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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, January 22, 2018

Eagles' Underdawgs Going to Superbowl!!



I told you in November that I was boycotting the Philadelphia Eagles this year. My decision had nothing to do with the National Anthem. I was staying away because I was a jinx. If I watched them or even listened to Merrill Reese on the radio, they'd lose. But when I stayed away and only paid attention to tweets, they tended to win. It killed me, but it paid off. The Eagles are going to the Superbowl for the first time since 2004.

Since Carson Wenz was injured, oddsmakers predicted the Eagles would lose to Atlanta and Minnesota. Instead of whining about it, the Eagles embraced their underdog status, which only made them look better to Philly fans. They know what it's like to be underdogs.

Guess what? The Eagles are underdogs for the third time in this year's playoffs, this time against the Patriots.

Good.

Nazareth Baker Seeks State House Seat

Nazareth may be a small town, but it has no shortage of bakeries. Just in Nazareth proper, there are three. Schubert's is where everyone goes for Moravian sugar cake. The Pie Shop (now on Main St)  has the best pasties in the Lehigh Valley. And then there's Cozze Cakes. It's a shop that specializes in elegant wedding and birthday cakes. Marie Antoinette would say, "Let them eat cake."  Owner Amy Cozze would say, "Let everyone eat cake," but she knows someone has to bake it. She wants to take her baking skills to Harrisburg, and is announcing today that she is a candidate for the State House.

She's running in the 137th Pa legislative district, which was gerrymandered to keep Democrat Rich Grucela out of office. It includes parts of Palmer Township and several slate belt communities.But it also includes Forks Tp, Upper Nazareth and Nazareth. It's designed precisely for someone like Joe Emrick. He is one of the few Lehigh Valley legislators who has refused to endorse any legislative attempt to slay the gerrymander.

What does a baker know about politics? Hopefully, nothing. Cozze is a University of Pittsburgh grad who majored in psychology and minored in business. After several years in the business sector, she opened up a business of her own in 2012. While 90% of startups fail, she has thrived in a community that obviously likes to eat. She understands small business.She'd like to be their advocate in Harrisburg. She'd also like to see positive changes related to healthcare, education and the environment.

Cozze has been a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber for the past five years, and a board member of the Nazareth Business Council for the last two years. Most recently, she was appointed as liaison for the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee.

She told The Morning Call that state legislators have "catered to the larger corporations and conglomerates and it’s put them out of touch with Main Street America. They don’t seem to have the interests of the middle class in mind any more.”

Why should someone like Joe Emrick care about the middle class? In 2016, he raised $108,000 in cash and in-kind contributions against a weak candidate. He doesn't have to bake cakes. But in case he hasn't noticed, a blue wave is rising in Pennsylvania. It started in last year's municipal races, and has been helped along by Authoritarian Donald Trump.

Cozze knows a good cake starts with good ingredients. So should a state legislature.

On a personal note, she is a wife, mother to two wonderful boys and a breast cancer survivor. She's also Lehigh Valley native.

For more information on where Amy Cozze stands on the issues for Pennsylvania’s 137th District or to support her race, please go to www.amycozzeforstaterep.com.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball Back on Track

Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman
with Dat Lambert
After two losses in a row, Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball is back on track after a convincing 72-55 victory over the East Stroudsburg North Timberwolves on Friday night at Rockne Hall  The Vikings' record now stands at 14-2. Despite winning the District XI title last year, that was then. The Timberwolves have struggled this season.

Central Catholic's slide began last Saturday, when they allowed themselves to be rattled by Dieruff. They always plays tough on their home turf. Then Vikings starting forward Kevin Kern suffered an injury to his foot, and the team began questioning themselves. They played without confidence against Northampton's Konkrete Kids on Thursday night, hesitating instead of shooting. It cost them the game.

On Friday, it looked as though the Vikings might face their third loss in a row. They were only up by one going into the half  despite the heroics of Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman. He scored 14 points in the first half alone, and I lost track of his rebounds. He also had several blocks, and after one of them, shook his head No.

He was in beast mode, and appears to have recovered completely from a back injury that had sidelined him a few weeks. Without him, Central would be in trouble.

Then, in the third quarter, Jay Vaughan exploded. Three from downtown. Swish!! Just the jump start everyone needed. Jay finished the night with 12, all from beyond the arc. More importantly, he had 8 assists and 2 steals.

Kellman added 3 field goals to his 14 points in the first, and finished as high scorer with 20. He thrilled the crowd when he dunked his final bucket.

Dat Lambert returned to his scoring ways. He finished the night with 14, including two 3s. He was 4/4 on the foul line, and his aggressive defense caused four turnovers by East Stroudsburg North.   

Nick Filchner scored 10, including two 3-point shots.

Chad Kratzer finished with 7, including 3 out of 4 from the foul line

Vinnie Lynch, a crowd favorite, scored 6, and delighted the crowd with an unexpected tray

So did Sammy "the iceman" Vaughan, Jay's brother.

Central shot ten from downtown for the night.

On the other side of the equation, ESN's Ameni Mills was high scorer with 20, followed by Isa Abu, who had 11.

Central will host surging Parkland on Tuesday night at Rockne Hall, then it's off to face Evil Empire Becahi on Friday night in a Holy War that will ripple throughout the EPC.

Central was stunned by Northampton on Thursday night. On Friday night, Northampton also upset Becahi by one point. Aiden Elwood has cemented the Konkrete Kids into a formidable team, and don't count Parkland, Whitehall or any of these teams out.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Happy National Popcorn Day!

Is this "4baggerplus?"
One of my more astute readers has alerted me that today is National Popcorn Day! We could celebrate at the NorCo courthouse with Amy Trapp's $800 popcorn machine, but alas, it's been sold. According to Public Surplus, there were 22 bids for the county popper, which was finally awarded to "4baggerplus!" on January 16 for $560.

For some reason, Executive Lamont McClure failed to inform Council about this dramatic event at last night's Council meeting. Thank God for bloggers!

I understand that McClure has also issued an Executive Order declaring former HR Director Amy Trapp an Honorary Northampton County Kernel.

Musikfest Founder To Build Skyline West

Jeff Parks, along with Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority Exec Director Tony Hanna and former Mayors John Callahan and Don Cunningham, were the driving force behind what we know today as SteelStacks. It is a home to the arts, but one that has kept vivid reminders of our industrial past. The SteelStacks glow at night, not from molten steel, but with colored lights that serve as a backdrop to hundreds of concerts. It has become a community gathering place for everything from a Giant Peep dropping on New year's Eve to world cup soccer.

Parks is also the founder of the Lehigh Valley's most successful festival of the year - Musikfest. It attracted 1.1 million visitors from 43 states last year.

Now Park sis trying his hand at something new- development. He and the Benner family (Dennis, Garrett and Brandon) have formed Skyline West and are planning a 50 unit luxury apartment building to be located at 143 West Broad Street, one block from Main Street. The building is proposed to be erected on the eastern slope of a ridge between the Monocacy Valley and Pennsylvania route 378. Each of the luxury apartments will have balconies with views of the Monocacy Valley and South Mountain.

Amenities will include onsite parking, washer and dryer in each apartment, modern kitchens with gas stovetops, pet friendly environment with a pet washing area, fitness center, community room with outdoor deck, bicycle rack and a package receiving system.

“PennDOT created this hillside peninsula when the four-lane highway was constructed in the 1960’s”, Parks said in a news release. “Our goal is to attract residents who are accustomed to more contemporary amenities and will support the retail stores, restaurants, professionals and non-profits in the downtown.”

Neville Gardner, who chairs the Downtown Bethlehem Association, supports the project in part because it will add 50 to 100 people who can patronize the downtown daily. In addition, "it will add a very cool contemporary residential option to the downtown.” Mayor Bob Donchez added that it "will go a long way in fulfilling the goal of providing opportunities for folks to live, work, shop and dine in our downtowns.”

Now that he's a developer, Parks wants you to call him JP.

Their next project will be a 60-story combination office building and drug treatment center, decorated with pink flamingos, in Historic Bethlehem.

"That ought to set Haines off,"  said all three Benners.

Northampton County on Facebook

In an effort to be more transparent, Northampton County has finally established a Facebook page. Deputy Administrator Becky Bartett tells me she also plans to establish an official Twitter account as well as a Youtube channel.

Wanted: One Northampton County Controller

Hayden Phillips
After being confirmed as Director of Fiscal Affairs last night, NorCo Council Prez Ken Kraft began talking about Barron's replacement as Controller. But he had one problem, and John Cusick pointed it out.

"Have we received a letter from Mr. Barron?"

Barron had written out a resignation letter, but was so worried about being rejected as Director of Fiscal Affairs that he held onto it, and then forgot to hand it in once he was confirmed.

As people began laughing, Barron walked up and handed in his letter.

"Would you like to read it? I know a lot of people who would like to hear it," asked Kraft.

"No."

They read it anyway. Though Kraft was worried it might go on for several hours,it was mercifully brief. Then they voted to accept Barron's resignation.

Council has 30 days to appoint Barron's replacement for his remaining two years in office.

Kraft said that he's placed an ad in the newspapers, and Council will accept applications for the position through January 29. After that, the Personnel Committee will review the applications in an open meeting  Council will decide on Barron's replacement on February 15. 

Speaking for himself, Kraft stated that he'd like the next Controller to be someone who will agree to serve only for the next two years, not someone seeking the appointment to give him a "special leg up" in the next election.

"I'd like to have the people in the county vote for who they'd like to be the next Controller," he said.

Former Council member Hayden Phillips is interested in the job. While it's unlikely that a 6-3 Democratic Board would give the position to a conservative republican, he'd be an excellent Controller. Easton City Council member Peter Melan was reportedly interested, but it's unclear whether that is still the case.

NorCo Council Confirms McClure's Cabinet



I missed last night's Northampton County Council meeting because I was watching Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball lose its second game in a row to Northampton's Konkrete Kids. I was going to jump off the Northampton Coplay bridge when it was all over, but it's closed. So I went home and watched the video of the Council meeting. Though unhappy about the game, I am pleased to tell you that Lamont McClure's cabinet was confirmed last night with almost no muss or fuss.

Almost.

Charles Dertinger's nomination as Administrator was originally sent in at a salary of $93,626. McClure had intended to seek a higher salary, and corrected his error before the vote. But John Cusick, who supported Dertinger, was unwilling to support him at a higher salary. He said Dertinger should receive the same salary that was given to Cathy Allen, the former Administrator under John Brown. So he voted No.

That was the sole No vote from Council for any of these eight nominations.

But the votes were 8-0, not unanimous, because Bob Werner was under the weather and stayed home.

After the meeting, McClure issued a news release saying, “Tonight’s vote was historic for Northampton Count as, for the first time, our top two attorneys will be women. Five of our eight nominees confirmed tonight by Council are women, another first in Northampton County history. We believe, during home rule, this is the quickest formation of a Cabinet for a new administration and we’d like to thank Council for its overwhelming support of these nominees.”

McClure also provided a brief description of each cabinet official.

Department of Administration – Charles M. Dertinger. - Has a long record of community service, serving as a Northampton County Councilman at Large from 2006-2010. His committee appointments included Open Space, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Economic Development. Charles has been a liaison to 911 and a delegate to the Lehigh Valley Labor Council AFL CIO since 2000.

Fiscal Affairs – Stephen J. Barron, Jr., JC, CFE. - Has served as Controller of Northampton County since his first election to that position in 2007, providing fiscal oversight into the county’s $360 million budget. With his team of auditors, Steve estimates that he’s saved the county more than $12 million over the last ten years.

Solicitor – Melissa Pammer Rudas. - A graduate of Dickinson School of Law, Melissa has headed her own law office since 1999. She’s a member of the Pennsylvania Bar, and is admitted to practice at the Federal Court (Middle District of Pennsylvania) and the United States Supreme Court. Her public service includes serving on the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing board and the City of Bethlehem’s 275th Anniversary
Committee.

Human Resources – Elizabeth "Liz" Kelly. - An attorney, Kelly is a Senior Associate at King, Spry, Herman, Freund and Paul in Bethlehem, PA. She has served as a Director of Human Resources for the Allentown School District in the past and has experience in managing programs for healthcare, benefits, and employee education. Elizabeth has a wide background in labor, employment, unemployment, civil service, and federal laws.

Public Defender – Nuria DiLuzio. In private practice since 2001, focusing on Criminal Defense and Family Law. She’s a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the New Jersey Bar Association and is admitted to practice at the U.S. Federal Court (Middle District of Pennsylvania). She has served as both a full-time and part-time public defender.

Public Works – Michael Emili. - A civil engineer with Bethlehem City, Michael Emili has managed multiple public works projects, including bridge replacements. Michael has experience with watersheds, sewage pumping stations, and has certifications from OSHA, EIT and the American Concrete Institute.

Human Services – Sue Wandalowski, M.S. Ed. - Has worked at Kidspeace since 2000, and currently serves as their Permanency Program Manager. She has years of experience in foster care and adoption, overseeing caseworkers and managing offices devoted to social work.

Community and Economic Development – Tina Smith. - Founder and current president of the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen as well as a board member of the Nazareth Center for the Arts and the Nazareth Economic Development Commission. Tina is the current president of the Nazareth Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce and has years of experience in organizing events and festivals, both large and small.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

NorCo Council to Revisit $10 Million DaVinci Grant

In December, a lame duck Northampton County Council voted 5-4 to support a $10 million grant for the $130 million DaVinci Science Center in Easton. At the time of this vote, DaVinci's main attraction was a 500,000 gallon salt-water aquarium with sharks. But that's been scrapped because it might compete with a private aquarium being considered in Monroe County. So instead of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, DaVinci Exec Director Lin Erickson has proposed something that she thinks is way more cool - a "Nature Dome" that permits you to see the exact same things you'd see if you walked along the river. And a bug garden. And a 100' tall and XXL Vitruvian Man that looks just like Easton Mayor Sal Panto. There's even a little restaurant inside his head. Panto, who once promoted a High School Hall of Fame, is convinced this is way cooler than the fish tank. But Northampton County Council is having second thoughts about the wisdom of this $10 million grant.

"This is insane," is how Ken Kraft summed up the DaVinci Center when it was a mere aquarium. Imagine how he feels now that it's a bug garden.

At last night's Finance Committee, Council member John Cusick said he wants to revisit this grant. "What we voted for is not what's currently before us," he reasoned.

This $10 million grant comes from hotel taxes. It will take Northampton County several years to pay this sum, and other worthy projects will go unfunded. Erickson said she wants even more money from the county for this disaster. She's already attempted a private meeting with newly elected Council members, and wanted them to attend Tuesday's dog-and-pony show about this new design.

Cusick and Matt Dietz will be sponsoring legislation that reduces or eliminates the grant for this pipe dream. Cusick, Dietz and Kraft voted against this grant. Peg Ferraro and Bob Werner supported it. During the County Council debate, only Bill McGee supported the aquarium.

McClure Begins to Beef Up Agencies Protecting Children, Elderly

Matt Dietz and Tara Zrinski
On the day he was sworn in, Executive Lamont McClure said his top priority is the county's most vulnerable population - its very young and its very old. The state Department of Aging, had given Northampton County a failing grade in December for its handling of elder-abuse complaints. And Children, Youth and Family Director Kevin Dolan told Council in June that child abuse referrals had skyrocketed from 3,514 in 2014 to a projected 7,000 in 2017. Calling the increased referrals a "tsunami," Dolan said his staff are overwhelmed.

Both Dolan and Aging Administrator John Mehler were shot down when they asked for help. They were also pretty much muzzled during John Brown's tenure as Executive.

That is changing under Lamont McClure.

Yesterday, with Dolan and Mehler both present, he started the process of beefing up both departments. He asked Council to approve supervisory positions in both departments that Brown had rejected. 

Mehler and Dolan explained that new positions are either completely or 90% reimbursed by the state, so this costs the county nothing

Bob Werner attempted to downplay the failing grade Northampton County had received for failing to investigate elder abuse complaints promptly. He noted that eight counties have been reviewed and most have fared badly.

But McClure is having none of it. "There will be no excuses,' he said. "We must protect our elderly. We will not get another F."

NorCo's New #MeToo Government

Lori Vargo Heffner
Northampton County's new Council met for the first time yesterday. Since they were conducting confirmation hearings for Executive Lamont McClure's new cabinet, it was an excellent opportunity to observe McClure's new government in action. I'd call it a #MeToo government. Though the #MeToo movement initially arose as a reaction to rampant sexual harassment of women, it has morphed into a rallying cry that has empowered women. They've been empowered in Northampton County. Three of Council's nine members are now women. If McClure's cabinet is confirmed tomorrow, which seems highly likely, it will include five women. This includes some firsts. Melissa Rudas will be NorCo's first ever female Solicitor. Nuria DiLuzio will be the County's first ever female Public Defender.

Based on yesterday's hearings, it seems likely that all of McClure's choices will be confirmed unanimously. I've told you about McClure's nominees in a previous story.He named them within two days of being sworn into office,and had each of them appear at a news conference.

At yesterday's hearing, he introduced each nominee.

The most important of these is his Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger. The Administrator is usually designated as Acting County Executive when the Executive is absent. McClure said that since Dertinger know him so well, he'd have "the best sense of what I'd do." For his part, Dertinger said one of his goals is to ensure an excellent relationship between the Executive and Council.

Tina Smith, McClure's pick for Community and Economic Development, was lauded as a person with a proven track record of community and small business development.

Steve Barron, whose days as Controller appear to be over, will take over the helm at Fiscal Affairs. John Cusick and Matt Dietz, two of Council's three Republicans, said they'd support him. Cusick hopes that Barron can produce a revised Administrative Code and Airbnb legislation.Barron worked on both of these matters as Controller.

In response to a concern raised by Bob Werner, McClure said he would ban Barron from ever wearing a kilt.

McClure was especially proud of Attorney Elizabeth "Liz" Kelly, his pick for Human Relations. As recently as today, she was doing Human Resources at Allentown's beleaguered school district. MCClure said the County's former Human relations Director, Amy Trapp, had a "general disregard for the rules and regulations that benefit employees." He called Kelly the "right person at the right time to help create a stable work environment."

Bill McGee gave Kelly some good advice."Take care of the workers and they'll take care of you."

When he introduced his Human Services Director, Sue Wandalowski, McClure called her position the "most important one" in the county. This sentiment indicates the emphasis McClure wants to give to human services.

John Cusick asked Mike Emili, Mcclure's pick for Public Works, what areas in the county need attention. He wasted no time identifying bridges, Gracedale and the jail. "Good answer!" said Cusick.

No one messed with Missy Rudas, McClure's pick for Solicitor. While Missy is beautiful, she has a game face in which her eyes shoot poison arrows. I think she knows judo or something. McClure described her as someone who is "not laying down in a fight."

No one was willing to test that theory.

His final pick, Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio, proved her worth as an advocate in responding to questions about a possibleconflict involving her husband, who happens to be Bethlehem's Chief of Police. Since they are both administrators whowouldnever cross swords, there is no conflict.

Peg Ferraro was absent because she is still battling a severe case of bronchitis. But she almost always defers to the Executive on cabinet appointments. If this holds true tonight, all the nominees will be confirmed unanimously.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Updated: Morganelli to Trump: Adopt DACA as Stand Alone Act

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who is also running for the Democratic nomination to Pa.'s 15th Congressional District, is calling on President Donald Trump to support DACA legislation without conditions and as a stand-alone bill.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an immigration program adopted by President Barack Obama in 2012. He did so by executive order after the House refused to bring the matter up for a vote. It protects 800,000 "dreamers," who Morganelli described as "individuals who entered this country through no fault of their own. They were too young to make their own decisions."

To qualify for DACA protection, dreamers must be able to meet these minimum standards:

- Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
- Have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007
- Were under age 31 on June 15, 2012 (born on June 16, 1981 or after)
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
- Have completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
- Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety

Trump, who during his campaign had vowed to end DACA on "day one" of his presidency, ended it in September. But he suspended his Order for six months to "provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act." According to Department of Homeland Security Chief Kirstjen Nielson, Trump has no authority to grant any extension beyond March 5.

Morganelli, no friend to illegal immigration, distinguished dreamers from aliens who illegally enter this country to carry on a life of crime, not work. He said immigration resources should be focused on "removing dangerous foreign criminals," not dreamers.

He said Trump "is wrong in using these dreamers as hostages and human pawns in a chess match with the Democrats."

Morganelli, however, is opposed to forcing a government shutdown over this issue. He said that DACA supporters could find leverage in other ways.

Updated 8:25 pm: Below is John Morganelli's complete statement.

John Morganelli Supports DACA by BernieOHare on Scribd


Time to Scrap DaVinci Project

According to The Morning Call, the DaVinci Science Center is replacing its vaunted salt-water fishtank with an indoor bug garden. That should be enough to kill this $130 million disaster.  According to State Senator Pat Browne, DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson had already agreed to scrap the aquarium. Funny how she never mentioned that to Council when she got that $10 million grant.

The news account claims that DaVinci has raised $70 million so far, but it really only has pledges, not money in the bank. Northampton County Council's $10 million grant is predicated on the assumption that there would be a major draw. I'm sorry, but a bug garden and otters prancing around will fail to attract visitors.

This is as ridiculous as Easton Mayor Sal Panto's High School Hall of Fame.

Though NorCo Council has adopted an ordinance promising $10 million to this pipe dream, that ordinance can and should be repealed.

Gracedale Union Workers Reduce Sick Time, See COLA Rise

According to the contract for Gracedale's AFSCME union workers, they would be entitled to a 2.5% instead of a 2% COLA this year if successful at reducing sick time in 2017. On January 2, Human Resources certified to Executive Lamont McClure that AFSCME has met this metric, So he is asking Council to give their COLA an extra bump. In doing so, McClure is honoring a contract.

NorCo Council Poised to Confirm McClure Nominees

Today, Northampton County Council will conduct what you might call a confirmation hearing for eight members of Executive Lamont McClure's cabinet. (You can read about them here.) Tomorrow night, Council will vote on the nominations. Five yes votes are needed to conform a cabinet appointment.

In addition to confirming the appointments, Council must approve the salaries. They are as follows:

Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger - $93,626

County Solicitor, Melissa (Missy) Rudas. - $63,124 (part-time)

Fiscal Affairs, Steve Barron. - $93,626

Human Services, Sue Wandalowski. - $93,626

Human Resources, Elizabeth Kelly. - $101,832

Public Works, Michael Emili. - $93,626

Community and Economic Development, Tina Smith. - $85,393

Public Defender. Nuria DiLuzio. - $62,972 (part-time)

McClure has names Richard Johnson as Acting Sheriff. Contrary to the practice of several previous county executives, McClure is asking Council to approve this appointment as well as Johnson's $85,393 salary. Johnson is a LT in the Sheriff's Department.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Where Has Trump Succeeded?

As regular readers of this blog are well aware, I consider Authoritarian Donald Trump dangerous to our democracy and Constitution. He's a foul-mouthed racist, xenophobe and sexist who plays grade school bully on the international playground  He repeatedly belittles the free press, and like any good banana republic dictator, thinks he should be able to use the Justice Department to go after his political rivals. After one year in office, we are more divided than ever, thanks to his polarizing remarks. His biggest flaw is his complete inability to tell the truth, meaning he has no credibility here or abroad. 

After a year of childish tweetstorms, some of those who voted for him are embarrassed. But he still has supporters who attempt to justify every mistake he makes. Some of you are yourselves racist, sexist or hate Muslims. A larger number are just rabid partisans who are so caught up in their hatred of Democrats that they are simply incapable of recognizing that Trump has been a disaster. But a few of you who are neither partisans nor racists nor sexists nor modern Know-Nothings still support him.

Why?

Please don't tell me he tells it like it is. That's just what bigoted people are using as an excuse. I find that an unacceptable reason to support him.

Is it the economy?

The economy, while not great, is doing rather well. But in a MacLeans analysis, it appears to be mostly the result of policies set in place under Obama.

How about the stock market? While the stock market nearly doubled in Obama's first term, Trump can probably take credit for the bull market. His braggadocio has probably probably given investors a level of confidence they lacked with Obama.

What about tax reform? It's unpopular at the moment, but does benefit low-income taxpayers. Several businesses have announced  wage hikes and bonuses, so that's a positive. 

Is it because the alternatives to Trump are worse? I get that with Hillary. But in a nation of 300 million, I think others can do a better job.

Monday, January 15, 2018

DaVinci Attempts to Subvert Sunshine Act

Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act requires Northampton County Council to conduct its business at open meetings. But DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson, worried that a $10 million grant for an Easton aquarium might be in jeopardy, has tried twice now to engineer private discussions of the people's business with newly elected Council members.

Erickson was at NorCo Council's first meeting, although she failed to speak at courtesy of the floor. She instead arranged for a private meeting that was supposed to take place last Friday at noon  When Council Prez Ken Kraft caught wind of what was happening, he directed that the meeting be canceled. Had a quorum of Council attended this meeting, it would almost certainly violate the Sunshine Act.

Erickson scheduled another meeting for Tuesday as well. Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni has advised Council to stay away. 

 

After Sunshine Act Violation, NorCo GPA Should Comply with RTKL

Last week, I told you that Northampton County's General Purpose Authority violated the Sunshine Law by conducting an executive session without a public explanation why it was necessary to meet in the back room. Solicitor John Lushis has since that time done his best to roadblock a Right-to-Know request. He appears to be as poorly informed about the Right to Know Law as he is the Sunshine Act.

Last week, after the Sunshine Act violation, I filed a Right-to-Know request concerning the amount of money paid to Lushis and any plans for a jail at Gracedale. Though the RTKL specifically requires that the RTK officer and any policies be identified on its webpage, that has never happened. So I sent my request to Administrator Mark Hartney, asking him to refer my request to the appropriate person.

Lushis eventually responded, declaring that he is the RTK officer. He attached a policy that should be linked on the webpage but is not, and instructed me to follow it and resubmit my RTK request.
"Attached is Northampton County General Purpose Authority’s (NCGPA) Open Records Policy. Please kindly re-submit your request to me directly and I will respond accordingly."
As I explained to Lushis, and caselaw makes this clear, there is no need for me to resubmit my request. Hartney followed the law by forwarding my request to him. Lushis now needs to follow the law by responding. He ultimately agreed to do so, and it's a good thing he did because that is what the RTKL requires.