Friday, December 17, 2010

NorCo Council: Workhorses, Showhorses & No-showhorses of 2010

Since I first started blogging in 2006, I've been keeping track of the attendance records of Northampton County Council members. This includes their participation in Committees, where most of the grunt work is done. That's how you can tell the showhorses from the workhorses. And it's easy to spot a no-show horse. He's usually someone who's great at pandering, but disappears when it's time to do the heavy-lifting.

Attendance is a good indication whether an elected official actually gives a damn. And what I like about this kind of rating is that it is objective. It makes no difference whether he's a Democrat or a Republican. He either cares enough to be there or he does not.

Northampton County Council met 26 times last year. Three members - Ron Angle, Tom Dietrich & Bruce Gilbert - had a perfect attendance record. Two members - John Cusick & Barb Thierry - had near prefect records, having missed only one meeting. Two members - Ann McHale & Lamont McClure - missed six meetings. McClure actually missed three consecutive meetings this summer and never explained his absence for any but the first missed meeting. Essentially, he was missing in action for six weeks straight. Peg Ferraro only attended 18 of Council's 26 meetings this year, but advised Council that she was recuperating from knee replacement surgery.

In addition to the Council meetings, there are seven standing committees. These are Economic Development (Mike Dowd - C); Finance (Ron Angle - C); Human Services (Tom Dietrich - C); Intergovernmental Affairs (Peg Ferraro - C); Legal, Judicial & Operations (Lamont McClure - C); Personnel (Ann McHale - C); and Open Space (John Cusick - C). Every Council member is encouraged to attend every Committee meeting, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. In addition to individual attendance, the committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members.

As might be expected, Finance heads that list. In addition to being chaired by the Council President, which itself is unusual, that committee met ten times during 2010, and some of those were lengthy meetings. Personnel was hot on Finance's heels, with 9 meetings. Other committees conducting meetings were Economic Development (7), Human Services (6) and Open Space (2).

McClure's Legal and Ferraro's Intergovernmental failed to meet at all. They also failed to meet in 2009. In fact, Intergovernmental has met just once in the last 5 years. For a County that claims regionalism is a top priority, that's a bit strange.

Standing Committees met a total of 21 times, and Council member attendance is as follows: Cusick (21); Dietrich (21); Dowd (20); Thierry (15); Angle (14); McHale (14); Bruce Gilbert (13); Ferraro (10); and McClure (0). McClure failed to attend a single committee meeting, something I have never seen in the five yers I've been maintaining these attendance records.

Combining both committee and council attendance, the ratings are as follows: (1) Tom Dietrich (47 - 100% attendance); (2) John Cusick (46 - 98% attendance); (3) Mike Dowd (40 - 94% attendance); (4) Ron Angle (40 - 85% attendance); (4) Barb Thierry (40 - 85% attendance); (6) Bruce Gilbert (39 - 83% attendance); (7) Ann McHale (34 - 72% attendance); (8) Peg Ferraro (28 - 60% attendance); and (9) Lamont McClure (20 - 43% attendance).

Just last week, I was highly critical of Dietrich's attempt to funnel $50,000 in taxpayer money to a volunteer fire company because his motivations were at least partially political. But facts are facts, and he is the County Council Workhorse of 2010. That's no surprise. It is Dietrich who took it upon himself to travel to three different former public nursing homes to see how residents and workers fared under new ownership. In fact, last week, Dietrich was spotted in Courtroom 1, sitting with drunk drivers and druggies during the Call of the List, just to see how things went. So he does deserve credit for caring about his job.

The same is true of Cusick, known for submitting numerous resolutions and ordinances whenever school is out. In addition, Cusick goes to all those CCAP conventions in luxurious settings like Camp Hill, and actually attends the meetings.

Reverend Dowd, starting last year, re-energized the Economic Development Committee in his quiet and unassuming style, and as a result, some business projects are moving forward.

Peg Ferraro's attendance record - 60% - is horrible. But she had both knees replaced early this year and even after being released from the hospital, had a difficult time walking to Council. She had a solid showing in 2009, so she obviously does care.

McClure's record is even more horrible, and he had no excuse. Not only did he fail to miss three consecutive Council meetings over a period of six weeks, he failed to participate in a single committee hearing during 2010. I am unaware of any member of Council who has refused participate in committee hearings since the inception of home rule in 1978.

Despite his refusal to inform himself about County business, he never fails to miss a chance to take a shot at the Stoffa administration or Ron Angle. As recently as yesterday, when the County opened bids for the sale of Gracedale in Harribsurg, the County Exec was publicly accused of "hiding."

That's exactly the kind of ignorant remark I'd expect from someone who doesn't bother to inform himself.

McClure faces re-election next year, and can explain to voters why he attends no committee meetings, if he dares to run. He's one no-show horse who belongs in the political glue factory.

Here are reports from the last four years: 2009; 2008; 2007; and 2006.


Anonymous said...

Every year Angle misses a few meetings when he goes to his Island in the Caribbean. Are you saying he didn't go this year? He has gone every year he has been on council. He always goes to check on the laborers on his sugar plantation.

Anonymous said...

The voters need to get out their brooms and clean house of anyone who doesn't attend at least 75 percent of the meetings.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Are you saying he didn't go this year?"

Sorry if this fails to fit in with your preconceived notions, ut the facts are th facts. Angle missed no meeting.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that attandance is important, I can understand why some members of Council would want to miss meetings. I attended my first meeting where I recieved a taste of what goes on in these meetings. Its was a disgracful excuse for a meeting. And the worst was the president. I do not believe in special interest groups, but this COAF group is really starting to make alot of sense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Especially since you are the "COAF". There is no justification for a ZERO attendance record.

Anonymous said...

What is McClure's excuse for his abysmal attendance record? He is accountable to the voters and taxpayers of his district, who quite frankly probably don't even know that he exists! It would be appalling if he decides to run again next year. He doesn't take his obligation seriously and certainly doesn't deserve another term of office.

Sandra Walters Weiss said...

Thanks Bernie for the yearly report,I remember last years,the Clydesdale.This may seem like a funny parody but in truth it is a sad statement for the elected Officials.Living In Bethlehem has given me some new perspective.Like reduction in City services.The Domino's on Easton Avenue was robbed last night. So now I ask the question,does the poor guy beaten with a baseball bat get hazard pay or should he just be grateful he has a job?I love it,it's like Jack Webb "just the fact's ma'am,just the facts.
Peace SWW

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sandy, Thanks for the nice words.

Anonymous said...

I think only illness should be an excuse for not attending meetings. As I type i can think of one other reason, death.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, death sounds like a pretty good excuse.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie I like the picture you used on this thread. It is one of the nicest photos I have seen of you. It shows your best features. Who took your picture?