This is not your typical slate belt crowd. For one thing, most of them still have their teeth. For another, some of them still have a New York accent. These are the folks who moved into $600,000 McMansions in two exclusive developments that happen to be pretty close to the site of this proposed detention center. "Not in my back yard," were the exact words used by one of them, John Altieri, who complained he didn't move here for this kind of nonsense.
This proposed detention center, which would be owned by prison giant GEO, would produce 500 permanent and 350 construction jobs in an area that was economically depressed before we went into recession. That might not matter much to people who hop into their luxury sedans for the daily commute into the Big Apple, but it means something to those looking for a job. A hoosegow might also consume too much water, or expose residents to unnecessary risks.
One thing is clear. It's too early in this process for someone to say Yes or No to this center.
But that's what happened. The Northampton County Bulldog, identified as the public face of the Privatize Gracedale movement, is unwilling to tangle with the Beemers and Mercedes from within his own Council District. Unlike Napoleon and the American Army, Ron Angle is unwilling to fight a war on two fronts, especially as Upper Mount Bethel Supervisors go into hiding and he ends up being identified as the face of Prison Town.
Although he'll deny this, he cut bait. He backed away from a project that I'm sure he supports because he fears it will cost him votes in an election year. He sponsored and even read a resolution in which the County goes into reverse gear on any agreement with Immigration.
I seriously doubt he helped himself.
Speakers railed against Prison Town for 1 1/2 hours. Angle addressed one of their leaders, a woman who insinuated that Angle had been paid or offered a consulting job with GEO.
"I tried to call you. Your number is not in the book."
"That's right," replied Miss Snob.
"Well my number is in the book. You can call me anytime."
"No thank you," replied Miss Snob.
Even though he reversed course and did exactly what they wanted, he's still a cunterman in her eyes. He's a multi-millionaire, but in her eyes, he's still poor white trash. He might have been the brightest person in that room last night, but in her eyes, he's an uneducated oaf. And while he's spent countless hours trying to bring jobs to the slate belt, she's been spending her money in New York City. In fact, next election day, most of these complainers will climb into their Big-Ass SUVs and head into Manhattan with little regard the locals.
The sole member of Council to refuse to reverse himself is Bruce Gilbert. He voted four weeks ago to enable Upper Mount Bethel Township to decide whether they wanted that detention center. It was a first step, requested by Supervisors who appeared at the meeting. Gilbert saw no reason to rescind some generic agreement that every other County already has with Immigration.
Now the McMansions are safe, but the slate belt will continue to have high unemployment and it's increasingly unlikely that GEO is willing to go through a buzzsaw when two other Counties are begging them to do business.
Both The Morning Call and Express Times have detailed, and far more objective, accounts.