Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Interview with David Landau (candidate for Delaware County Council)

David Landau, one of three Democrats running for County Council in Delaware County, is a Delaware County native, raised in Havertown, and a resident of Wallingford for 22 years. He is an attorney, currently a senior partner at the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, LLP, and previously served as solicitor for the Borough of Yeadon. In 1988 he ran for Congress against Curt Weldon and this past year served as senior campaign advisor to Congressman Joe Sestak. In 1984 he was the deputy campaign manager for Gary Hart’s presidential campaign. He has been the chairman of the Nether Providence Democratic Committee since 1991, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Family and Community Service of Delaware County, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Delaware County as well as Congregational Oheu Shalom in Wallingford.

Introductory Remark

First of all, Jane, I would like to take a moment to thank you for having me on this forum. I see the internet as a great resource. One of my first initiatives is to make more public records available via web 24/7, something most other counties have had in place for years. Right now Delaware County residents are forced to hurdle multiple legal requirements just to find out where their taxes are going. And that’s what I’m fighting against here. I’m running to end the unaccountable, Bush-Style bureaucracy in Delaware County and to restore faith in local government.

Why is a county health department important?

Health statistics indicate that Delaware County is not moving toward the Federal Healthy People 2010 standards for healthcare. Even worse in key areas, it is falling behind. Our percentage of children with prenatal care is dropping and infants with low birth-weight are rising. Restaurants in non-covered municipalities of the county are inspected 1/4 as much as our neighboring counties.

We need to take a more preventative approach to issues of public health. A health department would allow us to collaborate with the private medical sector in Pennsylvania to make a real impact on the public health issues facing Delaware County. For more statistics, look on my website (www.davidlandau.net) for my policy paper and plan for a county health department.

You’ve worked on political campaigns from presidential to congressional to state house, have served as a borough solicitor and are now running for county council. Given that experience you would you balance local vs. county vs. regional concerns?

It’s an issue of planning and leadership. I think it is vitally important to allow for open avenues of communication between all levels of government. I believe that the role of the county is to act as an advocate and resource for municipalities.

This is a fundamental difference between my opponents and me. The courthouse candidates believe the more politically connected municipalities should be able to secure funding and create jobs for a select few. I believe the county must steer the ship and help create a comprehensive plan and resource stream for all 49 municipalities.

A county council member deals with dog licenses, hazardous waste, and everything in between. What in your background prepares you to manage such varied areas effectively?

As Solicitor of the Borough of Yeadon from 1992 to 1998, I dealt with many, many different kinds local and municipal issues ranging from municipal finance, housing code enforcement, tax enforcement, and zoning. As special counsel in Nether Providence Township, I helped secure the creation of two parks as open space. Through my work on the Board of Directors of Family Community Service in Delaware County, I am familiar with the social service program network that uses County Council funds. Through all this experience, I developed sensitivity to local problems and became skilled at developing pragmatic solutions to those problems. I have put forth substantive plans for the future of the county, while the courthouse candidates have circled the wagons to protect the status quo.

Are there any circumstances under which being married to a magisterial district judge in the county could present a conflict of interest?

The jurisdiction of the district court encompasses such legal issues as landlord tenant programs, traffic offenses, and emergency protective orders. None of these issues are issues which face County Council. I also note that Michael Puppio’s wife, a retiring member of County Council’s spouse, is the magistrate district judge of Springfield and there have been no apparent problems with them serving in both of those positions.

In 1983, when working at the ACLU, you said that a good faith defense invites law enforcement officials to be ignorant of the law. In 1998 and 1999 you represented Darby Mayor Paula Brown in a case against the police. Would you be able to work well with law enforcement in the county if elected? (“’Honest mistake' change urged in seizure law,” Philadelphia Daily News January 14, 1983)

I believe that I will be able to work very well with law enforcement in the county. Our county law enforcement efforts have been strongly supported by County Council. I would also strongly support efforts to have more cooperation between the county law enforcement and municipal law enforcement law officials. The Paula Brown case was a unique case, which was limited to the involvement of the rights of an elected official to speak at a council meeting. Mayor Brown had been arrested and charged with a felony for speaking out of order at a meeting. That case was really about the problems of one party government. In that situation, when a Democrat was elected, the majority party did not take easily to having a member of the opposition sit on council. I am sure most people would agree that when a Democrat is elected to a Republican majority body, they ought to have the right to speak at their council meetings.

You have been endorsed by the Philadelphia newspapers in previous campaigns. What qualities do you have that appeals to newspaper editorial boards?

Editorial Boards provide a broad spectrum of democratic viewpoints. I believe my appeal to the boards is merely a representation of my appeal to voters, who are looking for a change in the system. These boards, like all voters, want a candidate who leads on the issues that are important to them.

There hasn’t been a Democrat on the County council since 1980. Only if all three Democrats running are elected would you be the majority party on the county council. Would you find being a minority member frustrating?

No, in fact I’d find it invigorating. We need a real debate on the issues in this county, not just the lip service and political favors the courthouse has been doling out for the past 30 years. For that very reason, I have proposed a series of debates to my opponents and have yet to receive a reply. The exchange of ideas will be critical for the future of Delaware County and I look forward to working with the Republican minority in January. As a minority member, I will be a forceful voice.

In other area counties the minority party county commissioner has been criticized for voting too often with the majority party. Other elected officials are criticized for voting with their party too often. How do you find a middle ground?

This one is easy- one finds a middle ground by seeking out the best approach to a situation and then fighting for it. I do not care whether or not the letter next to someone's name is a “R,” a “I,” or a “D.” What I care about is finding the best way to improve Delaware County, plain and simple.

You have talked about making county government more transparent. One possibility you have mentioned is having county council meetings in the evening so more citizens could attend. Would that lead to overtime for county employees who are required to attend? What other changes would you like to make?

I want to make the government open and accessible because the people must be able to evaluate the quality of their representation. I would do that by using state funds available to county and local governments to make records and other aspects of government readily accessible. There are so many things we could do- reduce patronage jobs, competitive bids on contracts, make plans and records accessible to the people, etc. It really begs the question- why hasn't the current council taken steps to do that? With respect to County Council meetings, first of all not many staff are needed to attend a County Council meeting. Second, for the most part, these would be salaried employees in supervisory level and so overtime rules would not apply. Third, we can make an adjustment with flextime to make sure that taxpayer costs are kept to a minimum.

The proposed change in flight patterns at the Philadelphia airport would put more planes over Delaware County. Congressman Joe Sestak and State Representative Bryan Lentz have been active in proposing alternatives. What role can the county council play?

Council must support Bryan and Joe in their efforts at the national and state levels and continue to oppose the FAA plan. Banding together with other areas affected by the proposed changes would provide the leadership necessary for Delaware County residents.

What are the biggest challenges facing Delaware County and of those which would be easiest to tackle?

The biggest challenges facing Delaware County are an unaccountable, one-party government, the lack of a public health department, aging infrastructure, a lack of open space preservation, and stagnant community revitalization, and economic development. Government transparency is something we could achieve tomorrow if council was committed to it.

What question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?

Over the last month, I have traversed the county putting forth substantive policy proposals to improve the lives of Delaware County Residents. Why is it that my opponents are so defensive? Rather, they should roll up their sleeves, admit some fault, and fix the problems that we all face. I think that the answer is that at the end of the day they lack the vision and leadership necessary to get the job done. Their concern is enshrining and exalting the status quo. I am running to place the desires and hopes of my friends and neighbors first and put an end to the culture of corruption that suffocates this county.

My thanks to David and his campaign staff for taking part in the process.

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