Local Dems Know Something is Wrong
The first salvo came on May 11, when Bethlehem Democrats - led by Karen Dolan and Willie Reynolds - condemned Bossman Long's heavy handed machine style of politics, in which candidates are pre-selected by some small group and foisted on the rest of us. They want to take the local party out of smoke-filled back rooms and bring it back to the people.
Long Dem Failures
In an area that is increasingly Democratic, here are just a few Joe Long failures:
1) He recruited Charles Dertinger to run for Congress right after he had finally won his first race for Northampton Council in three races. Long failed to get his pre-selected candidate elected to Congress.
2) He interfered in a Democratic primary, having the party endorse Glenn Reibman over John Stoffa, and lost that race. He then threatened to run Reibman as an Independent until learning that's impossible under Pennsylvania law.
3) In a meeting at which a mere handful of Democratic committeemen appeared, Long had them endorse county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher over Will Power and Bill Hall. Power was ejected from that meeting after he began to complain.
4) Long actually hired the King of Sleazeball politics, Scissorhands Severson, to work for pre-selected county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher. Despite the smears, Branco and Maher went down in flames. Local Dems still owe Severson $6,586.45. He's currently facing criminal charges for his deceptive campaign practices.
5) Long pimped for unqualified congressional candidate Sam Bennett, whose campaign was so disastrous that portions of her debate performance had to be bleeped. She was destroyed as a candidate, probably permanently.
6) Long again managed to convince the party to endorse someone he can control - Ann McHale - over County Exec John Stoffa, a progressive who kept held taxes down. This endorsement occurred at a party gathering billed as a petition-signing meeting. Stoffa crushed the competition.
Joe Long is a Republican's best friend. How did the local party ever get into such a mess?
Long Himself Was Illegally Elected
It's simple. Long obviously thinks elections are far too important to be left to the people. Look at his own election as party boss nearly four years ago. He was named Bossman at a party meeting that occurred before Dem committeemen could be even be notified of their own election. Five days before certificates of election were ever sent to elected committeemen by the voter registration office, Joe Long was miraculously named party chair. I never got an explanation how he got away with that. From there, things have gone down hill. Charles Dertinger lovingly refers to Long as "Chairman for life."
This lack of transparency in selecting candidates, and skulduggery during campaigns, leads to government officials who themselves think nothing of violating the Sunshine Act. Charles "Vanderbilt" Dertinger, for example, actually thinks he has no obligation to listen to anyone who owns no real estate. How's that for a Democrat?
Bethlehem Democrats will be meeting again on Monday, Jun 8th, at the Grover Cleveland Democrtatic Club, Main & Guetter Streets, Bethlehem, PA. New Democrats intend to participate in this meeting and will be asking for change.
Are NonPartisan Elections the Answer?
What improvements would you recommend? Should the party ask Long to step down? Should it adopt by-laws to set the procedure for party endorsement, or ban them altogether? Should the party punish members who dare support a Republican? Or should it instead be reaching out to new members who were swept in with the Obama tide?
Or should we just forget about party politics and start pushing for nonpartisan elections in city and county races? The National League of Cities reports that nationwide, 77% of all cities have nonpartisan races. Forty-one of the fifty largest U.S. cities conduct nonpartisan races, including Los Angles, Houston, San Diego, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. Is it time for that here?
It's certainly true that party affiliation rarely matters on most issues decided by city or county government. Nonpartisan races will enfranchise independent voters and make independents more viable as candidates. But won't there always be some form of partisanship, even without the labels?
What suggestions do you have for getting politics out of local government? Stoffa tells me he always asks his cabinet, "What's the right thing?" But most pols will do what is politically expedient. How do we minimize this?