This is a review of the forum held at Wilkes University on October 17, 2011, to which all county council candidates were invited.
Our reporter arrived 5 minutes late but by that time Packard, Brominski, Hatchko and Walsh-Waitkus had already spoken, but later each was asked the question "How would you ensure that the county manager (who the council will appoint) will act independently, professionally overseeing the day-to-day operation of county government."
Jeremy Packard (Independent) said he looked forward to being a swing vote as an independent and didn't want agendas from the major parties to impede the manager from doing his job.
Edd Brominski (D) said it was important for the manager to receive input from the council but also for the council to let the manager do his job.
Charlie "Bible Buck" Hatchko (American Independent) related his experience in negotiating union contracts, and promised to go to the papers if he were to notice any impropriety.
Jane Walsh-Waitkus (D) answered in a calm, articulate way, but didn't say anything of much substance.
Our reporter was there for the rest of the speeches. All in all, most candidates did better than they had in the KING'S forum held on Sunday night. They were afforded more time and seemed to benefit from it. There were more audience members there too--over 100 total.
Jim Bobeck (D) gave a much better speech, and went over some specifics of the charter and stressed the need for the council to let the manager do his job and to enforce the charter's ethics code. But Bobeck managed to say something dumb in one of his asides, when he implied that main problem with Alcohol Prohibition was poor enforcement; on the contrary, it was that people still wanted to drink.
Eileen Sorokas (D) did a better job, and highlighted the newness of the home rule government.
Sal Licata's (D) speech was essentially the same one he made Sunday, and it was kind of boring. He said that when sitting on boards he always made decisions that were "in the best interests of everyone" --which is quite a statement. In economics terms, he claims to have always maximized utility and to have known how to do so. In reality, he probably meant to say that he acted in the best interest of all instead of favoring one group or another, an important point to make given that Licatas abound in government.
John Ruckno (R) did very well in his speech, and called for fiscal responsibility, restraint, and the need to live within our means. He said he preferred to balance the budget but not through raising taxes. He also favored a zero-based budget. He also stressed the need for a nation-wide search for the county manager.
Tim McGinley (D) emphasized the skill he had gained over the years. He said the council would have to endeavor in team-building and consensus building in order to build the trust necessary to make the home rule government work.
Rick Morelli (R) said he had the necessary experience with municipal bonds to know how to address the county's debt problem and cited his 17 years of financial experience and full scholarship to Villanova. Ethics provisions, which still needed to be voted on, should have teeth in them, according to him.
Linda McCloskey-Houck (D) called for tax relief "if possible" and praised the Working Families Ticket, which includes herself, Licata, Morcavage, and Walsh-Waitkus. It was a little platitudinous.
Bill James (R) introduced his career experience, said as councilman that he would offer "no crap or bull", and proceeded to spend the rest of his speech on the success of his progeny.
Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt's (R) speech was similar to her's on Sunday, but she added her role in the Wyoming Valley flood protection committee, which had pushed to get the dikes raised in the 1970's, 80's and '90s. She stressed the need to balance the budget but without raising taxes, and again ended her speech with a somewhat trite "May God Bless America." May God Bless Luzerne County would've been better.
Harry Haas (R) had a better speech. He said he liked that the council was part-time, and governed by citizen legislators. Although government is difficult to change for the better on the Federal level, said he, change could more esaily be accomplished at the county level. A good county manager was also important to Haas.
Elaine Maddon Curry (D) also had a better speech, listing the role she played in stopping the Hazleton School board from hiring teachers and in instituting a conflict of interest policy. On the side table, cards bore her name along with Bobeck's. She lamented that the voters themselves couldn't elect the county manager.
Blythe Evans (R) noted that it would take the county 17 years to pay off its debt--allowing for $30 million yearly surplus. He wanted to cut spending to reduce the debt, and to find a tough county manager.
Theresa Morcavage (D) said that she witnessed corruption in her 22 years of being employed with the county and said she knows how to stop it. She stressed the importance of following the provisions of the charter and making a strong ethics code.
Rick Williams (Independent) said that at the county level there is no difference between D's and R's and that all candidates ought to run as independents. He noted his experience as head of an architect firm and the need to attract business to the area to increase the tax base. He called for a gutsy manager who would make tough decisions until the 7 out of 11 councilmen fire him.
Tim Mullen (Libertarian) noted that we're all in trouble when interest rates go up and that if they do we'll have to sacrifice in order to service the county debt. Alluding to his combat experience, he compared the relationship between the council and the manager to that between an officer in the military and a sergeant, saying that the relationship should be firm but not overbearing in a micro-managing way.
Kathy Dobash (R) said she wouldn't be a wallflower and that she would file a right-to-know request if she didn't receive proper info from the county manager.
Mike Lacey's (Libertarian) speech wasn't as smooth as his previous one at KING'S College, wherefrom he graduated. His vision for the county remained impressive, however, as he said that the county had a good location, being between New York and Philly, and that bringing business in would be accomplished via a stable government, where pay-for-play would be abolished. He called for citizen-input in the new government, and noted that once the manager made a decision, the council would have to support and not undermine it, much as his staff supports the final decisions at his pharmacy.
Stephen A. Urban (D) [the elder] spoke, and the audience "oohed" at the mention of his name. He said that he had showed integrity as commissioner and that a whistle blower like him was needed. He then cited the lack thereof in Wilkes-Barre City government. Like Morcavage, he wished the county manager to be elected instead of appointed.
No-shows were Michelle Bednar (D), Stephen J. Urban (R) [the younger], Gina Nevenglosky(R), Brian Bergman (Libertarian), Mike Cabell (R), and Eugene Kelleher (R).