|Jerry with Julie, his bride of 48 years|
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?
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?
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.