At a 6 PM news conference outside Bethlehem City Hall last night, three Republican City Council candidates lambasted Mayor John Callahan for "private" meetings with Council members to discuss problems with its 19 private trash haulers. According to one city official, there have been 1,300 complaints. Callahan has told The Express Times, "We know we have a problem and we're going to try to sit down with city council on it."
Before the news conference ever started, there was already a reaction from City Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni. In addition to decorating his office's front lawn with a J. William Reynolds campaign sign, he yesterday fired an angry email to Republican candidates Al Bernotas, Tom Carroll, and Tony Simao. In it, he denies these private meetings are Sunshine Act violations.
Here's my question. If you know you have a problem with private trash haulers, wouldn't it make just a little more sense to sit down with them than with Council members? Callahan's explanation sounds like garbage. If there have been over a thousand complaints, why did Joe Kelly refuse to release any of them to Al Bernotas? Why did he instead tell Bernotas to file a Right-to-Know request, using that law as a shield to deny information, instead of providing it?
All three candidates spoke during yesterday's news conference, as about fifteen onlookers shivered in the cold evening air. Here's some of what Tom Carroll had to say.
"This is a City that this administration has brought to over $300 million in debt. This is a City that has over $12 million in running deficits over the last several years. This is a City that had an EMS building that was falling apart, and they borrowed an additional $6 million last Fall for the purpose of fixing that EMS building, didn't fix it, and then raised our taxes 6 percent. This is a City that couldn't even make its first payroll of the new year. And then, with all these other pressing problems, he wants to meet, one-on-one, with the individual members of Council to talk about contract hauling.
"Did he meet with the haulers individually? No. These are businessmen in our City, who make a living and pay their taxes, and he wants to take away our right as citizens to contract with our own individual haulers and he wants to put these people out of business while at the same time, grabbing whatever money he can in that process because he has so fiscally mismanaged this City.
"We give credit to the two Council members that [sic] currently serve on this Council, who refused to meet with the Mayor, David DiGiacinto and Jean Belinski. We do ask that all of the other Council members refuse to meet with him privately, one-on-one, about an issue that has been ongoing for many years. And instead, encourage the administration to talk with the contract haulers, the private haulers, about this issue."
Private hauler Andy Prickler (Andy's Hauling) was at yesterday's news conference, and stated he's asked repeatedly to see these thousands of complaints over the past two years. They are never furnished.
Q. Do you think that the Mayor is looking at this as a way if enhancing revenue for the City?
Pricker: "Absolutely. Absolutely. We make a profit now so why wouldn't he like to take it over and make a profit?
Q. So is that what you think the motive is?
Prickler: "I believe so, yes. I still haven't seen the complaints and I said before and I'll say it again. We've asked for ... to see these complaints for over two years now. Every year, it's a thousand complaints. Here's another question to answer. Why is it the City of Bethlehem that always has this trash issue? Why is that? You don't hear any problems from Lower Saucon. You don't hear any problems from Bethlehem Township. You don't hear any problems from Bushkill Township, Lower Nazareth. These municipalities are all independently contracted haulers that are serving these communities and we don't have no problems with them so why does the City, Bethlehem, seem to always have a problem with the independent system that we have?"
Q. What was your name, sir?
Prickler: "Andy Prickler."
Q. How do you spell it?
Q. You're a little prickler.
Prickler: "Yeah. Andy's Hauling and Waste Disposal."