Friday, January 30, 2009

Grucela Decides Against Running For Northampton County Executive

It's no secret that popular State Representative Rich Grucela has been actively courted to run for Northampton County executive. A former Council Prez, Rich knows the ins and outs of county government. His longtime aide, the great Wayne Grube, served on council as well. My first loyalty is to John Stoffa, but I'd be the first to agree that Rich would be an excellent pick.

Grucela has just announced his decision, and it's to continue serving the people in Nazareth and the slate belt who elected him as their voice in Harrisburg. "After rather long and careful consideration, I have decided not to run for Northampton County Executive this year. I am both humble and grateful to the many people who encouraged me and offered their time, talent and financial assistance. I look forward to continue serving Northampton County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives."

Earlier this month, Julian Stolz had reported a "well placed source" claiming that Grucela is "definitely running."

Definitely not. My well placed source is Grucela himself.

Run, John, Run!

He was just eight years old. It was a hot day. He was pulling ragweeds from a corn row and a grove of shade trees at the end looked might inviting. Why not take a break now and come back later? Instead, the farm boy yanked away until the last weed was gone.

That little farm boy is now Northampton County Executive John Stoffa. He's halfway through a corn row of really deep weeds left by his predecessor, more than he thought he'd ever see. For the last three years, he's been yanking away, but his job is far from over.

He's pulled away at a nasty play to pay political system, refusing to accept contributions from people looking for jobs or contracts. He has refused the temptation to respond to constant scurrilous remarks made by Council members Charles Dertinger and Lamont McClure. He shied away from partisan politics, choosing a competent staff over the usual political hacks. He has taken a county on the brink of financial disaster and restored it to sound footing, resisting the urge to "just do something" without having clear goals in mind. He even refused to accept a privileged parking spot, walking up a steep hill day after day until forced to undergo a hip replacement.

A tall and gangly man, people inside the courthouse often laughed at him, underestimating his intelligence and passion. Stoffa continued to yank away.

I'm sure those shade trees look as inviting now as they did when John was just eight. I could not blame him if he stopped now. But his successor, whoever he or she may be, will just plant more weeds.

Run, John, run!

Allentown Needs Judge Junior

He may be eight feet tall, but most of the courthouse crew call this gentle giant "Juni" or "Junior." The real name of this Northampton County Deputy Sheriff is Walter Felton, Jr. I snapped his picture in the courthouse lobby today just so you can see his trademark smile. If they're smart, downtown Allentown voters (wards 3, 13, 17 & 18) will elect him as their next magistrate. QCD reports that Felton has been quietly meeting with neighborhood groups since September.

Here's a list of some of the other names that have surfaced for this $78,722 position.

1. Gail Hoover. She's the double-parking junket lover tagged by the state ethics commission for ethical improprieties as a member of Allentown City Council.

2. Ron Manescu. - An Assistant Police Chief, he's eyeing the other side of the bench.

3. Nancy Wilt, employed by state Senator Lisa Boscola last year tried, and failed, to wrangle an appointment to a vacancy on Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners. "My three small children are my biggest inspiration and my reason for being here." Her kids must be political consultants because now she's considering yet another elected office.

4. Cindy Mest. All I know about her is that she is active in the Jackson Park area of Allentown.

5. "Apples the Clown," aka "Allentown community leader"Everett Bickford, who also refers to himself as "Erika" for some reason. Bickford already has experience as a non-denominational independent wedding minister. (His "Sapphire" package is just $100).

Junior is clearly the best of this unusual field. A product of the projects, he graduated in '75 from Salisbury High School, summa cum laude in basketball. From there, he went on to serve as an Allentown police officer for 21 years. Along the way, he was a sergeant, a detective and the youth officer. Every Christmas, he dug into his own pockets to make sure that the kids in the juvenile home had presents.

When Felton retired from the Allentown Police Department in 2005, he played no pension games. A Morning Call analysis shows that, unlike other officers, Felton made no effort to drive up his earnings during his last thirty days on the job.

In the years I've known Felton, I've watched his magic at work. Many of the people who come to the courthouse are already upset, but Juni's smile and demeanor put them at ease. He has an empathy for the people who speak to him and looks for areas of agreement. He tells me he would like to end his career helping people resolve their disputes. That's certainly his approach as a deputy. He would be a calming influence in a real troublespot.

Felton is already certified by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Allentown City Council Race Shaping Up - Schlossberg, O'Connell & Hershman?

I first met Mike Schlossberg about two summers ago for lunch in Hellertown. At that time, he was helping small business development there on behalf of the Greater LV Chamber of Commerce. Passionate, optimistic and energetic, he has another unusual quality for a twenty-five year old - the ability to listen. These skills are badly needed in urban centers like Allentown, where Mike announced his candidacy for city council last night at the Brew Works.

Because I'm a moron who was busy paying my phone bill, I was unable to attend Mike's official announcement. But he sent me his statement, in which he unabashedly declares, "I am a progressive. I firmly believe that the role of government should be to expand dreams, not create nightmares." He then details a pragmatic, nuts and bolts, approach to Allentown's problems. But I have a few questions.

Allentown's Crime Problem

"The biggest challenge still facing our city is crime. And let me be crystal clear here: We need more police. As an Allentown City Councilman, I will make it my mission to hire additional officers to aid in the fight against crime. I will work to ensure that our city’s fine policemen and women are given the best in technology and the most effective training. I also fully support the new Community Policing plan as an innovative way of increasing police presence. How many of us have had someone say that they are afraid of Allentown: they are afraid of shopping on 7th street, of exploring the arts on 5th or 19th or of walking down Hamilton Street or Union Boulevard? No one should be afraid of buying a home in West Park or Midway Manor. No one should fear walking in Center City or the South Side. I know we must fight this false perception, and I know that the best way to do this is to put more officers on the streets."

Mike, if this is just a "false perception," why does Allentown need more police? Either there is a crime problem or there is not. You don't hire police to fight ghosts.

City Finances

"I would be remiss if I didn’t mention city finances in light of these tough economic times. First, let me pledge that I will do everything in my power to avoid tax increases. City residents and businesses are already overtaxed, and I fully understand the stifling effect that further tax hikes will have on our community. In order to avoid this, Allentown must be more careful with its resources than ever before. I believe we can save money in a variety of ways, including working with other governments on joint purchasing agreements, expanding our grant seeking efforts and controlling energy costs. But, more than anything else, Allentown City Council must understand that we are not spending our money; we are spending the money of our fellow residents."

According to an analysis by Morning Call reporter Jarrett Renshaw, $8.1 million of the city's $14 million surplus is actually borrowed money that must be paid back. And Allentown's residents will be paying interest, too. Fiscally responsible? Just a tad deceptive?

Business Attraction/Retention

"We must also strive to continue to attract and retain business. Allentown has recruited over $400 million in new development in the past three years, including Coca Cola Park, the Butz building, and the beautiful Allentown Brew Works in which we are standing. We must continue to bring in more businesses, and if I am elected to City Council I will continue to use every available resource in the recruitment of similar projects. That being said, the city should do more to help the already existing small businesses that make up the core of our community. We need to provide them with information on marketing and promotional tools, how to properly utilize technology and what grant and loan programs are available to them. This will help these businesses to continue to succeed and thrive during these tough times."

Mike, if a business like the House of Chen, which has operated in Allentown for thirty years, calls with a problem about bus routing changes that damage their business, don't you think city officials owe this existing small business the courtesy of a return call? Would you agree that Mayor Pawlowski really dropped the ball here? His failure to respond killed a number of Hamilton Street businesses.

Open Government

"We must also continue to develop our community and provide a more open government. We need to work closely with our crime watch groups that provide invaluable information and stability to the city. If possible, I would like to see the city hire staff that worked exclusively with these groups to help them grow and prosper. We must also work to enhance our website and internet communications in order to better inform Allentown residents. We also can and should make City Council meetings available over the internet, bringing access to government into every living room in the city."

Allentown is the only LV community whose Internet communications have gone backwards. How hard is this? Doesn't this reflect a disdain for the common man, the one who can't afford to make $1,000 donations to the Pawlowski campaign?

You can read biographical information about Mike here. I hope to be able to sit down and get answers to some of these questions, as well as Mike's views on Allentown's systematic (and mandatory) inspections of low-income home owners.

Four seats are up in this year's city council election. Since three incumbents will probably seek reelection and win, this race may very well be for the one open position that has resulted from Tony Phillips' decision to run for mayor. Retired Allentown School District Administrator Ray O'Connell is also reported to have announced his candidacy yesterday. Veteran Lou Hershman, who spent 24 years as Controller and another 8 years on City Council, may also be interested in making a comeback. He's been spotted jogging the streets of Allentown at 5 AM every morning.

Confessions of a Moron

PhotobucketI always get antsy this time of year. You see, my Jeep inspection is due the end of January. That's no simple thing for a rust bucket with over 200,000 miles. This year, I've been plagued by lights that suddenly burn out. What's really weird is that it all happened over the course of one week. The moment I'd replace one, another would suddenly die. Most mechanics can't stop laughing when they see my ride, so I end up doing a lot of the minor stuff myself. But I'm an idiot when it comes to anything mechanical, so it takes forever.

To replace bulbs, I've spent about forty hours freezing my ass off, with an owner's manual in one hand and screw driver in another. Always the wrong kind of screwdriver. Invariably, I'd lose half the screws and end up making multiple trips to the hardware store because I also get the wrong replacements. Now my brother, who is mechanically gifted, would gladly do this stuff in about thirty seconds. But how hard can it be to change a light? Pretty damn hard. I've spent most of a week crawling around on my hands and knees looking for what I've dropped.

I also needed new tires this year, too. I got a great price on four beauties a few weeks ago. But when I went to get them installed this week, the tire dealer told me he's fresh out, and suggested I scout around for some decent used tires until the new ones arrive.

I ended up buying my tires from some dude who is in all kinds of trouble with Easton over the thousands of tires he has stored all over the place. I guess it's an eyesore, so the suits shut his shop down. I had to meet the used tire salesman on a corner somewhere. I also had to produce cash, which he carefully counted before giving me the tires. I half-expected some vice cop and Mayor Panto to pop up out of nowhere and shout, "Freeze!"

After scoring from the tire pusher, I went to the tire guy, only to learn nails were embedded in two of my new used tires. I called my pusher, but he just snorted "I'm going to have to charge you extra for the nails. Aha, ha, ha, ha." Then he hung up.

Finally, everything was ready for inspection, and it actually went smoothly. I got my new stickers a few days before the end of the month and was feeling pretty good. Even three unpaid parking tickets in the mail, which I collect the way most kids collect baseball cards, could not dampen my spirits. I was very responsible. My Jeep is inspected and registered.

I popped on my PC to insult a few commenters and suddenly, I had a new problem. Did my PC break down? No. ISP having trouble? Nah. So why can't I blog?

Well, if my phone service is disconnected, so is my access to the net. I've been wondering why I've received no bills lately. Unfortunately, Verizon has still been sending them. I found that out the hard way, at 5:30 PM yesterday. The phone police just cut off my access to the world. By the time I figured out what had happened, found the phone company's phone number, called from my cell, and went through all kinds of recordings, I learned their offices were already closed for the day.

So now I had to drive my newly inspected Jeep to the Cyber Cafe in Tatamy and pay $10 to get online and take care of that bill. While there, I was told my phone would probably not be back in action for a few days. So I paid another $10 and drafted a post to explain what had happened, set to publish at midnight. Then I popped back in my newly inspected Jeep and slid all over the black ice on my new used tires until I finally made it back home.

When I opened the door, the phone was ringing.

I am a moron.

Congressman Dent Votes Against $819 Billion Stimulus Bill

A Democratic-controlled House last night approved Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, but with no Republican support. President Obama claims this legislation will save or retain three million jobs, but Republican House leader John Boehner disputes that, claiming the bill "won't create many jobs, but it will create plenty of programs and projects through slow-moving government spending." Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent explains his NO vote.

“The concept of an economic stimulus bill is that it should be ‘timely, targeted and temporary.’ This legislation, overall, fails those three tests.

“This legislation devotes less than 10 percent of spending on hard infrastructure projects, which are proven to create and preserve the greatest number of American jobs. Congress can maximize job creation by dedicating funding in the stimulus bill to road and bridge construction, airport upgrades, rail and mass transit enhancements and water infrastructure improvements.

“Congress has strayed from providing temporary relief to address the immediate difficulties facing our economy by establishing over 32 new government programs at a cost of over $136 billion. As President Ronald Reagan once said, ‘A government program is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll see here on earth.’

“Many of the programs and priorities that are funded and established in this bill are efforts that I strongly support. I support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I support strengthening the federal commitment to children with disabilities under IDEA. I support expanding research under the National Science Foundation (NSF). These programs are important but they should be considered through the normal appropriations process, not included in a bill that is intended to provide an immediate boost to the economy. They must be part of our long term plan to make our country more competitive in the global economy.

“President Obama has done an excellent job setting a proper bipartisan tone by reaching out to Republicans on this issue, and I agree with him that Congress must pass legislation that creates jobs and stimulates economic development immediately. However, Speaker Pelosi lost sight of the President's goal when drafting the bill considered today on the House floor," Congressman Dent said. "I hope that the House, Senate and Obama Administration will work together over the next few weeks to develop a stimulus package that more effectively addresses the economic challenges this nation faces.”

According to a New York Times analysis, the impact of this stimulus package will be felt within weeks. People will notice more money in their paychecks as federal withholding decreases. But whether it will revive the economy is far less certain.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Rise of the Regressive Party

I hate to admit it, but failed Congressional candidate Sam (Siobhan) Bennett was right about me. I've been patiently waiting for some "progressive" blogger to out me, but they're all regressives, too. So it's time to come out of the closet and announce that I'm really a proud member of the Regressive Party.

You won't see us on any ballot because we believe everything is best done behind closed doors. We're like the Masons, minus the goofy costumes. Some of us are nominally Democrats or Republicans, but that's just to throw you off. Here's a few of our super-secret positions, distilled from our party platform. They've been penned by Maddox, the Jefferson of the Regressive Party.

Presidential Favorite: A box of tic-tacs.

Family values: Love your kids? Then beat the shit out of them.

Abortion: We oppose abortion, but support killing babies. Usually we'll just leave them on the rocks like the Spartans. As stated in our party platform, "I'm neither pro choice, nor pro life; I'm pro you-shutting-the-hell-up."

Idaho: Return it to Britain.

Old People: "I came out of the theater and saw old people dancing to country music in the courtyard. I couldn't remember the last time I saw a group of people begging this hard to be aborted."

Vampires: "Vampire hunting will be a government-sanctioned profession."

Photo Credit: Maddox. He sells bumper stickers here.

Congressman Dent Among Eleven Moderate Republicans Invited to White House

The Obama administration must have missed Sam Bennett's interview at Firedoglake, in which she tattles that LV Congressman Charlie Dent is only pretending to be a moderate and has everyone fooled. According to RealClearPolitics, Dent was among eleven "moderate" Republicans invited to the White House last night to discuss the nation's economic recovery.

We regressives are very cunning.

Barb Hollenbach Running For Northampton County Judge

Bethlehem attorneys Barb Hollenbach and Karl Longenbach probably would deny this, but I graduated from law school with both of them. Really! In fact, I first met Barb when I accidentally pulled her underwear out of a Carlisle dryer, thinking they were mine. It was an honest mistake and she forgave me.

In law school, Barb was a law review editor, an honor only accorded to the better students. After graduating, she clerked for President Judge Williams and then went into private practice. She's been a lawyer for the past thirty years.

Last weekend, she announced her candidacy for one of the unprecedented three judicial vacancies on the ballot this year. About two hundred people attended her campaign kickoff, including Northampton County Council Prez Anne McHale, State Senator Lisa Boscola, Bethlehem Controller Meg Holland and gazillionaire Linny Fowler.

Without question, Barb has the intelligence and temperament to make an excellent judge. Voters will have a tough choice this year because many excellent attorneys are planning to run. You can read more about Barb at her web page, located here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sam Bennett Targets "Regressive" Local Bloggers

Firedoglake, published by Jane Hamsher, is no local poliblog. Yet that's where failed LV Congressional candidate Sam (Siobhan) Bennett explains her loss to Congressman Charlie Dent. As she tells it, local blogs are just too "regressive," and she's going to change that.

"[W]hat I need to do, and what I'm going to do, working with others in my district is keeping that coalition together that worked on my race--feminists, Greens, unions, environmentalists--and forming a federal PAC and putting up our own blog. Right now the blogosphere in my district is uniquely dominated by the regressives not the progressives."

Do you think she's talking about me? Funny, I don't feel like Benjamin Button. Maybe she means fellow blogger Pam Varkony, who does look like she's getting younger every day.

Whoever they are, diabolical "regressives" painted Charlie Dent as a "moderate." "My guy is so UNmoderate, he makes Gerlach look like a tree hugger!" But here's the thing. Charlie Dent really is a moderate. And Sam really is a primal-screaming lunatic whose campaign was so idiotic she had to ask broadcasters of her televised debate to insert a disclaimer to protect voters from her own remarks.

But in her interview, Bennett's loss is blamed on those damnable "regressives."

"Believe it or not, the blogsphere in this district is dominated by ‘regressives’ not progressives. So we are looking forward to getting our own progressive blog up “LV Blue Values” so we can get our voice and our values out there — and make sure local folks know exactly what Dent’s and other R’s voting records truly are."

Bennett was asked, "Do you already have a local blogger lined up? It’s quite a commitment to run a blog."

Her answer? "Understood how time consuming it is to do a good job — but we are determined not to let the 'regressives' continue to dominate."

Wow, we regressives must be pretty bad. But we make great Geico insurance reps. Bashing Sam Bennett? So easy a caveman can do it.

In addition to the regressive blogosphere, Bennett takes aim at the local news industry.

"Another challenge we face in PA-15 is the local paper in Lehigh County (PA-15 is very UNjerrymandered with two counties Lehigh and Northampton predominating) that is so wedded to Dent, they allow themselves to be part of a Rovian cycle of Dent sends a press release, they write about it, Dent makes a mail piece out of it. 'Half truths, lies and inuendos (sic)'. I often felt myself a character straight out of that excellent movie, 'The Contender' when as a candidate for Congress here in PA-15."

Funny thing. Sam blames blogs and newspapers for her failure at the polls when perhaps she should be looking in the mirror. Her parting words? "[D]on’t worry, I WILL RUN AGAIN!" And lose again. I'm not worried.

Those of you who regularly trash this blog should contact Sam Bennett immediately. Why not get paid by a federal PAC for your bon mots? Gee, maybe I'll apply and trash myself. I know lots of dirt about me. It's so easy a caveman can do it.

Dean Browning Wants to Study LV Zoo Finances: Bison Angry

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham has proposed saving the nearly bankrupt Lehigh Valley Zoo. Closing it will cost the county about $1.8 million over five years, and that's about the same amount of money it would take to keep it open. So why not just keep it open, asks the exec.

Commissioner Dean Browning is confused by the numbers. According to Cunningham, it will cost Lehigh County $200 thousand per year to maintain the elk and oversized bisonburgers grazing near the zoo. But if zookeepers stay, it will only cost them $80 thousand to maintain the herds. Why such a difference?

Another Browning concern is that in 2008, with a county grant of $350 thousand, the zoo still lost $164 thousand. This year, if the county gives the zoo $325 thousand, won't it still finish the year in the red?

A third problem is a $250 thousand line of credit, guaranteed personally by some board members. Is the county going to use taxpayer funds to pay off what really amount to personal obligations?

Fourth, Browning would like to know a little more about the county's own finances. How much will the county have to pay into the pension fund this year? Will the state continue dragging its feet on human services reimbursements?

Finally, the zoo may be performing functions and spending money that could be done more efficiently and inexpensively by the county.

Because of these questions, Browning is suggesting that the county release $100 thousand to the zoo now, which should enable it to meet its payroll until commissioners and county executive can reach a final decision.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sam Bennett on Arlen Specter: "You Just Can't Kill Him"

Failed LV Congressional candidate Sam Bennett, in a blog interview at Firedoglake, actually complains about Senator Arlen Specter's longevity. Pennsylvania's senior senator has been battling an advanced form of Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer, since 2005.

"We are beginning to regard Arlen as the Glenn Close (what WAS that movie with Michael Douglas?) of PA politics — you just can’t kill him." Bennett later adds, "I meant to say 'you just CAN’T kill him' in reference to the unfortunately indomitable Arlen Spector.[sic]"

Nice person, isn't she? Not a single "progressive" condemned her insensitive remark.

I'll have more to say about Sammy tomorrow.

Benedict XVI: Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

It was the Jewish Sabbath. It was the day before Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz. But in the name of Christian unity, a German Pope has re-instated a Bishop who denies Hitler's Final Solution.

Now Catholics have a Bishop whose blog, Dinoscopus, actually provides a Biblical basis for anti-Semitism. As the good shepherd explains to his flock, he's just opposed to godless communism. He really wants to help Jews.

"Now ever since the Jews were responsible for the crucifying of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- "His blood be upon us and upon our children", Mt.XXVII,25 -- they have as a race and as a religion, always with noble exceptions, continued to reject him down to our day. Thus St. Paul observed that they not only "killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets", but they also prohibited St. Paul himself from "speaking to the Gentiles so as to save them". In brief, their behavior was such that "they please not God and are adversaries to men" (I Thess. II,14-16). Closer to our own time, it is a matter of historical record that the designing and launching of, for instance, Communism, to wrest mankind away from God and to replace his Heaven with a man-made paradise, was largely their achievement.

"So they persecuted St. Paul at every turn (see Acts of the Apostles) as being one of their arch-enemies, when in fact nobody loved them more truly or labored more for their real well-being than did St. Paul (cf. Rom. IX,1-5). Similarly today, they will call an "anti-semite" anybody who gets in the way of any godlessness of theirs, when in fact all people laboring for their salvation, as for the salvation of Gentiles, are their best friends. St Paul, pray for us ! Kyrie eleison.
"

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Republican Comm'rs Vulnerable in Lehigh County


Lehigh County's nine-member Board of Commissioners is its legislative branch, empowered by Lehigh County's Home Rule Charter to enact the county equivalent of laws. They also hold the purse strings. With a five to four Republican edge, a swing of just one seat could change the balance of power. Four legislators are elected "at large," i.e. countywide. The rest, elected from a specific geographic area, are called "District Commissioners." This year, voters in each district will decide whether to keep or dump its five district representatives.

Sterling H. Raber (R, District 1). - This is the only real open seat. Lehigh County's quiet man, Raber is one of the most well-respected government officials in the Lehigh Valley. But after twenty-seven years, this New Tripoli pig farmer is packing it in. Another dignified former commissioner, Marc Grammes, is reportedly interested. I am unaware of any Democratic interest in this seat, which would be an uphill battle.

Percy H. Dougherty (R, District 2). - Dr. Dougherty has ably chaired Lehigh County's Board at least six times and is a very large part of the reason why the Commissioners work so well together. His bipartisan approach to government and quirky sense of humor are a refreshing change of pace. I'm used to having Northampton County Council members like Dertinger scream at me during or after meetings, so it's very unusual for me to attend a meeting in which elected officials actually try to get along and in which the chair is very interested in public input.

Incredibly, Dr. Dougherty may be facing a primary challenge from a Republican who thinks Daugherty is just too damn accommodating. Youthful East Penn School Director Mark Prinzinger, incensed that Commissioners actually adopted a budget, has hopefully come to his senses.

David S. Jones Sr. (D, appt.; District 3). - When Kurt Derr suddenly resigned last year, Rev. Jones was appointed in March to replace him. He is the Lehigh Valley's first county-level legislator. Lehigh County's Republican-dominated commissioners selected a strong Democrat who will be hard to beat, and that was their intention. Republican Robert E. Smith, Jr., President of Allentown's school board, is supposedly interested in playing the role of Don Quixote.

Daniel K. McCarthy (D, District 4). - Solicitor to Allentown Parking Authority and regular Pawlowski contributor, McCarthy is finishing his second term in a heavily Democratic district. Mike Welsch is reportedly interested in going after this "pay to play" pol. Last Fall, Welsch embarrassed state rep. Jenn Mann in a televised debate over Allentown's crime problem. He also bluntly but accurately told The Morning Call there was no point in meeting its editorial board for an endorsement. Voters did not hear his message. I doubt they'll hear it now.

Glenn Eckhart (R, District 5). - When Lehigh County Commissioners threw up a temporary roadblock to Don Cunningham's community policing proposal, the normally affable exec was steamed, not over the defeat, but because he felt that Eckhart had gone back on his word. Then Eckhart petulantly mixed it up with Allentown City Council Prez Mike D'Amore, resulting in an Eckhart pledge to boycott all Allentown businesses.

Eckhart, whose district now has a 9% Democratic edge, is in trouble. His seat is vulnerable, and with it the balance of power in Lehigh County.

Friday, January 23, 2009

CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings Breaks Into Allentown Building

It's true. He even admitted it to me yesterday. But I'm glad he did it. Let me tell you why.

This is really an update on a story first reported here on January 5. Local activist Alfonso Todd (Project R.E.A.L.) published a disturbing video of an Allentown family locked out of their apartment at 47 N. 7th Street. That's the old Linden Bar Hotel, owned by Pauline Martinez. Distraught parents, with a three-year old girl, were faithfully paying $80 per week in rent. There never was any heat, although the "landlord" had promised to take care of that. On January 3, water and electricity were suddenly shut off. The parents had no place to go and were unable to retrieve their personal possessions. Allentown shelters had no room. Even the police were unable to help as a worried mother watched her three year-old girl grow colder and colder. Many of you wanted to know what happened to this family. I had no answer.

Now I do, thanks to CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings. He tells me he only rarely reads blogs because he's no computer guy, kinda' like John McCain. But Lady Fortune must have been smiling for this family because he happened to see my story and jumped on it. Here's what he learned. The building had been declared unfit for human habitation between two and three years ago. The building owner or someone misrepresenting herself as the building owner was illegally renting rooms in this building. This family was evicted with out court order - it was an illegal lock out. They were denied access to their belongings, which is also illegal.

Jennings tracked down the family and then decided he was going to break into the building himself and get their stuff. Attorney Don Miles was there, too, aiding and abetting this felony. Jennings also had a sledge hammer, a drill and plastic explosives. Unfortunately, somebody prevailed on him to get a locksmith. While they were all waiting, a former tenant happened by, and he amazingly had the key to let them in.

They were able to retrieve this family's belongings. More importantly, Jennings offered this family shelter, but they had already found a room with a friend.

Channel 69 did broadcast Jennings' break in, but it would be a lot better if he were arrested or blew the door open. So far as Jennings knows, no prosecution has been started against the person who clearly took advantage of a poor family. He's been trying to leave a comment on this blog for days, but finally decided to just call me.

Larry Holmes, Smokin' Joe Frasier Backing Judge Jack Panella in State Supreme Court Fight

Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant, located in downtown Easton, was the setting for last night's first round in Judge Jack Panella's fight for the state supreme court. At least two hundred supporters crowded the bar, an impressive roster of local leaders that included Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, Easton Mayor Sal Panto, DA John Morganelli, Senator Lisa Boscola, Judge Leonard Zito, state representative Bob Freeman, former County Exec Jerry Seyfried, future Judge Sam Murray and future mini-judge Tony Sortino.

Judge Panella was delighted at the turnout. "You all showed up for me. I can't thank you enough."

Of all the luminaries, two stood out. Larry Holmes, the former heavyweight boxing champion known as The Easton Assassin, is still a giant of a man. He's impossible to miss. He was tending bar and sneaking drinks while his wife's back was turned. Sitting at the bar was none other than Smokin' Joe Frazier, who brought his devastating left hook from the City of Brotherly Love.

When Larry got up to introduce Judge Panella, he mentioned that he was once Smokin' Joe's sparring partner. "Joe broke my ribs. I didn't even know it. But I got my revenge. I beat up his son." (Holmes pummeled Marvis Frazier in a 1983 title bout). At this point, Frazier made his way to the podium, but since Don King was nowhere to be found, there was no fight.

When Panella first decided to be a judge, he mentioned his interest to his client, Larry Holmes. Larry was none too thrilled. "What the heck are you thinking? We won't be able to go to the bars or hang out anymore." But he ended up liking the idea, noting the similarities between a Lehigh Valley judicial candidate and heavyweight boxer. "You're going to get hell beat out of you and people will say you can't do it. But I did it. Not by myself. I can't do it myself. And neither can Jack."

After all the introductions, Judge Panella finally spoke for himself. For the first time, I saw the passion he hides so well on the bench. He talked about his parents. His dad, a big man, supported his family by rolling carpets, hard physical labor. After being stricken with a heart attack on the job, workmen comp "experts" persuaded a referee that his father was fine. Three months later, he was dead. Jack also mentioned his mom, who was there to see her son. Every day on his way to school, he would stop by his mom's shop to say hi, and was nearly always knocked over by the heat in which she was forced to work to make other people rich.

"Someone has to be there to protect your rights and to protect your access to the judiciary. If you want to know why I'm here, that's why I'm running for this job."

If Round One is any indication, Judge Panella is on his way to a knock out. His web page, Vote Jack Panella, is now up and running.

(Incidentally, if you've never been to Larry's restaurant, check it out. All the boxing memorabilia, by itself, makes the trip worth it.)

Armstrong: Allentown in Wonderland

Scott Armstrong, who publishes the informative Allentown Commentator, is perhaps the Lehigh Valley's most talented essayist. Instead of the disinformation being spewed from the billowing furnances of Pawlowski's puff blogs, Armstrong deals in reality, as demonstrated by this indictment.

"Lewis Carroll's tale of Alice is not nearly as fanciful as the yarn Ed Pawlowski's is crafting of his role as the mighty savior of Allentown. According to Ed's power point presentation, under his stewardship the crooked has been made straight and the rough places plane.

"Crime is down, the budget is balanced, the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter has aligned with Mars. Ed has steered the stars. This is the dawning of the age of Pawlowski. Reality is no longer what Allentown residents actually experience but is instead what Ed needs it to be to gain another term as mayor. The mayor's fiction is transmitted by a complicit media who dutifully report his every message through unblinking eyes as substantive achievements. Perplexed Allentonians can't understand why their reality stands in stark contrast to the feel good messages of constant improvement. Ed was wise enough to understand he didn't need to make real positive change in the city to be successful; he merely needed to convince the media he was doing a good job. In this effort he has been aided by people of influence who have gotten what they need from the Pawlowski administration. City government has worked quite well for them and they have been happy to repay the favors they have received. Together, the giver, the receivers and the uncritical media have created a sort of parallel universe in Allentown. In their Allentown the bad times are over and the brighter future is just around the corner.

"Truth has clearly taken a back seat to the selfish concerns of Ed Pawlowski and his supporters. The local media's motive for participating in this sham is either mere sloth or political partisanship. I suspect the latter."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

LC Exec Don Cunningham:Let's Try to Save Lehigh Valley Zoo

At a news conference today, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham proposes trying to save the nearly bankrupt Lehigh Valley Zoo. Closing it and forcing all the animals to run for office will cost the county about $1.8 million over five years. Keeping the facility open as a children's zoo that focuses on education, will cost no more. Closing the zoo will save no money, but will deprive the community of a treasured asset. So Cunningham proposes keeping the place open as a children's zoo whose focus is educational. It's a persuasive argument, even to fiscal conservatives. Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners will decide what to do on Wednesday, but Cunningham's proposal makes sense to me.

Here is Cunningham's complete statement.

I have held back from offering my views and position on the impending bankruptcy of the Lehigh Valley Zoo until I had a full compliment of the facts and financials before me.

Toward that end, for more than a month, my administrative staff has worked aggressively with the zoo’s administrative staff, it’s board, county commissioners and reviewed the financial records to get a full and clear picture of the past, present and future situation at our zoo.

The impending bankruptcy of the Zoological Society is a complex situation. And, when faced with complicated decisions that involve the expenditure of public funds, one is best to not take a knee-jerk approach or a passionate approach to decision making.

In the end this is a business decision. It should not be based on who loves animals more or less. In matters regarding the zoo and animals, there is a lot of passion and nostalgia. There is a long and deep history regarding this property and some of these animals on county land that dates back to General Harry Trexler.

This county has long supported this zoo, whether it operated under its current name or its previous name (the Trexler Game Preserve) or whether it operated as a county department or as a subsidized tenant on county property. During the last ten years, under both operating models, county taxpayers have spent an average of about $435,000 a year to run the zoo. It was a little more when the county ran it ($587,000) and a little less on average ($438,000) as a subsidized tenant on county property.

The issue of county financial support is not new. Every county budget for the last two decades has seen financial support for the zoo, some more, some less – but on average $520,000 per year. The issue of closing the zoo is not new either. Five years ago that was debated. And, the Board of Commissioners decided then to develop a new, privatized model that got the county directly out of zoo operations by leasing the facility to the Zoological Society. The idea was a sound one. But, the five year plan that was put in place was based more on wishful thinking than a sound business plan.

Therefore, today the Zoological Society will be bankrupt next month and the facility will close, leaving more than 170 animals on county government property in the hands of us in the dead of winter.

What is new is the reality of paying for the cost to close this facility - the cost to care for the animals until a new home can be found, the cost to find that home and get the animals there, as well as the continued cost of maintaining the herds of bison, elk and Palomino horses, which the county owns. We own a total of about 30 animals.

The cost to do that this year alone is a little more than $1 million. Over a five year period, the total cost of this option is $1.8 million since its will cost us at least $200,000 a year for our herd animals and maintenance. Those animals, today, are cared for by the Zoological Society.

Recognizing the financial cost of the Zoological Society’s bankruptcy – not to mention the loss of a treasured facility, referred to by some as the “jewel of the county’s park system” – we challenged the zoo leadership and board to develop a conservative five year business model based on market reality and a better focus, including what would be needed from the county to support that. We challenged them to squeeze out costs and focus on what works.

There are three guideposts I said were crucial in this plan:

1) That we move away from the model of a regional zoo created five year ago that projects the impression of competing with the Philadelphia Zoo.
2) That we develop a realistic budget with conservative attendance and revenue and cost projections.
3) That the request for county investment be a number that will make a realistic budget work.

I will not support a subsidization number made up by politicians that doesn’t work in a business plan. That’s precisely what was developed five years ago and has led to the current situation.

I also will not support spending county tax dollars on a product that is too small and too ineffective to make it worthy of county support. I don’t think we need a petting zoo with barnyard animals on county property.

And, I will not support anything other than the proper care and transition of the animals on our property in the event that we are not granted the ability to continue a zoo operation.

This county leadership took the right approach when making a financial commitment to minor league baseball. We partnered with the Philadelphia Phillies to land an AAA affiliated team in the star studded International League. We did not invest those tax dollars into an unaffiliated team that played a lesser brand of baseball. My position is that if we aren’t willing to do this right than the correct decision is to do nothing at all.

Toward that end, there is a plan in front of us to restructure this facility into a new Lehigh Valley Children’s Zoo that focuses on its core audience, children 3-10 years old and their parents and grandparents. Nearly half of all visitors to the zoo in recent years have come from school bus trips. Much of the zoo’s programming is focused on education, both in educating kids about biology, animals and the natural world and providing teacher re-education credits in how to teach biology and environmental topics. There are existing solid partnership with school districts, environmental groups and other science and education institutions that can be made even stronger.

Today, we have in front of us a five year plan – based on conservative estimates of 1 percent annual growth and annual cost increases actually tied to inflation. There is no dream like vision of huge numbers of new visitors or magical donor dollars falling from the sky, such as the plan five years ago.

The plan would require a five year commitment of $1,825,000 in county money – just about the same number it will cost us during the same period of time to close the facility.

This week the Administration will send to the Commissioners two ordinances. One ordinance will ask for the $525,000 this year to keep the zoo open and a lease extension calling for $325,000 the next four years for a new Lehigh Valley Children’s Zoo. This figure is $200,000 below the average county spending of $525,000 during the last ten years. The other ordinance, which will be necessary if the first is rejected, will call for an appropriation of $1,014,000 this year to close the facility with recognition that future budgets will need a line item of $200,000 to care for the herds and maintain the facility.

My Administration and I will support the ordinance to invest in a new Lehigh Valley Children’s Zoo. This is the clear choice from a fiscal perspective and a social perspective.

When it is cost effective, communities and governments need to invest in the quality of life assets that make a region a special place to live, to work, to raise a family and to visit. We have understood this for a long time in Lehigh County. That’s why we have this facility, the Trexlertown Velodrome, Coca Cola Park and dozens of other quality of life assets that receive our support.

This plan will not generate the need for a tax increase. In fact, the additional $195,000 in new spending that we would be needed from our 2009 budget can be taken from the surplus we generated from beating our budget projections in 2008.

It’s imperative that we make decisions based on good business analysis but that in the process we keep an eye towards maintaining the soul of our county and our community. In this case, we can do both.

Judge Jack Panella Will Launch Supreme Court Campaign Tonight

Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, formerly a much-admired Northampton County common pleas judge, will launch his campaign tonight for the supreme court seat once held by retired Chief Justice Ralph A. Cappy. He will make it formal with an announcement at Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in downtown Easton at 5:30 P.M.

Capitol Ideas' John Micek has a series of excellent articles concerning Panella's announcement, the judicial race landscape and the latest round of ratings from the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

In addition to his formal announcement, Panella will open his campaign headquarters in Bethlehem on the ground floor at 1 E. Broad Street, located at the intersection of New and Broad Streets. He told me today that the public is welcome to visit his HQs, and he'll try to make himself accessible to anyone who has questions. "We're the least understood branch of government," he explained.

Tomorrow, I'll detail some of Panella's many accomplishments. I learn something new every time I talk to him. Yesterday, in the course of discussing the judicial branch of government, he talked about and gave me a video explaining the different courts. When I looked at it, I discovered he wrote the narrative and conceived the idea. He also spoke of his desire to prepare a video explaining the history of Northampton County's courts.

If elected, he will be the first Northampton County judge ever elected to the state's high court. In giving Panella their highest evaluation - "highly recommended" - the PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission released this statement.

"The Candidate currently serves as a judge of the Superior Court, having been elected in November 2003. He previously served more than 12 years as a common pleas judge in Northampton County, and before that was a practicing attorney and county solicitor. He has served as a judge and President Judge of the Court of Judicial Discipline, where charges against judicial officers are heard, and as chair of the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates claims of ethical misconduct against Pennsylvania judges and brings charges in meritorious cases. His service on the Commission for Justice Initiatives in Pennsylvania exemplifies his commitment to the improvement of the quality of justice. He is the principal author of an important bench book for Pennsylvania trial judges about crimes of sexual violence. His written opinions are crafted with clarity and precision. During his time on the bench, he has shown both sound judicial temperament and exceptional administrative ability. The Commission believes the Candidate possesses a rare combination of intellect, energy and skills that qualify him as highly recommended to ascend to the Supreme Court."

A link to his questionnaire is located here.

Ken Matthews: Maybe Rev. Lowery Just Forgot

Ken Matthews, married to just one woman, has an interesting take on Rev. Joseph Lowery's insulting benediction ending Barack Obama's inauguration.

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around...when yellow will be mellow...when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen."

Barack Obama was not, as near as I can tell, being told to sit in the back.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pawlowski: Let Them Eat Popsicles

Throughout the first eleven months of 2008, Allentown Mayor Ed "Pay to Play" Pawlowski raked in a whopping $101,599 for his campaign warchest, nearly as much money as in 2006 and 2007 combined. But his ending cash balance, as of November 24, is just $53,914.77. Where did the money go? His campaign expenditures are listed below, arranged in a way that makes most sense to me.

Contributions to Other Pols

* Brennan for State Representative, Bethlehem PA 18015, 08/16/2008, $250.00. (Joe Brennan's campaign had given Pawlowski $425.00 over the same period)

* Friends of Jennifer Mann, Allentown PA 18105, 10/18/2008, $250.00

* Friends of Mike D'Amore, Allentown PA 18104, 08/16/2008, $100.00

* PA for Kanjorski, Wilkes Barre PA 18701, 09/25/2008, $500.00

* DayPac, Bryn Mawr PA 19010, (Daylin Leach) 9/25/2008, $500.00. (Leach was elected to the state senate).

* PA Democratic Party, Harrisburg PA 17101, 10/21/2008, $1,000.00 (for Obama)

(Note that Pawlowski gave nothing to failed Congressional candidate Sam Bennett even though she used her personal funds to support Mayor Ed. He also gave nothing to Democratic Attorney General candidate John Morganelli or aspiring gubernatorial candidate Don Cunningham.)

Let's Eat, Drink & Be Merry

Allentown Brew Works, Shared cost of Democratic Ladies Luncheon of 6/22/07, Date: 02/28/2008, Amount: $500.00

Johnny Mananas, 1300 Food, 700 tips, Annual fundraiser, 01/31/2008, $7,000.00

Robata of Tokyo, Campaign Dinner, Date 09/25/2008, Amount $234.05

Saucon Valley Country Club, (Bethlehem PA 18015), Expenses for food/drink/staff at 10/22 FR, 11/07/2008, $5,702.25.

Lehigh County Democratic Committee, Election rally & victory party contribution, 11/03/2008, $650.00

Tickets for PA Society Dinner, 10/07/2008, $600.00

Those Damn Cell Phones

* 3 Campaign Cell phones, 11/13/2008, $295.46
* campaign cell phones, 06/13/2008, $240.54
* campaign cell phones, 07/10/2008, $238.92
* Cell phones, 07/29/2008, $252.59
* Cell phone, 04/29/2008, $234.24
* Cell phone usage 04/29/2008 $495.76
* Cell phone usage 03/10/2008 $113.12
* Cell Phone usage 2 mo 02/12/2008 $331.42

Popsicles, Candy & Junk Food for the Masses

* Popsicles, 09/15/2008, $55.57
* Popsicles, 07/07/2008, $28.46
* St. Pats Parade Candy, 03/18/2008, $51.30
* Halloween Candy, 10/10/2008, $81.88
* Popsicles for crowd, 09/15/2008, $8.07
* Popsicles for crowd, 06/10/2008, $13.50
* Donuts for community meeting, 09/15/2008, $15.15
* Pizza for first responders in blizzard, 01/02/2008, $74.20
* Pizza for first responders during blizzard, 02/25/2008, $80.70

Election Day Activities

* Donuts and coffee for voters in long lines, 11/04/2008, $106.46
* Umbrellas for elderly voters in long lines, 11/04/2008, $22.24

Babysitters

childcare for campaign event, 01/23/2008, $25
childcare for Snow Ball, 02/09/2008, $28
childcare for campaign event, 04/05/2008, $38
childcare for camp, 04/19/2008, $25
childcare for 2 events, 05/01/2008, $50
childcare for Midway Manor FR, 05/10/2008 , $32
childcare for Good Shep. Gala, 05/31/2008, $30
childcare for Obama event, 6/13/08, $30
childcare for event, 09/13/2008, $40
childcare during Mann FR Date, 10/24/2008, $38
childcare for campaign event, 11/08/2008, $50
childcare reimbursement to Lisa Pawlowski for Joe Biden Rally, 10/27/2008, $55
childcare reimbursement to Lisa Pawlowski, 10/22 FR , 10/31/2008, $99

How Much Does a Big Cardboard Check Cost?

Fast Signs, Creation of large donation check for senior center, 07/10/2008, $47.70

Taking Care of Some Pals

* Joseph McDermott, Allentown PA 18103, Media Services - writing, 04/29/2008, $260.00
(McDermott, a former Morning Call reporter, is also Pawlowski's former media relations guru. Now, he's a "consultant" and the mayor is his sole client.)

* Rob Hopkins is a local Dem activist from the boonies of Bethlehem. His blog, Keystone Politics, was selected by the DNC to cover the Pennsylvania delegation at the Democratic convention. Pawlowski gave Rob $100 towards transportation costs. He also paid him $920 for his work on a January fundraiser.

* Mike Fegley, a Democratic state committeeman and ABW principal, was also given $100 towards transportation costs to the Presidential Democratic Convention.

* Minority Network of PA, owned by city employee Kevin Easterling, was paid $240 on February 12, for four email blasts concerning some fundraiser.

A Must For Every Pol

purchase of a portable amplifier & microphone system on 08/25/2008 for $339.47.

Ed Pawlowski, Philanthropist and Sensitive Guy

Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Allentown PA 18103, contribution to bowling fundraiser, 03/10/2008, $100.00

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA 18102, Church Fundraiser, 06/23/2008, $50.00

Community Services for Children, Allentown PA 18109, Fundraiser - Photo Pkg for Wilson Black, 11/13/2008, $130.00

Whitehall Democratic Club, Whitehall PA 18052, Contribution, 08/16/2008, $20.00

Sympathy Flowers for a dead voter, 01/22/2008, $49.80

Keeping the Unions Happy

Lehigh Valley Labor Council, Allentown PA 18104, sponsorship for golf outing fund raiser, 08/16/2008, $500.00

I'm a Star!

Dan Simrell, Scranton PA 18510, Video and photo shoot on 10/3, 09/29/2008, $531.00

Internet Campaign

Andy MacBride, Bethlehem PA 18018

Database & FR invitation project 08/13/2008 $1,050.00
Database work, letterhead design 09/23/2008 $920.00
designing, printing; web design and data mgmt 07/29/2008 $1,560.00
FR Work, database & letterhead design 10/03/2008 $810.00
Inv. 1866, staff work 10/18/2008 $410.00
Project mgmt; database work; invitation design for fr 08/13/2008 $840.00
Website design, fundraiser work and reimbursement 09/04/2008 $931.00

GoDaddy.com, Scottsdale AZ 85260, Web URL Renewal, 02/12/2008, $99.90

Nitty, Gritty Campaign Expenses

Deluxe Small Business Services, St. Paul MN 55164, New campaign checks, deposit slips, endorsement stamp 07/10/2008 $219.25

KCA Financial Services, Inc., Geneva IL 60134, Old campaign debt for Verizon phone hookup in campaign, 02/12/2008, $395.67 & $28.46

Lisa Pawlowski, Mrs. Hizzoner,
* 2 Tablecloths for FR (Kohls) and Name badges for fr office 03/10/2008, $255.41
* Reimburse envelopes purchased at Office Depot, 01/28/2008, $377.00
* Reimburse for portable coat rack (Target), 06/13/2008, $52.99
* Reimburse for DSPS Stamps & invitations for annual fr, 02/05/2008, $984.00

Mercedes Tonne, Allentown PA 18102
* August Staff work, 09/25/2008, $662.50
* Camp staff work, 08/13/2008, $285.00
* July staff work, 08/27/2008, $225.00
* Sept Staff work, 10/07/2008, $734.55
* Staff costs October, 11/07/2008, $825.00

Andy MacBride, Bethlehem PA 18018, Oct 22nd FR staffing, 10/23/2008, $530.00

Office Depot, Allentown PA 18103, Office Supplies, 01/04/2008 - $39.73, 03/24/2008 - $105.99

Postmaster of Allentown, Allentown PA 18101, PO Box Rental, 12 mo, 02/15/2008, $68.00

The Mail Room, Allentown PA 18109, Inv. 892,
1st installment for bulk printed envelopes 08/13/2008, $4,028.00
2nd installment printing bulk envelopes, 09/05/2008, $4,028.00
invitations, response cards, name tags, & sponsor poster 09/05/2008, $235.52
printing invitations for Oct 22 fr 09/25/2008, $1,272.00
Printing invitations, response cards, fold/stuff/mail, 08/13/2008, $559.15
Printing Invites for 1/31 FR, 01/22/2008, $596.20
Printing letterhead and fr name tags, 10/23/2008, $652.54

USPS, Allentown PA 18101,
Extra PO Box key 09/29/2008, $6
Stamps for fr invitations 08/01/2008, $504
stamps for Oct 22 FR 09/26/2008, $504

County of Lehigh, Allentown PA 18101, Purchase Voter Registration CD, 10/27/2008,
$25.00

Ron Angle Prank Calls Lamont McClure

Northampton County Council member Ron Angle swears that this telephone conversation really took place last Friday. To confirm that, I'd have to call his colleague, Lamont McClure.

Secretary: "Angelos law offices, how may I direct your call?"

"Lamont McClure, please."

Secretary: "Who shall I say is calling?"

"Charles Dertinger."

McClure: "What's up, Charles?"

"Lamont, this is Ron Angle. You're 0 for 2 and about to strike out. I skunked you on the Council VP, the Council appointment and next time it will be the solicitor."

McClure: "Let me put you on hold."

"Sure."

Click.

Angle tells me he has also sent Hallmark cards to McClure and Dertinger. "They have to be Hallmark. That's when they know you really care." I decided to confirm whether this really happened, and called McClure.

Secretary: "Angelos law offices. Asbestos is our game. We'll find someone to blame."

"Is Lamont there?"

Secretary: "Who shall I say is calling?"

"It's me, damn it. Joe Long, Democratic Party Chair, Chair of the Northeast Democratic Caucus and Bethlehem Housing Authority Commissioner. Get McClure on the phone now!"

Secretary: "Right away, sir."

"Right away, what?"

Secretary: "Right away, Your Magnificence."

"That's better."

McClure: "Hello, your Wonderfulness."

"Lamont, it's me, Bernie. Is your refrigerator running?"

Click.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

LV Congressman Dent Congratulates Obama on Inauguration


Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the oath pretty badly, but i think Barack Obama is still President. U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) issued the following statement on today's inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States:

“I congratulate President Barack Obama on his historic Inauguration as 44th President of the United States. It is highly appropriate that in the same week we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we celebrate his vision of racial reconciliation.

“Inauguration Day is a celebration of the enduring success of our Democracy, where power is transferred peacefully from one Administration to another. In this same spirit, I look forward to Congress and the new President working together to conduct the people’s business.

“In keeping with the themes that President Obama outlined in his address, I believe we as a nation can work together to recharge our economic engine, defend our nation against the threats we face and preserve the American way for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to a respectful, civil dialogue where we can pursue common-sense policies for the American people.”

Wanted: Bounty Hunters

Economy got you down, bippy? Laid off? Reduced hours? Well, I've got just the job for you. Unlike those boring brain surgeon and rocket scientist openings, this one requires no education or experience. If you hustle, you can make more money doing this than most Lehigh Valley attorneys see in a year. Best of all, you name your own hours and can still be an idiot.

No, I'm not talking about mayor or county executive.

Chances are, you've probably seen one or two over the years, tooling down the street in a converted cop cruiser. Sometimes, they wear improvised swat team uniforms, size XXXXL. A few even deck themselves out just like state troopers, right down to the Smokey Bear hat. But that size XXXXL uniform gives them away. If you're thinking Mall Cop, you're close. I'm talking about Pennsylvania's very own bounty hunters - the constable.

As a matter of full disclosure, I'm on a first name basis with several of these dudes. I've even driven in the back of some of their converted cruisers. You see, I accumulate parking tickets so often I really should look into a "frequent offender" discount. Now that I'm an old fart, they usually just call me.

An ancient office, constables have existed since the time of Edward Longshanks, not to be confused with Edwin of Renaissance Square. During the American Revolution, they were called "chief guardians of the peace." These days, they mostly serve warrants for outstanding parking tickets.

Unlike most peace officers, constables are elected to six-year terms. Once they complete their 80 hours of training and file proof they have liability insurance, their jurisdiction is statewide. A constable elected in Nazareth, for example, can spend his time serving warrants in Milford if he's pals with the magistrate there.

Before you sneer at the idea of serving papers, consider this. In 2007, Constable Frederick Schoenenberg raked in a cool $131,175.26, just from Northampton County. It's conceivable he made even more money doing work for magistrates in other counties. After control over constable payments was switched from court administrator to county fiscal affairs in 2007 to comply with some ruling from the state supremes, constable costs skyrocketed 75%, which drew the attention of Controller Steve Barron. Most constables appear to view the job as strictly part time, but some of them make a lot of money. Joshua Wagner, a hustler, was paid $99,257.88, just in Northampton County. The constable who usually arrests me, Stan Smith, was paid $77,293.33. Considering that a magistrate is paid $78,722, that's pretty good money.

Below you will see a list of Northampton County's payments to twenty-seven constables in 2007. Remember, these are just the payments from one county. I've linked their names to their ethics statements. Because constables are subject to very little oversight, both the state Supreme Court and state rep. Tom Caltagirone are considering reforms.

Peter Cochran - $14,757.95
(Easton Fire Department)

Tyrone J Comunale - $28,091.77
(works in six different magisterial districts throughout several counties)

James P. Doyle - $53,308.25
(serves Bethlehem's 14th ward, the Lehigh County Sheriff's Office and LTriC)

David Enstrom - $8,039.15
(serves Bethlehem's 9th ward, and is a cop with Upper Nazareth and at the Airport)

Shawn Fariello - $6,235.00
(Shawn is also an Easton area paramedic who can resuscitate you if you keel over after being served with a warrant)

Christopher Fenner - $16,860.25
(A Bethlehem city worker who moonlights serving warrants in Lower Saucon Tp)

Lamar Fronheiser - $1,771.20
(This dude is from Palmerton, and probably is out trapping beaver or something right now)

Paul Gilmore - $7,793.34
(Pen Argyl constable who works in Horsham)

Jonathan Hagenbuch - $49,085.46
(A Forks Tp constable who works full-time for Palmer Township)

Denise Halupka - $6,471.75
(Denise is actually a deputy constable who works full-time for the county).

Scott Hough - $65,820.42
(Hough is currently suing Northampton County for injuries sustained going after an escaped prisoner, the job he was elected to do. Good luck with that one, Scott.)

Ronald Kummer, Sr. - $39,915.37
(Ronald is another deputy constable. His turf is Easton)

William Kummer - $89,928.21
(William makes a living at it in Easton, and the pay's better than a magistrate!)

Walter Marinkovits - $9,103.43
(For reasons unknown, this Northampton resident calls himself "constable custodian." Maybe he takes out the garbage when he arrests someone)

Darden Napolitano - $67,796.41
(Business must be booming in Freemansburg. Just wait 'till there's a casino!)

Robert L Pepe - $14,878.38
(A Wind Gap cop, Pepe could make more money if he were more peppy)

Frederick Schoeneberger - $131,175.26
(This dude is cleaning up in Wilson Borough. Must be those damn meters by St. Luke's)

Richard Seeds - $43,670.52
(A Bethlehem Township constable, I'll have to tell Richard all the nasty things Lamont McClure has been saying about him)

Charles Seyfried - $42,416.65
(Charles, who works out of Bethlehem, actually typed his ethics statement)

David Sheats - $53,198.35
(A Lehigh Township constable who works for the City of Bethlehem. Do you give a sheat?)

Willard Sigley, Jr. - $39,019.16
(Elected in Lower Nazareth, Willard works both counties)

Stan Smith - $77,293.33
(Rumors that Stan once hog-tied me and walked away laughing are greatly exaggerated. He just smiled)

Paul Soldridge - $5,168.25
(Paul works mostly out of Coplay)

James Soldridge - $3,902.20
(James works out of North Whitehall Tp)

Joshua Wagner - $99,257.58
(This Bethlehem constable has to be in love with parking meters)

Adam Wood - $922.10
(Dude, why bother?)

James Wood- $21,639.68
(Woody is also an "attendance officer" for Easton schools.)
Update: The Morning Call reports that Constable Joshua Wagner (paid $99,257.58 in 2007) is seeking the $78,722 seat currently occupied by His Most Majestic Mightiness, the Honorable James F. Stocklas I, who has dispensed justice in North Bethlehem for thirty years. Judge Stocklas, before whom I've appeared as an unfortunate and wrongly accused parking meter defendant on multiple occasions over the years, never fell for my bullshit about Canadian quarters. He'll be a tough act to follow.

Allentown's Incredible Disappearing Republicans

Are there any Republicans left in Allentown? That's a question I must ask after looking at Mayor Ed Pawlowski's 2008 contributions from prominent local Republicans. Most are small, but reflect a party in such poor health that popular Congressman Charlie Dent was defeated in the Queen City last November by a lightweight.

Former Republican county exec Jane Ervin, Allentown real estate owner Aris Harris, and former Republican County Commish Cindy Lambert, each made modest donations to Pawlowski.

Quintessential "cover my bets" developer, J.B. Reilly, is part of a private "king-making" group of Republicans. So is Sam Saxton, owner of an Airport Road cemetery; and Roland Sigal, who owns the Tech Bldg. at 11th & Hamilton. Each is part of the "Republican" hierarchy. Each donated to Pawlowski.

Ideologically the biggest surprise is Charlie Thiel, a very conservative R who ran twice for city council, and has been touted as a future mayoral candidate. I'm sure his donation has nothing to do with the fact that his company is the one with the city contract for all those blinking blue surveillance cameras.