Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cusick Unveils Several Cuts to Stoffa's Budget

Northampton County Council President unveiled several cuts to Executive John Stoffa's budget at a hearing on Thursday, although many of them lack the support of five members of Council. It's unclear whether he was trying to cobble together a coalition, or simply announcing his run for County Executive two years from now.

Many of these adjustments actually come from the Administration itself. For example, health care costs are down this year and will be reduced, although the projected pension contribution is going up by $832,000 as a result of market fluctuations. In addition, Gracedale costs are being downsized $1.6 million as a result of savings that the nursing facility's new private manager hopes to realize.

The one big ticket item proposed by Cusick is the elimination of $1 million from John Stoffa's open space funding next year. Stoffa has set aside $3.75 million for open space, but Cusick objects to funding environmentally sensitive lands with $1.2 million when there are only $200,000 worth of projects.

Before making this proposal, open space advocates flexed their muscles. The Nature Conservancy's Ellen Lott, who claims to speak for the trees, came down from Monroe County. The Wildland's Ken Barrett came up from Emmaus. Both of them did their usual preaching.

As soon as Cusick made his proposal, Upper Mount Bethel Tp Supervisor Judy Hinkel, another open space advocate, sprang up from her seat and gave Council a third lecture, while Barrett spoke out from his seat and Lott's hand went up in the air.

It made no difference. Cusick flatly stated that he dislikes seeing pots of money with no projects attached to them, while Barrett stated there are no projects without those pots at the end of the rainbow.

Since voters have overwhelmingly endorsed open space, both in a referendum and in an election in which Stoffa promised to raise taxes for that express purpose, it seems that this decision is contrary to the will of the voters.

The Monocacy Creek, which swept away half of Musikfest this year, presents a regional problem, and the County is considering an acquisition near Housenick Park that could go a long way to solving that problem. But it can't even start if it has no money.

The Express Times and Morning Call both have accounts presenting additional minor cuts.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

it pains me to say it, but cusick has a point

Anonymous said...

At least he is trying even if he may have alternative motives.

By the way "half" of musicfest was not wiped away. an exaggeration

Anonymous said...

But Bethlehem Catholic Attorney Jay Leeson pointed out that the Lehigh Valley's need is irrelevant, and the only need that should be considered under Bethlehem's zoning ordinance is the need within Bethlehem itself.
This is the thinking of the City of Bethlehem. What's in it for us.

Anonymous said...

The Monocacy Creek, which swept away half of Musikfest this year, presents a regional problem, and the County is considering an acquisition near Housenick Park that could go a long way to solving that problem. But it can't even start if it has no money.

Let Musikfest and the City pay for this. I see noting regional about flooding in downtown Bethlehem

donmiles said...

"...see nothing regional about flooding in downtown Bethlehem" ? You know water runs downhill, right? The intense development over recent years of previously-open land upstream from Bethlehem (Bethlehem Twp., East Allen, Bath, Lower Nazareth, Upper Nazareth) and resulting impervious cover (roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets) has increased stormwater runoff to the Monocacy Creek drastically. That's why flooding approaching the mouth of the Creek -- in downtown Bethlehem -- has increased from once every few years to many times each year. That's a regional problem, not just Bethlehem's. It's a legal problem upstream, too: Pa. law makes upstream landowners responsible for flood damage they cause downstream.
I'm guessing those upstream townships and borough don't have money to buy available open space land to prevent more flood-causing development.
Northampton County voters specifically insisted that the county fund such open space purchases to protect the environment.
Cusick and "Anonymous" are up the creek in not seeing that open space funding should not be cut.

- Don Miles
Lehigh Valley Sierra Club chairman
(doesn't need to be "Anonymous")

Anonymous said...

If the taxpayers voted overwhelmingly for an increase in taxes to save Gracedale, why would they be against a little more sugar for Open Space? Also, if he doesn't like money attached to unnamed projects, how can he like a promised 1.6 million in Gracedale savings that hasn't even happened yet? What if it doesn't happen? Then there has to be another tax hike to cover the 1.6 million. Just rip the bandaid off in one big rip, not two baby pulls.

Anonymous said...

Stop putting things in my floodplain.

Sincerely,

Mother Nature

Anonymous said...

Democrat here in full support of slashing that open space funding. Ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Let Musikfest and the City pay for this. I see noting regional about flooding in downtown Bethlehem

Considering the area in question is Bethlehem Township, yes, it is a regional problem.

Anonymous said...

Voters don't know what their wishes are. And that's the problem with referenda. They are worded (often misleadingly) amid political wrangling to gain passage at any cost. The cost is never completely vetted. People want Gracedale to remain open, but the referendum never mentioned the cost. The same is true with the nebulous open space wording. They always sound so good.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good point.

c said...

Don,
It will all work out, rest assured. I remain optomistic for next year.

Anonymous said...

Was there any talk about the re-negotiations wit the Gracedale Union and cutting their salaries/benefits. I think the County can save a ton there--enough to maybe cut the millage instead of raising it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That was discussed, both yesterday and during several other recent hearings.

Anonymous said...

The reason a "cost" was not in the referendum is because there was no "honest" number to plug in. Angle and Stoffa in their rush to dump Gracedale for a quick buck kept changing the number every week.

They were so determined to dump the place they came up with a different reason and different costs. Any number attached to the referendum would have been biased.

The teabaggers love to go on about how the "people" don't need government to tell them how to think. But in the case of Gracedale, they think people voting didn't realize that there may be "some" cost involved in keeping the place.

Bernie has been making any posting that doesn't agree with he, Angle and Stoffa go away. So it will be hard to tell if we can really "talk" about this as his blog banner proudly proclaims. The bottom line is people are well aware that things they want government to do cost money, they just want a say in what is important to pay for.

As opposed to the teabaggers who want the services "they" want but don't want government to charge them for it.

grow up!

Anonymous said...

I am wishing you into the cornfield for posting that last comment.

Anonymous said...

This guy is a blowhard, we need a tax increase, he is doing the entire county a disservice by trying to be Ron Angel junior. He probably got every one of his "cuts" from Ron anyway. He will be a one term councilman... Like Gilbert and the other 3

By bye tea baggers, bye bye

Anonymous said...

Open space money should never be cut, we voted for it, spend our money and stop telling me what I meant when I voted to increase my taxes to pay for it. Who the hell do you think u are?

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, the number should be going up every year as more houses et come on the at roles... Should it not?

Anonymous said...

Why all the debate about open space funding..It was approved by the voters at a time when we were in a better place fiscally, but it was approved..Maybe for these baggers who disapprove , they can get off their butt's and petition for a referendum to undo open space funding if they want. the people who wanted open space money and wanted to save gracedale went out and worked to get these issues on the ballot..If you aren't willing to do that, then stop whining and crying and accept it already..

Bernie O'Hare said...

" He will be a one term councilman."

I realize you probably have a rough time counting past one, but Cusick is in his second term.

Anonymous said...

I loved Angle's "Nixonian" statement to the press. He has a "secret" plan to balance the budget but he won't tell. Someone should inform the foul mouthed two year old, his term runs through the end of the year.

Ron Angle is the most immature egomaniac that has ever served. Good riddance to bad news.

Anonymous said...

Bernis sometimes you are a hoot. That last comment was gold.

4:32

Let me get this straight.
You propose to undo open space.
If successful the monies would no longer be collected.
There would be no money to tap to help balance the budget.
If this is your solution it reminds me of the sketch on SNL
"Deep Thoughts"
if not I missed your point.

Anonymous said...

I meant ....Bernie....sorry

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:25,

Yet you've been waiting for him to "fix" the budget. The voters have spoken and have decided to put somebody else in office. So Angle does not feel comfortable working on next year's budget. He was also deprived of the Presidency by a Council majority, and thus lacked the access needed to sit down with the various departments, as he did last year. You've received exactly what you wanted - Gracedale ... and a tax hike. You've removed the one person from Council who, despite being an egomaniac, knows County government better than anyone else. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Alright Bernice continue to live in "your" world. Just for all the folks out there, being Council President doesn't give you any "inside" information over other council members. Angle acted like it made him a little dictator. Given the weak kneed people;e on county council that was no surprise. No other council would have let that maniac be council president.

Ron Angle can have as much access to Department heads as any other council members. Stop bullshitting people O'Hare.

He is pouting and you are supporting it. He didn't get his way so he will take his "secret" ball and go home.

So just to recap your heroes. Ron Angle won't help on the budget while he is on council because it is for next year and he lost. Also John Stoffa won't take a position on the swaption because he may be blamed for doing the wrong thing.

Great leadership models there O'Hare. You wonder why no one other than you and the baggers respect them?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You don't know what you're talking about. As president, Angle exercised leadership and was in regular contact with county officials at all levels. He was practically there full time. He worked his ass off bc he cares. But bc of the petty jealousies of some Council members, he was deposed in favor of a person who cannot make most day time meetings and lacks the access needed to hammer out an alternative budget.

Now, you will claim there is no leadership. But when you had someone there who did, you called him an egomaniac and hounded him out.

We get the government we deserve, and you're about to find that out the hard way.

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

I deleted the last comment bc it makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Slash the living shit out of Gracedale. Keep it open for Barron's granny and call it compliance with the referendum. Nobody defined what "open" means. Gut the joint with massive layoffs and cutbacks. It's legal and necessary. Do it before Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa too.

Anonymous said...

what made no sense, i said we are in negotions what part did you not get.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pretty much the entire sentence. You stated, "we are in neg, county is dragging there feet."

I had no idea what you were talking about. I thought you were saying that the County had a negative fund balance. Also, I have no idea who "we" are. Is it a union? Which union? Finally, what do you mean by the county dragging "there" (should be their) feet? How do you know this? Who in the County is responsible?

Your sentence was borderline gibberish. We all make spelling errors, myself included, but the point of language is to communicate. You failed.

Anonymous said...

My bad. but get a grip man easy on the caffeine

Anonymous said...

The Morning Call called it. They pointed out it seems as angle is on his way out, he's undermining any attempts to eliminate Stoffa's tax hike.

Take your toys and go home already.

Anonymous said...

Bernie I posted 5:25

What are you talking about?
I wasn't speaking of Ron.

I was speaking of the poster who to me sounds like he thinks we get rid of open space but continue to get the revenue?

It didn't make sense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're right, My comment was directed to the other commenter. Sorry.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" get a grip man easy on the caffeine"

My comment has nothing to do w/ my caffeine intake, which is high. You just could not be understood. Sorry.

Helene said...

Just for clarification, the open space referendum was very specific and included a number... $37M

Anonymous said...

By the way, was Councilman-elect Parsons at the meeting?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think he was watching it online at Detzi's Tavern.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Council thumbs their nose at a voter referendum for open space but adheres to the Gracedale referendum ? Are these different voters ? Does the will of the people count at all ? Cusick vs Baron in two years makes me want to vomit.Both are shallow brained idiots.

Anonymous said...

Barron won't win the nomination. If he does, the Republicans will cream him with that stupid union intimidation video and his censure by County council.

Word is Barron plans on going after Stoffa big time next year to raise his political profile. Knowing his ham handed approach he will probably screw that up.

Anonymous said...

Ah as to your 9:38 comment at light hearted humor.

The local version of the Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck hate engine begins.

Since you ousted me Im not saving the County with my brilliant ideas.
Now thats a dedicated public servant.

This blog is like the latest poll regarding FOX news, those people who don't read it are more informed than those who do.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the county use the open space money to buy the Housenick property which is actually located somewhere people might see and/or use it?

To the person that said this was a "teabagger" issue, I'm a Democrat who flatly opposes open space nonsense legislation. You want open space, move to Potter County. This is an urban area of nearly a million people. Deal with it.

Chris Miller said...

Anonymous 9:13 AM
Thank you for your comment on open space. You are correct this is an urban area and Routes 33, I-78, I-80 and Route 22 are the reasons for that situation. Open space is a nice idea but we need to face reality, it really should have been avoided. Had local governments enlarged the lot sizes in what at the time was rural areas, we might have avoided a lot of our problems but that was not to be because we had a lot of folks waiting to make money by selling off their lands and creating one acre instead of 5 acres lots. Open Space is a joke. It was a solution that came on way to late to do any good in fact by taking land out of circulation it drives prices, when the market is decent, higher. On top of this you might want to look at UN Agenda 21. Keep in mind that it is happening.

c said...

Chris and anonymous 9:13, I would be interested to hear solutions to the problems that preserving open space is trying to ameliorate....problems like insuring proper storm water runoff, insuring clean drinking water, insuring a localized area where we can grow our food, insuring clean air, minimizing the school tax burdeon that poorly planned development foists upon the taxpayers....not to mention the intangibles like preserving a reasonable rural quality of life for those who seek it. As for UN Agenda 21...remember, this was a choice made by the voting public and it is the choice of the individual land owner whether or not to preserve their land. Big Nanny government is not stepping in and forcing anyone to preserve their land. Complaining and griping gets us nowhere.

Chris Miller said...

Csaid
WOW. I did not know that Open Space could do all of those things. I would really expect many of these situations to be handled by the land owner as they have been in the past. Don't get me wrong I like open space but I don't like being taxed so our local government can buy land and development rights to build a walking path under an active power line or buy up swamp land and tell me its for the sake of rabbit hunting. Zoning laws, had they been used properly, could have set acreages for development at a variety of sizes and uses. Why were they set at one acre? Simply to maximize profits. I am on board with you on a lot of what you have to say but once the roads were in place the onslaught from NJ and NY was on the way. I had a client in from NY in the late '80s who told me that if we had jobs in the area half of NYC's population would move here. Let me note that we are going to see and enormous influx of young people from NY into this area so they can be safe. I am afraid that if you and I want a nice rural atmosphere we will be in the middle of the Commonwealth or its northern tier. On the matter of UN agenda 21 people did not vote on it and if you are not sure of what it is you might want to hop back on your computer and go to google or bing.

c said...

Chris,
You could go to any township's Open Space Committee or EAC meeting and really learn the mechanics of open space. Look, when you zone land from 1 acre to 5 acres you take value away from people...farmers, people who have worked their entire lives for pennies. They have one thing, land equity. Zoning takes that away from people. It's a balancing act Chris. I believe you misunderstod me on UN 21. I am familiar with it and it is scary. My reference was to our local referrendum, which is not related to UN21. Nice talking with you.

c said...

Chris:

OOps I see what you mean...had a mistype on the UN 21 thing on my first post...doing too much. No the voters did not vote for it, my wording stank. Who on earth would vote for something that would give rigts to an ecosystem......we are far from being ready for that. Who wants to e forced to live in a city....UN21 is scary, and I don't think that the UN should be telling us what to do.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, reality calling. How about those Mets?

Anonymous said...

For the first time ever I saw tonights Council meeting.
Conclusion: Ron is a ass.
He deserved to lose the election.

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle has been, is and always will be an ass. Now you have stoffa running around the Lehigh Valley telling one and all how he will miss Angle.

Odd people!

Anonymous said...

insuring proper storm water runoff, insuring clean drinking water, insuring a localized area where we can grow our food, insuring clean air, minimizing the school tax burdeon that poorly planned development foists upon the taxpayers....not to mention the intangibles like preserving a reasonable rural quality of life for those who seek it.

I'm not sure how other cities handle runoff and drinking water....but I'm pretty sure they do.

You can drive 10 minutes in any direction and get to plenty of farmland. Drive 20 minutes and there is pretty much nothing but open space.

More people equals more taxes for schools. I don't know where you are coming up with that as a factor in open space nonsense legislation. And the "burden" is funding education as we have always done. Now that those students are grown, they don't want to pay anymore. Sorry, doesn't work that way.

Finally, this is NOT a rural area and preserving this way of life is a fantasy. Like I said, feel free to drive 20-30 minutes and buy a house. There is absolutely nothing stopping you. Instead, you tax me to build the Green Acres fantasy you see in your mind.