Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Morning Call's Strata Ad

Regular readers of this blog know that this is no place to come for an "objective" accounting about anything. I really despise the notion that anyone can truly be objective. It's a logical impossibility. Sometimes, presenting both sides of a story is unfair because there may only be one side. But for any news source to have any credibility, it must make honesty, independence and accountability its primary goals. Increasingly, it appears that The Morning Call has abandoned those goals. Instead of journalism, it is becoming a content provider for its advertisers. That was very apparent in a weekend story about the Strata Flats above Shula's in downtown Allentown. That's the where crooner Jim Ochse was recently bodyslammed by Allentown's finest for daring to sing Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbara Ann.

The Internet headline announces, "Few units left in newly opened Strata Flats in downtown Allentown." That certainly creates the impression that the place is selling out fast. That's the impression any landlord would want to create. But is it true?

Not according to blogger Michael Molovinsky. He spoke to a new tenant who told him he has hardly seen anyone else inside the place. He was not required to provide security and even had his rent pro-rated. Molovinsky even thinks that developer J.B. Reilly has brought furniture into some empty apartments to create the impression that they are occupied.

The only way to know whether this place is renting out so quickly is to see J.B. Reilly's books. I doubt those were provided.

Basically, what The Morning call did was provide free advertising for J.B. Reilly.

Was There a Riot at the Jail Last Week? Director Keen Sez No!

Last night, I received this anonymous comment: "Bernie, you really should consider a new story on NCP. John Brown's lack of funding leading to inadequate staffing which is leading to rolling lockdowns, which lead [sic] to a riot on a tier last week that forced the prison to move the inmates into a different part of the prison while they repair the damage from the riot. Just yesterday a prison guard was sent to the hospital after being burned by an inmate because Brown is allowing the prison to rot."

I will try to get some answers today.  I find this comment disturbing enough to publish, but need to caution readers that it might be inaccurate.

Updated 7:30 am: I have asked Corrections Director Dan Keen to tell me what happened at the jail, and will update this post if and when it is received. A reliable source from inside informs me that there was a fight on F tier last week, but it was unrelated to the move. Inmates were moved so contractors can come in and repair showers. A guard did get burned because inmates do not want to be locked in. Because of staff shortages, inmates were locked in most of the weekend. On Sunday they were allowed out until officer dinner time. Then they had to be locked in again because there were not enough officers to cover chow. The inmates got mad and threw scalding water on officer Goldfedder. This blog has been reporting staff shortages at the jail for over a year, and it appears that jail administrators are beginning to see negative consequences. Though the scalding incident has been reported in The Morning Call, administrators had no information at that time on what led up to it.

Updated 11:30 am: Dan, Keen, Northampton County's Corrections Director, was kind enough to update us all on what exactly is going on. Here's what he says. "Thank you for your inquiry and opportunity to provide factual information. On Monday August 24 at 8:30 PM in the F-Tier Housing unit we had a group of inmates fighting each other on what appeared to be over a card game. There was no damage to the unit. The incident is under investigation.

"On Thursday August 27th the inmates that were housed in the F-Tier unit were moved to another location due to scheduled maintenance of the showers.

"On Sunday August 30th there was an officer assaulted in B-4 housing unit and was admitted to a local hospital. He has since been released. We are pursuing criminal charges against the inmate and reviewing the incident."

Mayor Strye Removes Facebook Rant

To his credit, Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye has removed a Facebook rant aimed at unknown enemies who did something to aggravate him. Given what is going on in the borough,  I thought his comment only added fuel to a raging inferno. Although he has every right to vent and is human like the rest of us, I appreciate his willingness to tone things down. That is leadership.

Holy Shit! Centre County is Nuttier Than Northampton!

Next time you think Northampton or Lehigh County is going to hell in a handbag, take a gander at Centre County. District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, who is already prosecuting half of the County, is suing everyone else for defamation. Her wrath includes defense lawyers, a judge, county commissioners, a county administrator, a former employee in her own office and various lawyers. In a lengthy complaint, she alleges what is essentially a conspiracy to humiliate her and destroy her reputation because of her tough stance on crime, which has embarrassed one commissioner and has led to drug charges against an attorney.

Miller, the first woman to be elected District Attorney in Centre County. She is also suing the county for releasing records that show a disturbing number of phone calls and text messages between county judges and prosecutors in her office.

What precipitated this mess was a fake bail order that Miller used as a ruse to fool a person under investigation for threatening to kill a prosecutor in her office. Miller was accused of forging a judge's name, which resulted in a grand jury investigation that exonerated her.

A number of judges are now unable to hear criminal cases, and Miller has brought Attorney Bruce Castor in as a special assistant DA. He also represents her in the defamation suit.

In the news conference below, she accused commissioners of embarking in a witch hunt against her, and she is also seeking that they be held criminally responsible.

"I hope you print my innocence with the same ferocity with which you printed their lies."

One of the things defense attorneys did was release her private phone number, which resulted in death threats and promises of sexual violence against her.

"Vote those bums out," she said at one point.


Voter Registration Drive in South Bethlehem


A voter registration drive will be mounted at South Bethlehem's Greenway on Saturday, September 12, between noon and 6 pm. You can also register to vote online.

Superior Court Rejects Gregory Appeal

At this time two years ago, my blog was all but hijacked by the cRaZy antics of Jim Gregory and his psycho sidekick, Tricia Mezzacappa. They introduced a host of stange peripheral characters. These included a wife beater, a convicted pedophile and some kook who thought he was in the IRA. Everyone was screaming, "Molon Labe!" Gregory was eventually carted away to state prison, where he's expected to max out in February. Yesterday, the Superior Court rejected his appeal from his criminal convictions in a 17-page opinion written by Senior Judge James Fitzgerald. I thought it might be helpful to summarize exactly what happened, to those of you who weren't playing along back in those days.

Jim Gregory has been in and out of the local limelight since 1985, when he was terminated as a Lower Saucon cop for neglect of duty and excessive meal breaks. Over the years, he's been a state house candidate, Bethlehem City Council President, Bethlehem Mayoral candidate and union activist. After a particularly zany period in which he tried to run down a Governor Rendell bus and hopped a fence outside of City Hall, he found employment in Northampton County. Incredibly, it was as a mental health caseworker. After years of relative quiet, he started getting wacky again in 2013.

In May 2013, Geregory's then girlfriend was granted a temporary Protection From Abuse Act order (PFA) based on allegations that Gregory had "kicked, strangled, and choked her, bit her wrist, pushed 'really hard' on her eye sockets, and prevented her from leaving their residence." He had also sent her multiple threatening text messages.

Before there could ever be a final hearing, Gregory was cited for indirect criminal contempt. Following a hearing on July 3, 2013, Judge Leonard Zito entered a final PFA Order, found Gregory in contempt, and placed him on six months of supervised probation. Gregory was unable to stop himself from making contact and was cited for contempt again on July 13, 2013. This time he got a sentence of six months in jail, but Judge Zito relented and paroled Gregory on August 2, 2103, thanks to the outstanding advocacy of Gary Asteak.

Unfortunately, Gary's good counsel was for naught. Gregory continued to contact his ex-girlfriend in various strange ways, and eventually found himself facing five additional charges of indirect criminal contempt. A fed-up Judge Zito sent him away for 15 to 30 months. Here's what Gregory did:
  • On July 13, 2013, while in the courtroom, he handed a note to his ex through his lawyer. "I loved you at hello,” he gushed as they carted him away,
  • On July 22, 2013, Gregory sent his ex a love note through an inmate. "I loved you at hello,” he gushed again.
  • On August 2, 2013, Gregory sent yet another love note through another inmate. "I loved you at hello.” 
  • On the day after his release from jail, he called her more than 20 times.
  • Gregory also read a message to his ex from his radio show. "I gave you everything you wanted except my heart," he told her. "I didn’t do that, I apologize. You deserve that. If you come back, you’ll get it."
I was a witness against Gregory because I recorded and transcribed that part of the radio show. I made what I believe was a verbatim transcript, and the Court accepted it. Judge Fitzgerald concluded that my testimony was sufficient to authenticate the transcript.

Judge Fitzgerald also quoted, with approval, this portion of Judge Zito's opinion:
[Gregory] had used his considerable intelligence and charm in a manipulative and arrogant manner. The Court rejected his attempt to deflect the blame for his comments during the radio show onto his alter ego. The Court also took a dim view of . . . [Gregory’s] attempt to circumvent the PFA through his fellow inmates.

At his sentencing, . . . [Gregory] handed the letter to [his ex's attorney] in person. The volitional nature of this act is not subject to question. With respect to the phone calls, the Court was entitled to reject . . . [Gregory’s] dubious claim that he had mistakenly dialed [his ex’s] number.

In addition, [his ex] testified that she had received at least twenty calls from the unidentified number later determined to belong to . . . [Gregory]. This volume of calls cannot be attributed to mistaken dialing. With respect to wrongful intent, we observe that . . . [Gregory] has attempted to trivialize his contemptuous conduct. The Court views his repeated transgressions with significantly less levity.

The precipitating event for the PFA was . . . [Gregory’s] unprovoked assault on [his ex]. . . . Thereafter, he continued to violate the letter and the spirit of the PFA. He used his radio show to entreat her to return to him. He enlisted his fellow inmates to write love letters to her. He telephoned her repeatedly from an unidentified number. He even handed her . . . attorney a letter during his sentencing for a prior contempt.
I should point out that the District Attorney's office plays no role in the prosecution of PFA contempt charges, and so advised the Court. Nevertheless, Gregory has had Mezzacappa publish several epistles blaming him. I've been warned to pack my bags, although I refuse to be intimidated by a woman beater.

The one person he refuses to blame is himself.

When he gets out in February, the question is how long will he stay out.

Incidentally, yesterday was also the last day in which Tricia Mezzacappa could seek a review of my defamation judgment against her.  If she has failed to do so, she needs to do one of two things: pay the judgment with interest and costs or hand over the deed to the house she fraudulently transferred to her mother. Failure to do so is just going to make things more expensive for her mother, who has been sued in federal court.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Is Nazareth Mayor Blowin' Oil?

Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye blocked me from his Facebook page some time ago for some reason. But a friend has sent me a rant Strye posted there yesterday, battling his foes with sports cliches. Someone better throw him up on a lift and find out why he's blowin' oil. Here's what he says.

There comes a time in ones life to throw up your arms and just give in. NOT ME! I am in it to win it. Throw what you want at me. There is always a bright light at the end of the tunnel and I know how to find it. I will not be intimidated or controlled! Take your best shot and most likely it will be your last.

I'm unsure exactly who his enemies are because he never names them. But he has made few friends among full time Nazareth police officers. He and Borough Council recently fired Adam Shimer, a military veteran and Nazareth resident, just days before his probation was set to expire. Officers from other police departments, many of whom know Shimer, consider him a good cop. They consider this termination "chickenshit" from a Mayor and Council intent on destroying good cops and replacing them with those who will do their bidding and let them know when the next gambling raid is coming and who is working undercover at the clubs.

I cover Hanover and Bethlehem Township for a local weekly. Elected officials there only get involved in police budgetary considerations. They leave police operations to the police. It's much different in Nazareth and many other small communities, where Mayors intercede in matters as minor as a parking ticket and many just happen to be involved in the social clubs.

Nazareth is currently facing three civil rights suits filed by current (Stephen Schleigh, Fred Lahovski) and former (Connie McGinniss) police officers. That alone should send off all kinds of warning signals that something is seriously amiss.

But that's not all.

A civil rights suit has also been been filed over the death of Timothy Nixon, who was battling mental illness and shot himself when part-time Officer Danny Troxell, a full-time wannabe and protege of Chief Thomas Trachta, barged into his apartment building.

Nazareth Police Department and Troxell were sued over the use of excessive force on a man who was repeatedly tased while handcuffed, inside of a police vehicle. That matter was settled prior to trial. (Hendricks v. Swan, et al., Eastern District of Pennsylvania, # 11-cv-7394).

Chief Thomas Trachta and Troxell unlawfully prosecuted three Borough residents for exercising their First Amendment rights by allegedly posting small postage stamp stickers urging the dismissal of Chief Trachta. Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner admonished Trachta that sometimes, “You have to suck it up, cupcake.”

Instead of doing that, Trachta next fired school crossing guard Karen Herbst because her husband dared run against Mayor Strye.

Officer Lahovski's complaint, which has survived a Motion to Dismiss, details a series of unlawful retaliatory actions taken by the Nazareth and Trachta. They show an utter disregard for the constitutional and legal rights of residents and some individuals within the Department. Officer Schleig's lawsuit is a mirror image, listing all kinds of retaliatory actions taken against him for union activity, including the refusal to provide a proper uniform.

Now Borough Council did order an investigation into its police department’s operations. But they rejected the report when it came back highly critical of them and the Chief. When I confronted Council over this study, they denied its existence twice during open meetings.

When Nazareth hired Randy Miller as Deputy Chief, I though things would improve. They've grown worse. Now it's a top heavy department with too many chiefs. Miller did nothing to stop the unnecessary termination of Officer Shimer while civil rights violator Troxelll is allowed to come and go as he pleases. He appears to have been brought aboard as a union buster, not a police officer.

Nazareth condones and ratifies violations of Constitutional and legal rights by certain officers and the Chief. They have hired lawyers to scour the sagebush and bayous of southern circuit courts to find opinions friendly to their view, which seems to be that the Constitution has no application in Nazareth. They will fail.

Now that Shimer has been shoved aside, the door is open for Trachta to insert Troxell as a full-time officer.

Against this backdrop, I find it astonishing that Strye is lashing out the way he is.

Very few people are willing to publicly criticize elected officials. Most keep their heads down, while others become sycophants who blow smoke up the asses of these officials, instead of being honest with them.

On Strye's page, one of his cheerleaders actually states, "A lion doesn't need the approval of sheep."

That comment betrays a rather condescending opinion towards the people that any elected officials is supposed to serve. I always thought of government officials as servants, not lions.

Wolves might be a more appropriate word.

Sam Murray Kicks Off Judicial Quest

(From left to right: Marge Murray, Stephen J Barron Jr, Lisa M. Boscola, Sam Murray, Nuria DiLuzio, Bob Donchez, Melissa Rudas and Mark Diluzio). 

This weekend, in the midst of splendid weather and a bevy of beauties, Easton Attorney Sam Murray kicked off his race to be elected Northampton County's next judge. He did so from Missy Rudas' back yard, in a speech that told voters that they have a very clear choice. One is a man who has practiced law for 32 years, including ten as a Juvenile Hearing Officer. The other is a man whose rash judgment has cost Northampton County taxpayers nearly $300,000. One believes in due process, the most important quality in a judge. The other has been found to violate this basic right. One of them follows the Home Rule Charter. The other defended the Exec's decision to hire a public relations consultant and even advised him to go ahead and borrow $20 million to balance the budget.

Controller Steve Barron, who is seeking re-election was there. So were State Senator Lisa Boscola, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. and Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio.

Murray came out swinging. Though most judicial contests are sleepers, this one promises to be quite interesting. He spoke out quite forcefully about how Jill Mancini, a former Assistant NorCo Solicitor, was fired by Murray's opponent, Vic Scomillio, just two days before Christmas.

Though Scomillio was not yet in office as County Solicitor, he fired her anyway. By cellphone. From a car. In a call that kept fading in and out. He even sent a Deputy Sheriff up to collect her card key at the end of the day. A federal jury would later determine that in doing so, Scomillio violated this person's rights to due process. He failed to provide this person with notice or an opportunity to be heard, instead acting precipitously.

That's why a judge exists. He is there to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard.

Scomillio's error will cost taxpayers at least $300,000.

When finally sworn in, Scomillio would go on to argue that it was perfectly legal for Executive John Brown to have taxpayers pay for a public relations consultant to shovel propaganda at us. He even advised brown he could borrow $20 million to balance the budget, in clear violation of the Home Rule Charter.

People need to know these stark differences before they decide on who they want to elect as a judge to ensure their own due process rights.

You can see my pictures from this event here. As a matter of full disclosure I support Murray for judge and have contributed to his campaign. I will attempt to be fair to Scomillio, but his violation of due process disqualifies him in my mind.

Where's the Gift Ban in Allentown and Easton?

Some people like former NorCo Executive John Stoffa have a deep sense of personal integrity. He once refused a bag of pretzels from someone who wanted money from the County. He refused to accept a parking spot just for him, choosing instead to trudge up the hill to the courthouse until his hip gave out. In Bethlehem, former City Council Clerk Cindy Biedenkopf refused a gift of tickets to some event she wanted to see, choosing instead to write out a check. Vic Mazziotti would tell NorCo vendors who wanted to buy him lunch that they could, but they would never do business in the County. Some people do the right thing without others telling them. For others, there's a gift ban policy like the one recently announced by Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. Why has neither Allentown's Fed Ed nor Easton's Sal Panto imposed a similar ban? Their silence on this topic speaks volumes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Opinions Online, August 29, 2015

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. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.

The Northampton County 911 Center is definitely filled with less desirable employees, people wake up.

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START SPEAKING OUT AMERICA! Our nation is in trouble and it's too far gone to hide anymore. Remove incumbents.

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I have developed a friendship with incarcerated former Bethlehem City Council President James Gregory via letter and phone, my feeling is he was railroaded by his political enemies and now is forced to endure barbaric conditions simply because he refuses to admit guilt to crimes he is insistent that he did not commit.

My hope is that all can find it in their hearts to put some money on Jim's books to support him in this darkest hour, Harvey is simply not enough to carry him through.

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When Obama said he has "the most transparent Administration in history," he meant that he doesn't hide the fact that he's a Manchurian Candidate hell-bent on destroying America.

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As a court-appointed employee of Northampton County, I'm routinely told by my supervisors and Court Administration that I'm prohibited from publically expressing my opinion regarding politics in any way. For example, an e-mail from Jill Cicero dated 1/28/13 states: "Please remind staff that the Supreme Court Prohibition against Political Involvement extends to social media, ie. Facebook, Twitter, etc. Staff are prohibited from “liking” and/or commenting on statuses or pages for political candidates and cannot respond to invitations for events for same." Court Administration's interpretation of the 1998 Supreme Court Order is overly broad and is, in my opinion, a violation of hundreds of employees' First Amendment rights. I understand that running for public office or soliciting campaign contributions are prohibited, and rightly so. However, I believe that employees have the right to discuss politics or express support for a political candidate via their personal social media accounts or in any other public forum, so long as it's not done in their official capacity or on county time.

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In the recent cases of Jack Cuvo, the Blog Mentor, Mezzacappa, J. Gregory and who ever else fits the case, how does a person as such get and receive the help they need in today's society. Or do we just see them throw their and ruin lives away along with their loved ones?

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Chamber of Commerce - Still a good old boys network or really worth the time?

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Good government REQUIRES an underlying system of checks and balances. News media, both national and local, was once a big part of that mechanism. It brought resources to the discussion of events and proposals that no average citizen could match. It's role was as guardian of the public interest. It had leverage in securing accuracy and moderation. Most, not all, news agencies valued the public's trust.

In today's America, citizens are being deprived that same protection. They are often purposely misled by an owner/publisher who answers to another 'Master.' - Fred Windish

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Officer Hendricks should quietly, and quickly, slide back into his private life where he can enjoy his fat public pension.
Think of him (and Juilo) next time you pay your water bill...and you'd better damned well not be late or it WILL be shut off.
That you can count on.

Okay, lets consider something. let's rate the best to the worst County Executive ever to hold the office........
Hartzell is my no 1
Seyfried is my no 2
bechtel is my no 3
brackbill, brown, Stoffa and reibman are all tied for last.
Cmon Bernie, let's have a column dedicated to this issue.
How do all you other Bloggers rate the executives.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Officer Schleig's Lawsuit Against Nazareth

A reader has asked me to post Officer Stephen Schleig's lawsuit against Nazareth. Below you will see his Complaint, which was filed earlier this month.

Stephen Schleig Lawsuit v. Nazareth

NCC Dedicates New Residence Hall

From L to R: Dr. Susan Salvador, Dr. Mark Erickson, Martin Till, Lauren Strong, Arif Fazil and Robert Fehnel 

A new residence hall for up to 330 students is open for business at Northampton Community College. During a brief ceremony on August 27, President Mark Erickson lauded the $20 million project, which will house students from 20 different countries, as a "learning laboratory." He was especially happy that the dorm, which connects with existing facilities, was finished on time and under budget. It nearly doubles the number of students who will be able to live on campus.

Lauren Strong will be a Resident Advisor
J.G. Petrucci Co., Inc., managed the construction of the facility, whose centerpiece is a dining commons with a 35' high ceiling. It includes free Wi-Fi, computers, 24-hour security, a den for late night snacks, an outdoor courtyard, and most importantly, washers and dryers.

Arif Fazil, President of D'Huy Engineering, was especially impressed by the washers and dryers.

"Do laundry often," he advised students. "Don't bring it home."

Lauren Strong, a NCC student who will be a Resident Advisor, explained to the audience of about 80 that she and many others are continuing their education after a break from schooling. In her case, it was a five-year break. What she likes about Northampton Community College is that it provides "quality and affordable education without sacrificing the college experience."
Toni DeHart and Josh Lopez are two of the cooks at the dining commons, which will include gluten and dairy-free options
The NCC Spartan provided security

Chris and Bill Murphy Celebrate 43 Years of Marriage


You've probably read Bill Murphy's name from time to time in the newspapers. He is Easton's Solicitor and has somehow survived through at least three Mayors. What you may not know is that he is also Solicitor to Northampton Community College. His firm has represented the school since it was founded in 1966. He attended yesterday's dedication of the new dorms, accompanied by his beautiful wife Christine.

Christine and Bill celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary on Wednesday and are looking forward to seeing Gladys Knight at the Sands tonight.

Christine, incidentally, is the daughter of Andrew Herster, who as District Attorney gave a job to a young lawyer from Shenandoah. That lawyer was my father, who would succeed Herster as District Attorney.

Muller to Unveil 2016 LC Budget at Cedarbrook

Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller has chosen Cedarbrook as the backdrop for the release of his 2106 Budget. He's expected to make it official on Monday at 1 pm.

Muller and Lehigh County Commissioners have sparred over the nursing home.But according the Commissioner Vic Mazziotti, the prognosis is good. On Thursday, he told Lehigh Valley Business that he'd like to renovate or rebuild the existing 451-bed facility. He's been critical of housing four residents to a single room, and would prefer to see two to a room, with bathroom access.

Muller has accused both Mazziotti and Commissioner Lisa Scheller as supporting Cedarbrook's sale, a charge that both deny.

What amazes me is how Lehigh Valley state legislators turn a blind eye to the very real financials crisis facing publicly owned nursing homes in both Lehigh and Northampton County.

Tom Killion, a State representative from Montgomery County, has introduced legislation that could make more Medicaid reimbursements available. In Northampton County, that would translate to about $2.5 million per year, and my guess is that a similar sum would go to Cedarbrook.

To date, the following Lehigh Valley State Representatives have NOT signed on as sponsors: Gary Day, Ryan Mackenzie, Steve Samuelson, Pete Schweyer and Justin Simmons.

I should point out that sometime between my irst story about this house bill and now, Mike Schlossberg did sign on. Geoff Brace, who works for Schlossberg, is a Lehigh County Commissioner and should have been pushing the matter long before I did. Lehigh County Commissioners have yet to adopt a resolution calling on the their local state house delegation to sponsor this important bill.

You Can Now Register to Vote Online in Pa

If you want to vote in November, it is now possible to register online in Pennsylvania. This was one of Governor Tom Wolf's campaign promises. The Keystone State is the 23rd to take advantage of the Internet, which confirms identity through examination of driver licenses. In addition to registering, the Pa. Online Voter Registration site can be used to update addresses, names and party affiliation.

The last day to register to vote for this November's election is October 5.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Are Republicans Winning in Northampton County?

year democrats republicans difference indies notes
2007 16,960 13,255 3,705 2,049 barron upset
2009 15,800 15.056 744 2,251 rs sweep at-large
2011 17,082 13,846 3,236 2,301 gracedale, angle
2013 17,799 15,883 1,916 2,763 rs sweep

Aside from the fact that they get more votes, I really have no idea why Republicans are winning in Northampton County, despite a Democratic voter edge. But I do have something better - a table showing the patterns in the last four municipal races.

The last four elections

In 2007, Democrat Steve Barron upset John Shimmel in the Controller's race, winning by 414 votes. In the other races, the incumbents prevailed, although in Lamont McClure's case, it was only by 91 votes.

In 2009, Democrats Leonard Zito and Michael Koury captured two judgeships, with the third going to Republican Craig Dally. Democrat John Stoffa was unopposed in the Executive race. Republicans managed a clean sweep of the at-large Council seats.

Just two years later, in 2011, Democrats managed to not only make a clean sweep in the district council races, but also ousted incumbents Mike Dowd and Ron Angle. Steve Barron also retained his seat as Controller.

Most recently, in 2013, Republicans won every race, including a judgeship, the Executive and five at-large Council seats.

What are the patterns?

First, it is clear that independents are a factor. Their numbers have increased by 35% since 2007, much more than either of the major parties. My guess is that they are anti-incumbent.

Second, there is an ebb and flow. When there's an Executive race, Republicans become much more interested. They are less likely to vote in races when just district Council seats are in play.

Third, Gracedale was definitely a factor in 2011, when only 13,846 Republicans voted . The larger turnout in Easton doomed Mike Dowd. Ron Angle was condemned by his stand on Gracedale, along with disputes over his father's will and a fraud verdict in a business dispute.

Fourth, in 2013, well known Democrats were defeated by unknown Republicans, suggesting a desire for something new.

Fifth, Democrats are obviously splitting their tickets.

Things look bad for Democrats, but the tend to do better in races where District seats are in play.

Do you see any patterns?

Glazier Defends Eichenwald Reform Delay

Thanks to a bad back that occasionally flares up, I was unable to attend the Allentown City Council Committee that has decided to delay taking any action on Jeanette Eichenwald's bill to provide for more oversight over city contracts. Fortunately, activist Lou Schupe videotaped the lengthy hearing. The fireworks begin near the end, when Eichenwald confronts Jeff Glazier. He's the council member who unilaterally decided to delay her bill.

Eichenwald approached at the end of the meeting. She noted that once a bill has been introduced and seconded, it is customarily reviewed by a committee. But Glazier wants her reform measure reviewed by an "ad hoc" committee that includes citizens. She found it ironic that Glazier, who ordinarily wants nothing but silence from the public at meetings, would suddenly want to reach out. She indicated Council has had ample opportunity to research good government reforms in the six weeks since the FBI raid. "The citizens of Allentown are looking for good government, and it is the responsibility of members of City Council to do what is in their utmost capability to provide that. I am extraordinarily upset about this decision and I find it inappropriate and certainly not in the interest of good government."

Glazier defended his decision, calling himself a "most astute observer of things on Council." He stated that Eichenwald has herself delayed placing a gun bill that has been introduced by the administration.

"We were told by the law department, our own Solicitor, that we should not have that particular legislation here, that it would open us up to be sued.

Glazier then stated he wanted "to take a few moments" to understand the "ramifications of the bill" and then actually seemed to complain that the bill is too much like a similar contract oversight law in Bethlehem and that his agenda was too full that night.

Sticking to her guns, the Iron Lady accused Glazier of delaying the bill, calling it a "disservice to the citizens of Allentown."

In an exchange with reform activist Robert Trotner, Glazier stated he supports the bill.

Daryl Hendricks justified dragging his feet, and complained about "new legislation." He supports a delay of six to eight weeks and said it is "very unfair" to accuse him of being part of the problem because he was a cop.

The bill is scheduled for review on September 10.

Opinions Online Also Now Includes Phone Capability

Opinions Online, which I hope to make a regular Saturday feature, now has a phone feature. You can click on the button on the left sidebar to post your thoughts on any topic. You can also phone in a comment by calling 385-325-2564. At this point, I have received five comments for this week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hanover Township Wants PennEast Pipeline Away From Watershed

Left to Right: Mark Tanczos, Glenn Walbert and John Diacogiannis
The latest changes made in the 114-mile route of the PennEast pipeline, which extends between Wilkes-Barre and Trenton, has Hanover Township Supervisors concerned. At their August 25 meeting, they directed Township Manager Jay Finnigan to send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), expressing concerns about route changes that might have a negative impact on the water supply for 115,000 Lehigh Valley residents, including those in Hanover Township. While expressing no opposition to the pipeline, Supervisors were disturbed to learn that the latest changes not only go through the watershed, but place it too close to Bethlehem Authority's water transmission line.

The pipeline was re-routed so that it can supply gas service to the Blue Mountain Ski resort.

"It is the issue of the water supply that we're concerned about," observed Supervisor Glenn Walbert.

Finnigan Henpecked Over Hanover Fowl Ban

Amy Zanelli
Although part of Hanover Township was once known as Chickentown, animal husbandry has been banned in residential areas since the '60s. Northampton County Children and Youth caseworker Amy Zinelli would like that policy to change, and appealed to Supervisors at their August 25 meeting. Flashing her badge, she complained that Township Manager Jay Finnigan had engaged in fowl play when he told her that the Board is unlikely to change its mind. "I don't think it's fair that one Board member should speak for the rest," she argued. She asked Supervisors to allow her to make a presentation at their next meeting, and they agreed.

Finnigan, who is Manager and not a Board member, was relaying their policy as of November 2011, which was the last time this issue was discussed. "We've been down that road before,and rather recently," observed Chairman John N. Diacogiannis. But he told Zinelli that she is welcome to make a presentation at a meeting in September.

Zinelli told Supervisors that she began circulating a petition that afternoon, and in two hours, had 50 signatures in support of backyard chickens. The only person who refused to sign was the neighbor who had complained. She has been ordered to shut down her operation, or face a fine of $500 a day. She explained that she has a tiny coup of four hens, with no rooster, and uses it to teach her own and other neighborhood children about the benefits of urban agriculture. "I am sure this was not the type of activity that the community was seeking to prevent when it enacted the ban," she remarked.

She made clear that she wants more than a special exception. She wants the animal husbandry ban changed.

The increasing popularity of urban chickens has extended into some major metropolitan areas like New York City, Portland and Seattle. But to some, backyard chickens are for the birds. Among the concerns raised are odors, unwanted predators, declining property values, noise and disease.

Opinions Online Will Publish On Saturday

Opinions Online is going to be a regular Saturday feature on this blog, and gives you the opportunity to weigh in on any topic. So far, four comments have come in for this week.

Geissinger Eyeing Congressional Bid

Northampton County Council VP Glenn Geissinger, is reportedly considering a challenge to U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright in Pa.'s heavily Democratic 17th Congressional District. Geissinger, a Republican. is finishing his second year in office. He is expected to make an announcement on September 8.

Geissinger is a Whitehall HS grad, a Lehigh and Moravian alumnus, has a B.S. in Accounting and is also an Army veteran. He is very active in his church, has served as a cub scout den leader, and has two great children.

Cartwright is a Scranton-area lawyer who graduated from the University of Pa. Law School. Like Geissinger, he is very proud of his two sons.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RIP Doris Lombardo

Doris Lombardo is a name well known to people who participated in Northampton County Sheriff Sales. I could give her a name and she could tell me when the property was sold and whether there were any problems. She was part of the Great Exodus of county workers who left at the end of the year.

She died yesterday after a brief illness. She will be missed by many people, including me.

Protest Planned Over Eichenwald Reform Delay

Robert Trotner is an attorney, Internet radio host and good government activist who was advocating campaign finance reform long before the feds visited Allentown. Upset by the news that City Council intends to delay a Jeanette Eichenwald bill to provide for more oversight over Allentown contracts, he has scheduled a protest outside City Hall on Wednesday, between 5 and 6 pm, ending just before a city council committee is scheduled to meet. "They had agreed to consider Bill 39 to stop the Pawlowski administration from continuing to hand out illegal crony contracts tonight but are now reneging. Council needs to be accountable as the People's Bulwark against Pawlowski corruption."