Friday, August 04, 2006

Northampton County Council Prez Grube is God!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAbout an hour before tonight's Northampton County Council meeting, there was a huge power failure in the courthouse. Things weren't looking good.

First, a gaggle of tired but angry prison guards filed in. They've been forced to do a lot of mandatory overtime lately because the rocket scientists who demanded a prison expansion never bothered to ask for the additional staff that would be needed. When corrections officers and their union rep saw there were neither lights nor air conditioning, they started getting ugly. (I think some of them had rope).

Then came Bethlehem City and LVIP officials, all wearing very nice suits. Most of them used cell phones and laser teeth whitened smiles to light their way. Bethlehem Mayor Callahan used his highly polished shoes to reflect just enough dim light to find a seat. The suits were there to convince Northampton County Council that, even though the judges' Taj Mahal is at least $3 million over budget, the county should still give Bethlehem an additional $2 million for another road. Makes sense to me.

But neither of these powerful groups could make the lights go on. No matter how much the prison guards growled or the Bethlehem suits smiled, we remained in total darkness, where some bastard picked my pocket. I won't point fingers, but Councilman Ron Angle kept laughing at me.

We were all getting ready to leave when Council President Wayne Grube walked in, raised his arms, and said "Ladies and Gentlemen." Suddenly there was light. Holy cannoli!

Everyone knows Grube thinks he's God, but I never believed it until tonight. I'm in big trouble. I've named him as a Defendant about fifty times in county lawsuits. Now I know why these dudes in long robes pop up everywhere I go. Hey, I thought they were KKK recruiters. Uh oh. It also explains the flat tires on my jeep and bike. That's OK. I'll go to confession this weekend. Two or three Hail Marys and I'll be as pure as Glenn Reibman.

I'll tell you about county council and our new courthouse next week, but don't want the week to end without mentioning Lamont McClure. Remember Lamont? He's the fellow who threatened a libel lawsuit when I had the nerve to point out a Sunshine Act violation. And just two weeks ago, he voted to increase the DA's budget even though his wife works there.

Well, tonight, when prison guards started complaining about the safety issues that can arise when they are forced to work sixteen hours per day for three days in a row, Prez Grube (aka God) didn't want to hear it because these guards are also union members with a union contract. Grube was justifiably concerned that a Council member might say something that could haunt the county in labor negotiations. Fair enough. But corrections officers and any citizen has the right, under our Sunshine Act, to address council on matters of public concern. The guards left in a huff, and probably are burning someone in effigy as I write this piece.

To his credit, McClure asked Grube, "Can't we just listen?" That's exactly what the Sunshine Act requires. It also happens to be the right thing to do, especially when public safety is involved, to say nothing of employee morale. I never thought I'd say this, but you were absolutely right, Lamont. Now excuse me. I think I'm going to be sick.


Anonymous said...


Regarding my comment to your Aug. 3rd posting referring to Joe DeRaymond's article, "Bond Blues - They Took the Money and Ran, Like Thievers in the Night, published Dec. 21, 2001, on the website - and the Aug. 4th posting on your blog describing last night's Northampton County Council meeting in which Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan and other "suits," thinking they were celebrating the holiday of their city's namesake at the height of the so-called Lehigh Valley's hottest August on record (punctuated by the power outage in council chambers during the meeting), requested $2 million for another road for BethWorks Now.

As DeRaymond said in his article, "The largest single grants in this project [the 2001 $111 million mega-bond] are to the City of Bethlehem, which is to receive $5,000,000 for parking structure, infrastructure and related improvements and $13,150,000 in the Bethlehem Commerce Center for infrastructure and related improvements. The grant to the Commerce Center is for the express purpose of building s portal to the Bethlehem Works project, which is Bethlehem Steel's effort to develop the 1600 acre brownfield of abandoned plant in South Bethlehem."

The portal ends in a cul-de-sac as the parcel earmarked for Majestic Realty of Los Angeles, owner of the Las Vegas Silverton Casino.

"The City of Easton will receive a $200,000 grant to improve the streetscape on Third Street to improve the entrance to Lafayette College. We must also note that Councilman Michael Dowd obtained a $2,350,000 separate bond grant for the City of Easton to build a parking deck for the Hotel Easton, apparently in exchange for his support for this 2001 bond issue. In reality, this grant is part of the overall bond proceeding, as it was placed in the 2000 bond issue and used as a political carrot for the city's support of the 2001 version. Eastpm State Theatre will receive $700,000 to improve its building, including restroom improvements, which is another clever element of the bond which insures more support of the local rich and famous for the boondoggle."

"For some reason, the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park will receive $1,000,000 for infrastructure and improvements which are already in place in LVIP VI. These improvements are certainly within the reach of the corporations which are rapidly filling the lots in this development."

The $111 million bond also includes "Construction of a major connector route between routes 115 and 512 to benefit a 120 acre planned industrial park in Plainfield Township and Wind Gap. It would connect the Waste Management Landfill and the industrial park at an estimated cost of $3,045,000 - Nolan Perin hs a major interest in both the industrial park and the landfill."

Anonymous said...

I have just read on-line both The Morning Call Girl and The Excess-Times and neither mainstream newspaper mentions the Bethlehem City and LVIP "suits" reported in today's posting on your blog and in my comment quoting Joe DeRaymond's Dec. 21, 2001, article, "Bond Blues - They Took the Money and Ran, Like Thieves in the Night."

I have long alleged, in other articles on the website, one co-authored by former downton Easton merchant David clark who has since relocated his business to Wilson Borough that The Morning Call lobbies vigorously for media consolidation.

It wants to add to its print medium a television station in the so-called Lehigh Valley, presumably WFMZ-TV or WLTV-39, more likely the latter.

The quality of WLTV-39 Public Broadcasting Channel has gone downhill ever since then station staff-member Shelley Brown and the former Excess-Times columnist Dave Boyer succeeded in driving Sheldon Siegel from his position as the station's executive director.

All public-interest political programming left the station with the departure of "Shel."

As I have reported on the, The Morning Call Girl's parent company, the Tribune of Chicago, is right now locked in a bitter internecin battle with the Chandler publishing family of Los Angeles that sold its Los Angles Times ownership to the Tribune.

The Chandler family, which still owns stock in the Tribune, opposes media consolidation and cites the Tribune's quest to acquire television outlets as the cause of its continuing profitablity slide in the print-media competition.

LVDem said...

Wow Norco is special.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I suspect that the ET & MC will run stories in the next several days concerning Bethlehem's appearance at county council.

One thing that you, Billy, and other readers should know is that Bethlehem's mayor, the LVIP Pres, and a city engineer all exercised courtesy of the floore. They each exceeded the 5 minute limit for public comment set forth in Lamont McClure's "Code of Civility." The Mayor alone went on for 24 minutes.

Now I don't have a problem with that because they all had constructive things to say. But it bothers me that ordinary people will get cut off and told to sit down once they go on beyond 5 minutes. That's uneven enforcement. It's an Orwellian admission that "some animals are more equal than others."

And the prison guards were really upset when they were, for all practical purposes, cut off. I understand that Council members don't want to say anything that could bind the county. But they miss the point. Courtesy of the floor is for the public, not Council.

Get well.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To LVDem, Yes, we're special. In a few years, NC's problems might be LC's problems if the judges there have their way w/ Cunningham.

Anonymous said...

One of the "suits" at last night's Northampton County Council meeting seeking $2 million more grants for BethWorks Now was Lehigh Valley Indusrial Parks executive director Kerry Wrobel.

This is the same Kerry Wrobel who attended the meeting in June 2005 at the Harkers Hollow Golf Club in Harmony Township, Warren County.

"Panelists spent about one hour presenting what their organizations do and fielding hypthetical questions from Express-Times President and Publisher Martin K. Till, who served as moderator," as reported by Express-Times staff member Anthony Salamone who covered the meeting.

"Warren County needs a knockout punch to reach a point where at least the county's southern end can become a viable economic develoment partner with the Lehigh Valley," Salamone reports.

"It takes bullies to change people's mindsets," said Paul Pierpoint, one of four panelists who participated Tuesday evening in 'Uniting a Region,' a meeting organized by the law firm of Florio [former New Jersey Governor James Florio]& Perrucci [Phillipsburg native Michael Perrucci, former Warren County Democratic Party Chairman, former New Jersey U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli campaign treasurer, real estate developer, and BethWorks Now partner with the Las Vegas Sand Casino, Newmark & Co. Realty firm and Fischbein, Badillo, Wagner, and Harding law firm of New York City, and BethWorks Now]."

"Ray Suhocki, president of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said he would like to see a form of 'tax-base sharing' so more communities could benefit when a company moves into one municipality. We plan on a regional basis, we implement on a local basis," Suhocki said.

Marta Boulos Gabriel, vice president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce's Easton council, said during the chamber's 13 mergers over the years, the region's largest chamber has found that "local control is important, and we give them that."

The panelists, who also included Kerry Srobel, president of Lehigh Valley Industrial Parks, Inc., seemed to agree that local control can run in harmony with regionalism.

And collaboration was a common them in trying to tie together the future of economic development between Warren County and the Valley.

Former Gov. Jim Florio, who kicked off the meeting, noted instances of bi-state regional cooperation, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"Those types of examples allow us to understand that there is no reason why that approach shouldn't be of value to our part of the world," said Florio, who is a law partner with attorney nd local developer MIchael Perrucci.

People [attending the meeting] mentioned LVEDC and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission as catalysts in satisfying a regional group that would incorporate Waren County's interests.

Commission Chairman Philip Mugavero said he thinks the bridge agency would be open to participating in a regional group.

"I think we're on the verge of undergoing a major change as far as commerce, economic development and transportation," said Mugavero, a former Phillipsburg mayor.

"The average person thinks it's about time that the leaders of the community get together and start thinking more globally and trying to come up with ideas to improve the region."

Salamone's article was published June 21, 2005.

Anonymous said...


You know yourself that I have been more than "cut off" while addressing Northampton County Council during the public comment segment of the meetings.

I have been physically and forcefully removed many times from council chambers by Sheriff Jeff Hawbecker's deputies.

(You know Hawbecker well since you have written about him in your publication, "Our Common Bond." Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, Northampton is the only one in which the sheriff is not elected. Councilman J. Michael Dowd confided to me after a council meeting from which I wasn't removed is, "Northampton County voters can't be trusted to elect the sheriff." Another obvious reason NC's sheriff is not elected is to keep the many sheriff's and upset sales of defaulted property-tax properties under control of the county's executive and parceled out to quasi-governmental entities like the Easton Redevelopment Authority and private developers.

As a title searcher who works in the County Government Center, you are aware of this practice and, I believe, have on at least one accasion criticized it.

The practice for certain has been the subject of at least one law suit in the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.

In fact, the county's Home Rule Charge has been amended to abolish the county's prison commission and to place its administration under the executive branch.

The occasion of this amendment was Executive Bill Brackbill's usurpation of the independent prison commission, a usurpation of power he abdicated only under the threat of a Quo Warranto law suit by county council under its president Wayne Grube - a legal remedy abjured by council under the presidency of J. Michael Dowd for nullifying the fraudulent General Purpose Authoity and its illegal $111 million bond.

Council conspired in this fraud with its solictor, Excutive Glenn Reibman, the courts, and District Attorney John Morganelli.

Is it any wonder that the Northampton County Prison and new courthouse are in such disarray?

Chris Casey said...

Bernie, God is everywhere! last night he spoke through Porter Krisher at the UMT meeting. Hallelujah!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, Baltimore catechism - "Where is God?" "God is everywhere." I just didn't know He pops into public officials at times. And I didn't make this up! Gruber raised his hans and the lights came on! I'm on my way top confession now before I get struck by a lightning bolt or something.

LVDem said...

Bernie, the judges are having their way with the commissioners not Cunningham. don has put out a proposal that the commissioners shot down 5-4. He could sit on it and force them to take him to court, but that would be a messy battle.

Heck, I figure why not. At least our battle would be over the greater good.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cunningham is definitely doing the right thing but he's fighting a battle that was never even waged here. What the judges want, the judges get. I'm actually doing a lengthy piece on the courthouse disaster, but will probably have to run it in pieces when it is done.

FtHillDem said...

I just noticed your Kurt Vonnegut quote: "The highest treason in the USA is to say Americans are not loved, no matter where they are, no matter what they are doing there."

I have a number of Vonnegut's books. Is that one from a book, or one of his other writings? Which book?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's from Vonnegut's latest - A Man without a Country - a short collection of essay. Thanks for your interest.

Anonymous said...

You sure are obsessed with Mayor Callahan's mirror-shined shoes. In one post you call him a "dandy" because he is always staring at his shiny shoes, and here he uses them to find his way to his seat. I think he is the best mayor the city has had in a very long time.

What difference does it make if he is very well dressed and he slicks his hair back? He wears expensive business suits and silk neckties because he is a MAYOR!

Concentrate on his policies and not on his feet, or on his nice business suits.

If you managed to drag those fancy polished shoes that annoy you so much off his feet - and then took away his silk socks and his pinstriped suit and his necktie and his cufflinks and made him grow a beard, and then dressed him up as a barefoot man of the people - would he be a better mayor in your view?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dear Jim,

You may be right. He may be the best mayor Bethlehem has had in some time. But Bethlehem has had some very good mayors from both parties so those are pretty tall (and shiny) shoes you are asking him to fill.

This observation about Callahan is hardly something I would call critical. He likes shiny shoes. So what? I just think it's amusing. We all have amusing idiosyncracies. It doesn't necessarily mean anything.

If he didn't dress that way, I can imagine another blogger taking a poke at him saying he doesn't respect the people enough to dress for the occasion. So please, don't take my onservations about Callahan's shoes as anything that is terribly serious. I just thought it was funny because we were in a power failure and Callahan's shoes were so damn shiny they reflected what little light was out there.

The bearded fellow to whom you refer was not interested in politics. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Thanks for your comment. Mayor Callaham has a very fine and well-spoken corps of defenders.

I've heard both good and bad about him. It's very clear to me that his relationship with city council is strained or worse.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the thoughtful response to my post. I suppose I did over-react a bit.

I have political arguments with a friend who calls Callahan "Mayor Gelled Hair GQ" and "His Pinstripe and Gucci Majesty"; his "suggestion" is to give Callahan a trailer park makeover: beer gut, dirty tee shirt, bare feet and overalls. He pointed out your comments about Callahan's shoes to me, but of course they were very mild in comparison!

So I think I gave you some of the flack I should have given him! Nothing like politics to get a good argument going...

Bernie O'Hare said...


I enjoyed your comment. I didn't mean anything horrible by the accusation, but I'm glad you challenged it. It was intended more or less as humor.

Thanks for both of your comments.

I have not made up my mind about Callahan. If you'd like, write me a post on why you think Callahan is one of Bethlehem's best mayors and I'll be happy to put it on the blog as a separate post. After the shiny shoe remarks in two different posts, maybe I should let a Callahan fan tell us all why he's a good man. Take care.