COVID-19 Exposes Inexperience and Incompetence of Borough Leadership
COVID-19 has exposed our Borough's weak leadership. The mayor is nowhere to be seen except for press releases that repeat the recommendations of the CDC and the Department of Health. While I applaud Council President Claudette William's feed the family efforts, she too is notably absent. Both Williams and the mayor have used the official Borough website (www.mountpocono-pa.gov) to communicate with the public, but let's be honest, no one uses that site. Mount Pocono is small, but all roads pass through our town. We have three supermarkets, a medical center, multiple pharmacies, two senior communities, but no plan. The lack of experience in our town leadership has left Mount Pocono exposed and vulnerable. That is to be expected when our Mayor and his Council continue to push anyone with competence and experience out of local government. On March 2nd, 2020, Borough Council voted 5-1 to terminate the employment of the Zoning Officer, Dennis Noonan. Three of the five yes votes were from councilmembers that were present during Mr. Noonan's unanimous appointment two years earlier. At the meeting, when pressed by Mr. Noonan, the Mayor only gave a three-word answer, "Conflict of Interest." At the time of his hiring, it was no secret that Mr. Noonan was married to the Borough Secretary, Lori Noonan. His employment by the Pocono Mountain Economic Development Corporation was also known, as was his intent to finish out the projects under his purview at the PMEDC. Dennis was forthright. At the time of hiring, the personnel committee (of which I was a member) felt like we were getting a steal by bringing Dennis in. There was concern about his relationship to the Secretary and the PMEDC, but there were checks and balances in place that would prevent or handle most issues. Also, and most importantly, we trusted Dennis (and Lori). However, as 2018 waned and Council grew divided, paranoia rose. The employees were vilified and made to be scapegoats for the Council's failings. By some, Mr. Noonan was considered lacking due to his inability to solve issues that were out of his jurisdiction. That is not uncommon. Take a look at the Council's sloughing of legislative responsibility to the Planning Commission in 2018 and 2019. It is fairly evident that Mr. Noonan's firing was pre-constructed theatre that skates dangerously close to the edge of what is and is not legal. The Mayor and his Council want no one in the way of their agenda, whatever that may be. They have not passed an ordinance that has had a substantial impact on the Borough except for the Bed and Breakfast Ordinance(which former Councilmember, and editor of The Boro*, Tom Ford wrote). Their only attempt at legislation was to vote themselves raises and free healthcare paid for by taxpayers (both failed due to public pressure). In 2021, please take a long hard look at who is on the ballot and vote with thought because, in many ways, our town, and our lives, may depend on it.
Matt Hensel is an Emmy winning television producer and editor. He manages Channel 570, serves on the Mount Pocono Municipal Authority, and is a former Mount Pocono Councilmember.