Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Should NorCo Conservation District Report to Development Director?

Diane Donahaer, a voice over artist who's been Northampton County's Director of Community and Economic Development since late January, has never been a part of county government. But she's still proposing a massive overhaul that will put many county department under her supervision. These include regulatory departments like Conservation and Weights and Measures, whose employees should play no rile in either economic or community development.

Council is skeptical. Scott Parsons called Conservation a watchdog agency, and he and Peg Ferraro both worried that a department head interested in promoting an economic development project would be tempted to urge Conservation employees to cut corners. Undaunted by this argument, Donaher went on to claim that she would help Conservation streamline its processes.

Conservation Director Bruce Pysher has expressed concerns, too. He claimed his department is like Switzerland, and issues permits based on compliance with the law. "We always maintained that neutrality," he asserted,  "and there's a little concern that there's a semblance of impropriety when we're part of a department that promotes development."

Donaher claimed that staff in Weights and Measures could be her eyes and ears, but that department does not exist to make sure more gas stations are built.It's there to ensure that when you pump a gallon of gas, you're actually getting a gallon.

This idea needs more work.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stupid as usual.

Anonymous said...

Come on Bernie-Diane Donaher was Deputy Director of Economic Development for the City of Bethlehem,and did a great job. She is a very bright,well connected,honest woman. Also please note,DDonaher is a Democrat,so please do not sing the "Political Payback Song". Economic Develipment has been shelved in Northampton County in the past and DDonaher will be the leader that we need in this role. Anyone in the Lehigh Valley who is involved in Economic Development knows and RESPECTS Diane Donaher. One of Brown's best choices.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am not going to debate her qualifications, although I disagree. My point is she should not be proposing sweeping changes in a government about which she knows nothing. Wait two years and see.

Anonymous said...

I do think County government needs to reorganize, but I take solace, in that, the original Home Rule Charter, as originally planned and written, was a very wise document. Originally, there was a Department of Community Services that was to "provide services for the development and maintenance of municipal, civic, and cultural activities and such other functions as shall be assigned by the Administrative Code." And originally, the Department of Administration was to "provide common administrative, financial and personnel services".

If I was King, as the previous County Executive would ask, this is what I would propose:

Under the Department of Administration:
Human Resources, Elections, Administrative Services and Information Services

so that this department would oversee human resources (whether elected/appointed) and communications/information management

Under the Department of Community Services:
Open Space, Farmland Preservation, Conservation District, Community and Economic Development and Agricultural Extension

so this department would provide the original intent of the Home Rule Charter.

I would also create a Department of Law, with both the Solicitor and Public Defender under that Department and a Department of Public Safety with 911, Emergency Management, Coroner and Sheriff providing services for public safety and health.

But, since I'm not King, I'm sure people would disagree. What do I know?

Signed, PCM

Anonymous said...

anon 2:28 we thank God you are not King. Stoffa thought he was King and pretended to joke about it. Guess what, now the county is broke. So much for the King deal.

Anonymous said...

3:17, Great contribution, your mother must have been proud when flunked first grade three times. The conversation is not about the financial health of County government, but the reorganization of such. Stay on topic, if your meds allow it.

The esteemed, Northampton County County jurist, Judge Moran, wrote the Home Rule Charter, with much aforethought in the structure of government. What I proffered was close to his intent. You offered hyperbole. Worthless.

Signed, PCM

Anonymous said...

You are as clueless as you are arrogant. You know about as much of the intent as Obama knows about government.

By the way the Home Rule Charter was a terrible document. Full of compromises to just about every group out there. It has taken officials years to try and work out its inconsistencies and outright violations of state law.

You should really start some meds, then maybe you can go to school.

Signed KMA

Anonymous said...

This is hardly a radical proposal, but you can always count on Peg to vigorously defend the status quo.

Agree with KMA. The Home Rule Charter sucks. It was written to eliminate the voice of the minority (Republican) commissioner. We would have been better off with 3 or even 5 commissioners and an appointed qualified county manager/administrator instead of an elected executive.

Anonymous said...

If the county had sold Gracedale like King Stoffa suggested this County would be sitting there with about 65 million in cash reserves and no tax increase needed for at least 5 more years plus Gracedale would still be operating. The people who signed the petition not to sell should be assessed the proposed tax increase.

Anonymous said...

The Home Rule Charter eliminated the corruptive and withering politics of elections for row officers. Since the 1970's, other Counties have been following suit and changing elective row offices to appointments. Judge Moran was a leader within the Commonwealth, after the study of government shined the proverbial light of disdain for corruption within the row offices, he had a vision to have seasoned and educated row officers appointed, rather than connected hacks. Regardless of it's detractors, the Home Rule Charter has withstood the test of time within our County and I suspect it will last for some time.

Signed, PCM

Anonymous said...

Then why are all of them political and not "seasoned Veterans" as you put it? We need a new government study commission. Home rule is broke, just look at the positions they just allowed, consultant, consultant, music teacher, high school drop out, consultant

Anonymous said...

I always wondered how long it would take until some economic development agenda would want to place the Conservation District employees under political pressures like so many other local government officials (i.e. zoning officers etc.). This can't possibly be good. Should the Conservation District staff be directed to bend the rules and be indifferent to their work, the developers would run wild.

Anonymous said...

Dumbest idea yet by Brown. These are quasi-independent divisions under administration that have their own boards and governance. Same as elections which is also under administration. Brown is trying to find a way to justify Donaher's job title and pay. It is a pure power grab on her part. It compromises those programs which are superbly run by skilled administrators. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Anonymous said...

So instead of electing politically connected row officers, they are now appointed (some for life) by the executive. Lots of good people are elected and serve across the Commonwealth recording deeds, registering wills, and as sheriffs with little or no corruption you speak of. Home rule just concentrates far too much power under one executive and eliminated minority commissioner input.

Anonymous said...

From PCM,

By the way, I do agree with Bernie, in that, Donaher is without merit and justification; further, the Conservation District does not belong under Community and Economic Development. It should be a separate division. However, the common thread of Open Space, Farmland Preservation, CD, C&ED and Ag Ex, is that they all provide different community services.

Signed, PCM

Anonymous said...

Human Services is a community service. Corrections is a community service. All of county government is a "community service." So there goes the "common thread" to justify this dumb idea. Donaher should be concentrating on ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, not on oversight of disengenuous programs. How many jobs has her office created since her appointment? What economic development successes has she had? Most of the heavy lifting has been done by LVEDC which makes one question the value of her position and the department in the first place. Brownie is trying to find something to occupy her time, which is not being spent cultivating new employers. A bad idea that should be shot down by council.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So instead of electing politically connected row officers, they are now appointed (some for life) by the executive."

This is OT. As someone who saw all the bullshit with elected row officers, your argument is also nonsense. You wantg this so that you can create all kinds of little fiefdoms,all with their own budgets, in a terribly inefficient way to run government. I think 9 elected Council members and an elected Exec are vastly superior and more Democratic than theww Comm'rs and elected row officers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If there is a government study commission, that is one office for which I will run. I know the Charter, what is working, and what is not. I believe Jerry Seyfried should be begged to run bc the HRC is something he knows inside out. Article by Article, the HRC needs revisions. I would oppose the notion of electing any row officers or imposing a residency requirement on the workers.

I don't like the proposals being made by Donaher bc she is way too green to have a clue about these departments, she is something of a control freak, and despite the compliments Bob Werner gave her, I think she's been ineffective. I am withholding final judgment on her for two years, but I am singularly unimpressed. I also note that a lot of people in her office have left since she's taken over, and that's a bad sign. That could be a coincidence.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is hardly a radical proposal, but you can always count on Peg to vigorously defend the status quo."

Agreed. But I want to give this one some time. Also, no regulatory agency should be under the direction of someone who courts developers and business.

Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head, Bernie. Donaher is a control freak and will micromanage those divisions to the point of paralysis. She will certainly argue otherwise and try to use her charm to sway council members. But make no mistake about it. Those divisions SO NOT WANT this change and there is not legitimate reason to do so. DCED is collapsing due to mismanagement and they want to absorb other divisions to mismanage in order to satisfy Donaher's ego. There will be numerous conflicts of interest with those divisions falling under DCED. It makes NO SENSE and is just an effort by Brownie to use smoke and mirrors to bolster his claim that he is a "change agent." So far, his changes have been ineffective wastes of money and effort. This plan needs to be de-railed by council ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Correction- DO NOT WANT!

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

Economic Development is an important function. However, regardless of whether she is or is not qualified, this proposal is a systemic change that would change the mold future elected and appointed officials live by. People come and go. The other Departments have their functions, and the proposed changes could easily create built-in conflicts of functions. What underling is going to go against the "hand that feeds them" when their boss' function is supposed to be Economic Development. It actually begs the question of how much is being done for Ec. Development in Northampton County that the Director is looking for other work.

Anonymous said...

Bernard my good man, this is a case of seeing the forest through the trees. That is being done in Northampton County was done in Allentown, in Easton, In Lehigh County, now Bethlehem and the newest move Northampton County.

In the good old days we had the LV Partnership and the Gang of Eight. No not Bond villains but close. They were well connected businessmen who pushed the buttons behind many movers and shakers in the Valley including politicians from both sides. Your capacity to fund raise could be tied directly to your favorability rating with that group. Just as the John Birch Society had an image problem and reemerged as the Tea Party, the old power boys have a new wrapper.

Bernie, check out the Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley. They are the new branded power group. Through them the new marriage of the LVEDC and the LV Chamber of Commerce has occurred. They own Lehigh County already and bought Northampton County in the last election..

You are aware that Ms.
Donaher is a holdover from the Cunningham years and he is now head of LVEDC a subsidiary of the new Forum. Just as the County's new Director of Admisntration was picked though the same process.

If you really want some fun and a break from the monotony of police and libel issues you should really check it out.

There is a new and even more incestuous relationship being developed in the Lehigh Valley. It involves political leaders of both parties, some former politicians and the business elite. It is pervasive and ever spreading.

Don't believe me? Do some checking. If you are open minded about it you will be fascinated by what you find. You will be disappointed in some of your past heroes' but you will open the door to information you will never read about in either the Morning Call or the Easton Express.

This new group makes the gang of eight and the Partnership look like the French Army.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe you and hope to shed light on it. I have been discussing it and call it the urban growth regime.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I have been called a troll by you(no not mezza,blog mentor or nay of them) just another fracker who enjoys the blog and posting all kinds of shit. However, you are on to something here that is big. I swear to you, no trolling(haha) this could be one of your biggest stories. The papers won't touch it. The 'growth regime' as you put it is the most dedicated and involved scheme the business types have ever done. I think that changing demographics and big money allows them to do what the "gang of eight" could only dream of. They have their players in every part of local government and are adding more every day. they have consolidated the Chamber and the LVEDC in a defacto manner. The pieces are in place Wit till you see some of the names that will run for Bethlehem city council next year.

It goes on and on. Good luck you old SOB!

Anonymous said...

They have the LVPC too.