This Mount Pocono Show is One that Should Not Go On
When he was a Harvard professor, Henry Kissinger once famously said of internal university affairs, “the politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small”.
To which Mount Pocono Borough Council can reply, “Hold my Beer.”
As far as we know, Kissinger never attended a municipal government meeting. What he therefore couldn’t say was that the reason small-town councils can get bogged down in the small issues is because they come into office woefully unprepared to handle the real needs of even the smallest town. So, they latch onto issues they can really sink their teeth into.
Mount Pocono has some very real long-term problems: this council has managed to take a town with a nearly 100-year history of fine, respectful relationships with borough employees, and created a viper’s nest in which employees felt compelled to call in the Teamsters; the budget is a shambles, ‘balanced’ only because of a conjurer’s act of (quite possibly illegal) transfers to the general fund of non-tax revenue from one-time developer fees; they have reduced police service and still haven’t paid their police bills yet this year; and they can’t even manage to keep the streets clear of shopping carts, or be bothered searching for long-term solutions to roads too dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists, much less the family trying to cross the street downtown.
Instead of rolling up their sleeves and setting to work, council has elected to get down in the mud and whine about unreturned phone calls, personal slights (real and imagined), who shared what email with whom. They hire a Borough Manager, and then refuse to let him do his job. They routinely have the longest meetings – by hours – of any municipality in the area. They use those hours to squabble with one another, vie for who can signal the most virtuousness, and find ways to delay important decisions.
Famously, they once had a nearly four-hour long meeting in which they accomplished nothing other than appointing a student member to council and sending a letter supporting a non-profit’s grant application. And don’t even mention three years talking about chickens.
This untenable situation is exacerbated by a mayor, appointed out of spite (another long tale), only recently moved to the area, who has as his apparently singular goal the consolidation of all authority, and who seemingly believes officiousness is laudatory. Putting aside his vanity, in the course of making himself the Sun around which the borough orbits, he has manipulated council members to the point where he actually hands them scripts to read at meetings. He worked hand in glove with council president Williams for two years, and when she balked at his attempt to, as she put it, “run the borough”, he used his control over council to jettison her. He now sits on numerous committees of counsel, has secured the chair of the Planning Commission, and sits on the Municipal Authority. He hand picks citizen nominees to boards and committees, as well as council candidates.
This is not the way the system is supposed to work. Karl Davis, former council member and council president, spoke the truth when he told us that this counsel is embarrassing. Mount Pocono has become a running joke in the Top of the Mountain Community, and in the County.
Sadly, it is a joke that will leave residents in tears when they are forced to foot the bill for the last several years of incompetence, self-aggrandizement, and outright falsehoods perpetrated by council and the mayor. Residents need to attend the meetings, speak out, write letters to the editor, and work to get names you know, and people you trust, in elected office.