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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

More LV NonProfit Salaries

On Monday, I published a story listing the salaries at some of the top Lehigh Valley nonprofits. I obtained my information from 990 Finder, an online compendium of nonprofit tax return. I was asked about Greater LV Chamber of Commerce and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.(LVEDC), but 990 Finder had no data for these entities. Greater LV Chamber of Commerce is a 504c6 nonprofit, and I assumed incorrectly that LVEDC fell into some other category.

In a fairly good demonstration of what I like to call participatory journalism, readers have been unable to find some interesting information that I missed.  I am listing it below.

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp's (LVEDC) Don Cunningham - $147,702 salary plus $15,640 in other compensation on total revenue of $2,828.040. VP Lea Glembot was also paid $101,253 plus $7,999 in other compensation. Cunningham's compensation package is 5.8% of the total revenue raised. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 1995.

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce's Tony Iannelli - $199,539 salary plus $19,019 in other compensation on total revenue of $3,804,639. Exec VP Frank Facchiano was paid a $134,400 salary plus $2,088 in other compensation. Iannelli's compensation is 5.7% of the total revenue raised. Source - 2014 990 for the period 7/1/14 thru 6/30/15.

Allentown Economic Development Corp's Scott Unger -$114,885 salary and $14,695 in other compensation  Unger's compensation is 7% of the total revenue raised. Source - 2015 990 for period 7/1/15 thru 6/30/16.

St.Luke's Health Network's Richard A Anderson - $3,560,530 salary and $286,505 in other compensation on what is being portrayed as negative revenue of $32 million. Source - 2015 990 for period from 7/1/15 thru 6/30/16.

Lehigh Valley Health Network's Ronald Swinfard - $2,364,927 salary plus $33,636 in other income. The revenue figures make no sense to me. Treasurer and CEO Brian Nestor has a salary of $1,002,894 plus $31,340 in other income. Fifteen people are paid over $100,000. Source - 2015 990 from 7/1/14 thru 6/30/15.

The tax bill under consideration by Congress would impose a 20 tax on remuneration over $1 million for the five highest paid employees at nonprofits.

Portrait Presented To Bethlehem Tp Is First Mayor's Son

Yesterday, I told you that Bethlehem Township Commissioners were presented with a portrait of Bethlehem's first Mayor, Archibald Johnston. I paid no attention to Comm'r Malissa Davis when she said it was a portrait of Archibald Johnston, Jr., thinking they were one and the same.

I was wrong. Yesterday, Attorney John Zapf II corrected me. The portrait is actually of Archibald Johnston,  one of the Mayor's two children. John should know. He is Archibald B. Johnston's grandson.

John also tells me that no one referred to his grandfather as Archibald Johnston, Jr.

I regret this error, and apologize to John and everyone else for getting it wrong.

The only thing I can offer in mitigation is that I am a Democrat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bethlehem Tp Tax Rate To Remain Steady Next Year

Unanimously, Bethlehem Tp Commissioners voted last night to advertise a budget for next year that holds the line on taxes for a second year in a row. But to do so, officials will have to dip into cash reserves. They will start 2018 with an opening cash balance of $3.2 million, but expect to have only a little over $2 million left at the end of the year.

The spending plan next year will maintain the current real estate tax of 7.09 mills.According to Finance Director Andrew Freda, this translates to an annual tax bill of $647 for the average taxpayer.

In addition to real estate taxes, the Township imposes an earned income tax (0.5%). Freda predicts that the annual earned income tax payment per household will be $415. 

Of the $18.5 million the Township will spend next year, nearly $8.5 million is budgeted for public safety, about two per cent more than in 2017. Nearly a third of the tax bill will fund police protection.

Commissioner Tom Nolan proposed establishing a fire tax for vehicle purchases and equipment at the two volunteer fire departments. But the other Commissioners preferred waiting until next year, when two new Commissioners join the Board.

"This is another important item that they're going to live with," said President Michael Hudak.

In other business, Commissioners tabled an ordinance that would prevent trash haulers from collecting before 6 am. Howard Kutzler called it a "quality of life issue," saying residents should be able to "at least sleep until 6 o'clock." Malissa Davis suggested seeking input from the garbage collectors. Hudak stated that he has spoken to one waste collector who would like to collect at businesses at 5 am, but said those businesses are in residential neighborhoods. He was the sole dissenter to Kutzler's motion to table.

Though there's no fire tax, there is a tax break coming for volunteer firefighters. Commissioners unanimously agreed to advertise an ordinance that will exempt volunteer firefighters from up to $1,000 in earned income tax every years. "This is long overdue," said Kutzler. "The volunteers to this community save this community a lot of money."       

Commissioners also voted to advise the District Attorney that a DUI Center lease of the Coolidge Building should be extended only one year instead of five. The Township wants to consider other uses of this property. Kutzler warned that it has been a steady source of revenue and has augmented the police presence in the Township.

Finally, Commissioners agreed to send a letter to Governor Wolf, opting out of any mini casino that might be possible in the Township. Kutzler was opposed, noting that "the Township has benefited heavily from the gaming industry." At Tom Nolan's suggestion, township officials will talk to Lehigh Valley Planning Commission first

Updated: Bethlehem Tp Acquires Painting of Son of Bethlehem's First Mayor

Bethlehem Township Commissioners were presented with a portrait of Archibald Johnston, Jr. at their November 20 meeting. Malissa Davis made the presentation on behalf of Cameron A. Smith, an 18 year-old man who serves on Catasauqua's Planning Commission. Davis and Smith met while both were attending a Citizen Academy at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. He was unable to attend in person because he had a meeting in Catty.

The painting is of Archibald Johnston, Jr., son of Bethlehem's first Mayor.

Smith purchased the painting on Craigslist for $45 from Ed Sherwood. After listening to Davis talk about Johnston and Housenick Park, he was inspired to donate the portrait. He noted that he is researching Desiderius George Dery, who at one time owned the world's largest silk manufacturer. "[P]eople have donated so many wonderful Dery related items to me and I felt it was my turn to reciprocate," he said.

Archibald Johnston was Bethlehem's first Mayor. He may have been its best. He became Mayor in 1918, when the United States was reeling from the deadly Spanish flu. That pandemic that may have killed as many as 100 million people worldwide.

His City, which had both a strict quarantine and a makeshift hospital at the Steel Company, suffered only about 100 casualties. Philadelphia, which failed to plan for or react to this calamity, dumped close to 13,000 bodies outside police stations and in trench graves.

Johnston, an engineer, believed in planning.

His mansion and surrounding grounds were devised to Bethlehem Township by his granddaughter, Janet Housenick, along with a $2 million fund for maintenance.

In addition to the gift, Smith is asking Commissioners to do "whatever they can to restore the Johnston Mansion. It really is a tremendous asset and an untouched example of gilded age mansions"

Updated 9:15 pm: In my original version of this story, I erroneously reported that the portrait is of Archibald Johnston. I apologize for my error.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dr. Thode: LU Needs to Ban Sexual Relations Between Faculty and Students

The recent disclosures of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein have cast a bright light on the Hollywood culture which permits such behavior to continue even when it is well-known. But, sexual harassment isn’t just a Hollywood problem. It can be a problem for any organization that is permissive of such behavior.
Almost 25 years ago, my employer, Lehigh University, first sought to codify its policy on sexual harassment. When that proposed policy was brought to the faculty for approval, I rose in opposition, and not because I thought the policy was too tough. Quite the contrary, I felt the policy was too weak. Instead of outright prohibiting sexual relationships between faculty members and their students, and between supervisors and their supervisees, the proposed policy used language like: “an instructor (e.g., advisor, course instructor, teaching assistant) should avoid developing a romantic or sexual relationship with a student taught, advised, or supervised by that instructor.”; and, “a supervisor should avoid developing a romantic or sexual relationship with an employee.” (Emphasis mine)
I asked my fellow faculty to draw a clear line and replace the word “should” with the word “must.” While some applauded me, others jeered. I then asked those who jeered to cite a single example where it was appropriate for an instructor to engage in a sexual relationship with one of their students, or, a supervisor to engage in a sexual relationship with one of their supervisees.
My point was (and is) a simple one: a romantic or sexual relationship between an instructor (supervisor) and a student (supervisee) should never be assumed to be consensual. The instructor (supervisor) has power over the student (supervisee). It is not a relationship of peers.
Nevertheless, the language was not amended, and “should avoid” was codified as official Lehigh University sexual harassment policy.
Nearly a quarter century later, Lehigh has spent untold dollars to hire additional staff devoted to issues of harassment and discrimination, and to require all faculty, staff and students to complete annual training on harassment and discrimination. You would think that Lehigh might have strengthened its official sexual harassment policy.
You would be wrong. The current sexual harassment policy (found on Page 180 here:http://www.lehigh.edu/~inprv/pdfs/active_pdf_forms/RULES_PROCEDURES_MAY2017.pdf) still uses the original language. To wit:
“Supervisory Conflict of Interest  A supervisor should avoid developing a romantic or sexual relationship with an employee. Similarly, an instructor (e.g., advisor, course instructor, teaching assistant) should avoid developing a romantic or sexual relationship with a student taught, advised, or supervised by that instructor.” (Emphasis mine)
Compare Lehigh’s sexual harassment policy with that of Lafayette (which can be found here:https://sash.lafayette.edu/lafayette-college-policy-on-sexual-harassment/):
“While a student is a student of a particular instructor/staff member, the instructor/staff member shall not ask the student for a sexual favor or in other ways make a sexual advance to the student. While a student is a student of a particular instructor/staff member, any romantic advance or sexual relationship between the student and the particular instructor/staff member is prohibited. This rule applies even if the romantic advance or sexual relationship is welcome.” (Emphasis mine)
Or, the sexual harassment policy of Moravian College (which can be found here: https://www.moravian.edu/policy/sexual-misconduct):
“Additionally, employees of the College may be charged with sexual harassment when romantic/intimate relationships occur between students and College faculty or other members of the administration and staff who teach or exercise authority over students, who provide counseling, advising, and mentoring to students, or who assess and evaluate student academic, artistic, or athletic performance. The College prohibits these relationships, whether consensual or nonconsensual, due to the existing power differential and possibility of abuse and favoritism.” (Emphasis mine)
I urge all companies, all organizations, and all colleges and universities to review their sexual harassment policies to insure that any behaviors that may lead to abuse or favoritism are strictly prohibited.
Stephen F. Thode has been on the faculty of Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics since 1982 

Blogger's Note - The op-ed above was rejected by The Morning Call on the basis that Lehigh bans rides to Space Mountain between faculty and students. But the plain language of the policy makes clear that it is permitted. 

What Do LV Non Profit Bosses Earn?

If you'd like to make a lot of money, you probably should steer clear of nonprofits. I've listed the compensation packages of some of the Lehigh Valley's top nonprofits below. These were obtained from 990 Finder, an online compendium of nonprofit tax returns. .

You can use that site, too, if you are curious about a nonprofit I failed to list. If you learn something you'd like to share, please do so in a comment.

The wages paid to a nonprofit employee only have to be listed once they top $100,000.  Most nonprofits are unable to afford that kind of money.

Nonprofits that can afford to pay higher salaries usually try to stay at or below five per cent of the total revenue. So the top three dogs at ArtsQuest only earn 2.6% of the total revenue. Alan Jennings, who is castigated frequently, receives a very low wage. It's only 0.7% of the revenue his organization raises.

PBS-39's Tim Fallon is listed as getting a third of his group's revenue. I believe there must be another organization that I missed.

Da Vinci's Lin Erickson and Allentown Art Museum's David Mickenberg are paid a bit too much.

ArtsQuest pays three people over $100,000. President Kassie Hilgert is paid a $172,452 salary and other compensation of $10,821. Senior VP Walter Keiper is paid $150,834 plus other compensation of $15,254. Senior VP Curt Mosel is paid $107,814 and other compensation of $16,437. This is based on total revenue of $17.8 million. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 2015. Combined, these salaries are 2.6% of revenue

State Theatre's Shelley Brown - $153,750 salary on total revenue of  $4,419,353. Source -2015 990 for period from 6/1/15 through 5/31/16. Brown's salary is about 4.5% of revenue.

Allentown Art Museum's David Mickenberg - $151,560 salary and $9,686 in other compensation on total revenue of $2,151,858. Source - 2014 990 for period 7/1/14 thru 6/30/15. Mickenberg's salary appears to be 7.4% of total revenue

PBS-39's Tim Fallon - $140,671 salary and $18,552 in other compensation on total revenue of $473,399. Source - 2015 990 for the period 7/1/15 to 6/30/16  Fallon's salary appears to be 33.6% of revenue.

Allentown Symphony Association's Sheila Evans - $134,025 salary plus $15,975 in other compensation on total revenue of  $3,069,360. Source - 2015 990 for period 6/1/15 thru 5/31/16. Evans' salary is roughly 5% of the total revenue.

Da Vinci Center's Lin Erickson -  $129,500 salary plus $6,624 in other compensation on total revenue of $1.49 million. Source - 2015 990 for the period 7/1/15 to 6/30/16. Erickson's salary is around nine per cent of total revenue.

Wildland Conservancy's Chris Kocher - $127,586 salary plus $7,362 in other compensation on total revenue of $3.1 million. Source - 2015 990 for 2015 calendar year. Kocher's salary is 4.3% of total revenue.

Discover LV's Mike Stershic - $125,000 salary and $30,167 in other compensation on total revenue of $3.8 million. Source - 2014 990 for 2014 period 7/1/14 to 6/30/15. Stershic's compensation package is about 4% of total revenue. 

Allentown Rescue Mission's Jim Byrnes - $109,141 salary plus $9,057 in other compensation on total revenue of $3.5 million for the period 7/1/15 thru 6/30/16. Source - 2015 990. Byrnes salary is about 3.3% of total revenue.

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV)'s Alan Jennings - $101,336 salary and $47,050 in other compensation on $21.1 million in revenue. Source - 2015 990 for the period 7/1/15 to 6/30/16. Jennings's total compensation is 0.70% of the total revenue.

LV Habitat for Humanity's  Deb Cummins - $98,373 salary plus $2,790 in other compensation on total revenue of $2.468 million. Source - 2015 990 for period 7/1/15 to 6/30/16.  Cummins's salary is 4.0% of tital revenue.

Lehigh Conference of Churches' John Felch - $90,000 salary plus $917 in other compensation on total revenue of $4.6 million. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 2015, Felch's salary is just about two per cent of total revenue.

National Museum of Industrial History's Amy Hollander - $57,894 salary plus $11,167 in other compensation. Treasurer Theodore Harlan earned $66,284 plus $3,907 in other compensation. Total revenues are $3,328,738. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 2015. Hollander was replaced earlier this year. Hollander was earning two per cent of total revenue.

Beginning Over Foundation's Heidi Markow - $52,722 on total revenue of $577,427. Board member Helen Venturini also paid $52,777. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 2015. Markow took 9.1% of total revenue as a salary, but in fairness, it seems like a small organization. .

Baum School of Art's Shannon Fugate - $57,001 salary and $3,139 in other compensation on total revenue of $1,166,348. Source - 2015 990 for period 7/1/15 through 6/30/16. Fugate's salary is 5.1% of total revenue.

Lehigh Valley Arts Council's Randall Forte - $46,000 salary on total revenue of $295,838. Source - 2015 990 for 9/1/15 thru 8/31/16.  While Forte's salary is low, it is 15.5% of total revenue.

Historic Bethlehem's Charlene Donchez Mowers - Not listed. Under $100,000 on total revenue of $338,600. Source 2015 990 for 3/1/15 to 2/29/16.

Greater Easton Development Partnership's Jared Mast - Not listed. Under $100,000 on total revenue of $443,518. Source - 2015 990 for calendar year 2015

Third Street Alliance for Women and Children's Alisa Baratta - Not listed. Under $100,000 on total revenue of $1.744 million. Source - 2016 990 for unstated period. Filed 7/25/17.

Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley's Lori Sywensky - Unlisted. Under $100,000 on total revenue of $1,687,948. Source - 2015 990 for period 7/1/15 thru 6/30/16.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Simmons Out! Who Will Drain the Swamp Now!

Within days of a Morning Call story revealing that political opportunist Justin Simmons missed 500 votes as a state lawmaker, he's withdrawn as a Congressional candidate. Simmons, of course, blamed everything on Charlie Dent.

It's a sad day for General Lee Snover, boss of the NorCo GOP. She no doubt cried herself to sleep.

The good news for Justin Simmons is that he broke completely new ground when it comes to campaign strategy. He campaigned against a man who wasn't running and managed to lose to him.

Voters will have an opportunity to show Simmons the door next year. He's dropped out of a Congressional race. He's abandoned a stab at Lt. Governor. So he'll try to con the people he attempted twice to abandon this year.

I think they're on to him.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Updated: NorCo Council Ponders $1 Million Grant to Da Vinci Center

Without a business plan or feasibility study in hand, Northampton County Council is nevertheless considering a $1 million grant for the Da Vinci Science Center project in Easton. Payments would be made in $100,000 increments over the next ten years. The money would come from hotel taxes, not real estate taxes. Hotel taxes may only be used for projects that promote regional tourism. The proposal is similar to a grant that helped fund Steel Stacks and PBS-39 in South Bethlehem.

While $1 million is a lot of money, it's far below the $15 million sought by Da Vinci Center Executive Director Lin Erickson. Council member Peg Ferraro, a strong supporter of the aquarium, said at the November 16 meeting that she would be offering an amendment. This means she wants to award more than $1 million. She invited fellow members to call her, but an issue like this really should be discussed in full public view.

Pitched as a science center that will promote STEM education, DaVinci's big draw is a 500,000 gallon aquarium with large view panes to be located at the site of the Easton Days Inn, located near the junction of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. Easton will demolish the existing hotel and from its ashes, a 170,000 sq ft facility will rise. In addition to the marine vivarium, it will include a restaurant and event center with seating for 500, an immersion theater, a creativity studio or "Fab lab," classrooms and offices.

Its projected cost is $130 million, and Easton has pledged $30 million. Mayor Sal Panto has told Council that City has already spent $6 million on this project. It intends to borrow $24 million through a bond issue, to be paid by the amusement tax on 400,000 visitors per year and income taxes paid by 200 permanent workers.

Northampton County has already contributed $50,000 in hotel taxes for a $1.2 million feasibility study. As of late last month, Da Vinci still needed $100,000 for this business analysis.

In addition to the difficulty of building in a flood plain, other serious problems with the location include a lack of parking, a dearth of hotel space and possible competition from a similar project under consideration in Monroe County.

Executive-elect Lamont McClure has said at the Executive debate that he supports DaVinci, but more work was needed to determine how much NorCo should contribute.

Incoming Council members have also expressed reservations.

Ron Heckman warned that developers dazzle you with charts and then give you a bill.  Tara Zrinski said she has three children and they all liked shiny new toys. "I don't know if we should be spending taxpayer dollars for a shiny new toy," she said. Noting that the aquarium is in a flood plain, she always instructed her children not to leave their toys out in the rain.

Lori Vargo Heffner objected to there being a "county ATM on all the projects for everyone."

Council will vote on this proposal at their December 7 meeting, before these new Council members are seated.

Earlier in the evening, Council tabled some appointments to authorities on the grounds that incoming Executive Lamont McClure should be able to weigh in on the measure. By that same reasoning, this ordinance should be tabled as well. Let the new Council decide.

Blogger's Note: This story has been updated from the original story posted 11/16/17 at 12:01 am.

Is There a Sexual Assault Epidemic?

On Wednesday, I posted a story that made light of what I called the sexual harassment epidemic, which is  outing alleged predators every day. The accused include both the very liberal and ultraconservative, straight and gay. In many instances, the victims have waited decades before coming forward. This hurts their credibility. But in some cases, several people say j'accuse. That corroborates these indictments.

Two people - Monkey Momma and Dr.Paige Van Wirt - took issue with me. I want to highlight their views.

Monkey Momma tees off on this sentence from my Wednesday story. "It seems that everyone has been subjected to horrifying sexual abuse in their teens or early twenties."

Actually, what it seems like is our society has a very pervasive sexual assault problem. One of the reasons this problem has not been effectively dealt with is our tendency to "laugh it off" or make light of what is really a very serious and sad problem. Victims, more often that not, fail to come forward in a timely manner simply because of the attitude represented in this very surprising and disappointing blog post.

The #metoo movement has made it acceptable to finally reveal past assaults that have haunted victims for many years. For the first time in my own memory, men & women are coming forward with their stories, and for that I very much admire them. Because of our society's tendency to make light of these horror stories, people need a lot of guts to reveal the predators in our midst.

As the mother of a son and a daughter, I am big believer in the Innocent Until Proven Guilty concept - in other words, you can't just totally believe every victim's account at face value. Evidence is needed before a life should be destroyed by would could be, theoretically, lies. However, when multiple victims come forward telling the SAME story about the SAME predator, and a pattern is revealed even years later, then it is (in my mind) safe to assume that these victims are collectively sharing accurate and real histories about criminals who have (so far) gone unpunished. In no way did these victims enjoy their torture, as your blog post seems to suggest. It is not flattering to be targeted by a pedophile or a rapist or sexual predator. Victims didn't earn their crimes, by either their actions or their "attractiveness" - they were simply targeted by sick criminals who have, up until now, enjoyed the tacit protection of a society that really could not give a shit.

I do not personally have a #metoo story. I have been damned lucky. I see now that so many of my close friends and family didn't escape their youth unscathed, and I thank the gods for my good fortune. I admire those who have finally found the courage to speak out about past horrors. You're lucky, Bernie. But just because you dodged a bullet, it doesn't mean the same bullets didn't strike someone else.

Dr. Paige Van Wirt went off on a comment I made defending my Wednesday story. " “I reject the notion that sexual abuse or even harassment is prevalent.”

Ask yourself why. Is it because you were victimized by false accusations? You clearly understand that having been a victim of false accusations does not mean is isn’t painfully prevalent. Part of the reason sexual harassment continues to be a problem, the reason why it continues to happen, is exactly because it is behavior that occurs away from cameras, other people, or any way to meaningfully ‘prove’ that it happened. If it was easy to prove then the perpetrators would not do it! The sudden deluge means that people who have for years, decades, nursed their own pain and memories in the dark, finally feel like there is a platform to share their experience and humiliation without people like you coming down on them and saying “there is no proof!” If the coach at Penn State had not caught Sandusky in the shower with those boys, would the problems not have happened because the boys could not ‘prove it’? If those boys came forward decades later and said “ yes, this horrible, life-changing thing happened to me”, some who even considered killing themselves because of the pain, would they not have been listened to because there was no proof, or not listened to because too many years had lapsed? Patterns emerge, there is strength in patterns, but at the end of the day this is a problem that occurs in the dark, and to dismiss the current wave of allegations as ‘simply unbelievable’ shows a poor understanding of this very real problem.

One of my points was that there was only anecdotal evidence of a problem, no hard facts. But as I looked into this question a little more closely, I discovered there are statistics that tell us that we may very well have a problem. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

NorCo Council Awards $730k in Table Games Grants

Northampton County Council approved $730,000 in table games grants at their November 16 meeting. The vote was 8-0, with Glenn Geissinger being absent. These awards are part of Executive John Brown's Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP). The plan is to use table games revenue from the Sands Casino for a variety of grants and revolving loans, with an emphasis on aging boroughs and townships. This year, a total of 33 grants were awarded as appears below.

Susan Wild: Why I'm Running

Though I will support John Morganelli for Congress, you might prefer a person like Susan Wild. She is a prominent Allentown attorney and Solicitor to Allentown. She is seeking the Democratic nomination to Congress in the 15th Pa. Congressional District. Here she explains why and asks you to dig into your pockets. 

Like many of you, I’m frustrated and dismayed that our government is broken. Things are spiraling downward quickly. Good government seems to be a thing of the past.

I have spent a lifetime trying to help people. It’s what I was trained to do starting in law school, and throughout my career. Nothing makes me feel better than helping someone with a problem find a solution.

So now, instead of feeling hopeless and helpless, I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m running for Congress.

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have had a career that has trained me to listen carefully, question assumptions, do solid research, and find solutions to problems. I’m ready to bring this approach to Washington to fight for Pennsylvania families, but I can’t do it alone -- please make a contribution today to make sure my campaign has the resources we need.

I strongly believe in the concept of good government. I believe that quality, affordable health care is a right. I believe the economy grows best from the middle out, not the top down. I’m ready to work on strengthening gun laws so that everyone can feel safe in their communities. I believe that Mother Earth must be respected and cared for. That the elderly and our veterans need to be respected and cared for. That there must be no discrimination against people based on their race, country of origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation. And good public education is where it all starts.

I also believe that corporations must not be allowed to hand-pick our elected officials and run our country, which is why I wanted to reach out today. We have a real opportunity to flip this seat -- but I need all of you to help me win. Please, make a contribution today.

I was raised to believe that government has a proper place in our lives, and that it is the obligation of our elected officials to work hard for the people who elected them. When I’m in Washington, my sole focus will be on what is right for the people of the 15th, and working to achieve solutions that are right for all Americans.

Thank you for being a part of this,
Susan Wild

(Her donation button is here.)

How is NorCo Handling Opioid Crisis?

Tiffany Rossanese
What's Northampton County doing about the opioid crisis? That question stumped County Council candidates at a recent debate. But Tiffany Rossanese can answer that question. She's the Administrator of Northampton Drug and Alcohol program. She updated Council members yesterday on what her department is doing to combat America's heroin epidemic.

College Outreach. - Northampton and Lehigh County have teamed up to approach local colleges to educate students about the problem. Joe, a Lehigh University Master's candidate and participant in Northampton County's Drug Court, has been sharing his story with students.

HOPE (Heroin and Opioid Prevention Education). - This program is offered at schools and community venues to educate parents, students, professionals about opioid addiction and where to go for help.

Hospital Outreach. - This is another bi-county effort with area hospitals for persons who have substance abuse problems. The goal is to persuade overdose victims to seek and get help, regardless of the substances used or ability to pay. Mid-Atlantic Rehabilitation Services will then provide assessments and recommend treatment. During October, there were 171 referrals, and 146 people were seen.

Police Outreach. - Bethlehem and Bangor police departments have started an open door policy in which a drug addict can approach them and be connected to a treatment provider instead of a jail cell. A person who has drugs or paraphernalia can turn them over without fear that there will be charges. If the person has an outstanding warrant, it will be served at that time.

Recovery Centers.- There are three in Northampton County based in Easton (Change on 3d, 117 3d St), Bethlehem (Bethlehem Recovery Center, 548 N New St) and Bangor (A Clean Slate, 100 S.1st St.).

Drug Court. - This Court, administered by Judge Craig Dally, currently has 54 participants who appear before him weekly. There are eight pending application. There have been nine graduates.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why an Exec Needs a Good Transition Team

On Monday, I told you that NorCo County Executive-elect Lamont McClure had chosen a transition team. This led to a few derisive comments, which is to be expected on a blog about local government. But yesterday, a GOP friend was talking to me and derided the idea as completely unnecessary. I told him it's too bad he's unable to speak to Ulysses S. Grant.

When John Brown took over as Executive, most of his first year was a comedy of errors. He appointed as a Public Defender the husband of a sitting judge. He named a voice-over artist as his Director of Community and Economic Development. He failed to fill several slots. His first choice for Administrator, Cathy Allen, had no real government experience or education. He went six months before filling three of his most important cabinet posts. He had no transition team. He had one meeting in he backroom of Michael Snover's law office attended by people who themselves had no understanding of county government and just wanted to divide the spoils. Brown thought he knew better because he comes from the business world.

Ulysses S Grant thought he knew better, too. He refused to run his cabinet choices by people who understood how federal government works. He even refused to share his inaugural speech. The result was a disaster. He appointed a Secretary of State who lasted all of five days. He selected a wealthy business magnate as his Treasury Secretary, completely overlooking a federal statute that barred the Treasury Secretary from engaging in trade or commerce. He had to withdraw the nomination.

"I entered the White House without any previous experience in either civil or political life," he would later admit in his memoirs. "I thought I could run the government of the United States, as I did the staff of my army. It was my mistake, and it led me into other mistakes."

A transition team will assist McClure in making quality cabinet level picks before he assumes office. While I am sure there will still be mistakes, a group of advisers should keep them at a minimum.

Grant was so revered at the time that people overlooked these errors. But neither Brown nor McClure were successful generals who ended the Civil War.

NorCo Has $14.5 Million to Buy Centralized HS Bldg

In March 2019, Northampton County will be able to exercise an option to purchase the centralized Human Serviced building, which is located along Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. The price tag is $14,566,722.

Normally, a county would make this kind of purchase by floating a bond.But instead of shackling the county with more debt, Executive John Brown has been setting aside the funds to complete this purchase. In his latest budget amendment, Brown proposes adding $1 million to the purchase fund, which will be enough to enable the county to buy the building in 2019.

Is It Finally Time For a Step Increase?

One of the chief reasons why morale is bad at Northampton County is that employees who should be advanced in their pay scale never are. A clerk who started yesterday is paid the same wages as someone who has been doing the same job for 10 or 20 years. This breeds resentment and led to questions from Council President John Cusick yesterday. He wanted to know the last time a step increase was provided to career service employees. Budget Administrator thinks the last time this happened was when Glenn Reibman was in office, about ten years ago.

A step increase is an increase of 4.5%. It would reward employees who stay with the county. But how would it be funded?

An answer to that question came in a budget amendment reviewed by Council yesterday. It proposes adding $6.6 million to the county's rainy day fund, called the stabilization fund. This would increase it to $20.4 million. This is 15% of the general fund. Under the county's rainy day fund ordinance, it should be between 5 and 15%. "It may be a bit much," said Cusick. "I don't think it needs to be that high."

Budget Administrator Doran Hamman responded, "You only have $20 million to support a $400 million operation."

Cusick may be looking for a way to fund a step increase to career service employees.

Did Brown and Allen Snub Barron?

Northampton County Controller Steve Barron put a lot of long hours into getting Lamont McClure elected as County Executive last week. Incumbent John Brown noticed. He has complained bitterly about Barron's involvement to several of his allies. In a rare display of pique, he appeared to snub Barron during yesterday's Council committee meetings.

Brown and Administrator Cathy Allen arrived together for yesterday's personnel and finance committee hearings. Things moved along quickly until Council reached the final item on their agenda, a review of hotel tax audits.

As Barron approached the podium, Brown and Allen both got up and walked out, and without acknowledging anyone.

It could just be that hotel tax audits over a few dollars are boring, but it was odd that both would get up and walk out during a meeting that was already brief.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Allentown's Sportsfest to End

From the Sportsfest website
: SportsFest will be discontinuing operations effective immediately.

At our recent board meeting, the Board of Directors wrapped up the 21st annual SportsFest and announced that this past SportsFest would be our last.

We have been proud to provide an event that our community could enjoy together. A community that loves and cherishes its sports history and culture.

SportsFest started in 1997 with a mission to promote the beautiful parks system throughout the City of Allentown, through amateur athletic competition and to raise awareness of health, fitness and wellness in our community. At its height, the annual summer event hosted over 40 competitions, attracting 10,000 athletes and 100,000 spectators. Over its history, SportsFest is also very proud to have awarded $10,000 in Scholarships to high school athletes, to help them further their academic careers.

On behalf of the SportsFest Board of Directors, I would like to thank the countless volunteers and committee members who worked and organized the events over the last two decades. None of what was accomplished could have been possible without your enduring commitment and support. I would also like to recognize the support and generosity of our corporate sponsors, local businesses and restaurants, City and County leaders, and the Allentown & County Parks and Recreation Departments, all who made SportsFest possible and sustainable.

It has been our sincere pleasure to serve the athletic community of the Lehigh Valley over the last two decades and we are confident its thirst for sports competitions will continue to be met by existing and future events and organizations.

Ray Atiyeh
President/Executive Director
Lehigh Valley SportsFest

Sexual Harassment and My Own Sad Story

Forget the opioid epidemic, there's a new public health crisis in town. It seems that everyone has been subjected to horrifying sexual abuse in their teens or early twenties. Then, fifty years later, just as Alzheimers is set to take over, they come forward with tales of being pinched in the ass, grabbed by the p--y or peeper or worse, forced to watch some willie flicker comic. I remember the good ol' days, when only Catholic priests and wrestling coaches were considered perverts. But we now know it could be anybody. Donald Trump. Bill Cosby. Creepy Senate candidates with cowboy hats. Even Mr. Sulu was ready to take some poor male model into warp drive.

Mr. Sulu!

Given what's going on, I thought it's time for me to come out and tell you my own sad story.

When I was in fourth grade, I became an altar boy, and remained one into high school. Now you all know what happens to altar boys and why so many of them sing soprano. But in all my years, no priest ever gave me a second look. Not even when I'd bend over to get the cruets.

It's been that way my entire life. While everyone around me was going to space mountain, I've been untouched. I have never been harassed. Even when I forget to zip up and walk around for an entire day with the garage door open, no one says a word.

I know why. My good looks and charming personality intimidate men and women alike.

It's not easy being handsome. Eventually, I went cRaZy and became a bottom-feeding blogger.

NorCo Considers 26 New 911 Positions

Bethlehem is currently planning to merge with Northampton County's 911 system by July 2019. Though unhappy at the prospect, city officials had no choice. It was either consolidate with the county or lose state funding. The state has provided $8.1 million to facilitate this coordination. This money is being used to purchase new communication centers in Bethlehem, Allentown and in both counties. They will be connected to each other, so that if one goes down, the other can act as a back-up.

Northampton County's 911 dispatchers fielded 97,000 emergency calls last year, 67% of which were from cell phones. There were even 161 emergency text messages. There were also 296,000 non-emergency calls. Bethlehem fielded about 40,000 emergency and 50,000 nonemergency calls, and dispatchers were able to use remote cameras to assist officers responding to crime or other emergencies in real time.

Northampton County's 911 facility, located in Upper Nazareth, will dispatch the emergency calls. Bethlehem is creating its own emergency management center to monitor cameras, handle non-emergency calls and coordinate with city departments.

In order to handle the expected increase in call volume, Northampton County Council has been asked to add 26 new 911 positions. These consist of six supervisors and 20 dispatchers. Supervisors will be paid between $50,130 and71,325, while dispatchers will earn from $36,355 to 51,726.