Thursday, August 06, 2020

Why Norco County Council Should Remain County Council

Jerry (far left) posing with several former Council members.
Ron Heckman is to Jerry's left.  
In the midst of a host of problems brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed 10% of Gracedale's residents, Northampton County Council is considering a name change. Democrat Lori Vargo-Heffner and Republican Peg Ferraro, in a bipartisan blunder, want the county to waste money on a referendum so that we can start calling them Commissioners instead of Council members.

Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried is himself a former County Council member, County Council President, County Executive and Director of Court Services. He and former Council Clerk Frank Flisser are a goldmine of County history. Some of you might carry pocket constitutions. Jerry actually carries a dog-eared copy of the Home Rule Charter with him everywhere he goes. He opposes a name change. Here's what he says.

Some of You don’t like to be called Council Persons and feel you should have the title of Commissioners. Allow me to explain to you why you are Northampton County Council and not Northampton County Commissioners.

The County has had Commissioners since first becoming a County more than 250 years ago. The Northampton County Charter Study Commission was formed in the mid 70’s and after much debate and public hearings they recommended to the Voters of Northampton County that the new form of Government for our County would have nine Council members to serve as the Legislators and one executive to serve as the chief administrator of the new government. The Commissioner form of government was viewed by the electorate as an antiquated way to govern and was extremely inefficient, ineffective and certainly not economical. It was top heavy with political cronies that were hired by the elected row officers and subject to dismissal with no recourse every time a new row officer or commissioner was elected.

Since adoption of the Home Rule Charter the achievements of the “County Council” are many, and Northampton County became an example of “good government” throughout the Commonwealth. The following is a great example of what I am referring too. In 1978 after the County Council took over the reins as the Legislative Body, they immediately held hearings on the County Budget. Even though the Commissioners in office in 1977 submitted a budget that was approved by them, County Council found numerous ways to cut the budget from 14.3 mills down to 12.8 mills. After one year experience and the many efficiencies implemented by the County Council they found a way to cut the budget again and in 1979 County Council reduced the millage rate down to 9 mills. Five and 3 tenths lower than the County Commissioners. Much of this was due to the County Council drafting documents that regulated more oversight and efficiencies in County Government. Some of those efficiencies are; The creation of an Administrative Code that provided for better Financial controls, a Merit Personnel System/Career Service Regulations which eliminated the old political patronage system, policies and procedures for procurement of supplies and certain services, just to mention a few.

Yes. it has been forty-two years as a Home Rule Government and Council serving as the check and balance to the Administration. This council like past County Councils have ideas to make Government more effective. So here is my suggestion to you. The people of Northampton County voted to name the Legislative Body of Northampton County the “County Council”. The majority of voters today never voted for a County Commissioner but for forty two years they have voted for County Council Members. The time has come to take a long hard look at The Northampton County Home Rule Charter to see what is working and what is not working and whether there should be changes made to the Charter. The only way to accomplish this is by the establishment of a Charter Study Commission. Council has the authority to put in progress the necessary ground work for such a task. It is long overdue.

As to changing your name to County Commissioner, I and fifty other Council Members were proud to serve as the legislative body while being called County Council Members. It is no more confusing to the electorate whom have been voting for council members for forty-two years than it is to vote for township supervisors, township commissioners, or Borough Council members. It’s only a title. In the case of Northampton County, it is now a piece of our History.


Anonymous said...

Then why is the Lehigh County legislative body called "Commissioners." Not sure what the situation is in the few other home rule counties. Oh well, maybe one day we can be as great as Lehigh County.

Anonymous said...

If it isn't broke don't fix it. I think it should be left alone and stop wasting our hard earned money �� on nonsense and ego's. There are folks struggling to pay the taxes. As it was told to me by an old timer " When you don't have an education you have to use your brains". Perhaps County Council should look at investing in some common sense as it appears they are lacking in that area and get them medals to wear so they can bolster there ego's.

Anonymous said...

What the county needs is an overhaul. A new commission must be set up to study county government. It is out of whack. One guy holds way too much power!

Anonymous said...

well said

he is a good guy

Anonymous said...

Such silliness from those two. Sounds like they don't have enough to do or don't have the brains or work ethic to tackle what they already could address.

Anonymous said...

Can you say wordy ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. I wouldn't. Jerry has something most people lack - wisdom.

Get Your Studies Here said...

I prefer a study to study a study about the ultimate study. At that point, the results may be studied and further studies recommended. This should all wrap up in about 120 years.