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.