Monday, August 25, 2008

Mike Welsh: Answer to Allentown Crime is More Cops, Not Ice Hockey

Republican Mike Welsh is Jennifer Mann's official challenger for her state house seat. Mann's legislative district is located almost entirely in troubled and crime-ridden Allentown. Instead of dealing with the Queen City's serious crime problem, caused mostly by a 50% spike in center city poverty during her time in office, she's used her seat as a springboard to something - anything - else. She's already run for the state senate, state auditor and state treasurer. In her most recent attempt to flee Allentown, she ran for the state house and state treasurer, two incompatible offices, simulataneuosly.

Her solution to the center city's poverty and high crime? Ice hockey.

Yeah, that should do it.

Mann gets a free pass because she's in a heavily democratic district and is, as she likes to brag, "union made." Her dad was a union organizer. That might give her some understanding of labor issues, but she's hopelessly out of her element when it comes to Allentown's working poor - her real constituency. A Republican like Welsh seems more in tune with their problems than Mann.

On Friday, Welsh conducted a news conference designed to draw attention to Allentown's poverty and crime. I was at work, but here's the text of Mike's statement.

Good afternoon and thank you for coming. I chose this location to spotlight the need for greater policing in Allentown and to address Jennifer Mann’s failed leadership in improving the situation.

The Nineteenth St Card & Gift Shop was for many years one of the delightful small businesses in Allentown’s West End. It provided members of the community the opportunity to purchase a card or small gift for someone special and as a post office annex it served many of the postal needs of the community. Upon arrival you could expect to see a neighbor or engage in a friendly conversation with the owners. Unfortunately, this has all changed.

This shop was burglarized on two occasions in 2007. After the first burglary in April 2007, despite sustaining a significant loss the owners were able to remain open. After an additional burglary in August, things changed dramatically. The burglars not only stole merchandise but were capable of removing the postal safe and dragging it over 4 blocks unimpeded in the 19th St corridor one of the premier business districts in the city. This forced the owners to limit their hours of availability, sustain great financial loss and has made them all too fearful as no suspect or suspects are in custody. This has become all too common in Allentown. In fact, according to Pennsylvania State Police, Allentown’s solved crimes, commonly known as “clearance rates,” have
dropped from 76% in 2000 to an appalling 33% in 2007.

As a long time resident of Allentown and now Republican candidate for State Representative in the 132nd district, I believe that incidents like this are occurring with greater frequency. I have attended many neighborhood watch meetings and have heard numerous complaints of incidents of graffiti, theft and vandalism. Many of these complaints reference frustration that the police do not adequately respond or are not called due to a perception that the police are overworked, over stretched and compelled to handle more serious crime in downtown Allentown.

I must ask the question though; did it have to be this way? Many, if not most of you, are now familiar with the Allentown police pension agreement realized during the Afflerbach administration. While we could argue extensively about the settlement, I believe we would be better served to examine what we could have done differently following the event and how best to move forward. Let’s examine a recent use of state monies in the Lehigh Valley. In 2004, Jennifer Mann, along with local leaders, worked together to bring baseball to our area. In October 2004,
Governor Rendell requested an effort on their part to match an initial state grant of $12,000,000. Working together they achieved that goal, but I believe that Representative Mann should have moved to abruptly halt the initiative in 2005 and instead request emergency funding to replace the 53 officers who retired under generous pension terms. As a representative whose district encompasses nearly all of West Allentown and downtown Allentown, I believe this would have been appropriate and demonstrated her leadership in ensuring a safe Allentown but also an Allentown with a sustainable economic future based upon the assured safety of our residents. Even half of this $12,000,000 grant would have been significant in addressing the emergency need of our community.

Now Jennifer Mann is active in pursuing another sports venue,
a hockey arena in the Lehigh Valley rather than searching for ways to increase the police presence in Allentown. I was surprised to learn that, as of this date, she is not a co-sponsor of HB1189. That's a legislative initiative to bring nearly $6 million to Lehigh County for additional policing. While it is difficult to determine the exact number of officers Allentown would receive, it offers an opportunity for this district to pursue state resources to address its policing concerns and I believe that this should be the priority rather than the pursuit of another sports venue.

Perhaps the reason Jennifer Mann has not adequately addressed our district’s policing need rests in three failed efforts to achieve higher political office. An unsuccessful bid for Auditor General in 2004, an unsuccessful bid for State Senator in 2005 and this year an unsuccessful bid for State Treasurer. It is clear Jennifer Mann no longer desires to serve as our State Representative.

As the next State Representative for the 132nd district, I will work to make sure Allentown’s police department reaches 300 officers. This would represent a 30% increase. It would also more
accurately reflect the number of officer’s 2006 FBI statistics show that communities our size should possess in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic United States.

I will work with local and county leaders to make the achievement of this goal a priority. I will not place economic development initiatives ahead of personal safety. I believe that increased crime is not a perception in Allentown but a reality. I believe that many crimes go unreported and I believe that there can be no significant economic development in Allentown without first addressing this goal.

Thank you.

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22 comments:

white castle said...

I think this post belies Welsh's ignorance of state government. In the long run, funding for a massive amount of police officers, as he proposes, has to be from a sustainable source. Furthermore, the $12,000,000 came from DCED funding - DCED does not cover police officers - that's why it is community and economic development funding.

Would Mr. Welsh propose that there be no Coca Cola Park, thus costing the Valley millions in new jobs, lost revenue to local businesses and untold hours of enjoyment from local fans?

white castle said...

Oh, and speaking of ignorance, I just noticed something else - Welsh says that the 132nd represents "nearly all of West Allentown and Downtown Allentown." Nope. It is not "nearly all," it is all. The 132nd represents the entire west end of the city and all of downtown. The only area it doesn't have on the south or east side is the 6th ward, and I wouldn't call that downtown Allentown.

Vote Welsh: because he is pretty sure of the district he wants to represent.

Anonymous said...

This is only another of BOH's bash Jen Mann's posts. He is clueless to the situation of most Allentown residents. He chooses to focus on the few miscreants who think they are never wrong, and don't give anyone credit for anything.
That sounds like Mike Welsh, no wonder BOH loves him.

Jen Mann's been working her tail off for Allentown for more than a decade, I doubt Mike Welsh could do ANYTHING better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

White Castle,

There's no similar concern from you on how to fund an ice hockey rink. And before you wax poetic oabout Coca Cola Park, baseball is something very different. It is affordable, for one thing. And it does not provide high paying jobs.

As I am sure you must also be aware, three state reps cover portions of A-town. Joe Brennan and Karen Beyer cover part of the city.

Anon 8:39,

Sure, Jenn Mann has been working her tail off, trying to get somewhere else. She's made stab at three different offices over those ten years. Center city's downtown, which is all in her district, has had a 50% spike in poverty over five years. And what does she propose.

Ice Hockey?

That's her solution to poverty?

What family at the poverty level will see a game? Have you checked out prices for minor league hockey?

In the meantime, people will kill each other bc A-town does not have enough cops.

But Jenn mann is "union made." That's the only thing that really matters, right?

white castle said...

Anon 8:39 - you mean to suggest that a 1st term, Republican freshman, in the minority party, with a Governor of another party, would be able to assist Allentown less than a six-term Democrat who has state-wide name recognition and a very bright future ahead of her?

Perish the thought! :)

white castle said...

Bernie, I'm confused, sorry. What do you mean that there is no similar concern about an ice hockey rink? I think that would be the best thing that could happen for the city, particularly if it were downtown. Camden Yards in Baltimore is a great example.

And four Reps actually cover Allentown - Steve Samuelson has portions of the East Side (I'm really not trying to be obnoxious - just a genuine FYI)

Bernie O'Hare said...

White Castle,

I understand that point, but Jenn Mann has herself, not her district, at the top of her agenda. If that were not so, she would not be running for another office every five minutes.

I appreciate the information re Samuelson.

I think ice hockey in downtown A-town is one of the most ridiculous ideas ever formed. It was ridiculous when Repuiblican Heydt proposed it and remains ridiculous now. Unlike baseball, it is unaffordable. So the people who live there will never afford it. The types of seasonal jobs created are the kind that will just create more poverty. And as nice as Camden Yards and the Baltimore WEaterfront may be, two blocks away and you're in the ghetto. i ran a marathon there three years ago. We spent a lot of time dodging dead rats in the street. Camden Yards was no help to downtown baltimore, and ice hockey will be a disaster in A-town.

This is the best she can do in 10 years? If so, then it's time to look seriously at someone else. Karen beyer is an effective minority legislator.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I'm not sure you have a good handle on Mann's legislative record - she authored legislation to criminalize gang violence, secured a $750,000 state grant to hire 15 new Allentown police officers, introduced four bills aimed at sex crimes, and secured $10 million for the Allentown School District. That's not bad!

The thought that, since she was part of the group that brought baseball to the valley that she was incapable of doing anything else at the time just doesn't hold up. I've known her for 15 years, she is more than capable of handling multiple priorities.

She also has been a small business owner, which makes her much more effective in my eyes as she knows what poorly drafted legislation or regulation can do to small businesses.

I think she's done a good job for Allentown and support her re-election.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Also, as to the hockey arena, that type of facility can be used for many other events such as concerts. I'd love to see a similar use like Penn's Peak in terms of types and frequencies of shows.

Bernie, you're right, the people in the neighborhood can't afford hockey. But part of what we need to do is get people from the suburbs downtown again, and this will help do that.

I'm not ignoring the safety / security issue, we need to focus on that as well, otherwise this won't work.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

Banker,

My criticism has nothing to do with her promotion of baseball. It has as lot to do with a poverty rate that has shot thru the roof in downtown A-town. I follow kids' sports and see how much they are neglected in downtown A-town while she finds $10,000 grants for hockey at Parkland.

As far as authoring hate crime legislation, she would then be one of the authors of legislation that was determined to be unconstitutional.

The grant for more police is a very good thing. I'll concede that point. That's $250k per yr for three years. She began that in '06, the last time that Pawlowski restructured the PD. The force is still undermanned.

A goofy idea like hockey is a slap across the face of many of Mann';s own consituents. they may be transient. They may not be registered, but she still represents them, or at least she is supposed to represent them.

And why on earth would you vote for someone who's always running for somtehing else?

I'll be doing a lot more research about her, and will make an effort to speak to her in the coming weeks.

Thanks for your point of view.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you started w/ the poverty rate. I think poverty(and it's direct relation, the crime rate) are the biggest issues we face, and I believe both are driven by the influx of New Yorkers that have relocated into downtown Allentown over the past several years.

I don't want to sound heartless, but we need to find a way to legally address this. Too many out of town slumlords are bringing their tenant base into Allentown because it's cheaper than north Jersey or New York - that brings significant problems to Allentown that we were not ready to handle. And I fear that gambling will make the problems worse.

On Ms. Mann running for so many offices, I can't defend her on that, she's done too much of it. But I do believe she's better situated to work for our interests than Mike Welsh as long as she stays in the job.

I appreciate your point of view as well - engage and learn from everyone's point of view!

The Banker

consigliere said...

white castle...you are going to have to demonstrate for us exactly all the revenues the new baseball field is generating.

bernie appears to be right. there is no body of research to suggest that municipal/public stadiums or arenas are anything but net economic drains on their communities.

and if you think about, if publicly financed stadiums and winning teams were economically beneficial then Oakland and the Bronx would be leading a downtown renaissance in this country.

Anonymous said...

Consigliere,

I was at the Ironpigs / Phillies exhibition game in the Spring, and was told by two county commissioners in separate conversations that the debt service on the stadium was covered entirely by the lease, and there was no net expense to the county associated with the project.

If that is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), then this situation would differ substantially from other municipal stadium or arena deals where there is substantial ongoing support for the cost of the facility.

The Banker

consigliere said...

Banker...i hope you are right and if so we are indeed unfortunate.

my only reservation is that your source are two county commissioners. it would be nice if you heard this informatlion from people who can actually count!

Anonymous said...

"... a six-term Democrat who has state-wide name recognition and a very bright future ahead of her?"


Are we discussing the same Jenn Mann?

She can't get out of her current seat fast enough and can't get out of her own way each time she runs for another statewide office - which she does every couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

Consigliere,

Good point!

I also assume you meant "fortunate" instead?

The Banker

Timothy Russo said...

I'm confused to why someone thinks Baltimore is great because they have Camden Yards. Don't get me wrong, I like going down there to inner harbor but they are a main source of drugs and violence.

Their school system is a mess.

Oh, and drugs in Allentown find there way from Baltimore.

The baseball stadium is great but it does nothing to finance Allentown. The visiting teams stay in Bethlehem and spend their money in Bethlehem. Hell, their golf course of choice is Bethlehem Municipal. It actually says that in one of their programs.

And if the rest of the state won't vote her into other offices, why does Allentown keep giving her a free ride.

Finally, it's great that an organization that she works for (PHEAA)is making it nearly impossible to finance the education of students from PA. Going to Private Lenders are great...hey fannie and freddie!

Anonymous said...

Losing elections doesn't necessarily dampen ones future. In 2004 the Guv pushed her out, in 2005 the Senate D's destroyed her campaign and in 2007 she got into the race too late to be effective. She is still popular, a proven fundraiser and has connections to state-wide and nation-wide Dems via the DLC.

Dean N. Browning said...

The Banker and Consigliere raised some questions about the numbers associated with the stadium so let me try to answer them.

The ballpark was originally estimated to cost $34.3 million to build. The cost of this was to be covered by three different sources:

1) $19.0 million in state (the bulk of the money) and federal grants.
2) Additional tax money generated by an increase in the hotel tax from 3.5% to 4.0%
3) Lease payments from Gracie Baseball.

When the cost of the stadium increased to the current total of $49.4 million the County was able to redo the lease with Gracie Baseball to get them to pick up the additional costs via increased lease payments. So it is correct to say that "no county real estate tax dollars" go to cover the cost of the Stadium. However, we have increased taxes on local hotel owners and used almost $20 million of public money that could have gone to address more pressing needs (bridge repair, hiring more cops, addressing the soaring high school drop out rate, etc. etc.) instead of building a baseball stadium. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that the County gets none of the revenue for the naming rights, advertisement at the park, concessions, etc. associated with the stadium.

Dean Browning

Timothy Russo said...

Anon 1:41,

William Jennings Bryan.

Anonymous said...

tim russo... the real political model here is the late harold stassen who ran for president every four years from i think 1948 through 1988...although i would stand corrected if these are not the right dates.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Let's see...the Democratic guv pushed her out in '04, her own brothers in sisters in Democratic arms railroaded her out on '05, and in '07 she entered a race too late and still spent a truckload of money in doing so. Yeah, makes me want to vote her more and more...not!