"People of Northampton County, I have returned," said Angle, with a cigar in one hand and an old copy of Lehigh Valley Business in the other. An amateur historian, Angle was quoting the words that Douglas MacArthur uttered on his return to the Phillipines. The only difference is that, instead of the trademark corncob pipe fancied by the Gaijin Shogun, the Bulldog prefers a stogie and suspenders.
Angle came bearing gifts. He brought a few small bags of Class A sludge pellets, which he handed out before the meeting as Valentine's Day presents. Unfortunately, a Deputy Sheriff thought they were candy, and began eating them.
Her memorial service is on Tuesday.
As deadly as Angle could be in his three terms on Council, he is much more dangerous in the audience. Ask Upper Mount Bethel Township.Or Lower Mount Bethel Township. Or Bangor School Board. When they saw him, NorCo council members hoping for the usual twenty-minute meeting suddenly became quite uneasy. Administrator Cathy Allen scowled. Executive John Brown looked as though he had indigestion, and turned green when Angle plopped his yellow farm hat right next to this wannabe blue blood and former Notre Dame cheerleader, nattily attired like Mr Corporate America.
What made Ron leave his cows?
It was the story he read in Lehigh Valley Business about how John Brown and Council are addressing their crumbling infrastructure with a so-called public-private partnership.Under this program, called P3, 33 of the County's 119 bridges have been conveyed to the General Purpose Authority (GPA) for repairs at 20-30% less than would be paid if the County were to do the work itself. In addition to being cheaper, Executive John Brown has said that the work will be done more quickly. This sailed through Council 7 to 1, with Ken Kraft being the sole No vote, and I thought he was nuts st the time. What's not to like?
The Bulldog doesn't like it, either.
"The story started out saying this was 'innovative,' and ends up by saying they've been doing this for 17 years in California," Ron started. "I don't know how 'innovative' it could be if they've been doing it in California for 17 years" He added that he'd hate to see California's finances copied in NorCo. .
He then ticked off the following, more, specific criticisms.
- If there are utility easements on a bridge, as is often the case, the County is going to have to pay extra.
- The project is already $1.5 million over budget and a year behind schedule, without a spade hitting the ground.
- Kriger Construction, the low bidder on this deal, was well below the others. "The first thing you ought to ask yourself is why?"
- Though Kriger has some PennDOT bridge qualifications, it's for minor repairs and to mow grass around bridges.
- Kriger has zero P3 experience. "They've never done a P3, which is an RFP requirement. So again, you ignored that, and they had no experience. They actually have never, ever performed a fixed price contract. And I think all of you would agree this is a major project."
- Kriger had to get three lines of credit from three different banks (one of them owned by Louis DeNaples)to come up with the money. It is at best a $4-5 million company.
- Most of the work will be done by people from the coal regions. "Why did you not have in your requirement that a percentage - at least 50% - would come from Northampton County?"
- Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has pledged to provide stimulus money for infrastructure projects, so it would make sense to wait and see what he plans to do.
"When I hear the term 'public private partnership,' I cringe. In my lifetime of being around the world of public office, I've always understood what that meant. The public will be on the hook for the bill. The private sector will make the money. It's like the NIZ in Allentown. What has the NIZ done for the citizens of Allentown? Nothing, but there's a couple of individuals who have made hundreds of millions and pretty well will make billions 'till it's over."
When Angle was done, he got 12 yard stares in a two-yard room.
Ron Angle is a husband, father, farmer, entrepreneur, antiques aficionado, cigar lover and is the greatest storyteller I have ever heard. Though he claims his heritage is Dutch and German, he is in reality Irish, a Slate Belt seanchaí, a valued keeper of the oral tradition. As a Druid, I know these things
He's also my best friend.
His appearance at Council tonight tells me he might run for one of the five at-large seats on Council, especially now that incumbent Mat Benol has decided to take a break. But Ron also enjoys private life and communing with the cows at his farm. He is a cow whisperer, and even understands the language. Don't reach any conclusions.
He's also the Republican that Democrats love to hate. They will come out in droves just to vote against him. Come to think of it, a lot of Republicans hate him, too. Especially the bluebloods. But Ron has enough supporters to win a county-wide race for one of five seats.
He makes government better. People have told me they took extra time to prepare if they knew they would be facing the Bulldog. If Lamont McClure wins the Exec race, which looks more likely as he raises money and chips away at Brown, Angle will hold him accountable. Lamont knows this. If John Brown prevails, Angle will be just as critical. He proved that last night.