Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nazareth Borough Council Ends Quest to Destroy Neighborhood Park

"Play ball!"

In Nazareth, a divisive summer has finally ended. Borough Council has finally listened to reason and ended its quest to destroy what little remains of Nazareth's green space.

The little kids have won! Nazareth has won!

Borough Council tonight unanimously agreed to purchase over an acre currently owned by Lafayette Ambassador Bank and Nazareth Mutual Insurance along the west side of Main Street to relocate their borough offices and police department. Purchase price? $1.545 million. That's a lot less than the $3 million figure originally proposed for an expansion at Nazareth Hall Park. And it keeps Nazareth's government center in the Main Street business district, where every public dollar spent brings in $27 of private investment. There will be only minimal renovation to the 13,000 sq ft available for offices and a police department. Council also intends to take action to preserve Nazareth Hall Park.

The situation was described, by residents and council members alike, as a "win win" situation.

Does this mean I'll be ending my Sunshine Act suit against Nazareth? No. This summer's acrimony is merely a repetition of what has occurred time and again as borough council committees operate in the shadows. That practice must end, or it won't be long before the next public outcry.

In fact, another borough council action this evening demonstrates why the Sunshine Act litigation must continue.

Council appointed Fred Daugherty, the only borough council applicant who refused to condemn council's original proposal to move borough offices into Nazareth Hall Park. He was appointed over the objections of Councilpersons Werner and Herbst, who bristled as the votes were cast in favor of Daugherty with absolutely no discussion.


RossRN said...

Alot to spit out so here goes:

I'm not certain but it seemed as if there was some confusion regarding the selection of the candidate at the end of the Council Meeting. As old business the night was nearly over and the Eagles were on Monday night, then Councilman Samus made a motion to select Fred Dougherty as the individual to fill the vacant position (in full disclosure, Fred is a neighbor who lives across the street and as it turns out lives in a different ward than me, as I applied and then withdrew when it was confirmed that I wasn't eligible).

Bowers seconded the motion allowing time for discussion. Nothing was said about candidates or credentials. It was then clarified by the Borough Secretary Paul Kokolus that voting yes was to support Dougherty to fill the vacany.

It seemed to me that Werner and Herbst had expected discussion and there was none. Further it put people in the unenviable position of voting down one person to discuss another.

Some further explanation of the process, which was done very well on Thursday, would have helped before a crowded room (many more were in attendance tonight than on Thursday).

In the end as you say the vote was 5-2. In fairness to the individual selected, he was appropriately cautious with his answers on Thursday. Further, I don't think Council ought to select a replacement based on individual issues. Instead it ought to be based as much as possible on the approach and philosophy of the candidate.

In regard to the sunshine law, you are spot on. The process was not good and very detrimental to the community.

Further, tonight a euphoria enveloped the room whose brightness covered over the very shadows that have haunted this process since its inception.

Beyond the fact that meetings were held in secret, it was stated no action would be taken until the position was filled, instead it was the other way around. The decision was made regarding the purchase of the land and then the candidate was selected to fill the seat.

To this day it has not been made known how much money the "government center committee" spent drawing up plans and consulting experts.

Further, the plans they proposed as necessary included "requirements" that simply do not exist in the property that was purchased this evening as "move in condition".

Having said that, the plan is better than building at the park, but I don't believe we have a full picture of its costs quite yet.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A government study committee had plans drawn for a project that was never approved. That cost will be determined in the course of the Sunshine Act litigation.

Its practice of using committees to do privately what must be done publicly is the source of a lot of the frustration felt by borough residents. It breeds distrust and is illegal.

Moreover, the council members who gleefully meet in private should not be returned to office. And that includes Stoudt and Bowers.

The Mayor, who refused to take a public position, but made ridiculous statements after a bank robbery and tire slashing, also needs to go.

Council has NOT listened to the public. It has no intention of listeniong to the public. It has every intention of continuing its practice of meeting behind closed doors.

Even last night's performance was an orchestrated display of little speeches carefully crafted behind closed doors to appease the public so that council can continue on its merry way.

Anonymous said...

Last night after the meeting the Mayor asked me if he could get a bench made and put outside the new police station. I said yes who is it for and he said it was to honor the police. I said "do you want two? One also to honor the citizen's committee"? And I smiled. He responded "NO, not after they slashed my tires." I said "Oh no they didn't" he said "oh yes they did". I said "I know them all personally and I know they wouldn't do that" and he said something i didn't hear as I was walking away. Ticked me off. I know they are all good people and they just worked hard to get a job done and not by slashing tires. If he is so sure he is right why wasn't an arrest made?


LVDem said...

27:1? Where did that number come from. Statewide, the number is 9:1.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, It's the number that was mentioned at last night's council meeting by a member of borough council.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cindy, Mayor Keller and the police department should be ashamed. Not terribly long ago, there was a rape in downtown Nazareth. Although the police knew who was responsible, they kept a lid on the whole thing until Express Times editors confronted them. Their response? The ET is only interested in "sex stories." There was no consideration to the paper's duty to inform the public, which would serve the function of both warning the public and making further occurrences less likely.

Although the police kept the lid on a rape, Keller and the chief went running to the press the moment he had a flat with the ridiculous accusation that it was the work of someone opposed to a building expansion. He had no evidence to back up this bizarre claim but persisted. And to date there has been no arrest.

Mayor Keller is also responsible for the brilliant suggestion that a bank robbery in Nazareth this summer demonstrated the need to move the police department even farther away. Huh?

Now you tell us that he persists in his accusations with no evidence. Frankly, I find this insulting and it is a demonstration that Nazareth officials still don't get it.

And why is Keller asking you, after a meeting, abnout something that involves an expenditure of public money? He should make that request to a full council and in public so that some of us can say whether we think the police should be honored. Nazareth simply does not follow the Sunshine Act.

Before showering police with accolades and benches, I think we need some transparency on their failure to warn the public about that rape. We need to know why their chief publicly accused expansion foes for a tire-slashing that occurred months before the expansion became public knowledge.

I could see both you and Councilman Herbst bristle last night when one name was immediately submitted, seconded and voted upon with no discussion. Ther should have been some discussion before a vote.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, I just read NewsOverCoffee's more detailed account of last night's meeting. The 27:1 ratio did NOT come from a member of borough council, but from a member of the public who was quoting one of your favorite government leaders, Phil Mitman.

Anonymous said...

Response from Frank D. Finocchio on Cindy's post.

If this is true,,,It saddens my heart that the Mayor would respond that way. The citizen’s action committee worked long and hard to work on solutions, for what was best for the town of Nazareth. We spent our own money to look for other ideas to protect the seniors in our community, the lower income folks, and inform the town of what was happening. We spent many hours walking and talking with people, some of us with bad backs, feet and so on, informing them of possible changes. We changed own personal schedules to address protection of public land, which is our Stare right. We took time away from our spouses, our children, and spent many long nights in meeting, time on the phone working on proactive solutions, and put ourselves in difficult social situations with our peers, which should NOT have had to happen.

To take this down to a personal level, I work 50 hours minimum a week managing a plastic molding facility, have four children, go to school two nights a week, and am heavily involved with my children lives, my family, and kids and families of the neighborhood.

If the Mayor’s comments are true, I am deeply saddened. Again, the group spent hours, money, and time to protect the beautiful nature of this community, to protect our pocket books, to insure our down town area was healthy, because we care and we love our community. Personally, I will pay for the mayor's tire to clear the good name, of the good people that tried to protect this wonderful town, that we call home!

To think that having a different view on something is wrong, is to not think at all.

The fact that we addressed our concerns to council was not easy, it's easier to sit at home and read the newspaper or watch TV, but we put ourselves in difficult situations for the betterment and protection of our community.

God bless this town and all of it's citizens.

Frank D. Finocchio

Bernie O'Hare said...

Frank, thanks for your well-considered comments. Council was whistling one tune last night in a public meeting, but Mayor Keller was apparently singing a different tune following the meeting.

Anonymous said...

In fairness to the Mayor I have to straighten out the idea that he was asking the borough to buy the bench. I'm sure he was going to pay for it himself since that's the way it is done with the street bench project. People buy them to honor or memorialize someone. I'm sure that is his plan. It just rubbed me the wrong way to hear him blame the citizens group for the tire slashing. That is my only beef.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cindy, If he's spending his own money, that changes sdome of my concerns. But my other concerns remain. And frankly, I don't wish to honor a group that hid a rape and made false accusations.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Bernie, I wish someone like you came to LST council meetings!

Bernie O'Hare said...

LST, Most of the time, a municipal body doesn't even know I'm there. I don't speak out that much at public meetings. When I do, I try to keep my comments short. Mostly I listen and observe. I think I've only addressed Nazareth twice, and very briefly.

Anonymous said...

Mr O'Hare,
It is unfortunate you were unable to attend the meeting at which council "interviewed" the applicants for the open position. If you had, you may have been better informed of what was stated, rather than relying on what someone else heard and reported.
It is insulting to find after having provided a resume and written statement available to all who attended the meeting, not only to have my name misspelled, my employer incorrectly identified in two seperate news articles written by professional reporters, but also that my words have been seemingly misconstrued.
My statement was plain and simple, "I have no ax to grind, no agenda to follow and no cause to further".
Representation that I refused to give an opinion on the building project seems rather sinister. The message intended was seemingly lost on those who have had an ax to grind, agenda to follow and a cause to further. The fact is, if I had opinned against the building project, who would that have helped? Would I have been better accepted had I praised a new building costing us all dearly in taxes and lost greenspace? How would it have made a difference, other than maybe make one side or the other feel good about themselves, or claim a victory of sorts? Should not the position have been filled by someone who is willing to listen, consider and act in the best interest of the citizenry, rather than someone who has a set "opinion" on a specific subject? I didn't get the memo about any lithmus test.
I totally agree, governement must be conducted as transparently as possible. Likewise it cannot be enslaved by fear of governing. A fine line sometimes must be tread.
In my view, there has been enough hurt and contention in this town over this ordeal. It has deeply hurt me personally to see disrespect, unfounded accusations, poor judgement, bad behavior, lawsuits and distrust on both sides of this scandal. We have all been hurt by this.
My appointment to council certainly was no inside job. At least not as far as I'm concerned. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am no one's croney or yes man.
My intent and goal is to do business for the citizens of Nazareth in a truthful, responsive, and fiscally conservative way.
An opinion is only special to the person possessing it. An opinion means little if and until it is considered by others. Anyone can make easy or popular decisions.
May we all hold good opinions of each other, and may we all make good decisions in the future.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mr. Daugherty, As I understand it, you feel the local press not only mispelled your surname, but took you completely out of context. But as I read what you say in your comment, I think they were fair.

The most controversial subject in Nazareth this summer was building a new government center at Nazareth Hall Park. It was a very divisive issue because council operates in the shadows. It is extremely important that people be above board and up front. But you chose to remain in the shadows w/ the rest of council, refusing even to say whether you thought the plan was good or bad. Surely you had an opinion, but you did not share it with the public. I find that insulting. It's evidence to me that you think you're better than the rest of us and like to keep us in the dark. This evidence is corroborated by your silly and childish complaint about your name being spelled improperly.

Instead you talk about the town getting a "black eye." Frankly, I don;t care how the town looks. I care whether it is following the law. Once it does that, it will eventually look good.

1) Did you oppose expansion of a government center at Nazareth Hall Park?

2) Do you believe that government should operate in the public?

3) Are you willing to vote that council committees must advertise their meetings and conduct them publicly? In other words, are you willing to put a stop to a pattern of Sunshine Act violations?

4) Are ypou going to question how the police could keep a rape away from the public while making false accusations about tire slashings?

5) Are you willing to expose the public money that was misspent for two sets of engineering plans for a now defunct expansion at Naz Hall Park?

If you answer yes to those questions, that is some evidence you believe in truthful and responsive government. But what I see so far leads me to believe you like the shadows. So let's hear it. No talk about threading fine lines. Straight answers to straight questions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mr. Daugherty, I spent much of the day thinking about your comment, and it really does trouble me. I would like specific answers to specific questions. Nazareth has suffered from too much evasivensss over the years. A little honesty would be appreciated, even if I don't like the answer. That's not so important. Even I don't agree with me a lot of the time, but transparency is extremely important for good government, and you said you felt that way, too.

I don't know you but have no reason to doubt your sincerity. I am troubled by your appointment without discussion it what seemed very much to me like a pre-planned maneuver. And that's something I saw with my own eyes.

So I start off with suspicions andthese are exacerbated by your comment.

1) You appear to be very thin-skinned and too easily offended. You can't let newspapers get to you. You can't assume that they're clairvoyant, either. They can't be expected to know what you meant. They can only report what you say.

2) You actually defend the indefensible - a refusal to state specific positions on specific issues. By late this summer, anyone who was familiar with borough issues had an opinion about relocation. Your refusal to state that opinion was evasive.

3) Your comment is actually hypocritical when you think about it. You pledge to be "responsive" while refusing to state where you stand. How is that responsive. You talk about transparency in government but don't state a single position on a single issue, especially whether council committees should advertise their meetings like every other government in the free world.

4) Your concern about Nazareth having a "black eye" misses the point. You suggest we have a black eye because we're ALL guilty of bad judgment and filing lawsuits, etc. But Nazareth Borough Council gave itself the black eye by meeting in the shadows. That's the reason why council was editorially condemned. That's the reason why it had to be sued. Am I supposed to permit a pattern of Sunshine Act violations to continue because a lawsuit might make Nazareth look bad? Under your thinking, I should drop my suit immediately. It is not the lawsuit or editorials that make Nazareth look bad -- it is Nazareth's failure to follow the Sunshine law. That is what led to all the frustration over its proposal to relocate. And it has led to problems before.

I welcome you to Nazareth government but must warn you that I am suspicious of government. Governmental power can easily be abused, and it's hard to stop. I appreciate your post as an attempt to reach out, but its content really bothers me. I'd really appreciate you addressing my concerns.

RossRN said...

I think it is important to keep in mind that Fred was one of three people out of about 2,000 residents (don't know how many voters) in the 3rd ward to apply for this vacant position.

Had he waited until spring and run in the primary or November for the fall election he wouldn't have had to have answered a single question, made a single statement, and probably would have had less competition.

My point is simply that it seems he is being put on the spot for a process that was created and conducted by others.

As the first person to apply for the position, he was questioned first by Council. No politician would ever accept terms of a debate equal to the process Nazareth used to interview candidates. Being first meant each Council member asked Fred every question they had, while the others sat in the audience and had time to consider their own answers.

I was personally surprised that questions regarding specific issues were asked. The biggest mistake Council could have made was to select someone on the basis of a single issue.

In the context of my feeling about this and what I saw, I think he gave a good answer regarding how he would address questions of significance to the borough. And that was more important than whether or not he wanted a government center in hall park.

Regarding Fred's name, I made the mistake too and I'm sorry. I actually had the info right, then as night drew on and I was finishing my write-up, I changed the spelling (Da to Do)based on my having a work friend who pronounces it the same way but spells it with the Do. I corrected it there but obviously couldn't here - so sorry for that Fred (my name gets massacred on a regular basis and I know where you are coming from on this).

Regarding the black eye comment, my take from the meeting, not the posts here, was that the issue made the community look bad. There were a lot of good things done, but let's face it the newspapers report bad things more often than good and overall it didn't make the community look good, except that anyone reading would know we aren't indifferent about what happens in our community.

All-in-all, beating each up will get us no where. We need to move past this without ignoring what happened, and moving forward we need to ensure that Council better communicates with the people, is as open with the people as possible, and is as responsible as possible so we don't repeat this situation.

Anonymous said...

There are actually several issues, not a single issue. We don't know where this guy stands on anything. We only know how he likes to see his name spelled. And why are you speaking for him? Can't he speak for himself?

RossRN said...

My basic point is that when replacing a vacant seat I think it is more important to select a person based on how they would address any issue that may arise, not their position on a single issue that is already on the table.

A better method would have been to let each person address the same question debate style. Then you'd see responses side by side and could let different people go first and last etc.

I share alot of the same concerns Bernie has specifically the sunshine law and spending to date that has gone as yet unreported (this was the first I heard of the rape incident). I'm also concerned that jumping into this purchase is going to cost alot more than we've been led to believe, but time will tell (and that is not to say it isn't the best option - it is simply a concern).

I wasn't writing for Fred and I'm sure if I was I'd have gotten his name spelled right in the first place. He's more than capable of speaking for himself, as he has posted to this site as well as my own in the past.

RossRN said...

My basic point is that when replacing a vacant seat I think it is more important to select a person based on how they would address any issue that may arise, not their position on a single issue that is already on the table.

A better method would have been to let each person address the same question debate style. Then you'd see responses side by side and could let different people go first and last etc.

I share alot of the same concerns Bernie has specifically the sunshine law and spending to date that has gone as yet unreported (this was the first I heard of the rape incident). I'm also concerned that jumping into this purchase is going to cost alot more than we've been led to believe, but time will tell (and that is not to say it isn't the best option - it is simply a concern).

I wasn't writing for Fred and I'm sure if I was I'd have gotten his name spelled right in the first place. He's more than capable of speaking for himself, as he has posted to this site as well as my own in the past.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ross and Anon, Thanks for your comments. Ross, so far as I know, Mr. Daugherty has posted only once to my site, and that is the post I questioned. You say he has posted on your site but I see no evidence of that, at least not under that name. Did he use a sock puppet or nom de plum?

Now that he has identified himself, I really would like an answer to my questions. I believe that if he does support open government, he will answer those questions. If he doesn't he won't.

And had he run in an election, you can be sure that he would have to answer those questions if he expected to get elected. He can't just run on his good looks. Only you and I can do that.

The Nazareth rape is something I mentioned several times on my blog and Joe Owens has written about it as well. Covering that up gives Nazareth a black eye. It is outrageous that police would make unfounded accusations of vandalism while trying to put the cover on a local rape. That's the last thing this or any town needs.

The engineering and architectural costs must be explained as well. I often wonder whether they are burined in borough bills that are voted on without comment. It would be easy to slip them in.