Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Whistleblower Larry Kisslinger Calls it Quits at Bethlehem Housing Authority

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBethlehem Housing Authority Commissioner Larry Kisslinger is a good government watchdog. He blew the whistle when its chair, Joe Long, insisted on conducting back room meetings that violated the Sunshine Act.

That whistle has been silenced.

Kisslinger resigned at the end of Monday's meeting, frustrated by an unresponsive leadership unwilling to face a growing need for affordable housing. South side Bethlehem, we all know, is the planned location for a new casino. And as it gentrifies into "a haven for yuppies with lattes," BHA's affordable housing plan appears to be this - move to Allentown, bippy! Although BHA sits on over $8 million in cash reserves, Kisslinger claims it has no new housing plans for folks with low incomes.

In an email, Kisslinger tells us this.

"During the last two years of, term limited, Chairman Joe Long, and Vice Chairman Dave Sanders' tenure, I have only received a grand total of a half dozen calls or so, about BHA's future plans to service the low-to-moderate income folks within our community. Most of the calls were simply 'personal attacks' on my character and integrity. Long and Sanders merely changed positions at today's meeting with newly appointed Commissioner Ms. Iris Linares supporting their positions."

Kisslinger was supported by Paul Reitmeir, the only commissioner who actually resides in BHA housing. Let's take a quick look at the other three housing commissioners - Joe Long, Dave "Lumpy" Sanders and Iris Linares.

Iris Linares, BHA's newest commissioner, was just confirmed by city council on December 19. She's a Democratic state committee member. She's a secretary at the Peter Angelos law firm, which just happens to employ appointed Northampton County Councilman Lamont McClure. Peter Angelos is a major Democratic campaign contributor whose control in Maryland is so legendary that legislation is actually called "Angelos' bills." Linares herself is a frequent Democratic contributor. Somehow, she and her husband were able to cough up $1440 for Ed O'Brien's congressional campaign in 2000. That's a lot of money to be coming from one secretary!

Joe Long, BHA's new vice chair, chairs the Northampton County Dems. He's been implicated in nearly every bad instance of bad government occurring in Northampton County over the past few years, from his violations of the Sunshine Act at the BHA to his own election as party chair, which miraculously occurred five days before certificates of election were actually mailed to elected committeemen.

Dave "Lumpy" Sanders, BHA's new chair, is one of those perennial candidates for public office. He was most recently rejected by the Bethlehem School Board. Less than a year ago, he was upset when a citizen disclosed, during a city council meeting, where Bethlehem pols got campaign dough. As Lumpy sees things, our poor politicians already work too hard. He thinks we must support city council members instead of scrutinizing their every vote. This yes man is BHA's new chair.

Is it me, or don't you think Bethlehem could do just a little better than this?

Update:Kisslinger's resignation is reported today both in The Express Times and Morning Call.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

larry will be missed.

DB said...

Hey Bernie, what's the deal with the little Anti-Allentown innuendo?

Above and beyond that, I agree, an $8 million surplus is a lot to be sitting on for an organization who no longer feels the need to carry out their mission.`

Bernie O'Hare said...

Uh oh. I'm in trouble now. Damien, you sure do look out for the Queen City. Didn't mean to slam A-town. Just pointing out that low income folks will soon be able to afford to live in Bethlehem. They'll have to move to A-town or Easton. They could stay with me but I snore.

Anonymous said...

Big surprise, the three board members that you described are democrats! Isn't that to be expected when there is a democratic mayor at city hall, as well as a democratic council? Why would mayor Callahan nominate someone other than a person either he or Mr. Long is familiar with? What's the point, describing Mrs. Linares, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Long in the manner you did?

Anonymous said...

The $8 million is not exactly what you may think fellas. On its revenue side, BHA (and all HA's) depends upon rent collected from low income people who only ever pay 30% of their income toward rent plus a subsidy from HUD. The subsidy has been reduced by 25% each of the past several years, causing BHA to operate at a deficit. The $8 million has allowed BHA to retain its already small staff, continue to provide important programs for low-income, seniors and the disabled in the city and house nearly 7% of the city's less fortunate in decent conditions. (Something no one else wants to do, even 70 years sind BHA came into being.) Lay off the wise cracks about public housing until you know more about it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...you mentioned "watchdog" Kisslinger. You also have taken others to task (County Council) for politicking behind the scenes, in an attempt to line up votes to attain chairmanship. Example Wayne Grube.

Were you aware that the watchdog was doing just that while on the BHA board? Did you know that he was furiously contacting other board members in an attempt to have his way at the reorganization meeting? He was, but is this really a violation of the act? I'd say that if it is for Wayne Grube, it should be with the watchdog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:37 & 2:52,

1) Politics should have nothing to do with the BHA.

2) Kisslinger, a nominal R, was appointed by Cunningham, a D.

3) Kisslinger, a nominal R, actually is the person who recommended that Long, the local D chair be appointed.

4) The point in describing Linares, Liong and Sanders as I did is to demonstrate that the BHA has become a political tool.

5) The HUD subsidy has been reduced over the past several years bc the BHA sits on a large surplus instead of investing it for new housing projects for low and moderaste income families, which will be desparately needed once the casino becomes reality.

6) Kisslinger's decision to resign is an indication that the BHA has drifted from its original objectives and has morphed into something else, a political body that violates the Sunshine Act w/ impunity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:47, It is no violation of the Sunshine Act for one member of an agency to solicit votes. The violation occurs when a majority takes official action or deliberates behind closed doors. If Kisslinger was conducting a daisy chain or round robin to do what must be done in public, then he violated the law, just as Grube most certainly did.

But that's not what happened now, is it? As I understand things, three members of the BHA had already decided that Sanders would be the new chair. And that would be consistent with the way the BHA operated w/ Long at the helm. Kisslinger certainly made calls, but only to try to reverse a Sunshine Act violation, Joe Long's specialty.

Anonymous said...

Bernie. Finally we agree. Politics should have nothing to do with running a housing authority. You are right! Unfortunately, as long as the mayor gets to appoint the members (of a housing commission), politics WILL be a part of the process. Most of these people arrive either with an agenda or with the mayor's agenda. LK tried to pry millions of dollars from the authority and funnel it to the city any way he could "to help the city in time of fiscal need". Why? Why should the housing authority, the water authority or the parking authority bail out the city? Seems to me that you need to zero in on the mayor, not so much his hand-picked appointees. They're just following executive orders.

Regarding the authority's mission, it is to provide safe, decent, affordable housing for eligible Bethlehem residents. There is enough public housing in Bethlehem and in Allentown. ATown in particular shows what can and will happen to a city that attracts too many poor people. Gentrification is like an tsunami, an unstoppable force, claiming entire cities. Pennsylvania is full of them. Many city taxpayers would agree with me that we need those latte sipping yuppies that you seem to fear. Without a solid middle-class, Bethlehem will surely follow Atown off the cliff into the abyss of insignificance.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:44,

You sound like a person who has more specific knowledge than I have concerning the BHA. I certainly would resist any attempt to wrest BHA funds to bail out the city. I agree w/ you on that point.

I have no objection to the "latte sipping yuppies" who are migrating to the LV from Jersey and NYC. But as they move in, there will be a crunch on affordable housing. And they will drive up costs for the rest of us. There is an increasing disparity between the "haves" and "have nots." As a "have not," I resent the use of public money to encourage luxury condos and the creation of some form of tinseltown.

As you point out, BHA's mission is to "provide safe, decent, affordable housing for eligible Bethlehem residents." As Bethlehem gentrifies, BHA fails in its mission if it fails to continue to provide affordable housing. Instead of long range planning with an attractive surplus, BHA sits on its haunches. At least it seems that way.

If BHA is doing something to expand its affordable housing, I'll be happy to post about it. I think that would be consistent w/ its mission. As someone who seems to be a bit more knowledgable on this subjectt, I'm prepared to be educated. I'm not being sarcastic.

I'm not suggesting that Bethlehem needs to "attract" poor people. I am suggesting that Bethlehem should provide affordable housing for the poor people it does have. Its affordable housing plan should not be one that encourages people to move to A-town or Easton.

Incidentally, I believe A-town does a very nice job for its residents. It has 1260 units available. And I wouldn't condemn it to the "abyss of insignifigance," either. It has more than its share of problems, but it's a vibrant community with a lot of diversity.

Anonymous said...

Long before the casino vote came to its recent conclusion (Beth gets gaming), 8 x 11 signs were being seen throughout the southside on telephone poles, informing all that they (whover "they" are) would pay top dollar for homes. This was an indicator to me that speculators were hard at work, doing what they do best. Bethlehem and the LV has seen a dramatic spike in real estate vales to be sure, but it's not all due to casinos. Like it or not, we are now an exurb somewhere between Philly and NYC. Might as well relax and get used to it, because there's no turning back. I sense that you are a child of the fifties and remember when suburban retail meant Almart, Two Guys, Levitz. For many years, the LV was in the hinterlands as far as retail was concerned. Now we're hot and some would say it's about time. Others will think back to the good old days when stores were closed on Sundays. Now that the urbanites from the big cities are here to stay, they will demand LL Bean, Starbucks, etc...

On that issue about the city wresting money from the authorities, these municipal authorities were designed to be autonomous- stand-alone entities, supposedly independent from any direct control of a municipal head. This certainly was a great idea, but it has been subverted over the years. All the mayor needs to do in order to balance his budgert is A- got hat in hand to Bethlehem Steel (oops, can't do that anymore) or B -plant his agents on the water authority, or parking authority board and then control things from 10 East Church. That's the way it's been going since 1917. First A, then, since 1996, B.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:52,

This is all true. Most of these authorities and boards are in actuality "shadow" governments filled w/ pols who do not undergo the scrutiny of an election.

And we now are an exurb rapidly losing our identity. There's little we can do to stop that.

But here's what bothers me. Public money is used to encourage this migration. The Guv just dropped off a few checks. What's most decadent to me was the use of public money to build a parking lot for luxury condos. At the same time, the BHA does not use the public money in its own account to help the moderate and low income people who will certainly be displaced by this gentrification.

We can't stop the tide, but we need not turn a blind eye on those who will be financially distressed.

Anonymous said...

Bernie:
I truly have a problem understanding the many "negative comments" from, Anonymous said... always appearing in your blog. I figure folks having something "negative" to say about you, me or others, might "have the goods" on any of us! I figure Anonymous said... has nothing of interest, truth or substance to offer any of us, is my opinion. I've been involved in public service for 40+ years and can answer for any of my actions concerning my public service to anybody, anytime, but I can't do so with chicken little cowardly folks identified as: Anonymous says... Go figure what they "may" ever know about anything, Only God knows! Incidently, my home phone 610-691-5338 has always been in the phone book over those 40+ years of public service....anybody willing to identify themselves to me will, and always have received, an answer to any questions they may have of me, but they must identify themselves for me to do so. Many wrong interpretations of my/Mayors/BHA positions are in this blog, by chicken littles. Anybody, call me anytime for "any" information contained herein...is fine with me!

Since I am now retired from Service Electic Cable Tv and BHA, I may have more time to devote to your blog, or my own to soon be published! By The Way (BTW) I totally agree with you..."run Jerry run"!