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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ron Angle: The Great Dissenter

Northampton County Council member Ron Angle is frequently on the wrong side of 8-1 votes. Wednesday night's "special meeting" was no exception. He was the sole legislator to vote against a $175 million bond financing plan that will enable St. Luke's Hospital to purchase and "improve" 500 acres of fecund farmland at the intersection of Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue. He is also the only one who did the right thing.

Angle, often ridiculed for his poor grammar and lack of education, is arguably the most intelligent elected official in the Lehigh Valley, especially when it comes to financial matters. I am arguably the most stupid person in the Lehigh Valley when it comes to high finance, and proved it in my post complaining about 500 acres being removed from the tax rolls.

My opposition to the financing proposal for St. Luke's was based on the mistaken notion that the county would be removing 500 acres from the tax rolls. Actually, none of this 500 acres is tax exempt. St. Luke's pays real estate taxes on the 200 acres it already owns, and will have to pay taxes until it builds a medical facility and applies for an exemption. Moreover, if it decides to build a hotel or condos, the hospital is ineligible for an exemption, at least in those areas.

So why was Ron Angle out there, all by his lonesome, voting against this financing scheme? Let me sum it up.

First, even though the property itself is taxed, the bonds being sold to finance this purchase are tax free. That gives St. Luke's a leg up over any private investor. It may be legal for a nonprofit hospital to sell tax free bonds to finance a hotel or condo, but it's totally unfair.

Second, for a county that claims to support farmland preservation, we have a strange way of showing it. Not only will the county go along with the development of some of its best farmland, but it will actually make things easier for the developer by allowing the sale of tax exempt bonds.

Finally, there's an inherent unfairness in calling a "special meeting" with next to no notice. It would never happen for you or me. It's purely an accommodation to the movers and shakers. Council members are afraid to upset people who could easily field and finance an opponent.

Eight people may have voted against him, but Angle's dissent reveals intelligence, concern about over-development and an instinct for democracy. It is perhaps his finest moment on council.


J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

As a member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau I could SPAM you with AG talking points ala Bytes. I won't.

BUT considering PA needs to step it up as does all of America in alternate fuels. Consider the jobs PA could gain in Ethenol farming.

And before anyone blames grain pricces on Alternate fuels (Big oil spin talking point, think who spews it AM talk radio, Rush, Sean,,etc.)
China has had weather and natural disasters over the last year like no ones biz. (rreamember before the earth quake was weeks of rain.)

Also farming depends on petolium to make fertilizer and run tractors and such. (let alone heating buildings)

That farmland they GAVE AWAY to a Hospitall that dosnt treat all. Send a poor person in with no insurance and cancer or HIV see what they'll get.

Healthcare in America today is for profit Capatilist greed, not HEALTHCARE! And now they are helping screw over Farming! Its Sick just sick, how PA finds it ok to let farms vanish. And attention sportsmen if farmlands go this easy the game lands are not far behind!

Maybe the valley could have used a Hospital at that old steel mill over a freaking casino!

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle does not represent serious political opposition. NorCo council laughs at him and does exactly what a party not in fear of being thrown out does.

It's why the most controversial local arguments found in this space are inner-party squabbles, and not serious, philosophical political differences.

This story is an exception, although at 8-1, just a little exception. It's really just another day at the government center.

Anonymous said...

Angle is against cancer treatment. That's your headline. Is anyone surprised.

Anonymous said...

Is Angle a liar ? It is an interesting existential as well a practical exercise to explore that topic ?

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Anon 7:41 with all the rundown factories and warehouses in the valley they couldn't re-develop some place to fight cancer???? Get a freaking grip!

When all of our food comes from China then we'll all have cancer!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron Angle does not represent serious political opposition. NorCo council laughs at him and does exactly what a party not in fear of being thrown out does.

Any party with that attituide will quickly find itself a minority. Angle has been on the wrong side of many 8-1 votes, even when there were 6 Rs on Council. In some cases, he has been goofy. More often than not, he really does make sense. Those who underestimate him do so to their detriment. They are reduced to making anonymous slurs that fail to address the merits of what really happened. As for being in poer, I would not be proud of a special meeting for a bunch pof rich cats. Who do you represent, them or the people who elected you?

Anonymous said...

"PA needs to step it up as does all of America in alternate fuels."

Mean American Oil, verses Foreign Oil. Hey count me in!!!!


P.S. This is off topic I know, but the spammer started it.

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle votes and voices opposition because that's his game. He could care less about the project. He's there to oppose, nothing more.

You're giving him a lot more credit than he deserves. Anyone can be short sighted and simply oppose just about every project that is brought to the table. What initiative has Ron Angle brought to the table that will create jobs? He's a defeatist, plain and simple. He doesn't have the insight or desire to create effective policy. Only to oppose.

Demographic shifting is occurring rapidly in Northampton County. Yes, people are coming from NY and NJ. And while people do not like it, it's a reality. It's a natural progression.

This development will create jobs. As St. Luke's has demonstrated in Bethlehem, they will be a great community partner in Bethlehem Twp. Angle, O'Hare; you are both missing the overall picture.

Anonymous said...

Democrats will be in power in NorCo for the rest of our lives. It's a blue and getting bluer county in a blue and getting bluer state. The NJ-to-PA demographics are spot on.

I'm glad Ron Angle obstructs - for whatever reason. When living in a one-party dictatorship, gridlock is the only hope of stability. Look at what one-party GOP rule did to Orange County CA and look at the mess in Philly and Pittsburgh at the hands of unopposed Dems.

I wish Angle was more of a serious threat to the machine, but he's just a speed bump - albeit a nasty one at times. I really like him. I just don't think he or any other R really matter here anymore.

When the consistently harshest criticism of NorCo government originates from a left-leaning blog that ardently supports the current executive, I rest my case.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:36,

I more or less share your assessment. Northampton County has had a large Dem influx. It does tend to lead to one party rule, and that's when mischief becomes possible. Both parties are equally resposnisible for that.

Angle has been a speed bump, but has not stopped the county from moving in the wrong direction.

The claim (from Anon 11:27) that Angle is simply a "defeatest" or that he only opposes is, however, little more than a simplistic political attack. As often as Angle has opposed, he's also proposed solutions. Contrary to his Democratic colleagues, he backed Stoffa's open space proposal. He is the person whose finance committee is studying campaign finance reform. His is the committee that always studies the county's needs and tries his hardest to get the county on the right fiscal track.

Can he be abrasive? Does he use bad grammar? Yes to both.

By the way, county council does not exist to create jobs. It exists to govern the county.

Anonymous said...

A "simplistic political attack?" It's not an attack, Mr. O'Hare. This is Ron Angle's record. It is the truth. I don't give a crap what kind of grammar he uses. If all you can claim is his embracing of open space initiatives and campaign finance reform after all the years of public service he's given, that's not saying much. Where are his accomplishments? And yes, public officials should strive to acocmplish goals. And Ron Angle's accomplishments derive from defeating proposals. Hence, my earlier point, Mr. O'Hare.

And speaking of his campiagn finance reform proposal, where was he 7 or 8 years ago on this issue? Why didn't he introduce legislation on this issue back then? All of a sudden Bethlehem is looking at the issue and he piggy-backs on it? I dont' think it took him 8 or more years to research the issue.

Ron Angle has been in office for a long time, and he has done a whole lot of nothing with the exception of defeating proposals that come from other colleagues of his.

I've said it before on this blog. From a public policy standpoint, it's very simple for elected officials to defeat proposals than it is to implement goals and ideas. That's the reality of our goverment, in general, and it's what our forefathers wanted. That is why it takes so long for anything to get accomplished.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:57,

where was he 7 or 8 years ago on this issue? Why didn't he introduce legislation on this issue back then? All of a sudden Bethlehem is looking at the issue and he piggy-backs on it?

Seven or eight years ago, Ron Angle was one of two council members who was advocating campaign finance reform. He was joined in this by that other obstructionist, Joe Brennan, a Democrat. At that time, the matter was referred to a legal committee chaired by Corriere. Corriere noted that Philly was considering an ordinance but was concerned whether home rule counties are pre-empted. He recommended we wait and see, so we did. Philly did pass an ordinance. That ordinance was challenged, and the state supremes early this year ruled that Philly's ordinance passed constitutional muster. Armed with this ruling, Angle has pushed ahead with campaign finance reform again and has discussed it in two meetings of his finance committee thus far. That should answer your question.

Where are his accomplishments?

1) Angle helped John Stoffa engineer the first open space program ever in Northampton County.

2. Angle has insisted on fiscal sanity, encouraging the exec to keep two months of expenses in the till instead of spending it down, as Reibman did with disastrous consequences.

3. Angle has constantly worked for open AND accountable government. Both of those are important in a democracy, and both of them become problems when there is one party rule. Angle has especially insisted on compliance with the Sunshine Act and has insisted that information like the Treddenick report be made available.

4. Angle has insisted that the county return to the basics - essential county services. The county has no business floating $111 million bonds so it can hand out money to develop greenfields in LVIP VI. It's essential services are the courts, prisons, row offices and human services. The county lost sight of that under Reibman.

5. Angle has tried to make local government more accessible - he and he alone has proposed livestreaming of council meetings. He and he alone will conduct meetings in his district for his constituents. He and he alone has urged council to take its show on the road.

6. Angle has proposed long range planning. Instead of building a prison expansion that is full the moment it's done, Angle has proposed a long range plan to embrace our capitol needs over time.

7. Angle has helped restore integrity to N C government. Thanks to Angle and Wayne Grube, outside auditors stumbled on enough problems with Michael Solomon to eventually result in his conviction.

8. Angle is one of the persons behind the move to clean up the elections office, which was out of control. Work is still needed to make the election commission a nonpartisan group instead of the hand-picked selection of party chairs.

9. Angle has cast a much-needed spotlight on county abuses, whether it is goofy Vince Dominach and his sexual trysts on couty time or a HR director who was obviously incompetent.

I'll stop here. I can keep on going all night. Angle never voted for a prison expansion that was full the moment it was built. You might call that an accomplishment. I call it a disgrace by cowards unwilling to do the right thing.

Angle did handouts to developers, and the 30,000 jobs promised by them never came to pass. He has stood up against the attempts of the Lehigh Valley Partnership to rule the county behind closed doors.

In his years on council, he has displayed intelligence, courage and independence - commodities that are in short supply among other members.

And you sound amazingly like John Maher, who was trounced by Angle in his bid for a third term. Incidentally, Maher denies using Severson in numerous debates. The grand jury is hearing a different story.

Anonymous said...

"From a public policy standpoint, it's very simple for elected officials to defeat proposals than it is to implement goals and ideas. That's the reality of our goverment (sic), in general, and it's what our forefathers wanted. That is why it takes so long for anything to get accomplished."

Amen and hallelujah. So why attack Angle? He serves exactly the purpose you correctly claim our forefathers wanted. It's easy to criticize a politician when the real "culprit" is the electorate that put him in. In Angle's case, that's a lot of voters. There's just no accounting for political tastes - no matter what your political persuasion.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. O 'Hare in your rush to give all credit on everything to Mr. Angle and Mr. Stoffa, you are in error.

Mr. Seyfried, past County Executive, put through an Open Space Program in the eary 90's.

Mr. Heckman, past County Councilman, put through the first Farmland Preservation Resolution in the early 90's.

While your inattention to facts is understandable on your blog and your devotion to Angle and Stoffa is well know, please give some credit where credit is due.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:34,

The first county executive to actually implement a plan dedicated to open space is John Stoffa and no one else. Jerry and Ron made some noble gestures, but the first person to actually come up with a plan, and fund that plan, is John Stoffa. You may not like it buit that's reality unless you're talking about some other Northampton County in another dimension.

Stoffa's real plan will generate $84 MM for open space over 5 years. The person who made it possible for Stoffa to get that through a Democratic council, in Dec. '06, was none other than that obstructionist, Ron Angle. I posted a blog about it.

Before that time, there was no real plan for open space. Amazingly, council Democrats wanted to torpedo this plan just to make Stoffa look bad and to avoid taking responsibility for a dreaded half mil tax increase. Now there's some of that obstructionism you've been talking about. The local Dems, losing sight of their own party's ideology, tried to destroy open space just to make Stoffa look bad. How proud you must be! I will be reminding people when Dertinger and Neiper face the voters next year. Count on it.

Here is Stoffa's plan, as explained by Stoffa himself: "My proposal calls for a half mil of tax, along with utilizing a $10 million line of credit. In the Proposed 2007 Budget, $5 million of the line of credit would be utilized with $3 million State matching Farmland Preservation funds along with $2 million for Environmentally Sensitive Areas. In addition, the half mil of tax ($3.5 million) will allow $1 million for County Parks, an additional $1 million for Farmland, $800,000 for Environmentally Sensitive Areas, $500,000 for Municipal Parks and $200,000 for Debt Service. In total, for 2007, it is roughly $8.3 million. Never in our County's history, have we had such an opportunity to move forward. My fear is that we won't. There will be substitute plans, but there's none as strong as the one that I have proposed."

The MC characterized this "pay as you go" plan a "farsighted approach" that will save us money in the long run.

I will give credit where credit is due and it goes to Stoffa and Angle. What was accomplished that night will have a bigger impact, in the long run, than any Taj Mahal for judges.

If you want to screw with me about Northampton County, you better get your facts right next time. You can't just make them up as you go along, especially with me.

Anonymous said...

OHara you are as sleazy as you claim Severson. Angle voted against Stoffa's Open Space plan. You are so in love with Angle that you fail to concede that basic truth.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Unfortunately, the minutes from that meeting are unavailable online or I'd link to them. I did link to my blog about it. I did mention that Angle voted for the open space plan. In the 104 comments posted to that blog, no one challenged me on the facts. The simple truth is that night, for the second time in his life, Angle actually supported a budget that included a tax increase. Why? Because it was good government.

Here's the reaction of someone else who was there that night:

The meeting tonight clearly established Stoffa as the most political savvy executive this county has ever seen.

Tonight, the Grube/McClure/Dertinger team had their cojones handed to them - and they deserved what they got. They didn't do their homework. The Administration's stand on the illegality of the budget amendment was unimpeachable - even Dertinger, who introduced the amendment, was forced to vote FOR its recision.

What Bernie didn't tell you was what happened when Ron Angle went off. Yes, he was justified - the amendment violated the Home Rule Charter. President Grube's attempts to quiet Angle were a waste of time. Angle was RIGHT and everybody in the room knew it.

Call it grandstanding, call Angle crazy, but it was ANGLE who forced the debate, and it was Angle who moved to rescind the amendment when Grube helplessly whined "Well, what do we do now?"

Now I'm very interested to see how Dertinger explains his opposition to open space next year while agreeing to let St. Luke's hospital issue tax free bons to develop 500 acres of prime farmland.

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle's sole goal is to get his name in a headline. The true shame of Ron Angle is that while he is a very intelligent man, he is so self-centered that he cannot see beyond his own political gain. That gain? Again, only to see his name in print or in headline.

Ron Angle could be a real star and a plus to the Lehigh Valley if he dedicated his life to real reform and change for the better, instead of for the benefit of Ron Angle -- in other words, if he used his power for good instead of evil.

And the true shame of Bernie O'Hare and Lehigh Valley Ramblings is that it continues to give credence to demogogues while dissing the elected leaders who are truly making a difference -- or, at least, trying, to make difference in their communities.

The difference between bloggers and the MSM -- and what will continue to relegate blogs to second-tier media -- are bloggers like O'Hare who idolize their pets and denigrate the people they don't like for the purpose of their own popularity.

The MSM, including the Morning Call reporters so frequently dissed in this and other blogs, do report things as they are, not as they'd like them to be. That's a big separation, and it will continue to plague bloggers such as O'Hare until they accept objectivity and report what is, instead of what they wish was.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The simple reality, although you don't like to admit it, is that county council did the following:

1. It permitted a nonprofit to use tax free bonds to purchase 500 acres, giving that nonprofit an advantage the private sector lacks.

2. It is permitting a nonprofit to use tax free bonds to pillage what was recently 500 acrsw of pristine farmland.

3. It did so in a "special meeting" called at the behest of the real rulers of the county - monied interests.

What really irritates and bothers people like you is that Angle, unlike the others, cannot be cowered and is too independent to suit you.

You claim Ron Angle is only interested in headlines, etc., and it's true he has a very big ego. But guess what, bippy? So do the other council members. They will actually call reporters to complain if they are not quoted frequently enough. They make no difference. They are just a third wheel on the bicycle, there for show. Wednesday night's meeting demonstrates quite clearly that it is the monied interests that rule, not the people.

As for ytour disingenuous attempt to cause a division between MSM reporters and this blog, I am unaware of any MC reporters I've ever dissed. Please enlighten me. For the most part, I've had nothing but praise for them and their work and readily acknowledge they are the pros. While I disagree completely with the MC's "incumbent protection" editorial policy or its idiotic reader forum, I have often praised its reporters. Anyone who reads this blog is well aware of that.

I pretty much called this situation as it happened. I've responded to the typical slams at Angle with facts. Like I told you, it's a mistake for you to argue with me about Northampton County when you obviously have no command of the facts and are just attempting to spin for the monied interests. It muust be annoying as hell to see a new form of media that has no editors and does not regard itself as another branch of the establishment.

In your little world, all the decisions would be made at the club.

Anonymous said...

All the bragging about who was responsible for a pathetically inefficient county government taking a stab at real estate management - all to save wealthy farmers from themselves (Help me! I can't stop selling my land for $50K an acre! I have a right to a guaranteed buyer!) - is making me woozy. SSDD in the Peoples Republic.

Stoffa and Angle don't own farmland do they?

Bernie O'Hare said...

So am I to understand the NC Demoicratic party opposes open space and farmland preservation?

Anonymous said...

Both Stoffa and Angle both farmland after making some very nice self-promoting deals

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:36, Try that in English next time.

Anonymous said...

St. Luke's, as a not for profit, is being allowed to use the "system" to secure prime real estate for development and land banking. Northampton County is allowing this "crime" to occur and, in fact, taking place in it. St. Luke's ought to be investigated and it ought to be determined if any laws are being broken here. Its amazing that a hospital can suddenly come up with tens of millions of dollars to purchase raw land that is not even zoned for what it does!!

Anonymous said...

"Both Stoffa and Angle both farmland after making some very nice self-promoting deals."