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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, March 04, 2024

Will Bethlehem City Council Take Stance on Israeli-Gaza Conflict?

When Bethlehem City Council last met, they were besieged by a rowdy audience demanding that they adopt a cease-fire resolution concerning the Israeli-Gaza conflict. They just happened to have a draft, too. Council member Bryan Callahan wanted to adopt it on the spot. But as Council member Colleen Laird pointed out, they needed time to consider the matter. Just as members of the audience had time to draft their resolution, City Council should be extended that same courtesy. So no resolution was adopted. As of late last night, no such resolution appears on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting. 

Last week, Easton City Council rejected a cease-fire resolution sponsored by Council member Taiba Sultana in a 6-1 vote. But the adopted a general resolution calling for peace, with only Sultana in opposition. 

Members of the Bethlehem and Easton audiences were festooned in the kaffiyehs in some attempt to show solidarity with Palestinians. Ironically, that garment was worn by Bedouins in rural areas to protect themselves from the sun. More urban Palestinians traditionally wore a fez, but I guess that's less fashionable. 

My brother Mike lives in Bethlehem. I'm rather secular, but he's heavily involved in his church. He has written to City Council and has suggested that a day of prayer and reflection might be the best approach. I doubt a City Council can urge a day of prayer and reflection, but it can urge a day of reflection. 

Hello, 
After listening to the statements last evening concerning a ceasefire resolution, here are my comments and observations. 
  • Council is to be commended for their tolerant and respectful behavior, even when many unfair comments were made about elected officials' presumed motives and opinions. 
  • Many of the comments were overtly antisemitic/racist: One speaker's statement, "From the river to the sea." is clearly a racist statement expressing the desire to remove by any means necessary the Jewish people from their county.
  • There are two sides to the story. Little was said about the brutal and horrific attacks that were made on October 7th against innocent women, children and elderly Jewish citizens. There were also American citizens who were killed and taken as hostages. Statements that were made about the October 7th attacks were made in the context that they were falsely reported or did not happen.   
  • If Hamas would lay down their weapons and surrender, there would be an immediate ceasefire. 
  • The Hamas charter includes language that call for the elimination of the Jewish nation. 
  • Many of the speakers disqualified themselves with their hateful and arrogant rhetoric. Some should have been removed from the room for outbursts outside of decorum. 
  • Statements of fact were made that were anecdotal and not supported by data.  
City Council needs to be cautious in resolutions calling for a ceasefire:
  • Language should be carefully chosen to avoid any misinterpretation that could be considered racist or antisemitic. 
  • Mayor Reynolds' suggestion was noteworthy: calling for peace rather than a ceasefire. "Ceasefire" is becoming a politically charged word. 
  • There are many Bethlehem Jewish and Christian citizens who have good reasons to be supportive of Israel. Their views should be valued and respected. 
  • The resolution should include a call for mutual respect and tolerance among all religions and groups within our city. 
  • Council can lead by calling for a city-wide day of reflection/prayer/mediation and hosting respectful conversations with diverse groups to foster greater understanding and respect.  

Wishing you all well as you craft the resolution.  

Dellicker Takes Aim at MacKenzie in GOP Contest for LV Congress

Three Republicans - Kevin Dellicker, Ryan Mackenzie and Maria Montero seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Susan Wild in this year's race for Pa.'s 7th Congressional district. My view is that, of these three, the only candidate who could beat Wild is Montero, whose views resonate with at least some Democrats. But she's run a terrible campaign and is unlikely to survive the primary. That leaves Mackenzie and Dellicker. Mackenzie is a career politician trying his very best to be all things to all people. Right now he is branding himself as a firebrand conservative, but if he wins the primary, he'll portray himself as a moderate. Dellicker actually is a hardcore conservative. While he and I have nothing in common politically, he's at least honest about who he is and what he will do. While I'm known as the kiss of death when it comes to politics, I think he'll win the primary. 

He recently hammered MacKenzie and I thought I'd share what he has to say.  

It’s no secret that career politicians are tearing our country apart. They elevate crass ambition, vulgar discourse, and personal gain. They take words out of context and twist them to fit their own narrative. They’re inauthentic, ineffective, and out-of-touch with the voters they represent.

We have seen this in Susan Wild. She says one thing at home in the Lehigh Valley and votes the complete opposite in Washington, DC. She claims to be bi-partisan but supports Joe Biden 99% of the time.

Now we’re seeing this same behavior from my GOP primary opponent, Ryan Mackenzie. For months, Ryan has been launching personal attacks against me and I’ve largely ignored his silly routine. I’ve always focused on running a positive campaign that touts my own experience and relevant credentials. But recently, he’s been going after my family, my volunteers, and my supporters. It’s time to respond.

  • Ryan tells GOP voters he’s “America First” and expresses his unfailing loyalty to Donald Trump. But Ryan’s campaign is buoyed by Americans for Prosperity – a Super PAC with no fundraising or spending limits that supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, opposes tariffs on China, and was working throughout the GOP primary to defeat Donald Trump. Career politicians will do anything to get elected.
  • Ryan routinely attacks my military service and calls me nicknames that disparage our men and women in uniform. But while Ryan was safe and sound at New York University, I was fighting Al Qaida in the Middle East. And while he was enjoying life in Boston at the Harvard Republican Club, I was ducking into bunkers in Afghanistan. Career politicians don’t understand real sacrifice but have no problem impugning military veterans if they think they can score political points.
  • Ryan touts his record in the state legislature as evidence of his conservative achievements. Yet, he voted to make Pennsylvania a sanctuary state for out-of-town abortion providers. And he was a leader in passing Act 77, the law that gave us no-excuse mail-in ballots. Act 77 has done more damage to Republican candidates than any other law in a generation, but Ryan said he would vote for it again. Career politicians can never admit when they’re wrong.
  • Ryan Mackenzie has never served in the military and never held a private-sector job. He has been a legislator for 12 years and worked in politics his entire adult life. Yet he touts himself as “feared by the establishment.” Career politicians like Ryan are the establishment.

I’m disappointed that I had to write this note. I find no need to respond to Ryan’s juvenile provocations against me. But when he attacks my family, my volunteers, and my supporters, he’s also attacking you, the voters. I need to speak up.

The last thing we need in Washington is another career politician looking to further his own ambition at the expense of us taxpayers. You deserve better.

What we need is someone with real-world experience who will go to Washington, get the job done, and return home. That's what our Founders envisioned, and that's exactly what I will do.

Friday, March 01, 2024

NorCo Dem Chair Condemns AntiSemitic Slurs, Fake Facebook Profiles In Apparent Reference to Sultana


NorCo Dem Chair Matt Munsey usually is Switzerland in contested Democratic primaries. Come to think of it, he's usually Switzerland in the general election as well. So it was a bit unusual for him to condemn underhanded tactics going on in one unspecified contest. Apparently, one campaign has been using fake Facebook profiles to attack a male candidate with antisemitic slurs and accusations of racism. 

Munsey fails to name the race in which this is happening, but he's clearly referring to the Sultana-Freeman contest. 

There are only two contested primaries in Northampton County for the state house. One of them is the state house race in the 131st legislative district. That's spread out over three counties and only a tiny portion (one or two voting districts) is in Northampton County. 

The other race is the state house contest between Taiba Sultana and Bob Freeman. Sultana has attacked Freeman as aligned with "elitist DINO" Lisa Boscola, whose signature was forged on Sultana's nomination petition. I have watched her call fellow Easton City Council members racist, including black member Ken Brown. I have seen her accuse them of being sexist as well. And she herself has claimed she is running against the "gerontocracy," i.e. older candidates, I also have received numerous anonymous ageist comments on this blog. I have received no anti-Semitic comments aimed at Bob Freeman, but Munsey asserts these slurs have been posted on an official government page. 

The only candidate in a contested Democratic primary with an official government page is Bob Freeman. It certainly looks like Taiba's minions are continuing the same nonsense they pulled with her nomination petitions. 

What Are The Lehigh Valley's Man-Made Hazards?

Yesterday, I gave you an overview of the natural hazards identified in the draft Lehigh Valley Hazard Mitigation Plan. I found the summaries of past occurrences and the threat assessments quite interesting. Today, I'm sharing portions of what are identified as man-made disasters. 

Civil Disturbance / Mass Gathering: "The Lehigh Valley is home to annual events classified as mass gatherings by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. ... Most past occurrences of non-planned gatherings within the Lehigh Valley have been peaceful, with only one incident being associated with any type of violence: a large group of juveniles (30-40) were reported fighting in North Whitehall Township. ... Many civil disturbances are reflections of human behavior and responses to current events. This reality makes it virtually impossible to predict future occurrences of civil disturbance. However, it is highly likely that future instances will occur, as the First Amendment of the Constitution protects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition. At the same time, the possibility of a gathering of people becoming disruptive and/or violent cannot be eliminated, and law enforcement may be put in the difficult position of having to uphold the Constitution while maintaining law and order and protecting the public. Major national and global events are often catalysts for civil disturbances, and the Lehigh Valley should be particularly vigilant in the wake of such events. The likelihood of civil disturbance/mass gathering is considered ‘highly likely’ as defined in the Methodology Section."

Dam Failure: "There have been no recorded dam failures in the Lehigh Valley. However, the Lake Minsi Dam, which is categorized as a high hazard dam in Upper Mt. Bethel Township, was deemed unsafe due to limited spillway capacity. The lake was drained in 2017 for the dam to be repaired. ... . Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for dam failure events in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘unlikely,’ as defined in the Methodology section."

Drug Overdose Crisis: "The most commonly identified drug category in toxicology reports varied for counties across Pennsylvania in 2022, and overdose deaths commonly involve more than one substance. In Lehigh County, there were 162 reported overdose deaths in 2022, and the opioid class of drugs contributed in 85.8% of these deaths.178 Troublingly, Fentanyl accounted for 95.7% of all opioid-involved overdose deaths and was specifically identified in 82.1% of all overdose deaths in Lehigh County. Non-fentanyl opioids contributed to only 3.7% of overdose deaths in Lehigh County. The second most common drug class contributing to overdose deaths in Lehigh County in 2022 was stimulants, which contributed to 59.9% of overdose deaths. For Northampton County, 67 overdose deaths were reported in 2022. The opioid class of drugs was the most common contributor to overdose deaths in Northampton County, accounting for 86.6% of all reported overdose deaths. As was the case in Lehigh County, fentanyl was the specific drug identified in virtually all opioid-related deaths in Northampton County; non-fentanyl opioids contributed to only 1.5% of overdose deaths in Northampton County. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for drug overdose events in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘highly likely’ as defined in the Methodology Section."

Environmental Hazards / Explosion: "The region has been the location of several significant hazardous materials incidents. In 1999, a large containment vessel used to distill hazardous material ruptured, and the subsequent blast led to the deaths of 5 employees and 14 injuries. The explosion damaged numerous buildings within the industrial park as well as residential structures in the adjacent area.  ... Additionally, in March of 2009, Wind Gap Borough in Northampton County was impacted by the spill of hydrogen fluoride following a motor vehicle accident. The incident took place on Route 33 just south of the borough. A truck carrying more than 33,000 pounds of chemical products rolled onto its side, closing the road for hours and forcing 5,000 people to evacuate. ... Another incident occurred in August 2011 on Interstate 78 near the Route 100 interchange. A tractor trailer involved in a collision spilled more than 7,000 gallons of motor oil on the roadway and into the nearby soil and waterways.194 This incident lasted approximately 18 hours, prompting Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to mill and resurface the roadway. In total, the initial response was able to collect just over 4,000 gallons of product, leaving almost 3,000 gallons for the state and environmental cleanup agencies to handle. ... The Lehigh Valley is also experiencing significant growth in the number of warehouses. The proliferation of warehouses is likely to lead to an increase in the volume of hazardous materials in the Lehigh Valley, and improper storage and handling of these materials can cause injuries and require an emergency response. It is recommended that warehouses maintain a detailed record of the materials which are being stored so that emergency responders can better understand what hazards may be present in the event that an emergency arises at a warehouse. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for environmental hazard/hazardous materials incidents in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘highly likely’ as defined in the Methodology Section.

Fire (Urban / Structural): "Since 2001, nearly 2,000 structural fires in the Lehigh Valley have been reported. Please note that due to archiving processes and reporting requirements prior to 2007, databases may not be complete and do not necessarily represent every structural fire that occurred. However, using these sources represents the most accurate probability estimates possible. "

The Lehigh Valley has seen some notable fires since the turn of the century. In March of 2008, the City of Bethlehem, Northampton County reported a fire loss in a row of joined homes. The fire claimed the lives of four children, injured one child and injured four emergency workers, making the fire the second deadliest in the history of the City of Bethlehem. 

"Plainfield Township experienced a catastrophic fire at an industrial site in 2011. The site provided the plastics industry with plastic, glass and metal separation and grinding services. In March of 2011, a fire was reported within the structure, which led to a five-county fire response that continued for more than 36 hours. At one point fire crews were using approximately 8,000 gallons of water per minute and special foam trucks from Lehigh Valley International Airport to extinguish the flames.203 Once extinguished, the building and all products on-site were deemed a loss, with a total cost in excess of $9 million. 

"In April 2023, a massive fire broke out at a warehouse in West Easton. In addition to destroying the warehouse, the blaze also damaged several surrounding structures before firefighters were able to extinguish it. The response required hazmat crews because of the chemicals believed to be stored at the site, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environment performed air and water quality tests in the area. Despite more than 20 fire marshals from across the area being involved with the investigation, officials eventually determined that it was not safe or feasible to determine the specific cause of the fire."

"Major fires will continue to occur several times a year, particularly in dense, urban areas with aging building stock. Future occurrence of structural fire is thus “highly likely” as defined in the methodology section."

Levee Failure: There are are four USACE levees or floodwalls in the Lehigh Valley: Allentown (Sewer Treatment Plant) Levee, Salisbury Levee, Allentown-Jordan Creek Floodwall and Bethlehem Levee System. There are no reported levee failures, and the probability of one occurring is unlikely

Nuclear Incident: "The Limerick Generation Station and the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station are both located outside the Lehigh Valley but maintain 50-mile ingestion exposure pathway zones that include parts of the region. Limerick is south of the Lehigh Valley in central Montgomery County, and Susquehanna is northeast of the region in Luzerne County. ... The Limerick and Susquehanna plants have both experienced unplanned, sudden shutdowns – also known as scrams – of their nuclear reactors as recently as 2020. On May 3, 2020, the Susquehanna unit 1 reactor automatically shut down due to a trip of the main turbine. The reactor water level lowered to - 1 inch causing Level 3 (+13 inches) isolation. However, the operations crew subsequently maintained reactor water level at the normal operating band, and neither the Emergency Core Cooling System nor Reactor Core Isolation Cooling were necessary. 218 This event was classified as a non-emergency by the NRC. On November 13, 2020, the Limerick unit 1 reactor automatically shut down due to a valid Reactor High Pressure signal (1096psig). The NRC determined that the closure of the 1B Inboard Main Steam Isolation Valve (MSIV) caused the pressure within the reactor to rise until it exceeded the Reactor Protection System setpoint of 1096psig. Once the setpoint was exceeded automatic systems shut down the reactor, and the pressure was normalized via steam bypass valves. Like the scram at the Susquehanna plant in the same year, the 2020 scram at Limerick was classified as a non-emergency by the NRC. Despite the classification of non-emergency, both events were reported to NRC Resident Inspectors, Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, as well as the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency."

"Due to the extreme rarity of nuclear emergencies in the United States and the complexity of safety regulations guiding the actions of nuclear facilities, the probability of occurrence for a nuclear incident which impacts the Lehigh Valley is ‘unlikely’."

Structural Collapse: "Historical records for the Lehigh Valley, submitted annually to the state, note two incidents of structural collapse, not generated as a cascading impact from a separate incident, over the past two decades. In 2006, while constructing a new apartment building in Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County construction crews reported a catastrophic failure of the structure. No injuries resulted from this incident. In 2007, a ceiling within a commercial building in Bangor Borough, Northampton County failed, temporarily trapping four individuals. In addition to stand-alone incidents, some notable structural failures based upon other incidents have caused significant damage within the Lehigh Valley. "

Lehigh County has been home to notable structural collapses suspected of being generated from incidents such as water main breaks or sinkholes. The most notable of these incidents happened in 1994 in the City of Allentown. A commercial structure valued at more than $9 million was impacted by a large sinkhole, which caused the failure of systems within the structure. Following unsuccessful mitigation attempts, the structure was imploded to minimize any additional damage to surrounding structures. 

Similar to Lehigh County, Northampton County has also been impacted by structural collapses based upon cascading events. In 2008, a large sinkhole at an apartment complex in Hanover Township forced the evacuation of more than 40 residents. The incident caused the failure of load bearing walls within the structures, ultimately leading to the demolition of the two buildings. In addition, the City of Easton evacuated an apartment complex in 2004 following the development of a large sinkhole. The structure sustained partial failure of load bearing elements forcing the relocation of 25 residents. Additional information on land subsidence (sinkhole) frequency can be found in the Subsidence / Sinkhole profile.

"On January 28, 2022, the 447-foot-long Fern Hollow Bridge in Allegheny County fell approximately 100 feet into the ravine below. At the time of its collapse, there were four passenger vehicles and a bus on the bridge, and 10 people were injured in the collapse. ... The Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge in the City of Bethlehem uses a rigid K frame design similar to what was used for the Fern Hollow Bridge. The similarity of the design led PennDOT to review the structural adequacy of the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge, along with 4 other bridges in Pennsylvania, immediately after the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge. PennDOT assessed the condition of the bridges as “fair” and did not require posting weight restrictions. However, the cause of the Fern Hollow Bridge Collapse has not been officially determined, and officials in the Lehigh Valley should watch for any updates from the NTSB which may be relevant to the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge.

"Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for structural collapse events in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘possible’ as defined in the Methodology Section."

Terrorism: Suspected Terrorism in Lehigh Valley between 2018-2023: 



"Prediction of terrorist attacks is almost impossible because terrorism is a result of human factors. As long as fringe groups maintain radically different ideas than that of the government or general population, terrorism is a possibility."

Transportation Crash:  "According to the most recent report, there were 38,146 documented crashes within the Lehigh Valley between 2018 and 2022. The DOT report also documents 238 fatalities which occurred as a result of these crashes. It is notable that in 2020 both counties recorded the lowest yearly crash totals during the 2018–2022 time frame, and this could be a reflection of lower overall traffic following the outbreak of COVID-19. Conversely, the yearly fatalities because of crashes do not follow the same trend, and both counties experienced an increase in the number of crash fatalities from 2019 to 2020.  ... Population growth and development trends in the Lehigh Valley will likely result in a corresponding increase of the risk of transportation crashes as more people and goods move within and through the area. If the transportation crash statistics recorded between 2018 and 2022 are representative of near future conditions, the Lehigh Valley can anticipate an average of 7,629 automobile crashes and 48 automobile crash fatalities per year."

Utility Interruption:  "The Lehigh Valley suffered a significant utility interruption in October 2011, when an early snowstorm dropped between six and ten inches of wet snow on trees that still had leaves on them, causing historic numbers of tree limbs and wires down, resulting in massive power outages. PPL and FirstEnergy, the two largest electric utility companies in the Lehigh Valley, reported over 109,000 customers without power for up to a week. Regional shelters and warming stations were opened throughout the Lehigh Valley to care for people without power. 

"In March 2018, a series of major nor’easters created widespread power outages across much of the U.S. Northeast, including the Lehigh Valley. The initial storm impacted Lehigh Valley on the morning of March 2, and by the evening of the same day there were at least 35,000 customers without power in the region.248 By the end of the next day, that number was reported to be closer to 100,000. This storm was only the first of four nor’easters to hit the Lehigh Valley that month, and reports of power outages accompanied each subsequent event.

"[S]everal recent and high-profile examples have highlighted the vulnerability of utility infrastructure to these attacks. Based on historical reports from 911 dispatch, small outages are likely to continue and should be considered “highly likely”".

Gas / Liquified Pipelines: "In February 2011, the City of Allentown was impacted by a catastrophic failure of a large gas main under a row of homes in the 500 Block of North 13th Street. The explosion killed five people and destroyed six homes. The incident forced the evacuation of hundreds of residential and commercial properties, including a senior living complex on the adjoining block. Since that incident, the Lehigh Valley has been impacted by numerous failures of infrastructure causing smaller explosions with less impact. PHMSA records of pipeline incidents since 2003 lists 13 separate events which occurred in the Lehigh Valley, all within Lehigh County. ... . The PHMSA records show no pipeline incidents occurring in Northampton County since 2003.

"According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there are multiple pipelines under development which will transit the Lehigh Valley. Additionally, data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reveals that 63,311 miles of pipeline was constructed across the U.S. in 2022, which is the most in a single year since DOT began tracking this in 2006. It is also a 70% increase from the total pipeline mileage constructed in 2021 (45,532 miles).

The County EMS is predicting one incident every 18 months.

Cyber-Terrorism (and cyber-attacks): "One of largest cyber-attacks targeting an entity within the Lehigh Valley was detected in Allentown on February 15, 2018. Unfortunately, the attack was well underway by the time it was discovered, and many devices used by the Allentown city government had already been infected by a serious computer virus known as Emotet. The virus stole credentials of city workers and severely disrupted government functions, as well as other services which used information technology assets belonging to Allentown. Among other things, the finance department of Allentown could not complete any external banking transactions, video surveillance networks were down, and local law enforcement was unable to access databases controlled by the Pennsylvania State Police. It took Allentown nearly two weeks to restore some of the impacted services, and the cost to remove the virus from Allentown systems was approximately $1 million.268 Unfortunately, the ease with which the perpetrators of these attacks can remain anonymous makes it difficult to determine the motivation behind this attack. However, the circumstances of the attack seem to indicate that its purpose was disruption rather than personal gain, and this is a characteristic of cyber-terrorism. 

"Another serious incident occurred in February 2023, when the Lehigh Valley Health Network was targeted by an advanced cyber-attack. In this instance, malicious software (malware) named “BlackCat” obtained access to highly personal and sensitive information, and the group behind the attack threatened to publish this information unless a ransom was paid. The attack was traced back to a nefarious cyber group associated with Russia, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated that the BlackCat attack is a new but “exceptionally capable” malware. 269 While the attack appears to have been motivated by personal gain, the nature of the attack is alarming and exemplifies some of the difficulties associated with preventing cyber-attacks and cyber-terrorism. First, it can be exceptionally difficult to stop or hold accountable the perpetrators of such attacks when they originate from outside of the U.S. Second, the possibility of foreign governments providing implicit or explicit support for malicious cyber-activity may significantly increase the sophistication of attacks. 

"Societal trends and the increasing complexity and interconnectivity of technology create an environment where the frequency of cyber-attacks and cyber-terrorism risks are likely to continue to rise. Concern about cyber-terrorism throughout the U.S. is growing as its impacts could have potentially crippling effects. Although advancements in defenses against these attacks are continuously being made, the possibility of cyber-attacks, some of which may constitute cyber-terrorism, will continue to remain a significant risk within the Lehigh Valley."

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Easton City Council Rejects Cease Fire Resolution, But Calls For Peace

"We will vote you out."
Easton City Council last night rejected a cease-fire resolution concerning the Gaza conflagration. It was sponsored by Council member Taiba Sultana. Her resolution died for a lack of a second. But by a 6-1 vote, with Sultana the sole dissenter, they adopted a resolution calling for world peace. (The text of both the cease-fire resolution and the competing peace proposal are located here). 

Sultana questioned how six members of City Council could draft a resolution without first consulting her. Council member Frank Pintabone responded, "I think our resolution was drafted the same way yours was because nobody was offered to get involved with yours either." 

She also stated resolutions eventually become law, but was corrected by both Solicitor Joel Scheer and Mayor Sal Panto. They both said that an ordinance is required for anything to become a city law. 

Sultana argued the peace notes there are over 45 armed conflicts but fails to specify where. That can be found with a one-second search at Google, which lists precisely where there are 62 ongoing armed conflicts in the world

Council member Crystal Rose explained that "the thought process was that there are always going to be conflicts worldwide and we would like to say that all of us up here don't want to see people die, we don't want to see people harmed, we don't want to see armed conflict throughout the world but we want to get back to city business and I think that if we keep bringing this up, we're getting away from the things that the people elected us to do here. I have had an overwhelming amount of people come up to me and email me and ... most of them have been angered that we are focusing on issues that don't involve Easton." She said she was elected to deal with issues like affordable housing and food insecurity.

Sultana said she was listening to the people who came to the meeting, not those who sit in their "cozy homes." Pintabone said he received 740 emails just that day "90% of them told me they did not elect me to represent them on international business. They elected me to represent them in City of Easton business. 

Of the 13 members of the public who spoke before the vote, 12 supported the cease-fire resolution. I have summarized their comments below. I found it necessary to fact check a few claims.  

Kaitlyn Hart (sp?): "I've been able to hold my newborn while others have placed white sheets over theirs." 80% of the world's population experiencing famine is in the Gaza strip."

Factcheck: The claim that 80% of those who experience famine worldwide are in the Gaza strip is false. Today, nearly 45 million people in 37 different countries are at risk of starvation. This problem is most acute in Somalia. 

Mark Rosenzweig "We can't ignore this ... genocide in progress. It's being televised. " At least 70 cities have advocated cease-fire resolutions. 

Factcheck (Reuters): 70 cities have called for ceasefires in Gaza. 48 cities have called for a halt to bombing in Gaza. Six cities have adopted resolutions broadly calling for peace. 20 cities have condemned the Hamas attack in Israel. 

Jason Werner: A ceasefire resolution is appropriate on a local level because "that is the most direct form of democracy the people have."  

Kaylee Smith: "Our tax dollars are sent to Israel when they could instead fund the future of our children in this city." 

Crystal Phillips: "I wish that we would fill the room for local stuff. ... There's multiple things that we presented as south side residents, but you [Council member Sultana] have not been there for us ... and it's frustrating."

(Council member Sultana retorted that she represents residents "diligently.")

Rai Ismail: $367,000 goes to Israel from Easton.

Factcheck: Any calculation of how much each city resident contributes via federal tax to Israel is at best a guestimate. 

Logan Scheirer: He lives in Lehighton but is too scared to speak there because residents there intimidate him with threats and harassment.. He spoke twice to Easton City Council, both before and after the vote. Then he made his own promise to return to every City Council meeting until a cease fire resolution is adopted. 

Aven Lancaster: All 12 universities in Gaza have been bombed and destroyed. 

Factcheck: All 12 universities have been bombed and destroyed or damaged. 378 schools have been destroyed or damaged,   

Avalea Danes: Unless City Council adopts a cease-fire resolution, "we will organize and we will vote you out for your duplicity."

Yaseen Salee: This was his fourth or fifth appearance before City Council. He pretty much said what he said every other time. 

Raya Abdelaal: "We're gonna' keep coming back 'till this is passed."

Jack Rosa with flag and mask: claimed incorrectly that Easton City's budget "is and has been funding a genocide in Palestine." She added South side Easton is not as important as the conflagration in Gaza.

Thomas Henchen: Criticized the competing peace resolution as a "vague platitude that mocks us. ... We know how the world works. ... We are a political movement with political power.""

What Are the Lehigh Valley's Natural Hazards?

Earlier this week, I told you that both Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management agencies are in the process of updating the Lehigh  Valley Hazard Mitigation Plan Hazards. It identifies both natural and man-made hazards. Below is a listing of the natural hazards considered here in thye Lehigh Valley, which include a summary of past occurrences and an estimate of the likelihood of recurrence.  I'll list man-made hazards on Friday. 

Drought: "Predicting the frequency of droughts is challenging. However, droughts appear to be cyclical, implying they'll reoccur in the future. In fact, periodic droughts are commonplace in almost all U.S. climates."

Earthquake: "Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, as well as previous historical earthquake events, the probability of occurrence for earthquake events in the Lehigh Valley is considered Unlikely (less than 1% annual probability), as defined in the Methodology Section."

Extreme temperature: "The highest temperature ever recorded in the region was 105°F on the 4th of July weekend in 1966, while the lowest temperature ever recorded was -15°F on January 21, 1994. Since 1996, the Lehigh Valley was subject to more than 196 extreme temperature events. ... Over the 27 years of record keeping of extreme temperature events (1996-2023), there have been 196 recorded events, an average of 7.25 events per year. In the last 10 years, 2013 – 2023, there has been an extreme temperature event in 7 of the 10 years. As such, the probability that the Lehigh Valley will experience an extreme temperature event in any given year is Highly Likely."

Flood, Flash Flood, Ice Jam: "The Lehigh Valley has a long history of flooding events. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Storm Events Database, the Lehigh Valley experienced 235 flood events between January 1, 1996, and March 31, 2023. These floods resulted in one death, four injuries, an estimated $145.75 million in property damages, and approximately $2 million in crop damages. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for flood events in the Lehigh Valley is considered Highly Likely with a higher than 90% probability of annual occurrences as defined in the Methodology Section."

Hailstorm: "Hailstorms can occur as a routine part of severe weather in the Lehigh Valley. The potential for hail exists throughout the Lehigh Valley, with a few minor incidents recorded each year. ... Based on historical occurrences of hailstorm events retrieved from NCEI, the probability of occurrence for hailstorm events in the Lehigh Valley is considered Highly Likely, greater than 90% annual probability as defined in the Methodology Section."

Invasive Species: "Invasive species have been entering the Lehigh Valley for quite some time, though not all occurrences have required government action. Specific occurrences and quantified losses were not identified for these invasive species in the Lehigh Valley. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for invasive species impacting the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘highly likely’ (higher than 90% probability) as defined in the Methodology Section."

Landslide: "Pennsylvania has frequently been a hotspot for significant landslide occurrences due to its unique blend of a humid climate, locally intense topography, and the varied erosion and weathering characteristics of its sedimentary rocks. Additionally, human endeavors, including commercial, residential, and industrial development, along with transportation and mining projects, often intensify the susceptibility to landslides. ... From the perspective of the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies, the probability of landslides occurring in the Lehigh Valley is categorized as 'unlikely'."

Lightning Strikes: "Defined as a lightning strike resulting in death, injury, or damage to property or crops, a lightning "event" has specific consequences. From 1993 to 2023, the Lehigh Valley registered 86 such events, with Northampton County accounting for 60 and Lehigh County for 26, as documented by NOAA-NCEI. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for lightning strike events is considered ‘highly likely’ as defined in the Methodology Section."

Pandemic and Infectious Disease: Includes data concerning incidence of COVID-19, influenza, West Nile virus and lyme disease. "Influenza is among the most common and recognizable diseases within the Lehigh Valley, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. as a whole. Influenza virus infections are detected year round in the U.S., although cases typically increase during “flu season” in the fall and winter months. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies’ operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for pandemic and infectious disease events in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘likely’ as defined in the Methodology Section."

Radon Exposure: The LV is in a "Zone 1" radon zone, "which means that the average indoor radon levels are likely to exceed 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). The EPA recommends that all homeowners who have radon concentrations of 4 pCi/L or greater take remedial actions to reduce the presence of radon. ... Radon is a constant threat throughout the Lehigh Valley. As a naturally occurring element, radon has been present in the ground across the Lehigh Valley since long before the area was settled. Overall, Pennsylvania is an area with historically high radon levels due to shear fault zones in the state that contain large amounts of uranium which eventually decays into radon. ... Radon exposure is inevitable given present soil, geologic, and geomorphic factors across Pennsylvania. In the future, the overall likelihood of radon exposure in the Lehigh Valley will remain high."

Subsidence/Sinkholes: "The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Sinkhole Inventory Online Database, along with the 2023 Pennsylvania State Hazard Mitigation Plan, recorded 470 sinkholes in Lehigh County and 677 in Northampton County between 2010 and 2013. Additionally, local data from the Lehigh and Northampton County Knowledge Center databases for 2012 and 2017 indicate 101 sinkhole incidents across 23 municipalities. Bethlehem Township experienced the highest number of sinkholes (28), followed by Palmer Township (19), Easton (12), Hanover Township in Northampton County (6), and Lower Saucon Township (5). ... . From the perspective of the Emergency Management Agencies of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, the likelihood of subsidence and sinkhole incidents in the Lehigh Valley is categorized as 'likely,' in accordance with the definition provided in the Methodology Section." 

Wildfire: "The Pennsylvania 2023 State Hazard Mitigation Plan notes reported wildfires and acres burned in the Lehigh Valley between 1992 and 2015. 122 wildfires in Lehigh County burned over 313 acres, while 87 wildfires in Northampton County burned more than 168 acres. 151 Wildfire events that were recorded in the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Storm Events ... with one death reported. In addition, Lehigh and Northampton County Knowledge Center databases identified 67 brushfires from 2012 to 2017. Information regarding damages, injuries or deaths was not available. ... Based on the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies operational viewpoint, the probability of occurrence for wildfire events in the Lehigh Valley is considered ‘possible’ as defined in the Methodology Section.

Windstorm/Tornado: "Data from the NCEI Storm Events Database reveals a notable increase in tornado occurrences over recent decades. Comparing two periods, from 1950 to 1995, a span of 46 years, there were 493 tornadoes recorded. In contrast, a shorter period from 1996 to 2021, lasting only 26 years, saw a similar number of tornadoes at 497. This trend appears to be more pronounced regionally and might partly be attributed to advancements in reporting techniques. According to a 2018 report by the National Weather Service, part of NOAA, the overall frequency of tornadoes across the United States has been relatively steady since 1950, suggesting that the observed increase could be linked to more sophisticated and thorough reporting methods. ... From the perspective of the Lehigh and Northampton County Emergency Management Agencies, the probability of windstorm and tornado events occurring in the Lehigh Valley is categorized as 'possible,' as outlined in the Methodology Section. This classification underscores the need for continued vigilance and preparedness in the face of these natural phenomena."

Winter Storm: "Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Centers for Environmental Information reveal that between 1993 and 2023, Lehigh County encountered 256 winter storm events, while Northampton County faced 257. These events led to property damages of approximately $3.8 million in Lehigh County and $2.25 million in Northampton County. ... . Based on assessments by the Emergency Management Agencies of both Lehigh and Northampton counties, the probability of winter storm events occurring in the Lehigh Valley is classified as 'likely'."

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

State House Candidate Sultana Can Add Civil Judgment to Criminal Case

This blog and various other media sources have told you that Taiba Sultana, who is both an Easton City Council member and a candidate for State Representative, currently faces assault charges arising from a domestic dispute with her adult son. She even spent a night in the hoosegow.! People accused of this kind of crime are usually eligible for ARD if they are first time offenders. I expect to see her admitted into this special program for first offenders. But as that bizarre chapter in her life comes to a close, another opens. An $11,380 civil judgment has just been entered against her in magisterial district court. 

From what I've been able to learn, that judgment arises from a property she rented on south side Easton. According to an anonymous comment on my blog, "she was scammed by the people whom she helped rent the apartment. That defense apparently failed in a case heard by Magisterial District Judge Sue Hutnik on February 22. Judge Hutnick entered an $11,380.50 judgment against her. 

Sultana can appeal this matter in county court and have the case heard de novo

This is just another of numerous red flags that have been swirling around her long before she announced her candidacy for state house.  

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. McClure Goes to Upper Mt Bethel Tp

In the famous movie, Mr. Smith went to Washington to fight against government corruption. Mr. McClure, our Northampton County Executive, is going in a different direction. Instead of Washington, he visited Upper Mount Bethel Tp on Monday night in an effort to prevent the use of public money to incentivize warehouses. He had a better reception there than he gets from his homefield County Council.  

"The era of warehouse proliferation in Northampton County is coming to an end," he told Supervisors. He urged them to adopt a new ordinance to replace a current ordinance that gives a tax break for warehouse development in the township. Under his proposal, the Board would be able to give manufacturers a tax break, but not warehouses. "There is no reason any government at this time in Northampton County or the Lehigh Valley should be using our fellow citizens' tax dollars to incentivize the building of purely logistic buildings," he argued. 

McClure's proposed ordinance would include a hearing board that would enable all taxing authorities to meet with the developer if he disagrees with the denial of a tax break for a specific parcel. Under the current ordinance, the tax exemption would be automatic. 

UPDATED: Easton City Council Poised to Consider Competing Resolutions Concerning Israeli Incursion Into Gaza

Easton City Council is poised tonight to consider competing resolutions concerning Israel's invasion of Gaza on October 27, 2023. This invasion is a response to a Hamas incursion into Israel on October 7, 2023. Over 1,100 noncombatants were killed and 253 people were abducted, including women and children. The Israeli response has killed over 28,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Nearly the entire population of 2.3 million has been displaced. 

The first resolution, sponsored by Council member Taiba Sultana, calls for an immediate ceasefire. The second, sponsored by five Council members, calls for peace. Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the actual text of either resolution on the city's webpage. If I get them, I'll produce them for your review. 

Similar resolutions have been proposed in Allentown and Bethlehem. Thus far, none have been adopted. 

It's pretty clear that there's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Although Israel's IDF takes greater pains than any other military in the world to avoid civilian casualties, there may even be some war crimes. But there are currently 62 armed conflicts worldwide. It is hypocritical to take a stance on just one of them.   

UPDATED 11:07 am: Below are the draft resolutions. 

Sultana Resolution: WHEREAS The recent escalation of violence and tensions between Israel and Palestine has brought this conflict to the forefront of global attention.

WHEREAS the Easton City Council values peace and human life.

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the City of Easton, per our commitment to peace and humanity, condemns violence and joins other cities in calling on our Congress Members to demand: an immediate permanent ceasefire; the release of all hostages, the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies to gaza; and the respect for international law; and calls for a resolution that protects the security of all innocent civilians; and be it

NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED

Easton City Council urges congresswoman Susan Wild, Governor Josh Shapiro, Senator John Fetterman, Senator Bob Casey, State Representative Robert Bob Freeman, and the Biden administration to immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire to urgently end the current violence.

Resolution of Panto, Ruggles, Pintabone, Rose, Edinger and Brown:

WHEREAS the City of Easton recognizes the inherent value of human life and the fundamental rights to peace and security. There are over 45 armed conflicts worldwide, resulting in widespread suffering, displacement, and loss of life,

WHEREAS armed conflicts and war crimes are an egregious violation of human rights, causing immeasurable harm to individuals, families, and communities,

WHEREAS it is incumbent upon all responsible parties, including governments, international organizations, and civil society, to work tirelessly towards the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions,

WHEREAS the City of Easton reaffirms its commitment to promoting dialogue, diplomacy, and peaceful resolution of conflicts, both domestically and internationally. We stand firmly in support of the universal right to protest as a means of advocating for peace and justice.

NOW THEREFORE LET TI BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Easton hereby condemns war crimes in the strongest terms possible. Be it further resolved, that the City Council expresses solidarity with al those affected by conflict and reaffirms its commitment to supporting efforts aimed at achieving lasting peace and justice.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

LV Hazard Mitigation Plan To Consider Gas/Liquid Pipelines and Cyber-Terrorism

Northampton and Lehigh County are currently considering an update to their Hazard Mitigation Plan. This is done periodically to identify risks and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to protect people and their property. It's required to turn on the money spigots in the event of a disaster. The plan itself is 448 pages long and a bit beyond my paygrade. But according to an overview, it will confront the dangers posed by liquid/gas pipelines as well as cyber-terrorism. 

You can share your own opinions or insights with both counties here. Public comment is being accepted until March 25. There also will be a virtual public meeting concerning the plan on March 6, at 4:30 pm. Details for participation are located here