About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Allentown's Parks and Rec Director Out

Exactly one week ago, I sent this email to Lindsay Taylor, Allentown's Director of Parks and Recreation:
Ms. Taylor,

I publish a blog about local government in the LV. I notice that, for some time, you have been the Executive Director at Lower Macungie Youth Association, a 501c3 that fosters organized sports among the children in that community. You are also the full-time director of parks and recreation in Allentown.

Allentown's HRC requires that you devote full-time to your position as parks director. While I see nothing that bars outside employment on a part-time basis, I believe that your dual positions in Allentown and Lower Macungie creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. Parks and Recreation and a Youth Association are closely related, and I question whether your duties in Lower Mac present a conflict.

I have never seen you at an Allentown sports function in any of its parks. I think that is because you spend your evenings and weekends paying attention to Lower Mac.

Frankly, I consider the duties in Allentown should preclude your participation as a paid executive director to foster youth sports in another community. As laudable as that is, you should be fostering youth sports in Allentown, where you do not live.

Before I write about this, I want to give you an opportunity to explain why I am off base. In your answer, I would appreciate you telling me your salary at Allentown and Lower Macungie. I would rather just ask you rather than have you learn that someone is filing RTKs.

Thank you. Please let me know.
To be clear, I never thought Taylor has a legal conflict of interest. It's just that the busiest times at parks and recreation are also the peak periods for most youth sports groups. I never saw her at any Allentown sports function, and have attended many of them. Others tell me they've never seen her there either. She leaves her Allentown job most days by 2:30 pm, presumably for her other job. Part of my letter, in which I accuse her of being a nonresident, is wrong. She lives in Allentown.

Taylor never responded to my email, but I wanted to give her an opportunity to explain herself.

That will no longer be necessary.

I was surprised to see a Morning Call report that Taylor is now the former parks and recreation director. She'a a former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski holdover, and Ray O'Connell should be able to fill that slot with someone who has his complete confidence.

Updated, 10:31 am: - The Incredible Ego of Michael Molovinsky - Molovinsky, on the same topic, says this: "[I]t would not have been inappropriate for the Morning Call to ask me for my opinion about Lindsay Taylor being let go."

College Roundtable on Student Alcohol Abuse Today

Northampton County's four colleges and universities will join DA John Morganelli today to address drinking at the four campuses and potentially outline a unified strategy toward keeping students safe, particularly freshmen during their initial weeks away from home.

“Obviously, college students will continue to drink,” Morganelli said. “My purpose in having this summit is to avoid the kinds of tragedies we have seen on a daily basis across the country and right here.”

Before the roundtable, representatives of Lehigh University, Moravian College , Lafayette College and Northampton Community College will hear presentations about alcohol abuse by college students.

NorCo Drug Court Gets $200,000 Grant

Craig Dally is Administrative Judge
of NorCo's Problem Solving Courts
Northampton County Drug Court has received a $200,000 grant from Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). According to Problem Solving Court Administrator Stephanie Spencer, this money pays for training, education, monitoring, sober living activities and need-based assistance.

Northampton County's Drug Court is a rigorous five-phase program lasting 18 to 24 months in which graduates must meet the following requirements: (1)complete recommended treatments and aftercare; (2) achieve and maintain sustained sobriety; (3) get a GED; (4) obtain and maintain full-time employment; (5) engage in self-help recovery activities; (6) budget for and meet financial responsibilities including making regular payments on any costs, fines, and restitution they may owe; and (7) volunteer service.

The program not only ensures that individuals are in recovery and contributing to their communities and families, it has also saved over $1,000,000.00 in incarceration costs since its inception. The Court currently has an enrollment of fifty-two (52) active participants, and to date, it has had fourteen (14) graduates.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Freemansburg Ave Construction For Six More Years

Bethlehem Tp's Municipal Building is located at 4225 Easton Avenue
Eight years ago, Bethlehem Tp and St.Luke's Hospital entered into a three-phase Master Development Agreement for $40 million in improvements to Freemansburg Avenue, which is the main access point to the hospital's Anderson campus. Two of these phases are substantially completed, and construction on the third phase is imminent. Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted 4-0 at a lightly-attended July 16 meeting on new timetables for the final third phase. What this means is that all road work outside the hospital should be done within the next six years.

Voting for this agreement were Mike Hudak, Malissa Davis, John Merhotten and John Gallagher.

Tom Nolan was absent.

Solicitor Jim Broughal, who helped draft this "First Amendment to the Amended and Restated Master Development Agreement," pointed out that all costs of this $40 million project have been borne by the hospital. President Michael Hudak added that he travels frequently along Freemansburg Avenue, and has not been unduly inconvenienced. He observed that roadwork is done at night when possible and is usually suspended over the rush hour.

In other business, commissioners discussed a policy for admitting swimmers to the outdoor pool at the community center. As a result of overcrowding in weekend, pool use has been limited to residents and members of the community center.

Jackie Bittel, the community center's director, said that only time overcrowding has been a problem has been on weekends. She favors the approach used in Palmer Township, which limits pool use to residents and members on weekends. She did note that the temporary policy has resulted in about 80 new three-month memberships.

A three-month family membership at the Bethlehem Township Community Center can be purchased for $175 by residents and $260 by nonresidents. Single memberships are $60 for residents and $90 for nonresidents.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of Bethlehem Township Commissioners is set for Monday, August 6, at 7 pm at the Municipal Building located at 4225 Easton Avenue. The public is invited to participate at every meeting.

NorCo Has Record Year in Cash Seizure From Drug Dealers

DA  John Morganelli
The last 12 months have been very unprofitable for at least some Northampton County drug dealers. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, DA John Morganelli office has seized $280,907 in US currency. It's the most money his office has taken out of the hands of local drug lords within the past five years. In addition, his office has sold 10 vehicles.

Morganelli is acting under the authority of state law, which allows him to commence civil asset forfeiture actions against the property used in the commission of crime, not the person charged. This has evolved from the common law principle of deodand, under which instruments used to commit crime, as well as the profits, were declared forfeit.

Forfeitures are controversial

Prosecutors have long defended civil forfeiture as one of the tools in their arsenal to deter organized crime. But in Philadelphia, the Institute of Justice filed suit in 2014 when people, many of them with low incomes, were losing homes, bank accounts and cars. A mother whose son dealt from her home could see her home taken away, and often had little or no notice. In 2015, Philadelphia agreed to stop taking homes without providing better notice. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there must be strong evidence showing a home or car was used in a crime and that the owner consented. Governor Tom Wolf also signed a new law that allows parities to retain seized property during the pendency of criminal cases if they can show a hardship.

In Northampton County, DA John Morganelli said that he only brings civil forfeiture actions if there has been a conviction. But the a United States Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case filed by a convicted Indiana heroin dealer whose $40,000 Land Rover was seized by police after he sold a few hundred dollars worth of heroin. This has been challenged as an "excessive fine" in violation of the Eighth Amendment, especially since the vehicle was purchased with life insurance proceeds, not drug money.

Community Outreach Program

In a July 16 news conference, Morganelli announced plans to use forfeiture proceeds to fund a Community Outreach Program.

First, he wants to meet with the legislative body of every municipality to determine how his office can better serve each community. he has already met Bangor Borough Council and is scheduled to visit Hellertown Borough Council in August. He pointed out that different communities have different needs.

Second, he will be sending a newsletter to county residents to outline the benefits of community block watch groups and explain how to get one started. using drug forfeiture proceeds, he is willing to provide start-up costs. This newsletter will also remind citizens of
National Night Out, scheduled this year for Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

Other Uses of Seized Drug Money

In addition to community outreach programs, forfeitures fund the salary of an assistant District Attorney, training, drug buys, equipment purchases. Since starting the drug forfeiture program, Morganelli's office has seized over $3 million. He credited Assistant District Attorney Julianne Danchak and County Detective Andre Stevens for their work in making the past 12 months a banner year for Northampton County.

Drug Forfeitures over Past Five Years

2013 -  $79,831
2014 - $120,544
2015 - $107,802
2016 - $140,290
2017 - $132,000
2018 - $280907

Monday, July 16, 2018

Allentown Fire Chief Lee Laubach to Retire

From Allentown: Allentown Fire Chief Lee T. Laubach Jr. is retiring effective August 17.

Laubach is a 25-year veteran of the department, who has served as chief since February 2015.

Mayor Ray O’Connell said, “Lee has been an outstanding chief. He has managed what I believe to be an extremely talented department. Our specialty teams are among the finest which is a testament to the chief’s overall leadership.”

“I believe during my time as chief we have reinforced and stabilized the foundation of the Allentown Fire Department,” Laubach wrote in his letter of retirement to Mayor O’Connell. “Local 302 and the fire administration have worked together to address operational shortfalls and improve safety for our members. I am sure both entities will work together along with city administration to improve public safety for the benefit of our citizens and our fire department staff.”

Laubach joined the department in 1993. He was promoted to Fire Specialist in August of 2002, later promoted to Lieutenant in April 2006 and was promoted to Fire Marshal in June of 2008. He was promoted to Captain of Public Affairs in October 2009 and was promoted to Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention in September 2010. He was promoted to Deputy Chief of Operations in 2014.

Laubach is the handler for K9 Judge who will also be retiring after eight years of service to the city and the region. K9 Judge performed more than 550 fire investigations and was the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog winner for the Arson Dog Category.

Laubach was named the department’s 2010 Firefighter of the Year.

Chief Laubach is credited with the city’s receipt of a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development toward the purchase of a new fire pumper. The city expects delivery of the newest to be manufactured vehicle in January 2019 and comes on the heels of this year’s purchase of two rescue pumpers that were included in the 2018 capital budget. Delivery of those vehicles is expected this December.

The 122-person department maintains seven fire engines and one ladder truck from six fire stations spread across the city.

Laubach has also served as the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator.

An interim chief will be appointed upon the effective date of Laubach’s retirement.

Starbucks at 510 Flats Now Open

Former Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan has announced the opening of a new Starbucks on Bethlehem's south side. Located at 502 E 3rd St., it is right across the street from Northampton Community College.

Barbosa Quits as Becahi B-Ball Coach to take Over Executive Charter

Ray Barbosa, who led the Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks to a District XI title and a serious state championship run in boys basketball earlier this year, is stepping down as their coach to assume that same role at Executive Charter in Allentown.

As a player, Barbosa was all-time leading scorer at Allen High School. He played college ball at James Madison and UMBC, and even played pro ball in Puerto Rico.

He was head coach of Becahi's program for three years. Though he previously coached AAU, his appointment at Bethlehem Catholic was his first high school head coach job.

Toomey Anderson, the LV Ambassador of Basketball, has previously noted that of 108 boys and girls teams in District XI, there are only seven minority head coaches. Ed Jennings, who runs the SCBL program believes this exclusion carries over to the referees, too. This is no knock on the many excellent basketball coaches who really look out for their players, like Doug Snyder (William Allen), Dennis Csensits (Allentown Central Catholic) or Steve Yoder (Emmaus). But as positions open up, there is an overflowing talent pool of minority basketball coaches that do deserve consideration.

Earler this year, Morning Call senior sportswriter Keith Groller highlighted Dr. Shawn Munford, the head coach of the East Stroudsburg South Cavaliers and 6A District XI champs. He grew up in a single-parent home in Philly, and though he at one time played professional basketball, he went on to earn his physics PhD and is now a professor. But Munford is also a life coach, and not just a basketball coach.

He represents a class of coaches, black and white, who really look out for the kids who play for them. We are fortunate in the Lehigh Valley that so many of these coaches are more interested in the kids than the scoreboard. .

KinderGuardians




Posing as Israeli counter-terrorist expert Col. Erran Morad, the terrorist terminator, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen managed to persuade a few lobbyists, as well as Republican politicians in their pocket, to endorse the arming of school children to counter school violence. Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California and former Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, are two of those duped.

"The NRA wants to arm the teachers," says Col. Morad. "This is crazy. We should be arming the children."

Morad said Israel has a similar program, and that his son was one of the first participants, "Mayhe rest in peace."

What you see above is the first ten minutes of Cohen's spoof, called "Who is America?"

Stormy Daniels is Fake News

According to The Morning Call, stripper and pornstar Stormy Daniels was scheduled for two shows last night at an Allentown adult club. This is not news, but sensationalism brought on by a gold digger represented by a financially distressed lawyer who knows that sex sells.

At one time this summer, the coverage was so intense that it was actually crowding out far more important news about a chemical attack in Syria and how America should respond. A narcissistic reality TV star who thinks he is more popular than Abe Lincoln now occupies the nation's highest office. What he is doing in that capacity has me far more concerned than someone trying to enrich herself at his and this country's expense.

Trump has launched a trade war against China and our closest allies. He has insulted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and English Prime Minister Theresa May. He has actually called the European Union our foe while referring to someone whom some call his handler, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a "fine" person and North Korea's  Kim Jong Un as a "funny" guy with a "great personality."

It seems the only foreign leaders he likes are fellow Authoritarians.

We should be focused like a laser beam on what he is doing in office.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fed Ed Still in Denial

On June 29, Attorney Scott Allinson was sentenced to 27 months for his role in Allentown's pay-to-play scandal. He was whisked off as his attorneys protested that the court should at least wait until a minimum security facility was available  There were fears that he would spend the next few months at a federal detention center in Philly, not the most pleasant of accommodations. According to Bureau of Prison records, that's where he is. But I have heard that he may instead be a guest at Lehigh County's jail.

What impact did all this have on former Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski?  Apparently, none. That night, Allentown was featuring the Black Panther at Stevens Park. Fed Ed was there, handing out Popsicles, pretending he is still he Mayor.

Forks Tp Constable in Hot Water With Review Board

Gordon Crowell in 2014. Yu can add a beard today.
Forks Tp Constable Gordon Crowell, Jr. is facing a serious inquiry by county officials based on allegations that he misrepresented himself on three different occasions as a Forks Tp. police officer and undercover detective. A constable review board established by former President Judge Stephen Baratta conducted interviews yesterday in response to a complaint filed by Forks Tp Detective Philomena Kelly.

What are constables?

Constables are elected officials who serve six-year terms. Their primary role is service of minor arrest warrants and other legal process for the Magisterial District Courts, such as eviction notices, and prisoner transport. They are required to maintain order at the polls on election day.

Though it is a Constitutional office that have existed in Pennsylvania since 1664, the constable system has been criticized as one that is open to abuse by armed officers who have minimal training and no oversight. As a result, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted standards in 2013 designed to professionalize them  To be certified, they must undergo 40 hours of training every year, including 20 hours of firearms training.

Northampton County has 37 certified constables, including Crowell.

What is the Constable Review Board?

Part of these standards also include the establishment of  Constable Review Boards in each county to provide some oversight. In Northampton County, this Board includes the following: Judge Baratta, Magisterial District Judge Dan Corpora, Constable Kevin Spano, Acting Sheriff Rich Johnston, Controller Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron and Magisterial District Court Administrator Debbie French.

For complaints that might result in the suspension or termination of a constable, the Review Board is required to interview the complainant, constable and all other relevant witnesses. The Board must report any suspected criminal activity to the District Attorney. After completing interviews, it makes a recommendation to the President Judge, who is the ultimate authority on a constable's continued work in Northampton County.

Who is Constable Gordon Crowell, Jr? 

Crowell, a former security officer for the Allentown School District, was elected constable in 2014. He also provides security or traffic control at Notre Dame Green Pond High School. He is the Treasurer of the Pa. Fraternal Order of Constables. Ron Clever, who is their Solicitor, is representing Crowell. 

Crowell and the Flagman

In 2017, there was a great deal of road work being done all summer in Forks Towsnhip, on Sullivan Trail and other roads. Ten and fifteen minute waits were common, and Detective Kelly observed that it even affected police officers. It was during one of these waits that Crowell and a flagman had an altercation in which the flagman decided to call police.

According to Kelly, the flagman was approached by Crowell, who had been waiting in traffic with his wife. Police reports indicate that Crowell became unruly and said he would have the flagman thrown in jail. He warned the flagman he would be working later that night and that he would be calling "my captain."  Parts of this conversation could be heard on a 911 tape. Kelly said that she never heard Crowell identify himself as a police officer, but did hear him say "my captain." Based on this and he flagman's statement, she believed that Crowell had insinuated he was a police officer. Later that evening, Crowell admitted to Forks Tp police officers that he had said "my captain."

Crowell testified that he was waiting in line with his wife, and people were getting unruly and beeping their horns. He decided to approach the flagman and ask him if he needed help, identifying himself as a constable. He noticed that the flagman was texting someone from his phone instead of monitoring traffic. He said that flagman responded, "Shut the  f--- up, you rent-a-cop! Get back in the car!" He denies he threatened to throw the flagman in jail.

Crowell and the near accident 

In May of this year, Crowell was backing his car into his driveway on Sullivan Trail, a very busy road, and was very nearly clipped by a female as she was on her way to Weiss food store. She admitted that she threw her hands up at the near collision, but continued. When she reached the traffic light to turn into Weiss, Crowell pulled alongside her. He told this motorist that he was a police officer and undercover detective. When she asked for his badge number, he said it was B4119. This is actually Crowell's constable certification number. The driver reported this incident to police.

According to Crowell, the woman screamed at him after nearly hitting him as he attempted to back into his driveway. She yelled, "You f---ing cops think you can do anything you want! You're going to kill somebody!" She also gave him the finger.

Though he was backing into his driveway to park his car, Crowell suddenly realized that he needed to pick up his mail, and pulled out and was behind this woman. He admits they exchanged words at the light, but denies he misrepresented himself as a police officer.

Later that night, Crowell testified he was visited twice by "aggressive" Forks Tp police officers. The second visit was after he had gone to sleep. Since he had taken a sleep aid, he is unable to remember what he said.

Crowell and Magisterial District Judge Taschner

In the course of her typically thorough approach, Detective Kelly visited Magisterial District Judge Jacqueline Taschner and her staff.  Detective Kelly learned that Judge Taschner had stopped using Crowell because of his unprofessional behavior to her staff. She also learned that Crowell had told her staff that he was working under cover for the Forks Tp Police Department.

Crowell admitted that he no longer works for Judge Taschner, but that was his own decision because he was too busy. He denied telling staff members that he was working under cover for Forks Police or behaving unprofessionally. He was corroborated by Constable Jon Whittington. "I would not have allowed it," he said.

Light Bar

Kelly indicated that she also had received reports that Crowell had used a light bar on his vehicle with illegal red and blue lights. When Attorney Clever queried her about It, she produced a picture. She said he was never cited for this violation because she never noticed it.

Crowell indicated that the red and blue light bar on his vehicle is gone.

Why No Criminal charges?

Either Barron or Szulborski asked Kelly why she never filed criminal charges against Crowell for impersonating a police officer. She explained that some elements were missing.

Impersonating a police officer requires proof that someone pretended to be a police officer. It also requires proof that the pretense is intended to cause the person who is fooled into performing some action to his or her detriment.

Interviews to Continue

More interviews are expected at a later date.

NorCo to Offer Free Grantwriting Seminar

WHO: Lamont McClure and Department of Community and Economic Development

WHAT: Non-profit Grant Writing Seminar

WHERE: Human Services Building, 2801 Emrick Blvd, Bethlehem, PA 18020

WHEN: September 12, 2018, 8:30am – 10:30am

Exec Lamont McClure and the Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) are offering a free seminar on writing grants for non-profit organizations. The seminar is free, but registration is required. Please contact Rebecca Sanchez by Sept. 5th to reserve a spot: 610-829-6307 or rsanchez@northamptoncounty.org

Scheduled presenters include Frank Brooks from Northampton County’s DCED, Tracey Johnson from Northampton Community College, and Maurice Luker from Lafayette College.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Allentown Sues LCA

From Allentown City: The City of Allentown is suing Lehigh County Authority over the authority’s attempt to switch all city customers to monthly billing.  The move would increase the fixed rate charge to customers by about $13 a month, or $156 annually which the city contends is a violation of the Concession Lease signed in 2013.

 

“The proposed increase is unconscionable and a clear violation of the lease,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell.  “The City understands LCA has considerable financial obligations to its creditors and bondholders, but it cannot endeavor to satisfy those obligations by milking families of modest means in Allentown.  The lease was designed to provide a fair return to LCA from users of the water and sewer systems, but also to protect citizens of the City by strictly limiting permitted rate increases.”

 

The city is seeking an injunction to stop LCA from implementing monthly billing which it intends to do in August.

 

Among other things, the lease calls for the Authority to set an annual rate that must be in effect for the calendar year.  The lease also requires rates to be reasonable.  The city contends that a 107 percent increase on top of the maximum rate increase that was already imposed is a clear violation.

Jennings Gives Lehigh Valley Discourse an Enema

Moshe O'Hare
Earlier this month, I taped a program with Trump apologist Michael Molovinsky and host Alan Jennings for WDIY-88.1FM.The show is called Lehigh Valley Discourse and airs every Thursday at 6 pm. It touts itself as "[p]rovocative, informative and newsworthy," but is none of those things. It is instead a snooze-fest with boring hosts and terrible guests. The opening music is totally out-of-sync with the Lehigh Valley and sounds like something you'd hear on an elevator, not a radio station that prides itself, and for good reason, on excellent music. And who the hell calls conversation "discourse?" Snobs. Elitists. Me. The show needs an enema. After a four-year hiatus, CACLV's Alan Jennings was there to give one. He provided a CD containing his own musical selections and had two guests who pretty much despise each other.

Alan used to be a guest host, but quit the show in protest a few years ago when it refused to publish the first show he did with Molovinsky and myself. At that time, the big topic was Allentown corruption, and the show we broadcast was all about Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. The former station manager, like most of the mainstream media at that time, had no interest in doing anything that was provocative, informative or newsworthy. Though Alan completely disagreed with what we were saying and is still a friend of Fed Ed, he quit when the station tried to bury the truth.

He's funny that way. I heard it’s called integrity.

Michael Molovinsky, constipated
Now there's new management, but the show has still been the worst hour of radio in the Lehigh Valley. A one-hour infomercial about fish oil is better. That changed with the show that Alan Jennings hosted, which will air tonight.

For one thing, there's no love lost between myself and Michael Molovinsky. For years, he's been taking petty little shots at me. I did defend myself when he falsely accused me of impersonating reader Monkey Momma. She would later introduce herself to him and prove him wrong. Except for that, I've pretty much taken the high road and acted like Jesus Christ, turning the other cheek. Maybe I could convert a Jew, I thought, with all my Christianity.

But at the radio show, it was "eye for an eye," baby. I turned into a Jew, a Mossad, and even considered wearing an eyepatch like Moshe Dayan. Alan wanted to talk about the decline in civility, and I pointed to Molovinsky and his creepy hate blog in which one reader actually argued without contradiction that Ethiopian immigrants have low IQs. Since Trump's election, Molovinsky has become his biggest cheerleader in the Lehigh Valley. He denies this, but finds an excuse for every cruel and vicious thing that hedonist does.

producer jumps out window mid-show
I laid into Molovinsky, even catching him in a vulgar sexist remark. When a break in the show came up, Molovinsky headed to the can and was gone for some time.

I think he shit himself.

At least it smelled that way.

Molovinsky kept trying to steer the conversation away from Trump, saying he wanted to talk about local stuff like Wehr's Dam and choo-choo trains. I refused to let him. A man who wants LV kids to go hungry or supply them with boxes of moldy cheese has a direct impact on the Lehigh Valley. A man who supported ripping children out of the arms of their mothers, a policy that he quickly reversed when he realized this will cost him votes, should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. A demagogue who appeals to the dark nature in people, and not their better angels, should be called out. Molovinsky, like Trump, appeals to the dark side. His racist and xenophobic readers are proof. If anti-Muslim, so much the better.

At one point in the show, Molovinsky chided me for allowing anonymous commenters on my blog, and then attacking them as cowards. I do attack people who hide behind anonymity to engage in personal attacks. He knows that. He complained that I bully these poor cowards by demanding that they identify themselves so we all know who to sue. I do. If someone engages in defamation, I want his or her identity known so that the victims can take action.

The show was certainly provocative, informative and newsworthy. I was able to tell readers about the outrageous $810,000 in legal fees charged by Norris, Mclaughlin and Marcus in 2016 and 2017, which were improperly funneled to this firm by former Executive John Brown through the General Purpose Authority. Brown did an end-run around Northampton County Council, which has called for the resignation of that law firm as well as the General Purpose Authority Chair.

Just as it slept through most of the political corruption in Allentown, waking up only after the feds raided City Hall, the mainstream press is napping again. Aside from this blog and one story at WFMZ-TV69, there has been no coverage during the war between Northampton County and its General Purpose Authority. Newspapers are mere shadows of what they once were. They no longer have the staff to cover the inside stories. This is nobody watching the hen house.

That's where Lehigh Valley Discourse could provide a real public service. Right now, it is nothing more than a vanity show. My suggestions: Change the name; get rid of the stupid music; have one or two hosts who will ask hard questions; allow call-ins; and feature weekly guests.

Hats Off to Bushkill, Lower and Upper Nazareth Tp

At her informative Upper Nazareth blog, Becky Bartlett reports that Bushkill, Lower and Upper Nazareth Townships are considering an ordinance to adopt an intergovernmental agreement to allow them to assist each other in road projects. So this may be a little less awe-inspiring than the cooperative international effort that rescued 12 Thai boys trapped inside amine, but it's still nice to see.

I suspect that Gary Asteak, who just happens to be the Solicitor at all three municipalities, might have something to do with this cooperative effort, but we all know how humble he is. He would only tell me that all three are well run townships that know how to get along and play nice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thai Rescue Shows Our Better Angels


Over the past few days, I've been mesmerized by the story about the 12 Thai boys, ages 11-16, who had been trapped nearly 1,000' feet below in the middle of rainy season. Though it was reassuring to see that they were reached, the options for their safe extraction seemed very limited. I'm delighted to learn that they all made it out there safely in a daring rescue operation that took place over three days.

I am disgusted by what an ugly people we've become. I see it in the hate-filled rants both supporters and detractors of authoritarian Donald Trump. More than anyone, he has set the stage for the decline in decent behavior.

As Jay Parini observed, "In the Thai cave, there were no skin colors, religious differences or questions of sexual identity. Nobody wrapped himself in a flag or questioned the science at hand. This was one of those rare times when we see how much we can achieve against terrifying odds when people work in unison, selflessly, to do something important."

Thai SEALS were assisted by cave divers from Britain, America, Japan, Denmark and Australia. Chinese rescue specialists were on hand. Israeli tech companies set up a communications network.

With the exception of the unfortunate death of a Thai diver, this is an uplifting story that shows our better angels. Maybe there is hope for us.

After Five Years, Gracedale Has Generators

Gracedale on a July afternoon
When Superstorm Sandy hit in late 2012, most of us were without power for several days. Unfortunately, that included Gracedale, the County's nursing home. Though there are back-up generators, they failed, too. Fortunately, the National Guard came through with power supplies, but not enough to generate heat. The following year (June 2013), Council included $4 million in a bond issue for five new generators. But over the next five years, they just never came. By 2015, following what seemed like a million presentations, Council member Bob Werner was frustrated. "Let's just get the damn generators up and get the people safe," he told County administrators. "We've been dealing with this for way too long." Though promised they would be here by the end of 2016, that never happened.

The long wait is finally over. Deputy public works Director Scott Parsons reports that the long-awaited generators are finally on site. He predicts they will be operational by October 1.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Morganelli Wants Grand Jury Report on Sexual Misconduct by Catholic Clergy


John Morganelli is a practicing Catholic. He is also Pennsylvania's most senior District Attorney. He wants to be able to review a statewide grand jury report into decades of alleged sexual abuse and cover-ups by Catholic clerics. Nearly two dozen of them are attempting to block the report from being made public. On Monday, he called on the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the state Supreme Court, calling for the report's public release. Morganelli is himself a past president of that organization. If necessary, Morganelli said he would file a brief himself.

Morganelli, a prosecutor who has long used grand juries as an investigatory tool in criminal and noncriminal matters, is concerned that the system itself is under siege. In addition to its use in criminal matters, Pennsylvania's Grand Jury Act permits a grand jury to make recommendations for legislative, executive or administrative action that are in the public interest. Morganelli has used the grand jury to seek changes at the National Museum of Industrial History, Easton Area School District and Bethlehem City Council Statewide grand juries have also delved into the Turnpike Commission, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and child abuse at the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese. in Chester County, a grand jury admonished a school board that engaged in rampant cronyism and nepotism, including the hiring of felons.

Those seeking to block the statewide grand jury report argue that the process for those who are criticized, but not charges, is unconstitutionally insufficient. These unnamed clerics argue that due process and the state constitutional right to reputation gives them the right to see and challenge evidence and make their own case.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro did give these unnamed clerics and unrestricted right to file responses, which would be released simultaneously with the report. They also have the right to council if called to appear before the grand jury. Morganelli argues that what these unnamed objectors really seek is to "eradicate the grand jury report as an instrument of accountability for public and private institutions."

Morganelli said he was an arrangement with the Allentown Diocese under which he is notified whenever an allegation is made against a priest. The Allentown Diocese, incidentally, has no objection to a public release of the grand jury report. Right Rev. Alfred A Schlert has asked everyone to join him in praying for "the victims and survivors, and for all those hurt by child abuse, wherever it occurs in society."

According to Morganelli, it was common for English grand juries to issue reports on non-criminal matters, and that practice was carried over the the American colonies. They served as watchdogs over state and local government, and reported on numerous matters, from road conditions to jail overcrowding to the financial accounts of public officials. In early America, where a public distrust of authority meant there were few police departments, grand juries were the investigators.

In recent years, grand juries have come under criticism as rubber stamps for the prosecution. Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, once told a reporter that grand juries should be eliminated because prosecutors had so much influence over them that they could get them to "indict a ham sandwich."

Later in his career, Wachtler was himself indicted for extortion, racketeering and blackmail. He did 15 months.

Allentown's Irving Pool To Open Two Days Per Week, Starting Today!

If you take just five minutes to google "lifeguard shortage," you'll see it is a national problem this year. It is affecting Raleigh, NC; Springfield, Ill; West Palm Beach, Fl; and Syracuse, NY; just to name a few places. Yet when Allentown cited this national lifeguard shortage as the reason why Irving Pool would remain closed this summer, Michael Molovinsky on his eponymous blog snarked that this was just a "convenient excuse," without bothering to explain what the hell he meant. We were left knowing only that those "looking for a little truth about Allentown to sprinkle on their early morning gruel are pretty much limited to [Molovinsky]."

He made this pronouncement right before he and I appeared together on Alan Jenning's Lehigh Valley Discourse. He had been promoting his upcoming radio appearance, but has been strangely silent about it since the show was taped. You can listen to the show yourself on Thursday at 6 pm to learn why.

On the show, I took Molovinsky to task for lots of things. But for now, let's stick with the lifeguards. Molovinsky resented being told he had failed to do even five minutes of homework. He was also miffed when I slammed his cryptic "convenient excuse" argument.

The very next day, Molovinsky doubled down. He still refused to tell his readers that there is a national lifeguard shortage. The bastion of Allentown truth instead claimed that Allentown never planned on opening Irving Pool at all. The lifeguard shortage was just an excuse.

He also posited an explanation for the lifeguard shortage. He published this comment from failed school board candidate Scott Armstrong: "It's my guess that those who do would rather not lifeguard at an Allentown pool where discipline would be hard to enforce and attempts to make people follow the rules would likely be met with the usual in your face, f*** you response." That sentiment was echoed by other Trump-loving followers.

This, of course, is thinly disguised classism or racism.

As it happens, the sole source of Allentown truth got it wrong. There was no secret agenda after all. No deep state. Mayor Ray O'Connell has announced that, starting today, Irving Pool will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the season. Why? He has lifeguards.
.
Cedar Pool is open seven days a week through Labor Day.

Mack Pool is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and Jordan Pool is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

 The pools are open from 12:00pm to 7:00pm.

“We have been evaluating and re-evaluating staffing and the allocation of those resources throughout the season,” said Allentown Parks and Recreation Director Lindsay Taylor. “We have hired some more certified lifeguards and we are at a point now where we can add Irving to the schedule two days a week. We will keep taking a look at the entire schedule through the end of the season.”

The city plans to close Irving for the season on August 9, Mack on August 17 and Jordan on August 25. This has been the practice over the last few years.

Allentown is still hiring lifeguards. In some communities, senior citizens are in those lifeguard chairs. Interested persons can apply through the city’s website at https://www.allentownpa.gov/Human-Resources/Employment-Openings.

Bucky Boyle Park and Old Fairgrounds Playground Spray Parks are open daily from 12:00pm to 7:00pm.

Dean Donaher Will Reject State Rep. Pension

Dean Donaher
The annual salary for a rank-and-file State Representative is $87,180. It goes up every year with the Consumer Price Index. In addition, legislators who live 50 miles away can charge taxpayers for meals and living expenses while in the land of midnight payraises. Finally, they get a pension for all their hard work as back-benchers, doing as they're told. But if you send Dean Donaher to Harrisburg, he's made clear he'll take no pension.

Dean M. Donaher of Hanover Township, Northampton County is the Democratic nominee for State Representative in the 138th Legislative District. His opponent is incumbent Marcia Hahn, who has been sleeping there since 2010. Prior to that, she was a secretary in that office. She has no education beyond a high school diploma. She is used to doing what she's told. Her former boss, Craig Dally, took a bipartisan approach. Not Marcia. She does what the Republican leadership tells her to do.

She has forgotten or more likely has never realized that her real bosses are the people who live and vote in her district. That's why, unlike many of the Republican peers, she refused to sponsor a bill to reform the gerrymander.

Donahaer announced yesterday that he has no interest in a pension and will reject it. “As someone who already receives a pension, there’s no need for me to ‘double dip,’ he said. "I’m running for State Representative to make a significant and positive difference in my community, not to receive another pension check.”

Donaher wants to do his part to ensure that the Commonwealth’s taxes are being directed to initiatives that matter in our local communities: job creation programs and educating our youth.

Celtic Classic Looking For a Few Good Poets

A seanchaĆ­ is an Irish storyteller. I consider myself a seanchaĆ­ of sorts, at least here in the blogosphere. I also like to tell stories at the courthouse, but I pale in comparison to others. The best seanchaĆ­ I know is Ron Angle. He can tell story after story for hours on end. Some of them are even mostly true, but that's not the point. A story can be 90% fiction and tell a much greater truth. The purest truth, however, come from poetry. If you consider yourself a bard, now's your chance to shine.

The Celtic Cultural Alliance has announced its annual poetry contest for writers of all ages. They need to be original and reflect Celtic culture, arts, history or literature. Personal anecdotes of family memories or travelling experiences are also encouraged.

Poems must be original in any style or length with one author. The three brackets are: 3rd through 6th grades, 7th through 12th grades, and adult. The entries must be neatly written or typed. Top poets in each category will be given a certificate, a major award and will be invited to read their poems on the stage at Celtic Heritage Hollow on September 30, 2018, smack dab in the middle of the Celtic Classic..

Writers should submit their entries to Marcie Mulligan at mmulligan@celticfest.org, subject: Poetry Contest or by mail to Celtic Cultural Alliance, Celtic Poetry Contest, 534 Main St., Bethlehem PA 18018 by the deadline of September 7, 2018. Only winners will be notified of the contest’s outcome before September 19, 2018.

For more information on the contest, please visit the http://www.celticfest.org/celtic_poetry_contest.

Celtic Classic runs from Friday, September 28rd through Sunday, September 30th in downtown historic Bethlehem. For more information, directions, volunteering opportunities and the weekend’s schedule, log on to www.celticfest.org. For up-to-the-minute information and updates, follow Celtic Classic on Twitter (@CelticClassic) and friend them on Facebook (facebook.com/CelticClassic).