Is this fair? More importantly, is it even accurate?
Newspapers Fail to Attend Township and Borough NIZ Meetings
I've seen Bill at none of the public meetings in which the NIZ has been discussed. But I've been there. I was at Hanover Township when they voted to sue. I was also at the NIZ meetings in Bethlehem, Lower Saucon, South Whitehall and Williams Townships. I was even at the "smug" Bangor Borough Council on the evening they decided to join the litigation.
At that Bangor meeting, nearly 60 people packed into the meeting room. Aside from the NIZ discussion, there was a hot zoning issue as well as a dispute with the leadership of the tiny borough's three volunteer fire companies. Since Bangor's population is only around 5,273, that's 1% of its population. It would be like 1,180 people going to an Allentown City Council meeting, or nearly 3,000 people at Northampton County Council.
But there was no daily newspaper to cover Bangor's meeting that night. Just me.
That's a very bad sign to those of us who still believe in democracy.
Not only has White failed to attend a single NIZ meeting, but he relies on "reports" from journalists who were also absent.
Township Officials Have Reason For Poaching Concern
I can tell you I've heard no smug remarks at any of these meetings, directed at Allentown. In fact, township and borough officials alike have wished Allentown success in its arena project. They just don't like their tax money being stolen to finance it. They also don't like to see businesses lured from their own tax base into the NIZ.
That's not job creation. It's poaching.
And it continues. Despite assurances from NIZ developer J.B. Reilly that there'd be no more poaching, he has entered into negotiations with at least two tenants currently located off Schoenersville Road, north of Route 22 in Bethlehem.
Is it smug or hypocritical to be concerned?
Media Relations 101 v. Truth
The moment someone resorts to name-calling, that's a good sign he's already lost the argument. But I understand what is going on. So does South Whitehall's Hammer. "Its media relations 101," claims Hammer. "Portray yourself as the victim to garner public sympathy. Nobody roots for Goliath."
Ironically, at the same time that Bill White is calling township and borough officials smug, even their attire is being ridiculed on this blog by NIZ cheerleaders.
I live in the smug and hypocritical Borough of Nazareth, founded in 1740. It's the oldest place in the Lehigh Valley. Yet Bill White offered no words of protest or condemnation when Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski referred to this historical landmark as "the boonies of Northampton County." Nothing smug there.
When a NIZ cheerleader, at a debate that White did attend, referred to the minority merchants along Hamilton Street as a "cancer," White's tepid condemnation of this veiled racism was the literary equivalent of a raised eyebrow.
If you cover township and borough government, as I do, you'll soon see that White's claim is nonsense. In Nazareth, I've seen smug Borough Council members like Jack Herbst mow the grass at the baseball fields, despite his heart condition. I've seen other hypocritical borough council members water potted plants along the street every night.
In Hanover, after its recent Armed Forces Day ceremony was over, it was smug Township Manager Jay Finnigan who helped Public Works staffers put the chairs away. You also might find him behind the wheel of a plow during a Winter storm. In Bethlehem Township, hypocrites like Paul Weiss are regulars at planning commission and zoning meetings. He my actually attend even more meetings than I.
In West Easton, Borough Council President Kelly Gross is paid a pittance, but volunteers her time several days every week to help out in the office, saving that 1,257-person borough the expense of hiring a manager.
The Anti-suburban, Pro-city Agenda
Back in 2007, Hammer and White traded jobs for a day. Even back then, Hammer's column was eerily prescient about the conflict between cities and suburbs.
"For decades, Lehigh Valley regionalists have been promoting their agenda as the solution to our ills. Generally good intentioned people, regionalists look to create valleywide government efficiencies. However, some of them have morphed this idea into an anti-suburban, pro-city agenda.But that's precisely the script that White has chosen to follow, even to the unfortunate point of name-calling.
"While we all want to see the Valley cities prosper, pitting urban vs. suburban residents in the regionalism debate is not the way to go. Recently, it was reported that an Allentown official wished the city's crime out to suburbia. This isn't helpful or acceptable as a way of promoting Valley regionalism."
White, a resident of the suburbs, calls Hammer, a resident of Allentown, smug. Here's how Jon responds.
"I, perhaps more that anyone, want Allentown to succeed. You see, I was born and raised in the NIZ. I still live in Allentown, and have been a resident for over four decades. My family has lived in the city for over four generations. I have chosen to raise my children in the city of Allentown. I graduated from Allen, and attended the Allentown public school system K-12. I worked as Mayor Bill Heydt's assistant, and served as his Director of Finance. I've served on countless city boards for the betterment of Allentown. I'm about as Allentonian as one can get, and probably more so than most on the 'city' side of the debate."Why People Leave Cities
Why do people leave the cities? Is it really white flight? Racism? Maybe they don’t want to lug their groceries a block in the middle of Winter because they couldn’t find a parking spot near their home. Not all families want to live in a loft apartment, or in pre WWII housing. Some want clean and safe green space for their children to play on. Lessen the density, update the housing stock, and create family friendly amenities.
Is this smug?
Is Defending Constitution Smug?
One last observation. "We, the people" does not just include some special interest group. It includes all of the people, both suburban and urban. Many suburban communities, and the State Association of Township Supervisors, chose to challenge the Commonwealth over a law they feel is unconstitutional. According to Hammer, "I can understand how many on the suburban side of things feel the Constitution is something worth defending."
Is this smug?