Back in 2002, Northampton County voters decided overwhelmingly to borrow up to $37 million to fund open space. As County Council readied itself to float a 30-year bond, I filed suit to stop it, arguing that referenda on capital projects is illegal.
I also spent afternoon-after-afternoon, handing out flyers about the attendant costs of a 30-year loan, which struck me as a poor way to fund open space. I was also concerned that the money would be used to preserve small, gentleman, farms owned by doctors and dentists.
The person fighting against me in this effort was none other than the current County Executive, John Stoffa. It was a vicious fight. Don't tell him, but I prank-called him all the time, and would ring his doorbell and then run off. I nailed him when he forgot to file a campaign expense report on time, but then I screwed up and later forgot to file one myself.
Despite this overwhelming victory, no open space bond was ever floated. And when Stoffa became Executive, he opted for a pay-as-you go plan instead of a big bond.
In the past seven years, his plan has generated more money for open space than could have been made available by a 30-year bond.
In a hand-out at Monday's Finance Committee, Stoffa notes that, over the past seven years, the County has spent nearly $15 million of the $37 million set aside for open space. The lion's share of the money, $6.5 million, has gone to farmland preservation. But other open space projects have been funded, too.
Environmentally sensitive lands ($1.8 million)
County parks ($3.2 million)
Municipal parks ($3.3 million)
So Stoffa's pay-as-you-go plan, in seven short years, has funded 40.3% of the projects that were supposed to take us 30 years. He's ahead of the game, and so our we.