Thursday, June 30, 2011

Civil Rights Law or LGBT Pandering Act?

Bethlehem's "Civil Rights Law" will be adopted again this Friday in Bethlehem. City Council wants more applause this time.

My Patch column about it, in which I talk about gerbils crawling around my ass and question the need, ignited one hell of a shitstorm.

Jon Geeting:

"The equation of homosexuality with bestiality here is beyond the pale. This is the sort of thing I'd expect to hear from somebody who has only ever heard about gay people on Howard Stern."

That must be where I got the idea.
Daryl Nerl:

"Bernie, I think your interpretation of what the Human Relations Commission can do is overly broad and, dare I say, borders on fear-mongering."

Who the hell says, "dare I say?" Seriously.

Christopher Cocca:

"Jon, thanks for such a thoughtful, measured, and clear response."

And boring, too.

At Keystone Pravda, I'm no better than Rick Santorum, and might even be a "true bigot."

phillydem

"Why does anyone even bother with Bernie O’Hare? He proved long ago he’s little more than a cranky windbag with a blog."

Another fan.

Julieann Wozniak

"Islam and homophobia are the last socially acceptable refuges for douchebags and bigots. They can’t credibly strut around with their arms in the air bellowing 'white power!' so we get this."

Yep, I just burned a few crosses last night.

Actually, my brother Mike (pictured above) is the real bigot. He goes to church twice a week and has some goofy religious scruples about homosexuality. He was called a "knuckledragger" for expressing his honest religious convictions.

I have no religious scruples against homosexuality. My main objection is that the law is both unnecessary and will fail in Court.

Here's why it will be enacted ... again. The LGBT crowd not only vote, but are havy campaign contributors. Johnny Casino is going to need all the help he can get in his next bid for office, be it local or federal.

But do you think that Bethlehem officials really give a shit about the LGBT community? If they did, they would have authorized benefits for same sex partners.

It's all about the votes. Take it from an almost true bigot.

Stone Farmhouse or Applebutter Village?

Should a historic stone farmhouse be shoved out of the way for a mobile home park? Yesterday, I told you that landfills, sewage treatment plants and trailer parks tend to go hand in hand. The Eddie Smith Trailer Park, located in Exeter Township, went a little further. It was actually built on top of an abandoned landfill.

Would you like this?














Or this?

Little League World Series Competition Underway

It's that time of year. School's out, and for most 11 and 12 year-olds, it's time to relax at the pool or beach. But some families have put off their vacations while their boys spend hot afternoons dodging giant gnats and other critters that thrive on baseball fields at this time of year. As beads of sweat roll from their foreheads, they wear a hat to keep the sun out of their eyes. Instead of swimming trunks and flip flops, their uniform is long pants and cleats. Instead of diving into an inviting pool of water, they slide in a cloud of dust. At the hottest time of year, their hands are covered by batting or fielding gloves. And one of them, thankfully just one, must wear a suit of armor to fend off wild pitches.

Why do these kids torture themselves? Because the 65th Little League World Series is underway, and on August 28, one will emerge as this year's champion.

My grandson plays for Northwest Bethlehem, one of the fifteen leagues in District 20. It's double elimination, and that's a good thing because they lost their first game to Pennridge, 5-4. Last night's 12-1 drubbing of Bethlehem's Southside was a different story, and included a grand slam by Alex Laudenslager.

Northwest's big rival is Lehigh Little League. Most of those kids go to school and play in other sports together. They even combine forces for a traveling team. But at this time of the year, they duke it out. Lehigh usually comes out on top.

But just like Northwest, Lehigh fell to Pennridge, 8-0. That's really no surprise. Pennridge is last year's district champ.

Like Northwest, Lehigh made up for that loss by punishing and eliminating Hellertown last night, 18-5.

Friday, Northwest will face Northcentral Bethlehem's Bombers. Lehigh will be up against the combined resources of Fountain Hill and East side Allentown.

Will Lehigh and Northwest meet? If they continue to win.

In the meantime, Pennridge is off until July 9.

The District 20 champ will go on to Sectionals. From there, it is state, region and then the World Series.

Could it be a team from the Lehigh Valley? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Historic Preservation Plan Headed to Bethlehem City Council

Darlene Heller's Planning Department did more last year than work on a new zoning ordinance. In addition, she used a real estate consulting firm, two community forums, a blog, and even a youth survey, to come up with a historic preservation plan. It was finally presented on June 28 to Bethlehem City Council's Community Development Committee, with about 35 preservationists in the audience.

The plan identifies 121 properties, located in 4 different "tiers," for some kind of protection. Real estate consultants Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC were the actual authors of this study, and were paid with grants that Bethlehem has received as a "Preserve America Community."

Examples of properties considered preservation-worthy include the Bethlehem Silk Mill (Tier 1), Old Brewery Tavern (Tier 2), Rothrock Apple Farm (Tier 3) and Bethlehem Steel properties like the blast furnaces (Tier 4).

Karen Dolan, who chairs the Committee, objected to classification in different tiers because it creates the false impression of some kind of pyramidal hierarchy. Her sentiments were echoed by Council member Dave DiGiacinto and President Bob Donchez. An English teacher at Liberty High School, Dolan was also unable to resist the temptation to remove some of the verbiage in the study.

With these changes, the plan was unanimously recommended to the full Council.

But to some, it's not enough. "Too little, too late," stated Mary Pongracz, who complained about the demolition of an 1861 Victorian home on the south side for a church parking lot. "I have yet to see God drive a car," she wisecracked, as Council members and the audience chuckled.

More seriously, Tom Carroll complained that "Council really needs to get an ordinance on the books to prevent the disaster of another Broughal."

Dolan assured Carroll, "This is not going to sit on a shelf."

Council member Gordon Mowrer, who was Mayor when Bethlehem began to promote historic preservation, stated other cities now follow Bethlehem's lead. "Part of the uniqueness of Bethlehem is its history," he said.

But resident Bill Scheier countered, "We should not pat ourselves on the back too much. ... We need a demolition ordinance," referring to the stone farmhouse slated for demolition on Applebutter Road.

Council member Jean Belinski has called for a demolition ordinance since 2007, when it became apparent that Broughal Middle School would be torn down.

Why Applebutter Village Should Be Viewed With Caution

In my post about Applebutter Village yesterday, I was less than enthusiastic about the idea of ripping down an old stone farm house. And I admit, I am suspicious of trailer parks, even if they are fancier manufactured homes on slabs of concrete.

Landfills, sewage treatment plants, and trailer parks (or you can call them manufactured home villages) go together. Check out the sewage treatment plant on 611 south of Easton. What's nearby? Better yet, go to Exeter Township in Berks County (just north of Birdsboro and the Schuylkill River). There, someone actually built a trailer park ON TOP OF an abandoned landfill! It was called Eddie Smith Trailer Park and the DEP closed it down about 10 years ago because the high levels of methane gas seeping into the trailers were creating a severe health and safety hazard.

Applebutter Village may not sit on top of an abandoned landfill, but the land where it is located is scheduled to be downzoned in the new zoning ordinance.

There is a suspicion in some quarters that these plans were submitted in advance of the new ordinance so that the higher density development would be grandfathered in under the existing zoning ordinance.

The developer has, so far, been very uncooperative in addressing numerous issues with their site plan. Could it be that he simply wants to "mark" the property for higher density zoning without having to spend any real money on the site plan.

That's probably why, at Monday's Planning Commission meeting, planners insisted that a new plan be submitted by July 14. It's probably why they insist that the developer also address, line by line, the three pages of issues the Planning Department has with the current plan.

That will give the Planning Department 5 weeks (until the August 18 Planning Commission meeting) to establish whether the developer has adequately addressed the existing concerns, and give the developer time to address any remaining outstanding issues in the new plan.

"Fun at Franklin" This Saturday.


Kingdom Life Family Center is trying to make a difference in inner-city Allentown, and who can't be happy about 200 bags of groceries and 500 articles of clothing? It's Saturday, from noon to 9PM, at Franklin Park (14th & Turner Sts, Allentown):

"My name is Angelo “LARO” Maldonado, I represent Kingdom Life Family Center in Orefield, PA as well as Takeover Ministries. Our Mission and desire is to change lives in the inner city of Allentown and Other Inner cities by offering alternative options to the music they listen to in The Form Of Christian Rap, RnB and Other Urban Music. We Are also Planning to Start an FM Gospel Urban Radio Station In The Lehigh Valley & Surrounding Area’s.

"These Kid’s and Young adult’s Need Positive Influences We are Here to Offer That. Poverty, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, Drug Abuse and Gang violence, These are Some Of the Issue’s We See In The Inner Cities Of Allentown, Easton, Reading etc, We want To Change all of That. With Our First Outreach Titled “Fun at Franklin” On July 2nd 2011, We are Focusing on The Park’s In Allentown’s Inner City, We Have Over 200 Bag’s Of Grocery’s, Over 500 pieces Of Clothing, Shoes & sneakers For Babies to Adults.

"We Will Also Have a Rig Set Up With BBQ Pits and We Will Be Giving Out Over 1500 Hot dog’s & Drink’s all donated from Various Companies In The lehigh valley to the Community For Free. We will also Have Table’s With Info On HIV, Childhood & Teen Obesity, Depression, etc. We will have Experienced Counselors On Hand Ready For just about any situation, Prepared to offer a Way Out. This Is an outreach Like NO OTHER! We Would Be Honored To Have You all Participate and Spread The word About This Movement.

"We Need all The help we Can get. We Are also Very Proud To Announce Allentown City Councilman Mike Schlossberg will Be a Guest Speaker at “Fun at Franklin”. When he Heard Our Passion For The Inner City He Jumped Right On Board and We are extremely grateful. I thank You For taking the Time to Read My email and Forgive Me, this Is The First Time I am Addressing The Media, But I’m sure I’ll Pick up quick ....Sincerely Yours, Angelo “LARO” Maldonado"

Otter Drops Att'y Fee Claim Against Stoffa, Conklin

WFMZ-TV69 reporter Bold Koldcrow did a hatchet piece on me back in March, questioning whether I am a criminal. I could have told him I'm no good. Everybody knows that. I'm a bottom-feeding blogger, and that alone must violate at least 20 different statutes, as well as Bethlehem's new Civil Rights law.

How did I break the law this time? Eckert Seamans, the law firm hired to help Northampton County sell Gracedale, was secretly behind my lawsuit challenging the number of valid signatures for a referendum on Gracedale's sale. We were all part of a vast conspiracy. Union lawyer Larry Otter blabbed he was reporting me to the DA, AG, FBI, IRS, DEA, ATF and League of Women Voters.

He wanted a grand jury investigation, too.

This was just like Bonusgate, damn it!

In April, I was on WFMZ's most wanted list again. Once again, the Otter swam up and accused us all of acting criminally and wanted an investigation by the DA, AG, etc.

The newspapers joined in the fun, too. All told, there are about 7 stories in the local papers, WFMZ and even Patch. I write for Patch as a columnist from time to time, so they already know I'm a crook. Come to think of it, so do the newspapers. Online readers had their pitchforks and torches out, ready to string me up.

But Otter had no interest in vigilante justice. What he was really wanted was money. And the unions wanted to the Sell-Gracedale crowd in the days leading up to a vote.

Now Otter's motions for attorney fees had already been denied twice, but he filed a new one in April, demanding a gazillion dollars. Then in early May, he amended that motion to add Executive John Stoffa and Director of Administration John Conklin as targets. Accused of personal misconduct, they both had to retain private counsel.

It took practically no time at all for Stoffa and Conklin's lawyers to file preliminary objections to Otter's frivolous demand for money. Judge Baratta scheduled an argument, but guess what? Otter decided to get around that with a second amended motion for attorney fees.

The preliminary objections were simply renewed, and argument was scheduled again for this Friday.

The Otter has blinked.

In a letter to Judge Baratta on Monday, Otter now claims his motion against Stoffa and Conklin is a "bit premature" and he is withdrawing his "Second Amended Motion for Surcharge."

So much for Bonusgate.

Now don't you worry. He's still pursuing his claim against me for the "unauthorized practice of law." Apparently, while Eckert Seamans was secretly representing me, I was super secretly representing the County.

Otter tells the judge he's available for a hearing in August or September.

Funny thing. I filed preliminary objections, too, and am ready to go this Friday.

I got Otter's letter on Tuesday, but found out about it on Monday, the date it was sent. That's another interesting story. I was speaking to Barron von Footinmouth's Solicitor, Tim Brennan, about subpoenaing records I had sought from the Controller under the RTKL.

Brennan blurted out, "Well, Otter dropped the case today."

"How do you know that?"

Awkward silence.

It's very obvious that these guys are all acting hand in hand and the Controller has allowed his office to be politicized.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Will Stone Farmhouse Make Way For a Bethlehem Trailer Park?

Bethlehem has never has a mobile home park, but that's exactly what's being proposed at the 100 block of Applebutter Road. Called Applebutter Village, developer Chris Zajacek has proposed 59 units on an 11.8 acre tract. Most of these homes will be crowded on the western side of the tract because the eastern side is obstructed by a PPL power line. But what concerns most people about this development is a 5-window wide stone farmhouse at the front of the tract, built in the 1830s, that will have to be demolished or moved.

At their June 27 meeting, Bethlehem resident Bill Scheirer told the Planning Commission that "every stone house adds to the ambiance of the area and makes it more attractive to the people." He urged the developer to find some way to save the home.

Assistant Planning Director Tracy Samuelson recommended rejecting the plan outright, noting that developers had failed to meet with them to discuss deficiencies in the plan, including units stacked too closely together, which could create a domino effect if a fire broke out. She also objected to narrow streets.

Planning Director Darlene Heller noted that, in a tract of this size, there should be more recreation available than a single basketball court.

But the main concern was that "historically significant farmhouse," slated for demolition.

Attorney James Preston, who was just retained that very day, was able to persuade planners to grant an extension of their consideration until August, but it was conditioned on submission of a new plan by July 14, as well as a point-by-point response to the Planning Department's concerns. Those were memorialized in a three-page letter dated June 3, and described by Planner Steven Thode as "one of the longest letters I've seen in some time."

Eugene Novak, who lives next to the property, questioned the impact this trailer park will have on traffic. "It is very difficult to get out from Applebutter Road to Shimersville Road and Hellertown Road," he complained, adding that his home has been ht by traffic three times in this year alone.

Thode recommended that Preston meet with the neighbors and "get everyone talking."

In other business, Planners approved minor changes to the plan for Bethlehem Silk mill, located at 238 W Goepp Street. Architect Eugene Berg reviewed plans for 17 studios, 36 one-bedroom and 36 two-bedroom units.

They also approved two roof signs at PBS, for 560 sq. ft, amounting to just 2.6% of the roof. Planning Chairman James Fiorentino thought the signs might be for zeppelins, but Thode stated they were for Russian spy satellites.

Bids High For Bethlehem's New EMS Center

Last year, City Council approved a $6 million line of credit for a new EMS facility and other projects. But when administrators diverted the money to pay for employee benefits, City Council was forced to impose a 5.3% tax hike. This time, the estimated $1 million in proceeds was restricted to replacing the City's aging EMS facility and purchasing a new fire pumper.

But when Council's Finance Committee met on June 27, they learned that neither project has been started. A matching grant for a new firetruck has fizzled, which will mean at least one year's delay. But what about the new EMS facility on Illicks Mill Road?

Each of the City's seven ambulances carries temperature-sensitive drugs and should be stored indoors, but there are only three bays at the aging Stefko facility. In January, when Parks and Public Property Director Ralph Carp unveiled plans for the Illicks Mill Road EMS center, they included five bays that could store up to ten ambulances. Carp estimated that it would be done by Fall.

It has not even started.

According to Carp, technical specs were assembled in January and February. In March, bids were solicited, but they came back high. So he rebid the project, but they came back high again, in excess of the money allocated. But Carp is unwilling to downsize the 12,000 sq. ft. facility, explaining he wants something that will serve City residents for the next 15-20 years. He indicated construction costs are at $120 per square foot, compared to an average of $170-200 per square foot. "I think we can make it," he said. "It's a question of how close we can get to the number we need to be."

Council member Dave DiGiacinto suggested taking the $250,000 dedicated for a new firetruck, and reallocating that to the EMS center, so long as it is clear there is no way a new pumper can be bought this year.

Chairman J. Willie Reynolds suggested that the Finance Committee revisit this matter, but was a little more concerned about a recommendation from the City's independent auditor that a separate account be created for these restricted tax proceeds. "We don't care," was Business Administrator Dennis Reichard's response, suggesting that City Council might want to create an account under their own control.

He didn't have to say it twice. Dave DiGiacinto recommended the creation of a separate City Council account for these restricted funds, as well as excess casino funds. His motion passed unanimously, and will move to City Council.

In other business, water and sewer resources director David Brong presented plans for $9.4 million in upgrades to the sewage treatment facility, which was built in 1953. Brong explained that in January and February, the system is unable to pump. He added that the City's capacity is dwindling. "We gotta' get on this or it will retard development," he added.

In addition to increasing capacity, renovations will increase the production of methane gas and reduce the production of biosolids.

Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority is considering a low-interest loan, and is expected to make a decision in July. Brong asked for a nonbinding "show of support," and he got it. The Finance Committee agreed unanimously to recommend this application to Council.

In addition, Reynolds complimented Brong and his staff for their hard work and dedication.

Bring told DiGiacinto that, if financing is approved, renovations will take between 18 and 24 months. The $304,000 annual cost to the City will be borne by ratepayers, not taxes.

Controller Meg Holland attended Council's Finance Committee hearing.

Bethlehem City Council Finance Committee Says No to Bach

Despite a personal appeal by Bach Choir Executive Director Bridget George, Bethlehem City Council's Finance Committee on June 27 unanimously rejected a Mayor John Callahan request that taxpayers fund $5,000 of the $65,000 cost to travel to New York City and perform on 9/11.

Bethlehem's 2011 budget eliminates fifty positions. This includes 3 police officers, 2 firemen and 1.5 housing inspectors. Taxes increased 0.75 mils to pay for a new EMS center after administrators diverted money borrowed for that project to cover operating expenses. Police officers are currently seeking private donations to cover the $12,000 cost and training of a K-9 dog to replace Madjo, a 13-year veteran. Under these circumstances, City Council members were unable to justify the $5,000 expense.

Business Administrator Dennis Reichard urged approval, arguing that $5,000 was just 7.7% of the budget.

Conceding that "we are certainly lucky to have the Bach Choir," Finance Chair J. Willie Reynolds nevertheless opposed the grant. "I don't think it's the right time for the City to be spending this $5,000." Reynolds' comments were echoed by Dave DiGiacinto, Eric Evans and Council President Bob Donchez.

You Can Be a Bethlehem Bigot Until Friday

As I suggested yesterday, Bethlehem City Council screwed up and forgot to vote on one of the amendments to its amazing new civil rights law, which will eliminate discrimination forever. So now official they'll convene a Special Meeting this Friday at 5 PM.

So if you don't like the way someone looks and want to fire him, you have until Friday. After that, Bethlehem will suddenly become enlightened, just like Allentown.

One local businessman is already making changes. Bethlehem Escorts' proprietor "Razor Blade" Cosimo tells me he's already diversifying. "I'm hiring a few Asians and Puerto Ricans, capish? And who doesn't like lesbians? But "absolutely nobody from Jersey. The last woman I dated from that hell hole took everything I had."

Mayor John Callahan is expected to award Cosimo with a certificate of achievement for his commitment to diversity.

Monday, June 27, 2011

NorCo Controller Stonewalls RTKL Request

May 23, 2011: I file a Right to Know Law request with Controller Steve Barron, asking for copies of all correspondence, including emails, concerning unions, Gracedale and his latest crusade over asbestos. Although he is an independently elected official, he has no designated RTKL officer, nor is one identified on the County web page, as required by law.

May 26, 2011: Barron von Footinmouth's Solicitor, Tim Brennan, writes to tell me he is the open records officer. He immediately invokes the 30-day extension permitted by law.

June 24, 2011, 7:36 PM: Barronn refuses to produce the following:

- A 2/10 email from Barron to Gracedale Initiative Committee lawyer Larry Otter, in which Barron spills his guts and gives expert opinions and everything.

- A 3/7 email exchange between Barron and his Solicitor concerning the legal bills for Gracedale.

- A 3/31 email exchange between Barron and Council member Lamont McClure concerning their Gracedale strategy, and in which Barron apparently leaks information from his office.

- A 4/15 email exchange involving Barron, McClure, Gracedale lawyer Larry Otter and Solicitor Tim Brennan, concerning their Gracedale strategy, in which more information is leaked.

- A 4/16 continuation of the email exchange involving Barron, McClure and Otter, in which Barron is now leaking worse than my Jeep's gas tank.

- A 5/5 email exchange with Gracedale lawyer Larry Otter, in which Barron is apparently leaking his own investigation.

- He refuses to produce his email exchanges with union officials, County Council members as well as members of the Gracedale initiative committee. He claims they are really just mass emails. So what? I see no exception for that in the RTKL.

Barron does supply me with a few little juicy tidbits, here and there. It's pretty clearly that County Council President John Cusick and member Tom Dietrich were intent on embarrassing Ron Angle, and attempted to recruit Barron to come to a Dietrich committee and mouth off about Angle when he was absent.

Naturally, I intend to appeal this to the Office of Open Records. Also, since some of this information is discoverable and the Gracedale suit is still open, I'll just subpoena the email exchanges specific to Gracedale.

Maybe that's what I should have done in the first place.

Callahan Priorities: $5,000 For Bach Choir, $0 for K-9

Let's see. Bethlehem has eliminated fifty positions in this year's budget. It's down 3 police officers, 2 firemen and 1 1/2 housing inspectors.

I don't know which half of a housing inspector was kept, so don't ask.

The Christmas City delayed a raise for most of its professional staff until July. Ho. Ho. Ho. Best of all, City Council increased taxes by 0.75 mil for a new EMS center because Johnny Casino blew the money borrowed for that project on something else.

Seven months later, a spade has yet to hit the ground.

Bethlehem police officers are panhandling right now, trying to pick up the $12,000 needed to purchase and train a new K9 dog to replace poor Madjo, a 13 year-old veteran.

Ruh roh.

Sounds like a City in financial distress, right? In spite of all this, Mayor John Callahan wants $5,000 for the $65,000 it will cost the 100-person Bethlehem Bach Choir to travel to the Big Apple and perform at the next commemoration of 9/11.

After all, 100 foo foos mean a lot more at election time than 1 K-9 dog who probably voted for Congressman Charlie Dent.

Now the Bach Choir might do a better job fundraising than they do in concert. They have guarantors ($125), associate guarantors ($50), an annual fund drive, a "Heritage Society" for endowments of $5,000 or more, as well as a "lifetime guarantee" of priority seating for $25,000. They provide great performances, to be sure, but do an even better job raising money.

A K-9 dog has no professional fundraiser. Madjo just saved lives.

So here's an idea. Let the Bach Choir raise its money from the private sector. It should not be up to the citizens, many of whom are victims of unemployment, to support this bus trip.

Bethlehem City Council's Finance Committee will review Callahan's $5,000 request tonight.
Updated 11:22 AM: To contribute to Bethlehem's K9, you can call Officer Jason Ebert at 610-865-7187 or email jebert@bethlehem-pa.gov

Bethlehem's Move to Big Brother Government

My brother Mike was one of about three people on the entire frickin' planet with reservations about Bethlehem's brand new anti-discrimination ordinance, which passed unanimously last week.

It was nice to see another O'Hare make an idiot out of himself in the newspapers.

Unfortunately, I spoke to my brother last week. Now there are four people who think that ordinance is silly. It is unworkable, creates another layer of government we don't need, and amazingly creates a class (religious nuts) who are still allowed to discriminate.

Despite its passage, there's still prejudice and bigotry all over Bethlehem because City Council screwed it up. I'm hearing little rumors that they'll do it over, possibly on Friday. After that happens, Saint Liberace is supposed to descend from the heavens and give Johnny Casino a little peck.

It also creates a thought police force, which will subpoena your ass to ensure that all your thoughts are politically correct.

Big Brother government has taken a giant step forward in Bethlehem.

You can read more of my objections at Patch. Updated 11:30 AM - An anonymous commenter reports that City Council will meet on Friday, 5 PM, to correct its boo boo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dent Slams Obama Over Depletion of Strategic Oil Reserve

"The spice must flow."

Anybody who has read the Dune novel series is familiar with that mantra, a mysterious yet intoxicating substance needed by the Spacing Guild that could only be found on the desert planet Arrakis.

President Obama has decreed that he oil must flow, and is releasing 30 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The President claims that military maneuvers in Libya have disrupted supply, but oil prices have been going down at the pump.

So what's the emergency?

Simple. Summer hours. It's vacation time and Obama is hesitant to piss off voters.

LV Congressman Charlie Dent blasts away at this obvious political stunt, in a statement issued late yesterday.

“President Obama’s decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an ill-advised maneuver designed to convince the American people his administration has a plan to address today’s high energy costs, which are undoubtedly hindering our economic recovery. Time and time again the Obama Administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to divert public attention away from its persistent opposition to the production of American energy resources.

“Rather than supporting the development of vast North American resources as a means to achieve greater price stability and get thousands of Americans back to work, this administration has pleaded with OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia to increase output, proposed punitive and counter-productive tax increases on American energy producers, blocked the importation of oil from Canada, committed $2 billion in financial backing for Brazil to enhance its production, and is now tapping into reserves created to supply the country with oil during national emergencies.

“While the President is using supply disruptions in the Middle East to justify the release of our emergency reserves, he remains responsible for prolonged supply disruptions here at home. Surely, today’s announcement is a tacit admission that boosting domestic supplies will help stabilize prices. The time has come for President Obama to realize the United States has the ability to exert even greater control over prices by simply enhancing the development of abundant North American resources. Not only will expanded production provide relief at the pump for American consumers, it will create innumerable jobs for American workers.”

Ten Congressmen Launch Bipartisan Effort to Save Delaware River Basin Delaware

According to Patch, the Delaware River is Pennsylvania's 2011 River of the year. A bipartisan group of ten Congressmen are doing their best to make sure your grandchildren can enjoy it, too.

From the Office of Congressman John Carney (D-Del.), 6/23: - A bipartisan group of ten U.S. Representatives from Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania introduced legislation today to enhance habitat, water quality and flood control improvements for fish, wildlife and people in the Delaware River Basin. The legislation requires the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration and conservation activities in the entire Basin, which is home to eight million people and provides drinking water to 15 million.

Rep. John Carney (D-DE), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) proposed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2011, which will not add to the current budget deficit. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will use their existing budget to implement the requirements of the legislation.

The legislation is focused on optimizing collaboration and increasing resources and local capacity for on-the-ground and community-based projects. The legislation would enable communities and citizen groups to lead the way in addressing local watershed priorities.

“This program will improve coordination between government, private, and non-profit entities and focus our efforts on the most effective projects. The grants will be competitive and peer reviewed, ensuring we are being good stewards of the Delaware River Basin and taxpayer dollars alike,” said Representative John Carney (DE-AL). “I am honored to carry on this effort, which my predecessor, Mike Castle, championed.”

“The Delaware River is the longest free-flowing river in the eastern United States, spanning from its headwaters in the Catskills of New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Yet the federal government has never had a comprehensive strategy addressing conservation, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat protection,” said Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12). “The six million people who make their home along the River deserve the coordinated effort that this legislation would establish.”

"We need a comprehensive strategy to provide for conservation in the Delaware River Basin," said Representative Maurice Hinchey (NY-22). "The Basin is already a source of drinking water, recreation and prosperity for millions of people, and this legislation will help to ensure it remains that way."

“The Delaware River Basin is not only an environmental treasure, but an economic engine for our region,” said Representative Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02). “Supporting countless maritime, agricultural and recreational jobs, this legislation will ensure the watershed is protected going forward. I applaud this bipartisan legislation and the environmental partners, including the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, who tirelessly work to ensure the health of the Delaware River Basin.”

“A regional coordinated effort in the Delaware River Basin will ensure that our natural resources and our communities are protected,” said Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08). “Through this legislation we will be able to better manage and mitigate flooding that occurs all too frequently along the Delaware River.”

“A healthy Delaware watershed is critically important to the people of my District, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and our entire region,” said Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15). “Developing a coordinated federal strategy for protecting and restoring the watershed will benefit communities across our region by improving water quality, enhancing recreational opportunities and strengthening flood prevention and mitigation.”

“The Delaware River watershed is a regional treasure that provides economic opportunity and recreational activities,” said Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13). “It’s time we get smarter about coordinating efforts to protect the river basin’s environment. This legislation does just that. Without any additional mandates or regulations, interested parties will be able to work together throughout the entire basin and do so with the support of federal assistance.”

“Protecting the Delaware River Basin is very important to our region,” said Representative Patrick Meehan (PA-07). “I am pleased to support this legislation which takes a coordinated approach to the restoration and protection of the Delaware River Basin for generations to come.”

In addition to current Basin funding and programs, a dedicated source of federal resources would bolster restoration and conservation in the region through strategic grant-making and more coordinated implementation of existing funding mechanisms at the federal, regional, state, and local level. The Delaware River Basin Restoration Grant Program will support locally-driven, on-the-ground projects by non-profits, universities, state and local governments, community organizations and others.

Reps. Holt, Dent and Hinchey are co-chairs of the Delaware River Basin Task Force. Reps. Carney, Andrews and LoBiondo are all members of the Task Force.

A similar proposal is being introduced in the Senate today.

Bethlehem Township's Newest Business


School's out. Summer's here. So what do kids do on those long hot afternoons? Most of them are in the nearest pool, but a group of Bethlehem Township Bulldogs were busily operating a lemonade stand June 23 along Easton Avenue, just a stone's throw from the municipal building.

Without a permit. Municipal officials let it slide.

Fifty cents a glass. As of 2:30 PM, they had raked in $7.10. These young entrepreneurs are Tucker Messinger, Aidan Albus, Chaise Albus, Preston Mestrick, Michael Carbmasa, Cooper Bodero-Lomicky and Ben Gagnon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Joe Brennan's DUI - Let He Who Is Without Sin ...

Updated 10:13 PM
Let me start my post about Joe Brennan's DUI by telling you about myself. I'm a drunk. I just can't handle booze, no matter how small the amount. I refused to recognize that until I destroyed my legal career, my marriage and let down many people who were counting on me. It nearly killed me.

I'm one of the lucky ones.

My uncle Artie, who like me was a title searcher, was another drunk. It killed him when he was still a young man, with three children to support.

One of those kids, my cousin Eddie, never recovered. Like his Dad, he began to drink, too.

Eddie was smart, with a gift for taking things apart and putting them back together again. He found work in the HVAC biz, but lost job after job because of booze or because his DUIs prevented him from driving vans. Who's going to take a chance on a 50 year-old guy with multiple DUIs? Those who did take him on took advantage of him.

It cost him meaningful relationships. He never married. To my knowledge, he never even dated much. He was a loner.

Booze finally killed him. After trying to quit, and succeeding for nearly a year, he was picked up for another DUI. He never told a soul. Not his mother. Nobody.

He just hung himself.

At his viewing last November, the two pictures his mom selected were of his cat.

It was a small crowd.

The cat never showed.

Alcoholism runs deep in our family. It afflicted my dad, grandfather, two uncles, and an even aunt who happened to be a nun. But they were not the only ones who suffered. Every person around them suffered, too.

Including me. I may have stopped drinking, but I'm still emotionally scarred, and am very slow to form deep relationships with most other people. I'm moody, too.

All of this gives me a quirky outlook and helps in the writing department, but it makes me a difficult person.

Ask my friends.

Both of them.

After going to daily AA meetings for a year, and watching what goes on at the courthouse, I know my family is by no means unusual. Alcoholism hits nearly every one of us, rich or poor, black or white, although those of us who are Irish tend to be more prevalent.

In fact, when I read that State Rep. Joe Brennan had a 0.16 BAC, my first reaction was, "Is that all? Irishmen are born with a 0.16 BAC."

Joe Brennan is a State Representative, but he's also a human being. He's subject to the same shortcomings that afflict us all. Fortunately, a police officer stopped him before he got involved in an accident. If he hurt anyone, I know he'd never forgive himself.

I've known Joe for many years. You'll be hard put to find a more pleasant or quick-witted person. He's in public office because he really cares about people, especially those with nothing. I know he adores his kids, too, and that dreary drive to and from Harrisburg on a near daily basis, has to be a grind.

But Joe has battled alcohol all his life. He's mostly been successful. Better than my dad, grandfather, aunt or cousin.

He has a problem. There's no bribery or public corruption. He fortunately did not hurt anyone. He is by no means the only person who has ever had a DUI or who is plagued by alcohol. He feels terrible about what has happened.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Here's his statement, in its entirety.

"When the House finished its business Wednesday afternoon, I returned to Bethlehem. I consumed alcohol and then drove in my personal vehicle to my district office after 8 p.m. intending to answer some constituent letters and e-mails. I was approached by Bethlehem police outside my office on suspicion of DUI and consented to both a breath test and blood test which confirmed a BAC over the legal limit.

"I take full responsibility for this serious mistake and offer my heartfelt apology to my family and my constituents. I clearly should not have been driving in that condition. It was a serious error in judgment. I am grateful that nobody was injured as a result of the dangerous decision I made.

"I’ve had a long and personal struggle with alcohol throughout my adult life. I am working toward recovery and will do my best to prevent another mistake like this.

"I deeply regret yesterday’s incident and will fully cooperate as the matter is handled through the normal procedures of the legal system.

"At my request, I am on leave from today’s House session but continue working on budget and education-related issues and to meet my responsibilities as an elected official to people across Pennsylvania."

Hawthorne House Rises From the Ashes

Hawthorne House Bar & Grill, located at 702 Hawthorne Road in a quiet Bethlehem neighborhood, will re-open in the next two months. That's according to its new owner, Tom Williams of Allentown's Cityline Construction. A fire restoration specialist, Williams acquired this old watering hole after a 2009 arson. The bar's former owner, John Margetis, has been accused of setting the building ablaze after a bank foreclosed.

Williams asked Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board on June 22 to approve 6 outdoor tables fronting Hawthorne, in addition to 6 outdoor tales at the rear. He also sought approval of a 12 1/2' x 14 3/4' addition for a restroom. He'll need it, too, as he plans to offer twenty different types of beer on tap.

"We're trying to make this a little bit of an attraction so people will come there," explained Williams. Zoner Ken Kraft questioned whether the noise might disturb neighbors, but Williams responded there would be no outdoor music and agreed to close by 11 PM on weekends.

Neighbor Dean Guth was concerned about outdoor seating right along Hawthorne Street, but seemed mollified by Williams' pledge to erect a 3' high fence. Kraft was also satisfied when Williams told him he'd charge moderate prices. "The price of the beer determines the kind of crowd you get," opined Kraft. "If you have 80 cent beers, you get nuts."

Kraft added he is very familiar with the Hawthorne House.

Chairman Gus Loupos asked Williams to work with the community, and was assured by the Allentown businessman that he "has a good rapport with all the neighbors."

Williams' request for an expansion was unanimously granted.

In addition to a bar, zoners heard a request from a childcare center. Stefko Daycare, located at what was once a massage parlor at 2017 Stefko Boulevard, is already open from 6 AM to 11 PM, Monday through Friday. Operator Anna DiConstanzo told the board that many of her customers want her to remain open on weekends, too. She explained that a child care subsidy, offered by the state to low-income families, will only be paid to one daycare.

Zoners unanimously agreed to allow DiConstanzo to extend her hours. Building owner Ronald Stauffer, who appeared with DiConstanzo, told zoners the entire block is commercial and most of the businesses there are already open all week.

In other business, zoners also unanimously approved a request by Brian and Stephanie Bertsch for an all-season sun room at 2158 Drury Lane. Although the covered patio will encroach on a side yard setback, it will still be 16' from the sidewalk and will be shrouded by a privacy fence.

Finally, zoners heard from Nick Bozakis for the third time in a year. Owner of the popular Nick's Pizza on Main Street, Bouzakis owns several surrounding properties with garages and apartments, including what may have been a stable for police horses at 64 West Spruce Street. Represented by Attorney Jim Holzinger, Bouzakis asked zoners to approve a 5-bay garage at the site, topped off by a 2-bedroom apartment. Two of those garages would go to the tenant, and the remaining three would be for storage.

What made this proposal attractive to zoners is that the site triangle increased from 5' to 19' under Bouzakis' plan, increasing safety on the road. "We feel it is a hige improvement, and I'm proud to be part of it," said Holzinger.

Zoners unanimously approved a special exception.

Anthropology Student Studies Bethlehem Zoning

Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Chair Gus Loupos was really touched by a note he received recently from William & Mary student Elena Carey. An anthropology student, she recently submitted a 70-page honors thesis with this catchy title: "Zoning: A Cartography of Culture, An Examination of Zoning and Metanarrative in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania." (You can read it here).

Despite an intimidating title and occasional lapses into academese, it's a good read. Naturally, there's the Steel, and Carey's main point is that zoning in Bethlehem evolved around the Bethlehem Steel. But according to Carey, Moravians had something very similar to zoning as far back as 1758.

Bethlehem formally adopted zoning in 1926, primarily to control the size of various steel companies and provide some separation from residences.

Is It Time to Pull Out of Afghanistan?

Right now, there are approximately 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By the end of the year, there will be 90,000. And next year, another 23,000 troops will come home, right before the election.

“America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home,” says President Obama.

But that's not why we're there. Anybody who thinks we're in Afghanistan to raise the standards of living or improve the status of Afghan women, is nuts. We're there because we perceive it to be in our interests to be there. And for good reason.

Let me lay it out. We screwed up the balance of power in the Middle East the second we set foot in Iraq, and now there's no turning back. We've done a fine job driving that country into the arms of Iran, and while doing that, completely forgot about Afghanistan, the one country that should have worried us. As a result, the Taliban has strengthened in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So what? Who cares what they do, right? Wrong.

Pakistan has been completely destabilized. Things are so bad that Obama decided against telling its leaders he'd be dropping by with a Navy Seal team for bin Laden. And right after that, the Taliban waged a 12-hour attack on a Pakistan military base.

Did I mention that Pakistan has nukes? A Taliban resurgence almost guarantees that some of those nukes will fall into Taliban and al-Qaeda hands.

So what? They can't launch missiles that can reach the U.S., so who cares, right? Wrong again.

It would be amazingly easy to launch a nuke at the U.S. from a scud mounted on something as unsophisticated as a fishing trawler off the Atlantic coast.

That's why we're there. The soldiers who die there are saving countless lives here.

But there's an election coming.

LV Congressman Charlie Dent, in a statement released late last night, wants to know what the military thinks. Noting that President Obama's surge was motivated by the recommendation of military commanders, he questions whether Obama's decision is politically motivated. "I hope the President’s decision to begin drawing-down our troop presence in Afghanistan, with the goal of returning to pre-surge levels by the end of 2012, is similarly based on changing conditions on the ground and the recommendations of American commanders, rather than political advisers." Dent wants to hear from the military. "I am eager to be briefed by Department of Defense officials on today’s decision by the President and expect to receive regular updates on the effect the drawdown is having on American and Afghan security.”

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, echoes Dent. "This decision should not be based on politics or economics. America's brave men and women in uniform have fought to achieve significant progress in Afghanistan, some having paid the ultimate price. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead." But there are GOP presidential contenders, like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who want us pull out now. "We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat."

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is it Bob Mensch or Bob Meshuga?

Brenda, one of my regular readers, is also an avid PCN fan. She loves watching the House in action, as well as Commonwealth Court sessions. She tells me it's better than C-Span. Because I'm a wonk, this is almost enough to make me go back to TV.

Almost.

Brenda has made me aware of a constitutional amendment proposed last week that would eliminate no-fault divorce, even though Pennsylvania already has one of the lowest divorce rates in the nation.

I spent most of the day wondering why anyone would want to eliminate no-fault divorce. Last night, it finally hit me. State Senator Larry Farnese has no desire to eliminate no-fault divorce, and has proposed this measure as a sarcastic retort to "'defense of marriage' bills [that] enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by amending it to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman."

In other words, if marriage is so sacred that it should be limited to a man and woman, then divorce should be outlawed, too, so there.

Believe it or not, LV State Senator Bob Mensch is a cosponsor. But unlike Farnese, he's taking it literally. Mensch already supports a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution, and is perfectly willing to return to the dark days of fault divorce, which makes domestic violence far more likely.

So let me get this straight. Mensch no only supports a ban on gay marriage, but is all for insisting that fault be proved before a divorce is granted. He's jumped into the bedroom, telling you what you can do, but brandishing handguns while tooling along Rte. 78 is just wonderful.

Does this guy represent the Lehigh Valley or Alabamy?

Is he a Mensch or Meshuga?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is Tea Party Losing Its Appeal?

In Kim Schmidtner's April bio at the Pa. Leadership Conference, she is credited as the founder of the LV Tea Party. "The Lehigh Valley group now has over 1,300 members," the narrative boasts.

That's funny, because at my "trial" before the tea party earlier this month, a quorum was achieved with just 57 people.

Last weekend, a Pittsburgh-area tea party rally drew just 200 people.

Lackawanna County: A Long History of Scandal

We're like boy scouts compared to the folks just one hour's drive north, according to The Times-Tribune.

Mea culpa: Sorry for the typos.

Northampton County's Money Race

Post-primary reports were due last week. They've been scanned and will be posted online soon enough, but I thought I'd give you my own analysis.

1) Is Callahan running for Congress or County Exec? - According to his first quarter report with the FEC, Callahan raised no money. He spent $7,042.20, leaving him with just $17,535.57. That's a little better than the $698 treasury of Jake Towne, but pales in comparison to the $91,401 that Charlie Dent reports in his campaign coffers.

While Callahan's federal committee appears to be dying, his long-dormant local treasury has suddenly come to life. Between May 3 and June 6, he received $3,000, all of it from Abe Atiyeh. It's no secret that Atiyeh would really like to build apartments at the corner of Center and Dewberry, and he's obviously enlisting Hizzoner's support. Callahan has spread that money to Controller Steve Barron ($500) and Bethlehem City Council candidate Mike Recchiuti ($1,000).

No matter how strongly Callahan may privately deny it, the money indicates that Callahan will seek some local office, like County Exec.

2) Bethlehem City Council Democrats are taking their Republican challengers seriously. - Bob Donchez is sitting on a $33,385.43 mountain of cash. J. Willie Reynolds has banked $17,503.64. Even Mike Recchiuti has $3,888.61. They're way ahead of Republican Al Bernotas, Tom Carroll and Tony Simao. Each of them received a $1,000 donation from mild-mannered Bob Pfenning, a regular at Bethlehem City Council meetings.

3) Angle is prepared for the Gracedale storm. - Northampton County Council member Ron Angle was a vocal advocate of Gracedale's sale. He was overruled by nearly 20,000 voters in a plebiscite. Of course, this will be the battle cry for his removal as a Council member. But Angle has accumulated $43,052.22. His Wind Gap opponent, Scott Parsons, reports just $244.20 in the bank.

4) It pays to be a union agent. - Northampton County Council candidate Ken Kraft worries that some voters will be reluctant to elect a union agent, even though he works with private sector unions who pay for their own benefits. Since he's running in Bethlehem, and not the Slate Belt, he has nothing to worry about. Besides, the unions love him. He has $10,699.78 in his coffers compared to the $1,001.09 being held by his opponent, Seth Vaughn.

These dudes are both ex-Marines, so I think they'll just duke it out with grenades or something.

5) Glenn Reibman plays Kingmaker. - $1,000 for Controller Barron von Footinmouth. Another $500 for Sal Panto and J Willie Reynolds. There's even $1,500 for Boscola, who's not running for anything. Of course, he's doing all this with money that was given for his campaign, not theirs.

Anybody who trashes Stoffa is good for at least $1,000 from Reibman.

6) McClure rewarded by AFSCME. - He picked up $1,000. Funny. He's the only pol, so far, who has been bankrolled by the union representing most county workers. He has $13,435. His opponent, Matt Connolly, has not raised a dime.

Mini-Firemen Axe Bethlehem Township Commissioners

Like any good horror movie, it started out innocently enough.

Nancy Run Fire Company, which has existed in Bethlehem Township since 1931, is used to running. Manned by forty volunteers, and with no paid staff, this fire company responded to 819 calls last year. It has grown from a department that existed mostly to put out agricultural fires, to one that responds to motor vehicle accidents, automatic alarms and even assists the City of Bethlehem. As its service expands, so does its need for space. On June 20, Chief Jamie Hauze and firefighter Tom Kocsis told Bethlehem Township Commissioners of their plans to add about 3,000 sq ft to a 10,000 sq ft facility, located at the intersection of Easton Avenue and 7th Street. Pricetag? $1 million.

Although Kocsis doubts that cash-strapped Bethlehem Township would offer much in the way of financial support, he and Chief Hauze came prepared with tiny models of Nancy Run firemen, which mysteriously appeared on the dais of Commissioners. They even had flash drives of their presentation, embedded in tiny fire extinguishers.

Unfazed by the tiny Nancy Run fireman crawling before him, Commissioner Jerry Batcha reminded both Hauze and Kocsis that Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Co. just did their own expansion, and at twice the cost estimated by Nancy Run, with no financial assistance from the Township.

Kocsis told Commissioners a number of local businesses have pledged financial support. In addition, Easton Assassin Larry Holmes and former Mets Ace Jack Fisher have both agreed to do signings to help raise money. The fire company is waiting for 501c3 status from the IRS, at which point contributions will be tax deductible.

Commissioner Tom Nolan, who is Bethlehem Township's representative on the Northampton County Gaming Authority, pledged to work with Nancy Run to secure an impact grant. Last year, Bethlehem Township received no impact awards.

After the presentation, Cheif Hauze stated that Nancy Run Fire Co. mans three fire engines and one 100' ladder truck, which is already 20 years into a 25-year life expectancy. After that, it loses its certification, and must be replaced at a cost of about $900,000.

Suddenly, the mini-firemen began trash talking to Commissioners, unhappy with the lukewarm response. This really unnerved both Batcha and Nolan.

Township Manager Howard Kutzler wrestled the minis on the floor and began stomping all over them, but when Commissioners left the building after the meeting, they were greeted by this:

It ended like a Chuckie movie. Very sad. There are now four vacancies on the Bethlehem Township Board of Commissioners.

The Gaming Authority is next.

Northampton County Campaign Finance Reports Now Online

In Lehigh County, the campaign finance reports filed by candidates for county-wide office have been available for the last two years, and can be accessed here. Dean Browning, the driving force behind this exercise in transparency, calls it "one small item but certainly something local governments can easily do to make things more accessible."

It took us awhile, but Northampton County has finally followed Lehigh's lead, and is posting campaign finance reports online, too. But instead of restricting it to county offices, the finance reports being published are from everyone seeking office.

So far, the 2010 annual and second Friday pre-primary reports are up. The 30-day post primary is scanned and should be up soon.

I'll have a link to finance reports on my left sidebar.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Anti-Israel Rally Being Planned This Saturday in Allentown

This is really weird. Jeff Jacobucci is a present or former Allentown teacher and a 9/11 truther who questions what really happened that tragic day when the Twin Towers collapsed. According to his Facebook page, he supports independent Congressional candidate Jake Towne and the One Million Muslim March scheduled for 7/4/12. He'd also like to see Israel banned from the 2012 Olympics.

It's safe to say he's no zionist.

Jacobucci has included me in a mass email promoting an anti-Israeli rally this Saturday, 5 PM, in Allentown (7th & Hamilton). Whoever shows up will protest Israel's interdiction of a peaceful flotilla to Gaza. "The atrocities being committed in Gaza must seize[sic]!!!!"

Although encouraging everyone to be there, Jacobucci denies he's involved in the event. That's odd because the politics section of Allentown's Criaglist, to which he links, is full of his truther rants.

Norco Dems' Vice Chair Resigns

Last July, before Northampton County Democrats reorganized to make Walt Garvin their new party boss by a resounding 46-41 vote, they first tried to excommunicate me. You see, I'm a Democratic Committeeman who supports as many Republicans as Democrats, including Charlie Dent and the Evil Ron Angle. There's no doubt in my mind that this probably does violate at least 20 or 30 by-laws, but I was unwilling to go gently into that good night because they never provided me with notice.

A vote was taken and sent to state party headquarters. Having never heard from the state, my guess is that their effort failed.

Last December, bossman Wally Garvin tried again. He handed me another sheet of paper all filled out and everything, which he was carrying in his little Bernie O'Hare file. It was my resignation. All I had to do was sign.

I declined, especially when he refused to let me read the by-laws.

So I may still be a committeeman, but Garvin never notifies me of upcoming meetings. Like the one last Saturday. I had been tipped off, but skipped it because it was my birthday, and I wanted a small break.

I should have crashed it. Vice Chair Kiki Schock resigned, echoing some of the concerns that I've raised here. "Parliamentarian" Charles "Don't Call me Charlie" walked out on her resignation speech, as did most of the pro-Garvin crowd.

Here's some of what she had to say:

"The Northampton Committee is not an effective committee, and wishing it to be while doing nothing is not a successful blueprint to becoming effective. Our function as a committee is to recruit, promote and raise money for Democrats, therefore having successful candidates who reflect our ideals and can enact them by taking and maintaining office. We have yet to accomplish any of this; instead we have been reduced to nothing more than dysfunctional imitation of our most visible adversary, the conservative extremist. I see the same behaviors mirrored here that the tea party exhibits: the secrecy, the lack of transparency, the lack of respect for rules and proper order, the lack of respect for rights, the disregard to democracy, and the bully tactics that are used to repress.

"These issues need to be exposed and addressed, then hopefully resolved so that the Committee can be successful.

"We must ask ourselves why, why do we allow this behavior to continue?

"Why, when we claim we are the party that honors democracy, do we as a committee allow one individual to dismiss the rights of the entire committee and of those whom we represent and say nothing? And yet, we watched with disbelief the Wisconsin Republicans strip the union of the rights of the working class, and for them we were outraged, and the dismissal of rights of those of whom we represent went ignored.

"We need to ask ourselves why we were outraged when the last administration committed many obvious abuses and over reaches of power, violating the Constitution and laws at whim, and yet we allow the same lack of respect and adherence for rules and bylaws, and we passively go along with the sudden replacement of our bylaws in order to inhibit and stifle committee members.

"We need to ask ourselves why we are so outraged with the tea party tactics of going to town halls to shout down the people so their concerns and ideas aren’t heard when that has become the norm at our own meetings, where bully tactics are used to silence those committee members with ideas, concerns, and questions. Do the voters that voted for us not deserve better?

"Sadly, instead of embracing the diversity of opinion over how to best achieve our shared goals, that is strength of the Democratic Party, we have allowed ourselves to be divided into opposing camps to the benefit of absolutely no one, other than those who wish to maintain unitary control or preserve the status quo. Other than simply holding social events have we accomplished anything as a committee, coordinating any of our actions throughout the county to actually benefit Democrats in order to achieve our main objective for us being here…results.

"The hypocrisy of the Northampton Committee, the dysfunction, and the lack of respect for the rights of its committee members is putting this committee on the fast track to notoriety, as the antithesis of what we are supposed to represent. For those who support this status quo, my question is, are you sure that you’re in the correct party? For a true Democrat has revulsion to all these behaviors.

"Why do we insist on tying ourselves to 'precedent' and 'past practices,' as I have heard them described, which have led us to languish as a committee? I would like to point out that if 'precedent' has been to ignore and violate the rules and bylaws by which we are bound as a committee, they are clearly not practices we can or should be held to.

"Finally, we should ask ourselves why the present and previous leadership of our committee have made a point of publicly bad-mouthing certain county committees and area committees within our own county? Why, because they are active, hard working, and successful? We should study them, ask for their assistance so that we may replicate those successes in our own committee but instead they are bashed and berated with the most smug and arrogant of attitudes. Why, is their success so threatening that it prompts such juvenile behavior?

"The changes needed to make this committee the powerhouse it should be will require introspection on the part of its members. There are people who are just not capable of that, but my hope is that all of you are, so that you can help move this committee forward in a constructive way.

"After this meeting I will no longer be a member of the committee or your vice chair and cannot be part of the solution to these issues, for I will no longer reside in Northampton County. I do however suggest that you, as a committee, take the power that was meant for you all to have and truly represent those who voted for you, and to do this by operating as a democratic organization that is worthy of those whom we represent.

"I would like to close by thanking all of you for your commitment to our shared Democratic ideals, for the time that you donate, for the opportunity to serve with you, and for your patriotism, for I know you love this country as I do and are here in the belief of improving our country through our proud tradition of democracy. I wish for you and this Committee great success, in these and all future endeavors.

"Thank you."

Updated 10:55 AM: I've been informed by two committee members that George Treisner is the actual parliamentarian, and he walked out before Dertinger, calling Schock a "bitch." Treisner is Garvin's recommendation to fill Ken Kraft's spot on the Elections Commission.

Who Will Replace D'Amore?

Just two years ago, Allentown City Council Prez Michael D'Amore was pleading for re-election. After all, there were nonunion businesses to intimidate and project labor agreements waiting to be written. This pro-union official was rumored to be after Pawlowski's job.

But D'Amore has dropped all that for another easy win. In January, he will be a District Judge, and will have to resign his seat on City Council.

So who does Pawlowski want in there? One contender is Davey Howell, who held the job for 1,000 years before and has 30 sons and 467 grandsons in the Allentown police department.

The other frontrunner is Adrian Shanker. He's still listed on Muhlenberg's web page as a senior, although I'm pretty sure he's graduated.

He worked Pawlowski's last campaign, and is one of the activists promoting anti-discrimination ordinances in cities throughout the state. Some wonder whether he is promoting an end to discrimination or himself.

Friday, June 17, 2011

NorCo Council Spends $260,400 to Save the Lizards

Ron Angle's son graduated from Bangor High School last night, so he was absent from County Council. For some, and that certainly includes most of his fellow elected officials, it was a cause of joy and celebration. For those interested in good government and fiscal responsibility, it was a disappointing night.

Just two weeks before, Angle managed to persuade Council members to table a resolution that would throw $260,400 in taxpayer money for swampland in Upper Mount Bethel Township, where Angle lives. But last night, Council forgot about fiscal responsibility and listened instead to people like Ellen Lott of the Nature Conservancy.

"I am here to speak for the trees because they have no tongues," she claimed, quoting from Dr. Seuss. As the Fake Rev claims to represent "We, the People," Lott claims that she also spoke for the salamanders and frogs, even though they have tongues. Occasionally beating back tears, she begged Council to fund "a place where raptors soar overhead and water trickles down."

After the meeting, a few lizards denied she really speaks for them.

Environmentalist Constance Volker (spelling?) claimed this marshy habitat reminds her of the disappearing Amazon rain forest, and begged Council to save "the salamander family."

These lizards camp out on two tracts.

One of them, owned by Kirkridge, consists of 108 acres. The County would kick in $199,400 (40%) of a $501,100 grant, which translates to $4,638 per acre. The other property, located next to the Kirkridge tract, is 22 acres owned by David Broad. The County would kick in $61,000 (40%) of a $152,500 grant, which translates to $6,932 per acre. The other contributors would be DCNR (50%) and Upper Mount Bethel Township (10%).

Two weeks ago, Angle told Council that he doubted that the Kirkridge tract would pass a perc test for two sand mounds on the entire 108 acres. But Charles Reiss last night told Council it's a place of "wellness" that serves all Christian lizards. Jewish lizards, too, added Kirkridge's Alice Murray.

Two weeks ago, Angle also questioned the amount of money being spent. "It's not a fair price for what's there to buy."

"I've been in the real estate racket for forty years. I wouldn't give you $400 per acre. ... This is craziness but this is what you will get from [the Environmental Advisory Board]."

He challenged Council members to look at the tracts, pointing out that no swampland disappears but farmland is being gobbled up every day. The matter was tabled, with Council members grumbling that they'd like to see a second appraisal.

Last night, Council was told that there would be a second appraisal when DCNR approves the grant request. Nobody seemed to mind that, instead of getting an independent valuation, the state would just rely on the Nature Conservancy to get the numbers. Eleven people addressed Council, and told them to quit "nickeling and diming" this proposal. Farmland Preservation Administrator Maria Bentzoni added she's been looking at appraisals for nine years, and this one is not "outrageously ridiculous."

So last night, Northampton County Council struck a unanimous blow for the salamanders.

Dent Proposes Medical Liability Reform

LV Congressman Charlie Dent, to the chagrin of many trial lawyers, has always been been an advocate for medical liability reform. Yesterday, he and Congressman Erik Paulsen, a Minnesota Republican, introduced legislation aimed at decreasing health care costs through comprehensive medical liability reform.

“The 2010 health care law missed a critical opportunity to enact meaningful medical liability reforms,” said Rep. Dent in a news release. “Our medical justice system is a major cost driver for health care spending and it impacts the ability of patients to receive high quality care. We expect doctors to make decisions based solely on what is best for their patients, not on what is best to defend against frivolous lawsuits. Across the United States, the lack of comprehensive reform has affected where qualified doctors practice, what fields of medicine they pursue, and the services they provide. As Congress continues to discuss ways to reform and strengthen our health care system, advancing the common-sense policies included in H.R. 2205 will help reduce health care spending and ensure access to quality care.”

“The reality is medical liability does contribute to increased healthcare costs. Healthcare professionals practice defensive medicine for fear of frivolous lawsuits and end up ordering billions of dollars in extra tests and treatments,” added Rep. Paulsen. “The current environment not only increases the cost of care for patients, but also discourages highly skilled and dedicated physicians from providing important services. Three out of four emergency rooms have reported shortages of specialists, and many orthopedic surgeons have chosen to retire early or scale back their surgical duties, because of liability concerns. These reforms are needed to protect patients, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure that this nation continues to produce the world’s greatest healthcare professionals.”

The practice of defensive medicine – when doctors order tests and treatments in order to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits – is estimated to cost as much as $200 billion annually. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses indicate comprehensive medical liability reform would save the government $54 billion over the next decade and cut national health care spending by 0.5 percent per year.

Dent's leislation will encourage states to adopt effective alternative medical liability laws that reduce the number of health care lawsuits initiated, reduce the average amount of time taken to resolve lawsuits and reduce the cost of malpractice insurance. The legislation will also enact nationwide reforms to stabilize compensation for injured patients, hold parties responsible for their degree of fault, ensure that meritorious claims are swiftly resolved, encourage compliance with accepted clinical practice guidelines, and guarantee that medical care is available to those who need it the most by providing protections to safety-net providers.