Friday, October 29, 2010

Angle: Four Public Meetings to Discuss Gracedale Sale

Once Gracedale is sold, will it be turned into a casino? Will residents be kicked to the curb? Used to plug the next BP oil leak? Will people of limited means be denied admission?

These and many other questions will be answered during four public meetings in all corners of Northampton County over the next few weeks. At a news conference today, Council President Ron Angle stated that anyone with concerns or questions can have them answered by people who've gone through the process in other Counties. Here's the schedule:


Wednesday, November 3, 7 PM: Northampton Borough Hall, 1401 Laubach Avenue, Northampton, PA

Thursday, November 11, 7 PM: Hanover Township Municipal Building, 3630 Jacksonville Road, Bethlehem, PA.

Tuesday, November 16, 7 PM: Bangor Borough Beehive, 197 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bangor, PA

Wednesday, November 17, 7 PM: Chrin Community Center, 4100 Green Pond Road, Palmer, PA 18045.

Angle also announced that RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for the sale of Gracedale will go out November 15, be back December 15, and could be sold a few weeks later.
"What the average voter needs to know is that if Gracedale isn't sold, there is a major problem here," said Angle. "If it is sold, there will be an orderly transfer of ownership from the County to a private industry, nobody will even notice it's done, the sign will remain the same, probably the people will stay the same, and it will be an orderly transition."

Angle also stated that a sale would remove 40% of the County's payroll and put them in the private sector.

"You go around the country today and everybody's screaming, 'We've got too much government.' I think Northampton County in the end may be a role model for those people around the country. ... People all across the nation are demanding that government cut back the size of government. In Northampton County, we are cutting back the size of government. And we're not doing it by creating unemployment. We're doing it by getting government out of areas that it don't belong into, and better taking care of areas that it does belong into."

Thirty-eight of Pennsylvania's sixty-seven Counties have no County-run nursing home. Twenty-one of these Counties have sold or privatized their nursing homes.

Angle called the group promoting an initiative (referendum) on Gracedale "radical" because it's a "small-minded group of people who do not care about the other 300,000 taxpayers of this County. They only see what they want to see. They don't care about anybody else. I don't have that luxury."

Asked about a union plan to send circulators to polling precincts to solicit signatures, Angle noted that they must stay "X number of feet" away from the poll and not interfere with people's right to vote.

"I doubt whether they'd worry about trespassing. Frankly, they blocked the entrances and exits of Gracedale last Sunday, shoving literature, 'Vote for Charlie Dertinger,' so I'm sure the union isn't too interested in what the law says."

Harshly criticized at several recent County Council meetings by Gracedale advocates, Angle answered his detractors. "When you're a leader, there's people who are going to throw rocks at you. It's good to know, though, that in the United States of America and Northampton County, there's a few leaders left who can take the rock throwing to do what's right. It's that simple."

Angle plans to sell more than Gracedale. He is currently conferring with County officials to sell the Bechtel (Bethlehem) and Wolf (Easton) buildings - which he called "money pits" - and then consolidate Human Services under one roof on the remainder of the Gracedale campus.

President Obama: Credible Terrorist Threat From Yemen

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to briefly update the American people on a credible terrorist threat against our country, and the actions that we're taking with our friends and our partners to respond to it.

Last night and earlier today, our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, working with our friends and allies, identified two suspicious packages bound for the United States -- specifically, two places of Jewish worship in Chicago. Those packages had been located in Dubai and East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom. An initial examination of those packages has determined that they do apparently contain explosive material.

I was alerted to this threat last night by my top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan. I directed the Department of Homeland Security and all our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our citizens from this type of attack. Those measures led to additional screening of some planes in Newark and Philadelphia.

The Department of Homeland Security is also taking steps to enhance the safety of air travel, including additional cargo screening. We will continue to pursue additional protective measures for as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.

I've also directed that we spare no effort in investigating the origins of these suspicious packages and their connection to any additional terrorist plotting. Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen. We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.

John Brennan, who you will be hearing from, spoke with President Saleh of Yemen today about the seriousness of this threat, and President Saleh pledged the full cooperation of the Yemeni government in this investigation.

Going forward, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government to disrupt plotting by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to destroy this al Qaeda affiliate. We'll also continue our efforts to strengthen a more stable, secure and prosperous Yemen so that terrorist groups do not have the time and space they need to plan attacks from within its borders.

The events of the past 24 hours underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism. As usual, our intelligence, law enforcement and Homeland Security professionals have served with extraordinary skill and resolve and with the commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand. We're also coordinating closely and effectively with our friends and our allies, who are essential to this fight.

As we obtain more information we will keep the public fully informed. But at this stage, the American people should know that the counterterrorism professionals are taking this threat very seriously and are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure our security. And the American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and to root out violent extremism in all its forms.

Thank you very much.

Dent: Prepare For Acts of Desperation Between Now and Tuesday

In October, when Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan began sending out mailers including photographs of one soldier with blood dripping down his face and another holding up a prosthetic, an upset Congressman Charlie Dent reacted by calling a rare Saturday news conference, attended by a platoon of about twenty veterans. Ranking House Armed Services Committee member Buck McKeon (R-Ca) was there, too, and noted that "when people get behind, they do this sort of thing." Dent also read a statement from Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Tx): "The baseless attacks against Congressman Dent are an outrage. As a seven-year Prisoner of War in Vietnam, I find his opponent’s attacks offensive and untrue. In fact, I voted the same way Congressman Dent did."

Today, Congressman Dent called another news conference to respond to a Callahan TV commercial blasting Dent's veterans' record (you can see it here).

"I call on him to do the right thing and pull his ads from the air," declared Dent, who decried these "cookie cutter ads that have been called out all over our country." He also warned there will be "more acts of desperation between now and Tuesday."

"He's losing and he's lying. He's saying all kinds of wild things," claimed Dent, who pointed out that Callahan is playing games by focusing on procedural votes to recommit as opposed to substantive votes.

Dent has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Political Action Committee (VFW PAC). According to the nonpartisan Project Vote Smart, Dent has sided with veterans on eight of nine key pieces of legislation, including a major expansion of the GI Bill. The only measure he opposed was a nonbinding budget resolution that increased spending from $14 trillion to $15.95 trillion.

According to a Morning Call analysis, "Dent doesn't have the 'failing record' on veterans issues that Callahan's mailer showing a bleeding soldier and a veteran with a prosthetic leg would have voters believe. The TV ad leaves the impression there is a link between Dent's votes on veterans, the bank bailout and his salary. Those bills were considered separately and, in some cases, separated by a couple of years."

Dent added that Callahan himself has never shown any interest in City workers who are veterans. "I've stood by our veterans," declared Dent, adding that two of his staffers are former servicemen.

Nicole Radzievich, at Pennsylvania Avenue, has posted a similar TV campaign being waged against Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

According to Dent, Callahan has "outsourced his campaign to his Washington handlers."

Connolly v. Boscola, Tax Cheat v. Marijuana Dreamer

Northampton County Council's Star Chamber is always a great place for a fight. In fact, Executive John Stoffa is considering renting it out to the Wild Samoans on weekends. But last night, instead of sparring Council members, the Northampton County League of Women Voters sponsored an exhibition match between Pa. State Senatorial candidates Matt "Tax Cheat" Connolly and Lisa "Marijuana Dreamer" Boscola. Although they both took their shots, it was a surprisingly good and congenial debate. In the picture on the left, the candidates are joking as they wag their fingers at each other. ... I think. Lafayette Professor John Kincaid, who acted as moderator, posed excellent questions. The only disappointment was the small crowd, which consisted almost exclusively of the inner circle of each candidate.

Acting as cutman, Glenn "Commissioner No" Eckhart squirted water into Connolly's mouth between questions. In Lisa's corner sat the Imperious Ann McHale, who kept murmuring, "I should be County Executive."

Below are the fight highlights, with a few explanatory comments.

Is Matt Connolly a Tax Cheat?

Boscola: "I want to continue my fight for property tax relief, even though he [Connolly] has a tendency not to pay his. I took a shot because you took a shot at me."

Connolly: "I was late on a tax bill twice on real estate. That's not a crime.

Boscola: "Three years in a row."

Blogger's Note: Connolly owns two real estate parcels with his wife and has never been delinquent with his taxes. His business, Matt Connolly Motor Sports, LLC, owns another three parcels, and the real estate taxes owed on those parcels are delinquent. No judgment or lien has ever been filed against Connolly or his business, so he's no tax cheat, as Boscola alleged in a radio interview.

Boscola Dreams About Medical Marijuana?

Boscola: "I was thinking about it the other day. I was dreaming about it. I do that a lot."

Has Boscola Ever Voted For a Tax Hike?

In her opening, Boscola stated she has never voted for a tax hike. Connolly produced a bill in which she voted for an extension and increase of a corporate tax. "That's just a spin," answered Boscola.

Connolly Challenges Boscola on Pledge to Eliminate Property Taxes

Connolly: "In business, if you had been on the job for 12 years, and had not accomplished what you said you were going to do, you'd be fired. in politics, you tend to lose your position."

Boscola: "Anybody with common sense knows that one individual, one senator alone, can't eliminate property taxes."

Pledge to Eliminate Property Taxes an Election Ploy

Connolly: "I appreciate the fight for eliminating property taxes, but I prefer you win the fight for elimination of property taxes instead of using it as ---. It's been your election ploy for the past 12 years."

Blogger's Note: The Morning Call article Connolly refers to is located here.

Should legislators Be Banned From Consulting Gigs?

Boscola: "Absolutely. This is a full-time job. I work at it 24/7, and I have no respect for those that are doing outside consulting work."

Connolly: "There's too much potential for a conflict of interest."

Blogger's Note: State Rep. Jennifer Mann is a consultant for Vitetta.

Should we reduce the size of our state legislature?

Connolly: "Pennsylvania, per capita, is one of the most over-represented states in the Union. We have 50 senators, 203 representatives; they each have a staff that averages about 11 people, they get state cars, all of this I think is quite excessive." He'd reduce the state legislature to 25 senators and 2 representatives from each senatorial district or shrink the pay and staff to equal that budget.

Boscola: "One of the very fist bills I introduced was to reduce the size of the state legislature. ... It wasn't sexy twenty, fifteen years ago to talk about it. But I was on bard way back then and I continue to be on board."

Marcellus Shale: Should there be a moratorium on the extraction of natural gas?

Boscola: "I am very much in favr of a moratorium right now because this extraction of natural gas - we have one chance to do this right. One chance. We have to learn the lessons of coal, when we were mining coal, and the acid mine drains that we are still dealing with environmentally. ... But the debate in Harrisburg is not directed that way. It's directed towards a tax on the drilling of Marcellus Shale. ... If they're going to tax it, I believe all that money should be going towards environmental protection and the local communities who are going to have to suffer through it. ... If that Little Lehigh River is polluted because of Marcellus Shale, yu know I'll be out there, fighting constantly, to make sure the drillers pay."

Connolly: "I do not support a moratorium on Marcellus gas production. I'm very interested in this. i was in the heating business for many years and knew quite a bit about it. I interviewed a driller and an executive who does fracking. It can be done very safely. Marcellus Shale ... is 9,000 feet under ground. It can be done very safely. It can be done with an absolutely minimal impact. We cannot blame the gas and our need for the gas for some of the problems that have been caused by irresponsible drillers. I am all for, as part of the permit fees, having the gas companies and the gas producers, pay for independent, third party monitoring, have very stiff fines for any breaches in any environmental regulations or any pollution. We need to become a net energy exporter in this state. We cannot keep taking our oil from people who don't like us."

Severence Tax, Anyone?

Boscola claims we can impose this tax because "they [gas producers] are going nowhere." Connolly worries that is exactly what will happen.

The Looming Pension Crisis

Connolly: "We are staring down the barrel of a debt gun that's gonna' kill us."

Boscola: "We are making changes that matter to people." [She describes some changes for new hires].

Health Care Costs

Boscola: "We have to go after the insurance companies. That's how you drive down costs, and that's how you cover more people."

Job Creation

Connolly: "The only place in the world more hostile to job creation is Japan."

Gun Control: Both candidates oppose gun control.

Abortion: Boscola opposes after first trimester. Connolly opposes except in case of rape or incest.

Gay Marriage: Both oppose but support civil unions.

Illegal Immigration: Connolly support deportation. Boscola supports cracking down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Unfunded Mandates: Both support ending practice. Neither supports a Constitutional amendment to that effect.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cunningham's 16.1% Tax Hike Adopted

A wise man from Northampton County yesterday reminded me of this admonition by Irish politician Edmund Burke: "Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Edmund Burke would be very proud of Lehigh County Commissioner Chairman Dean Browning.

Even here in the People's Republic of Northampton County, people were wondering whether he'd crack. Would he bow to the pressure and threats being exerted on him by virtually every Republican in the universe, from Party Boss to proud tea party member? Would he go along with a last-minute and myopic effort, spearheaded by Glenn "Commissioner 'No'" Eckhart to direct Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham to produce a new budget that completely and unrealistically eliminates a tax hike? Would he knuckle under to political pressure that has more to do with next year's election than good government? Or would he give the people of Lehigh County his best judgment, as opposed to political expediency? Browning decided to do what he, and not Wayne Woodman or Scott Ott, thought was right, even if this ends his political career. He voted with Democrats to defeat what Commissioner Dan McCarthy correctly labeled an "artificial crisis." He rebuked Commissioners for shirking their own responsibilities. Some say it is political suicide, but I thought it an act of courage that sets Browning apart as one of very few government leaders willing to follow his own conscience.

I have lots of video from last night's showdown, but must first commend Jenna Portnoy for a thorough and accurate account of last night's meeting in The Morning Call.

Four Republicans wanted to send Cunningham's budget back, at the urging of Lehigh County GOP Chair Wayne Woodman. Cunningham, who was there, made the consequences of what he called a "party boss" budget, very clear.

"I'll give you a budget back. We will have to take out about $17-19 million to meet your millage rate,Mr. Eckhart, that you propose in your motion. ... I don't need fourteen days. I'll give it to you by Monday. The first thing I'm going to take out is all your staff and your salaries. [applause] I'll tell you why. Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why.

"They just gave me the budget back, and in the world I live in, when you don't work, you don't get paid. You have one job to do as the legislative part-time Council of this government, and that is to set a budget. For two months, you've come up with $350,000 worth of cuts. Five days before the deadline, after the party bosses showed up, twisted some arms, pushed on you and twisted, you sent it back to me. In my world, you did not do your job. You don't need three staff people and you don't need a salary. So the budget you get back will reflect that."


Cunningham went on to say he'd have to take $5 million from the Courts, $5 million from Corrections, as well as money from the DA. This in turn would invite a lawsut by the Courts, the DA and an intervention by the state.

"You can fight the Courts, fight the State, fight everbody to see if you can accomplish what you've tried to accomplish."

But Cunningham makes clear he won't give them a nickel to pay for a lawyer.

"I'm sure tomorrow morning you'll wake up with an awful tea party hangover when people realize that you've effectively shut down this government and gone to war."


Commissioner Percy Dougherty attempted to suggest that this would just give them an opportunity to work with Cunningham, but he saw right through that argument.

"You haven't done your job. You haven't cooperated. That's not a process."

Commissioner Dan McCarthy noted that one group would really love a zero tax increase budget - criminals.


When it was time for the public to speak, the very first person lined up was Lehigh County Party Boss Wayne Woodman.

"I am referred to as a party boss. But after watching our Executive today, I feel I have a lot left to learn. I think the last time citizens of this Commonwealth were referred to the way we were or spoken to the way we were, there was a man on the throne named George."

Scrappleface, aka Scott Ott, told the crowd he's glad he lost his race against Cunningham. So am I.

He portrayed Dean Browning as a "wise advisor" who "schooled" him, kinda' like Yoda schooled Luke. Then he suggests that Dean Browning listen to him.

Dean was quiet most of the evening, and when he spoke, it became very clear that, like it or not, there really is no choice but to accept Don Cunningham's budget.

And that's what happened.

Now there were some harsh exchanges last night, but I was encouraged to see Wayne "Party Boss" Woodman shake hands with Cunningham after it was all over. I also think it was a good thing that so many people were involved in the process. Cunningham was fiery and passionate, revealing a side that many have never seen, and one I actually liked. But the person who impressed me most as the man who impressed Cunningham the most - Dean Browning.

Dent: Don't Believe Callahan's No-Tax Hike Pledge

According to independent auditors, Bethlehem finished 2009 with an $8.5 million deficit. Mayor John Callahan has left millions in unpaid bills and moved money from various city accounts illegally, without Council approval, to cover payments. Even a new firetruck had to sit, unused, because the City was unable to pay for it.

Now, he's incredibly claiming, in an obvious pander to the voter, that there will be no tax hike next year, before he's prepared or submitted his budget.

Congressman Charlie Dent responds:

“John Callahan’s fiscal irresponsibility is staggering. He doesn't know what his revenues will be, and he doesn't know what his expenditures will be. And he has a record of making poor estimates, resulting in multimillion dollar deficits since at least 2008.

“Even Democratic members of his own City Council question this hollow campaign promise, and believe his ‘no tax hike’ promise is unrealistic.

“Callahan claims he’s working to ‘tighten the belt’ but he increased spending by 10 percent JUST THIS YEAR. Instead of looking inward to fix his problems, Callahan is seeking a bailout from regional taxpayers through a sales tax hike he wants the counties to institute.

“A bigger problem is that Callahan’s pledges don’t mean very much. He promised an immediate property tax cut in exchange for a casino. He broke that promise for the second year in a row. With four years to plan a tax cut for the property owners of Bethlehem, he instead spent the city deep into the red.

“Perhaps Callahan could save the taxpayers’ money by eliminating unnecessary management jobs – starting with his own. He’s been absent for more than a year, so maybe Bethlehem would be better off without a Mayor rather than have Callahan at the helm.

“John Callahan is an incompetent mayor, and he’s incapable to handle the serious issues that face America.”

Horton Plays the Malcolm X Card

Referring to himself as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X was certainly a controversial figure. He preached that the "white man" is "the devil" or "common enemy" Martin Luther King? He was the man's "stooge." So it's no great surprise that many consider X a racist. But Malcolm X is Michael Horton's hero. At least that's what he led the Easton NAACP to believe on Tuesday night.

I saw Horton on Tuesday night. I was on my way to Hanover Township while he was en route to an NAACP meet 'n greet. We both had made pit stop at Panera's on 512, which is one of my secret blogging lairs.

I never made it to Easton, but spoke to several people who did. I'm also told the event was filmed. That's odd because, at this time last year, the NAACP prevented me from filming Julio Guridy and King Edwin, claiming no cameras are permitted at their functions.

Hcorton, of course, pandered to the black voter, telling them "They tried to deny you the right to vote, you know what I mean," and "They are making you apathetic, you know what I mean." Then he pointed to his glasses and claimed he wears them in honor of Malcolm X. And of course, at one point, he wiped a tear.

Now maybe he's sincere, but I doubt it. You see, he's never mentioned his fondness for Malcolm X during his encounters with white voters.

Simmons' Grass Roots Support v. Horton's Auslanders

div>After examining the campaign finance reports filed by Michael Horton and Justin Simmons, I can tell you the following:

1) Horton has spent more than $250,000, nearly twice as much as the $127,000 spent by Simmons.

2) Simmons lists 16 pages of small contributions from Lehigh Valley residents, which indicates a lot of grass roots support.

3) Horton has only 22 Lehigh Valley contributors, who gave him just $1,860.

4) Most of Simmons' larger contributions come from the Republican establishment, which indicates that he has repaired much of the damage done during his primary challenge to Karen Beyer.

5) For a supposed hand-picked puppet of Elmer Gates, Simmons comes cheap. The Fuller dude only gave him $600 during this crucial period in the election cycle.

6) There are numerous PayPal transactions, revealing Simmons to be the first LV candidate I've seen who has effectively used the Internet to get numerous, smaller donations.

7) Simmons' biggest contributor is the HRCC, which gave him $25,000.

8) 99% of Horton's money comes from outside his District, including $169,475 from House Dems, $10,000 from Philadelphia leader Dwight Evans, $10,000 from the Guv', and $10,000 from a PAC controlled by a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer

Based on the numbers, it appears that Simmons is relying heavily on grass roots local support (with the exception of the HRCC). Horton's strategy is to allow outsiders to buy his seat.

Dr. Bob Romancheck, Chick Magnet

Now listen folks, I've got lots of ground to cover, and think I'm looking at an all-nighter. Yes, Cunningham's budget passed as expected Yes, many people died. But before I do anything else, I have to tell you about that bastard, Doctor Bob Romancheck. In July, during of all things an Allentown City Council meeting, some beautiful babe with long dark hair came out of nowhere and sat right next to him.

"Hi, my name is Terry," she purred.

Allentown watchdog Lou Hershman, who was sitting with me behind the good doctor, began sweating and popping all kinds of vitamins.

So maybe she had poor eyesight or something, right?

Well, guess what? It happened again at last night's Lehigh County Board of Commissioners' meeting, but this time, it was a hot blond. Dr. Romancheck said something about his airplane during courtesy of the floor, and she flew right at him when he was done.

"Ohhh, you're so impressive, Doctor."

What is it with this guy?

By the way, I'm a doctor, too, and I'm going to the Courthouse today in my rocketship.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HDCC Calls For Investigation Into Simmons' Supporters

A week ago today, I told you that State Rep. Karen Beyer, who was defeated by Republican Justin Simmons in the Spring primary, was also battling independent expenditures by two different groups. The Morning Call has now reported on this as well. To this day, we have no idea who was funding attack ads aimed at Karen. The state BCEL has opened up an investigation. Now comes word that the House Democratic Campaign Committee wants an investigation, too. They want the State Department and IRS to look into the activities of Citizens' Alliance of Pennsylvania, a registered nonprofit run by Pat Toomey's former COS, Joe Sterns (pictured on the right).

In a conversation I had with Sterns after my post, he denied that his group does anything improper and claimed his flyers are designed to educate the electorate. A Simmons campaign spokesperson tells me, "this is just an attempt to deflect attention away from Horton's record." But the HDCC sees things a little differently, as this news release reveals.

"During the last three weeks, Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has sent four campaign mailers to residents of the 131st House District endorsing Simmons. Although Citizens Alliance operates a political action committee, the four Simmons mailers came from the group’s non-profit arm.

"Federal law forbids 'social welfare,' or 501(c)(4), organizations such as Citizens Alliance from operating primarily to influence elections.

"But it is unclear what else Citizens Alliance does. Since its founding earlier this year, Citizens Alliance and its associated PAC have endorsed several candidates for office, and the group’s chairman, retired Republican state Rep. John Kennedy, admitted in an interview in March that the group’s goal is to elect 40-50 'like-minded' candidates to the Legislature, where they can be counted on to fall in line with their secret backers’ right-wing agenda.

"In Simmons’ case, it is the charity, not the political action committee, that has taken the lead on influencing his campaign, openly endorsing his candidacy on four separate political mailers.

"A formal request for an investigation of Citizens Alliance’s activities was filed Wednesday with the Department of State’s Bureau of Campaigns, Elections and Legislation. HDCC also filed a complaint Tuesday with the state Bureau of Charitable Organizations’ Division of Investigations and Audits, which forwarded the request to the IRS.

"'It’s outrageous that Justin Simmons and his shadowy backers are manipulating the law to try to steal this election,' said Fiona Conroy, executive director of HDCC. 'Citizens Alliance is clearly primarily interested in campaigning on behalf of its secret donors and in support of right-wing extremist candidates. Such activity is forbidden by federal law. Simmons’ apparent willingness to align with groups like this casts doubt upon his ethics and his judgment.'

Boscola v. Connolly Tomorrow

Northampton County's LWV will host a tête-à-tête tomorrow night between incumbent State Senator Lisa Boscola and challenger Matt Connolly. In a recent radio interview (you can hear it here), Boscola called Connolly a "tax cheat." "I'm going to win this election, and I'm going to win it soundly because people get it, Bobby. They're not gonna' pay for a tax beat and somebody that puts out rhetoric out there and can't even back it up."

The forum will take place at 6:45 PM at the Northampton County Courthouse, 3rd floor meeting room.

I'll be selling popcorn.

Will Eckhart Get Zero Budget Increase in Lehigh Tonight?

The fur is flying as Lehigh County Commissioners squabble over Executive Don Cunningham's proposed 16.1% tax hike, which they'll be voting on tonight.

According to a news release from the LV Tea Party, Commissioner Glenn Eckhart will propose a "ZERO" budget increase, eliminating the need for a tax increase. It also eliminates the need to decide exactly where cuts need to be made, which is why Commissioners are elected.

Tonight's meeting will take place in the meeting room at 7:00 PM, and the local tea party plans to descend en masse.

Republican Chair Dean Browning has previously stated he will support Cunningham's budget. Last year, he was called a barbarian. This year, he'll be called a spendthrift. But he's right, and so is Cunningham.


Cusick: Gracedale a One-Way Ticket to JaneErvinville

That's what Northampton County Council member John Cusick stated about Gracedale, the County nursing home, at a relatively quiet budget hearing yesterday afternoon that was also attended by Council members Ron Angle, Tom Dietrich, Peg Ferraro, Bruce Gilbert and Barb Thierry.

Gracedale accounts for $66 million of the annual budget, and $48 million of that is personnel costs.

Council member Peg Ferraro blamed herself. "We were asleep at the switch and let it reach this point. But this is where we are now. There's really not too much you can say at this point. Suppose they get their signatures and this gets on the ballot?"

Angle replied Gracedale will be sold before that could happen, but Peg said there are times when taxes must be raised.

Cusick, who advocates a sale, still complimented Ferraro. "You were the only one willing to stand up and say 'I'm willing to raise taxes to pay for Gracedale,'" he said. But then he spoke of "optimum efficiency," saying "that is something I have never heard concerning the operation of Gracedale."

Only three of the Gracedale Goons attended this meeting, but they could be heard calling Angle an "asshole" and saying "I can't stand him" whenever he spoke.

Classy people.

On the bright side, there were no boy scouts listening to their vulgarities. That's what happened at the last County Council meeting.

As yesterday's budget hearing concluded, Angle predicted that the County will have a budget for 2011 on November 4.

Lamont McClure, who had time to meet with his union brethren on Sunday, played hooky from today's budget hearing, as is his custom with all committee meetings.

Finnigan Proposes No-Tax Increase Budget in 2011

At a brief meeting of Hanover Township's Board of Supervisors on October 26, Manager Jay Finnigan presented board members with thick copies of his proposed 2011 budget, which will be reviewed during meetings on November 9 and 23 at 7 PM.

"As it's presented, there is not a tax increase in Hanover Township, assuming that the recommendations in here are implemented," he reported.

Tiny Freemansburg Big Winner in Casino Impact Grants

"I am confident in the gamblers of the Lehigh Valley that they will do their committed duty and spend at the Sands Casino."

Those were the marching orders of Stephanie Hoppes-Kovacs, Hellertown's representative on Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Authority, which on October 25 made their first award of gambling impact grants, totaling $1.3 million, to three municipalities.


Instead of taking our money, the one-armed bandits at Bethlehem's Sands Casino are finally finally giving back to places hit hardest by gambling. The grand prize - $825,000 - went to tiny Freemansburg (population 2,063) for a police processing and holding facility. Other big winners were Hellertown (population 5,738) and Lower Saucon (population 10,000), who received the balance of the $1.3 million awarded for police officers, law enforcement training, cruisers, ambulances, pedestrian crosswalks and traffic light signalization.

Bethlehem Township (population 20,000) is larger than Hellertown, Lower Saucon and Freemansburg combined. But it was still the big loser. Despite three applications for an ambulance, police cruisers and a traffic signal device - items similar to what were awarded Hellertown and Lower Saucon - it kept rolling snake eyes. Bethlehem Township failed to supply the documentation provided by other municipalities.

Thomas Nolan, Bethlehem Township's voice on the Authority, repeatedly complained that many of the grants being awarded to Hellertown and Lower Saucon are "budgetary line items" and "annual operating expenses." Then, when he attempted to justify a ambulance for Bethlehem Township, Authority Chair Jay Finnigan turned Nolan's argument against him. "Shouldn't that be part of the budget process?" asked Finnigan.

Northampton County also lost out on a $480,000 criminal justice sharing system despite an impassioned plea from Bethlehem Assistant Solicitor Joe Kelly, who argued this would "better arm police officers" and "make the Lehigh Valley a better place."

During a 2 1/2 hour hearing, the nine-member Authority actually rejected ten of the seventeen applications. Kovacs, a tireless advocate for Hellertown, tried very hard to convince Authority members to go along with a new dump truck. Failing, she wisecracked that they'd now need "sled dogs to get to the casino."

Now the Authority has a more daunting task. It must review 57 applications for grants that require no casino impact. "I don't think we can hear 57 applications," warned Authority Chair Finnigan. So they decided to form a three-person subcommittee to "prescreen" requests. Authority Solicitor Scott Allinson advised that this subcommittee need not meet publicly, but Bethlehem's spokesperson - Joe Kelly- recommended that all meetings be conducted in the open.

Authority members also plan to review the criterion by which they rate grant applications. Alicia Karner, who has been collecting the data, advised there is a too wide a discrepancy in the ratings.

The Gaming Authority will meet again on November 22, 5:30 PM, at the Northampton County Courthouse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Boscola: Connolly a "Tax Cheat"


State Senator Lisa Boscola's recent appearance on WAEB with Bobby Gunther Walsh got pretty heated. He probed her about the legislature's inability to enact eaningful property tax reform, h eventually suggesting,"At what point should you step aside because you're no longer effective?You haven't got it done."

Lisa exploded with a slam at her opponent, Matt Connolly. "He's talking to me about property taxes? He didn't pay his. Who are you gonna' vote for, somebody who doesn't pay his taxes? That's not personal responsibility or accountability for your actions? That's what drives me crazy, when these people come and attack you for things you're trying to do, but his version of property tax is not to pay his. Is that what somebody wants in the Senate? I don't think so."

Of all people, it is Connolly who sent me Boscola's audio, along with this explanation. "I would like to proactively address this with you and anyone who cares to listen. I bought a property in 2006 that is now my shop. It needed a lot of work and money has always been tight. in 2008 and 2009 I chose to cover other expenses, like paying my employees, instead of paying the taxes on the due date. Of course I did pay them, but they were late. The state made out since I had to pay interest and penalties. I felt it was better to not disrupt the lives and families of the guys who help me make a living instead of paying the property taxes at the time. I would probably make the same choice in the future, although I would prefer to make more money and not have the choice at all!"

So Who Won Debate at the State -Towne, Callahan or Dent?

Stuck at a gaming meeting in Northampton County, I missed last night's Debate at the State among incumbent Congressman Charlie Dent. Despite a bad cold that is burning a hole in my chest like a hot iron, I really wanted to go. After my meeting ended, I did drive down to a magnificently lit State Theatre, but it was too late for me. So instead of telling you what happened and who won, why don't you tell me? What jumped out at you? Any funny moments? Is it true Joe Owens sang a Dirge for the Phillies?

Governor Chris Christie: Charlie Dent Has Earned Your Vote


I wrote about this last week, and just want to share more of the good chemistry between these guys? Christie Dent 2016?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gracedale Rally Excuse to Campaign For Callahan, Sestak & Dertinger on County Grounds


Gracedale's supposed advocates tried their best to keep me away from an "informational" meeting yesterday afternoon on the County-owned property, refusing to give me any information. Since they were meeting outside on the lawns, they were pretty hard to miss. After watching them in action, I now know why they tried to keep me in the dark. You see, Gracedale was really just a pretext for yesterday's rally. The real purpose was to enable local Dems to engage in blatant partisan political activity on a County campus, especially for John Callahan, Joe Sestak and Charles Dertinger. Let me fill you in.

Northampton County Dem Chair Walt Garvin. Lehigh County Dem Chair Rich Daugherty. Democratic state house candidate Charles Dertinger. Democratic Council members Charles Dertinger and Ann McHale. Campaign workers wearing Onorato, Dertinger & Callahan buttons. An alphabet soup of union people, including people from the "International." This was most of a pitifully small crowd of about fifty or so people yesterday. Despite the beautiful Sunday weather, I only saw one or two honest-to-goodness families. Take away the unions and political hacks, and all you have are about ten people.

Of course, the hacks were all asked to speak. But first, there was a prayer to Jesus by phony preacher Mario Martinez, recited without any regard for an Orthodox Jewish photographer standing right in front of him. Among other things, Fake Rev. Martinez wants Buddy Christ to give him a hand with all the lies being told about him on the Internet.

Maybe Christ will send a thunderbolt up my ass or something.

When it was Dertinger's turn to bray, he gave this nonpartisan rant to the assembled union thugs, who took some time out from knocking over Dent signs (You can see the video here):

"Last year, we faced a horrible, horrible, election cycle. A horrible election cycle because we were taken over by the idea that we could cut our way to fiscal responsibility. As we started cutting services and started cutting away from the budget, things were going to be much better in this County. This is a clear example of just how wrong we were.

"Northampton County Council had gone from a very responsible group of folks worried about the care of those at the early stages of their lives and at the twilights of their lives. And yet now today we're faced with a circumstance where they're just worrying about the bottom line and not telling the truth about the bottom line."

His obvious message? Republicans bad, Democrats good.

Democratic Council members Lamont McClure and Ann McHale shared pearls of wisdom, too, as did union agents Jerry Green and Justus James. Although Ron Angle joined me in crashing the party, he was neither recognized nor was he asked to speak. Wrong party. Wrong views. He's only the Council President.

On my way out, some of the same union thugs from this rally were standing in the middle of County-owned roads on the Gracedale campus. That's the subject of the movie I posted above. They were handing out flyers to people as they left. A woman in a red shirt, who must have recognized me, told me to keep on going. But I wanted to see what they were passing out, figuring it would be a "Save Gracedale" flyer, and another, nicer, woman handed me two flyers.

"This is just to remember to vote on Novemebr 2," she lied.

Of course, the flyers had nothing at all to do with Gracedale, nor were they some gentle reminder of my civic obligation to vote. Instead, they were "John Callahan for Congress" and "Joe Sestak for Senate" endorsements, prepared by Labor2010. (I've since learned this is the AFL-CIO).

As I bounced along the road back into Nazareth, I saw three more union thugs standing inside a County road right by the 911 Center. Being the friendly person that I am, I decided to stop and say Hi.

Once again, people who only moments ago were at a Gracedale rally, were now handing out flyers for John Callahan, Joe Sestak and Charles Dertinger. They were clearly on County grounds, away from the public right of way.

"You're breaking the law," I protested.

"Show me the reason to care," responds union thug.

"Why are you promoting Charles Dertinger's campaign on public property?" I asked.

"You want to explain that to me, sir?" I asked after several moments of silence.

Then another union thug intervened. "I'll explain it to you. You're an ass."

As I left these three union stooges, all they could come up with was that I was driving a "Japanese-made" car, which is apparently evidence that I don't care about the County.

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa told me yesterday afternoon that there is a clear prohibition against political activity on County-owned property. Yeah, I believe it's called the Hatch Act, which does apply on a state and local level.

If these folks want to see Gracedale's federal and state funding well go dry, this is a great start.

Horton Failed to Report Profit on Rhode Island Land Deal

Last week, I posted a story about State Representative candidate Michael Horton, who's running against Justin Simmons in the 131st legislative district, possibly the only state House race that's really in play here in the Lehigh Valley. I am concerned about three tax liens that Horton has managed to accumulate in three different states, although they are all paid. I also wondered how the VP of a Fortune 500 corporation could have a car repossessed back in the '90s. At the suggestion of a reader, I did reach out to Horton for explanations, and he seemed to blame everyone but himself for his problems.

Since that time, Horton has told The Morning Call he's no tax delinquent, even though just last year, he was cited for contempt over unpaid federal income taxes in an admittedly complicated mess with his ex-wife. And on Saturday, his campaign released a statement blasting Simmons.

“"I'’m not surprised that an inexperienced 24-year-old who'’s never owned a home, paid property taxes, or run a business would fail to understand how this system works,"” Horton said of Simmons’ attacks. "“During my years in the Army and in the private sector, I’'ve paid my bills and worked hard to support my family. It is inexcusable for my opponent to attack my record with this false information and these outright lies."”

When he spoke with me, Horton acknowledged that he did convey a Rhode Island investment property in 2005. This property's total assessed value is currently set at $308,600. It also appears that Horton sold the home for twice what he originally paid.

So what's my point?

Every year, Horton must file a Statement of Financial Interests with the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission. As a Constable, and he was a Constable in 2005, he must report "DIRECT OR INDIRECT SOURCES OF INCOME" of $1,300 or more, including capital gains.

Horton's 2005 ethics statement fails to reveal this capital gain, which certainly was in excess of $1,300. Nor do any others.

So does Horton understand how the system works?

Obamanomics v. Reaganomics This Thursday at Lehigh

Lehigh University's College Democrats and Republicans will debate the virtues and vices of Obamanomics and Reaganomcs this Thursday at Packard 101, 7 PM sharp.

I met the Republicans' champion, William Thode, at Pizza Joe's in Nazareth. He's in training.

I gave him a few clever retorts he can try on the Dems, like "Oh yeah?" Also, there should always room for at least one Yomama joke.

The loser will be fed to the University Mascot.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"We, the People" to Exclude Dissenters From Gracedale Meeting

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, himself a former Human Services Director, believes Gracedale must be sold. But he is willing to allow a small group calling itself the Coalition of Altzheimer Families to circulate an initiative petition that will stop any sale. And that's as it should be. Stoffa has apparently even agreed to permit this gang to conduct a public meeting somewhere on its sprawling campus today. But guess what? They have refused to respond my repeated requests, asking them exactly where. Instead, I'm told nobody reads my blog, I'm a liar, etc. So basically, this crew is using public resources to promote its agenda, but is doing its best to exclude other members of the public with different views.

Although nobody eleced them, they like to call themselves "We, the People," and claim to speak for you. Even some lady from Kunkeltown has apparently been Divinely inspired to represent you. This is the same crowd who disrupted Thursday night's meeting with catcalls and vulgarities in front of about forty boy scouts. It's the same gaggle who tried to silence other speakers wth different views. It's the same faction who abused their Sunshine Act rights on Thursday nght to call Angle a liar and bigot.

That's why I call them the Gracedale Goons. Despite their attempts to exclude me, I'm going.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ron Angle, Everyone's Favorite Target


He's an easy target. He brings much of the venom on himself, with his outspoken views and willingness to take on his critics. Sometimes he barks and growls. But the Northampton County Bulldog also happens to be its Council President. Like it or not, he was elected by the Slate Belt to serve them in Northampton County, and was selected by his peers to lead them this year. But there is also a large group of Anglephobes who take every opportunity they can to attack him.

I'm speaking, of course, of Ron Angle. He's my friend. I know he's a bastard who will never run a charm school, but he's my bastard. In addition to reining in County spending, he has proposed that the nursing home be sold. And just the other day, he began spearheading an effort to bring a federal detention center for illegal immigrants (Jenna Portnoy's excellent story is here) into Upper Mount Bethel Township. At a time when we have 10% unemployment, this proposal will generate 350 union construction jobs and 500 detention workers with salaries equivalent to that of police officers.

Despite a public spat with Executive John Stoffa few weeks ago, Angle has worked closely with the Exec as well as other members of Council. And it shows. Instead of a lackluster legislative body, this new group has worked hard this year. At Wednesday's three-person finance committee, for example, eight of nine Council members participated. Council's three newbies - Tom Dietrich, Bruce Gilbert and Barb Thierry - have immersed themselves in County business. Even seasoned veterans like Mike Dowd and John Cusick have become courthouse fixtures. Part of the reason for this is their own dedication. But another reason is Ron Angle, who has been a whirlwind. This week alone, he attended seven different public meetings, to say nothing of private meetings with members of the administration.

As flamboyant and outspoken as Angle can be, that's how measured and cautious Executive John Stoffa has been. Despite the fact that he went to school with Moses, it's not unusual for him to put in 12-hour days. So Angle and Stoffa have been a good combination, and many members of the administration claim more has been accomplished in the last ten months than in Stoffa's entire first term.

But the more Angle accomplishes, the more he is reviled. Yesterday alone, there were fifteen comments on this blog accusing him of everything, from trying to enrich himself to making side deals with a possible Gracedale buyer. Of course, all of these attacks are made anonymously.

Nobody has accused him of cannibalism ... yet.

At Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting, I saw him do something very unusual. He apologized for his public outburst at John Stoffa two weeks before. His apology was just as public as his attack, and was repeated several times. And with a little help from financial wizards like Vic Mazziotti and Doran Hammon, he was able to come up with and propose amendments to next year's budget that will eliminate a tax hike.

None of this means anything to a small group who give themselves the innocuous title "Coalition of Alzheimer's Families." They also like to refer to themselves as "We, the People," and claim to speak for us at meetings, although none of them were elected to speak for anyone in Northampton County. After their disruptive behavior and repeated vilification of Ron Angle at last night's Council meeting, I can only call them the Gracedale Goons.

I've already had my own run-in with their unelected leader, a "Reverend" Mario Martinez, who I met on the very first night they descended en masse to a Council meeting, like a plague of locusts. At that time, he was a dude who looks very much like Pancho Villa, cutting in front of me in the long line to get into the Courthouse. When I told him what he had done, he just laughed at me and the many others who now stood behind him. In subsequent confrontations, this supposed preacher has wagged his finger in my face and has told me, "You're lucky I'm a Man of God."

Donna Barney lives in Kunkeltown, which is not even in this County. But she's another one of the people who speak for us. We're very lucky. On September 16, she went after Angle for a good twelve minutes, even attacking him for his theatrical behavior on Business Matters. "You need to take a good luck at the person sitting at the head of your table," she lectured. She also complained that a Council video "was taken off" the County website. "Food for thought, people. ... Coverups don't work." What had actually happened is that Committee meetings were also being videotaped, and for a brief time, the video was unavailable.

Last night, she decided to speak for us again. This time, she only attacked Angle for eight minutes. She advised that she's filed a complaint with the ACLU, which has Angle's number on their speed dial. And get this. "We seem to be living in a petty dictatorship in the guise of the Chair, who runs these meetings as if it were his personal fiefdom." Oh yeah, in addition to being a dictator, El Anglo is a bigot who doesn't just hate blacks and Jews, but Latinos as well. "Is it possible that because our spokesperson is an American of Latino heritage, that ethnic bias is a problem for the chair, who has a history of making derogatory and discriminatory comments and may feel that he can discriminate with impunity .... ?"

While Barney spewed her venom, the Gracedale Goons were doing their own damage, shouting out catcalls and vulgarities that would make a Teamster blush. It made no difference to them that there were about forty boy scouts in the audience. When I'd turn to film them, they'd laugh and wave. One woman, a Mary Ann Schmoyer of Bath, told me several times to shove my flipcam "up your ass" when I would turn to film her antics. I did catch her once on film, telling me to "stick that up your you know what." I even told Schmoyer that she was using this foul language "right by boyscouts," but she was unfazed.

The boyscouts loved it. I'm sure that over the next few days, they'll be telling parents and friends to stick things up their ass.

Ironically, this is the same group so offended by Angle's use of the phrase "God damn." Am I supposed to believe that these hateful people really care about Gracedale residents?

The Gracedale Goons also interrupted two speakers who support Gracedale's sale last night, shouting out that their time was up. They not only speak for "We, the People," but apparently speak for Angle as well.

This is the mean-spirited group behind the initiative to place the sale of Gracedale on the ballot this Spring. They'll need 19,000 registered voters to sign that petition. And in the unlikely event they do, it will be a phyrric victory because, according to an informative account by The Express Times' Sarah Cassi, Council members may just decide to defund Gracedale completely, leaving the nursing home to rely on the state and federal funding that always comes a day late and a dollar short. Whatever happens, people like Barney and Martinez will continue to demonize Angle and anyone else who stands in their way. In the process, they're making themselves and their cause look pretty bad.

Will Browning Support Cunningham's Budget?

At last night's Northampton County Council meeting, there were several tea party members sitting in the peanut gallery. This is their second appearance in a row, but at Lehigh County Commissioners, they've been attending meetings for several months.

I think that's a good thing.

At most local government meetings, if there is any audience at all, it usually consists of people looking for something. Unions, non-profits and other special interests are very good at twisting arms and squeezing every nickel they can grab from politicians looking for campaign contributions.

The LV Tea Party, often derided as a bunch of right-wing kooks, changes that dynamic. These folks are largely conservative or libertarian, and like any group, they do attract a few nuts. But in my own dealings with them, I have found them to be basically decent people who are concerned about the direction of this country.

The best way to make a difference is not by writing letters to President Obama or calling Rush Limbaugh, but by participating in local government. Stan Bialecki is a local tea party member who has become a Lehigh County regular. He recently wrote an essay, predicting that Commissioners will take the easy way out, voting against Executive Don Cunningham's budget, which will then become law because they'll reject their amended budget as well. It's a political trick enabling politicians to claim they voted against raising taxes. The Morning Call's Bill White, in a column called "Don't be Surprised if They Duck," reaches pretty much the same conclusion.

Below is Stan's essay, followed by a reply from Dean Browning, who chairs the Commissioners.

There's only one problem with Stan's essay. Dean's not ducking.

Stan's Essay

LEHIGH COUNTY 16% TAX INCREASE 10/18/2010

Hi All;

This will be the subject line, for my next post. That will be the result of the Commissioners Meeting on October 27th at 7 pm at 17 West 7th Street in Allentown.

You ask how I know?

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, those "sissy boys" at Lehigh County are lacking the backbone (I'm being nice their all male except Gloria Hamm) to vote for the amended budget.

They would like to campaign saying "I NEVER VOTED FOR A TAX INCREASE". What BULL !!! Do they think we're stupid?? I guess they do. Perhaps they think we will sit on our "A-S" and not attend the meeting, to let them know how we feel. Are they right ??

This is how I expect the vote to go. Hope I'm wrong.

All the democrat's will vote NO.

They have plans to spend the 1.7 mill on other thing, i.e. County Health Department, Regional Crime Center etc. and who knows what else.

Dean Browning (deanbrowning@lehighcounty.org) will vote NO because he is up for re-election next year and wants to say he didn't vote for a TAX increase but, we know better.

Andy Roman (andyroman@lehighcounty.org) will vote NO for the same reason as Dean.

Thomas Creighton (tomcreighton@lehighcounty.org) 856-xxx-xxxx [redacted] will vote NO. This one bothers me, I had thought that he had more courage then this. I guess I'm wrong.

Percy Dougherty (percydougherty@lehighcounty.org) 610-xxx-xxxx Will vote NO just like he did last time. If you remember the young man that caused a disturbance at the forum we had, with the County Commissioners last year. This is why he was so upset with Percy.

The last meeting was for show, they really had no intention of voting for this amended budget.

We only have one Commissioner that has any "courage" and that will be Glenn Eckhart. He will Vote to approve the amended budget.

I need your support on the 27th, if for nothing else, to show them that we are awake and will hold them accountable.

Some people think, I work hard for people I believe in. But I really work hard if you disappoint me.

We made a good showing at the last meeting, lets see if we can do it again.

Tom Muller and the administration, think we pay too little in TAXES now, and should pay more.

Thanks

Stan
spending not revenue is the problem

Dean's Reply:

Stan:

Let’s go through an analysis of the two different budget options and see if there might not be a legitimate difference of opinion on which one is the best option. I think that would be more productive rather than stating that those who would vote against the amended budget are lacking in “courage”. As your group passed a Limited Government Resolution that you want all elected officials to follow, I think that is the appropriate guideline to use for this exercise. As I stated in a previous email, there are two provisions of the Resolution that need to be considered when evaluating the original and the amended budget. They are:

No increase in taxes, and
No “operating deficits”

At this point, the only two options are the original budget and the amended budget, both of which are at varying odds with the two provisions above. So from my standpoint the decision comes down to which option is the best long term fiscal option for the County. To reach a decision on that, let’s look at some of the numbers for each budget option as follows:

Original Budget

Tax increase of 16.1% to 11.9 mils which would generate $106.0 million in revenue for 2011.

Operating deficit of $4.1 million ($110.1 million in expenses less $106.0 million in revenue)

Amended Budget

Tax increase of 12.8% to 11.56 mils which would generate $103.0 million in revenue for 2011.
Operating deficit of $5.8 million ($110.1 million in expenses less $1.3 million in cost reductions* less $103.0 million in revenue)

* Reductions from deferred capital projects ($972,000) and the elimination of the General Services Mgr. ($88,123), 2 Deputies ($107,561) and the Main Street Initiatives ($154,446).

One might look at the numbers above and conclude (as you apparently have done) that it is more desirable to have a csmaller tax increase in 2011, regardless of the increase in the “operating deficit” and the effect that would have for 2012. That is an acceptable position to take. However, I think it is equally legitimate to look at the impact the budget decision we will make next week will have on the budget for 2012. To keep things simple and assume there is no change in spending or revenue for 2012, the original budget would lead us to a budget for 2012 with the same $4.1 million operating deficit. Clearly that would have to be filled to avoid another tax increase. Based on the options available to us this year, filling that gap would be a difficult, but not impossible task for the 2012 budget. However, if you make the same assumptions with the amended budget we would be facing an operating deficit of $7.7** million for 2012. Closing that gap would be much more difficult and would greatly complicate the ability to avoid another tax increase in 2012.

** $110.1 million less $.35 million (recurring reductions) plus $.972 million (capital projects that were deferred) less $103.0 million in revenue.

So, in my opinion, it comes down to whether there is a policy preference for a smaller tax increase in 2011 (12.8% instead of 16.1%) followed by an additional one in 2012 (of approximately 6% to 7%) vs. a policy preference for the original increase in 2011 followed by a stable rate for 2012.

Your choice is for the former and my choice is for the latter. And, by the way, whether someone chooses one or the other has nothing to do with “courage”.

Thanks,

Dean

Tea Party With State House & Senate Candidates Tonight!

I've told you that the Lehigh Valley Project 9/12 - Tea Party Group, will host a "Meet the Candidates" forum tonight at the Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township, beginning at 7:00 p.m. (Map here).

Here's an updated list on those who've committed and those who are unable to attend.

Will attend:

Pat Browne (R) – State Senate 16th District
Richard Orloski (D) - State Senate 16th District

Matt Connolloy (R) - State Senate 18th District

Bob Mensch (R) - State Senate 24th District

Justin Simmons (R) – General Assembly 131st District

Dave Molony (R) – General Assembly 133rd District

Joe Emrick (R) - General Assembly 137th District
Charles Dertinger (D) - General Assembly 137th District

Rex D'Agostino (G) - General Assembly 183rd District

Unable to Attend

Bill Wallace (D) - State Senate 24th District

Jennifer Mann (D) - General Assembly 132nd District

Ron Shegda (R) - General Assembly 136th District

Robert Freeman (D) - General Assembly 136th District
Updated 12:50 PM: State Senator Lisa Boscola has now agreed to come tonight, according to t a Tea Party commenter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bethlehem Zoners Nix Atiyeh's Luxury Apartments Proposal

Despite a parade of five witnesses and 26 exhibits over two lengthy nights of testimony, Bethlehem zoners on October 20 rejected Abe Atiyeh's request for a 102-unit "luxury" apartment complex on five acres located at the corner of Center Street & Dewberry Avenue. Immediately following a 2-1 vote in Bethlehem Library's Conference Room, an audience of about 25 opponents burst into applause. Allentown Attorney Bill Malkames, who represents Atiyeh, stated that his client will likely appeal.

At one point, Chairman Gus Loupos called for a brief recess, but warned everyone to be back quickly. "It's Mr. Malkames' anniversary, and he has to get home to his wife."

"He created his own hardship," wisecracked Bethlehem resident Greg Zebrowski, a former Northampton County Councilman.

As it turned out, that was the central issue in this zoning appeal. Atiyeh had originally proposed intended to build an assisted living facility at the site, but was unable to spark enough interest to get financing. "I'm extremely embarrassed that this is a failed project," Atiyeh stated during the first night of testimony. His proposed apartment complex, located in an area zoned institutional, requires a use variance.

But numerous neighbors, from Carver House VP Terry Beidleman to Mike Polay, were worried that the increased traffic would ruin their neighborhood. They scoffed at testimony from PE David Hart, who insisted that traffic from this apartment complex would be no greater than the traffic from an assisted living center.

They were worried that Atiyeh, if unsuccessful, would walk away from the project. "We don'twant to be stuck with another slum," warned Frank Kovacs.

Englishman Mark Blomfeld, who has lived in the states for seven years, told zoners Bethlehem is the best of the cities in which he's lived. "I feel very lucky and fortunate and proud to live where I live and to have the neighbors I have. This is not the neighborhood I moved into. ... We're being asked to take it on the chin because a previous business idea isn't quite what [Atiyeh] wants it to be."

Attorney Malkames argued, "Every property has to have a viable use," and a lack of meaningful uses created a hardship that cold only be cured by a variance permitting an apartment complex. Zoners Gus Loupos and Bill Fitzpatrick, voting to reject the variance, disageed. Board member Ken Kraft cast his vote with Atiyeh.