Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exec Candidates Galore Inside the Belly of the Beast

Bangor Mayor John Brown
Seven County Executive candidates, from both Lehigh and Northampton County, participated Monday night in an economic development forum co-hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and Lehigh Valley Partnership. This shindig, which attracted about 50 bluebloods, occurred at DeSales University's newly opened Gambet Center. I'm sure that place must have one or two restrooms, but I'll be damned if I could find one. I asked Bert Daday, but he huffed that Partnership members like him never need to use bathrooms of any kind. He and a few other Partnership dudes like L Anderson Daub I sat in the back, away from the fray, kinda' like Roman emperors. If one of them signaled thumbs down at any point during this dialogue, it would be curtains for the unlucky speaker.

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan
I was up in the front row, sitting next to Don Cunningham, believe it or not. I told him I was Lamont McClure's guest. Don's big thing was getting flags into the room - American, Pennsylvania, Lehigh and Northampton County. Unfortunately, Frank Kane, Cunningham's former Chief of Staff, brought two Lehigh County flags instead of a Lehigh and Pennsylvania flag. Cunningham fired Kane on the spot, but Kane retorted, "You're not the boss of me!"

Other than trying to fire Kane and introducing moderator Chris Borick, who got paid to ask questions somebody else prepared, Cunningham had a fairly easy night. He sat there studiously reviewing a notebook as the night went on. During a break, I noticed a Mad Magazine inside of it.

Former Exec Glenn Reibman
The Northampton County Executive candidates - John Brown, John Callahan, Lamont McClure and Glenn Reibman, all played it straight. No jokes. McClure had to spend an hour without using the word "Gracedale," and that seemed to throw him off his game. Reibman has started referring to himself in the third person again, something he used to do when he was Executive. Callahan, a natural salesman, was in his element. John Brown, in the first time I've ever seen him in action, was quite impressive.

Lehigh County Executive candidates Dean Browning, Tom Muller and Scott Ott were a tad more jocular. When Ott was asked to describe what assets make the Lehigh Valley attractive, he tried to threw in everything, including hunting grounds and opera. Browning deadpanned, "I often go to the opera when I get done hunting. Then Muller wisecracked, "The fat lady's singing."

Att'y Lamont McClure
At this point, Daday gave a thumbs down, the signal to slay all three of them. But Cunningham, reading Mad Magazine, missed it.

All of the questions, some of them repetitive, focused on economic development and regionalism.

Regionalism.

All candidates support more regional efforts. Brown noted his 18-month effort to regionalize police departments in the Slate Belt. Callahan noted the revenue sharing from the casino with Allentown ($2.5 million) and Easton ($0.8 million), calling it a "watershed moment for regional cooperation." He also pointed to combining redundant water and ewer authorities, noting that Bethlehem and East Allen are combining after two years of negotiation. McClure stated he supported the Allentown arena, unlike Callahan. Reibman wants a bi-county or even a tri-county health department, and wants rail to Philadephia, New York and Scranton.

Businessman Dean Browning
Browning believes Lehigh should start moving towards a county-wide police force, and is urging a regional approach to the three publicly-owned nursing homes in the Lehigh Valley. Muller pointed to Lehigh County's regional crime center, which in four short months has helped bring in 3 homicide suspects from Bethlehem and Berks County.

Ott insisted that regionalism has to be voluntary and can't be forced from the top down, claiming that the "politics of regionalization may put a damper on some of the dreams of regionalization"

Tax Incentives

LC Director of Admin Tom Muller
While they all support tax incentives for private development, they do so in varying degrees. Reibman's support was the most unqualified. In fact, he spoke of outright grants. Callahan supports the entire "alphabet soup" of tax incentives, but cautioned the use must be judicious. McClure stated he supported tax incentives, including the Chrin TIF, but said they really need to be analyzed to see if they are working. Brown stated they should be used "very sparingly" and you need to know the return on investment in advance.

Browning supports tax incentives like a TIF if they serve a "pubic good." He noted that a TIF he worked on in West Hills resulted in $100 million in development and 1,000 jobs. Muller supports incentive, but only if they result in jobs. Ott complained, "We have become dealmakers instead of lawmakers." His objection is that there should be objective standards to qualify for a tax incentive. But he said he'll likely support the TIF proposed at Hamilton Crossings.

Jobs and the Economy

Comm'r Scott Ott
Brown would like to know where economic development appears in the county's mission. That needs to be spelled out. But he'd reach out to smaller communities aggressively. He also suggested investing in COGs (Councils of Government).

Callahan would appoint a Director of Economic Development and move its office away from the "bowels of the courthouse." He would do what he could to make it easier to do business. In Bethlehem, for example, the average waiting time for a restaurant permit has dropped from 42 days to 14.

McClure claimed that he had the idea of appointing a Director of Economic Development Director first, so there, John Callahan! He also said that businesses would be attracted naturally by his no-tax hike pledge, like flies to honey.

Reibman would appoint a Director, and he appointed a Director before anyone, so there, Lamont McClure! He thinks that a study to connect Routes I-78 and 378 will stimulate the local economy.

Browning would focus on developing the Lehigh Valley workforce. He suggested that there be periodic roundtables of government, education and business to identify areas where workforce training is needed. He also stressed the importance of education, and would implement a "Leader in Me" program in which businesses "adopt" specific schools and help them.

Muller agreed the County needs to work harder to reach "at risk" kids, but stated that the County is not the driver of economic development.

Ott's basic approach to economic development is essentially, "Do no harm." In fact, he wants to outsource as much government as he can, even to the point of making employees competitively bid for their jobs.

Lehigh County's DCED Office

Both Browning and Muller favor keeping it intact. Ott appears to want to dump it. "Government can do some things well, but is never going to be as nimble as you can be," he told the job creators. He prefers a strong role from the private sector, noting that politicians have "mixed motives" and are always looking at the next election.

Infrastructure

Callahan cites a RenewLV study claiming that $60 million can be saved by consolidating water authorities. While he doubts it's as high as that, consolidation of Bethlehem and East Allen will reduce water rates for residents significantly. McClure believes county bridges need repair, but is opposed to a large bond for it. Reibman talked about rail again.

Ott stated that he blocked the Lehigh County Authority from extending its charter, but complained Commissioners have little control over authorities. Muller, who is Vice Chair of the Lehigh County Autority is "delighted" that Ott has little control, and believes the LCA should work towards regionalizing the County's water and ewer. Browning criticized the "parochial" approac Ott has taken to the Lehigh County Authority, and lauded both Muller and Cunningham for their work in maintaining the County's 47 bridges.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can Muller run for county executive as the Director of Administration. He is directly responsible for administering federal funds. I thought that was a clear violation of th4e hatch Act. Seems like that is a selective act that only impacts certain people. Sort of like the IRS.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As has been answered before, back in January, his candidacy is no violation bc the Hatch Act was changed to relax some of the restrictions that formerly applied to local officials. Otherwise, he would not be able to run.

Anonymous said...

The more I read about these people and their run for County Mayor, the more it sickens me. What a waste of taxpayer dollars. They continue to talk about things that absolutely don't matter at the County level. Regionalism, Health Departments, Economic Development, Jobs, Infrastructure (except bridges), tax incentives. These are issues for the local municipalities and their Mayors and Councils. The County needs to stick with the issues involving Court Services, Human Services, Gracedale, Jail, Sheriff's office, and so on. I am starting to believe that NONE of these candidates know anything about the role of County Government? Maybe County Council should start holding hearings on changing the Charter to have an appointed Manager/Council form of government?

Anonymous said...

Lina said come to our party on Thursday night. I have my reservations but you are welcome..8

PS Tell Jerry Seyfried to bring Amanda, lol

Anonymous said...

nice piece of reporting.

D said...

Good job Bernie. Glad you finally got to see John Brown in action.

Anonymous said...

Brown was impressive. What a pleasant surprise. We actually will have a distinct choice in November.

Anonymous said...

The dems think they can hang their hats on Heckman and Seyfried carrying the ticket in the fall are plain nuts. Where are these candidates in the primary. Heckman is running a very low visability "fly under the radar campaign" and Seyfried isn't doing anything I can see. Running on your laurels in the fall won't cut it. Callahan will probably win the Primary. Seyfried is a lot more popular than Callahan. Watch the election results. If Seyfried and Heckman run at the top of the ticket, the dems stand a chance. If they run lower than first or second the Dems are in real trouble and if anyone other than Callahan wins the whole ticket goes down in defeat for the General.

Anonymous said...

I heard through the grapevine that Amanda Seyfried is coming in for a big fund raiser in the fall for Seyfried. It is rumored that she will be bringing a couple of other Hollywood celebs along. Maybe Jim Gregory and Barron can land a role in a hollywood ganster flick.

Anonymous said...

All of the dem candidates touting the need for a DCED director is essntially to create a $90 K plus job fo some political flunky. One skirt in particular. The patronage payroll will explode under any of these clowns.

Anonymous said...

Ott complained, "We have become dealmakers instead of lawmakers." His objection is that there should be objective standards to qualify for a tax incentive. But he said he'll likely support the TIF proposed at Hamilton Crossings.

How weak. Way to be watching out for the taxpayer, Scott.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Reibman who did away with Northampton County's Economic Development Organization? Now they want to start one and pay a director big bucks? Didn't Reibman flunkies donate enough money to his campaign? He never should have disembowled the NCDC in the first place. Further proof he is not worthy of being in the Executives Chair.

Anonymous said...

I bet none of the Northampton County candidates said they needed county economic development offices because LVEDC sucks so badly at what they pretend to do.



Bernie O'Hare said...

"One skirt in particular."

Nice sexist remark from an anonymous coward.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A comment posted by Tom Foolery has been deleted. His comments are not welcome here. He supported hatred at tow other blogs, participating in personal attacks aimed at me, and I choose not to welcome him here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Seyfried isn't doing anything I can see."

He's not. If you don't want him, don't vote for him. He is not going to waste one cent telling people bit himself in a primary.

notsocasualobserver said...


John Brown IS impressive and he has no baggage.

I like his COG approach to regionalization. COGs allow the municipalities to band together regionally, but still retain their municipal identity and authority.
The best of both wprlds

d said...

And we don't need a county Economic Development director position either. Worthless in light of LVEDC. Redundant and a waste of money.

Anonymous said...

The baggage with John Brown and the COG/Regional is twofold:

1. He was in it to create a job for himself. He approached the slate belt cog and tried to wrangle a consultant job. With the regional police dept, he wanted to be the commissioner.

2. He failed at both. he can talk all he wants about regional ploice, but it going forward WITHOUT bangor. he didnt create this idea. All his work was self-centered (see #1). Pen Argyl laughed at Brown, and Plainfield twp/Wind Gap (which both have their own police issues) didnt want Bron?Bangor Baggage.

3. Why did he fire the police chief (and longtime fire chief Owens) and not replace him?

danthemann

Anonymous said...

Council fired the police chief Dan. And Owens retired. Try getting your misinformation campaign straightened out!

not so casual observer said...


Regionalization goes far beyond polcie departments. What he is discussing is developmental work to help municipalities band to gether for control and benefit from outgrowth rather than it becoming a burden.

By the way, the last time I looked applying for a job was not baggage, it is called advancement.and someimes it is mutually beneficial. Baggage is when you screw up in office.

Anonymous said...

"Baggage is when you screw up in office"

no- baggage can be self-dealing as well.

or having the taxpayer fund a trip to visit a family member...

Anonymous said...

IF the three Pen Argyl area police departments do go regional it is because of the plan John Brown brought to them and the education they got on the issue. i hope they can come to an agreement even though the boro of Bangor will not be part of the plan at this time. It's still good news for the Slate Belt and a tremendous step forward.

Anonymous said...

The kid had already graduated Dan. He wasn't even at the school when he attended the conference. What a douche you are.

Anonymous said...

Bernie..FYI..this dan guy is the head of one of our three fire companies in Bangor. Real ethical stuff and a real asset to the community.

Anonymous said...


We don't need the Director if Community SDevelopment postion but Johnny Casino has promised it to the loud woman in DCED. She is running around campaigning for him like crazy. Does she do it on county time?

I hope county council considers this pick carefully. The county has worked just fine without another money sucking patronage job at the top. Actually it is time to dump a few more.

Now word is in his last year Marcus wants to make someone his assistant in Human Services to give them a raise. t6his nonsense must be stopped, another needless position.

Anonymous said...

Only RINOs support tax freebies.

Scott Ott is busy savaging the idea of paying a few thousand dollars for parks and zoos with taxpayer money but it's ok with him if we give a couple million dollars of free tax money to a poor, woe begone developer.

I'm sure that makes sense somewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Johnny Casino has promised it to the loud woman in DCED. She is running around campaigning for him like crazy. Does she do it on county time?"

It's bad enough that you are a hater. But you're a coward, too. I've been to quite a few Callahan events, and have not seen her at any of them. Not even one. So in addition to being a hater and a coward, you are a liar.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The kid had already graduated Dan. He wasn't even at the school when he attended the conference. What a douche you are."

The simple reality is that Brown took $7000 from Boro Council for some conference and now is jumping ship. I don't think it's quite fair to call Dan a douche, but the idiots who agreed to this certainly should be kicking themselves in the ass, and Brown should return the money.

d said...

Just the facts Bernie..not disinformation. John took nothing..council granted his request. We have covered this ground extensively already. We agree to disagree about the intent of the council and the timing. The minutes await your picking them up as promised.

Anonymous said...

Dan is a hater and it is fairly evident he will say anything to advance his agenda.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, The facts are you and your fellow Council members agreed to spend $7k, 7 times his annual salary, to send him for training, and now he's leaving. Brilliant, Dave. That's almost as smart as saying Glenn Reibman would be a great County Executive, but only until the primary is over.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, I suspect we might have more than one hater.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
D said...

Glenn is the best Dem..hands down. I'm a Dem Bernie. You know that. I refuse to waive my right to vote as a Dem in the primary election. These unwritten rules of politics are for the birds. I refuse to abide by them.

Anonymous said...

" John took nothing..council granted his request"

he asked. you gave.


he took.

D said...

I'm not doing it to be brilliant. I'm doing it because I stand by it. I want to see Glenn and John go at it in a real debate about the issues facing the people of the county and then the best ideas win.

Anonymous said...

Semantics don't count. It was public and did not go along political party lines. 5 to 3. Majority rules.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, You are endorsing Glenn for the Primary, but for the general, you want the guy who already took you for $7,000. Makes sense to me.

Speaking of sense. Is it true Bangor is NOT part of the regional police force that Brown spent 18 months working to promote? Why not? Is it true he wanted to be Chief or Commissioner as claimed? Didn't you claim, at this time last year, that regional police was a done deal in Bangor? What happened?

Bernie O'Hare said...

" I want to see Glenn and John go at it in a real debate" Since you did not attend any of the debates for the primary, I tend to doubt that. You are a one-issue voter. You will vote for Reibman bc he told you what you wanted to hear about the jail (it's a jail, not a prison), even though it is not the truth. If you had gone to a debate in Easton, you'd see Reibman snark some old guy bc the jail rapes inmates for phone service. You liked getting stroked.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I'm not doing it to be brilliant."

That's fairly obvious.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:10 coward, Identify yourself and I'll let you post your accusation.

Dave said...

He didn't take me for anything. You make it sound like a hold up in an alley..please. I did feel good about his work on the regional police force. He worked very hard at educating our neighbors about shared services. It did not happen then but the ideas are now bearing fruit in the Pen Argyl area with a possible 3 gov't entity force becoming a reality. You have to start somewhere and this looks like it might go. Bangor is not a part at this time but it's all good as it is a great stride forward for the SB to embrace a regional concept. John should be proud of what he has done to get this moving.

D said...

Not just the jail was discussed with Glenn..some other issues..Gracedale,rail service,health department options,job creation,regionalization and consolidation of services. Sorry I could not make a debate in person.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Dent said Callahan's Bethlehem was for sale and that his so-called economic success record was a sham. Charlie supports John Brown for County Executive. So do I.

Anonymous said...

If you support Charlie Dent you are no supporter of John Callahan.

Anonymous said...

Brown will be strongly supported by Dent in the General..Then who will you support Bernie..Your first love or your latest, lol

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's easy. I will support charlie Dent for Congress and John Callahan for Exec. I'll ask Charlie to ask Brown to return the $7,000 in the people's money that he conned out of Bangor Boro Council.

Anonymous said...

Tom Muller who the man doesn't seem serious, just look at this campaign finance report

Bernie O'Hare said...

Since he has no primary opponent, there is no reason for him to waste time raising money.

Anonymous said...

exec races are expensive and time never comes back

Anonymous said...

Bernie, do Bethlehem place cruisers cost more or less than $7,000?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I honestly have no idea, but suspect they cost more.

Anonymous said...

We can't afford "place" cruisers in bangor.

Anonymous said...

Callahan's covered up police cruiser cost a lot more than $7K. Will any of the 40 big shots ask him to reimburse the city? Will you, Bernie?

Anonymous said...

will you ask brown to repay the boro taxpayers?