Monday, July 16, 2012

Exec Hopeful McClure & Sidekick Barron Trash ArtsQuest

If the Lehigh Valley has two visionaries, they are CACLV's Alan Jennings and ArtsQuest's Jeff Parks. They're easy to criticize over different issues. Hey, they're low-hanging fruit to bottom-feeding bloggers like me. But, in addition to excelling in their individual fields, they've done more than anyone to transform this region from a collection of self-interested municipalities into one cohesive Lehigh Valley. Along the way, they've made this a better place.

Jennings and Parks are the exceptions, not the rule. Most others in Lehigh Valley public life are short-sighted, ready to promote themselves over what is good for the community. If you want two good examples, look no further than Northampton County Council member Lamont McClure and his sidekick, Controller Steve Barron. It should come as no surprise that these two hacks would attack the visionaries.

After all, there's a County Executive race to win.

McClure Mulling Exec Race

Despite being a genuinely unpleasant man who has barely won in two election against candidates with no money, asbestos lawyer McClure would like to be the next County Executive. Why he would want to run is a good question. His abysmal attendance record - perhaps the all-time worst of any Council member - is evidence of just how little he cares about the County or its issues.

He might not have much choice. Asbestos litigation is down from its 2004 high.

Whatever his reasons, a County Executive poll was done last week. I'm told it was financed by some of  McClure's union pals or his mentor, DA John Morganelli. I know this much. It wasn't done by Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan or Easton Mayor Sal Panto, who are also eyeing up the County Executive position. And Ron Heckman, another potential candidate, lacks the resources.

In the meantime, nobody can say a nice word about Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan or Easton Mayor Sal Panto. Both are savaged on this or any other blog.

Anonymously, of course.

That's another McClure trademark. He has a vicious campaigning style that has even been condemned by State Senator Lisa Boscola, a fellow Democrat.

Can You Say Director of Administration Barron von Footinmouth? 

What about Barron? Unable to keep his mouth shut, he's already bragged to several people that he'll be the County's next Director of Administration or Finance. He'll have a much higher salary than his current $65,000, too. There's no way that Panto or Callahan would ever consider Barron for such a position. But McClure would. In fact, McClure and Barron have worked in tandem on numerous county issues like Gracedale, the Wound Care Team, 2012 budget, the Eckert Seamans legal bill and asbestos.

Like McClure, Barron is only rarely on the job. When he does show, he spends most of his time engaged in courthouse intrigue or studying for a bar exam he can't seem to pass. He's no accountant, not even a public accountant. All of the real work in his office is done by his subordinates, each of whom is more qualified than he.

Barron has never performed a single audit.

Although he's no accountant, Barron is a union organizer. Just two years ago, he marched on non-union T-Mobile and threatened the company. They decided to leave the area.

He's also an asbestos whistleblower. He reported the County to the state DEP for decades-old asbestos violations.

He's even a junior detective. Barron embellished his own credentials to become a Certified Fraud Examiner. In criminal cases, he would somberly testify about this and that "red flag" against this and that hapless defendant. Then defense attorney Phil Lauer raised a few red flags of his own. Turns out Barron is unqualified. He's had to put his red flags away.

Finally, Barron considers himself a nursing home administrator. Not only did he tell Council to keep the wound care team at Gracedale, but actually accused Executive John Stoffa and Nursing Home Manager Premier of colluding to sabotage the nursing home's financial recovery.

To propel themselves into office, Barron and McClure are seizing on whatever they think can get them a few votes here and there. They've pandered over Gracedale, playing on people's emotions. They've pandered to public sector unions, banking on their votes. They've opposed a responsible budget proposed by Executive John Stoffa, forcing him to deplete the reserve to unhealthy levels.

And they despise Jeff Parks. They are counting on all the Musikfest haters, those who can never forgive someone for being a success. In 2008, when Council voted to give $1 million in hotel tax money to ArtsQuest and PBS, spread out over five years, McClure was one of the two No votes. When Parks appeared before Council in January, it is McClure who wanted to know when he's stepping down.

ArtsQuest Seeks Exempt Status

On November 14, 2011, ArtsQuest sued over the assessment of properties at 645 E. 1st Street and 101 Founders Way. This includes the ArtsQuest Center, Air Products Town Square and PNC Plaza. That's $122,000 a year in property taxes. ArtsQuest ended 2011 with a $700,000 operating loss, so it's obviously trying to minimize expenses.

ArtsQuest contends it is entitled to an exemption from real estate taxes under state law because it is a purely public charity. Attorney Jackson Eaton, representing ArtsQuest, contends that it meets the five-prong test for charities: (1) It advances a charitable purpose; (2) Operates entirely free of profit motive; (3) Donates a substantial portion of services; (4) Benefits a class of persons who are legitimate subjects of charity; and (5) Relieves the government of some of its burden.

Neither Bethlehem City nor the school board, who would receive the lion's share of these taxes, had any objection.

The previous month, the Revenue Appeals Board, which obviously felt otherwise, denied the exemption.

Jeff Parks would like to know why. He still has no answer.

Parks Excluded From Deliberations, But Assessors Can Stay?

A former lawyer, Parks told me that when this quasi judicial body went into executive session to deliberate his appeal, he was asked to leave the room. But the assessment office, which was opposed to him, was allowed to remain.

This is an obvious due process violation, something I've witnessed myself in other matters. It's like allowing a District Attorney to sit in the same room with a jury when they decide someone's fate.

In most cases, the assessment offices assumes a neutral role, and are there to plug in numbers when someone wants a lower or higher assessment. But in this case, where Parks was seeking an outright exemption, there would be no reason for that office to remain.

But they did. Someone in that office has an axe to grind.

When ArtsQuest decided to seek judicial relief, County attorneys began working on a settlement. But someone in the assessment office, unhappy with that possibility, threatened to go to the papers. Looks like that has happened.

Barron's "Independent" Opinion

Assessment also decided to get an "independent" opinion. Barron von Footimouth, who is allied with ArtsQuest hater McClure, was the perfect choice. Never mind that he is completely unqualified to audit the records of  mom and pop, to say nothing of a big and complicated operation like ArtsQuest. Forget the fact that this has nothing to do with the job he was elected to perform. Since Barron already considers himself a nursing home administrator, junior detective, asbestos expert and union organizer, what's one more field of expertise?

Not surprisingly, Barron and McClure have decided to go after someone they know is already despised by lots of jealous people. Trial by newspaper. In 25 comments to Lynn Olanoff's excellent story in The Express Times, only one defends ArtsQuest. The rest of them are focused mainly on Parks' salary or some pet peeve with Musikfest.

In addition to playing the press, I'm told Barron has also taken it upon himself to report Parks to the IRS, demanding that its status as a nonprofit be revoked.

That's another little trick he likes to play.

ArtsQuest Appeals to Our Better Selves

To date, ArtsQuest has resulted in 78 direct and 64 indirect jobs on Bethlehem's South Side. It's economic impact over 8 months last year was $29 million. It has been a showcase for music, cinema, festivals and visual arts. It has been made available for other nonprofit organizations and businesses for fund raisers, meetings and special events.

Last year, 500,000 visitors dropped by. In fact, people are still discovering SteelStacks. With the opening of the Bethlehem Visitors Center, PNC Plaza has become fully accessible. ArsQuest also provides many educational and outreach programs for families in visual and performing arts and cultural experiences.

If you visit Bethlehem's South Side, as I do about once every two weeks or so, you can see its ripple effect. There is a real and perceptible buzz. Most local businesses credit ArtsQuest.

Northampton County Council members seem to side with Parks.  Ken Kraft is there just about every weekend, as are his kids. Bob Werner has marveled at Parks' organizational skills and his stable of volunteers. Bruce Gilbert, whose children are entertainers, has credited Parks for attracting younger people and making the Lehigh Valley a competitive place for people seeking entertainment.

ArtsQuest, incidentally, has a real board that actually pays attention to its finances. Chairman Sam Torrence, who actually did pass the bar exam and served as Just Born's Chief Operating Officer, pointed out that all salaries paid are either at or below the midpoint recommended by the Economic Research Institute.

But in the final analysis, this is not about what is right or good for the community. It's about votes. McClure and Barron will appeal to our dark sides, our petty jealousies.

Jeff Parks appeals to the good in us all. Hundreds of free concerts each year. Kids' programming like the Ps and Qs program at SteelStacks.

I'm betting that most of us, despite our pet peeves and occasional grousing, will side with Parks.

McClure should know by now that those on the dark side post venomous (and largely untrue) comments, but they rarely vote.


Anonymous said...

McClure is the Exec hopeful? I thought Barron was? Man, life sucks ...

Anonymous said...

If the people of Norco fall for the political "games" of these two clowns, then they deserve all the bs that will fall upon Norco.

Anonymous said...

If it was your boys Panto or Callahan saying this you would praise it Bernie. You know damn well the tax exempt policy is and has been abused by different groups and Artsquest is one of them.

You are lettting your hatred of McClure and Barron cloud your judgement.

Instead of attacknig thses guys, how about finding out what the poll results were.

I would not so easily dismiss Heckman as far as resources. I hear he has been pledged finacial support that is mnore than sufficient for a primary run. I know you also don't like him but it appears more and more realistic that he is running.

So you better start slimming him more than you have in the past.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:14 am,

You have all the indicators glowing that you belong to a special interest group that wants to keep Gracedale and all of its cost prohibitive existence intact and that you flat out hate Bernie and anything that Bernie mentions. You champion McClure, Barron, and all of their non-sense. And you have this inappropriate love, that is almost incestuous, towards Heckman. Heckman is a nice guy. But anything that Bernie says, this special interest group always claims the opposite. They just don't claim the opposite, they demand and proclaim it. Proclaiming? Proclaiming something religious? Nah ... too much of a coincidence? Demanding? Demanding like 'We the People'? Nope, now I am a black helicopter conspirator ... Or am I??? Maybe I should be taking a drug cocktail ... ?

Anonymous said...

and, 4:14, you used the word "slimming".

I don't think that means what you think it means

Mark Baker said...

Parks is a visionary and a great organizer.

jennings is not. He is just two faced Rumor has it he carries knee pads with him to meetings.

barron and mcclure are rabid fools.

When Callahan takes over you will see the culture of the county structure change. Neither barron or mcclure can hold a candle to Callahan. They will be asking jennings to borrow his knee pads.

Anonymous said...

Did you ask your favorite Township Manager if he is in yet?

Anonymous said...

Simpleton post by simpleton blogger with nothing but simpleton readers?

Anonymous said...

It will be fun watching McClure burn in flames.

Anonymous said...

One day someone is gonna put a fist down Barron's throat...The guy pisses alot of people off.

Anonymous said...

This is a political stunt by "wanna be execs" 1st. We had Cusick go after the commuter tax last week, with Baron.
2nd. Now McClure going after arts quest with Baron. Cusick nor McClure have ever done anything while elected, now they do whatever to keep their names in the paper. Baron, is a pitical whore to whomever promises him a job.. BO, can we get confirmation on Heckman?

Anonymous said...

I'll confirm that I won't vote for Heckman.

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:14, As I've mentioned several times, I like Ron Heckman. I do NOT like his supporters. Aside from Glenn Reibman's moldy money, Heckman will have nothing. I doubt he'll run in a race where people will have to ask who he is. He might try to get a job out of a threatened run.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Did you ask your favorite Township Manager if he is in yet?"

This is a reference to Hanover Tp Manager Jay Finnigan. Because he was out in front on the NIZ, Rs would love to see him run. But as I have said before, I consider that unlikely. First, he is making too much money as a Tp Manager. He'd have to take a pay cut. Second, he'd go from a job he really seems to enjoy, surrounded by people who like and respect him, to a pit of snakes. Third, He's no longer political. He has not been involved in any races for some time.

I do not think the Rs will have a decent candidate. Jay would definitely be more than decent, but I don't see him in the race. I need to ask him next time i see him.

Anonymous said...

McClure and Barron - prime contestants for the "Biggest Loser." If the CE race was based on a tug-of-war they would win pulling away.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading after the first two paragraphs since the hypocrisy is laughable after this blog and surrounding municipalities through regionalism out the window with the hockey arena tantrum.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think you mean "threw."

Maybe if you read a little more, and spouted a little less, you'd learn to use the English language properly.

Anonymous said...


"The Government doesn't have a responsibility to provide entertainment. It's useful for a city government to create the market conditions that are favorable to entertainment industry business, BUT THE DIRECT PROVISION OF ENTERTAINMENT IS NOT A JOB FOR MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT.


So exactly why is Big Government spending a record-smashing $ 158.0 million dollars on a Palace of Sport again?

Why can't the Brooks Brothers be bothered to contribute one dime of their own money?

What is with the constant double and triple talk in the name of Progress and Development?

Okay --- Spin Cycle, please.

Yahweh said...

12:18 When you attack peoples spelling it is a sign you have lost.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Or it's a sign that the writer is ignorant in addition to being an anonymous coward.

Anonymous said...


Rolf is trolling again and is off topic. This Blog post has nothing to do with the NIZ or the Arena. Geeting didn't even comment but he still trolls about it. Why do you let him do this? He adds nothing to the conversation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

His comment dealt with entertainment and, in my view, is on topic. By the way, comments directed at my comment policy are themselves off topic

Anonymous said...

Are you going to Bethlehem Townships meeting tonight to report on them dropping their lawsuit?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I plan to attend and report on the proposed withdrawal of the lawsuit, now that the state has remedied the legal problems.

Anonymous said...

Have either of these rancid farts spoken out for county workers against Panto's tax?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, they have, but it is in their interest to marginalize Panto. It has nothing to do with what is right.

Anonymous said...

Wow O'Hre you really are in the Callahan politcal pocket. What happened to all those wqarings from two years ago when he ran against your boy Charlie
Dent. Dent made it clear he was a crappy Mayor and you sang that song for months. You attack McClure and Barron for doing their jobs. You attack Heckman as getting "moldy" money. You have no clue. I guess you prefer all the fresh "developer" money. You want the "for sale" sign up on the county the way it has been in Bethlehem.

You really are a funny bird. You are the one marginalizing everone McClure, Barron, Heckman not the other posters. Two years ago Callahan was a bum but now you have been recruited and he is the man. By the way Bernie, it doens't take much monery to reprint all thosse old Dent attack ads and remind people why they rejected Callahan two years ago. The Republican surely woill and the Democrats should.

You are a hypocrite and a mean hypocrite at that.

Anonymous said...

Will they be explaining the cost and benefit of the lawsuit at the Beth Twnshp meeting tonight? How much did it costs for the lawsuit to save how much money? I don't have the facts but the guesstimate is 15k for the lawyers to save 4k of EIT from the NIZ? Bern please correct my numbers and then I'll do the math for the per resident cost that the township wasted..thanks go burbs! Great managing!

Anonymous said...

what the heck is article about, your all over the place.

Anonymous said...

How dare they attack Artsquest, why can't the middle class just pay even more. Who is this little town for anyway? Barron and McClure, with their ridiculous notions of social justice, should be laughed out of it. We like subsidising Artsquest when they lose money. I can't wait for September, when I'll be able to donate in response to a plea in the newspapers. Next nutcases complaining will be all those people wailing on about drunks walking down Main St. with booze in their hands, in front of 'innocent' children. Tell those kids to grow up. Musikfest put us on the map. And a huge majority of Betlehem residents, maybe even as massive a percentage as 15%, are 135 per cent behind it. Ole. Viva Musikfest.

Anonymous said...

Yesby all means let us all support Parks, Callaahn and all the "better" people.

Mark Baker said...

Callahan will eliminate all the trash dems in the county. He will bring real government and prosperity to NORCO. First things first he will make barron the dog control officer for west easton. Then he will rid the county of at least 125 worthless union goons. Next is 75 unneeded management positions. Watch him clear out the joke that is DECD to include the joke of the environmental officer. Next comes real lawyers vice the yes men that are there presently. The list of the clearing house goes on and on. The new culture will be exciting and stimulating.

Anonymous said...

Godbless Stephen J. Barron the duly elected Controller of the County of Northampton. Although, I think he might be under the water with that Angle mortgage ?

Anonymous said...

McClueless and Little Stevie Blunder. WOW. The Norco Dem gene pool is DEEEEEEP...

Anonymous said...

"I doubt he'll run in a race where people will have to ask who he is. He might try to get a job out of a threatened run."

Wow O'Hare, now I hope he runs after that shot. The guy is retired. The Callahan clan are really getting cocky. I doubt he has to worry about people konwing him. Check out the phone book. By the way, we all know Callahan based on how much you attacked him two years ago.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You confuse a realistic observation about Heckman's name ID with a shot. As you point out, he's retired. With unrealistic wackos like you behind him, he'll stay that way. And I say that as someone who likes Ron.

Anonymous said...

He will run and he will give Johnny Casino a run for all his money.

No one knew who the Hell John Stoffa was in 2005 and everyone knew Reibman.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Heckman has backed away from running at every opportunity, so I will believe it when he announces and will not believe the anonymous comments that attack everyone else.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Bernie.......Who are you really pushing. You have nothing nice to say about these candidates soooooyou must be supporting someone. Is it Peg Ferraro? Maybe Bill mineo (I hear his name was mentioned as a Dem. Do you want to know who is running? Come to the Democratic Picnic and see who shows and who are the no-shows. It's a pretty good indicator. By the way, did you purchase your ticket yet or are you going to try to sponge?

Anonymous said...

One thing is for sure..Heckman and McClure both can't run..They generally have the same base of supporters and will just split things up, making it easier for Callahan..If Callahan wins the primary, he will get all of their support and more in a general election race. Can't see how he is not the next county executive..

Anonymous said...

anon 4:31, If that is true the real winners are all the developers that fund the Callahan machine. Before long Northampton County will have the "sale" sign on the front door, just like Bethlehem.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" By the way, did you purchase your ticket yet or are you going to try to sponge?"

Neither. I'll just crash the damn thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie, word is all the big jobs in a Callahan Adminstration have already been paid for and they went for a hefty price.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whose word? Who the hell are you? Why don't I post an anonymous comment like this:

Hey Bernie, word is all the big jobs in a McClure Adminstration have already been paid for and they went for a hefty price.

Or this?

Hey Bernie, word is all the big jobs in a Heckman Adminstration have already been paid for and they went for a hefty price.

And so on.

What you are really doing is spreading disinformation.

Anonymous said...

The sad reality is that Panto probably won't run and never intended to. He is doing a great job in Easton and although many keep asking him to run there are those that want I'm to stay for fear of who may be the next Mayor, especially an appointed

Even with the unpopular commuter tax he still wins county exec because he is doing it for the right reaaon of financial stability. There is no doubt he is about the numbers and that is exact what the county needs

The real candidate that makes the ciara is Panto not Callahan. The naysayers xan say what they want but Callahans reputation doesn't help and he is little known outside of Bethlehem. Panto is wel known in the entire eastern art of the count as well as Nazareth and the slate belt. Callahan is going to go there but the
Public knows its only because of a campaign. Panto has been there all his life.

Panto is doing a really good job on a fit with little
Resources and in a slow economy. He is just what this county needs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I may disagree with Sal about the commuter tax, but agree that he would be a terrific County Exec and is doing a great job in Easton. On top of that, I really admire his willingness to get out there and mix it up. I wish we had more people like him in office.

Anonymous said...

He intended to run alright. Then he saw the Callahn war chest and ran for the hills.

Anonymous said...

People in Forks Twp. know Sal ansd would never vote for him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

So you have said before. I suspect Sal would win if he ran. But I think he loves what he is doing too much, kinda' like me and blogging.

Anonymous said...

Voters outside of Easton don't know who Sal Panto is. Voters outside of Bethleehm don't know who John Callahan is.
With Callaahn if they know of him it isn't good, based on all the Dent mailerts of 2010.

So your "opinion" on your love of mayors is subjective at best.

Anonymous said...

Whether Bernie likes it or not Callahan will have an opponent in the primary.