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Friday, March 23, 2018

NorCo Elections Chair Treisner Bullies Butz Elementary Parents

Two days a year, I am an election judge (glorified poll worker) at a local elementary school. At least once and sometimes on both of those days, the school is closed for "in-service" training. Anthropologists at National Geographic have determined that closing the school is the best way to attract an elusive and increasingly rare species - the voter.

They're easy to scare off. If they see a parking lot full of cars, they drive away. If they see a gauntlet of candidates with flyers, they'll do a 180. They don't like rainy, windy or cold weather. But if it's quiet enough, and the weather is nice, you can lure a few of them with a bake sale. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Schools are their ideal habitat. Their numbers are diminishing and they are certainly an endangered species, right up there with the Giant Panda and Tasmanian Devil. But just as the honeybee pollinates the food we eat, the voter pollinates our government with leaders.

Because there are so few voters left, it's only natural that people are afraid of them. It's happened at my polling station, so we strictly limit how they access the building.

In Bushkill Township, where Butz Elementary School is located, a lot of people are afraid. Almost 1,800 moms and dads have signed petitions asking the NorCo Elections Commission to move this voter habitat to a nearby fire hall. That fire hall has in turn agreed to welcome this endangered species with open arms.

Voters are mostly harmless Though they sometimes attack each other, there are no documented cases of a voter attacking a child. But parents are concerned that some angry voter could walk into a school on election day and start firing. It's unlikely, but there it is. We have become an increasingly violent society. As Butz Elementary dad Korry Frank pointed out, there have been 17 school shootings so far this year, which is 17 too many. These parents want these changes because they care about their children. And the changes being sought are reasonable.

They first made their case to Executive Lamont McClure and NorCo Council. McClure told these parents he agreed with them, but the only body that could change the polling place was the Elections Commission.

Yesterday, about 50 of these moms and dads, some carrying signs and others carrying kids, appeared before the Elections Commission. This is a five-member body (two Republicans and three Democrats) that governs county elections. It would be up to them to change the polling station to the fire hall. Four out of five showed for their first meeting of the year. Republican Mary Diggs was absent, but Republican Maudeania Hornik was present. So were Democrats George Treisner, Deb Hunter and Kathy Fox.

Treisner, an experienced Elections Commissioner, ran the show. He is himself a former educator, electrical contractor, financial advisor and tax consultant. And to start, he was very cordial.

He and the other Commissioners heard detailed and eloquent presentations from Paul Soporowski, Crystal Mulada and Korry Franke. What prompted them to action was the November 2017 election day shootout involving a state trooper that led to a lock down at area schools. Because an election was going on at Butz Elementary, a lockdown was impossible there. "Will you stand for the past, or will you stand for the kids?" asked Franke.

A retired principal said his main concern was that kids would be run over by an older driver.

Ronald Short, President of the Bushkill Tp Volunteer Fire Co., said his board had voted unanimously to allow voting to take place at their social hall. He said the fire trucks and ambulances are secured away from he social hall, and there is plenty of parking.

Hornik questioned whether using the fire hall as a polling place might present safety concerns as well. But Mulada assured her that the firetrucks and ambulances have separate access and parking.

Treisner said that, as a former educator himself, he thought that an election at a school could provide "a lesson in civics" to the students. "It's not in our purview for us as an Elections Commission to vote on this tonight," he continued,even though that's precisely why they were there.

Hunter, a teacher whose son was taught at Butz Elementary, suggested moving the primary election to the fire hall for the primary, and then returning to the school for additional elections with the understanding that the school would schedule "in service" days for future elections. She said she was unwilling to move elections to the fire hall permanently because the county would have no recourse if, down the line, the fire hall decided to discontinue its arrangement. She said the Elections Code includes a preference for public buildings for that reason. Hunter said she would support moving a polling place to a private entity only if it was for a minimum of ten years.

Mulada and another woman began debating the proposal with Hunter, while the fire chief stood behind them.

"Enough!" Treisner, suddenly exclaimed. He said the two ladies debating Hunter had spoken long enough and the fire chief standing behind them would get five minutes, but after that, they were moving on.

Hunter's motion ultimately failed. Only Kathy Fox supported it.

Hornik had another, more popular motion. She suggested holding the primary at Butz, and then making the move to Butz. The room erupted in applause as she made her argument. But no one would second her.

"I don't have a second so we can't vote on it," said Treisner.

"That is unacceptable," shouted someone in the audience. "Somebody second it."

"It is acceptable," shouted an angry Treisner. "According to Roberts Rules of Order. When the hell have you been appointed parliamentarian?"

As Hunter tried to calm him, Treisner grew increasingly irate.

"We're in a meeting and we're allowed to conduct our business without interference," he bellowed. "There is no more public comment." He then threatened to "clear the room."

Dr. Jekyll had suddenly turned into Mr.Hyde.

At this point the parents and their kids got up and filed out of the room.

Instead of a lesson in civics, everyone got a lesson in bad government.

Amazingly, the board then elected him as Chair by a 2-1 vote, with Deb Hunter voting No. Unfortunately, Treisner has given Bushkill parents every reason to believe their government has no regard for them. He has had a distinguished career, and I suspect his erratic behaviormay be the result of health issues.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Crowded Dem Field in Pa. 7th Is Itself a Message

The DCCC is notorious for screwing up Congressional races here in the Lehigh Valley. I've seen it happen several times, but they continue. They attempted to pressure Rev. Greg Edwards out of the race. To his credit, he called foul. They may have been more successful with David Weidman, a disabled combat vet. He made a tearful exit from the race over the weekend. He declined to name who pressured him. But even with Weidman's departure, six Democrats and just two Republicans have filed nomination petitions. That alone should tell you that this seat is going to go Democratic. The Cook Political Report now lists the district, which was solidly Republican with centrist Charlie Dent, as "likely Democratic."

The large number of Democrats running bodes well for Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. He's a tough, law-and-order Democrat who has come under fire for meeting with and speaking to the tea party, instead of snubbing them, as most Democrats do. As DA, he represented everyone, not just those who vote for him. He has that same attitude in the Congressional race.

His conservative views on issues like the death penalty and immigration will get him in trouble with people looking for a Nancy Pelosi clone. Just as Republican wack jobs like NorCo GOP party boss General Lee Snover liked to claim that Charlie Dent wasn't Republican enough, there are idiots on the left making the same kind of complaint about Morganelli.

Dent and Morganelli are unlike the extremes within their parties. They are centrists. Like most of us.

Given Morganelli's wide and positive name recognition, he is going to stand out in a field of six Democrats. Let's face it. Most people have never heard of Greg Edwards, David Clark, Susan Ellis Wild, Roger Ruggles or Rick Dougherty. Everyone knows Morganelli. As the sole woman running, Susan Wild will get a lot of support, and she should. As the most liberal of the candidates and sole minority member, Rev. Edwards will get a lot of votes, and he should. But John is going to get more.

I have no idea why Daugherty, who stood at the podium with Fed Ed and cheered him on as he resigned, is even running. I imagine it is pure ego. But he will only help Morganelli.

The same can be said of Republican-turned-Democrat Roger Ruggles, a Lafayette professor who rarely crawls down from his ivory tower long enough to learn what really is going on in Easton. He's running to draw votes away from Morganelli, probably at the request of Dem party boss Matt Munsey or Easton Mayor Sal Panto. What escapes them is that no one really knows the Professor, while Morganelli is very popular among Easton voters. Like Daugherty, Ruggles will only help Morganelli.

It's a much more lonely race among Republicans. Lehigh County Comm'r Marty Nothstein and former Lehigh County Comm'r Dean Browning are the only two candidates. Browning, a numbers guy, must know the only way he could have won this race was with multiple candidates. But one-by-one,they've pulled out. Opportunist Justin Simmons imploded. MacKenzie realized he'd lose to Morganelli.

This is going to be between Morganelli and Nothstein.

Susan Ellis Wild Snags Three LGBT Endorsements

Three LGBT community leaders in the 7th congressional district have endorsed Susan Wild for Congress. They are Adrian Shanker, a Democratic State Committee Member for Northampton County and Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; as well as the Lehigh Valley's two LGBT-elected officials, Allentown City Council Woman Candida Affa and Lehigh County Commissioner Amy Zanelli.

“In this era of increased hatred and violence that we’ve seen since Donald Trump took office, it’s imperative that the 7th Congressional District is represented by a candidate who believes that LGBT people deserve equal treatment under the law. I am fully confident that Susan Wild will be that representative." said Shanker, "I’ve known Susan for more than a decade, and she is an intelligent, proven leader who will approach policy making from a fair-minded perspective. Susan believes in LGBT equality and will fight for fairness at every turn. I look forward to having her as my representative in Congress.”

Boscola: Why Women Should Vote For John Morganelli

State Senator Lisa Boscola endorsed Northampton County DA John Morganelli for Congress yesterday. That's no surprise. They've been friends for years. What is surprising is why. John has been painted as anti-woman by the Nancy Pelosi types, but Boscola draws a more accurate picture.

"District Attorney John Morganelli has a progressive record when it comes to empowering women. He increased the number of female prosecutors from less than 5% on his first day in office to over 50%. He appointed the first woman ever to serve as First Deputy DA, and he created the county's first Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Units to address crimes against women. John Morganelli has taken on the tough fights in law enforcement his entire career. As a congressman, John will fight for affordable health care, equal pay for women, new laws to protect pregnant women in the work place and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children and the mentally ill."

As Morganelli himself observes, Senator Boscola is the most prominent and highest-ranking female elected official in the LV. Her support matters.

A-Town Mayoral Applications Due Friday

Allentown's Interim Mayoral applications are due on Friday. What I know so far is that there are about a dozen, and one of them was scrawled out in pencil. Though the applicant must be a Democrat, at least one is not registered to vote at all. Thus far, no application has come from MacLean, Hyman or O'Connell. I'm told that Betsy Morris Levin is an applicant, although I have not confirmed this with her.

I expect to see a surge of applicants on Friday.

Fed Ed, Allinson, Granted Extensions For Post-Trial Motions

Judge Juan R. Sánchez has given former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and Scott Allinson, a former partner at Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, a little extra time for post trial motions after both were recently found guilty of political corruption. They have until April 6 to file.

Philadelphia Attorney Jack McMahon said in his motion that he'll be on vacation and out of the country until April 7. but he himself asked for a new filing date of April 6, so an attorney in his firm will likely handle this for him.

There was no opposition to these extension requests.

In the meantime, Fed Ed has started a snowball fight on his Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Allentown's Charlie Thiel Faction

Charlie Thiel and Allentown's former Mayor, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, have a lot in common. Both are transplants to the Lehigh Valley. Fed Ed hails from Chicago, while Thiel is originally from the Philly area. Both of them went to bible colleges. Fed Ed graduated from Moody's while Thiel attended Valley Forge Christian College. They both engaged in pay-to-play. Fed Ed set up a number of  political action committees he used to extort money from people. He, along with State Reps. Peter "the Gringo" Schweyer and Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg set up the now defunct Citizens for a Better Allentown to help re-elect Thiel to the school board. He and Fed Ed also shared the same friends, Miked Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz. During breaks from preaching the Prosperity Gospel, Thiel and Fleck were drinking buddies. So it's little wonder that Thiel wants to follow Fed Ed's footsteps and pick up where Fed Ed left off as Mayor.

On his Facebook page, Thiel delivers this sermonette: "The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends."

So has Thiel become like Fleck, a drinking buddy, Ruchlewicz and Fed Ed? Call him Fed Ed Lite or Pawlowski 2.0. But there are too many similarities between these two to ignore.

He even has a bunch of kool-aid followers, just like Fed Ed.

"Praying that God's will be done," says one cheerleader.

Amazingly, he does have support on City Council. Candida Affa, who hosted the kickoff for Citizens for a Better Allentown at her bar, will vote for him. So will Courtney Robinson. He does everything lobbyist Jenn Mann tells him to do and is the person who asked Dan McCarthy to manufacture a flawed legal opinion about the eligibility of other candidates. A third vote for Thiel will come from Roger MacLean, unless he decides he wants the job himself.

There won't be a fourth. Nor should there be.

Allentown Should Draft FBI Agent as Next Top Cop

Unless you've been on the Planet Kratom, you probably know by now that Allentown is looking for a new Mayor. Its former occupant, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, will soon be leaving on an extended vacation at a minimum-security facility, courtesy of Uncle Sam. But it was only reported today that Allentown's current police chief, Glen Dorney, is resigning to take a more lucrative and less demanding job at South Whitehall. Their chief left for an even more lucrative hospital gig. Dorney is leaving after about three seconds on the job, and his two immediate predecessor had very short tenures as well. They can recite all their commendations for this and that, but the truth is that they all left Allentown in the lurch. They were in it for themselves, not the City. Fortunately, Allentown's next Mayor is in a very good position to change things and install a real crime fighter who will immediately boost the morale of the police force and city.

Who is this person? Scott Curtis. He is the FBI Special Agent whose name appeared on the federal documents back in 2015. He was FedEd's nemesis.

Curtis is a hard-charging mob buster who is reported to have virtually destroyed the Colombo crime family in NYC. Over a decade, he participated in the arrest of over 100 mobsters. Even more interestingly, he flipped about a dozen of them.

He repeated that practice here. He flipped Sam Ruchlewicz, Mike Fleck and Francis Dougherty. His investigation of Allentown's political corruption is the most extensive of its kind in the Lehigh Valley.

Curtis reaches mandatory retirement age in April. I can think of no one better suited as Allentown's top crime dog. What I think means nothing, but I understand that several City Council members feel that way, too.He's their #1 draft pick.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Allentown Mayor: Bennett Says No.

Statement from Siobhan “Sam” Bennett: "There has been speculation on whether or not I would submit my name for the position of interim Allentown Mayor. After the 2017 mayoral primary, I “burned my red jacket” and said it would be the last time I would be a candidate for public office. Rather, I said I would focus on non-profit and civic ways to continue assisting our city. I am a woman of my word, and I am not putting my name forward. Instead, I am urging City Council to focus on the most important task at hand, which is to restore Allentown City Hall’s positive reputation among voters and the citizens of our nation.

"After Ed Pawlowski’s resignation I contacted City Council members to gain insight into the direction they planned in appointing the interim mayor. Although I am extremely grateful for the hard work of the council members in such a difficult time in our city’s history, I respectfully disagree with the direction they are taking of picking anyone from the list of former candidates to serve as interim mayor.

"There is nothing more important than restoring confidence in City Hall and providing strong executive leadership to all the departments to get the city back on track. I stand with others who support the selection of someone with no special interests, political history or intention of being mayor long term. Allentown needs someone in the coming months with proven administrative ability and impeccable reputation who can make sound decisions without worrying about political considerations; someone with a business or non-profit background who will work with and be accountable to City Council to clean up the mess in city hall.

"This approach will make possible a fair mayoral race in the next municipal election, and also will give the next duly-elected mayor the best possible chance for success. What Allentown needs now and in the coming months is stability and reputation management, not more political business as usual.

"Although I will not be a candidate nor hold public office again, I will continue to work in on-profit ways for the best interests of the city we love. As CEO of the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society I am committed to the success of the inaugural Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration (PennMArt) this Memorial Day Weekend at the historic Allentown Fairgrounds. Our goal is to honor veterans and celebrate Allentown’s and our Commonwealth’s great historical past and exciting future.

"Together with the right interim leadership we can hand over to the new mayor we elect in 2019 a city in which we can all be proud."

NorCo Responds to Concerns Over West Easton Work Release Faciliity

Matt Dees
Matt Dees is a West Easton Borough Council member. He also publishes an informative blog about one of Northampton County's smallest, yet most colorful, communities. In addition to being the home base of Tricia Mezzacappa, who recently started calling herself Tricia Phillips, it is also the location of a work release facility that is leased from Abe Atiyeh.

About a month ago, Dees had some beefs about the work release center.What bothered him most were the residents who leave the facility and fail to return. In addition, "[r]esidents of West Easton had complained of trash, the milling of facility residents outside the gate, cars suspected of being owned by facility residents parked on West Easton streets in violation of our ordinance, incidents of verbal abuse by visitors to the facility and other problems that had been on the rise for past few years."

Dees was before Council again on March 15 "to thank County Executive McClure for his quick response and direct involvement in seeking remedies."

Here are some of the changes McClure made "to a situation that had been festering for the last couple of years."   

- A direct contact number to work release administrators has been provided so that residents in the immediate area can call and have someone respond immediately to a problem caused by a facility resident or visitor.
- Facility residents will be used to police the gate area for litter.
- The procedure of picking up or dropping off facility residents has been changed to conform to the ordinance and minimize any inconvenience to area residents.
-The Mayor will be informed when a resident fails to return and he can decide whether the community should be notified.

Dees and most of  the borough council also attended a facility tour, and found that the guards were "professional and courteous."  After seeing the place from the inside, Dees had to wonder why anyone would fail to return.

"If my naval service had afforded me some of what I saw in the facility's barracks-like setting I might have done a full 20 years, rather than only five." 

NorCo Plans Improvements at Minsi Lake

Northampton County Council on March 15 approved the release of $500,000 from the Open Space Initiative and Act 13 Marcellus Shale Legacy Funds as matching dollars for future grants from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and other organizations.

Minsi Lake is one of only two public lakes in Northampton County. It was built by the
PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) in 1970 for public recreation. It consists of a 117-
acre lake maintained by PFCB, and 194 acres of surrounding parkland which was leased by the
County in 1991.

The land is located in Upper Mount Bethel Township, immediately south of the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area.

According to the county's open space coordinator, Bryan Cope, improvements to the site will include a fishing pier, kayak launches, Accessible trails. kayak launches, a walking trail around the lake, fishing piers, picnic benches, grills, improved parking lots, a pedestrian bridge across the spillway, restrooms and in-lake fish habitats.

The lake was drained in the spring of 2017. Over 5,000 pounds of fish were relocated as dam improvements should be completed by the fall of 2019 with a new spillway which can better withstand a maximum flood event.

Lake Minsi’s east shore is still open to the public for hiking, birdwatching and other recreational activities.

Cope said that the lake site also includes the Bear Swamp Archery Range, and that he hopes to conduct a feasibility study for improvements there. 

Former Corrections Officer to Head Jail

County Executive Lamont McClure has nominated James C. Kostura for the position of Director of Corrections. Mr. Kostura has served as the Deputy Warden of Community Corrections since 2013. He began his career with the County as a Corrections Officer at the Northampton Jail in 1993, working his way up to Shift Lieutenant then Security Operations Administrator.

I can think of at least three former Corrections Directors who started out as guards. I know very little about Kosura, which is probably a good thing. I  saw no evidence that he has financial difficulties.   

According to a news release that accompanied the appointment, Kostura served in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserves for twenty-years as an Active Duty SEAL officer providing training in anti-terrorism techniques and defensive tactics. I checked and the Navy does allow reservists to become SEALs so long as they go through active duty training.

I am unaware what rank Kostura attained in the Navy, or what his educational is.

Kostura’s nomination has been sent to the Northampton County Council. They will likely receive a vote on his appointment in April.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Good Samaritan

Vince Milite is Public Works Director at Hanover Tp. I want to share this Facebook post from him today. It's proof that there still are good people out there.

Every now and then you hear a story of a very small child wandering the streets with just a diaper and a shirt, no pants, socks, or shoes. Well on this 40 degree day, Tricia Milite and myself saved one today on Center Street, Bethlehem. Thank you, City of Bethlehem Police Department and the rest of the good Samaritans who brought out clothes for this lost and wandering child. As it turns out there is a lot more to the story, but now she is safe. ... Wandering the streets at least half hour. Child was put into protective custody. ... [T]his baby was spotted on linden street several blocks away, and no one reported her. The person who spotted her did not have a cell phone and ran home to get a phone. Meanwhile she was just wandering around. Why did no one else care enough to get involved. Again we are not special in any way, we were doing what I thought anyone one would do. It's just a shame everyone else looked away.

Boys' Hoops: Allentown Central Ends Magical Season

"Listen to this ...."

''It's wonderful, isn't it?"

So began my second road trip of the week to watch high school basketball  On Tuesday night, I drove a prominent local attorney through the coal regions to Hazelton, where he grew up. I received quite a history lesson along the way about mining disasters, cannibalism, the Molly Maguires and all kinds of massacres.

On Friday night, Reading High School was the destination of the quarter-final match up between Allentown Central Catholic Boys' Basketball and #1-ranked Bonner-Prendergatz. I'll have more about the game, but this second road trip, in which I served as chauffeur again, is noteworthy. This time around, the lesson was music appreciation.

We were leaving early because we were meeting up with a contingent of parents and fans at the Peanut Bar. On our way there through Friday afternoon traffic, my companion asked me to name my top composer, who is Beethoven.

"Beethoven? He's a plagiarist, you know. His 'Ode to Joy' is a clear copy of Mozart's Misericordias Domini K.222. Here, let me play it."

He dug it out and it is pretty much identical. He also told me that Mozart composed over 600 works, while Beethoven had fewer than 100.

"Rightyo," I said. "Why don't you sue him?"

"Statute of limitations," he answered.

Meat may be a sin on Lenten Fridays, but Corona Lite is fine. Because I retired from drinking long ago, I figured Jesus wouldn't mind if had a hamburger at Peanut Bar. The others set pretty good examples and avoided meat. One of the moms is even trying to cure me of my tendency to be mean and heartless when I write.

"Choose Christ!" she tells me.

Neither Mozart nor Beethoven was at the game. In a rarity for high school basketball, there was no music at all. I've always wondered what the kids would do if they came out on the court to the tune of Julie Andrews' "I feel pretty." I've never been able to convince PA operators to play it.

No sense of humor.

One woman, a friend of one of the moms who herself was quite a basketball player, asked me to point out my grandson as the team warmed up.

"He doesn't look like you at all."

"What do you mean, how do you think he got so handsome?"

"Not from you."

"Look at his muscular frame, where do you think he got that?"

"Not from you."

"You know what? You should choose Christ."

Vinnie Lynch
As for the game itself, The Morning Call's Keith Groller has a very touching account. The person I want to credit, something I was unable to do during the season, is Coach Dennis Csensits. He did a great job in taking a team that The Express Times did not even include in its initial top ten, all the way to the quarter finals. He believed in his team when they sometimes questioned themselves. In Central's pre-game prayer, everyone is reminded that the gym is a classroom where good sportsmanship is taught. He instilled that philosophy in his players. Yes, they were very physical and aggressive. But if an opponent went down, it was often a Central player who helped him to his feet. Though some parents had problems buying into the Coach's philosophy of limited playing time, almost all of them came around during the season.

If I were to single out a player who best exemplifies the spirit of this rare and remarkable team, it would be "Spicy" Vinnie Lynch.

Now Vinnie is a football player, not a basketball player. He might be the strongest boy at Central and can even bench press me. But last year, he was not getting a lot of playing time, so he went to see the coach. The coach told him his primary role on the team is to serve as a tough defender against whom the starters could practice. He might get some playing time, but not a lot.

A lot of players would hang it up after that. Not Vinnie. He decided to be part of the team and cheer everyone on, whether he was playing or not. His mom came to every game and was one of the team's biggest cheerleaders. We hear lots about the other players. But guys like Vinnie were the heart and soul of this team.

In Central's first state playoff game, Coach Csensits sent Vinnie in as the clock was winding down. Jay Vaughan fed him the ball, and Vinnie passed it right back to him. So Jay danced across the floor and back and passed it to him again. Vinnie passed it to Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman. Instead of scoring, Keeshawn passed the ball back to Vinnie, who in turn fed it to Jay. This happened about six times until Vinnie finally took a shot ... and scored.

Everyone erupted.

"I was teasing my fans," Vinnie explained after the game.

I will miss these guys.

On Saturday morning, I received a telephone call from my lawyer friend.

"Listen to this ..."

More Mozart.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Two LV Basketball Teams Still Stand in Chip Quest

Just a few days ago, seven District XI basketball teams were still standing in their quest for the chip of their respective divisions.  Now there are only two.

Boys' Basketball:

2A: Moravian Academy, which surprised many people this in outstanding play,was defeated by the #2-ranked Constitution Generals (#2) on Saturday, 83-73. The four remaining teams left are Constitution, Holy Cross (Dunmore), Sewickley Academy and Sacred Heart (Coraopolis).

4A: Bethlehem Catholic (#3) dominated Berks Catholic Friday night, 62-37. On Monday, the Golden Hawks face #1-ranked Imhotep Charter at Reading High School in the final four.

5AAllentown Central Catholic High School was eliminated by #1-ranked Bonner-Prendergast on Friday night. I will have a separate story about that game. The Vikings finish the season ranked by MaxPreps as #5.

In the final four, Bonner will go up against Abington Heights (#4) at Freedom High School on Monday night, 7 pm. In the western part of the state, Milton Hershey (#6) will face Mars (#3).

Girls' Basketball:

5A: Southern Lehigh (#8) continues its march for a state title with a victory over Harrisburg (#2) on Saturday, 42-36. On Monday night, they will play Archbishop Wood in the final four, while Archbishop Carroll will take on Mars.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Lamont McClure addresses bedsores
at Gracedale 
Gracedale Nursing Home, which is owned by Northampton County, has been struggling with its Medicare rating for quality measures, which reflects the quality of care afforded to residents. It had dipped to one star, the lowest rating. It currently is at two stars, which is still considered below average. Every month, at the Human Services Committee, Gracedale Administrator Raymond Soto updates Council on measures being taken to improve resident care. But for the past two months, there's been an increase in the number of pressure ulcers, which are also called bedsores. Lori Vargo Heffner wanted to know why. Although no one can really be sure, this increase may be related to the $500,000 purchase of new mattresses. That took place under former Executive John Brown. Former Administrator Cathy Allen made the purchase, ignoring policies that had been put in place for testing.

Soto indicated that a number of factors can lead to bed sores, including failure to move residents and a diet that contains insufficient protein. But nursing staff is above the state average Heffner kept prodding Soto about other possible reasons until  Executive Lamont McClure provided his own explanation.

"I'm horrified by this," he said, noting that pressure ulcers have increased two months in a row. He agreed that there are several possible reasons. While "correlation is not causation," McClure believes the introduction of new mattresses last December may be one of those reasons. "We're going to get to the bottom of it," he promised. "We're all over it."

McClure added that another problem that has resulted from these new mattresses is that residents are falling out of bed. The mattresses are often improperly inflated by residents and they form domes, causing some of them to roll out of bed and onto the floor.

Cathy Allen, who had no nursing home experience, executed a half million dollar contract to purchase these mattresses.

Sherry Ficocelli
Soto explained that at the end of last year, he was told there would be new furniture. He said the mattresses were an afterthought. Cathy Allen told him she was going to get a "good deal" on new mattresses."There wasn't much input from any of us," he admitted  Soto said there is a policy that new equipment receive a 30-day trial in different areas. "We did not follow policy," he confessed. He said the trial was in one resident's room, and it involved Cathy Allen and the erstwhile Director of Nursing.

After the new mattresses were installed, he began receiving complaints. He spent the night at the facility after a snowstorm and tried one of the 309 new mattresses."It was like a rock," he complained. 

The company that resold the mattresses is checking each mattress and may retain staff on determining the pressure.

Materials Manager Sherry Ficocelli said that Cathy Allen never consulted with her concerning the new mattresses

"It sounds like they were knock offs from Dan's Mattress City," joked Ron Heckman.

Ficocelli said that Allen had overstepped her abilities."We were kind of told to keep out of it," she declared. "We didn't go through the proper trials ... . I was told not to, and keep my mouth shut."

"Say what?" said Heffner. "I don't think we heard what you just said."

"You did. I was told to keep my mouth shut," responded Ficocelli. She indicated it was Allen who muzzled her.

McClure said it is his hope that there are, in fact, several factors. He's also hopeful that better training will solve the problem.

There have been no serious injuries as a result of the falls.

"Keep us updated on Mattressgate," said Lori Vargo Heffner.

Next NorCo Controller Will Get a $10,000 Payraise

Tara Zrinski wants those plastic
eggs recycled. 
When the next Northampton County Controller is sworn into office in January 2020, he or she will be paid $10,000 more than the $65,000 annual salary that Bucky Szulborski receives now. Last night, at a meeting packed with Easton Area High School students who must be serving some sort of detention, a divided County Council approved the raise by a 6-2-1 vote. Voting for the increase were John Cusick, Matt Dietz, Peg Ferraro, Ken Kraft, Bob Werner and Tara Zrinski. Voting No were Lori Vargo Heffner and Ron Heckman. Bill McGee abstained.

Cusick's original proposal included raises for the next Executive ($85,000 to $95,000) and Council ($9,500 to $10,500), too. But at a committee meeting, Ken Kraft said it would make more sense to propose a Charter amendment so that voters could weigh in and wither approve or reject the raise. He also said raises should be tied to the Consumer Price Index so that the salaries go up automatically and never have to be revisited.

"It's a political football," he said. "No matter what you do, it's a no-win situation."

Kraft had suggested that the matter be tabled tonight, but Cusick amended his original payraise proposal so that it applies only to the Controller. The current $65,000 salary is too low to attract a good candidate. "When we went out for the position, we had three people respond," he observed.

Heckman said he was voting No "as a matter of conscience." He failed to explain what ethical principle made this demand, unless political expediency has suddenly grown a backbone. Vargo Heffner voted No and explained more honestly that she has only been in office a few months and doesn't want people to get the impression that the first thing she's doing is giving elected officials a raise. McGee had said he thought the voters should decide.

Less controversial was a Home Rule Charter Amendment, also proposed by John Cusick, that will change the current Charter to read that the "Controller shall devote fulltimeto the office ... ." Cusick explained that the Charter change would allow the Controller to pursue part-time activities like refereeing football or teaching, so long as here is no interference with the full-time position. This measure passed unanimously and the voters will decide.

Council also voted unanimously to approve a number of new positions. The most important of these is a new pretrial services officer who will interview criminal defendants before bail is set and make recommendations to the Magisterial District Judge. Currently, 28 defendants charged with low level offenses are sitting in NorCo's jail, at $106 a day, because they are unable to post bail. This has already cost the county $91,000.

In other business, Council voted unanimously to approve a tax incentive known as a LERTA to help improve blighted property in Upper Mount Bethel Township. Under a LERTA, a property owner will continue paying taxes, but any improvements made to the property are gradually phased in over a period of ten years.

Former State Rep. Rich Grucela spoke in support of the LERTA. "It will really help us in the slate belt to provide some jobs," he said.

Council also considered two matters related to the PennEast pipeline. They voted unanimously to support the a request that the Delaware Rover Basin Commission exercise its jurisdiction over the pipeline to prevent a degradation of water quality inthe Delaware Basin. But Peg Farraro voted No to a resolution seeking a new hearing on federal approval of the pipeline. Ken Kraft and Bill McGee, both of whom are trade union agents, abstained.

They also voted unanimously to give deputy sheriffs $800 for the annual Easter Egg hunt at Louise Moore Park on March 24 at noon. Before voting Yes, Tara Zrinski wanted to make sure that he plastic eggs were either biodegradable or recycled. Fortunately, they are. 

Council also voted unanimously to approve Lamont McClure's appointments and re-appointments to several boards.

Children, Youth and Families Advisory Board: Angela Scott Ferencin (Bethlehem), Susan Grassi (Easton) and Frank Pologruto (Bethlehem).

Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board: Janette Zuk (Easton)

Housing Authority: Christopher Gulotta (Easton)

Industrial Development Authority: Thomas O'Donnell (Nazareth)

LANTA: Cordelia Miller (Bethlehem) and Kevin Lynn (Bethlehem)

LVPC: Malissa Davis (Bethlehem Tp), John Diacogiannis (Hanover Tp) and Kevin Lott (Hellertown)

Mental Health Advisory Board: Frank Pologruto (Bethlehem)

Revenue Appeals Board: Thomas Carocci (Bethlehem)