Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hershman to Donovan: Allentown Needs Watchdogs, Not Lapdogs

Allentown city council candidate Lou Hershman is unwilling to sit on his hands and do nothing in response to The Morning Call's disturbing report about firefighters' sick-time abuse, which has inflated overtime and pensions. He refuses to shrug his shoulders and say, "We have no power," as most city council members do when confronted with the Pawlowski regime's abuse of the week.

Yesterday, Hershman noted the need to start an investigation now. "We definitely should not wait until budget time, as Council VP Michael Donovan mentions on his blog." Since Lou does have 32 years of experience providing oversight to the Queen City, I would listen to him. But not Donovan.

In a blog post entitled Comments on another blog, Donovan takes these jabs: "[H]e does not understand how the policy system actually works." ... " City Council and the Controller have no control over those contracts. They are negotiated and managed by the administration. We are not at all a part of that process." ... "Mr. Hershman asks many questions and claims that he has all the answers. Wrong. For all the times he has spoken, I have rarely, if ever, found that his issues have substance. He has this grand idea that if he yells enough, something will happen. No, we are constrained immensely by the Charter." ... "My observation of prior councils where Mr. Hershman sat was that committee effort was a rubber-stamp, quick and dirty affair."

Looks like Lou can forget about getting a Christmas card from Donovan this year. Donovan apparently believes city council should only provide oversight at budget time. Here's how Lou reacts. "I don't have all the answers, but know enough to look for them. That's why we're there. There's no point even being there if they're unwilling to provide oversight. When a newspaper reveals overtime abuse like what we see from the firefighters, I have to question where they've been. We sign on to be watchdogs, not lapdogs. The Morning Call is not a member of city council, but seems to know more about what is going on than our elected officials. Don't the people deserve better representation than that? "

Hershman also points to the city's home rule charter provision that expressly gives council the power to conduct investigations and even subpoena witnesses. "Why is that there if we only provide oversight during budgets?"

Hershman finally questions just how effective council members can be when an administration finances their campaigns. "I think Donovan took $100 from the mayor. It should not be a nickel, no matter who is in office."

On his own blog, Donovan admits he's still learning. That's why Hershman's experience should be viewed as an asset instead of as a hindrance.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Lou has learned through experience that one can not be a good public servant and a loyal/faithful party person at the same time. Especially if your faith is to be placed in a politician like Pawlowski. Too many, perhaps all of Allentown’s elected officials are part of the “team” that controls the city. Has anyone heard from Hoffman (city controller)recently? Where are his priorities?
Keep an eye on the exit if you call Allentown home.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I would say that the City of Allentown needs to overhaul their Human Resources Department... (I don't know who they are) but the HR director should should have been reviewing all of the department pays and would have detected abuse.

Anonymous said...

That settles it for me. If Michael "Pompous Wind Bag" Donovan is against Lou, I'm bullet voting for him.

Anonymous said...

Allentown is a fiscal nightmare, and I'm gettinmg tired of hearing Donovan say he's still learning while he slams a person who actually knows the ropes. I never heard Hershman claim he has all the answers, but he really cares about the city and is always trying to improve our lives. Donovan is the same guy who tried to prevent Lou from speaking at public meetings and who tried to keep us from discussing Cedar Park.

Watchdogs, not lapdogs!

LVCI said...

Looking back through TMC archives I see more reasons FOR then AGAINST Lou.

On The DOWNSIDE:
Many of Hershman's memos
ask for time-consuming data on obscure topics that Hershman never refers to again, Pawlowski said, and are often used to bully others

Developer Abraham Atiyeh,
who has been an avid political contributor in recent years, gave $1,000 to the campaign to re- elect Councilman Louis J. Hershman on May 7. Hershman was one of five council members who voted to put the Cata Garment building, 728 Linden St., in the Keystone Opportunity Zone on April 17.

Council President Todd A. Stephens said
there is no problem for council members who need to get information from Pamela Varkony concerning AEDC business. Stephens said he believed Hershman was attacking Varkony to help political ally Robert E. Smith Jr., one of Varkony's rivals in the Republican mayoral primary.

LVCI said...

On The UPSIDE:
Burke and Councilman Lou Hershman
have been raising questions about Afflerbach's budgetary hijinks from the beginning, but the rest of council gave the mayor a blank check until this year, when some other members finally began seeing the light. As soon as they began questioning him, Afflerbach turned on them in a treacherous display of scapegoating, portraying them as obstructionists

The resolution proposed by Councilman Louis J. Hershman
was rejected 6-1, but not before [Tom Burke] praised Hershman for his work to help slash a proposed 40 percent tax increase to 16 percent.
LEHIGH MOUNTAIN LAND PURCHASE HAS SOME QUESTIONING THE COST.. They say the previous owner, Allentown attorney Todd Miller, made $125,000 on the tract in just nine months, buying it in September 1988 for $350,000 and selling it to the Wildlands Conservancy for $475,000.... Hershman has questioned Allentown's $190,000 contribution to the purchase and has refused to approve any further payments until his questions are answered.
Allentown Controller Lou Hershman yesterday urged the city to sell its 600 public housing units to their occupants and use the profits to build and expand shelters for the homeless.... City officials said Hershman's proposal is unworkable because the occupants, who pay an average of $120 in monthly rent, could not afford to buy the properties without subsidies....Private investors would not buy the properties because -- under Hershman's proposal -- they would be required to rent to the present tenants and could not turn a profit,
City Controller Lou Hershman objected to the way the city would pay for the printer, saying the money should come from the water and sewer budgets, since the printer would be used for water and sewer bills

LVCI said...

On The UPSIDE (cond't):
HERSHMAN QUESTIONS ALLOCATION OF FINES... Since the commonwealth receives all moneys from these fines and the municipalities are involved with the arrest and prosecution, I contend that fines levied under the state Penal Code should be reviewed and, where applicable, the municipal governments should be reimbursed for their cost," said [Lou Hershman].
Vouchers with a more accountable list of costs, [Louis J. Hershman] said might have prevented the problems the city is facing on that project, for which $180,000 of a $264,000 federal loan was paid out to contractor [Robert Kennedy Wheeler], whose firm is based at 439 Walnut St., Allentown. The federal government said Wheeler - who also was hired as general contractor - never made a payment back on the loan... Hershman said that after seeing Wheeler's vouchers in 1985, "I washed my hands of it," refusing to approve or review the vouchers. He then sent memos to the city Finance Bureau and to HUD, asking that more "documentation" be required on the vouchers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He sure as hell does not sound like a person described by Donovasn like this: "My observation of prior councils where Mr. Hershman sat was that committee effort was a rubber-stamp, quick and dirty affair."

In fact, i question whether Donovasn observed prior councils on which Hershman sat at all. Donovan is a transplant to this area. Did he attend one city council meeting before he decided to run for office? I think that remark was very unfair.

Anonymous said...

Not defending what were clearly political remarks on Donovan's blog, but I think his "rubber stamp" comment was specifically in reference to parks & recreation committee, which definitely was one of the least thoughtfully managed committees ever (upcoming mayoral election aside, it still is, so far as I can tell).

Michael Donovan said...

What a nice day. Lovely to get slammed.

I'll stand by my comments. You can scream and yell all you want.

The only real power that exists for council is at budget time. Read the charter. The problem is that council does not exercise that power. I can see that has happened over the last several years long before I got in the picture. It also does not exercise its committee structure well enough to get the hearings that are necessary to probe. And finally, there is no independent analyst available to do some of the work.

I did try to cut costs and offer changes to the budget last year, but could not convince others to vote the way I did.

Certainly, one can do homework. I do my homework. Mr. Hershman does his homework. However,

I have watched Mr. Hershman at meetings. I was not impressed that he represented me and one of the reasons that I ran was because I did not like what I saw. He is a nice guy, but his comprehension of finances is weak. He has ideas, but usually they are not workable. He doesen't know how to work with people to take what perhaps is a germ of an idea and grow it into something that will work.

Running an organization this size is not just about throwing a lot of things at the wall and hope that it sticks. The city needs improved management and control systems, that is obvious. It is at budget time that we can actually put pressure on the administration. It is in committee that we can put pressure on the administration to begin shifting its budgets i a way that will cause better administration.

So keep throwing stones folks.

Love it.

Best regards,

Michael

ps...at least I keep learning

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael,

If your power is as limited as you seem to think, there's really no reason for you to meet, except at budget time. The fact that you do meet regulary is an indication that (a) city council is a sham or (b) you are mistaken. I believe it's the latter.

Under your philsosphy, the city administration has run roughshod over taxpayers for the past four years. You have been deceived, disrespected and ignored. Yet you collectively have done nothing, choosing to play it safe, hopimg that Pawlowski throws you a bone now and then. The end rsult is that the newspaper breaks shockers about deficits and rampant OT while you play catch up.

We need more pro-active members of council, not business as usual. Lou has his flaws, as we all do. But if you look at the liks supplied by LVCI, his record is enviable. He has been a watchdog.

I have read your Home Rule Charter and there is little doubt in my mind that the framers envisioned your role to be overseers, or as Hershman suggests, watchdogs. There are provisions that specifically give you the power to conduct investigations. Thre is also a provision that vests the residuary power in council.

It's time you start exercising that power instead of making the same old excuses.

By the way, I haven't seen too much yelling or screaming on this thread and only one real insult. I think you're over-reacting to some legitimate criticism, and I also think you over-reacted to Hershmna's observations. As someone who laudably stresses the importance of working together, I hope you can make more of an effort.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

I've deleted an attack aginst Donovan. I appreciate his candor and willingness to participate in public discussion.

Anonymous said...

Let's Dump Donovan next election. And this isn't an "attack" it's a political statement and opinion. I thought this was a political blog (?)

Anonymous said...

Bernie - the real truth is that they all FEAR louie hershman and fear is an incredible thing. It causes people to compromise their integrity, pay and deny robo calls, and outright hide from the taxpayers.

Professor Donovon is a one-term wonder who is way over his head. Nice guys and nice smiles do not cut it. Give me grumpy old hershman the horrible any day - at least he makes palowski scream!!

Oh by the way Mike D - tell us about the Palowski ranting and ravings you have been exposed to behind closed doors while you where neutered by hizzoner....

Anonymous said...

This is all so incredible, donovon makes excuses, and six other council members are in the witness protection program with controller hoffman.

Palowski has no accountability for fireman OT, police pension, busting the budget, etc. He is clearly the master of all politicos, he has learned from his days in chicago, he is clealry allentown's Boss

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:18, You're right, and I apologize. You should be able to express your desire to dump anyone here. But if I even suspect you are Villa, I will delete you.

Michael Donovan said...

You know, it is interesting how people read things. I have been working outside of November budget hearings for two years now. Budget committee meetings. Reports. Ad hoc meetings, etc. Trying to get things done behind the scenes, or even out in the open.

I make an observation of how the only real power council has (other than the behind the scenes armtwisting that goes on) is at budget time, and the world caves in.

God, do I understand the idea of oversight. But I also understand the idea of where process works and where it doesn't. I would want a charter change in a number of ways because I DO NOT LIKE that the only realy power we have is at that budget time.

But,that becomes for some a reason to provide critique. If I seem pissed, I am, because I tell it like it is, but it is easy say "watchdog." Or "lapdog."

We can bring information to the forefront anytime we want, as I have, actually. But until we can vote on something of substance that has actual teeth, change will not occur.

So, people can take all the shots they want. I think I am right on this one, and those who do not think that I am trying to do things throughout the year, that's your problem, not mine. Last time I checked, I am.

Best regards (not easy to say that tonight)

Michael

oh...ps to Villa who will read this, go get some counseling. I'm tired of your posts.

Resident of Allentown said...

I think I will vote for Hershman and Donovan. Hopefully the mix will make a stronger council.
I know little about Mr. Hershman except for what I am reading here and he sounds reasonable to me. Mr. Donovan is the only Allentown council member (as far as I know) who actually encourages commuication with the public thru his blog and actually helps with simple requests within his power which is more than I can say for any other council member.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael,

I appreciate your willingness to make your views known and your blog is a tremendous public service. But I have to tell you that you have really over-reacted to Hershman's criticism. He has made no personal attacks. He has stated council needs to be more involved. I am frankly surprised at the way you've responded, especially by the way you've lashed out at Lou, whom you've practically called an idiot.

When I look at Lou, I see a guy who pretty much eats, sleeps and drinks Allentown. I've never seen a person more committed or dedicated, and he's not even in office. He knows so much about the city that it would be a shame to ignore him. He has plenty of the experience that you lack. I don't think Pawlowski would pull the wool over his eyes as he has done to you. You need him.

You might disagree with my assessment, and that's fine, but I'm going to ask that you stop demeaning him, as you've done. He would not do that to you.