Monday, July 08, 2013

Scott Ott's Hunger Games

You might think that Vic Mazziotti, a Lehigh County Commissioner on Scott Ott's supposed reform team, breathes fire and farts atomic bombs. He's actually a fairly mellow guy who knows how to save money. As John Stoffa's Fiscal Affairs Director in Northampton County, his initiatives saved $10.1 million annually. He did it quietly, with no fanfare. He didn't even mind when Morning Call columnist Bill White called him part of Stoffa's "meatloaf" cabinet. "Meatloaf is pretty good stuff," he told me. He's a fiscal conservative who voted for the CDBG funding in Lehigh County last year.

It feeds people.

CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding has been around since 1974, and was enacted with bipartisan support. Liberals liked the goals of reducing poverty and eliminating blight. Conservatives liked placing money in the hands of private investors, and reducing the role of the federal government in what at that time was a labyrinth of federal grants.

But that has changed. According to a 2009 report prepared by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, a lot of the money is eaten up by excessive bureaucracy at the federal (5%), state (8%) and local (17%) levels. So if Cato is right, only 70% of the money spent by the federal government actually hits its intended target - the poor.

In addition to high administrative costs, the program has sometimes strayed from its goal of helping low-income families. According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, CDBG funds have been used for the Mark Twain House and Museum, Salvador Dali Museum and Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation. They've even been used for a shooting range in South Dakota (the feds caught that one).

"When you get the federal government involved in a sinkhole in Whitehall, you've created a tremendous amount of inefficiency along the way," notes Vic Mazziotti, and he's right. Most CDBG advocates concede that point.  But, unwilling to cut off his nose to spite his face, Vic voted to take the money.

"If we don't spend this money, it will be spent for another community," he observed realistically.

Scott Ott, who wants to be Lehigh County's next County Executive, is an extremist who would send it back if he had his way. He abstained rather than dirty his hands voting for the CDBG money. From his comments at the time, he appears to have had three reasons.

1. Charities should feed the hungry, not the government. - This came through clearly in his his dialogue with Meals on Wheels, where he at one time volunteered as a driver. "Have they no family? Have they no church connections, no neighbors that love them?" Ott asked a Meals on Wheels advocate. "Maybe your agencies will get mentioned in a local news source," he said in what I could only call a condescending remark.

In short, he would allow old people to starve.

2. The Federal government has too much debt, so we can't use federal funds to feed the hungry. Claiming that Lehigh Commissioners are "the last line of defense for the taxpayer," Ott complains that the "Chinese communist government is fronting us money to feed 85 year old women in Lehigh County." So it's up to patriots like him to "exercise some restraint that the federal government seems incapable of exercising."

In short, he would allow old people to starve.

3. CDBG funding does not address federal problems. According to Ott, the "federal government is sending us money to do things that are of no national import."  I was under the impression that poverty, hunger and affordable housing are federal problems.

In short, he would allow old people to starve.

Ott has an opponent in this race. Republican-turned-Democrat Tom Muller, a businessman about as comfortable in the world of politics as I would be in a state store. Tom has stated, "I think the job of County Executive is to serve everybody in the County, to work for you, to bring as much of our money that we send to Washington back here rather than to say, 'No thank you, I don't want it because you've got a national debt problem.'"

In fairness to Scott Ott, I have invited him to come onto enemy territory under a flag of truce and respond to this critical piece.

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ott's got it right - cut till it hurts

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Ott should run for Congress not County Executive, if Ott is elected to a higher position Lehigh County is in trouble. The guy has no business experience doesn't even own property. He just is a good talker with nothing else going for him. From a life long Republican.

Anonymous said...

tell me though - after 50 years of liebveral policies and trillions and trillions of dollars - why do we still have poverty? Could it be that dumping money on a problem does not solve it?

Anonymous said...

Ott is a puppet for Wayne Woodman

Anonymous said...

Wow!

Unless it's a piece about Gregory or Mezzacappa ...

... no one seems to have anything to say.

How about that?!

Anonymous said...

County government is not the level to debate the spending issue.

County is essentially a judicial activity that is also used by higher government levels just to process the paperwork.

It's too difficult to handle much of the fed/state activity with the local entities as there are so many. County provides an intermediary role with no real control.

Anonymous said...

Ott is the worst kind of far right wing creep. Let the old go hungry after business has no use for them.

Anonymous said...

Save the breathless hyperbole. The Gracedale nuts used the same hysterical tactic. Ott's got it right. The truth is painful

Anonymous said...

He is still preferable to Muller. Muller is a pretend Democrat playing to wherever the money is and hoping to keep the Cunningham crew in jobs. He has padded his pension enough.

His arrogance is noted by many. Time for a change in Lehigh County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Save the breathless hyperbole. "

Direct quotes?

Anonymous said...

The truth is painful. If you lived to be a senior citizen and you didn't save you have no one to blame but yourself.
Let their church or their kin's feed them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:03, So if some old fart fails to set aside money to take care of himself, and has no living kin to care for him, we should just let the poor bastard starve to death. This is the Ott world view that you support? I don't blame you for not identifying yourself. If I thought like that, I'd be ashamed, too.

Anonymous said...

The hyperbole is to draw the false conclusion that Ott wants old people to starve and that government is the only way to feed them.

Anonymous said...

Just another do-gooder program. No matter how you spin d it, it is socialism. God bless Scott Ort.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is socialism to feed the hungry, to prevent old people from starving to death? Are you for real? If government does not help those who are unable to help themselves, then why does it exist at all?

Anonymous said...

Gracedales's sale would not have resulted in old folks being thrown to the streets. Otto's position will not result in starving old folks. This is why we can't have an adult discussion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Gracedale's sale would not have resulted in residents being thrown into the streets bc sale advocates like me were concerned first and foremost about the residents. There were provisions in the sales agreement that would have protected residents, and there would be deed restrictions as well. But what did Ott do or say about seniors getting meals on wheels? Nothing. He would let them starve to death. His position most certainly would result in that happening. If you want to have an adult conversation, as you claim, you have to recognize that reality.

Lighthouse said...

In 3 of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and John), Jesus acknowledges “You have the poor among you always, and you can help them whenever you like; but you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:7) Because we will always have them, and have spent—between private and public monies throughout history—untold sums of money, some seem to be saying it is a waste to even try to help the needy.

Yet, “for when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was a stranger, you took me into your home; when naked, you clothed me; when I was ill, you came to my help; … Truly I tell you; anything you did for one of my brothers here, however insignificant, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) Do we not have an obligation to help the less fortunate in society?

I can appreciate that there are also those who philosophically hold that (to use the words of Rand) “money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force.” There are moochers (thinking of one prominent one locally), and there are looters in all levels of government who find it easy to spend other people’s money to support either human or corporate “welfare,” creating clientele who will have a vested self-interest in perpetuating “the system.” Regardless, are these moochers and looters the exception or the rule?

Some may also argue that the Matthew quote should apply to individual morality, not communal morality, while others would say it applies to both. All of the above, however, is for those who like to say they are “guided by principles.”

However, cut all of that out of the way and what are the pragmatic realities here? 1.) There are those in economic need in the Lehigh Valley. 2.) Whether you like or not here are CDBGs budgeted, appropriated, and will be spent whether in Northampton and Lehigh Counties, or somewhere else like Cheyenne, WY. 3.) Are our elected officials serving their constituents by trying to “bring tax money back home” to meet local needs, or by being “principled” and refusing it (saying in essence, “keep our money DC, and give it to Cheyenne. If we want to help the needy we’ll raise our local taxes a little more”)? I say, IF there are no long-term negative strings attached, accept the money!

If you don't like it, Lehigh or Northampton County is the wrong fishbowl to be swimming in. Nobody who actually makes our federal grant policies is ever going to hear of Scott Ott, or any other local official. Run for Congress--though even there, you'll be one fish.

Anonymous said...

Save the gospel. Bernie doesn't like the God stuff. He worships government and the likes of its moral paragons, like Brennan most recently. This is from where he derives his moral superiority. Good = likes government solutions that have left seniors starving. Bad = any thought of turning away from this wasteful and harmful path. That's gospel.

Anonymous said...

The hyperbole is to draw the false conclusion that Ott wants old people to starve and that government is the only way to feed them.

According to its 2012 IRS 990 form, and by way of example, Meals on Wheels of LV took in 1.26 million in gross receipts and ended with a surplus of 32K. Receipts included, in part, 43K in Government grants, 326k from other sources, 23k in investment income. LVMOW holds 200K in cash like investments and 1.1 million for investment in other securities.

The portion of the 1.4 million awarded in CDBG monies by LC in 2012 was 30K, less than the 2012 surplus. -nlv

Anonymous said...

No money, no work, no eat, no excuses, no exceptions.
Scott walks the talk.

Anonymous said...

Nobody goes hungry in this country. mr ott has got these freeloarders number. ott for president.

Anonymous said...

A Lehigh County Dem voting for Ott. Prefer honesty over sleaze!

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, my problem with this piece is your implication that muller is not a politician, and is only running to save the county from ott's extremism. perhaps muller did not start his career as a politician, but he became one, when he put his name on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ott is a board member of the Civic theater in Allentown. Wonder how he feels about that organization accepting state grants for their great work.

Anonymous said...

If Scott got hammered and choked his wife in front of the kids, or if he covered up a family member's crashing of a city police cruiser after lying about his city's finances (per Charlie Dent in the 2010 debate), he might be Bernie's kind of moral example. Re: Bernie as a moral compass: please refer to his record or political favorites. Good grief.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, You are correct. Once someone announces, he is a politician as a matter of definition. But it is hard for me to consider people who spent most of their lives doing other things - whether it is you, Stoffa or Muller - as politicians. But I accept your point.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa has been a lifelong pol. Even as an appointed county hack, he played more politics than most.

Anonymous said...

Bernie has officially charged Scott with wishing to starve old people, as policy. This is not an adult political discussion.

That being said, Milton Friedman advocated taking every dime your stupid government is willing to waste, especially in light of the manner in which it was confiscated for government purposes. Our poverty programs have created more poverty and dependence, which was the original idea and made a lot of comfortable MSWs over the years.

Scott's wrong to oppose the wasteful money. That's Congress's job. More will continue to starve because of these programs. But, again, that's the idea. Just make sure the starving are only cared for by union labor. AFSCME and SEIU are looking skinny, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:11, What does any of that have to do with Scott Ott or his stance on seniors who are hungry? He is the sole Comm'r to vote to refuse to accept federal funds that would help an 85 year-old woman from starving. He apparently does not think that is government's business. He is the standard bearer of the Republican party in Lehigh County. That's who you selected. I am sure he say a prayer for the poor bastard, but he'd let her starve. Nobody else would take that extreme approach. Not Vic. Not Lisa. Just Scott.

If you share that view, buy all means, you should vote for him. If you think that helping out the less fortunate makes you a Commie, then vote for Scott.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie has officially charged Scott with wishing to starve old people, as policy. This is not an adult political discussion."

I have taken his own words and all logical inferences. He would allow old people to starve. As policy. This is an adult political discussion, but it is NOT an adult political stance for Scott to take. He said it at least three different ways.

But with a smile.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Mr. Ott is a board member of the Civic theater in Allentown. Wonder how he feels about that organization accepting state grants for their great work."

He is an ex-offcio member, i.e., he is a non voting member who sits on the board bc he is a Comm'r. But given his arguments against grants, he should resign of he wants to be internally consistent.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"A Lehigh County Dem voting for Ott. Prefer honesty over sleaze!'

That might mean something if you identified yourself. I can think of no Democrat who will consider supporting Ott. And I can think of at least one R committeeman who is voting for Muller. Ben Long did identify himself and put up with some vicious attacks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Nobody goes hungry in this country. mr ott has got these freeloarders number. ott for president."

Maybe Ott should run for president. He should not run for county executive.

And you are absolutely wrong to say nobody goes hungry in Lehigh County. Do yourself a favor and speak to a few clergymen. Do not take my word for it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Scott walks the talk."

I question whether he does. He helped run a nonprofit in the middle of the state some years ago, and secured all kinds of grants for it, if memory serves. If I am mistaken about that, I apologize.

I also do not wish to attack him personally. I am sure he is very sincere and he has deep religious convictions that I do not dispute. But his political thinking will result in old people starving.

Anonymous said...

Scott Ott is a man of principle. He knows damn well old folks don't go hungry in Lehigh County. Bunch of bleeding heart bullshit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"He knows damn well old folks don't go hungry in Lehigh County."

I wish I could agree with you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Nlv (Dave najarian), Do you have a point?

Anonymous said...

He has deep religious convictions???????
Mans a cold hearted prick. Fuck him and his right-wing religious convictions. A fucking creep..

Anonymous said...

If he really believes, that is God wants old people to go hungry. Then he is even scarier than I thought.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't think he believes that. I do think that he is willing to let seniors without means starve to death before cracking open the government piggy bank. I have given him an opportunity to explain himself and will publish his commentary unedited should he choose to respond.

Anonymous said...

The Arts are diminished by his support. He is a wing-ding religious nut bag. People like him have destroyed my party. I I am a man without a party.

Anonymous said...

He is the sole Comm'r to vote to refuse to accept federal funds that would help an 85 year-old woman from starving. He apparently does not think that is government's business.

The problem with Bernie's argument is that one must accept all pass-through grants an masse, or reject them all en masse. Should one dare question that, he or she might be accused of wanting to starve some. The idea that all pass through grants should be blindly accepted is just as stupid as passing them en masse without question. There was no other option.

In my former role as to grants, I evaluated the governmental purpose, with any barriers and the efficiency of the private work in the field, the financial need of the organization. There are some projects best handled by Gov't and others not.

Bernie lumps one program as a proxy for all of the CDBG grants.

But in the case of LVMOW, food for seniors, the 30K grant was .02 percent of the entire CDBG funding, and should not be a proxy for the whole shebangm which in this case fell straight through to the bottom line given LVMOW 32K end of year surplus, which means that no one starved, or was intended to starve, it added not one single meal to those in need. There is a hyperbole here.

But even if it did, the remaining 1.3X million did no necessarily go to the poor and impoverished. North Whitehall, for example, is not an impovershed low income municipality.

Its appropriate to question the use of CDBG grants, which some may equate to a County version of Earmarks, bringing home the bacon to get vote, in a way that might not otherwise bring any meaningful change. Politicians love cardboard checks, and it takes balls to question them. nlv

Anonymous said...

Scott Ott. The kind of guy Rick Perry would really love .
Perfect, absolutely perfect.

Anonymous said...

There are no hungry seniors in North Whitehall, I know this for a fact . Jesus himself told me this.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Snelling was a great Lehigh County Republicn.
He had absolutely no use for these sanctimonious Come to Jesus types. He believed they were ruining his beloved party. ask anybody who knew him. This guy would make him sick.

Anonymous said...

Snelling was Woodman's friend and mentor and a supporter financially of Ott's.

Bernie O'Hare said...

NlV is Dave Najarian. He was a Scott Ott running mate when they were the "Gang of Four." Dave has never hidden his identity, but I feel it is necessary to point out who he is for those of you who do not read this blog frequently.

Here's what Dave says:

"The problem with Bernie's argument is that one must accept all pass-through grants an masse, or reject them all en masse. Should one dare question that, he or she might be accused of wanting to starve some"

First, I am not entirely sure that is true. In fact, I am pretty sure it is untrue and will confirm that tomorrow.

Second, Ott objected mostly to that portion of the CDBG that provided for feeding 85 year old women. It was he who suggested they rely on church, family and friends. It is he who complained about borrowing money from the Commies to feed them. It is he who told Meals on Wheels that he hoped they would get donations as a result of the publicity. So I believe it is entirely fair and accurate to state that he would rather see old people starve than spend a nickel of government money.

Third, as to your claim that North Whitehall does not meet CDBG guidelines, nobody made that claim at either of the two hearings bc your assertion is inaccurate.

The simple fact is the Ott's primary objection to this focused on a program that feeds senior citizens. he would rather let them starve than spend a dime of government money. That is your Executive candidate, and there are those who agree with him.

I don't.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Snelling was Woodman's friend and mentor and a supporter financially of Ott's"

I believe he wanted to send that budget back like Woodman did, but can't remember clearly. But Woodman is a relative newcomer to this area and it's a tad convenient to now claim that Snelling was his mentor.

And I get accused of hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

When I was Supervisor in Lynn Township, some asked us to raise the former occupational privledge tax and suppport a separate EMS tax. We put it to committee to determine an appropriate tax. The committee made up of some including EMS providers told us NOT to do it. We then offerred to put it to referrendum, seeking to support them. Our local EMS providers then asked us NOT to implement an EMS tax, saying it would interfere with private donations and fund raising, so we did not. Case in point, was not about having houses to burn. There may be an analogy here. nlv

Anonymous said...

Funny thing, it is true Woodman and Snelling were close, for as much as you might oft paint the so-called gang of four, to color MY posts here in favor of Ott. I can assure you that Mr. Snelling was not on my side. Snelling was on the opposite side of the Walmart debate in NWT. They sold the property to WM, and the case initially colored his opinion of me. My point is, the so-called puppet strings were not that clear as some have opined in the past. Imagine that if you will!!

Anonymous said...

I forgot the sig, it was me. nlv

Bernie O'Hare said...

David, Snelling on the side of Wall-Mart and big money? No surprise there. I don't doubt that Snelling and Woodman were friendly or that he supported Ott. There is proof of that. But to claim that Snelling was Woodman's mentor, as someone did, os a stretch. Woodman has not been in this area for all that long and was quite successful out West before moving here.

Anonymous said...

Bernie

I did not make that claim. I do not feel a comment on the personal relationships beyond what I said was appropriate. I just thought that bringing Snelling in this conversation was a tad bit weird, so I commented. At the same time, you know I hate insinuations to folks living with us as Auslanders having a reduced input. And you did not take it that far. nlv

Anonymous said...

I did not say that NWT did not meet the CDBG guidelines, I was merely responding to your earlier comment in a similar post that CDBG is soley for needy low income municipalities. It is not (and I will not take this til 2:00am as we did last time, that was fun but good night!) nlv

Bernie O'Hare said...

CDBG exists for "activities that benefit low- and moderate-income people, the prevention or elimination of slums or blight, or other community development activities to address an urgent threat to health or safety. CDBG funds may be used for community development activities (such as real estate acquisition, relocation, demolition, rehabilitation of housing and commercial buildings), construction of public facilities and improvements (such as water, sewer, and other utilities, street paving, and sidewalks), construction and maintenance of neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings, public services, and economic development and job creation/retention activities. CDBG funds can also be used for preservation and restoration of historic properties in low-income neighborhood."

Bernie O'Hare said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Development_Block_Grant

Anonymous said...

Charles D.Snelling was a pragmatic,big money ,slash and burn,R. He had no use for the lumpin religious right and sanctimonious Jesus types. Period. He was not afraid to say he did not believe in God. Anybody tells you different doesn't know what they are talking about.
Charles Darwin Snellind did believe in using OPM. Big time! Yours, mine, Rudy Moore's, the governments.
OPM was the name of his game.
Say what you wl about him, he never hid behind Jesus, and was contemptuous of those who do. He might back Ott, put he wouldn't like him. Charlie was no prude.

Anonymous said...

Let them eat cake.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that Ott won't respond here. After all, Bernie's been so fair and impartial on the subject.

As noted in the post and by others, the administrative fees of sending our money to Washington just so we can get it back are enormous. The County also takes about 20% of whatever is received, and has to hire a consultant just to wade through the rules.

As many commenting here have noted, nobody was in danger of starving, even if the money to Meals on Wheels had been turned away (it wasn't).

The question Ott raised was whether it made sense for the federal government to borrow money - and indebt our children and grandchildren - to add to the fund balance of a local nonprofit organization.

Maybe the fault lies with the county administration, which chose to include in the CDBG bill a nonprofit that had significant cash reserves on hand. Surely there are other nonprofits in the county for other good causes that aren't in such good fortune financially.

I can understand those who say take the money or it will be spent elsewhere. I can also understand those who point out that borrowing money for a nonprofit to put in its reserves is insanity, particularly when the national debt situation is what it is.

If the Commissioners have no role in that discussion, then perhaps Washington should take the Commissioners out of the approval process. Until then, I think it's a good discussion to have, if only to call attention to the problem.

In any event, picking out parts of that discussion and trying to characterize it as an attempt (or as an intent) to see people starve is just plain dishonest. In reality, it's the latest salvo from the Muller camp, which apparently has nothing except smears to run on.

Note to the Muller supporters - the lies and distortions didn't work in the primary, and they won't work in the general.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) This is an opinion piece. I have no obligation b= to be impartial. But I am being fair.

2) I noted the exact administrative costs, not others.

3) Ott did not just raise a question. he refused to vote for funding designed to prevent an 85 yo woman from starving to death primarily bc he did not want to borrow from the Commies.

4. There are no lies or distortions her. I quiooted Ott fairly accurately and provided all of his explanations for abstaining from this vote.

5. This is no longer the primary, and Ott is going to have to attract more people than the nutters.

Anonymous said...

" Has to hire a consultant yo wade thru the rules."
BULLSHIT! You don't know waft your talking about.
Ideological nut jobs!!!!
What would this nut case do with Emergency Prepairedness/ Management?
Right-wing goof balls.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, Lehigh does have a consultant to wade through the rules.

Anonymous said...

CDBG is well trod ground. County grant people handle it.

Anonymous said...

Old folks trying to game the system. Ott sees right through their scam.
LC needs Scott Ott.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There you go. Scott Ott, keeping LC safe from 85 yo women.

Anonymous said...

Gracedale's sale would not have thrown anyone to the curb. And, as demonstrated in painful detail, rejecting the CDBG would not have starved anybody. You may pick and choose your brand of hysteria. But yours is in concert with the Gracedale goons you rightly slammed. It's your bandwidth. You may display your hypocrisy any way you wish. Otto's a guy of good personal character. I trust people to him more so than to your band of drunks and violent criminals who serve the public.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are incorrect. It made pretty clear that he thinks it is up to family, churches and friends to care fro 85 yo women. He is stick with what he said,. and no matter how much you try to wiggle out of it, that is what he said.

Anonymous said...

Bernie: You are wrong about Scott Ott. He is a very decent guy. At one point in his life he was a driver for Meals on Wheels. You are drawing a conclusion that is not fair.

Vic Mazziotti

Bernie O'Hare said...

Vic, I point out in my blog entry that Scott was a Meals on Wheels driver. But he said what he said. The conclusions i draw are based on what he said and how he voted. I have also given him an opportunity to explain what the hell he was thinking. He does not have to explain to me, but he is going to have to explain to the voters.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Jim should stop by Lenny Zito's home to explain his side of the story. Len may be receptive to Jim's plight in private."

Of course, this would be a crime.

Anonymous said...

The Ott family has taken many handouts when they needed it.

"No money, no work, no eat, no excuses, no exceptions.
Scott walks the talk."

This is absolutely untrue. He is a shining example of a hypocrite. Someone needs to ask him- point blank if their family has ever taken handouts- I know for a fact that they have- again, and again. He is so full of it, it makes me sick.