Northampton County mudslinging certainly follows the distinguished pattern set by The American Lion. We're about to go into an election cycle next year for county executive and council. So it's no surprise that the anonymous attacks are already starting. John Cusick, up for re-election to county council next year, was attacked Monday for his "extensive" county council travelling. Oh yeah, I'm a phony for failing to write about his junkets.
I've found out how much money has been paid to each council member for official travel over the past three years. Only three of its nine members even bothered with exciting trips to places like Harrisburg and York. Ron Angle was reimbursed $103.20 for one trip in 2005. Diane Neiper picked up $362.90 for six trips. John Cusick was paid the most, $2,228.37. But that was for thirteen trips to exotic locations like Sinking Springs. No trips to Cancun. No limos. In Cusick's case, it comes down to a whopping $171 for each trip.
In an email, Cusick explains his attendance.
When I was elected to County Council, I asked to have the budget for travel and conferences restored so that new members could attend CCAP (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania http://www.pacounties.org/ ) seminars and conferences. As a township supervisor, I had the opportunity to attend PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) seminars and conferences and found that I learned a great deal from both the presenters as well as other township officials.
Over the last three years, I have regularly attended CCAP's spring, summer, and fall meetings. I've used my personal days to attend the meetings in the fall (Hershey) and spring (Harrisburg) and my summer vacation time to attend the annual meetings (York, King of Prussia, and Seven Springs). I am a member of the CCAP Taxation and Assessment Committee which develops policy initiatives and a platform. Attendance at these meetings has afforded me the opportunity to meet and discuss issues facing county governments across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I was able to learn from Commissioners in other counties about their Health Departments (Bucks, Montgomery, Erie), Gaming issues (Erie, Monroe, Bucks), Prison expansions, Open Space programs, Reassessments, Open Records, etc. I certainly believe the subject matter I have been exposed to and the relationships I have developed through CCAP are invaluable and have made me a better County Council member. I would encourage all Commissioners and Councilmembers to attend these meetings. Lehigh County usually has several of their Commissioners at these meetings, but unfortunately, the only other Northampton County official who regularly attends is our County Executive, John Stoffa.
In addition to the CCAP meetings, I have taken classes offered thru the Academy for Excellence in County Government. This would include workshops in County Functions and Responsibilities, Financial Management, Personnel and Labor Relations, Innovative Approaches in County Government, and numerous elective credits offered at regular meetings on various topics related to County Government. Classes were usually in Harrisburg or Penn State and I was reimbursed for mileage and hotels as per county rates and policies. I've never gotten a tan anywhere I've been.
As one lady who regulary follows council said to me, "I wish they'd all go these meetings." I agree.
Last week, I published my annual report about the workhorses and showhorses on Northampton County Council. Republican John Cusick and Democrat Diane Neiper stand out as the council members who attend the most committee meetings, far more than any of their colleagues. It is no surprise to me to see that these two council members are the ones most willing to learn about county issues.