Hizzoner made that snide remark to Morning Call columnist and blogger Bill White, who himself lives in the boonies, to deflect criticisms I've made of his Allentown reign. It's a charming tactic that King Ed and his cronies use regularly.
Actually, those of us who live in the boonies of Nazareth really do care about Allentown. Most of us have family and loved ones who live and work there. What happens there affects us. We also decide whether we want to shop or do business there.
So when Pam Varkony asked readers to attend the grand unveiling of King Ed's latest new policing plan, I went. Walking from Linden Street to city hall, a pleasant summer evening was interrupted by the cacophony of shouts and yells from the prison, eerie noises that serve as a constant reminder of Allentown's very real crime problem. How anyone can visit city hall on a regular basis and not be struck by that, is a puzzle to me.
I was late, thinking the meeting started at 7 PM. After listening for a few minutes, I was very glad to have been tardy. Experts were pontificating with psychobabble about "trusting relationships," focus sessions," "problem-solving strategies" and "implementation challenges." Amazingly, one of them actually stated crime is really beyond the control of a police department. Mayor Pawlowski was asked one, very brief, question by Council Prez D'Amore, and off he went! He spent at least ten minutes, inconsistently claiming "We've accomplished a lot" and "We have to do a restructuring." Rarely have I ever seen a person take so much time to say so little. No one asked him to clarify. That might take another twenty minutes.
Council decided to squeeze in a pesky zoning matter for a few minutes, so I decided to take a walk up Hamilton Street. I bumped into two cops who were doing the very same thing. We made a trade. I translated what the suits were talking about, and they told me what they thought.
"We need more police," is what one cop quietly told me.
When I made it back to city hall, the experts from Hanover Justice Group had finally run out of hot air. Now it was the politicians' turn. Uh oh. But Council members Eichenwald, Guridy and Donovan were impressive, asking thoughtful questions about (1) diversity on the force; (2) increasing the number of officers; (3) the merit of hiring part-time officers; and (4) how rank and file officers feel. Amazingly, the police plan does nothing to add diversity or the number of officers. Jeanette Eichenwald stated, "More of our officers need to look like our citizens do." The experts completely ducked the question about part-time officers, demonstrating some political acumen that defied their professorial style. The chief claimed he had no idea how rank and file officers feel, although he's heard no negative feedback.
In order to report the above paragraph, I sat through an hour of bullshit burgers. One of the experts, Dr Wasserman or Watson or something, condescendingly told council members he visits Scotland Yard once every month. They repeated a lot of psychobabble, but failed to answer a single objection. Every now and then, Pawlowski would pipe in with a "We're getting better" or "We've accomplished a lot" or "As you know, police cost money." But he didn't stop at those pithy phrases. He'd go on and on and on and on and on and .... get the picture?
When it was council member Schweyer's turn to question the experts, he read a carefully prepared, but boring, speech. He started serving up softballs, and I decided it was time to leave. Ninety minutes of bullshit burgers is enough. I feel bad for the hundred or so residents patiently waiting for their turn to speak. I wonder how many survived. Channel 69 eventually began pulling them out into the halls to get their opinions, both in English and Spanish, which was very cool.
What were they saying?
"We need more police."
Four words. No bullshit.