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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 08, 2010

President Ron Angle Proves Worthy

As I picked my way through ice patches on the walk from the parking garage to the Courthouse, dark clouds decorated the sky, warning of bad weather ahead. Those ominous signs were soon confirmed by the sight of about seventy union workers from Gracedale, picketing the entrance with signs saying things like "Can U Trust Northampton County?" and "Honor USW Contract."

Uh oh.

This procession of angry union workers would eventually promenade its way to Council chambers, where Ron Angle would be chairing his very first meeting as President. This had the makings of a disaster movie written all over it.

When I got to the meeting room, the place was packed with even more of these union workers, mostly nurses and social workers. They're understandably upset at a Stoffa administration that negotiated a contract, but then decided it was offering too much.

Somehow smelling blood from his bunker in downtown Easton, Express Times editor Joe Owens sprinted up the hill to see what was going on, sniffing around with his news nose. Channel 69 and another TV station had cameras whirring away, ready to witness USW members slam John Stoffa.

Ironically, Morning Call columnist Bill White was nowhere to be found. This week, he has published three articles critical of Angle's presidency, including a particularly mean-spirited blog portraying Angle as some egomaniac who uses the Royal We, something I've only rarely heard, and only when he is joking. White also frets that Angle is moving too fast and worries the County will be "stampeded" into "Anglization." Amazingly, he made these claims on Angle's third day as President, and before a single meeting was even conducted. White's absence last night is proof he'll avoid letting facts interfere with his histrionic condemnations.

Had White attended, he would have noticed that regal Ann McHale was still imperiously perched at her throne in the center of the star chamber, right below the etched glass county seal. That's where the President is usually seated, but Angle kept his old seat. He also turned over the President's private office to workhorse John Cusick. That's pretty strange behavior for a person described as an egomaniac.

When the meeting got underway with courtesy of the floor, six of the seven people who had signed in were USW members, complaining about Stoffa's decision to rescind a November agreement providing for approximately 20% raises over four years.

County councils have nothing to do with labor negotiations, a point Angle has made many times in past years. But last night, he was extremely gracious to the nurses and social workers who made the trip to the courthouse. He thanked each person who came up to the podium, and answered every question posed. He honestly explained councils have little to do with negotiation, but still made these workers feel that what they say matters. He told them of his uncle in Gracedale, and said he will likely live another 100 years because of the outstanding treatment. He readily agreed with a worker who told him, "We really do love what we do here, but feel we should be fairly compensated."

Instead of the usual jeers and catcalls, these union members were classy - probably the quitest bunch I've ever seen. I'm used to lunch mobs, but this was a nice bunch, led by union rep Jerry Green, who claims we "always have had a good relationship with Northampton County." I heard no shouting in the hallway after they were all done. That's due, in no small measure, to the courtesy with which they were received by the Council President. Angle handled them well. he treated them like human beings.

Once the meeting got underway, we were treated to the first of the "major policy shifts" that Bill White worried would be coming from the Evil One. It was a report from the County Executive. Once every two weeks, the Exec and Angle will be meeting to go over county business. And once every month, the County Executive will report to Council. Now this is a vast departure from past President Ann McHale, who actually silenced Stoffa last year when he attempted to defend a county cabinet member. I'd call it an improvement.

County Exec's Report

"Thank you for the opportunity," said John Stoffa. "I've asked for this in the past. I think it's a good thing. We can have some give and take." In his laconic style, Stoffa then told Council what is going on.

1) Sheriff's office. - Affable and professional Chris Sieger has been promoted to Chief Deputy Sheriff as a result of an interview process that included the Sheriff, Director of Administration John Conklin and Court Administrator Jim Onembo. "We have two good people leading us in that regard," reported Stoffa.

2) Gracedale. - There currently is a RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to find someone who can do a study about its future. Council members are invited to participate in the committee that does an assessment.

3) Human Resources. - Thirty applications have been received for a new Human Resources Director.

4) Windows project at Gracedale. Will probably be finished this month, ahead of schedule and under budget.

5) USW Contract at Gracedale. "I know people are unhappy. I feel bad about that. But this County is in big trouble in terms of money. I asked for a tax increase last year. I would love to give people large raises, but in 2010, the county employees who are not part of a union got a 2.25% increase. I don't see how we can go much beyond that. These are tough times, and people have to accommodate for what's available."

Lamont McClure, pandering to the audience, began to cross-examine Stoffa about Gracedale, and won a round of applause and some hoots and hollers when he noted, "I just think it's a wonderful return on a public investment. It cost you a little less than $2 million in twenty years and we're taking such wonderful care of people out there."

Newly elected Bruce Gilbert, in his maiden speech as a County Council member, eloquently poked holes in McClure's political posturing. "Do we have the right to put the taxpayers' money at risk if in five or ten years, based on economic or market conditions, we are not capable of doing so without massive tax increases? If we do not, Mr. McClure, look to the future of our county and its expenses, I think we will have failed our county overall. We do need to look at this. We do need to plan in advance. If we fail to plan, it's quite possible that it is we who will fail."

Cusick the Paperhanger

After Stoffa's report and the exchanges that followed, VP John Cusick introduced four different matters: (1) An Ordinance to devote unused bond funds to Gracedale projects; (2) An ordinance changing the make-up of the county retirement board; (3) An Ordinance repealing the tax break for the Dixie Cup project, now that the developer has decided to build apartments instead of condos; and (4) a Resolution asking Controller Steve Barron to audit the County's increasing workers' comp claims.

Surprised by all this legislation from Cusick, Angle asked, "Do you do any painting with all your paper hanging?"

Workhorse Cusick probably needs that private office for all the legislation he's drafting.


In yet another "major policy shift," Angle told Council members that committees must become much more active. He expects them all to meet at least bimonthly. He later told me he is considering adopting a plan similar to Lehigh County, where short meetings are scheduled right before a Council meeting.

Council Solicitor

Phil Lauer, serving in his first meeting as County Council solicitor, thanked everyone for their confidence in him, and told them he prays every night for Frank Flisser, County Council's Clerk.

Angle and the New Council Members

Ann McHale had to remind Angle about getting the minutes approved. He also nearly missed an item in the agenda. Other than that, he was flawless. He was courteous, humorous, allowed Council members to speak their minds fully, and dealt better with a union than any Council President I've ever seen.

Here are some of the grades I collected: B+(that was me), A, A+, B, B (that was Stoffa), B+, B+, A. That averages out to a 3.6 GPA. If this were college, he'd make the Dean's List. Of course, I neglected to ask McHale or McClure to grade Ron. I'm biased, remember?

Bruce Glbert's maiden speech was eloquent, leaving McClure speechless. Barb Thierry and Tom Dietrich were attentive but quiet, as one would expect. I'd give them all an A.

McClure is now playing Ron Angle's former role, that of Voice in the Wilderness. I'm not insulting him. We need that. As Angle has demonstrated, Voices in the Wilderness can eventually become effective.


Anonymous said...

One meeting and you want to make him Caeser, get a grip on reality Ohare. I have never seen a Council President treat the union members poorly. The worst was Dowd who allowed them to be humiliated.

Gilbert gives a generalist speech on watching the money and it leaves McClure speecheless. Are you that out of touch with reality.

Stoffa once again lied to the union as he has done in the past. Angle made it through one meeting. Wow, what a major accomplishment.

Bill White reported a fair account of your butt buddy Angle based on historical not your hysterical facts.

You are a propagandist for Angle and Stoffa and you have taken to your new enhanced responsibilities with relish. As well as some baloney to put it on.

Goebbels would be impressed by you talents.

Anonymous said...


Bernie O'Hare said...

I neglected to cover that. The meeting was webcast, but it is a dry run that will be reviewd by the IT pros to work out any kinks. The next meeting will be webcast. You will be able to see it live, and there will be a stored broadcast available, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"One meeting and you want to make him Caeser, get a grip on reality Ohare. I have never seen a Council President treat the union members poorly."

If I wanted to make him Caeser, his grade would be higher than B+. What I wanted to do was establish he ran a pretty good meeting, and that all the bashing and fretting done by White this week proved to be baseless. And he defused a ticking union bomb.

I definitely support both Angle and Stoffa, and have never hid that from anyone. A true propogandist would hide that, and pretend to be neutral.

I saw the "neutral" reporting this week. In 4 days, Angle was bashed in 2 columns, one blog, and one supposed news account in TMC.

My account, which is admittedly biased, is still more neutral than the crap I read there. It is also informed. I was there.

Anonymous said...

Angle will run the meetings just fine. The real problem is that they are pre-deciding issues at secret meetings at Republican Headquarters. Ducking in the mcall is reporting today that Cusick's proposal to revamp the Retirement Board was "discussed" privately at the secret meeting ?

Anonymous said...

When Angle was a Twp. Supervisor, he was caught by Judge Grifo violating the Sunshine Act. The Supervisors would be meeting in private before the public meetins, pre-arranging all of their decisions. Angle is going to do the same thing now that he is President of Council.

Anonymous said...

Today's Quiz. What type of personality exhibits the following traits?

1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM -- the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. His charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.

2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH -- a grossly inflated view of one's abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. These persons are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.

3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM -- an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky.

4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING -- can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.

5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS- the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one's victims.

6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT -- a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and un empathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.

7. SHALLOW AFFECT -- emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.

8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY -- a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

9. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS -- expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.

Answer: Sociopath

Anonymous said...

2 items:

What grade do you think the passengers of the Titanic would give the crew 5 minutes after they struck the iceberg? Probably an A. Does anyone not believe that there are major problems facing the county (state and nation for that matter); and am I the only who questions how long before the members of council start infighting rather than addressing those problems?

Whenever anyone remarks how polite and civil a group of adults are, just as you did with the union folks at the mtg., doesn't that speak volumes about their usual disposition? They're polite and civil . . . until they realize you will not be voting their way.

Anonymous said...

Why is Anna still sitting in the middle? Dumb bunny.

Anonymous said...

he had a good first inning. i'll withold judgment, for now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What grade do you think the passengers of the Titanic would give the crew 5 minutes after they struck the iceberg? Probably an A."

Um, I don't think so.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Angle will run the meetings just fine. The real problem is that they are pre-deciding issues at secret meetings at Republican Headquarters."

It was a poor decision to have conducted that meeting, even though it did not include a quorum of council members.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" They're polite and civil . . . until they realize you will not be voting their way."

USW was polite and civil, and had to be awatre things aren't going their way. Stoffa was very clear about that last night.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:58, I'll let experts like you and Bill White provide your psychiatric diagnosis.

What do you call someone who attacks another person anonymously?


Bernie O'Hare said...

"he had a good first inning. i'll withold judgment, for now."

Yes, he did. And so did the county, for once.

Anonymous said...

The freedom to publish anonymously extends beyond the literary realm. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all." Even the arguments favoring the ratification of the Constitution advanced in the Federalist Papers were published under fictitious names. On occasion, quite apart from any threat of persecution, an advocate may believe her ideas will be more persuasive if her readers are unaware of her identity. Anonymity thereby provides a way for a writer who may be personally unpopular to ensure that readers will not prejudge her message simply because they do not like its proponent. Thus, even in the field of political rhetoric, where "the identity of the speaker is an important component of many attempts to persuade," The most effective advocates have sometimes opted for anonymity. There is a respected tradition of anonymity in the advocacy of political causes. This tradition is perhaps best exemplified by the secret ballot, the hard won right to vote one's conscience without fear of retaliation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am expressing my First Amendment right to claim that a person who attacks another person anonymously is a coward. And that's what you are.

Chris Casey said...

Come on Bernie, cut Bill White some slack. He isn't hiding his opinion, and Ron's past is fair game. I wish the Anons would lay off the personal attacks and stick to the issues. I don't agree with many of Bernie's opinions, but the important thing is he offers n alternative perspective to the State sanctioned spoon fed drivel you see in local media. You can argue that it is no better, but it sure makes for interesting conversation. I wish I had the energy to get to as many public meetings and report on them like Bernie and some other bloggers do.
At least Bernie isn't loading up his comments with non existent faux identities making comments that tell him how right he is.
Oh Christ, does defending Bernie make me a "turd Baseman?" There I go breaking the Law as ruled by the Lord of North Allentown again.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I don't really know Bill White like you do, except for a few chats here and there. My impression is that he is a good writer, but more importantly, a good person. I still feel that way. But I will always feel that the way Bill bashed Angle in the days after he was named President, was really rotten. His bad faith is further evidenced by his failure to show up at Ron's first council meeting as president.

I am well aware that Ron is an easy target, but 4 reports in 4 days is beyond the pale.

Thanks, by the way, for defending my right to stick up for my friend, as you are sticking up for yours/

Anonymous said...

Yeah Ohare, like the way Angle has attacked people over his years of terror in public office. He is a human landfill and his poison is still out there.

The newspapers know his history even if you pretend it doesn't exist. I don't recall your concern when Bill White would run endless Reibman attacks.

Anonymous said...

Angle is running for Grucela's seat. he is the odds on favorite to beat anyonne in that district.

Chris Casey said...

I would love to see Ron Angle run against Charles Dertinger for Rich Grucela's seat, though I thought Ron lived in Craig Dally's old district. The debates alone could be sold on Pay per view!

Fly on the Wall said...

There is an old political antidote that I think is very timely,

“When a public body wishes to shut up a trouble maker, put him in charge”

Anonymous said...

This all misses the point. Angle's behavior at meetings is not an issue. Anyone who isn't a lunatic spends five minutes watching him knows that he is a human circus. The problem with Angle is what he does behind the scenes - in secret. Like at the secret meeting he just had to organize a hostile take over the Pension Board.

Anonymous said...

You mean Angle didn't make personal attacks like he did on union members in the past? Play the audio O'Hare. You know the one where Angle is name calling the union workers. Yeah that one. Give him time he will flip his lid.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I was at that meeting and am the person who recorded the audio and write it up. I know exactly what happened. Angle was defending our form aof government againt mob rule by union thugs encouraged by McHale, McClure & Dertinger.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, Ron is in Chris' district but won't be running.

Anonymous said...

Defending our form of gov. does not include name calling and personal attacks. His position on council naturally comes with people not agreeing with him. That is part of the job. It will be even greater with his new post. It still does not excuse his actions at that meeting, and it told me all I needed to know about the man.

Anonymous said...

Those union workers have ever reason to be upset. They came to an agreement on a contract and then your boy Stoffa backed out. Get ready for a price tag far higher to fight the ULP than the wages that were AGREED to. How does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

You are to commended for the time and energy put into this blog and your sincere interest in public affairs.

The last exchange above really gets to the heart of the matter. You are correct. Issues alone merit discussion and debate. However sometimes issues and personalities become inextricably intertwined.

There seems to be two competing camps and views in this matter.

Both likely would agree that the new Council President has a history of mean spirited, vicious, personal attacks upon those who happen to disgree with him about any issue. Usually the opponent is described as stupid, corrupt or controlled by others. These personal attacks on opponents are undoubtedly made in the firm belief that the public interest is being served.

One camp believes that this past standard practice should be ignored or excused because of the intelligence and talent that he indeed brings to the forum on important issues.

The other camp views the past behavior as inexcusable under any circumstance and even more importantly that the cumulative effect of discourse based on personal attack tends to corrode and ultimately destroy the particular body on which he serves.

It is that consequence which you seem to ignore in your overall analysis.

How would a public body function if every member acted in the fashion for which he is known? Ultimately you would have scenes seen only on TV of overseas legislators attacking one another at the podium.

You are in the camp that excuses or justfies past behavior believing that it ultimately promotes the greater public good. That clearly is your right.

There are just as many people who find such past conduct to be deplorable and a detriment to the greater public good.

When you criticize Bill White for his "mean spirited" column,you surely must appreciate how humorous and ironic many find your comment to be.

Anonymous said...

Very intelligent reply 12:29, I have seen Angle at his worst and best. I find his best is not nearly as compelling as his worst. In other words he brings nothing to the table in government that is worth his destructive qualities.

Ohare has often admitted he is biased and this post shows that. I believe the problem lies in the notion that Ohare always seeks the "truth" and claims he endeavors to get the "facts". This is not entirely true.
Much like the new "Limbaugh type" journalism, he takes bits and pieces of truth and leaves out those elements that detract from his preconceived premise. He praises and attacks using the facts that work, embellished with the right rumors and opinion.

Angle and Stoffa in Northampton County are two such political examples. Dertinger and McClure are two others.

Certainly Angles behavior this year, has so far involved secret meetings to discuss leadership of Council, Council Solicitorship and issues of great importance that now have many wondering if public discussion will merely be window dressing.

In Bernies defense I will say this. The media shares blame for Angle. When it wanted to get someone ,like Reibman for example, or wanted ratings in print or on TV shows it featured Angle. The media used him when it suited their purposes knowing full well the monster they were indulging.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:29,

1) The Irony of a Someone Like Me Criticizing Someone Like Bill White and TMC.

I understand how ironic it must seem for someone like me, who Bill White has accurately called to as a "bombastic blogger," to criticize the MC. Don't I do the same thing?

Yes and no. No question that here are some elected officials who bother me. My criticism of them may actually be more severe than what Bill writes. But I would not, within 4 days of one of them being elected mayor or council member or President, write a series of 4 negative articles about that person. I have standards, damn it. I'd give that person at least one day to bask in the sun.

The MC's "news story" about Angle's election, was a negative slam, accenting his negatives over his positives. Bill White's 2 columns about Ron were extemely negative, and the blog was just mean-spirited. Taken in totality, the MC Story along with White's condemnations, were unfair.

(2) Does Ron's Neagtive Style as Councilman Mean He'll have a Similar Style as President?

The evidence that exists so far directly rebuts that. That's just the way it is.

(3) Is an abrasive and bombastic council member necessarily bad?

You seem to think so. I don't. We need those voices in the wilderness.

Ron has called people corrupt, and sometimes, they've ended up in jail.

I admit, I sometimes cringe when he goes on one of his tirades. But that's democracy. It's supposed to be sloppy. People are supposed to expres themselves, and Ron does that. You will not be wondering where he stands on a given issue.

If you find this distasteful, you would never have made it thru the American revolution.

Our councils and commissioners and supervisors should try to work together, should refrain from partisanship, but also need to express themselves honestly. They're not elected to do the minuet.

Ron could find a way to do it more diplomatically, to be sure, but it is important that he speak out when he sees an injustice.

Anonymous said...

By the way Bernie, the new Chief Deputy Sheriff is Christopher Zieger, not Sieger. Get it right!

Anonymous said...

Bill's had fun with Angle for years. He's being perfectly consistent. The number of columns is simply a reflection of having hit the journalistic jackpot when Ron was made prez.

There's nothing to see here, except a little thin skin.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Usually when people tell me "there's nothing to see here," there's plenty to see here.

Anonymous said...

You always say," there's nothing to see here" when it involves Stoffa and scandal.

Do you live by your own bullshit Ohare!