Rob Betts

Why Does Tredyffrin’s 2011 Budget Discussion Have to be a Political Party Debate? Why Does Transparency and Open Government Need to be Criticized?

Wayne resident, Rob Betts wrote a letter to the editor which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban, as a rebuttal to  a written statement by Dariel Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee, delivered at the June Board of Supervisors meeting – here is a copy of the TTDEMS 2011 Budget Proposal as presented.

Although Ms. Jamieson represented herself as chair of the TTDEMS at the June Board of Supervisors Meeting when presenting her statement, I wrote the following in a June 22 post on Community Matters:  

” . . . The suggested TTDEMS 2011 budget process further includes a request that the budget discussion occur in an open and transparent manner with public involvement.

 Although the proposed 2011 budget process was suggested by the local Democratic Committee, I do not believe their recommendations are politically polarizing.  Rather, this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

I found Rob Betts op-ed article  interesting on several levels.   In reading the article, what first jumped out at me was a missing piece of information.  Members of the community have been quick to criticize those that write political opinion articles and do not state their own political affiliations.  Personally,  I believe that if an individual is writing on a non-political topic, such as Ed Sweeney’s letter to the editor last week as a member of the Knights of Columbus, there should be no need to identify with a political party.  However, if someone is writing on a political topic, I agree with critics that the writer should inform the reader of their political affiliation such as a committee person for either the local Democratic or Republican parties.  For the record, Mr. Betts overlooked providing his political affiliation as the GOP committeeman for E-4 in his letter to the editor. 

Reading Mr. Betts op-ed article, and of his membership on the  BAWG committee (and participation in the  subsequent BAWG report) brought back memories for me.  I recall standing in front of the Board of Supervisors last fall and asking a series of questions regarding the BAWG report and the $50K St. Davids sidewalk offer contained in the report.  If you recall, I provided the supervisors with questions in advance; one which included a question about whether any BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club.  If memory serves me correctly, Tom Coleman (as chair of the BAWG committee) was asked to answer my question and he reported that Mr. Betts was a St. Davids Golf Club member, but quickly added that Mr. Betts had recused himself for any votes related to St. Davids. 

So in reading Mr. Betts letter, I had to ask myself why is he so seemingly concerned about the transparent budget process that Ms. Jamieson suggested in her proposal?  But, when I recall the St. Davids Golf Club $50K sidewalk offer, and the attempt to cover-up the offer contained in the report, I guess I have my answer.  We all remember the negative attention that our township and supervisors received over the St. Davids Golf Club offer!

Transparency from our elected officials is important to me and it saddens  me to know that people can be criticized for wanting that kind of open and honest government. I believe that the suggestions that Ms. Jamieson posed in her 2011 Budget Proposal were ones that we could all support.  I would take it a step further and suggest that rather than representing the TTDEMS with her proposal, I believe that the suggestions may have been better served if presented as a resident rather than a political party chair.  However, I understand that as chair of the TTDEMS, Ms. Jamieson probably thought it best that her remarks be with full disclosure. 

As I said in my Community Matters post of  June 22, ” . . . this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

Below is Rob Betts letter to the editor . . . you make your own judgement.

Openness plea a Dem power play

To the Editor:

I was left shaking my head at the demand from Dariel Jamieson that the Tredyffrin Township supervisors open up the budget process to more public scrutiny. I believe the request is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to discredit the budget once it is adopted by claiming it wasn’t “open.”

The Democrats’ goal is to increase the scope of government at all levels, which requires an increase in revenue, and unlike Washington, our supervisors can’t print money. An Earned Income Tax is their ultimate goal, but without any Democrats on the Board of Supervisors, the best they can do is complain about the process. The request for openness is just their way of saying the 2011 supervisor election has begun.

As a member of the Budget Advisory Working Group last year, I can assure you that the township budget is lean. Much of the township’s budget is fixed due to debt service and collectively bargained contracts. The supervisors refinanced a significant portion of the township’s long-term debt this year (a BAWG recommendation), leaving union contracts and their benefit cost as issues to be addressed.

The current contracts with the township’s unions run through 2013 so those costs are fixed for the current budget cycle. Long-term, the defined-benefit system and free retiree health care for uniformed employees must be changed, for all levels of government, not just Tredyffrin Township. Our supervisors should be applauded for forcing arbitration with the police union on the health-care issue and maintaining the township’s AAA credit rating during the recent bond refinancing.

The Democrats are ready to start the next supervisor election. Look for lawn signs in December.

Rob Betts, Wayne

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