What You Smell Is Rotten Politics In The Courthouse
OPINION: Other Voices
Last updated 1/30/2020 at 2:10pm
By JOHN KASUN
I read with amusement the opinion of Rick Boston, staff writer, in the Jan. 16, 2020, edition of the Morrisons Cove Herald. Boston's column stressed the required cohesiveness of the Blair County Board of Commissioners moving forward and the need for unity. Although I enjoyed Boston's cleverly worded article, I must admit I got slightly dizzy from all the political spin. While I totally agree with the need for cohesiveness and unity, I also think the editorial would have been more complete if Boston had sprinkled in a little truth.
I admit that the four years of Commissioners Tomassetti, Erb and Beam’s rule finished with the county on solid financial ground as stated; however, Boston failed to mention that it also occurred on the cracked and strained backs of the taxpayers due to property reassessment.
Also conveniently not mentioned was the fact that the reassessment appeal process was a grossly unfair process during which many citizens who dared appeal their property values were poorly treated, and in some cases intimidated, to which I can personally testify.
Also not mentioned was the fact that Tim Barr, director of Evaluator Services Technology, (EST), the firm coordinating the reassessment process, stated to this writer that in the case of vacant property taxations, “We just set a value and figured we would let the property owner fight it.”
The article didn't mention that Commissioner Beam commented to this writer, “This is all screwed up,” when approached about reassessment appeal irregularities.
Another fact that did not appear in Boston's opinion was that Commissioner Bruce Erb stated numerous times he was not responsible because he did not vote for reassessment, which occurred prior to his election. However, Erb also failed to take any corrective action during the appeal process after being elected, which means he condoned and approved the process.
Coffee cup duty
Now let's fast-forward to the political spin of Boston’s opinion. It seems as if his focus is on Amy Webster, the top vote-getter and clear voters’ choice, who by tradition should have been selected for the position of chair.
Instead, Commissioner Erb, who only narrowly won the primary election and came in second to Webster in the fall election, and newly elected Commissioner Laura Burke, who was third in the total vote count, teamed up to elect Erb as chair with Burke assuming vice-chair, leaving Webster, the top vote-getter, the job of making sure the coffee cups are all put away.
Amy Webster should have been seated as chair, being the top vote-getter in line with past tradition which would have been respectful of the voters’ voice.
I might add this tradition included Commissioner Erb, who I understand was the top vote-getter when he was first elected and was seated without question even though he lacked any of what he now claims is the required experience.
Might have been
Let’s think for a moment how this might have played out if the board truly desired to operate as a cohesive unit.
All three commissioners would have privately sat down together and discussed the best way to proceed. [Editor’s Note: This sounds like a potential violation of the Pennsylvania Open Meetings Law.]
Commissioner Erb should have offered to help guide the trio, assisting the newly elected commissioners as required or requested. Together, they could have moved forward in the best interest of the county and the taxpayers.
Instead, Erb and Burke, operating in the stereotypical political smoke-filled back room, decided what the voters should have done. Sound familiar?
Now we are starting out with questionable personal political motives of Erb and Burke at best, unnecessary friction on the board, and justifiable mistrust by the taxpayer and voters. The only question that remains now that Commissioners Erb and Burke have brought Washington “swamp” politics to Blair County is, how much more can we tax it?
Editor’s Note: John Kasun lives in Duncansville.