Referendum idea for commissioner term limits fails
A motion to put a referendum on term limits before voters failed in a 5-2 vote on March 13 during the Lehigh County Commissioners’ regular meeting.
The sole sponsor, Commissioner Amy Zanelli, could not muster enough support to pass the measure.
Even fellow Democrat Dan Hartzell could not be persuaded to support his colleague with his vote. He sided with Republicans to vote against the measure.
“We need to use reason instead of emotion,” Hartzell said. “This implies long service is a problem.
“I can’t convince myself this is a problem in search of a solution.”
Zanelli then commented on the defeat.
“I’m almost surprised to see this much opposition,” Zanelli said, referring to her term limits motion. “I don’t see people serving a term getting to decide how long their term is.
“Who actually stands for what the people believe in?”
Republican Commissioners Amanda Holt, Percy Dougherty, Marc Grammes and Nathan Brown all voted against the proposed referendum.
Republican Commissioners Marty Nothstein and Brad Osborne were absent from the meeting.
Democrats Geoff Brace and Zanelli, were the only votes supporting term limits.
Brace saved the proposed term limits idea at the last regular meeting when it appeared on the agenda in its first reading.
Osborne had suggested it be tabled but Brace wanted to hear from Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong on the issue as Armstrong did not attend that meeting.
Commissioners put the motion on the agenda for a final vote March 13 where it failed.
In his state of the county address, Armstrong had proposed the referendum which would have changed the Home Rule Charter and set the three-term limit rule.
When he did speak in support of it, his argument was the county executive has a term limit, an argument which had no effect on commissioners.
“I am term-limited to two terms,” Armstrong said. “I agree with it. You are not voting on term limits.
“You are voting to let the public vote on it.”
Grammes, who spoke against the referendum two weeks ago commented.
“I think this a nonissue,” Grammes said. “I don’t know where this came from. It came out of nowhere.
“Commissioners are not professional politicians.”
Upper Milford Supervisor Joyce Moore speaking as a private citizen offered her opinion on the issue.
“Allow citizens to have a voice,” Moore said.
In other business, commissioners confirmed Jason Cumello as the new head of Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation Center.
“I am humbled,” Cumello said. “These are people who actually built this community. It’s our duty to take care of them with dignity.”
In a first reading, commissioners heard Lehigh County Director of Veterans Affairs Thomas L. Applebach’s proposal for establishment of a Lehigh Valley Homeless Fund.
The proposal, sponsored by Grammes, will be on the agenda for the next regular meeting.
Also gaining first approval, allowing it to be added to the next meeting’s agenda, is a professional services contract with ElectionIQ LLC for database management for the Office of Voter Registration for the 2019 Municipal Primary.
Commissioners also gave preliminary approval for a professional services contract with the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley Inc. for full-time services of two legal advocates to work with the Lehigh County District Attorney’s office providing services to victims of crime.