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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Opinions Online, 10/1/16

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. I prefer local topics, especially concerning topics I miss, as opposed to talking points. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I sometimes highlight comments from throughout the week and re-publish them here. Please keep your comments brief, if possible. Anonymous personal attacks will be deleted, especially when aimed at other readers. I refuse to publish anything I consider possibly defamatory.

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When will someone submit a RTK request for the salaries of Lehigh Valley Planning Commission employees that we all in Lehigh and Northampton counties pay for???

Remember a few years back when the Express Times did a RTK gauntlet of municipalities in the 2 counties... seems like a good time for an update.

Its our tax monies, we deserve to see where and how much of it is spent!

I bet Becky A. Bradley is making a solid 6 figures promoting herself and demeaning her employees.

If anyone wants a good view of the salaries from a couple of years ago google Express Times Database Lehigh Valley, Warren County public employee salaries

Blogger's Reply: Why don't you file a RTK if it is so damn important to you?

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Great day @ the blog Bernie.

from G. John Bryant, jr

Blogger's Reply: Thanks, John.

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Why did you take down your blog roll call on your sidebar list?

Blogger's Reply: I didn't. It just disappeared, but I am reconstructing it this weekend. hanks for letting me know it was gone.

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MSM, (USA Today, Gannett Newspapers, NYT. et al; ) have all had tingles running down their legs in multiple orgasms over the Hillbillary team as they are well aware that their importance and influence will be sidetracked if the Trump Train rumbles past them on the Mainline track to Make America Great Again..

Blogger's Reply: This vulgar comment is an apparent reaction to USA Today's decision, a first in its 34-year history, to weigh in on a Presidential contest. It comes down against Donald Trump.
From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.

Whether through indifference or ignorance, Trump has betrayed fundamental commitments made by all presidents since the end of World War II. These commitments include unwavering support for NATO allies, steadfast opposition to Russian aggression, and the absolute certainty that the United States will make good on its debts. He has expressed troubling admiration for authoritarian leaders and scant regard for constitutional protections.
It's what I'd expect. No responsible media source could support a Presidential candidate who tweets, in a 3am tirade, to "check out the sex tape" of a Miss Universe who dared criticize him, even though no such tape exists. Believe me, I checked. The closest I could find was some goofy reality show that is not even XXX. I was very disappointed.

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When will NDGP finally get the respect ot deserves? Put the Red Rovers on the Crusaders schedule this year. The Red Rovers have been ducking NDGP for the past 3 seasons. Keep Coach Shiffert!!#

Friday, September 30, 2016

Brown Releases 2017 Budget - No Tax Hike

NorCo Exec John Brown has just released his proposed budget for next year. It's a $379 spending plan that holds the line on a tax hike. I'll have a detailed analysis on Monday.

183rd Update: Mako Hiding From Armstrong

Armstrong has long history at Whitehall
This week, I've written about three contested state house races here in the Lehigh Valley. Though I am a Democrat and would love to side with the home team, I would never do so at the expense of good government. So yes, I'd pick Republican Ben Long in a heartbeat over Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg. Yes, I'll take Republican Justin Simmons, whom I consider an effective and responsive legislator, over Joanne Jackson  I even have to give the nod to Republican Joe Emrick over Dave Mattei, who simply is a trainwreck. Fortunately, one Democrat is running whom I consider far superior to most entrenched incumbents of either political persuasion. His name is Phillips Armstrong, and he's running for Julie Harhart's seat in the 183rd state house district. She's retiring, but has hand-picked a replacement who has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of state government, or anything else, for that matter. So naturally, anointed heir Zach Mako is trying his best to avoid debating Armstrong.

Phillips is retired after 40 years as a social studies teacher at Whitehall High School. He also has a master's degree. While teaching, he was also a tour bus driver for 38 years "I totally enjoyed that," he has said. After retiring, he decided to continue public service in local government. He is currently the President of Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners. He also is involved in CTC (Community that Cares). He wants to go to Harrisburg "to make a difference." "I don't want a job,. I don't want a career," he said. His campaign finance reveals heavy union support. The root of all evil in state government, according to him, is gerrymandering. "We don't vote for our representatives. They vote for themselves. We can't do that anymore."

Armstrong really distinguished himself in a primary debate, which you can see here. Mako looked like a deer in the headlights. It goes beyond poor debating skills. He claims to be a helicopter pilot, but I'd never get in one with him.

Mako's campaign is being funded by the power structure seeking another back bencher who will do as he's told. And right now, his marching orders are to avoid a debate at all costs.

Mako sidestepped a candidate forum arranged by PBS 39 the week of September 13th He is also refusing to respond to the Northampton and Lehigh County League of Women Voters. Armstrong, in contrast, is ready any date between now and the election.

“The public deserves the chance to make an educated decision about who will best represent them in Harrisburg for the next two years,"he stated. "They have the right to examine candidate qualifications and the candidates’ abilities to find solutions to the problems faced by the people of the district.”

Like Armstrong, I strongly believes in public accountability and transparency. I find it disrespectful and contemptuous of the voters to refuse to debate on the issues and trust the voters to make the best decision in choosing their next State Representative.

Even The Donald debates.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Blogroll - Lost in CyberSpace

On my sidebar, I have kept a few blogrolls of other blogs I find interesting. It has vanished! Poof! Lost in cyberspace. I have begun restoring it. If you know of a site you'd like included, let me know. I won't host hate blogs and am leery of anonymous bloggers. But other than that, the more the merrier.

Bethlehem Fire Dep't: Gas and Water Leak in the 700 Block of North New Street

From Robert Novatnack, Fire Chief/ E.M.C: Today, at 6:51 AM The City of Bethlehem Fire & Police Departments responded to a water & natural gas leak in the 700 block of North New Street. Emergency crews evacuated the immediate area do to the gas leak and partial collapse of the roadway.

The water, electricity and gas in the 700 block of North New Street are currently turned off for repairs. Representatives from the City of Bethlehem Water Department, Bethlehem Police & Fire, U.G.I. and P.P.L. are on scene working on the utilities and roadway.

Residents in the area may experience cloudy water while repairs are being made. In Addition, North New Street will be closed indefinitely from Union Blvd. to Broad Street while crews remain on scene making repairs. Please avoid travel in this area if possible until the repairs are completed.

Update 9/30, 1:15 pm: Work continues. Avoid the location if you can.

After Investigation, NorCo Jail Investigator Fired

In late April, I told you that the investigator at Northampton County's jail, Christopher Naugle, was himself under investigation. He was fired on September 23, as you can see in a termination letter sent by HR Director Amy Trapp.

I obtained the termination letter via a RTK request. County officials refused to supply the Loudermill letter, which is more specific. But Trapp's letter suggests that Naugle may have violated the Code of Ethics, violated confidentiality, made untruthful statements and deviated from internal investigation procedures.

It's safe to say that Keen and Trapp are cleaning house.

Brown Raises $68K in Auditor General Race

Brown with Trump cutout
Northampton County Executive John Brown, who has challenged incumbent Eugene DePasquale for state auditor general, has stepped up his fundraising. In his 6th Tuesday pre-election report, which covers the period between May 17 and September 19, he reports $35,970.40 in contributions. This is slightly more than the $32,477.20 he raised between January 1 and May 16.

Brown's report, which is due today, is unavailable on the state website. But he is required to file in his county of residence as well as with Harrisburg. He filed a report with the Northampton County elections office yesterday.

In addition to the cash, Brown reports $2,744.31 in in-kind contributions from the state Republican party. This is on top of nearly $14,000 in in-kind contributions already received, and is being used for campaign literature.

Brown reports 20 contributions of $1,000 or more, including $2,000 from the Republican Caucus of County Commissioners and yet another $2000 from a PAC calling itself the Northeast Leadership Fund, which is based in Wilkes-Barre.

This Northeast Leadership Fund is funded by attorneys, developers and engineers who are obviously looking for "leaders" who will do as they're told. Louis DeNaples (you may have heard of him) kicked in $5000 to this PAC, but Matt Cartwright kicked in $1000, too. It appears to be a PAC interested in money and developers, not ideology.

State Senator Pat Browne gave $1,400 to this PAC. Two of Brown's cronies, Matt Deibert and Glenn Geissinger also kicked in $2,000 each.

Glenn Geissinger is a member of Northampton County Council, which is supposed to be a check and balance on the Executive. But Geissinger has been Brown's biggest cheerleader.

In addition to contributing $2,000 to a PAC that gave Brown $2,000, Geissinger reached into his pocket and gave Brown another $1,000.

Another troubling contribution to Brown is $1,000 from Lehigh County DA Jim Martin.

In April, Northampton County's Gaming Authority awarded $407,000 to Martin's pet project, the Regional Intelligence and Investigative Center (RIIC), which is also called a Regional Crime Center. Brown's Sheriff, Dave Dalrymple, lobbied hard for the project. Martin's $1,000 contribution came in September, well after the award, but it does raise eyebrows.

Like Brown, DePasquale's 6th Tuesday report is still not online. But even without his most recent report, he has raised far more money than Brown. Up until May 17, he reported having raised $258,726 and was sitting on a $353,518.70 warchest. Brown has $8,600.

Other $1000 donors include GT Commonwealth PAC, David Master, Devlendra Amin, John McGeehan, David Lobach, Edwin Coranzo, Dhruv Acharya, Lou Pektor, Anthony Salvaggio, Curtiss Barnette, Charles Diacont, Dave Jaindl, Cynthia DiRenzo, Christine Toretti and Marcus Lemon.

Brown also owes $46,840.05.

Dave Mattei? No Way!

Mattei at a picnic
Earlier this year, State Rep. Joe Emrick was well on his way to another two years in the 137th state house district. For a second time, Democrats had failed to field someone to run against a hardcore conservative Republican with a lifetime 90% rating from the American Conservative Union. It's a district that does include conservative pockets in Palmer and the Slate Belt. But it also includes Democratic boroughs and increasingly Democratic Forks Township. Democrat Rich Grucela managed to keep the seat for ten years, so why no one wanted to challenge Emrick was a mystery. People like myself, who are unhappy with Emrick, were delighted when insurance salesman Dave Mattei stepped forward, out of nowhere, to run as a write-in candidate. We were conned.

For one thing, Mattei has never voted as a Democrat. He registered as an independent in 1997 and, over the next 19 years, has only voted sporadically. He didn't vote at all in 2014 or 2015. This year, he was unable to vote in the very primary in which Democrats happily wrote in his name because he was still registered as a Independent. So far as I can tell, he still is.

In addition to being an independent with a shaky voting record, Mattei has no real roots in this area. He is originally from Jersey, and moved into the Lehigh Valley some time in 1997. At first, he lived in Easton and Washington Township, then moved to Lehigh Tp for 14 years. He has only been in the Nazareth area for four years or less.

Why did he move to Pennsylvania from Jersey? It appears that he was fleeing debt. According to New Jersey Courts public access, actions were brought against him at F002217-92, F003270-93, F005758-96 and F008490-96.

Mattei getting chickens
While living in Easton, in what appears to be its West Ward, he worked at Home Depot in Whitehall, a rather strange occupation for a retired New Jersey state trooper. It was during this time that his emancipated daughter sought and obtained a Protection From Abuse Act Order against him. What set him off is unknown, but the incident included allegations of throwing his own flesh and blood across a room and dragging her down the steps by the ankles.

Mattei never contested the PFA.

In 2000, Mattei left Easton for the greener pastures of Lehigh Tp. He bought a home, and over the next 14 years, managed to rack up nine mortgages. According to Northampton County's civil index, Northampton Area School District also ended up filing two municipal liens (2007-ML-6826 and 2008-ML-8846) against him because he failed to pay his school tax bill. Unable to keep up with his mortgages, he gave his Lehigh Township home back to the bank. He also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (15-12857-ref) and, on 8/20/15, was granted a discharge.

That's how he ended up in Nazareth, just up the street from me.

Anyone can go through a bad stretch financially. But for Mattei, bad financial decisions appear to be way of life. It sure looks like that's what caused him to flee Jersey. Ringing up nine mortgages on one property in 14 years is also pretty stupid.

If he's unable to manage his own finances, how can he be expected to manage ours?

What would prompt a bankrupt Independent who only votes sporadically to want to be the Democratic champion? He certainly has no burning interest in issues. But he sure does like to eat.

He just filed a 6th Tuesday pre-election report for the period between 5/17/16 and 9/19/16, even though state house candidates have no such obligation. (You can see it here). In it, he claims to have raised $15,836.00 and has already spent $13,901.70,  a lot of it on dinners and lunches.

The Easton Area Democratic Committee gave an independent outside of the Easton area $3,000. He also collected $3,000 from the trade unions. He suckered Martin Guitar owner Christian Martin into giving him $500, and sucked money from poor Glenn Reibman, Rich Grucela and the Bobbsey twins, Pete Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg.

Mattei gets cake for intern
What has he done with this money?

Eat.

A lot.

He's a hungry guy and, in his defense, did have a family BBQ this summer. He must have really been famished on June 13. He was at Subway, the Trolley Shoppes Restaurant and the Leaf Cigar Bar, all in one day.

I'd say the Leaf and Mickey D's are his two favorites. He's been to each five times.

Mattei has also been to Nazareth Diner four times, Pizza Joe, Villa Grande Pizzeria, Pies to Die For, Dunkin' Donuts, China Wok, Pita Pit, Blendlife Smoothie and Juice Bar, Fairways Cafe, Rice 'n Beans, Little Corner Cafe, Xpresso Cafe, Diner 248, Baby Harry Coffee, Wok Box, Chestnuthill Diner, McDonald's, WaWa, Sam's Club for groceries, Tuscana Pizza and Whitetail Golf Club.

He even charged a meal in New Jersey at DeLucia's. He has also picked up between meal snacks at the gas station across the street from his office. And let's not forget the booze from the liquor store.

All told, he has spent $1,662.95 in campaign contributions on food, cigars and booze. Over 10 per cent of the money he raised is in his stomach.

This has to be some sort of record.

He must be loading up for the winter.

He did give $1,000 to Controller Steve Barron for robo calls and another $300 to Rich Wilkins for consulting. Barron won't say whether his deal includes an "all you can eat" clause.

So we Democrats have really done well. We have an independent with a spotty voting record and an even more shaky financial history to run against an entrenched, well-financed incumbent. He is using campaign finances to play big shot. He has no chance of winning. My chief concern is that Mattei might explode before the election.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should Pa Try Ranked Choice Voting?

Though I'm unaware of any movement in that direction here, voters in Maine will decide this November whether to adopt something called ranked-choice voting. Under our current system, the person with the most votes wins, even if it is only a plurality. Under ranked choice, if no one with gets a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second choice votes are tabulated in what is sometimes called an instant runoff.

This system would be helpful in primaries with numerous candidates. It would also work well in races with strong independents. This system is in place in a few cities, but no state has adopted it.

Why Joanne Jackson Will Lose to Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons is a hard-core conservative Republican representing people from three different counties who have been thrown together in the 131st District. Since he first upset Karen Beyer in 2011, he has been targeted by Democrats and Republicans alike. He has always come out on top, and I expect to see him pull a repeat performance again this year. That's pretty much because his opponent, write-in Joanne Jackson, is waging the same kind of dark campaign that has repeatedly blown up in the faces of other candidates.

I probably agree with Justin about five percent of the time. But he is one of the legislators who helped to remove the EIT tax grab from the NIZ legislation. He is a cosponsor to bipartisan gerrymander reform legislation proposed by State Senator Lisa Boscola and State Rep. Dave Parker. He is also one of the best debaters I've ever seen. He responds to every phone call and email and answers every question I have, even when we disagree. Transparency and accountability are very important to me, so I have supported him, and will continue to do so.

His Democratic opponent, Joanne Jackson, entered this race as a write-in candidate, and only because she claimed to be worried that Simmons' GOP opponent was going to ask Dems to vote for him. She found herself the nominee, and decided to give it a go.

She has been elected as an Allentown School Director, so she knows how to run a race. But she will lose.

She will raise far less money that Justin, but that's not why she'll lose.

She's in a Republican District, but that's not why she'll lose.

She'll lose because she's making the same mistake as Justin's previous opponents.

A few weeks ago, she was actually knocking on the doors of Justin's GOP supporters and telling them to remove yard signs they had planted at their homes. She apparently was unaware that the First Amendment trumps any attempt by local government to curb political speech. In fact, it is Democrats who filed a federal lawsuit over these unconstitutional ordinances several years ago.

I can understand Jackson being confused about free speech. But it takes a lot of nerve to knock on a homeowner's door and tell him to take down a sign. Especially when you're wrong. News like that gets around pretty fast, so my guess is that she lost a lot of ground with that mistake.

But that's not why she'll lose, either.

A few days ago, I received an invitation from Jackson to like an amateurish site called "Justin Simmons' Horror Stories". It depicts Justin as some sort of Dracula and is resurrected before every race. It's full of all kinds of hokey, personal attacks. I was offended.

That's why she's going to lose. Simmons is a fierce campaigner who subscribes to the Charlie Dent admonition that there's only two ways to run - hard or unopposed.

She should ask Simmons' previous opponents how their negative campaigns worked out for them.

Justin can be beaten, but not this way.

He wins in November.

$476,000 in Casino Grants For Local Municipalities

Karen Collis and Jay Finnigan
In April, Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Authority awarded nearly $2.2 million in grants to communities surrounding the Sands Casino, including $407,000 to help fund a regional crime center. But because it failed to spend everything, it conducted a second round of what are called "impact" grant requests for Bethlehem and its surrounding communities. Those are restricted to projects dealing with the aftermath of gambling, from increased traffic to an increased police presence. In addition, the Board sought proposals from all county municipalities for money left over after impact grants are awarded

At their September 26 meeting, the Board voted unanimously the remaining $476,000, with $188,000 going for impact grants and $289,000 in awards for communities with no need to show impact. .

The impact grants went to Bethlehem Tp ($50,915 for a police vehicle); Hanover Tp ($11,675 for body armor); Hellertown ($43,626 for police SUV); Lower Saucon Tp ($24,981 for unmarked police car);and Freemansburg ($15,788 for body armor and $41,000 for license plate reader).

The $289,000 in uncommitted funds were awarded as follows:
Nazareth - $25,000 for police patrol and safety enhancements.

Palmer Tp.- $25,000 for body armor. This is an upgrade and includes plates for front and back kill zones.

Stockertown - $25,000 for police vehicle.

Forks Tp. - $25,000 for AWD police intereceptor

Bangor - $25,000 for K-9 vehicle.

Walnutport - $25,000 for new police unit. (This funds only a portion of the cost).

Lower Mt. Bethel Tp - $24,420 for speed radar message boards. These are solar-powered, with a battery back-up.

North Catasauqua - $25,000 for equipment upgrade.

Tatamy - $11,342 for emergency services.

Glendon - $25,000 for town hall improvements

Bath - $20,231 emergency services equipment upgrade

Wilson - $24,630 self-contained breathing apparatus

Hanover Tp. - $8,100 for speed message boards for Macada Rd, Southland Dr and Highland Ave.
Twenty municipalities were unsuccessful. Only $289,000 was available for $764,000 in grant requests. These were ranked by gaming board members in advance of the meeting, and only the highest-ranked proposals were approved. So Bethlehem lost out on body armor for first responders, while Easton failed to get funds for pedestrian improvements on Northampton Street. So did smaller municipalities like West Easton .

The nine-person Board includes Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Tom Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Dave Willard (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth). Karen Collis is the Executive Director.

At the end of the meeting, Collis was thanked for her work in putting together all the applications.

"Did you get the flowers we sent?" asked Tony Pristash. "I think Mr. Heintzelman has the flowers," joked James Pennington.

Heintzelman is a funeral director.

Who's the NIZ Arson Bug?

September 25, 2016. A fire breaks out in center city Allentown at 20 S Hall Street. It is ruled an arson. Same thing for a 2014 fire at 27 S 8th St and a 2015 blaze at S 8th Street, near Walnut.

What do these arsons have in common?

All are smack dab in the middle of NIZ projects. All the buildings held some sort of historical significance that would make it tough, even for Allentown's lax planners, to approve a demolition. But thanks to these arsons, all will get a raze and repair order slapped on then and can be automatically get torn down.

Public safety, you know.

I'm accusing no one, but these strangely coincidental fires demand a thorough investigation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Is The Donald OK?


Gotta' love a case of the sniffles from a candidate who had Hillary at death's door.

PPAP



This explains why nearly half of Japan's millennials are still virgins. But I love the video.

Here's the original.

Ben Long: "The People Deserve Better"

Ben Long, who is running against incumbent Mike Schlossberg in the 132d state house district, was interviewed on WAEB yesterday. He's a Republican running in a gerrymandered district designed to keep Democrats in office. On top of that, he's way too young and has no real life experience. But then again, Schlossberg was too young and had no real life experience when he was first elected without opposition. .

"The people deserve better," he said, after ticking off some of his beefs against Schlossberg. Chief among these is Schlossberg's ghost vote in a crucial budget vote that passed by only one vote. When asked to explain, Schlossberg claimed it was "much ado about nothing" and blamed tea party extremists for his moral lapse.

Long had a different view, noting that Schlossberg "undermined democracy." He stated that Schlossberg's cavalier attitude "says a lot about his lack of integrity" and he asks, "If that's acceptable to him, what's not?"

He also took the incumbent to task for forming a PAC with Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, who is the obvious target of a federal political corruption investigation in which six people have already entered guilty pleas.

He is running on a reform slate that includes campaign finance and gerrymandering. But as a Republican, he believes in  "empowering the private sector, not growing government."
 
Just 23 years old, Long is a product of Parkland School District, where his Dad sits on the board. He graduated from DeSales in May with a degree in political science. He works part-time for his father's business and spends the rest of his time knocking on doors, even on Sixth Street. His grandfather was an UAW union leader and is probably spinning in his grave.

Though he's obviously a sacrificial lamb in a heavily Democratic district, he claims he's "all in" and is apparently learning from residents as he knocks on doors.

"When you actually look people in the eye who are struggling to pay their school bill, it puts things in perspective," he said. He mentioned a widow he met who has a dilemma between paying her school tax bill or buying medication.

Long was also questioned, in a shot from Lehigh County Comm'r Michael Schware, about his resignation as a committeeman several years ago to support Tom Muller over Scott Ott for Lehigh County Executive. Schware, who is something of a snake, was probably upset when his name was mentioned. His question did exactly what irked him about Long. He's upset that Long supported a Democrat, but Schware is supporting one by trying (unsuccessfully) to attack Long. As far as I'm concerned, Long's support of Tom Muller demonstrates that he is not a blind partisan like Schlossberg. ... Or Schware.

Though he has no prayer, I found Ben Long to be very impressive and hope he stays interested.

Who Won the Clinton-Trump Debate?

I suspect that most of you watched last night's spirited debate between presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Hofstra. Moderator Lester Holt was the clear loser, completely losing control of  Trump several times throughout the night. Nevertheless, for the first third of the debate, when the conversation was focused on jobs, Trump was the winner. But that changed.

I think Clinton baited him, and it worked. As the night wore on, and as he continued to interrupt and make childish faces, he looked pretty bad.

I'd say Clinton did quite well, and Trump did not.

Does it matter? Beats me.

Interesting facts:

1) Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times. She interrupted him 17 times.

2) Trump told ten whoppers.

3) Voters say Clinton won, 51-40.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Welcome to Wennsylvania


After yesterday's commanding win over Pittsburgh, the state is changing its name to Wennsylvania. Philly will be known as Carson City. Did anyone seriously think the Eagles would be 3-0?

Lehigh County Judge Jim Anthony's Bias and Political Machinations

Earlier this year, in The People's Republic of Lehigh County, I was surprised when Judge Jim Anthony sentenced a woman who systematically tortured her son (according to a medical examiner) to just 12-25 months in County jail. A WFMZ-TV69 account claims that the mom displayed no remorse and denied her minimized a pattern of abuse that included strangling her son until he'd pass out and scarring him. Judge Anthony found even more excuses for her, claiming she was "overwhelmed." According to the Morning Call, it's possible she'll be out in a little over nine months. Lehigh County prosecutors did asked Judge Anthony to reconsider, but he spurned their request.

Perhaps Judge Anthony should be "overwhelmed" himself when he seeks retention next year. In addition to his fondness for child abusers, I recently came across unsettling evidence that he pretty much thumbs his nose at  the Code of Judicial Conduct governing the behavior of judges. It's a little more disturbing than sleeping in his office in his office in his robes

According to the Facebook rant of a political hack who has a long-time vendetta against Lehigh County DA Jim Martin, he and Judge Anthony were exchanging emails, phone calls and lunch dates until February of this year. Among other things, he admits that they've discussed Lehigh County criminal cases. He claims to be discussing closed cases, but it is the pattern of this zealot to contact judges about cases that are still pending. He has at times quoted from emails he's received from other Lehigh County jurists about cases that are still very much open. As a former political consultant, he appears to have some sort of hold on these judges.

Something happened in February. Exactly what is unclear. But after that last conversation with Judge Anthony, he was visited by four Allentown cops. No charges were filed, but that seems to have ended the collaboration.

"[W]e are very confused by Judge Anthony's flip-flopping and disloyal retreats, double-agent duties, and surrenders," notes the Martin hater's wife.

Now the Martin hater has released an email exchange he had with Judge Anthony in 2014. In this email, which was sent to several people, Judge Anthony engages in the following unethical behavior:
- After discussing someone he considers a "deceitful" cop, Judge Anthony amazingly claims that DA Jim Martin "has a reputation for making special deals for friends who get themselves in trouble, and for using the law to nail people he doesn't like ... ."

- He accuses Martin of ducking military service during the Vietnam conflict. "Yet, like so many neocons he walks and talks as if he were a tough guy, and he thinks himself superior."

- Noting that Martin is or was a member of the Lehigh Country Club, Judge Anthony calls him a "heavy drinker" who thinks nothing of driving after "consuming considerable amounts of alcohol." He speaks of a police officer who recently let Martin off the hook and claims there is an older incident in which Martin was arrested, but the charges were dismissed by retired Magistrate Ted Russiano.

- Although I'm pretty sure he's a Catholic, Judge Anthony pays very close attention to who did and did not graduate from Central Catholic High School, and seems to think CCHS grads are in some sort of cabal. He notes that Martin is a CCHS grad and has been represented by a CCHS grad,as though that means something.

- He states Martin "is not just a coward who shirked on military service during the Vietnam era, but he is also a liar and a bully."
My suspicion is that, if there is one, there are several emails like this. I have written to Judge Anthony and asked for an explanation. Quite clearly, he has demonstrated bias and has injected himself in political matters. Like a sneak, he was doing it through a useful stooge. Judge Anthony certainly should be removed from considering any criminal cases and should resign.

The Unfairness of Privatized Tax Collection

Few dispute that real estate taxes, which fund schools and many other municipal services, are very unpopular. But so far, any and all attempts at "reform" have failed. Even if successful, the tax burden would simply be shifted to an increased income or sales tax. One thing is certain - taxes are here to stay. The last thing on the minds of most public officials is being fair about it. The story I am about to tell makes that very clear.

Lehigh County officials are a bit more fair than their counterparts in Northampton County. In 2012, Commissioners went ahead with a reassessment that was at least intended to spread the misery more evenly. Northampton County Council members, who worry about keeping their seats, prefer to kick the can down the road while school districts and municipal governments routinely raise taxes. Their last reassessment was done in 1995.

How the County collects unpaid real estate taxes

If you fail to pay your real estate taxes or make payment arrangements, the County can sell your home after you are delinquent for a period of two years. Before that happens, the county runs ads in the local papers. People love reading them to see who is behind. Most delinquent homeowners come forward at this time and make payment arrangements. But there are still a few homeowners who, for whatever reason, fail to pay their bill or make arrangements. Their property can then be sold in what is known as an "upset" sale, which is held once every year.

Northampton County's upset sale takes place tomorrow at 2 pm.

At an upset sale, you can buy this property, but it is subject to whatever other liens might exist. You get the property along with whatever unpaid mortgages and judgments are out there. So most properties remain unsold. That's when the county kicks it up a notch, and schedules what is known as a "judicial" sale of the property.

The judicial sale is unlike the upset sale in that the County gets a court order authorizing a sale free and clear of all liens, except for the outstanding taxes. At this sale, almost all the properties are sold.

When the County sells your property to collect unpaid real estate taxes, it moves very slowly, and for good reason.  People have a constitutional right to due process. County officials get very concerned when someone fails to respond to notices. Is the person really a tax deadbeat? Or is the homeowner an elderly person suffering from dementia?  If there is any doubt in the minds of county officials, the sale will be delayed another year

Enter the tax farmer

Most school districts and many municipalities are unwilling to wait two years or more to get their taxes. They want their money now. Instead of relying on county officials who recognize they have some obligation to be fair to homeowners, they have actually privatized the collection of taxes by employing tax farmers.

Throughout history, tax farming has occurred in Egypt, Rome, Great Britain, and Greece. It has always been accompanied by abuse. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin predicted that privatized tax collectors, "the most indiscreet, ill-bred, and insolent [men] you can find," would lead to revolution.

Nevertheless, nearly every Lehigh Valley school district, along with cities like Bethlehem and Easton, use Portnoff Law to squeeze homeowners. They make their money by assessing attorney fees that in some cases are ten times the amount of unpaid taxes. Portnoff represents 130 municipalities and handled over 40,000 municipal collections in 2015.

Unlike county tax claim bureaus, which schedule tax sales only once a year, Portnoff and other tax farmers will go to work immediately.

The first step is to file a municipal lien, and of course, assess attorney fees. About a month later, Portnoff will file what is known as a writ of scire facias, which is a fancy way of saying that it is going to enter judgment against the homeowner, even though the municipal lien pretty much makes it impossible for the homeowner to sell the property without paying off the lien. After that, Portnoff will enter judgment and, of course, tack on more attorney fees.

The final step is the Sheriff's Sale, with even more attorney fees. In 2015, Portnoff listed 512 properties for Sheriff Sale, and ended up selling 73 of them.

Sheriff Sales Confuse Potential Bidders

This accelerated process is extremely unfair to homeowners, many of whom are already distressed financially. The extra money they pay to prevent a sale goes into the pocket of the privatized tax farmer, not the municipality.  But  it also unfair to bidders at the Sheriff's Sales  They are accustomed to thinking that they are buying the property free and clear of liens. But the sale is actually an upset sale, at least at first.

Last month, in Northampton County, someone bought a property at a Sheriff's Sale. But on her way up to deliver her check, someone complimented her on buying a $50,000 mortgage. She panicked and withdrew her bid.

The Lehigh County Experience

The same thing happened in Lehigh County last week. Agent 99 was there, and told me what happened.

A downtown Allentown property was up for sale because of unpaid school taxes. Someone bid on the property.

The Deputy Sheriff handling the sale asked, "Do you know what you're bidding on?"

"You mean the address?"

"No, it's an upset sale. You're buying subject to any liens. Do you want to withdraw your bid?"

"Yes."

When someone in the back heard what was going on, he got very upset that bidders were not being told, in advance of each sale, whether the sale is "free and clear."

He was asked to sit down, but he was upset and refused, and eventually was dragged out of the room by two deputies as he complained, "This is not fair."
     
Of course, it's unfair.  This is no longer about collecting taxes, but enriching Portnoff at the expense of everyone, from homeowner to unsuspecting bidders.

After this guy was dragged out of the room, the very next property up for sale was another Portnoff sale. This time, the Deputy asked Portnoff's attorneys to explain whether it is an upset sale.

"I have no legal obligation to do so, but I will," huffed the attorney.

That's a problem. Privatized tax collectors have no obligation to be fair. This is why tax farming should be illegal.

I contacted the Lehigh County Sheriff's office and spoke to the Deputy who ran the sale. She was unable to speak to me, and said I'd have to talk to the Sheriff. But he failed to return my call. The Portnoff lawyers also refused to explain what the hell they are doing. And why should they? They don't work for us. 

NorCo Elections Office Overwhelmed By Absentee Ballot Requests.

People hate standing in line, whether it is at the grocery store or an election. What they seem to be doing, at least in Northampton County, is applying for absentee ballots.

Before the 2012 Presidential race, Northampton County elections officials processed a record number of 6,906 requests for absentee ballots. They expect to see that record smashed this year.

The last day to register is October 11. You can do so online.

The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is November 1. It's supposed to be limited to people who are ill, disabled or are going to be outside the district on election day.

Election judges must wait to open these ballots until the polls close. So the more people who vote absentee, the longer it will take to count the votes.

Celtic Classic Bagpiper Fixes Wheelchairs, Too!

From Agent 99: Yesterday I went to Celtic Classic for a couple of hours with a friend. We stopped to listen to a bagpiper who was practicing (and was well worth listening to). He stopped mid-song, laid his bagpipes in the road, and walked over to a young man in a wheelchair who had been crossing the road. We then saw the front wheel of the wheelchair had fallen off into the road. The bagpiper knelt down on the dusty road and, with the help of a couple of other men who came over to help when they saw what was happening, put the wheel back on, wiped off his hands, picked up his pipes and rejoined his band (who had already started to play). I was impressed at his matter-of-fact attitude, and how he just saw that something needed to be done, and did it without fanfare. He is the piper to the left in the picture, I have no idea who he is or even which band he belongs to.

Blogger's Note: I missed this year's Celtic Classic because I pulled my back. But it is my favorite festival.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Opinions Online, 9/24/16

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. I prefer local topics, especially concerning topics I miss, as opposed to talking points. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I sometimes highlight comments from throughout the week and re-publish them here. Please keep your comments brief, if possible. Anonymous personal attacks will be deleted, especially when aimed at other readers. I refuse to publish anything I consider possibly defamatory.

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The more i watch Penn State football the more i wonder if coach Franklin is the answer at P.S.U. Yes he didn't have 85 scholarships but how many players are on the field during a game? 11? H e boasted 3 years ago he was going to dominate recruiting. and yet many of his recruit targets go elsewhere. He hasn't beaten ohio state,michigan,or michigan state in numerous tries. Finally the talent level is more in line with Temple , Rutgers etc not Ohio State. John Gruden would be a great replacement if someone could talk him into it!

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At what time does the Bethlehem public works shift start? It seems like they all congregate at Wawa every morning on the taxpayers dime. I have to stop before going to work, and so should our public servants.

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Trumpion OK
TRUMPETER better and abrasively louder

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Does anyone know what is happening with the road work at Rt 33 and Freemansburg? They haven't been working on the bridge all summer.

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One of the reasons i would never want to be a policeman is the continued use of tinted windows. I know the laws are different from state to state but why is this so? Why aren't theses standards the same in every state? Imagine approaching a vehicle with intent to harm inside and you have no idea until a gun is raised to shoot you...

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What's with all the hysteria about people in clown costumes? Why are police wasting their time responding to silly people complaining about what are obviously pranks?

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A friend of mine told me about something the other day. They said they went looking for an online article about Former editor Joe Owens and his dui and said he couldn't find it.

I told them they were crazy but when I went and looked and couldn't find them either.

I am not talking about just the lvl site either they are gone from mcall and NJ.com, too.

Do you think he got his journo buddies to take them down or did he pay lawyers to do this work?

As a journalist Bernie, how do you feel about this? I know he went through ard and his record was expunged but having it wiped out from a news outlet as though it never happened?

Could you or I call in these favors? What about your Buddy strye once he completes his program.

I find it disturbing.

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Why has the Express-Times become a glorified police blotter???

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Julio Guridy spoke at Wednesday's Allentown City Council meeting to add Calle Siete signs to the signs for 7th St. He stated that the Latino community deserves something named in their honor for the "contributions, perspective, and values" the Latino community has brought to Allentown.

Lets review those contributions, perspective and values. The Latinos brought drugs, gangs, violence, parents and children that don't want nor care about an education. They made Allentown into a welfare magnet. It is true they are not alone and had a lot of assistance from the democratic liberal government of Allentown as far back as Mayor Daddona.

The majority of the crimes committed that are reported by the media are perpetrated by Latino names. If we should rename anything in Allentown after the Latino community it should be Lehigh County Prison At least until the Latino community begins to police itself and rid itself of the undesirable members of it and start becoming productive members of society by getting off of welfare.

Blogger's Reply: Spoken like a true bigot. My guess is you are a Trump supporter. I will ask Mr. Guridy to provide some insights into the contributions, perspectives and values.