Thursday, September 04, 2014

Is NorCo Government Looking at the Big Picture?

Under Northampton County's Administrative Code, County Council approval is needed for all outside contracts that exceed $100,000. Tomorrow night, in an apparent reaction to controversial contracts that are under that sum, Council will consider a new ordinance that will require their approval for any contract in excess of $10,000. I appreciate this desire for more oversight, although there's no need to pull out a magnifying glass. While Council wages war with the Executive over this or that contract, and makes speeches for each other and the newspapers that may grant them a few lines, they are ignoring a much bigger problem.

The employee. 

Whether it is the Deputy Sheriff providing security in a courtroom or a nurse's aid cleaning out a bedpan, these are the County, not the people who sit behind the dais of some star chamber every other Thursday night. The face of the County is the law librarian who provides forms to desperate people unable to afford a lawyer during some of the lowest moments in their lives. It's the Clerk in the Tax Claim Bureau who helps someone establish a payment plan when he's lost his job and has fallen behind on his real estate taxes. It is the corrections officer who treats an inmate at the jail like a human being, instead of an animal.

These are people who don't go to meetings and who themselves have seen their wages diminish as the County and Easton chip away with commuter taxes and increased contributions to healthcare and other regressive measures.

Just like the people in the private sector.

Despite the occasional grandstanding, no real effort has been made to actually help both the worker and people of Northampton County. Most of them have no politics, except the politics of putting food on the table or next month's mortgage payment.

You might call them apathetic, but they're not blind. They see no reason to give their loyalty to rich and powerful men in one party who simply want to take over the role of rich and powerful men in another party.

Council can wage war with the Executive over political emails, residency or contracts. But does this do anything to help a county worker put food on the table? Does this help a person who just lost his job and feels useless?

Raises and new positions have been approved for Fiscal Affairs and the Department of Community and Economic Development, as they should be, but there's hiring freezes and staff shortages nearly everywhere else. Not one Council member has said one word about these conditions. To make matters worse, workers without contracts are being told to expect no raises and see diminished benefits sliced even more.

Executive John Brown has complained about OT at the jail, something that happens in 24-hour operations. But he's unwilling to fill vacancies. The Civil Division is operating with a skeleton crew.

The Executive needs to drop the corporate babble and start paying attention to the people of Northampton County, starting with the worker. County Council needs to focus on that as well. That is the real role of government.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are right about all the speeches. McClure can't keep his mouth shut for media quotes. However, I have yet to see what all the talk accomplishes except more talk. Werner likes to make speeches as well.

Now part of this may be because both want to be the Democratic nominee for county executive.

Somehow I don't see anything improving over Brown if either of these guys run. They both are more talk than action. What exactly have they accomplished?

The fear is now they will just throw around silly ideas that are more grandstanding than substantive.

Bernie O'Hare said...

These folks are out of touch. They think their ideologies are the answer, but neither party is really helping anyone but their own leaders.

Anonymous said...

Amen Bernie Amen well written!

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree. It would appear the newest crop of county officials are far more ideological and self-centered than past officials I remember going back some time.

It is sad that the current office holders mimic Washington more than real needed local leadership.

Anonymous said...

The face of the county is the hard working taxpayer, many of whom are working poor.

Anonymous said...

There isn't enough detail to tell what McClure has in mind but one thing everyone knows who has ever served in any Administration is that there are hundreds of contracts signed every month by the Executive. Almost all of these are in Human Services and all exceed $10,000.00. By enacting this legislation, Council will hold up all contracts and delay services to those who are really down and out. The Elderly, Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol. All will suffer. Why would Council want to do something so stupid? Government Human Services will suffer most. I guarantee you one thing. Council will now be on the hook for anything that goes wrong in the County because they will completely control who gets what contracts and who approves ALL THE BILLS. Go for it dumb asses. You'll never get re-elected.

Anonymous said...

There isn't a single place I can think of where the employee pays more and makes less , why would anyone do that ? work without raises and pay more for healthcare etc.... I never heard of such a thing , furthermore there are some who work full time and still need government assistance , that in itself is outrageous! john brown needs to get his out of his ass and start looking at reality ... what planet does he live on ? thanks for telling it like it is Bernie , it's high time someone did !

Bernie O'Hare said...

Except my comment is directed at Brown AND COUNCIL. Not seeing much from them, either.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The face of the county is the hard working taxpayer, many of whom are working poor."

I am referring to county government. But the county employee is for the most part a hard working taxpayer and is certainly among the working poor.

We need to address the needs of hard working taxpayers in and out of government. The rich and powerful would play them off against each other, as you are doing. The answer lies in unity and demanding the same treatment that John Brown rightly gave to DCED and Fiscal. The answer lies in insisting that all Human Services programs are running on all cylinders. The answer is working hard to educate our poor instead of jailing them. The answer lies in real pressure on the state to enforce tax equity for seniors or anyone else on a fixed income. Instead o giving Mark Mulligan or JB Reilly tax breaks, we need to empower our growing lower class.

This is not an ideological war. Democratic and Republican solutions are only aimed at making the rich more wealthy. We need to take what works in either ideology and ignore what does not. It is called realism.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope there are not enough votes on council to approve this cockamamie idea. No county administration should be hamstrung by council micromanagement. Especially DHS which has dozens of contracts under $100K. There are checks and balances in place. Any contract over $24,999 has to be bid on or approved by an Executive Order. This requires notification to council at which time if they don't like it, as in the case of the Sahl contract, they can challenge the justification. We don;t need petulant council members like Lamutt McClueless paralyzing county government for their own selfish reasons.

Anonymous said...

Well, well the cupcake clown can philosophize. The rich do nothing right. They just step on the "working poor" as if they were bugs. Sounds like jealousy from an under-achieving former lawyer who by his own failings lives in poverty.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There is nothing wrong with poverty. I embrace it. I actually consider myself happier than many of my more wealthy friends. That is not my point. My point is that government no longer serves the needs of everyone. It only serves those who are already rich and powerful. All local government is slowly becoming an urban growth regime in which the developers and those interested in taking from the county buy the politicians. On the state and national levels, it is far worse.

The result is that the needs of the rich and powerful are satisfied at the expense of everyone else. No longer is this a country in which one can afford an education. No longer is this a country in which anyone can excel. No longer is this a country in which we embrace the huddled masses, the poor, the single working mother, the war vet who keeps having anger episodes.

The solutions offered by Barack Obama or Rush Limbaugh do nothing other than help those who are already rich and powerful. We need to take our governments back on every level.

Your personal hatred is noted but that does not change anything.

Anonymous said...

Who creates jobs? The wealthy. Who supports nonprofit organizations who help the poor, the sick and disabled. The wealthy. And who already pays in some instances 50% of their income in taxes while YOU who earn virtually nothing and do no even own a home paying next to nothing? The wealthy. They have earned their wealth through their brains and hard work. This is America, land of opportunity. Not land of wealth envy.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:54 I didn't hear a single word of jealously in anything Bernie said just truth ! and when people like you hear it instead of thinking about the issue , instead choose to berate another ! grow up !

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is no longer the land of opportunity. What was once a democracy is morphing into an oligarchy. I am not attacking the wealthy. God bless them. I am arguing that your tired arguments don't solve anything. Nor does the answer that wealth must be taken away. The real problem is not that the rich and powerful have money., but that there no longer are equal opportunities because our once healthy democracy is very sick. Nobody speaks for the poor.

Anonymous said...

Grow up? Are you kidding? You are the child who is still spouting off anti-wealth rhetoric due to your class envy. And Bernie this is STILL a land of opportunity for those with great ideas who are willing to work their butts off to see them become a reality. Look at Jay Z. Grew up in the projects to become an entertainment mogul worth over a half-billion dollars. Or Dr. Dre who has promoted Beats to become a billion-dollar company. One could go on an on. But you would rather see the negative v. the positive aspects of our society. That is what bloggers do. How many hours of volunteer time have you spent in soup kitchens? You would rather "help" the poor by spouting off against those who really care about a better society and community through their deeds and actions, like creating jobs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are using old arguments that no longer work. Everybody now sees through them. You cite exceptions, but that does not change the rule. Our middle class is practically nonexistent. The ranks of the working poor have exploded, and though there once was hope,that is vanishing. That is the reality. The answer is not me working in a soup kitchen. The answer is not taking money from the rich. The answer is more democracy, better education, more humanity in government. But you don't even see the problem.

Anonymous said...

Sadly those who continue to cite this example and that example of someone "making it" miss the big picture. That is because the very wealthy and politically connected like the Koch brothers and others have them singing the song of the 1890's. Work hard, live right keep your head down and you to will be a millionaire.

The problem today is not "wealth envy"(enough with the bumper sticker slogans already) it is for every one that "makes it", there are millions who do not. The country is stratifying into the very wealthy and the poor and working or retired poor. There are still some who are always better off than others but a missed payment or two away from the street. Now millions do work hard, harder than ever, and live right and still end up poor.
The "jobs" you speak of left the country. We have seen the "leave the uber rich alone, they create jobs" philosophy in effect since the 1980's. The experiment has resulted in the largest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands in the nations history. The lowest mean wages. This isn't America of the 1370's anymore. It is time to understand the world and America of the 21st century and it is rotting from within because of greed and self-centered policies.

Time to reset.

Anonymous said...

there is currently an inmate that is stuck in prison because he can't post $25 bail. apparently there is also a (female) guard who works extra overtime to buy certain special inmates she likes breast implants when they are released. endless stories of really backwards things going on behind the scenes in any government job. my point is not to try to rely on anectodal evidence as reliable, it is just to point out that it is not all perfect county employees all the time (as portrayed in your write up) who aren't working the system of govenment employment. the nature of goverment employment doesn't breed efficiency or a desire to excel. the nature is one of stagnation and comfort zones.this is NOT real world. also, the system is not perfect, it is more broken. Gov employees operate a certian way because "that's the policy, or they way it's always been done" there are most definitely areas to be tended to, and by tended to i mean discontinued and made more efficient. an evrionment that breeds creativity and authority for smarter solutions would help. i am sure if you asked each county employee individually what would improve their job and their process and what they would do if they felt they had the authority, some efficiencies may occur and good ideas would arise. i am sure they would share just enough to improve, but also just enough for job/pension security. i think they would rather just do their job as is since it keeps them busy and provides a paycheck. most likely they know exactly how the job can be eliminated with efficiency and technology, but why in the world would they offer that info?
either way, the flow of life always brings abrupt change to stagnation. in any situation.
just my opinion, thanks for listening

Bernie O'Hare said...

The first two anecdotes you provide acxtually illustrate my point. What kind of world are we in when someone is in jail bc he or she is unable to post $25? Why do women feel it is important to have big boobs or be skinny?

And I actually agree with your point. Government employment is designed to breed stagnation and ineffficiency. Who wants to bust himself when he knows his work is not valued, and that he is going to be treated like shit?

We are focused on taking from those who can't afford it, balancing budgets on the backs of the poor, while we elect leaders in both parties who fall over themselves to give tax breaks to those who are already wealthy. We need to focus on changing the status quo.

And I will be the first to admit that the pat ansers giving by Democrats are bullshit. But so are the pat answers of the Republicans.

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present."

Anonymous said...

There are still plenty of middle class jobs around, but unfortunately more and more are in the public sector. And the person who can't pay $25 to post bail is likely a deadbeat with deadbeat friends and family who spent whatever disposable income they had on drugs, booze and cell phones. Why blame society for the irresponsible behavior of some of it's citizens? It is a free country and some people squander that freedom with bad choices.

Anonymous said...

"Why blame society for the irresponsible behavior of some of it's citizens?"

not blaming society...just don't know why do we need to subsidize this persons living expenses for that. food, clothing, shelter. not worth it. let him go and write off the $25

Anonymous said...

So every poor person in this nation is a deadbeat? You are so brainwashed I fear it is too late. Most people who have made it like myself worked very hard. However, I will be the first to admit that good fortune, luck, being at the right place at the right time more than not play a major role in success. The idea that being poor denotes being a deadbeat or a second class citizen is absolutely absurd.

Go on and keep sing that ridiculous song that the "poor" are killing this country. That food assistance and Medicaid and Medicare are the real problems. Throw the poor, the disabled and the elderly to the curb. Make it a law of the jungle environment and see how well that works in a "modern" society. The very wealthy will find they cannot buy enough police or fences to be safe. In fact we will all go down fast or slow but down we will go..

Some of you seem to yearn for a mythical America that never existed and never will. Read real history not the cherry-picked crap the new talking heads put out all the time. Christ we are becoming a stupid nation full of hateful people.

Also look up "society" and "civilized" and "modern", that would be a great starting point. Use a real dictionary not one from one of the talking heads.

Bernie we are doomed. I also will say I like Charlie Dent and have voted for him. I have yet to see a worthy challenger. However, he better get his head out of his ass like so many in Washington or I will vote for an opponent because most of the incumbents are really sitting on their hands while Rome burns.
Charlie Dent

Anonymous said...

Stop sending everyone to jail and then..maybe you can adequately staff the facility with what you already have. Domstics is a joke and should be abolished..NH the last county in PA to still be operating a domestics court..crazy!

Anonymous said...

3:29 is a pathetic Communist, pure and simple. Go crawl back under your proletarian rock.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Brown should call Casino Johnny and find out how he managed to leave Bethlehem in a $6 million dollar hole and hid it so well..until now.

Anonymous said...

If the truth is "communism"..so be it! Ha!

Bernie O'Hare said...

What I'm getting here are knee-jerk ideologies. That's not the answer. Neither the left nor the right seems to have any answers. They both should notice that nobody is voting and should be asking why.

Anonymous said...

Is NorCo Government Looking at the Big Picture?

To answer your original question, NO! Dems are frustrated because they lost the exec race they thought was a slam dunk and they remain in the minority on council. Brown has stumbled through his first year and shows a lack of political acumen and hasn't show much initiative. The will have to change next month when the budget is rolled out. The surplus is gone. Eventually some tough decisions will have to be made on either raising taxes or cutting spending.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
I absolutely agree and have been also saying that the political system does not work. The two gangs and their ideologies are only to publicly bash itself so people get caught up in the fight, meanwhile behind the scenes they are laughing all the way to the bank! People need to wake up and get educated. Vote for independent thinkers who run. Vote for people with new ideas to progress our country forward.
We have been regressing in all areas and Generation X will have obtained less wealth than the previous generation. Do people know this is the first time this has happened in this country since the Industrial Revolution?
Our so called elected officials have failed us on all levels!
It is time that the people wake up and elect people that want to see progression. People that want to take care of people in this country. In that it means that education is free and accessible for every American, medical care is provided at the same level for all citizens, as well maintaining opportunity to excel and obtain more for hard work and brilliant ideas. We need to take care of our people so we have a new revolution period and become the leading nation we were on course for before this!
A simple fix is to start at the top. I propose all legislatures and executives at all levels to have all stocks owned before elected frozen and be managed by a public company. For those legislatures to not take part in any stock market buying, trading, or selling for their term and a period of a year or two after. This will help two fold. It will help rid the corrupt system of lobbying and will also have out elected officials be true civil servants.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the union officials who "sell out" their colleagues for their own personal gain - happened in the prison and sheriff's department.

Anonymous said...

"3:29 is a pathetic Communist, pure and simple."

You said it anon. I like your well written and reasoned response to the writer. Sad think is I think most of what he said is right and more and more of the people are realizing it. that scares the shot out of the establishment AND it should.

Anonymous said...

AMEN BERNIE! Its about time. Quite candidly, the County workers view each and every one of the Council members and Executive as "noise". Not one of these individuals would be qualified to do most any job in the County. In fact, if an opening came up, and any one submitted and application or resume, they would not even be interviewed. That is the crux of the matter. People get elected to these positions and have no idea what their role is or even have an inkling as to what the clerk in the Recorders office does let alone be able to do his or her job! Now.. maybe council many not need to be qualified to do any County job, but, heck the Executive should have working expert knowledge, ability and skill to do at least one high level County service job. If not.. the individual is not qualified to be Executive.

Anonymous said...

A major area of concern is the Sheriffs office. Apparently CCP are getting backed up. This is not NJ. He better read the law and get those things out. The Sheriff "shall", not "may". Also the reference part of the form is BS. If everything checks from the state issue the permit.

County Council you better get on this.

Anonymous said...

There are no easy answers so forget it! This will be hard work. The pantry was left bare and the silo less than half full. What did anyone expect after 8 years of largess by the county. Brown in a no win situation no matter which way he turns..either from his own party or the opposition. Time to bite the bullet and swallow hard.

Anonymous said...

Stop the posturing and get to work..Brown/council. The whole county is waiting and watching your actions. People are depending on you to deliver. Find the common ground and start solving the problems and stop the blame game.

Matt M. said...

Nobody votes because nobody realizes that there are elections every Fall and Spring. I didn't learn about Government in school, I learned about it through Boy Scouts, in earning my series of Citizenship Merit Badges. The curriculum in school is useless.

The other thing is that we have soundbites thrown at us by the media that we are taught to trust.

Add the Rovian Politics, with it's roots in the Carter and Regan eras and you've got a cocktail of keep the masses dumb and entertained and slightly at odds over each other.

The Average Citizen can't run for even a county seat with a nest-egg in the $1000s. When you knock on doors, no one cares unless you're for or against Obama. In past campaigns for local candidates, I've had doors slammed in my face, been screamed at and been harassed by the police due to complaining neighbors. Campaigning is tough. I get people won't always agree with you, but getting people to give 2 shits is even tougher. If we continue to have poor voter turn-out, then every one of use will reap what we sow.

Anonymous said...

Educating the masses is where it's at. Demand that your school district teach civics and relevant political history. Stop the dumbing down of our children. This is a participatory American ideal worth fighting for. People are dying in this world over the chance to vote. Act accordingly.