2019 by Sharpe Technology Consulting - Paid for by Rivera for Commissioner

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A Joint Statement from Michael Rivera and Commissioner Christian Leinbach Regarding the Key Issues Facing Berks County

We are running as a team for Berks County Commissioner because we sincerely believe we can make Berks County and Reading even better. Successful county government begins with responsible fiscal management. If our financial house is in order then we can tackle other issues critical to our future. Berks County fiscal house is the best it has ever been. On March 26th Moody's awarded Berks County the highest possible rating at AAA Stable Outlook. That is the highest bond rating in the history of the County. This upgrade saved Berks County Taxpayers over $600,000 in one day!

 

We both come from very diverse backgrounds and that helps provide much broader experience and understanding of the diversity of the people we serve and the challenges we face. 

 

We both believe that the United States still offers the best opportunity for those willing to work hard and play by the rules. Most importantly we believe in the people of Berks County. It’s the people that make up the community. It’s the people that provide the ingenuity to start and run small businesses that drive the most meaningful economic development in our nation and our county. We believe in you...the people of Berks County and ...Together we can make Berks and Reading even better!: - Michael  Rivera & Commissioner Christian Leinbach 

 

Agriculture: Agriculture is Berks County’s number one industry based on gross revenue.Food security is national security. That’s why we support a sound agriculture policy for Berks County. 

  • We are committed to continuing to fund Farmland Preservation.

  • We will continue to work to Preserve and Protect the Right to Farm.

  • We support economic development in agriculture.

Agriculture is Berks County's #1 industry. We need to continue to partner with the Ag industry to address challenges, assist with unique opportunities and continue to promote our important agricultural economy.

 

Berks County Jail: The current Berks County Jail has two distinct sections. The oldest section was built in 1933 and cannot be renovated. The structural components, overall design and condition of materials make it financially impossible to renovate this section of the jail. While the 1992 portion of the jail is sound from both a structural and material aspect it does not provide the most cost efficient design. 

  • We support the current CGL study that Berks County authorized to determine the "right size" of a new county jail. CGL is a consulting firm that specializes in the Criminal Justice field.

  • We oppose efforts to privatize the jail. The operation of our county jail should remain directly with the county.

  • One potential cost savings solution is to lease instead of own space for a new jail to the county.

 

No matter what we do, the cost for this project will be significant and demands very careful consideration of all viable options.

 

Berks Heim: The quality of care at the Berks Heim is the best in the county and our employees and volunteers are amazing. Residents and families rave about the care and programming at the Berks Heim and they are right. While the Berks Heim sale is off the table until at least 2025, we still need to address the long term funding issue with the Commonwealth or we will be back in the same place five or six years from now.

 

  • Eight years ago there were 32 counties in PA with nursing homes, and today there are only 17 out of 67 Pennsylvania Counties that still own nursing homes. 

    • The major issue we face is the failure of the Commonwealth to properly fund their Medicaid Reimbursement rate. In the last 12 years we’ve received a total increase of 7.7%. Basic inflation during that same period has been in excess of 20%. If the Commonwealth simply funded the Medicaid Rate to match basic inflation the Berks Heim would be fine today.

    • We need the Commonwealth to provide a fairer way to share the IGT (Intergovernmental Transfer) program that Counties with nursing homes also rely on.

 

Our goal is to preserve county ownership of the Berks Heim while also protecting the taxpayers. We are very encouraged with progress so far.


Criminal Justice Reform: There are three major areas where we need serious reform. They are Mental Health in our Jails, Alternative Sentencing for Truly Non-Violent Criminals and major Bail Reform. 

 

We believe jail should be for people that have committed crimes that put our community at risk. We do not believe that county jails should be major providers of mental health services in the US...but that is the reality today. 

 

  • That is why Berks County is already part of a national effort to address serious mental health issues in our jails. The program is led by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and is called "Stepping Up." Berks County was recently awarded the status of an "Innovator County" by the National Association of Counties. We are the only such county in Pennsylvania and one of only eleven in the entire nation.

  • When it comes to people who are convicted for truly non-violent crimes, we need to find alternatives to prison. Community service benefits the community and specific non-profits or local governments while also keeping people out of our jails. When someone is incarcerated in the Berks County Jail we take on all their expenses including health care, room and food. There is a better way.

  • We need to change the way bail is utilized. A person who is held over for trial in a county jail should be because they are either a flight risk or a danger to society. It should not occur because they are too poor to afford bail. 

 

Criminal Justice Reform done properly should not only benefit our taxpayers but it should also keep more families intact and have fewer people ending up on the Merry-Go-Round of Criminal Justice.

 

Economic Development: While government cannot and does not create private sector jobs, they can and do impact the private sector's ability to maintain and grow their business based on regulatory and tax policy.  Berks County needs county leaders who understand these principles and we get it. Both of us come from the private sector. 

 

 

One of the keys to a community's "Quality of Life" is a strong local economy with numerous family sustaining jobs. Berks County is a bastion of small business in a wide variety of industries. Our number one industry by dollars is Agriculture and our number one industry by jobs is Manufacturing. Construction, Healthcare, Education and Retail are also very important. A strong economy means a strong Berks County.

 

School Property Tax Elimination: School property taxes specifically and property taxes generally are the wrong way to fund any level of government. 

  • Property tax means no person really owns their home, but rather they are renting their home from government.

  • We support SB76 & HB76 that completely eliminates school property taxes.

  • Further we support legislation that would allow counties to eliminate county property taxes by switching to a combination of sales and earned income tax.

 

While school property tax is not a primary responsibility of county government we understand the negative impact it has on home owners across Berks County and support its elimination.

Transportation: Transportation issues are important for three main reasons. 

  • We must always make public safety the priority. Whether we are talking about roads or bridges the health safety of the commuting public must be paramount.

  • A reliable and robust transportation system is critical to a regions economic development. 

  • A great transportation system adds to everyone's quality of life.

    • That's why we support the completion of the Route 222 north corridor as a four lane road from the "Road to Nowhere" to route 100 in the Lehigh Valley.

    • We support improvements to I-78, especially addressing the rash of crashes along this stretch of highway.

    • Related to I-78 we also oppose changing the Federal rules to allow heavier and longer trucks to share the road with much smaller vehicles.

    • We strongly support the major upgrades planned for the West Shore By-Pass (422 from the Penn Street Interchange East toward Exeter) 

    • We will continue to support the SCTA (South Central Transportation Authority) which resulted from the merger of the Lancaster Red Rose Public Transit and Berks BARTA Transit into one efficient and cost savings team known as SCTA.

    • Finally, we strongly support another serious review regarding passenger rail service to Berks County. 

 

The people of Berks County deserve reliable, safe and efficient transportation.

Unfunded Mandates: One of the biggest problems with both the state and federal government is the continued run of unfunded mandates. Unfunded mandates impact everything from Children & Youth to our Courts. Most recently the Commonwealth of PA issued another unfunded mandate requiring all 67 counties to buy brand new voting systems by 2020 costing taxpayers $75-$150 million statewide. We believe that a simple rule should be implemented at both the state and federal level. "If something is important enough to mandate, then it’s important enough to fund...and if it's not important enough to fund, then it's not important enough to mandate!"