Friday, October 22, 2021

On Election Eve, Lynch Supporters Complain to Council About Gracedale

Unlike most nursing homes, Gracedale is publicly owned and gets quite a bit of oversight. In addition to the Administration on the campus, Executive Lamont McClure has taken a great deal of interest in the nursing home. He has often said he considers it a "moral obligation.":On top of that, there's a Gracedale Advisory Board made up of several citizens. Before the pandemic, residents were sometimes brought to meetings. Gracedale's Administrator reports to County Council's Human Services Committee once a month, both in writing and in person. If the news is bad, and sometimes it is, you read about it here. When family members are upset about visitation during the pandemic, they've had no qualms about making their concerns known to County Council. Finally, this home is under the state Department of Health's microscope. In addition to responding to anonymous complaints, health officials inspect the facility every year. It is very much in the public spotlight, as it should be. Unfortunately, at last night's County Council meeting, two disgruntled ex-employees complained about the terrible conditions at the home. They've never been to Council before. They waited for the last public meeting before the election. As you might have guessed, both are ardent Steve Lynch supporters.

The first complainer was Tonys DiPierdomenico. She quit over what she called the "unauthorized vaccine," even though there's no mandate in place. Then she tried to rescind her resignation, but Gracedale administrators said no dice. "You lost one of the best assets Gracedale ever had," she told Council. "I wasn't good enough because I didn't take the vaccine."  

She concluded by saying,  "I've been doing a lot of campaigning for somebody. God help us, We need him."

Obviously, she was there to play politics, not save Gracedale. .

The second disgruntled ex-employee was Stacy Soldo. She referred to an email she received from a nurse complaining about being short-staffed. It's impossible to know whether this complaint is true because the person who actually sent the email was not there to back her up.   

"I've never seen it this bad," said Soldo. Actually, she hasn't seen it at all.

She was fired as a Gracedale nurse. 

Perhaps she can explain why. 

In sever mailers, Republican County Council candidates have complained about conditions at Gracedal. in several mailers. That's certainly fair. The home, one of few that will accept nearly everyone, is currently rated by Medicare at just two stars, which is below average. They forgot to mention the home was rated at just one star when County Council candidate John Brown was Exec. That's OK. They are making political points. But unlike the Lynch mob, they understand the difference between governing and politics.      

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bucky Szulborski Sole Applicant For NorCo Interim Controller

Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, who served on Bethlehem City Council for 12 years and as NorCo's Interim Controller for two years, is poised to make a return to county government. He was the sole applicant for the vacancy created by the unfortunate death of Tony Bassil. 

Szulborski is a Democrat.

"This is deja vu all over again," he said at yesterday's meeting of County Council's Personnel Committee. 

Council member John Cusick, who welcomed Szulborski back, nevertheless raised a question about just how long the appointment should last under the County's Home Rule Charter. Is it until the next municipal election is 2023? Is it next year's primary? Should there be a special election?
Although the prevailing view and practice is that the appointment is good until the next municipal election,  the Charter itself is unclear. 

Council members Bill McGee and Lori Vargo-Heffner both complimented Szulborski for "stepping up." Vargo-Heffner added, "There've been a couple of great Bucky's who stood up in October. One was Dent," referring to former Yasnkee Bucky Dent. 

County Council will vote on Szulborski's appointment tonight. 
 
Szulborski has served on various organizations, including Camelot for Children, the Catholic Youth Organization, the Sun Inn Preservation Association, the Bethlehem Recreation Commission, the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission and the Bethlehem Area Public Library Board.

Szulborski and I sometimes had lunch together in his previous stint as Contoller. We managed to solve the world's problems in 15 minutes every day. 

Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian and philosopher who had the misfortune of being an anti-Nazi in Nazi Germany. His views cost him his life. As he sat in a prison cell waiting for the hangman''s noose, he contemplated the mob mentality that permeated Nazi Germany, and that we all witness in the extremes of both parties today. This is his theory of stupidity.

"Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

"If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.

"Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.

"But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom."

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Morning Call Loses Its County Reporter

Tom Shortell, a Morning Call reporter, covered both Lehigh and Northampton County. He was also the paper's "Road Warrior." Today is his last day. Here's what he has to say on his way out the door.

"[N]ewspapers are in dire shape. Years of buyouts and layoffs have pushed out most senior reporters and editors. That leaves more work for less experienced staff to handle, and communities and beats get abandoned. I will be the 10th full-time reporter or editor to leave the Morning Call since the end of June. Only one of those positions has been filled so far.

"Our communities are poorer for it. Governments perform more openly and appropriately when there's a watch dog keeping tabs on them. While most have a few dedicated citizens who attend meetings and watch their government in action, these people rarely have the resources or time to dig deeply if things are amiss."

Neither do the reporters who are still there.

He's leaving journalism to start a second career. I wish him the best.

NorCo's Elections Office Offers Voting Tips

From Northampton County's Elections Office: -  On November 2, 2021, Northampton County’s 156 precincts will be fully staffed for voters who prefer to cast their ballot on the ES&S ExpressVote XL machine. It is recommended that voters wear comfortable shoes and bring a chair if standing for long periods is difficult. The County requests that everyone wear a mask while at the polls out of respect for the poll workers. All poll workers will wear PPE and each precinct will be supplied with hand sanitizer and tape to mark off spaces for social distancing.

In-Person Voting

Polls will be open from 7:00AM – 8:00PM. Voters will check in at the registration table on an E-poll book by giving their name. The E-poll book will indicate if the voter is eligible to vote and if they are at the correct polling place. If so, they will sign in on the touchpad.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot and have turned it in are not eligible to vote at the polls.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot, but have decided they’d rather cast their vote on the machine must give the ballot and the return envelope to the Judge of Elections. After spoiling the ballot, the Judge will have the voter sign a form. Only then will they be permitted to vote on the ExpressVote XL.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot, but do not have their ballot or the return envelope with them will be given a provisional ballot. The Elections Board will verify that the voter did not vote by mail before the provisional ballot can be counted.
 
An instructional video for voting on the ES&S ExpressVote XL is available online at NorthamptonVotes.com
 
Casting a mail-in ballot
 
The Elections Office reminds voters to carefully follow the instructions included with their ballot. “Naked” ballots—those which have not been enclosed in the inner secrecy envelope—will not be counted. The voter should use black or blue ink and must sign and date the back of the return envelope. Mail-in ballots will be declared void if there are any identifying marks on the ballot or secrecy envelope.
 
If submitted by mail, the ballot must be received by 8:00PM on November 2ndPostmarks will not be considered. All return envelopes include postage, voters do not need to add a stamp.
 
On Election Day, mail-in ballots can be returned directly to the Elections Office located on the Lower Level of the Government Center at 669 Washington Street, Easton by 8:00PM, or at one of the County’s four secure ballot drop off boxes. The drop-off boxes have different closing times on Election Day. Under Pennsylvania law, voters are only permitted to return their own ballots.
 
 ·        Bethlehem City Hall Rotunda– 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018- City Hall is closed on Election Day but the ballot drop-off box will be available in the Rotunda from 7:00AM -  8:00PM
 
·        Northampton County 911 Center – 100 Gracedale Ave. Nazareth, PA 18064 – open from 8:30AM - 8:00PM
 
·        Human Services Building – 2801 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020 – open from 8:30AM - 7:00 PM
 
·        Rotunda of the Government Center – 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042 – open from 8:30AM - 8:00PM

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Math Favors McClure

Popular belief is that the advent of MIBs has increased elections turnout. Studies at Stanford and the National Academy of Sciences, however, disagree. They conclude that actual turnout is about the same one could expect with an in-person election. Their conclusion is certainly supported by Northampton County's measly 20.87% turnout in this year's primary. Despite all the work that has gone into MIBs and drop boxes to make voting more convenient, the number of people voting has only marginally increased. While actual turnout is apparently unaffected by MIBs, there certainly has been a change in the way voters exercise their franchise. Democrats prefer to vote by mail, while Republicans prefer voting in person. In the 2020 presidential, 53,481 of 74,125 MIBs went to Joe Biden (72%). If this trend holds, Lamont McClure will be re-elected Executive.   

Northampton County's Election Day turnout in its 2017 municipal election was 23%, or 46,526 voters. This was prior to the advent of no-excuse mail-in ballots (MIBs), which only started in 2020. In the Exec race, Lamont McClure defeated incumbent John Brown with 22,520 votes, or 48% of the total turnout. 

Turnout in 2017's general election was marked by the fissures in this nation caused by a divisive President who chose to tear people apart instead of bring them together. This divide has only deepened. So I expect to see at least a 23% turnout on November. As of October 18, there are 219,258 registered voters in Northampton County. This means an election day turnout of 50,429 voters. There will be voters who cast no ballot in the Exec race. Many Republicans and Independents recognize challenger Steve Lynch as a fringe candidate, but are unwilling to vote for McClure. So just like in 2017, McClure will win if he can garner just 48% of the 50,429 expected voters, or 24,205 votes.

This is where MIBs come into play. In Northampton County, 27,125 have been mailed. As of this morning, 8,663 (32%) have been returned. In Northampton County's 2020 Presidential, 88,7% of requested MIBs were returned. If history repeats itself, that means that 23,897 ballots will be returned. If 72% of these MIBs go for Lamont McClure, that means he will have 16,727 votes from MIBs alone. 

He still would need 8,000 votes, but should get those easily from in-person votes. In the 2020 Presidential, Biden captured 30,753 in-person votes on election day, which translates to 17.87% of the 172,065 people who voted.  If McClure captures 17.87% from in-person votes, that gives him 9,011 votes. 

The math favors McClure. I believe my estimates are conservative. I believe his margin of victory will be higher because many Republicans will just refuse to vote in the Exec race. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Andy Weaver Named NorCo Citizen of the Year

If you follow high school sports like I do, and attend any basketball games at Nazareth Area High School, you know about Andy Weaver. He's the smiling guy who takes your ticket. Though challenged by cerebral palsy, he went through high school with students who have no such obstacles. He fell in love with Nazareth sports, and the players and coaches love him back. He also participates regularly in a Nazareth News Facebook page, providing local updates on the area. I'm happy to report that Andy has been named Northampton County's Citizen of the Year. This honor was bestowed at the annual festival held on Saturday. 

A few years ago, Andy needed a new wheelchair. One of my readers provided the balance of the funds Any needed. So I am sure that reading about this award will make him happy.  

Lynch Wants Military At Every Polling Place

Our national defense is a core function of federal government. Our public health is a core function of state government. The actual conduct of our elections is a core function of county government. So it helps if you have a county executive with at least some basic understanding of how elections are actually conducted. On this count, NorCo GOP Exec hopeful Steve Lynch is a dismal failure. He himself has only voted in three municipal races since he first registered in 2008. To make matters worse, his baleful acts as Exec would violate both state and federal law. That's because, according to his own Facebook page (2/27/2001), "[W]e should have military stationed at every single polling place. We place two military guards one inside and one outside the polling place to ensure that no strong arming and illegal activity is going on and be there for the protection of United States citizens casting their vote." 

Though Lynch likes to call himself a patriot, he knows little about our history. From the Civil War and beyond, law enforcement has shamefully been used by some state governments to target black and brown voters. 

Here's the Pennsylvania law:

"No body of troops in the Army of the United States or of this Commonwealth shall be present, either armed or unarmed, at any place of election within this Commonwealth during the time of any primary or election:  Provided, however, That no officer or soldier shall be prevented from exercising the right of suffrage in the election district in which he resides, if otherwise qualified."

Here's the federal law

"Whoever, being an officer of the Army or Navy, or other person in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, orders, brings, keeps, or has under his authority or control any troops or armed men at any place where a general or special election is held, unless such force be necessary to repel armed enemies of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; and be disqualified from holding any office of honor, profit, or trust under the United States.

"This section shall not prevent any officer or member of the armed forces of the United States from exercising the right of suffrage in any election district to which he may belong, if otherwise qualified according to the laws of the State in which he offers to vote."

The Lamont McClure campaign sent a flyer rightfully taking Lynch to task for his basic misunderstanding of the county, federal and state law as well as our history. 

After accusing McClure of slander (another concept he fails to understand), Lynch goes on to post the very remark for which he's been taken to the woodshed. He scoffs at the notion that law enforcement and military would be viewed by some U.S. citizens as intimidating. He should ask a few of his black and brown friends, if he has any. 

He is an extremist. I find it noteworthy that he has garnered no endorsements from fellow Republicans who currently hold public office. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

University of Fl - No Uptick in COVID From College Football

According to University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins, there's been no sudden spike in Covid cases despite crowded stadiums at Florida's football games. She indicates this could change with cooler, drier weather. She postulates that the low transmission rate is the result of the following: (1) they are outdoor events: (2) Covid does not linger in humid air; (3) most people sit with the people in their immediate circle; (4) the Delta variant is on the wane; and (5) vaccination rates are high. 

She does have the following recommendations: 

"“Number one, you want to be vaccinated. That is the most critical part of protecting yourself and others and being able to do these activities and feel comfortable. I would definitely wear a mask. I would certainly wear it while I'm waiting to get into the stadium with other people, I'd wear it when I was going to the concession stand. For me, I would still wear it during the game. Some people may feel more comfortable if they're seated and they know that people around them are vaccinated, but otherwise, keep that mask in place and be vaccinated.”

Steve Lynch Pledges Return to Government by Consultant

Northampton County GOP candidate Steve Lynch was interviewed at a radio show yesterday, and was actually roped into discussing county issues. What he promised to do was bring in "high level consultants" to address Gracedale, Corrections and the Sheriff's office. In other words, he is promising to hire people, at taxpayer expense, to do his job.

This is precisely what former Executive John Brown did. He hired a public relations consultant so he could refuse to answer questions from the press. He hired a cost control consultant who recommended that he reduce health benefits to county workers. He tried to hire a $715,000 business consultant, and entered into a secret agreement for outside legal services for P3 projects to address everything, from bridges to a new jail. 

He hired people, often without County Council approval, to do his job. 

Lynch also stated he's audit election results, even his own. He's apparently unaware that the County already does audit every election. 

Lynch will also audit county finances in an effort to find inefficiencies. He's apparently unaware that the County has an independently elected Controller, or that the County has an independent outside auditor who reviews county spending every year. 

He periodically drifted into talking about irrelevant topics like Maricopa County and a condemnation of teaching social awareness. 

On Monday night, he and a Not-So-Excellent Network host roundly condemned NPR. Ironically, he was still willing to be interviewed by a local NPR station. 

In one of his many live Facebook rants, this is what he said about Democrats: "You people are a cancer to society and would be ashamed of yourselves if you had a conscience." But last night, he claimed,  "I unite people." 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Rain or Shine, NorCo Festival on Saturday

Northampton County will conduct its annual festival on Saturday at Louise Moore Park (151 Country Club Rd, Easton, Pa.,east side). It's a 10-5 affair, and will include food vendors, crafts, live music, non-profit organizations, demonstrations, an awards program for outstanding volunteers, youth, veterans, business, emergency and municipal personnel, and a presentation of colors.

Patriots Vote, Lynch Does Not

NorCo GOP Exec candidate likes to call himself a patriot. Patriots vote. Lynch does not. He likes to say "We, the People" means you. It also means him. For someone so willing to wave a flag and hold forth on national issues in a county race,  he's been pitiful in exercising democracy where it really counts - at tyhe ballot box. 

I've looked at his voting record all the way back to 2008. He failed to vote in the Executive's race in 2017, 2013 or 2009. He's voted in less than half of the elections since registering in 2008. He's only voted three times in 12 years in a municipal race. 

Yet this is the man who threatened to bring "20 strong men" to "remove" duly elected school directors at Northampton Area School Board. He could have voted instead of resorting to a mob. 

In 2017, Lynch was MIA in the election that led to Executive Lamont McClure. He also failed to vote in the election that resulted in Executive John Brown and Executive John Stoffa. He failed to vote for any of the three Republicans currently on Northampton County Council or any of the Republicans elected in 2017, 2013 or 2009. 

Some patriot. 

 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Drop Box Security Questioned at NorCo Council

In October 2019, in what is known as Act 77, Pennsylvania's Republican-dominated General Assembly adopted sweeping changes to the Election Code. For the first time, no-excuse mail-in ballots (MIBs) were permitted. These could be mailed or "delivered in person" to the county elections office. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has interpreted this (in a 5-2 decision) to mean that that MIBs could also be delivered to drop boxes throughout the county. This because the Election Code elsewhere provides that ballots can be returned at any place designated by the county. Though the law appears to be clear, Republicans have been very suspicious. They appear to be primarily concerned  about what is known as ballot harvesting, an illegal practice under which party apparatchiks gather numerous ballots from the party faithful and deposit them all together. While I agree this is a real danger, there's another far more serious concern that no one has mentioned. At an unmanned drop box, and they are all unmanned, it is entirely possible for someone to sabotage them. The security of drop boxes was an issue at last week's  County Council meeting. More questions were raised than answered. The one valid suggestion was ignored. 

The security concerns over NorCo's four drop boxes (one in each Council District) were raised by Republicans Beverly Hernandez, Melanie Morgan and Sheryl Gerkovich. Although Hernandez and Morgan completely misstated the facts, Gerkovich suggested that deputy sheriffs should be assigned to drop boxes.  "There is so much suspicion out there," she argued. "You can alleviate that suspicion on both sides." 

These concerns were echoed by Council member Peg Ferraro. She noted that drop boxes might be under video surveillance, but that does nothing to prevent someone with slipping in a few extra MIBs here and there. Even if it is observed, it would be impossible to segregate the legally cast ballots from those that may have been cast illegally. Nor is it clear that a ballot cast as a result of ballot harvesting is itself illegal. The person who engaged in the illegal practice could be prosecuted, but nothing in Act 77 would per se invalidate the ballots unless they were obtained by coercion or intimidation. Ferraro feels, and with some justification, that the drop boxes should be manned to prevent what she called "shenanigans." 

Ferraro suggested that the logical choice to man a drop box is a deputy sheriff. But as Exec Lamont McClure and Elections Solicitor Rick Santee observed, this would be illegal. 

Ferraro demanded to see the law.  I have previously discussed this part of the Election Code, which predates Act 77 by decades. Here's what the Election Code says:

"Any police officer in commission, whether in uniform or in citizen's clothes, who shall be within one hundred (100) feet of a polling place during the conduct of any primary or election, except in the exercise of his privilege of voting or for the purpose of serving warrants, or in accordance with the provisions of the exception set forth in section 1207 of this act where the police station or headquarters is located in the same building or on the premises where the polling place is located or unless called upon to preserve the peace, as provided by this act, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding five hundred ($500) dollars, or to undergo an imprisonment of not more than one (1) year, or both, in the discretion of the court."
I suppose that a drop box is construed as a polling place by McClure and Santee. This is a sound argument. The law is obviously intended to prevent voter intimidation by law enforcement.. Council member Kerry Myers vowed to fight "tooth and nail" against law enforcement at the polls, arguing that their very presence is intended "as a tool to keep people of color from voting." 

Well, Kerry, you better get ready to start fighting tooth and nail. The way things are now, deputy sheriffs are no more than 10' or 20' from the drop box at the courthouse rotunda. The drop box at Bethlehem City Hall is right above the police station, with officers walking by the drop box all day long. The drop box at the Human Services building is close to stationed deputy sheriffs. Finally, the drop box at 911 is swarmed by police officers day and night, if only to date 911 dispatchers. 

Under the argument advanced by McClure and Santee, all four drop boxes are illegal. 

My own take is that a drop box is actually more of a branch office than a polling place. While federal law concerning voter intimidation must be honored, I think the 100' state law applies only to an actual voting precinct.

Council member Tara Zrinski expressed concern that voters making their way in to vote could be subject to intimidation as third parties could approach them and ask to check their ballots.

Council member John Cusick probably raised the best point. He wondered whether the elections office could appoint a pollworker to man the drop box when it was open. This person could insure that only one vote is cast and that the outside envelope is signed and dated. 

Amazingly, this idea was killed by Attorney Santee, who said there's no mechanism in Act 77 that enables the Registrar to appoint pollworkers for the drop boxes.  Well, Rick, nothing in Act 77 specifically permits drop boxes, either, and you're fine with that.

Assigning a pollworker to each drop box while it is open is the best way to guard against ballot harvesting while simultaneously helping voters to make sure their vote actually counts. Having a pollworker on hand would also prevent the very real danger that someone upset with drop boxes is going to sabotage them.  If the county were smart and wanted to prevent sabotage while simultaneously providing reassurance about ballot harvesting, it would assign a pollworker to each drop box while it is open.       

There's no need for a drop box at the courthouse rotunda. That is just a stone's throw from the elections office. If a person can make it to the courthouse, he can walk a few extra steps to the elections office and be sure his ballot is received and is correct. 

If unable to afford someone from the Elections office at each drop box, then you shouldn't have the drop box. Republicans worry about ballot harvesting. I worry that someone is going to sabotage them. If the Lynch mob is willing to attempt a coup at the US Capitol, or threaten to bring 20 strong men to replace the people's duly elected government, destroying a drop box is chump change. 

Having someone man the drop boxes is just common sense. This concept is all too often missing from government. 

Steve Lynch Forgets His Opponent is Lamont McClure, Not Me

If NorCo GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch has established nothing else, it's that he's thin-skinned. He banned me from his personal Facebook page back in January after promising to meet with me. Now he's also banned me from his campaign page, even though I never comment there. He's really blowin' oil after I exposed an attempt to falsely portray him as a Marine. Instead of apologizing to those who actually served, he threatened to expose the truth about me on Facebook. And last night, on the Not-So-Excellent Conservative Network, that's exactly what he did. 

He exposed me as a disbarred lawyer, something that happened back in 1985 and that everyone already knows about. I have written about it multiple times, so it's really kinda' lame. I was hoping he'd have something better than that, like my affairs with numerous very hot women. I freely admit to all of them. Instead of exposing my numerous sexual dalliances with just about everyone, he dredged up old news. I was very disappointed. 

I also thought he might release a few compromising photographs of me with some lewd parakeets. All I'll say about that is that each one was over 21. 

He went on and on, without really saying anything, until it dawned on me that he just hates being criticized. I admit I've been hard on Lynch. But he deserves it. After all, he is a thug. He threatened to overthrow a democratically elected school board with 20 strong men. He participated in the failed coup at the US Capitol on January 6, saying "This is war." He is no patriot. Certainly no Marine. Quite the opposite. 

He's been so worked up by my criticism that he spent yesterday and last night complaining about me. He should have spent that time trying to get a vote or two. Steve, you seem to have forgotten that Lamont McClure is your opponent, not me. I don't give a rat's ass what you say about me. You see, I'm not running for anything. You are. You just wasted an afternoon and night going after the wrong person. And you've done nothing to dispel the growing sentiment that you are unfit for any office, and could use a little anger management. Maybe do a few push ups or something. Or call that Keystone Alternative Medicine you pretend to own for a few relaxing herbs. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Could Lynch Win NorCo Exec Race?

If you think Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure is going to blow out challenger Steve Lynch in November's fast-approaching election, think again.  As nutty as he is, he will get votes. I say this for two reasons.

First, face masks are an issue in this year's school board races. This controversial issue has even resulted in write-in candidates. These anti-maskers, who ordinarily would not be voting at all, will certainly support Lynch, an anti masker.

Second, voter registration statistics in Northampton County continue to trend Republican. 

Right before the Presidential last year, there were 227,315 registered voters, consisting of 102,436 Democrats (45.06%), 81,345 Republicans (35.78%) and 43,534 others (19.15%).

As of October 4, the number of registered voters in NorCo has dropped to 219,125. This consists of 97,914 Democrats (44.68%), 78,932 Republicans (36.02%), and 42,279 others (19.29%)

Although Democrats still maintain a plurality of the registered voters, Republicans make up a larger percentage than they did last year, when Biden barely won this county. NN

Fortunately, Lynch turns off most Republicans. I expect him to lose, but the race will be closer than it should be.

Lynch Lashes Out Over Stolen Valor

On Thursday, I reported that some right wing Internet host at The Exceptional Conservative Network interviewed NorCo GOP candidate Steve Lynch. At the end of the broadcast, the host thanked Lynch for his service as a Marine and as a father.

"I appreciate that," responded Lynch. 

Lynch never bothered to clarify that he has never served a second in the military in any capacity, let alone as a Marine. 

This is stolen valor.

Last night, this rather unexceptional conservative admitted that Lynch is no Marine, although his Daddy was. He was miffed that "some blogger [that would be me] took to the blogoverse with exaggerations that Steve Lynch made the statement that he was a Marine." 

This is yet another lie. You can review my post. At no time did I claim that Lynch himself ever claimed to be a Marine. That would be a crime. He merely thanked the host for falsely labeling him as such. 

This host also claims the remark was taken out of context. No it wasn't. Lynch was specifically thanked for his service as a Marine and for being a father and actually responded with "I appreciate that." 

The uninformed conservative network host, who is responsible for the initial blunder, is now claiming that Lynch himself failed to hear what was said. 

That's yet another lie. If Lynch failed to hear it, he would never have answered.   

Lynch claimed he will be back with the exceptional conservatives and "will be fully exposing this political hack and disbarred attorney [that would be me] for who he really is. Buckle up. ... You know I don't play around." 

Neither do I. 

I have already exposed Lynch as a fraud who has judgments coming out his ass; has falsely represented himself as some kind of "alternative medicine" expert; participated in the failed coup at the US Capitol;  and, most recently, threatened to bring "20 strong men" to toss the duly elected representatives of the people over a decision that bothered him.

He is actually a huckster, a bully and a demagogue. He should never be in government in any capacity. Except perhaps as a Defendant. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Five Deficiencies at Gracedale Uncovered by State DOH Survey

Jennifer Stewart King, Gracedale's Administrator, advised Northampton County Council on Thursday concerning the most recent inspection of Gracedale by the state Department of Health. That survey was conducted July 9, and raised five deficiencies the the home. You can see the report here. All but one problem appear to be minor.  

The most serious issue involved a resident whose catheter bag was observed on the floor twice.

Another deficiency was the use of a jumpsuit for a resident for infection control. A state surveyor considered the jumpsuit a restraint because it is zippered in the back.  

Other problems included demented residents observed eating with a knife, their fingers or stealing chips and a banana. Finally, an employee failed to log a range of motion exercise for a resident even though she performed the exercise. 

Currently, the census of Gracedale is down to about 490. In July, it was 569. "That's a lot of empty beds," noted Council member John Cusick.

In addition to a sharp drop in census, Stewart-King told Cusick there were about 200 vacancies. She had no exact number. 

On a more positive note, Stewart-King indicated that 65-70% of the staff have been vaccinated and added there is a $750 incentive. She added that, though the Biden administration has made vaccinations mandatory, she is still waiting for guidance. Until then, vaccines are strongly encouraged, but not mandatory, at Gracedale. Those who are unvaccinated are tested twice a week. 

Prior to Stewart-King's report, Director of Nursing Dawn Tuersfeldman provided Council with a litany of changes made at Gracedale, both before and after Covid. 

Before the advent of the pandemic, the McClur administaion made the following changes: (1) It replaced a privatized Administrator with a home-grown Administrator (Jennifer Stewart-King); (2) Email accounts were provided for all LPNs and CNAs to improve communication; (3) It began using MH provider Haven House; (4) 14 new vital signs machines were added, along with new therapy equipment; (5) portable phones connected to call bell in lower units; (6) the LANTA bus route schedule improved ; (7) food cart delivery was improved to keep food warm longer; (8) an anonymous complaint hotline for staff was established; (9) CNA trainee classes  every four weeks; (9) new furniture in nursing units; (10)  electronic medical records (11) referral bonus; and (12) a recruiter position

In response to the pandemic, the following measures have been taken: (1) dedicated unit (Tower 10) for Covid residents, which is being converted into a negative pressure unit; (2) acquisition of PPE; (3) in-house drug testing for new hires (got results instantly); (4) 8-hour temp CNA program (CMS granted waiver); (5) recruit on tv, radio and billboards; (6) hazard pay to front-line staff: (7) automatic door openers to improve infection control; (8) new lab gives test results immediately: (9) Lytbot UV for disinfection; (10) stipend to attend CNA class; (11) Ipad and window visits implemented along with compassionate care visits; (12) monoclonal antibodies for Gracedale residents started; (13) four day weeks and 12-hour weekends started March; (14) weekly staff development for new hires; (15) Reducing prescriptions; (16) contracted with agency to bring in 10 international nurses (all RNs); (17) Infection control position created; and (18) AEDs ordered for every unit.


Friday, October 08, 2021

NorCo Council Candidates Condemn Lynch's Intimidation and Bully Tactics

Blogger's Note: Below is the last of five questions posed to the 10 candidates seeking five seats on County Council. The five GOP hopefuls refused to answer any of the questions posed, while the Democrats answered so you can cast an informed vote.  

Steve Lynch, the Republican candidate for Executive, attended and attempted coup of Congress on Jan. 6. He has claimed, falsely, that Covid-19 vaccines alter DNA. Steve Lynch promised an angry crowd to get rid of them. At an Aug. 29 Harrisburg rally, he vowed to physically remove Northampton Area School Directors over a mask mandate. “Forget going into these school boards with freakin’ data. You go into these school boards to remove them. I’m going in with 20 strong men and I’m gonna give them an option - they can leave or they can be removed”.

Do you support Lynch?

Ron Heckman. - No, I do not support Mr. Lynch’s candidacy. His statements about removing duly elected officials is anathema to our representative democracy. We are a nation of laws and there is no place for mob rule in America.

Tara Zrinski. I do not support Steve Lynch’s use of intimidation and implied threats of violence and proliferation of misinformation. I trust data. 


Lori Vargo-Heffner. - Absolutely not. People have the right to free speech, they also need to accept the consequences of that choice. Governing by threat is not acceptable.

Bill McGee. - I do not support Steve Lynch or any other candidate for office that uses bully tactics and threatens with physical harm.

Patti Bruno. - A leader does not need brute force or to intimidate in order to be heard. Unfortunately, Mr. Lynch missed that memo.

John Brown. - No response.

John Goffredo. - No response.

Nicole Romanishin. - No response.

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. - No response.

Annamarie Robertone. - No response.  

Bear Swamp Archery Complex Named in Honor of Jerry Seyfried

Ron Heckman presents citation
to Jerry
Former Executive Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried was advised early this week that Northampton County Council would be asked on Thursday night to rename the Bear Swamp Archery Complex, located at Minsi Lake, in his honor. '

"Should I be there?" he asked.

"I don't know that we have five votes," said Council member Ron Heckman .

"If you don't, I'll bring 20 strong men and remove you," warned Jerry, who always open carries his compound bow and a few arrows.  

There was no need.  County Council unanimously voted to name the swamp after Jerry. 

In addition to his stint as Exec, Jerry has also served on County Council (twice), as Director of Court Services and as a member of the Retirement Board. His biggest achievement, however, is as the Father of Open Space in Northampton County. 

"He did things for open space at a time when it wasn't cool," remarked  Executive Lamont McClure. "He was a conservationist at a time when the people who were leading at the front of conservation were hunters and fishermen. ... They understood  what was happening." The County Council resolution recognizes Jerry as a "pioneer" of open space. 

"When I think of Jerry, I think of the outdoors," observed Council member Ron Heckman, who introduced the resolution naming a swamp after him. 

Peg Ferraro also complimented Jerry. She noted that, during his time as county exec,there was a pay study, a tax cut and the beginning of farmland preservation. "Jerry was the most nonpartisan leader that I have ever seen," said Ferraro, who is a Republican. 

After the vote, Jerry used his bow to shoot a few apples off the heads of McClure. 

"Lamont said some nice things and he said them exactly the way I told him to say them."

Seyfried was honored during a very busy night. I'll fill you in on what else happened on Monday. 

Lynch's Campaign Page on Facebook is Gone

NorCo GOP Exec hopeful has no trouble getting on goofy right-wing extremist Internet shows, but is having trouble with Facebook again. He was sent to Facebook jail before for intimidation and bullying. Now his campaign Facebook page has just vanished. "These leftist ideologues are traitors to this country and our constitution," he complains.  

Maybe he blocked himself. 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

GOP Exec Wannabe Lynch Allows Internet Host to Falsely Portray Him as a Marine

Northampton County's GOP Exec wannabe Steve Lynch, in his own words, "has a big ass." I don't know how big his ass might be, but he certainly is a big ass. I say this because of his goofy appearance last night on some right-wing internet show. The host thanked Lynch for his service as a Marine with three minutes left in the show, and Lynch never bothered to mention that he never actually spent a second serving his country in any capacity, let alone as a Marine. 

This is stolen valor. 

You can see the show here. Check out the last three minutes, and you'll see Lynch has plenty of time to correct the host, but fails to do so. 

That's what I'd expect from someone who is a big ass. This failure is an insult to those who actually served, as opposed to those who prance around in bulletproof vests. 

Does NorCo Run a Fair, Accurate and Legal Election?

In 2019, Northampton County's general election was a disaster.  Governor Tom Wolf had ordered all counties to replace existing machines with a system that includes a voter verifiable paper trail. Northampton County decided on the ExpressVote XL, a system that combines the convenience of touch screen voting with the added assurance of voter verifiable paper ballots. It's a good thing we had this redundancy because the touchscreens malfunctioned on election day. They came out of the factory misaligned, and that issue was missed during pre-election testing.  The back-up paper ballots saved the day, but not before making several judges very nervous. Fortunately, the issues with the voter system were resolved, and the 2020 primary went off without a hitch.  It was only after the general election, in which Donald Trump was defeated by Joe Biden, that GOP boss Lee Snover claimed there had been fraud. She never sued, although she did challenge ever provisional ballot cast by a Democrat. 

Northampton County's elections office is possibly the best-run office in the county. Registar Amy Cozze has had results posted before nearly everyone else in the state, and has gone to great pains to train elections workers. Vagaries in the county's Home Rule Charter do raise questions about where the administration's power over elections ends and where the elections commission's authority begins.  There's always room for improvement, but is the elections system itself fair, accurate and legal?  

That's the question I posed to 10 candidates seeking five at-large seats, 

Are you confident that elections in Northampton County are fair, accurate and legal? Explain.

Ron Heckman. - The elections in Northampton County have been and will remain fair, accurate and legal. The voting machines have been vetted and contain built-in safeguards. The election staff is a well-trained group of professionals. Finally, there is no evidence of any fraud or illegality in Northampton County’s elections.

Tara Zrinski. - I am confident that our elections were fair and accurate. I trust the numbers that were delivered by the machines, that no one voted who was not registered and that all the votes were counted.

Lori Vargo-Heffner. - Absolutely. It’s the most important function we provide. We worked very hard to fill an unfunded mandate for new machines from the governor and provided necessary equipment to ensure safe and accurate elections. We are ahead of the rest of the state in terms of efficiency with results reporting. We have ensured different options to allow more citizens to vote. Any method that denies a person the opportunity to vote is unfair and we have opted for inclusivity.

Bill McGee. - Yes, Northampton County elections department does an outstanding job on preparing and executing elections. I know there were some issues during the 2020 primary election with the new machines, however I know these problems were solved and tallies were accurate then and moving forward. I am confident that Northampton county election process are accurate, fair, and legal.

Patti Bruno. - I am confident in our system. Even during the 2019 election, I stopped in every day, to watch people hand count votes (the results were the same).

John Brown. - No response.

John Goffredo. - No response.

Nicole Romanishin. - No response.

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. - No response.

Annamarie Robertone. - No response.  


Wednesday, October 06, 2021

SBA Disaster Loans Available to Businesses and Homeowners Impacted by Hurricane Ida

Homeowners, residents and businesses are now eligible for Small Business Assistance (SBA) loans for any damages suffered from Hurricane Ida. Applications for physical damage are due by November 9, 2021. Applications related to economic injury are due by June 10, 2022.
 
The following loans are available:

Business Physical Disaster Loan – loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the businesses, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans – Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.

Home Disaster Loans – Loans to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and personal property, including automobiles.
 
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela or over the phone at 800-659-2955. Email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

How Well Did NorCo Respond to the Pandemic?

Blogger's Note: Democrats like to point their finger at Donald Trump's pitiful response to the pandemic, which essentially amounted to sticking his head in the sand and pretending nothing was happening. Republicans fault Governor Tom Wolf, who acted as though the sky was falling. Neither the federal nor state governments deserve high marks for their pandemic response. 

I personally think local governments really rose to the occasion. There were far too many deaths among Gracedale residents, but the county was very proactive in limiting residents to virus exposure. I believe the census would be zero if our Executive was someone who opposes face masks and vaccines.  

Northampton County’s role in the pandemic was limited, but it made federal funds available to small businesses, renters facing eviction, set up testing and vaccination sites and provided assistance to local municipalities and nonprofits. What is your assessment at how the county responded to this health crisis and what would you do differently?

Ron Heckman. - Despite confusing and conflicting messaging from the state and federal governments, the county did an admirable job in responding to the pandemic. Effective plans were put into practice in order to get funding to small businesses and others in need. We moved expeditiously but with proper oversight. The executive and legislative branches of county government worked together for the best interest of all county residents and employees. While some derided or played down the seriousness of the pandemic, Northampton County took all possible steps to mitigate the effects of the crisis. We formed a partnership with health care providers to assure that both Covid testing and vaccines were made available to county residents. The Covid 19 pandemic is the most serious crisis the county ever had to confront. We must always strive to be better, but all in all, the county responded with prompt and focused effectiveness.

Tara Zrinski. Hind sight is always 20/20. I think the administration and Council did the best we could at the time with what we knew.  I’m not sure we could have done much differently but to secure Gracedale and the Prison sooner to diminish the spread of infection, to get PPE out quicker to protect our workers, and to establish protocol for sanitizing County facilities quicker so that people felt safe at work. Again, I thinks the administration and Council handled an extremely difficult situation well but, I also think the County could have been more lenient to accommodate hybrid and remote work for whom it was applicable and/or necessary. I understand that some jobs cannot be done remotely but, as someone who works remotely and online, I think there is room for creativity and flexibility. I think many working families made tough choices to stay home with their children in the absence of childcare or onsite education. 

Lori Vargo-Heffner. - I believe we did a phenomenal job given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.  Since no direction was available from the Federal government until the CARES Act, it was important to protect our most vulnerable citizens and our employees.  Lives were lost, the worst toll of this situation , but thankfully fewer to  do the quick response and excellence to serviceof our employees.  I believe  the pandemic highlighted the need for more creative work solutions, health protections, new level of sanitizing work areas, and enhanced communication methods.  If I would do anything different it would be to link with the health networks quickly to provide testing &vaccines  sooner, but,  they were honestly in the same situation as we were, inventing methods and being creative as information progressed. I would learn from this and make sure disaster matrices are available and intact going forward.

Bill McGee.Northampton county was very responsive to the public, and county as the pandemic unfolded. If we could go back and do it all over again I am not sure I would change anything. We were proactive on testing, vaccinations, PPE, and policy. I also believe that we were very helpful to our small businesses and surrounding municipalities. Moving forward we need to make sure we have the resources available to handle any similar issues that may arise.

Patti Bruno. - As a former analyst for Homeland I can tell you that our budget for FEMA, response, science was slashed. Our country responded the best we could given the means. As a new administration took place, we were able to assist more - but it doesn’t negate the fact we neglect a problem for a long time. You can see that in even President’s Budget.

John Brown. - No response.

John Goffredo. - No response.

Nicole Romanishin. - No response.

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. - No response.

Annamarie Robertone. - No response.  

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Drop Boxes Become More Relevant in Wake of Mail Slowdown

It happened right before the Presidential election. It's happening again. The mail is slowing down. Louis DeJoy, the Trump-installed Postmaster General, is slowing mail delivery to what it was like in the '70s. It now can take as long as five days to deliver a piece of first class mail. 

So  f you're voting by mail, the best way to ensure that your ballot reaches the elections office is by dropping it off at a drop-off box.

In Northampton County, these drop boxes are at the following locations:

Rotunda of the Government Center – 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 8:00PM
 
Human Services Building – 2801 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 7:00PM
 
Northampton County 911 Center – 100 Gracedale Ave. Nazareth, PA 18064
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 8:00PM
 
Bethlehem City Hall – 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018
o  Monday – Friday from 8:00AM – 4:00PM

In Lehigh County, drop boxes are at the following locations:

District#1

North Whitehall Township Building

·         3256 Levans Road, Coplay, PA 18037

·         610-799-3411

·         M-F 7:30AM- 4PM

District #2

Lehigh County Authority (LCA) Lobby

·         1053 Spruce Road, Allentown, PA 18106

·         610-398-2503

·         M-F 8:15AM- 4:45PM

District #3

Fountain Hill Borough  Building

·         941 Long StreetFountain Hill, PA 18015

·         610-867-0301

·         M-F 8:30AM- 4:30PM

District #4

Lehigh County Government Center

·         17 South 7th Street, Allentown, PA 18101

·         610 782-3194

·         24/7 Drop Box Main Entrance

District #5

Emmaus Borough Office

·         28 South 4th Street, Emmaus, PA 18049

·         610-965-9292

·         M-F 8AM-4PM

 

 


Voters may only drop off their own ballots. Third party return of ballots is prohibited unless the person returning the ballot is rendering assistance to a disabled voter or emergency absentee voter and has a signed “Certification of Designated Agent” form. A copy of these forms can be downloaded at vote.pa.gov

Is It Time to Start Paying More to NorCo Employees?

Blogger's Note: This is the second of a five-part series posing questions to the 10 County Council candidates seeking five at-large seats. All Democrats responded. Republicans ignored the questionnaire. 

Just about every Democratic NorCo Council member supports an increased minimum wage. They have often spoken of the need to pay people a living wage. They could start with the county's own  employees. Many of them still earn make less than $15 an hour. I know many in supervisory roles who work second and third jobs just to put food on the table, while others must receive food assistance. This needs to stop. The best way to determine an appropriate wage is through a salary study, but the county has shied away from one.  A study of nonunion workers was done in 2009, but was so controversial  that no action was taken. 

Northampton County has had no salary study done for decades, leading to salary compression between newcomers and long-time county employees. Would you budget for and insist on a salary study?

Ron Heckman, - Salary compression is certainly a concern. I am open to budgeting money for a possible pay study. It is important to discuss what that would entail. We need to examine the cost of doing such a study and the scope of the study should be clearly defined. Only then would I consider supporting a study.

Tara Zrinski. I do believe a salary study would be in the best interest of the county employees, especially in light of the post-COVID reality where wages and salaries as well as the cost of living, seems to have been so dramatically impacted, I would want the County employees to be fairly and justly compensated for their work. 

Lori Vargo-Heffner. I would not support an overall salary study, but I would support a mechanism for creating a timetable to review departments in a sequence every five years. Each union and department has unique responsibilities which may need to be considered, so I would endorse a smaller, steady approach which could become the standard operating procedure.

Bill McGee. - As former chairman of county council’s personnel committee, I understand how employee pay needs to fair, equitable, yet reflect their responsibilities,and work load. I am aware that they did a HAY Study in 2009 but no changes were made following the results.  I would be opened minded to a salary study in the future.

Patti Bruno. - Yes. 

John Brown. - No response.

John Goffredo. - No response.

Nicole Romanishin. - No response.

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. - No response.

Annamarie Robertone. - No response.  



Monday, October 04, 2021

McClure's 2022 Budget Includes BOTH Tax Cut AND Step Increase (4.5%) for Nonunion Workers

Since taking office as Northampton County Executive, Lamont McClure has proposed three budgets, ultimately adopted, that hold the line on real estate taxes. His most recent budget proposal, however, includes something never seen before in Northampton County government. A tax cut. His $528 million spending plan for next year was introduced today in County Council Chambers, which was livestreamed both on the County’s YouTube Channel and Facebook.. It reduces the tax rate from 11.8 mills, where it's been for the past seven years, to 10.8 mills. This means a home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill next year that drops from $885 to $810. The budget is also balanced. 

This budget will be reviewed by County Council in a series of five budget hearings, starting on Wednesday. Council can accept the budget as proposed, make changes or reject it. In an oddity of the county's home rule charter, a thumbs down would mean the spending plan as proposed would go into effect automatically. 

1. One Mill Tax Cut ($8.6 million in savings to all Northampton County Taxpayers)
2. Fund Balance:  Emergency Stabilization $17.4 Million (9.3% of General Fund) & $21.4 Million Unassigned for a total of approximately $39 million in reserve.
3. $12.2 Million in Operational Cuts or a (12.8% reduction in spending identified through improved management countywide).
4. A one step increase for all nonunion county employees (4.5%)
5. Fully funding pension, unemployment and OPEB obligations.
6. Meeting all matching requirements from the state and federal government for pass through funding for COVID relief and Human Services provided by Northampton County.

McClure's spending plan continues a continued commitment to fund open space preservation at $3 million every year. This is accomplished by purchasing conservation easements under which farmers agree to never develop their land. In addition, the county purchases environmentally sensitive land and both creates and maintains parks. In his budget message, McClure states his object is to both preserve green space and limit warehouse proliferation. 

McClure stated his budget will continue the pandemic relief and assistance to county residents. This includes $25 million in relief to small businesses. 

NorCo GOP Council Candidates Spurn Questionnaire

Although I'm a registered Democrat, that's mostly so I can vote in primaries. If we had open primaries, I'd vote as an Independent. Over the years, at least until very recently, I've voted for nearly as many Republicans as Democrats. I have two main tests. Is the candidate transparent? Is he accountable? If a person passes that test, I will often vote for him (or her) even if I disagree with most of his (or her) positions. In this election cycle, all the Democratic Council candidates have been transparent and accountable. The Republican candidates have failed that test, and have, in fact, turned their noses up at a relatively simple questionnaire designed to educate all of us about their positions on key county issues. I had hoped to provide you with their answers right around the time that many of you are getting your mail-in ballots or voting early at the courthouse. The Republican candidates chose to ignore you. Thus I suggest you should ignore them when you cast your vote. 

Over the past four years, I've been highly critical of the four Democratic incumbents on NorCo Council seeking re-election. They've noticed, too. They've even disparaged me during Council meetings. I'm not exactly their pal. But they all responded to a questionnaire with just seven days notice.  This is because they are being transparent and accountable.  

One Republican Council candidate told me he had been warned to stay away from me. He was willing to sit down and talk, but not for a Q&A interview.  That defeats the purpose. Another candidate, former Exec John Brown, ignored emails from both me and even more reputable members of the media. He had secret plans to move the jail to Gracedale and paid an outside lawyer over $700,000 without County Council approval.  

You may disagree with where Democratic Council candidates stand, but at least you will know their positions. Unfortunately, the GOP candidates would rather keep you in the dark. 

Over the next few days, I will provide their answers to five questions. The Democratic candidates have been transparent and accountable, while the Republican candidates continue to be divisive. Considering that their standard bearer is an insurrectionist who even suggested overthrowing a democratically elected school board, that's no surprise.   

Does Northampton County's Home Rule Charter Need an Enema?

Northampton County operates under a home rule charter, which went into effect in 1978. Instead of being governed by three Commissioners like most counties, the voters opted for one full-time County Exec and nine part-time County Council members. Over its 43-year history, the Charter has been amended 18 times. In addition, it  has been the subject of several lawsuits between the different branches of government. It's still confusing, too. Some think it's time to return to the Commissioner form of government, which guarantees a minority voice. . Others, myself included, like the charter but think it needs a major overhaul. Council was poised to let you weigh in on a home rule charter study commission in 2017, but their measure was vetoed by former Executive John Brown, who proved in one term of office that he was no champion of good government. 

My first question to prospective Council members probably sounds like inside baseball. But the form of county government is about as basic as it gets.  

Northampton County is a home rule charter government. There are some who’d like to return to a commissioner for of government, while there are others who think the charter needs a major overhaul. Would you vote to authorize a referendum asking voters to approve and elect a home rule charter study commission?

Ron Heckman. - Yes. It has been almost fifty years since the Home Rule Charter was written. There are sections of the Charter that are less than precise and, in fact, have conflicted with state law. I support the Home Rule Charter form of government and feel an open and honest review of the charter can only be beneficial for the county government.

Tara Zrinski. - I have not had anyone directly come to me and request a home rule study. I do remember Councilwoman Peg Ferraro putting that on her departure wish list at a Council meeting. If this would be an issue that gained more traction, certainly, in a representative democracy, I would represent the will and best interests of the people.

Lori Vargo-Heffner.  I would support a Home Rule Charter study. I don't believe we need to change the form of government, but much has changed in the years since its adoption. It's time to review and revise where necessary to keep current and provide the best methods and practices for governing. Communication methods have changed and are not reflected in current charter. If citizens see fit to alter the structure overall or only make smaller amendments, it is certainly the time to do so.

Bill McGee. -    During the last four years on council I have heard many times that the home rule charter may need to be updated. In 1978 the voters decided to create the home rule charter. In 2004 council tried to  do a study and it failed, and again in 2016, that also never made it to the voters. In our current form of  government when issues arise concerning the charter it can be amended  by voter referendum. I understand that a study may cost more than 500,000. At this time I would need more discussion, and convincing to vote for a study. During my time on council I haven’t encountered any situation that we were not able to work through with our current form of government.

Patti Bruno. - I am not opposed.

John Brown. - No response.

John Goffredo. - No response.

Nicole Romanishin. - No response.

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. - No response.

Annamarie Robertone. - No response.