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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ten NorCo Council Candidates Exchange Views at NCC

Top Row (Democrats): Christen Borso, Ron Heckman, Deb Hunter, Tom O'Donnell, Gerald E. Seyfried
Bottom Row (Republicans): Mat Benol, Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips, Seth Vaughn

Though Game 5 of the World Series was about to start, over 100 people, many young faces among them, crowded into a Northampton Community College classroom last night. They were there for the first and only encounter among ten candidates seeking five open seats on Northampton County Council. The audience was a diverse crowd that extended from a bottom-feeding blogger to the entire Express Times editorial board. It included numerous students, some of whom must be preparing to cast their first vote, as well as super voters from both major parties. It even included Noah Geissinger, age 9, who told me his Dad is going to win.

Like the audience, the contestants were an interesting mix of idealistic newcomers and seasoned veterans. Peg Ferraro was the sole incumbent, and the only other candidates with County experience were Jerry Seyfried (Council, Executive) and Ron Heckman (Council). The rest of the cast included Christen Borso, Deb Hunter, Tom O'Donnell, Mat Benol, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn.

This debate was made possible through the efforts of Northampton Community College's Helene Whitaker, its Political Science department and the Northampton County League of Women Voters. But for these people, voters would never have had an opportunity to see the candidates together.

In a congenial atmosphere, candidates were only able to field a few questions. Though they largely agreed with other, some differences emerged as the night went on.

Gracedale. - All ten candidates point out that the voters have already spoken. Most support the work being done at the County-owned nursing home by Premier Healthcare Administrator Dee Freeman. "The County's just not good at running things," explained Ferraro.

Christen Borso and Tom O'Donnell both want even the administration done in house. O'Donnell compared a privatized administrator to the privatization of liquor stores. "It's all about the big bucks," he complained. "Get rid of Premier. They haven't done nothing."

Hayden Phillips argued there should be more privatization, stating that housekeeping, food service and laundry should be outsourced.

The Depleting Reserve (Rainy Day) Fund. - Candidates were asked how they would increase it. Phillips repeated his observations about privatizing some Gracedale functions, and added he would also look at the millions spent for open space. Heckman stressed the importance of planning. Hunter added Continuous Improvement, a method of improving efficiencies through feedback from employees. Seyfried pointed out there are $60 million owed to the County in uncollected fines and costs. "There's no reason for that," he observed, adding that several judges are receptive to increasing efforts at collection. "The prior administration created this problem," claimed O'Donnell.

Crumbling Infrastructure. - All candidates agree that better planning is needed. Seyfried pointed out that when he was executive, "We planned. It was called a five-year plan." Though agreeing that better planning is needed, Peg Ferraro credited Executive John Stoffa for solving a decades-old leaking window problem at Gracedale. "We call him the Window Wizard," she said, adding that Stoffa repaired and repainted the old courthouse, which won a national historic award.

Recidivism - With the exception of Mat Benol, all candidates agreed on the importance of reducing recidivism through counseling and education. Benol argued that we are "coddling" prisoners, and advocated making prison an unpleasant experience. "I don't believe treatment is 'coddling' prisoners," retorted Hunter.

Council's Positives and Negatives. - "I want to see them do their job," noted Seyfried, claiming that Council is a check on the power of the Executive. Heckman echoed Seyfried, noting that Executives tend to hire consultants who tell them what they want to hear. Vaughn criticized the current Council for not listening to the recommendations made by Premier and for a failure in long term planning.

O'Donnell said the best thing about Council "is it's going out.They really laid the groundwork for trouble in the next administration, and I think they wanted to," he said. Geissinger reminded O'Donnell that four members of the current Council will still be there in January.

Communication. - Seyfried would bring back municipal conferences to learn from other communities. Hunter stated that the Senior Expo and Citizens Academy are a good start at communication, but the County website needs work Heckman joked it was made with an Atari computer. Borso said people could talk to her at the grocery store.

Geissinger questioned the Senior fair idea, noting that is already conducted by State reps.

Closing Speeches

In their closing speeches, Phillips suggested that the experienced candidates have "the experience of running the status quo" while he stands for limited government, individual rights and fiscal responsibility."God bless you, and God bless the U.S.A."

Mat Benol said his strong suit is his ability to get along with everyone. Peg Ferraro stressed her common sense. Geissinger spoke of his considerable business acumen. Seyfried read off a litany of accomplishments, from preserving the first farm in Northampton County to laying the groundwork for 911. Borso pointed to her Breaking Glass Ceilings award, adding she is a co-founder of women empowering women. O'Donnell pointed to his experience doing audits. "I don't think anybody here is a number cruncher like I am." Hunter held up a handbook from Northampton High School,where she teaches, noting the numerous county services offered. "If it wasn't for some of these services, my kids wouldn't be in school," she said. That concern for human services is what motivates her.

Ron Heckman thanked the audience for being there on a World Series night. He added he is the product of a mixed marriage. His father was a Republican and his mother a Democrat. He pointed out that he is experienced, and part of that experience includes making mistakes. He said he hopes he has the wisdom to have learned from his mistakes and help others from repeating them.

My Rating

Heckman, Seyfried and Ferraro were head and shoulders the best in this crowd. Deb Hunter was not far behind. O'Donnell was terrible, coming off as a cranky old man, kinda' like me. The other candidates were all very close to each other. Phillips' views are way too extreme for me, but he presented well. Geissinger really is an accomplished businessman. Benol is a consensus builder. Borso spent too much time looking down at her talking points, and I question how many of her ideas are her own.

Seated (L to R): Deb Hunter, Thomas O'Donnell, Gerald E.Seyfried
Standing (L to R): Christen Borso, Ron Heckman, Mat Benol, Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Seth Vaughn, Hayden Phillips


Anonymous said...

Why do you co9nti8nually put down Mr. O'Donnel? He has auditing experience and that is lacking in county government. He isn't afraid to take a stand.

We need experienced number
crunchers. You are angry that he is willing to single out the guilty parties.

Bernie O'Hare said...

O'Donnell is a kook, kinda' like you.

Anonymous said...

Why do you hate real conservatives. You push the liberal tax and spend school district Hunter agenda.

We need people in county government who will say no! Not those who make excuses for why they say yes. It is time to let the county bureaucrats know who is boss!!

Anonymous said...

I made it a point of going to the debate yesterday. It was exactly as I expected it would be. Everyone is nice to everyone and except for the tea party nut job, no cheap shots were made. The Democrats have their act together. You are critical of O'donnell but I think he held his own in this forum. Sorry Bernie, the democrats won this one as a group.

Anonymous said...

nice fotos

Anonymous said...

Tom O'Donnell has my vote!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is weird. One readers thinks I am pushing the Dems. Another thinks i am too tough on them.

I made an effort to be accurate. This is the only time these candidates met as a group, so I wanted to get it right as opposed to claiming that this or that team won. I look at each person on his or her own merits. i am not going to pull a lever.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"nice fotos"

One of my many weaknesses, but thanks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"except for the tea party nut job, no cheap shots were made"

You just gave a shot yourself.

Hayden Phillips is the tea party nut job in question. I think his views are extreme, but he handled himself very well and took no shots at anyone. He is going to get 1 of 5 R votes as a tea party member. he will get many more R votes from lever pullers. many people will associate him with Phillips Feed and vote for him for that reason, too. His signs are everywhere, and he has been everywhere. I think he has a very good chance of winning.

I personally think he is a bad candidate,but it is a big mistake to discount him. I don't.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You push the liberal tax and spend school district Hunter agenda"

You do know that Hunter was off the Nazareth school board long before the spending spree began. Don't let facts get in your way.

What I like about Hunter is she is smart, defended her positions well and I love her focus on the human services aspect of county government.

That handbook she brought was earmarked all over the place with different programs. She cares about kids, seniors and the weak. Somebody has to.

She will be good on Council and i think she will be handily elected.

Anonymous said...

767Thanks for this review Bernie. To show how misguided I am, I use O'Hare's columns on politics to guide me in the voter booth. Without them, I would be (even more?) lost.

Bernie O'Hare said...

May God have mercy on your soul.

Celtic Warrior said...

O'Donnell compared a privatized administrator to the privatization of liquor stores. "It's all about the big bucks," he complained. "Get rid of Premier. They haven't done nothing."

Trying to make O'Donnell look stupid are ya O'Hara? He's got more Irishmen in his stool than you do in your whole body!

Anonymous said...

How in the world can you support Ferraro?

Anonymous said...

Peg is a great councilwoman and deserves to be reelected

Bernie O'Hare said...

This so-called Celtic Warrior shows his courage by remaining anonymous. It is idiotic to vote for someone based on ethnicity, gender or race. And I did not try to make O'Donnell look stupid. He did that on his own.

Anonymous said...

O'Donnel should repay the money that was wasted trying to educate him in basic grammar. 13 years of public education and this is what we get? Wow. Moron.

Anonymous said...

Enlarge the top photo, and behold Tom O' as Elmer Fudd a true dead ringer

Anonymous said...

Really O'Hare??

Seyfried couldn't stop patting himself on the back. Is humility too big a word for him? According to him, he created everything wonderful in the county. Every other Executive was terrible. He left out the part when voters overwhelmingly threw him out of office after only one term.

Heckman wants to work with the judges and claims they control part of the budget. He doesn't get it. Like the model in Lehigh County the council should be telling the judges how much money they can have and they must make it work. If they can't, too bad.

Hunter, just what government needs another teacher. Good Lord, God save us from these moonlighting teachers. Haven't we had enough teachers in government. Her standard answer is spend more money, then spend even more.

You betray your biases. We need strong conservative people who will set the spending agenda and make the bureaucracy do as they are told. If anything, I was a bit upset the Conservatives almost sounded apologetic at times and did not make the needed agenda more clear. At meetings they have been much more clear as to what must be done, as in Lehigh County to clean this liberal mess up.

The government belongs to the people.

Anonymous said...

I am voting only for Hunter.. reason.. she is HOT!! Especially for a mature lady!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If anything, I was a bit upset the Conservatives almost sounded apologetic at times and did not make the needed agenda more clear."

Maybe they're ashamed. Jerry was defeated in his bid for re-election, but it was a very close vote. There is no person alive who has done the things he has done for the County. And he was tight with a buck, too. You do a very good man a disservice with that kind of anonymous attack. Ehy not tell us about Agenda 21 or the plan to drop the County's opens space program? Don't be shy.

Anonymous said...

I was at the debate and I too heard Seyfried boasting about his past accomplishments. I couldn't help but to think why aren't other candidates telling us about the programs they initiated and why aren't they boasting about their record of accomplishments. Then it dawned on me. None of them have experience. They have no track record. Seyfried spoke out on his record. It was impressive. If everything he said is true, and I don't know that for a fact, he should easily win election. You can check on what he said Bernie. Is any of it lies? Would you really consider what he did Boasting or Bragging or was it simply agressive campaigning. How about his comment that he attended 280 Council Meetings and never missed a meeting. Perfect attendance. Was he boasting? I don't think so. I am a republican that went up to Jerry after the debate and told him He has my vote. He doesn't know me and he didn't ask me my name. He did thank me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ir is actually all true, and Jerry actually cut it short. He could have gone on for an hour just talking about his own county accomplishments. This says nothing about his accomplishments in other areas, like the annual sportsman banquet that has now raised $1 MM to help at risk kids. Where do you think Amanda Seyfried got her good looks? He told me about you today. 4 Rs and Jerry?

Anonymous said...

Ask Seyfried about Commander Kunkle and the entire Sheriff Diamedio affair. he embarrassed the entire county with his temper.

He takes a lot of credit for things others have done.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't have to ask him. Seyfried did the right thing. He fired the guy and his boss for refusing to do what he had been told to do.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie, can you se council candidates expense reports online?

Anonymous said...

Over under, who are the top five that win?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Top five? Jerry, Heckman, Deb Hunter, Peg Ferraro and ? Some are saying Dem sweep, but I think Peg wins easily. O'Donnell has supposedly polled high. But he finished last in the primary and I don't think voters are that stupid. I believe Hayden Phillips could win that 5th slot.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street and as per the Republican poll is Phillips, Ferraro, Seyfried, Heckman, then Geissinger or Hunter.

We shall see but that is the result of heavy polling.

The writing is on the wall!

Anonymous said...

"word on the street" is always code on the comment section of this blog for "i'm pulling shit out of my ass".

Anonymous said...

It seemed the only people that had solid answers with plans were Hunter, Vaughn, and Heckman. The rest of them babbled. Peg seems like she may be slipping, mentally, Geisinger was taking jabs at the democrats, Benol, no words there , Hayden was in pain being in the same room as democrats, Borso was really sweet but clueless, oDonnell while funny should not be running for office and Seyfried answered every question with how great he WAS. Hunter Vaughn and Heckman were the only forward thinkers with any clue about what the taxpayers want and how to get our county in a better place

Bernie O'Hare said...

My problem with Seth is he missed every meeting of the LVPC after being appointed there. That was irresponsible. Otherwise, he would have been my 5th vote.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree on Peg. She has the "taught kids and parents" vote. She is slipping big time. she tends to babble and not say anything. Her "facts" are usually wrong and she gets all confused most of the time.

She came off as more confused and out in space than O'Donnell and that is saying something.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You obviously were not there. Peg handled herself very well and was factually accurate. You are posting anonymous disinformation.

Anonymous said...

Overall, the Republican team outperformed the Democrats. Apparently recent polling supports this viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

"Overall, the Republican team outperformed the Democrats. Apparently recent polling supports this viewpoint"

there's no "recent polling".

unless you mean what's going on in Jim Gregory's cell...

Anonymous said...

Bernie, why do you support the status quo? Don't you think electing Seyfried and Heckman is a nod to the past? We need new faces with new ideas.

Mr. Phillips made it clear that experience is the status quo. Let us move ahead.

You don't buy that new Executive will be helped by experienced county councilmen line, do you?

I will grant you that Seyfried and Heckman appear very knowledgeable about county operations but is that the direction we want at this point?

Mr. O'Donnell is very experienced but you don't seem to want him.
Also remember we already have a lot of experience with Peg Ferraro and Lamont McClure. Isn't that enough?

Anonymous said...

"Also remember we already have a lot of experience with Peg Ferraro and Lamont McClure. Isn't that enough?"

Actually they are the very reason I will vote for Heckman and Seyfried. I don't agree with either of them on everything but God help us if Ferraro and McClure are to be the ones representing the so-called "experience" in county government.

Peter J.Cochran said...

i AGREE ,IN THIS CASE Experience is the statues quo. Mr. Phillips has some completely logical ideas as I ponder them. Met him the other day , he is not a "monster" or off the wall man what so ever. He was soft spoken and logical . Sorry Bernie, your assessment is what is deranged here. You would want this man as your next door neighbor, why I be he even can fix a lawn tractor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, I do not consider Phillips a "monster" I just view him as an extremist.

Peter J.Cochran said...

174 For the record, I can not believe that General Alexander, the NSA CHIEF would have compromised his reputation by fibbing to congress. I will draw a parallel. Now,i UNDERSTAND that Congress did not know about the Manhattan Project nor the Vice Presidents from 1938 to 1945. President Truman,was briefed about 10 days into his office upon Roosevelt's death.He was not in the loop. Debate this with me if you want , but there are some things that everybody in town do not need to know. However, When a commissioned officer of our military say's or does something it should be "AS REAL AS POSSIBLE" Any statement should be beyond reproach. Why do I bring up? Commissioned officers,and by the way are at the Direction of the President of The United States of America? Because they are to be "Oath takers and be above politics and personal gain, in the interest of our constitutional values and American citizens protection. Thanks Bernie, your blog is keeping all in check!

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

Your coverage of the local political scene is great. You shed light on angles not covered very well, if at all, in the local papers, and your piece here for the Press was more thorough. Thanks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thank you, Fox in the Henhouse. Your Latin name is a great blog title.