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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lehigh County Comm'rs: 2009's Workhorses and Showhorses

Yesterday, I gave you my annual attendance rating for Northampton County Council members. I look at committee meetings, where the real grunt work is done. This year, for the first time, I have a similar report for Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners.

Like Northampton, Lehigh Commissioners are encouraged to participate in every committee, so it's a pretty accurate gauge of the time and effort each member devotes to government service. The committees that meet often are also a good indication of what is considered important.

Lehigh has eight standing committees, and they met a whopping 135 times last year. To give you some perspective, that's well in excess of Northampton County's total over the past four years. Here's the breakdown, committee by committee: Administrative (24 meetings, Browning - C); Cedarbrook (12 meetings, Jones - C); Development (18 meetings, McCarthy - C); General Services (19 meetings, Raber - C); Human Services (12 meetings, Hamm - C); Intergovernmental & Appointments (18 meetings, Eckhart - C); Judiciary & Corrections (18 meetings, Leiner - C); Planning (18 meetings, Roman - C).

Northampton County has no Planning Committee, which might explain why it has no idea what it will be doing next year. It also has no Comittee devoted to its nursing home, which might explain all that red ink.

Chairman Percy Dougherty has credited those committee meetings for Lehigh County's collegial commissioner meetings, which are completely unlike the circus atmosphere in the People's Republic of Northampton County.

So who are the workhorses, showhorses, jackasses and talking horses?

The workhorses

Dean Browning has that title sewed up. Not only did he attend every one of the 27 Commissioner meetings, he also attended every one of the 135 committee meetings. Now Browning is a busy guy, the Chief Financial Officer of an airline charter company, yet somehow finds the time to dedicate to the County. He's living proof of the adage that if you want something done, ask the busiest guy you know.

Commissioners Sterling Raber (121), Percy Dougherty (120) and Dan McCarthy (119) also qualify as workhorses. Raber, retiring at the end of this year, outworked seven other Council members. Dougherty had added duties as chair, and probably had a cot installed somewhere in the government center. McCarthy is a busy and successful attorney who could be seeing clients, yet obviously takes his role as Commissioner seriously.

Interestingly, these Commissioners are relatively quiet at meetings, saying what they need to say succinctly.


Gloria Hamm (100) and Bill Leiner (98) could easily be workhorses, but Hamm has been plagued by medical problems, and Leiner spends way too much time looking for feral cats in Coplay. Their records, however, are very respectable.

The Showhorses

The three most vocal members of Lehigh County's Band of Brothers (and one sister) are Glenn "Comm'r No" Eckhart (81), Andy Roman (76) and Rev. Dave Jones (64). Those dudes would fit in nicely in Northampton County. On any given Wednesday night, Eckhart might start blasting Allentown, a brooding Roman could deliver another Hamlet soliloquy and Jones could easily preach several sermons. All three are great bullshitters. Very entertaining. All three need to attend more meetings. Davey Jones' attendance record is actually just 47.4%. Now that's still a lot better than Lamont McClure's 26% in Northampton County. But Dave, you need to pick it up.


Anonymous said...

i am not sure i accept your premise in that there is any direct relationship between attendance at committee meetings and the quality of service you are providing to the public. sometime i feel that all these meetings create a lot of dissonance but no real thoughtful action.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1016, I couldn't disagree more. Grunt work and hard analysis get done on committees. If it didn't, Commissioner meetings would be all day affairs a few times per month. Candidates know this going in - if they can't make the full commitment to serve, including committee meetings, then they shouldn't run for office.

I am deeply grateful to all these people for their willingness to run for office and serve, even the ones I disagree with. Many times it's aggravating and thankless.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:16, Of course, this will be the excuse of those who won't put in the time. Chairman percy Dougherty credits committee work for smooth meetings. I have spoken to many council members in Northampton County, past and present, who make the same observation. The dissonance occurs when things are not aired out enough.

Anonymous said...

Since many of these guys don't have 9-5 jobs they can hang out all the time. I guess Bernies point is that unless you are a teacher or retired or somewhat self-employed or supper weatlhy you should not hold office.

heaven forbid we get a real person in oneof these spots.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yet another bullshit excuse. In LC, almost all of these committee meetings are conducted outside of normal business hours. NC has more mifd day meetings, but I have yet to hear a single member of Council ask that they be conducted at more convenient times.

If you do't want to put in the time, don't run.

Anonymous said...

> If you do't want to put in the time, don't run.

Salt this one away but remember, its not just the time, its the quality time. I'll be interested to observe any new commissioners in that regard, particularly based on my observations of the candidates during the election, which one, if any, put in the time.

Til then, all new commissioners deserve the benefit of the doubt, same as any other newly elected official, Obama included, I must admit.

Hillary said...

Thanks for pointing out Commissioner Eckhart's poor attendance record. Consider this: this is his attendance record during an election year. I'd venture a guess that it was much worse his first three years in office.

In fact, I tried to draw attention to the fact that he was absent for 75% of the budget hearings during his first three years in office during our campaign. I thought that given his effort to portray himself as a fiscal watchdog, this was pertinent information.

Ah well, better late than never, I suppose!

Anonymous said...

Hillary, the voters are a good judge of character, the voters in the 5th district are really intelligent people; the proof is that the majority of voters are Democrats like you, the voters rejected you, now get over it!