About Me

My Photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Scrappleface for Lehigh County Exec?

Who says Republicans have no sense of humor? They're running Scrappleface, Scott Ott, for County Exec against Don Cunningham. Ott's most recent attempt for elective office was his satirical run for President.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dean Browning: Will a "Land Trust" Really Help Affordable Housing?

Lehigh County is currently considering an innovative "land trust" approach for the allocation of $300,000 in Lehigh County's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. As explained by Commissioner Dean Browning, this is a tool to "separate the cost of the property from the cost of the structure as a means to reduce the purchase price. The Land Trust would own the actual land and the individual or family would own the actual house."

The land trust mechanism has been used in Burlington for the past 20 years, and is considered a success.

"This model supports affordable housing in several ways. First, homebuyers have to meet low-income requirements. Second, the buying price of the home is reduced because it does not include the price of the land. Third, the trust works with lenders to reduce the cost of the mortgage by using the equity of the land as part of the mortgage calculation. This reduces the size of the down payment and other closing costs and eliminates the need for private mortgage insurance. In all, the trust can cut the cost of home ownership by at least 25%."

But not everyone shares that view. A finance lawyer-blogger notes problems in Florida, and Dean questions whether a $300 thousand contribution will really make a difference. I'll let him explain his reservations in his own words.

"I have substantial concerns about the scale we can achieve with this approach. In addition, I am concerned by the decision to include spec houses built by commercial developers. According to my notes, the $300,000 requested for the Land Trust approach would provide for only 10 homes (4 with Omega, 2 with Community Action and 4 with Selvaggio Enterprises). This works out to an average of $30,000 per home and certainly does not provide the scale needed to make any sort of impact on the affordable housing issue. With a great many families struggling to make their mortgage payments do we really want to devote $300,000 to helping just 10 families? In addition, my opinion is that the inclusion of the spec houses from Selvaggio complicates this even more. The Selvaggio homes are 1,800 square feet, have 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 2 half baths.

"The homes were originally priced at $209,900 and are currently on the market for $195,900. I can’t reasonably see how we can say that our answer to providing affordable housing in Lehigh County is to take $100,000 of County money to put 4 families into $200,000 townhouses that are priced higher than the median price for homes sold in Lehigh County last year."

Browning will meet Lehigh County officials today to discuss his concerns.

Lehigh County Comm'r Percy Dougherty to Announce Reelection Bid Tonight

Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners is the best municipal government I've seen. It certainly has its share of 5-4 votes, but its nine members take the time to listen to each other as well as the public. Whenever possible, they look for areas of agreement instead of division.

Rather than adopting a ridiculous and meaningless Code of Civility, these legislators genuinely admire each other. Hard core Dem Bill Leiner always treats hard core Republican Dean Browning to a cup of coffee at committee hearings. True, he may spike the drink from time to time, but it's the thought that counts.

This collegial atmosphere is the result of Chairman Percy Dougherty, whose affable style of bipartisan leadership makes Lehigh County as efficient as East Penn School Board appears to be raucous. Interestingly, Dougherty's primary opponent, Mark Prinzinger, is a member of that troublesome body.

Dougherty will formally announce his reelection bid at 5:30 PM tonight at the Community Room, Clock Building, 322 Main Street, Emmaus, PA 18049. He intends to "run a positive campaign based on my proven record of experience and leadership, economic development, planning, smart growth, environmental protection, human services, and quality of life issues."

He's invited everyone to come out tonight "so you can have a voice in the future of Lehigh County." If you'd like to talk to Percy, you can reach him at VoteForDougherty@aol.com.

The Top Ten Books of All Time

Former Express Times reporter Pete Hall has come up with some goofy BBC list containing the 100 greatest books ever written. I've only ever read 30 of them, but what the hell do the English know?

I've scrounged around for an American list, and found a top ten list based on interviews with 125 top writers.

1) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6) Hamlet by William Shakespeare
7) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8) In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
9) The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
10) Middlemarch by George Eliot

I've only read five of these books, which means I'm illiterate. How about you?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Northampton County Solicitor Joining Judicial Race, Too

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNorthampton County Solicitor Karl Longenbach, who shunned the Long Democrats this weekend, has reportedly decided to seek a judgeship, too. He wants nothing to do with me. You see, I pretty much lost his judicial quest last time he ran.

You see, I supported him. Here's the sad story, which I've told once before.

Have you ever met Karl? He's about 9 feet tall and weighs about 100 lb. Physically, he's an Abe Lincoln minus the facial hair. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him, you'll walk away impressed. Right now, he's Northampton County's Solicitor under Exec John Stoffa, who's 10 feet tall and weighs about 90 lb. Another Lincoln.

Me? I'm about 4 feet tall and weigh about 700 lb. unless I can ride my bike and run. In 2005, I had a good thing going. I was able to commute by bike almost daily. Now I could give you all kinds of noble reasons for this -- peak oil, environment, fitness, blah, blah, blah. The simple truth is I love it.

When Karl Longenbach asked me to work in his campaign, I envisaged late-night strategy sessions, speechwriting, and a few dirty tricks here and there. I immediately agreed. Finally, someone had recognized my abundant talents!

Then one day the call came. I rushed over to meet Karl, and was handed about 3,000 signs to plant. Having absolutely no mechanical ability, this presented a problem. First, I had to figure how to put flimsy plastic sleeves over wire hangars. I ruined about 1,000 signs doing that. Then I had to hammer them into the ground. There goes another 1,000 signs. Then I had to hammer them into the ground again whenever winds blew over 3 mph. I ruined nearly every sign he gave me when all was said and done.

But I kept one sign for my bike. I took some clothes hangars and managed to strap the sign to my back as I pedaled to work. On election day, I rode the main roads so that voters could see that Karl was both environmentally friendly and had nothing against fat guys on bikes. I tooled along, waving at the many admirers who blasted their horns. You may say they resented a cyclist clogging up the Lehigh Valley's arteries, but they were obviously signaling support.

Well, I made it to the courthouse, sweating from head to foot, and immediately changed in the men's room, which drives environmentally conscious Long Democrats batty. I hung my wet clothing discretely on my bike, right by the courthouse entrance, and placed this "Longenbach for Judge" sign in plain view on the side of my bike. Every person walking in or out of the courthouse would see it.

The courthouse was busy that day. There must have been a sale on dog licenses or something. But I was happy because I knew a lot of people would see Karl's sign. I was making a difference, baby.

But throughout the day, I noticed people would snicker or give strange looks as I walked past. I had no idea why -- my zipper was up and I wasn't trailing toilet paper. Finally, at the end of the day, a female attorney asked me if I was wearing underwear. Huh?

I went outside and there was the underwear from my bike trip right next to Karl's sign. Apparently, I was less discrete than I had thought. People would walk by, look at my underwear, then Karl's sign, and start laughing. The underwear campaign sign decoration later become the subject of a bar association luncheon, or so I'm told. Contrary to what people now tell me, there were no skid marks!

Election night, Karl lost by a handful of votes. Karl did forgive me, but I had to promise to work for his opponent if he ever runs again. So don't vote for Karl.

Koury Should Forget His Judicial Quest

It's starting to get crowded in the race for three judicial vacancies on the Northampton County bench. Announced candidates so far include Judge Lenny Zito, Magistrate Jim Narlesky, and attorneys Sam Murray, Barb Hollenbach and Candy Barr Heimbach. State Rep. Craig Dally will announce next Thursday.

Although he's made no formal announcement, Two Rivers Daily reports that Magistrate Mike Koury intends to run as well. Customers going to his mom's sandwich shop are apparently being asked to sign his nomination petition as a condition of getting their tuna salad on pita. How the hell do you say No to the person preparing your lunch? Koury is circulating petitions and did prostate himself before Bossman Long at Saturday's Nazareth meeting of local Democrats.

Koury should think twice about running. First, he's running for reelection to his district court job and the court of common pleas simultaneously, even though he is unable to hold both jobs. People are tired of that kind of political gamesmanship. Second, Koury is simply not in the same league as the other judicial candidates who have announced. He has pretty much spent most of his legal career as a magistrate and has no idea what it is like to present a case to a jury. Third, and most importantly, his campaigns always implode. He is a two-time loser best known for a disgusting last-minute smear attempt at then candidate Emil Giordano in 2003, which resulted in a rare condemnation from the bench. In addition to being far less qualified than his distinguished opponents, he always erupts at the end of every campaign.

Koury's race will just hurt the only other candidate with Easton roots, Sam Murray.

Tony Phillips, A Republican Who Listens

Allentown Mayoral candidate Tony Phillips will open his campaign headquarters on Monday at 1101 Hamilton Street. Local celebrity Ken Matthews is running the effort, and calls it a "challenging yet exciting time."

Phillips, one of Allentown's three remaining Republicans, is waging an uphill battle against a heavily-financed Democrat in a Democratic stronghold so partisan that its residents incredibly selected lightweight Sam Bennett over moderate Charlie Dent.

It's been my experience that Democrats usually stick up for the little guy while Rs sit around sipping martinis at the local country club. Not so in Allentown. Pawlowski has pretty much ignored struggling small business owners, whether they are Hamilton Street merchants adversely impacted by bus routing changes, a local golf course restaurateur, or a struggling downtown tavern owner. As can be seen in QCD comments, a local saloonkeeper is getting little sympathy in her struggle against Pawlowski's desire to put her out of business.

"My support for Mayor Pawlowski is now 200%. This woman profits by selling booze to drunks and creating this environment WHERE DRUGS ARE BOUGHT AND SOLD EVERY NIGHT and trying to tell us she has no choice but to do this to be able to educate her kids in white trash Parkland."

A lot of sympathy for a struggling small business there, eh? What does publicly financed Allentown Brew Works, managed by a Dem committeeman who is one of King Edwin's men, sell? Of course, the drunks are higher class. I'm sure the patrons use more refined drugs, too. I guess that makes all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stoffa: Courthouse Security Getting Too Lax

Looks like I'll be getting those body cavity searches again. They tickle.

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa is concerned that courthouse security is too relaxed. Chief offenders appear to be most of us who work here. We tend to forget our judges are very vulnerable, especially when they try cases involving gang members.

Here's the text of Stoffa's memo to President Judge McFadden, which I found while propping open a doorway to sneak across the street for a fat-free cannoli.

"Today, I learned that a door was left opened in the cafeteria. No one seems to know how it became unlocked. Someone entered the building through this door who apparently, was not a County employee. Moreover, I also learned that we have Sheriff's Deputies that are using a 3rd door on the 7th Street side of the building simply because they have keys and it is closer to their office. There are also instances that I personally have witnessed where someone props the door open on the basement side of the building beneath the employee entrance. I now understand that the detectives may be requesting permission to use an additional entrance into the building and are requesting keys to do so.

"For the record, I want to state that I am opposed to any ingress and egress to the Courthouse other than the employee and rotunda entrances. Since established, our security has been slowly compromised and we are getting more careless as time goes by. Should an unfortunate event occur, I'm not sure how we would defend it. Does anyone really know the number of employees who currently have keys?

"Should you wish to discuss this further, please let me know. I hope that we can all come to a mutual decision on this most important issue."

Stoffa: Any Shiloh Baptist Church Grant Needs Oversight

Northampton County Council Prez Ann (64% tax increase) McHale would like to be called Executive Ann McHale at this time next year. She sure could benefit by getting Easton's black vote. So naturally, she has spearheaded a $50 thousand grant in public funds to Shiloh Baptist Church for a halfway house.

This may be worth a few thousand votes for McHale, but it's bad government because Shiloh has an abysmal track record with public money, as noted in the post below. John Stoffa, the incumbent County Executive, had warned McHale before she acted that she was making a mistake. She ignored him. After all, it's only your money.

Stoffa would rather lose an election than do the wrong thing. Wasting $50 thousand in public funds is the wrong thing. So yesterday, he decided to warn Council on his own, something that Ann (64% tax increase) McHale never considered for a moment.

"At the last County Council meeting, Council awarded a $50,000 grant to the Greater Shiloh Church for the above subject project. President McHale had contacted me previously about this program and I had sent her the attached information. [DCED memo in post below]. (I am not including the County Controller Office audits of 10/3/06 and 12/1/06.)

"I have been to this church on numerous occasions and they are a wonderful group of people, however if you eventually give them the money, my recommendation would be that you assign it through our Drug & Alcohol Program or the jail, so that it may be monitored and distributed through the per capita cost of individuals entering the program. To my knowledge, they have no intention of becoming licensed or certified, so someone should monitor how this money would be used. Based on their track record with us, they don't do the best job with bricks and mortar projects."

Northampton County Council Makes Bad Bet on Shiloh Baptist Church

Last week, Northampton County Council Prez Ann McHale asked representatives of Easton's Shiloh Baptist Church to make a pitch for the public funding of renovations to a halfway house on Canal Street, estimated to cost $295,000. Council agreed to kick in the final $50,000. The Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, usually snarls at requests for public money. But instead of doing that, he actually hugged one of the presenters.

Perhaps the real reason why council members were so receptive is because Shiloh, a great church is the voice of Easton's proud African American community. It's no secret they vote in large numbers, and this is an election year.

I think a halfway house is a great idea. But last week, I expressed my concern that their program, as described, tears down the wall separating state from religion. People who agree to go there must consent to "spiritually based" recovery programs. No mention was made of a secular alternative.

Now I have a new concern. Apparently, Shiloh is lousy with money. Council would do just as well to take the $50 thousand promised to Shiloh and just flush it down the toilet. You see, Shiloh did business with the county a few years ago, and the result was a financial disaster with the state eventually deciding to cut off the gravy train. Here's a report prepared by the Northampton County DCED, which has been sent to all council members. It speaks for itself.


The Northampton County DCED traditionally had a good working relationship with one of the few housing services providers in the Easton area: Shiloh Community Services, Inc. (“Shiloh”). Shiloh received small amounts of funding through the DCED for projects, including funds to provide HUD-certified counseling for first-time homebuyers.

In 2002, the County received money through the PA DCED to create a “revolving loan fund” (RLF), whereby money would be used to acquire and rehabilitate homes that could later be sold to income-qualified buyers at a reduced price. At the point of sale, the funds would return to the RLF to be used for future acquisition and rehab. Based on the past relationship, the Northampton County DCED sub-awarded the $123,141 in state “Brownfields for Housing” grant funds to Shiloh. In addition, the county contributed $40,000 in matching funds to Shiloh from its Affordable Housing Trust Fund, derived from fees assessed to deed and mortgage transactions. In addition, the County secured another PA DCED Brownfields for Housing grant in the following year for $142,945, with the county Trust Fund match totaling $100,736. These funds were once again sub-awarded to Shiloh.


On 10/3/06 and 12/1/06, the County Controller’s Office released independent audits which found deficiencies in the administration of these grants, both by Shiloh and the County DCED. The findings for the first audit were inconclusive in that Shiloh could not substantiate over $140,000. Little paperwork could be provided verifying costs or substantiating the eligibility of the buyers. The auditor further found that Shiloh had submitted estimated costs for payment rather than actual invoices, and could not account for where the differences in costs were applied.

From the release of the report in 2006 through March of 2008, the County attempted to close out the contracts with Shiloh. Shiloh maintained two acquired properties but had not rehabbed them. Based on the negative findings, the PA DCED refused to allow the County to drawdown any remaining funds.

During this time period, many letters and two meetings occurred with the new Director of SCS and pastor of Shiloh Church, Philip Davis. While he did terminate the employment of the Housing Manager and reassigned the duties, he indicated that the projects would be completed and funds returned to the County. That said, various requests for reports and updates were disregarded.

Unfortunately, Shiloh Community Service’s financial troubles led to obligations that mitigated their ability to repay the County upon the sale of these properties. Shiloh owned other properties that were delinquent in mortgage, tax, and utility payments, thus liens were placed on the two properties purchased with the County funds. Further, it was discovered in February 2008 that a mortgage for the purchase price of one of the two properties never had been satisfied, despite the fact that the County gave Shiloh a check for over $81,000 to pay off this mortgage. During this time, two of Shiloh’s other properties were sold off at Sheriff Sale and they no longer have their certification through HUD as an approved housing agency.

Therefore, on March 7, 2008, several representatives of the County, including Executive John Stoffa and County Solicitor Karl Longenbach, met with the representatives of Shiloh and their counsel to establish a reimbursement plan. As such, Shiloh entered into a mortgage agreement on with the County for $180,000. In order for this money to be returned, Shiloh Church (which remains financially healthy), refinanced another structure so as to allow for repayment. The mortgage was finally satisfied in full in June 2008.


There was negative press emanating from these findings as first reported on 11/23/06 in an Express Times article by Sarah Cassi: “Shiloh misplaces grant paperwork.” Further negative press included accusations that homes were sold only to church members with work done primarily by church members through non-competitive selection, and suspicion that the former NC DCED Director’s participation on the church’s Board was the reason for the large grants and lack of oversight.

The 2003-2006 Brownfields grant could not be closed with the state and we continue to negotiate closure of this with the state’s DCED. Further, during the two-year period od 2006-2008, any County department was limited in receiving state funding through PA DCED as we were red-flagged until Shiloh sold the properties. This led to significant delays in receiving both a Veteran’s Memorial grant and a tax reimbursement grant.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Queen of Hearts To Announce ... At a Country Club

Northampton County Council Prez Ann McHale, already known for a haughty disposition, has done nothing to diminish that reputation in recent days. Over the weekend, she allowed a handful of party insiders to endorse her candidacy over that of an incumbent county executive whose sole sin is to try to work with both parties. Now comes the news that her official announcement this Saturday will be at ... a country club.

No union or social hall for her. No siree.

Long live the Queen!

Why do I call McHale imperious?

For one thing, she walked out on a Michelle Obama speech in September. After being denied a t front row seat for military families who are obviously her social inferiors, she walked out of a Cedar Crest auditorium in a huff.

"I don't have time for this!" Her Highness exclaimed, and stormed out. I'll bet they wouldn't treat her like that at State Theatre.

Long live the Queen!

Want some more? The Queen of Hearts tried to blame County Executive John Stoffa for council's own stupidity in attempting to force the county to pay $1.8 million more for an IT contract than what Stoffa eventually achieved. Wayne Grube told her this problem could not be blamed on Stoffa, and Angle pointed out that Stoffa was being courteous to council and was trying to keep them in the loop. McHale literally shouted, "Nice guys finish last."

Long live the Queen!

Want some more? McHale spent nearly $650,000 of your money for needless "renovations" to its council chambers. She's made sure each council member has his or her very own lap top, although I have yet to see one at a meeting. Although remodeling was done over a year ago, the Queen of Hearts has yet to plug in to the web. When Rev. Mike Dowd asked her why there is no video set up, McHale just answered "The first thing is we all have to learn to use the microphone." Clearly, she's reluctant to let the public see just how bad council has become.

Long live the Queen!

Believe me, I could keep going. I got a million of 'em. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Queen of Hearts would embrace a machine pol like Joe Long. They both think they know what is best. You exist to do what you're told.

Craig Dally to Announce Judicial Quest in Early March

Back in December, I reported a rumor that State Rep. Craig Dally was considering trading in his state house seat to don a black robe at the Northampton County Courthouse. It's now more than a rumor. Dally is circulating petitions and will announce his judicial quest for one of three vacancies in early March. He'll do it at Holy Family Social Club in Nazareth.

LVR Readers have rated Craig, who is also a Nazareth attorney, our fifth most effective local leader.

Once Craig announces, there will really be only one open seat. Dally and Zito will easily win the other two. Candidates in contention for that one remaining seat include Attorneys Sam Murray, Barb Hollenbach and Candy Barr Heimbach. Jim Narlesky, who had been courting Republicans until DA John Morganelli decided against running, is in the hunt for a third time. Magistrate Michael Koury may also be taking his third swing.

Grucela: Deployed Reservists Entitled to Educational Leave of Absence

State Rep. Richard Grucela, D-Northampton, happens to be my man in Harrisburg. Every week or so, I bump into him and his very pretty wife at Pizza Joe's in Nazareth. The windows there are bolted shut so he can't jump out and get away.

Had he decided to run for county executive in Northampton County, that race would be over already. I would still support John Stoffa, but Rich would be difficult to beat. Grucela, however, is still navigating the perilous straits in the land of midnight payraises.

He has just introduced legislation (H.B. 592) to protect members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and reservists who are still in college. After learning about a senior who was actually being redeployed and was facing the loss of academic credits and already paid tuition, Grucela decided to do something.

"This is an easy situation to rectify," Grucela says. "Guard troops and reservists should not be put in a situation where they risk losing time and money at school because they've been called to serve their country. It is only right to add this provision, considering the sacrifices they and their families make to protect our nation and the Commonwealth."

This legislation passed unanimously in the House last session, but stalled in the Senate.

It allows any member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or other reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces to take an educational leave of absence.

If a Guard member or reservist was called to active duty, other than active duty for training, the educational institution in which the servicemember is enrolled would have to grant the member or their spouse a military leave of absence from their education without the loss of academic credits earned or forfeiture of scholarships or grants awarded prior to the commencement of military duty.

Under the bill, educational institutions also would be required to refund tuition or fees paid, or credit the tuition and fees to the next semester or term when the servicemember returns.

Grucela serves on the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Facilities.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bossman Long Thankfully Repudiates Democratic County Exec John Stoffa

I managed to get my hands on a news release trumpeting Joe Long's picks for county council and exec. Gee, thanks, Joe!

Bossman Long admits they were actually made at a "petition signing meeting," but what the hell. No need to actually notify anyone. Just how many Democratic committeemen were actually there? Three? Six? Long sure as hell sent no invitation to incumbent John Stoffa, who just happens to be a Democrat.

The Bossman characterizes his action as "a bold statement protesting County Executive John Stoffa’s decisions and lack of leadership within the Democratic Party." What Long fails to understand is that the county executive is elected to lead ALL the people, not just Democrats.

Long also brays, "The County Executive supports Republican candidates for election and has turned his back on his own Party."

Horrors! A county executive who thinks both sides might have good ideas! One who condemns the sleaze campaign run last year by Scissorhands Severson. How terrible!

Thank God for Ann McHale. She and her country club pals are great Democrats and the cash drawer will be wide open for insurance contracts and whatever else they may want.

Party time.

How the Hell Did Kieklak Get a Raise?

Bernie Kieklak works for state senator Lisa Boscola. Female blogger LOLV, aka Capri Roth, is a little surprised to see that Bernie recently got a raise. She writes about it here.

John Stoffa is on Facebook!

I've started a Facebook page for John Stoffa's county executive race supporters. You can check it out here. It's completely unauthorized, but I will supply information about campaign events and Stoffa's message of integrity and nonpartisan style to government. It will drive Joe Long's machine Democrats nutz, just like this blog.

If you have a minute, please sign on. When you're done doing that, you can play Mafia Wars.

Villas' Cuckoo Claims Refuted

"The new comment character "KathyD" is really Bernie O'Hare. So is "The Banker", "Retired ASD Teacher", "Politically Neutral", "Jonah" and countless "anonymous" (wink wink) commenters. All are Bernie O'Hare. You are being duped by a master."

I'd much rather be writing about some micromanaging by Northampton County Council last week, but it's time to address this charge publicly. It has been made on almost every blog I publish here, and has also appeared on several local blogs over the past few weeks. It's the handiwork of Pawlowski puffers Bill and Angie Villa. They know their accusations are completely false, but make them anyway. They subscribe to the Goebbels mantra that "when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it."

I allow anonymous comments, and as the blog has grown, several people have adopted names that set them apart. That's fine with me. The best feature of this blog are the people who contribute and add insights I could never have on my own. While I'm at it, I might as well tell you I never comment here anonymously or under any pseudonyms. I have too much respect for the people who do read and comment here to lie to them.

As you might have imagined, the Villas' false claims have bothered the very real people who write using the names I mention above. Every one of them has denied here and at other blogs that they have any connection to me, other than reading and commenting here.

Retired ASD Teacher is, as you might expect, a retired teacher from the Allentown School District. He has remained anonymous on this blog, but I actually met him last year. He's a very nice man who treated me to a steak dinner at Shula's in my one and only trip to the Promenade. During our dinner, he mentioned that he and Angie Villa were actually teachers at the same school. He had nothing but nice things to say about her. I also respect his anonymity.

Like the other falsely accused posters, Retired ASD Teacher is upset at Villas' false claims. He first tried providing room numbers and staff member names at the school where he and Angie Villa once taught, but that was unacceptable to the Villas because my nephew teaches at a middle school somewhere and supposedly leaked the information to me. The Villas continued to claim he's a figment of my imagination until finally, he called and confronted them with the truth over the weekend.

The Villas make no apologies for misleading readers here or at any of the blogs where they had made their false claims. Instead, they have quickly moved on and now claim to have irrefutable proof that I am KathyD, an Upper Macungie mom whose kids sell girl scout cookies. Angie Villa calls it a "smoking gun." Bill Villa adds, "[B]atten down the hatches and don't say we didn't warn you :)."

My "tell tale troll fingerprint" was revealed on Sunday. According to the Villas, KathyD, The Banker and I must all be the same person because we all use the "w/" in our comments.

Alrighty then. Cuckoo!

Villas, let me help you out here. We also ALL use the words "the" and and "a." I'll bet if you spend enough time looking, you might even discover we've ALL used the symbol "&" from time to time.

Pretty damning evidence, huh?

As The Banker notes, "w/" is a common abbreviation for the word "with," used often here in the Internets. KathyD, another of the maligned commenters, has this observation.

"Just read the "smoking gun" evidence over at Villa's "blog."

"Now I'm laughing. The smoking gun, that "proves" we're all the same person, is the shorthand for with. Yes, only Bernie O'Hare uses "w/" to shorthand "with." This is the only piece of evidence they use? And this is what they teased their reader(s) with for days? What a joke. I'm sure it did get them some more traffic, but it has ruined any chance they had for credibility.

"It's odd they would choose to drag someone thru the mud on their blog, RIGHT AFTER posting a very negative post about the joys of optimism and remaining positive.

"Personally, I know nothing I can say will change their mind or their tactics, and I'd like to see their comments number at ZERO permanently for their latest entry on O'Hare.

"In the mean time, I will be giggling all day long at this smoking gun. Geez, if EVERYONE using the w/ shorthand is Bernie, then is ONE BUSY guy. He must have been the one that sent me a random card the other day, not my cousin! Geez, and I thought that last e-mail was from my mom, but she said something with w/, so I guess that was Bernie, too. Wow. Shock and awe, folks.

"They ought to apply to the Allentown PD for a detective position or something. Seriously - it took them all weekend to come up with this???"

Once again, the Villas succeed in humiliating themselves instead of the objects of their scorn. Funny thing. They accuse me of doing what they themselves do with impunity and have admitted doing. I have emails from Villa bragging about his anonymous snarks at other bloggers. What's worse, most of the questions in his Pawlowski interview were from Villa sock puppets.

I do admit I am one ugly mo fo.
Update: (I did have the sound file of a cuckoo clock here. That's just as childish as what the Villas are doing, so I removed it.)

Who Hit Me With an Ugly Stick?

Some of you may wonder why I've been changing my profile picture on a near daily basis. The answer to that question should be obvious. I annoy the hell out of a lot of people. It's a gift. So I could say that frequent changes to my profile picture protect my privacy and security and lessen the probability that I'll be whacked.

But that's not the real reason. I'll let you in on a little secret. The truth is I am one ugly mo fo. Need proof? One of my many admirers snapped a photograph of me at Allentown's House of Chen last year and used it in a flattering post about me yesterday. I've stolen it and have reproduced it here. Now, I never really took a good, close look at me before. But I think even Father Alex will have to agree that God has not been kind to me. What the hell was He thinking? Geez. By the way, that dark stuff on my arms is not dirt. It's hair. Damn, that's more hair there than you'll see on any orangutan.

So all I have left is my charm.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Northampton County Rs and Ds Draw Their Battle Lines

Democrats and Republicans have produced two different candidates to challenge incumbent Northampton County Executive John Stoffa. In addition, a field of eleven Democrats and Republicans will vie for five at-large council seats. Republicans are also promoting two candidates in the judicial race.

County Executive Race

In typical fashion, Joe Long Democrats decided to endorse a candidate for county executive at a meeting described on their web page as an "[a]nnual Petition signing and business meeting." Without notice, they endorsed Council President Ann McHale for the job. This is exactly the kind of undemocratic behavior that has led incumbent county executive John Stoffa to call for Joe Long's resignation as party boss.

Last time John Stoffa ran, the local party refused to endorse him. Instead of relying on party machines and county contractors, Stoffa is taking his campaign to the people, as he has successfully done before.

Republicans are circulating petitions for Northampton resident and former Channel 69 traffic anchor J.C. Kelleher.

County Council Republicans

Northampton County's nine-member county council is its legislative branch. Five of these are elected at-large throughout the county. These are the seats currently held by Democrats Joe Capozzolo, Charles Dertinger, Diane Neiper, and Republicans Peg Ferraro and John Cusick. Their terms expire this year.

Six Republicans are in the hunt. Two of them, Peg Ferraro and John Cusick, are seeking reelection. Peg, who will probably be the county's top vote getter, is everybody's mom, a decent person who refused to go along with partisan council members intent on lynching a county employee by asking her to resign. Cusick, a schoolteacher who lives in Williams Township, is council's workhorse. No council member matches his work ethic, which I measure as attendance at committee hearings.

Bruce Gilbert, former player on a Wayne Grube championship football team and successful banking executive, has twice applied for appointment to council vacancies. Twice, he's been rejected by partisans more interested in party than quality. According to Morning Call columnist Bill White, Gilbert was perhaps the "best qualified" of all candidates seeking appointment. This time, instead of asking council members, Gilbert will take his case to the voters. If elected, he would be Northampton County's first ever black council member.

Hellertown's Tom Dietrich, who unsuccessfully challenged Ann "Nice Guys Finish Last" McHale last year, is in the fray again. I've already told you about him here.

Bushkill Township's Barbara Thierry, who currently serves on their Planning Commission, is in the race. Rounding our their ticket is Plainfield Township's Jane Mellert, who has been observing council meetings for the past several weeks.

County Council Democrats

Five candidates were endorsed by Democrats this morning. Only one of them, Charles Dertinger, is seeking reelection. In addition to his regular shouting matches with those who dare question him, Dertinger believes that council has no obligation to listen to anyone unless they own real estate. That should get him the landed gentry vote.

Radio man, Dent protester and ousted elections commission chair Wally G, aka Walter Garvin, has party machine written all over him. I'll have more to see about his candidacy in the coming weeks.

Another Democrat anointed by the party machine is Bill Wallace, a former candidate who refrained from the divisive politics encouraged by Long's Democrats in district races last year. He instead mounted a clean campaign focused on bringing passenger rail to the Lehigh Valley. Mike Dowd, who defeated Bill 5027 to 4082, is ironically the council member who introduced the rail transportation study.

Democratic committeeperson Lorraine Pasquali and Nazareth resident Deborah Hunter round out the Democratic ticket. I will have more about them in the coming weeks.

Judicial Race

It is becoming increasingly apparent that popular state representative Craig Dally would like to be called "Your Honor." In addition to Lenny Zito, Republicans are promoting Dally.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ann McHale's "Pay to Play" Solicitor Rejected by 5-4 Vote

Bethlehem attorney Christian Perrucci has spent the past few months lobbying individual council members for a $49,000 part-time job as Northampton County Council solicitor.

It's the least they could do.

Over the past two years, this young lawyer has already contributed a whopping $12,775 to Democrats seeking state offices. This includes $4,000 for former state house Democratic whip Mike Veon, currently under indictment for Bonusgate, and another $1,000 for current state house Democratic whip and payjacker Bill DeWeese.

Not surprisingly, Perrucci was the first choice of Northampton County machine Democrats when county council reorganized in January. But they only had four votes, so their attempt to inflict this campaign philanthropist upon unsuspecting taxpayers failed.

Now that Democrats have a five-four majority, they tried to bring this fox into the Northampton County henhouse for a second time last night. Lame duck council member Diane Neiper asked council members to appoint Perrucci, and Council Prez Ann McHale gravely told everyone she supports Perrucci, too. I'm sure McHale is expecting him to open his check book and finance her county exec campaign.

But not all Democrats are machine Democrats. Bangor Mayor Joe Capozzolo (you can read about him here), appointed to fill Wayne Grube's vacant seat, had other ideas. He likes county council's current solicitor, Anthony Martino.

McHale tried her best to steer the appointment to Perrucci and away from the slate belt. She even cut Ron Angle off as his made a pitch for this fellow slate belt resident. Previously, Attonry Martino was prematurely fired by council member Lamont McClure. Classless and clueless, he did it by letter over the holidays.

Merry Christmas! You're fired.

That stunt earned McClure a coveted Express Times turkey.

As Angle noted that "we've humiliated Mr. Martino enough," the Queen of Hearts cut him off in mid sentence.

"Mr. Flisser, will you please call the roll."

When the dust had settled, all four Republicans had sided with Capozzolo and Martino was selected by a five-four vote. Martino arrived a few minutes later and took his seat on the dais, but McHale offered no congratulations. Ron Angle attempted to do so, but she cut him off again.

"Please, Ron."

McHale failed to deliver the bacon for Pay to Play Perrucci. Even worse, she managed to alienate slate belt voters in the process. They tend to remember things like that.

Now don't feel sorry for poor Christian Perrucci. In late October, he gave $1,000 to Pay to Play Pawlowski. I'm sure King Edwin will remember a loyal vassal.

Northampton County Will Publicly Fund Religious Halfway House

"If you haven't been to a service at Shiloh, everyone should go."

Council member Peg Ferraro, at last night's meeting, was talking about Easton's Shiloh Baptist Church. This large church offers a wide array of community services, and also happens to be the base for Easton's black vote.

Last night, Shiloh's Andrea McKewen Henderson told council members about a self-supporting halfway house they propose for Canal Street. The idea is to send released prisoners there for a "spiritually based recovery."

Newly appointed council member Joe Capozzolo voting against the idea, but other council members agreed to contribute the final $50 thousand to an estimated $295 thousand renovation for this supposed "self-supporting" project. The Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, actually hugged one of the Baptist ministers who made this presentation.

Hallelujah! Praise Jeebus!

But since when does public money fund "spiritually based" programs? No mention was made of any secular alternatives. Doesn't this tear down the wall separating the state from religion?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Morning Call Whispers

Former Morning Call photojournalist Betty Cauler, who took a buy out last August, has a blog appropriately called The Afterlife of Betty Cauler. It is so well-written I find myself wondering whether she should have been writing, too.

According to a recent entry, the paper's most recent round of layoffs follows a visit from The Tribune's Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams, who apparently doubles as The Grim Reaper, as you can see in her graphic. She also claims the rumors of Editor Ardith Hilliard's eventual departure are true. She reportedly has a year to decide whether to take a buy out.

She also describes her final day. "There was no retirement party, no gold watch, no thank you from the president for long years of service, no cake with my picture embossed upon it, just a quiet day by myself in the empty newsroom of the Easton Bureau."

Tony Phillips to Kick Off Allentown Mayoral Campaign Tonight

Allentown Mayor candidate Tony Phillips is inviting EVERYONE to his campaign kickoff tonight.

WHERE: THE PALACE CENTER, 623 HANOVER AVENUE, ALLENTOWN, PA. 18109. Directions can be found here. Refreshments will be served.

WHEN: Tonight! Doors open at 6:30 PM.

WHAT: Tony Phillips will explain why Allentown should choose this city council member and former police officer over a Chicago "pay to play" carpetbagger whose solution to Allentown's crime problem is ... fine dining.

Phillips now has a web page, which you can view here. He has already outlined some of the more glaring problems with Ed Pawlowski's reign, which you can read here.

With John Stoffa In, Steve Barron is Out

During an intermission between Northampton County Council committee hearings yesterday, Controller Steve Barron told a reporter that he has decided against running for county executive. Now that incumbent John Stoffa has committed to a reelection bid, Barron refuses to oppose his fellow Democrat.

Barron makes an effort to be inclusive and has demonstrated a willingness to work with everyone during his first year in elected office. He represents the future of Northampton County government. It's pretty bright if Steve remains involved.

Scott Armstrong, French Chef

From time to time, I publish a Scott Armstrong essay here. Unabashedly conservative, his well-written missives are guaranteed to inspire discussion. What I did not know, at least until last night, is that Scott is also a gourmet chef.

Last night, I had dinner with Scott and his fascinating family. Unable to find the home, I called Michael Molovinsky for help and he was kind enough to give me detailed directions. I walked up to the house, knocked on the door, and Ed Pawlowski answered.

Eventually, no thanks to a laughing Molovinsky, I found the right place. Scott's two sons, like their dad, are obviously brilliant conversationalists. They also speak fluent French like their mom. Scott's ravishingly beautiful wife, Sophie, happens to be French. That explains that. She also has a contagious laugh.

Scott prepared the meal, which consisted of a great salad, homemade bread, followed by a crusty tomato tart with herbed cheese. I thought our meal was over, but Scott returned from the kitchen with delicious crabcakes. They were accompanied by Thai noodle and vegetable combination. After that, we picked at assorted French cheeses and an apple tart desert.

I want to thank Scott and his family for the hospitality they showed last night. I also enjoyed the conversation. We solved all the world's problems. His wife and I tried slipping a few liberal pills into Scott's wine when he was out in the kitchen, but they had no effect.

Salisbury Basketball Program Might Be Saved

Yesterday, I told you that Lehigh County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart has graciously offered to foot the bill for security during the final two weeks of basketball games played by kindergarten through third-graders at Salisbury Township's Truman Elementary. School officials are rightfully upset at the petty vandalism by older kids who enter the building during games and have demanded this precaution.

It's beginning to appear that the kids will be able to get one last week of hoops. The Salisbury Youth Ass'n is working on a plan to salvage the final week and will advise Eckhart of the cost.

Eckhart, who coached there for thirteen years, is likely to this expense from his own pocket. But to be honest, I'd have no problem with him using campaign funds. In fact, I wish more politicians offered campaign funds for worthy projects that benefit kids.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan: Executive Summary

The White House Media Affairs Office has just released an executive summary of Barack Obama's homeowner affordability and stability plan. For some reason, a copy was sent to me. I'll share it with you.

The deep contraction in the economy and in the housing market has created devastating consequences for homeowners and communities throughout the country.

· Millions of responsible families who make their monthly payments and fulfill their obligations have seen their property values fall, and are now unable to refinance at lower mortgage rates.

· Millions of workers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut back, are now struggling to stay current on their mortgage payments – with nearly 6 million households facing possible foreclosure.

· Neighborhoods are struggling, as each foreclosed home reduces nearby property values by as much as 9 percent.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan is part of the President’s broad, comprehensive strategy to get the economy back on track. The plan will help up to 7 to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. In doing so, the plan not only helps responsible homeowners on the verge of defaulting, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from being pulled over the edge too, as defaults and foreclosures contribute to falling home values, failing local businesses, and lost jobs. The key components of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan are:

1. Refinancing for Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Make Their Mortgages More Affordable

2. A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners

3. Supporting Low Mortgage Rates By Strengthening Confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

1. Affordability: Provide Access to Low-Cost Refinancing for Responsible Homeowners Suffering From Falling Home Prices

· Enabling Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Refinance: Mortgage rates are currently at historically low levels, providing homeowners with the opportunity to reduce their monthly payments by refinancing. But under current rules, most families who owe more than 80 percent of the value of their homes have a difficult time refinancing. Yet millions of responsible homeowners who put money down and made their mortgage payments on time have – through no fault of their own – seen the value of their homes drop low enough to make them unable to access these lower rates. As a result, the Obama Administration is announcing a new program that will help as many as 4 to 5 million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance through those two institutions.
· Reducing Monthly Payments: For many families, a low-cost refinancing could reduce mortgage payments by thousands of dollars per year:

o Consider a family that took out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $207,000 with an interest rate of 6.50% on a house worth $260,000 at the time. Today, that family has about $200,000 remaining on their mortgage, but the value of that home has fallen 15 percent to $221,000 – making them ineligible for today’s low interest rates that now generally require the borrower to have 20 percent home equity. Under this refinancing plan, that family could refinance to a rate near 5.16% – reducing their annual payments by over $2,300.
2. Stability: Create A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners

· Helping Hard-Pressed Homeowners Stay in their Homes: This initiative is intended to reach millions of responsible homeowners who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments because of the current recession, yet cannot sell their homes because prices have fallen so significantly. Millions of hard-working families have seen their mortgage payments rise to 40 or even 50 percent of their monthly income – particularly those who received subprime and exotic loans with exploding terms and hidden fees. The Homeowner Stability Initiative helps those who commit to make reasonable monthly mortgage payments to stay in their homes – providing families with security and neighborhoods with stability.

· No Aid for Speculators: This initiative will go solely to helping homeowners who commit to make payments to stay in their home – it will not aid speculators or house flippers.

· Protecting Neighborhoods: This plan will also help to stabilize home prices for all homeowners in a neighborhood. When a home goes into foreclosure, the entire neighborhood is hurt. The average homeowner could see his or her home value stabilized against declines in price by as much as $6,000 relative to what it would otherwise be absent the Homeowner Stability Initiative.

· Providing Support for Responsible Homeowners: Because loan modifications are more likely to succeed if they are made before a borrower misses a payment, the plan will include households at risk of imminent default despite being current on their mortgage payments.

· Providing Loan Modifications to Bring Monthly Payments to Sustainable Levels: The Homeowner Stability Initiative has a simple goal: reduce the amount homeowners owe per month to sustainable levels. Using money allocated under the Financial Stability Plan and the full strength of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this program has several key components:

§ A Shared Effort to Reduce Monthly Payments: For a sample household with payments adding up to 43 percent of his monthly income, the lender would first be responsible for bringing down interest rates so that the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 38 percent of his or her income. Next, the initiative would match further reductions in interest payments dollar-for-dollar with the lender to bring that ratio down to 31 percent. If that borrower had a $220,000 mortgage, that could mean a reduction in monthly payments by over $400. That lower interest rate must be kept in place for five years, after which it could gradually be stepped up to the conforming loan rate in place at the time of the modification. Lenders will also be able to bring down monthly payments by reducing the principal owed on the mortgage, with Treasury sharing in the costs.

§ “Pay for Success” Incentives to Servicers: Servicers will receive an up-front fee of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines established under this initiative. They will also receive “pay for success” fees – awarded monthly as long as the borrower stays current on the loan – of up to $1,000 each year for three years.

§ Incentives to Help Borrowers Stay Current: To provide an extra incentive for borrowers to keep paying on time, the initiative will provide a monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan. As long as a borrower stays current on his or her loan, he or she can get up to $1,000 each year for five years.

§ Reaching Borrowers Early: To keep lenders focused on reaching borrowers who are trying their best to stay current on their mortgages, an incentive payment of $500 will be paid to servicers, and an incentive payment of $1,500 will be paid to mortgage holders, if they modify at-risk loans before the borrower falls behind.

§ Home Price Decline Reserve Payments: To encourage lenders to modify more mortgages and enable more families to keep their homes, the Administration -- together with the FDIC -- has developed an innovative partial guarantee initiative. The insurance fund – to be created by the Treasury Department at a size of up to $10 billion – will be designed to discourage lenders from opting to foreclose on mortgages that could be viable now out of fear that home prices will fall even further later on. Holders of mortgages modified under the program would be provided with an additional insurance payment on each modified loan, linked to declines in the home price index.

· Institute Clear and Consistent Guidelines for Loan Modifications: Treasury will develop uniform guidance for loan modifications across the mortgage industry, working closely with the bank agencies and building on the FDIC’s pioneering work. The Guidelines will be used for the Administration’s new foreclosure prevention plan. Moreover, all financial institutions receiving Financial Stability Plan financial assistance going forward will be required to implement loan modification plans consistent with Treasury Guidance. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will use these guidelines for loans that they own or guarantee, and the Administration will work with regulators and other federal and state agencies to implement these guidelines across the entire mortgage market. The agencies will seek to apply these guidelines when permissible and appropriate to all loans owned or guaranteed by the federal government, including those owned or guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Agriculture.

· Other Comprehensive Measures to Reduce Foreclosure and Strengthen Communities

§ Require Strong Oversight, Reporting and Quarterly Meetings with Treasury, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and HUD to Monitor Performance

§ Allow Judicial Modifications of Home Mortgages During Bankruptcy for Borrowers Who Have Run Out of Options

§ Provide $1.5 Billion in Relocation and Other Forms of Assistance to Renters Displaced by Foreclosure and $2 Billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Funds

§ Improve the Flexibility of Hope for Homeowners and Other FHA Programs to Modify and Refinance At-Risk Borrowers
3. Supporting Low Mortgage Rates By Strengthening Confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

· Ensuring Strength and Security of the Mortgage Market: Today, using funds already authorized in 2008 by Congress for this purpose, the Treasury Department is increasing its funding commitment to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure the strength and security of the mortgage market and to help maintain mortgage affordability.

o Provide Forward-Looking Confidence: The increased funding will enable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to carry out ambitious efforts to ensure mortgage affordability for responsible homeowners, and provide forward-looking confidence in the mortgage market.

o Treasury is increasing its Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements to $200 billion each from their original level of $100 billion each.

· Promoting Stability and Liquidity: In addition, the Treasury Department will continue to purchase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities to promote stability and liquidity in the marketplace.

· Increasing The Size of Mortgage Portfolios: To ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can continue to provide assistance in addressing problems in the housing market, Treasury will also be increasing the size of the GSEs’ retained mortgage portfolios allowed under the agreements – by $50 billion to $900 billion – along with corresponding increases in the allowable debt outstanding.

· Support State Housing Finance Agencies: The Administration will work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support state housing finance agencies in serving homebuyers.

· No EESA or Financial Stability Plan Money: The $200 billion in funding commitments are being made under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act and do not use any money from the Financial Stability Plan or Emergency Economic Stabilization Act/TARP.

MC's Jarrett Renshaw Is All A-Twitter

If you follow Queen City Daily, you're familiar with Morning Call reporter Jarrett Renshaw.

Reporters, unlike bloggers, are bound by a code of ethics requiring impartiality. I've noticed it's tough for many reporters to transition themselves into the wild and crazy blogosphere, where anything goes. Opinion writers like Bill White and Joe Owens have no trouble, but many reporters seem uncomfortable here in Blogistan.

Instead of relaxing his journalistic standards in the blogosphere, Renshaw has instead used QCD to complement or supplement stories appearing elsewhere. His video blog of a recent Allentown city council meeting is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the most informative and innovative local news blogs I've seen. He has also fact checked campaign claims made by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and challenger Tony Phillips. Instead of the usual two or three stories to cover a political campaign, Renshaw has provided a candy store of stories about Allentown politics, including former council member Lou Hershman.

Renshaw is even using Twitter, a free service for short messages, so that he can "talk directly with readers, provide instant news from council meetings and other events and alert people when something new is posted on the blog." His feed can be accessed here in about a minute. If you are technologically challenged like me, it will take two.

It's worth it, a two way street in which reporter and reader can communicate. Everyone wins, except the politicians.

If you are remotely interested in Allentown government and politics, it will only take a moment to subscribe.

LC Comm'r Eckhart: Let the Kids Play

My grandson, who is in third grade, loves basketball. He plays on two different teams and insists on wearing a headband, even though it barely fits his head. As you might imagine, these are typically low-scoring games, but the kids really enjoy an excuse to run around during cold winter months. At the same time, they learn a little sportsmanship. ... I think.

Over the weekend, The Morning Call's Scott Kraus reported a premature, and sad, end to basketball from kindergarten to third grade in Salisbury Township. Parents attending basketball games at Truman Elementary were obviously focused on their kids like laser beams, oblivious to an older crew of kids using open school buildings to place 911 calls and cause other mischief. School officials insisted on paid security, and the Salisbury Youth Association decided to cancel the last two weeks of the season.

Lehigh County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart has offered to foot the bill for security himself, if it is not already too late. It's a gallant gesture from an official I've criticized.

The Morning Call notes, in the very first sentence of its account, that Eckhart is up for reelection this year. That's fair. But it fails to note Eckhart's ties to Salisbury Youth Association. That's unfair. Glenn was Basketball Director between 1990 and 1993 and also spent 13 years there coaching basketball. This is before he ever had his own children or sought elected office. Wouldn't fairness require that these facts be revealed, too?

Glenn's political motive is apparent, but he is obviously also a person who supports youth sports, especially now that his daughter is in the Kindergarten program. He may use campaign funds instead of digging into his own pocket. Some of you may turn your nose up at that. Would your prefer to see campaign funds used for junk mail that no one reads or a community program to benefit children?

Glenn Eckhart did the right thing here, and should be commended.

City Worker Dick Nepon to Challenge Allentown Mayor Pawlowski

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski conducts fundraisers in which city workers and contractors regularly bow and pay fealty. But one of his servants, instead of paying homage, is considering regicide.

I speak of Dick Nepon, who actually served as Operations Manager during King Edwin's 2005 Crusade. He thereafter managed to get a position in the King's household, working his way up to Special Programs Manager. Now, he revolts against his liege lord.


As Nepon explains, "[S]omeone needs to challenge Ed, and someone needs to change the direction of Allentown, and I guess I am the only one willing to do it."

What's wrong with the direction of Allentown? According to Nepon, plenty. "Ed thinks if you bring business downtown, you bring the city back. I think we have to bring the city back first. We have to stop making Hamilton Street a Renaissance Plaza that pays no taxes." Nepon went on to explain that, as a member of the Allentown school board, he voted against the tax breaks currently enjoyed by PPL, Butz & Allentown Brew Works.

You wouldn't know it from his distinguished resume, but Nepon has had his share of financial reverses. He even considers that an asset. "My kids ate and wore clothes, and went to college, so I had my priorities. And beside, who has more experience at operating without money?"

Dick, that would be me.

Nepon has plenty of experience as a community organizer. "I have 30 years of volunteering as a firefighter, was president of the local blackbox theatre, on the board of numerous art orgs, and was an elected school board member whose ideas either have been shown right or are still ahead of the curve."

Is he a pay to play dude like King Edwin?

"I plan to spend under $100. And I don't want anyone to send me any money. I still get my name out in public through the Morning Call Letters and Sounding Board, and get a lot of feedback from the public, or at least recognition. People still seem to remember me from my column in the now defunct Allentown Times.

"I am asking that anyone who supports me finds a piece of green ribbon or string and ties it to something. There will be no Nepon yard signs, Radio and TV spots, or Mailers. I hope that every dollar Ed spends makes him look foolish for not donating that money to the City to purchase policeman."

"And I know where Ed's bodies are buried."

Asked whether he might get in trouble as a city employee for running against his own boss, Nepon concedes that Pawlowski is vindictive, but this is something Dick must do. He picked up his nomination papers today and will formally announce when he files them.

He can be reached at richnepon@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

State House Unanimously Honors Grube

The state house unanimously adopted a resolution earlier this month to honor former Northampton County Council member Wayne Grube. He was friend and legislative aide to Rep. Rich Grucela, who introduced the state house document.

Grube passed away on Nov. 11, 2008.

"I am privileged to honor a man today who is widely respected in Northampton County for his dedication to community service and hard work," Grucela said. "Wayne Grube was the first employee hired to work in my district office after I was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998. He spent the last 10 years working as my legislative aide and was a trusted friend, co-worker and confidant for 40 years. I am proud to honor his life with this House resolution."

Grucela added, "A good friend is hard to find, tough to lose and impossible to forget."
Grube was well known for his years as the former football coach at Easton Area and Wilson Area high schools, and for the 19 years he served on Northampton County Council. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Don Cunningham To Announce Reelection Bid Tonight

Who: Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham

What: Re-election announcement

Where: The Palace Center

623 Hanover Ave.

Allentown, PA 18109

When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17

Don makes the difficult look easy. His campaign web page is here.

Stoffa Quietly Announces Reelection Bid

The waiting is over.

In a story broken by The Express Times' Sarah Cassi, John Stoffa has quietly announced his decision to seek a second term as Northampton County Executive. No fanfare. No collection of campaign contributors - job seekers, urging him on. No campaign photo of Stoffa standing prominently in the courthouse. Just one laconic remark - "I think there will be competition."

In a place with no secrets, Stoffa has managed to keep everyone guessing for months. You see, he swims alone. Mistaking this quiet strength as a weakness, the sharks have been circling. Ann "Nice Guys Finish Last" McHale is supposed to be announcing her attentions in a news conference today. Ron Heckman, a protege of the man Stoffa defeated, has been building support where he can find it. In a 2007 primary, Ron finished 4th in a race for three Bethlehem city council seats. Not good, Ron.

This race is over. The smartest thing McHale could do today is pledge her support for Stoffa. She's banking on her ties to union agents and her last name, but her imperious nature will surely work against her. This is an official who actually walked out on Michelle Obama! She has been the ringleader of the most dysfunctional local government in the Lehigh Valley. She even ridiculously tried to force the county to accept an IT contract that was $1.8 million greater than the one Stoffa ultimately negotiated.

Unlike McHale or Heckman, Stoffa understands who deserves his loyalty, and it is not union bosses or campaign contributors. "I answer to the taxpayers, ultimately."

That's why he'll win.
Update: According to a Morning Call news account, McHale will announce her intentions later this month and party bossman Joe Long will never endorse Stoffa because ... horrors ... he appointed despicable Republicans to his cabinet. Stoffa's Director of Fiscal Affairs, Vic Mazziotti, is a Republican. His Director of Administration, John Conklin, may be a Republican, at least on paper. Stoffa has this weird notion of filling positions with people who actually know how to do the job. Go figure. (Blogger's Note: I screwed up this update by claiming Joe Long would never endorse Joe Long. I'm sure he would.)