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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Piano Player

Last week, the remnants of Scott Ott’s so-called reform team bloc appointed Amanda Holt to replace him on the Board, while he runs off to Texas in his latest of many moves.. Who is she? A 32 year old home schooled piano teacher with no college whatsoever. Her claim to fame is that she redrew a redistricting map prepared by the legislature. The real reason she was picked, although it took a possible Sunshine Act violation to do it, is because she has been a loyal foot solder for Ott and Lehigh County Kingmaker Wayne Woodman. The former GOP party boss, Woodman was texting Commissioners left and right before and apparently during the meeting. He reputedly texted someone that he had just secured the 5th vote for Holt while the supposed reformers were thumbing their nose at the Sunshine Act and meeting behind closed doors. This is great news for Wayne Woodman. For Lehigh County and anyone interested in good government, not so much.

The swing vote came from so-called establishment moderate Brad Osborne. You see, he'd like to be the next Lehigh County Exec. He put his naked political ambition ahead of good government. He chose ideologues over competency and real results.

The "Reform" Team's False Promises

In 2012, Scott Ott and his bloc took office saying they represented the future of the Republican Party in Lehigh County. Through campaign mailers, radio ads and numerous appearances on Bobby Gunther Walsh’s show, Ott and his gang claimed they would “reform” County government and promised to do the following:
1. Reverse the 16% tax increase that went into effect in 2011. During their campaign for office, they said the 16% increase was totally unnecessary and that they had a plan to completely eliminate it.

2. Balance the County’s budget and refuse to approve any budget that had a structural deficit.

3. Stop using the County’s reserves as a piggy back to be spent down covering the deficit.

4. Reduce spending, not slow the growth of spending or “cut” proposed spending, but actually reduce spending on a year over year basis.
After taking office, Ott and his bloc appointed Mike Schware to the Board. This gave them a working majority of five to do what they promised voters they would do. Yet rather than working to implement their plan, they decided to focus on ideological battles over such things as pass through grants for Meals on Wheels. As a result, less than two and a half years after taking office, none of their promises has been fulfilled. And to top it off, Ott decided to renege on his commitment to Lehigh County voters and left before his term was over, running off to Texas.

The Lehigh County Reality

Voters eventually smelled the Scott Ott bullshit and rejected him as an Executive in favor of a man, Tom Muller who tells the truth. It's an unpleasant truth.
1. County reserves are down to $17 million from $25 million when Ott and his bloc took office which is below the $20 million they have set as the minimum.

2. The structural deficit has increased by over 60% to $7.7 million from 4.7 million before Ott and his bloc took office.

3. County spending (covered by property taxes) has increased to $110.9 million from $109.3 million before Ott's "reform" team took office. In spite of claims that they really “cut spending”, all they have done is reduce the spending proposed in the budget. Spending has actually increased by $1.6 million since they have been in office.

4. The millage rate was decreased by 2.75% (from Ott’s campaign mailer last year) and not by the 16% that was promised. Moreover, by not continuing the tax credits given in 2012 and 2013 (Ott called them gimmicks), every taxpayer in Lehigh County will pay more in taxes in 2014 than they did in 2013. And the average taxpayer (accounting for the revenue neutral reassessment) will pay more in 2014 than they did in the 2012 budget passed before Ott took office.
So after two and a half years of Ott’s leadership, taxpayers are paying more than when he came into office. Lehigh County is left with spending that is on an upward trajectory, a sizable structural deficit and insufficient reserves.

Let's Cut $8-12 Million

The inability of Ott and his bloc to deliver on any of their promises has set the stage for a tax increase in the budget for next year. This seems to have dawned on them, so they passed a resolution earlier this year calling for a budget that eliminated the deficit, increased reserves and accomplished both of these feats without increasing taxes. This passed unanimously, too, with both Democrats and Republicans waving their magic wands.

But this is not Hogsmeade, despite what you see at the trough. It's Lehigh County. The only way to work this magic is through spending cuts of $8 - $12 million (or 10% to 14%) from the County’s controllable spending. That's highly unlikely.

I have yet to hear a single Commissioner propose a spending plan that would avoid a big tax hike next year.

Fortunately, some serious candidates were willing to dive into the deep end of the pool. They included
• three former County Commissioners
• three former Township Commissioners
• an attorney and former School Board Director
• a current Borough Council member
• a current School Board member
• an accomplished businessman and veteran
Commissioners went with the piano player.

Instead of playing the violin as Rome burns, Holt can play the piano.


michael molovinsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Every political campaign promises reform and lies. Obama promised the most transparent administration in history and he delivered more secrecy than Nixon. Panto promised clean and safe in Easton and the gang shooting got more brazen. Callahan promised casino tax rebates and later laughed when asked about it. You write about politics and seemed surprised at this kind of thing?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bernie for covering Lehigh County!!! There is a lot more that can be unveiled there. Keep up the good work. The Holt appointment was dubious at best. It is clear now it was done for some warped right winger dream agenda.

Anonymous said...

Wow, not only does the link to your evidence of a "possible Sunshone Act violation" say there was NO Sunshine Act violation, but it says Holt was a good pick.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that someone outside is trying to write the Board's Concerto? Will it be written in "D" minor or "F" flat.?

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, as is the case from time to time, i must challenge your hypothesis. you have used your wordsmithing skills to minimize ms. holt, and vilify the "reform" team. last week i met up with a prominent politico in harrisburg. he and an associate had one question for me, do I know amanda holt? she apparently has rock star fame in harrisburg. although you have minimized her accomplishment, challenging and redrawing the state redistricting map has made her a legend.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, then let her run for office in Harrisburg. he is a piano teacher with no education, and is completely unqualified to solve a budget mess. She was appointed bc she is a loyal Woodman soldier. That is all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:10, The link gioves LC Comm'rs a turkey over the way it handled the Sunshine Act. It is no endorsement of how that was handled. Thde ET does think Smanda Holt was a good pick simply bc she challenged redistricting. I personally don't find that argument persuasive.

Anonymous said...

Is she married to Steve Holt from Arrested Development?

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:18, Although your general point is accurate, one of your examples is dead wrong. Crime IS down in Easton, and he did make that city cleaner and safer. According to you, since all pols lie, I shouldn't bother to write about it. I have a different view. Maybe you should spend your time reading something other than a political blog at 6:18.

Anonymous said...

“…with no education, and is completely unqualified to solve a budget mess.”

So much here, and so little time.

1) Your post reeks of elitism. So only people who have attended college are “educated”? Is there a new requirement in the Election Laws (for a college education) that we’re not aware of? Maybe you could list all the highly-educated politicians who got us into the “budget mess” at the county, state and federal levels.

2) Thank you for a perfect example of the politics of personal destruction. Here you have someone with an interest in local government who not only was willing to throw her hat into the ring for consideration, but who took on the seemingly impossible task of fighting the redistricting system (and her own party) to do what she thought was right. And she won! That doesn’t seem like someone who is in this to be controlled by anyone, yet that is what you mistakenly allege.

I think if you were honest about your motivations, you’d admit that this post has less to do with Amanda Holt and more to do with Dean Browning (who apparently didn’t get a single vote, from anyone on the board).

Please spare us the future posts about why good people don’t want to serve in public office. This is why.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Elitism? She was clearly the least qualified of the candidates, and was selected only because she will continue to be a loyal foot soldier for the "reform" team, of which you are a likely member. She is homeschooled, and has spent a lifetime away from society, unlike many who pick up quite a bit in the workforce. So she is, by nearly every measure, uneducated.

Personal destruction? What have I written that is untrue? I've simply stripped away the varnish so people see things as they are. The reality is that the only reason she was appointed is because brad Osborne, a supposed moderate, broke his word and voted for a "reform" team candidate. He did so to help his chances when he runs for Exec. She was the least qualified of all candidates.

As for Dean Browning, he was one of many qualified candidates. You went with the pianist. He did not get a single vote from anyone on the Board, which I think entitles him to say he is now an outsider. An educated outsider who tells the truth and has a conscience.

You did Dean a favor. He can't be tagged with the mess you have on your hands, and which you mostly created.

Anonymous said...

Osborne broke his word to who?

Bernie O'Hare said...

He broke his word to Comm'rs Dougherty, Brace and Jones. They had agreed they would not vote for any of the "reform" candidates, even if it meant this went to the courts.

Anonymous said...

People often assume an accomplishment in one area will automatically translate into the ability to succeed in another area. This mistaken belief is seen over and over, particularly in politics. For example, Wendy Davis successfully filibusters an abortion bill and the Democratic Party assumes she is then qualified to be governor of Texas. Sarah Palin successfully takes on oil companies in Alaska and the Republican Party thinks she is then qualified to be vice president. And so on.

Coming up with an alternative redistricting plan was a notable accomplishment by Holt. However, that does not mean she can be an effective Commissioner who can deal with a budget deficit, consider union contracts, interact with constituents, decide the future of Cedarbrook, etc. She wasn't picked because she has the demonstrated skills and life experience to make meaningful contributions in those areas. She was picked to be a reliable vote. Why else would Mike Schware urge Holt to run for election before she had even been sworn in and cast a single vote?

Anonymous said...

Lehigh County will implode with the REFORM team at the helm. I'm so embarrassed to be a Republican!!! When is Woodman going to go back to CA from where he came????? Take your wife with you, too!!!!! She's a disgrace to females!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's not get personal, please. Ms. Scheller is no disgrace to anyone.

Anonymous said...

The only surprise I have about Woodman pertains to the fact that he is no longer the Chairman of the Lehigh County Republican Committee. Democratic Chairman such as Richard Daugherty did make recommendations to the Commissioners. But he was Chairman at the time. So who did Bill Heydt want for Commissioner.

Interestingly Commissioner Percy Dougherty said he was disappointed that I did not change parties to seek the appointment. But I am not that kind of guy who would do that just to get in office; and besides I am doubtful I would have been selected anyway.

With the appointment of Amanda Holt now Schiller is not the lone female of the Commissioners.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill Heydt wanted Browning.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you posters ever worked with Amanda Holt? I have, and it was no fun. She is a dolt. A puppet on a string. A WW lackey. As a person "in the know" I disagree wholeheartedly with MM's moles who believe her to be a "rock star". She has been a disruption in Harrisburg, and more than once she has had to be put in place by GOP leaders.

Check it out MM you'll find I am right.

The entire commissioner replacement process was a sham with less transparency than the Obama administration. There were plenty of viable candidates to select who had life learning experiences (notice I don't say college education) which would be vital in the decision making processes for the county. But no, LC HAD to show that we have less common sense than NC. Oh well, at least LC will now be able read a music sheet instead of a financial sheet. Maybe Ms Holt will be able to play Pennies From Heaven when the tax man comes to collect.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you Bernie for covering Lehigh County!!! There is a lot more that can be unveiled there"

I agree but you won't read about it here. Starting with the political party chameleon Musty Muller and the cronies he protects. How many different cabinet positions has Frank Kane now held? The guy was never qualified for even one.

Protecting the old Cunningham gang was accomplished at the expense of honest and competent government. There are many Democrats in Lehigh County who are now turned off because Party leadertshop sole out their values.

Anonymous said...

There were more qualified candidates, but there is no need to attack Holt personally. Osbourne has proven to be spineless again. He'll be lucky to be re-nominated next year let alone be County Exec.

Anonymous said...

@340pm "She has been a disruption in Harrisburg, and more than once she has had to be put in place by GOP leaders."

This makes Holt a great choice for that very reason. BTW...Wouldnt your statement about her mean she is an independent person who can't be controlled? How can Woodman control her if she is resistant to control as she proved with the redistricting issue?

Anonymous said...

4:01. In one sentence you say there is no need to "attack Holt" yet in the next sentence you attack Osborne as being "spineless". You can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

@4:12 disrupting her own party makes her a "great choice"? Uhhhm, no. It just makes her a disruption. And, I never wrote that she is resistent to control. In fact, I wrote that she is a puppet thereby being controlled by someone else...

Anonymous said...

@4;12 There's a difference between a personal attack (no college degree, dolt, etc) and a political one (switching your vote, bending under party boss pressure, etc.) Personally I think Brad is a nice guy, but he has been politically spineless.

Anonymous said...

"In spite of claims that they really “cut spending”, all they have done is reduce the spending proposed in the budget. Spending has actually increased by $1.6 million since they have been in office."

Democrats always refer to reductions in spending growth rates as "cuts." You'd be absolutely fair to call Republicans on the same bullshit - if you'd ever criticized Democrats for doing it. You haven't in the four years I've been reading you. You've called Republicans heartless for proposing reductions in increases that still deliver spending increases, just as you cite in this post.

Bernie O'Hare said...

%:02, Whether or not someone has a college degree is an objective fact and is one of the questions thAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN AN APPOINTMENT SUCH AS THIS. iT IS NOT PERSONAL.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sorry for the caps.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:40, I criticized the Scott Ot reform team for being dishonest. Ott claimed that he made real actual cuts in spending, and reduced it to make it lower than it was when he got there. It was simply untrue. Had a Dem made the same claim, I'd call him on it.

Anonymous said...

No, you wouldn't. Remember handing this blog over to the Callahan campaign? I do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You have a very selective memory.

Anonymous said...

With ALL the QUALIFIED and EXPIERENCED Names and People Going for the Open Spot I CAN NOT BELIEVE that the L/C Commishr's PICK a Piano Teacher WHO HAS NO College Education and WAS Home Schooled. I HOPE HOLT Can Draw a MAP and Re-District MORE MONEY for L/C SO OUR TAXES DO NOT GO WAY UP. BUT Then AGAIN I HAVE NO FAITH IN ANY of the L/C Commishr's and THEY SHOULD ALL BE REPLACED !!!!!!