Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Northampton County's Forgotten Liberty Bell - Symbol of Our Forgotten Liberty

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Forged by Bethlehem's Moravians in 1768, Northampton County's Liberty Bell first rang out from the courthouse in Easton's Centre Square. It tolled for court sessions. Its iron tongue also summoned people to fight fires and to announce news. This was the bell that sang out in Easton on July 8, 1776, to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This was the bell that sounded the end of World War II, when thousands of citizens lined the streets to pull at the bell's rope. Its music was heard for 24 hours.

Although the bell is no longer used to announce the opening of court, it's an important part of Lehigh Valley's history. At one time, it was prominently displayed between the District Attorney's Office and two courtrooms. But now, it seems there is no room for this bell in the $44.8 million courthouse expansion.

Judges have carefully planned private bathrooms, wind-sensitive fountains and their own private dining area. They slap each other on the back for what they call a "committment to justice." But they have forgotten our Liberty Bell. It sits forlornly in a forgotten corner at the end of a lonely hall. Construction workers have propped easels and courtroom furniture against this monument, which is now also littered with fast food menus.

The consideration shown to Northampton County's Liberty Bell is identical to that afforded the county's employees and taxpayers. In order to pay for all that marble and rare wood in the judges' new quarters, over 100 county employees were given the ax. And those that remained haven't seen a pay raise in 3 years. But taxpayers watched as taxes went up over 60% in just two years.

Perhaps it is time for that Great Old Bell to speak out against tyranny again, awakening us to the tyrants in our midst. We need not go to England to find them.

"There is a terrible poetry in that sound at dead of night: but there was a day when the echo of that Bell awoke a world, slumbering in tyranny and crime!"

"Yes, as the old man swung the Iron Tongue, the Bell spoke to all the world. That sound crossed the Atlantic — pierced the dungeons of Europe — the work shops of England — the vassal-fields of France. "

"That Echo spoke to the slave — bade him look from his toil — and know himself a man."

"That Echo startled the Kings upon their crumbling thrones."

"That Echo was the knell of King-craft, Priest-craft and all other crafts born of the darkness of ages, and baptized in seas of blood." ...

"Let the Bell speak out the great truth."


At the very least, our Liberty Bell belongs in the rotunda of our courthouse expansion, to remind judges and citizens alike that we are still a free and independent people.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've had my differences with a few of your posts, Bernie, but this is a great point. I'm not sure we have "tyrants" in Northampton County, but we certainly have a lot of people who should show the Bell more respect than they are.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks. Perhaps "tyrants" is a bit extreme. But I think we're headed that way. I wonder how many years I'll get if I pull the iron tongue tomorrow and let it rip.

Anonymous said...

I agree with other commenter. How about a little respect for the Moravians?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Huh?

Anonymous said...

The latest post on my blog places Blank Rome, NC's bond counsel, in the White House and in the NC Govt. Center.

Also Maurice "Mossie" Murphy, who left the employment of Raymond James of St. Petersburg, Fla., the underwriter of NC's bonds, to join Merrill-Lynch.

Mossie switched jobs before the one-year waiting period required by federal statute and the SEC, imposed on employees who work in the securties-related indusry, had expired.

Also former State Sen. and lobbyist Joe Uliana, lobbyist Elmer Hainel, FA advisor Mike Setley of Concord Financial Services, the late Jeff Skinner of Structured Financial Services of Allentown, etc., etc.. etc.

At least some of these FAs received fees exceeding those contracted for with NC for their services - fees approved by NC Controller John Schimmel and DA John Morganelli.

And most if not all of these FAs were involved in the refunding, or refinancing, of NC's bonds offered by the various flavors of financially risky interest-rate swaptions - plain vanilla, Bermuda,and other esoteric names.

The swaptions' menu even confused experienced bankers and Bethlehem Authority Executive Director Ronald Donchez.

Donchez threatened to rsign his city position over his battles with Mayor Callahan's illegal intrusion in the Authority's bidding for the refunding of the city's and water-sewer Authority's $90 million debt incurred in a 1994 bond issue...

and after Callhan had called Donchez "a fucking boy scout because of the executive director's insistence on competitive bids.

The details of this sordid fight are immortalized in the Bethlehem City Council meeting minutes of July 20, 2004, which again have been removed from the Internet.

These minutes had been removed once before, and only after I complained to Councilwoman Jean Belinski on her WGPA-AM radio show were the minutes restored.

These minutes valldate the allegations of Callahan's political opponent Anthony Ryback who exposed the cyncical "pay for play" sleaze of Bethlehem's 2004 refinancing of the 1994 bond.

Ryback was not the only John Callahan and Joe Brennan poliical opponent to feel their wrath.

Bethlehem Councilman and president Jim Gregory felt the sting, too, when he recognized and publicly interrupted the sordid deal-making going on between Callahan and Governor Ed "Fast Eddie" Rendell, who needed Callahan and not a John Delgrosso or Jim Gregory or Tony Ryback to get BethWorks Now and Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Casino located in South Bethlehem.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hmmm! Looks like we may have a few tyrant wannabees.

Anonymous said...

NC DA, or PA AG Tom Cochran, or U.S. Asst/ Atty Pat Meehan, an office with which you have had some experience, or U.S. Atty Alberto Gonzalez must now make full public disclosure of convicted felon, former NC Planning Dir., and former NC Ex. Glenn Reibman poltical guru Michael Solomon's role in NC's GPA-issued 2001 $111 million bond and 2004 swaption refunding $67 million of that bond by hocking NC's courthouse,prison, and Domestic Relations bldg to Merrill-Lynch, which can call in this debt in 2012.

Or maybe NC's voters and taxpayers should go to former federal District Judge Franklin VanAntwerpen for the answer to this question. He handed down the "slap-on-the-wrist" sentencing of Solomon, despite his refusal to cooperate with local, state, and federal law-enforcement officials including prosecutors - because Solomon's cooperation would have implicated his boss Reibman and numerous other NC, and higher-up, officials.

VanAntwerpen sentenced Solomon only to something like two years in a club fed in Brooklyn, near his home in the Lewis Carroll Valley, where his bosom buddy Jim Hickey could coveniently visit his friend since their childhood.

VanAntwerpen was rewarded, as was PAAG Mike Fisher, with an appointment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the court on which Fast Eddie's wife Midge (?) also sits, located in the City of Brotherly Love and Fast Eddie's political stomping ground.

Anonymous said...

I don't often agree with Bernie here, but we got to make some room for the bell. I am not sure of all the legal stuff and the bond issued on the new buildings. What I hope is that someone makes room somewhere for the bell.

Oh and could Bill stop mentioning Rybak. That man makes me wanna spit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tony "the hatchet" Rybak is not one of my favorite guys right now, especially after what he tried to do to Joe Brennan.

Thanks for your comments. I really bothers me to se easels and other furniture propped up against that bell.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
To respond to the orginator of the last commenter to your latest posting, I respect his opinion, but I want to explain why I regard Tony Rybak as I do.

At the beginning of 2005, John Todaro and I were seeking a Democrat to oppose Glen Reibman in the upcoming May primary. John and I tried to persuade county council's District 1 - Bethlehem City and Hellertown Boro - representative Ann Mchale to run, for exampe, but she declined.

At that point, John Stoffa, or any other Democrat, had not declared. So on Feb. 2, ground hog day, Todaro, frustrated and desperate, publicly announced.

This he did at a press conference, held at the foot of the stairs on Walnut Street leading to what once was the main entrance to the county courthouse.

John coherently laid out the issues for the media: demolition of the county archives building for prison expansion, not necesary since the prison could have been expanded without the demolition, the same position as Ann McHale's; escalating county property taxes (nearly 70% in County Executive Glenn Reibman's two terms in office)in a grim effort just to keep up with the county's mountng bond-debt service; stalled collective-bargaining contracts; deferred maintenace on the courthouse cupola and Gracedale; a county workforce demoralized by 70 pink-slipped employees and positions left unfilled through attrition, imposed by budget constraints; a proud, arbitrary, authoritarian chief executive unwilling to cooperate with county council; extension of contracts with over-charging "play for pay" vendors to circument negotiating with competing vendors willing to provide the same services at a lower cost, but unwilling to "play for pay;" non-competitive cost-plus contracts to politically favored "construction managers like A.H. Butz Inc., rather than fixed-fee contracts, so that the county's taxpayers, and not the construction manager and his hand-picked contractors like Bean Construction, picked up the tab for the exorbitant cost overruns; a $70 dollar-a-year tab to store the county's archives with a private vendor, Eastern Secured Data of No. 1 Pump Place, Allentown, PA, and on and on and on.

John's press conference was documented on camcorder by my older daughter, Sarah Parker-Givens, a professional photographer.

John and his lovely, petite wife Rosina, County Councilman Ron Angle, county council candidates Ralph Stampone and Frank Ferraro, whose from the same region in Southern Italy as Rosina, and myself would sit around in the Todaro's den around the TV, after the Thursday night county council meetings and Rosina's home-made suprasata, pickled egg plant, and cracked olives, and entertain ourselves watching my Sarah's video of John's ill-fated press conference.

Ill-fated for the reason that that very evening, Kathy and I and our neighbor Cliff O'Hearn attending a Democrats for America (DFA), formerly Democrats for [Howard] Dean, under the assumption that the DFA was looking for candidates with new blood to challenge the old-line Dems like T.J. Rooney, Joe Long, James Edinger, and even John Callahan, though he is young, inexperience, still wet behind the ears, putty in the hands of his mentors Ed "Fast Eddy" Rendell, Don Cunningham, and Jim Hickey. (Besides calling Bethlehem Authority Executive Director Ron Donchez, a member of Bethlehem's Donchez Dynasty, a "fucing boy scout," Callahan really fucked up royally when he miscalculated the jury's damage-award trial in the John Hirko death, inflicted on the city by Allentown attorney John Karoly.

At that evening's DFA meeting, held in the atrium of the the Brew Works, I was threatened by the meeting's leaders and certain members of the audience with ejection.

My sin was that I urged the recruiting of candidates to challenge all Democratic Party incumbents, including John Callahan.

The meeting's members generally were appalled when I announced that only that very ground-hog day morning, John Todaro had held a news conference and publican announced his candidacy against incumbent Northampton County Executive Glenn Reibman.

Meanwhile, John and Rosina, at their home in Palmer Township, were being deluged with derisive, taunting, abusive, and threatening telephone calls ridiculing John for even thinking that a blind man (John is legally blind) would, or should, run for county executive.

As a matter of fact, John, though legally blind, would have made a better county executive than Glenn Reibman - or, as it has turned out - John Stoffa.

At the DFA meeting that evening was a man and his wife who attended with Kathy and me an earlier DFA meeting held in the Ship's Inn Tavern in Milford, New Jersey.

The meeting's leaders, from Flemington and Lambertville, had pre-arranged a live telephone conference call with Democratic Party Committee Chairman Candidate Howard Dean that came directly into the tavern.

Dean informed us that with only one more endorsement, he would have the Chairmanship race sewed up.

As it turned out, the endorsement he awaited was that of Pennsylvania Congressman, John "Jack Murtha," a dcorated war hero.

It was Murtha's endorsement that cinched the DPC chairmanship for Dean.

Yet Murtha, though a war hero, is hated in Pennsylvania by many, including those of his own party.

Dean informed us

Bernie O'Hare said...

Billy,

You sure know how to spin a tale. I love your writing style.

But let me point out 2 things.

First, you indicate you were going to expail why you like Rybak. You didn't. And his conduct in the 133rd primary was downright nasty.

Second, I would not be so hasty to write off Stoffa. He was trashed just like you, but kept getting up. I really admire him.

Thanks.

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