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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

LV Health Comm'n Needs More Deputies

When the Lehigh Valley Health Commission met on June 3, it was only for 92 seconds. That's because Northampton County Council failed to supply a quorum. Lamont McClure decided to boycott the meeting, but never bothered telling anyone. Charles Dertinger claimed the dog ate his email notifying everyone of his absence.

And so on.

Aside from a few health care professionals, nobody was there, not even the press.

But at the rescheduled meeting in Peanutville last night, the house was packed. A TV camera whirred in the front of the conference room. Reporters anxiously took notes, and a photographer gave his flashbulb a workout. Around forty vocal spectators were on hand, too, along with a deputy sheriff ready to shoot anyone who misbehaved.

This time, Northampton County Council was able to produce a quorum. Six of its nine council members actually showed up. Eight of nine Lehigh County Commissioners were on hand as well. Northampton County Exec John Stoffa quietly took a seat.

As expected, the LV Health Board's initial budget was overwhelmingly adopted, with only Ron Angle dissenting. Just as important, a financial intermediary was unanimously authorized to accept a $1 million grant from the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and the Two Rivers Health & Wellness Foundation.

But the real story is the contrast between two county legislatures, seated at opposite sides of the room, sometimes glaring at each other. Lehigh County Commissioners were cordial and professional, but were clearly put off by what they saw from their neighbors to the East. Northampton County Council certainly lived up to its reputation as the most dysfunctional legislature in the Lehigh Valley.

I was very proud.

An exasperated Percy Dougherty at one point threatened to have a petulant Ron Angle removed. Big mistake, Percy. Shadtown always beats the shit out of Peanutville. Sure, a Deputy Sheriff was ready to spring into action. He even had his revolver. But Angle would have rolled him. For one thing, Ron wears bulletproof vests whenever he visits downtown Allentown. For another, he's been working out a lot at the Y lately. Finally, I'm not sure he's human. Once, Hickey accidentally ran him over at 70 mph. Ron's skin broke open and it was all titanium underneath. You just don't want to mess with that.

The highlight of the evening has to be the roll call vote on the budget.

Clerk: "We will vote on the adoption of an initial budget for the Lehigh Valley Board of Health."

Commissioners Dean Browning, Glenn Eckhart, Gloria Hamm, Dave Jones, Bill Leiner, Dan McCarthy, Sterling Raber and Percy Dougherty all answered with one word - "Yes." Very nice.
Clerk: "We have eight votes in favor from the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners."

"Councilperson McHale?"

McHale: "Yes."

Clerk: "Councilperson Angle?"

Angle: "No."

Clerk: "Councilperson Capozzolo?"

Capozzolo: "I have a question on this vote. Does this have to be five votes? Am I like the guy in the middle ..."

Dougherty: "Yes you are."

Dertinger: "Yes."

Capozzolo: "... because I don't think that's really fair."

(Audience starts laughing.)

Dougherty: "That's why you get the big bucks."

Capozzolo: "What would Mr. Grube [Capozzolo's predecessor] do if he was here?"

Angle: "He wouldn't have come over to Lehigh County." [Audience starts laughing again.] "Mrs. McHale, you'll agree with that."

McHale: "Yes."

Angle: "He wouldn't have came [sic] here."

Ferraro: "It moves the process forward so we can get information. It's not ...."

Angle: "It grows a life of its own."

[At this point, Angle, Ferraro, several other council members and various members of the audience begin talking at the same time. Commissioner Leiner's jaw drops to the table.]

Dougherty: "It's a yes, a no, or abstain. No discussion."

Capozzolo: "I'm going to abstain."

Ferraro: "Come on, Yes. Come on, we need a Yes or it's gonna' die. We worked for twenty years , I've been thinking about a health bureau. And we just, we just, it's not fair ..."

[Audience members begin yelling at Capozzolo to vote yes. "Come on, it's the people's health." Once again, several people are talking at the same time. Jones reaches for his bible while Browning passes a flask to Hamm. One nurse menacingly pulls out a syringe.]

Capozzolo: "All right, I'll vote Yes."

[Audience applauds.]

Clerk: "Councilperson Cusick?"

Cusick: "Aye." [Hey, it's better than "present."]

Clerk: "Councilperson Dertinger?"

Dertinger: "Yes."

Clerk: "Councilperson Ferraro?"

Ferraro: "Yes, with pleasure."

During a roll call vote, Northampton County Council members repeatedly interrupt each other. Even the audience gets into the act. Capozzolo votes to abstain, then changes his mind after a browbeating by Ferraro and all the nurses in the room.

I'm not sure what the hell happened, but I doubt Lehigh County Commissioners will ever be the same. Several were reportedly hospitalized. No wonder we need a public health bureau.
Update: The Morning Call and Express Times both have informative, well-written accounts of last night's meeting.


Anonymous said...

Between Angle, the Council and the Longdems, Rendell has issued an official proclamation making Northampton County part of West Virginia.

Anonymous said...

The first step in bankrupting the homeowners of the Lehigh Valley. Cap should have had the courage to tell the shouting audiance, you want a multi-million dollar Health Department fine, I move we put it on a referendum for the public.

The $$$hungry proponents don't want the people voting on this.

Anonymous said...

Ringling Brothers and Barnum/Bailey Circus are currently auditioning for clowns. All Northampton County Council will be given priority for experience.

And Ann McHale wanted to show her leadership skills by running for County Executive. LMFAO. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon!"

Anonymous said...

Why does Angle have to be indignant? I support his opposition, but his behavior is embarassing to the County as a whole. And you make light of his behavior BO? For what purpose? Prose or politics?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 4:04 is correct, what a fiscal tragedy for the taxpayers. oh well, perhaps they can pass around some of their rubber stamps from the lanta board. the taxpayers first reward is rendell wanting to raise their personal income tax half a point.
it's also sad how these foundations get away from their intended mission, i.e., the trexler trust is now a financial arm of the pawlowski administration, although it was meant to maintain the park system. the pool foundation was meant to support the lehigh valley hospital
boards change, certain members dominate, and the foundations may end up indulging in activity which is actually counter-productive to their intended role.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why does Angle have to be indignant? I support his opposition, but his behavior is embarassing to the County as a whole. And you make light of his behavior BO? For what purpose? Prose or politics?"

Were you there? He was petulant, to be sure. He was divisive. He hurt his own cause.

But Percy did blow it by threatening to toss him. I doubt he had that authority. I can giarantee you it would be tested bc Angle would never leave voluntarily. I also think Joe Cap would have walked out with Angle, leaving that body with less than a quorum.

I do make light of the situation, probably for purposes both of prose and politics.

But council and audience members who interrupted a roll call vote and got Joe Cap to change his mind, probably committed a bigger breach of rules of order. I hate when discussions carry into roll call votes. But that was more popular.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 4:04, MM,

Yu may both be right, but we don't know that until the LV Health Board comes up w/ a plan. Lots of things can sink it. But it's hard to argue w/ public health as a concept.

Anonymous said...

NorCo is in better financial shape than LC, where everybody smiles and gets along. I'm glad Angle is attempting to inject fiscal sanity.

Anonymous said...

I think Joe Cap actually said "I will NOT abstain". But the crowd was yelling too loud. Who needs tv?- a real Slater

Bernie O'Hare said...

I wasn't certain myself util I listened to the tape. When Cap tried to abstain, Peg and the audience worked him over.

Anonymous said...

The smartest thing said at the meeting was said by Mr. Angle..It grows a life of its own!! We continually are being told that it's not a committment. We are just pushing this nightmare along to see how it will work. That's bullcrap. I'll tell you how it will work. The state, who's broke by the way, will promise to pay all of the bills. They eventually will renig as they have on Human Service and education funding and the county taxpayers will get screwed in the process. It is a big mistake to take it this far and a bigger mistake to carry it on. Northampton county Council needs to tell lehigh county to stick this proposal where the sun don't shine.

Anonymous said...

Angle's passion can be misplaced at times but it isn't on this issue. I applaud his courage for going into the lion's den last night and telling the lion he has no teeth. Because he's right!!
This is a bad idea that needs to be stopped dead in it's track.

Anonymous said...

It's really sad that Joe Cap got worked over and bullied into voting for something he didn't really support. I'll tell you how Wayne grube would have voted..He would have said, Hell, no! Stick to your guns Joe. I'm sure there are at least 4 other Norco council members who are smart enough to resist all of this pressure for a bad idea gone wild.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron and Lamont have stated their opposition. Who are the other two?

Anonymous said...

"If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."

P.J. O'Rourke

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, you wrote;
"But it's hard to argue w/ public health as a concept."

that's the problem, it becomes a politically correct sacred cow. here in allentown the bureau had taken on a life of it's own, becoming one of the biggest city bureau's in both personnel and budget. i bought some public awareness to that situation in 05, and it since has been reigned in. does lehigh and northampton county want to provide free universal health care? i can assure you we will become the health problem mecca if this happens. these progressives love us to be a destination, no matter what it cost us taxpayers.

Bernie O'Hare said...


It is hard to argue w/ public health as a concept. It will save lives.

Here's a question that arose last night - do city tax dollars pay for the A-town Health Department? All taxpayers are alreasy paying for a health department out of our state taxes. So we are already funding health departments elsewhere. But if this is a growing bureaucracy, as you claim, then how much city revenue is spent on it. No one could answer that question last night. Can you?

If it develops that not a nickel of city $ is being spent, then you're being pretty silly. if it develops that city tax dollars are spent, you have a point.

Anonymous said...

You are right. Ron and LaMont have stated their opposition and I'd guess that Joe isn't supportive. I know some of the candidates for Neiper's seat that are being mentioned, including Ron Heckman, are not in favor of this health department. Bethlehem has a very good health department which city residents are pleased with so I can't imagine Anne mChale being thrilled with the idea of going to a weak county department. It appears that Stoffa is the only one really gung ho about the idea. Why? Who knows?

Anonymous said...

I thought he said "I WON"T abstain" also, but I don't have a tape. I thought he said that right before he said "One of these times I'm going to vote NO." You're right, if he changed his vote after yelling from the audience, that's a little shaky.

Anonymous said...

This is the funniest story on your blog yet, and you didn't have to make it up!

Anonymous said...

YOu forgot to mention everyone rolling their eyes at McHale's repeated dumb questions that had nothing to do with the vote, until Dougherty started to wave her away, shutting her up and keeping to the issue at hand. THat was funny too. Dougherty's now qualified to run a kindergarten after last night.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, I made up the Bible and flask bit, but the rest is accurate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I thought he said "I WON"T abstain" also, but I don't have a tape. I thought he said that right before he said "One of these times I'm going to vote NO." You're right, if he changed his vote after yelling from the audience, that's a little shaky."

I remember the part in which Cap said that one of these days, he's gonna' vote no. That came during the second or third vote on other matters. The tape is pretty clear. But sitting there last night, I could not be sure bc everyone was talking at the same time.

Maybe Angle altered my tape.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It appears that Stoffa is the only one really gung ho about the idea. Why?"

Stoffa spent a career in Human Services, so he has an appreciation of our many needs. He believes government exists to help people. If public health can be funded w/ no real estate tax dollars, it will help save lives.

Stoffa approaches questions by asking, "What is the right thing to do?" If you take that approach as opposed to political expedience, you remain internally consistent and people respect that.

Like Stoffa, Angle is also interested in doing the right thing. but he views government as evil and will work against any effort to increase its size.

They both are following their conscience. I suppose I lean towards Stoffa's view, but I want to see that plan.

McClure's opposition appears to be driven by political expedinece, but I may be wrong. He opposes public health, but supports universal health care. That makes no sense to me. I think he is trying to appeal to too many voters instead of following his conscience. I may be wrong. His opposition may be principled as well.

You can count on McHale to do whatever suits her best.

As far as Ron Heckman goes, I'd be very surprised to see him aginst this automatically. It appears to be inconsistent w/ everything I know about him.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't appear to me that Stoffa is the only one "gung-ho" about this, considering Ferraro's remarks and the civil way in which all the Lehigh C people voted yes without turning the meeting into a Jerry Springer show like their neighbors. But it Stoffa IS the only one gungho about it, that might say something. As the only person in the room who was once Director of Human Services for both counties, he is the most knowledgable.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd agree that Stoffa is probably the most knowledgable layman in the room. I learned after the meeting that Don Cunningham was pushing for a regionalized approach to public health back when he wss Bethlehem's mayor.

Stoffa is joined by Ferraro, Dertinger and Rev. Dowd on this issue. I was surprised that Peg felt that strongly and was willing to get vocal about it. Rev. Dowd has always supported this idea, but ironically has had some health issues. I hope he's starting to feel better.

Anonymous said...

Will this be a relief for Sacred Heart Hospital? That bears the brunt of the Valley's uninsured?

Anonymous said...

One of Mr. Angle's (many)illogical arguments focus on the fact that the people from the Slate Belt won't get as many services as the people from Bethlehem and Allentown.

1)Are they currently getting as many mental health, mental retardation, aging, transportation, children and youth, recreational, weights and measurements, vector control and other county funded services? If he is going to hold the Board of Health to these standards, shouldn't all county services be held to those standards?

The question is rhetorical. Of course the County cannot assure this. Fair does not always mean equal. Services need to be provided proportionally based on need and population.

2)Right now, people in the Slate Belt are getting very few (if any) public health services provided in a very fragmented manner. The number of efficient, evidence-based public health services provided by even a fledgling public health department in the Slate Belt area will be significantly greater than the people are receiving now.

If you break Mr. Angle's arguments into specific areas that can be discussed/debated in a civil manner, you see they hold no water. As Mr. Jones pointed out last night, they are merely meant to use fear of the unknown to stand in the way of enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:52

Public health is not free care for the poor. Public health looks at the community wide issues that make us sick. Why are there so many cases of asthma? Why are there so many babies born at low birth weight? Why are cancer rates higher than average? What can we do to improve the health of everyone in our community, no matter what their income is?

Will hospitals benefit from less people with chronic diseases? Yes. So will employers, local government, businesses, civic organizations, family members, neighborhoods, etc.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 1:26, perhaps our profitable hospitals, such as lehigh valley and st. lukes, can step up to the plate for those public services. sacred heart can't, their on their knee's because of the surrounding demographics of their location. allentown health bureau provided immunization, nurses for teenage mothers, and so on. are you with renew lv? do you really believe a county health bureau will provide an insight on cancer or low baby weight? are we going to be paying for research scientists?

bernie, all these bureau's say their funded 60% etc. from grants. 1. the grants are my money also 2. what happens when the grant pipeline slow down?

the working man already gets paid less because his employer is paying for his health insurance, or he pays it himself. now he should pay for a service that he doesn't use or want?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You did not answer my question. Is Allentown's health department funded by city tax revenue or not? That's an important consideration when deciding on a regional health department.

As far as grant money from private foundations go, that is NOT your money. It is theirs, to do with as they wish.

Every citizen in the commw is already being taxed for a health department, but only some get it. I have no problem in seeing state tax revenue pay for a regional health department. I do have a problem if real estate tax revenue is used for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

I've spoken to Heckman about this. His concerns are similar to Angle's . As a former Director of Human Services he realizes alot that the state promises alot and actually end up delivering much less. Secondly, if memory serves me right he simply feels there is no great need to push it. Bethlehem assists the county if there are any major issues.Lastly any monies used by this Bi County health department, whether they be taxpayer dollars or casino dollars as I believe stoffa once suggested,
are dollars that Human Services need and won't receive because they'll be going to a health department. Heckman is very deliberate in his thinking on this and makes sense. In the end, if this is all paid for by the Gods in heaven and not by county taxpayers or by Casino money than hell yes let's get one or maybe three. The odds of this happening however are somewhat less than zero..Angle is right on this!

Anonymous said...

Who cares what Heckman thinks?

michael molovinsky said...

Bernie, in 2005 about 60% of the health budget was taxdollars. They defended their hugeness by claiming taxpayers only provided part of their budget, hence getting much more bang for their dollars, but this excluded in kind expenses, such as the large building space they occupied. why would you think that department had no cost to taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

Everybody should wait to see how Obamacare works out. There are just too many questions and a rush to do the dreaded, "something." Everybody relax and take a deep breath.

Bill Leiner Jr. said...

Bernie, All the feral cats in Coplay have been spayed and/or neutered. The Coplay Town Watch Feral Cat Committee under the distinguished leadership of Dennis Gery, chair have spayed/neutered 73 ferals in Coplay. The Coplay ferals are now well behaved. I wish I could say the same for NorCo Council. The Coplay Ferals are better behaved. Bill

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill, I just spit out my coffee!

True, LC Comm'rs are a model of good government, thanks in no small measure to pecy Dougherty. But on the bright side, our meetings are a lot more entertaining and much easier to describe.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, I don't mean to a pain in the ass about this, but I don't know whether these tax dollars are real estate tax revenue or state taxes. I am going to find out from both local health departments. If they are funded 60% by state tax dollars, I'd tend to consider them well worth it. But if they are funded by the state tax dollars plus city real estate tax revenue, it's not so hot.

Anonymous said...

Health Bureau advocates benefited from the hard work of Charles Dertinger. Congratulations Charles. You fight to protect open space and farmland. You fight to protect the dignity and livlihoods of county employees and you believe in the fight to protect public health. It's no wonder you are the top vote getter. Wayne would be proud !

Anonymous said...

During all this mayhem, did Dertinger start waving around LVR comment printouts and lecturing the Lehigh County Commissioners?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Charles Dertinger!

Anonymous said...

Charles is the answer to everything.

Anonymous said...

Charles in Charge!

Anonymous said...

No need for a County Council when we have CHARLES! He is responsible for everything good and holy in the County!

Anonymous said...

The Health Department is a hoax. Also if it had been anyone but Angle being a jackass, O'Hair would be all over him. Again your double standard.
Angle should have been crated off, he is a disgrace to Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

A shell game. All will be revealed as time passes.

This is ultimately for the benefit of a small group of people.

Watch the hospitals. All emphasis on the bi county authority while Sacred Heart goes down the toilet.

Maybe that is not as tragic as it is intentional.

Anonymous said...

"Once, Hickey accidentally ran him over at 70 mph"

accident my ass

Anonymous said...

Angle is a wuss one on one. In front of a crowd and with cops around he is the big man.
It was funny how he ran like a little girl from Severson.


LBT said...

To: "The $$$hungry proponents...." You can thank Ron Angle for it not going out for referendum. Lehigh Health Commission had nothing to do with that. Angle moaned and groaned so much about it that Act 315 (Local Health Adm. Law) changed to satisfy him. He wanted total control over the Bi-County HD moving forward or dying. Health Commission would rather have the people voting on it. Blame Angle......it was all his doing....

LBT said...

Bernie, I think I can answer your question regarding whether real estate taxes will be used to fund a County HD. I just finished my Master's degree in Public Health; my thesis was on the Bi-County HD initiative. Here is what I've learned through my research: Currently when a County and/or City develops a Health Department or a Health Bureau (as with Bethlehem and Allentown) they use the following money to fund it: Matching Act 315 funds ($6.00 per capita), grants, fee-based revenues (licenses, etc), and "local or county tax income". Now is that "local/county" tax from real estate? I don't think so, from what I have learned. Also, these "local/county" taxes make up about 10-20% (max) of the total Health Department budget. It's my understanding that these taxes do not come from the real estate tax that we pay. Thank you for understanding and knowing that we already pay for a HD that we are not getting. Many, many people in NC do not understand this.....