"Every time it rains, it rains . . . pennies from heaven.
Don't you know each cloud contains . . . pennies from heaven."
That's not exactly how Gracedale residents feel. Every time it rains, they get soaked. Leaking windows have been a problem for years. And last night, a Cowan Associates engineer told Northampton County Council it will cost the county $2.7 million to fix that problem. This is in addition to the $2 0r $3 million in cost overruns for the judges' new palace. And the $482,000 that council wants to spend, just to renovate their own crib. And the millions that have to be spent, and soon, for another prison expansion because the prison expansion we're still building is already near capacity. And the millions the county intends to spend for yet another real estate acquisition. And let's not forget that new contract for county employees, which should cost another $3 0r $4 million.
Do you get the idea that Gracedale's windows aren't the only things leaking? The county is bleeding money, and there's no end in sight.
Last night, county council had an opportunity to get some of that money back. Get this. Five years ago, the county gave Bethlehem $13 million to build a frickin' road. The county didn't really have $13 million. It borrowed the money and has actually indebted itself to the tune of $26 million so that Bethlehem could build a road. But even Bethlehem was unable to blow $13 million on a 4,000 foot road. It spent under $11 million. And guess what? Bethlehem wanted to use the remaining money to build another road! It turns out the city can't do that legally, So now, the knights of Ni in Bethlehem insist on that dough for shrubbery and signs. They demand . . . a SHRUBBERY!
Knight of Ni: One that looks nice.
King Wayne: Of course!
Knight of Ni: And not too expensive.
King Wayne: Yes!
Knight of Ni: Noowwwww.... GO!
Sounds silly, doesn't it? Wait, this gets better.
Council members Ron Angle, John Cusick and Tony Branco sponsored an ordinance to get $2.2 million of that money back. The ordinance was drafted so that Bethlehem could keep $200,000 for . . . A SHRUBBERY! But the knights of Ni had their hearts set on something else.
Knight of Ni: ANOTHER SHRUBBERY!
King Wayne: Oh not another shrubbery!!
Knight of Ni: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... Wiiiiiithh.... A HERRING!
That's right, bippy. Bethlehem wants about $700,000 so it can plant shrubs and stop signs along a road it previously claimed was done.
County Executive Stoffa wanted that money for the prison. He previously told Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan that the county must "identify all the funds it can find to address our Prison overcrowding issue." And last night, he told council, "I'm not King Midas." So what did King Wayne and his Knights of the Obtuse Table decide? They refused to take back a dime. In the end, only Cusick, Angle and Dowd voted for the ordinance. Even Tony Branco, who had sponsored the ordinance, ended up voting against it.
Councilperson Ann McHale called this shrubbery "the icing on the cake." I'm sure county workers who've seen no payraises for nearly four years will be thrilled at this waste of public money. So will cold and wet Gracedale residents. But council members know that Bethlehem has more votes than a bunch of senior citizens in Gracedale.
Getting elected is far more important than good government to most politicians, and last night was a perfect illustration.