This is my annual report card, something I have done since 2006.
Last year's workhorse was Bob Werner. He had a perfect attendance record at all Council and Committee meetings, something never seen before. The no-showhorse was Seth Vaughn. In addition to getting a failing grade for attendance, Vaughn had the gall to ask Council members, during public meetings, to fill him in in what he had missed.
Will this year be a repeat?
Northampton County Council met 29 times last year, including 24 regular and 5 budget hearings. In addition, its committees met an amazing 51 times. Hayden Phillips' Capital Projects Committee, which met 9 times, has really helped the county address its infrastructure needs, from bridges to generators. Seth Vaughn's Human Services Committee met 10 times, giving all of us a bird's eye view of the numerous human services provided, from developmental difficulties in infants to child abuse to Gracedale. Each Council member is encouraged to attend committees, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. The committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members. The Economic Development Committee huddled 10 times, more than twice as often as in 2015. Finance and Personnel remain the nuts-and bolts committees. Other committees that met were Parks and Open Space (6), Governance (3) and Courts and Corrections (2). This Council appears to be very concerned about our crumbling infrasturucture, job creation and our responsibility to help those in need.
It's hard to argue with these priorities. In previous years, I've complained about the very limited use of the Intergovernmental Committee. This is hard to fathom, especially now that a merger of 911 systems is being contemplated. But John Cusick decided to abolish that committee entirely.
Though all would agree that our Administrative Code and Home Rule Charter are in dire need of an overhaul, there still has been no movement to conduct a study.
I have graded each council member based on his attendance of the 80 committee and full council meetings. If participation is by phone, I have decided to count it since the member can vote.
|Hayden Phillips, NorCo workhorse of the year|
This year's workhorse of the year is the Colonel, Hayden Phillips. He attended 77 of 80 meetings, giving him a 96% record. A proud tea party conservative can be expected to attend meetings about finance and capital projects, but Phillips also attended all 10 human services meetings. His ideology is completely different than mine, but he obviously wants to help people.
Following right behind Phillips is Council President John Cusick, who earned a 95% grade by attending 76 of 80 meetings. I am a harsh critic of Cusick because I prefer to be knifed in the front. Though I have a hard time trusting him or his motives, he has been effective as President and has managed to get a lot accomplished in his first year back in office after a four-year rest.
Bob Werner, last year's workhorse, managed to attend 71 of 80 meetings this year for a 89% attendance record. Though he is a liberal Democrat, he has worked closely with Phillips. But he also has a tendency to lash out at County staff for no reason, is somewhat full of himself and has a penchant for writing out speeches he tries to pretend are off the cuff remarks. He's also the worst interrogator on council.
He said this Summer that he's running for Executive.
From these top three the attendance record begins to slack off. The remaining Council member report cards are as follows: Mat Benol - 74% (59/80); Matt Dietz - 69% (55/80); Peg Ferraro - 66% (53/80); Seth Vaughn - 66% (53/80); Ken Kraft - 65% (52/80); and last but least, Glenn Geissinger - 54% (43/80).
Vaughn has told me he had a perfect attendance record this year. While it's an improvement over 2015, it's no reason to pop open a bubbly. Vaughn actually missed the one meeting of the year that should be a must for every Council member - the vote on Budget amendments. When I confronted him over this, his response was, "So what? Who cares? I'll still win the election next year, pal."
Kraft had a pretty lousy attendance record, too. He actually missed three full Council meetings, and only attended 4 of 10 human services meetings while making sure he was at every economic development meeting.. He's there to represent all the people, not just the trade unions.
The biggest no-show horse was Glenn Geissinger, who neglected his duties on Council so he could run for Congress. After getting knocked off in the primary, he seemed to lose interest in government. He missed three full Council meetings and participated in numerous meetings by phone. He mostly rubber stamps whatever the administration wants.
Here's the breakdown.
Capital Projects (9 meetings): Hayden Phillips, Chair; - 9; Bob Werner - 8; Mat Benol - 7; John Cusick -7; Peg Ferraro - 1; Matt Dietz - 5 (including 2 by phone); Seth Vaughn - 3 (all by phone).
Courts and Corrections (2 meetings): Mat Benol, Chair; - 2; Bob Werner - 1; John Cusick -2; Hayden Phillips - 2: Peg Ferraro - 1; Matt Dietz - 1 (by phone); Seth Vaughn - 1 (by phone): Ken Kraft - 1; Glenn Geissinger -1
Governance (3 meetings): John Cusick, Chair, - 3; Hayden Phillips - 3: Seth Vaughn -2 (1 by phone); Bob Werner - 2; Matt Dietz - 2; Ken Kraft - 1; Peg Ferraro -1; Mat Benol - 1; Glenn Geissinger - 1.
Human Services (10 meetings): Seth Vaughn, Chair -10 (1 by phone); Matt Dietz - 9; Mat Benol - 10 (part of 1 by phone); Hayden Phillips - 10; Bob Werner - 10; John Cusick - 10; Glenn Geissinger - 2; Ken Kraft - 4; Peg Ferraro - 4.
Parks and Open Space (6 meetings): Matt Dietz, Chair - 5; Bob Werner - 6; John Cusick - 6; Hayden Phillips - 5; Seth Vaughn - 3 (1 by phone); Peg Ferraro - 3 (1 by phone); Glenn Geissinger - 2; Mat Benol -1; Ken Kraft - 1.
Economic Development (10 meetings): Peg Ferraro, Chair - 8, Ken Kraft - 10; Seth Vaughn - 10; John Cusick - 9; Hayden Phillips - 8, Matt Dietz - 8 (3 by phone), Bob Werner - 7; Glenn Geissinger - 2; Mat Benol -1.
Personnel and Finance (10 personnel meetings, 11 finance meetings): Ken Kraft, Chair of Personnel - 9, Peg Ferraro - 11 (1 by phone), Mat Benol -9, Glenn Geissinger, Chair of Finance - 10 (1 by phone), John Cusick -11, Bob Werner - 10; Hayden Phillips - 11; Matt Dietz - 9 (2 by phone), Seth Vaughn - 10 (6 by phone).[Since these are combined meetings, I consider attendance at one as attendance at both].
Council meetings (24 meetings) John Cusick - 23/24; Peg Ferraro - 22/24; Ken Kraft - 21/24; Bob Werner - 22/24; Matt Dietz - 23/24; Glenn Geissinger - 21/24; Hayden Phillips - 24/24; Seth Vaughn - 24/24; Mat Benol - 24/24.
Budget Hearings (5 meetings) Seth Vaughn 3/5 (2 by phone), Matt Dietz 5/5 (2 by phone), All other Council members were physically present for all five budget hearings.