Montco Dems Continue Pandering To Donors
By Joe Gale
As Montgomery County’s watchdog and voice for the forgotten taxpayer, I have on multiple occasions exposed the Democrat Commissioners’ practices of catering to campaign donors, especially in the area of low-income housing.
My hope was that my shining a light on the shaded backroom governing practices of former Commissioner Josh Shapiro would put an end to politics as usual in Montgomery County.
However, since Commissioner (Val) Arkoosh assumed the role of chair of the board in November 2016 the practice of catering to campaign donors continues.
There comes a point where we can no longer dismiss these votes as isolated incidents and must call it what it is: A pattern and practice of raising taxes on county residents while awarding sweetheart deals to campaign donors.
In the past, the awarding of contracts to campaign donors was done mostly through the allocation of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds. However recently, Commissioner Arkoosh has been doing most of her catering through Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) which gives local taxing authorities the ability to give special tax provisions to a taxpayer for a limited period of time.
This is particularly concerning because Commissioner Arkoosh, with the help of former Commissioner Josh Shapiro who broke his no-tax pledge, has voted to raise taxes on the average county taxpayer every year she has been in office.
When looking at the most recent occurrence and then tracing back to prior votes, the facts speak for themselves:
- At the meeting held June 15, 2017, Commissioner Arkoosh voted to award ELON Development Company, a development arm of the Altman Group of Companies, special tax exemptions for a low-income, senior housing project in Norristown.1 The developer, through another arm of the company, Glenside Partners, has made $1,000 in campaign contributions to Commissioner Arkoosh’s campaign committee, 2 $2,500 to the Shapiro/Arkoosh joint campaign account,3 and has given $1,000 to Former Commissioner Josh Shapiro’s campaign committee.4
- At the meeting held February 2, 2017, Commissioner Arkoosh voted to award Developer Kevin Silverang special tax exemption for a project in the Borough of Hatboro.5 Kevin Silverang’s wife, Claudia Silverang has donated to $2,500 to the joint Shapiro/Arkoosh campaign account6 and a total of $14,500 to former Commissioner Shapiro’s campaign committee.7
- Silverang is also the beneficiary of a sale/leaseback agreement in which the County sold its Human Services Building to Silverang for $17.5 million and then agreed to leaseback the building for $34.5 million in rent over the course of 15 years.8
- At the meeting held December 1, 2016, Arkoosh voted to award Westrum Development Co. special tax exemptions as well as a tax forgiveness of $40,000 owed in County taxes (in addition to forgiveness of more than $750,000 in taxes owed to Norristown School District and Municipality).9 At that meeting, Michael Clarke, the Solicitor of the Norristown School Board, urged the Commissioners to vote for the project.10 Michael Clarke has donated $2,500 to Commissioner Arkoosh’s campaign account.11
These most recent examples are in addition to the other deals with donors which I exposed in the past. Along with this press release, I am including my previous releases that explain the catering to campaign contributors I brought to light last year.
2 See Page 14, http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V20160926_11181157_0870.pdf (5/18/2016, $1,000 Glenside Partners to Friends of Val Arkoosh)
3 See Page 42, http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V2015071420151023_13344040_0651.pdf(10/06/2015, $2,500 to Shapiro/Arkoosh)
4 See Page , (12/29/2014, $1,000 to Friends of Josh Shapiro)
6 See Page 32, http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V2015071420151023_13344040_0651.pdf(10/05/2015, $2,500 to Shapiro/Arkoosh)
7 Publicly available campaign finance report filings (Claudia Silverang contributions to Friends of Josh Shapiro:
4/05/2016 – $2,500
2/02/2015 – $5,000
4/28/2014 – $1,000
2/25/2013 – $5,000
11/19/2013 – $1,000)
10 See page 2, http://www.montcopa.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Minutes/_12012016-682 (Mr. Michael Clark, Solicitor for the Norristown Area School District, commented in favor of the Tax Forgiveness resolution proposed for 770 Sandy Street)
11 See Page 17, http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V20160926_11181157_0870.pdf (2/25/2016 $500 to Friends of Val Arkoosh)
See Page 16,
http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V20150701_10394687_0599.pdf(5/28/2015 $1,000 to Friends of Val Arkoosh)
See page 31, http://webapp.montcopa.org/voterservices/CampaignExpenseRptFilings/ReportDocs/V2015071420151023_13272960_0649.pdf(9/17/2015 $1,000 to Friends of Val Arkoosh)
Joe Gale is minority member of the Demoract-controlled Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.