As some of you may have noticed I sent Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt two emails regarding questions I had. The day after I had posted my email here on the blog I received an email telling me his email had not been working and that he would be happy to meet with me to answer my questions and I should call his office for an appointment. Some of the more cynical amongst our readers might think the timing of those events was an interesting coincidence but I choose to take the man as his word.
This morning at approximately 6:30 a.m. I did as he requested and left a message on the voicemail of a Ms. Daly (forgive the spelling if it’s not correct please) who I assume is the Commissioner’s assistant. I explained the invitation from the Commissioner and asked for a return call to set up an appointment.
I received a call this morning from the very pleasant Ms. Daly who informed me that the commissioner had “respectfully declined” to meet with me. She went on to explain that this decision was made because of the run in John is alleged to have had with Ms. Gibson and Solicitor Sadler on 23 February 2011.
Now I’m going to have to go off on several tangents here so please bear with me.
First, it’s a little odd that Commissioner Barnhardt simply couldn’t email me his answers to the questions I posed. I’m sure he’s a very busy man and to take time out of his schedule seemed a bit odd. Nevertheless I actually gave him points for wanting to meet with a registered Democratic voter and constituent. I suspected, and this brings me to my second point, that he wanted to put a face to the name. Everybody knows John but not many people actually know me. As proof I offer my first visit to Drinking Liberally where people were “shocked” to find that I actually exist and presented my driver’s license to prove that I was, in fact, a separate and distinct individual and not a figment of John’s imagination. My second proof was when John and I attended an event where we both stood in front of the late Senator O’Pake. The Senator was shocked to find that I really exist…he thought I was ‘nom de plume’ that John used to write under.
So I suspect his desire to put a face to the name may have been the reason for wanting to meet me. It was suggested to me (not by John let me say) that there could have more sinister reasons for wanting to meet me in his office but I’m not much on conspiracy theories. Whatever the reason, that meeting is now cancelled which gives me an insight into the integrity of the Commissioner.
It is a little immature to cancel a meeting with me over what somebody else may or may not have done but I understand that because I write for this blog he needed to send a message. So okay then, fair enough.
But, while we’re on that topic. Commissioner, or anyone else, if you want to match a name to the face. I’ll be at Drinking Liberally TONIGHT at Canal Street Pub at 7 p.m. so come out to a DEMOCRATIC group and you can put a face to my name. You can even say hello…I promise I don’t bite unless you ask me to (but that’s a different article).
To be fair, unbeknownst to him I was not going to address the contributions to Sheriff Weaknecht as John as taken up that ball and run with it. It made no sense for me to run with that line of questions when the Commissioner has already provided an answer to John and I have subsequently learned that the Commissioner was not the only Democrat to contribute to Sheriff Weaknecht. John, I’m sure, will elaborate more on that story later.
Again, as an aside, (and John you can probably shed more light on this as well), I had heard that Democratic County Committee Chairman Tom Herman was looking to put through some changes to the County Committee Bylaws that would have forbade anyone from being a County Committee person for 3 years if they had donated to a Republican candidate. I find it very odd that it’s not acceptable to be a committee person but the county committee will support Democratic candidates or office holders running for re-election that contribute to GOP candidates. Who knew committee people were so important.
So where does all this leave me? Well it still leaves me trying to figure out why the Commissioner would suggest a tax increase AND a property re-assessment.
In these economic conditions a tax increase would be a burden on many people. What happened to the $80 million that was in the rainy day fund in 2007 when Judy Schwank left office? My understanding is that there is still $16 million left (if that number is wrong somebody can please correct me).
That surplus saved the current 2 GOP Commissioners and Commissioner Barnhart’s butt over the past 4 years. Because of that fund they haven’t had to raise taxes.
In fact, I kinda sorta recall that Commissioner Leinbach thought the surplus was too much and wanted to return it to the taxpayers. I think he ran on that in his re-election but again, somebody can correct me.
Okay so now that fund is about to run out and Commissioner Barnhardt wants to raise taxes. So why do a re-assessment which, in the current housing climate, is very likely to reduce tax assessments? Some properties would be assessed higher but LOTS would go down. I work in the housing industry…housing prices have not gone up overall.
To me, as an accountant those two things are in opposition and perhaps that strategy should be re-examined. And there is the crux of what it is I wanted to talk to Commissioner Barnhardt about.
As a Democratic voter I wanted to understand how he believes these two, seemingly opposite proposals are going to work to stabilize the county finances. I think that’s a fairly straightforward question. Would it were that I could get an answer.
Unfortunately it appears he has chosen not to answer that inquiry. Perhaps the Commissioner will read this article and choose to reply and if he does I’ll be happy to post his answer because, as a voter and as a writer on this blog, I’d like to understand his position.
Meanwhile, I informed the very pleasant Ms. Daly that John is responsible for John’s actions (alleged or factual) and that as a registered Democratic voter, Commissioner Barnhardt, because of his refusal to answer my questions, will not get my vote. I don’t believe that candidates who don’t answer questions posed to them by a constituent or a reporter should get my vote. If the Commissioner changes his mind I’ll consider changing mine.
Granted, it would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was going to write some kind of article about his refusal to meet with me.
So, as my grandmother used to say, you made your bed, now lie in it Commissioner. This could have been a MUCH different article. I’ve heard you called “the 3rd Republican” Commissioner. If that’s true it’s not a very pleasant moniker for a Democrat but because some people call you that, you shouldn’t be trying to prove them right.
I hope to see you this evening at Canal Street Pub Commissioner. 7 p.m. Please don’t be too late I generally go to bed fairly early…I’m not exactly a night owl.