What Political Message Will Win the Northampton County Exec Race?

Local government services are popular, and protecting those services is an issue where Democrats – the party more optimistic about government’s ability to solve problems – have a natural political advantage.

Democrats create political space for Republican opponents though, when they tolerate poor performance of those services, or otherwise give taxpayers cause to believe that they’re getting bad value from the service providers – whether that’s outside contractors or public employees.

Thinking about the Democratic County Executive primaries this year, the candidate with the broadest appeal in November is going to be somebody who believes in the importance of high quality public services, but also can credibly promise to get the taxpayers a good value for their dollar. Who’s going to stretch your municipal tax dollar the farthest?

From what I’ve read from Bill White and Bernie O’Hare, I think it’s clear Glenn Reibman is not that candidate. Reibman’s tenure as Executive seems to have been one endless ripoff for taxpayers at the hands of the service providers, both private (swaption) and public (pensions).

John Callahan needs to run as the Democrat who cares about getting you a good value from all the people the County buys goods and services from.

Democrats can’t let the anti-government party have a monopoly on cost-cutting politics. It is completely possible to be passionate about the importance of public services and be equally passionate about making sure those services are run professionally and cheaply.

This doesn’t require a Democratic candidate to be for lower taxes, or lower pay. If you can save money through monopsony purchasing, or consolidating services at the County level, it might be that County taxes go up while other municipal and school
taxes go down. It might mean that some salaries need to go up to attract people with better qualifications. The County should pay what’s necessary, and no more, to deliver quality professional services. What matters most is value. How much you’re getting for your money, not just how much you’re paying.

If you can save taxpayers money through policy changes like consolidation of purchasing for municipalities and school districts, reorganizing the open space program as a Transferable Development Rights Bank, and consolidating municipal water authorities, you can either give the savings back as tax cuts or cycle it back into providing even more useful public services.

John Callahan is better positioned to make this case to the general election voters than either of the other two or three possible Democratic candidates.


  1. The only way Callahan can make that case is if he stands up to the public sector unions. Otherwise your entire argument collapses as that’s where the excessive spending and waste is, and it’s also the largest budget item. The other stuff you mention is pennies.

    Oh, and since the Democratic party is in the Union’s pocket (and yes, at the local level too), that’ll never happen.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      He can make the case if he wins the single trash hauler fight this year. He’ll be able to play that as taking on the service providers, and using government’s bargaining power to save residents money.

      Neither of us know how much could be saved by consolidating purchasing or replacing the open space program with the TDR bank, but even if you don’t think the savings would be huge, it’s still the case that the public unions need to come up with more creative ways to save money if they want to keep the politicians away from personnel and salary cuts.

  2. I’m paying no attention to the TDR Bank as it won’t happen anytime soon if at all. Purchasing co-ops already exist and are being used extensively by school districts and municipalities.

    You’ve made no case that there is any support for the single hauler issue so there’s nothing there either.

    Reibman is so deep into the union’s pocket he has to ask permission to breathe. Reibman wins and the unions are confident there will be no changes in their thievery.

    Callahan needs to represent the 60% of the county that wants true action to control runaway employee expenses. He gets that he wins.

Speak Your Mind