Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lehigh Valley's Iraqi War Dead

On Memorial Day, Keystone Politics listed the 167 soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in Iraq. Eight of them, listed below, come from the Lehigh Valley.

Allentown: Rodriguez-Contrera, Luis O., Specialist, 02-Mar-2007

Bethlehem: Coffin, Christopher D., 1st Sergeant, 01-Jul-2003

Bethlehem: Carlson, Frederick A., Specialist, 25-Mar-2006

Easton: Seifert, Christopher Scott, Captain, 23-Mar-2003

Easton: Klinger, Joshua P., Private 1st Class, 14-Jun-2005

Emmaus: Moyer, Ashly L., Sergeant, 03-Mar-2007

Hellertown: Humlhanz, Barton R., Corporal, 26-Aug-2004

Northampton: Grimes, Kyle J., Corporal, 26-Jan-2005

New Neocon Strategy in Iraq: Blame and Run

On Memorial Day, I argued that, as human beings, we have an obligation to stay in Iraq. One of every eight Iraqi children dies before reaching five years of age. But the new neocon strategy, according to Frank Rich of The New York Times, is to scapegoat Iraqis for failing to end the violence that we started.

The new White House policy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has joked, is “blame and run.” It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqis might “have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.” By January, Mr. Bush was saying that “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude” and wondering aloud “whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.” In February, one of the war’s leading neocon cheerleaders among the Beltway punditocracy lowered the boom. “Iraq is their country,” Charles Krauthammer wrote. “We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.” Bill O’Reilly and others now echo this cry.

Update: These neocon arguments are pretty close to those I read in the comments to my Memorial Day post, which certainly suggest we should just leave and let them all kill each other. Whether they know it or not, "liberal" bloggers are paving the way for neocons and genocide. Ain't that a kick in the pants?

Norco's Courthouse Unfinished 1 1/2 Years After its Dedication

"We're shooting for the end of April."

That's the goal Northampton County's energetic Director of Public Works, Steve DeSalvo, set when he told council a few months ago about finishing the courthouse expansion.

He missed.



Although this courthouse was already dedicated back in December '05, lots of little things keep popping up. Here's a fer' instance. The judges' glorious, wind-sensitive fountain was given a test run last week. Waters shot up majestically, perhaps even triumphantly, as armed guards surrounded the perimeter to keep the peasants' children away. Suddenly, without warning, Phhhhhttt. Everything stopped. Apparently, contractors forgot to drain the water last winter and the pipes burst.

Oopsie.

My main concern is the cafeteria. We've nowhere to go. I've started eating lunch in a bathroom stall, which is incidentally a great way to lose weight! Latest word is the public dining area won't be ready until late July.

I don't know how the bid is going, but I understand the first specials will be asbestos burgers.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Baghdad Residents & General Zinni Agree: We Must Stay

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI've told you before the only thing more stupid than the original decision to invade Iraq, is leaving that country high and dry. We may have never belonged there, but the worst thing we could do now is leave.

Most Baghdad residents agree. In a recent New York Times poll, 64% state we should remain until security is restored, the Iraqi government is stronger or Iraqi forces can operate independently.

More compelling than this poll is the opinion of former CenCom commander Anthony Zinni, who opposed the decision to invade. “When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don’t have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq.”

Friday, May 25, 2007

ET's Jim Deegan: Fleck Facing Charges For Illegally Dumping Campaign Signs

As the Express Times' Jim Deegan, another Fleck follower, might say, "You won't Fleckin' believe this!"
Palmer Township police cited Fleck with theft of services earlier this week for dumping campaign signs in a Dumpster outside the Auto Zone on 25th Street without permission.

Fleck says it was just a few signs and he can't believe police -- and the newspaper -- is making a big deal out of it.
Police even found bundles of Fleck's monthly paper, The Irregular, in the trash. Advertisers will be thrilled to learn their products are being promoted in dumpsters. Deegan promises details tomorrow.

Tigger, Twiggar & Taggart Bounce Thru Conflicts of Interest at LVPC

"Bouncing is what Tiggers, Twiggers and Taggarts do best!"

On Wednesday, I ranted about Northampton County Council's decision to reappoint Glenn Taggart, VP of Taggart Associates, to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. County exec Stoffa assured council Taggart's "got nothing going on," and only councilman Ron Angle remained unconvinced. But last night's meeting of the LVPC, confirms Angle had it right all along.

Taggart had to abstain from four different matters in which he had a personal interest. Nothing going on?

What's even more amazing is the conduct of another Northampton County rep on the LVPC, Andrew Twiggar. Guess what? Twiggar is a principal with Dunn Twiggar Company, LLC, an outfit pimping a new development along Allentown's Lehigh River called "The Waterfront." No longshoremen or ex-prize fighters here. Not in this Allentown Shangri-La. The plan is to replace 150 manufacturing jobs at the Lehigh Structural Steel property with 560 condos lying smack dab in the middle of the flood plain.

Jam 'em in there, bippy! Jersey commuters, come on down!

An island for whitey in an Allentown sea of black and brown. De facto segregation. Brilliant! And those manufacturing jobs? Poof! They'll be replaced with jobs for cocktail waitresses, chambermaids and busboys who can't cut it at Bethlehem's casino. They'll be servants as the rest of us whip around in our fancy Rollerblades and cool shades.

Now don't get me wrong. There are many positive positive aspects to this proposed redevelopment, and Our West End Neighborhood features some lovely pictures. But we'll never know whether the LVPC judged this project on its merits or because it was presented and promoted by one of its own - an insider.

Last night, Twiggar, with his Northampton County name tag boldly emblazoned on his jacket, wowed LVPC members as he bounced through a 45 minute slide show.

"Worraworraworraworraworra".

I doubt he showed any flood pics. According to Angle, no developer gets that royal treatment. And surprise, surprise! The LVPC just loves the idea. Concerns about jamming all those condos in a floodplain were summarily dismissed. "This is Allentown." I understand LVPC Boss Mike Kaiser rushed from the meeting to buy a little captain's hat for the proposed marina.

Twiggar, like Taggart, piously abstained from the vote. But he failed to "publicly announce and disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a written memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting," which is required under our state ethics act. I've yet to see a local public official ever do that. Let's face it. As an insider, he had an undeniable advantage.

Tiggers, Twiggars and Taggarts have a good thing going. They'll grab a property lying in a floodplain, draw up a fancy plan with hockey rinks, theatres and other baloney, and jam every square inch with condos. Then they'll look for a developer with deep pockets and, of course, some public bucks. And they'll use their inside connections on this and that commission to ease those pesky zoning and planning requirements. They use exotic terms like "project manager," but they're just front men who bounce really well from public to private sectors.

Not long ago, a developer without a front man vainly tried to promote an affordable housing development in South Bethlehem. He only had Habitat for Humanity on his side, and the planning commission shot him down. They were concerned this developer might later sell to someone else. The chair of this planning commission? Why, it's Andrew Twiggar! He should know.

When I first wrote about this on Wednesday, one commenter had this reaction. "I get it now, attack productive businesses, politicians, candidates or people who actually have 'real' jobs and contribute to society on a daily basis. Good -- bad -- indifferent. " Actually, these insiders contribute to nothing but their own pockets. "Tiggers don't like honey." But Twiggars and Taggarts do. And if someone even drops a hint about their real motives, they hire a lawyer to intimidate you. Since Taggart has already threatened to sue me for remarks I never made, I might as well make it worth the effort.

John Stoffa should ask the Tiggers, Twiggars and Taggarts to bounce out of the LVPC. He loves to say, "There's nothing wrong with government, but sometimes, the wrong people are in government." This is a classic example.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Who's LVDem??

Every now and then, I manage to convince myself I'm a brilliant politcal analyst. I'll spout off strategy on congressional and local races. Then I read your comments. One message comes through loud and clear.

I'm an idiot.

LVDem, unlike me, is probably the closest thing we have to a political strategist in the Lehigh Valley blogosphere. His new job keeps him busy, but I'm always happy to see one of his posts or comments.

So who is this anonymous blogger?

As lousy as I am at analysis, I'm a pretty good spy. In fact, I did some freelancing for the Bush admin right before it decided to invade Iraq. And now, I've solved the mystery. Here's LVDem, captured on film!

I caught him saying this. "I like big butts and I can not lie, You other brothers can't deny, That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist ..."

Former ET Editor Decides Shotgun May Be Mightier Than The Pen

Former Express Times editor Frank Keegan was arrested in Baltimore late last night. Next door neighbors, pounding on his door after 11 PM over cigarette smoke seeping out of his row home, claim Keegan pointed a shotgun in their direction.

This is illegal? Editors have pointed shotguns at me for years!

Ron Angle's Last Radio Show Airs Today

For three years, the Lehigh Valley has had a pretty popular talk radio program on WGPA Sunny 1100 AM. The show broadcasts Monday through Thursday between 8 and 9 AM, and is hosted by the always controversial Ron Angle. Yep, he's the County Councilman. Ron's loud, obnoxious, insensitive, and uses horrible grammar. He's also funny, intelligent, and much more moderate than he pretends. Some call him a populist: others a demagogue. Take your pick. Personally, I like the guy. I can't help it.

Angle's show was one that always got better. As a councilman, he used inside connections to break stories. He attracted loads of local pols from both sides of the aisle, from Charlie Dent to John Stoffa. The Morning Call's Bill White occasionally dropped by, usually after kicking Ron around in one of his columns. His callers have included Lisa Boscola, Snarlin' Arlen, Joe Long and this strange dude from Harrisburg named Bernie Kieklak. But you didn't have to be a somebody to call in. Anyone with a beef could express it. I listened as state reps Rich Grucela and Joe Brennan talked with taxpayers about state house reform, and Northampton County employees had an opportunity to vent their frustrations with county exec Stoffa.

It's been an informative show, and Angle occasionally surrendered the reigns to me as guest host. I usually brought in state reps like Rich Grucela and Joe Brennan because they're both so personable and humorous that all I had to do was answer the phone. I did get in big trouble once - when my guest was Ramona Africa. Alright, twice. I managed to rig a George Bush speech to make him sound even goofier than he does on his own, hard as that may be to believe. A lot of listeners took it seriously, and were outraged to learn I was spoofing them. Alright, I was in trouble pretty much every time I did his show. Who am I kidding?

Was it a great show? No. Goofy sound effects and dreary music prevented that from happening, and Angle can be unfair to callers. But it was local, informative, and the best political talk you'd hear in the Lehigh Valley.

Angle was at his best when he'd bring on an underfunded candidate trying to get a message out to voters, whether it was Russ Shade on the left or Bonnie Dodge on the right. And Angle condemned and called very public attention to a few of the many smear campaigns orchestrated by campaign consultant Tom Severson at Precision Marketing.

Today, that show comes to an end.

Polka King Jolly Joe Timmer and Angle have been feuding for nearly two years. Angle's salary was first cut, then eliminated. His air time was reduced from two hours to one. Engineer Mark Thomas, under Timmer's instructions, has also been running a repeater every time Angle strays into dangerous territory. If you know Ron, you know the station burned out a few. They made Ron sound like a gerbil. Even Angle's sponsors were subjected to that treatment.

Thomas lied about censoring Angle for weeks, even to me, but finally fessed up yesterday.

Today, when the show ends, we all lose. No other forum offered such easy access to local leaders. I know a lot of you hate the guy. He inspires that type of reaction. And he'll be the first to admit his own shortcomings. But in the end, he always stood up for the little guy. That makes him a small d democrat in my book, and that means more to me than party affiliation.

Please, Al, Run!

The Assault on Reason. Al Gore's chief complaint about the Bush administration is summed up by those four words.

Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice (be it on troop levels, global warming or the deficit), to circumvent the usual policy-making machinery of analysis and debate, and frequently to suppress or disdain the best evidence available on a given subject so it can promote predetermined, ideologically driven policies.
The Bush admin never lets facts get in the way of its opinions. Maybe it should try blogging! But Gore, as noted by Time's Eric Pooley, is the "perfect stealth candidate for 2008."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Should Glenn Taggart Sit on the LVPC?

If you're a title searcher like me, you learn to like lawyer letters. They contain checks. But this one, from Jim Broughal's Bethelehem law firm, was a little different. Broughal's firm, which specializes in representing developers and engineers, is trying to shut me up.

[W]e have been made aware of statements published on your blog, which are defamatory towards Taggart Associates and to Donna Taggart in particular. These statements, which allude to self-dealing and corruption by Taggart Associates, are patently false in nature. The publication of these false statements on your blog demonstrates a ... [blah, blah, blah].

Please consider this letter a warning that if you do not stop publishing these false allegations, Taggart Associates will have no option but to proceed with a claim against you for libel and slander.


Libel? Slander, too? Uh oh.

I immediately checked to see what terrible things I had written about Taggart, a Bethlehem outfit that specializes in "in project funding, transportation management, economic development and environmental planning." I found nothing. Nada. Zip.

But then I checked through my comments, and fellow blogger BillyBytes did make three comments mentioning Taggart, along with a host of others. Nothing about them is really defamatory. In fact, I barely understand them. So I fired off a response to the suits. "I've searched through my blog, and I've never written a word about Taggart. So bring it on, bippy. Sue to your heart's content."

That was the end of it. Until last Thursday, when I saw that Glenn Taggart was nominated by Northampton County Executive John Stoffa for reappointment to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. He's Donna's husband, and he also works for Taggart Asscoiates.

Councilman Ron Angle asked why a fox like Taggart would be in the LVPC henhouse. Stoffa replied, "He's got nothing going on. He adds expertise." Angle was not so sure. "He might have nothing now, but what about tomorrow? And he might have associates coming before the LVPC."

Angle was the sole councilman to vote against Taggart.

As it turns out, Taggart has plenty going on, and this is bound to cast some doubt upon his ability to handle matters objectively, free from the influence of developers like Ashley and the casino. Don't take my word for it. Let Donna tell you herself.

Greater Easton Development Partnership, Inc. - Recently re-structured and re-energized the former Easton Economic Development Corporation into the Greater Easton Development Partnership, Inc. to provide the City of Easton with an active non-profit economic development corporation. This new entity is the sponsoring organization for the new Easton Main Street Initiative to stimulate revitalization of Easton’s Central Business District. Also serves as Program Coordinator of the Easton Main Street Initiative.

Slate Belt - Facilitated development in the Slate Belt area of the Lehigh Valley, PA, highlights which include the formation of a Council of Government; construction of a 40,000 sq.ft. Shell building in partnership with the Northampton County IDA, the Green Knight Economic Development Corp., and J.G. Petrucci Co.; and installation of infrastructure to a 60-acre industrial park in Portland.

Route 512 Improvement Project - Local project manager for the Route 512 Improvement Project responsible for securing the local financing match of $5 million for a $12 million project. In this role, Mrs. Taggart served as the interface between PennDOT, the local municipalities and existing companies and potential prospects for the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park.

Hotel Bethlehem - Spearheaded a $13 million historic renovation of a bankrupt downtown Bethlehem hotel to carry a national flag.

Broad and Main - Facilitated the development of a key downtown Bethlehem property that had been vacant for over 20 years, into a mixed-use retail/office building. This project included the construction of an adjacent 700-car intermodal facility that also serves as a LANTA hub.

Bethlehem Technology Center - Participated as one of the non-profit economic development partners and overall managing partner for the development of a $4 million post-incubator technology building in south Bethlehem.

Petrilla Fuel Oil/ Union Station - Oversaw the successful purchase and environmental remediation of a 10-acre site at a major gateway entrance to south Bethlehem resulting in the attraction of a national chain restaurant and the development of an abandoned train station into a satellite office for St. Luke’s Hospital.

Main Street Commons - Coordinated the financing package for a $12 million renovation project of a former department store in the heart of the north side business district of the City of Bethlehem into a mixed use retail/office complex bringing hundreds of jobs to the downtown. This project included the construction of a contiguous 60-car parking deck.

Ashley Development - Currently advises major local developer, Ashley Development, regarding creative financing strategies for urban redevelopment projects. Acts as liaison between corporation and state entities involved in financing processes.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation – Serves as Community Outreach Liaison for casino operator recently licensed in Pennsylvania. Responsible for coordination of local corporate training programs, community events and public involvement.

Should BASD Tie Principal Pay to Performance?

Yesterday, I told you Bethlehem has just been ranked 14th of 17 local public school districts by Pittsburgh Business Times. It's #354 of 498 public schools statewide. Not an impressive stat for the Christmas City.

Bethlehem Area School Board member Judi Dexter wants to do something about it. She tells me she's considering linking administrative pay increases to performance. This kind of incentive pay will be implemented next year in Pittsburgh, currently ranked #470.

Principals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will have their skills rated under a pay-for-performance plan to be introduced next school year.

In what Superintendent Mark Roosevelt called a major part of his turnaround agenda, the district is doing away with annual step increases that principals received without regard to performance. Instead, after 2007-08, each principal will be eligible for increases of up to $2,000 in base pay and bonuses of up to $10,000.

The plan, outlined at a school board Education Committee meeting last night, is designed to make principals more accountable for staff and student performance.

"Good schools have good principals," Mr. Roosevelt said. "Poor schools have weak leadership."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BASD Finishes its Whitewashing

Bethlehem Area School District paid a bunch of lawyers (Whitewash & Williams) to write a fancy report exonerating everyone at the school district from any responsibility over its drug-dealing middle school principal. He was literally caught with his pants down while he watched porn in his own office.

The report itself is private. In fact, the school board prez attempted to impose a gag order on everyone from even speaking about it.

Do I have this right? The dude loses a business, a home, files for bankruptcy, is frequently tardy or absent, somehow brought porn films and sex toys into his own office, and makes a drug deal in his own school office. Nobody had a clue?

Can you spell B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T?

Bethlehem has just been ranked 14th of 17 local public school districts by Pittsburgh Business Times. It likes to look down its nose at Allentown schools, but it's not ranked much higher here in the Lehigh Valley. Sadly, it's number 354 of 498 public schools statewide. With a school board and teachers that seem to be looking out for themselves instead of their students, I can see why.

Monday, May 21, 2007

National Journal Rates Congressman Charlie Dent a Centrist

Tom Foolery yesterday laid out a common Democratic perception about Congressman Charlie Dent. "Charlie Dent, who is a super guy personally, has moved light years from moderation. Ask any Union head. They have his record. He might have been somewhat moderate at the State House but that has long passed. I've voted for him myself the first time around. Can't see it happening again..I'd be willing to bet that he's voted with the White House over 80% of the time. Certainly on major issues..If anyone has data to support anything otherwise, I'd love to see it."

Tom, today's your lucky day! I've got the data, and it's from a nonpartisan publication.

National Journal's 2006 annual vote ratings define where members of Congress stand ideologically. The House's 429 members are ranked based upon 103 roll-call votes. A score of 78 on economic issues would mean the representative was more liberal than 78 percent of his or her House colleagues on key economic votes during 2006.

Charlie Dent's composite score as a liberal is 46.7, and his composite score as a conservative is 53.3. In other words, as I've been telling you, he's slightly right of center. In fact, National Journal labels him as one of the House's centrists. Of the nineteen members in the Pennsylvania delegation, Dent is the 10th most liberal member. He's also the 10th most conservative.

From most liberal to conservative, here's how the Pa. House delegation stacks up: (1) Fattah, Chaka, D-Pa.-2; (2) Doyle, Mike, D-Pa.-14; (3) Schwartz, Allyson, D-Pa.-13; (4) Brady, Robert, D-Pa.-1; (5) Kanjorski, Paul, D-Pa.-11; (6) Murtha, John, D-Pa.-12; (7) Holden, Tim, D-Pa.-17; (8) Fitzpatrick, Mike, R-Pa.-8; (9) Gerlach, Jim, R-Pa.-6; (10) Dent, Charlie, R-Pa.-15; (11) Platts, Todd, R-Pa.-19; (12) Weldon, Curt, R-Pa.-7; (13) English, Phil, R-Pa.-3; (14) Hart, Melissa, R-Pa.-4; (15) Murphy, Tim, R-Pa.-18; (16) Sherwood, Don, R-Pa.-10; (17) Pitts, Joe, R-Pa.-16; (18) Peterson, John, R-Pa.-5; and (19) Shuster, Bill, R-Pa.-9.

The National Journal even breaks it down by category. Dent's liberal scores are as follows: economics - 44; social - 46; and foreign policy - 49.

Chris Casey Alienates a Few Lehigh County Republicans

Dean Browning has popped on my blog from time to time, and has humorously suggested I call it "Not West of Route 33 Ramblings." It's actually a fair and valid criticism.

Browning is also critical of Lehigh County exec Don Cunningham, who has his eye on the Governor's mansion. That's no secret. And if Cunningham is neglecting his duties in Lehigh County, he deserves a few shots. Although I've seen no evidence of this, I'm told some Lehigh County commissioners grumble Cunningham is never in his office. Maybe he's tooling around in that car he bought with campaign dough.

Whoopee!

But Chris Casey, in a never-ending effort to alienate Republicans, has used Browning's innocuous comment to try and engage him "on an intelligent note." He then calls Browning a party hack without substantiation. He also claims Browning is a Cunningham hater, and that we don't need a commissioner who is "disruptive" or a "wrench" in government process.

You tell 'im, Chris!

In my world, we have a name for that sort of thing. It's called democracy. Surely you don't want that in the People's Republic of Lehigh County.
Update: Addicted has risen to Chris Casey's defense, claiming he knows what he's talking about. His conclusion? "Bernie O'Hare preaches integrity, but doesn't practice it " Everybody knows that!
Update #2 (5/23): Casey and Addicted must be magicians. Their entries have mysteriously disappeared. Poof!

2008's Charles Dertinger - Sam "Sacrificial Lamb" Bennett

January 19: LVDem reports the rumor that Sam Bennett, who has never made it out of an Allentown city primary, is considering a run for Congress. The blogosphere explodes in laughter.

February 8: LVDem's famous "odd email" post, telling us that Northampton County Dem boss Joe Long is already "clearing the field" for Allentonian Sam Bennett. Bernie Kieklak, Lisa Boscola's chief of staff, calls Long's venture into political agriculture "so far beyond stupid that it wouldn't surprise me if he wants to be an astronaut some day."

February 22: Bernie Kieklak tips the blogosphere about Bennett's plan to preannounce her stab at congress. "[T]he ONLY reason I think she'd hold it at her house instead of at a better backdrop is that she can't convince 4 people to stand behind her and pretend to be a crowd!" Bennett's barrage draws this response from a commenter. "Bottom Line ... if Sam Bennett was somehow the Dem candidate in the 15th district, I would vote for Dent. And I have NEVER, EVER, voted for an Republican. And I think there are a lot of people just like me."

February 26: Local blogger Richard Wilkins reports "bullying and intimidation" after he dares suggest that the people should select their nominee, not some party boss in a back room. They don't want to see that garbage in print. I immediately ask what garbage is making party bosses so upset. That way, I can write even more.

March 21: Blogger Rising Sun reports, at LV Poliblog, that Bennett will kick off her campaign at an April 2 fundraiser in which you can be her "friend" for $100.

April 3: Green Dog complains Bennett is using Lehigh County Dem committee email to spread the word about her fundraiser, even though she is neither the party's nominee nor its endorsed candidate. Tom Foolery claims she will be the "Democratic candidate for congress. So stop the whining about the little crap." But PO'd Blogger asks, "[S]he's having her breakout fundraiser in Bethlehem? You would think the Lehigh County gang would be whooping up for her. Guess not."

April 6: Joe Long hosts a talk radio show with congressional candidate Sam Bennett, but refuses to accept calls from the public. RadRalph, who listened that day, said this. "If you have a good candidate, they should answer questions from the general public."

May 18: Bennett tells CQPolitics and Bill Cahir she's running against incumbent Charlie Dent. CQ calls Bennett a "consensus candidate." High Priest Long incredibly claims no other Dem plans to compete for the Dem nod. Bennett tells Cahir she's also locked up the support of Rick Daugherty, chairman of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee, and T.J. Rooney, former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Bottom line. Party bosses have done all in their power to discourage anyone who might actually be able to beat Charlie Dent. Bennett, who has yet to win a local race, is at best a second tier Dem. Dertinger v. Dent makes clear that it takes a first tier Dem to beat a first tier R. But if a first tier Dem like Lisa Boscola or Jenn Mann decides to enter the fray, party bosses have virtually guaranteed a nasty primary. Once again, local Dems have maneuvered themselves into oblivion.

The ultimate beneficiary and victor? Charlie Dent, of course.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lehigh County Election Freddies

Dean Browning wants me to re-name this blog "Not West Of Route 33 Ramblings." I do spend a lot of time writing about the eastern end of the Lehigh Valley. Dean has a point.

But Dean, it just doesn't have the same ring.

You want Lehigh County? Go west, young man, to Northern Lehigh Valley Logic. I loved his Election Freddy Awards, and would have plagiarized them, but he's a lawyer. For some biting humor and sarcasm from slightly crazy dudes like Addicted, there's The Lehigh Valley Political Blog, a Chris Casey creation.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Express Times Publisher Martin Till Walks Off LVEDC

It started a few weeks ago, strangely enough, at a Northampton County Council meeting. Beth Gorin, CEO of the quasi public Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), had abruptly "resigned." Councilman Ron Angle wanted to know whether Gorin had been given a going away present after just eight months on the job.

"Around $70,000," was County Exec John Stoffa's laconic response.

Express Times reporter Sarah Cassi broke the news, and LVEDC board members exploded. Stoffa and Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham were thereafter excluded from all information related to Gorin's unceremonious departure. To ensure the public is kept out of the loop, Elmer Gates persuaded fellow board members to adopt a broadly-drafted gag resolution barring any elected official from discussion about severance agreements.

Stoffa explained what happened last night. "My understanding is that Cunningham and I have been excluded from the Beth Gorin package because I publicly said things that upset people."

Publishers at both local papers sit on the LVEDC board. Martin Till, Express Times publisher, refuses to be muzzled. He resigned, the only real option for a newspaper that advocates transparency and accountability from public and quasi-public entitles. "To exclude board members from any discussion involving LVEDC is absurd."

Well done, Express Times!
Update: In last night's meeting of county council, Angle also claimed LVEDC will prevail upon the state legislature to remove county oversight of the hotel tax. "Buster Brown and the good ol' boys are going to Harrisburg and are going to take the hotel tax away from us forever." He also pleaded with Council Prez Wayne Grube to send him to LVEDC for just six months. "That's a mongoose you'll set loose in the snake pit. Give me six months in the snake pit."

Angle has to learn to stop beating around the bush.

Clarification: I've been asked to clarify two items. First, although the publishers of both local papers are members of LVEDC, they don't sit on its board. Second, the LVEDC is a private non-profit that accepts public money, so my use of the phrase "quasi public entities" is considered objectionable. I believe the use of that term is appropriate, but will note the objection.

How a Little Old Lady Beat a Young Dude for Lehigh County Superclerk

"Records Deeds faster than a speeding bullet. Collects fines with more power than a locomotive. Able to leap tall bookshelves in a single bound --- 'Look, up in the sky,' 'It's a bird,' 'It's a plane,' 'It's Superclerk....' "

Last November, Lehigh County voters were conned into consolidating the Clerk of Courts, Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills into a single office known as Clerk of Judicial Records. Superclerk!

The politically ambitious sponsors of this measure? County exec Don Cunningham. He'd like to be governor. Andy Roman. He'd like to be exec. Glenn Eckhart. He'd like to be Superclerk. Nothing was broken, but they just had to fix it. They successfully argued Superclerk would both save money and "modernize" row offices. In truth, this idea saves no money and is actually a throwback to our colonial period.

Not surprisingly, Clerk of Courts Andrea Naugle and Recorder of Deeds Marie Dean, both of whom opposed this Superclerk crock, won the Democratic and Republican nominations. I know and like them both. Whoever wins will insure row offices run smoothly.

Lehigh County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart, Young Dude, tried his best to beat Marie Dean. He was going to come up with a "plan" to save money in 100 days. And let me tell you about Mr. Young Dude's campaign strategy.

Young Dude is just 40, while Marie is 77 years young! His plan of attack - exploit this obvious age difference to his advantage. Experts picked Eckhart to win.

In the final week of the campaign, Young Dude sent out a flier to convince voters to get rid of that old bat.

“IN WITH THE NEW” – GLENN ECKHART (on left) “I have the energy and real world experience to streamline and modernize county government.”

“OUT WITH THE OLD” – MARIE DEAN (on right) “We’ve been doing business like this for 80 years.”

Young Dude uses a PDA, an SUV and a computer to show how fresh and with it he is.

Poor, Marie Dean gets an old rotary phone, a classic old car and a stack of papers.

But guess what? Septuagenarian Dean easily beat whippersnapper Eckhart at the polls with 58% of the vote.

Oopsie. Just about the only people who turn out regularly to vote in off-year primary elections are seniors! In one fell swoop, Young Dude alienated an entire major demographic. This serves as a classic example of how an idea often sounds great on paper but can actually damage you when other commonsense factors are not taken into account. You must always know with whom you are communicating.

Worst Place For Elections Returns - Norco's Elections Office!

Election night, I was in the belly of the beast - the elections office. Northampton County Director of Administration John Conklin invited me to watch the action as an "observer."

It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

I showed up shortly after 8 PM for a bird's eye view of the inner working of our voter registration office. An army of county workers from different offices, led by a quiet but confident General Conklin, was impressively organized and professional. A cordial coterie of reporters was amazingly helpful, even though they knew I was just a rank amateur. Next week, I'll give you all the juicy details.

Today, I just want to tell you two things.

First, West Easton was the first precinct to report results. The pollworkers there were cheered as they marched in.

Second, if you really want to know who's winning or losing, the last place to be is in an elections office. Weird, eh?

Joe Long for Northampton County Executive? Say it Ain't so, Joe!

Around 3 PM yesterday, Ron Angle, the Emperor, stopped by the Recorder of Deeds office just to say "Hi."

He does things like that.

He was on his way to a Finance Committee hearing, which he chairs, dressed pretty much like a farmer. Cigars, pens, papers and dollar bills fell out of his pants and shirt pockets. I'm pretty sure he violated our new dress code, but love his cool "Northampton County Sheriff" baseball hat. He picked up a bunch for $10 each, and tried to sell me one for $20. I turned him down, but they're much nicer than those IronPigs hats Bill White was bragging about.

Angle had just won his primary. He had no opponent, so you'd think he'd be cheerful. But he sounded a little depressed. He slumped in a chair, shaking his head. Suddenly, his eyes bulged and veins popped out of his head as he said this.

"You're not going to believe this. But if you heard this from the person who told me, you could take it to the bank." (Notice how he builds up interest, while not revealing his source).

"Joe Long is seriously thinking about running for county exec."

Me: "Get the hell out! Is he out of his mind?"

Ron (sadly shaking his head again): "It's true. Can you imagine what things would be like with him in charge?"

I have no idea whether this rumor is true.

But I hope so. It would be so much fun!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Norco Judges Want to Party Like it's 1999!

So tonight we gonna, we gonna (Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999)!

$20,000. That's who much the men (and women) in black want from lawyers who appear in front of them regularly. Northampton County judges are macing the local bar for this obscene sum so they can dedicate the courthouse ... again, and have a private little shindig. They plan on inviting DJ Chief Justice Ralph (we need more dough) Cappy, too!

Isn't that nice?

In the meantime, courthouse workers still have no cafeteria.

One lawyer I know was wondering through a hall muttering, "$20,000! I could invite 250 people for a dinner at the Saucon Valley Country Club and it wouldn't cost that."

Feds Subpoena Karoly Estate Records

Business entrepreneur and attorney Peter Karoly and his wife, Dr. Lauren Angstadt, an Allentown dentist, both died in February when their private plane crashed.

Two different wills for each estate are being offered for probate in Northampton County. The first set, from 1985, evenly divides the estate among both families. But a more recent set of wills, from 2006, gives Peter Karoly's law firm to brother John Karoly,who has sued enough cops to form his own police department. John's humble motto - "Sometimes Only the Best Will Do…"

A Karoly half-brother is convinced these new wills are fraudulent. But District Attorney John Morganelli refuses to investigate. "You can't just start a criminal investigation because someone believes a will is improper."

Apparently, the feds view this just a bit differently. On May 10, the Register of Wills was served with a subpoena to produce "any and all documents which verify or affirm the signatures of Peter J. Karoly, Esquire and Dr. Lauren B Angstadt, as related to wills maintained in Northampton County." Instead of appearing before the Grand Jury, she's been given the option of mailing the records to the U.S. Attorney's office in Allentown.
Afternoon Update: At Midnight, I told you feds had subpoenaed Karoly estate records. Now The Morning Call tells us Feds are at John Karoly's home, armed with a search warrant. (My thanks to a commenter who pointed this out. I knew something was up.)

Mighty Chris Casey is at the Bat

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat
.


My good friend and fellow blogger, the Mighty Chris Casey, is still at the plate. He exposed the credit-card scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of two supervisors in Upper Macungie Township. He's run for the office once before and lost.

Strike one!

Then, when no one else would challenge state rep Doug Reichley in a heavily Republican district, Casey stepped back into the box. He waged a courageous, though ultimately unsuccessful, campaign against an incumbent featured on Bill White's rogues' gallery of state legislators who either voted for or accepted the midnight payraise.

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"


Now, in an attempt to restore transparent and accountable government in Upper Macungie, the Mighty Casey is still at the plate. He won the Democratic nod for supervisor on Tuesday with 365 votes. He'll face the voters in a heavily Republican district who don't seem to mind officials who use credit cards for personal expenses or who send out fliers at taxpayer expense on election eve.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Maria! ... I've Just Met a Girl Named Maria!

You might think Maria Dantos, Lehigh County's First Assistant District Attorney, is some firebrand too biased to be a good judge. You'd think wrong. You see, Maria is also a former public defender who claims, "The most rewarding part of this job has been the service to people who needed me." She'll now have that opportunity as a Lehigh County judge.

Out of eight candidates squabbling over three open spots, Maria was lead vote getter on both Democratic (9,289 votes) and Republican (10,196 votes) ballots. This is the first time in decades that a cross-filed Republican judicial candidate pulled off being Top Dog on both ballots.

Although Maria was an unstoppable candidate with a great work ethic, campaign manager Daphne Uliana should be credited for an outstanding job of coordinating message and grassroots activity for the campaign.

Daphne, who's married to lobbyist Joe Uliana, has mostly stayed in her husband's shadow. But she's starting to branch out into campaign consulting. If she wants to be, she’ll become a major player in Lehigh Valley campaigns.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who's Apathetic - Voters or Mainstream Media?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket"I hate municipal elections. I know how important they are, but to vote intelligently, you have to do some real research, and not enough people bother."

"In case you're wondering (and, really, who isn't?) turnout in the Valley is sluggish today."

The former comment comes from Morning Call columnist Bill White: the latter from Morning Call statehouse reporter John Micek. I admire and respect them both. To be fair, Bill made those remarks as the preface to a blog about appellate judge elections, which are confusing. And Micek tells me he actually wishes we had high turnouts like those in Europe.

But I still wish those remarks were never made. They give the impression they don't give a damn about local races. It encourages voter apathy.

Party bosses predicted a 15-17% turnout in yesterday's municipal primary. Lehigh County's registrar of voters stated turnout was "busier than I anticipated." Northampton County's voter registrar claimed 15% of eligible voters had already voted by 1 PM. The Morning Call's headline for this online article? "Lehigh Valley voter turnout slow so far." Doesn't that misleading description also promote voter apathy?

Obviously, the turnout in yesterday's election is much lower than you'll see in a presidential election. It was slow - but not for a municipal primary. If it's between 15-17%, it's a normal turnout. Approximately 30,000 votes were cast in Northampton County, not including absentee ballots. That's about 16% of Northampton County's registered voters. Of course this is too low, but it still met expectations.

During most election cycles, when local candidates strive to have their message heard, the print media hide. Candidates are encouraged to buy ads to get their points across, or have supporters send letters to the editor. This scant coverage makes it impossible for poorly funded candidates to deliver their message. Most citizens have no time to do the "real research." This media policy of paucity promotes incumbents and well-funded candidates.

Bill White acknowledges this himself. "[I]t has to be frustrating to keep trying and trying to get your message out -- in the back rooms of diners, in quiet hotel meeting rooms, on busy street corners -- knowing that in many cases, almost no one will show up, and no one will hear about it."

Many people, who don't really know the candidates or issues, stay away. And then the mainstream media will charge them with voter apathy.

But people really are hungry.

Yesterday, there were 669 visits and 1,643 page views on this very small blog. That's about 200 more than I'm used to seeing on any weekday. People are, in fact, interested in their own government. That's why it's sad to see so little attention from the mainstream. They are the pros. Bloggers lack their credibility. We need them.

Limited resources and space hamstring the mainstream. But the result is fewer votes and declining subscriptions. That's why the Internet is such a useful asset. The Morning Call did post election results online, and Jim Deegan had a terrific post about Mike Fleck's campaign signs in Easton.

Mainstream media could easily use the Internet to make campaign finance reports in local races available. I'll be trying that myself. They establish blogs for Mayfair and Musikfest - why not local races? Increased coverage of these local issues and elections, would both serve the public and might increase circulation.

Now I'll go back to picking my nose.

Romig-Passaro is Northeast Bethlehem's New District Judge

The biggest complaint people had against her is that she writes her name like this - Patricia Romig-Passaro. She's the only district judge candidate in Northampton County to win both Democratic and Republican nominations.

Nazareth Voters Remember Conrad Bowers

"Sunshine Act? We don't need no stinkin' Sunshine Act!"

That's pretty much the attitude of unelected Nazareth borough councilman Conrad Bowers. He refused to allow those of us in the lower classes to attend his committee hearings. We might make things "too unwieldy." It's just "not going to work out." Although he had no idea what the Sunshine Act requires, he still insisted on conducting the people's business behind closed doors. When forced by other council members to admit the public, he refused to let them speak.

Yesterday, the voters finally had a chance to speak - at the polls. Comrade Bowers finished dead last among four candidates seeking two positions. Perhaps we thought he might make council "too unwieldy." I guess it's just "not going to work out."

Is Ron Angle Vulnerable?

The Emperor, Ron Angle, faced no primary opponent in his bid for re-election to a third term on Northampton County Council. But a review of the county's totals for 85% of the precincts, reveals that Angle must have some enemies in his own party. Of the 3,892 votes cast by Republicans in his district, Angle captured only 2,723. There were 45 write-in votes, and 1,124 chose to skip his race completely.

I wonder how many of those 45 write-ins went to Jolly Joe Timmer?

A Math Lesson For Jeff Warren

Easton Councilman Ken Brown raised $75 between between February 8 and April 16. He earned 905 votes. Jeff Warren's $12,385, raised between January 1 and April 30, got him 831 votes.

Cost of Ken Brown vote - 8 cents.

Cost of Jeff Warren vote - $14.90.

Money means shit in Easton.

Any questions?

McClure's McMud Wins Primary, But Makes Him a Loser

McClure's McMud worked ... in the primary. In a campaign against an unknown with no money, McClure just had to slime his opponent. His negative campaign, in which he resurrected the memory of Will Power's quadriplegic and deceased brother, revealed a lot more about McClure than it did about Power.

With most precincts in, McClure has 2,559 votes to a very strange 666 for Power, or 79% of the vote. He'll be facing Republican Mark Schwartz, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination, this Fall.

The more people get to know McClure, the less they like. He'll lose this Fall.

It's Monahan v. Corpora for Easton Mini-judge

A mysterious last-minute smear campaign against Attorney Brian Monahan appears to have back-fired. With 338 votes, he easily captured the Republican nomination in Easton's magisterial district of Williams Township, Glendon Borough and Easton's south side. But Easton councilman Dan Corpora just as easily got the Democratic nod, garnering 546 votes.

Monahan and Corpora will face off in November. Combining both parties, we have the following vote totals: Corpora - 737; Monahan - 659; and Greene - 202.

Congrats to Mayor Sal Panto

On Friday, I cornered Sal Panto at the courthouse. He had dropped by to record a deed or something, and must have forgotten I search titles. When he saw me, he made a beeline for the door, but I cut him off. (I know the terrain, bippy).

Although genial as ever, Panto was scared to death. He was very aware of Mike Fleck's GOTV skills.

His worries are over. With all but one precinct in, Panto has 60% of the vote, and leads Fleck 914 to 606. According to The Morning Call's Tracy Jordan, Fleck conceded at 9:15 PM. "We wish Sal the best of luck, and we hope he's the next mayor."

So do I.

Now Fleck gets to rip down all those signs. That should take several years.

Nazareth Mini-Judge Race is Very Close

Someone from Falcone's camp contacted me election eve to tell me, "I for one am shutting down my computer. I will turn it on again tomorrow evening to catch the results and see Falcone as the new District Judge."

Oopsie!

The Morning Call reports that Yvonne Falcone clings to a thirty-one vote lead over John Capobianco for the Democratic nomination. And Capobianco has convincingly sewed up the Republican nod with a 180 vote lead. If you combine both parties, the results are as follows: Capobianco - 878; Falcone - 729; Siegfried - 470; Buskirk - 381; and Hammer - 200.

The county's unofficial results, with 85% of the votes tabulated, correspond roughly with The Morning Call.

Will there be a recount? Contested general election? Gee, I hope so! Especially now that the real Yvonne Falcone has revealed herself. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lehigh Valley Election Turnout

When I voted at 11 AM in Nazareth's second ward, I was the 100th voter. Elections workers tell me turnout was heavier than expected for a municipal primary. How's the turnout in other Lehigh Valley precincts?

Update at 2:40 pm: In a Morning Call article entitled "Lehigh Valley voter turnout slow so far", Lehigh County's registrar of voters tells us turnout is "busier than I anticipated." Northampton County's voter registrar claims 15% of eligible voters had already voted by 1 PM. Party leaders had predicted a 15-17% turnout, but it appears that the current pace may exceed those expectations. We'll see.

Earley Gets Squirrely in Upper Macungie!

The Morning Call has an interesting account of today's supervisor race in Upper Macungie Township, where fellow blogger Chris Casey is making his third swing at the plate. Obviously, he's my choice for the Democratic nod.

Morning Call columnist and blogger extraordinaire Bill White tells us how Republican incumbent Ed Earley plans to retain his seat.
With so little information, it's easy to manipulate us. Upper Macungie Township chose the week before the election to mail out a fat full color newsletter that features no less than three nice photos of incumbent Ed Earley, who is seeking re-election in a contested primary. Its glowing account of the township's progress serves as a great free campaign ad for a guy who, at best, was asleep at the switch while his two co-supervisors were grossly misusing township credit cards. I don't think the timing of this mailer was a coincidence.

Buddy Christ's Election Day Checklist

Feel free to post your own endorsements today. I'm going to be a little busy. I plan on voting in every precinct. I'm a Democrat and that's what we do. Buddy Christ has stepped to the plate, and will give his infallible election picks.

Hi boys and girls! Got Christ? Who's your Buddy? Who's the slick with the pick? That's right, bippy, it's Me. O'Hare doesn't know it yet, but I just locked him in the can. I'll let him out at 8:01 PM. Who says I don't have a sense of humor? And now let me give you my election day picks. This will boil your holy water.

Act 1 Referendum: Vote NO. Anything that needs the Holy Slide Rule is Trouble!

Easton's mayor:
Fleck's a wreck! When he started plastering signs on My church steeples, he lost Me. Vote Panto. He can't walk on water like Me, but he'll restore some sanity in Easton.

Easton's city council: Anyone but
Jeff Warren! Liked him, but that all changed when he filed his finance report. Two words. Special interests.

Easton's magisterial contest:
Brian Monahan. He took a lickin' and kept on tickin'.

Bethlehem's city council: They're
too damned boring! Are they still alive? I'd spice them up with Dana Grubb. He'd keep an eye on Callahan. Grubb's also offering a free wrestling clinic for elected officials in June. But the three incumbents will win. Yawn.

Bethlehem's school board: It's time for some changes, and sister
Judy Dexter tells us why. I hope she's attending Grubb's wrestling clinic.

Bethlehem's magisterial race: Pat Romig-Passaro
deserves a shot, but has got to stop writing her name like that. Seriously.

Nazareth's mini-judge: Anyone but
Falcone! If this election season lasted just a few more days, she'd break out her 5th grade geography quizzes to show us she "far surpasses" her lowly opponents. Forget mini-judge, she should be running for pope!

Northampton County Council, Nazareth District: Lamont, Lamont! Dude! What's with those
repeated Sunshine Act violations, attempted invasion of the budgetary reserve, worse attendance record on council, special interest campaign contributions and all that mudslinging about Will Power's deceased paraplegic brother. You need a time out. Vote for Will Power.

Northampton County Council, Slate Belt District:
John Maher, you sold your soul to Bossman Long in return for a lousy party endorsement. Now you're doing goofy things like planting signs in Nazareth, outside your district. You'll stumble through the primary, and fall in the Fall. The Evil One, Ron Angle, is waiting for you.

Machine Dems Insure Angle Victory in Slate Belt

State rep. Rich Grucela opposes party endorsement of candidates in contested primaries. And that's what he told the Northampton County Democratic party in its last meeting. It makes sense. When a party preselects candidates in dark bars, we end up with elected officials who decide the people's business behind closed doors.

But a handful of Dems, who think they know best, disregarded Grucela's advice and chose John Maher as their poster boy to challenge Ron Angle on Northampton County Council. It made no difference that Maher has a Democratic opponent, Bill Hall. A college grad, Hall founded Bayside Builders in Naples, FL, supervising 100 million dollars in construction projects. He relocated to Pennsylvania in 1997, working as a construction supervisor and contractor.

A few Bethlehem Dems made an undemocratic decision for slate belt Dems. Maher refused to stand up against the machine. In fact, he tried vainly to justify machine politics. In doing so, he sold his soul to Bossman Long, and has guaranteed his defeat this Fall. Angle will eat him alive.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bill White Casts Public Spotlight on Possible "Pay to Play" Scheme at BHA

Nearly a month ago, I told you about the latest shenanigans at Bethlehem's Housing Authority (BHA). It plans on rejecting the advice of a $35,000 consultant to select a politically-connected energy savings contractor. BHA member Joe Long just happens to chair the local Dems.

The Morning Call's Bill White has published an excellent two-part exposé, shedding light on what increasingly appears to be a "pay to play" scheme.

A frustrated Larry Kisslinger, who had resigned from BHA a few months earlier, had this to say to Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan. "Bible says: the more you know, the more you worry ... and ... I worry a lot for you and BHA! Go figure!"

Today, at 4 PM, the BHA made its decision. Did it go with the outfit recommended by its own consultant? Or did it pick the Democratic campaign contributor?
Update: The Express Times reports the Bethlehem Housing Authority, in a 3-2 vote, went with Ameresco, the outfit recommended by its own consultant. Happy ending for good government. Lousy ending for Boss Long.
Update 2: The Morning Call also has a well-written account of the 4 PM meeting.

McClure's Sleaze Campaign Designed to Chill Boscola's Congressional Aspirations?

A student of local politics tells me why McClure's smear campaign was launched. It has nothing to do with Will Power and everything to do with state senator Lisa Boscola! Here's the theory.

1.) We all know [Norco Dem boss] Joe Long would like to see Sam "0 for life" Bennett be the Dem nominee in the 15th Congressional District. As one county Dem on the ballot put it to me, "Let's face it, Sam's been more loyal to Joe than Lisa."

2.) McClure, in his psychosis, believes he will one day be Congressman McClure, so he wouldn't mind seeing Sam run and lose to keep the seat away from more prominent Dems (Lisa, Jenn Mann, Callahan).

3.) "Boss Long" believes he is making his point with the Stofkos [Lisa's family] to convince Lisa to stay out.

4.) McClure believes the same.

5.) One of the big hang ups for Lisa about running is that her family believes a run will be stressful. By decimating Will, "the machine" folks are proving their point to her. This is what lies ahead of her.


Sounds sexy. Personally, I think McClure is just a bully.

Lamont McLure Deserves No Seat on Norco Council

I've written about Lamont McClure, aka McMud, so many times I could probably devote an entire blog to his nefarious antics. He's earned the unflattering nickname.

One thing he hasn't earned is a seat on Northampton County Council. He's lost whenever he's run. He'll win on Tuesday, but his sleaze campaign against Will Power has probably guaranteed that Dems will lose control of county council in the general election.

I've already told you what I think. Here are some other voices in the blogosphere.

NewsOverCoffee, a Nazareth blog in McMud's district: "Campaigns almost always devolve into one candidate knocking another one down to boost one's self in the process and it makes no constructive contribution to our knowledge of these individuals or their ability to perform. Pointing out convictions of crimes would be fine, but accusations that were not upheld is not right and speaks volumes of the individual presenting the material."

Lehigh Valley Poliblog: "Using a candidate's dead relative in an attack mailing against him, twisting the facts and words of someone who is no longer alive and can't set the record straight, is the lowest form of gutter politics I have ever witnessed, and i've personally seen some nasty crap."

Blue Coyote a relative newcomer to Blogistan, says it best of all: "I am reminded of a quote from Marcus Aurelius - 'A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.' "

In Bethlehem, Patricia Romig-Passaro Deserves Her Day in the Sun

Bethlehem's magisterial race in the Marvine-Pembroke area includes Patricia Romig-Passaro, daughter of retired District Judge Liz Romig, social services worker Juan Cruz and Attorney Gil Negrete. I think this is a no-brainer for anyone with any knowledge of the area.

For decades, Liz Romig kept the peace in volatile northeast Bethlehem. Along the way, she earned the respect of judges and lawyers, most of whom considered her Northampton County's finest district judge.

I have no doubt that Johnny Cruz and Gil Negrete would be fair-minded and good magistrates. But a Liz Romig only appears once every generation. Pat Passaro, who cut her teeth in her mother's courtroom, deserves a shot at following in her mother's footsteps. She is certified for the position.

In Easton, it's Monahan for District Judge

Easton's magisterial seat consists of Williams Township, Glendon Borough and Easton's south side. Attorney Brian Monahan is in a three-way battle with designer Cindy Greene and Easton councilman Dan Corpora.

As a Democrat, I lean towards Corpora, an affable and soft-spoken Easton leader. But there's no doubt in my mind that Monahan is by far the most qualified of the three. He's the only one who can hit the ground running. The other two have not been certified.

And I deeply resent an anonymous outsider's last-minute sleaze attack at Monahan. Looks like Monahan offended some pretty powerful people, probably by doing the right thing. We need people with that kind of integrity on the bench.

For Nazareth District Judge - Anybody But Falcone

"You're going to say nasty things about me. ... No, I'm just kidding."

That's how Yvonne Falcone ended her conversation with me at a candidates' forum for five mini-judge hopefuls at the Nazareth News Agency a few weeks ago. I had asked her some pretty tough questions, and was impressed by her answers.

Actually, I was impressed by all of them, and said, "We're very lucky to have such a fine group interested in this very tough and important job. Each would be outstanding." When I told you about their campaign finance reports on Friday, there was nothing unsavory about any of them. In fact, I complimented Falcone for shunning the easy temptation of money from other lawyers.

But on Friday, Falcone finally showed her true colors. She lacks judicial temperament.

Someone, posing as a concerned citizen, popped on this blog to tell us he checked the finance reports, too, as well as Falcone's ethics records and even her Moravian College transcripts. "She checks out well."

This is Nazareth baloney. First, nearly all disciplinary actions against attorneys are private matters - there's simply no way to check private reprimands. Second, colleges won't release transcripts without the consent of the graduating student. It violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Finally, other than reporters and the candidates themselves, very few citizens have the time to look through campaign finance reports. It's clear to me that this "concerned citizen" is someone closely associated with Falcone's campaign.

That would have been fine with me, but this "concerned citizen" had to take things to the next level by unfairly trashing Norco prison boss Todd Buskirk and dismissing the rest, all good men, as politically connected nitwits who just don't know the law.

My response to this concerned citizen? "Who the hell do you think you're kidding? You're obviously in Falcone's camp, and might even be the candidate herself." I asked Falcone to condemn the disparaging remarks about other candidates.

Falcone responded by telling me these kinds of things.

(1) "[A]s I said at the candidate's forum, I knew you'd come back to say nasty things about me." (Looks like she wasn't kidding after all. And incidentally, she prejudged me, not the best quality in a judge).

(2) "I have not spoken unkind words about any of the candidates and neither has any of my supporters to my knowledge." (All she has to do is look at my blog to know that's untrue.)

(3) "I also see they accessed your ethics record too so there must be some public access." (Now she attacks me personally- very judicial).

(4) "I graduated from Moravian College ranked 10/365 with a 3.88 GPA. ... I cannot denounce a good scholastic record. I was also ranked 5/118 at Pen Argyl High School. Academically and in legal qualifications/experience, I far surpass my opponents." (Well, la-de-da! Aren't we full of ourselves? Not much humility here. Not much reality, either. No jury ever asked me how I finished in high school ... or college ... or law school. There's very little correlation between class rank and intelligence. Some of the brightest people I know never went to school.)

After hearing from the real Yvonne Falcone, I could never support her for judge. She's a braggart who looks down her nose at the other candidates. As a judge, she'll look down her nose at you, too.

Colonial Region police detective Gary Hammer, Norco warden Todd Buskirk, Upper Nazareth top cop Alan Siegfried and deputy sheriff John Capobianco, the remaining candidates, would each make a fine district judge. Unlike Falcone, they have enough common sense to avoid mixing it up with a blogger.

Pa. Taxpayers Cyber Coaltion Urges "No" Vote on Act 1 Referendum

The Pa. Taxpayers Cyber Coaltion (PTCC) and Lower Nazareth Township Citizens Forum both have an interesting series on the Act 1 referendum scheduled tomorrow. Quality education costs money. There's no way around it. But this proposal increasingly appears to be one that just replaces one unfair system with another. We can do better.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fleck Campaign Signs Litter Easton ... and Violate State Law

I hacked my way through Easton's Mike Fleck signs Saturday night. After a brief rain, more of them seemed to pop up.

Jim Deegan, Express Times managing editor, has a terrific blog about those signs. "Someone even told me he spotted one attached to a shad reeled in near the free bridge."

Norco Council Solicitor Rules Against Lamont McMud

Lamont McClure's a nasty man. In a ruthless quest for public office, he's happily smearing Will Power with lies and half-truths about his deceased brother, provoking painful memories. And just a few days ago, he was slinging mud at Ron Angle's refusal to recuse himself from a nonbinding resolution over Portland sewers. You see, Angle owns a few properties in Portland.

At the time, I told you it's no conflict. McClure was just playing politics. And Solicitor Lenny Zito agrees. A public official who benefits or suffers only in the same way other members of the community, has no conflict as a matter of law. If the law were any different, no municiplaity could ever adopt a budget.

This was just McClure McMud. But he's no James Carville. Truth be told, Lamont's no legal whiz, either. He's violated the Sunshine Act ... twice. He's proposed invading the budgetary reserve, a Home Rule Charter violation. And now he'll probably try to get Lenny Zito dumped for following settled law.

While piously condemning Angle, McClure votes on matters involving the DA's office, where his wife is employed. When challenged, he denies it.

On Tuesday, Lamont McMud will be the Democratic nominee. Aren't we lucky?

So much for his so-called Code of Civility.
Update: "If you are voting on something that will affect you one way or another, you should recuse yourself, period." That's what Charles Dertinger told Morning Call reporter Joe Nixon. Under this compelling logic, Dertinger must now disqualify himself from voting on every budget, which will affect his taxes.