|Dowd, Angle & Bialecki|
Given the tea party's reputation as right-wing kooks, that's understandable. But it's the perception, not the reality.
I've attended about ten or so tea party meetings. In fact, a bunch of them tried to excommunicate me last Summer. I had a trial and everything. Then again, Democrats have tried to excommunicate me, too.
I piss everybody off.
The reality, at least in the Lehigh Valley, is that tea party members are no different than your next door neighbors. Many of them are conservative or libertarians. But when they have a candidates' night, they bend over backwards to be fair. So I think it's a mistake to avoid them. It's one of the few opportunities candidates have to meet the voters.
Unfortunately, I counted just 18 people in the audience. Their crowds are usually larger, but those who were there had good questions about Gracedale, swaption, proposed tax hike and the Rte 33 Chrin Interchange.
The question I liked best, and one not asked in previous debates, was one posed by moderator Stanly Bialecki, asking candidates to name the County's top two priorities.
To a man, each candidate listed Gracedale as top priority. Calling it an "incredibly emotional" issue, Dowd flatly stated, "We have an obligation to live up to what the voters wanted us to do." He also warned that, although the decision to bring in a private manager is a positive step, "The management company won't turn [Gracedale] around in a year or two years." Vaughn added that union concessions are needed.
For Dowd and Angle, however, it's long-range planning, something that has failed since the County did away with its five year plan under Executive Glen Reibman.
Pointing out that the ceilings at the Governor Wolf building (in Easton) are collapsing, Dowd stressed the importance of long-term facilities plans. "For every year spent planning, you save five years in crisis management. We're doing a lot of crisis management," he noted.
Angle pointed to a $111 megabond, adopted in 2001, which just threw money at projects in Bethlehem, with no consideration of Gracedale or other long-term needs of the County. As an example of excessive opulence, he pointed to the Courthouse rotunda, which blows open in bad weather. "Somebody's gonna' lay in state there some day. I just hope it's not me," he joked.
All three candidates support the West Easton treatment center proposed by Executive John Stoffa. Angle argued that it would reduce recidivism, which would save taxpayers money in the long run. Dowd noted a similar program in Delaware, where recidivism has been redced from 70% to 30%. And Vaughn talked about similar programs in Brooklyn, where re-arrest rats are 33% lower. "These types of programs do reduce recidivism rates," he stated.
None of the newspapers were there. The tea party forgot to ask them.