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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Has NIZ Fizzed?




Finally, some good news from Downtown Allentown and perhaps the truth, too. According to the latest Morning Call report by multiple reporters (to let you know they're really, really important) developer J. B. Reilly has shelved City Center Five, at least for now.

"For us to build Five City Center Innovation Tower we need a large anchor tenant," City Center CEO J.B. Reilly said Tuesday. "We don't have a large anchor tenant committed."

Here's what J. B. Reilly meant:

"There are just no major office users left in the Lehigh Valley for us to poach and move to Downtown Allentown. We also can't find another major user like National Penn Bank to steal from another Pennsylvania location and relocate them to Allentown using the NIZ subsidy to do it. They just aren't there. We are disappointed and we are hoping that my good friend Pat Browne will come up with a solution to our problem, I know he can do it."

Senator Browne commented that perhaps the NIZ wasn't enough to help a now struggling City Center and Allentown. "We may need to provide Allentown with more subsidies to help them attract the kinds of businesses that don't appear to be interested in Allentown any longer." One option would be to allow Redevelopment Capital Assistance dollars to now be used in the NIZ, said Browne. "We can't let, City Center, I mean, Allentown, down. They are, too big to fail."

This is oh so-so do-so-pa.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lance Colondo Warned Me Not to Post This Picture


So there I was, minding my own business at Nazareth Boro Council's Monday night meeting. Though I had considered unloading on them again, I had already made my points on Thursday night. A repeat would be overkill. Besides, I usually prefer to listen. Just as the meeting was about to end, Council member Lance Colondo decided to excoriate a citizen.

That citizen would be me.

He basically called me out for dishonesty because I posted a picture of him, with my own face superimposed, containing the caption, "Lance Colono with his favorite blogger."

According to Colono he had received numerous emails and calls from my readers and "supporters" taking him to task. He never named these readers, most likely because none are that stupid.

Anyone who read my blog and looked at that picture would know I was having a little fun. As I explained to the good ol' boys when they finally allowed me to respond, I have every right in the world to lampoon  government officials. The more thin-skinned, the better.

I referred Lance and the rest of Council to this strange document called the "Bill of Rights." The very first one if them, called the First Amendment, gives me the right to do exactly what I did, especially to a Facebook picture that he posted for the world to see. I suggested he read it. It's not that long and contains no big words.

Je suis Bernie.

I didn't get into the fair use doctrine, which I suspect he would not understand.

I considered going with this undoctored photo, also from his Facebook page.


Blackface zombie! Very PC. Nothing like that to give the impression Nazareth is free of bias.

But I opted in favor of the kinder, gentler, photo, even though it took some work on my part to get my mug in there.

While Colondo was essentially calling me dishonest, he neglected to mention this other undoctored photo from his Facebook page, in which he brags about an expensive Christmas present from a friend in the local Chamber of Commerce.


He explained that was a gift from a friend in the Chamber.. I already knew that, and that's more or less the point. He then went on to explain all the selfless hours he puts in with the Chamber and how he doesn't get a dime and asked me what a person like me does.

"Expose people like you and a Mayor who steals," was my answer.

Like the previous meeting, this one was packed, too. And whenever Colondo or Stoudt would take a shot, the room thundered with applause, in which other Council members joined as well. Carl Srtye gave a report, by the way. He announced that there were 34 crimes and 13 arrests in the previous month. I couldn't help wondering whether he counted himself.

I mentioned that when Colondo attempted to spar with me.

DA: Justice For Sugar Means Minor Charges Against N Catty Cop


When North Catasauqua police officer Leighton Pursell euthanized an injured domestic shorthair cat named Sugar on December 6, 2015, did he break the law? According to DA John Morganelli, the answer is yes. But after an extensive investigation, he announced on Monday that only summary charges are warranted, and that's only because Officer Pursell failed to first obtain two written certificates from reputable citizens confirming that that Sugar was injured beyond recovery. recovery. Pursell has been charged with the equivalent of a parking ticket. Morganelli cleared him of more serious charges, while lashing out at a "mob mentality" in which public was "unnecessarily enraged" by false information that made its way into social media and even included calls for murder charges.

An online petition at Change.org, signed by over 212,000 people, has called for more serious criminal charges, as well as Officer Pursell's "immediate termination."

According to the DA's investigation, which was conducted by Detective John Casciano, Officer Pursell responded to a radio dispatch of an "injured cat" in the backyard of Michael Leinert's home at 1112 American Street. Leinert noticed that the cat appeared to be injured in its hind quarter. When he approached the cat, it hissed at him. Upon his arrival, Officer Pursell observed signs of mange, saw an exaggerated limp and observed a blood trail leading to a grill area where the feline had moved. There were no reports of a missing cat, and it wore no collar. There were reports at the time of cats with rabies, including two cats in North Catasauqua. There are no facilities for stray cats, and the Borough police department's "use of force policy" specifically authorizes police to destroy an animal "as a humanitarian measure when the animal is seriously injured." Officer Pursell made a judgment call to humanely end the life of the cat with a single shot from his department-issued .38 caliber revolver, after which he placed the cat in a plastic bag for disposal.

Two days later, after owner Thomas Newhart retrieved Sugar's remains from the police department, he took the cat to Stanglein Veterinary Clinic in Northampton. Dr. Nathan Stanglein was unable to perform a full necropsy but was able to determine that there were no rib or pelvic fractures commonly found with a vehicle injury. Because there was no report of a human bite or scratch, he performed no rabies tests. He saw no evidence that the cat had been mauled by another animal, or that there was any bruising or trauma. Dr. Stanglein stated that he had treated Newhart's other pets, but not Sugar.

In deciding whether to file more serious charges of cruelty to animals, Morganelli found no evidence that Officer Pursell acted maliciously. He is a graduate of Northampton Community College, Lock Haven University, the Allentown Police Academy and serves in the National Guard. Past employers told investigators that Pursell was a reliable, honest and hard-working officer. But though Pursell may have felt that Sugar was seriously injured, Dr. Stanglein was unable to confirm that opinion. Moreover, the homeowner who first called police, Michael Leinert, thought that Sugar was not seriously injured, despite the blood and the limp.

Morganelli concluded that Officer Pursell should have made more of an effort to isolate the animal and obtain medical care instead of deciding on his own that the animal should be euthanized.

Morganelli added that Newhart, Sugar's owner, bears some of the responsibility for this tragedy. On three previous occasions, animals owned by Newhart had run off, including Sugar. Morganelli chastised Newhart for his failure to have a collar or other identifying information on Sugar. "His negligence created a situation which helped lead to a tragic event," said the DA.

He also rebuked Attorney Jenna Fliszar for a misleading letter claiming that there were no injuries to Sugar. "This information led thousands of people to form opinions based on false information," he observed.

Fliszar, who was at the announcement, dismissed the admonition that the cat should have been collared because it was an indoor cat.  She added that Officer Pursell should never have discharged his weapon without "getting all the facts."

A Facebook page named Justice For Sugar pledges, "[W]e will not give up. We will continue to seek Justice for Sugar."

Prominent criminal defense attorney Gary Asteak, who represents Officer Pursell, responded that the public outcry "really is motivated by 180,000 signatures on a Petition circulated by a lawyer that loves to sue cops for shooting animals. He added that "Cat Lives Matter" is a "HUGE movement."

Morganelli laments that the real problem is the increasing number of stray cats and dogs. A report commissioned by former NorCo Exec John Stoffa in 2013 determined that stray cats an outnumber stray dogs by as much as four to one, but there are no provisions to deal with sick, injured or stray cats.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Federal Pay-to-Play Investigation Wider Than Allentown, Reading

Back in July, I told you how I thought the federal investigation into pay-to-play in Allentown and reading got its start. That's because Federal District Court Judge John E. Jones III seemed to be in no hurry to impose sentence against a state official who pleaded guilty shaking down vendors for campaign contributions. I speculated then that McCord was obviously providing prosecutors with useful information. His attorney admitted as much to the press at the time of McCord's February guilty plea. "In the fullness of time . . . you will have a lot to write about."

That prediction has come true.

At the current time, a status conference for McCord is scheduled for October.

We also now know, thanks to The Philadelphia Inquirer, that both McCord and Governor Ed Rendell's former chief of staff, John Estey, were wearing wires. Estey, who was at one time earning $736,000 a year from the Hershey Trust, embezzled $20,000 given to him by the FBI for illegal contributions.

It's unclear how extensively Estey was used. But according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McCord recorded 2,000 phone conversations.

On February 3, 2014, Pawlowski bowed out of the Governor's race, claiming that his "time and focus needs to be concentrated on the continued revitalization of Allentown." He immediately endorsed Rob McCord, who was standing by his side along with several Pawlowski puppets like State Reps. Mike Schlossberg and Pete Schweyer. McCord said that Pawlowski would play a "vital role" in the McCord administration. That very day, Pawlowski gave McCord $10,000 of other people's money from his Governor PAC, and sweetened the pot with another $5,000 on May 8, 2014.

Fleck's business client, Abe Atiyeh, provided McCord with $1,000 worth of billboard advertising. His political client, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer, provided McCord with a $7,000 campaign mailer and GOTV efforts.

Miked Fleck, who had already earned $33,500 from Pawlowski, now started billing McCord. He was paid $42,301.19 for his services between February 6, 2014 and May 18, 2014.

Representing two gubernatorial candidates, Fleck had raked in $75,801.19.

McCord did manage to pick up some Lehigh Valley support in a March visit. Easton Mayor Sal Panto, a Pawlowski and Fleck ally, gleefully bashed now Governor Wolf, claiming that “Democrats want someone who wants to work and earn a paycheck.” Later that day, Fed Ed took McCord on a tour of his realm at the Allentown's Farmers Market, using Schlossberg as a flunkie to carry the food bestowed upon the duo. According to reporter John Micek, who was shadowing them that day, both Pawlowski and Schlossberg "will ramble on about [McCord's] wonderfulness if they’re asked."

McCord's shakedowns began in recorded telephone calls he placed between April 18 and May 6, 2014.

Though Fed Ed is the big fish to people in the Lehigh Valley, this appears to be a far-ranging investigation into pay-to-play. It could extend well beyond Allentown, and seems to be focused on Democrats.

Why Nazareth Needs a New Government

Nazareth Legion
On Thursday night, during a fractious meeting, I called for resignations from Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye and the entire Borough Council. Strye is an admitted thief facing third degree felony charges for skimming $8,000 from the Vigilance Hose, a social club routinely raided for illegal gambling. He has waved his preliminary hearing, something no innocent person would do. As Mayor, he remains in overall charge of the local police. Any rational person would be outraged. Not Borough Council. They have his back. And for good reason. They are part of a culture of corruption in this tiny borough, too.

That proverbial fox is in the henhouse. Yet people at Thursday night's meeting complained, not about Styre, but bad press. Council and its pom-pom waving downtown business manager complained, not about Strye, but me.

I would recommend  the accounts appearing in The Morning Call (clean version) and Express Times.(down-and-dirty) over my own story because it is very difficult for me to provide a factually accurate rendering of an event in which I am one of the players.  The Express Times version generated comments that were pretty much like the meeting itself, with numerous personal attacks aimed at yours truly. At one time, there were close to 300 online comments. At least 70 of the more vicious attacks have deleted, but enough remain to give you the flavor of what it was like at that meeting. .

I was speaking during courtesy of the floor, which is the one time that citizens are statutorily allowed to discuss matters. I was repeatedly interrupted by Lance Colondo and Larry Stoudt with personal insults. After I finished, both of them chose to personally attack me during courtesy of the floor, when it is the people who should have the floor. When I attempted to respond to their epithets, the gavel nearly broke as they attempted to shut me up.

Lance Colondo  and his tequila
Two years ago, I told Borough Council that they needed to take control or the borough would be hit with both civil rights litigation and a DA's investigation. They chose to ignore me, and the result has been several civil rights lawsuits as well as a Grand Jury investigation.

There's a culture of corruption. The kind in which Lance Colondo can brag at Christmas about getting a 1972 Tour Rolling Stones Edition Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila from the local Chamber of Commerce that can go for as much as $150 a bottle (it could also be as little as $30) after voting in October to double the payment to the downtown manager to $20,000.

The American Legion Grant

In the meantime, in October of last year, Borough Council unanimously applied for a $52,900 grant from Monroe County's Gaming Authority to benefit the Nazareth American Legion. They all thought it was a good idea to use the public purse to benefit a private entity whose membership is restricted.

Not only that, but a private social club where Council member Larry Stoudt works as a bartender. Now he claims h;'s received no salary there for the past three years, but I know for a fact he is tipped. He definitely has a financial interest in the success of that club. So much so that he was criminally charged and placed on ARD  after trying to force.local police to run a license plate of a suspected state police undercover agent.

And then re-elected.

That Borough Council allowed this to happen is a badge of corruption. Even if you remove Stoudt completely from the picture and forget the fact that public money is going to a private club with a restricted membership, the fact remains that Borough Council unanimously voted to seek $52,900 in public funds for a club that has fined seven times since 2000 for falsifying records, gambling and gambling machines, sales to nonmembers, and serving visibly intoxicated patrons. You can see the ugly truth for yourself, from the state liquor control board site, below.

HAROLD V. KNECHT POST HOME ASSOCIATION
158 S MAIN ST
NAZARETH PA
18064-2021
CITATION CASE INFORMATION

Case: 2000-0836 - Penalty: FINE - ($250.00)

Case: 2000-1452 - Penalty: FINE - ($450.00)

Case: 2007-0535 - Penalty: FINE - ($600.00)

Case: 2010-2228 - Penalty: FINE - ($650.00)\

Case: 2013-0506 - Penalty: FINE - ($2600.00)

Case: 2013-2363 - Penalty: FINE - ($300.00)

Case: 2013-2642 - Penalty: FINE - ($400.00)
The public interest is very poorly served by a handout like this.

Due Process and Dark Clouds

Colondo and Carl Fischl both pointed out that Council has no power to force a sitting Mayor to resign. No argument there. But they can ask.

At their January 20 meeting, Allentown City Council unanimously called on Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski to resign, even though no criminal charges arepending against him. Most of those who backed this resolution were his political supporters. He is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence.

But that's not the point. The point, as stated in the resolution itself, is that "a series of cumulative events have put the government of the City of Allentown in a critically unfavorable light in the community." The "allegations have brought the City into disrepute and created a negative work environment making it difficult to effectively conduct city business." Fed Ed has become "a detriment to the well-being of the City, its residents and city employees." He is " no longer an effective leader and can no longer carry out the duties of the Office of Mayor."

Allentown has been under the dark cloud of a federal investigation since July. There'a another dark cloud here is Nazareth, where the Mayor has been charged with felony theft and the relationship between Nazareth and its social clubs is under scrutiny.

The criminal charges against Strye renders him ineffective as a leader and certainly presents a problem for the police department, whose boss is an accused felon.

Stephanie Varone, the downtown manager, thinks this "toxic" blog is responsible for Nazareth's woes. Actually, it's a culture of corruption with no transparency and no accountability. The criminal charges against Strye have more to do with giving Nazareth a black eye than anything I could ever say.

Only the Landed Gentry Matter

The part of the meeting that astonished me most was when John Samus asked those who own property to
raise their hands, and then personally interrogated me about home ownership. The necessary implication was that only those who own homes should have a voice in government.

This patrician thinking is completely contrary to our form of government. My vote counts just as much as Ray Orwig's, who owns half the real estate in this borough. But that's another indication that local government hereis corrupt. Instead of representing everyone,the good ol' boys arepretty much intersted in themselves.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Opinions Online, 4/30/16

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. 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.

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I believe that Montgomery County uses the same property record software as Northampton County, yet the Montgomery County implementation provides much more information--including ownership history. The tools are available for Northampton; they're just not being fully utilized.

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i AGREE, THE ncpub.org website is usually inaccessible to a person who wants to look up comparable properties, or wants to research a potential property. Let's face the real estate agents can't get all the info correct all of the time, and if the records are incorrect how do you fix them ? Go to court like Bob Rudas did ?

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You have to love the trails of litter on I-78 and Route 22 that lead to the renaissance downtown! When was the last time you saw a PennDOT litter crew working the roadways? Been a while, hasn't it.

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I've never cared before, until I had to pay. Do you have any idea how it much it costs to deliver soap and deodorant, or a card to an inmate at NCP? Or make a call, when the inmate calls you? Who collects the fees; are they recorded? Why not? Now N.C. is on line for prisoner candy bars and soap, and the price to supply is robbery. Who gets the Vigorish?

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Bernie:
Great job on the elections.

G. John Bryant, Jr.

Blogger's Reply: Thanks, John. I did a poor job covering the Senate race, but tried to do a good job covering the contested state house races in the LV.

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From a Facebook post by Jim Reinhart 4/27/16....So today at work we look out the window to see two Nazareth Borough workers removing a monument and flag pole at the corner of Spruce and Belvidere Streets. To our disbelief they did not take the American flag down before removing the pole. Thus they dragged the pole along the ground to their truck. Then set the flag and pole on the ground. THEN removed the flag. I had to go out to just inform the workers that now the flag MUST be destroyed PROPERLY. I felt that this was necessary since they didn't appear to know flag etiquette. The worker I spoke to was only saying that they were taking it to the Legion. I asked if they would tell they Legion that the flag touched the ground. He said they would. I asked then if he knowingly let the flag touch the ground and he did. This infuriated me and said I would call his supervisor. I was told to and "good luck". As I walked away I did swear but not at him. He said he was going to call the cops. Go ahead and I also said to call his supervisor. He then told me to walk away. I called the public works office with no answer. Then I called the main Borough number and talked to the lady there. She didn't seem to understand the impact this had on me. She would pass along my information to the supervisor. Guess what? Turns out the guy I talked to is the supervisor. What a great example he is. All I know is his name is Bob. Then I wanted to talk to the mayor but I remembered he was just arrested for stealing money from the fire department. Have to love working in Nazareth. My passion for the flag comes from my grandfather, father, uncles and friends that have fought for my freedom. No matter what, NO ONE has a right to desecrate the American flag. I will not stand by quietly when I see this.
Blogger's Reply: These allegations were strongly denied at the Borough Council meeting, not by Public Works but a WWII vet named Frank Adams. I did not hear from Public Works and left before the meeting was over. Apparently, a flag did touch the ground. Borough workers claim it was accidentally, while Reinhart says it was intentional..

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Unless Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee, I can't see any possibility of a Cruz or Kasich defeating Hillary Clinton. If anyone reading does, please explain.

In a General Election, we'll need to factor in Independents, unattached (like me), plus a huge loss of votes from rabid , disappointed Trump supporters. Consider, too, a recent poll showing 46% of Bernie Sanders voters who claim they will feel cheated by his Primary loss and then vote for Trump over Hillary.

Understanding the media is heavily biased toward the Democratic Party, the Republican Party leadership is a group of delusional fools, how in the world could a Cruz, Kasich , or some last-minute alternative draw more votes than Trump?

Fred Windish

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The local Express-Times newspaper reported a story about a City Council member being assaulted by the member's spouse. They also reported the victim's name. I find this reprehensible. The newspaper generally does not post names of domestic violence victims, but in this case they choose to do it. This is horrible. Just because one is an elected public official, they should still get the right to privacy when it comes to an issue like this. I pray that the City Council member is okay after this attack.

Blogger's Reply: The victim herself called attention to the issue, so this is an unfair criticism.

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Ever since Anne Werkheiser Shoe Store closed, if it wasn't for Holy Family Gymnasium, Paul's Army Navy store, and Pott's Doggies, I would not have a reason to go to Nazareth. I won't even step foot into Gracedale. The Mayor of Nazareth and Council should be proud of what they created. I hope the Sticker Gang makes stickers for the Mayor and Council.

Blogger's Note: Let me give you some good reasons to go to Nazareth, aside from the great businesses you mentioned. 1. Pizza Joe - Perhaps the best Italian food in the Lehigh Valley at reasonable prices in a family atmosphere. 2. Hana Sushi. - The best sushi you will find in this area, according to the experts. 3. Rios - Magnificent Brazilian steakhouse, where the meat melts in your mouth. 4. Rice 'n Beans - great Latin cuisine and a fusion of American cuisine. 5. Nazareth Diner - perhaps the best diner food in this area, rivaled only by the nearby 248 Diner. 6. Nazareth Ace Hardware - reasonably priced with a personal touch. 7. Lynn's Florist. - She is a flower herself. She is that kindhearted. 8. The Pie Shop. - This is one of he stores Varone touts as coming to main and she can giver herself credit for that, but it has always been in Nazareth and is great. 9. Nazareth Music Store.- This has everything a budding musician needs and even offers lessons. There's lots of great places in Nazareth already.

Nazareth is a great place. Its government sucks, and i doubt very much that many more businesses will be moving in with a Mayor who is an admitted thief and council members who meddle in police business, making the borough a laughing stock.

Friday, April 29, 2016

NorCo Jail Investigator Under Investigation

Christopher Naugle, an investigator at Northampton County jail, is apparently under investigation himself. He was recently escorted out of the jail and placed on paid administrative leave. Human Relations officials have declined all comment on a personnel matter. I have some details, but they are only rumor.

Nazareth Circles the Wagons

Lance Colondo with his favorite blogger
Note: This is obviously my spoof.
Last time I visited Nazareth's thin-skinned Borough Council, nearly two years ago, I brought cupcakes. They were tossed in the garbage. Things were even worse last night when I decided to mosey over and chime in on theft charges filed against Mayor Carl Strye for skimming at the Vigilance Hose. Before the night was over, I had been called venomous, a cancer, a disbarred lawyer with no credibility, a landless peasant and a variety of other insults I'm unable to recall at the moment. It was chaos, mayhem and misery. My work was done. I had called on each and every one of them to resign. Unable to argue facts, these petty tyrants descended into name-calling.

When I arrived at Council, what caught my attention was how jocular they all were. Not a care in the world despite serious criminal charges of theft against the Mayor. It was still business as usual for the good ol' boys.

I also noticed that the room was packed with what appeared to be about 20 residents. I assumed that several of them would demand the Mayor's resignation for an admitted theft.

I assumed wrong. One fellow wanted to know about street sweeping and driveways on Green Street. Another talked about flowers in the circle and the need to combat the bad press and tell the good news about Nazareth. "This town rises to the occasion," said a male cheerleader who completely ignores the reality is that the worst thing you can ever do is ignore bad government. Then there's Becky Butz, who was in a tizzy last year over mailers by the Nazareth Borough Police union to raise money for scholarships. She had nothing to say about criminal charges against the boss of that police department. She instead spoke about plants until we were all ready to wither away.

They were all ignoring the elephant in the room.

A culture of corruption in Nazareth.

I chose to confront it head on. I barely got three sentences out before Lance Colondo, the newbie on Council, began interrupting. Colondo, who looks as though he just stuck his fingers in an electric socket, was unwilling to entertain any criticism at all. If he could dig a hole and his spiked-hair head could fit inside, he would put it there. 

But facts are facts.

Nazareth Borough Council was warned two years ago that, unless it acted, it would be facing a shitload of civil rights lawsuits. Now it is.. Amazingly, some of them are from their own police officers. Nazareth has already paid one police officer off with $440,000, the largest sum I know of for a police officer in the Lehigh Valley claiming a civil rights violation.

Nazareth Borough Council was warned two years ago that, unless it did something, the DA would start sticking his nose into what's going on. Now he is. The result is theft charges against the Mayor for skimming at the Vig Hose. And who's to say it ends there? I certainly don't.

I point blank accused him of lying to my face when I asked him about the Grand Jury. The man who wanted to handle things "in house" couldn't even look me in the eye. But Colondo and soon others began shouting away.

"You're a disbarred lawyer!" shouted Colondo, reporting news that is now 31 years old.

"Stop the presses!" I retorted.

I also slammed Borough Council for unanimously voting last year to seek a $52,900 gaming grant from Monroe County for the American Legion.

That is a private social club, and this is of absolutely no benefit to the Borough, unless you like to gamble.

"What were you thinking?" I asked them.

Amazingly, Council member Larry Stoudt  voted for it even though he tends bar there and was actually placed on ARD not long ago for trying to use police resources to find out who is diming the clubs.

This is a clear conflict of interest, but Stoudt last night claimed he is an unpaid volunteer. That is horseshit because I know for a fact that he accepts tips there.

None of them seemed to understand that you don't spend public money on a private social club.

In the meantime, we have a police department going to hell in a handbag with a police chief, a police commissioner in charge of two full-time cops as well as one part-timer who does not back up other officers and likes to go on 70 mph chases.

When I was done exercising my right to speak, which I had to do over their shouting voices, they of course retaliated with epithets instead of addressing the facts.

The only one who came close to actually responding was Carl Fischl, who announced everyone is entitled to due process of law. That is certainly true, but I am not asking Council to hang the Mayor. I want him to resign, and so should they.  He admitted to his theft in grand jury testimony and has waived his preliminary hearing. Innocent Mayors don't do that. He's slinking around for an "in house," as he would put it, deal.

Allentown City Council, to its credit, has unanimously called on Fed Ed to resign, and he hasn't even been charged. He's entitled to due process, too, but City Council believes that the federal investigation is a dark cloud over Allentown that won't be lifted until he is gone.

The same situation is true in Nazareth.

Thee rest were just insulting, and would applaud each other's epithets. The audience was on their side, too.

How dare I speak poorly of the good ol' boys!

One of the biggest cheerleaders, pom poms and all, was downtown manager Stephanie Varone, who complained that I am a "cancer" preventing her from bringing five businesses to Nazareth by June 1.

Varone has 20,000 reasons to be a cheerleader. But she's wrong. Businesses will not come to a town run by a thief or a top-heavy police department that is failing miserably. . .

The highlight of the night, for me, was when John Samus wanted everyone who owns real estate in Nazareth to rise their hands. Most people did. I did not.

Then he asked me, "Do you own a home?"

I don't, and he was very pleased with himself.

"Does this mean I'm a second class citizen?" I asked.

"No."

"Are you saying that only the landed gentry may speak?"

"No."

"Then what is your point?"

His only point was to establish that, unlike the good ol' boys. I am poor. I'm part of the riff raff and need not be taken seriously.

I am under the impression that every citizen has equal rights, regardless whether he owns real estate and pays property taxes.  I know my vote counts as much as a millionaire's.  That means something comes election time. These people need to be removed from the offices in which they've become far too entrenched.

I will work very hard next year to ridding the borough of these weeds.

Korean War Boringqueneer Receives Congressional Gold Medal

On Monday,  I was at the LV Hispanic Center in South Bethlehem to cover a well-attended Town Hall with Mayor Bob Donchez. I had no time to tell you the story, but did give you a teaser. Hispanic Center Executive Director Lorna Velázquez, who is like a mother to so many at that center, intoduced me to an elderly gentleman named Enrique Vazquez Vega.

He was a Boringqueneer.

That's the 65th Infantry Regiment, comprised primarily of Puerto Ricans, which made its mark during the Korean War. That regiment earned nine Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts.

Their meritorious service actually demanded even more recognition, but problems in translation made it difficult for a mostly English-speaking Army to decide what was deserved.  So Congress recently decided to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment , the highest civilian honor it can bestow, on the Boringqueneer.

Each soldier who served received a replica of the medallion.

Enrique Vazquez Vega, who served in both the Korean War and in Panama, received one of those medallions.

Mayor Donchez: "The South Side Is Not Forgotten"

Mayor Bob Donchez
Every year, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez sets aside three days for walks in the neighborhoods of the north, west and south sides. Accompanied by staff, he usually carries a few smoke detectors to hand out, along with batteries. He wraps up with a town hall, where he'll answer concerns in that specific community. Donchez grew up on Bethlehem's South Side and mentioned his roots with pride following his most recent South side walk. His town hall was at the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Center, and was attended by about 40 residents. Reminding everyone that he grew up just a block away on Evans Street, he assured his audience that "the South Side is not forgotten, believe me!"

Donchez, a transparency advocate, started things off by providing his home telephone number. 610-868-4680. "Feel free to call me anytime and leave a message," he said. "I'll call you back." In addition, he told the group that he conducts open office hours on the second Monday of every month, when citizens can see him without an appointment, between 9 and 11 am or 1 and 3 pm.

During his walk, Donchez was "proud to see so many homes being rehabilitated." He believes zoned garbage hauling, in which refuse is picked up on Mondays and Tuesdays, has made the area more attractive. He was happy to report that crime is down, with more cameras, more marked and unmarked police vehicles and more police in the neighborhood. He encouraged people concerned about drug activity at specific properties to report the address.

He introduced Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who he called "the most popular man in Bethlehem." The audience roared in delight when DiLuzio announced who he is in Spanish - "el jefe de policia."

About 40 residents met Donchez at the Hispanic Center
"We need to work together to break down walls, break down barriers," said Donchez, referring to Bethlehem as the "jewel of the Lehigh Valley."

Donchez filled in his south side audience on the bridges connecting to the north side. The Fahy Bridge improvements, started in March, will go on for 18 months. At the end of the year, work will begin on the Lynn Avenue bridge, and that should last until Fall 2017. When will work on Rte 412 finally end? Donchez said the project will be finished in August.

He also discussed the Benner building and 600-space municipal parking garage at 3rd and New. In addition to the 200 employees that St. Luke's Hospital will bring, he added there's a "good possibility" that St.Luke's will bring another department. But not without the garage."No garage, no St. Luke's, no Lehigh," he explained.

In response to concerns raised by the audience about the $17 million cost, Donchez stated that one parking space there comes with a price tag of $26,000. He noted that parking revenues will pay for the garage, and that meter rates would only go up once every five years, if necessary.  He also noted that physical therapy patients visiting St. Luke's are unable to walk.

William Seixas has been a vocal opponent of the garage,. He explained that's not because he opposes the garage, but is concerned about losing access to his residence on Graham Place. But he complimented Mayor Donchez and his administration because he claims they listened to him, evenif theyy disagreed. "In New York, I'm just a number," he said. "But here, I matter."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Zoners Ponder Offices in Bethlehem's Historic District

After a four and a half hour hearing at their April 27 meeting, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board has decided to wait until next month to decide whether to approve plans that allow Morning Star Partners to locate a financial services business at the northwest intersection of West Market and North New Streets. This unique property, known both as 2 West Market and 511 North New Streets, is located in the heart of the City's historic district, and about 35 residents were on hand to speak for or against the project. The Board usually decides these cases immediately after the hearing. But questions raised at the end of the hearing by Board member Michael Santanasto, who is an attorney in private practice, left Board members feeling they need more time.

They will make a decision at their May 25 meeting, but with only four members. Vice Chair Bill Fitzpatrick declared he had a potential conflict of interest at the onset, and recused himself.

Zoning attorney Jim Preston, who represented Morning Star Partners,called Mark Bahnick from Van Cleef Engineering to explain what is being proposed. The Morning Star property includes a single-family residence facing West Market, a garage, two apartments and two retail businesses facing North New Street, known as the green buildings. The home, known as the Schadt house, is a single-family residence built in the 1840s. The green buildings, first built in the 1820s, are retail establishments and once included the manufacturer of brass instruments for the Moravian Church. These all pre-dated Bethlehem's zoning ordinance, and thus the mixed use of residential and commercial was grandfathered, It is called a "non-conforming use."

Bahnick explained plans toe xtend that nonconforming use by converting the single family home, as well as the retail buildings, into office space for Morning Star. Construction manager Jim Kostecky testified that Morning Star would invest $64,000 into exterior and another $722,000 for interior improvements for an office building with 14 employees.

Kori Lannon explained that she and three other financial advisers at Merrill Lynch, broke away to found their own firm under the tutelage of Herman Rij. It's called Quadrant Private Wealth. She said this property represents an opportunity for her firm to "become part of the fabric of Historic Bethlehem." She added that what they would do would be "would be good for the neighborhood, good for Historic Bethlehem." She said she "wants to restore this building to what it was in its heyday. We want it to be majestic, and yet we want it to blend in with the neighborhood."

These plans were opposed by a trio of Historic Bethlehem residents that include Bruce Haines, Beall Fowler and Robert Romeril. They generally oppose extension of business in the Historic District. Haines argued that Morning Star could establish their business on West Broad Street,and would need no relief at all if they abindined the mixed use for pure residential. But according to Zoning Officers Suzanne Borzak, as many as seven apartments could be placed on the property's footprint.

Many more residents support the application. Suzanne Virgilio, who with her husband owns and operates the nearby Bethlehem Inn, produced a supportive petition signed by 114 Historic District residents.

The project also received the support of several merchants. Steve Kershner, who owns and operates the Twisted Olive, bluntly stated, "Business drives business." Diane Holt, owner of the Apollo Grill, said there needs to be a good mix of residences and businesses in Bethlehem. "We have a lot of empty stores right now. We have businesses that are leaving because of the NIZ in Allentown. ... We cannot afford to lose any more companies or any more stores." Holt drew a stark contrast between Rij, who has invested heavily in Bethlehem businesses and even its mounted police and "developers who do not even live in our City.

Herman Rij,Morning Star's senior partner,  told the Zoning Hearing Board he said he was "overwhelmed" by all the support his project has been received. He thanked Brice Haines and Beall Fowler for suggesting that they could find other locations. "Unfortunately, in a capitalistic system, we're allowed to acquire property and make investments where we choose to do so," he added.

He'll discover whether he's right when the Zoning Hearing Board decides this matter on May 25.

HOPE at Bethlehem City Hall Tonight

Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Division, in conjunction with the Center for Humanistic Change, will present a drug prevention education program this evening at Bethlehem's Town Hall, 6:30 pm.. It's called H.O.P.E., for heroin overdose prevention education.

What exactly is Heroin? Has it really become the leading cause of accidental death in the state? What are opioids? How do they relate to heroin? What are the signs you should look for when someone you love is using? What are health effects of heroin and opioid addiction? What does it impact relationships and work? Are there any local resources? Where can you go for help?

These questions and more will be answered.

"Educating the public is a key factor in helping to fight the heroin overdose epidemic that we are facing in our County," says Tiffany Rossanese, Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Administrator.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mattei Claims Write-In Victory in Emrick Race

Dave Mattei, a Nazareth businessman and retired New Jersey State Trooper who waged a last-minute write-in campaign against incumbent State Rep. Joe Emrick, is claiming victory. He believes he earned enough votes to be the Democratic nominee. Official word will have to wait until the votes are canvassed.  

The Man Who Couldn't Lose ... Lost

In his quest for the 17th Congressional District, Glen Geissinger has painted himself as a winner who would defeat Matt Cartwright where others have failed. He certainly would do better than Matt Connolly, who is 0-3 in runs for elective office. Well, Geissinger the winner is now Geissinger the loser.  Matt Connolly has beat him convincingly, and is now on his way to getting his ass kicked up and down the northern tier by Matt Cartwright.

Maybe Geissinger will now start doing the job he was elected to do.

Lady MacBeth Falls to Dumbo

Cindy Miller, who I dubbed lady MacBeth this election cycle because of a mean-spirited campaign that included a campaign announcement before incumbent Julie Harhart announced her retirement, as well as an unpopular nomination challenge to Marc Grammes, has been defeated in a race she should have won. She has lost to perhaps one of the ill-informed candidates I have ever seen. Zach Mako. You can call him Dumbo. This makes it far more likely that Democrat Phillips Armstrong will be elected.

Simmons Crushes Coyle

If you've read any of the comment threads on this blog concerning Bill Coyle's state house challenge to Justin Simmons, you'd know that Simmons was going to win. Still, Simmons' 78-22 smackdown had to be a surprise, even to him.

On Facebook, Simmons was pretty gracious to Coyle. Justin is waiting to see if a Democratic write-in like Joanne Jackson has prevailed.

Pa Democrats Make GOP Success in Fall Likely

The very same Democratic establishment that failed to do anything about AG Kathleen Kane has now opened the door to a certain GOP victory in the Fall, at least among statewide candidates. The Obama Rendell Wolf Groen faction has managed to elect the worst possible standard bearers for their party in the Offices of U.S. Senate and Attorney General. Instead of picking an independent voice like Sestak, they wanted McGinty, who they could control. In the AG race, they elected politically ambitious Josh Shapiro, who has never seen the inside of a courtroom. These candidates will both fail in the fall, and drag down several good Democrats with them.

A Day at the Polls

As I mentioned to you yesterday, I was busy yesterday working as an election judge in Hanover Tp. The elections office suffers from a shortage of poll workers. This is a good way to pick up a little cash while simultaneously performing a public service. Poll workers get $175 for their work, while judges are paid $200. You can apply to become one by calling (610) 559-3055, but I'd wait a week or two.

It's long day. We start at 6 am, and judges like myself are not free until 9 pm or even later.

In my district, things got off to a bad start at 6 am when I turned on one of the machines and it just died. Fortunately, elections machine technician Dave was able to square me away over the phone in time to be ready for the 7 am opening.

I must have hounded the elections office with at least 30 calls. Someone in the Brown administration screwed up and the phones into the elections office itself were not working until 8:30 am.

One call was a result of my own stupidity, but the rest were attempts to find out precisely where several voters needed to go to exercise their rights.

In all but one case, we got them to the right place. In one instance, we blew it. A young man voting for the first time was not listed, and when I called in, I was told he is not registered. He assured me he was, and I suggested he go home to get his voter registration card. I told him if he couldn't find it, I would let him vote provisionally until elections officials could sort things out. I then called voter registration and learned that he was registered after all, and should be voting in another Hanover precinct. I hope he discovered that when he went home, but never heard back from him.

I also lost a vote. What I mean by that is that we had one more person signed on the register than actually voted. This happens when someone walks away without actually casting his ballot on the machine, and we miss it.

That likely happened when I was operating the machines so that the regular operator could take a break.

I also filled out four provisional ballots by Independents who insisted they were either Democrats or Republicans. One fellow told me he has changed his registration many times, but always shows up as a Republican. I got the opposite claim from a woman who said she is always listed as a Democrat.

Most people were very cheerful, even when bounced to as many as three different districts. Little flag stickers were a big hit. They were brought in by elections worker Ellen Solarek, and really made up for waiting in line or having gone to several different places.

One lady insisted that the elections office had "conveniently" removed several delegate candidates from the ballot. When she went home, she discovered that she had written down the wrong names. She made a point of coming back and saying she was sorry.

It was quite busy, with a little under 50% turnout.

My precinct is at a school,and the principal pulled me aside to ask me not to let people wander down the halls because of concerns raised by some parents. We did our best, and he rewarded us with coffee.