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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why Fed Ed's Year-End Senate Report Still Unavailable

Of the five U.S. Senate candidates required to file a year-end report, only Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's report is still unavailable on the FEC webpage, ten days after the report was due. This utterly defeats the purpose of requiring these reports. So long as but so long as his quarterly was postmarked and sent by certified mail by January 31, the report is considered filed.

Because Fed Ed's now suspended race was for the U.S. Senate, his report had to be filed, with the Secretary of the Senate. From there it is forwarded to the FEC. As of yesterday morning, the Secretary of the Senate's office informed me there was no record of receiving the report, though it might be in the pipeline somewhere.

The FEC told me that an analyst is assigned to every candidate committee, and if the report is not received soon, he or she will make an inquiry. Those matters are treated on a case-by-case basis.

Over the weekend, I contacted Fed Ed's campaign treasurer and asked her to supply a copy of the report sent on to the Senate.

She refused.

State Opens Inquiry Into Darth Voter's Campaign Finance

Pennsylvania's Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation oversees the Commonwealth’s electoral process, including campaign finance reports. Trisha Malehorn, Chief of the Campaign Finance Division, informed me yesterday that her office is opening an investigation into campaign finance reports filed by State Rep. Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg.

That investigation, which is really an administrative inquiry, is in response to a complaint I filed last week about Darth Voter's 2015 Annual Report. He reported spending $13,500 on himself last year. Specifically, he claimed "reimbursements" for $520.86 on 2/6/15; $372.27 on 3/2/15: $1,867.00 on 3/31/15; $144.98 on 4/2/15; $1,402.05 on 5/5/15: $658.50 on 5/7/15; $23.00 on 5/21/15; $635.40 on 6/1/15; $4,517.80 on 7/2/15 (fundraiser mentioned); $787.88 on 8/29/15; $735.74 on 9/27/15: $94.88 on 9/30/15 (mileage); $606.82 on 10/25/15; $97.75 on 11/3/15 (mileage); $735.00 on 11/28/15; and $396.09 on 12/30/15.

This is contrary to Pennsylvania's Campaign Finance Law, which specifically provides (25 P.S. § 3246 (b)) that each campaign finance report "shall" contain the following information: "Each and every expenditure, the date made, the full name and address of the person to whom made and the purpose for which such expenditure was made."

Elections officials can impose fines, and in rare cases, can even seek a criminal investigation by the Attorney General. But in most instances, the office is primarily interested in seeing that disclosure laws are being followed. My guess is that Darth Voter will be asked to amend his report.

How Bethlehem Reacted to Flint Lead Scare

As I told you yesterday, Allentown's reaction to a state report noting unsafe levels of lead in the cities with a defensive white paper that actually suggests that the root cause is people from the barrios, who do their shopping in lead-infested bodegas. Si. Contrast that with Bethlehem, which posted a proactive message on the city webpage, noting that it is constantly testing water quality. It invites any concerned water customer concerned about lead to request an analysis.

Brace Yourself For Darth Voter Sidekick

Geoff Brace is an ordained deacon. What's more, he's an ordained deacon at Zion Liberty Bell UCC. That's the Church that took the homeless during a raging blizzard. This was after Jack Felch, a clergyman in the Order of Assholes at the Lehigh Conference of Churches, streeted about 30 homeless guys. Geoff also lives in the heart of Allentown. He's not with the foo foos in the Flats at Oh So So Do So Pa,  but in center city. I got to know Geoff via blogging, and used to rely heavily on his knowledge of Main Street and downtown programs. When he decided to seek a vacancy on Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners, I backed him. When he ran for the seat, I supported him and he won anyway. Now word is going around that Brace might make a horizontal switch and go for the Allentown City Council seat that suddenly became vacant when Jeff Glazier was appointed Controller. I consider this a bad idea, both for Brace and for Allentown.

Before you jump all over me, I did reach out and ask him about this last week. In a terse message, he told me he was undecided. The reason Geoff was terse is because he knows how I feel. He was sought out by Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski to become an alternate and then a regular member of the Zoning Hearing Board. He at one time worked for NIZ Queen Jenn Mann, who is the exact opposite of her "For the People" PAC. Now he's a legislative aide for none other than Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg, whose moral compass may never have worked right.

Despite his attempts to distance himself, Schlossberg is a close Fed Ed ally, and so are the people in that office. There is too much suspicion that he would be nothing more than a puppet for Mann, Schlossberg and Fed Ed. The fact that he would even consider abandoning his commitment to the people of Lehigh County is a sign to me that Brace is being pressured by Fed Ed, who is still trying to lure another unsuspecting person into a web of deceit.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

To Get the Lead Out, Allentown Needs to Get the Ed Out

You can't drink the water in Flint, Michigan. Local government leaders there switched water sources to a disgusting slop from the Flint River, which corroded lead pipes. As that story was breaking came another of far more immediate concern - a Vox report that 18 cities in Pennsylvania have children with higher lead levels than Flint. This story has been repeated  in various news accounts, driving everyone nuts. But guess what? This is old news. In fact, the Vox story is based on the Pa. Department of Health's 2014 Lead Surveillance Report. Those have been published for the past eight years.

The data clearly show elevated lead levels. What the data fail to show is the cause, although there's a strong insinuation that it is from lead paint in older housing stock.

At a City Council meeting, Managing Director Francis Dougherty vowed to present a "white paper" on the topic for everyone's edification. The use of the term "white paper" suggests an authoritative report that breaks it all down from everyone's edification.

Allentown resident and mother Gina Blevins, obviously worried about her own daughter and other Allentown children, has linked to this supposed "white paper." I am unable to do so directly, but you can read it on the Facebook link supplied by Gina

It is undated, unsigned and extremely defensive.Moreover, it reaches several conclusions without no evidentiary basis. It also manages to contradict itself. It is no white paper, but a talking points memo from an administration that seems to think propaganda matters more than actual facts. This supposed report also lashes out at the news sources that reported the high lead levels. The VOX story is disparaged as "deceptively inaccurate." A WFMZ-TV69 report is slammed as "grossly inaccurate."

The report states, not once, but twice, that the drinking water in Allentown is totally unrelated to any incidence of higher lead levels. Why? Because its water plant won an award in 2013.

That's not evidence.

I've received awards for journalism, but most people tell me I'm no journalist.

The report states that the unsafe lead levels is the result of lead paint in older housing stock, but contradicts itself a few pages later by stating that systematic home inspections have been going on for 37 years, and that 5,000 homes are lead safe.So it's the housing stock, but it's not the housing stock.

This white paper, which even has an executive summary, also blames the problem on its transient community, claiming that most of them come from some barrio, where everyone eats lead paint for dinner. It also blames bodegas that apparently sell food injected with lead, which is nonsense..

This propaganda piece also notes that the problem is limited to poor people, so don't worry. .

What Allentown needs to know is the reason for the high incidence of lead in its children. The garbage supplied by Vicky Kistler fails to answer that question. It can be answered with (1) water quality testing at different points within the City, especially where lead has been documented; (2) sampling for lead at various homes, especially where the incidence is high; and (3) air quality testing at different times, to determine if lead particulates from coal-fired power plants are at high levels.

I don't know the reason for the high lead levels. Neither does Allentown, but the City is perverting its Public Health Department to act as a Department of Spin.It wants in no way to revel anything that might reflect poorly on its embattled Mayor.

To get the lead out, Allentown needs to get the Ed out.

NorCo Fires Madame X

This is not Madame X, but I had a good
excuse to publish a scantily clad female
A Northampton County corrections officer with a history of heroin use and as a stripper in various local dives has been fired. In response to a Right-to-Know request, Northampton County has disclosed that the officer, who I'll continue calling Madame X, was terminated by letter dated January 14, 2016. This sanction followed what is known as a Loudermill hearing to ensure that her due process rights were protected. She had union representation.

I first told you about Madame X on November 23 and the County wasted no time in placing her on administrative leave so that my claims about her could be investigated.

Records disclose that Madame X was first hired by Northampton County in the beginning of January 2014. She earned $40,330.75 that year, including $7,550.31 in overtime pay. In 2015, she earned $50,560.11, including $14,794.88 in overtime.

Before she was hired, Madame X failed to disclose her work history between 1989 and 1996. But soon after she became a corrections officer, she began telling others about her previous life as a stripper at various local establishments, as well as in New Jersey and New York. She had been a model for various Biker magazines, even posing nude. She sent some of these nude pictures to her new pals after being hired at the jail. But it was not all fun and games. She apparently had fallen into drug abuse, too. And with the worst possible drug. Heroin. She did kick her addiction, thanks to her first husband.

Though former Corrections Director Arnie Matos refused to take any action, she has since confirmed that she failed to submit a complete application. She has admitted to working in the adult entertainment industry, both as a stripper or dancer, and as a model for biker magazines. She has also admitted drug use, but attempts to minimize it.

She claims, for example, that she experimented once or twice with heroin.

Nobody experiments with heroin.

Corrections experts tell me that her past in adult entertainment could make her job more difficult, especially if she runs into people she knows from that world.

Northampton County has never had a problem hiring officers who at times smoked weed. But policy is that nobody who has used heroin should ever be hired to work as a corrections officer. Madame X has compounded her problem by being dishonest on her job application.

On top of everything else, she has another problem. She is a bigot.

Her Facebook page has disappeared. But when I looked as it, her settings permitted anyone to see it, including the families of inmates. There were repeated posts of the Confederate Battle Flag as well as complaints about the appointment to the Immigration Department of Fatima Noor, a Muslim who fled from Somalia as a child and became a United States citizen. She also claims, on Facebook, that we are one nation under God, not Allah. She also posted a joke about a redneck girl who shoots an Arab and a Mexican.

Very funny.

She certainly has a First Amendment right to be a bigot and be intolerant of other religions. But as a corrections officer, she encounters numerous inmates who are black or Muslim or both. When she uses Facebook to make racist remarks or statements that infringe on religious freedom guaranteed in this country, she should be fired for that reason alone. Exercising those rights have consequences.

She was also endangering own safety, as well as the safety of other corrections officers with these unnecessary statements.

Before her Facebook page vanished, Madame X offered this defense of her past.
I love when people try to make you look bad when they are the ones that did wrong.I'm not proud of my past but I'm not ashamed of it.when your a single mom and you can't get help.you are forced into doing whatever it takes to feed your kids no, I was never a hooker.and being concerned about terrorism and our government is everyone's concern.I am not racist.never was.but some people try to make you look that way..if that's what you got to do to make me look bad.then shame on you..so I think some jokes are funny ..sure..it's a joke...and if it happened to be a bit distasteful and I laugh or share it..so what.it doesn't mean I'm racist..I started my turn to Christianity about 13 yrs ago and it's been a tough road..it's not easy being a Christian,but I am getting better although I have a long way to go because I am human and all humans are not perfect.God said so.so the ones that are skimming my Facebook and putting it out there that I'm all kind of a bad person..good for you...I actually laughed when I read the blog..you need to get your story straight...if you want to know about me.I'll tell you all about me to your face..you don't need to get stories from people who don't know me..and feeding you lies..but my God is bigger than you...and we will all stand in judgement...btw...I will pray for you...
I thank her for that, and see no purpose in disclosing her real identity at this point. But as Corrections Supervisor Dan Keen told her in the termination letter, "The County of Northampton and the Northampton County Prison have reason to expect their employees to observe a code of ethics which will not reflect discredit on the abilities and integrity of their employees, and to ensure public trust so as not to create suspicion with reference to their employees’ capability in discharging their duties and responsibilities."

She let everyone down with her basic dishonesty, and endangered the lives of fellow officers with reckless remarks on Facebook.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Ben Carson Causes Traffic Jam Off-Stage At ABC Debate



Remember folks, Ben Carson is a brain surgeon!

Where Is Fed Ed's Year End Senate Report?

Last week, I told you that Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has used $80,000 of his state campaign funds to pay lawyers he's hired in a federal political corruption investigation that clearly has targeted him. He's got about $83,000 left. But what about his federal campaign? His federal PAC reported that he still had about $100,000 at the end of October. Is it still there? Or has he been using that kitty to pay off lawyers, too?

Fed Ed's Year-End report was due on January 31. But his is the sole report that has yet to appear on the FEC webpage among  the five candidates seeking the U..S, Senate seat. Reports are available online for Joe Sestak, Pat Toomey, Katie McGinty and John Fetterman. But not Fed Ed. He has always filed his report at the last minute, knowing it will take the FEC some time to get it posted.

Over the weekend, I contacted his campaign treasurer Lisa Pawlowski, who happens to be his wife. I told her this is just another sign of her husband's lack of transparency, and suggested that if she wants to change that image, she could forward a copy of the report to me and I would post it for one and all.

This is her response.

"I submitted our year end report during a snowstorm, post dated on January 31st. The Senate doesn't accept electronic filing yet. So I sent them a hard copy, and when they scan it, they have the respons[ibility] of posting it."

In other words, she refuses to provide a copy because she and her husband prefer keeping the public in the dark as long as possible. This is yet another Moody Bible grad who appears to be playing fast and loose with the truth, just like her hubbie. There was no snowstorm on January 31, unless it was just confined to her house. Also, January 31 was a Sunday. Though it's possible to send out certified mail on a Sunday, it's not easy.

Fed Ed's Senate report should be on the FEC site soon, perhaps as early as today. If you see it, give a holler.

Timeclock Installed at NorCo Courthouse

Timeclocks are rather commonplace at many places with large workforces. Northampton County is no exception, and both jail and Gracedale employees are required to punch in and out at the beginning and end of their work day. But there has never been a timeclock at the courthouse. Until now. Northampton County's new Human Resources Director, Amy Trapp, recently installed one in the hallway outside of her office.

Trapp, who is only using it for employees in her department at this point, states the timeclock will "maximize efficiency" and reduce paperwork.

Under the current system, every department head must fill out time sheets for every employee, which takes away from other responsibilities. In addition, it leads to human error. One department head actually stands at the door and notes each employee as he or she comes in. A timeclock is more accurate and actually less intrusive, Trapp argues.

When software is used in tandem with the clock, it increases employee satisfaction because they can access an online portal to see sick, vacation, and or hours worked. That way, they know where they are at any point in time during the pay period at their convenience rather than having to ask to see their paper or go to the time keeper.

Time clocks make payroll processing easieras well. The information from the time clocks feeds directly into Kronos, a software program, which assists in the accuracy of payroll processing.

Certain times can be coded for special pay and/or overtime because schedules are usually programmed into the clocks.

Time clocks can simplify life for employees – if they go to multiple locations they can punch in anywhere rather than have to return to a central location to punch out. Additionally, it will track things like shift swaps, or assign hours to specific tasks making it much more convenient.

They also can simplify multi location time keeping – Gracedale payroll can be automatically transmitted to the courthouse to fiscal affairs as all information is processed centrally there.

Although this practice has no application to other departments at the courthouse campus, Trapp said she is "leading from the front."

One person who will not be following that lead is Controller Steve Barron, who was unaware of the timeclocks. He called it a "logistical nightmare" for his professional staff, who sometimes start their days with outside audits. He also questioned the need for a timeclock or paper for many clerical employees who can be tracked the moment they log into their computers with the VoIP system.

Barron suggested that Kronos, a software product associated with VoIP, can monitor an employee's time and attendance and generate reports without the need for a timeclock or department head.

This system is currently being used to track Public Works employees, although it is unclear whether it is fully operational.

It is unknown how much was spent for this single timeclock or whether it is biometric.

The Prisoner of Love Should Be Released Any Day

Jim Gregory, the Policeman of Love, has been a police officer, Bethlehem City Council President, Mayoral candidate, union activist, casino gambler, 911 dispatcher, Human Services caseworker, and short-lived shock jock. He is also doing doing hard time since his 8/28/13 arrest for numerous violations of a Protection from Abuse Act Order (PFA) sought and obtained by his ex-girlfriend. But he should be released from Pittsburgh SCI very soon, free to resume his political career and his work as a Kingmaker.

Hopefully, he will stay away from his ex.

Before his 8/28/13 arrest, Gregory had previously been convicted twice for criminal contempt of the PFA. Those convictions stem from repeated attempts to contact his ex via phone text messages, blogs and Facebook. Gregory contended that someone else, possibly his nephew or Tricia Mezzacappa, was responsible. At that time, his pal Tricia Mezzacappa launched a venomous attack against Judge Zito on her blog, accusing him of being too old for the bench, among other things.

After his second conviction, Gregory was sentenced to six months in jail, pending the results of a sealed psychological evaluation. He was released after three weeks, thanks to an impassioned pleas by noted criminal defense lawyer Gary Asteak. Gregory later said that Asteak had instructed him to break off all contact with Mezzacappa,

But Gregory ignored his attorney's sage instructions. He instead bought airtime for his own radio show, and included fellow defamer Tricia Mezzacappa as a co-host for four of his seven broadcasts.

It became LibelFest.

The show alternated between between love songs and vicious attacks at his ex, his ex' mother and any person who had testified or spoken out against him, including yours truly. When not on the air, he'd pepper this blog with numerous comments, sometimes signed with an "8."

Eventually, he began speaking to his ex on the air, offering her a job, imploring her to come back to him. "Lina, not only are you cute, you're adorable. You have a great body, great heart, great soul. You'd be a great salesperson for us, and you also have office skills.... I gave you everything I had except my heart."

One of the contempt citations was based on this direct or indirect contact. Other citations were for about 20 unwanted telephone calls from him, as well as three love notes he smuggled to his ex while he was in jail. One of them, who never met or knew his ex, actually called her after he was released.

During his trial, Gregory attempted to place some of the blame on Harvey, a 6' tall invisible pookah. Judge Leonard Zito imposed a 15-30 month sentence for five separate contempt citations. His conviction was affirmed by the Superior Court.

In the meantime, Gregory continued to contact his ex. She moved.

During his trial, Gregory told Judge Zito that the calls placed to his ex were accidental. But while in state prison, he has managed to delude himself that I figured out a way to make it appear as though his cell phone was placing calls to his ex. He wants me arrested.

In an Epistle from the Can, James I, Gregory warns,

"[D]espite your minions [sic] attempts to keep me here forever, the Lord will raise his hand and strike down the pitiful souls behind my incarceration, and I will return home. Then you, and the others behind this, will see what Righteous Anger can do. Even my friends and family with their myriad sins of omission which helped incarcerate an innocent soul will discover Righteous Anger. The New Testament time has passed. Read Revelation - It's all about Christ and his Righteous Anger and it's coming."

In James II, the Apostle Jim writes, "I'm done playing. Everyone that allowed O'Hare to place me here - better do some quick thinking - God expecting and willing - their time is soon out. Then it's my turn. Cannot wait. Sit and watch. Pack your bags, O'Hare. Or start running."

In James III, Gregory threatens both Northampton County Council and Executive John Brown to hire Tricia Mezzacappa as a supervisory nurse at Gracedale or face the consequences. "[S]he is absolutely qualified for the Gracedale job and should have been hired. Let Brown know that! Or not - then enjoy your one term."

Do I have reason to be concerned? In a word, No. I do not take seriously the idle threats of women beaters. I put them in the same category as those who attack me anonymously.

Gregory's home has been sold, so I have no idea where he'll be staying when he gets out.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Movin' Like Bernie Sanders?



It's the weekend and we're ...

Opinions Online, 2/6/16

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.

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One issue hardly ever mentioned in a list of things to do in preparing for a bad snow storm is to fill your gas tank . At least in this way you can stay warm if there is a power shortage. Naturally you need to make sure you open a window periodically and to make sure the tail pipe is not obstructed.

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Casey should worry more about our lead laden air and water than Flints.
He wants to keep burning more of his buddies waste coal here that is loaded with leaf.

Blogger's Reply: I have no idea what this person means, or who this person is discussing.

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Looks like West Easton finally has transparency and a motivated council.

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So the good government Bethlehem administration hires someone named Ronca to help with snow removal . Gee, that names sounds familiar. Surely it's coincidence.

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If I were giving this a title I would call it "The Unnecessary Asbestos Scare"
A number of years ago my wife and I went to London (uk) and I saw something I will never forget: a man in his 50s on a thirty foot ladder removing a single faulty brick with a hammer and chisel. Now in this country, we`d backhoe the damn thing and put up a new building. This is why places like Prague and London have centuries old beautiful buildings. Which brings me to my intended title.
ASBESTOS
When I graduated high school I worked with a plumber for 3 years. We cleaned all kinds of stokers and it was not uncommon to mix the asbestos in a bucket in water to seal the chimney pipe with our bare hands. Asbestos is no danger unless disturbed or snorted-which I never tried by the way. The Bethlehem Steel bldg. should be preserved and reused. If asbestos is so bad why didn`t half those people who worked there for many years die from all that asbestos poisoning? MILLIONS of dollars have been wasted on it`s removal. Cover it up and don`t snort it.

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Hey bernie i want to just put something out in the air to chew on i heard that ted cruz is using the argument that he can be president because his mom is american and back in the day child born to a british subject was british period but back in the day women became the property of thier husband so his mom must be considered by her husbands nationality just saying.

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Albert Abdouche continues to get a raw deal from ANIZDA.

How is it he has to finance the project on his own, have it open, have it reach three star status and THEN ANIZDA will finance it?

Anything else he has to do? Base jump from the top of the building?

Reilly and Jaindl held to the same standards? No. Did Reilly have to lease 75% of his apartments? No. Did Jaindl have to secure 50% tenants for the offices? No.

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One consistent issue that keeps coming up is what to do about non profits and taxes . For example , if my memory serves me correctly , the city of Easton has 40 per cent of its properties categorized as non exempt. My solution would be to assess them at a small per cent of their assessed value . e.g. 10 per cent. After all if an ambulance or fire personnel are needed on a Sunday morning at a church shouldn`t they shoulder some of the ultimate expense?

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I love the rich, revisionist thinking in Lower Macungie - the posit that the bypass was the logical place for all the stuff that's happening there now despite the fact the whole bypass was built due to the endless complaining about traffic congestion on Hamilton Boulevard and how it was killing business.

Next up will be the township complaining it needs redevelopment money for all of its old malls it will kill off with all the new malls they absolutely had to have on the bypass.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Allentown: A Pa. Version of Detriot

The difference between a guy like Steve Thide and myself is that he knows what he is talking about and I don't. It's Dr. Stephen Thode, incidentally, and he is an Associate professor of Finance at Lehigh University, as well its Director of the Murray Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies. He has an extensive knowledge of real estate trends. For a time, Bethlehem was lucky to have him as a member of its Planning Commission.

From the onset, he has been a vocal opponent of Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Although Morning Call columnist Bill White didn't go quite so far as Alan Jennings did in singing the praises of that Potemkin Village, he did make the mistake of claiming that Allentown is "much better off" than it was before Edwin Pawlowski was elected Mayor.

In an op-ed published by The Morning Call, Dr. Thode explains why both Bill and Alan have it wrong. Calling the NIZ "Pennsylvania's version of Detriot," Dr. Thode notes that the City not only poached businesses from outlying communities, but did so from within the City itself.
"In fact, the NIZ is the most distasteful example of crony capitalism of which I am aware: Wealthy businesspersons make sizable campaign donations to politicians; in turn, those politicians pass legislation to divert taxpayer funds to some of those donors; those donors then use some of those taxpayer funds to make more campaign donations to ensure that the cycle repeats itself. Endlessly.

"Does that make the people of Allentown "much better off?" I suggest you ask them."

Updated 4:40 pm:
I spelled Detroit wrong, but Detriot does the trick as well.

NorCo's 2015 Gracedale Contribution Just $2.1 Million

Obviously, $2.1 million is a lot of money. So when I tell you that Northampton County only spent that much to keep its nursing home Gracedale afloat last year, that's still a lot of money. But the good news is that the County had budgeted $7.7 million. So Gracedale beat the budget forecast by $5.6 million.

Executive John Brown delivered this good news to Council last night, stating that the nursing home is "moving in the right direction. We are very optimistic we are going to repeat that." He indicated no one change and no one person is responsible for the financial improvement, although he had high praise for the workforce.

That has always been's Gracedale's secret weapon. The people who work at that nursing home really care about the residents and often will take them out shopping or bring them home for the holidays. Many of them become volunteers after retiring.

Brown also reported that the county closed the books on 2015 with a $31 million fund balance, compared to about $33 million at the end of 2014. He said this money was there after moving $10 million into a human services capital find and after setting aside a rainy day fund. He is pleased by the "very strong financial performance."

Perhaps all this good financial news made Council a bit more picky. By a 6-3 vote, they rejected a $200 "gift" for the 2016 Senior Games from Humana, a health insurance provider. In exchange for this "gift," the County would be required to provide Humana with a table at these Senior Games, and would also be required to feature this business in its program for the event.

"The weasel their way in any way they can," Ken Kraft noted after being informed that Humana is a health insurer. Only Council members Peg Ferraro, John Cusick and Mat Benol voted to accept the money.

Council was also taken to task over pre-meeting prayers, led by Council President John Cusick. I am the person who took him to task. I have no problem with seeking out clergy from different denominations to lead everyone in prayer/ Council is too lazy to do that, but wants to pretend God is on their side. So Cusick prepares some goofy prayer before each meeting as though he is Moses, minus the beard ... and the hair.

I find this offensive because it presumes and gives preference to a monotheistic religion, in violation of the Establishment clause. I also have serious problems with any elected official leading a group in prayer before a meeting because it conveys  a message that the official speaks for God. I also find the practice is divisive, and refuse to be part of it.

Yesterday, Phoenix voted to end prayer at public meetings because Followers of the Satanic Temple demanded the right to give an invocation. Now this is not really a group of Satanists. They were making a point.

One of the County's fiscal officers said they should continue the prayer, but pass out a collection plate.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Arbitrator Awards Bethlehem Firefighters Contract

Bethlehem firefighters have a new contract, thanks to a binding arbitration. Their contract with the City expired on December 31, 2014, and union members voted down an agreement that is nearly identical to one negotiated with the police. According to City officials, the award is nearly the same as it offered in April.

The highlights of the award include:

1. Three year term: January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.
2. A 3% wage increase in January of each year.
3. A $200 increase to the maximum paid for longevity.
4. Increased monthly employee contribution for health care to 6% (2017) of the COBRA rate, with limits on yearly escalation.
5. Deductibles on Health Care expenses. (Annual Individual $500 and family $1,000 in 2017)
6. An increase in the co-pays for prescription drugs.
The award is nearly identical to the terms of the tentative agreement of April 29, 2015 presented to the IAFF. It is also nearly identical to the terms of the negotiated settlement between the City and the Fraternal Order of Police Star Lodge 20 in April of 2015.

“Our labor agreements are essential management tools by which we manage our operations,” Mayor Bob Donchez said. “We feel that we have dealt with our employees in an equitable manner from the start of negotiations, a fact supported by this award.”

This agreement affects 108 firefighters in a City with three unions - Police, Fire and SEIU. There are also 120 non-union employees.

“I am pleased that this process is now complete, and the City is anxious to continue to provide services to the citizens of Bethlehem,” reported Mayor Donchez.

Michael Donovan Remembered

I mussed last night's Allentown City Council meeting because I was watching Central Catholic High School's Varsity Boys' basketball team clinch a league playoff berth with a much-needed win over Northampton. But I watched the video, and was moved by the kind words spoken about Michael Donovan, who passed away on Wednesday.

Alan Jennings recently called people who are spending the public's money "heroic," but if anyone really deserves that title, it is Donovan. City Council President Ray O'Connell had some very heartfelt words. And Rich Fegley, who is usually locking horns with Council, was having trouble staying composed as he read the remarks of Michael's son, Ned Donovan, into the record.

Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell: "Mr. Donovan passed away this morning after a courageous battle with cancer. I served on Council with Michael when i first started Council. Michael was an extremely passionate man, a very caring man. I would say Michael was ahead of his times on many items and many thoughts.

"I had a few ... cokes ... pepsis ... [laughter] with Mike over the years, and I learned a lot from Michael. Michael did not have a mean bone in his body. Michael was not mean-spirited at all. Michael looked out for the little guy out there. He really did. Today, we truly lost one of the good guys. May his family be at peace and may Michael Donovan rest in peace."

Rich Fegley (with statement from Michael's son, Ned): "Earlier today, as you've no doubt heard by now, my father, former Councilman William Michael Donovan, passed away after a long battle with cancer. I wanted to extend my thanks and the thanks of my family to this institution. My father always wanted to get involved in politics, and this body allowed him to truly find his voice as a politician. Serving on this Council was one of the highlights of my father's life, something he spoke of with great pride, as I am sure you all feel.

"I'm aware that there are many challenges facing Allentown, and that this group of men and women will make many decisions regarding those issues. I hope that in honor of my father's memory, you will remember his priorities as you look at these issues.

"My father stressed the community over the individual, and he made sure to treat the janitor the same as the CEO. He was adamant that the rights of the little guy must be protected in order to better society. When there are two options, take the one towards love and compassion. And always strive for a more inclusive, respectful and caring community.

"There are no groups more important than any other, and to solve the problems facing a city, engaging the entire community is important. But especially the under-represented and unappreciated voices. I thank you for all your service to the City, as my father served in the past. I hope to meet all of you one day."

Landfill Dumped Nearly $150k in Lower Saucon Council Race

I've been writing a lot about pay-to-play and old fashioned political corruptions in recent months. A bit of extortion here. A bit of bid-rigging there. Every now and then, an old-fashioned bribe.  Given the political corruption that has occurred in Allentown, few noticed what was going on in Lower Saucon Township, where one corporation attempted to buy an election, and very nearly succeeded.

IESI is the corporation that owns the Bethlehem Landfill, and it wants to expand. In order to do that, it needed a compliant Council. On October 23, I reported that the landfill had quietly dumped $95,600 into the Lower Saucon Township Council race, according to campaign finance reports on file at the Northampton County elections office. Its goal was to remove landfill opponents Priscilla M deLeon and David Willard, who were incumbent Council members. It was supporting incumbent Tom Maxfield and challenger Sandra Yerger.

On election eve, I told you the landfill had dumped another $28,700 into the race. The company reported its expenditures. All very legal.

This strategy succeeded in part and failed in part. Landfill opponent Dave Willard was narrowly defeated, but so was landfill proponent Tom Maxfield. Priscilla deLeon managed to hold on to her seat by defeating Maxfield by a scant five votes. Sandra yerger, who is supposed to be an environmentalist, was swept into office with the landfill's money.

According to an annual report that IESI just filed with the elections office, it spent another $21,596.67 after the election, on 11/30/15, for what it calls "individual employee services."

Adding it all up, IESI spent $146,796.67 to buy a local government. Legally.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Kane Joins Fed Ed in Using Campaign Funds to Pay Lawyers

Yesterday, I told you that Allentown mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has used $80k in campaign funds to pay criminal defense lawu=yers representing him in a federal investigation into political corruption in Allentown. He's not alone. The Pittsburgh Tribune reports that AG Kathleen Kane has spent $310,000 in campaign funds to pay lawyers and PR firms representing her in connection with perjury charges filed against her.

Michael Donovan, RIP

Former Allentown City Council member W Michael Donovan passed away this morning after a lengthy illness. He was a champion of transparency and is one of the few elected officials I know who himself was an active blogger. More importantly, he was a good man, one of the best I've ever met. He is the person who first spoke of an urban growth regime in the Lehigh Valley. He always fought the good fight.

Do You Know Nuki?

If you do, Wilson Borough police would like to hear from you. Here's a report from Detective Jason Hillis.
On 02/01/2016 a concerned parent brought their 16 year old juvenile female daughter to the station to report a suspicious male. The juvenile female stated that she was walking home from school on the 1700 block of Filbert St. on 02/01/2016 when a tall black male with a mustache approached her. She stated that the male asked how she was doing and kept walking closer to her. She stated that the male kissed her hand and asked if he could walk her home and also took a bottle of liquor out of his pocket and started drinking it. The male introduced himself as “Nuki”. The juvenile female walked away from this male and walked into her residence without being followed. Anyone with information regarding this incident or similar incidents are asked to call Detective Jason Hillis 610.258.8542 or the Northampton County 911 Center 610.759.2200.

Darth Voter Spent $13.5K in Campaign Funds on Himself in 2015

I now call State Representative and Fed Ed lackey Mike Schlossberg is our very own Darth Voter for his recent decision to cast at least one vote for an absent fellow Democrat in a crucial budget matter, in complete violation of state house rules. In typical Fed Ed style, Darth Voter tried to blame his own moral lapse on "tea party extremists."

They're probably responsible for the annual report his campaign just filed concerning his campaign finances. He raised $55,800 in an off-election year, thanks to the Lehigh Valley urban growth regime and the trade unions they employ to build the Flats at Oh So So Do So Pa. His contributors are a Who's Who of the FBI Subpoena list, from Ramzi Haddad ($1,000) to Matthew McTish ($1,000).

That's no surprise. But what I find disgusting is the $13,500 he managed to spend on himself in a City in which the average per capita income is just $17,000. So disgusting that I have sent an email complaining about it to the State and Lehigh County Elections Bureau. My email is below.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The purpose of this email is to make you aware of reporting violations in the 2015 annual report just filed by Friends of Mike Schlossberg at Filer ID No. 20120115. This report was filed with both the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation as well as the Lehigh County elections office, as candidate Schlossberg is a resident of Lehigh.

Pennsylvania has a campaign finance reporting law that enables the public to determine who is financing elections and how candidates are spending the money donated to their campaigns. In essence, this enables the public to follow the money. But that becomes impossible when the candidate fails to explain how the money is spent.

Pennsylvania's Campaign Finance Law specifically provides, at 25 P.S. § 3246 (b), that each campaign finance report "shall" contain the following information: "Each and every expenditure, the date made, the full name and address of the person to whom made and the purpose for which such expenditure was made."

The 2015 annual report just filed by Friends of Mike Schlossberg fails to provide that information. Instead, it is replete with numerous instances in which Schlossberg periodically reimburses himself for expenditures, without any reference to the expenditure, date made, name and address of the person to whom the expenditure is made or its purpose.

To be specific, Friends of Mike Schlossberg list the following "reimbursements" to candidate Mike Schlossberg: $520.86 on 2/6/15; $372.27 on 3/2/15: $1,867.00 on 3/31/15; $144.98 on 4/2/15; $1,402.05 on 5/5/15: $658.50 on 5/7/15; $23.00 on 5/21/15; $635.40 on 6/1/15; $4,517.80 on 7/2/15 (fundraiser mentioned); $787.88 on 8/29/15; $735.74 on 9/27/15: $94.88 on 9/30/15 (mileage); $606.82 on 10/25/15; $97.75 on 11/3/15 (mileage); $735.00 on 11/28/15; and $396.09 on 12/30/15.

During 2015, Schlossberg has managed to use campaign funds to pay himself $13,596.02 with absolutely no explanation of what the money was used for, who was paid or when. This totally defeats the purpose of the Campaign Finance Reporting Law, and I am requesting that you exercise your supervisory authority and direct Friends of Mike Schlossberg to amend this report and indicate precisely the nature of the expenses for which Schlossberg seeks reimbursement.

In addition to being illegal, this report is unconscionable. Schlossberg has managed to stick $13,596.02 in campaign funds into his own pocket in a city in which the per capita income is just $17,000.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter. I can be reached at the above email address or 610-xxx-xxxx.

Late NorCo Election Reports

According to the elections office, campaign finance reports from the following candidates are late: Phil Bernard (Bethlehem Township); Jim Edinger (Easton); Frank Pintabone (Easton School District): Jeff Warren (Easton) and Sal Panto (Easton). If those reports were mailed on or before January 30, no fine will be assessed. In Frank's case, I think he ran unopposed and raised no money. Panto had no opponent either.

Donchez Annual Report Reveals No Martin Tower Contributors

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez, unlike NorCo Exec John Brown, did use his incumbency to rake in $32,500 during the last year.His annual report, filed Monday, reveals that he started the year with $92,000. He is sitting on a $120,000 warchest in a fairly obvious indication that he'll be seeking a second term when the time comes.  

His contributors include most of the crony capitalists who are willing to pay incumbents. People like banker Scott Fainor and Luke Cunningham ($1,000). But interestingly, he accepted no money from Martin Tower developers Lew Ronca or Norton Herrick. The only CRIZ developer who contributed was Dennis Benner ($1,000).  

Donchez' report also includes page after page of small donations from people who actually live in Bethlehem, from $50 to $250.

Donchez' most likely opponent,City Council President Willie Reynolds, raised no money after the primary. His campaign fund has nearly $30,000.

Brown Starts Auditor General Race With $810

As Northampton County Executive, John Brown is in a good position to collect a lot of campaign dough. I expected to see vendors and employees trip over themselves to give him money this year, especially since he plans to run for state auditor general. But according to his 2015 annual report, he had a campaign treasury of just $810 as of the end of the year.

The only contribution he accepted, $3,000, was a loan from himself. He used that and funds on hand to pay political consultant Gary Birks $3,500.

Since his campaign treasury is so low, it seems clear that Brown's race for state auditor general is something he takes lightly. But I am happy and encouraged to see an elected incumbent of the County's highest office refuse to participate in the pay-to-play game so common among other politicians. .