Friday, November 07, 2008

For Lamont McClure, It's Fun to Stay at the Y-M-C-A

Lehigh County Commissioners have a $35,000 operations fund. It exists in case commissioners ever get into a legal tangle with the administration. They can hire a lawyer. It's never been used.

Northampton County Council already have their own lawyer, but they have an operations fund, too. They call it a "contingency fund," but it's really a slush fund that council members use to dole out favors to their pals. It's loaded with $500,000 for favors next year. Last night, county council members were spending that dough like Wall Street financiers.

First, they doled out $75,000 for Paul Marin's rail study, five to three. Cha ching! Dowd, Dertinger, McHale and McClure were all for it. Angle, Ferraro and Cusick were less enthusiastic.

Peg Ferraro called Marin's proposal "visionary," but asked council to wait a few months because our economy's in the tank. "I don't feel the timing is right. . . . We should hold off on this for a few months until we see that the economic stimulus package comes into being, if the financial markets get a little better, where our pension fund is. I just feel that we should hold off on this for three, four, five months." Ferraro's motion to delay the funding failed.

Angle also tried to table the funding resolution, based on the argument that this $75,000 is already included in next year's budget. That motion also failed. They want that money and they want it now. Of course, it helps that Marin is chummy with McHale, sitting on a few boards with her.

Meanwhile, our finances continue to slide down the toilet, but it's not their money, it's yours. Don't worry, be happy.

After kissing goodbye to $75,000 in real estate tax revenue, council decided to throw another $10,000 away. Lamont McClure persuaded fellow council members to give that money to Catasauqua's YMCA, which incidentally is located in Lehigh County. Northampton County has Ys located in Easton, Bethlehem and Nazareth, but we decided to give it Catty. In fairness, the Catty Y (Suburban North Family YMCA) does have child care sites located in Northampton County and promised the money would only be used for the financial assistance of Northampton County members. Really!

Here's McClure's argument. "Council, there's a place you can go. I said, Council, when you're short on your dough. It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A."

Peg Ferraro, who must have eaten her Wheaties yesterday, was skeptical. She asked the Y guy, Tom Beidel, who was there with his hand out. "Is there anything in particular that differentiates your request from Bethlehem, Nazareth or Easton? I know Nazareth. I'm very familiar with Nazareth. When Nazareth needed some money, we got together, we had this big thing, we raised a lot of money. I know they give a lot of financial aid and their day care programs are outstanding. Is there anything that differentiates your request from the same kind of request that might come from Nazareth?"

Nothing specific could come to the Y guy's mind, but he sang, "You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal, You can do whatever you feel ... ."

A child care facility happens to be in McClure's district. And McClure pointedly told Angle that many people who use this Y are in his district.

"Angle, are you listening to me? I said, Angle, what do you want to be?"

Angle claims that when he was thirty pounds lighter, he went to the Easton Y. "Now I go to Wegmans." He concluded all Ys are worthwhile.

Hoping that this snags a few votes next year, council was quick to adopt this resolution. Incidentally, they makes no provision to ensure that a Lehigh County Y will actually use the money for Northampton County residents. If I'm the Y-guy in Nazareth, Easton or Bethlehem, I'll be at County Council's next meeting with my headress on and hand out.

After all, it's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A.


Anonymous said...

daycare for underprivileged kids, so their working poor mothers can try to scratch out a living. What a waste of tax money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's see, $10k for a Lehigh County Y and $0 for anything in Northampton County. No oversight. No grant application. Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue. As to your point about the "Y" being in Lehigh County, almost two-thirds of the kids who benefit from this program reside in Northampton County. Specifically, in my District, District 3, the kids reside in Northampton, N. Catasauqua, Bath, Allen and East Allen. In Mr. Angle's District 4, the kids reside in Lehigh, Walnutport, Moore and Chapman. (Mr. Angle who represents these municipalities also supported the grant.)

In light of both counties' committment to regionalism, support of programs like this should not surprise you or anyone else.

I am also aware that the Stoffa Administration opposed this grant and raised the same points you did in your previous comment. They are fair points and I will be diligent in ascertaining that kids in Northampton County that are served by this program - get their due.

Finally, your point about "Real Estate Tax Dollars" is an interesting one. Specifically, in 2006, I fought the unecessary Stoffa tax increase by attempting to cut the millage rate. In 2007, I co-sponsored the Military Families' Tax break in Northampton County and this year I attempted to provide our property tax payers with a rebate. All of which, both you, and the Stoffa Administration opposed.


Bernie O'Hare said...


Let's deal with the subject at hand, not your effort to go at the unrestricted fund balance.

1) This Y is a Lehigh County YMCA. Although it does serve Northampton County residents, more than half of its membership is in Lehigh County.

2) The resolution makes no provision for oversight to make sure that Northampton County tax dollars are actually spent on Northampton County residents. Although I have no dount that the Catty Y is operating in good faith, I believe that oversight is what fiscal responsibility should demand.

3) As you point out, this Y may serve some families within your district and others within Angle's district. That's the real reason for your support. Instead of requiring this Y to go thru a grant process with the county, you folks were just able to use that slush fund to buy a few votes.

4) There are so many worthwhile charities in Northampton County that I could spend the rest of the day listing them here. Instead of making ALL charities aware that you had $10k that you wanted to burn, you decided to give it all to one group. That's arbitrary. What about Nazareth, Bethlehem and Easton. I'll let them know.

Anonymous said...

I have personally supported the YMCA and I appreciate my government helping as well. Ohare you must really dislike McClure to make an issue of this especially since your buddy Ron voted for this as well. Why just throw McClure under the bus? It would appear this past unanimously McClure must have had a point to receive support from everyone on council. Here’s a thought since you seem to have all the answers why don’t you and the other bloggers here get together and run against this collection of bums who would support a YMCA that provides assistance to kids and families in need. Until then this seems to be what government should be doing. The county provided support to Easton programs as you mention including the prison and they provide services to some who come from NJ should we just shutdown the County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

How do I know that the catty Y will provide services to northampton County kids in need? The way that resolution is drafted, therew is no oversight. Moreover, it arbitrarily awards $10k to a Lehigh County Y with Northampton County tax dollars while arbitrarily ignoring three equally worthwhile Ys located right here in Northampton County. This was done for one and onyl one reason - to appeal for votes. It explains why there should be a grant process so that everyone is on an equal footing. Moreover, these grants should be part of the budget process, not part of council's slush fund.

In some unique circumstances, it might be appropriate to make an award like this. But as the Y guy himself told Ferraro, there was nothing unusual about his request.

As far as running for office is concerned, I believe I've answereed that question before - I already occupy the highest office. It's called citizen.

Council voted unanimously for this because each recognizes that he or she may have a pal in his area that needs some consideration. It had nothing to do with the kids or that entire slush fund would have been emptied long ago for the many worthwhile programs right here in Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

You bitch about a local $10K vote grab but said nothing about Obama's 3/4 of a billion dollar campaign - 1/3 of which is untraceable. I guess if you watch the pennies, the dollars will just take care of themselves.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's why I follow local gov't - we can do something about that.

Anonymous said...

I usually agree with you Bernie and disagree with McClure, but on this issue I support the grant. The Catty Y is a "bare bones" operation. No swimming pool, a modest fitness center and outdated equipment. It exists exclusively to serve the community. It cannot compete with private clubs or even other YMCA's in the area for private membership dollars. Its youth programs, day camps, and day care centers are its "bread and butter". No frills, no fluff. It doesn't use its non-profit status to unfairly compete with the private sector, a complaint of John Brinson. I would venture to guess that it serves a population area with a median income below that of other areas served by Northampton County Y's, even Nazareth and Easton. Just look at the Taj Mahal rec centers in Beth. Twp., Hanover Twp. and even Northampton Borough! $10 K is a drop in the bucket compared to the taxpayer dollars spent on those excesses of government.

It is fair to object to a lack of oversight and accountability with this grant. Catty Y should have submitted a formal proposal in writing with a rationale for the request, exactly how the money is to be used, and a promise to provide financial records documenting that the money was used exclusively for Northampton County children. However, it is an organization that privides vital services to low-income kids, without the broad revenue sources of other Y's in the area, and I support Council's decision in this matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's still unfair. If you want to give $10K to the Catty Y in LC, you should simultaneously be awarding $10k to the Ys in Easton, Bethlehem and Nazareth. As the Y GUY himself stated, there were no unique circumstances that sets Catty apart. What do you say?

Anonymous said...

Of course, it helps that Marin is chummy with McHale, sitting on a few boards with her.

Sort of like... Obama sitting on boards with Ayres? Wonder what Ayres gets?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why just throw McClure under the bus?"

I pointed out that Angle supported this and criticized him, too. In fact, I told him last night I considered his vote a mistake.

The reason why this focuses on McClure is because he sponsored this resolution and was its chief advocate.

The real problem is the contingency fund, which should be eliminated. in next year's budget. Let's see if any council member is willing to try and save taxpayers $500,000 by eliminating or reducing that slush fund.

Anonymous said...

Where in this post did you criticize Angle. You are incapable of criticizing Angle. McClure proposes to help disadvantaged kids. Angle agrees. You criticize McClure and not Angle. You got issues.

Anonymous said...

Bernie et al,

The Administration "officially" did not oppose this recent earmark from Council. It is truly the Legislative Body's perogative to distribute funds as they so determine. That is clearly outlined in the Home Rule Charter.

In fact, I too grew up at the local "Y" in Johnstown. And I'll admit that I was a "Y" Indian Guide in the mid-1960's.

On Thursday morning, I provided historical reference to Council staff, that last year the County graciously approved $75,000 to the Bethlehem YMCA (located in Northampton County) through the County DCED budget. The Bethlehem YMCA's request, for what I believe was a much needed capital improvement request, was double that amount at which time the other county was asked to partner with us to come up with the remaining amount to fulfill the Y's total request.

They too - like the Catasauqua YMCA, service a bi-county customer base.

Unfortunately, the match request from Lehigh did not occur.

I am actually proud that our Council unanimously funded this request even though the physical location is in our neighboring county. We rose above boundary lines to provide benefit to Northampton County kids, as Mr. McClure and the gentleman from the "Y" presented.

The info was given only as a historical perspective and frame of reference and certainly not an opposition of the Administration as apparently Mr. McClure has now publicly mis-interpretated.

It is not the responsiblilty of the Administration to dictate how Council conducts its business as defined in the Home Rule Charter. I am a firm practitioner of preserving the three pillars of government in our Home Rule Charter environment. Obviously all have to succesfully work together.

We're all here for the same reason - responsible government which makes Northampton County the best place to live, work, and raise families.

Thank you.

John Conklin

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:00 PM,

My criticism is aimed chiefly at McClure, who sponsored and was the proponent of this reslution. But I devoted two paragraphs to Angle as well. I may have issues, but I know how to read.

It is ridiculous to give money to one segment of our population without making it available to all. As I mentioned there are Ys in Easton, bethlehem and nazareth. They all have the same programs offered by Catty. But Catty, which is not even in NC, gets special trreatment. That is bullshit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To all,

John Conklin is the Director of Administration in Northampton County, and is acting executive while John Stoffa continues his recovery from surgery.

I thank Mr. Conklin for taking the time to set the record straight. It sounds like the administration supported or was neutral concerning this initiative and notes that the Bethlehem Y rec'd $75,000 last year. It appears that McClure has misrepresented the administration's position.

There's a shocker.

That leaves Easton and Nazareth, Lamont. How about it? I believe Nazareth is in your district, too.

Frankly, I believe rewquests like this should go through an application process and be awarded annually, if at all. In my view, McClure's resolution is a slap across the faces of needy Nazareth and Easton families.

Easton loses so much tax revenue because of all the tax exempt properties and McClure proposes a grant in Lehigh County. Brilliant.

Easton, Bethlehem and Nazareth should have the same opportunities to seek money from the slush fund as a Lehigh County Y. That's not the administration's position - that's mine.

Anonymous said...

Actually Boonie, I think Conklin said you were full of kaka.

Your 'All Things Stoofa" mancrush has dulled your senses.

Anonymous said...

I find it amazing that this Council is oblivious to the National and Global economic condition and how it is affecting local government. Look at the City of Philadelphia with massive layoffs. Look at California Munis with massive layoffs. Look at the City of Easton with its massive tax and fee increases. All of this "Pork" being distributed by this Council is unfathomable. I find it disturbing that close to 100 grand is being issued to unworthy projects when the County's own workforce is faced with cuts. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 6:58; hold your ground Bernie and stick with your original - in my view, correct - inclination that this is paying for votes in targeted areas of concern for expected re-election candidates.

Don't be drawn in by Conklin's willingness to defend himself here. He's explained himself, perhaps. But he hasn't defended a damn thing regarding the way this, and other similar expenditures are handed out like so much walking-around money for incumbents. Don't go wobbly, Bernie.

With all due respect from another former Y kid, Mr. Conklin, this is bullshit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:00 AM,

I have not changed my position. Mr. Conklin is merely making everyone aware that, contrary to what McClure asserts, the administration took no position on this matter.

My own position is that this is a slush fund council usesd to buy votes and little perks like laptops for themselves. I didn't see one laptop at the last council meeting.

Council's contingency fund should be abolished. This is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Didn't McClure get $10,000.00 for the Nazareth Skate Park ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

And now you're comparing apples and oranges. You're justifying a handout to a Lehigh County Y bc council last year gave some money for a sklate park that can be used by anyopne??? This is just more bullshit. This "contingency fund" must be eliminated from council's budget. It's just a tool members use to buy votes.

Lighthouse said...


I hate to offer any critique, because I tend to agree with you more often than not, and actually I agree with you here, too.

You state,

1) This Y is a Lehigh County YMCA. Although it does serve Northampton County residents, more than half of its membership is in Lehigh County.

I agree with you. I guess I would only offer for consistancy sake, that my understanding is that was the same rationale Bethlehem Twp used as to why it stopped giving Township tax monies to the homeless shelters that were a.) not in the twp, and b.) served a small percentage of folks who "may" have been "at one time" residents of the Twp. Yet you were critical of the Twp then, and offered this commentary on the MCall forum:

Why should Bethlehem Township kick in?

1) "[T]he moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

Hubert Horatio Humphrey

So I guess, don't beat up on the Township if the issue resurfaces, which Jennings seems to do periodically even though the last filing on the Dept of State "Charities OnLine Database" showed a "net assests or fund balance" of over $4 million for the CACLV in 2007, which equated to about 1/3 of their "total income".

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, A few things bother me here.

1) The contingency fund - it is time to end this slush fund.

2) It is arbitrary. If Council wants to help needy kids at the Y, give the money to all the Ys in this area, not a LC Y.

What was being proposed in Bethlehem Tp was something that weould benefit all area homeless. This is designed to help McClure get re-elected.

I nearly hurled when McHale blurted out that the county exists to help people. If that were so, the entire $500k should be sent to the many worthwhile projects in the LV. But council is using that slush fund as a re-election tool.

Lighthouse said...

point taken, and understood.

This blog has been the best source for keeping up with NorCo.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I am also happy to see Lamont McClure come here to defend his resolution and John Conklin explain the administration position. They both deserve credit for that.

Anonymous said...

McHale said Council exists to help people. I guess I don't get it. As a newer employee the Union biggies say push her for County Executive. Some of the other employees say she helped bring in the new healthcare provider that costs us more.
I guess I think these people are less concerned with us but only say how much they care at election time.