The vote to approve the resolution was 8-0. Commissioner Thomas Creighton was absent but a co-sponsor – as were all the other six Republican commissioners. After winning some minor changes in language, the two Democrats also asked to be co-sponsors.
“We can’t lock the administration into anything by resolution,” said Mazziotti. “We know we can’t dictate to the executive what the budget looks like. This is an expression of our wish, what we want to present to the executive as a desirable outcome.
“We don’t know what kind of cuts will be required to balance the budget. And none of us may support cuts that would be required to balance it. But a desirable outcome would be no tax increase.”
Muller, who has not ruled out the need for a possible future tax increase, did not address the commissioners on their resolution at the meeting.
After the meeting, the executive said: “It’s important to keep in perspective that the average home in Lehigh County has a household income of over $54,000 and will pay $676 in county taxes in 2014.”
Muller, a Democrat, said the resolution was initiated by the “self-proclaimed reform team” of conservative Republican county commissioners.
He said those same commissioners claimed they had specific plans to roll back taxes by $14 million and eliminate a $5 million budget deficit when they ran for election in 2011.
He said they have yet to identify what they want to cut “and failed to deliver on their campaign promises. In fact, their actions have increased the deficit.”
McCarthy appointment delayed.
Also during the meeting, commissioners decided to delay acting on Muller’s appointment of Daniel McCarthy, a Democrat, as the county’s new director of administration.
They scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Jan. 31 specifically to vote on that appointment, so they have more time to consider information about McCarthy.
At least one commissioner cannot attend that meeting. Commissioners questioned whether that commissioner can vote by phone. The county’s law department is going to look into that. After the meeting, Muller said commissioners are not allowed to vote by phone.
Osborne said one question about McCarthy’s nomination had just been answered.
Commissioner Scott Ott said he just received information from McCarthy about his political contributions on Wednesday afternoon.
Ott, who lost to Muller in last fall’s county executive race, said McCarthy told him that he gave $2,500 to Muller’s campaign and that his campaign committee made a $4,000 contribution to Muller’s campaign committee.
Osborne said that was just one of the pieces of information not made available to all the commissioners, but all should have a chance to consider it.
Osborne recommended deferring action “out of respect for both the candidate and this board.”
Ott said once a person is nominated, the commissioners have 30 days to act. If they don’t, the nominee automatically is appointed. Ott said Muller nominated McCarthy to the commissioners on Jan. 8. Scheller said Feb. 6 would be 30 days.
Regarding that delay, Muller said: “Their inaction is shameful and no way to treat an appointment that has been broadly hailed as a great choice.”
Jones encouraged his fellow commissioners to support the executive’s ability to choose a cabinet that he deems fit. “As the elected executive, I think he has that right.”
Brace said other commissioners often tell him they have had difficulty communicating with the county’s administration. He said one of McCarthy’s great assets is that he is a former commissioner who understands the challenges they face.
Wednesday night’s commissioners meeting began with public comments on the issue of homeless people, which continued for well over an hour.
Some who spoke reacted to the news that the Allentown YMCA-YWCA at 425 S. 15th St. will be opened to provide temporary shelter to homeless people in the city during extremely cold weather.
Homeless advocate Diane Teti called it “an amazing start.”
But advocates said the Y needs to be open every night, not just Monday through Thursday evenings. And they said it’s not right to force people out of the Y at 5 a.m., which often is when night-time temperatures are at their lowest.