late February, he appeared in front of nine of them in his quest to become Lehigh County's next Director of Human Services. I'm referring, of course, to Lehigh's Board of commissioners. There may be ten devils if you count Muller. Maybe he thought his association with the Lehigh Conference of Churches would shield him. If so, he thought wrong. He obviously has a sincere desire to make a difference, but his qualifications are suspect.
First, he has no direct experience working in an actual human services department on a county, state or federal level.
Second, he claimed to have a supervisory role over only twelve people at the Lehigh Conference of Churches,where he's been employed for the past 13 years. He's currently their Human Services Director.
Third, he claims to have made great strides in reducing homelessness on Allentown's Commission to End Chronic Homelessness, with which he's been involved since 2004. But as Commissioner Scott Ott observed, his Commission seemed to be a big failure this past Winter, when 40 people were crowded onto the floor at Safe Haven. "I don't get the sense that all these human service agencies have done all they can do," noted Ott."Maybe I'm hoping against hope.
Fourth, he is involved in a nonprofit that actually took a needless and counterproductive swipe at other homeless activists when the temperatures plunged and the problem became a crisis. Forced into opening their doors, The Lehigh Conference of Churches sent out a mailer referring to the homeless in condescending terms as "the least of these, my brothers and sisters." It also condemned the efforts of others as "divisive and derisive."
Fifth, Walker had no good answer to Geoff Brace's question about how he would keep the Lehigh Conference of Churches, one of the County's biggest vendors, accountable. Perhaps there is nogood answer.
These are his negatives, but Walker has his strong points. The Chief of these seem to be his desire to make a difference.
First, He proposes making incremental changes in block grants, where flexibility is possible.
Second, he wants to perform a community wide needs assessment. "How can you save lives without knowing what the community needs?" he asks.
Third, his familiarity with nonprofits will enable him to collaborate with them.
Fourth, he'd do more work on suicide prevention.
Fifth, he'd focus more on children, making more of an effort to ensure they are literate and have a chance of making it through high school.
"It is government's responsibility to ensure that the needs of the least of us are met," he told Commissioners. I'm not sure that the so-called reform block buys into that, and I certainly don't think the Lehigh Conference of Churches distinguished itself by the way they handled the most recent homeless crisis. But Walker himself seems to be genuinely concerned.
Lehigh Commissioners will vote on Walker this Wednesday night.