Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tales of Trachta: Trachta Loses Round With Civil Service Commission

In recent days, Nazareth police officer's Dan Troxell's name has appeared in the dailies a few times. Though making an arrest the day after a bar fight is hardly the stuff of which police legends are made, Chief Thomas Trachta wants this part-time journeyman to become a full-time officer. He wants it so badly that he blackballed a Nazareth resident and Iraq War veteran who scored first in testing and already is a police officer in another municipality.

Last night, at a closed hearing of Nazareth's Civil Service Commission, this war hero and Nazareth home boy has been reinstated to #1.

Under state law, an appointment to a vacancy on the police force must come from one of the top three choices of the Civil Service Commission. So it's possible that Borough Council can go with the second or third choice, but this will be hard to justify.

Karen Dolan Plays the Spin Game

Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan likes to remind people like me that she's a former reporter. And at this moment, she's playing the spin game. Though she's been forced to resign as Executive Director at Illick's Mill, she sent out a news release as "Founder" on Sunday. Apparently, she's shutting it down. Now I was under the impression that all communications concerning Illick's Mill were to come through Board Chair Andrew Bollinger. But rules don't apply to her. Today, at 1 pm, she will parade a number of Mill success stories, so that everyone knows how sad and unfair it is and get angry at the Mean Mayor and even meaner DA. 

Here's the skinny. It is beyond dispute that Illick's Mill served a noble function. Dolan had a great deal to do with its good works. But in recent years, she lost her way. She racked up nearly $130,000 in monies owed to the City, mainly because she was misallocating grant money provided for that purpose. Due to her own mismanagement, the Mill lost its nonprofit status. It failed to file tax returns for three years in a row. As a paid Executive Director, she engaged in blatant conflicts of interest that included voting for budgets in which she had a direct pecuniary interest. She stopped paying utilities at the facility, while installing a whopping nine room air conditioners. She threatened the Mayor that she would use her position on Council and as Parks Chair to prevent a new lease, and one that required a rent payment, from seeing the light of day. She began using the Mill for weddings at which alcohol in excess of the 7% limit was served. She suggested on Council that it was time to allow people to use alcohol in City parks.

The problems at the Mill occurred for one and only one reason - Karen Dolan.

The real reason for her "Poor Us, We're Closing" announcement, is to pressure Mayor Bob Donchez into giving her what she wants - a rent-free Mill with nine room air conditioners and free oil. Let the taxpayers and other non-profits subsidize her turtle aquarium. She needs to stir up the troops, and that is what she is doing.

Just as the right has extremists like Ronnie Del Wacko, the left has extremists like Gloria McVeigh. They were both shouting at each other on Sunday when they both abused KidsPeace children while pretending they care. But they are both united in their hatred of independent observers like yours truly. Here's what McVeigh has had to say.
This is just a tragedy. No other words suit. All thanks to two publicity-seeking ego-maniacs + one spineless political leader of Bethlehem. Nice work, guys! Of course, the poor + minority families who enjoy the Park most + could educate their kids on the environment for free are big losers, but they never have any political power, anyway. Dark day for Bethlehem.
Put in its simplest terms, McVeigh's argument is that violations of the Ethics Act are permissible so long as it helps a "poor and minority" family. These transgressions were no help to the poor or minorities. They helped Karen Dolan collect her paycheck. I pointed this out at Facebook, but Dolan deleted my comment, claiming I am no "friend"of the Mill. Actually, neither is she.

She is currently under investigation by a Grand Jury looking at her own very obvious mismanagement at the Mill. Yet she is telling her uninformed supporters things like this:

"It can't hurt to call or email the Mayor's office. He needs to know people care."

"Our current Mayor has never seen the Nature Center, despite his recent comments that he "loves what we have been doing here."

"Write a letter to the editor or the Mayor or both, speak out at a city council meeting."

What she's really doing is trying to spin both the press with stories about how wonderful the Mill is, while simultaneously trying to make the Mayor out as the Bad Guy.

What she doesn't get, even now, is that she's the Bad Guy.

I'll be there to remind everyone at 1 pm today. So far as I know, it is open to the public and press.

She needs to resign from City Council, unless Bethlehem likes having ethically conflicted people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jim Birdsall, Respected Municipal Engineer, Retires

Quietly competent. Grounded. Unassuming. Intelligent. Soft spoken. These are just some of the attributes that Hanover Engineering's Jim Birdsall has displayed in his decades as a Professional Engineer. Now a new word can be used to describe him. Retired.

Birdsall served in his last meeting as Hanover Township's engineer at their July 22 meeting. This 1965 Lehigh University engineering grad will continue to work, but only on a part-time basis. He began work at Hanover Engineering, an employee-owned firm in 1971, and eventually became its president.

He made sure to tell Hanover Township Supervisors they were "on target" before leaving. That's their unofficial motto.

Over the years, what has impressed him most is the dedication of the various municipal officials with whom he's worked. "It's wonderful to see the volunteers," he explained. "They're giving from their heart."

An Elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, Birdsall's deep faith is a quiet source of inspiration. "The blessings we have we shall share," he said with a faint smile.

Suki the Devil Dog

Right now, I should be telling you about Hanover Township's meeting last night, but I'm dog tired. The reason I'm dog tired is because I'm watching one. My grandson is on vacation for a few days and I was asked to keep Suki. I think I'm her favorite person, next to Dat and his Mom.

He's had her for seven years, since she was a pup.

She's a Jack-a-Poo, called the Captain Danger of Designer Dogs. She's half toy poodle, which gives her the sweetest disposition you'll ever see. But she's also half Jack Russell Terrier, which makes her insane. When people see her, they fall in love at how cute and cuddly she is, but she is a devil dog. With a smile.

She doesn't think she's small,by the way. In a dog park, she's not happy unless she's with the pit bulls and Rottweilers.

For the past four weeks, I've been walking and even running every day, trying to get into shape for S-Day. I was up to 3 miles last week, and feeling pretty good. It was not enough time.

When Suki is with Dat, she becomes the great athlete. Dat is always playing ball. If he's playing baseball, she thinks nothing of running into the outfield to get a fly ball and run it in to home. Sometimes. Other times, she just keeps going.

When Dat is playing football, she becomes a linebacker. Dat shouts "Down" and she starts growling. Then when the ball is snapped to him and he starts running, she tackles him mercilessly. He's pretty elusive on a football field, but not with her. She jumps and starts nipping his ass until he falls down laughing. But it does not stop there. She then tries, and sometimes succeeds, in taking his pants off and running off.

Dat has become a basketball player by default because that's one ball too big for her mouth.

When she's with me, it's a hunting trip. She loses all interest in football and baseball and becomes the Great Hunter. The last thing she wants to do is actually catch something, but she loves to corner it and bark away. She's been nailed by a skunk three times over the last seven years.

Always with me.

On Saturday, her first day with me, she managed to go swimming twice in various creeks and walked four miles. On Sunday, it was six miles, during which she went after three ground hogs. On Monday, she managed to figure a way under the fence at Essroc and went right into the quarry. I could hear all kinds of racket going back and forth, but she eventually emerged, very pleased with herself. Yesterday, I couldn't get up I was so damn tired. She eventually got me up by sitting on my face. She went easy on me. Four and a half miles.

Every night, when I go to bed, she has to jump in there with me. Then she takes the covers. Also, she drops these deadly farts that should be bottled and sold to the Defense Department.

Tomorrow, when I walk her, all kinds of little kids will stop and pet her. And because she is sweet, she will give each one of them a kiss. She does it to the senior ladies who sit on Mauch Chunk Street in Nazareth, too. She basks as they tell her how cute she is. Last night, the ladies yelled at me for not feeding her enough, which she must have loved hearing.

Suki has been eating chicken, steak, hamburger, hot dog, Vienna sausages and spam. She refuses to eat dig food when with me.

Don't be fooled by her small body and little smile. She's a Devil Dog. It is 11 pm, and she's ready for another walk.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bulldogs Blitz Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs

The Bulldogs show their game faces. 
Not long ago, Commissioner Michael Hudak said it's time for the Bethlehem Township (BTAA) Bulldogs to "pay to play." They get $40,000 every year from the Township, which also spends $30,000 per year to mow the grass. In addition, $20,140 in field rental fees are provided at no charge. As a matter of fairness, he said it's time that the Bulldogs start paying for field use.

Tom Nolan
As might be expected, this lone Commissioner's comment attracted about 80 Bulldogs to the July 21 Commissioners' meeting. Their President, Jon Nicholas presented a petition signed by 79 residents in opposition to field rental. Nicholas explained that, if forced to pay for field use, the Athletic Ass'n would have to raise enrollment fees, cut programs or simply cease to exist.

Nicholas reminded Commissioners that the BTAA (Bethlehem Township Athletic Ass'n), first formed in 1968, serves over 1,500 children. Mindful  of the "economic diversity"within the Township, their goal is to make room for every child who wants to participate in their various programs, from softball to football. In addition to providing camaraderie and building life experiences, Nicholas argued that the Bulldogs are a "nucleus for the community to get together and get to know one another."

Vincent Spina, a former BTAA President, echoed Nicholas. He reminded Commissioners that, a few years ago, they reduced their annual contribution from $55,000 to $40,000. He said a field use fee "would be devastating for our organization."

Barry Roth
Jim Bailey, a gentle giant from Wagner Farms, confessed he loves to watch the kids play. He sees no bullying, but does see good sportsmanship. "Our money is well invested in support of programs like this," he reasoned noting that the $40,000 annual contribution amounts to just 0.0245% of the Township's $16 million budget.  

Hudak did find support for an increase from Recreation Board member Barry Roth. He said that, over the past 20 years, he's seen the Township provide an office for BTAA records. Commissioners spent $280,000 for athletic fields that were supposed to be a band shell, and then spent $300,000 for lights that are sometimes left on until 6 am. "These are little costs, but add up in the long run," he noted. He pointed to a Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop that lost a meeting place when the Township decided to rent the building to the County for a DUI center. "Start sharing," he recommended.

After everyone had spoken, Hudak stated that he doesn't make decisions to get elected. "I represent the majority of the people," he them declared, and added he's been inundated with calls from people who agree with him. "I don't think it's too much to ask to pay for field rental," he insisted.

But to fellow Commissioner Tom Nolan, it is. Noting that he's been a resident of the Township for 37 years and has been involved with the Bulldogs himself, he stressed that the BTAA "serves the residents and especially the children." He assured the audience this is no "done deal," and that he would oppose any fee increase. "I do not want to dismiss that program based on the dollar sign," he concluded.

Then Hudak backtracked a bit, saying he really just wants to get "an official policy in place for using the fields" but he would oppose any participation in formulating that policy from the BTAA. "That's our job," he asserted.

While Commissioner Phil Barnard never addressed the field use issue, he made a point at the end of the meeting to thank the members of the BTAA who came, praising the organization for its work.

DA: If You Lie In Court, You Will Be Prosecuted

Citing a rash of recent cases in which people lie under oath and sometimes even submit fraudulent documents to the Court, Northampton Count District Attorney John Morganelli has issued a warning. "If you lie in court, you will be prosecuted and you will have a criminal record.

Morganelli cited several recent referrals from the Court of instances in which people either lie or produce false documents.

In a recent drunk driving sentencing, David Boyd told Judge Jennifer Sletvold that he was in the U.S. Army, and had been deployed to several different areas of the world during his five years of service. Probation officers later determined that this information was false. Now Bod faces perjury and false swearing charges.

In a support case, Samuel J Wilson altered W-2s to make it look as though nearly $34,000 in income was just $5,000. After a referral from Judge Paula Roscioli, he's been charged with multiple counts of tampering with public records.

In another support case, James Dougherty provided Judge Sletvold with a doctor's note indicating he was unable to work, but susbsequent investigation revealed it was altered. He's been charged with forgery and false swearing.

"These matters are serious and there appears to be a trend," noted Morganelli. He cautioned everyone from attempting to deceive the Court. "Our judges are smart and recognize perjured testimony and fraudulent documents when they see it," he said.

He promised the following charges will be brought against those who lie in court.

Perjury - a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine up to $150,000.

False swearing - a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and a fine up to $5,000.

Unsworn falsification to authorities - a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and a fine up to $5,000.

Tampering with public records or information. - a misdemeanor or a felony.

Most people charged with a crime as a first offense are entitled to participate in a specail program called ARD, where the charges are wiped clean after a period of probation. But the DA said he'd be disinclined to agree to ARD. "That sends the wrong message," he noted. "This goes to the integrity of our judicial system."

How NorCo Can Avoid A Tax Hike Next Year

I've written several times now that I don't know how Northampton County can avoid a tax hike next year. But yesterday afternoon, I met a statesman who explained how it can be done.

This year, the County is making a $13 ARC (required annual contribution) on the pensions. That's like making the minimum payment on a credit card. The County did well this year with investments. So next year, the County will have a lower ARC, but it will still be close to $13 million because these payments are based on a five-year average.

The suggestion is to pay only a $3 million ARC next year. That will giver the County $10 million in breathing room.

The downside to this suggestion is that it will be flagged by independent auditors and will damage the County's credit rating, making borrowing more difficult.

I do not endorse this plan, nor does the statesman who presented it. This just explains how it might be possible to keep a tax hike away another year, but at a very dear cost.

Easton GOP Spurns DelBacco's Bid For Chair

John Van Arman was easily re-elected as Easton's GOP Chair during their reorganization meeting at the YR club last night. It didn't take long to tabulate the results. Only nine committee members voted. Seven went Van Arman's way. The other two went to Ronnie DelBacco, the LV Tea Party Chair who just yesterday demeaned KidsPeace children by staging an anti-immigration rally at the doorsteps of the facility.

At the meeting, DelBacco said that if word of his latest loss were leaked to me, there would be hell to pay at the next County Committee meeting. So don't tell anyone.

I got the word from some illegal Mestizos, working in the kitchen.

I called my fired intern, Ron Angle, to corroborate this story. "Go to Hell, Bernie. I'm not going to embarrass poor Ronnie by telling you he only got two votes and one was his own. You can torture me if you want, but I want talk."

Then he hung up.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Are To Blame For The Surge of Unaccompanied Foreign Children

On Sunday, the local tea party established its complete disregard for children by conducting a boisterous protest at the doorstep of Salisbury Township's KidsPeace, a facility that houses children who already have enough troubles. American children, by the way. In addition to this child abuse, they donned surgical masks and carried signs saying things like "Illegal Mestizos are Bringing in Leprosy and Scabies". They are playing to our base instincts. But why are those children here? Are they hear to steal jobs? Is it because President Obama wants to recruit more Democratic voters, as some of these fear mongers suggest?  According to four-star Marine General John Kelly, who heads up the U.S. military's southern Command, it's our fault. Those Central American children are running for their lives and away from the drug wars fueled by our own appetites.

Mary O'Grady, in What Drove The Children North, sums up General Kelly's views:
In a July 8 essay in the Military Times headlined "Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security," Gen. Kelly explains that he has spent 19 months "observing the transnational organized crime networks" in the region. His conclusion: "Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world's number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake." He notes that while he works on this problem throughout the region, these three countries, also known as the Northern Triangle, are "far and away the worst off."

With a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 in Honduras, and 40 per 100,000 in Guatemala, life in the region is decidedly rougher than "declared combat zones" like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the general says the rate is 28 per 100,000.

How did the region become a killing field? His diagnosis is that big profits from the illicit drug trade have been used to corrupt public institutions in these fragile democracies, thereby destroying the rule of law. In a "culture of impunity" the state loses its legitimacy and sovereignty is undermined. Criminals have the financial power to overwhelm the law "due to the insatiable U.S. demand for drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin and now methamphetamines, all produced in Latin America and smuggled into the U.S."

Gen. Kelly agrees that not all violence in the region is linked to the drug trade with the U.S., but "perhaps 80% of it is." That's because of the insidiousness of the vast resources of kingpins. It's "the malignant effects of immense drug trafficking through these non-consumer nations that is responsible for accelerating the breakdown in their national institutions . . . and eventually their entire society as evidenced today by the flow of children north and out of the conflictive transit zone."

That migrant children are drawn to the U.S. when they decide to flee may very well have to do with the fact that they believe they will be able to stay because of an asylum law for children passed in 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush. But refugees from the Northern Triangle are seeking other havens as well. According to Marc Rosenblum of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, from 2008-13 Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran applications for asylum in neighboring countries—mostly Mexico and Costa Rica—are up 712%.

Gen. Kelly writes that the children are "a leading indicator of the negative second- and third-order impacts on our national interests." Whether the problem can be solved by working harder to bottle up supply, as the general suggests, or requires rethinking prohibition, this crisis was born of American self-indulgence. Solving it starts with taking responsibility for the demand for drugs that fuels criminality.
I realize these facts are not what the tea party wants to read, so I expect them to ignore it.

"Suffer the Little Children" ... Unless They're Illegal Mestizos

The New Testament is replete with examples of Jesus' love for children. "Suffer the little children to come unto me," was uttered in response to those who thought He had better things to do. This love for children is shared by all major religious traditions. But not the Lehigh Valley Tea Party.

They're blowin' oil because KidsPeace has agreed to accept some of the undocumented and unaccompanied children who, through no fault of their own, ended up in this country. They're being deported unless granted asylum. But we, as a civilized country, have an obligation to care for them until that time. As observed in Leviticus, "You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God."

On Sunday, a day when most families take their children to church, a small army of about 70 boisterous Lehigh Valley Tea Party protesters gathered outside Salisbury Township's KidsPeace. That nonprofit exists to tell children that they matter, even if they've been abused or neglected. But the tea party was there, blocking the entrance, and delivering the loud message that they are unwanted. They were led by Chair Ronnie DelBacco, a failed Easton School Board candidate. Also present were Northampton County Council member Hayden Phillips and failed judicial and Bethlehem City Council candidate Tom Carroll.

(NorCo Council member Hayden Phillips on far left of this picture, which shows tea party members blocking KidsPeace entrance). 

Three Salisbury Township police officers had their hands full, trying to keep people from getting killed along Broadway, a very busy road.  Some tea party members took to their motorcycles and cruised up and down Broadway, waving signs demanding President Obama's impeachment, along with Confederate flags.

They began filling up the parking lot of the nearby "6 Pack" tavern, whose foreign owner complained and asked them to leave.

"I thought this was a free country," snarled one of them, while others drove off.

It is, and in a free country, property owners have rights. Even if they have a foreign accent.

Ironically, as I learned from a recently retired KidsPeace worker, it is highly unlikely that the Salisbury facility will house any of these children. The Schnecksville facility is better suited, and it could very well be that a bus slipped in there while DelBacco and his crowd were blocking the Salisbury entrance.

I sure hope so.

So all the noise and hollering fell on the ears of American children, many of them already abused. This is similar to what happened a few days ago in Arizona, when the tea party descended on a yellow school bus full of what they thought were Central American migrants. They were YMCA campers, each one an American.

Collateral damage, to people like DelBacco.

Across the street, there was a smaller group of counter-protesters, led by Easton Attorney Joe Welsh.

The wild group of counter-protesters included dangerous children like the two you see in the picture below,* along with adult Jeremiah Lormand.

Counter-protester Kara Rosa struck a pose in the picture you see below.

Speaking of hypocrisy, that came when DelBacco decided to lead everyone in prayer.

To me, this is not about immigration. It's about how we treat children.

* Blogger's Note: I do question the wisdom of letting children attend these events. The whole point of my post is about taking better care of our children.

Tales of Trachta: Bail Conditions Relaxed For Sticker Gang

When Nazareth Police Chief Thomas Trachta chained, shackled and perp-walked the dangerous Sticker Gate for their Preliminary Arraignment before District Judge John Capobianco, located 50' away, he demanded some heavy-duty bail conditions. Though none of this trio had ever been charged with a drug offense (one was once charged with possession of drug paraphernalia), they were all ordered to undergo repeated drug testing. Another goofy bail condition is that they stay away from each other. Two of these Defendants are brothers who lived with each other. The net effect was to turn one of them into a vagabond, forced to sleep on a different couch every night. Freedom of association is nonexistent in Trachtatown, I guess.

On Friday, after a brief hearing before Judge Emil Giordano, those ridiculous bail conditions were removed.

"Is this the case I read about?" asked Judge Giordano..

"Stickergate," answered an attorney, and the courtroom started laughing.

There was no opposition from either the District Attorney's office or Pretrial Services. Not a single Nazareth cop in sight.

This is a brilliant tactical move by the legal dream team of Phil Lauer, Gary Asteak and Mark Minotti. By seeking relief in Court and getting it, they have sent a message to District Judge Capobianco. He should think twice or maybe even three times before taking any more recommendations from Chief Trachta.

Bethlehem Food Co-op Hosts a Picnic

To celebrate passing the 150-member threshold, Bethlehem's Food Co-Op had a picnic at South Mountain Park on a hot July Saturday. Burgers with all the fixins', including veggie burgers were the specialty du jour. In addition, Matty Sarro out on a canning demonstration to preserve a three-berry jam.

This food coop was born after downtown Bethlehem resident Jaime Karpovich spent forty minutes in search of a red pepper, and complained a "real" grocery store was needed in the heart of the City. The co-op is now incorporated as a non-profit, and hopes to open its doors next summer at a still-to-be-dertermined location.

Matty Sarro and Kathy Fox start the canning by boiling jars in hot water.

The next step is filling the jar twith three-berry jam.

The filled jars are then boiled about 20 minutes, leaving a jam with a shelf life of two years.

Matt's wife and a friend await the finished product.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Did Jay Leeson Buy His Judicial Nomination?

In a recent letter to the editor, Northampton County's former Fiscal Director Charles L "Pete" Houck asks readers to check the "money trail" in Attorney Jay Leeson's contributions to Senator Bob Casey. His point apparently is that Leeson has bought his nomination to the federal bench. He adds that Leeson is unqualified because he's never been a judge.

I checked.

Between 2006 and the present, Leeson has made a grand total of 12 donations to Senator Casey, totaling $12,000. That's $1,500 a year. No U.S. Senator is going to sell a judicial nomination for that paltry sum. Even a lowly member of the House of Representatives must raise $2 million every election cycle.

NIZ twins Joe Topper and JB Reilly gave a combined $50,000 to NorCo Executive John Brown's race, where far less money is needed. That's how you buy someone.

Houck's other point is sheer nonsense. Federal judges are selected from both the bench and bar. Wearing a black robe is no prerequisite.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Is the Sticker Gang in The Hamptons?

Most of you know about Nazareth's dangerous Sticker gang. They're the trio accused of placing tiny FT "Fire Trachta" stickers throughout the borough, seeking the ouster of police chief Thomas Trachta. When the Chief nabbed them, he had them chained, shackled and paraded in front of the newspapers. They've been charged with just about everything in the Crimes Code, and are required to undergo urine tests every 15 minutes until their preliminary hearing next month.

Well, guess what? There's another Sticker Gang in the Hamptons, plastering the town with anti-Kardashian stickers. Apparently, two of these sisters are filming some sort of reality show there, to the dismay of some of the Hamptons Townies.

It's a different Sticker Gang. I cornered all three of the Nazareth evil-doers at last night's block party, and they apparently dig the Kardashians.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dent: Downed Malaysia Flight "Horrific Crime"

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent has released a statement concerning the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, a matter that President Obama has called "an outrage of unspeakable proportions".

Dent: "The entire world is reeling in shock and sadness at the sight of a civilian airliner reduced to a field of smoking debris because it had been downed by a missile, likely fired by Russian-backed separatists.

"Citizens from at least nine countries lost their lives in this tragedy, making this attack a horrific crime not against any one country or people, but against the World.

"Americans join the people of the nations affected by this crime in mourning the loss of their citizens. Our hearts reach out to the family members and friends of those who perished.

"This attack should open the World’s eyes to the dangers posed by President Putin’s territorial ambitions and unwanted adventurism. America and Europe should speak with one voice and sanction Putin’s Russia for the role it has played in this attack."

Tea Party To Rally Against KidsPeace!

Break out the pitchforks!

Ronnie DelBacco, Dear Leader of the local tea party, has sent an "URGENT MESSAGE !!" to his fellow patriots and anyone else living in the Lehigh Valley demanding immediate action against KidsPeace.
We have learned that the Kids Peace facility at Fountain Hill may be receiving a bus or van full of "illegal Immigrant children" this weekend from the South West border area in cooperation with the federal government's plan to ship them all over the country. Though KidsPeace will not confirm this or give us ANY information, they did indicate that they do have staff in charge of this program. My call to the supervisor has gone unreturned. The group in Maryland who recently stopped their illegals there also could not confirm their information. Regardless, we do know that KidsPeace IS identified as a participant in this program and they actually started preparing for this infiltration program over a year ago as reported in the local press.
An "infiltration" of children! Oh my!

Del Whacko goes on to claim we don't want those damn children "rewarded" for "breaking our laws while We The People are stuck with the bill."

He does not say what he proposes to do, but I'm sure that this innovative thinker, who has advocated book bans in the past, can come up with a Final Solution.

Protesters will descend on Kids Peace in Fountain Hill on Sunday at 11 am. Ronnie wants everyone to bring flags.

Hope they are not American flags, because what he proposes has nothing to do with the princioles upon which this country was founded.

Matthew 19:13-15 - Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.

Brown Gets Some Help On Top

(L to R: Sheriff David Dalrymple, Director of Finance Jim Hunter, Executive John Brown and Director of Administration Luis Campos)

Practice makes perfect. Although Northampton County Executive John Brown stumbled in some of his initial cabinet appointments, he may have hit a home run with his three most recent choices. On a beautiful July evening, while most people watered flowers or went for walks, the Council chambers was packed with vocal supporters from the Latino, law endorsement and banking industries. They were there to ask Council to confirm Louis Campos as Director of Administration, Jim Hunter as Director of Fiscal Affairs and David Dalrymple as Sheriff.

Wilson Borough Police Chief Steven Parkansky. He was there for Dalrymple, a retired Major from the New Jersey State police. "The County Executive could not have picked a better man than this one," declared this cop, who worked with Dalrymple on several cases. Thomas Fisher, Dalrymple's basketball coach at Phillipsburg High School, spoke on behalf of his former player. Noting that Dalrymple's father and sister were also New Jersey state troopers, he "can't imagine a more qualified person."

Jim Hunter had lots of support from fellow bankers. Rocco Del Vecchio, the President and COO of Lafayette Ambassador Bank, praised Hunter's work ethic. Upper Mount Bethel Township manager Bob Cartwright drove 25 miles to urge Council to confirm Hunter, pledging that he'll give 150%, not 100%. He credited Hunter with finding the financing for a local food pantry that feeds 400 people.

Maria Montero, the Executive Director of the PA Commission for Women as well as The Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, addressing Council with both English and Spanish salutations, spoke glowingly of Campos as an important addition for the Latino community. She was echoed by Allentown City Council President Julio Guridy, who told Council he first met Campos when the nominee was studying for his master's degree at Lehigh. "I am proud to call him my friend and peer," he remarked.

Aside from a few jabs at Hunter's golf game, there were no negative remarks about any of the nominees.

Some questions were raised about Dalrymple's ability to follow Pennsylvania's firearms laws, which are for less restrictive than those in New Jersey. Second Amendment advocate Ed Reagan remarked that a Sheriff should not be appointed by an Executive and council but elected.

Northampton and Luzerne County are the only two counties in the state that appoint, rather than elect, their Sheriff.

During his confirmation hearing, Dalrympke had stated, "It's not my job to interpret or make laws. It's to follow laws."

Council member Scott Parsons asked Executive Brown whether state law required a Sheriff to reside within the state and was assured there is no such requirement.

Brown was also asked whether the courts agreed with his selection, and he answered that they both interviewed Dalrymple together, and believes he was President Judge Baratta's first choice as well. Council president Peg Ferraro stated she spoke to Judge Baratta and he was "fully in favor of his appointment.

Council member Mat Benol, who grew up near Dalrymple and delivered newspapers to him in Phillipsburg, told those concerned about his residency in New Jersey that Phillipsburg and Easton are basically the same town, separated by a river.

The Hunter and Campos nominations passed by an 8-0 vote. Sheriff Dalrymple was confirmed by a 7-1 vote with Lamont McClure voting No by phone. He did not elaborate on the reasons for his vote, but is an advocate of an elected Sheriff.

Council member Ken Kraft, another advocate of an elected Sheriff, was absent as a result of a business conflict.

Both Hunter and Campos will receive an annual salary of $87,838, while Dalrymple will start slightly higher, at $91,422.

After the meeting, a relieved John Brown called an unusual news conference to express his appreciation to his new cabinet members and their supporters. He explained he took his time "to ensure we had the best candidates for the positions, and i look forward to working closely with them. The citizens of Northampton County can be confident in the leadership of these individuals."

(L to R: Jim Hunter, Dave Dalrymple and Luis Compos).

A-Town Throwdown Starts at Cedar Beach

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player Because I was covering Northampton County Council, I missed last night's opener in the A-Town Throwdown at Cedar Beach Park, the second big basketball tournament of the Summer. That was, in hindsight, a mistake.

My grandson, an incoming freshman, started for Becahi's varsity in its matchup against P-burg. He got to play with legends like Freddie Simmons, and was even featured in the Channel 69 sports highlights. Beca won 55-56.

I've been on television, but only when someone is suing me.

If you ever get a chance, watch Freddie Simmons play basketball sometime. He's there to have fun, and is a joy to watch.

Right after the P-burg game, Dat played with the JVs against Souderton. Beca won that game, too, 35-32.

This is a much better start for Beca than last week's Stellar Tournament. And I missed it.

They'll play again Saturday. I won't miss those games.

President Judge Baratta, Blogger

(President Judge Steve Baratta (L) speaks during John Brown's swearing-in ceremony in January. From left to right next to Judge Baratta are Judges Anthony Beltrami, Michael Koury and Jennifer Sletvold.)

I'm in the deep end of the pool now. I had a pretty damn distinguished visitor yesterday. President Judge Steve Baratta. He could sentence me to 20 years in the electric chair, and would have no difficulty finding any number of people who are all too willing to throw the switch. Not only did he visit this blog, but he commented. Not only did he comment, but he disagreed. Not only did he disagree, but he accused me of mischaracterizing his views on a county issue.

Actually, it was not me who posted yesterday's "Shut Up and Take the Money!" It was my evil twin.

Don't believe me? I don't think Judge Baratta will either.

He might buy insanity.

My story was about NorCo Register of Wills Gina Gibbs' proposal to raise fees, which could bring in an extra $100,000 every year. She asked President Judge Stephen Baratta, apparently several times, to wave his magic wand and approve these increases. He declined for two reasons, according to my interpretation of an Express Times account. First, he believes - and he's a judge so he oughta' know - that these increases are the province of the Executive and Council, not the courts. Second, he adds that "even if I did have the authority, I am not willing to raise fees at (Gibbs') request." He goes on to state there's no "need to increase fees, which I view as an indirect tax on families who require the services of Orphans' Court." He finally points out that the office revenue has exceeded expenses by $452,000 over the last three years.

Now when Judge Baratta or any other judge is speaking as a judge, what they say demands our respect and attention. So I have no quarrel with his first argument and said so. But when Judge Baratta or any other judge speaks out on county issues, I have a right to take him to task, and I did. I also ripped Council member Mat Benol and The Express Times editorial board because that's what I do.

I'm as mean as cat shit.

Right now, the County needs every penny it can get. Its unrestricted reserve, which independent auditors say should be between $33 and $66 million, is going in the wrong direction. We spent $14 million more than we took in last year, leaving that unrestricted reserve (or rainy day fund) at a precarious $11.1 million at the end of the year. Since we spend between $9-10 million per month, that's a very bad place to be.

To make matters worse, seven union contracts need to be negotiated. I doubt they'll be asking for less money.

I honestly don't know how a tax hike can be avoided next year.

Governor Corbett, just last week, inked a bill increasing the cost for recording a deed. Immediately. That's an indirect tax on families that require the services of the Recorder of Deeds. Just two years ago, County Council added a $10 fee for parcel ID checks, which is another indirect tax that has resulted in about $300,000 per year in the county coffers. Former Recorder of Deeds Ann Achatz, who had recommended that increase, was praised.

Judge Baratta believes these fees should be increased only when there's a need within that office. I believe you need to look at the entire County. So I do think the Orphans Court fees should be looked at as a way to counter the deficit. In my view, Judge Baratta in effect made an argument that each office must be revenue neutral. He disagrees

While he is not speaking here as a judge, I need to point out that he was an Assistant County Solicitor and First Assistant District Attorney. Also, in private practice, he spent quite a bit of time conveyancing at the courthouse, when real estate was more popular than it is today. He knows almost all the searchers and knows what is going on in the courthouse. For example, he knows there's a manpower shortage in the Civil Division.  So he might understand county operations a tad bit better than a bottom-feeding blogger.

I thought I should make his comment, posted late yesterday, into a separate post. .

Mr. O’Hare,

Generally I would chose to remain quiet with regard to political discussion, but because your comments raise important matters of governance, the role of the Court and the separation of powers (and perhaps of equal importance to me, because this discussion has mischaracterized my position), I think that it might be appropriate to weigh in.

First, please know that my letter was directed to the County Solicitor’s Office in response to an Assistant Solicitor who rendered an opinion that the President Judge had the authority to consider Ms. Gibb’s request to raise fees in Orphan’s Court. I disagreed with that conclusion based upon the Home Rule Charter and Pennsylvania case law.

Second, I did not recommend against action by Mr. Brown to raise fees. Issues related to the generation of revenue should be the province of the executive and legislative branches of county government. The Court has no business interfering with such authority.

However, I did state that I would not support the request to raise fees because it was not my decision to make. I also stated that if I was incorrect as to my authority, I saw no need to raise fees, as Orphan’s Court was consistently generating excess revenue from its operation. Thus, the Court has no need to raise fees to cover court operations.

I think that we can both agree that even if I had the authority to raise Orphan’s Court fees, raising court fees to cover the County’s general fund deficit is improper action for the Court. Raising fees in Orphan’s Court for the purpose of stabilizing the general fund is an indirect tax placed upon those who must access the court system to negotiate or resolve issues which impact fundamental family matters, such as decedent estates, adoptions, marriages, and guardianships for minors, the elderly and incompetent persons.

The Court should not be in the business of taxing citizens or deciding how the County should raise revenue. It should be a decision made by the County Executive in conjunction with County Council’s approval.

In conclusion, I made no argument for "revenue neutrality." I see this as a matter of governance and not for the Court. If Orphan’s Court fees are raised by the Executive and/or County Council, it will be met with silence by the Court.

Stephen Baratta

Your Honor, Can I have the weekend before reporting to jail? I promised to watch my grandson's dog.