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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Debate in the Slate Keeps Getting Better

If I were to declare a winner at last night's "Debate at the Slate" among Northampton County judicial and council candidates, it would have to be host Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens. This group regularly conducts the best debates I've ever seen. This year was no exception. There were no cage matches. They usually only hold them when Ron Angle is running. Instead, an innovative format consisted of carefully prepared individual questions on index cards. Office seekers would draw these questions by lot. Of course, candidates were given an opportunity to question each other. Audience participation was also encouraged. County council candidates were actually given a pop quiz, in which challengers had to write down how many meetings they've attended and incumbents had to estimate how much time they devote to the job.

Judicial Race: (Craig Dally, in Harrisburg for the state budget, was unable to attend)

Judicial candidate Michael Koury was asked whether, at age 41, he's too young for the job. He pointed to a tradition of electing young judges in Northampton County, and noted that Judges Franciosa, Williams, Grifo and Freedberg were all younger than him when they started.

Judge Zito was asked why people should vote for a jurist who must retire at age 70 and is unable to serve a full term. Zito acknowledged he must step down, but can continue to serve as a senior judge.

Barb Hollenbah was asked why a successful lawyer with an active practice would want a job that involves a paycut. She answered that she considers a judgeship the "epitome of her legal career.

When asked if the candidates had any questions for each other, Judge Zito jokingly asked why Ann Dally, sitting in for her husband, was spared questions. "I already have all the answers," deadpanned Mrs. Dally.

They were a congenial bunch and each of them did well. I was particularly impressed by Barb Hollenbach, whose sense of humor and down-to-earth style was very disarming. As a matter of full disclosure, I should note that I graduated from law school with her.

I was able to shoot video clips of these candidates, and will load them on Friday or Saturday, so you can evaluate them for yourself.

Council candidates:

Ten candidates are running for five open seats, including three already held by Peg Ferraro, John Cusick and Charles Dertinger. All ten candidates said they would continue to honor the half mill set in taxes set aside by Exec John Stoffa for open space. The incumbents estimated they spend between twenty and thirty hours per month on their council position, outside of the meetings. The challengers claim the following meeting attendance: Garvin - 20; Wallace - 8; Thiery - 6-7; Dietrich -4-5; Hunter - 6, Gilbert -3; and Pasquale -0.

Naturally, everyone hates the idea of a 9.3% tax hike, but only Barb Thiery and Bruce Gilbert were willing to consider cutting jobs to prevent higher tax bills. The rest were a bit more circumspect, noting that some jobs can't be cut. .

Express Times Reporter Douglas Brill has a thorough report with answers to individual questions. As with the judicial candidates, I have lots of video. I will load links to these clips on Friday or Saturday, so you can see and listen to the candidates yourself.

Bruce Gilbert is clearly head and shoulders above the ten candidates who participated last night, including the incumbents. His understanding of finance is downright scary. Lorraine Pasquale is just as clearly the weakest contender, with no job, a botched answer to an important question about pension funds and, by her own admission, a refusal to go to meetings so she could learn about county issues.

I did ask Charles Dertinger about his Tuesday grand jury appearance over deceptive campaign practices. "Don't the voters deserve to know why you were before a statewide grand jury yesterday?" He responded by attacking me and, for some reason, Ron Angle.


Anonymous said...

Good for Charles. You and Angle only want to play for the lowest common denominator.

You boys are a joke.

Anonymous said...

Eventhough, he is from Astoria, Charles Dertinger is one of the most honorable people I've ever met. And, he is the MOST honorable politician I've ever known. Charles is honest and he is a decent family man.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Gilbert is by far the best of the bunch. I think he is one who would actually TRY to do something about the size, scope of and cost of government, rather than just put patches on the problem.

Angle's no dummy, but he gets in his own way too often. He could use a more polished ally like Bruce to further the cause.

Anonymous said...

Charles is under investigation for campaign fianance fraud. He has a lot of money that he cannot account for and he hang around with some really sleazy people and we KNOW that they have been indicted for the same thing. Where there is smoke...

Anonymous said...

I love Bruce Gilbert but I'm sure he'll be labeled an Uncle Tom by the compassionate left and summarily dismissed. We should be so lucky as to have someone of his timber fixing what is clearly broken in NorCo. The snide comment about his lack of circumspection aside, thanks for a mostly fair and detailed account.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He was quite impressive last night. I also was impressed by Deb Hunter. I believe Bruce will win if he campaigns.

Anonymous said...

So Anon 4:34, you really think Bruce can fix the screwed up County finances that Stoffa has given us?