When he ran for Northampton County Council, Hayden Phillips was one of very few politicians willing to speak out against open space. This is one of Northampton County's sacred cows. When he starts talking about Agenda 21, he loses me. But the points he made last night are consistent with his campaign and are views obviously held by the people who elected them. He was the sole No vote against four open space projects totaling $698,000. Those projects went through the Open Space Committee on Monday with no dissent. They all require municipal matches.
Phillips was absent from Monday's discussion, but he participated heavily in the discussion of the $715,200 Deana Zosky contract the following day. He opposed it, even though it had been proposed by a fellow Republican.
Phillips recalled the words of other Council members and even the Executive, who spoke in terms of "bleeding money." "Everyone agreed that financially, we're the Titanic.," he observed. "Reject these proposals," he urged. "Put this money aside so we have it in August. You vote for this, you're voting for a future tax increase."
Other Council members had different views. Peg Ferraro noted that voters overwhelming supported sending $39 million in an open space referendum eight years ago. Werner called it a "core County function." Glenn Geissinger and Ken Kraft both argued that these initiatives actually attract business, which increases revenue. Scott Parsons said that, without County assistance, municipalities would have to pay for these projects themselves and would have to raise taxes even higher.
I thought Phillips head was going to roll off his shoulders when they began discussing the butterfly habitat in Upper Mount Bethel Township, but he kept his cool.
Lamont McClure, who supported these proposals, suggested it is time to stick to environmentally significant land and hybrid properties that might have aspects of farmland, sensitive land and parks.