fails to conduct meetings.

5) If Branco really wants to sit on county council, why such a lousy attendance record?

Northampton County Council has eight standing committees, which conducted twenty-two meetings last year. Every member of council is encouraged to participate in every committee. So it's a pretty accurate gauge of the time and effort each councilperson devotes to government service. In addition to his failure to schedule a single meeting of the intergovernmental committee, Branco attended just seven committee meetings in 2006. The only council members with worse records are Lamont McClure and Charles Dertinger.

So how about this year? So far, he has missed four full meetings of county council. (3/25, 5/17, 7/19 and 10/19).

6) Why does Tony have such a lousy attitude towards public participation in local government?

In one of his last actions on Hellertown Borough Council, Branco was among those who imposed a five minute limit on public comment during borough council meetings. That rule exists in Bethlehem and Northampton County, and is there to insure that everyone is heard. But in Hellertown, Branco complained that meetings were just taking too long, and claimed he wanted to be home by 10 PM. A councilperson should be more interested in letting everyone speak than in being home early.

7) Why did Tony refuse to stop the negative robo calls?

On Friday night, after being made aware of negative and anonymous robo calls being directed at Peg Ferraro, Branco called her to apologize. He claimed he was "upset" and "mad" over what had happened. Yet he refused to fire his campaign consultant, known for these dirty tricks. As a result, the calls continued again on Saturday night. Doesn't he realize this type of campaign just discourages good people from voting?

Let's face it. This Branco needs bustin'.


A.J. Cordi said...

Sure, finally something I'm able to attend, and I'm sick.

Do you know if they'll be taking random questions from citizens, or will everything have to be prepared and turned in before the event begins?

Anonymous said...

Joe Nixon's shoddy reporting on this race made no mention of the anonymous, mouth-breathing, adenoid-obstructed hatchet calls in which the classless, slimy caller uses laughably poor grammar to attack Peg Ferraro. It's disappointing, but typical, when semi-pro reporters working for small market rags avoid pertinent issues in an election campaigns. They simply do advocacy pieces for each side, with no critical discussion of campaign charges or tactics. Nixon and his paper should be ashamed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:36,

I appreciate and agree with the criticism that the MSM does not do enough elections coverage. The question whether to cover a dirty campaign trick is a double edged sword. By not acting a public spotlight on these tactics, it allows the cockroaches to roam free, as one of you said a few days ago. The MSM is fearful that by covering a smear, it may give it unwarranted publicity.

I think there are times when it warrants attention. An anonymous smear that a candidate won't stop is a prime example. Both Maher and Branco is doing this. So far as I know, McClure, McHale and Wallace are not. If there is a consistent pattern, as has been demonstrated against both Peg and Ron, I'd agree that it should be covered.

But I would not take that criticism and personalize it against any one reporter. Joe Nixon is an excellent reporter with a very difficult job. He does not set the coverage policy.

Anonymous said...


What do you think of the $8,500.00 that Peg Ferraro took in soft money from PACs from outside the area?

She took $5,000.00 from the Pennsylvania Future Fund, which took most of it's money from other PACs, CEOs and lawyers.

Follow the money!

Anonymous said...

"Peg Ferraro Will Do Some Branco-Bustin' Tonight!"

Nice visual.


Anonymous said...

Check out the thread on the Morning Call about Ferraro-Branco.