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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Allentown Rescue Mission Wants Your Time or Your Money.

I have no idea what kind of winter we will have this year, but have no doubt that some of our homeless people will freeze to death. The Allentown Rescue Mission is a local charity, in existence since 1900, that feeds and shelters the homeless. It is seeking donations or your time as a volunteer. You can also help by making Amazon purchases through Amazon Smile.

The programs consist of  (1) an emergency shelter offering 72 beds for homeless men who get a voucher from Allentown Police; (2) a transformation program for men who are committed to a transition back to the community; (3) the Clean Team, which pays participants; and (4) a free medical clinic staffed by medical personnel from DeSales University. 

Real Men Wear Pink?

That's what Andy Strummer says. He's raising money to support the American Cancer Society, and explains why here.

Colonial Regional Seeks Police Officers

Colonial Regional Police Department will conduct a test for the position of police officer on Saturday October 12, 2019. Applications are available from the Colonial Regional Police Department, 248 Brodhead Road, Bethlehem, PA, 18017, by calling 610 861-4820 or online at www.colonialregionalpd.org.

Completed applications must be returned no later than 4:00 p.m. September 27, 2019. Minimum Requirements: 21 years of age on test date, High School Graduate /GED, U.S. Citizen, Valid Driver's License, Act 120 certified by 12/30/2019. Starting Salary: $57,934. Anticipated openings in 2020. EOE.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Will NorCo Council Nullify Probation Officer Payraise?

When NorCo Council last met, it decided by a 5-4 vote to make a two per cent probation officer payraise retroactive to the beginning of the year, like it was for all other nonunion workers. Executive Lamont McClure has honored Council's will, and probation officers are now receiving their retroactive pay. The four Council members who wanted to kill this payhike - Kevin Lott, Bill McGee, Lori Vargo-Heffner and Tara Zrinski - were livid. So there's been some speculation that they will try to kill the retroactive pay when Council meets again on Thursday night. This is because some of the Council members who voted to make the raise retroactive will be absent. Council President Ron Heckman and Council member John Cusick are expected to miss the meeting. Peg Ferraro, who also voted to make the raise retroactive, is in Florida.

Council will have a quorum of seven and possibly only six members. Lott, McGee, Heffner and Zrinski - the very Council members who voted against making the raise retroactive - will be the majority of a six or seven member board. Can they kill the retroactive raise?

Unlikely.

I doubt they will pull any stunts now that the payments have started.

More importantly, the Home Rule Charter makes it difficult. In most local governments, the majority of a quorum suffices to carry the day. Not so in Northampton County.

Section 601(a) of the Charter specifically provides, "The vote of a majority of the members shall be required for the adoption of an ordinance, resolution, or budget, unless otherwise provided by this Charter."  That means five members, known in this County as the Rule of Five. If only five members are present, all five must vote together.

The only exception to this rule is a motion, which only requires a majority of the quorum. But a pay plan requires action by resolution. Moreover, any attempt to change a resolution requires an act of equal dignity, which would be a resolution.

The only way Council can reverse the retroactive payraise is by convincing one of the Council members who voted Yes to change his mind and vote No. 

As I said, that seems unlikely.   

Allentown's Queen of the Court?

When I received a news release from Allentown yesterday entitled "Queen of the Court," I at first thought Lisa Pawlowski was making a comeback. Fortunately, it was about girls' basketball.

By the time kids reach high school, most Lehigh Valley basketball players are about on the same level. But in the early years, Allentown players prevail because their programs are so good. The Queen of the Court basketball program, which is going into its 10th year and is coached by Brittni Kholi,is a prime example.

It's a free seven-week basketball fundamentals program for girls in fifth through eighth grade. They must live and attend school in Allentown.

It's held at South Mountain Middle School gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 8 through November 14 from 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Pre-registration is not required. Registration forms will be available at practices. Parents are invited to attend and spectate on the bleachers.

It's about fundamentals. There are also weekly speakers.

Parents are invited to attend and spectate on the bleachers.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Be Wary of Latest Decades-Old Kavanaugh Claims

Brett Kavanaugh would hardly be my first choice as a Supreme Court Justice. But that's no justification for smearing him with decade-old attacks that can neither be proved nor disproved. He was greeted with a Salem witch hunt during his confirmation hearings. Now, several Democratic hopefuls are calling for his impeachment based on what two New York Times reporters now claim.

They both just happen to be publishing a book about their "new" investigation into old facts, which by itself is cause for concern. They clearly have a financial interest and, for that reason alone, their employer should have thought twice.

Their story portrays Kavanaugh as some drunken frat boy who liked to prance around with his pants half way down, thrusting his peeper into the faces of innocent co-eds. In addition to Debbie Ramirez' claim that she had to slap away Kavanaugh's baloney pony, these booksellers report another party at which the Associate Justice was supposedly brandishing his pork sword. 

Unlike the liberal New York Times, the National Review is a conservative publication. It has been highly critical of Donald Trump, but its bias leans right. Their analysis concludes that the supposed Kavanaugh bombshell is actually a dud, and for the following reasons.

* The person who claims that Kavanaugh was a flame cannon flasher never actually spoke, on the record, to these reporters. "We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier," they claim. I see.

* The woman who was supposedly flashed denies any memory of the incident. These "journalists" fail to report this rather salient detail.

* These supposed reporters portray Kavanaugh as a privileged white boy while Ramirez had to suffer with hardships like an above-ground swimming pool.

* Ramirez' named eyewitnesses deny the allegation, and she herself was unsure whether it was actually Kavanaugh's crank.

* The story fails to name a single first-hand witness to corroborate the allegation.

Notwithstanding this dearth of detail, the following Democratic presidential pretenders are calling for Kavanaugh's impeachment: Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.

Bernie Sanders supports the use of the "appropriate constitutional mechanism," whatever that means.

Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar would more fairly support an investigation into the latest claims, which have been denied by Kavanaugh.

Friday, September 13, 2019

NorCo Probation Officers Get Retroactive Raise

NorCo Council, at their last meeting, decided by a 5-4 vote to make a two per cent probation officer payraise retroactive to the beginning of the year, like it was for all other nonunion workers. There had been some speculation that Executive Lamont McClure would ignore what is, after all, a nonbinding resolution. He has honored Council's will, which promotes fairness to all workers, union and nonunion.

The four Council members who argued that probation officers would just have to wait until next year were spearheaded by two Council members who just happen to be trade union agents - Kevin Lott and Bill McGee.

Bill McGee (L) and Kevin Lott (R)
They complained about the $70,000 cost, but a responsible contractor ordinance McGee promoted (and one with which I agree) will be far more costly.

Lott and McGee were joined in giving probation officers a thumbs down by Tara Zrinski and Lori Vargo Heffner.

Tara Zrinski (L) and Lori Vargo Heffner (R)
Zrinski is running for State Rep. against Marcia Hahn and is obviously looking for union handouts. Vargo-Heffner told another Council member that probation officers make more money than she does. 

Winners and Losers in Dem Debate #3

These are my takeaways. What are yours?

Winners:

Joe Biden - He handled himself well, got a little feisty and stood up to several attempts to trip him. He attacked ideas, but also praised other candidates. He was the only candidate on the stage who enunciated the real problem with China, which is that nation's theft of intellectual property. as opposed to a trade deficit.

Amy Klobuchar - She had a great comeback when Bernie Sanders bragged about having written the Medicare for All plan. "Bernie wrote the bill; I read the bill," she said. She pointed out that under Sanders' Medicare for All plan, 149 million Americans would suddenly have no insurance. "I don't think that's a bold idea; that's a bad idea."

Elizabeth Warren - She excelled in the first two debates and last night was no exception. Though I consider her views too extreme,she has a folksy way of presenting them and is very likable. 

Losers:

Julian Castro - He mounted several attacks at Biden and looked mean-spirited and vindictive while doing so. He drew a few boos when he implied Biden had become forgetful. Moreover,he was incorrect when he accused Biden of having contradicted himself..

Bernie Sanders - Though he is a champion of many progressive ideas, he really looked rough compared to Biden and Warren. I never noticed this before, but he has cRaZy eyes.

Andrew Yang - Someone should remind him it's illegal to buy votes.

Protesters. - No one could hear what they were saying. 

NorCo Breaks Ground on Forensic Center

L to R: Tara Zrinski, Kevin Lott, Lamont McClure, Lori Vargo-Heffner, Ron Heckman and Bill McGee 
Exec Lamont McClure
Northampton County broke ground on its first real forensic center yesterday. The facility will be located at the Gracedale campus, next to the 911 Center. Currently, Coroner Zach Lysek has no morgue and operates out of a small office at Louise Moore Park.

Executive Lamont McClure credited Northampton County Council for funding the project. "For nearly 30 years, county councils have rhetorically called for building a forensics center, but have never put their money were their mouth was,” he said. He also heaped praise on Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron for coming up with a way to finance the facility in a way that reduces debt payments.

The forensic center, which has a budget of $11 million, is slated for completion by August 2020. It includes the following features:

* Family reception and private meeting rooms.

* Two autopsy rooms with a viewing area for law enforcement and medical school students.

* Digital forensic lab.

* Offices for Coroner's staff.

* Five-bay garage with receiving and storage area.

* Solar panels.

* Capacity for future expansion.

* Secure lockers to preserve chain of custody for evidence and personal effects.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

O'Connell Makes Excellent Pick for Allentown Police Chef


Mayor Ray O'Connell made a good pick for interim police chief yesterday, Captain Glenn Granitz. He lives in the city, close to William Allen High School, and attended Allentown's schools as well. A nice crowd attended his appointment even though it was in the middle of the working day. He clearly has the public's support.

Chief Granitz thanked everyone who came and told O'Connell that, though the Mayor may have done an extensive search, "There's a little one here who thinks she could be Chief."

He was referring to his four year-old daughter.

Granitz is second generation APD. His father, a retired officer, was there.

"We have the same concerns," he told the crowd.

His expectation for his fellow officers? "To work," he said. He acknowledged "it has been a difficult summer," adding that many of his officers are putting in extra hours.

"Our goal as the APD is to fight back against violent crime," he pledged. "The current level of violence and the fear it has created is quite simply unacceptable. We've endured a difficult and heart-wrenching year." He noted that he had a personal relationship with the first homicide victim of this year, including his cell phone. He promised to keep that number until the case is resolved.

He told everyone to expect increased communication via media and social media, a commitment to a neighborhood community policing program, a pilot program to address gun violence in neighborhoods that need it the most, attendance at community watch meetings and expanding the city's relationship with other law enforcement agencies.

"This will take time, hard work and effort from each and every one of us. I, for one, am ready for this challenge. I am asking you to stand alongside me as I am prepared to stand alongside each and every one of you."

Blogger's Note: I was unable to attend this appointment and am relying on video from social media.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Allentown to Name "Interim" Police Chief Today

According to a one sentence advisory, Mayor Ray O'Connell is going to name an "interim" police chief today. Its most recent "interim" police chief, Tony Alsleben, resigned September 6 in the wake of an unusually large number of shootings in Allentown this summer.

He's been scapegoated. Although police morale has suffered under his leadership, the simple reality is the United States leads the developed world in gun violence.

The knee-jerk reaction to gun violence is gun control. But a City like Allentown has no authority ti adopt gun control measures, at least none that would withstand a court challenge.

A possible solution, and one I'm sure Allentown police are already considering or implementing, is a focused deterrence strategy like Boston's Operation Cease Fire, which focuses on hot spots, chronic offenders and gangs.

Hanover Tp Will Remember 9/11, How 'Bout You?

Please join Hanover Township for our Annual Patriot Day Program and Flag Retirement Ceremony.

This years speaker is Jason Harrar. Jason is a combat veteran and also works with an organization called Tails of Valor. Tails of Valor rescues dogs from shelters, train them as service animals, and pair them with a veteran in need. Families can also have a service dog named after their fallen loved one so that their name can live on.

Wednesday, September 11th @ 6:30 p.m.
Hanover Township Community Center
3660 Jacksonville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18017


I have looked at the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton webpages and see no notices of any remembrance of this tragic day. If you are aware of any, please note it in a comment. I do know that Bethlehem police and firefighters get together that day for a friendly softball game to demonstrate that life goes on in spite of what happened.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Absentee Ballots Available Online, Starting Monday

Beginning Monday, you will be able to apply for absentee ballots online. Though the application is currently unavailable, it will be ready on Monday and can be found here.

While this adds some convenience for those unable to make it to the polls, there's still a very tight and inflexible deadline for absentee ballots. Under current law, they must be received by the county elections office no later than the Friday before the election. If they come in later, they are ignored.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a bill that expanded absentee ballot deadlines and even provided badly needed money for the new voting machines, but Governor Tom Wolf vetoed it because it also eliminated straight-party voting.

In the House, only four Democrats supported this measure, none of them from the Lehigh Valley. In the Senate, Lisa Boscola was one of three Democrats to vote yes.

Easton Area Community Center - Where God's Work is Done

Last Wednesday, I spent part of the day demonstrating the new ExpressVote XL voting machine at Easton Area Community Center, (EACC) once known as St. Anthony's. I thought it was basically an after school center for West Ward kids. I was wrong. It's actually a jewel in the rough, a community center run by dedicated people who serve everyone. They do God's work. They've been doing it, and with little recognition, for the past 67 years.

When I first walked in, I was a bit astonished to see about 20 seniors there. Some were sewing, others playing bingo. There was even a yoga class, which I joined until I was caught by someone with the county, who said I was scaring everyone away. The seniors were assisted by two very nice ladies named Midge and Gladys.

Get this. Their day starts at 8:30 am with the seniors. Around 2:00 pm, they get two hours off, but have to be back to assist the schoolchildren who start arriving at 4 pm. They often just stay there and clean up while waiting for the kids. They are very dedicated and seem to love their jobs.

At close to noon, all the seniors were all treated to a free lunch that consisted of a veggie burger, fries and veggies. These are served up by Food Director Derek, who told me he prepares 50,000 meals a year. These include dinner and a snack for the after-school kids, as well as holiday dinners at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fathers Day and Mother's Day.

I also met Program Director Elizabeth Reyes. "It's real blessing working here," she told me. She started as a social worker with the Salvation Army, and worked there as a volunteer for six months before she began getting paid. For the past two years, she's been at EACC.

Elizabeth loves the children. "Some of them call me mom," she beamed, and showed me that her nails had been done by one of her girls.

She took me on a tour of a three-story building that has certainly seen better days.

The second floor is a basketball court with wooden floors. They host 10 teams.

The third floor is a gigantic wresting room. Though the ceiling is falling in, it boasts the oldest wrestling team in the country.

There are numerous programs for kids and seniors alike: sewing class; cooking class; computer labs; field trips to places like the State Theatre; cops'n kids, to name a few.

Elizabeth told me EACC could use a few things, which I'll list: old sewing machines; basketballs; cardboard boxes for plays; old computers and laptops (they have five); cooking utensils for the cooking class; a copy machine; and household items (awarded as prizes in bingo games). You can drop these items off at 901 Washington Street in Easton.

Instead of awarding $20,000 to restore a church steeple, I'm sure that Northampton County could and should find a little more money for this pearl, located only two blocks from the courthouse.