Friday, October 17, 2008

Should $75k Fund Rail Study or Help Heat Homes?

Two weeks ago, rail activist Paul Marin asked Northampton County to contribute $75,000 of the $250,000 cost for a transportation study, a necessary prerequisite to federal funds for commuter rail. The Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, is dead set against the idea, which makes it more palatable to everyone else on council. This money is set aside in next year's budget, but council prez Ann McHale listed the matter again last night, figuring that fellow council members would quickly fund this project now.

She had one big problem last night. Only six council members were present. She needed five votes, but got only four. John Cusick joined Angle in voting No. So the transportation study has been derailed. Marin will probably still get his money, but commuter rail advocates will have to stand in line like everyone else.

That will give them time to consider this Ron Angle question.

"You know what, if you got $75 thousand to throw away, why don't you try putting it in a fund to supply money for heat so the people around this county, the senior citizens this winter, who aren't going to be able to heat their houses? Or why don't you put it in a fund to help the help the 100 people who already are on the January Sheriff Sale list maybe hang on to their house by giving them one payment so they get another month to get things together. . . . You're going to spend $75 thousand for a pipe dream while people freeze to death this winter. You're real managers."

In response to a plea for the cold and homeless, Reverend Dowd had this response.

"I don't mean to throw $75 thousand away, but it goes about six points behind a decimal point in the county budget."

How Christian of him.


Anonymous said...

I've voted for Ron but have had enough. He's very quick to be charitable with my money. If I want to provide heating assistance to someone in need, that's my business and not Ron's. I prefer to double-tithe to recipients of my choosing - not the government's. He's taking away my right to provide charity of my choosing. It's not his to give. He should be so kind with his own money. I don't know if he is or isn't. That's just the point. It's not my business. Just as my charitable giving is not his. My experience is that guys like Ron like to give with others' money to salve their guilty consciences and make up for what they don't personally give. It's why politicians are despised.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, if rail funding was voted down last night, how will it happen anyway?

The Banker

Anonymous said...

mr. angle's right. one only needs to be in the grocery store to see the hardship seniors face
on a daily basis. the small quantities of food, the days-old
produce browned and wilting,
mr. angle is right.

Anonymous said...

The Rail study is an investment in the future of the county and region. The unrelated items noted by Angle are not. A responsible manager would chose the rail study hands down.

Simple as that.

GOP4MassTran said...

Typical action when someone is against funding for a certain item. Let's tug on everyone's heart strings; heat for the decrepit or rail? A non-issue from the disingenuous Angle.

Anonymous said...

If ron is serious, I hope he makes a motion to provide 75k in heating assistance to seniors. My guess is that he will simply oppose the study. It's called a red herring.

If he makes the motion, I'll gladly give him due recognition. I won't hold my breath.

Dave said...

Rail study..NO! Put the money in the Gracedale budget..we'll all end up there eventually!

Bernie O'Hare said...


What was voted down last night was funding the rail study right now with $75k from the contingency fund provided to council. An allocation still exists for this in next year's budget. McHale was in a hurry to get this money out now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We are on the brink of a Great Depression. It may or may not happen, but we're certainly in for a recession.

To those who say that $75k for heat is not as "responsible" as $75k for the study, I've gopt two words, but won't say them.

From what I know about Angle, I am certain he would support $75k for home heating for seniors over this. I know him a little better than some of the other folks posting here. I have seen what he does to help pepople with my own eyes, and it's not as represented by his many political enemies.

Frankly, we need to scrutinize ALL discretionary spending, if we want to be "responsible." That includes ALL the groups that hold out their hands every year.

I would ask for a report from the county's DCED on the community needs. Lori S. in that office really has a good understanding of community needs. We are on the brink right now and it is foolish to think any other way.

Anonymous said...

There is enough money in the county--they hide the dough--to help heat homes and fund a rail study which would actually, in time, increase revenue to the county.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bernie.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

If we are talking about prioities in these though times, what order should municipalities and the Counties invest their money....rail, heat, or dog parks. Emmaus and Allentown have proposed or are planning one. According to Mcall, official say a dog park costs could range from $50K to $500K. I think all have merit, however, if you take the Angle that all cannot be funded, maybe we should be looking at the whole picture.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:06,

It depends on the type of government. County government and city government are different. County government exists to provide for the courts and to perform some basic human services. It is not there for infrasturcture, excepting bridges. City and municipal government do exist to provide for parks and things like that.

My feelings about this are conflicted. Paul Marin is quite compelling, and has answered some of my concerns about where the people will reside. But Angle is compelling, too.

Glenn said...

My issues are with the fact Rails (as much as I would like them) are VERY EXPENSIVE to run on the taxpayers' dollar. Bus companies turn profits. Are more fuel efficient. Can be rerouted. Amtrak provides little or no benefit in reducing air pollution. While socially this may be terrific, but given America's current economic woes... not too brilliant.

Amtrak's net losses peaked at $1,308,892 in FY 2004, falling to $1,067,990 in FY 2006. Nonetheless, Amtrak's federal subsidy equals about 64 percent of its revenues.

According to a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) report in December 2004, Amtrak is by far the most heavily subsidized mode of travel in the U.S.

Amtrak costs $210.31 per passenger per 1,000 miles, compared to $4.66 for intercity buses and $6.18 for commercial airlines in FY 2002

And Yet!

Thursday, Senate approves $13 billion for Amtrak (5 years)
(Easton Express)

FYI: In 1990 the CATO had this to say..
The 10 Myths of Amtrak Subsidies

Bernie O'Hare said...


Thands. You make lots of sense. But as oil prices rise and we start looking for other means of transportation, trains may once again become profitable. Freight trains are definitely profitable.

If the economy tanks, the railroad might provide jobs as well, as someone pointed out to me this afternoon.

I don't know the answer. I'd love to see Paul Marin and Ron Angle debate the merits of commuter rail after the election. They both respect each other. They both argue will. After the debate, we the audience can vote on a winner. I will ask Marin and Ron if they'd be interested after the election.

GOP4MassTran said...

Glenn, I'll give you another website that is anti-rail, like the Cato and Heritage websites. Wendell Cox will further spin numbers to feed his anti-rail fervor. For balance,check out, if you want to be truly "fair and balanced."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:17 am your post doesn't make any sense.
You are opposed to providing funds to help people deal with winter heating costs and yet, it is to be inferred, you are FOR providing funds that will go to consultants for an opinion?
If you are for charity taking care of people's needs, why wouldn't you prefer that these funds come from those who support rail rather than taxpayers?
Please clear this up.

Glenn said...


I do not post to get in a pissing contest. In several discussions on this subject people kept mentioning other areas of the countries' various RR's systems. When I checked them out, each cost $millions to operate. As I kid I rode both on Central Railroad & LVRR passengers into NYC and I loved it. However if rails are to be publicly funded amusement rides, I have a problem with that. Ask yourself why both those were discontinued? Because there was no profits to be made.

I'm not being an anti anything. As far as your I hardly would call that bunch unbiased. I'd rather rely on information from just about anyplace before a LOBBYIST group when $millions of taxpayer dollars are involved!

National Association of Railroad Passengers ( The organization was originally founded by Anthony Haswell on May 18, 1967 to "LOBBY" for the continuation of passenger trains in the United States.

Anonymous said...

The big point here everyone is missing is that infrastructure is paid for by the government for cars and buses but is not included in the figures noted above.

The government does not build anything for Amtrak. If you included the cost of roads and bridges with cars and buses the cost per passenger mile for trains would shine in comparison.

michael molovinsky said...

LVEDC studied the rail issue in the past, concluded it was not feasible, yet gave the money again, same with lehigh county. kudos to angle and northampton. let the train get to phillipsburg, then it will be time enough to consider the lehigh valley.

Anonymous said...

LVEDC? I don't think so. Is so, please point me in the right direction.

The LVPC lightly studied light rail within the Lehigh Valley as part of their 22 renew plan but I don't think any study was done to connect to NJ transit. If it was, the results are probably ancient history.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:48, i stand corrected, it was lvpc