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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Allentown City Council VP Tony Phillips: The Thorn in King Ed's Side

"I'm here every day. It's like my office."

That's what Allentown city council VP Tony Phillips told me yesterday, when I visited him at Seward's Steak Shop at 17th & Union. It's hard to believe Tony could be a regular there and still maintain such an athletic figure. I wolfed about six cheese steaks while he watched me in wonder.

Tony recently switched parties, fuelling all sorts of speculation that he intends to challenge King Ed for the Kingdom of Renaissance Square, also known as Allentown. He told me he plans on announcing his decision on the 26th. I think he intends to send King Ed back to Chicago.

Why'd you switch parties? Isn't it because you'd stand a better chance of beating Mayor Pawlowski in a general election than in a primary?

Not exactly. The Democratic party in Allentown is so far to the left that I feel like a Republican.

How so?

For one thing, the city hired forty-four management positions without hiring any blue collar workers. They've taken loans and bonds which are going to cost us down the road. The city may have a $5 million surplus, but it's on borrowed money. Why not pay as you go?

Is the city on sound financial footing?

That's hard to say. Nobody can follow the numbers because they're convoluted - hard to figure this out.

How do you feel about Mayor Pawlowski?

Ed has done everything he can to undermine my election. He supported two Republicans in the last general election because I stood up to him. He's dictatorial, flies off the handle and is a crisis creator because everything is last minute. He presents a lot of things that are just window dressing or that have a lack of full disclosure.

Like what?

The police pension, for one thing. We had to sign it overnight, and the way he presented it is not the way it ended up. The police plan is another prime example. You just don't have enough people to run the program he has proposed. By November, we will be down another 15 to 20 officers. How do you implement a program without enough people? He hasn't explained how the officers are going to be trained to this new type of policing, either.

The police plan separates the city into four quadrants. That's a good thing, isn't it?

The city has always been divided in four quadrants. Now they're just setting the boundaries and selecting a captain. Another problem is prioritizing calls. You have to tell me what you are not going to respond to anymore.

What is Allentown's biggest problem?

Crime is always out there. That's number one. The other is economic development. What drives economic development? Jobs. There's no jobs. The administration touts $400 million in development, but there are minimal jobs involved, and what kind?

Isn't Allentown's crime rate going down?

We had a murder the other night and crime is going down? Hmmm. Numbers can be skewed. Reports can be downgraded. An aggravated assault can suddenly become simple assault or disorderly conduct.

Do you have any evidence this is going on?

I used to work there. [Tony was an Allentown cop]. There is no present evidence, but it's happened before.

What would you do?

We need to lose the "PC approach" and take crime head on. The numbers will go up, but would you rather have numbers go up or look good? You have to turn up the heat everywhere they are. With that done, you feel more secure and safe and can walk out of the house and down the street without looking over your shoulder.

Allentown's success rate, or clearance rate for crime, has dropped from 77% to 33%. How did that happen?

Decreases in investigations. It's a direct result of the number of people doing investigation. If that number is minimal, then so is the clearance rate. All of our investigators are hurting. The emphasis now is "boots on the street" and "felt presence," but nobody's left to solve crime.

When I was in the youth division, there were eight of us. Now I think it's four. The same is true of investigations and vice.

Is that the only answer to crime - turning up the heat?

Of course not. I've mentioned the need to start creating jobs. But there's another thing we need to look at - our kids. They are A#1 in Allentown. But did you know that Allentown youth groups have lost 750 kids over the past few years? Mayor Pawlowski promised that recreation would be a top priority of his administration, but it has gone downhill. Did you know that there were just four midget baseball teams in all of Allentown last year? In some age groups the kids had to be sent home.

Either we better start recruiting those kids or the gangs will do it for us.

Can you give me any examples of business you could bring to Allentown?

Sure, I'd reach out to Philly and DC, but let me give you an example from New York. A trash transfer business approached the mayor in July of 2007 with a proposal to lease land in Canal Park. It would bring trash in, compact it and load it onto trains heading away. In addition to the jobs this would create, there would be a transfer fee, tipping fee and lease.

Instead of jumping on this proposal, Pawlowski tucked it away so he could unveil it during his campaign for reelection. Some of us on council got wind of what was going on and took a bus trip to New York to see how it works. When Pawlowski found out, he went ballistic. But right now, the city could be earning $800 thousand per year instead of nothing. If Pawlowski had acted a year ago, this trash transfer system could be in operation. We should be earning money now.

For those of you who think Tony lacks the gravitas to manage Allentown, think again.


Anonymous said...

He has about as much chance of becoming Mayor of Allentown as you do. Maybe less..He couldn't even get reelected to Council if he tried.

Anonymous said...

i disagree anon tony will win against ed hands down. He can relate to the average guy out there where ed is not even respected amongst his own friends.
Good luck Tony Ill be voting for you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My sense is that many people underestimate Tony, and that's a mistake. I saw him at one of his strongholds, but was surprised by how many people seem to know and genuinely like this guy.

At the same time, Pawlowski has burned a lot of local bridges, a mistake for someone from Chicago. He really is a difficult person. Tony says that publicly, but many Democrats say that provately.

Pawlowski plans to buy the election. That may not work against a local person with ideas and appeal to lots of people.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Phillips should be careful about making statements regarding getting rid of the "P.C. approach." It's because of lawsuits similar to the ones that Mr. Phillips filed against the city that we have the "P.C. approach."

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not exactly. Let's see, When I refer to someone as a councilperson instead of a councilman, that's politically correct. When an Allentown cop walks around w/ a swastika emblazoned on his uniform, that's bigotry. When a group of cops decide to get a black baby doll, pull off its head, and place it on the steering wheel of Tony's cruiser, that's racism.

I commend Tony for standing up to the hate. We should all do that.

Anonymous said...

Tony will win hands down against Ed? Where we he get the money? Seriously, if Bernie moved to Allentown he would do much better, if only due to his passionate hatred of Pawlowski. What better motivation! No one will take on Pawlowski because of the money in his coffers..Good or bad, it's just a fact. We'll only be left with pretenders who have no chance of winning. A black man running as a Republican has about as much chance as David Duke running for mayor of philadelphia..

Ken Matthews said...

Anyone know what happened to Allentown PD's D.A.R.E program?

Back in the day Phillips was a DARE officer.

who was running it most recently ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tony's black?

He clearly will have an uphill and very tough battle. For him to win, he needs the Rs, all three of them. Then he has to work on different groups. It can be done against a person who has gone out of his way to alienate many of the people who put him in office, even if he has money.

Pawlowski gets the yuppy vote, but that's not that big.

Frankly, I don't hate Pawlowski, although I consider him a bad mayor. He has broken the promises he made while running, especially about police, and has been inaccessible to the people who elected him. I'll never forget how he ignorted the minority merchants along Hamilton Street, who made call after call when LANTA did its routing changes. That was a disgrace.

Phillips has Pawlowski's number, and has said publicly what most are saying privately. In order to win, he has to start early and work hard. That seems to be what he is doing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ken, I don't know what happened but will try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

What makes the recreation statistics in your post even more stunning is that the drop in recreation participation has occurred while school enrollment has exploded. There's not a school in the city that isn't overcrowded.

As Tony alluded to, those kids are going somewhere - and the graffiti throughout the city tells me that it's not somewhere good.

bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"For him to win, he needs the Rs, all three of them."

I'm an R, but that's classic - primarily because it 's likely true.

Rs have no problem nominating blacks. They even get appointed to important stuff like Sec'y of State, Chairman of Joint Chiefs, National Security Advisor (and then are summarily insulted by being immediately referred to as "Uncle Toms" by people of the party that talks a good game, but never really comes through).

I like Tony. He's probably more of an R than he knows. And the issues he fought for rise well beyond the PC designation - unless NAZI cops are no problem for you, and guys like Tony are too uppity.

Anonymous said...

extremely happy to see tony as a Republican. why doesn't he take dave howells with him and make it a package deal?

Bernie O'Hare said...


What's your beef w/ Howells? Isn't he pro-Pawlowski?

Bill said...

I am a Dem, and I am open to hear what Tony has to say. We have far too much at stake in this city to play politics as usual.

Bernie has stated here that Ed has broken promises he made along the way, I want to hear more about that perspective.

As a Dem, I pull the lever for the best candidate, and sometimes that means I support R's too.

In a democracy, we get the best Government by choosing carefully and then making sure that once elected they place nice to do the peoples business.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm with you, Bill. I usually vote Dem but will vote R. What turned me off to paqwlowski was when he refused to even return the calls of Hamilton Street merchants who were suffering after LANTA changed their routes. These people are not wealthy and are mostly minority and probably would have been happy with some mild words of encouragement. But Pawlowski just ignored them. I'll never forget that.

Pawlowski broke at least four promises.

1. He claimed to have knowledge of grants and other programs from which to increase the size of the force. Thgat was complete BS.

2. He promised to use LC deputy sheriffs. That never happened.

3. He promised he would start community policing and is only doing so now after lots of pressure, three years into his first term.

4. He promised to increase recreation, but there are now 750 fewer kids. And the idea of teaching boxing to children is insane.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for teaching the kids knife throwing. I'm willing to fund around the clock showings of "West Side Story" in the Center city. I've even got a VCR I'll donate! I see you slammed Sam Bennett and Pawlowski both within 72 hours of Friday PM. Sweet! So who's next? You over sucking up to Charlie Dent tonight?
Sample Question: Congressman, what question can I ask you that will make you let me kiss your ass? LOLOLOLOLOL! LMFAO!
I'm betting that Lamont McClure is next on the Bernardo hit list. Dertwiler isn't any fun anymore, snce he stopped inviting you over for wife swap, and you kept showing up with that damn mannequin named Herb! LMFAO!

- The Rogue of Blogs!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Who the hell is Dertwiler?

I've got one word for you - Valium. Did you forget?

Anonymous said...

Man up O'Hare who is Dertwiler? Curious minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

bernie....political division internally on allentown's city council are not always along the democrat/republican axis. nor are they always along the pro-, or anto-mayor lines.

most often party lines are replaced by rational/bizarre differences.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Consigliere, Thanks. Party affiliation means very little on a local level in my experience.