Faced with a crowded primary ballot, Berks County voters decided to overhaul the board of commissioners that has managed the county since 2008 by nominating new leaders to run this fall.
Voters will have a chance to take to the polls on Nov. 5 to choose which two of the four candidates they feel can best fill those leadership roles. The top three vote-getters will win seats on the board.
We asked the candidates to respond to four questions:
Question 1: The Berks County Residential Center is an immigration processing facility created in an arrangement between Berks County and ICE. Berks manages and pays for the operation and is reimbursed by the federal government. In return, ICE pays the county about $1 million to lease office space. Would you support keeping this arrangement? Why or why not?
The services historically provided by this facility are essential and provided by County personnel with the greatest degree of professionalism and compassion. The national discussion on the immigration issue, and possible changes in use of the facility, as enunciated by ICE, have changed my view about whether our ongoing involvement is in the community’s best interest. I am committed to working with my counterparts at the county, state and federal levels in finding a use for the facility that maintains the revenue stream and protects the interests of the employees but allows the County to separate itself from the immigration issue.
Question 2: What one area of county services do you feel most needs additional resources and how would those additional resources be spent?
The cost of incarcerating repeat offenders is astronomical. With proper support and resources, the Adult Probation and Parole Office could replicate the successes of the juvenile justice system by employing evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral practices. Under this model, juvenile residential commitments have decreased by 80% since 2007. This has saved $9 million/year. Presently, juvenile offenders in Berks reoffend at a rate of approximately 13%, down from 20% before this model was put in place. Throughout PA, the rate remains at 19.2%. We need to replicate this model and do better for both adult offenders and the taxpayer.
Question 3: As of right now there is no train or air service to Reading, a few bus trips each day to and from New York and minimal access to and from Philadelphia other than by car. What would you do to improve transportation to and from other cities?
Our long-term economic, cultural and community success depends on removing the transportation isolation under which Berks County currently suffers. The commuter community and the private sector must engage and support these efforts with active advocacy to federal and state lawmakers along with county leadership. Daily ridership and subsidies from the state and federal governments are critical to solving this isolation issue. I will continue to advocate for rail service from Philadelphia along with the revitalization of air and bus service. A regional effort is required and my existing relationships with leadership in surrounding counties is of vital importance.
Questions 4: Voters will select three of you to serve as commissioners. If elected, which of the two candidates in the race would you most want to serve with and why?
The most important attribute of any good elected official is the ability to work closely with others and find compromise in complex issues about which all parties may not agree. I have a proven track record in the area. The voters decide which individuals constitute the Commission and I respect their authority to do so. While I certainly hope to be a part of the democratic party retaking the majority, I am prepared to work with any of the candidates for this office and see unique and valuable skills and abilities in each one of them.