That's certainly what Bethlehem is trying to do these days - make everyone happy - over a controversy it pretty much created itself. In a bad economy, laid off Edwin Padilla rolls out a humble hot dog cart to support his family. He gets all the necessary permits from Bethlehem, which take several months. Then he opens for business. That's the American way, right?
Not anymore. Some south side businesses are angry about the competition, and they pay taxes and make campaign contributions. So Bethlehem officials comb through their ordinances until they find just the right one to stop this horrible hot dog menace. No right-of-way permit.
Things take an even stranger twist when this Padilla gets nailed by a hit-and-run driver. No one can provide a complete description, but one eyewitness thought the driver looked a lot like Emeril Lagasse and is sure he shouted "Bam!" just as he rolled over the hot dog dude's foot.
Naturally, most of us tend to sympathize with the little guy, so people have worked themselves into a lather over "arrogant" city officials and businesses. "Save the Bethlehem Hot Dog Man!" is created on Facebook, and has picked up 2,614 members and 419 wall posts
The latest resolution is a proposed ordinance that will actually auction off five permits every three years to the highest bidder. Lauded by an assistant city solicitor as the "fairest" thing to do, it's probably the opposite. It completely ignores a lottery or some other selection process that would be less dependent on the size of someone's bank account.
Bethlehem Mayor and Congressional wannabe John Callahan, who has yet to share his views about medical care reform, is only a little more forthcoming about the hot dog dude. He's walking the tightrope. He likes sausages as much as the next guy, but does not want to offend some Bethlehem businesses. So he thinks carts "need to be in the appropriate location" and has his lawyers making sure that the Christmas City is not overrun by wieners. You see, a hot dog cart draws working stiffs looking for a quick lunch, and that's probably out of whack with a casino nearby.
In the hot dog joke I started this post with, the Buddhist monk is told he'll get no change. "Change must come from within." I have to wonder whether these hot dog wars and apparent disregard for a little guy, coupled with a glitzy casino, are a sign that Bethlehem is changing from within, and in a bad way.