Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jerry Seyfried on Northampton County Issues

Jerry with Julie, his bride of 48 years
Gerald E. (Jerry) Seyfried has devoted a lifetime of service to Northampton County as Council member, County Executive and Director of Court Services. I know of no person who knows more about County government than he. He is the first of ten candidates vying for five seats to respond to questions that I, and some of you, prepared.

Though I don't intend to press for answers until September, I wanted to get Jerry's responses out there right away. I will also prepare a link on my sidebar to the questionnaire, with answers from the candidates as they are received.

Jerry didn't mention, not even once, that he's related to Amanda Seyfried. "I want to win on my own good looks," he tells me.

1. Lehigh County Commissioners and Bethlehem City council have both toyed with the idea of rejecting pass through grants based on objections to the federal deficit, money owed to China and antipathy to charter schools. Would you reject pass through grants?

ANSWER......NO. We should be trying to bring as much of our tax dollars back to the valley as possible. Not give it to someone else.

2. Most of Council's work is done at its busy Personnel and Finance Committees, at which every member of Council is encouraged to attend. How do you feel about participation at Council Committee meetings? Will you attend?

ANSWER.....Yes, if I may add, In twelve and one half years of Public Service as a member of County Council, I have never missed a regular County Council Meeting. I have a 100% perfect attendance record. Because I worked shifts at the Bethlehem Steel, I was unable to attend some Committee meetings when it conflicted with my livelihood. Even then, I only missed a small handful of committee meetings in 12 1/2 years. Probably two or three percent at most.

3. One candidate has rejected the concept of regionalism as one big mess that is harder to manage than a group of smaller messes. Do you support or oppose regionalism, and what regional projects would you endorse on Council?

ANSWER.....I support regionalism for cost saving projects, however, every project should be looked at and supported based on its own merits. Regionalism may be good for one community but not another.
For example; 911 was a good regional project. Regional police departments for those communities that find it difficult to fund their own police departments are good regional programs. Building a sewage treatment facility or creating a landfill on the border of a township boundary may not be a good regional project.

4. During the Executive primary, one candidate made a no-tax hike pledge. Do you think it is responsible to make no tax-hike pledges? If so, are you willing to make one?

ANSWER.....No.

5. In a 2011 plebiscite, voters told Council not to sell Gracedale for 5 years.The annual County contribution is currently in the $5-7 million range, so voters effectively voted for that contribution. But what if it grows? Is there a red line at which you would agree it is necessary to sell Gracedale?

ANSWER.....The voters (also taxpayers) have spoken on this issue and voted overwhelmingly to keep the Gracedale facility as a County owned Nursing home. When the five years is up, we will revisit the issue. If the situation as to funding worsens, we will report findings to the taxpayers and electorate and take public commentary. I personally support doing everything possible to keep Gracedale as a public facility.

6. In 2007, County Council voted to set aside 1/2 mill of real estate tax (about $3.5 million) for a pay-as-you go open space plan for preserving farmland, environmentally sensitive land and municipal parks. On Council, will you vote to continue funding open space? Do you consider this a core county function?

ANSWER.....It was my administration that initiated the concept of open space preservation. It was supported by County Council, the Lehigh Valley Joint Planning Commission, and the taxpayers. I will vote to continue the program and although it isn't a "core county function" it is a program that adds to the quality of life in Northampton County.

7. There are 11 unions county-wide. What efforts would you make, as a member of council, to encourage unions to consolidate and reduce the amount of time administrators and unions must spend in contract negotiations?

ANSWER.....Article III Section 302. Duties.....of the Home Rule Charter states "the County Executive, in person or through subordinates, shall supervise and direct the negotiation and administration of any collective bargaining agreements with employees. Council is the legislative body. The administration, if unhappy with eleven unions, should negotiate with them to reduce the number of unions.

8. What is your position on laying off County workers? Would you support layoffs to balance the budget, or vote to increase taxes to provide the same level of services?

ANSWER.....Every County Executive from the Bechtel Administration through the Stoffa Administration has put into effect a "no hiring freeze" or has laid off workers. When you compare Northampton county to other Counties you will find we already do a lot more with less. Everytime you layoff County workers you start a back log of work in those offices. Remember the back log in the row offices just a few years ago. The Civil Division fell behind two years. Files were setting on window sills, issues weren't getting before the courts in a timely fashion, you has to prioritize what work was getting done today and wasn't going to get done. Council reviews all new positions and grants permission to hire in these offices based on workload. The administration asked for these positions because they needed them. When dollars get tight, they decide they don't need the positions, lay off the employee, and wind up with log jams in their offices.

9. Northampton County, like Lehigh, has privatized the management of Gracedale. But there are those who would like to return administration to the County. Where do you stand on this issue?

ANSWER.....For now, I would keep it like it is until such time we can re-evaluate the progress of the private administrator.

10. Some Council members would like to amend the Home Rule Charter to return to elected row officers. How do you feel about this proposal?

ANSWER.....They are nutz. Political patronage is almost non-existent in our County Government. The supporters of going back to the row offices wish to set us back 35 years. The present form of government is the most efficient, effective, and economical government we could possibly ask for.

11. Would you support a ban on guns by people using any County facilities, even off the courthouse campus, like at the new centralized Human Services Building?

ANSWER.....In buildings, yes.

12. Will you support or reject a County Property Tax Reassessment?

ANSWER.....Reject

13. Would you support the proposition that the Prothonotary, Clerk of Criminal Court, Clerk of Orphans Court and Register of Wills should be transferred under the Administration of the Courts instead of the County Executive (through the Director of Court Services) much like the higher courts currently administer its own clerks?

ANSWER.....I have always advocated for the Criminal Division to come under the Court system and would recommend this be done as soon as possible. The collection system in the Criminal Division is a nightmare for collection agencies. They only way to improve on this system is to bring it under the Courts. We are owed (Northampton County) more than 60 million dollars in fines, fees, costs, and restitution that we can't collect but the courts could if they were the administrators of that program.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

He didn't dodge on the Union question, he answered it the only way you can answer it. It is Not county councils duties under the home rule charter to negotiate contracts.
PERIOD

Anonymous said...

Bernie, there are a few people, sadly Democrats that want to sabotage Seyfried and Heckman. They are playing a bullshit issue. As time goes on you may realize who they are but they are pulling for another candidate and want to eliminate two of the strongest candidates on the ticket.

Anonymous said...

The real coward is the one going after Jerry and Ron.

Anonymous said...

What was the point of the 4:06 post??

By the way anon 4:24, ageism much??

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted a comment that is a cut-and-paste job from a local newspaper article. It bothers me that someone would do this without having the courtesy to link to the article in question and give the author the appropriate credit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will find out who. It's Incredibly stupid.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It certainly is a non-issue. I know several retired county employees who work part-time and collect their pension. I don't want to make accusations without proof, But think I know who is Behind this smear. It's sad because there are numerous issues to be discussed and those are being ignored.

Anonymous said...

Political patronage non-existent in Northampton County. What the hell is this guy smoking. It is well document that the current civil prothonatary donated $5000 to Reibman to get her job. And ex sheriff Hawbecker gave a similar donation before given his job. Current Sheriff Miller is a regular donor to Callahan. And the biggest farce of Seyfriends tenure with the County was when he decked Davey Gullick while a department head and nothing was done to him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

How many role officers have contributed to Stoffa? How many have contributed to either brown or Callahan? I doubt seriously that Holly gave anything for her position. I have to check that but I am almost certain that you are wrong.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That is row officers, not role officers.

Anonymous said...

Holly's husband gave the money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will be checking this tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Let me take a guess at how many more responses you get from candidates on your blog. The answer is zero. They have to be out of their fucken mind to expose themselves to anonymous ridicule about subject matter that doesn't pertain to anything that you asked the candidates to respond too. I am not voting for seyfried but I am a republican and I don't vote for democrats. I am not voting for all the republicans because I feel some of them are simply not worthy of my vote. If anyone (candidates)responds to your questions, they have to be nut jobs and unworthy of serving in county government because they are nuts. Lets have a pool, I say no more than two candidates other than Jerry respond to your questions. He just buried himself on your blog. I can't believe he is that much of an ?????????

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jerry's answers will be helpful to people who care about the issues. But just like you, I am disgusted at all the anonymous attacks totally unrelated to any county issue.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As a result of the unusually large number of anonymous personal attacks, I am disabling any more commentary on this thread. Moreover, I will not allow any commentary on any of the other interviews. I have no problem with commentary on issues, but nearly every comment here was personal and posted by people who lacked the courage to identify themselves.

My apologies to Jerry.