There are nine members of Northampton County Council. They are paid $9,500 per year and receive no medical benefits. Considered the "governing body," their primary role is to adopt the budget. They control the purse strings. Five members are at-large, while the remaining four are elected from four different geographical districts. There are currently five Republicans and four Democrats.
The four district seats are up this year. In District One, which includes Bethlehem and Hanover Township, Democrat Ken Kraft is running unopposed. In District Two, which includes the Easton area, Democrat Bib Werner is also running unopposed. But Districts Three and Four are another story. Democrat Lamont McClure announced earlier this year that he had decided against rel-election to District Three, which has become much more Republican since Williams Township was added to its roster. And District Four, which includes the slate belt and northern tier, is considered a safe Republican stronghold.
Who are these candidates?
Mickey Thompson is the CFO and in house counsel at Abe Atiyeh's Pennsylvania Venture Capital, Inc. he claimed his company specializes in taking "unloved, unwanted and unused properties" and turning them into "productive assets." He worked on the DUI center, which ultimately was located in West Easton in one of those "unloved, unwanted and unused properties"..Mickey also helped form three charter schools in the Lehigh Valley, boasting 1,000 students and 100 teachers. His job duties also include Saucon Valley Manor and Whitehall Manor, which are assisted living facilities for seniors. "I just want to help," is what he stated is his reason for running.
Lorin Bradley.is Mr. Corporate America, and I mean that in a positive way. He has two Master's degrees and has been involved in human resources and labor relations for 25 years. "What I do as a professional is work with conflict and try to resolve conflict," he stated, His goal in the business world in to Develop solutions that are workable for all parties. He is involved in Boy Scouts, is himself and Eagle Scout, coached, and appears to be a deeply spiritual man.
How do they stand on the issues?
Gracedale. - Dietz calls it an "emotional question" but states "there's a red line there." He stated the County can't afford to write a check every year. "Privatize as much as we can out of it," he recommends to give the County "better bargaining power to sell the property." Bradley echoed Dietz' remarks, but believes there should be a "top down analysis first."
John Cusick, who supported selling Gracedale while on Council, now favors converting it into a 501c3 non profit similar to what Centre County Commissioners did at their publicly owned nursing home.
Mickey Thompson opposes the sale of Gracedale. He believes the facility can transition to perform medical services for residents and become a profit center. .
Home Rule Charter and Admin Code Overhaul.- All candidates believe it;s time for an overhaul. "You can't have a county exec of any party playing by his own rules," states Mickey Thompson. .
PR consultant. - With the exception of Bradley, all candidates condemned the use of taxpayer money to fund PR consultants. "If the Executive can't communicate in his own, you need different leaders," stated Thompson. Elected officials should "speak for themselves, not through a mouthpiece," added Cusick. Bradley's argument in favor of a PR consultant is that "[c]hange will fail unless you have an effective communications plan." But Dietz observed it's "not doing very well."
Open Space.- Thompson was highly critical of last year's decision to bail out a financially troubled golf course developer's "bad business decisions." Dietz agreed there should be no spending at a time when the county "is hurting for money." While refusing to condemn open space funding, Cusick stated that Council needs to say no to "bad deals." Bradley supports open space funding.
One mill tax hike. All candidates save Thompson supported it. Thompson claimed it was based on projections that turned out to be false. But Cusick warned that "[o]perating with little or no reserves is extremely dangerous."
$10,000.Spending limit - With the exception of Cusick, all candidates supported a $10,000 or slightly higher limitation on executive spending. Cusick. called the measure "micromanagement," adding "Council should be involved in purchasing toilet paper." But Thompson.countered that government should be in no rush to make bad decisions. If you have to approve a case of toilet paper, you should be responsible enough to do that."
Residency requirement for county workers.All candidates oppose this proposal Cusick stated that new Jersey, which has imposed such a requirement, is having a hard time finding qualified people.