Friday, November 1, 2013

It's your money . . .

The Northwestern Press newspaper printed a new set of corrections this week. This comes after corrections made last week and the week before! Who said what, when, that’s important, but our weekly paper can't even get the simplest quote right!

But the Press did not correct its most obvious error. It did not get the local supervisor candidate’s name right. Who the heck is Scott Dietrich, anyway? He might be upset!

It’s not like the names are too hard, both candidates for Lynn Township Supervisor have the same last name, Feinour.

With the absentee Morning Call and an incompetent local paper, - all the more reason that Lynn Township should follow its own promise to be more open.

Yes folks, it’s now been a full year since the Township promised to stream its public meetings on the Internet! Guess that promise isn't going to happen soon! Burry major rezoning in a pending 500-page codification - you’d never know unless you came to the meeting yourself, but that's a whole other story!

This week’s Press correction concerned the Township budget. The expected surplus for 2013 approaches 180K, not 60K as was reported. That is, if the Board does not piss some of the 180K away on glossy plans and other things, which they’d be sure not to follow anyway.

Here are the Township’s audited numbers for the last 12 years.

2001- REVENUE=1,197,208; EXPENDITURES=1,157,512 - IN THE BLACK $39,696.
2002- REVENUE=1,459,542; EXPENDITURES=1,247,357 - IN THE BLACK $212,185.
2003- REVENUE=1,146,024; EXPENDITURES=1,029,136 - IN THE BLACK $116,888.
2004- REVENUE=1,562,277; EXPENDITURES=1,534,401 - IN THE BLACK $27,876.
2005- REVENUE=1,332,050; EXPENDITURES=1,263,278 - IN THE BLACK $68,772.
2006- REVENUE=1,459,730; EXPENDITURES=1,436,217 - IN THE BLACK $23,513.
2007- REVENUE=1,573,389; EXPENDITURES=1,494,610 - IN THE BLACK $78,779.
2008- REVENUE=1,433,397; EXPENDITURES=1,550,118 - IN THE RED -$116,721.
2009- REVENUE=1,447,303; EXPENDITURES=1,313,006 - IN THE BLACK $134,297.
2010- REVENUE=1,203,970; EXPENDITURES=1,138,304 - IN THE BLACK $65,666.
2011- REVENUE=1,286,968; EXPENDITURES=1,193,308 - IN THE BLACK $93,660.
2012- REVENUE=1,311,845; EXPENDITURES=1,179,519 - IN THE BLACK $132,326.

Combined with the projected 2013 surplus of $177K, for 13 years ending December 2013, Lynn Township will take in $1,053,937 more than needed.

That’s more than one million dollars collected in Lynn Township, none of which will be used to provide any service to Township residents. That’s $253 per person based on a population of 4150.

In the past 13 years, Lynn Township cut the property tax rate twice. The millage went from 1.3 to 1.0 in 2008, and then to .8 in 2011 (since adjusted to .2 for the County reassessment). Each of those reductions were opposed by the current Board Chairman, Justin Smith, then a vocal citizen. Member Kermit Delong was evenly split.

Why is the surplus important?

Quite simply, the projected surplus for 2013 is still nearly 3 times the Township take on property taxes. Property tax receipts for Lynn Township are about 60K. Yet one candidate, Steve Feinour, joined by the current Chairman, Justin Smith, yet balks at a temporary reduction in our tax millage, which could be zero. The millage, set every year by the Board, should reasonably reflect the cost of services, nothing more.

The Township's next budget meeting is November 14, 2013 at 6:30pm.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Too hot to handle!

Most in the area know, the battle for Supervisor in Lynn Township is between two brothers: Steve Feinour and Scott Feinour.

Most don’t know, the two brothers have not spoken to each other in over ten years.

Organizers tried to arrange a debate, but the two brothers could not agree on a date, so there is no debate. Should they change their mind, I’ll offer to rent a hall, maybe even hire a constable! They can bring their own moderator!

But having no debate did not stop the war of words. Words of which, at least according to the Morning Call, cannot be printed. The Morning Call refused to print Scott Feinour's response!

The Feinours were asked, what is the major issue facing Lynn Township.

To Steve Feinour, maintaining the efficiency of the Lynn Township government was the major issue. Hmm, that’s rather nonchalant.

Scott wrote, the major issue facing Lynn Township is honesty. Whoa, there is some color! What's the deal?

Scott included a number of citations, each a separate allegation of dishonest government. I could go through the allegations, but I’ll have leave that to Scott Feinour. I just can't find them online anymore.

Here is what the Morning Call told candidate Scott Feinour.

Hello Scott -- The Morning Call will not publish your response in the Voters' Guide. It is potentially libelous. You must answer the question that was asked, without making accusations against another person.
Here is the extent of what may be published, as you sent it:

D.O.B.: 1962 EDUCATION: Northwestern Lehigh High School, 1980; Lehigh County Vocational Technical School, 1980 OCCUPATION: Snyder Construction, 22 years QUALIFICATIONS: Lynn Township Vacancy Board, 4 years; Continual attendance of Lynn Township BOS meetings, 12 years; Knowledge of Township issues: Past, Present, Future; Past Director, NTFC, 12 years; Actively served committees, NTFC: (i.e. Tanker, By-Laws, Rescue, Fundraising, Audit.) RESPONSE: Honesty.

If you want to revise your response so it reflects what you hope to do if elected, you must do so no later than this Wednesday. The question we asked was "What do you view as the major issue in this campaign and how will you address it?"

Ann Bartholomew Barbara Williams

Scott’s response, which appeared only briefly on the League of Women Voters – Voters Guide was since removed and replaced after the Morning Call objected. The new one in the Voter Guide is the Morning Call's so-called approved version.

King George and the County

Back in August, I wrote, One can't move forward without remembering our past.

I was talking about a barn; this barn actually. I’m still working to save it, and yes Mike, not at the Owner's expense.

I could have well been talking about the King George Inn. Others are trying to save it, and I agree. The historic building could be saved! Let's save it.

Proponents brought the matter to the Lehigh County Commissioners. I watched the Commissioner's meeting (held Sept 25). I read the accounts.

To a person, all Commissioners agreed on one thing only. The King George in is not a County issue. Bunk! Neither are Eagle Scouts, yet they Commissioners honor them regularly by formal resolution!

A bank and drug store is proposed at 3051, 3125, and 3141 Hamilton Boulevard. These were the King George Inn, a Burger King and a Carvel Ice Cream Stand. A demolition permit was denied over utility and safety concerns.

Pending before the Zoning Hearing Board in South Whitehall is an application for a variance, though nothing stops the owner/developer from pursing a demolition permit. The proposed plan needs variance from street right-of-way widths, parking lot area setbacks, and building front yard setbacks.

An actual land-development plan has not yet been submitted. Obviously, the plan requires a variance to proceed. When submitted, that plan will go to the South Whitehall Township Planning Commission, and the Lehigh County Planning Commission.

I suspect, though I don’t know for certain, the sale of the property is probably conditioned on the future plan’s approval, else the developer would have demolished the building by now.

Dare I say, even an allegedly decrepit old building has value. Consider the then defunct Stokesay Castle, which sold for $623,850, a much larger affair, then in much worse condition. Demolition of the King George Inn now would be utterly stupid. It’s premature, though there are some stupid developers out there.

In my less than humble opinion, each Commissioner missed the mark! Here is what they said:

Percy Dougherty: This is something that we as Commissioners have no control over. This is a Township matter and they have to settle it. (Moving to send a letter to the Township encouraging adaptive use of the KGI -Seconded by Mike Schware)

Scott Ott: This is not in our bailiwick. We have been appealed to tonight as fellow citizens, and I think if any of us wish to take initiative, as citizens, to write letters . . . that’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to throw our weight around with the government of South Whitehall. . . . I would not like to have even an implied sense that big brother is telling them what to do.

Brad Osborne: (A former SWT Commissioner) I do share Commissioner Ott’s concern that, especially in a non-binding motion, that this Board enters into a formal conversation with another body of government, trying to encourage them in one direction or another, without all the facts. What I would be prepared to do . . . is working individually with some of the main people in SWT who are part of this decision, in finding out more about this and finding out how we can as a community have this happen without formal action from this Board.

Percy Dougherty: (on clarifying his motion), we have a responsibly to save our history.

Dan McCarthy: Perhaps the better course of action would to have the letter authored and prepared for actual review by the Board rather to move on a motion I really haven’t seen or a resolution I haven’t read. Perhaps there can be language fashioned that would be acceptable to a majority of the Board members, for them to look at and discuss at a meeting, (asking the mover to withdraw the motion pending clarification).

Victor Mazziotti: I have to vote against the Motion, not that I am opposed to the position that is being offered. I really haven’t formed an opinion and think it deserves our attention and maybe our review, but to bring a motion before us based on brief presentation by somebody in the audience and ask us to vote on it to inform another governmental body how we feel about an action they’re about to take, I think it’s inappropriate. I’m not prepared to do that yet. If you want to bring it before a committee and discuss it at a committee meeting, I would be willing to attend that meeting, but I’m not willing to vote for it tonight.

Scott Ott: It is not part of the responsibilities of this Board to weigh in on other levels of Government. As far as I know, SWT has not requested us to weigh in with our opinion on the matter, so giving our advice, as you know, advice that is unsolicited is generally not found to be valuable. . . . We have no jurisdiction in these areas.

Mike Schware: (Reaffirming his second to the motion) I think this is an overriding concern. Frankly I wish that had been brought earlier, and we could weigh in on it earlier, but I don’t view this as trying to impose our will on anyone. I think it’s just an expression of how we feel. . . . I’d like to see it preserved . . . and I’m happy to lend a little bit of support to that effort.

The amended motion on the floor was that the Commissioners, through the Chair, send a letter to SWT supporting the adaptive reuse of the King George Inn in the development that’s planned.

Voting in favor: Dougherty, Schware, McCarthy, Creighton, Jones and Scheller. Against: Mazziotti, Osborne and Ott

Alas, the County does have a role in local land use matters! It’s called the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and this matter is likely headed there!

Under the MPC and local SWT Saldo, (Why doesn't South Whitehall have its Zoning and SALDO Ordinances online, or am I just a numskull and can't find them ) all proposed subdivisions plans are reviewed by the County PC. And should South Whitehall Township consider the proposed curative amendment, (or come up with an alternative of their own), their amendment will also be considered by the Lehigh County Planning Commission.

So for those who said the County had no role and are hesitant to speak out lest appear heavy handed, nothing stops the County Board from sharing its views with the County Planning Commission, which was created by the Board. So Commissioners, go, talk to our land use experts. Send them a letter. Copy SWT. It's proper! It's procedure, and you appointed them!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Of Whoppers and Obamacare.

My experience in Government taught me one thing, the bigger the pile of public money, the more vultures are circling above it. They same goes for lies. They're some pretty big whoppers spun in DC, not like the little lies from the dollar menu here locally. No offense to Burger King, but the biggest whoppers come from DC.

This whopper is from the Whitehouse, no less!

First of all, if you've got health insurance, you like your doctor, you like your plan - you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.


Posted above is a letter from Capital Blue Cross informing me that my health insurance plan will be terminated on December 31, 2013, courtesy of Obamacare. I paid my own health insurance plan privately for years. Apparently, that was a bad thing. I will now join the ranks of Ken Petrini and the many others that will have their coverage terminated. We are being directed to the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace for new coverage, a new plan. I can not keep my own plan! I must go to the Government.

Lying should be sanctionable.

Meanwhile, Obama touts the great interest in the Healthcare Exchange as the cause for the Exchange's failure. The website remains plagued with crashes, but I do not equate interest in the Exchange with being forcibly caused to go there.

Put another quarter in the truth jar, and I'll soon be a rich man!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pants on Fire and other local stories

Two years ago, our then Supervisor Board candidate, Justin Smith said he supported farm preservation. Given his more recent manifesto slamming the farm preservation, we now know that his public posturing was a lie. I suspect Justin was also less than open about Lynn’s 10% rule. We may soon see!

As an aside, well run local zoning rules are not anti-Republican. Zoning laws, especially impact fees, are designed to lessen the impact of development, else the public be forced to mitigate those problems at taxpayer expense. I’d rather not subsidize that. We pay enough taxes.

Frankly, I don’t care whether Justin, or anyone else, supports farm preservation. I say, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Kill the doublespeak and let your actions match your words.

Candidate for Lynn Supervisor, Steve Feinour is a proxy for Justin Smith. Don’t believe me? Just compare their election flyers. That’s Justin’s on the left with Steve’s on the right, above.

Wait, with the exception of local businesses, they’re the same, word by word, line by line, item by item. Can’t tell one from the other! That’s right! Supporting local businesses is like puppies and kittens. Who doesn’t like local business anyway, unless it's Wal-mart! The rest is like a Joe Biden speech, copied from somewhere else.

That’s why one’s election committee and financing are important. Absent proper disclosure, the public can’t see which candidate is driven by special interests, big development bosses, and who they might be! The money tells the story!

The Lehigh County Voter Election board referred Steve’s campaign to the District Attorney. The DA may or may not take it up, but the chairman of the election board, Matt Croslis, said, The complaints, if true, are really serious.

Don't take my word, or Matt's, for anything. You can read the Lehigh's Chief Clerk of Election, Tim Benyo’s, request for legal analysis here. This was given to the County Law Department ahead of the Election Board Meeting. I do not have the Department's confidential response. So I can't speak to it. It's not my call.

But as one who lost the election, I’m not seeking at return to the ballot. That would be inappropriate. I’m also not running any write in campaign. I lost the election, and that’s fine.

No, this election is now between two brothers: Steve Feinour and Scott Feinour. There is no collusion between the two candidate Feinours. One is a Republican. The other is a Democrat. They rarely, if ever, speak to each other, which might be another story. I don't know the details of that.

As a former Supervisor, I spent six years cleaning up cronyism and abuse. I had little privilege to deal with much planning and zoning, not with thefts running out the Township door. Changes were a long time coming.

Two of my Supervisor predecessors were adjudicated guilty before the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission. That's a big deal!

One illegally hired a family member, double-dipped his meeting pay and, of course, failed to properly disclose his financial interests.

You might think we’d know about financial interests by now. Apparently not! Seats on the Northwestern Lehigh Educational Foundation are governmental offices, and must be disclosed in the Township's double-secret financial statements! See SFI at Block 5, 13. See Also, Benyo’s report cited above. The same goes to Zoning Board memberships.

A second supervisor was found to have misused Township property, falsified timesheets and petty theft.

Let’s not forget illegal perks: say free trash privileges for life given to themselves; escrow accounts which were not audited; reimbursable accounts where not invoiced, especially to favored persons; and check payments signed by only one.

This all occurred under the watchful eye of our elected Auditors. One has been there 40 years, again running for reelection! Get with the program Mr. Chairman! All you had to do was walk around. Whose personal vehicle was stored in the garage? What was that scrap and junk cars outside the salt building? Where did the petty cash and receipts go for recycling? Who took all the holiday turkeys? Where did the 55 gallon drums go? What, one signature to authorize a Township check? Hey, about a list of deposit accounts? It was all in plain view!

No one said boo then, at least not publicly. Others turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, we, us, you, the taxpayers, lost 10s of thousands, if not 100s of thousands of dollars. A simple public shout, boo, by those in the know, might have ended it long before that!

Where our community does not call out bad, illegal behavior, the behavior is doomed to repeat itself. Consider the Supervisor above, although having been found guilty in the abuse of his public office by illegally directing employment to his son, those actions were retroactively approved by the Sewer Authority.

That same Authority, including Steve Feinour, later approved severance pay for the Supervisor-worker, then just an at will employee, the first and only severance pay ever given by Government in Lynn. Long time secretary Tina Everett and others who were laid off did not get severance pay, and she did absolutely nothing wrong! Meanwhile, he is sill working on sewer here in Lynn, on the same pipes, under contract to the Authority's successor. Yeah, that severance money was well spent!

Fiscal conservatism? Sour Grapes? Really? Enough with the bull . . .
On to good government . . . or not!