Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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March 3rd, 2011

Cohen blasts sullivan county leadership

Ira Cohen knows Sullivan County government inside and out. Our Treasurer and former County Attorney has dedicated his career to honorably serving Sullivan County.


It should surprise no one that the one person who can be such a great asset during our financial crisis is literally excluded and shut out from the process. Cohen has never been part of the “ole boys” circle and remains an “outsider” because he will never compromise his principals. He genuinely places people over politics.


I asked Cohen to weigh in on our financial crisis, and I am certain once his comments are absorbed it will be the talk at 100 North Street.


Cohen says, “No one would argue that the bad economy makes governance more challenging. Prosperity often mitigates mismanagement and poor leadership. Conversely, recession, rising prices and increased costs of providing services, unfunded mandates and declining revenues too often serve as scapegoats for unskilled managers and policy makers who lack the wisdom, foresight, leadership and courage to rise above and overcome such challenges. Such is the trademark of the current Sullivan County government.”


A 0.5% sales tax increase in 2007 was projected to generate $6 million per year in revenue but has only produced half that amount.


Cohen says, “Against my advice, the legislature insisted upon accelerating its capital plan to borrow multiple years worth funds dramatically increasing our debt service.”


In an attack on the legislature, Cohen blames them and not the economy for our eroding cash flow that has necessitated borrowings against anticipated revenues. This month there will be an injection of $13 million, with more anticipated.


“This Legislature’s failure to cut expenses and its addiction to borrowing and spending are only two examples of bad leadership. The lines of responsibility and authority between the governing body and the manager are so blurry they barely exist. Everyone wants to take credit, but no one is willing to take responsibility. Everything that is wrong, or has gone wrong, it is someone else’s fault, or caused by actions and events that occurred in earlier administrations.”


Cohen points to the landfill, jail, and college as examples. “The landfill has evolved from a state of the art revenue generator to a mismanaged, odor spewing environmental nightmare.”


“We have wasted several million on planning and land acquisition, but we are no closer to resolving our jail problem. What’s worse is we have no ability to pay for a new jail.”


As for SCCC, Cohen says, “The Legislature and its law department attempted to avoid responsibility proclaiming they had no knowledge of a doomed financial transaction, even though said department signed an opinion of counsel authorizing the transaction. Those responsible for the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars have yet to be held accountable.”


Cohen concludes his blistering attack, “This Legislature and its manager share at least one unenviable character trait—lack of diplomacy and people skills. The governing body is so acrimonious that there is decision making by a small few. The good news is that it isn’t political; the bad news is that it is personal. These opposing groups don’t like each other and are incapable of working with each other for the good of the taxpayer.”


Next week Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis weighs in.


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