Friday, May 29, 2009

Should Pennsylania Municipal Races Be NonPartisan?

Yesterday's Express Times includes a letter from Larry Kisslinger, a former Bethlehem City Council member, taking a shot at the Northampton County Democratic party. Now since Larry is also a former Republican party boss, you might be inclined to dismiss his rant. But in truth, there's a movement afoot among what I call the New Dems, who are sickened by the back-slapping, pay to play politics of the Joe Long Dems. There have been rumblings for years, but now the party rank and file is in open rebellion.

Local Dems Know Something is Wrong

The first salvo came on May 11, when Bethlehem Democrats - led by Karen Dolan and Willie Reynolds - condemned Bossman Long's heavy handed machine style of politics, in which candidates are pre-selected by some small group and foisted on the rest of us. They want to take the local party out of smoke-filled back rooms and bring it back to the people.

Long Dem Failures

In an area that is increasingly Democratic, here are just a few Joe Long failures:

1) He recruited Charles Dertinger to run for Congress right after he had finally won his first race for Northampton Council in three races. Long failed to get his pre-selected candidate elected to Congress.

2) He interfered in a Democratic primary, having the party endorse Glenn Reibman over John Stoffa, and lost that race. He then threatened to run Reibman as an Independent until learning that's impossible under Pennsylvania law.

3) In a meeting at which a mere handful of Democratic committeemen appeared, Long had them endorse county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher over Will Power and Bill Hall. Power was ejected from that meeting after he began to complain.

4) Long actually hired the King of Sleazeball politics, Scissorhands Severson, to work for pre-selected county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher. Despite the smears, Branco and Maher went down in flames. Local Dems still owe Severson $6,586.45. He's currently facing criminal charges for his deceptive campaign practices.

5) Long pimped for unqualified congressional candidate Sam Bennett, whose campaign was so disastrous that portions of her debate performance had to be bleeped. She was destroyed as a candidate, probably permanently.

6) Long again managed to convince the party to endorse someone he can control - Ann McHale - over County Exec John Stoffa, a progressive who kept held taxes down. This endorsement occurred at a party gathering billed as a petition-signing meeting. Stoffa crushed the competition.

Joe Long is a Republican's best friend. How did the local party ever get into such a mess?

Long Himself Was Illegally Elected

It's simple. Long obviously thinks elections are far too important to be left to the people. Look at his own election as party boss nearly four years ago. He was named Bossman at a party meeting that occurred before Dem committeemen could be even be notified of their own election. Five days before certificates of election were ever sent to elected committeemen by the voter registration office, Joe Long was miraculously named party chair. I never got an explanation how he got away with that. From there, things have gone down hill. Charles Dertinger lovingly refers to Long as "Chairman for life."

This lack of transparency in selecting candidates, and skulduggery during campaigns, leads to government officials who themselves think nothing of violating the Sunshine Act. Charles "Vanderbilt" Dertinger, for example, actually thinks he has no obligation to listen to anyone who owns no real estate. How's that for a Democrat?

Bethlehem Democrats will be meeting again on Monday, Jun 8th, at the Grover Cleveland Democrtatic Club, Main & Guetter Streets, Bethlehem, PA. New Democrats intend to participate in this meeting and will be asking for change.

Are NonPartisan Elections the Answer?

What improvements would you recommend? Should the party ask Long to step down? Should it adopt by-laws to set the procedure for party endorsement, or ban them altogether? Should the party punish members who dare support a Republican? Or should it instead be reaching out to new members who were swept in with the Obama tide?

Or should we just forget about party politics and start pushing for nonpartisan elections in city and county races? The National League of Cities reports that nationwide, 77% of all cities have nonpartisan races. Forty-one of the fifty largest U.S. cities conduct nonpartisan races, including Los Angles, Houston, San Diego, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. Is it time for that here?

It's certainly true that party affiliation rarely matters on most issues decided by city or county government. Nonpartisan races will enfranchise independent voters and make independents more viable as candidates. But won't there always be some form of partisanship, even without the labels?

What suggestions do you have for getting politics out of local government? Stoffa tells me he always asks his cabinet, "What's the right thing?" But most pols will do what is politically expedient. How do we minimize this?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dennis Lieb: LANTA Despises Anyone Low Enough to Ride the Bus

On Thursday night, Northampton County Council rejected abrasive alternative transportation advocate Steve Schmitt as a LANTA board member. My rendition attracted many interesting comments, including a few posted ny West Ward activist Dennis Lieb.

In addition to lobbying for Steve, as he did during the Council meeting, Dennis makes some interesting abservations about LANTA. He claims that Southmont Shopping Center is designed to keep buses away. Second, LANTA is adding bus service to the Sands Casino while simultaneously cutting back service to Easton south side seniors at Shiloh Manor.

Stoffa's pro-rail, pedestrian and bicycle advocacy choice was Steve Schmitt. The guy he would have replaced on the board [Tim Brady] was a member of the Bethlehem Township Commission. In any event, [Tim Brady] worked closely with PennDOT in the design of the Southmont Shopping Center - the one at Rt 33 and Freemansburg Avenue. It was deliberately designed to keep LANTA buses off the property. People must now load and unload out on Freemansburg Avenue in the snow of winter, mud of spring and fall and blinding heat of summer and walk the quarter mile into the place, dodging maniac drivers, because the suburban mall owners don't want bus riff-raff encouraged to use the facility. This is the same guy that county council wants appointed to LANTA because of his "vast construction background"?
Last LANTA board meeting it was discussed that Shiloh Manor; a Southside Easton senior community would have its service cut from four to two trips a day. If you know the area it is isolated from most of town, steeply sloped and borders Canal Street...a long way from services for anyone less than fully-abled. At the same time, LANTA is adding two new buses and two additional drivers to service the Sands Casino so that middle class people can be shuttled in and piss away their kids’ college funds at the slot machines. Steve Schmitt alerted me to this situation because LANTA likes to hold its meetings at the headquarters in Allentown at noon during work days. I couldn’t make it either. Who knows what happened.

Point is that transparency, public input and rail advocacy are anathema to the LANTA board. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were actually trying to run the company out of business on purpose. Sort of like GM, Firestone and Standard Oil did with the trolleys in the thirties and forties. There is probably an angle under which that scenario could be plausibly put forth but I don’t have time to write it.

Steve Schmitt got bushwhacked last night. It may be that the Joe Long/Dem. machine hacks like McHale want to make a statement to the county exec, but more likely it is her despising of anyone low enough to ride the bus that drives her voting against Steve...an advocate for the rider. She has been asked many times, in her role as LANTA board member to participate in Try Transit Day and has refused. She won’t even pose for a picture in front of the bus. Ask her why that is. LANTA takes bus ads from JD Byrider - the loan sharks masquerading as car dealers - ads that actually insinuate that losers ride the bus and buying a car from them at usery interest rates will get you off of it. Why would LANTA take an ad that discourages transit use? Ask her about that.

Last night’s vote was a combination of two things: First, the anti-rail Republicans on council do not want a pro-rail advocate on the board. They want to protect the old boy network of highway expansionists, mega-warehouse builders, car dealers and PennDOT bureaucrats that want to preserve a dying way of life...as James Howard Kunstler puts it, the American automobile slum. Second, people like McHale hate anyone who tries to preserve an open dialogue between the public that LANTA serves and the organizational structure that tries to exclude them at every turn.

Sign Up For Notify NC

If there's a major crisis or emergency, wouldn't you like to know what's going on? That's why Northampton County's Emergency Management Services has launched Notify Northampton County. It delivers important emergency alerts, notifications and updates to you anywhere you designate. You can designate email, cell phone, home phone, pager, Blackberry or just about any communication device to receive important notices.

You can see the latest alerts here. For example, at this moment, Bayer Aspirin is sending out 33,500 samples of aspirin crystals. So if you get an envelope from Bayer with white powder over the next few days, there's no need to assume the worst.

Morning Call Issues News Release About ... Strawberry Pie

From time to time, I get news releases from different elected officials. Naturally, they're trying to paint themselves in a favorable light, but they are also informative and often contain details I won't find anywhere else. For example, the Sotomayor news release paints her as a catch, but also contains a wealth of information hard to find in a newspaper hamstrung by space limitations. But now, believe it or not, I've actually received a news release from ... a newspaper. That's a first for me.

This one comes from The Morning Call. Is it an announcement about deep cuts imposed by the Zellions or the many good people who've been sacked? Nah. Is it an alert that there will be a special investigative series about local government? Nope.

It's about Hess' "Sky-High" stawberry pie.

After years of research, The Morning Call's Diane Stoneback has discovered the secret recipe. She's gonna' drop the dime on Wednesday, June 3, so you may want to get that newspaper.

Funny thing. I did a google search and found the recipe in about five minutes on some web page about Liberace, of all people. He loved them so much he shipped them to friends every Christmas. You can read about Liberace while making your own Hess' strawberry pie right here.

Now if Stoneback can only get her hands on the crabbie pattie secret formula, she'll win a Pulitzer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Civil War Reenactment ... on the Baseball Diamond


Pennsylvania was invaded by the South this weekend. But instead of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, it was an army of 9 year-old baseball players called the Gainesville Cannons. They made it as far as the Reading area, where they were battled ten Northern armies over a period of three days. Nearly invincible, the Cannons have lost only two battles in over three years of tournament play. But after this holiday weekend, the Cannons are in quiet retreat across the Potomac.

Gainesville ran into a hurricane. To be specific, they ran into the Bethlehem Hurricanes.

A rag tag group of young Bethlehem and Allentown ball players looked less than promising at the start. They had only practiced as a team twice. Half got lost on their way to the Amity Community Park battlefield. And as luck would have it, the very first team they faced was those dreaded Cannons.

Each of this Virginians is equipped with identical UnderArmor ball bags. Each player has a home and away uniform, with last name nicely emblazoned on the back. They came prepared for the searing heat, too, with plenty of canopies to keep the players and parents out of the sun.

But the Cannons are mortal.

In first confrontation of North against South, the Cannons bled. The first run was actually scored by the 'Canes. The game was tied 2-2 by the third inning, and the battle raged back and forth until the bottom of the sixth, when the Cannons scored the winning run and the 'Canes were one loss away from elimination. But the Cannons went through more pitchers than they would have liked.

For reasons known only to the baseball gods, the 'Canes kept fighting. And winning. In increasingly closer games, they topped teams like the Upper Providence Patriots (4-1), Keystone Nationals (9-8) and Triple Threat Bluerocks (3-2). Finally, they earned the right to face the Cannons for the 'ship.

In an unforgiving afternoon sun, the Cannons were finally silenced 5 - 3 in an exciting game that went into extra innings. The 'Canes have won the 10th Anniversary ECTB Memorial Day Invitational. They were awarded a trophy bigger than any of them.

After that trophy was dropped off on the diamond, those clapping loudest were those damn Virginians, who turned out to be friendly foes. But they want revenge in July at the Battle of Bull Run Tournament. They insist the South will rise again. I helped one of their coaches take his bags back to the car, and even gave him directions home. He should be in Arizona today.

In the video above, you can see most of the 'Canes, along with manager Duane Schmoyer, who did an outstanding job keeping 9 year-olds motivated.

"Allentown Speak Out" Forum This Saturday

When I attended blogger Michael Molovinsky's first "Allentown Speak Out" forum in 2008, I met some interesting people, including Michale Donovan, Tony Phillips and Dr. Bob Romancheck. But most interesting of all was 75 year-old Zee Weikel, a vicious gangsta' targeted by the Pawlowski administration.

Her unspeakable crime?

Yard sales. The only thing she could say in her defense is "I'm on a limited income, and this gives me something extra so I can go out with my girlfriends every now and then."

Maybe Weikel has since been locked up. If not, you might be able to talk to her and other interesting people from Allentown this coming Saturday. Molovinsky has scheduled another "Allentown Speak Out" forum. Unlike Mayfair, it costs nothing. Even the unwashed mases are welcome.

Date: SAT. MAY 30, 1:00 PM.

Where: FAITH BAPTIST CHURCH, 219 N. 12th ST. Allentown, PA

Who: You.

Cost: Nothing.

Among the topics will be LANTA's latest folly - an attempt to sieze beautiful Bicentennial Park for yet another maintenance garage. I won't be there, unless it pours.

Baseball.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lou Hershman Still in Allentown City Council Race as Republican Write-In

On Election eve, former Allentown city council member Lou Hershman was the victim of an anonymous last-minute smear campaign, which took the form of robo calls. Pawlowski toadies Rob Hopkins and Jimmy Spang admit they were behind this mean-spirited maneuver. Hopkins denies the Mayor directly funded the effort, but refuses to say who did.

In the meantime, Hershman lost the Democratic primary badly. So that's the end of Lou, right? Wrong.

Hershman will appear on the ballot this Fall as a Republican write-in candidate. He needed 100 signatures and got 178.

Some Background on Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor

The White House Press Office has released the following information about Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor:

Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as “one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting” for her thoughtful opinions,i and as “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity”ii for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.

Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.

Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said “Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her.”

In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.

An American Story

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.

Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.
At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. One of Sotomayor’s former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school: “She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone.” [Washington Post, 5/7/09]

A Champion of the Law

Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system – yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable – and is currently not represented -- on our highest court. New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an “able champion of the law” who would be “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character could be assets.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09]

A Fearless and Effective Prosecutor

Fresh out of Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried dozens of criminal cases over five years. Spending nearly every day in the court room, her prosecutorial work typically involved "street crimes," such as murders and robberies, as well as child abuse, police misconduct, and fraud cases. Robert Morgenthau, the person who hired Judge Sotomayor, has described her as a “fearless and effective prosecutor.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09] She was cocounsel in the “Tarzan Murderer” case, which convicted a murderer to 67 and ½ years to life in prison, and was sole counsel in a multiple-defendant case involving a Manhattan housing project shooting between rival family groups.

A Corporate Litigator

She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business. The managing partner who hired her, George Pavia, remembers being instantly impressed with the young Sonia Sotomayor when he hired her in 1984, noting that “she was just ideal for us in terms of her background and training.” [Washington Post, May 7, 2009]

A Sharp and Fearless Trial Judge

Her judicial service began in October 1992 with her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. Still in her 30s, she was the youngest member of the court. From 1992 to 1998, she presided over roughly 450 cases. As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, for example, she issued an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, effectively ending a baseball strike that had become the longest work stoppage in professional sports history and had caused the cancellation of the World Series the previous fall. She was widely lauded for saving baseball. Claude Lewis of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined
“the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams.”

A Tough, Fair and Thoughtful Jurist

President Clinton appointed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998. She is the first Latina to serve on that court, and has participated in over 3000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions. Sitting on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has tackled a range of questions: from difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. In this context, Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. “’She appreciates the complexity of issues,’ said Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor who teaches some of her opinions in his classes. Confronted with a tough case, Carter said, ‘she doesn’t leap at its throat but reasons to get to the bottom of issues.’” For example, in United States v. Quattrone, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the trial judge had erred by forbidding the release of jurors’ names to the press, concluding after carefully weighing the competing concerns that the trial judge’s concerns for a speedy and orderly trial must give way to the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press.

Sotomayor also has keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. Active in oral arguments, she works tirelessly to probe both the factual details and the legal doctrines in the cases before her and to arrive at decisions that are faithful to both. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts. For example, In United States v. Reimer, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales and a series of similar cases, she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control, evincing in her opinions a keen awareness of those women’s plights.

Judge Sotomayor’s appreciation of the real-world implications of judicial rulings is paralleled by her sensible practicality in evaluating the actions of law enforcement officers. For example, in United States v. Falso, the defendant was convicted of possessing child pornography after FBI agents searched his home with a warrant. The warrant should not have been issued, but the agents did not know that, and Judge Sotomayor wrote for the court that the officers’ good faith justified using the evidence they found. Similarly in United States v. Santa, Judge Sotomayor ruled that when police search a suspect based on a mistaken belief that there is a valid arrest warrant out on him, evidence found during the search should not be suppressed. Ten years later, in Herring v. United States, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. In her 1997 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor spoke of her judicial philosophy, saying ”I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.” Her record on the Second Circuit holds true to that statement. For example, in Hankins v. Lyght, she argued in dissent that the federal government risks “an unconstitutional trespass” if it attempts to dictate to religious organizations who they can or cannot hire or dismiss as spiritual leaders. Since joining the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has honored the Constitution, the rule of law, and justice, often forging consensus and winning conservative colleagues to her point of view.

A Commitment to Community

Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan’s three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as “it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before.” [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.

She has served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Boards of Directors of the New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

_________________________


i American Philosophical Society, Biographical Essays of Moderators, Speakers, Inductees and Award Recipients, Annual General Meeting, April 2003, at 36.

ii Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

Red Rovers Hand Stoffa His Biggest Margin in County

In Northampton County's red rover District, Democrats refused to drink Bossman Joe Long's kool-aid. He may have ordered Democrats to support county clubber Ann McHale for county exec, but they had their own ideas. That may be why Sharon Davis - area chair in Forks, Palmer, Stockertown and Tatamy - was at John Stoffa's victory party. Stoffa won all four districts, but his margin was biggest in the Easton area. Here are the numbers, according to the
unofficial report.

Easton: Stoffa - 587 votes; McHale - 368 votes.

Forks: Stoffa - 284 votes; McHale - 191 votes

Glendon: Stoffa - 9 votes; McHale - 6 votes

Palmer: Stoffa - 508 votes; McHale - 301 votes

Stockertown: Stoffa - 26 votes; McHale - 18 votes.

Tatamy: Stoffa - 27 votes; McHale - 15 votes.

West Easton: Stoffa - 35 votes; McHale - 23 votes.

Williams: Stoffa - 109 votes; McHale - 83 votes

Wilson: Stoffa - 117 votes; McHale - 82 votes

District Total:

Stoffa - 1702 votes (61.02%) ; McHale - 1087 votes.

How Did Stoffa Fare in Angle Country?

Northampton County District 4 is Ron Angle country, where men are men and the woman are, too. How did Stoffa do in the much maligned, oft-ignored Slate Belt?

Bangor: Stoffa - 83 votes; McHale - 84 votes.

Bushkill Tp.: Stoffa - 131 votes; McHale - 107 votes.

Chapman: Stoffa - 8 votes; McHale - 3 votes.

East Bangor: Stoffa - 21 votes; McHale - 14 votes.

Lehigh Tp.: Stoffa - 323 votes; McHale - 196 votes.

Lower Mount Bethel: Stoffa - 105 votes; McHale - 55 votes.

Moore Tp.: Stoffa - 284 votes; McHale - 166 votes.

Pen Argyl: Stoffa - 80 votes; McHale: 72 votes.

Plainfield Tp: Stoffa - 171 votes; McHale - 133 votes.

Portland: Stoffa - 16 votes; McHale - 14 votes.

Roseto: Stoffa - 37 votes; McHale - 35 votes.

Upper Mt Bethel TP: Stoffa - 138 votes; McHale - 92 vites.

Upper Nazareth: Stoffa - 129 votes; McHale - 64 votes.

Walnutport: Stoffa - 24 votes; McHale - 31 votes.

Washington Tp: Stoffa - 104 votes; McHale - 87 votes.

Wind Gap: Stoffa - 74 votes; McHale - 45 votes.

District Total

Stoffa: 1781 votes (59.8%); McHale: 1198

Stoffa Wins Easily in His Own Home District

Northampton County's District Three, its most diverse district, is represented by Council member Lamont McClure. He supported McHale. But it's also where Stoffa lives, in Allen Township. Stoffa may not be too popular in Bethlehem Township at the moment, but won lopsided victories in Allen and in nearby East Allen and Northampton. Here's the unofficial tally.

Allen Tp: Stoffa - 165 votes; McHale - 56 votes.

Bath: Stoffa: 44 votes; McHale - 38 votes.

Bethlehem Tp: Stoffa - 459 votes; McHale - 460 votes.

East Allen Tp: Stoffa 127 votes; McHale - 76 votes.

Freemansburg: Stoffa - 49 votes; McHale - 43 votes.

Lower Nazareth Tp: Stoffa - 134 votes; McHale - 110 votes.

Lower Saucon Tp: Stoffa - 276 Votes; McHale - 269 votes.

Nazareth: Stoffa - 195 votes; McHale - 127 votes.

North Catasauqua: Stoffa - 90 votes; McHale - 84 votes.

Northampton: Stoffa - 380 votes; McHale - 174 votes.

District Total:

Stoffa - 1919 votes (57.18%); McHale - 1437 votes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sixty Revolutionary War Vets Remembered in Kreidersville


Sixty Revolutionary War heroes are buried at Zion Stone United Church of Christ in Kreidersville. They were honored during a Memorial Day Ceremony yesterday. Sons of the Union, attired in Civil War era uniforms, were joined by the Tri-Community Marching Band. My thanks to Jeff Stoffa, for the video footage.

Congressman Dent:Remember Those Who Gave All

“On Monday, May 25 we honor the men and women who gave their all so that we might receive the promises of our democracy – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In difficult times like these, we should remind ourselves that this nation is still the greatest on Earth, and the greatest in history. There is no better or more solemn reminder of that greatness than when we consider the supreme sacrifice made by so many Americans in the conflicts that have marked our history.

“While I believe that America at its heart is a peaceful nation, we often find it necessary to take up arms to protect our noblest ideals. All of what makes America great today was bought with the high price paid by brave Americans from all walks of life. For every marker that today bears the flag of service, we must also remember the families, friends and communities who bore the grief of this sacrifice. And equal to this sadness, let us always express our pride gratitude for the better world their sacrifice helped forge.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Northampton County Council Will Invade Allentown

Northampton County Council Prez Ann McHale warned fellow council members last night that, sometime in June, they will be meeting with Lehigh County Commissioners as the Lehigh Valley Health Commssion.

It will be at night.

In Allentown.

Downtown Allentown.

"Take off your hubcaps before you go," advises Ron Angle.

Diane Neiper Confirms "Imminent" Resignation

A month ago, I told you that Diane Neiper will soon be resigning from Northampton County Council. At the end of last night's meeting, she confirmed she will resign as soon as she can settle on a new home in Camp Hill, closer to her loved ones. "We are feverishly packing."

Neiper will be the sixth member to have departed over the last three years. Council will once again be left with four Democrats and four Republicans. At election time, too!

Whoopee!

Schmitt Unfit for LANTA

They threw him under the bus!

By a 6 to 3 vote, Northampton County Council last night derailed alternative transportation advocate Steve Schmitt's appointment to LANTA's board. They did so despite pleas from LANTA board member Paul Marin, community activist Dennis Lieb and Schmitt himself.

Board member Fred Williams, in a very rare appearance, had several objections. He noted that Schmitt's Coalition for Alternative Transportation actually competes against LANTA for limited grant funds. "We are in direct competition with the Coalition for Alternative Transportation.(CAT)" He also claimed that Schmitt tried to enlist new members for CAT during transit meetings. Schmitt denies both accusations.

Schmitt was nominated to replace Tim Brady, a former Bethlehem Township Commissioner who "was in charge of the facilities and construction at Northampton County Community College for many years." Williams believes Brady would be more useful to LANTA during an upcoming maintenance expansion.

Ironically, passenger rail foe Ron Angle was passenger rail advocate Schmitt's biggest supporter. "The board should have a wide range of people who don't always think the same. Nobody has said he is anti-LANTA."

Reluctantly given a second opportunity to speak, Schmitt said "[t]he idea that I'm doing anything but trying to promote LANTA and trying to make LANTA better for the people that ride the bus, that's all I'm trying to do."

Lamont McClure noted Williams' extensive background as a 25 year LANTA board member and retired chief financial officer for the Diocese of Allentown, where he managed finances for the Diocese, 153 parishes, 58 elementary schools and 9 high schools.

McClure: "I didn't hear you say his service on the board compromised LANTA."

Williams: "I believe he did and I believe he compromised LANTA. I served as Director of the Personnel Committee and during sensitive negotiations, and he was privy to that executive session, and I was informed by a driver of what Mr. Schmitt had told him, and told the driver exactly what had happened during our executive session in a very sensitive negotiation and I went to Ann McHale immediately ... ."

McClure: "What was the negotiation about?"

Williams: "Our labor contracts."

Peg Ferraro: "Have you ever spoken out in your 25 years, have you ever spoken out against an appointment?"

Williams: "Never. I have never spoken out and I weighed this very heavily. I take it to heart. Believe me, I worked for the Church, the Catholic Church, and I take this very seriously."

Ferraro: "We have two people, the one who is serving and the one who is the nominee. I think there's two entirely different skill sets being brought here to the table. I think it's important that we look closely at the skill sets in light of what's coming down the road for LANTA."

Angle: "Under that scenario, there's no room for someone who thinks a little differently. there's no room for someone who doesn't have a certain level of skills. I don't think that's what America is about. Nobody has yet showed me where this man has done anything to undermine or destroy LANTA. He is a cheerleader for LANTA, the best I can see here. The Mayor of Bethlehem sent a letter over. That's a pretty high ranking official."

J. Michael Dowd: "I have never seen so many phone calls and so many comments about anyone appointed to an authority, a commission or anything else. I've received phone calls on a virtual daily basis and it's kind of interesting because there's people on both sides for whom I have an enormous amount of respect. I would ask the County Executive what he saw in Mr. Schmitt that led him to not reappoint someone who has expertise in construction and so on and to appoint Mr. Schmitt. "

Stoffa: "This was a tough call for me. But I spent some time with Mr. Schmitt because last time I did not reappoint him under certain circumstances. But the more time I spend with him, he's a different thinker. To me, LANTA is not just a bus company, it's a transit company, and it needs to think differently about what it does. I think he brings that to the forefront. When I saw buses go by with bike racks on, I understand he was the one responsible for that. I think any organization needs new, different thinking, and that's why I nominated him."

McClure: "You did not reappoint him because of certain circumstances. What were those circumstances?"

Stoffa: "Well, they were what I had heard about some bus routes in Allentown. When I sat down with Steve a number of times for a couple of hours, the man is a wealth of knowledge about different things. And that to me pales under what he offers. Nobody's perfect in what they do and I don't even know if what they said about him was accurate."

It was accurate. In the Fall of 2007, Schmitt did sneer at mostly minority merchants, like the House of Chen, along Allentown's Hamilton Street when bus routing changes caused a big decrease in foot traffic. "They wanted something to complain about, basically. ... I find it hard to believe. ... I'd like to see the books." He also ignored several emails from me about what was happening. Several of these businesses are now gone. His smug dismissal of the plight of hard-working people is cause for concern in any public official. Even those who like to wear tights.

In response to a question from Council member Joe Capozzolo, Schmitt denied ever interfering with bus drivers. "I don't think that's fair. That's sorta' like beating up your janitor."

When they voted, only Angle, Capozzolo and Dowd supported Schmitt's appointment.

Did Council make the right call? I honestly don't know. I do not think their rejection was intended as a snub to Stoffa, and I don't think some council members made up their mind until they heard from everyone. Schmitt is nearly as obnoxious as me, but is also the region's most dedicated and passionate alternative transportation advocate. I suspect their concern goes way beyond Schmitt's people skills. I'm unable to avoid the impression that there's more to this story, but no one is willing to say so publicly.

Stoffa's Bond Delayed By Council ... Again

A year ago, Northampton County Council was screaming about Executive John Stoffa's failure to get anything done. Council member Charles Dertinger complained, "We have an administration that can't build a birdhouse." Yet this same group last night put the brakes on a $16 million bond proposed for a juvenile justice center expansion ($5.5 million), parking deck repairs ($1.5 million) and bridge reconstruction ($1 million). The borrowing plan also refinances around $8 million in existing debt.

This time, Dertinger is unwilling to accept cost estimates prepared by engineering firms. "I have something in my office that says, 'The engineer's estimate is the cost of construction in heaven' because it's never right. ... The engineer's estimate is never right." He never did explain exactly what else is needed.

Funny thing. Pennsylvania's Debt Act requires only that projects be supported by realistic cost estimates. The county has those, and Director of Administration reminded council that information was supplied during last year's budget hearings. "This information isn't new." County engineer Steve DeSalva added that a 10% contingency is added to each estimate for cost overruns. But an unusually docile Ron Angle was bending over backwards to be nice to Dertinger. He moved to table the bond so that the county can provide whatever information is deemed so necessary to Dertinger.

An exasperated Conklin told council they've already prepared documents for an imminent Internet sale. "You want to take a risk on it goes for a vote here tonight?" asked Angle.

Conklin was willing to take that risk, but not Stoffa. He agreed to put on the brakes, but warned Council, "Don't criticize us for not getting projects done."

Council's table last night marks the second time this month they've avoided Stoffa's proposal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Who Are The New Dems?

Blogger's Note: Most of you have probably noticed that the Northampton County Democratic Party has been ripped apart. On one side are the Joe Long Dems, whose autocratic style strikes many as undemocratic. On the other side are the New Dems, people like Jeff Stoffa, who detest back room cliques and believe the person might sometimes be more impartant than his party.

I'll have much more to say about the rift between the Joe Long Dems and the New Dems on Friday or Monday, but for now, I'll share an essay written by New Democrat Jeff Stoffa. What do you think?

Much is written about when the Baby Boomers will retire from government and business and let the next generation take over. Though I think the baby Boomers will have to be dragged by their feet into retirement - fingernails leaving permanent marks in the pavement - time waits for no one so that day will eventually come. When that day comes and my generation takes over the Norco Democratic Party, what will it be like? As a New Dem, I have some ideas:

They will be less provincial. I don’t know people of my generation who argue which side of the railroad tracks in Northampton has the better community. We have 500 cable channels, reality shows, more travel, growing up with Rt. 78 and the Internet Many of us commute to New Jersey and New York to find good paying jobs. We move away to big cities to learn about the outside world yet and then return to Norco.

My generation is more apt to think about the big picture and the larger community as a whole, not one borough getting it over on another for a bigger piece of the County pie. This is an advantage, but it has its drawbacks, too. The main drawback is that I worry that the GenXers will have less interest in local politics for the same reasons, abandoning local decision-making to people of limited intelligence, education, and talent.

This is one of the crises facing the Democratic Party in Norco today. That’s why I support the broadcast of County and City Council meetings on TV or the Internet to spark some interest with my generation. We need more accountability and transparency. Without that, everything else is a joke.

When I lived in Miami, everything from city councils to County Councils to State hearings were broadcast. I once watched the Coral Gables City Council on TV argue for two hours over whether or not an oak should be cut down on Sidonia Ave., complete with slideshow, pointers and all. County Council discusses much more important topics than that and the public is banned from watching their money in action from the comfort of their own homes.

The backroom cliques will die off and the Party will stop endorsing during primaries. The Norco Democrats’ secret meetings at bars in Nazareth to groom who they want to run sends chills up my spine. It reminds me of Cheney having his secret meetings with the oil companies or Rove just doing daily business during the Bush Administration. For those knowledgeable of history it reminds us of the way Democrats (and Republicans) did business back before television was invented and the candidates actually were picked at the Convention by cigar-smoking white males in backrooms. Times have changed, and I think the Norco Democratic Party is stuck in a time warp that actually predates even their own Baby Boom generation. Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, MTV Rock the Vote, campaign websites, even the Nixon/Kennedy debates have all come and gone and the Norco Dems are still in the backroom with their cigars and their beer, picking doomed candidates even before they themselves declare interest in running. I don’t know who in my generation will keep that tradition.

I still don't understand the precedence for or the logic in endorsing everyone but my father and Will Power this past month. Why not let the Primary work itself out with the Party encouraging more candidates, but endorsing none? Then the Party should help the winning candidate in the general election. Would Howard Dean endorse Hillary before she even decided to run, shutting Obama out? Where would the National Dems be if they ran their show the way Norco Dems do? Well, just open up the local and national section of a paper to find out.

The Unions will, unfortunately, have less influence. I’m no stranger or opponent to unions. My grandfather Stoffa was a coalminer and a lifelong Republican and Union man, United Mine Workers of America to be exact. He lived and died for John L. Lewis and thanks to him my grandfather’s workdays were cut down to 8 hours and he got “Black Lung” compensation from the government in the 1970s. His brother died and was mutilated in the mines due to unsafe work conditions. I know this because I found a picture of his body in an open casket surrounded by his Union brothers. But times have changed in Pennsylvania and so have unions. Silk mills are condos, the Steel is a casino, and the coal mines are museums. My generation works at jobs so middle-management and diverse and newly concocted that even Monster can’t keep up with them, despite having 13,000 job categories. Unions who blow up giant inflatable rats because they're getting a 7.5% annual raise instead of 10%, while enjoying government benefits that far outshine the lousy insurance we in the Corporate world get, will only further separate themselves from mainstream Democratic influence and make them more irrelevant than they already are.

We must recognize that, especially in local races, the person is more important than the party. I will vote for some Republicans in November. Democrats like Joe Brennan or Rich Grucela, who will endorse a Republican now and again, should have that independence.

Everything I disliked about the Bush Administration, I am shocked to find in the local Norco Democratic Party: bullying, thuggery, closed door meetings, special interests, limited education, talent, and experience, sense of entitlement. In contrast, Republicans like Peg Ferarro and John Cusick reminded me much more of Democrats on the national level: civil, educated, polite, and reasonable. Unless something changes dramatically, I will be voting for some Republicans this November for the first time in my life. If you told me that when I was living in Miami handing out flyers for Hillary, I would have told you that you were crazy. But I hadn't heard of Joe Long, Ann McHale, McClure or Dertinger back then.

My father, ironically, is a new Democrat despite his age. You’d never think it by the way he dresses or acts or moves, but he is. We rarely disagree politically. He liked Obama before hardly anyone else did and he said the War was a big mistake when Michael Moore was the only one else pushing that opinion. I liked Hillary. That was the only political argument he ever had with someone 30 years younger than himself. But he embraces all the new advances of his party, even those he hasn’t quite mastered. He still gets a little lost in Facebook but he insists on having a group for his campaign because he knows that’s where the future is going.

He learned a lot when Hillary and Obama came to town. When my girl Hillary came to town, her people courted my father night and day. The day I saw her at Liberty High, I went without Dad. I hooted and hollered for Hillary. Dad stayed home, making his tenth call to the Obama offices, reminding them he wanted to endorse the big “O.”

At the Hillary rally, my girl was flanked by Rendell, Cunningham, Callahan, the whole feudal Democratic posse, just like Dems have done for generations. Dad sat home waiting for Obama to call. Obama never did. Obama did come to town though that day. As I was pulling out of the parking lot in Downtown Bethlehem I saw people running toward the BrewWorks on Main St.. He came unannounced and had a beer, surprising some locals sipping their Yuenglings.

Obama won. My girl lost. But Hillary did things the old way. There was a reason why Obama snubbed my father. He wanted to win and he knew that working the Democratic feudal system with the governor-bishops and mayor-knights and County executives-castles and Union head-pawns all taking their rightful places by Hillary for Channel 69 wasn’t going to work with the new Democrats that were going to decide the new President. Obama did it on his own, using young people and technology and online donations that surpassed any amounts known to Dems in the past. He went straight to the people, ignoring Rendell, Callahan, Cunningham, and Stoffa too, deciding instead to have a beer at the Brew works with some alcoholics who were drinking at noon on a Sunday. More power to them.

Is my father bitter? No. He learns from history and I hope Hillary did, too, because I’d still like to see her be President someday. Running for re-election, my father has a blog, a Facebook page, video interviews. He goes straight to the people and doesn’t rely on feudal politicians who snub him. That’s just how it is. He’s a new Democrat and he’s actually paving the way for the generation that will take over after him. He already told me that before he retires, he plans to create and publish a primer for young people, especially women, to learn of all the ins and outs of what to do and how to go about running for office from where to go to get mailers made to sign etiquette. (Maybe Ann McHale and Joe Long will be want to write the chapter on sign etiquette after what they've learned in this election.) I look forward to him writing that primer and I plan to be the first one to read it. Who knows? Maybe when I get myself established in PA again after so many years in the la la land of Miami, I might run too.

Scissorhands' LV Proteges Fare Poorly

LV candidates who used campaign maven Tom "Scissorhands" Severson fared poorly in Tuesday's election.

1) Judicial candidate Jim Narlesky. - Finance records reveal payments to Severson firm Precision Marketing totalling $48,849. Jim, in his third try for judge, missed getting on either ballot.

2) Magisterial candidate Jackie Taschner. - She paid Precision Marketing $7,666. She got on the Republican ballot, but missed on the Democratic side.

3) Bethlehem City Council Candidate Joe Leeson. - He paid Serverson's firm $1,674. Despite being an incumbent, he finished fifth out of six candidates for just four openings.

4) Lehigh County Comm'r Candidate Mark Prinzinger. - According to his campaign finance report, he paid Severson's Precision Marketing at least $1828.50. This sum does not include the cost of a negative mailer on the weekend before election. He went down in flames to Dr. Percy Dougherty, 58% to 42%.

McHale's Attempt to Attract NIMBY Voters

On April 2, 2009, just in time for the Primary, Ann McHale suddenly decided she's opposed to the treatment center proposed by County Executive John Stoffa. She claimed she had no idea it included a work release component, although it was described that way from the beginning.

Morning Call columnist Bill White cited several articles in which the work release component was made very clear, and wondered whether she has amnesia. I cited several examples myself, and concluded she was pandering to NIMBY voters in Bethlehem Township. The Express Times called her maneuver "political grandstanding." Stoffa would rather lose an election than do the wrong thing. McHale failed to realize that picking up a few votes in Bethlehem Township might really annoy Easton voters, who have been shackled with an overcrowded prison and work release facility.

So how did that strategy work out for her? According to the Voter Registration unofficial report, she did win Bethlehem Township by a grand total of one vote, 460 to 459. But she also lost by a landslide in Easton, 587 to 368, where Stoffa picked up 61.5% of the votes.

That's one vote she might wish she could take back.

McHale Loses On Own Home Field

When Northampton County Council Prez Ann McHale first ran for county council, lots of voters thought she was married to former Congressman Paul McHale. But if Tuesday's election is any indication, the McHale magic is gone. She even lost to Northampton County Executive John Stoffa in her district, which consists of Bethlehem, Hellertown and Hanover Township. An unofficial tally from voter's registration reveals she squandered her home field advantage.

Bethlehem: Stoffa - 1,394 votes; McHale - 1,267 votes.

Hanover Township: Stoffa - 343 votes; McHale - 238 votes.

Hellertown: Stoffa - 184 votes; McHale - 219 votes.

District Total:

Stoffa: 1,921 votes (52.7%); McHale: 1,724 votes.

Ron Angle And John Stoffa: Opposites Attract


They're nothing like each other. One is tall and lean. The other is short and husky. One is quiet and classy, while the other is loud and brassy. Aside from these physical difference, their politics are miles apart. Stoffa is a liberal Democrat who prances through daisies, chasing butterflies. Angle has several bunkers and is planning to invade Canada.

Despite major differences, these two opposites are great friends who genuinely admire each other and share a passion for good government. At John Stoffa's victory party on Election Night, the Northampton County Bulldog gives another reason.

"A lot of people at this point in your life would say, 'I'm going home and take it easy.' I just think it's a hell of a thing for a guy like you, who could go home and take easy, say 'But I want to serve my county and I want to do what's right."

"You're an inspiration to me, and I don't say that of many people."

They can hug later. Right now, the county really needs both of them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Did Stoffa Do in Sleepy Nazareth?

I live in Nazareth, just a stone's thrown from the Jacksonian Club. That's where Ann McHale was endorsed by the Joe Long Dems over incumbent Northampton County Exec John Stoffa. That news never trickled down to the unwashed masses. He won here, 195 to 127, with 60.5% of the vote.

Ron Angle: No More Mr. Nice Guy


As Northampton County Exec John Stoffa thanked his supporters individually during his Victory Party last night, he went out of his way to compliment Sharon Angle, Ron's wife.

"I want you to meet somebody who's going straight to heaven. Sharon, would you stand up?

"If you have somebody up there you want to talk to, talk to Sharon. When she dies, she's going straight to heaven."

Angle: "May I make a short announcement? Starting June 1, I'm turning over a new leaf. No more nice guy."

"That would be a pretty damn big leaf."

Video credit: Jeff Stoffa

Is This Bossman Joe Long?


The gentleman above, who appeared at John Stoffa's Victory Party last night, claims he's Democratic Bossman Joe Long. Do you know this imposter?

Zito and Koury Lock in Judicial Race

According to a Morning Call tabulation, Lenny Zito and Michael Koury have won the nods of both parties for Northampton County judge. The November race will be between Bethlehem attorney Barb Hollenbach and State Rep. Craig Dally. Dally was top vote getter among Republicans and just missed the Democratic nod by less than one hundred votes.

My favorite judicial candidate, Sam Murray, finished 7th among Democrats and 4th among Republicans.

Update: I wish to thank an anonymous commenter who correctly notes that mathematically, this race does not guarantee a judgeship to either Zito or Koury. Any combination of the 4 candidates could prevail.

Stoffa Victory Party Packed With Evil Republicans


This time around, Barbara Stoffa is standing next to her husband, who is still holding on to that damn plunger, which he tried to award to Angle earlier that evening.

"How many are Republicans? Put your hands up.

"How many Democrats?

"How many don't know what you are?"

Russ Shade: "How many know what you are but won't admit to it?"

"I'm looking forward to another term. I feel real bad about one thing in these local campaigns anymore. So few people vote, and secondly, there's so few opportunities to debate the issues. So many times these campaigns get personalized. They start attacking the person. The worse thing that can happen is you never learn what they stand for or what they're willing to fight for.

"I think we have a good administration. We've held your taxes down. ..."

At this point Northampton County Controller Steve Barron tried to sneak out. Steve has a Controller, too, and her name is Mrs. Barron. She gave him a strict 10:30 PM curfew.

"Steve's running to the Democrats to tell them what happened."

Barron: "Congratulations, John."
Vide Credit: Jeff Stoffa

John Stoffa 57% Victory "A Victory For Good Government"


For reasons I never was able to determine, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa spent much of the evening holding a plunger instead of a scepter. Here's part of what he said during last night's great victory party at Colonial Pizza in Easton. Standing at Stoffa's right is the mastermind of his campaign, Russ Shade.

"This is not a victory for me. This is a victory, I hope, for good government."

"A lot of people don't like Ron Angle."

Angle: "Now don't start that shit up. You were doing pretty good here tonight. Right away you start ... ."

"Now you know why."

"One thing about him is we are both interested in good government. That's really what motivates me. It's not about being a Republican or a Democrat."

Stoffa then introduces some of his staff, who were on hand last night.

"When I interviewed these people, I never asked them what party they belonged to. I found out when County Council asked them what party they belonged to. They're a good group of people. They work hard."

Stoffa continued acknowledging some county people until Angle had this wisecrack: "Charlie Dertinger just parked out front."

"He just flattened four of your tires."

Video Credit: Jeff Stoffa

Will Controversial Cyclist Get LANTA Appointment?

As a LANTA board member, Steve Schmitt smugly dismissed the plight of the mostly minority-owned businesses along Allentown's Hamilton Street. Bus routing changes resulted in a decrease in foot traffic, hurting their bottom line. "They wanted something to complain about, basically. ... I find it hard to believe. ... I'd like to see the books." Several of these businesses are now gone. When Schmitt's term as board member expired, so was he. Northampton County Executive John Stoffa replaced Schmitt over a year ago with Cordelia Miller, who adds some much needed diversity at LANTA.

But Stoffa has had a change of heart. Thanks to Steve Schmitt and his Coalition for Alternative Transportation, our buses come equipped with bike racks. He is also an anti-car advocate who actually takes a bus or bicycle everywhere. He has refused to drive a car for many years. For whatever reason, Stoffa has nominated Schmitt to a LANTA board vacancy.

But this is one controversial cyclist. LANTA Chairman Fred A. Williams actually visited a County Council Personell Comittee meeting to claim this bike rack lover is "divisive." Ann McHale, also a board member, read portions of my previous blogs about Schmitt. But LANTA Treasurer Paul Marin came to another Council meeting, with Schmitt, to sing his praises.

According to Easton blogger Noel Jones, there's now an "ACTION ALERT" for Thursday night's council meeting to make sure that nomination is finally approved. Steve apparently supports "rails and trollies."

"WE MUST COME OUT IN NUMBERS TO ENSURE HE IS APPOINTED!!!

"If you want to see the future of LANTA include rail or trolleys-- Please come out and support one of the most progressive transportation advocates in the State!

"Steve Schmitt needs our voices to be heard by Northampton County Council, that his appointment should not be blocked because certain Board members are fearful of change."

Bill Villa Convicted of Harassment For Troll Attack on This Blog

Blogger, musician and cyber-stalker Bill Villa was convicted yesterday of criminal harassment for his September 29 troll attack on this and other blogs. Regular readers might recall he spent an entire day spamming this blog with around five hundred identical comments. He effectively shut it down, making interactivity completely impossible. Another two hundred comments were posted on other local blogs, forcing their publishers to enable comment moderation.

Villa had a lawyer, stenographer and copies of hundreds of blog posts. He had everything but the truth. Interestingly, he never testified.

I kept my case short and sweet. Villa's lawyer subjected me to a lengthy cross examination followed by an even lengthier closing argument, reminding the judge this is a criminal case and I had a "lot of nerve" to even be there. My closing lasted about thirty seconds and goes something like this - posting the same comment 500 times on one blog in one day is criminal harassment.

Masut went out to deliberate, came back, and convicted Villa of criminal harassment. Justice was done. He was fined $100 and court costs. There goes his claimed perfect record. He has thirty days to appeal.

I'm sure he will. I'll be there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nazareth's Mayoral Campaign

Fred Daugherty, a Republican, is the only candidate officially running for Nazareth mayor. So Karen Herbst, a Democrat married to Borough Councilman Jack Herbst, is waging a stealth write-in campaign on the Democratic side.

Daugherty somehow got wind of this effort and is retaliating with his own write-in campaign on the Democratic side. He even has Mayor Earl Keller, a Democrat, speaking to voters as they walk up to vote. For some reason, Hizzoner just glared at me.

Other than leading the annual kazoo parade, Keller has been a do-nothing mayor in Nazareth. He is part of the cabal who unsuccessfully attempted to ruin a kid's park for a new municipal center. He has also unsuccessfully resisted efforts to improve Nazareth's police department. It has surged into the modern era with Chief Sinclair.

Knowing that Democrat Keller is backing Republican Daugherty, I gave Democrat Karen Herbst a write-in vote.

Is all this beginning to sound like incest?

Photo Credit: Express Times

Buddy Christ Makes His Election Day Picks

What's shakin' baby? It's Me, the Redeemer with a Beamer, the Savior of Misbehavior. Who's your Buddy?

While Fat Ass O'Hare and Angle are out stealing McHale signs, it's time for my Election Day picks.


Northampton County Exec: I know, I know, John Stoffa is a boring boy scout. And seriously, who comes up with goofy slogans like "Get off the sofa and vote for Stoffa." But guess what? We like boy scouts in My world. Vote Stoffa.

Northampton County Judge: More frickin' boy scouts! Two girl scouts, too. Spin the bottle. Narlesky gets a demerit for using Severson.

Palmer-Tatamy-Forks Magistrate: Tony Sortino over Jackie Taschner. They're both nice people, but Jackie gets a demerit for using Severson, too.

Bethlehem: Karen Dolan, a Liberty High School teacher, is my favorite. She is the first elected official, other than Stoffa, to knock party boss Joe Long's authoritarian style. There is only One God, and it isn't him. I also like newcomer Mike Recchiutti, who brings a fresh perspective to city government. Besides, his last name sounds like some kind of pasta.

Easton: Mike Fleck is running again?? I don't Fleckin' believe it. Vote for Dennis Lieb, an independent thinker whose essays have appeared on this blog.

Allentown: The Mayor's race is already over and I just don't want to talk about it. Every Council needs a pain in the ass, so I'd vote for Lou Hershman. If party machine types dislike him enough to wage a last minute, anonymous smear campaign, he must be doing something right.

Downtown Allentown Magistrate: Walter is my man! Vote Felton, baby. He's exactly what is needed to keep the peace in that powderkeg.

Who Are the Joe Long Dems?

If you see any of these folks at the polls tomorrow, handing out cards, try to be nice. Be sure to give them a wide bearth. They're going to have a long day and even longer night.

McHale Uses RoboCalls to Spread Angle's Message

616-712-1796 is becoming quite a famous phone number. It's the number Charles Dertinger used to place a robo call to my cell phone a few weeks ago. Rob Hopkins and Jimmy Spang used used that number for an anonymous weekend smear against Allentown City Council candidate Lou Hershman. And last night, Ann McHale used it for yet another robo call to my cell phone, complaining about Ron Angle's newspaper ads.

In an automated message, Ann disdainfully dismisses Angle's "eleventh hour attack," claiming it is full of "lies and half truths." She never bothers to set the record straight, but just urges everyone to pull that lever for her.

What McHale just did, whether she realizes it or not, is to draw even more attention to Angle's message. A commenter mentions a person who got McHale's call, but never saw Angle's ad. She immediately tracked it down.

So McHale has just spent her campaign money to advance John Stoffa's campaign.

Thanks.

How Did Northampton County Dems Pay for Mailer?

According to the Northampton County Democratic Party's most recent finance report, it has just $3,986.08 in the till. That's not enough for a mailer to county Democrats. Yet this weekend, that's exactly what happened. A mailing "Paid for and Authorized by Northampton County Democratic Party," i.e. the Joe Long Dems, tells voters how to cast their votes. It even includes a checklist, implying we're too stupid to get it on our own.

Committees must report contributions $500 or greater within 24 hours of receipt at this point in the election cycle. I've seen no reports of any contributions, but Joe Long Dems make it up as they go along.

Dally, Heimbach & Murray Win Judicial Poll

Eight candidates are battling over three judicial vacancies. You will decide the Democratic and Republican nominees today. This is how they fared on my very unscientific online poll, which managed to attract 1,151 votes.

Craig Dally, 250 votes (22%)

Candy Barr Heimbach, 226 votes (20%)

Samuel Murray, 198 votes (17%)

Leonard Zito, 168 votes (15%)

Karl Longenbach, 159 votes (14%)

Michael Koury, 72 votes (6%)

James Narlesky, 42 votes (4%)

Barbara Hollenbach, 36 votes (3%)

Ironically, the candidate who spent the most money is the one who came in dead last. But the poll that matters is the one you'll be casting today.

Rob Hopkins, James Spang Behind Anonymous Hershman Slur

Good reporters like The Morning Call's Jarrett Renshaw are worth their weight in gold. It takes him just minutes to learn what I might not discover for days, if ever. He just proved that with those sleaze anonymous robocalls aimed at Allentown City Council candidate Lou Hershman. I was able to learn that the automated calls were made from a number for Dems like Governor Rendell, the Dem State Committee and Allegheny County Exec Dan Onorato. But I really had no idea who was responsible.

While I was flailing around, Renshaw has reported that the culprits are Rob Hopkins, a political consultant, and James Spang, who does security at the Allentown Fairgrounds. Both just happen to be state Democratic Committee members.

Hopkins (pictured on the right)is a long-time Pawlowski operative who originally helped set up Hizzoner's web page. Using campaign funds, Pawlowski helped defray Hopkins' costs to the Democratic convention last summer and also paid or reimbursed him $920 for a fundraiser.

Hopkins was also the Executive Editor at the now inactive Keystone Politics. When he said good-bye there, he promised to "continue my political activities and I suspect you will see me resurface to inflict some harsh commentary upon Pennsylvanians."

And so he did with his anonymous attack at Lou Hershman. Hopkins tells Renshaw he wants "to save the Lehigh Valley" from old farts like Hershman, and claims "voice communications" need no disclaimers. But the Department of State has a different view, claiming that the person or group who paid for the call must be identified.

Who are you going to believe, a political operative caught red-handed, or the Department of State? I've lost a lot of respect for Rob Hopkins. But in the process of smearing Hershman, Hopkins may have actually elected him.

Just where do you think Hopkins and Spang got the money to trash Hershman? I'll give you three guesses.

1:00 A.M. Update: A somewhat chastened Rob Hopkins just called to tell me that, in hindsight, his failure to identify himself is an error. He also told me he'd be happy to answer any questions. So I asked where he got the money to trash Hershman.

"Not from Hizzoner."

"Well, who paid for this?"

"Different people came forward."

When I asked Rob to identify them, he declined, stating he has no obligation to do so until the appropriate report is due. He also told me his negative and anonymous robocall will have little impact on this race, which begs the question why he felt it was so damn necessary in the first place. I thanked him for helping elect Lou Hershman and we both said nighty night.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Severson Running Prinzinger's Sleaze Campaign Against Dougherty

Over the weekend, I told you that judicial candidate Jim Narlesky, magisterial candidate Jackie Taschner and Bethlehem City Council candidate Joe Leeson are using campaign maven Tom "Scissorhands" Severson. You can now add Lehigh County Comm'r candidate Mark Prinzinger to this hall of shame. Late last week, he circulated a vicious mailer that likens Dougherty to Arlen Specter, who is not too popular among Republicans these days. It then goes on the recite "Fact" after "Fact" to show that Dr. Dougherty is some liberal lunatic like me. Prinzinger's mailer, a Scissorhands production, can be examined by clicking on the picture above.

There's one teensy problem with this neagative mailer. It's basically untrue. An upset Percy Dougherty makes that clear in an email to his supporters.

"Please contact your friends and tell them the latest mailing from the Prinzinger camp is untrue - it is a collection of flagrant lies fabricated by paid political consultant Tom Serverson. Yes, the same guy convicted of threatening Ron Angle's life at a funeral and the same guy under indictment for running dummy companies to cover up questionable deals.

A copy of the flyer is attached in case you did not see it. Note that none of the "facts" are documented by sources, they are all made up. The worst parts are:

1. It alleges I voted for a 70% property tax increase. NO WAY, I HAVE NEVER VOTED FOR A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE, ESPECIALLY A 70% INCREASE! In fact, I voted for $8 million in reductions during the past year, nearly a 1 mil tax reduction..

2. It alleges I voted for the union at Cedarbrook Nursing Home--LUDICROUS! THERE WAS NEVER A VOTE BECAUSE DON CUNNINGHAM APPROVED THE UNION BY A CARD COUNT! In fact, I worked with workers at the facility to try to appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

3. It attacks my Balanced Budget Resolution by saying it is not necessary because a balanced budget is required by State law-THAT IS CORRECT, BUT MY RESOLUTION AIMS AT NOT USING FUND BALANCES, RAINY DAY FUNDS, TO BALANCE THE BUDGET!

This is unbelievable for it is coming from a person who is trying to convince the voters that he is a fiscal conservative. The record and my East Penn School District tax bill show that he is not. He has voted for increases in the EPSD budget that have resulted in large tax increases.

Email or call your friends and neighbors who may have received this malicious mailer and set the record straight, and encourage them to show up and vote for me tomorrow."