Monday, February 25, 2008

Instead of Honest Abe, Why Not Deal With Don Cunningham?

On Friday, I told you about Honest Abe Atiyeh, protector of homeless, politician and his own pocketbook. Now, he wants to warehouse prisoners at county expense.

For Atiyeh, this makes perfect sense. The local real estate market is in the tank. In fact, it's actually going in reverse. Poor ol' Abe has had to put the brake on condos in land polluted by arsenic ("Arsenic Acres") and townhouses in a flood plain (he's offering free rafts to the first ten lot buyers).

That housing industry may be slow, but the prison biz is booming, baby! Lock 'em all up! In Northampton County alone, our new prison was over capacity less than a year after being built. In 2006, the US was housing a whopping 2.2 million people in jails. The land of the free has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

This is where Honest Abe comes in. As he explains things to Express Times ace reporter Sarah Cassi, "What if your family member got a DUI or wrote a bad check? Would you want them in a treatment center or sitting in Northampton County Prison? I feel this is going to be one of the most productive projects in Northampton County I think this is going to be a good thing we can all be proud of."

Especially Abe. He'll be collecting at least $10 million in rent checks on this deal for the next ten years. Imagine how many campaign coffers he can fill with that kind of dough!

For some reason, Bethlehem Township residents are unhappy over this possible deal. One of them tells me he's already fired off a letter to township supervisors, although they themselves have not been officially involved. Go figure!

"I am very involved with several schools and am starting a parent drive against the idea. I agree that something is needed. I am not taking the stand of not in my back yard. I am approaching it as the zoning in the area is considered a 'Dirty Zone'. It needs board approval at a zone hearing which is a public hearing. It is my contention that the township is not able to handle a facility that large. It is strained already for the police force. As a member of the Nancy Run Fire Company, I know it will stretch our manpower. We will have to use mutual aid forces to handle such a building. After all, even the new Courtyard Marriott is only a 132 bed hotel. You are talking 200-300 beds. I am starting the parent drive and any suggestions is welcomed. I have been over to the area and have spoken to a few business members who are already in the process of meetings in order to take some legal action to stop it. Wish us luck."

He's going to need it. He can't count on much help from his own county councilman, Lamont McClure, who accepted $1,000 from Honest Abe on 11/16/06. Atiyeh's business partner, Ramzi Haddad sweetened that pot with another $1,000 on 9/27/07. DA John Morganelli, godfather to one of McClure's children and employer of Mrs. McClure, raked in $51,000. Call me crazy, but I think McClure will just love the idea of a new prison center in Bethlehem Township.

What I don't understand is why Northampton County is spinning its wheels, looking at prison sites that nobody wants, when it can partner with Lehigh County. Let's face it, Don Cunningham makes everything look easy. Currently, Lehigh County is considering a a planned expansion of its work release facility located near Bethlehem. This is an ideal time and opportunity for Northampton to join forces with Lehigh for a joint work release facility and recidivism center.

Let Don Cunningham deal with any thorny political issues. That's his bag, baby. Stoffa and Cunningham, both regionalism advocates, might be able to solve this problem together. Stoffa's enemies will attack him day and night.

They'll think twice before taking a swing at Cunningham.

Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, who chairs Lehigh County's planning committee, will be discussing the work release expansion on Wednesday at 6:30 PM. Perhaps someone from Northampton should drop by and say hi.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

cooperation between the counties? Now you are really talking crazy O'Hare.

This would be a great way to test how much cooperation is about talk or if people are willing to actually work together. I'm frankly skeptical but would love to be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

BOH, you would be the model prisoner for this facility because of your lawyer problems in the past? Did you attend a facility such as this when you were bilking people?

RowdyRoddyPiper said...

Just wondering....how could somebody names O'Hare have NO hair? Maybe we should start calling you Bernie NoHare???

Realistic Developer said...

Bernie, as a person involved in development and with experience in Bethlehem Township, does the County really know what it is in for? The Bethlehem Township development process is notorious for making sure that every I is dotted and T is crossed. It has an expert qualified staff that administers the rules in a most professional way. Recently, it brought on Pidcock Engineers from Allentown as the Township Engineer. These are the guys that have overseen South Whitehall for decades. Everyone in the development business knows South Whitehall's reputation for dealing with development. If Cusik and Stoffa thought for one minute that the little Boroughs of Glendon and West Easton put up roadblocks, they are grossly mistaken about Bethlehem Township. As a County taxpayer, I do not want my tax dollars wasted at trying a development scheme in Bethlehem Township where, if approved, the cost will be at least tripled of what it would cost elsewhere. From a recent blogger, it was indicated that this so called "treatment center" will have to get special approvals. Good luck navigating through the Bethlehem Township system I say. Also, is this really a "treatment center", sounds like a jail or prison to me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:04, 9:07:

I've been trying to ne a model for years. If it has to be model prisoner, that's fine by me.

Must have struck a nerve.

When you do this ad hominem stuff, you actually end up making me look good. Is that what you want?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Realistic developer,

No matter what it is called, at the end of the day, it is still a prison. Why not just join forces with LC and let Cunningham deal with any of the politics?

Plus, as you can see from the comments, the Atiyeh forces don't like criticism. The county should avoid this guy like the plague.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it the civic responsibility of some of the wealthier municipalities in the valley to host some of the public facilities that provide needed services to us all?

Why should Easton, or any less affluent municipality, always be the host for such services. Bethlehem Township is the morally appropriate location for this facility.

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly, Northampton County missed a golden opportunity. Lehigh County could not afford to stand by and wait for NC to play politics yet again. The work release facility at Salisbury Township is in terrible condition, and should have been addressed years earlier. Northampton County will hopefully come aboard with Lehigh County on a program for women , but who knows. It was discussed at budget hearings last year. Lehigh County needed to plan and budget accordingly for this facility. I wish Stoffa would have a Council that he could work with, one that looks to the future, regardless of party rather than one which appears to be hellbent on politics and press. Kudos to Don Cunningham, his staff, Director of Corrections Ed Sweeney, and the LC Board of Commissioners for moving forward, yet again, and keeping politics out of this much needed project. Northampton County could have been there with us.

Marc Grammes

Anonymous said...

I must say, judging by the pic, that BO does have nice legs

Bernie O'Hare said...

Isn't it the civic responsibility of some of the wealthier municipalities in the valley to host some of the public facilities that provide needed services to us all?

Every municipality approached, including the less affluent communities like Easton, will say, "Not in my back yard!" Each will proclaim that's not it really means, but at the end of the day, that's it precisely.

Frankly, I feel we should have teamed up w/ LC on this one. Not doing so is missing a golden opportunity, as Marc Grammes so eloquently notes.

Anonymous said...

As O'Hare is the unofficial mouthpiece of the Stoffa Administration, you can bet your bones that O'Hare's idea is actually the plan that Stoffa prefers best. Take a look at the hit piece Bernie did on Abe and the West Easton idea if you have any doubts.

Anonymous said...

If Bernie isn't in the bag on this one, as he usually is, it makes him different than the ET editors and probably the mcall editors in that at least he isn't cheering the project along just b/c Stoffa is for it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:16 & 2:34,

My own view is just that. I would prefer that the county not deal with Atiyeh. Tht's me. Even though Atiyeh has never given a dime to Stoffa, he has attempted to buy influence with judges and council members through generous contributions.

I believe that Beth Tp has the advantage of being in the county and near no residence. But why is the county leasing instead of buying? If it goes into a deal, I believe it would be better to work with LC. It may already be too late, and I understand that the courts are concerned about keeping someone in their back yard.

In truth, LC's work release facility is probably closer to the jobs and residences of most inmates than is currently the case. In fact, there is no way you can get there without going through NC.

Although I criticize the judges, they are reasonable and will see that point.

If it is too late for now, then this should be considered for the future.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If Bernie isn't in the bag on this one, as he usually is, it makes him different than the ET editors and probably the mcall editors in that at least he isn't cheering the project along just b/c Stoffa is for it.

I'm always in the bag. No MSM has cheered any specific location. They have only cheered the concept itself, which is a good one.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I get this, because I didn't get it from the original post. Both ideas are good. The LC idea is superior due to the fact that you are in love with Cunningham, and you hate Atiyeh ? Ever check to see how much money Atiyeh has given to Don through the years including his days as Mayor ? Doesn't this mean that everything Don has done with Abe through the years is unseemly ? I don't think so, but you do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The LC idea, in which it is probably too late to try anything, is superior. It involves a tract of land already owned by a government. It involves regionalizion, which creates an economy of efficiency for both counties. It keeps Atiyeh, a pay to play developer, completely out of the loop. It is still close to the homes and workplaces of most inmates.

I am fully aware of how much money Atiyeh has given to Cunningham over the years. It's $11,500. Don makes the nice list.

But under a combined NC-LC operation, Atiyeh gets no say and NC avoids enraging every municipality they approach.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Incidentally, I don't "hate" Abe. He seems like a nice guy. I hate the "pay to play" climate.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it the civic responsibility of some of the wealthier municipalities in the valley to host some of the public facilities that provide needed services to us all?

Why should Easton, or any less affluent municipality, always be the host for such services. Bethlehem Township is the morally appropriate location for this facility.


I believe the location is in the industrial park, isn't it? Not sure of the NIMBY principle here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The location is an industrial park and is near no residence.

Anonymous said...

Yep, so why would BT residents have a problem?

Bernie O'Hare said...

BT residents would have a problem with this for the same reason that Easton residents would have a problem. In part, it is emotional. But there are also some realistic concerns.

You read those concerns, as stated by a local resident. Will it impose a strain on the PD? Will it pose a burden on Beth Tp's volunteer fire companies? Businesses located nearby have expressed some concerns, and are already started to think in terms of legal action.

In ther meantime, LC is doing precisley the same thing in an established area where there is no problem. It is so close to NC that LC can only access it by going thru NC. That seems to be the better location.

Now I understand that some judges have expressed some reservations about relocating to LC. I don't wish to sound disrespectful, like I usually do. I am highly critical of the courts, but respect their view that inmates on work release or in a recidivism project should not be taken far away. They have a lot of experience in this field and their views should be given great weight. But in this instance, the location appears to be quite reasonable. Most judges are reasonable and will see that this makes sense, both in terms of creating economies of efficiency and in maintaining good will.

The sense I get is that it may be too late, but I'd like to see one last effort made.

Anonymous said...

PRISONERS and their drivers will take many shortcuts through the numerous Housing Developments around this site. The Industrial park will be crowded with them too.
Marc, I applaud Lehigh County, but don't put this on County Council. This Executive did this in secret with AbeA and kept everyone in the dark except for a few allies on Council. C.C. always gets hammered when there is an Executive the media loves.

Anonymous said...

Pathetic as it is, it is true that Stoffa briefed the Editorial Boards before he talked with County Council.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:29,

This is getting silly.

The LC site, which is the obviously the superior location with the least political headaches and the best economies of efficiency, is being frowned on by the judges. I don't say that it a mean-spirited way because I respect their role regarding the sentencing of prisoners. Their views must be considered. But I think the judges may be unaware just how close this center is to NC.

The Glendon site, which Stoffa liked next best, was killed by Glendon before it ever got off the ground. The next site, West Easton, was killed off before it got anywhere.

In the meantime, the county has a 67% recidivism rate. It is considered one of CCAP's top priorities.

So Stoffa considers a fourth site, recommended by Atiyeh. Before even considering approaching county council as a whole or informing Bethe Tp supervisors, he asks council members to look over the site. One of them blows the whistle in an effort to make Stoffa look bad, and BT residents are already upset when some council members have not yet seen the place.

What you are doing is taking a very serious problem - a 67% recidivism rate - and turning it into a political football.

If I had be druthers, I'd work with LC. I'd do my best to persuade NC jurists that this is the best option for many reasons.

Sadly, you are using everything you can to try and hurt a guy who is only trying to reduce our high recidivism rate.

Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Tony Branco who kept asking John Stoffa to explore partnering with LC. Too bad he's gone maybe he could have gotten his buddies to vote to partner with LC as you say the "superior site" I bet he could have gotten Dertinger and McClure to go along.

Anonymous said...

True leadership would be Stoffa putting a tenative deal together with L.C and go to Council and let the Judges come after it.
He won't do that. since Abe.A has been working this deal since the beginning.
There are many factors in recidivism, the least of which is the site of the work -release prison. It should be built on the main campus where it was intended. If you say there are to many problems, a leader would work it out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tony B was an Atiyeh sell out. Knock off the crap.

Anonymous said...

Bernie - Your very proposal was offered to Stoffa by Cunningham and he turned it down. It would have saved NC millions of dollars and would have been a truly significant move towards regionalization. I wish you would find out from Stoffa why he would shun this sensible idea. as far as I know, it wasn't presented to NORCO in any form.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:08,

You certainly know more about that than I. And since you know that, you must know there was judicial resistance to this concept from NC judges. I would give their views great weight, but I don't think this solution is unreasonable or that far. But it may be too late now.

Anonymous said...

Judicial resistance might be a reason to hesitate, but not to cave. It's a shame that JS didn't dig in and fight for this one. When you've been elected to lead, you sometimes have to get in the mud and get a little dirty. I think it was a worthy fight that would have been truly groundbreaking.

Anonymous said...

One of Stoffa's key political advisors is Ron Angle. Angle has told him not to mess with the Judges or he will come to regret it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

One of Stoffa's key political advisors is Ron Angle. Angle has told him not to mess with the Judges or he will come to regret it.

Really? Then you obviously don't know Stoffa. His chief political advisor - only political advisor - is John Stoffa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Judicial resistance might be a reason to hesitate, but not to cave. It's a shame that JS didn't dig in and fight for this one. When you've been elected to lead, you sometimes have to get in the mud and get a little dirty. I think it was a worthy fight that would have been truly groundbreaking.

I've seen enough dirty stuff just on this comment thread to last a lifetime. That's what's wrong with government.

Stoffa won't go in the mud and get dirty. That's not leadership. And why on earth would he want to get down and dirty with the judges?

I don't think any person has been more vocally critical of the court than I. But they have a serious job in considering an appropriate sentence. I'll knock them for acting like architects, but will never invade their province as judges.

In order to act, Stoffa needs five votes. He understands the important role courts play in sentencing, and so do most council members. If judges becomes insistent about this, we must listen to them.

I do think the judges need to be engaged into thinking a little more about a regional approach to some treatment programs. Most of them are reasonable, and will eventually see this as reasonable. But the train is leaving the station.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...
The location is an industrial park and is near no residence.


What's your definition of 'near'?

Is like 1 mile near, 2-3, 4-5, 6-10???

3-500 more vehicles a day in that area 2x day, would rival the Lehigh Valley Mall parking lot on Christmas Eve...

These non-violent offenders will come from all around the valley and bring their tricks of the trade with them to share bedtime stories with each other, some in the shower.

Bernie, you may already know a few, yunno, low lifes...

So define near, I ask as I, live near...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fritch Drive is located in LVIP. The nearest residences to the west are about 5 miles away. The nearest residences to the east are about 1.5 miles away. The nearest residences to the north are about 2.5 miles awat. the nearest residences to the south are about 3 miles away or more.

What's up with the personal snark? I "may already know a few, yunno, low lifes..."

Do I know you?

I've already said the best choice is LC. If you want that, instead of hiring lawyers to bring lawsuits, make an appointment to see a judge and voice your concerns. I do believe they will listen.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you of all people, personal? cmon, lighten up, it's not about you...

Do you know who lives about a direct 1 mile to the east? 1 mile.
I'll give you a hint, his initials are AA.

Fuckin a right,Mr Abe Atiyeh himself.
House surrounded by fencing and lit up like a Christmas tree...

Anonymous said...

Petitions against it in the neighborhood today as a matter of fact. I wonder if he signed it?

Bernie O'Hare said...

And your point is??

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dude (or dudette),

If you want to stop this, you need to do it soon. The place to make your voices heard is not with Stoffa. He already knows LC is the best site. I'm sure 5 council members could agree as well. But they are all deferring to the court in this matter.

You have to persuade the judges that LC is a reasonable solution. Right now, they don't feel that way, and they are entitled to a little respect when it comes to how they sentence. I think the best approach would be to build up as much info about LC as an alternative site and as soon as possible. On Wed eve at 6:30 PM, the LC plannning committee will be conmsiodering that site. That would be a good place to start. After that, you need to see the judges amd persuade them this is a reasonable option. They are reasonable people. I think that is the best option.

The Beth Tp site, for all its flaws, is zoned for this kind of place. You have an uphill battle. I tell you this as a veteran of many battles against local government.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if we weren't fighting a so-called "war on drugs" (the effectiveness of which in WWII would have us currently speaking German or Japanese), there would not be such need for this facility.

Prohibition doesn't work. We've refused to learn the lessons of history and are repeating them. The so-called drug war is a public works program. This boondoggle is its latest manifestation.



"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."

Harry Anslinger
Director, Bureau of Narcotics
1930

Bernie O'Hare said...

This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.

But not with me!

Anonymous said...

Note well, Harry Anslinger's sound reasononing (and an old Mormon law against smoking pot) are the fundamental building blocks of todays "drug policy."

I've said my piece. I'm with Harry and the rest of today's legal establishment. Let's start building million dollar monuments to keep "darkies" and jazz musicians from infecting white women.

Anonymous said...

"But not with me!"


I feel you, Bernie. But I'm asking for a more circumspect approach to the entire premise.

Anonymous said...

First the attempted Human Service building that failed and now the push for this prison. All in the same Industrial Park. It seems the County has been committed to giving someone cash in this area.
On the Lehigh County deal, Stoffa blew it off and blamed the Judges. They never said a definite no, I believe this was always the plan. It's his classic move, blame someone else if you meet resistance.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) I don't know where the HS building was going to be located, but I doubt very much we are talking about the same place. You are just looking for excuses to accuse Stoffa of dishonesty. Shame on you.

2) Stoffa has never taken a dime from Atiyeh, who would own this land.

3) Stoffa just blew this off and blamed the judges? The only persons who know the truth about that are Stoffa and the judges. The word "resistance" is the word I hear. I have no idea how much this has been discussed with the court, and their views on this matter are entitled to very great weight.