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Lehigh County executive candidates face off in 69-WFMZ-TV debate

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 23 2013 04:38:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 24 2013 06:30:10 AM CDT

One is the Lehigh County director of administration; the other is a Lehigh County commissioner.

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. -

One is the Lehigh County director of administration; the other is a Lehigh County commissioner. Both Tom Muller and Scott Ott want to be the next county executive, but in the end, there can be only one.

Both Muller, the Democrat, and Ott, the Republican, who debated each other Wednesday in a televised debate in the 69 News studios, have very different ideas about what the next county executive should do.

First question: Have they seen a lot of backlash from the government shutdown, and is compromise a dirty word in county politics?

"I think there has been a lot of divisiveness. I think it has been based on ideology and party votes certainly by a block of commissioners who tend to vote party-wise," said Muller.

"I don't necessarily think that what has been characterized as divisiveness in the legislature is necessarily a bad thing. What I think would be really bad -- if you had nine- nothing votes over and over again," said Ott.

Muller is the county's director of administration; Ott is a county commissioner. Each has a different take on the executive's role, especially when it comes to economic development projects like the Costco in Lower Macungie Township.

The township and the school district approved a TIF for the project, but county commissioners put the kibosh on the deal.

"The question never was whether or not we are going to have a Costco and the other stores that were going to be in that development, but to what extent, if any, should taxpayers be forced to subsidize that development," said Ott.

"In this economy, what do we need most? Jobs. There would have been 495 construction jobs in there,  and those were worth $45 million in wages during the construction process," said Muller.

The one thing the candidates do agree on is that the county should keep Cedarbrook, the county's nursing home, but they are split on how to make it more viable in the wake of a multi-million dollar deficit.

During the debate, the candidates also hashed out hot topics like how best to balance the budget and what the priorities are for the next county executive.

The half-hour debate airs in its entirety Sat., Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. on WFMZ-TV-69.1.