Monday, April 20, 2015
Half of BT's Comm'r Candidates are Debate No-Shows
Though there are eight Republican candidates for three seats on the Bethlehem Township Board of Commissioners, only four of them appeared for a recent candidates' night hosted by the Northampton County GOP at Northampton Community College. The candidates who did appear before an audience of about 50 people were incumbent Commissioners Phil Barnard, Tom Nolan and Marty Zawarski, along with former Commissioner Art Murphy.
Tom Nolan, whose mantra is "Experience courts!" has been involved in Township government, in one form or another, for 35 years. He also pointed to his service on other boards, including the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Gaming Board and Library Board. He is an engineer at Lehigh Heavy Forge. "If it's not broke, don't fix it," Nolan argued.
But to opponent Art Murphy, who works for Selvaggio and Son, township government is broken. Revenues are flat, and he criticized the decision to allow St. Luke's Hospital to operate on Freemansburg Avenue because it "doesn't generate the income that the mall would have." He supports increasing the business privilege tax and earned income tax as a way of raising revenue for future needs.
A third candidate, Wayne Buller, failed to appear.
Phil Barnard, Manager at Bay Insulation, stated he is in government to make his community a better place, in a fiscally responsible way. he prayed for "mild questions." His Republican opponent, Fran Blatz, was absent.
Marty Zawarski, whose family has developed much of the Lehigh Valley, argued that a "new mindset is required" in township government. As he promised a "creative approach" and to bring his "entrepreneurial skills," Neither of his opponents, Paul Weiss or Bob Birk, appeared. Weiss was reportedly ill .
To his credit, Zawarski is running hard. That, or unopposed, is the only way to go. Birk, whose ethics statement lists his occupation as "unemployed," obviously has lots of time on his hands to knock on doors. So Zawarski is knocking on doors, too, and has sent out a flier.
Single hauler - With the exception of Marty Zawarski, all candidates oppose going to a single trash hauler. Zawarski conceded that most of the residents with whom he has spoken are opposed to the idea.
Rainy Day Fund. "I have no idea," was Barnard's response on whether the Township should maintain a rainy day fund. would leave that decision to staff and financial director. Nolan argued there was no need because the township spends less than it gets in revenue. Zawarski would like $2-4 million in reserves, but [w]e're kinda' hard pressed with the way things are" Murphy supports three months in expenditures in reserve, to be built up over time.
PennEast Pipeline. - Three of the four candidates are opposed to the pipeline, but state there is little a township can do to stop it. Zawarski, who calls Pennsylvania the "Saudi Arabia of the natural gas world," argued that the pipeline makes us less dependent on oil from the Middle East.
Housenick Park Mansion. - Murphy described this mansion as a "pain in the neck" for years. He derided the Housenick Park Committee as a group who "caused more problems than they solved." Nolan, who was a member of the Housenick Committee, called it a "very fine group of people." He believes the mansion should be restore, bt not with public funds. Zawarski. called it one of the grandest mansions in the Lehigh Valley that could serve as a library or senior center. But he cautioned, "We have to take things one step at a time."
Bulldogs restroom. - This is expected to cost $250,000 in grant funds and $100,000 in township money. Barnard, who calls himself a "big proponent of youth sports," has met numerous families who are involved. "I think we spent more money on the Housenick walking trails than on the bathrooms. Murphy.agreed that it is important to have facilities, but believes the Bulldogs should help pay for it. Nolan reminded everyone that , so far, all the Board has done is authorize the Manager to apply for a grant. "I think we need it, " stated Zawarski, who said that is what he hears from the majority of the residents he visits. He noted that the Bulldogs play against 20 different teams, each of which has a bathroom. "We need to find a way to fund this," he argued. We'll find a way."
Public comment limits - Zawarski is the sole candidate who spoke in support of limiting public comment for people who are "redundant." But Nolan argued against any limitation. "These are the people who voted us in," he reasoned. "Hopefully, we want to listen to them." He called the proposal to limit public comment both "demeaning" and "disrespectful." Murphy echoed that every citizen has a right to speak. Barnard.called it "opportunity to listen. ... My job is to sit and listen."
Community Center. - All candidates support the facility. Zawarski called it "one of our greatest assets. This is one reason people love Bethlehem Township."
Firearms in Twp Parks.- If the state pre-emption of gun regulation in parks is eliminated, all candidates will support a ban on guns in parks. "There is a place for guns, but I don't think a place is in our parks," stated Zaworski.