Monday December 31, 2018
The commissioners are sending mixed messages.
The Berks County commissioners have a public meeting on Thursday mornings. Most Thursdays they also have a public budget and operations meeting in the afternoon. As the Reading Eagle accurately reported, on the morning of Dec. 13, Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said his goal will be to continue doing everything he can to keep Berks Heim while protecting taxpayers (“Opponents voice concerns about selling Berks Heim,” Dec. 14). He also touted the progress that has been made in getting more money to cover costs.
That same afternoon, however, Leinbach and his fellow commissioners decided not to allow any new bidders. The reason: It might extend the sale by as much as two months. They want the proposal process to be wrapped up by the end of February.
These are two very different messages. What's up with that? And what's the rush?
No need to rush Berks Heim sale
Tuesday December 18, 2018
Voters should remember the majority's stand at the polls next year.
It is high time to elect Berks County commissioners who are dedicated to sustaining our county services.
The desire to sell Berks Heim expresssed by the majority of the current board is counterproductive to our dedication to providing essential services to lifelong Berks residents. The current board majority's credo is to sell the Heim and squander the money received by the sale.
The commissioners have invested our money in losing projects while not sustaining valuable water resources. For example, they have invested in a sightseeing railroad instead of providing a hiking and biking trail from Boyertown to Pottstown.
Readers should remember to show their disdain at the next elections and vote for commissioners who will once again raise Berks to the top.
Clayton M. Leister
Sale of Heim a big mistake
Commissioners need to hear from public.
The Berks County commissioners appear determined to sell Berks Heim. This is most unfortunate, because many Berks Countians feel that Berks Heim is, and should be, a high priority.
Asking Heim workers to cut their pay to save the Heim from a sale is an attempt to create political cover for the commissioners and shift blame to workers who have earned an excellent reputation for high-quality service. A desire for quality requires that it be paid for. Cuts in payments for those services will engender lower quality service.
The $18 million deficit figure is misleading. County budgets are done annually, not on a 10-year basis. The deficit could just as easily be presented on a 100-year basis. Then, instead of $18 million, it would be $180 million. Budgets are annual.
There are alternatives. First, trim other budget allocations to find the money, as $1.8 million is a small fraction of the budget. Second, eliminate or reduce other county services. Berks Heim is not a lower priority than every other county service. Or develop a combination of these.
The commissioners need to be told that Berks Heim is a high priority.
Thomas W. Gajewski Sr.
Editor's note: Gajewski is a former Berks County commissioner.
Treat Berks Heim as a high priority
Friday December 14, 2018
Commissioners should seek solutions instead of scapegoats.
I am outraged that the Berks County commissioners are planning to sell our county nursing home. But I am more outraged at the misinformation they are using as an excuse.
The justification they are using is that the Berks Heim workers refuse to take pay and benefit cuts.
The commissioners are claiming that there will be a deficit over the next 10 years that could total $18 million. However, their numbers are based on dubious assumptions, including overestimating the salary increases for employees and underestimating reimbursement rates from Medicaid.
A more accurate analysis of the available numbers shows a virtual elimination of the deficit for the next few years. In addition, using industry best practices and researching new options could make the Heim viable for another generation. But that would take a willingness to find real solutions and not just blame the dedicated workers.
Commissioners Mark C. Scott and Christian Y. Leinbach frequently have shown animosity toward working people, especially those who belong to unions. Their demeaning comments about the nurses, caregivers and support staff reveal the true motivation behind their efforts to corporatize the Heim.
There are many possibilities for balancing the Berks Heim budget, but it will take leadership and creativity from the current majority commissioners — something that is sorely lacking.
Good leadership could save Heim
Friday December 14, 2018
Nursing home a good use of our tax dollars.
It is disheartening that the Berks County commissioners are bent on selling Berks Heim to a private party. I don't like to see needy seniors looking for a home put at the mercy of those seeking above all to profit from people's sometimes distressing situations.
Reports indicate that the Heim provides excellent care. I don't want that compromised, as I may need that care some day. I would like the Reading Eagle to publish details of the failed labor negotiations between the county and the health care workers' union. Are the union's demands excessive, or are they reasonable? What are the commissioners demanding from the union? Are these demands fair and reasonable?
In addition, I would like for one of the Eagle's talented writers to look into the following issue: Why is it that the health care workers at the Heim are supposed to solve any financial problems involved in continuing to operate it? Is a home for aging seniors not a public good, one that deserves to be supported by tax dollars?
I recall Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt saying last year that the cost to the taxpayers, in view of the promised Medicaid cut, would be quite minimal. I detect in the remarks from Republican Commissioners Mark C. Scott and Christian Y. Leinbach a strong distaste for any tax increase at any time and for any reason. Aren't taxes the price we pay for civilization?
Move to sell Heim is disheartening
Friday December 14, 2018
Commissioners should continue vital service.
If the Berks County commissioners succeed in selling off Berks Heim, an invaluable county asset, it will, and should, redound to their everlasting shame.
Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in the county budget is spent on dysfunctional families, criminals and others who cannot or will not care for themselves; this is the one expenditure to which hardworking Berks County folks may at some point take recourse in the sunset of their lives.
The present set of commissioners has a tradition of spending a lot of money going after the unions that represent county workers. It is not surprising, therefore, that they should heap the blame for the Heim budget shortfall on the unions that represent the very people who provide a decent life for the seniors living there. I doubt that the people actually paying the bills in Berks County would object to kicking in another estimated $1.8 million to a yearly county budget of more than $530 million to help defray the cost of a vital service they may well require late in their own lives.
The commissioners should concentrate on doing what is necessary to support and continue this vital service rather than making hay by bashing a couple of labor unions.
James R. Blair
Focus on saving Heim, not bashing unions
Wednesday December 12, 2018
Their handling of the Heim is atrocious
Karen Shuey did a great job of reporting on a sad issue (“Back on the market,” Reading Eagle, Dec. 7), getting both sides of the story about Berks Heim, which leads me to some conclusions about our sorry excuses for Berks County commissioners:
The retiring Mark C. Scott, who's rich enough that he'd never have to worry about needing a public facility such as the Heim, says he has no regrets. Of course not; he'd see the sale of this public asset into the private sector as a crowning achievement, no matter how badly it works out for Heim patients and workers.
Christian Y. Leinbach, who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, is just champing at the bit to put his heartless, faux Christian Tea Party philosophy into action.
Even Kevin S. Barnhardt, giving only lip-service opposition to sale, finds it necessary to take a cheap shot at the unions that are only trying to preserve a decent living for their members.
The projected deficit of $18 million over 10 years is less than $5 a person per year for Berks County's 400,000 residents. Surely retaining our compact with senior citizens is worth that.
This proposed sale should be the No. 1 issue in the 2019 commissioners' election. The bottom line is that we need three new commissioners.
James M. Beidler
Berks County needs new commissioners
Wednesday December 12, 2018
Equality is a bedrock American value
I am very concerned about the topic of racism. The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Even though many obtain these freedoms in the United States of America, by being cruel to others based on their skin color and looking down on them, they are not allowing them the same freedoms they possess. I urge you to inform readers on the topic of racism and remind them that all men are created equal no matter their gender, race or ethnicity. We are all the same, no matter how we look.
Keep people's focus on issue of racism
Monday December 10, 2018
Commissioners make shameful move looking to sell precious resource.
I am utterly flabbergasted at the Berks County commissioners’ vote on selling Berks Heim. The commissioners created political cover for themselves by asking the Heim unions to pre-emptively negotiate a new contract when they already have one. If this is truly about roughly $1 million in savings as Commissioner Mark C. Scott stated, then why did he and Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach quickly move to sell the Heim after the unions understandably stopped contacting the county’s negotiations team? Based on the comments of all three commissioners, this is obviously a cudgel the county is using to get union members to start disliking their leadership for protecting their contract and jobs.
It is simply shameful what the commissioners are doing in this disingenuous move. We need commissioners committed to keeping Berks Heim a public resource for the elderly in our county.
Decision on Heim shockingly wrong
Monday December 10, 2018
Departing lawmaker misunderstands his opposition.
Of all the things to take issue with in U.S. Rep's Ryan Costello's self-indulgent swan song, the most objectionable might be his dismissal of hundreds if not thousands of his constituents as the “angry left” (“Costello pulls no punches on way out,” Reading Eagle, Dec. 3).
One doesn't have to be on the left to be angered by the impact of Costello's votes, such as his support of the Republican tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the rich, balloons the deficit, and demonstrably does not offer the job-boosting benefits Costello claims. One doesn't have to be on the left to be angered by the spineless complicity of Costello's Republican colleagues in Congress, who have abetted the most corrupt and authoritarian president in living memory.
Costello is unwilling to take any responsibility for his party having become the party of President Donald Trump. Even though he distances himself from the president's most vulgar behavior, that's what any civilized person would do, left, right or center. We're not angry with him for Stormy Daniels; we're angry with him for voting in line with Trump 95.5 percent of the time, and for writing critics off with a label.
Costello wrong to attack critics