Friday, May 10, 2013

NorCo Exec Candidates Mix It Up In Lively LWV Debate

John Callahan
As Northampton Community College's women went after each other in a lacrosse game, three County Executive candidates beat each other with verbal sticks on May 9 during a lively debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV). Though these hopefuls are by no means as attractive as that group of college co-eds, well over seventy people still enthusiastically watched as verbal blows landed and missed in the third of four scheduled forums. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, former NorCo Executive Glenn Reibman and County Council member Lamont McClure, each of whom seeks the Democratic nomination on May 21, left it all on the field, just like the lacrosse players.

Lamont McClure
McClure, as he's done throughout his campaign, stressed his fight to save Gracedale, the County's nursing home, and a pledge not to raise taxes, at least not during his first term in office. He noted that during the Great Recession, he authored a mortgage foreclosure diversion program that allowed 40% of its participants to stay in their homes. He also claimed to have voted to preserve more farmland than any other member of County Council.

Unlike Reibman and McClure, Callahan has no County experience. But he played that as a strength, claiming that he represents change and that voters are yearning for that change. Pointing to over 5,000 jobs in Bethlehem over his ten years as Mayor, he added that the Christmas City has been named one of the "100 best places in America to Live, 100 best places in America to launch a business, and 100 best places in America to raise a family."

Glenn Reibman
Reibman claims he wants to "finish the job" he started during two previous terms as Executive. He referred to a five-point plan that includes job creation and economic development, fiscal responsibility, investments in the criminal justice system, upgraded human services and government transparency.

Moderator John Kincaid, a Government Professor at Lafayette College, posed questions prepared in advance by the LWV as well a queries from the floor.


Gracedale

All candidates agreed that Gracedale should remain county-owned. Reibman insisted the nursing home was profitable when he was Executive, and he would attempt to take on Monroe County's nursing home, Callahan called it the "jewel of the County," and reminded the audience that he announced his candidacy at the nursing home. But McClure countered that Callahan had previously told Gracedale supporters it wasn't his problem, and scoffed at Reibman's suggestion.

"Mr. Reibman has been out of government a long time now," observed McClure, in a refrain he repeated throughout the evening. He said that the County is actually trying to sell 37 bed licenses to put it on a sounder  economic footing.

Taxes

Of the three candidates, only McClure has never voted to raise property taxes, a theme McClure mentioned repeatedly. At one point, McClure asked Callahan to join him in a pledge not to raise taxes. Callahan demurred, calling the suggestion "irresponsible and pandering." Callahan argued that a tax hike is "always a last resort," but "if we want to provide services for residents, we have to pay taxes to do so.

Although Reibman raised taxes 64% during his second term as Executive, he argued that his foresight has saved the County from another tax hike for ten years running. "I have a very good record," he insisted.

Swaption

When the topic turned to the swaption, which had been proposed by Reibman when he was Executive, strange UFO music began playing in the background. That did not help Reibman when he denied responsibility for the $27 million it cost the County.

McClure argued that the County should never have entered into it in the first place, while Callahan noted he rejected several similar financing schemes as Mayor. "That's $27 million into the ether," he complained. "Imagine what we could have done with that!"

Callahan also criticized McClure for dragging his feet on ending it. "He refused to step up with leadership to get out of it," Callahan remarked.

Infrastructure 

Reibman noted that a transportation bill is under consideration in Harrisburg, which could open the door to more funding for roads as well as repairs to the County's 117 bridges. He wants to revisit the "train study," and has suggested an Interchange at Routes 378 and 78.

McClure stated that commercial rail might be more realistic right now than passenger rail, and stated he favored addressing bridge issues "year to year" instead of floating a bind to pay for this infrastructure.

Callahan said bridge repairs are needed now. "We don't have time for 'pay as you go,' he insisted. He believes these kinds of capital improvements should be financed by a bond because payments can be spread out over time."You got to show a little leadership, bite the bullet and get it done," he chastised McClure.

Public Health

McClure explained that, though he supports the concept, he was unwilling to support the bi-county public health proposal because hospitals were unwilling to contribute. Callahan called public health "critically important. Disease knows no boundaries," he observed. But he doubts that Lehigh County has the "political will" for a a regional public health department.

Reibman called the current situation "unacceptable." He claimed the County could form it own public health department or partner with Lehigh County, Monroe County or both of them.

Council Relations   

Fights between Council and the Executive made Northampton County the laughing stock of the Lehigh Valley when Reibman was County Executive, according to Callahan, who noted that Bethlehem has a "long history" of a good working relation between the Mayor and its City Council. Callahan also criticized McClure's style as a Council member. "He wants to sit back and snipe," the Mayor asserted.

McClure, who noted that he "speaks truth to power," pointed out that he authored a Code of Civility. And Reibman blamed the rancorous Council meetings on one person, i.e Ron Angle. "Fortunately, the voters turned him out to pasture," noted Reibman, as a room full of Democrat burst into applause.

Economic Development

Reibman argued that he created the County Department of Community Development, a General Purpose Authority, invested in "all four corners of the County" in a "stimulus before stimulus became popular" and created thousands of jobs. He would like to enlist local schools to begin job training. Calling economic development the "key to the future of Northampton County", Callahan would use every economic development tool in the County's arsenal, from tax incentives to bonds. McClure argued that his no tax-hike pledge is what would attract business to Northampton County. Unlike Reibman and Callahan, McClure would not borrow money and is leery of tax incentives.

McClure Asks Callahan for no tax hike pledge
Candidate Questions 

In addition to being challenged to make a no-tax-hike pledge by McClure, Reibman questioned whether Callahan really created 5,000 jobs in Bethlehem, relying on Labor and Industry data.

"I guess we know who's winning," joked Callahan after being challenged by both of his opponents.

In answer to Reibman's question, Callahan stated that the Sands alone created 2,400 jobs, and another 2,400 jobs were created from new companies coming into LVIP VII.  

Callahan asked McClure about his claim to have voted to preserve more open space than any other Council member when he voted against the tax hike that funded the program. McClure responded that he had a way to pay for it without a tax hike.

After ninety minutes, LWVs Joan Dean called it a night. "Democracy works when everyone participates," she concluded, thanking both the candidates and the audience.

29 comments:

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

Try again. After spending several hours trying to put out an informative post, it's a little insulting to read someone post slop as a comment. That is why your comment was rejected by the ET and here as well.

Anonymous said...

It would appear that Lamont McClure wants to be the panderer in chief. He also promised everyone a pony that shits butterflies and costs nothing to feed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was a good debate. They mixed it up, and all of them were pretty good. McClure is a panderer, but he made for some lively exchanges.

Anonymous said...

From what I was told John said the Human Service building should not have been leased. It's about time someone spoke up on this. He is right. However, the ship shouldn't have sailed on this. Just like the Swaption, "It's never to late to stop an incredibly bad idea. Had they stopped the swaption earlier, this county would be alot richer. If anything, stop the ignorant lease and build the damn thing if you feel it's so necessary. Way to go John! It's about Damn time. Now , when you finally admit that you'll be dumping Ross Marcus, you might find you have friends out there.

Anonymous said...

5:50 is Jim "I hate the building" Gregory

You really need medication or just a nice solid punch to our head to knock you back into reality ha ha

Anonymous said...

NorCo is about to go from bad to much worse. All of these guys are moral and ethical shit stains with no sense of fiscal responsibility. What an awful mess. We're so f'd.

Anonymous said...

The debate should have been dubed, "The Moe, Larry and Curly" show or "Three Blind Mice"

We are in DEEP trouble!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"From what I was told John said the Human Service building should not have been leased."

That is a nonissue. What Callahan said, in his own words, is "That ship has sailed." McClure defended it. Reibman defended the concept but would have put it next to the courthouse.

Give it a rest already with the constant harping about a matter that has already been decided.

Anonymous said...

Northampton county Council candidates are talking issues. Northampton county Executive candidates are talking rhetoric. Listen to the Council candidates as they discuss issues. They talk about, bridge repair and how to finance the projects, Veterans and veteran benefits, economic development and growth and ways to fund the programs, losing the Airport, land preservation and the funds to pay for it, human services and funding the programs, and many other important issues. Problems and solutions. Good candidates with real solutions. Reibman had his chance and he blew it. His comment that the voters put Angle out to pasture also goes for him. He was put out to pasture too.

Anonymous said...

Ask Mcloore if he ever met the guy who runs Gracedale? He never talked to the man and doesn't even know him and he is the champion of Gracedale. What is wrong with this picture?

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's quite interesting. I was unaware he never met "Dee." Even I've done that.

Anonymous said...

It was very obvious that Callahan was the only candidate that had finacial responsibility as a priority. Coming out against the Human Services lease was a game changer for me. He wasn't afraid to say that they left two fine buildings in the two cities go without maintenance for 8 years to make their claim that the county needed a new building. John adequately pointed out that this lease is going to cost the county taxpayers at least $1 mllion just in year one -- withnothing to show for it. If the county needed a new building then build it and own it. Everyone knows that leasing is the most expensive way of financing.

And if Stoffa wanted a new building he has plenty of land right near the courthouse to build upon. Let's see, parking deck below and three story building on land that you already own.

My questions are simple -- were options explored? Were other developers given an opportunity? This deal smells bad and only Callahan understands the true financial impact on the county.

Anonymous said...

Union thugs were out in full force

Anonymous said...

anon 1036...You will not talk like that after Callahan has buried the county the way he has buried us here in Bethlehem.....

Anonymous said...

Callahan will only do business with those who pay to play.

Bernie and Charlie Dent made this very clear a couple if years ago.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, I did not make that clear at all. In fact, I argued against it. In a congressional race, where you need to raise $2 million, it is next to impossible for one donor to have any kind of influence, especially since there are limits on federal campaigns. I argued that point repeatedly. You must not have been reading, or more likely, are deliberately mis-stating my posts.

Anonymous said...

If anyone has ever heard the county council candidates speak it is impressive. I agree with 9:23, these three jokers like to think they have the answers, however they are all just self absorbed egomaniacs. McClueless is probably the worst.

I have been more than impressed by all the county council candidates. Also Bernie, I know you do not agree but I have heard Jerry and Ron speak and both of them put these three clowns to shame when it comes to knowledge, commonsense and insight into the issue. To bad they are not running for the top spot but at least I hope they make it to council.

I am at least confident we will once again have a vigorous and engaged county council.

Anonymous said...

anonymous7:57 AM you're right.
These three candidates are shit heads with no fecal responsibility. you said fiscal but I know what you really meant. Taxes will go up regardless of what these candidates tell you. They promise you everything and deliver on nothing. Reibman screwed us 8 years ago and these idiots are going to do the same and no one is going to change that.

Anonymous said...

Is it true what the Express said about Reibman's position on Gracedale? If so, he is not any better than the man he hates, Stoffa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The Express got it wrong about Reibman.

Anonymous said...

A no tax pledge is just crazy! The County is hurting because of state cutbacks! It's bad enough when the Republicans say it but it's depressing when the Democrats do.
I'm sure the county workers are thrilled to hear that..It's a death statement for anyone wanting their support..They are leasing a new Human Service building , and cutting Human Services to the bone now aside from other County expenses. It's just irresponsible to say that!

Anonymous said...

Plain and Simple....these guys need to ask the workers in the County to what is really going on. BSing is not going to cut it. Sounds to me like I probably will vote against party in general at this point. Very disappointing group of candidates.

Anonymous said...

My prediction will come true

Callahan 40%
McClure 35%
Reibman 20%
Undecided not pulling any 5%

Mark my words.

Anonymous said...

So then, McClure isn't that stupid, and pays the least per vote this election.
What does that tell us?

Anonymous said...

The no tax pledge is not crazy. There is a ton of money hidden in the budget like the extra 4 million dumped into the healthcare line items in the 2012 budget. Then county workers are told healthcare cost are going up!

Lamont will end that if elected. Also remember just cause taxes go up does not mean those extra dollars will go to Human Services. Any tax increases by Callahan will go into projects that payback donors or get his name in the paper.

Human Service dollars don't excite voters or boost status. That is what Callahan is all about.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This from a candidate whose own campaign finances are in the red. No thanks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Mark my words."

Whose words?

Anonymous said...

Winning? Is Callahan channeling Charlie Sheen?