Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Butz Lobbies LVEDC to Relocate to His A-town Bldg

"On Hamilton Street, trees are blooming, flags are waving, restaurants are busy, the weather is warm and so are the people you meet."

That's how Lee Butz describes Allentown in a recent letter to the editor. Sounds Norman Rockwell-ish, eh? What he fails to mention is that he sure could use a few more tenants at his office building complex on Hamilton Street, where all those trees are blooming. It's very nice of The Morning Call to help Lee out with what basically amounts to a free classified ad.

What Lee also fails to tell you is that, behind the scenes, he's been lobbying Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC) to relocate there, so they can enjoy those waving flags and warm people, too. This morning, at 7:30 AM, the entire board will have its quarterly meeting, and relocation is a topic on the agenda. They're down to about 4 or 5 finalists, and the Butz Building is one of them. No Easton site is under consideration. Of course, they'll go into executive session to make their selection.

You see, secrecy is paramount at LVEDC. They may invite press to the "open" portions of their meetings, but only four designated hitters may even speak to the news media. All others, especially elected officials, are required to sign confidentiality agreements. Northampton County Bulldog Ron Angle ripped his in half.

Last time LVEDC met, Northampton County Exec John Stoffa caused quite a stir when he said that, as far as he's concerned, "Allentown is unsafe." That was enough to send Queen City Mayor Edwin Pawlowski right over the edge. He may still be on a bridge somewhere, ready to jump. Lee Butz, whom Stoffa removed as the County's Construction Manager a few years ago, has even less reason to like our Exec now.

Now Stoffa's opinion is just as valid as the opinions of those who consider Allentown the Lehigh Valley's Shangri-La. But he's been attacked on this blog as "unprofessional" and as a "racist". Allentown City Council VP Michael Donovan huffs, on his "Inclusion" blog, that "Stoffa’s statement just might be the most unprofessional statement I have heard from an elected official, and I have heard a lot of them." I defended Stoffa, and this supposed promoter of civility and tolerance published a comment, on his moderated blog, telling me to "keep the fuck out." Nothing very inclusive about that.

Let's be honest. Even if you think Allentown is a wonderful place, Stoffa's entitled to his opinion. If it is unprofessional to state that "Allentown is unsafe," isn't it equally unprofessional to state "Allentown is perfectly safe"?

As one of my readers commented, "That is a big problem. Not the unprofessional nature of the comment, but the fact that someone thinks the sentiment should not be voiced because it is, to some, unprofessional."

What's really unprofessional is a nonprofit that holds it hands out for huge sums of public money, in the form of hotel taxes from both Lehigh and Northampton Counties, thinking it can muzzle democratically elected officials from speaking out. I also have to wonder whether Donovan is doing a little damage control for LVEDC or better yet, Lee Butz. He just happens to be a major campaign contributor.

Should LVEDC thumb its nose at Northampton County and select a downtown Allentown site as its new location, it will soon have to change its name to Lehigh County Economic Development Corp. I suspect Northampton County will pull the plug on its hotel taxes going there and fend for itself.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Stoffa made a comment that betrays his ignorance and intolerance. I hope LVEDC moves into Allentown.

Also the hotel tax money goes to the Tourist bureau by law. They have a deal to give it to LVEDC. Nothing the County or Stoffa can do about that.

Anonymous said...

Allentown is the largest municipality in the region. You can call it the Lehigh Valley, but it is Allentown that put this region on the map. We will never solve our region's problems until we all get behind making Allentown better. Until LVEDC finds a location on the county line that allows them to divide their offices between Lehigh and Northampton County, you will always have the problem of one county complaining that they are not located in their county. We need to get over the provincial thinking in the region and pull together once and for all. An LVEDC move to Allentown would signal that they are serious about supporting downtowns, instead of developing farm land.

Anonymous said...

You criticize the confidentiality agreement, but do you remember the mess LVEDC made in the papers when Beth Gorin was at the helm? That certainly didn't benefit the region.

Anonymous said...

If Northampton County doesn't think its getting value out of the LVEDC, it should try to pull its funding - an office location should not be the measuring stick for performance. I have my criticisms of the LVEDC, and don't think Stoffa should be attacked for his criticism, but if the county makes decisions about regional initiatives based on a sour-grapes issue like locating an office in Allentown, it will surely be the loser in future regional growth.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa stated what everyone understands. Allentown is not only unsafe it is depressing. Those who attack people who speak the truth are doing it for partisan reasons. It is that simple.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

The Good Ole Boy Network works for some. Past, Present, Future.

Anonymous said...

Blogger wrote: "He just happens to be a major campaign contributor." To Whom?

Anonymous said...

LVEDC will move to the place that they want to. I doubt they will let lobbying from Butz get in their way of doing what they have already planned on doing. The only reason they are even taking bids is to give the appearance of openness.

monkey momma said...

How many people work in the LVEDC office? At least if they moved into the Butz building, they'd be in an area that needs some economic development.

Scott Armstrong - Allentown is not unsafe for the average citizen. The very vast majority of crime we read about is "thug on thug" crime, in which law abiding citizens such as Armstrong are generally left alone. The depresssing part is arguable, but you're entitled to your own opinion on that. Looking realistically at crime, however, you can't say Allentown is truly dangerous for the average Joe.

Anonymous said...

The last year I lived in Allentown was '99. There were two shootings that year on each end of my block. I never bothered to ask what race the shooters or shootees were while I was packing up. I remember quite a significnat population of toothless white trash 'boozin' all night at the corner bars' white people with German last names that made me move my wallet from my back pocket to my front as I walked home so I never assumed the assailants weren't white. A leap and an assumption is made by the commenter that per Stoffa, Allentown's crime rate is the fault of a particular race. Which race might that be? Please clarify. I can only assume that the commenter blames the crime rate on the Hispanic population. Who is the racist then really?

Michael Donovan said...

Bernie:

I did not make that statement, and it is not right at all to attribute it to me. Indeed, I just saw it after I read your post. Gee, you sound like someone else we kno.

I have decided, in the spirit of free speech, not to waste my time censoring comments, unless I feel information is private or the accusations are totally beyond reason (yes, I get to make that choice, and I trust my judgment).

In the case of the writer who said for you to stay out of Allentown, I don't think I would have cut the entry. People swear all the time, and the writer was pointing out that he (or she) did not feel as concerned about the city as some others do.

Finally, Scott, I love how you immediately call someone partisan.

Have a great day, all.

I love this job.

Anonymous said...

Allentown is the largest municipality in the region, true. However, the city itself is more of an abandoned shell if you discount where all its former residents have moved to..the outskirts and the burbs that they still insist is Allentown. It's like an exile community. My doctor is part of "Allentown Associates" and his office is almost located in Kutztown. Allentown associations, offices, and groups don't even hold their galas at the Hilton on Hamilton St anymore. Even if their offices are in Center City, they have their balls and fundraisers at the Holiday Inn in Fogelsville (where you need a GPS to find it) because they know that none of the ex-pats will drive into the city anymore at night or during the day sometimes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mr. Donovan,

The first time I commented on your new blog, it was moderated. If you are such a champion of free speech, then why the hell were you moderating at all? When you do moderate, that makes you responsible for EVERYTHING posted there, regardless whether you wrote it. I find it highly ironic and more than a little hypocritcical that a person promoting civility and tolerance would allow slimy comments like that on his blog.

I'd also like to know what prompted you to post that ridiculous blog about Stoffa. It certainly wasn't his remark. Glenn Eckhart has said far worse about A-town, and other elected officials like Julio Guridy make statements that really are unprofessional.

I have a sneaking suspicion that you are doing so to curry favor with either the Mayor or Butz. Of course, I can't prove that, but I sure as hell am suspicious.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Also the hotel tax money goes to the Tourist bureau by law. They have a deal to give it to LVEDC. Nothing the County or Stoffa can do about that."

Wanna' bet?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"We need to get over the provincial thinking in the region"

This has nothing to do with provincial thinking. Right now, LVEDC is in LC and nobody from NC is complaining. There are several problems in downtown A-ttown. Safety is #1. Another point is that it will take 60-70 minutes for the round trip from Easton.

This is being done to prop up Butz.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You criticize the confidentiality agreement, but do you remember the mess LVEDC made in the papers when Beth Gorin was at the helm"

You mean the mess created by LVEDC when it decided to give her a golden patrachute? I remember that very well. It really must be annoying when the unwased masses learn what you're doing with their money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" if the county makes decisions about regional initiatives based on a sour-grapes issue like locating an office in Allentown,"

It goes beyond that. LVEDC is proving itself to be the personal fiefdom of the good ol' boys in the LVP, the unelected aristocrats. NC has long been suspicious of what goes on there, and it is ridiculous to headquarter that company in the downtown of a crime-ridden city when so many other alternatives are available.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Blogger wrote: "He just happens to be a major campaign contributor." To Whom?

To whomever is in power. That certainly includes Pawlowski. Back in 2006, I posted a blog abouit it. From Rendell to Dent, Butz gives generously to those in power.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The very vast majority of crime we read about is "thug on thug" crime,"

About a month or two ago, Scott Armkstrong's son was assaulted on his way home from schoool after band practice. I also posted a blog about a newspaper carrier in is 70s who was mugged right outside Sam bennett's home at 5:30 AM. Is that thug on thug?

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

A Downtown Allentown location is appropriate. Believe it or not, Downtown Allentown still has is the largest concentration of workers in the Valley. But the numbers are slipping, not growing.

The area is also bordered by the neighborhoods that house the region's largest concentration of working folk. The best way to help these people reach opportunity is to encourage it to grow close to where they live. This move is consistent with that idea.

It is very doubtful that visitors to the new LVEDC office will ever encounter a serious threat to their safety but your point about the long commute is valid. When American Parkway is finished by PennDot it will cut 20 minutes off of that round trip.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Then why not wait until it is finished? Why should easton members drive an hour?

Anonymous said...

No matter the chosen location, they better keep the taxpayer top of mind when it comes to spending money towards rent, moving expenses, utility costs, etc etc etc.

If the new rent is any more than the current lease, it's a bad decision...

Anonymous said...

"and it is ridiculous to headquarter that company in the downtown of a crime-ridden city when so many other alternatives are available"

Actually, that is EXACTLY the reason why you locate it in Downtown Allentown. If you want to show people you are serious about doing the right thing, do the right thing and locate where there are true social problems. Walk the walk. Morally, turning your back on the city is just repulsive. And I would add, that Easton is in much the same boat (unsafe, is unsafe, so spare the comparisons) so it would practically eliminate Easton from the equation.

There is another benefit: you have the regional chamber and the regional tourism agency in the same building. One stop shopping shows investors you are serious.

That said, I'll predict that the agency ends up in downtown Bethlehem. It's central, as close to the Norco/Lehigh Co boundary as possible (heck, Bethlehem is in both counties) and from a business attraction perspective, Downtown Bethlehem is the ultimate wine/dine location.

Anonymous said...

How does Phil Mitman make an impartial decision on all of this?

Check his donor list from when he ran for mayor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Businesses are not interested in walking the walk. They are interested in making money. If you take them to a depressed area, they will be less likely to relocate thereunless theyare a business looking to prey on people.

Anonymous said...

I question why we need LVEDC anyway.

They do provide loans, but another agency can do that work anyway.

What have they really brought to the valley? The governor's office takes credit for a lot of major moves. If the governor is doing this work, is not LVEDC unnecessary duplication?

Anonymous said...

"Businesses are not interested in walking the walk. They are interested in making money."

LVEDC is not business. They are a 501c3. They have a mission to fulfill. Are you suggesting they ignore their responsibilities as a 501c3?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The objet of LVEDC is to attract business, not act like a social agency. How many Fortune 500 companies will be interested in moving here after they see the worst we have to offer? It makes no sense, and that's from a business perspective.

Anonymous said...

"The objet of LVEDC is to attract business, not act like a social agency. How many Fortune 500 companies will be interested in moving here after they see the worst we have to offer? It makes no sense, and that's from a business perspective."

You might first ask how many clients come to the LVEDC office. You'd be surprised to know that it isn't many fortune 500 companies. most meetings are held off site for attraction purposes. we are talking about where the employees will work. But, if for the sake of argument, you want to go down that path, I'll point out that Butz has a helicopter pad on top of the building. So, if we are talking fortune 500, they might appreciate landing DIRECTLY at the site. What other location has such a profile.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting the context of this conversation is centered around weighing the pros of Allentown vs bashing Allentown.

Seems pretty obvious where the new office should be.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of a worse hypocrite that Lee Butz. He lives in S. Whitehall sent his kids to Parkland and now lectures us about taking strolls in downtown Allentown. As a livelong resident I would love to walk downtown. The reality is that downtown is dirty, unsafe and there are no mainstream businesses (except the DD of course). None of my neighbors will even go down there.

Michael Donovan said...

Hello Bernie:

Want to know why I switched to a moderated blog (only on first entry, by the way, and people can still be anonymous)?

Because of the battle between you and another person into which I was dragged only because I would not take sides.

I got tired of the mudslinging, and felt that would slow it down, which it has. However, I have allowed every entry to go in, often quickly, without reading the entire item (for example, the offending one).

Atown liker has asked me to delete the offending passage, which I have.

Finally, if you follow Allentown, you will know that while he and I may be civil, in no way do I support much of the Mayor's agenda.

I found what Stoffa said offensive to me as a citizen of Allentown. I DO NOT run away to the suburbs and enjoy a selfish life. I try to make a contribution, directly.

Should LVEDC be in Allentown? I would like that, but it is their decision.

Best regards,

Michael

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mr. Donovan,

I'm sure you would like to see LVEDC relocate to A-town, and that it is why you feigned outrage over Stoffa's perfectly reasonable and sensible comment.

I suppose it helps to be on Lee Butz' good side. After all, it must be expensive to run a political campaign.

Finally, you can't claim to be civil and tolerant when you allow people to post slimy comments about another person while condemning someone concerned about safety in Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have to respond to something else. Donovan claims he was forced to switch to moderated bc of my battles with another person, which carries with it the implication that I am somehow a participant. i am actually a victim, and if it were not me, it would be someone else, and Donovan is welll aware of that.

Anonymous said...

Michael Donovan said:

"I DO NOT run away to the suburbs and enjoy a selfish life."

********************************

The arrogance and elitism in that one sentance is startling.

So everyone who moves to or lives in the suburbs is selfish? How asinine!

How about recognizing that the individuals who have CHOSEN to move to or live in the suburbs have made a decision that they believe is best for themselves and/or their families? Choosing where one wants to live is still (at least for now) the right of every American in this country.

I, like Mr. Donovan, have chosen to live in the city. Others have chosen differently, for a multitude of reasons that could only be known (and should only be known) to those individuals.

I don't expect someone to assign motives to ANYONE's personal decision about where to live. That the statement comes from an elected official is even more appalling.

Also revealing is the assumption in the statement that moving to the suburbs is selfish. This seems to be an admission that things outside the city are better than in the city. We can argue that all day, but isn't Donovan contradicting his own statements about the superiority of the conditions in Allentown?

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Butz gives generously to those in power."

********************************

True - and he builds ugly buildings.

Please go by the new 9th Grade Academy at Allen High. They either let the students build it or used every piece of leftover construction material they could find.

In either case, it's a hideous addition to the neighborhood. Especially since it's next to the historic main building and across the street from the West Park Historic District.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is being done to prop up Butz."

********************************

Isn't it interesting that despite all the cheerleading for Allentown and despite the taxbreaks offered by being located in a KOZ, Butz is still having difficulty finding private sector tenants for his building?

I believe he has the Lehigh Valley Convention & Visitor Bureau in there and Properties of Merit. Those are just the ones I know about. Now he's going for LVEDC.

It seems that someone has grown accustomed to feeding at the government trough.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget the video that Bernie posted of Tony Phillips talking about his candidacy walking around the city that "put our regino on the map." The scenes around him of Allentown were so depressing and distracting. I think at one point he was driving under the 8th St. Bridge. Thank God no one jumped off and landed on his car during filming. I would have to say taht for those of us under 80, it's Bethlehem that put the region on the map. People know musikfest or Bethlehem Steel or the casino....unless you're a Billy Joel fan.

Anonymous said...

How kind of you to inform me that crime isn’t a problem for the average resident in Allentown. Unfortunately as a resident I know this isn’t true. I won’t bore you again with the details but let me just say every member of my family has experienced it personally.
Assault and the fear of it is a reality in the downtown. For women it is a far greater threat. Why not park your car on a dark and littered residential street and walk a block or two after sunset. That is what we live with. My boys come home from school directly and stay inside, my older on who is going to college in the fall can’t wait to leave. My younger son goes to Raub, he knows far more than any 8th grader should about the dysfunctional behavior of inner city children. I could go on but have done so in the past and I am tired of repeating myself to those who wish words could change reality.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Mike Donovan,

I don't call everyone a "partisan" just those who are. You certainly fit the bill.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Why don't you move? Seriously.

It is difficult to believe you have it that bad and remain. It is even harder to feel sorry for you. Do something to improve your situation.

Anonymous said...

By the way, what do you suggest I do to "improve the situation"?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Anon,

So if I move Allentown is improved because one who speaks the truth is removed? I will move when it is timely for us to do so, and frankly that is no one’s business but mine and my families. I have written that we (my family) all agree it was a mistake to move to Allentown. While we are here I will report as I please.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Ahh yes, Butz Building...the Lehigh Valley's headquarters of crony capitalism. Does anybody rent in that building with their OWN money?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I can't think of a worse hypocrite that Lee Butz. He lives in S. Whitehall sent his kids to Parkland and now lectures us about taking strolls in downtown Allentown.

Bravo -

I can't think of the name of it, but just a couple of years ago, there was that really cool mansion for sale, with all that art on display, right around the corner from Butz Palace. Timing was perfect.

Why didn't Lee walk the walk and buy that place? His kids could walk to school and see all those friendly smiling people every day, even play in the hood er, uh community, at night and he could walk to work on even the most miserable of days.

Love to hear why he passed on that once in a lifetime opportunity.