|Bangor Mayor John Brown|
|Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan|
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|
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|
All of the questions, some of them repetitive, focused on economic development and 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|
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"
|LC Director of Admin Tom Muller|
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|
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.
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.