The Courier Times in these parts gave us the following editorial yesterday (re: more “us vs. them” stuff against Philadelphia)…
To address the situation (in Philadelphia), (Mayor Michael) Nutter has laid out a plan of drastic spending cuts. With only about half the budget subject to discretionary outlays (much is tied up in guaranteed pension payments, debt service and federally matched social services), Nutter has proposed closing 20 percent of the city’s branch libraries and dozens of city swimming pools, freezing tax reductions, cutting programs at recreation centers and reducing the number of trucks at some firehouses. Leaf pickup will be cut back, and many side streets will only be plowed in the event of a major snowstorm.
By the way, I am certainly not trying to criticize Mayor Nutter here. I think he’s doing the best he can in an awful economic environment; I’m not sure how it could be worse (hopefully, we won’t see that). I am only trying to provide background.
However, as far as the Courier Times is concerned, all is rosy in Bucks County…
Is the news all bad? Well, no. In fact, here in Bucks County, the majority commissioners this week awarded three contracts worth more than $21 million for construction of a new parking garage in Doylestown to serve the proposed justice center. After years of delays, the courthouse project — of which the parking garage is an integral part — has finally taken a big step forward. The justice center itself has been estimated to cost more than $100 million, although it’s likely that figure will go higher.
You can continue the ongoing argument about whether the county really needs a new courthouse. Some would say the county owns enough real estate to make shifting various administrative offices a feasible and considerably less expensive undertaking than putting up a new building. There is merit in that argument.
But looking at another aspect of the project, the reason the county is able to move forward now with the parking garage, when so many other government entities are operating in near panic mode, is because it can borrow the money on favorable terms, and that in turn is because Bucks’ bond rating is just about as good as it could be. Government entities don’t earn such a bond rating without demonstrating fiscal responsibility.
I think it’s hilarious to read this and then recall how the Courier Times editorial board regularly flays Patrick Murphy over earmark appropriations that are utterly transparent (if not, it is only because the funding requests have not been approved yet and Patrick doesn’t want to endanger them by announcing them publicly – here is a prior post on this subject).
Besides, as our new PA House Rep for District 31 and former Bucks County Commissioner candidate Steve Santarsiero noted here last year, every time our august Bucks County Commissioners (notably Jim Cawley and Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” Martin, who are really the subject of praise by the Courier Times here) want to designate property for open space, they issue a bond as opposed to drawing up a regional plan in coordination with other Bucks municipalities, which is bound to be cheaper; as Steve noted, “the county doesn’t have enough money to (issue a bond) for every piece of property that needs (an open space) designation.” Also, Martin voted to raise property taxes 46 percent since 2001 according to a Doylestown Intelligencer article dated two years ago; that doesn’t sound like “fiscal responsibility” to me.
And as long as Cawley and Martin are supposedly such fine money managers, perhaps they can shed more light on some of their dealings with the Paist and Noe Insurance Company and County Solicitor Guy Matthews, as noted here (I’m absolving Diane Marseglia because she had not been elected as a commissioner before this stuff transpired).
Finally, I know that the Courier Times is talking primarily about the new justice center in Doylestown in their editorial, which is definitely needed though it has turned into a boondoggle in its own right for which (as far as I can determine) a variety of constituencies are to blame. I believe the whole project needs to be revisited to make a better use of the available space, but with Diane as the only voice among the commissioners who could advocate that (and with contracts now awarded for construction), I realize that probably won’t happen.