Thursday, September 26, 2013

Glenn Geissinger on Northampton County Issues

Glenn and family
As night follows the day, so Glenn Geissinger follows Mat Benol. Or maybe it's the other way around. But no matter who is following whom, I see the two of them together at numerous events. This includes County Council meetings. It even includes committee meetings. I understand they are both attending the Citizens' Academy, too, as Christen Borso and Deb Hunter did last year.

Glenn, a Republican endorsed by both LV Congressman Charlie Dent and Northampton County Bulldog Ron Angle, is one of ten candidates seeking five at-large seats on Northampton County Council. After twenty years in the business world, this is his first stab at public office.

Some readers worry that Glenn and Mat are extremists. But their answers to the questionnaire reveal that they are thinking, reasonable people, willing to listen to others. Aside from his gun answer, I find myself more or less in agreement with him.

Below are Glenn's answers. I thank him for taking the time to respond. Because some people have been hostile to candidates, I will not permit any commentary with these questionnaires.

By way of full disclosure, I have already decided tentatively that I am supporting Jerry Seyfried, Ron Heckman, Deb Hunter and Peg Ferraro.

1. Lehigh County Commissioners and Bethlehem City council have both toyed with the idea of rejecting pass through grants based on objections to the federal deficit, money owed to China and antipathy to charter schools. Would you reject pass through grants?

Pass through grants are by definition “passing through”. While moral objections can be raised, and rightfully so, for rejecting them, it does not seem feasible to me to currently remove that funding “en masse” from the county.

2. Most of Council's work is done at its busy Personnel and Finance Committees, at which every member of Council is encouraged to attend. How do you feel about participation at Council Committee meetings? Will you attend?

I feel that participation at the committee meetings is part of holding the office. I will definitely attend as often as possible. I recently attended this specific meeting and found that the open debate and searching inquiry into the issues by the council members present was essential to their being properly informed prior to their voting on those items the following night.

3. One candidate has rejected the concept of regionalism as one big mess that is harder to manage than a group of smaller messes. Do you support or oppose regionalism, and what regional projects would you endorse on Council?

I support regionalization where it makes for better services and less bureaucracy. It is a fiscal reality that certain functions are better done on a regional scale instead of independent municipalities and/or counties going it alone. Northampton County needs to ensure that its interests are protected in any kind of regional authority it may authorize and local municipalities must do the same. These regional bodies must always be able to be reined in by the taxpayers. The recent activities at the airport authority are an example of how safeguards need to be in place for the “local” governing body to maintain its interests in a “regional” project.

4. During the Executive primary, one candidate made a no-tax hike pledge. Do you think it is responsible to make no tax-hike pledges? If so, are you willing to make one?

“Read my lips, no new taxes” is a great sound bite for campaign commercials but not always realistic governance. Raising taxes or laying-off workers should always be the measure of last resort by those that govern. I believe that we should first exhaust ways to reduce government waste and inefficiencies before looking to burden the citizenry. The burden that federal, state, school, property, and other taxes place on many of our citizens are crushing. We can increase revenues, in certain places, like Gracedale, where expanded services, such as the physical rehab that is being opened, can improve revenues and services to our citizens, without increasing their tax burden. Let’s look for ways to improve what government does for the county not increase what the government takes from its people.

5. In a 2011 plebiscite, voters told Council not to sell Gracedale for 5 years. The annual County contribution is currently in the $5-7 million range, so voters effectively voted for that contribution. But what if it grows? Is there a red line at which you would agree it is necessary to sell Gracedale?

My various trips to Gracedale over the last few months have included meeting with the director, meeting residents, sitting in on the advisory council meeting, and speaking with individuals who have family and friends residing at Gracedale. It is the consensus of all parties involved that Gracedale can provide high quality care for its patients and residents and be fiscally viable. Now that there is professional management of the facility and specific plans are in place to increase revenues and hold expenses in check, I do not see that Gracedale will not eventually eliminate or at least greatly reduce its operating deficit. If elected, I would ask that an analysis of Gracedale’s financial health be done on an accrual accounting basis versus the cash accounting basis it operates under. I believe that by properly recognizing the accounts receivable and other items “washed out” when doing cash basis accounting, the citizens of Northampton County would have a much more realistic picture of Gracedale’s financial health.

6. In 2007, County Council voted to set aside 1/2 mill of real estate tax (about $3.5 million) for a pay-as-you go open space plan for preserving farmland, environmentally sensitive land and municipal parks. On Council, will you vote to continue funding open space? Do you consider this a core county function?

If elected, I would continue to support this program and its funding. While it is not a “core” function by definition, it is a successful program that has benefited all residents and, I believe, has overwhelming support amongst the electorate.

7. There are 11 unions county-wide. What efforts would you make, as a member of council, to encourage unions to consolidate and reduce the amount of time administrators and unions must spend in contract negotiations?

If such a discussion were initiated during my term on council, I would objectively listen to any discussions posed by the unions and administrators.

8. What is your position on laying off County workers? Would you support layoffs to balance the budget, or vote to increase taxes to provide the same level of services?

As I stated to the Labor Council, I believe that tax-hikes and layoffs are the “quick fix” of the political arena. I would ALWAYS examine the efficiencies of the specific operation before supporting any measure that would either raise taxes or lay-off workers. My service in government, as a military officer, gave me first-hand experience with government inefficiencies. This is why I applaud the efforts at Gracedale so much. It is the administration working to improve revenues and maintain expenses while labor and the administration are continually striving to improve operations and provide the highest level of patient care.

9. Northampton County, like Lehigh, has privatized the management of Gracedale. But there are those who would like to return administration to the County. Where do you stand on this issue?

As stated earlier, I believe the current system is functioning well and improving the quality of care, the physical facility, and the financial operations of Gracedale. I see no reason, at this time, to change that.

10. Some Council members would like to amend the Home Rule Charter to return to elected row officers. How do you feel about this proposal?

I do not see any reason to adjust the current system. If the people of Northampton County were overwhelmingly in support of some change, I would consider it at that time.

11. Would you support a ban on guns by people using any County facilities, even off the courthouse campus, like at the new centralized Human Services Building?

I would only support such a measure if the facility were properly secured and staffed by armed deputies, as is the case at the courthouse. History shows that law abiding citizens, properly trained and armed, are a far better crime prevention measure than gun-free zones.

12. Will you support or reject a County Property Tax Reassessment?

Given the costs of doing a reassessment and the possible negative effect it would have on our senior population, I am not currently in favor of doing a reassessment.

13. Would you support the proposition that the Prothonotary, Clerk of Criminal Court, Clerk of Orphans Court and Register of Wills should be transferred under the Administration of the Courts instead of the County Executive (through the Director of Court Services) much like the higher courts currently administer its own clerks?

I am no expert on the daily operations of these offices or the impact such a move would have on the efficiencies of these operations, having said that, I believe that this question has been raised by some to either eliminate employee benefits or simply shuffle costs away from the county. I would have to educate myself more fully on the total impact to the workings of these offices and the impact on the employees before taking a position on this issue.