Board gives first approval of capital plan
Lehigh County Board of Commissioners gave preliminary approval for the 2019-20 capital plan July 25. In gross numbers, the plan calls for a five-year grand total expenditure of $129,107,334.
The first reading of the plan passed 8-0. Commissioner Brad Osborne was absent.
Some big-ticket expenses being funded in 2019 include replacement of the voting system — $3.5 million; the Coplay-Northampton Bridge — $5 million; and courthouse upgrades — $1.06 million.
The fledgling Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society, headed by former Allentown City mayoral candidate and former 15th Congressional District candidate Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, who is also the former CEO of the nonprofit Properties of Merit, finally got some of the money it asked for — $2,000. Its initial request for $5,000 was whittled down after Lehigh County Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty said the nonprofit was too new, and older, more established nonprofits were getting less funding.
In citizen comments, Attorney David Harrington, of Lower Milford Township, warned the commissioners against revisiting Lehigh County law 2014-36, which he said sets the “specifics of interplay between ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and authorities in Lehigh County.”
According to Harrington, the Supreme Court case U.S. v. State of Arizona held in 2012 that states lack the constitutional ability to make or enforce immigration laws at the state or local level.
Harrington said he had heard rumblings some elements of the local Tea Party want police to ask immigrants they come in contact with about their immigration status. He said he could “guarantee a lawsuit” if Lehigh County passes a law requiring the local sheriff’s officers try to enforce federal immigration law.
In a separate interview, Dean Browning, chairman of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party’s immigration committee, provided a different perspective.
“Lehigh County does not honor detainer requests unless accompanied by a judicial order issued by a judge of the courts,” he said.
Browning said the procedures that allowed an American citizen to be erroneously detained by Lehigh County Jail officers have changed. The procedure now, according to Browning, is that detainees are fingerprinted, the prints are sent to the FBI, and then when ICE reviews them, they may decide to issue a detainee warrant if the detainee is an illegal immigrant.
He asserts there is no longer a need for a judge to approve an ICE warrant.
“It is our view,” Browning said, “that it is time to revisit [Lehigh County law] 2014-36. Times have changed.”
In response to claims Lehigh County is not a sanctuary city, Browning added, “The facts are that, as the result of a lawsuit settlement in 2014, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that said Lehigh County would not honor detainer requests issued by ICE unless they were also accompanied by a judicial issued order. It is this provision that makes Lehigh County noncompliant and a sanctuary jurisdiction.”