Since 2006, I've tracked attendance records for Northampton County Council members, including their Committee participation. It's where most of the real work is done, and where the showhorses become no-show horses.
What I like about this kind of rating is that it is objective. Political party makes no difference. A Council member either shows up, or not.
Northampton County Council met 30 times last year, including its budget hearings. Only one member - President John Cusick - attended every meeting. Four other members - Ron Angle, Tom Dietrich, Mike Dowd & Peg Ferraro - had near perfect attendance records, having only missed one meeting. Barb Thierry missed two meetings and Lamont McClure missed four.
Tied for last place in Council attendance were Ann McHale, who retired at the end of this year, and Bruce Gilbert. They each missed seven meetings.
In addition to the Council meetings, there are eight standing committees. These are Economic Development (Mike Dowd - C); Finance (John Cusick - C); Human Services (Tom Dietrich - C); Intergovernmental Affairs (Peg Ferraro - C); Legal, Judicial & Operations (Lamont McClure - C); Personnel (Ann McHale - C); Open Space (John Cusick - C) and Long Range Planning (No Chair). Traditionally, each 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 & Personnel head that list. They each met ten times last year. With budgetary cutbacks and problems at Gracedale, Human Services became a hot Committee, too, meeting nine times. Other committees conducting meetings were Economic Development (8), Open Space (2), Long Range Planning (2) and Intergovernmental (1).
McClure's Legal Committee conducted no meetings, just as he failed to conduct any in 2010. Ferraro's Intergovernmental met just once, and that's its first meeting in the past 6 years.
So much for regionalism.
Standing Committees met a total of 43 times, more than twice as often in 2010. Council member attendance is as follows: Cusick (26); Dietrich (26); Dowd (23); Ferraro (20); Gilbert (16): McHale (15); Angle (14); Thierry (15); and McClure (4). I gave McClure credit for one meeting he attended by phone.
Combining both committee and council attendance, the ratings are as follows: (1) John Cusick (56 - 76.7% attendance); (2) Tom Dietrich (55 - 75.3% attendance); (3) Mike Dowd (51 - 69.9% attendance); (4) Peg Ferraro (49 - 67.1%); (5) Ron Angle (43 - 58,9% attendance); (6) Barb Thierry (40 - 54.8% attendance); (7) Bruce Gilbert (39 - 53.4% attendance); (8) Ann McHale (38 - 52% attendance); and (9) Lamont McClure (20 - 41.1% attendance).
Although I have been highly critical of John Cusick and Tom Dietrich, they are the County Council Workhorses of 2011. Peg Ferraro really picked up her attendance as well, following a year in which she underwent a double knee replacement. Reverend Dowd re-energized he Economic Development Committee in his quiet and unassuming style, and as a result, some business projects like the Chrin TIF are moving forward.
McClure's attendance record is horrible, even to the point where it became a campaign issue. He has claimed he's unable to break away during the day, but I've seen no push from him for evening meetings, as I have from Scott Parsons. It's inexcusable that his Legal Committee has failed to convene even once in the past two years.
But he was re-elected.
We get the government we deserve.
Here are reports from the last five years: 2010, 2009; 2008; 2007; and 2006.