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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Story About Mayor Donchez

Mayor Bob Donchez at BSI and RHF Holiday Open House
On Friday afternoon, I was sent to cover the grand opening of some business on West Market Street. Everyone was dressed very nicely, while I looked like shit. But I was on my way to a basketball game, and did not ant to wear a tie and be mistaken for a coach.

I parked my car and started to make my way down the hill to this shindig, wondering if I'd be able get even one decent picture. As I was on my way down, I saw Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez parking his car on the other side of the street. Like me, he was distracted by the caws of what must have been a million crows at the nearby Moravian Cemetery.

Then he did something I consider pretty unusual for a Bethlehem Mayor. Instead of marching down the street, he fished into his pocket for some change so he could feed the meter. Turns out it was unnecessary because the party hosts had permits, but Donchez was putting money in anyway.

After watching this from across the street, i outed myself and said Hi.

When he arrived at the party, it turns out the hosts had people waiting outside and had a special spot ready for him. He quietly answered he found a spot up the street, acting as though he hadn't noticed them. I think it's likely he did, and next time I'll pull in.

Anyhoo, this is an honest guy. The son of a cop. He's not the kind of guy you'll see at the liquor store, with a city-owned vehicle, buying cases of booze that he then lugs off to his house in a Chevy Tahoe. He's not the kind of guy who justifies this flagrant abuse of public trust as the incidental personal use of a government vehicle. This is not the kind of guy who buys burner phones or who uses City funds to sweep his office for electronic bugs.

I think Bob is wrong about Martin Tower rezoning, bit do not for a second challenge his personal integrity.

In my view, he really should wait until developer Lew Ronca decides what he wants to do there. Merchants think that, too. They are upset that their voices were not heard. Perhaps Bob could have done a little more to reach out to what he had to know was a problem. But I think the main problem is the one-way dialogue at City Council meetings. It's a system bound to lead to communication breakdowns. In fact, it is those one-way dialogues that ultimately created the misperception about City meetings with Ronca.

Let me explain.

At the very first public hearing on October 6, both Mike Recchiuti and Willie Reynolds incorrectly stressed that this rezoning at Martin Tower was city-driven, not developer driven. Mike Recchiuti went so far as to say that he did not believe the developer came and requested this change.

Now Alicia Karner, Bob Donchez or Darlene Heller could have easily refuted or clarified that statement. But they said nothing. In my opinion, they said nothing because Bethlehem City Council meetings have become far too formal. There's no real back-and-forth.

When my Right-to-Know later revealed that the City and Ronca had been exchanging love notes for six months, people understandably exploded. They felt they had been misled, and they had been misled. But I think this was unintentional. It's because of the system for delaing with public input, not the Council members or City officials.

Donchez told me that if he had to do it over, he'd do some things differently. This kind of one-way dialogue and formality during meetings is a prescription for the very distrust we now see. That has to change.

Though he often puts his foot in his mouth in his exchanges with merchants, Bryan Callahan seems to be one Council member who understands this is a problem. Maybe other Council members will soon start seeing it, too.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not many people refute Mayor Donchez integrity. He is not seen as a very strong administrator. So, he depends heavily on this team. In this case his erstwhile DCED Director let him down. She apparently went rogue again and he has been sucked into the controversy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Do you know what the word erstwhile means? Better get a dictionary.

Anonymous said...

She should be erstwhile as it means former.

Anonymous said...

Actually the trios no comment was nothing but a lie by omission.

Of course he would do things differently. He got caught. People are always regretful after they are caught.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Callan seems to live with his foot in his mouth.

Anonymous said...

How many more articles are you going to write trying to clean up this guys mess? Most think that is the das and senators job.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am the person who has published the articles most critical of Martin Tower re-zoning, and believe Ronca needs to come forward with a plan. But i see no evidence of criminal behavior. It would require me to believe that three people are lying. i am unwilling to make that improbably leap. I have pointed out the missteps, but stop short of challenging anyone's personal integrity. The fact that you do so anonymously is an indication you know you are wrong.

The Mayor and his staff should have immediately corrected Willie and Recchiuti on october 6, but the atmosphere in this city council meetings is not conducive to dialogue.

Anonymous said...

More of your whitewash. As mayor bobby should have stood up and tried to change the atmosphere by telling the truth at that moment, not after he got caught. Of course that would have been against the protective council attitude. A part of which he was for 19 years. You can't hide the fact of that truth.

Anonymous said...

There is a very relevant case that is about to be decided by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. It involves Ardmore on the Main Line.

A State grant was approved in that case under the same program as the Martin Tower renovation state grant. The Ardmore project then completely changed from what had been approved. Opponents have gone to court to claim that the grant money should not be allowed to be used because the project is now completely different from the project that was approved a few years ago on the list of eligible projects by the Legislature.

http://articles.philly.com/2015-12-09/news/68870210_1_train-station-transit-center-save-ardmore-coalition

http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2015/08/18/main_line_times/news/doc55cc9394d0697684377381.txt?viewmode=default

Anonymous said...

A nice story about a decent man---it changes nothing.

Anonymous said...

11:15'

you are right. nothing changes. same old deceitful BS in bedlam

Anonymous said...

The big question is how would Mayor Gregory handle this? We could use Jim Gregory.

Anonymous said...

With all this grant grab get to give moving around in three different homeroom homerule charter law for one in the same circus act acting as the browne hole ReNue the valley¿!($One in the same yet with no administrational ties¿!($
redd
patent pending

Anonymous said...

The Mayor is a good man. It's his job to promote new businesses and grow the tax base, not to protect businesses from competition! Knock the tower down and bring us some nice stores that we can shop at on the West Side.

Anonymous said...

@12:33 AKA the bacon lady your slab of man meat SpUrticus has become institutionalized and has no desire to leave the cozy confines of his x8x10 domicile. ¿tHe sooner you accept his transition into the LGBT hemisphere the sooner a hunt for an Über £er can begin¿
redd
patent pending

Anonymous said...

The Mayor is a good man let down by his unqualified DECED Director. Ask her staff.

Anonymous said...

Complainers ought to pipe down. Bethlehem is a one party town. There's no serious political opposition to the Machine. It's a prettier version of Allentown. But democracy has been just as dead for just as long.

Anonymous said...

Well I don't ever see myself voting for Willie for mayor after this sorry episode.
I have always liked Bob, and he is certainly a breath of fresh air after the last frat boy mayor,
but this is a very troubling episode that won't disappear without some serious damage control in the real world.

Anonymous said...

Huge banner ad on lehighvalleylive.com website urging Bethlehem residents brought to you by: "Save Our Downtowns", Humm, wonder who's behind that?

Anonymous said...

I don't know who they are but count me in!

Anonymous said...

Gary W. Gorman writes:

Good assessment, Bernie. Fuck you trish and your attitude.

Anonymous said...

Gary W. Gorman wishes


He had a real girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Why attack Jim Gregory reddman? You are jealous of the Mediterranean manslab right? The human tripod is the only hope for Bethlehem. Too bad he is not Mayor because none of this would be a problem.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Bernie,
help me out here now the pistol packing bacon woman is trying to copy me and answering itself back¿!($
Not Redd or reddman just plain redd and not reddrabbit for sure and no baconbag u can not have my meds as that would b a criminal ACT¿!($
I am sure if you travel to the land of OZ were the oxi fall from the sky into every innocent indigent child via LVHN formally the great allentown hospital circus sideshow freeks and geeks mommas back midway cigar surprise sideways trix of years past¿!($
redd
patent pending

Anonymous said...

9:20 is a very astute individual and I found that article very interesting. It will be a very interesting decision from the Commonwealth Court and it should have an impact on the Martin Tower project. As a taxpayer I don't think RCAP money that was originally awarded to redevelop the site should be allowed to be used now to tear the building down

JOHN M

Anonymous said...

Good people also make mistakes---sometimes serious ones.'
Now make it right.

Anonymous said...

Time to hit the reset button and fix this.
It's not too late.

Anonymous said...

oh please. I just puked. if he had any integrity he would have figured out a way to stop this mess . he knew the campaign cash , he knew of the plan and sold it as something it was not. he was a big part and as the stones continue to be turned over, he will be just as involved as any one else in this city.

A REAL LEADER MAKES TOUGH DECISIONS AGAINST THE STATUS QUO. A REAL LEADER DOES NOT BECOME PART OF THE STATUS QUO. IT IS A LEADERS JOB TO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO, NOT JUMP IN FEET FIRST. HE CHOSE TO JUMP IN FEET FIRST. AFTER THE SCAM HAS BEEN EXPOSED, HE WISHES HE COULD CHANGE THINGS. YEAH I BET HE DOES. BE A MAN AND RETURN ALL THE CASH DONATED BY THE CRIZ PLAYERS. BE A MAN AND A REAL LEADER AND DEMAND EACH MEMBER OF COUNCIL RETURN THEIR CASH FROM THE CRIZ PLAYERS.

IT MIGHT BE TIME TO ATTEND ANOTHER FUND RAISER AT A LAWYERS HOUSE FOR GUYS LIKE BOB , AND SOME OF HIS COUNCIL MEMBERS YOU KNOW THE ONES WHO DESPISE THE PUBLIC AND ALL OPPOSITION, THE POLICE ADMIN/COMMISH.. PSST - AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

CRICKETS AS EXPECTED

every single member of this guys admin and his city council , developers ,as well as those in the "know" were full aware of the plans behind this scam.

Anonymous said...

It always a bummer when you're caught red handed.

Anonymous said...

Bob may be a decent man but he has not been an effective Mayor. He was always the last guy to make a decision when he was on Council and always seemed too worried about offending people. That is not a good trait as a leader and Mayor. Donchez is just not present enough in or out of City Hall and he delegates too much. This was certainly an example of his DCED Director's failure but the bottom line is he hired her and let her do it.