Saturday, June 30, 2012

Las Vegas Oddsmaker: Romney in a Landslide

Before the Obamacare decision, Las Vegas oddsmaker Wayne Allyn Root was picking Romney in a landslide, claiming it will be a Reagan-Carter redux.
*Black voters. Obama has nowhere to go but down among this group. His endorsement of gay marriage has alienated many black church-going Christians. He may get 88% of their vote instead of the 96% he got in 2008. This is not good news for Obama.

*Hispanic voters. Obama has nowhere to go but down among this group. If Romney picks Rubio as his VP running-mate the GOP may pick up an extra 10% to 15% of Hispanic voters (plus lock down Florida). This is not good news for Obama.

*Jewish voters. Obama has been weak in his support of Israel. Many Jewish voters and big donors are angry and disappointed. I predict Obama's Jewish support drops from 78% in 2008 to the low 60’s. This is not good news for Obama.

*Youth voters. Obama’s biggest and most enthusiastic believers from 4 years ago have graduated into a job market from hell. Young people are disillusioned, frightened, and broke- a bad combination. The enthusiasm is long gone. Turnout will be much lower among young voters, as will actual voting percentages. This not good news for Obama.

*Catholic voters. Obama won a majority of Catholics in 2008. That won’t happen again. Out of desperation to please women, Obama went to war with the Catholic Church over contraception. Now he is being sued by the Catholic Church. Majority lost. This is not good news for Obama.

*Small Business owners. Because I ran for Vice President last time around, and I'm a small businessman myself, I know literally thousands of small business owners. At least 40% of them in my circle of friends, fans and supporters voted for Obama 4 years ago to “give someone different a chance.” I warned them that he would pursue a war on capitalism and demonize anyone who owned a business...that he’d support unions over the private sector in a big way...that he'd overwhelm the economy with spending and debt. My friends didn’t listen. Four years later, I can't find one person in my circle of small business owner friends voting for Obama. Not one. This is not good news for Obama.

*Blue collar working class whites. Do I need to say a thing? White working class voters are about as happy with Obama as Boston Red Sox fans feel about the New York Yankees. This is not good news for Obama.

*Suburban moms. The issue isn’t contraception…it’s having a job to pay for contraception. Obama’s economy frightens these moms. They are worried about putting food on the table. They fear for their children’s future. This is not good news for Obama.

*Military Veterans. McCain won this group by 10 points. Romney is winning by 24 points. The more our military vets got to see of Obama, the more they disliked him. This is not good news for Obama.
I think he's wrong about Hispanics, youth and suburban moms.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Commw Ct: NorCo Properly Fired Children's Caseworker

Stefano Kiniropoulos, a caseworker at NorCo's Children's Integrated Services Unit, was fired in 2010. He was neglecting his required monthly visits to children and padding his travel log. He falsified records and basically stole from the County.

The Commonwealth Court has just issued a ruling in which Judge Rochelle Friedman concludes there is more than ample evidence to justify the termination.

Cummings: Obamacare Ruling Will Reawaken Voters

"Did anyone get a load of the tea party nutcase Cartwright is running against. Oh. My. God. Heckuva job Repubs!"

This comment was posted on my blog this morning. Anonymously, of course.

Matt Cartwright's opponent is Laureen Cummings. She's a mother of four, a registered nurse who started a home health care business and is the founder of Scranton's tea party. Here's her reaction to the Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling:

"Today, the American people and the Tea Party can claim a victory with the Supreme Court’s narrowing of the powers of the commerce clause and calling out Obamacare for what it really is: yet another tax.

"In recognizing the individual mandate as a tax, the Supreme Court has clarified to the American people that the Obama Administration has no problem in further punishing Americans with yet another massive tax burden, even in the midst of what President Obama claims to be the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"This decision will reawaken the electorate and those Americans who not only want government out of their lives, but also, who refuse to give the IRS even more power than it already has. This decision is a rallying cry to elect those of us who will repeal this law and reform our Byzantine tax code."

Slate Belt Woman Doing Tour De France

The Tour de France is for members of the penis club only. But six women will be riding the course one day ahead of the men. According to The Pocono Record, one of these woman is Bangor native Jennifer Cree.

If she grew up in the Slate Belt, hills should be no problem for her.

Jennifer is doing it for Bikes Belong, whose goal is "to put more people on bikes more often." Her fundraising page is here.

A round-trip commute of just 10 miles is supposed to save you $10, but I use the saved money to buy fruit, so that's a wash for me.

According to Bikes Belong, the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks 20 to 1. As someone who rides the roads and runs the bike and tow paths, I believe road biking is actually much safer than riding the trails, which are full of blind spots.

House's Reaction to Obamacare Ruling? Fast and Furious

Just hours after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, the U.S. House voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt. This vote, largely along party lines, is ostensibly a reaction to the way the Justice Department handled Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gunrunning investigation. Numerous Democrats walked out on the vote.

Holder testified nine times before a House committee and provided thousands of pages of documents, but withheld some information on the grounds of executive privilege. So naturally, House Republicans are claiming some kind of cover-up.

LV Congressman Charlie Dent, among those who voted to hold AG Eric Holder in contempt, had this comment:

“H.Res. 711 affirms that in the United States, no citizen is above the law, including the Attorney General. While the consideration of this resolution was regrettable, it was also completely avoidable. Had Mr. Holder simply provided information to Congress about the Department of Justice’s involvement in the botched Operation Fast and Furious, today’s vote would have never occurred. However, rather than complying with a Congressional subpoena, Mr. Holder has chosen to conceal important information, preventing Congress from performing its intrinsic oversight responsibilities.

“President Obama once promised his Administration would be ‘the most open and transparent in history’, but it has unfortunately gone to incredible lengths to conceal information relating to Operation Fast and Furious - a botched scheme in which DOJ allowed Mexican drug cartels to purchase weapons in the United States, including those used in the murder of American border patrol agent Brian Terry. It is extremely disappointing the Administration’s desire to avoid political damage in an election year has overpowered the President’s pledge of unmatched government transparency.

“The American people, especially the family of Brian Terry, have demanded and deserve answers about the federal government’s role in Operation Fast and Furious. It is time for the Obama Administration to provide the information necessary to complete the Congressional investigation into this matter.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dent: Congress Needs To Enact Real Medical Reforms

LV Congressman Charlie Dent, in response to today's Obamacare ruling, has this reaction:

“While the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law, today’s decision validates concerns that the law vastly expands the federal government’s role in our health care system and profoundly impacts the personal lives and medical decisions of Americans. Although today’s ruling is significant, it does not change the fact the policies of the law have failed. Two and a half years into implementation, health care costs have increased for families and small businesses; our nation’s health care spending remains on an unsustainable trajectory; Americans are realizing they won’t be able to keep their current coverage as they were promised; and innovation and high-quality care, the hallmarks of our first rate system, are being threatened by punitive policies.

“With the major legal challenge decided, our attention must turn to addressing the crucial issues that should have been tackled when Congress and the nation began the health care reform dialogue in 2009. When the law was enacted, Congress and the President failed to implement the real reforms to reduce health care costs, make coverage more affordable, meaningfully expand access to care and improve quality. Instead, what the law has done is impose more than 20 new or higher taxes, cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars, authorize a trillion dollars in new government spending, impose costly new burdens on employers and discourage greater investment. Congress must work to reverse the numerous flawed policies that are negatively impacting all Americans, and advance deliberate, sensible reforms that target cost, access and quality.

“One of my greatest concerns about the health care law is it promises benefits, financed in the short-term by budget gimmicks and unrealistic assumptions, that are completely unsustainable in the long term. The way the law is structured has proven to be unmanageable. Costly provisions are driving up health care spending while policies intended as offsets have been abandoned by the Administration or deemed unworkable. In some cases, these provisions have been reversed by Congress to avoid severe economic impacts.

“An opportunity to enact meaningful reform was lost when the health care law was jammed through Congress by the President without thoughtful consideration of the far-reaching implications of its policies. With the Supreme Court’s decision now behind us and serious fiscal challenges before us, I believe we are presented a new opportunity to identify the failures of our health care system, repeal the law and then carefully develop solutions catering to the diverse needs of the American people. These solutions must also help place our nation on a sustainable fiscal path. I believe we can build bipartisan consensus around common-sense policies that reduce cost by placing more power in the hands of individuals; families and small businesses to make health care decisions; expand access by ensuring affordable coverage options are available to all Americans; and promote the use of technology and medical innovations to improve the quality and efficiency of the care we receive.”

Should Lehigh County Spurn Federal Grant Money?

Believe it or not, that issue is under serious consideration in Lehigh County. T STAKE IS $700,000 in CDBG grants for municipalities and human service agencies. Randy Kraft has the details.

If Commissioners decline to accept this money, it means that one family with sinkholes will be denied $50,000.

Matt Cartwright Applauds Supreme Court Obamacare Ruling

Congressional candidate Matt Cartwright, whose District will include half of Northampton County, has applauded today's Obamacare ruling:

PLAINS, PA – I applaud the United States Supreme Court for ruling to leave the Affordable Care Act (ACA) intact. Their decision will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care.

In Pennsylvania alone, ACA has provided health care coverage to 91,000 young people under the age of 26 under their parents’ plan. Further, President Obama’s health care legislation has also helped cut costs on medications as 235,820 seniors saved $645 on their prescription drugs in 2011.

But the fight is not over. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt explicitly included in his 2nd Bill of Rights in 1944, “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.” As a Member of Congress, I will work to make sure that his vision becomes a reality.

Commonwealth Court: Judge Simpson Explains Special Exceptions

Writing for a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court, former Northampton County Judge Robert Simpson has clarified the law regarding special exceptions. This was the legal issue in the Abe Atiyeh appeal for a voluntary inpatient rehab next to Bethlehem Catholic High School.

This case involved a student housing facility for 8 Bloomsburg University pupils. A small army of objectors was opposed, but failed to produce evidence that there would be adverse impacts not generally demonstrated by this type of use.

Would You Have Upheld Obamacare?

Despite all the predictions. the Supreme Court has just upheld Obamacare in its entirety, including the individual mandate. Thus, it is up to Congress to gut this act, if it can. So if you were Chief Justice Anonymous, how would you rule?

Thumbs Down to Second-Hand Shop on West Broad

Second Hand Shop Attracts a Crowd
He's unable to read or write. But for the past two years, Gerardo Garcia has operated a second-hand shop on West Broad Street. It's called Jayla's Place, in honor of one of his two children. But Jayla will have to find a new place. Bethlehem zoners, at their June 27 hearing, denied Garcia's application for a use variance after listening to neighbors call it a nuisance that attracts loiterers and double parkers.

Operating on a corner property owned by Dean Nguyen, Garcia told zoners he was unaware he needed a variance. Calling it a "really small business," Garcia explained he is "just doing what I can to survive." His inventory? Used laptops, small TVs, phones, VCRs and toys. In his two years in business, he claimed there had only been one complaint, concerning a charger.

Garcia explained that he knows 85% of his customers. He photographs them and asks for ID before accepting merchandise. Nevertheless, he admitted that in 2010, he purchased laptops and ipods that had been stolen from Lehigh University. Garcia denied knowledge they were stolen, and testified for the prosecution.

A dozen or so local businesses and neighbors were at the hearing, and six of them spoke against it. Mary Toulouse described a "shabby appearance," the regular presence of police and loiterers whose very presence "intimidates" potential customers at other businesses. Shannon Patrick, whose Puppy Palace is just two doors away, complained about snowblowers, washers and dryers, bicycles and car trailers on the sidewalk outside the shop.

"It's a detriment to the neighborhood," claimed Patrick, who added that Garcia's customers do not appear to be from Bethlehem, or even from the area. But after the hearing, a tearful Garcia claimed he is a life long Bethlehem resident.

Another neighbor, Michael Keyock, pointed out that parking problems in that area make the business unsuitable He noted there is considerable loading, off-loading, double-parking and parking on sidewalks. "It's just not the right location for that business," concluded Keyock.

Neighbor John McGeehan, who also is employed as Director of Public Safety at the Northampton County jail, seemed more upset with the building's owner, Dean Nguyen, than he was with Garcia. He chided Nguyen for letting Garcia, who is illiterate, operate a business without zoning approval. He then added this would be in bad taste, "even in Ho Chi Minh City."

"I wouldn't know. I never stepped foot in there," Nguyen responded after the hearing. Nguyen also pledged to help Garcia find another location where he can do business.

Despondent and fighting back tears, Garcia observed he "never had anything" until he had that business. He claimed he cleared snow for the entire block, but Patrick disputed that assertion.

Garcia plans no appeal.

In other business, zoners denied a variance for a family daycare center at 83 W. Goepp Street. Owner Antonio Tejada appealed to operate the daycare without required fencing for an outdoor play area and a safe pick-up. He failed to appear before zoners, which made their denial both quick and unanimous.

Bethlehem Zoners in Legal Limbo

ZHB Solicitor Mickey Thompson
Five separate appeals were scheduled to be heard by Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board on June 27. But thanks to something known as the "pending ordinance doctrine," only one of them was heard.

After years of consideration, Bethlehem is close to adopting a new zoning ordinance. A vote is scheduled for August 7. According to Solicitor Mickey Thompson, this creates a "legal limbo" in which rulings could be attacked because the new ordinance is still under consideration.

"I want to protect everybody involved so we are not having a hearing based on nothing," explained Thompson.

Applicants represented by attorneys quickly sought continuances.

Attorney Jim Preston, representing developers Ed Novak and Lou Pektor, wanted two green lights from zoners for a medical office building and employee parting lot at Jack Jones Buick, located on West Broad Street. Complaining that his clients are on a schedule, Preston called the situation a "due process limbo" in which applicants are sent to the Zoning Hearing Board, but are unable to obtain relief. Nevertheless, "out of respect for the Board," Preston agreed to a continuance.

Attorney Harry Newman, representing MM Consultants, wanted zoners to bless the conversion of St John Capistrano's rectory into a training facility for Lehigh Valley Community Health Centers. Training will have to wait.  He agreed to a continuance as well.

Zoning Officer Suzanne Borzak told the Board that nine appeals are already scheduled for August, so zoners will schedule an extra night of hearings to accommodate one and all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Criminal Mischief in Hanover Township

At their June 26 meeting, Hanover Township Manager Jay Finnigan updated Supervisors on some recent examples of criminal mischief.

In the first instance, two boys decided to decorate the rear door of a building in Crawford Park with graffiti, even though the building is currently decorated with signs warning that it is under video surveillance. Colonial Regional Police now have "nine good pictures," including two pictures of these young men looking right into the camera.

It is unclear whether they will be charged or sent to bed without their supper.

In addition to the graffiti, Colonial Regional Police are investigating some illegal dumping activity at a cul de sac on Innovation Drive. Two roll offs, consisting of tires, carpet remnants, chairs and other debris, were scattered at the site. Although the owner paid a hauler to remove the material, he paid to have it hauled to a landfill.

Colonial Regional Police are hot on the debris trail.

Blogger's Note: The photo comes from The 20 Most Bizarre Mugshots, Ever.

Allentown's Rule By Secrecy

Back in 2009, when Pennsylvania lawmakers finally adopted a budget after a record-setting 101-day stalemate, State Senator Pat Browne slipped a little piece of language into the Fiscal Code update. Buried amid the definitions of "little cigars" and "cigarettes" was legislation that set aside something brand new - the "Neighborhood Improvement Zone. (NIZ)" Most legislators thought they were voting for a budget. Shrouded in secrecy, that's how the NIZ was born.

This week, state legislators will adopt a new budget, and it's no secret that this will include changes to the NIZ. Is EIT really being removed. Is the NIZ being redefined to make it constitutional?

Your guess is as good as mine because the NIZ still remains shrouded in secrecy. All the complaints about the lack of transparency have fallen on deaf ears.

Months ago, Bethlehem and Hanover Township officials asked to see the Preliminary Official Statement (POS) for the $220 million bond intended to finance the hockey arena. Amazingly, they are still waiting.

I've been assured these are "special tax revenue bons," but are they also backed by the "full faith and credit," i.e. taxing power, of the City or state? If they are, they're general obligation bonds. Will we wait until there's a default until we find the answer?

Don't laugh. According to The New York Times, taxpayers are getting stuck with the tab for parking garages and hockey arenas, even though they never thought they'd be footing the bill.
In Pennsylvania, not only are Scranton and Harrisburg struggling with bond guarantees, but another troubled city, Allentown, is defending itself against lawsuits by surrounding communities, accusing it of a convoluted plan to make their residents backstop an authority’s bonds for a new hockey arena. Construction has stopped on the arena, and residents are living with a big hole in the ground and a cloud of uncertainty.

“It’s a possibility that Pennsylvania does nothing and says, ‘O.K., you’re on your own. You default, and that’s that,’ ” Ms. Reinhart said. “Or it could be that the state intervenes, even though it doesn’t guarantee the cities’ debt explicitly.” The problem, she said, is that the bailout of just one distressed city “is a license for everybody to overspend, on the assumption that they’ll be bailed out.”
That's certainly what's happening in Allentown, where a $220 million hockey arena is nearly three times the going rate for a minor league hockey arena.

It's only money. Thankfully, township EIT will not be wasted on this mess. Instead, we'll spend money that should be spent for children's health insurance.

It will help J.B Reilly get richer

It will help Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's political ambition, although he has damaged that big time.

Regionalism.

Doesn't this make you proud to be an American?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arnie Matos Appointed Acting Director of Corrections

NorCo Exec John Stoffa has appointed Arnie Matos as Acting Director of Corrections, effective Friday, July 6, 2012. He will take over for Robert Meyers, who is retiring.

Presently, Arnie Matos serves as Volunteer Services Coordinator, Pay Grade CS-23, Step 20 - $58,920 annual & $28.3269/ hour. Since he will be placed in an “Acting Director of Corrections” status and doing 100% of the duties, he would be placed on the Career Exempt pay scale at Pay Grade CE-VI, step 2-B (which is the first step) $79,047 annual and $38.0033/hour.

Stoffa states his appointment is "in keeping with the long established practice of this administration to promote eligible candidates from within."

Jennings Singing For His Supper

Governor Corbett's revised budget, which appears likely to be his final budget, will reduce funding for seven human services programs by 10%, or $84 million. Those programs provide support for the mentally challenged, the homeless, the disabled, the weakest and most vulnerable segment of our society. Those who have no lobbyists clamoring for them in the land of midnight payraises.

For years, CACLV's Alan Jennings has boasted that he is their voice. He sure has a strange way of showing it in his latest polemic - A Revelation.

Instead of uttering a peep for them at this crucial time, Jennings instead complains about municipal opposition to Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Never mind that it's an unconstitutional law that diverts local tax revenue from townships and small boroughs and into the hands of greedy developers. Never mind that the state is suffering from dwindling revenue. Never mind that $15 million in hijacked cigarette and state income taxes would go a long way to helping restore those cuts.

Jennings would rather complain about the use of his state taxes to pay for interstates, forgetting that he has a voice in electing the people who make those decisions. He never bothers to point out that townships and small boroughs have no say in the election of Allentown officials.

Taxation without representation. I thought we fought a Revolutionary War over that little principle.

Playing the race card, Jennings goes on to claim that "most of us in Allentown look different than our suburban neighbors."

Really?

Gee Alan, I'm a white male, well past the age of fifty, with thinning hair, and I don't live in Center City. I look a helluva' lot like you!

The only real transformation in Allentown will be in the collective net worth of a few well connected real estate developers and hockey team owners. The poor will remain poor.

And voiceless.

But as white guy Michael Molovinsky observes, LV bluebloods will throw Jennings a bone or two if he continues waving the pom poms.

Coptic Christians: What Us, Worry?

Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky has from time to time chronicled the plight of Egypt's Coptic Christian community. They constitute 10% of that country's population, making them a significant minority. They worry about the country's newly-elected President, Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi.

His campaign slogan? "Islam is the solution."

Sounds very tolerant, doesn't it?

Then there's the Jews. During the campaign, Morsi's supporters spoke wistfully of restoring the Muslim Caliphate, with Jerusalem as its capital, of course. A strict Islamist who has at times called Israeli leaders "vampires" and "killers," Morsi is all about peace now.

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, has this reaction to Morsi's election.

“I applaud the people of Egypt for completing the nation’s first democratic election for President. Egypt has chosen Mohammed Morsi, the first freely elected President in the Arab World, to lead its ongoing transition to a modern democracy. It is crucial we support these efforts, provided Mr. Morsi and his party abandon their anti-American rhetoric and develop a cooperative relationship with the United States.

“Mr. Morsi’s task is extremely complex and I believe it must include two particular objectives in order to preserve American support. First, to promote stability in the region, Mr. Morsi must respect Egypt’s treaty obligations and provide a safe, secure and peaceful border with its neighbor Israel. Second, he must work to ensure the rights and security of Egyptian minority groups are guaranteed under a newly formed government. In April 2012, I shared my concerns about the treatment of religious minorities, specifically Christian communities, in a letter to Sameh Shourky, Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States. If Egypt is to become the democracy envisioned by its people, the new administration must ensure the rights of all minority groups, including Egyptian Christians, are respected and promoted.

“Egypt has long been an important economic and political partner to the United States. I am hopeful our nations can maintain this vital relationship under Egypt’s new leadership.”

Fake Rev Issues Fatwa Against LVRamblings

I'm in trouble now.

Yesterday, I told you that I have absolutely no class and am, indeed, a bottom-feeding blogger. That's all the Fake Rev, Mario Martinez of Forks Township, needed to issue a fatwa.

Before doing so, the Prevaricatin' Preacher explains that I'm a "self professing opportunist who seeks quick profit usually at the expense of others or from their misfortune." Also, I'm the "lowest form of pond scum."

Since scum rises to the top, "whale shit" would have been the correct terminology in that phrase.

Anyhoo, the cRaZy Cleric's fatwa, issued on behalf of both Jesus and "We, the People," is this: "[A]ny elected representative of The People who deals with this self professing bottom feeder...can't be much better - and out too they must go! ... It behooves all self-serving politicians to take a serious note on this point...or possibly suffer the same fate as Ron Angle. Remember - No one thought his ousting was possible - But it was...and it happened - didn't it?"

Is that the best the Mustached Mujaheddin can do?

Here's a better one, thanks to Fatwa4You:
In the name of Barron von Footinmouth, the Gruesome, the Resourceful. All Honor and Gratitude belongs to Barron von Footinmouth. Blessed are the Disciples of Barron von Footinmouth, the Gracedale Guardians.

To Bernie O'Hare, Hell's busboy, Flatulent Parrot of Blemished Genealogy, I say this:

By viciously starting a war with my favorite nursing home and by making a mockery out of my mustache, you have called upon you a disturbing and displeasing fate. If Barron von Footinmouth - in all his mighty Wisdom and Prudence - wishes so, you shall be punished by being involved in embarrassing yet unsatisfying sex scandals involving gerbils, until the very End of Eternity.

Did Barron von Footinmouth, proud Lion of Gracedale - may Peace rest upon Him - not warn you which fate would be your part? All Camels of Carnage: leave the House of Gracedale or you will encounter the Volcanoes of Hatred you raised among our people - heroic is our nature - by starting a war with Gracedale.

By Barron von Footinmouth's kilt, the Mujaheddin of Gracedale will triumph over your evil methods of Hatred. With the power of Gracedale and the flaming Sword of Barron von Footinmouth, we will diminish your inferior ideologies and Peace will return to the House of Gracedale!

Have a nice day.
Nice to see the Fake Rev is focused like a laser beam on everything BUT Gracedale.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why State Campaign Finance Reports Should Be Filed Electronically

Although the sky's the limit, Pennsylvania law does require candidates seeking state office to file periodic finance reports. That way we can follow the money. But in many cases, we won't be able to do that until after the election.

Here's why. There's two ways to file in Harrisburg, electronically or the old-fashioned way. If a candidate does file electronically, it will be on the state webpage almost immediately. But some do not, especially here in the Lehigh Valley.

Instead of scanning it in, the state sends these paper reports for data entry, and we wait months until the reports are online, totally defeating the whole point of disclosure.

Is this about to change?

According to The Post-Gazette, State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver has introduced legislation that will require electronic filing. As an added benefit, this requirement will save the state $108,000 in outside contracts for data entry.

Locally, Culver has the support of fellow Republicans Marcia Hahn, Gary Day and Justin Simmons. But Democratic leaders and even the Governor claim to support some form of electronic filing.

We'll see.

Nazareth Gets All Gussied Up


It's official.

Nazareth is now All Gussied Up. On Friday, doors officially opened to a combination tanning salon and boutique at 139 South Main Street. And the sign on the door says it all - it's the hope of the happy UN-housewives.

How did a bottom-feeding blogger like me, with absolutely no class, get invited to a grand opening like this?

Beats the hell out of me. Maybe because my bunker is close.

Proprietors Kelly Pettis-Brush and Megan Everett will be open 11 to 7 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 to 7 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 5 on. Sunday. They're off Monday and Tuesday.

I'll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about tanning or chic boutiques. But I loved the nice little pieces of jewelry, handbags and laughed out loud at the exotic soaps, with names like "Filthy Farm Girl," "Creamy Coconut Cutie" and "Raw Chocolate Rascal."

The Nazareth Chamber of Commerce managed to pack the house with close to 30 well-wishers from the local business community.

Kelly and Megan laid out one helluva' spread for the occasion, too, which even included a champagne punch.

Cupcakes: Secret of Immortality
These also included "Signature Cupcakes," a specialty of Schreck's Cupcakery, located in Roseto.

People from Roseto live an average of about 2,700 years. Most blame it on a Mediterranean diet, but I say it's the damn cupcakes.

I would never have discovered this fountain of youth had I missed out on Friday's Grand Opening.

Nazareth Mayor Fred Daugherty sent his regrets. State Rep. Joe Emrick sent a Proclamation. Congressman Charlie Dent, however, was there to welcome and encourage another small business, which he called the "backbone of our country."

Then he went for the cupcakes.

Now you know why he looks so youthful.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leading Edge Signs Opens in Lehigh Valley

Leading Edge Signs & Imaging, an independent sign company operated by Jim and Arlyn Reed, is coming to the Lehigh Valley. It's a full service sign company featuring state-of-the-art equipment to produce the best in custom graphics. Its target? "The business client," says Arlyn Reed. 


Leading Edge will also be "eco-friendly." "All our large format printing is done using latex ink; no solvent
containing products are used," says Arlyn Reed. "We believe being 'green' matters to the corporate customer."

Leading Edge Signs & Imaging is dedicated to the Lehigh Valley business customer for all types of signs and graphic imaging. Visit them at 3864 Adler Place, Suite 400, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

Contact
Arlyn Reed
Leading Edge Signs & Imaging, Inc.
610-295-5921
ar@leadingedgesigns.net
www.LeadingEdgeSigns.net

Saturday, June 23, 2012

RPM Recycling Scrap Pile On Fire

In April, there was a multi-vehicle fire at RPM Recycling in Plainfield Township. The scrap pile is on fire again, and there are multiple explosions. Fire officials are calling for extra water tankers.

Friday, June 22, 2012

First the NIZ, Now a Commuter Tax

Despite all its secrecy and, later, its bullying, Allentown's attempted tax grab from other municipalities has blown up in its face. Instead of waiting for an adverse decision from Commonwealth Court, the state legislature will change a 2009 law allowing Allentown to use tax money that belongs to other municipalities.

Chalk one up for the good guys. 

But the battle is far from over. Another Lehigh Valley municipality, Easton, is ready to shake down nonresidents who work in Shadtown with a commuter tax.

Courthouse workers, some of them on food stamps, will see more of their hard-earned money going out the door. 

I'll have more about this next week. But when NIZ cheerleaders like Mike Fleck sit on Easton's board as he does, expect to get hosed. 

Scott Parsons: Swaption Slayer

It just won't die.

Northampton County Council voted in March to end the swaption once it dropped to $25 million, but it went in the wrong direction.

What is a swaption?

Tom Shortell has a good definition in his Express Times account.

But if you ask me, it's something that looks too good to be true.

It's a high finance vampire that sucks the lifeblood out of unsuspecting municipalities.

Back in 2004, then County Executive Reibman proposed a deal under which, in exchange for a quick $1.9 million from Merrill Lynch, County Council would gamble that interest rates on its $111 million fixed bonds would remain more attractive than those with variable rates in July of this year.

It's called a swaption or swap-option by the suits, but it's really more appropriate in a casino than a local government.

Financial experts from Concord Public Financial Advisers recommended rolling the dice, and kept the campaign coffers full for Reibman.

In a bipartisan failure, three Republicans and two Democrats agreed with Reibman and took the money.

Since that time, almost imperceptibly, the swaption has grown. In 2009, it ballooned from $10 to $14 million. By the time last year's budget was ready, it had grown to $23.5 million. By last night, it was at $27.2 million, enough to keep Gracedale afloat for five years.

It's easy to say now that it should have been killed last year, or in 2010, before it got out of control.

Some did. Ron Angle, for one. Former Fiscal Affairs Director Vic Mazziotti, for another.

But it would have been a gamble. No one had a crystal ball to determine whether the swaption might start going the other way, and there were times when it did.

So it's a mistake to blame the 2010 or 2011 Council for not taking action then. The voices who scream that something should have been done - most of them anonymous - were curiously silent back then.

The mistake was made in 2004, when the swaption was originally approved. You can blame Reibman, the 2004 Council or the state senate that allowed this monster in our midst. Take your pick. Pick all three if you want.

I'm pretty sure Council finally drove a stake through its heart last night.

The Doctor Van Helsing?

Ironically, the person who defeated Ron Angle.

Scott Parsons is unlike Ron Angle in so many ways that I'd probably need a few days to lay it all out. But Parsons, disgusted with the direction in which the swaption was heading, called the County's financial advisers last week and said, "This has got to end."

Parsons explained he'd be willing to pay the whole thing off to get rid of it, but knew that would be a hard sell to the rest of Council. The County would be left with a fund balance inviting a mega tax hike.

So he came up with a compromise.

Instead of paying the entire balance, pay $18 million now and borrow money to pay off the rest.

Robert Fuller, the County's financial adviser, said that taxable municipal bonds could be sold to get the rest of the money, and the County's debt service would stay the same.

Council member Lamont McClure has always seemed concerned that the swaption would suddenly reverse itself. Now it hasn't turned out that way, but I'm not blaming him. He has no crystal ball.

McClure had a different solution. He basically proposed ending half the swaption, and suffering with the rest of it.

But Parsons noted the County would still be "stuck with all the evils for half the swaption." He argued this if his proposal was accepted, "There will be no more knocks at the door."

Council member Bob Werner sided with Parsons. "We're going to end it tonight," he declared.

And that's what happened.

Parsons' proposal was accepted 7-2, with only McClure and Tom Dietrich opposed.

As soon as the meeting ended, Executive John Stoffa called Bank of America with the wooden stake supplied by Scott "van Helsing" Parsons.

I just hope he remembered to cut off its head.

Rte 33 Interchange TIF To Bring 5,000 Jobs

Chrin attorney Scott Allinson updated Northampton County Council's Economic Development Committee last night on the progress of what is known as the Chrin TIF, a sprawling, 689-acre tract of land in northern Palmer Township, touching on 7 different municipalities. He was accompanied by Dave Colver, who chairs Palmer's Board of Supervisors.

Allinson made three points. First, there's already an agreement to sell the northwest quadrant, consisting of about 286 acres, to a national developer. Second, a study by the Dietrick group had projected about 3,500 jobs at the site, but that has now been upgraded to over 5,000 jobs. Third, Chrin will pay for a Rte 33 Interchange with bond proceeds. He assumes the risk of failure.

Without Chrin's personal investment, there would be no Interchange at all. According to Allison, the exit was not included in PennDOT's 12-year plan. Then State Senator Rob Wonderling helped Allinson break the logjam.

Dave Colver outlined the zoning overlay changes planned for the area, which I discussed last week. Those will be voted on by Supervisors on Tuesday, and will permit a 1-million square-foot big box, but only one.

According to Colver, it will be a diamond-shaped Interchange. A $33.5 million bond sale is scheduled to settle on August 15. After that, construction should start by October, with a tentative completion date of Christmas 2013.

91 acres, located near Nazareth Middle School, will remain zoned agricultural and serve as a buffer between the school and the industrial development.

Like Allinson, Colver stressed that Chrin bears the risk of failure. Palmer has already created a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID), not to be confused with a NIZ, to assess Chrin if the increased valuation in real estate is insufficient to pay the bond debt. If Chrin were for some reason unable to pay, the ultimate risk of loss would be borne by bond purchasers.

NorCo Citizens on Patrol

Commandant Eric Lassard is very, very, very pleased to announce the first ever Citizens Academy of Northampton County. A ten-week course, starting September 12, will take twenty-five lucky citizens through the paces with what Executive John Stoffa calls the Lehigh Valley's biggest secret - county government.

From the jail to Human Services, the purpose of this program is to provide a foundation for more citizen participation in the County's numerous Boards, Commissions and Authorities.

Stoffa told Council last night that he stole the idea from Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan.

You can register here.

It's free, but I applied for a scholarship anyway.

Controller Steve Barron has volunteered to teach all ten classes.


Would You Like To Say A Few Words?

Last night, Northampton County Council unanimously appointed (real) Rev. Nevin L. Kershner tothe Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board.

"Would you like to say a few words?" asked Council member Ken Kraft.

"You don't want a minister to speak, do you?" answered the clergyman. Now that's my kind of preacher.

A Bomb Scare at NorCo Courthouse


I'm a little disappointed. After most Northampton County Courthouse bomb scares, I'm usually asked to submit to a polygraph. But after today's threat, nobody bothered me. I must be getting old.

Today's bomb threat, phoned in at 1:03 PM, sent everyone out of a cool government center into a sweltering Sahara. It was tough on everyone, but some County workers have disabilities and were unprepared to be outside for so long.

Though the building was only partially checked, Executive John Stoffa decided to bring half the workforce back inside the building. Some staffers, who had grown faint in the heat, were sent home.

Stoffa, age 74, did not mind the heat. He's in the hot seat pretty often.

The threat came from a woman who affected a Southern drawl. Her number was blocked.

Police are investigating, but if they really want to find the culprit, they should ask Controller Steve Barron to investigate.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

State Lawmakers To Fix NIZ

According to The Morning Call, and as first reported here last week, state lawmakers will finally address township concerns over Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). That currently includes a funding scheme that diverts township EIT to pay for a hockey arena and other projects. It has led to litigation in Commonwealth Court.

The tax grab will be removed, as the townships asked.

The NIZ will be redefined, as the townships asked, so that it is no longer a closed class that could only ever apply to Allentown.

So much for the threatened countersuit.


Barron Charges Secret Plan to Sell Gracedale

Northampton County's full-time Controller, Steve Barron, is supposed to audit County departments, followed by recommendations to improve their efficiency and strengthen internal controls. Barron, who has no background in accounting, has never performed a single audit. But he does lots of other things, Mostly, he causes trouble. Yesterday, he was at the top of his game.

Barron is the union organizer who, along with then Allentown City Council Prez Michael D'Amore, decided to march on T-Mobile. When its national VP refused to see him without an appointment, Barron engaged in what can only be called a veiled threat.
"Please remind him [T-Mobile VP Brueckman] that if he needs anything from Northampton or Lehigh County, we're going to remember this day and we'll make sure that it will be part of the negotiations."
Instead of asking Northampton or Lehigh County for anything, T-Mobile decided to close shop here in the Lehigh Valley.

That little stunt earned Barron both an Express Times turkey and a County Council condemnation.

In addition to his union activities, Barron is an asbestos whistle blower. He reported the County to the state DEP for violations that occurred about twenty years ago. Never mind that the Stoffa administration has spent over $1 million in remediation and removal. The result was an investigation and certain fines until the EPA investigator himself passed away.

That got Barron another Express Times turkey.

Barron is also a junior detective. Instead of auditing the DA's office, Barron acts as an expert witness for white collar crime. Except he's no expert. In a recent prosecution of Easton's NAACP Prez, the defense objected to Barron's qualifications. He was reduced to acting as a summary witness. Aside from numerous lunch breaks, he still spent a week in the courtroom instead of doing the job he is paid $65,000 a year to perform.

Barron was awarded no Express Times turkey. Instead, the Defendant was awarded a NOT GUILTY verdict.

Now, on top of his many other skills, Barron apparently is also a nursing home administrator.

Yesterday's finance committee reviewed the County's independent audit. But Barron had no time for that minor exercise. He chose instead to focus on a "mistake of catastrophic proportion," the disbanding of Gracedale's wound team.

Although Gracedale's administrator already explained what was happening at a Council meeting a few weeks ago, he forgot to clear it with Barron. Barron told Council the County was opening itself up to lawsuit. "The vultures are already circling," he warned.

Reading from a consultant's letter, Barron told Council he was "appalled" that the consultant was not brought into the "decision-making process."

Some Council members were appalled that Barron would question Gracedale's administrator without giving him an opportunity to respond.

Then Barron told Council what is really going on. "It's an attack, and it's an end-around to try to sell the place again," he charged.

Council President John Cusick was a bit incredulous. He pointed to the massive GESA project for capital improvements. He reminded Barron that Council established an advisory board, too, and even adopted an Ordinance that prevents the administration from moving money out of the nursing home. Later tht evening, the County discussed $1.5 million in computer upgrades at the nursing home.

Strange way to try to make something fail, don't you think?

Council member Bruce Gilbert rejected Barron's theory.
"We have to be careful with what we say. There's no one sitting around at the poker table deciding on how to sell Gracedale. 'Hey, I know how we can get rid of this thing. Let's self destruct.' ... you're going to self-perpetuaute failure just to help thse who want to sell Gracedale, sell Gracedale. Why would you say that?'
"It's my opinion," responded union organizer, asbestos whistle blower, junior detective Barron.

"You should make that clear," said Gilbert, who is only a member of Council.

Barron went on to complain that Premier, the administrator, has taken its time hiring a nurse to market Gracedale at local hospitals.

Gilbert told Barron he could ask them. "I'm sure those folks would have answers for you. and those answers wouldn't include the conjecture of  'there's people plotting to sell Gracedale.' There's no need to do that."

Council member Scott Parsons questioned Barron's thinking, too. "If this organization thinks they can keep that quality of care, I think we have to give them that chance. That's what we hired them to do."

Parsons stated he wants no jobs sacrificed, nor does he want a decrease in quality of care. But "somewhere along the line, you gotta' give somebody a chance."

Council member Bob Werner, who stated he might ultimately decide that a wound treatment team is necessary, agreed that we "need to give the people in control a chance to speak. That's only fair."

Barron is also investigating Stoffa for the supposed misappropriation of county monies to pay a law firm to help me in my Gracedale ballot challenge.

He claimed to be in discussions with their "chief counsel."
"But I don't know how it's gonna' go, so I don't want to comment any further on that."
Top secret.

Maybe Barron should do a little less talking and a little more of the job he was elected to perform.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NIZ Becomes Issue in Hahn-Altieri Race

Hahn with Judge Smith on Armed Forces Day (nonpolitical)
State Rep. Marcia Hahn, whose District includes Hanover Township, is one of the Lehigh Valley legislators who wants the NIZ law changed. Its most controversial provision allows Allentown to divert the EIT of workers inside the NIZ to help fund a hockey arena and other projects. Hahn, along with her fellow LV Republicans, wants that provision eliminated.

Hahn's opponent in this Fall's election is Leslie Altieri.

In contrast to Hahn, Altieri appears to support a diversion of Township EIT to pay for development in Allentown. Like Hahn, she opposes payday loans.

Altieri at state budget forum
Q. Do you support Township efforts to stop the EIT diversion and, if elected, would you attempt to repeal the EIT tax grab? Also, are you really willing to support a NIZ that will attempt to poach businesses right out of your district and into Allentown? Wouldn't it make more sense to require that business moving into the NIZ be outside a predetermined radius of 25-30 miles from A-town?

A. I am reluctant to comment on the NIZ, since it is currently under legal action. However, I will say that I generally support taxpayers financing development to boost Allentown, and therefore the entire Lehigh Valley. The City of Bethlehem has used a lot of taxpayer financing to recover from the loss of Bethlehem Steel.

Q. How do you stand on the legislation concerning payday lending, which seems to
have the support of NIZ cheerleaders Pat Browne and Jenn Mann?

A. Payday lenders prey upon those who are struggling the most. Interest rates can be so high that they’d make a loan shark blush. Instead of passing regulations so weak as to barely exist, we should be creating good jobs across the Commonwealth so that these payday loans are not needed.

Allentown Peppers Hanover, Bethlehem Townships With 28 RTK Requests

Since June 1, Allentown DCED Director Sara Hailstone has peppered Bethlehem and Hanover Townships with a total of 28 Right-to-Know requests. Those two municipalities are the spearhead of a municipal challenge to the legality of Allentown's 130-acre Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).

Under a state law passed in 2009 after a record-breaking budget stalemate, the NIZ was created. It authorizes Allentown to pay for a hockey arena and other improvements with the EIT revenue of anyone working inside the zone, even if he lives in another municipality. But this legislation has been attacked in Commonwealth Court as an unconstitutional "special" law that could only ever apply to Allentown.

Hailstone has asked for meeting minutes from both municipalities, even though those are already available online. She requests minutes of executive session, too, even though those are never kept. She wants copies of all email exchanges with developer Nic Zawarski, even though he's been retired for 15 years and his sons now operate the business. She asks the townships to tell her how much they've paid to Bethlehem law firm Broughal and DeVito, which represents both Townships. Finally, she wants all emails concerning an alphabet soup of agencies, from ANIZDA to ACIDA to AEDC.

Hailstone's multiple requests have been referred to Broughal and DeVito for legal review.

How do I know about these Right-to-Know requests? I filed a few myself.

Updated 11:45 AM: In an earlier version of this story, I write that developer Nic Zawarski is deceased. He is very much alive, and I apologize to Mr. Zawarski and his physicians.

No Hockey In Allentown For 2012-3 Season

Allentown will see no hockey games in the 2012-13 season. According to The Post-Star, six home games have been scheduled thus far. They will all be played in Glens Falls, NY starting on October 13.

Allentown hopes to fund the arena and other projects, at least in part, with earned income tax that would otherwise be directed to surrounding municipalities. But nineteen municipalities and one school district have challenged this funding mechanism in Commonwealth Court, arguing it is the result of a "special law" that only applies to the Queen City.

Preliminary arguments in that litigation, spearheaded by Bethlehem and Hanover Townships, are scheduled for September.

Allentown hopes to open the arena in September 2013.

What's Happening in Allentown's East Side?

The following are excerpts of unapproved minutes of the June 18 meeting of the East Allentown Rittersville Neighborhood Association. Dennis Pearson is President and David A Schell is Secretary.

East Side Fire Station

Schell also handed out pictures of the East Side Fire Station being demolished over the past week. The new fire station went before the planning commission, and some city authorities raised concerns, particularly the need for a waiver from the Shade Tree Commission. There were supposed to be seven trees on the property, despite the fact that the previous station had only one tree and one shrub on it. President Pearson sent a communication to the effect that we were more concerned about safety than trees, and noted that there is a park right across the street where trees could be added if necessary.

Atiyeh Zoning Appeal on Union Boulevard

Pearson also noted that City Council is now also considering Abe Atiyeh’'s request to put a senior citizen personal care-Alzheimer’s-hospital at the former Agere site on
Union Boulevard. This would require a zoning waiver, possibly by use of an overlay over the industrial zoning now in place. Parking for the Iron Pigs has been raised as an issue. Additional parking could use the former Boulevard Drive-In site for parking.

Irving Pool

Pearson called on the city representatives to discuss the pool situation. Irving Pool was built in 1937 and has outlived its expected lifespan. It is difficult to patch. The city would like to upgrade the facility and some have also wanted to add features. Parking is an issue. The pool is also not ADA compliant. Pearson asked if parking was necessary due to people being able to walk. Possibly the pool could be moved elsewhere on the east side where parking was not as much of an issue.

Comment: The recommendation was to get rid of the pool and add a spray park. Answer: Yes, that was the recommendation but it was not carved in stone, but was only a
recommendation. If the pool was moved elsewhere the pool space could be turned back to other athletic pursuits.

What were the pool attendance numbers for last summer? Irving saw 2000 swimmers, about 15% of the total swimmers. This was up from the previous year. They saw an increase at Irving when Fountain Pool closed.

Pearson: If we go to a spray park we would want to add one at Keck Park. Q: would two spray parks be acceptable instead of a pool? A: If we had to close the pool it would be acceptable, but a pool would be better. Q: How about opening the Dieruff Natatorium? Cannot be done in summer. McGinniss spoke to somebody from the school district administrative offices. She doesn’'t remember who. The person was in overall favor of using the pool, but played devil’'s advocate with the various problems. Dieruff has the advantage that one can enter the pool area from the
outside. We could not use Allen since people heading for the pool have to go through too many hallways. If this were to be done it would have to be done in Fall, but not this Fall due to the short time span.

Note: Many schools in Bucks and Berks use the school pools in the off-season for community use. In that case the community people got used to going to the pool both during the school year and in Summer. Cedar, Jordan, and Mack pools have areas set off for swimming laps.

Suggestion: Build on Allentown State Hospital property in cooperation with a swim club. Objection: there is too little flat land on the ASH property. What about building along the Lehigh River —on the west bank. There are presently plans to develop this area, although the developer could be asked about including a pool in this area. We would prefer something on this side of the river, however.

Is it our ultimate preference to redo Irving and keep it there? Yes, if possible. Ideally keep a pool at Irving but also put a spray park at Keck. Irving is ideal because of its central location. It was noted that Irving Park has been reconfigured before—. At one time it had four ball
fields.

Q: Can the playground be saved? Would it have to be moved to accommodate pool?

Estimated cost to repair and remodel Irving Pool, and bring it up to code, is $750,000. This figure is about 30% of the cost of a total redo of the pool. If the city did a spray park at Irving it would be larger than the one at Boyle with some standing water for smaller kids. It would also have lockers and would have a need for lifeguards due to the kiddies’' pool. A suggestion was made that something on
the order of an “endless pool” could be substituted for those who want to swim laps in less space.

More East Side representation is needed at Council meetings if we want to keep pool in this part of city. City Council needs to hear most East Side voices to take notice.

Q: Are we concerned about the admission cost? If it stayed at $1 would that be OK? A: We have no trouble with $1 or $2 but wouldn’t want to see it go to the price level of the other pools. It was noted that seniors (over age 62) and the disabled are allowed to get a free pass.

Q: Did any of us get a survey about pool use? None of those present said that they did. Supposedly 1600 of them were sent out. 51% of those who responded said that they would drive 10 minutes to a pool. 307 responses were received. Nobody mentioned Irving Pool or the East Side at all.

There is also the danger that the U.S. Justice Department will not allow opening in the future unless a plan is in place to become ADA compliant. Pearson noted that the city owns a lot on either E. Highland St. or E. Tremont St, somewhere west of Maxwell St. The site is probably not large enough for a pool, but could be for spray park. At one time there was also a ball field at Central Park area, where former Bennett Toyota parking lot is now.

Reapportionment

Pearson: Reapportionment has gone to a final vote. We will be in the former Jennifer Mann district (132nd). Our present representatives will be gone when the change takes place in two years. Overland Park (Ward 14-2) will go to the 22nd District. The other five voting districts east of the Lehigh River will be in the 132nd.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Would You Do With Pawlowski's Hole? Part 2


Yesterday, I asked you what you would do with Pawlowski's hole in downtown Allentown. Lots of great suggestions, including Central Park.

Bethlehem Township Considers Going Paperless


Palmer Township does it. Easton has been doing it for two years. And now, Bethlehem Township is considering the use of paperless agendas at its biweekly meetings.

Commissioner Martin Zawarski made the suggestion during the Township's June 18 meeting, referring to an Express Times article on the money and manpower saved in Easton and Palmer. He also called it a "greener way of doing things."

In Bethlehem Township, paper agenda packets are currently prepared by the administration, and then delivered to Commissioners by the police department.

Zawarski's proposal was greeted with approval. "I brought this issue up a few years ago," noted Commissioner Michael Hudak, who pointed out he has boxes of old agendas that would be easier and greener to access on a flash drive.

Commissioner Tom Nolan lent his support as well. Other boards on which he serves, from the library board to the gaming authority, use paperless agendas.

Calling the idea "very interesting," President Paul Weiss asked Township Manager Howard Kutzler for his view.

"We have the technology to email everything," answered Kutzler, noting the only sticking point would be the cost of an iPad or laptop for the Commissioners.


Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs Approve St Luke's ER Expansion

At their June 18 meeting, Bethlehem Township Commissioners unanimously endorsed plans by St. Luke's Hospital to double the size of its ER facility at its Anderson campus, located off Freemansburg Avenue. At a cost of $4.5 million, it will expand from 15 to 32 treatment rooms, adding 11,000 sq. ft. to its facility.

Anderson Campus President Edward Nawrocki, at a May 29 meeting of Township planners, stated that emergency services have been double what was initially projected. This expansion will enable the hospital to treat 60,000 patients per year.

St. Luke's hopes to complete its expansion by next Spring.

In other business, Commissioners unanimously approved a liquor license transfer for Constantino's Pizzeria & Ristorante, a new Italian restaurant to be located at 4202 William Penn Highway, near the Friendly Food Market. This eatery will operate at the site of a vacant farmers' market. Attorney George Baurkot, representing owner Thomas Raffaele, told Commissioners the business will close at 9 PM most evenings, and has room for 36 vehicles.

Commissioners also accepted a dedication of streets inside the Townes at Highland Park, a major subdivision first proposed ten years ago. "I don't know of any complaints in this development," remarked Manager Howard Kutzler.

Son of NIZ: Payday Loans

This is a story about unintended consequences.Those who support Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) have justified it as an attempt to transform and revitalize Allentown. But in the sausage-making factory known as the Pennsylvania legislature, support for the NIZ might also require support for predatory loan practices against people .

Like dandelions, Cash America offices at one time littered the Lehigh Valley, offering short-term, high-interest payday loans to those who can least afford them. People needing quick cash could borrow money and secure their loan with either a post-dated check or a pre-authorized withdrawal. Annual interest rate? Just 368%. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court put a stop to this practice in 2008, and Cash America cashed out.

Thanks to the Pennsylvania state house, this form of predatory lending is making a return. Legislation that will authorize a 419% APR on a two-week loan passed earlier this month, in a 102-90 vote. It still needs to pass in the state senate.

CACLV's Alan Jennings, as usual, pulls no punches. "Payday lending is usurious and abuses the most vulnerable people," he told me last week. He and numerous other organizations - from AARP to the United Way - note that payday loans are just a stepping stone to delinquency on other bills, bank account closures and bankruptcy.

In the state house, the payday loan legislation was opposed by Democrats Joe Brennan, Bob Freeman and Steve Samuelson, as well as Republicans Marcia Hahn and Joe Emrick. Under incredible pressure by party leadership, Hahn called Jennings from the house floor three times before deciding to vote against the legislation.

But Democrat Jenn Mann supported the bill. Why?

Sounding very Republican, she told The Morning Call's John Micek that government "can't control an individual's finances."

In the Senate, former payday loan opponent Pat Browne is now a payday loan proponent.

Mann and Browne, as you know, are the architects of the NIZ. Informed sources tell me that their support of payday loans is the price they had to pay, in the land of midnight payraises, for the NIZ.

Maybe Cash America can open an office at the arena.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What Would You Do With Pawlowski's Hole?

One of my readers sent me this possibility. Blogger Michael Molovinsky has suggested we fill it in. Others say we need to build a $220 million hockey arena because the hole's already there.

If you were King of the World, what would you do?

Under the Weather

If there's one thing worse than being sick in the Winter, it's being sick in the Summer. This weekend, I was nailed with all kinds of aches, pains and chills. I slept 12 hours last night, but am still a bit under the weather. Believe it or not, as I write this, I am being blasted by a hot air heater.

Years ago, I could run when I was sick. I tried that yesterday, and got worse. I ended up walking, and probably should have skipped completely.

I'm getting older.

I have lots of things to tell you, and hope I'll be firing on all cylinders by tomorrow.

Fela Kuti: A Real Community Activist

Believe it or not, I never started this blog to write exclusively about local politics and government. Mainly, I'm a storyteller. It just happens that my world is the Lehigh Valley political theater, a magnificent stage that reveals mankind at its best ... and worst. But today, I want to tell you another story, from another political stage half a world away. Some of you probably will know the tale.

About 7 years ago, I was really sick. I had contracted mono, the kissing virus, even though nobody had planted one on me. This disease, which never disappears completely, won't kill you. But it will make you wish you were dead. Especially when you are older.

After sleeping what seemed like an eternity, my fever finally broke to the strains of a very strange song being performed in, of all places, Dakar. The Mosquito Song, written by Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti, is about the biggest killers in the world - tiny mosquitoes. They took the lives of approximately 655,000 African children in 2010, after infecting them with malaria.

Moved by the song, I decided to find out what I could about this gifted musician. That's when I discovered his father, Fela Kuti. He's my real story, and puts "citizen activists" here in the Lehigh Valley to shame.

Fela's father was a minister and the first president of a teachers' union in Nigeria. His mother was a feminist in a country where women had few rights. She was the first woman to drive a car in that country.

Fela was sent to England to study medicine, like his brothers. But he dropped that for music. He developed a form of music called "Afrobeat," and he and his very large band began focusing on social issues. He openly smoked marijuana and developed a commune where he and his entire band were based. He adopted the raised fist of the "Black Power" movement here in the states.

Unlike other musicians of the time, his songs were in "Pidgin English" so he could reach more people, and he did. Sometimes, it was the wrong people. A song called Zombie, about the repressive Nigerian Army, resulted in an invasion of his compound. They burned it to the ground. Not only was he severely beaten, but his mother was tossed from a second story window. That killed her.

Amazingly, Kuti did more than rebuild the compound. He placed a coffin on its roof with a banner that said, "This is where justice was murdered."

He also wrote Coffin for a Head of State, and had his mother's body delivered to the General who had ordered the attack.

He also includes a scathing condemnation of the terrible things people do when they think God is on their side, whether Christian or Muslim.

In his lifetime, Kuti is known in the West for having married 27 women in one day. They were called his "Queens" on stage. Although this drew snickers here, son Seun explains that his father married these women because they were being called prostitutes. This gave them rights they would otherwise lack.

If you'd like to see an interesting contrast between Kuti and Michael Jackson, check out this video.

Fela, a musical based on Kuti's life, will open on Broadway next month.

But this is still a story waiting to be told.

Mezzacappa: First Defamation, Now Plagiarism

West Easton political wannabe Tricia Mezzacappa, whom I've been forced to sue for libel, has tried to portray herself as a deeply spiritual person in a comment to her Father's Day post today. She writes,
Sometimes God allows us to undergo sickness as a form of discipline and training in righteousness. God often permits these trials for our sanctification, as Paul himself learned when he prayed that God would remove from him an angel of Satan who was afflicting him: "And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger [Greek: angelos] of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

Even though we must face a certain amount of suffering and affliction in this life, we know God’s grace is sufficient to sustain us. All of God’s graces, including physical health, are bestowed to lead to the salvation of our souls. The Catholic Church teaches that the sacrament brings "the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul" (CCC 1532).

God also uses our suffering to help others. If Paul had not become ill while on his first missionary journey and been forced to stop traveling, he would not have preached to the Galatians, for he tells them, "You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first" (Gal. 4:13). If he had not preached to the Galatians, he would not have later written them the epistle that appears in our New Testament. God used Paul’s illness to bring salvation to the Galatians and to bring us a work of Scripture, through which we are still receiving benefits from God.

This is just one example of how God used suffering to bring about good. Therefore, if we suffer, we should look upon it as an opportunity for good, such as by offering up our sufferings for our own sanctification and for our departed brothers and sisters in Christ.

This applies also to the physical suffering of death, which will come for each of us one day. The Bible reminds us, "As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more" (Ps. 103:15–16).
Sounds pretty deep, doesn't it?

Well, she did not write it. She stole every frickin' syllable, right out of Catholic.com. Amazing! She is incapable of being honest, even when it comes to religion.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gold & Silver Bidders Lose Libel Claim Against NocCo Officials

Victor Balletta, Michael Reis and Michael Proetto showed up at a Northampton County Sheriff's Sale in 2008 with bulging sandwich bags full of silver and gold. Their bids were ignored by Deputy Sheriff Dave Ruberry and Assistant County Solicitor Chris Spadoni.

Ruberry told The Morning Call this trio were "anarchists," "paper terrorists," and possible members of the Sovereign Citizens movement. A little more conciliatory, Spadoni called them "opportunists."

Both Ruberry and Spadoni were sued for defamation.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court dismissed their lawsuit. The Opinion was penned by Judge Robert "Robin" Simposn, a former Northampton County judge.

Judge Simpson ruled that Ruberry and Spadoni, as County officials being sued in their official capacity, are immune. But he also adds that, as a matter of law, there was no defamation.

The Difference Between Chrin's TIF and the NIZ

As promised, Palmer Township's Dave Colver has sent me a plan of the zoning overlays for the massive Chrin TIF in the northern section of the Township, near Tatamy.

The 13 acres in red is the retail. The red areas on all 4 corners of the interchange are zoned that way.

The green areas provide for buildings up to 400,000 sq. ft  The pink areas allow for buildings only half that size up to 200,000. And they can fit on the proposed lots. Maximum building coverage on a lot in those areas is 40%.

The purple area, which I believe is about 275 acres, does permit a 1 million square-foot building. But because of the maximum building coverage restriction, that will be possible only on one lot.

Basically, the zones drop to 400,000 as you get close to the interchange. On the south and east sides of the interchange, they are only 200,000 sq. ft.

This development, six times the size of Allentown's NIZ, is expected to create 3,500 jobs. It will do so without diverting state taxes intended to buy medical insurance for children. It will do so without grabbing tobacco or sales taxes. It will do so without misappropriating the EIT of other municipalities. It will do so without poaching businesses from other areas in the Lehigh Valley. Developer Charles Chrin is willing to contribute up to $2 million to enable the County to preserve an acre of farmland for every one used for this development. Finally, thanks to the creation of a Neighborhood Improvement District, Charles Chrin will assume the risk of failure, and not the state.

West Easton Treatment Center Still Has No Final CO

Wednesday night, developer Abe Atiyeh announced that he had a certificate of occupancy (CO) for the West Easton Treatment Center, and that would be open for business within the next thirty days. But when he spoke, he was unaware it was only for the fire suppression system.

According to county engineers, some construction needs to be completed before the final CO is issued.

Updated 9:45 AM:  Abe just sent a corrected CO to the County, indicating he is ready to roll.

Dent Hosts Send-Off For Service Academy Appointees

When I covered Freedom High School's graduation last week, I feared it would be one of those dreary, boring affairs. Kinda' like my own. I was dead wrong.

They were wonderful kids, looking forward to facing the world. Dana Grubb, who photographed the event, later told me, "They always restore my faith in our youth."

Among the night's many highlights was the special recognition given to Seth Watlington, who learned that night of his appointment to the Naval academy. He walked onto the stage with an Oxford cap, but left with a NAVY baseball cap, as Stabler Arena thundered with applause.

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent, in what must be one of his most pleasant duties, yesterday hosted a send-off for the seventeen students from his District who will attend one of the nation's five service academies.

“Nominating hard-working local students for admission to one of our nation’s prestigious service academies is one of my most rewarding responsibilities as a Member of Congress,” said Dent. “These 17 students are some of the brightest and most dedicated young people in our area. I applaud their decision to serve our nation while continuing their education, and wish them the best of luck as they begin their studies this fall.”

Let me list these young men and women:


U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD:

·         Venus Molony, Moravian Academy
·         Mark Schnable, Allentown Central Catholic High School
·         Seth Watlington, Freedom High School
·         John Zawarski, Mercersburg Academy

Naval Academy Preparatory School, Newport, RI:

·         Jonathan Daus, Bangor Area High School

U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY:

·         Meaghan Ellison, Easton Area High School
·         Eric Johnson, Nazareth Area High School
·         Ian Myers, Notre Dame High School
·         Aimee Ortner, Northern Lehigh High School
·         Zachary Panto, Catasauqua Area High School
·         Peter Stanley, Easton Area High School

U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, West Point, NY:

·         Matthew Scot Bryant, U.S. Army Reserve
·         Bridgette Dougherty, Southern Lehigh High School
·         Christopher Monge, Valley Forge Military Academy

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO:

·         Evan Allman, Liberty High School

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY:

·         Scott Dennin, Boyertown Area High School
·         Nicole Mautino, Saucon Valley High School