Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! You're Fired!

I don't know whether Attorney Anthony Martino is a drinking man, but he has good reason to tie one on this New Year's Eve. The Norhampton County Hangmen have strung him up as county council solicitor.

Council member and chief executioner Lamont McClure, in an arrogant letter, has told Martino "it will not be necessary for you to be in attendance at any future Council meetings."

It's no secret McClure detests Judge Zito, Martino's predecessor. Instead of telling McClure what he wanted to hear, Zito had this silly notion of following the law. To make matters worse, the judgeship that eventually went to Zito is something Lamont wanted for his wife. When Zito's name went to the state senate, McClure was the only council member to vote against a resolution urging a quick confirmation.

What does this have to do with Martino? Martino worked in Zito's law firm, and the sins of the partner are visited on his associate. To be honest, Anthony appears to have adopted many of Lenny's bad habits, which include following the law.

Wthout any apparent authority in the form of a county council resolution, McClure has somehow concluded he speaks for all nine members of Council and has fired Martino. And so Northampton County Council ends 2008, keeping its reputation as the Lehigh Valley's worst local government intact for another year.

Here's the text of his Epistle to Anthony.

During my time on Council I have been tasked by President(s) Grube and McHale to be the Chairman of the Legal, Judicial and Operations Committee. From time to time during my tenure on the committee, they have also asked me to perform specific inquires. Recently, I have been asked to take a leadership role in the selection process to fill the vacancy in the position of County Council Solicitor upon Judge Zito's ascension to the bench. Let me first say on behalf of Council that we very much appreciate your time and effort in your role as interim Solicitor. You will recall that when Judge Zito was sworn in that it was decided by President McHale in consultation with Council that it would be best to finish out the year with a measure of continuity. We are now on the doorstep of reorganization. After much debate and consideration, I have recommended to President McHale that we move in a different direction with the appointment of Solicitor to County Council. Unfortunately, and this is by no means a reflection upon your brief service to us, I must inform you that we will not be appointing you Solicitor to County Council. Therefore, it will not be necessary for you to be in attendance at any future Council meetings.

We are mindful that there is currently litigation instituted by the Executive against County Council with respect to the Personnel Policies Manual. We are also aware that you may not wish to continue to represent the Council in a private capacity. However, should you wish to continue to represent the Council in this litigation, please provide us with your firm's hourly rate post haste so that Council may determine what course it wishes to follow. If you choose not to continue representation of Council for this specific and limited purpose, please inform us as soon as practicable.

Again, thank you for your service in filling the post on a temporary basis. We wish you the best of luck with all of your future endeavors. Should you have any questions for me, please do not hesitate to call.


Thursday Update: Both The Express Times and Morning Call have weighed in on the solicitor slaughter. McClure notes, "It's time to get some new blood into the solicitor's chair." Since Martino has only been solicitor since mid-October, perhaps McClure would like to change them weekly. Council member Ron Angle notes, "We are not a third world country. Lamont McClure is not a dictator ... ."

Northampton County Council Member Explains Junkets to Exotic York

Dirty politics is the American way. We can trace its history back to the presidential contest of 1828. Andrew Jackson's forces accused John Quincy Adams of pimping for the Russian Czar, while Adams' minions claimed Jackson's wife was a bigamist and his mother a whore. No sooner had Jackson been elected than his wife dropped dead of a heart attack. Today, we'd call that collateral damage.

Northampton County mudslinging certainly follows the distinguished pattern set by The American Lion. We're about to go into an election cycle next year for county executive and council. So it's no surprise that the anonymous attacks are already starting. John Cusick, up for re-election to county council next year, was attacked Monday for his "extensive" county council travelling. Oh yeah, I'm a phony for failing to write about his junkets.

I've found out how much money has been paid to each council member for official travel over the past three years. Only three of its nine members even bothered with exciting trips to places like Harrisburg and York. Ron Angle was reimbursed $103.20 for one trip in 2005. Diane Neiper picked up $362.90 for six trips. John Cusick was paid the most, $2,228.37. But that was for thirteen trips to exotic locations like Sinking Springs. No trips to Cancun. No limos. In Cusick's case, it comes down to a whopping $171 for each trip.

In an email, Cusick explains his attendance.

When I was elected to County Council, I asked to have the budget for travel and conferences restored so that new members could attend CCAP (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania http://www.pacounties.org/ ) seminars and conferences. As a township supervisor, I had the opportunity to attend PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) seminars and conferences and found that I learned a great deal from both the presenters as well as other township officials.

Over the last three years, I have regularly attended CCAP's spring, summer, and fall meetings. I've used my personal days to attend the meetings in the fall (Hershey) and spring (Harrisburg) and my summer vacation time to attend the annual meetings (York, King of Prussia, and Seven Springs). I am a member of the CCAP Taxation and Assessment Committee which develops policy initiatives and a platform. Attendance at these meetings has afforded me the opportunity to meet and discuss issues facing county governments across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I was able to learn from Commissioners in other counties about their Health Departments (Bucks, Montgomery, Erie), Gaming issues (Erie, Monroe, Bucks), Prison expansions, Open Space programs, Reassessments, Open Records, etc. I certainly believe the subject matter I have been exposed to and the relationships I have developed through CCAP are invaluable and have made me a better County Council member. I would encourage all Commissioners and Councilmembers to attend these meetings. Lehigh County usually has several of their Commissioners at these meetings, but unfortunately, the only other Northampton County official who regularly attends is our County Executive, John Stoffa.

In addition to the CCAP meetings, I have taken classes offered thru the Academy for Excellence in County Government. This would include workshops in County Functions and Responsibilities, Financial Management, Personnel and Labor Relations, Innovative Approaches in County Government, and numerous elective credits offered at regular meetings on various topics related to County Government. Classes were usually in Harrisburg or Penn State and I was reimbursed for mileage and hotels as per county rates and policies. I've never gotten a tan anywhere I've been.


As one lady who regulary follows council said to me, "I wish they'd all go these meetings." I agree.

Last week, I published my annual report about the workhorses and showhorses on Northampton County Council. Republican John Cusick and Democrat Diane Neiper stand out as the council members who attend the most committee meetings, far more than any of their colleagues. It is no surprise to me to see that these two council members are the ones most willing to learn about county issues.

LC Voter Registrar: Allentown Mayor Pawlowski Must File 30 Day Post Election Report

On Tuesday, I told you about a recent sham campaign finance report filed by Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski. He claims to be penniless and to have collected no contributions between January and October, but documents filed with the Department of State by other committees tell a different tale. They show that Pawlowski's PAC actually received at least $18,550.

Voting Registrar Stacy Sterner has ordered Pawlowski to amend his campaign finance report to tell the truth. After consulting with the Department of State, she tells me that if a campaign committee spends $250 or more to influence an election, it becomes subject to Pennsylvania campaign finance law. Pawlowski may be King of Renaissance Square, but is bound by the same laws that apply to everyone else.

What this means is that, in addition to correcting the bogus report Pawlowski filed in October, he must also file a thirty day post election report. That report was due on December 4, but the Allentown mayor has yet to file it. The penalty for failing to file a timely report is $10 per day for the first six days, and then it jumps up to $20 per day to a maximum fine of $250. Hizzoner has already reached that point, and must use personal funds to pay his fine.

Lehigh Valley Zoo Needs Your Help

The following is a recent email pitch for the financially strapped Lehigh Valley Zoo, which I'll share with you.

As you may have read in the Morning Call last week, Lehigh County is working with the Lehigh Valley Zoo to come up with a plan to improve the Zoo's financial sustainability. Please note that the vast majority of zoos throughout the country receive local or state financial support to survive. It is crucial that the people of Lehigh County (and beyond) show our support of the Lehigh Valley Zoo right now by adding our own support - through financial contributions, Zoo attendance and memberships - to the County's support. The Zoo is a treasure right here in our backyard, it is a wonderful enticement for people and businesses thinking about moving to the Lehigh Valley, and it is a tourist attraction of which we all can be proud as it is not only a fun place to visit but also a leader in conservation and education.

Time is of the essence. Here is how you can help right now:

1) Please send in a donation in whatever amount you are able - as soon as possible - to the Lehigh Valley Zoo, 5150 Game Preserve Road, P.O. Box 519, Schnecksville, PA 18078 or by phone at 610-799-4171. This tax-deductible donation is a very important and needed investment in the Zoo's future, especially now.

2) Please forward this email to your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and others and encourage them to join in this effort to make a showing to both the Zoo and Lehigh County that we want the Zoo to thrive, that the community supports our local zoo and that we also need the County to continue working together to find a long-term financial plan to ensure the Zoo's success.

3) Given that we are in the midst of the holiday season, don't forget that a Lehigh Valley Zoo membership makes a wonderful gift for those on your list! Please see www.lvzoo.org or call 610-799-4171 to become a member or give the gift of membership - a gift that lasts all year!

4) The penguins are here! Please visit the Zoo soon (It is open 362 days a year, weather permitting!) and see them having a splashing good time! Special penguin events will be featured at the Zoo every weekend in January.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Allentown Mayor Pawlowski Falsely Claims No Donors in Campign Report


Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski got himself into a bit of a jam last year over campaign finances. It's about to happen again. This is because he repeatedly stonewalls, doing everything in his power to defeat the public right to know. If that means violating elections laws, the fines aren't so bad. Let me tell you the story.

2006 and 2007 were very good years for the King of Pay to Play. He raked in a whopping $108,588, mostly from city workers, developers, contractors, consultants and lawyers who do business with the city. (You can view them here.) But as good as King Ed is at soliciting campaign funds, that's how lousy he can be at filing the reports that enable the public to follow the money.

On July 6, 2007, Pawlowski paid $270, the maximum fine under our toothless elections laws, for filing a late report. He actually attempted to get away with using campaign funds for his penalty. Voting Registrar Stacy Sterner ordered Pawlowski, in March, to pay the fine out of his own pocket.

Pawlowski, however, has learned nothing. After filing no campaign finance reports at all this year, he suddenly filed a "second Friday pre-election report" on October 24, 2008 to identify $1,500 his PAC had donated to candidates in November's election. His report fails to tell us where he got that $1,500.

The period covered by this report is between 1/1/08 and 10/20/08. Over those ten months, Pawlowski incredibly claims his campaign treasury is empty. Nada. Over that time, he reports having received no money. Zero. He claims he has no funds available. Zilch. Yet he somehow contributes $1,500. If you click on the above report, you can see it yourself. Unless he has a money printing press, his report makes no sense at all.

Wait. It gets better. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Department of State by other campaign committees, Pawlowski's PAC actually received at least $18,550 over the very time period in which he claims he got nothing. This includes a tidy $2,500 from Cozen O'Connor, the very law firm paid $114,000 to negotiate a controversial police contract. King Ed didn't want you to know about that.

Lehigh County's voter registration web page makes clear that "any financial activities directed toward influencing an election must be reported." In Pawlowski's case, this would include not only the sums he contributed to candidates, but also the source of that money. Our campaign finance law is even more clear. Once a committee receives or spends $250 or more to influence an election, a report must be filed that lists both contributions and expenditures. Reporting one without the other is only half the story.

The finance report Pawlowski filed with the Lehigh County voter registration office is, quite simply, a sham. When I visited the office yesterday, that single report was the only one office workers could find. There was no report for any other cycle. This lone filing is obviously designed to mislead the public. Instead of revealing the source of his contributions, or declining for whatever reason to state them, Pawlowski falsely claims there are none. He is shielding his pay to play tactics, and is even willing to sign a false report to defeat the public right to know.

That's why he's a bad mayor.
Update: A Lehigh County Voter Registration Deputy tells me that because Mayor Pawlowski is not a candidate in last year's election, he is under no obligation to list the contributions that were made to him. I disagree completely with this tortured interpretation of elections laws, but let's assume the deputy is right. Does this give the Mayor the right to mislead the public and falsely claim $0 in contributions? According to a Deputy Registrar, it does. If you interpret elections laws in a way that gives elected officials the right to lie to the public, there's something wrong.

Update #2: Pawlowski Ordered to Amend Report! I've just heard from Voting Registrar Stacy Sterner, who was kind enough to call me from home. She agrees that Pawlowski cannot simultaneously report a $0 balance and $1,500 in expenditures to candidates. His campaign committee is being instructed to amend its report.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Can the US Run a Brothel?

According to an email I received yesterday, Uncle Sam fell on his face after seizing a Nevada brothel for back taxes and trying to run it. "Now, we are trusting the economy of our country and trillions of dollars to a pack of nit-wits who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling booze."

It's a great story, but false, having been debunked over at Urban Legends. I've looked over their top 25, and now realize I've been duped by a few of them this year. I actually thought the world's biggest dog, Hercules, was the real deal.

Unfortunately, much of the information we glean from the Internet is simply false. That includes blogs. Sometimes this one. I'm an opinionated bastard, but do try my best to get the facts right. If you think I'm wrong about something, let me know in a comment.

Lehigh County to Invade Northampton This January

Northampton County Council, arguably the worst local government in the Lehigh Valley, is getting a visit from the best. Lehigh County's legislative body, its Board of Commissioners, will invade the star chamber on January 12. I am unsure whether Northampton will even have a Council Prez by that early date, to say nothing of a 9th member.

On paper, the reason for this visit to the People's Republic of Northampton County is the inaugural meeting of the bi-county health commission. But don't believe that for a second. A coup is obviously in the works. Disgusted that regional efforts like a work release facility and crime center have been consistently rejected, they've had enough.

For the past month, Sheriff Rossi has been drilling commission members in urban assault tactics. "If we take out Angle or McHale early, this will be a cakewalk," predicts team leader Percy Dougherty. "The rest of them are a bunch of panty wastes. I mean, who the hell insists on being called 'Charles'? And Lamont sure as hell sounds French to me."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Go Eagles!

For the seventh time in the last ten years, much maligned Andy Reid has led the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs. In a stunning 44-6 thumping of the Dallas Cowboys - most of whose players are felons in the off season - Reid, QB Donovan McNabb and defensive leader Brian Dawkins did more than gain an unlikely playoff berth. They answered their many critics, most of whom never played the game, in the most effective way possible - on the field.

Eagles football.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Larry Kisslinger Applying For Grube Vacancy

Wayne Grube's seat on Northampton County Council, filled by his wife for just five days, is open. According to Julian Stolz, former Bethlehem City council member Larry Kisslinger has applied to fill the vacancy.

"You need someone who knows what is going on as a public servant! I think I can fill that position! Please consider me for filling Wayne Grube vacancy on NC Council position? Folks ask me, almost daily, to consider running for many different political office positions. I am not ever going to run for any political office positions…ever again…(been there, done that) but I would be proud to fill-in for Wayne Grube til end of his term and not run for another….Patti was, and always has been, greatest supporter of Wayne and I understand her position wanting to finish Wayne’s “term” and her reason for changing her mind thereafter. I would be glad to do it for Wayne, Patti and community, is all. My resume’ is included at my website below for your consideration. If I would be considered, I would be honored. Thank you and Merry Christmas to all."
Larry Kisslinger

http://www.Kisslinger.com

I doubt the four Dems on county council will go for this.

Can You Name This Bat?

Traditionally, Christmas has always been a stressful time for me. All year long, I'm a miserable bastard who usually responds to "Good Morning!" with "Fuck you!" So at this time of the year, I usually spend every penny I have, and then some, buying thoughtful gifts for those people who have the misfortune of being in my inner circle.

Not this year. I'm pretty much broke, so the presents are a tad on the chintzy side. My poor son, for example, got a lousy bag of coffee. I immediately started drinking it when I visited him at Osceola Mills. His fiancee did just a little better. She got a chocolate labs calendar and some goofy thing you plug in a socket to make your house smell nice. Women dig that, but it's not exactly a pearl necklace.

I didn't get anything for blogging pal Mike Molovinsky. He's Jewish and, being the considerate person I am, I realize a gift might offend him. Otherwise, I'd probably get him a Rolex or something.

But I did get one half decent present for my grandson - a baseball bat. Now this isn't just any baseball bat. It's a DeMarini Vexxum, baby, a half and half bat with a huge sweet spot and a carbon reinforced handle and taper. Basically, the bat flexes when you swing it.

Naturally, we will perform all the rituals that always accompany a new bat, including a few human sacrifices. But we need to come up with a name, too. Every bat gets one. My grandson's current bats are called Stinger (a very light bat for fast pitchers) and Lil' Red (a gigantic Big Barrel for tourney play).

After looking at this magnificent blue work of art, can you come up with a name?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Present From Kurt Vonnegut

A biographer has asked me for information concerning the friendship between my father and author Kurt Vonnegut. My brother, a pack rat, produced a letter that Vonnegut wrote to his own family, not long after he and my dad were released from a POW camp at the end of WWII. In many ways, this three-page letter is his first draft of Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut sent my family a copy of that letter, apparently as a Christmas present, in 1996.

Bewildered that he has somehow survived, the young Vonnegut tells his folks, "I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait." Fortunately for us, he got around to it.

This letter is too important to sit in a dusty attic, so I'm sharing it with you. If you'd like to see a pdf copy, just click this link.

Dear people:

I'm told that you were probably never informed that I was any­thing other than "missing in action." Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do - in precis: I've been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler's last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges' First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Mont­gomery for it, I'm told, but I'll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren't wounded. For that much thank God.

Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, un-heated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations - the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn't room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year's Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn't.

Under the Geneva Convention, Officers and Non-commissioned Officers are not obliged to work when taken prisoner. I am, as you know, a Private. One-hundred-and-fifty such minor beings were shipped to a Dresden work camp on January 10th. I was their leader by virtue of the little German I spoke. It was our misfortune to have sadistic and fanatical guards. We were refused medical atten­tion and clothing: We wore given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: - one boy starved to death and the SS Troops shot two for stealing food.

On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden - possibly the world's most beautiful city. But not me.

After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.

When General Patton took Leipzig we were evacuated on foot to [...] the Checkoslovakian border. There we remained until the war ended. Our guards deserted us. On that happy day the Russians were intent on mopping up isolated outlaw resistance in our sector. Their planes (P-39's) strafed and bombed us, killing fourteen, but not me.

Eight of us stole a team and wagon. We traveled and looted our way-through Sudetenland and Saxony for eight days, living like kings. The Russians are crazy about Americans. The Russians picked us up in Dresden. We rode from there to the American lines at Halle in Lend-Lease Ford trucks. We've since been flown to Le Havre.

I'm writing from a Red Cross Club in the Le Havre P.O.W. Repat­riation Camp. I'm being wonderfully well fed and entertained. The state-bound ships are jammed, naturally, so I'll have to be patient. I hope to be home in a month. Once home I'll be given twenty-one days recuperation at Atterbury, about $600 back pay and - get this - sixty (60) days furlough!

I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait. I can't receive mail here so don't write. May 29, 1945
Blogger's Note: This letter home was originally published here on December 10, 2007. Since that time, I've seen it in several magazines and newspapers. "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bill White Arrested For Stalking During Christmas Lights Tour

UPPER MOUNT BETHEL TOWNSHIP: Morning Call columnist and blogger Bill White was arrested Saturday night and charged with stalking during a Christmas Lights Tour gone awry. Using a defective GPS system, White tells police he thought he was in Ironton, looking for one of his top entries. Seeing no Christmas lights anywhere, White claims he pulled over along a dark and dreary road to read the roadsign. When he exited his vehicle, he was reportedly attacked by a specially trained attack sheep.

The sheep in question, LAMBO, is the property of Northampton County Council member Ron Angle. He also unleashed his hounds on a fleeing White. White apparently was only able to run a few hundred yards before being brought down by the Northampton County Bulldog himself, who had hopped on a golf cart and started shooting flares.

"If you were Joe Owens, I'd let you go," Angle reportedly told White. "But the bottom line is I think you were trying to sexually harass me. You and that damn Jolly Joe Timmer. Where is he?"

White refused to give Angle any information other than his name and his reporter ID number. So Angle called a few of his police pals. While they waited, he played Deliverance tunes.

White is supposedly on "Christmas vacation."

Northampton County Council: 2008's Workhorses and Showhorses


You want to know who works and who doesn't on Northampton County Council? Look no further than their committees. That's where the grunt work gets done. Council has eight standing committees, and seven of them met this year. The most active by far are the personnel, finance and human services committees, chaired by John Cusick, Ron Angle & Diane Neiper.

Council's standing committees conducted twenty-six meetings last year. Every member of council is encouraged to participate in every committee. So it's a pretty accurate gauge of the time and effort each councilperson devotes to government service. The committees that meet are also a good indication of what council members think are important.

Council's busy Finance (Angle) and Personnel (Cusick) committees, usually combined, met eleven times last year. Human Sevices (Neiper), studying the possibility of a bi-county health department, had eight meetings. Mike Dowd's Economic Development committee also conducted three meetings.

Lamont McClure's Legal and Judicial Committee met only twice, although his second meeting, which related to the home foreclosure crisis, was perhaps ther best committee meeting I've seen in several years of following council.

The Intergovernmental (Ferraro) and Open Space (Dertinger) met just once. Rev. Mike Dowd's Operations and Administration committee failed to meet at all, as it failed to meet in 2007.

The workhorses?

Council member John Cusick attended 21 committee meetings last year, making him the hardest working and most dedicated council member for a second straight year. Nipping at his heels, just like last year, with 20 meetings to her credit, is Diane Neiper. Both Cusick and Neiper are finishing their third year on council, and their attendance record reflects dedication. They are far ahead of their colleagues.

Two other council members - Ron Angle (13) & Ann McHale (15) - have solid committee attendance records this year.

The showhorses?

Peg Ferraro, in her first full year on Council after defeating Tony Branco last year, attended only 8 committee meetings last year. That's certainly better than Tony Branco, the person she replaced, but she could have done much better.

Lamont McClure, who does have a law practice, attended only six committee meetings, just one more than in 2007.

Rev. J. Michael Dowd and Charles Dertinger are tied, at at the bottom of the heap, with an abysmal record of just 5 committee meetings in 2008. That's an 8% attendance record. Dowd, to his credit, at least has the brains to keep his mouth shut at council meetings, knowing he never participated in committee discussions. But not Dertinger. Rarely will you see a person take so much time to say so little.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Wishes From Gary Asteak

Last summer, Easton attorney Gary Asteak caused quite a stir when he stopped by Nazareth's Martin guitar celebration. Lots of folks thought he was Willie Nelson, and not one of Northampton County's finest criminal defense attorneys.

In Gary's latest holiday card, he's posed by the remains of some bastard too cheap to hire him.

State Rep. Craig Dally Eyeing Northampton County Judgeship?

Republican State Rep. Craig Dally had no opponent last November when he asked voters to return him to his slate belt district. It was the same story two years before that. To be honest, I can't remember the last time anyone tried to run against this popular and extremely pleasant state house member, first elected in 1996. LVR Readers have rated Craig, who is also a Nazareth attorney, our fifth most effective local leader.

Inside sources tell me Dally has shifted his gaze from the land of midnight payraises to the People's Republic of Northampton County, where he is eyeing one of the three judicial openings that will be available next year.

If true, this race is over before it ever got started. Other attorneys thinking about a judgeship(and many of them are highly qualified), should hold off on buying black robes. The only real question: who will be top vote getter after John Morganelli - Lenny Zito or Craig Dally?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Morning Call Fowls Two Jews Over Chicken Parts

One of the Morning Call's local stories today concerns two dudes who were just nabbed for dumping chicken guts from some poultry plant into the Schuylkill River. I know plenty of people who use hamburger or cheese as bait on opening day. Chicken is a lot more healthy, except for the fish feeders, who now face a gazillion years in jail.

So am I going to squawk about the arrest? No. I'm no bird brain. I'm sure this is a very serious matter and I, for one, am thankful that our state AG was all over that like turkey on rye. Good for him!

Is it the news account? No, it's a dispassionate and factual account by Tracy Jordan, one of the paper's best.

What really bothers me are the two pictures that accompanies the hard copy story. There are two very large photographs of the defendants, dressed in attire that make it obvious they are Orthodox Jews. Were these pictures in any way relevant to the story? No. Are these dangerous and at-large criminals, who might be egging your house and car at night? No.

But these fowl men are Jews. And an unintentional message, thanks solely to the photographs, is that this is what you should expect from greedy Jews.

It worked, too. One Morning Call Readers' Forum commenter quickly notes, "JWWISH new york scumbags." Another, who calls himself "Hymie Rabinovitz," adds "We killed jesus and we're proud of it!"

The newspaper often declines to publish the ethnicity or race of an at-large rape suspect because of stereotyping concerns. But doesn't the publication of these photographs amount to the same thing?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stop Bernie O'Hare

As some of you know, Sheena Villa was a passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver two years ago. Tragically, she was killed. Her father, Bill Villa, is angry at the world in general and me in particular. Over that time, he has spiraled out of control.

Earlier this month, he claimed two other bloggers and I were submitting comments to his blog as Sheena Villa, "writing from hell." That very thought made me ill. I thought it important to make clear that this charge is completely false. I even took the unusual step, for me, of contacting the Villas and asking that they remove that offensive manufactured charge.

They not only refused, but then began posting my home address. When I asked them to stop this invasion of my personal privacy, they did it even more, with Bill Villa adding this ominous warning, "I'd keep your door dead-bolted 24/7."

I attempted to reason with Trollvilla, arguing, "I have both your home address and phone number. I could easily publish it for the world to see, and make sure to publish it when you're in NYC. Of course, I won't do that. But you think nothing of repeatedly posting my home address despite two requests that you remove it."

Now, Villa is publicly proclaiming "O'Hare published a threat about our home address that inadvertently (oopsie) revealed he may be stalking and staking out our residence ..."

This is just another bogus charge by a very sick man, who wants the whole world to join him in "STOPPING BERNIE O'HARE."

That makes me feel so special.

I certainly made no threat, and merely asked that Villa stop posting my home address on his blog, noting I would not do that to him.

Now excuse me while I go buy a dead bolt.

Who Will Replace Patti Grube on Northampton County Council?

Morning Call columnist, blogger, Christmas lights critic, epicure and general bon vivant Bill White claims he knew it all along. "The timing was just wrong," he says about Patti Grube's five-day stint as a member of Northampton County Council. But Bill is dubious that even the "best choice" among remaining candidates will make "much headway with this group."

Au contraire. While Angle is off somewhere searing ants with his magnifying glass and laughing, I've come up with the perfect replacement all by myself - John Acerra. Like so many of his colleagues on council, John is an educator by training and has suddenly become available. This former middle school principal and meth dealer would fit right in, and probably has some innovative ideas for improving the county's cash flow. I know one thing. He'll make sure the county is never caught with its pants down.

LVWL Rails Against Snowstorm

In his discussion of today's anticipated snowstorm, LVWL does not go gentle into that good night. "Bring it Mother Nature. I’ve already got my ice scraper sharpened for your bitch ass!"

State and Local Gov'ts Have Already Bailed Out Foreign Carmakers

Last week, as we all know, Congress rejected a $14 billion bailout for the "Big Three" automakers. So now President Bush must decide whether to offer a bridge loan or some other form of relief with all kinds of strings attached to an industry whose car and truck sales have declined at a whopping, 43.7, annual rate.

Foreign automakers actually support a bailout, both to prevent a disruption in autoparts and to deter some Indian (Tata Motors) or Chinese (Geely) auto manufacturer from buying up a US company's assets and posing a low-cost threat that will just depress their prices.

But isn't that just the American way?

Between 1980 and the present, state and local subsidies to foreign-owned auto assembly plants total $3.6 billion, according to Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center that has consistently condemned corporate welfare.

"As elected officials debate aid for the Big 3, taxpayers have the right to know the full extent of government involvement in America's auto industry," says Greg LeRoy, GJF's executive director. "And while proposed federal aid to the Big 3 would take the form of a loan, the vast majority of subsidies to foreign auto plants were taxpayer gifts such as property and sales tax exemptions, income tax credits, infrastructure aid, land discounts, and training grants."

Here's a listing of these corporate subsidies.

Honda, Marysville, OH, 1980, $27 million*
Nissan, Smyrna, TN, 1980, $233 million**
Toyota, Georgetown, KY, 1985, $147 million
Honda, Anna, OH, 1985, $27 million*
Subaru, Lafayette, IN, 1986, $94 million
Honda, East Liberty, OH, 1987, $27 million*
BMW, Spartanburg, SC, 1992, $150 million
Mercedes-Benz, Vance, AL, 1993, $258 million
Toyota, Princeton, IN, 1995, $30 million
Nissan, Decherd, TN, 1995, $200 million**
Toyota, Buffalo, WV, 1996, more than $15 million
Honda, Lincoln, AL, 1999, $248 million
Nissan, Canton, MS, 2000, $295 million
Toyota, Huntsville, AL, 2001, $30 million
Hyundai, Montgomery, AL, 2002, $252 million
Toyota, San Antonio, TX, 2003, $133 million
Kia, West Point, GA, 2006, $400 million
Honda, Greensburg, IN, 2006, $141 million
Toyota, Blue Springs, MS, 2007, $300 million
Volkswagen, Chattanooga, TN, 2008, $577 million

Total: more than $3.58 billion

* total of direct subsidies to all Honda facilities in Ohio
** includes about $200 million for expansions of Smyrna and Decherd plants
List does not include joint ventures with U.S. companies

According to LeRoy, these data do no account for inflation or include any estimate of subsidies granted to the hundreds of foreign-owned auto supply companies that have located in the same areas, virtually all of which were also heavily subsidized.

Northampton High School Can Be Very Proud

Yesterday, I received a very nice email from an inspirational Konkrete Kid, a young lady who attends Northampton High School and actually reads this blog. Her name is Sarah, but I'll leave her surname off this post. Let me tell you her story.

When I was 16 years old, I spent most of my waking hours trying to figure out how to steal booze from my parents without getting caught. But Sarah tells me, at age 16, that she's interested in international politics. Last year, she soaked up the atmosphere in London and France. This summer, she's planning a trip to Morocco so she can learn Arabic. One of her teachers, who is of Lebanese descent, has already given her some home instruction. Now, she will go to Rabat and undergo an "immersion" program in Arabic.

She's started a blog called Preparing for Morocco, where she goes by the name "Travlingirl." The cost of this trip is about $4,000. Her parents are helping out and she waitresses as well. Arabic is considered a "critical need language" by our State Department, but there is little money available to fund Americans willing to spend the time and energy for such a daunting task, especially when they're still in high school. This January, Sarah and her parents will do a fundraiser at a local restaurant.

She also has questions. What kind of clothing should she wear? What international cell phone would you recommend?

Beats me. Since most of my trips go no farther than Allentown, I have no answers. But some of you can answer her. I'll help by attending her January fundraiser when she announces it on her blog. I'll announce it here, too. I'd like to meet this amazing person and congratulate her parents.

We constantly hear that young people have no interest in anything but themselves and the newspapers will all fail, blah, blah, blah. Then a 16 year-old girl sends me an email indicating she reads blogs, newspapers and is going to Morocco next summer to learn Arabic. There's hope for us yet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ron Angle For Northampton County Executive?

Even when he's fishin' in Florida, the Northampton County Bulldog remains controversial. He tells me he's hauling in fish after fish using his new Dertinger plug and McClure fly. He has publicly denied an interest in the county executive position, but Ron Angle remains the biggest fear of many Democrats and Republicans. That was very apparent in yesterday's comments, when I noted the whispers about Lamont McClure's interest in John Stoffa's job.

"[T]he secret Ohare is hiding is Ron is getting ready for another run for Exec. Ohare wants to get everyone else out so when he announces Ron is running again he can beat up all the others. I only hope Ron is paying to be the communication guy for his campaign."

Here's what I know. Angle has publicly denied being interested in the job. I've seen him suggest it casually to some people, including John Stoffa. Amazingly, Stoffa answered, "You should run. A lot of people should run."

With that kind of answer from the incumbent, Ron probably won't. How the hell do you run against a guy like that?

Yesterday, someone summed up the field. "The people who may be running for County Executive next year are: Angle pal, John Stoffa; Morganelli pal, LaMont McClure; Reibman pal, Ron Heckman; Boscola pal, Ann McHale; and of course last but certainly least O'Hare pal, Ron Angle."

I support Stoffa. He represents integrity, open and accountable government, a renunciation of pay to play. His "meatloaf" cabinet has quietly worked hard at getting things done. John Conklin, often maligned, is an excellent operations manager who rescued the elections office when it was teetering on the brink of disaster. Public Works Director Steve DeSalva, although he came on board late, snapped the whip on completing the courthouse expansion. Ross Marcus, a very knowledgeable and well-prepared Director of Human Services, will candidly admit shortcomings in his own office.

Stoffa's cabinet regularly attends council meetings, often to be abused by mean-spirited council members. Their attendance demonstrates the executive's respect for council, but there is no reciprocity. Council actions have often been childlike and petty.

Stoffa has made his share of mistakes, sometimes blowing off appointments with council members and needlessly alienating deputy sheriffs. But one criticism, that Stoffa is too indecisive, is unfair. Council is always in a rush to "do something," while Stoffa recognizes the people have to pay for whatever they do.

Pay to play Reibman allies will support Ron Heckman. DA John Morganelli will back McClure. Unions, disaffected employees and Boscola will be behind McHale. All John Stoffa has are the people. That's why he'll win. I think the Bulldog will be in Stoffa's corner.

Sterling Raber Will NOT Seek Reelection as Lehigh County Comm'r

I was told I would be very interested in last night's Lehigh County Commissioners' meeting, but never made it. My favorite Lehigh County Commissioner, pig farmer Sterling Raber, won't seek reelection next year. A commissioner since 1981, Raber has been that legislative body's quiet man. He never says much. He mostly listens. Don't be fooled. This open space advocate is the reason why Lehigh County ranks third in farmland preservation and fifth in total acres preserved among all Pa. counties.

At every meeting, with just a hint of a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, he'll make a brief statement. It's just one or two sentences, almost like a frickin' haiku. I would find myself thinking more about his brief statement than what everyone else had said that night.

Even in the People's Republic of Northampton County, Raber is very well-respected and admired.

Last year, Comm'r Bill Leiner once awarded Sterling an IronPigs snout, but they're going to have to top that now. Lifetime supply of scrapple?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Patti Grube Resigns From Northampton County Council

Less than a week after being sworn in to fill her husband's unexpired term on Northampton County Council, Patti Grube has resigned. That's the word from a fellow council member, who asks not to be named.
Update: The Express Times Sarah Cassi has a few more details, including the letter that Grube sent to Council Prez McHale. "My thinking was clouded by the passing of Wayne. The decision was made too soon after his death." The Morning Call follows The Express Times with a little ditty. "I apologize to all members of council for the confusion this has caused."

Patti, they're used to it. Council has thirty days to replace Grube, or it goes to the judges.

Courthouse Whispers

Are you up for some irresponsible gossip? Why have a blog if I can't report some of the interesting rumors circulating in the courthouse every day?

Rumor 1: Northampton County Council member Lamont McClure is running for county exec. Apparently, someone hired political consultant Scissorhands Severson to do a poll and word leaked out. This has reportedly infuriated Council Prez Ann McHale, who along with Reibman pal Ron Heckman, plans to run for the job. McHale confronted McClure right before a council meeting, but he refused to discuss it with her in front of everyone.

Rumor 2: Some Northampton County Democrats are bucking the trend and changing their party registration to Republican. These are lawyers who would like to be among the three new judges selected by voters next year. Their thinking is that, if they change party registration, they can at least get on the ballot as Republicans. I have visited voter registration twice since the election, but a lot of the party switches are not yet in the system.

Blogger Foiled by Common Cold

I woke up, late, with a pretty bad cold today. Instead of talking, I'm croaking. Instead of bloggin,' I've been cloggin.' I've already gone through two rolls of toilet paper.

As my fans like to tell you, on a damn near daily basis, I'm a drunk. It's been decades since I retired as champion, but it's true. Usually, it's no big deal. But if you have a cold and you're a boozehound on the wagon like me, you're in for it. They might as well shoot us and put us out of our misery. You see, most cold medicines are out. They're laced with alcohol. That's against the rules. I have to avoid them. For that, I am occasionally rewarded with bronchitis or pneumonia.

I can take Robitussin. No booze. Last night, I stopped by the pharmacy for a six-pack. The barkeep tried to charge me $2 more per bottle because I did not have my CVS card. Not a very good idea to try that on a sick blogger. I immediately blamed drug stores for the recession and loudly claimed he would not treat me that way if I was the Big Three. He quickly used his own damn card, which is what he should have done in the first place. Bastard.

When I got home, I gulped down half a bottle immediately. But I forgot I have to be careful about what kind I get. Some contain antihistamines, and they knock me out. I just got up from a 3 1/2 hour nap, so as you may have guessed, I got the wrong kind. Unfortunately, I gulped down another half bottle before pulling out my magnifying glass to read the bottle's ingredients. It's laced with "chlorpheniramine maleate." Right next to those words is this - "antihistamine."

That's against the rules, too. Mind-altering substances must be avoided at all costs, they say. So far, aside from being tired, the only adverse effect is some giant troll who posts my address everywhere and tells me to bolt my doors 24/7. That's probably just my imagination.

Right now, I'm swilling hot coffee. Black. Sumatra. Caffeine is my savior. Years of stimulants will counteract years of a depressant, I guess. For some reason, that's not against the rules.

If you know any treatments for the common cold that don't involve shooting me or booze, feel free to share them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Easton City Council Member El Warner Seeks Illinois Senate Seat

That's right folks, Easton City Council member Elinor Warner wants to be appointed the next United States Senator from Illinois. My source for this startling revelation is her own blog, Synthetic Culture. It's mostly nonpolitical, but I found her sales pitch to Governor Blagojevich. It's pretty good.

1. I can speak to the new owners of my magazine, who I understand are looking for an ad sales rep. This would be the perfect job for either Blagojevich or his wife, because in this economy strong-arming can only help. It wouldn't pay $300K a year, but it's better than nothing.

2. I doubt re-election campaign contributions are needed at this point, but I would be happy to donate $50 to a legal defense fund.

3. One of our local papers is owned by the Tribune Company. I have absolutely no sway with the editorial board, but I promise to go to the online comments page and spam it with supportive posts.

4. I know a member of the SEIU. He might be able to help arrange a position as a medical assistant at the children's hospital of Blagojevich's choice. After all, the Governor's resume indicates a skill at shoveling shit, which is just a step away from bedpans.

5. Because I don't live in Illinois, I have absolutely nothing at stake and couldn't care less about "constituents." Each and every one of my votes in the Senate can therefore be sold to the highest bidder, and I'll give the Governor his take, say 10 points. Top that offer, Jesse Jackson Jr
.
Won't Mayor Panto be sad if you leave, El?

Micek: Beyer Has Eyes On Lieutenant Guv' Seat

Capitol Ideas' John Micek does it again. Last week, he told us the Lehigh Valley delegation to the state house and senate had turned down their cost of living adjustments. The very next day, state reps. Craig Dally and Rich Grucela announced they were giving that money to Northampton County's Children & Youth.

Now, John tells us that another local state rep., moderate Republican Karen Beyer, is considering a run for lieutenant governor. Other possible candidates include western Pa.'s Rep. Mike Turzai and Sen. John Pippy and Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor.

What kills me about this is that Beyer has only served two years in state office. If she embarks on this quixotic quest now against better-funded candidates, she will certainly be shortchanging Allentown and other residents in her district for at least her entire final year in office. And will she pull a Jennifer Mann and run for two incompatible offices simultaneously, hedging her bets? If she does, she deserves to lose both elections.

It's too soon for her to be doing anything other than serving the people who elected her.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Anti-Semitism Alive and Well in Lehigh Valley

The Express Times reports two recent incidents of anti-Semitic behavior this holiday season. First, we have holiday lights converted into a swastika in Lower Saucon Townships. That's presumably juvenile mischief. The grown-ups there are far more subtle, erecting a gate across one road to prevent access by the poor people.

But a special Sieg Heil goes out to the P-burg area family upset at ShopRite for refusing to inscribe their three year-old's name on his birthday cake.

The name? Adolf Hitler. He used his ovens to bake Jews, not birthday cakes.

Lehigh Valley Blog Links

On the left sidebar, you'll see numerous blog links to a very healthy local blogosphere. If you would like to see a local blog listed, send me an email (BOHare5948@aol.com) or give me the url in the comments. I will link to any blog that is local and active. The one exception is Lehigh Valley Democrat, our first local poliblog. That will always occupy first position, even though it is no longer active.

Blogs that encourage hateful activity or criminal behavior against any specific group or individuals, will be excluded.

Daytime Christmas Lights

When my kids were little, we used to rate Christmas lights, from 1 to 10, at the homes we'd pass on our way to the store or to visit relatives. We'd all cast votes, but daughter Katie was the final authority.

I wish she had been with me when I visited my son at snow-covered Osceola Mills this weekend. That's a pretty little town around 35 minutes west of Penn State. It's a haul, especially in a battered old Jeep. But this trip, I was rewarded with a Christmas lights show during my daytime trip. One I hit the Poconos, ice-covered trees along the side of the highway shimmered a rainbow of colors in the sunlight.

Katie won't be home until January, but I'd give it a 10.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Did Big Three Try to Buy Their Bailout?

MAPLight, a nonpartisan group that "illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes," has cast a spotlight on the bailouts the Big Three have already provided to Congressman who supported the $15 billion bailout. Auto manufacturers, auto dealers and labor unions gave an average of $74,100 in campaign contributions, over five years, to each Representative voting in favor of the auto bailout. That's 65% more money than the $45,015 average to each Congressman opposed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dertinger: In the Holiday Spirit

After Frank Flisser wished everyone the Christmas they deserve at a Northampton County council meeting last night, Council member Charles Dertinger decided he better get in on the action. After all, he's up for reelection next year. So he started wishing everyone a "Merry Christmans, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza or whatever."

Angle: "What about Bernie, he's an atheist."

"I'm not wishing him anything."

Such class!

Part-Time Lawyer Salaries in Northampton County

Shakespeare may have wanted to "kill all the lawyers." but these legal part-timers are getting more money in Northampton County next year.

Controller Solicitor - from $10,710 to $18,000

County Council Solicitor - from $47,025 to $49,141

County Solicitor:

County Solicitor - from $52,099 to $54,444
First Assistant County Solicitor - from $44,346 to $46,341
Assistant County Solicitor (4) - from $38,170 to $39,888

Court Masters:

Child Custody - from $38,240 to $39,961
Dependency - from $38,240 to $39,961
Divorce (2) - from $38,240 to $39,961
Juvenile - from $46,706 to $48,808
Mental Health Examiner - from $38,240 to $39,961

District Attorney:

Second Deputy District Attorney - from $47,910 to $50,066
Assistant District Attorney (9) - from $40,695 to $42,526

Public Defender:

Chief Public Defender - from $51,974 to $54,313
First Assistant Public Defender - from $51,843 to $54,176
Deputy Assistant Public Defender, Administration - from $51,715 to $54,042
Assistant Public Defender (13) - from $40,695 to $42,526

Domestic Relations:

Domestic Relations Staff Attorney - from $30,391 to $31,759

Stoffa's No Tax Increase Budget Passes

With Ron Angle casting the sole No vote, Northampton County Council last night approved county executive John Stoffa's no tax increase $330 million budget during a two-hour meeting. There were only two members of the public present. Before adopting this budget, council members put their own fingerprints on it by including a $13 million bond next year for capital projects. This is $5 million more than Stoffa had requested.

During "courtesy of the floor," council had two unusual speakers, Stoffa and Angle. In his brief remarks, Stoffa bluntly told council, "At the rate we're going, we'll have a tax increase next year." He also warned council about borrowing large sums of money in this economic climate. "I don't like to borrow money. For every dollar you borrow, you pay back two." He suggested we should consider giving our parks to the townships because they are money pits for county government, noting that the Weaversville Park will require at least seven full-time employees to maintain once it is completed. He claimed that our biggest problem is our prison, which he called a "lawsuit waiting to happen." Finally, he criticized himself, saying "I probably could have done better with council. I hope we do better next year."

When it was his turn, Angle branded claimed it was a "totally irresponsible budget" because it fails to plug a growing deficit in the pension fund. Angle claimed that gap currently is $78 million, nearly as much money as the county realizes in real estate tax revenue over the course of a year. He also pointed to the county's swaption deal, which will cost it another $14 million. Finally, he ridiculed the notion of building a new park in this economic climate. "You have money for a park, but not for human services."

Council member Lamont McClure voted against the creation of most new positions, joined by Angle. Nobody's happy, but nobody wants to tinker too much more with a budget that provides for no tax increase next year.

Judge Zito Kisses Strange Woman in Public!

That's right, folks. Judge Leonard N. Zito laid a lip lock last night on a woman during a county council meeting. This woman wasn't even his wife! And everyone applauded.

The woman in question was Patti Grube, who Judge Zito swore in as a council member at the beginning of last night's meeting.

I wonder if Angle was kissed when he was sworn in.

Frank Flisser's Christmas Wishes

Northampton County Council members and executives have come and gone over the last thirty years, and council clerk Frank Flisser has seen it all. His is an "exempt" position, meaning council members could farm him out simply because they dislike the way he parts his hair. But he has impressed everyone over the years, even public pains in the ass like me, with his accessibility and dedication.

A "council clerk's report" appears near the end of the agenda for every public meeting. Frank usually offers a quiet "My report has been filed" or "I have no report" as council members get ready to run out of the building. But at the conclusion of last night's budget meeting, Frank actually had a report. "I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and I hope everybody gets what they deserve for Christmas."

When Frank retires, he plans to compete in the Tour de France. He's invited me to his office for a cookie today.

Put a Nickel in the Drum

Perhaps one of the best charities, especially at Christmas, is The Salvation Army. From youth camps to elderly services, this group of dedicated volunteers helped 35 million people in 2006. According to Major Roger Duperee, over 2,600 Lehigh Valley families have asked the Army for help this Christmas. That's 18% more than last year. So far, it has only half the toys and gifts it needs for needy children this Christmas.

How can we help?

There's always the "put a nickel in the drum" approach. The Red Kettle Christmas campaign provides food, toys and clothing to over 6 million people during the Christmas season. As of December 7, the Salvation Army was at about 40% of its needed target of $350,000 here in the Lehigh Valley.

You can also donate toys to the Lehigh Valley Toys for Tots. Over four pages of local drop off locations all over the area are listed here. For teens between 13 and 16, there is a great need for gift cards.

You can also donate directly to the Salavation Army at the following locations:

Allentown: 144 North 8th Street, Phone (610) 432-0129.

Bethlehem: 521 Pembroke Rd, Phone (610) 867-4681.

Salvation Army Toy Castle: Westgate Mall Phone (610) 653-6395

Easton: 1110 Northampton St, Phone (610) 258-9531.

Pen Argyl: 301 W Main St, Phone (610) 863-6677.

Update: Both QCD and Michael Molovinsky have stories about this, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dent Opposes $15 Billion Auto Bailout - "Money Alone Will Not Solve This Problem"

The House last night passed a $15 billion loan bailout for the Big Three Automakers, 237-170. Detroit automakers must develop a plan for profitability by March 31, or the loans will be recalled. The bill's fate in the Senate is unclear. Louisiana Senator David Vitter, from the Senate floor, calls the proposal "ass backwards," and has promised a filibuster.

LV Congressman Charlie Dent is among those who say No. Here's his reasoning.

“As the son of a 30 year Bethlehem Steel employee affected by the demise of that once mighty company, I can identify with the plight of the auto workers, their families, and the numerous small businesses involved in this difficult situation.

“Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act (H.R. 7321). This bill provided $14 billion in loans to the nation’s three automakers, commonly referred to as the Big Three (Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors). After careful deliberation, I opposed this legislation.

“In late November, executives from each of the three domestic automakers testified before the House Committee on Financial Services on the perilous condition of the American auto industry and its need for significant financial support from Congress to remain solvent. Following their unsatisfactory testimony, these executives were directed by Congressional leaders to return to Washington in December with precise plans on how they will use federal loans to restructure their companies in a manner that ensures long-term viability.

“After reviewing the proposals presented to Congress, I believe the Big Three’s restructuring proposals lack accountability. A responsible plan must accomplish two goals: protect taxpayers and help auto workers by making their employers more competitive. For Congress to consider providing $14 billion in taxpayer funded loans, it is imperative automakers assure the American people they can repay any loans they receive. Unfortunately, the plans submitted to Congress earlier this month are long on generalities and short on specifics, and failed to convince me the Big Three will be able to properly adjust their management, labor and legacy costs.

“In addition to the proposals offered by the automakers, the legislation considered in the House lacked any provisions to compel critically important restructuring in Detroit. I agreed with President-elect Barack Obama’s assertion that Congress must create ‘a bridge loan to somewhere as opposed to a bridge loan to nowhere.’ However, this legislation failed to implement the reforms that domestic automakers must embrace to ensure their long-term sustainability. Though the bill included appropriate limits on executive compensation, it lacked any substantial concessions from other affected parties – concessions that are absolutely necessary for the revitalization of the industry.

“In passing this legislation, Congress has established a process for reinvigorating Detroit that begins at the finish line rather than the starting gate. Prior to issuing any federal loans, firm benchmarks and a concise timeline for restructuring and repayment must be in place – agreed upon by the automakers and the auto workers. Promises by the Big Three and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union have been made to achieve savings, but rather than immediate implementation, many of these agreements will take months and even years to come to fruition. This is unacceptable. In lacking true reform, this legislation is a bridge loan to an even larger request for financial assistance a few months down the road. Money alone will not solve this problem.”

Libertarian party spokesperson Andrew Davis complains about the lack of "provisions in the bailout bill that require any type of change to management, union contracts or company structure before receiving taxpayer money. All taxpayers have is a promise that the same CEOs who put their companies in this mess will get it right the second time." On the other hand, Congressman Jackie Speier, who supported the bailout, claims "This is not just about the economy, it’s about national security."

Incidentally, the Big Three have asked Canada for another $6 billion, but their Parliament is out moose hunting until the end of January.

Nazareth Center For Arts to Host House Tour This Saturday

Did you know Nazareth has a Center For the Arts? Well, it does, and this group will conduct a tour of seven "distinguished houses" in and around Nazareth on Saturday between 10 AM and 3 PM.

How do houses get distinguished? Do they grow beards?

This is no freebie. Tickets, $20 a pop, are being sold at the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce (201 N. Main St, Phone 610-759-9188), Lynn's Florist (30 S. Main St.) and Donahoe Farms (589 E. Lawn Rd). Money raised from this event will be used to convert the old firehouse at 30 Belvidere Street into a Center for the Arts to be used by everyone. Still, $20 is a bit steep, especially since my estate is off limits. You see, I gave the servants off this weekend.

I think they should include a carwash.

The unique feature of this tour is that there will be musicians and an artist at each home. Artists include Claire Lukas, Brenda Messinger-Voll, Robert Lichner, Jane Marshall, Diane Werkheiser and Dottie Nealon. Ronnie Simpson will show her photography. Musicians include Nazareth High Band students and two guitarists.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dally, Grucela To Donate Pay Increase to Northampton County's Children

Capitol Ideas' John Micek is right. Today, state reps. Craig Dally (R-Northampton) and Richard Grucela (D-Northampton), announce their decision to contribute their 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to the Northampton County Children Youth and Families Division. Here's part of the news release.

“Rep. Dally and I agreed that at a time when many residents of Pennsylvania and Northampton County are facing unemployment or reduced employment it would not be proper to take the cost of living increase,” Grucela said.

Neither by law nor by Commonwealth Supreme Court ruling are lawmakers allowed to refuse the COLA. The legislators will, instead, write checks to the county children and youth office. The COLA is approximately $1,500 for each member.

“It is our opinion that these funds can be put to better use taking care of the children in Northampton County rather than returned to the state General Fund and spent at the governor’s discretion.” Dally said.

The funds will go into a special account to purchase counseling services for children and families. This area of purchased services has been particularly hard hit by the recent budget cutbacks.

“The Children, Youth and Families Division is very appreciative of the donation of funds from Representatives Dally and Grucela,” said Division Director Kevin E. Dolan.
“These funds are vital during what are lean budget times. The goal of the counseling services is to keep children safe in their homes.”

The state’s current revenues are far below projections and cuts to state programs and services are likely in the current fiscal year.

Gov. Ed Rendell announced a wage freeze for more than 13,600 non-union employees and directed 51 cabinet and executive officials to donate back, after state and federal taxes, the net amount of a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase mandated by a 1995 law.

Ron Angle Makes Friends & Influences People

"Why are you shaking your head?"

"I'm not. I've got a crick in my neck."

That was the exchange yesterday between Northampton County Executive John Stoffa and Council member Charles Dertinger. In his laconic way, Stoffa was telling seven members of Northampton County Council (Dowd and McClure were absent) how he felt about Council member Cusick's idea of floating a $26 million bond next year for an ambitious list of capital projects. Stoffa prefers a smaller, $8 million bond, mostly to cover the cost of a new juvenile justice center. As he explains it, "We're trying to pay as you go rather than borrowing. It's not the time to be borrowing."

While Stoffa spoke, Dertinger was shaking his head. But he gave that grade school excuse about a crick in his neck for one and only one reason - The Eye of Mordor was in the house! That's right, folks. Morning Call columnist Bill White, whose name strikes fear in the hearts of local pols, was at a Northampton County Council budget hearing.

Maybe he has trouble sleeping.

The second I saw Bill, I plopped my fat ass right next to him, blocking his quick exit. He's actually a very nice guy, just like me. But council members were still on their very best behavior, nervously glancing at Bill from time to time, especially when he would pull out his official notepad. They were really trying to avoid the constant outbursts and petty behavior that have made them the most dysfunctional legislative body on the planet. They don't want to end up in the Hall of Fame like Angle.

But Angle could care less. You see, he's still really miffed at Bill's blog slamming him for being "utterly ineffective" when it comes to "forging coalitions and getting things done." Bill knows it, too. Right before attending yesterday's budget hearing, he said, "I’m off to be publically berated by Ron Angle."

Publically? Is that the opposite of privateally?

Angle actually ignored Bill, but pretty much proved Bill's point. Angle is clearly exasperated. Like Stoffa, he opposes a $26 million bond in this economic climate. "It's the wrong time to be floating big bonds." But aside from Peg Ferraro, council is pretty much oblivious to financial concerns. Dertinger, for example, insists that council should be doing all sorts of things. "At one point or another, we've got to do something."

Why? Does he want his name on a plaque?

Council members whittled things down to a $13 million bond to include a new parking lot at Gracedale, even though Director of Administration John Conklin had just told them the county won't be doing that project for another year. Upper Nazareth Township zoning officials want things done their way, and that will take time. So if this bond is ever floated, we'll be paying debt service on proceeds that are just sitting in the till, collecting dust.

Frustrated by a council hellbent on spending money, Angle eventually took his papers and chucked them into a nearby waste basket. "I'm wasting my time here," he said. Off he went. I think he jumped off the courthouse roof.

Angle missed Diane Neiper's amazing proposal. After advocating spending money we don't have for things we don't need, Neiper proposed sticking $2.7 million of operating expenses in council's slush fund, politely called a contingency fund. When a department wants a new copy machine or rolls of toilet paper, it can come up and request it from council. She wants to do this to "send a message" to county employees. What message is that? That you're nuts? I think they already got that message.

As the meeting ended, with a whimper, my cell phone was ringing. Ron Angle, who survived his jump from the courthouse roof, had a message for Bill White. "Tell him he works for a bankrupt paper."
Update: Ron takes a few swings at Bill White in today's Morning Call, and blogger Michael Molovinsky states anyone who can do that while simultaneously defending Emma Tropiano is OK with him.