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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, October 16, 2017

#NoJailatGracedale - 1, John Brown - 0

Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee
You've probably heard that one person can never take on the government and win. Two can. Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee are residents of Eagles Landing, and moved there because they want a safe community in which to raise their children. They live in nice homes that they hope to see go up in value over the years. But when they heard that Northampton County is again secretly considering a new jail at the Gracedale campus, they proved that democracy is no spectator sport. Two Republican moms started on online petition at Change.org, a site usually reserved for liberal issues. They formed the Facebook group #NoJailatGracedale and then cascaded into a County Council meeting, where a dozen residents told Council that "the cloak is off" when Council members pretended they had no idea what is going on. They forced a County Executive who likes to play his cards close to his vest to finally rule out a jail at Gracedale. And yesterday, while kids played soccer and fall baseball at Tuskes Park, about 90 Nazareth area residents forced that County Executive to rule out a new jail, not just at Gracedale, but on any county-owned park land.

The Eagles have Landed. #NoJailatGracedale - 1, County Executive John Brown - 0.

It was a rare yet refreshing display of democracy. Perhaps not as big a deal as the Magna Carta, but it'll do. In addition to all the Nazareth area residents, politicians galore where there. I saw Nazareth officials, Upper Nazareth officials and State Rep. Joe Emrick.

NorCo Exec John Brown, aware that his unwillingness to provide straight answers to straight questions could cost him an election, tried to assure everyone that he's their man and has been completely upfront. His challenger, Lamont McClure, slammed Brown over his penchant for secrecy.

Brown did himself no favors.

Fake News

He was rambling, unresponsive and consistently went over the time allotted to him. "I don't play word games," he said at one point, but that's precisely what he did. You can see it for yourself both here and here. Though there is overwhelming evidence that he fully intended to build a new jail on a greenfield and at Gracedale, he dismissed it as fake news.

"[T]his whole issue about putting a jail at Gracedale is completely fictitious and has been promulgated by - uh - you're caught up in political gamesmanship. That's all it is, quite honestly. ... By inflaming something like this, my opponent does not have much of a record to stand on, so if you don't have your own record, you attack someone else."

Lamont McClure, however, had an effective retort.

"How do we know this isn't made up news, an alternative fact? How do we know that? We know that because we have prison advisory board meeting minute notes. And in those prison advisory meeting notes, the Chairman of the advisory board said Gracedale would be the best location of a prison. And what else do we know? We know that Mr. Brown, our current County Executive, gave his budget message a week or two ago and was asked whether he'd rule out the county property at Gracedale for a prison. He would not. A few days later, at the County Council meeting, he was asked to rule it out. He would not."

Transparency

Challenged on his lack of transparency, Brown insisted, "The whole thing about lack of transparency is nonsense. I am a transparent person. No one came and asked me about this ... ."

"I did," interrupted Julian Kryemadhi.

His comment asking Brown for an update on Facebook was deleted.

His $72,000 study for a master plan, which was awarded to architectural form DLR as a no-bid contract, is by itself a demonstration of a lack of transparency. Hayden Phillips pointed out that he's tried several times to adopt ordinances that would give Council more power to review these contracts, but has been rebuffed repeatedly. When he was on Council, Lamont McClure joined Phillips in attempting to give Council more oversight over county contracts, but Brown vetoed their ordinance.

McClure also provided a disturbing example of Brown's lack of transparency. "He [Brown] once had a press conference where he posted armed guards at the door of the press conference so certain people couldn't come to the press conference," noted McClure. "One of the people specifically identified was a sitting member of county council." Under the Home Rule Charter, Council is considered the governing body, but Brown excluded a member with armed guards. "That is the definition of the lack of transparency," said McClure.

Brown Admits He Could Have Sought Free Study

In response to questions from a woman in the audience, Brown admitted that he will spend $72,000 in taxpayer funds for a report he could have received at no cost from the National Institute of Corrections. "If the study could be done for free by a government agency, why did you give the contract to a private company and pay $72,000?" she asked.

"Those are the decisions you get to make as County Executive, quite honestly," Brown answered. "It wasn't answering the question I needed to have answered in an expedited fashion." Brown acknowledged he never even contacted the National Institute of Corrections.

DLR Report

Brown claimed that the DLR report is coming soon. He spoke to them on Friday and said that DLR will give the County a way to save $6 million per year in spending at the jail, and without moving to a greenfield. He promised to make that report available as soon as he gets it.

No Jail at Gracedale Pledge

Brown initially refused to pledge there would be no jail at Gracedale. "I can't stand here and pledge ... . It's ridiculous to make those pledges because you don't know. I could get back in office and change my mind and flip on it." But as the meeting wore on, Brown reversed course in response to questions from Julain Kryemadhi. "A pledge is - fine - I'll sign that. That's not an issue."

Brown Gets Support

Though the audience was largely suspicious or downright critical of Brown, he got support from Nazareth resident Mary Barket, who described him in glowing terms. What she failed to disclose is that Brown paid her at least $4,000 last year to work on his failed campaign for state auditor general. Whether she is working his Exec race is unknown, but I'll know soon when Brown files his second Friday pre-election report.

What about Council candidates?

In addition to the Executive race, five County Council seats are up in the next election. As you might have guessed, the candidates who came to Tuskes Park are all opposed to building a new jail at Gracedale or anywhere else, for that matter. These included Republicans Hayden Phillips (incumbent) and Ron Angle. They also included Democrats Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo Heffner, Bill McGee and Tara Zrinski.

Republican Peg Ferraro had a prior commitment in Walnutport, but sent a note indicating she opposes any kind of jail at Gracedale. Republicans Glenn Geissinger and Seth Vaughn, both of whom are seeking election, failed to appear. Also missing was Democratic Council candidate Pete Melan.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aren't Geissinger and Vaughn incumbents? Why weren't they there? That is damn disrespectful to these citizens of the county who put this together. Are they that arrogant or do they just not give a crap about this issue? They must feel they are shoe-ins to be re-elected, unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Why was Phillips there? He flip flopped and is now lying to these people. Typical new age politicians

Anonymous said...

Brown and his lying cronies need to go! Can't trust any of them!

Anonymous said...

What am I missing here? Warehouses are being shoved up everyone's ass and nobody cares, yet a jail that has to be built somewhere has a couple neighbors in an uproar and is getting major attention...

Anonymous said...

The difference is that this rumored project is on public land, and can actually be stopped by voting/engagement rather than expensive lawsuits or land acquisition.

Anonymous said...

Resistance is always easier at the beginning than at the end. Kudos to the citizens who are engaging in the Democratic process, protecting Gracedale and that land for future generations.

Nazareth resident and tax payer and community volunteer! said...

Those warehouses bring jobs an revenue to Nazareth a jail brings drugs and all around bad element to the area!

Anonymous said...

"A couple of neighbors?" Really?? Newsflash: its WAY more than a couple. And last I checked my ass there was no warehouse up there that was secretly planned, threatening to devalue my property, raise my taxes, create uncertainty where safety lies and so much more. So what you're missing is a brain.

Anonymous said...

"A couple of neighbors?" Really?? Newsflash: It's WAY more than a couple. And last I checked my ass, there was no warehouse up there that was secretly built, threatening to devalue my property, raise my taxes, create uncertainty where safety lies and so much more. So, what you're missing is a brain.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

"Aren't Geissinger and Vaughn incumbents? Why weren't they there? That is damn disrespectful to these citizens of the county who put this together. Are they that arrogant or do they just not give a crap about this issue? They must feel they are shoe-ins to be re-elected, unbelievable!"

Geissinger and Vaughn are incumbents seeking re-election. Geissinger may have been absent bc this event was on a Sunday. In Vaughn's case, he is that arrogant. He mostly phones it in on Council. Last year, after missing the most important budget hearing, his response was, "So what? Who cares? I'll be re-elected anyway."

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why was Phillips there? He flip flopped and is now lying to these people. Typical new age politicians"

Someone who refuses o sign his name is in no position to speak about the honesty of others. Phillips was there bc he is dedicated. He initially did say he does not care about where a jail goes, but on further thought, cares very much about the where.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:32, I allow some anonymous personal attacks at elected officials. I allow NONE aimed at private citizens. If you want to slam them, sign your name.

Anonymous said...

What about the old Dixie plant in Wilson as the site for the new prison? Article on WFMZ website discusses the abandoned plant. OR what about an Aquarium there???!!!

Jeff Fox said...

The old Dixie plant as a prison location or as an Aquarium site....now that's interesting. It is also refreshing to hear a new thought or idea here. Perhaps the old Dixie site should at least be explored.

Anonymous said...

Yeah a prison literally sandwiched in between 2 high schools and an elementary school is a fabulous idea. SMH.

Anonymous said...

The Lamont McClure campaign has called my phone to solicit my vote, over, and over, and over....so I don't care if the man is a saint I will not vote for him.

If these guys were smart they'd call people and annoy them saying they're the other candidate.

People HATE, HATE, HATE, these phone calls.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The may be hated, but tend to work if done during the day.

Anonymous said...

Sal would have to annex Wilson Boro or get a politician to create a niz, tiff bullshit developer welfare tax zone.

Anonymous said...

“Yeah a prison literally sandwiched in between 2 high schools and an elementary school is a fabulous idea. SMH.“

The logistical advantage of a prison near our schools is obvious. Many kids are criminals in training. And don’t prisons have bars and locks and things?

Anonymous said...

How about an Aquarium at dixie combined with a prison, then you could have a live reality show combined. If a prisoner made it across the shark tank, he would gain his freedom. The show would pay for the building and upkeep of the new prison.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Geissinger and Vaughn are already aware of the situation. They are incumbents, well versed on the topic. Did any of the council candidates there even understand the issues? Do they have any idea of what is involved in county operations and budgets?
It is easy to criticize it is hard to do the job.

I doubt the candidates that were there had any real insight into the prison problems.

Anonymous said...

"The may be hated, but tend to work if done during the day."

I never get called by Ron Angle and I hardly ever see a Ron Angle sign.

Lets test your theory this election cycle.

Anonymous said...

I was told that Brown claimed he and the current county council were cleaning up 25 years worth of issues. Apparently he is the first executive to fix the bridges, balance the budget and work on county buildings. He is also the first executive to make Gracedale function profitably.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the highest, how do you rate his and his county councils claims.

Anonymous said...

I think that’s a great spot. All the juvenile delinquents from Easton and Wilson wont have far to travel.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you're asking me, he's the worst Exec in county history and unsurprisingly has a very high opinion of himself. 0.

Anonymous said...

Where do these women want it built. It has been stated we need a new jail somewhere just no in their backyard. Do they have any ideas? Do the people condemning Mr. Brown offer nay solutions to this crisis? The county must have a prison, Brown is trying to get the job done. After he is re-elected he should put it where he thinks it is best.

This appears to be a political setup and hit job.

Bernie O'Hare said...

They want the jail to remain in place. These women are Republicans and, last time I checked, had no reason to be political. They understandably do not want a jail so close to where they raise their children. Only someone who is a political hack herself would claim their motivation is political.

Anonymous said...

soooo tired of the north end of the county slowing down progress. A new jail would be the best looking thing among the empty quarries, cement dust spewing stacks and overgrown race track.

Anonymous said...

Why not put it on the floor of the Penn-Dixie quarry? Done, no problem!

Anonymous said...

Brown rating? Zero point zero.

Anonymous said...

We didn’t want the fields turning into eagles landing either that didn’t stop anyone. Next to that slum would be a great place for a behemoth prison the more razor wire the better. Maybe they’ll all move back to jersey where they belong

Anonymous said...

Mr.O'Hare it is a shame this issue has become so politicized. Now people are petitioning to actually put the prison by Gracedale. People all over the county are going crazy over this prison issue. Why did this have to become a political hot potato? Is this politics or real?

Who's fault is this mess? Why is everybody going nuts over this prison and pointing fingers art each other, calling each other names? Why didn't the county resolve this issue years ago? Is Brown at fault or is he the victim of some shrewd political operatives posing as concerned citizens?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The above two comments were posted by Brown's political operatives. They call Eagles Landing a slum, claim this is all politics and spread a rumor that they themselves started aabout a supposed petition drove to build a jail at Gracedale.

General Lee, you and I both know who is spewing this nonsense. You had better rein her in.

I find it ironic that people who moved here from New Jersey are being trashed when both you and the hack you are using are from there.

Anonymous said...

The solution is simple and one that is backed by most members of the entire judicial system, build it in and around its current footprint.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't Melan attend? He doesn't have a job, unless you consider kissing Sal's butt a job.

Anonymous said...

ESSROC has several properties in the Nazareth area and since they were bought out recently, could probably be bought for a song. Their corporate office site goes back quite a way off the road. I like the Dixie site as well.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, this is so sad. These folks have every right to be concerned. As to who created this mess, it was Brown and his impotent county council that sit and waited to be told what to do. I doubt he has the ability to think this out, so I will say this is no doubt due to his and councils inept And inexperienced manner. Brown and his cronies stared the talk of a new prison when no one eve mentioned a new prison. There are multiple plans available for offsite remedied. This clown has people all over the county fighting each other over a building that never has to be built.

What the Hell is wrong with him. Sorry people but this is all John Brown and county council. I talked to someone who was at the meeting when the Nazareth folks showed up and they said that county council looked like deer in headlights and Brown sounded like a boxer who took to many sho5ts to the head. Apparently he ended up telling these people the county buys a lot of toile paper. What???

Sorry but no politics, just pure incompetence. The guy and his staff as well as his crony council council have to go. Time to drain the Northampton county swamp of incompetence.

Anonymous said...

"Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee are residents of Eagles Landing, and moved there because they want a safe community in which to raise their children."Translation not minorities.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Are you suggesting that minorities have no desire to find a safe place to raise their children? Sounds like a racist conclusion on your part. It's what I'd expect from NorCo's GOP Exec Committee. The reality is that several minorities are residents and were at the meeting on Sunday. Guess what? They want a safe community in which to raise their children, too.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Bernie. What the Hell. Anon at 10:44, not cool! Not cool at all!
So the new Northampton County GOP calls these women, who are concerned about their community racists in so many words?
You do realize these ladies are probably republicans, right? So is John Brown the local version of Trump?
This is amazing Bernie, I am stunned by that comment. Are they now eating their own?

Anonymous said...

Tear down the troubled parking deck and build a new jail there. Then raise the old prison and put a parking lot for jail staff in it's place.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The NorCo GOP no longer tolerates any views that differ from their own. Dent was not pure enough. Peg is not pure enough. Hayden Phillips and Ron Angle are too independent. They are no longer Republicans. They are the Authoritarian party

Anonymous said...

Stop it O'Hare, Peg Ferraro is the GOP in Northampton County. She is and has been the chief of Republican politics for years. She has followed the lead of John Brown for the past four years. She only broke her silence on Gracedale when cornered by these people who knew the score. She actively campaigns for Brown.

She was a GOP elector that went to Harrisburg and voted for TRUMP. She didn't have to, she knows what he represents but she did out of party loyalty.
You can paint the picture anyway you want but people in politics know that a pin does not drop in republican Northampton county circles without Peg Ferraro knowing about it.
The rebellious figure you paint is not the real person. She is and always has been the ultimate insider.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peg is a Republican, not an authoritarian. Yes, she supports Brown more than I'd like, but I support McClure more than she'd like. What's wrong with this country or extreme partisans like you, both on the left and the right. We need more centrists.

Anonymous said...

Brown has really dug a hole for himself. The question is now do people even believe him or think he is competent enough to not screw things up.

Anonymous said...

Just keep putting band-aids on the old jail,hopefully the walls crumble when I'm working,my family will be rolling in the $$$$