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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lehigh County Comm'rs Reject Johnny Appleseed

If you look at the left sidebar, you'll see at least over thirty local news blogs. In addition, both The Express Times and Morning Call cover the Lehigh Valley. Yet last night, no one was available to cover a meeting of its largest local government - the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. As a result, no one in the media, me included, has any first hand knowledge why they rejected a $200k state grant last night.

About a month ago, I told you that DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis had presented Lehigh's Don Cunningham and Northampton's John Stoffa with a check for $200,000 for trees for their downtown areas and parks. Its called TreeVitalize, part of a plan to plant 1 million trees over the next five years. King Edwin I has called it a great program, especially for inner-city Allentown. It gives peasants a place to hide during drive by shootings.

Why would Lehigh County's legislators reject free money? If the state is giving them the money, why not spend it? It's really just a small amount in the big picture. The press wasn't there, so who will know? Don't they like trees?

This morning, Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning explains why they said no.

"The funding priorities of the State need to be readjusted. For example, Harrisburg is planning to make multimillion dollars reductions in the funding for Human Services and yet they are still intend to give out money to Counties to plant trees. Or as another example, Harrisburg has a statutory obligation to reimburse Counties for the salary (which is set by the State) of a full time District Attorney but they refuse to do that leaving Counties to cover that cost and yet they have money to plant trees.

"Included in those municipal that were to provide matching funds was Allentown in the amount of $25,000. This was presented as a quality of life issue for Allentown (and the other municipalities). My thoughts (and response) on that is that the number one quality of life issue in Allentown is crime and that the $25,000 the City was going to commit to plant trees would be better spent in adding police officers through the County's Safe Streets program where we each pay for 1/2 the salary of a community police office.

"On an overall basis the TreeVitalize program has benefits but given the current economic situation and the budget out look for the State, for Counties and for Municipalities it is time to focus on the basic responsibilities of government."


Anonymous said...

Browning is all over the place with his response. I highly doubt Browning would be against this initiative if it supported a quality of life proposal in his home township. This was a very telling vote.

Bernie, thank you for bringing this to light. This, among many other actions or inactions, by the county over the last several years proves that the Lehigh County commissioners simply hate Allentown.

Change needs to happen.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:01am, while I do not live in Allentown I am very active in two non/profits that serve its low income residents, so I feel I have a vested interest in this issue, as you do (I read into your post that you are a resident).

I see it differently. Our local, state and federl governments HAVE to get their fiscal houses in order. I read it that the commissioners want to send a message to Harrisburg - a message that needs to be sent by all of us.

We can't go on as we are.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Let them eat trees.

Anonymous said...

Did the Commissioners write a letter to Harrisburg explaining their position? Of course not.

Why didn't they notify the press? Why wasn't this vote coordinated with other county governments with similar views? Because they are not trying to send a message to Harrisburg at all.

If their attempt was genuine it will fail miserably. Some grant processor is not going to quit their job because the lil ole Lehigh County Commissioners would not take his/her money. They are just going to send it somewhere else.

That argument was a cop out by Browning.

Anonymous said...

A bit off subject perhaps but believe it or not, from an economics stand point, spending money is the smart thing for government to do right now.

Expansionary fiscal policy should be practiced by government in economically tough times. To practice the opposite now would only serve to further economic decline.

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about Government of any political party being smart?

Anonymous said...

In response to Anon 9:23

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) met this past Monday and Tuesday. As part of this, members of CCAP went to Harrisburg to make their position known on the budgetary process that plans on cuts in funds available to the Counties for Human Services while still continuing to spend on non-essential activities. The vote last night was made with that as background. I know that Commissioner Dougherty (Chairman of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners and past President of CCAP) plans to write a letter to make his views known. This morning, I sent a letter to each State Representative and Senator who represents Lehigh County expressing my belief that the State needs re-focus it's spending on maintaining its basic services. I used the vote last night as an illustration.

I don't have any illusions that this will lead to a sudden revelation and change in thinking and behavior. However, the process has to start someplace as I believe we can not continue as is. The mind set that says we need to spend money on non-essential items or someone else will get the money and spend it has to change.



Bernie O'Hare said...

Bend Over,

Great way to get people to take you seriously.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dean, Thanks very much for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

Dean, couldn't agree more, thank you for coming on here and thank you for your position.

I am feeling more and more like Howad Beale in Network - "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

The Banker

Anonymous said...

that 200k is going to another set of communities. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:05, it's attitudes like yours that played a large role in putting us in the position we're in.

Taking a moral stance is a good thing. Is there a short term cost in not getting the $200k? Yes. In the long term, we all need to take a stand. The fact that others won't is no reason for us not to.

I'm glad our commissioners don't think like you do.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

anon from 2:05 here...

I was just stating a fact. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not a window into how I think.

But thanks for reading more into it than was necessary. Any other assumptions you might like to draw?

Anonymous said...

FYI . . . Anon 2:05 is not Anon 9:08 or Anon 9:23, that was me.

I agree with 2:05. Honestly, I really don't even believe the reasoning being presented. If so it was poorly executed.

The vote more likely was intentionally done quietly so certain commission members can go back to some constituents and site another example of how they stuck it to Allentown.

Anonymous said...

Idealists have no place in positions of authority.

BTW, Bernie, why has work stopped on the Linden St Bridge?

Why is the LC letting their property rot down there?

Anonymous said...

Sure I do.

But since you're focused on this, let me correct my post:

Anon 2:05, it's attitudes like the one you may or may not have displayed in your post (depending on how one reads it) that played a large role in putting us in the position we're in.

Taking a moral stance is a good thing. Is there a short term cost in not getting the $200k? Yes. In the long term, we all need to take a stand. The fact that others won't is no reason for us not to.

I'm glad our commissioners don't think like you may or may not do, depending on how one reads your post.

Is that better?

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:33 here,

I do appreciate Browning coming on here with an explanation. He didn't have to do that.

Anonymous said...

anon from 2:05 again.

That was cute.

The 200k will still go to another community. Will it change state gov't? I've learned to stop predicting such things. I find myself more successful in predicting the lottery. Perhaps this explains why I am neither rich or working in gov't.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:05, First, thanks! And I should apologize, it's been a long week already but that's no excuse.

You're right, the $200k will go somewhere else. I'm OK with that. For change to happen it has to start somewhere. Will it work? The cynic in me (and probably the realist if I am being totally honest here) says no way. But I absolutely support the attempt.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Anon from 2:05 again.

Still being objective. I wonder if the residents of the communities that stood to benefit from those trees will support the vote. At the end of the day, they vote. Browning will have to face them at some point.

He now has votes against more police and trees in Lehigh County. When he stands for re-election, that's not going to look good, especially, as both of us seem to agree, there is no clear sign that it will change how state gov't acts.

If it changes state, he'll look like gold. If it doesn't, he'll look like a petty idiot. Anybody want to place bets?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:05 again, for a final time:

I hope you get some time off to recover from your rough week Banker. I've learned one lesson in interacting with elected officials at all levels of gov't across the state: you can't get too worked up or take things too personally when talking about how gov't operates or trying to deal with gov't. The only time I've ever allowed myself to do so is when I'm tired and need to recoop. Take a deep breath and be thankful for the blessings we have for the next few days.

Anonymous said...

Commissioner Browning stated: "...given the current economic situation and the budget out look for the State, for Counties and for Municipalities it is time to focus on the basic responsibilities of government.

The County Commissioner did the correct thing but (by Commissioner Browning's reasoning) for the wrong reasons.

I would remind Commissioner Browning that providing grants for local police is not one of the basic responsibilities of county government. He may think they are needed (and they are), but it is not a function of county government.

Commissioner Browning has lost any credibility he had (fiscally) by supporting the county paying for local police officers. County taxpayers will now be burdened by the ineptitude of Allentown City Hall.

I am a lifelong Republican and former Browning supporter. I will NEVER vote for him again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:23, That one vote made up your mind? God, if I voted against candidates based on one or two issues, I would not be supporting anyone.

Anonymous said...


It was one of the most misguided, poorly thought out votes I experienced in my 13 years as a part time elected official.

This vote is like saying to a guy who is going to fix the roof of your house for a fee, but will do your landscaping for free. He then tells you he will be charging you more for the roof, so in haste you tell him you do not want him to do your landscape. One of the commissioners used the phrase, "it is cutting off your nose to spite your face."

While we all agree that governments of all sizes are in a very difficult position (largely because of the outgoing, miserably failed Bush administration). We do need to look at budgets line by line in the near future, but this vote to me is little more than needless grand standing. It is reminiscent of the Linden Street bridge vote where some wanted to shirk their responsibility and stop the bridge project.

Happy Thanksgiving. Bernie.

As they say "save a tree"; eat a beaver.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bill

It's also kinda like asking a chef ...do you farm?

I have learned politicians tend to vote for political reasons. Dean if you guys pull the trigger, make sure its a paper target and not the people of Allentown, that suffer for your new found sense of righteous indignation ... Dean you can't perfume this pig.

Let's be real here...This was another opportunity to stick it to somebody.....

I just wonder who that might be?

Anonymous said...

FYI, the $25,000 match from the city would not have even come out of the city budget. It would have been through a non-government funded grant.

Anonymous said...

Bill Leiner Jr. said...

"While we all agree that governments of all sizes are in a very difficult position (largely because of the outgoing, miserably failed Bush administration)".

Bill -

Please don't try to blame deficit spending at the state, county or city level on the Bush administration.

Put the blame exactly where it belongs - on the elected officials at each of those levels who made the choice to overspend.