Sunday, November 5, 2017

Northampton County Executive Candidate John Brown Refuses to Take Position on Sludge, Using Taxes Other Than As Intended

On Tuesday, Northampton County voters will vote on 5 of 9 council seats, and also elect the next county executive.  Incumbent John Brown is running against Lamont McClure.  McClure served on council for 10 years, until stepping aside two years ago.

Brown's Record on Open Space and Related Taxes

In 2006, voters put John Stoffa into office.  Stoffa promised to raise taxes in order to fund open space preservation.  Earlier, in 2003, voters had voted overwhelmingly to fund a $37m bond issue for the same purpose, but the bond was never pursued.  Stoffa followed through on his promise, and instituted a 0.5 mil property tax, which land owners have paid ever since - it generates $3.9m dollars per year.  This tax was instituted in a manner in which it is not mandatory to spend it on open space, though that is its purpose and as stated voters voted to support it.

Prior to Mr. Brown taking office, of the $29.6m collected, $23.5m was put towards the Open Space program for municipal and county parks, preservation of environmentally sensitive lands and farmland preservation.  The county farmland preservation program is one of the most successful in Pennsylvania.  During Mr. Brown's four years, he has only put $3.7m of $15.2m collected towards open space, and $3m of this was required by a now expired amendment to put towards municipal parks.  The other $11.5m Mr. Brown has evidently used to plug holes in the non-open space budget.  This is a contravention of the voters wishes.

McClure has stated that he will return to funding Open Space at levels similar to that prior to Brown taking office.

Brown's Vision of Economic Development - Warehouses and Bridges to Support Tractor Trailers
No answers for Slate Belt

Brown's campaign advertises his commitment to economic development and transportation, and in fact he has developed a program to replace outdated bridges.  However, he appears to have no respect for our natural resources - both the defunding of Open Space as well as not funding the new innovative Livable Landscapes program demonstrate this.  Brown apparently believes preserving open space takes up space that could be used for million square foot warehouses.  The Livable Landscapes program was instituted just a year ago, to supply a funding stream for projects such as walking trails, recreation and stream restoration.  Funding for this program in 2018?  $0.  At the debate with McClure last week, Brown suggested he had funded it, but those funds were applied last year.  Also at the debate, McClure correctly pointed out that Brown had raided the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) fund after taking office.  The IDA was put in place to identify, promote and fund light industrial development opportunities in the Slate Belt.  Although Brown is most recently from Bangor, he has not lived up to his promise to bring jobs to the Slate Belt.

Brown's $200m Prison, Paid for with no New Taxes?

As has been widely reported, Brown plans to build a new prison for the princely sum of $200m.  He claims that he will not raise taxes to do so.  Even if he continues to raid the taxes collected for Open Space, he will be millions and millions of dollars short.

McClure has stated unequivocally that he would not build a new prison.

Brown's Position on Sludge - No Comment

Mr. Brown has been asked repeatedly to express his stance on sludge, since the Synagro plant has applied to locate in Plainfield Township, and a multi-year battle has taken place over sludge application to farms in Upper Mt. Bethel Township.  One would think that someone that the Slate Belt put into office would have no trouble taking a stance against sludge.  His silence can only signal one thing - he is reluctant to admit to the residents of Northampton County that he supports Waste Management, the proposed Synagro plant and applying sludge to farmland.

In stark contrast, McClure has made a clear statement that he will fight against the use of sludge in Northampton County.

The Slate Belt May Make the Difference on November 7

It is likely that Slate Belt voters are responsible for Brown attaining office, and on Tuesday they may again be the deciding factor in who prevails.  If you value clean air and water, recreation and open spaces, low taxes through preservation of land that may otherwise be developed with homes that will raise school taxes, would like to see real economic development, and not deal with sludge, the choice appears to be clear.

Below is a handout that is being circulated, and included for your reference