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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Three Apply For Northampton County Council Vacancy

Three local government veterans - two of them former County Council members - have applied for the vacancy created by Diane Neiper's resignation from Northampton County Council. They are former County Council member Ron Heckman, former County Council member and County Exec Jerry Seyfried and former Bethlehem Township Commissioner Bob Birk.

Whoever is appointed will only serve until the end of this year. Unless gridlocked, Council will select Neiper's successor on July 8th.

I'll have more details about these applicants tomorrow.

This is the 1,200,950th Most Popular Blog in the Universe!

At least that's what Alexa says. That's not a person, but an Internet tool that ranks web pages in order of popularity. LVRamblings missed the top 100,000. I expected that, but it's a little humiliating to learn it's not even in the top million. By the way, most of my readers are highly educated women with children.

Morning Call - #22,951. Readership up 37% in last three months. Laid off reporters are scouring the classifieds for jobs.

Express Times - #50,306. Readership up 41% in last three months. 97% come in under a google search for Joe Owens.

Junk Drawer Blog: #97,295. Readership at Kathy Frederick's humor blog may be up 45% in last three months, but they're all from India and Pakistan. She's obviously writing nuclear secrets in code, disguised as witty little ditties. I'm on to you, Kathy!

Lehigh Valley Ramblings: #1,200,950. My readership up just 3% in the last three months. I want a recount. I should be in the top ten or something, right after Yahoo. Time to start posting some porn.

Afterlife of Betty Cauler: #1,998,152. Readership here is up 4900%(?) in the last three months, but 87.3% of Betty's readers are from Belarus. What's up with that? Another damn Commie.

NewsOverCoffee (Nazareth): #2,884,803. Ross' readership is up 60% in the last three months, which is pretty amazing for a hyper local site. Of course, as Nazareth goes, so goes the world.

LVPoliblog: #6,801,667. Readership here is only up 4% in the last three months. That really stinks, but it's still 1% higher than me, so I'll keep my mouth shut. Way to go, poliploppers!

Allentown Good News: #16,622,038. Readership here is down 20% over last three months. People get tired of reading that everything is wonderful in Allentown when giant shitburgers are the main item on the menu. Maybe the publishers here could post a video of Mayor Ed doing the chicken dance or something. Or art.

Lehigh Valley Conservative: #19,694,282. Readership may down 70% in last three months, but 100% of the readers are from a trailer park right here in the good ol' USA. USA, USA, USA!

Can We Vote Twice For the Same Candidate in Judicial Race? Redux

Questions have arisen concerning this Fall's judicial race, where there are three openings. Judge Lenny Zito and Magistrate Michael Koury have the nominations of both parties, and will appear on the ballots as Democrats and Republicans. State Rep. Craig Dally has the GOP nod and Bethlehem Attorney Barb Hollenbach is a Democratic nominee. We get three votes.

Question #1: Can I vote for the same person twice? In other words, can I decide to cast one vote for Zito as a Republican and another as a Democrat? Or can I vote for Koury twice in the same way?

Question #2: Can I pull the lever for Zito and then cast two write-in votes for him?

On Monday, Northampton County's Voting Machine Supervisor, Howie Erney, answered my questions from his bunker in Nazareth. Erney, you may recall, briefly served as Registrar, but resigned because the office was getting too damn political.

Answer #1: Once I cast a vote for Zito as either a Democrat or Republican, a code in the voting machine will prevent me from casting a second vote for him under the other party. The lever machines had the same failsafe.

Answer #2: I can still cast two write-in votes for Lenny, but they won't count. Erney tells me that if a candidate is already on the ballot, write-in votes for that candidate are not counted.

Monday, June 29, 2009

LC's Republican Comm'rs & Long Dems Play the Crowd

One surefire way to attract a lot of votes is to tell people elected officials are paid too damn much. Everyone will buy that. No matter how meager the salary, you can claim it's excessive or that now is not the time. Long Dem Lamont McClure, in what sure looks like vote pandering to me, is attempting to roll back modest raises for the next Executive, Controller and Council in Northampton County. And guess what? He's found an ally in Lehigh County's Republican Commissioners.

In an email blast straight from Lehigh County's GOP HQs, Republican Commissioner candidates solemnly pledge to reject a previously adopted payraise. Never mind that the payraise went through committee, first reading, and second reading with public input and discussion. It was certainly no midnight deal. One commissioner did say it would look bad on a mailer. So like Long Dem Lamont McLure in Northampton County, all of the Republican Commissioner candidates in Lehigh County - even the incumbents - think a raise is just horrible.

If salaries set in 1978 in both counties are adjusted just for cost of living, Northampton County Council members would receive $13,025 salaries instead of the current $7,000. Salaries for the next council members will increase to $9,500. Lehigh County Commissioners would see a salary increase to $8,141 from the current $6,000. They've given themselves a $1,000 raise.

Commissioner candidate Tom Creighton piously decries "the use of gimmicks and one-shot deals," but his payraise rejection is nothing more than a political stunt.

Let's be honest. You get what you pay for, and we are paying for political hacks. If the idea is selfless service, then why are these candidates collecting any salary at all? Why don't they take vows of poverty, abstinence and obedience while they're at it?

Northampton County Could Use Jerry Seyfried

When Northampton County Council voted to accept Diane Neiper's resignation, Lamont McClure said her replacement should be someone with experience. He's right. The person appointed will only serve for five months, so it makes little sense to name someone who will spend all of that time getting used to the job.

In addition to being a former member of Council, Neiper's successor should be another Democrat. True, a Democratic council voted three years ago to replace Republican Mary Ensslin with a Democrat, but two wrongs don't make a right. Appointing a Democrat would be consistent with what voters decided.

Fortunately, an experienced former council member and Democrat has confirmed his interest. Jerry Seyfried served on Northampton County Council between 1978 and 1979. He helped write the personnel section of county administrative code as well as the career service employees manual. He spent four years as Vice President and another four years as Council's President. In addition to his legislative experience, he was County Exec between 1990 and 1994, leaving the county with a $20 million surplus. He continued his career as Director of Court Services between 1998 and 2006.

No one - and I mean no one - has a deeper understanding of county government than Jerry. He still carries dog-eared copies of the Home Rule Charter and can often recite resolutions adopted in the 80s.

Jerry tells me he's currently involved in assembling a Northampton County history between 1952 and 2002. "Somebody's got to write this history while people are still alive to tell the story. Wouldn't it have been great to interview [former Comm'r and Council member] Jim Hemstreet?"

Jerry notes that in the 50s, seventy per cent of our jobs were in manufacturing or textiles, but that's all gone. "We lost Bethlehem Steel. We lost eight or nine cement companies. But our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Why is that? It's the Walter Dealtrys, the LVIPs; their story needs to be told."

Seyfried would like to take a close look at the county budget, paying particular attention to where real estate tax revenue is spent. "What kind of people are in prison? Do they all need to be there. We need to reduce recidivism. A lot of counties have wonderful programs. We need to do that."

Jerry even volunteered his thinking about a regional health bureau. "I don't know how you vote no if they tell you it's not costing any money. How do you say no to that? Once it costs money, then it's time to question it."

This guy really cares about Northampton County. He could easily handle all kinds of controversies with pains in the ass like me. But when construction workers jackhammered the shit out of beautiful slate slabs surrounding the courthouse - reminders of our slate belt heritage - Jerry actually broke down in tears.

Seyfried is no Long Dem. They passed him over for appointment to two council vacancies several years ago. Jerry is no Stoffa sycophant, either. He insists that the retirement board needs its own independent lawyer while Stoffa insists the solicitor's office can handle the job.

On Friday, Ron Angle told me he would support Jerry, which might be the kiss of death. But he really is the best choice, and one that should have been made several years ago. Above, you will see a picture of Jerry and me.

Online Interest In Morning Call and Express Times Soaring

Internet interest in popular news sites like The New York Times may actually be declining. The Gray Lady is ranked the 108th most popular site on the Internet, but daily pageviews are down 5.32% over the last three months. At the Chicago Tribune, things are even worse, with Internet readership down 19.1%.

During this same period, two local papers are doing great. Online interest in The Morning Call is up 37%. At The Express Times, it's slightly better, at 41%.

Why is this happening? Personally, I think it's the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle. China just loves him, kinda' like France with Jerry Lewis. Whatever the reason, it's good news for local papers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Can We Vote Twice For the Same Candidate in Judicial Race?

In this Fall's Northampton County judicial race, Judge Lenny Zito and Magistrate Michael Koury will be listed on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the ballot. Craig Dally is running as a Republican and Barb Hollenbach as a Democrat. Four people are running for three judgeships. We get three votes.

Since we do get three votes, can we vote for the same person twice? In other words, can I decide to cast one vote for Zito as a Republican and another as a Democrat? Or can I vote for Koury twice in the same way?

Many lawyers and politicos insist it's legally permissible. Others claim it's impossible.

What do you think? I'll let you know next week.

Northampton County Council Post Primary Finance Reports

Ten candidates, Democrats and Republicans, will duke it out this Fall for five at-large seats on the most dysfunctional legislative body in the Lehigh Valley - Northampton County Council. There are three incumbents - Democrat Charles Dertinger and Republicans Peg Ferraro and John Cusick. The remaining candidates are newcomers.

During his first term, Northampton County Exec John Stoffa has often run into a wall of Joe Long Democrats, intent on obstructing every initiative. They've attempted to punish Stoffa because of his nonpartisan, common sense, approach to government. They prefer the "pay to play" Reibman era, in which cronyism was exalted over professionalism. John Stoffa found himself running against the party machine for the second time. This time, he refused to accept any contributions, spending just $* of his own money. He was elected with 57% of the vote. His opponent, Ann McHale, lost every district in the county, including her own.

Northampton County voters have spoken. They obviously prefer a council that will govern over a three ring circus that always tries, and always fails, to hamstring John Stoffa.

But who are these people? Campaign finance reports help answer that question. Even in the smaller races, they distinguish those beholden to vested interests from those who just want to serve voters. Unfortunately, unless you have time to make a trip to the voters' registration office on a weekday and before 4:30 PM, you really have no way of knowing which candidates are bought. Newspapers provide some information, but they have space limitations in the hard copies.

This is where the Internet can be a powerful tool of democracy. Lehigh County has started posting campaign finance reports online, at least for the county races. I've copied, scanned and have uploaded the post primary reports filed by Northampton County Council candidates.

John Cusick: Cusick has neither raised nor spent any money. In his first campaign for county council, he spent mostly his own money. He has no report.

Charles Dertinger: Post primary report available here.

Tom Dietrich: No money and no report.

Peg Ferraro: Post primary report available here.

Walt Garvin: Post primary report available here.

Bruce Gilbert: No money. No report.

Deb Hunter: Post primary report available here.

Lorraine Pasquali: Post primary report available here.

Barb Thierry: Post primary report available here.

Bill Wallace: Post primary report available here.


1) Long Dem Charles Dertinger is bought and paid for by an alphabet soup of unions and the "pay to play" crowd, consisting of folks like Christian Perrucci and Lee Butz.

2) Long Dem Lamont McClure is trying to buy influence. His boss, Baltimore lawyer Peter Angelos, gave $250 each to Dertinger, Wallace and Garvin.

3) Long Dem Charles Dertinger is trying to buy influence. His union - IBEW Local 102 - gave $500 each to Pasquali, Wallace and Garvin.

4) Only three of the Democratic Council candidates - Dertinger, Wallace & Garvin - helped pay for a mailer that featured them, running as a team, with then exec candidate Ann McHale.

5) Deb Hunter appears to have resisted contributions that tie her to the Long Dems.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cunningham Bows Out of Governor's Race

For the last three years, Northampton County Exec John Stoffa has called him "Governor." He'll have to wait a bit longer. Thanks to a report from The Morning Call's Darryl Isherwood, we now know that Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham has dropped his gubernatorial ambitions, at least for now. Don explained his reasons in an email to supporters this afternoon. I'll let Don speak for himself.

"I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for governor of Pennsylvania in 2010.

"For the last 18 months I have explored the idea of being a candidate. I’ve travelled to many parts of the state, visited with leaders in the business, labor and political communities. I’ve attended many events, both public and private, and have raised financial support toward that effort. I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of wonderful people all of whom have been very gracious and warm to me.

"Today, however, I conclude that effort. Neither the time nor the circumstances are right for me at this time to take that effort to the higher level that is required to ultimately succeed. In fairness to those who support me, encourage me and give of their time and treasure, I have moved up the timetable of my final decision.

"In modern politics, the successful pursuit of higher office demands a complete and consuming devotion of time and energy often at the expense of all current commitments and responsibilities, both personal and professional.

"I am very fortunate to hold a position that I enjoy and find rewarding in my community. The people of Lehigh County made a commitment to me and I have a responsibility to them. This year I seek a second and final term as their county executive. These are particularly challenging times for all local and county governments and I’ve decided it’s not the time to have an 'absentee' county executive.

"I am also blessed to have three teenage children, the youngest of which is 13 years old. This summer I often found myself at Little League baseball games when my political staff wanted me on the road or making fundraising calls. But, I’ve learned, there are some things you don’t get back. And, I’m fortunate that despite being teenagers, they still seem to want dad around.

"I am 43-years-old. I’ve been blessed to serve as a city councilman and a two-term mayor of Bethlehem, the president of the Pennsylvania League of Cities, a state cabinet secretary and now one of just four elected county executives in Pennsylvania. I hope to be re-elected to that position this November.

"I will miss the opportunity to actually engage in a discussion with regular Pennsylvanians regarding the vision, values and future that we want for our state. This is a very critical time for our nation and our state. The challenges we face are greater than any that I’ve seen in my lifetime.

"I exit this race seeking no deals from nor pledging support to any other candidate. I am not seeking the position of lieutenant governor.

"The timetable of politics is earlier and earlier. Now is the time for anyone that wants to run for governor to go 'live on the road' and, frankly, to focus almost exclusively on raising money. We have come to know that money is the only real prerequisite for the media, the punditry and the insider community to assess candidates. Personal wealth and/or access to wealthy donors are more important than a textbook full of ideas in the insider world. Those are simply the ground rules of the game.

"My current responsibilities and commitments here in the Lehigh Valley, both personal and professional, require me to be here more than 'out there.' Someday, that may change.

"But, for now, I can only thank all those that I met, that I spoke to, that offered me support and encouragement and showed me and taught me more about all the cities, towns and regions of Pennsylvania. While I regret being unable to proceed, I am personally richer for my experience of exploration."

Often called "lucky," Cunningham is actually a very talented administrator who makes a very difficult job look easy. Like John Stoffa in Northampton County, part of the reason for his success has been his willingness to work with both parties. Bur as an old fart, I can tell him those moments with his kids are the ones he will remember. Everything else is bullshit.

With Cunningham's departure, the leading contenders on the Democratic side of the ticket are Allegheny County Exec Dan Onorato, Auditor general Jack Wagner, and Philadelphia gazillionaire Tom Knox. The may be facing a combined Tom Corbett-Pat Meehan GOP ticket.

Technical Difficulties

Tuesday, nothing could go wrong. Wednesday, nothing could go right. I attended Allentown's ad hoc ethics committee and had hoped to tell you about that, but I had a blow out on Route 22. I was still able to post the post primary campaign finance reports filed by John Stoffa and Ann McHale, but you'll have to wait a day for the council candidates.

Stoffa Spent Just $7875 in County Exec Race

John Stoffa 2009 Post Primary Campaign Finance Report
A few days ago, I told you that John Stoffa's Northampton County Exec race cost him $22 thousand. I was wrong. Before he ever started, Stoffa was in debt to himself for $14,500 as a result of his race four years ago. His campaign is now $22,375.81 in the hole, which means he spent a grand total of just $7875. His campaign consisted mainly of signs and one mailer. He also blew $900 on an election day bash at Colonial Pizza, at which I ate 800 pizzas.

Can We Make College Affordable Again?

According to a White House news release, as many as 1.5 million college students eligible for Pell grants, have never applied. This is because the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can contain as many as 153 questions, discourages participation. Some streamlining is already in place. Others changes will be phased in over the next few months. The goal --are designed to increase postsecondary enrollment, particularly among low- and middle-income students.

You can find information about federal aid for college here.

McHale's Navy

McHale Post Primary Campaign Finance Report
Last summer, Northampton County Council Prez Ann McHale became visibly upset after learning that Exec John Stoffa had negotiated an IT contract $1.8 million lower than the one she and the Long Dems had tried to shove down the county's throat. Hellbent on embarrassing Stoffa instead of governing, they even ignored their own Solicitor's legal advice. When the late, great Wayne Grube reminded McHale that Stoffa was just trying to work with the legislative branch, she blurted out, "Nice guys finish last."

Looks like she did instead. In addition, her post primary campaign finance report makes pretty clear that her candidacy represented a return to the Long Dems pay to play world. During a one month span, Charles Dertinger's unions kicked in $3,300.00 Baltimore lawyer Peter Angelos, who just happens to be Lamont McClure's boss, donated $500. And state senator Lisa Boscola, anxious to control both the judicial and executive branches in Northampton County, wrote a $4,500 check. Glenn Reibman also donated $500.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pay to Play Pawlowski Rakes in $20k in One Month

When confronted earlier this year by Morning Call reporter Jarrett Renshaw over his prolific fundraising and the possibility of "pay to play," Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski denied he would stoop to such a low level. He went to Bible College, damn it. ''I have done everything I could to separate myself from these problems.'' Yeah, like collecting business cards from city vendors so he can hit them up for donations. Or making appointments to meet them during his fundraisers.

Pawlowski's post primary campaign finance report, which spans just a one month period, reveals he's raked in another $20,857.33, approximately the same sum of money that Northampton County Executive John Stoffa used to finance his entire campaign. I've posted Pawlowski's report online and you can access it here.

It's the usual suspects of vendors, attorneys and developers. Philadelphia law Cozen Connor, for example, kicked in $3,000. This is in addition to the $2,500 contributed last year. That firm has received huge sums from Allentown for negotiating police contracts. No pay to play there.

Bennett Toyota was recently given $4.5 million in public grants and loans to move to the Old Exide Battery plant. That's according to the city's own web page. Bennett donated $2,500 to Pawlowski's campaign. This wheeler dealer also provided Pawlowski with a car and two minivans on election day. No pay to play there, either.

What kind of Bible School did he go to, anyway?

Update: The $4.5 million in public funding I mention did not go directly into bennett's pocket, but to remediate the land. So Bennett benefits, but only indirectly.

Update #2: The Morning Call's Jarrett Renshaw has his own account concerning Pawlowski's plunder. Jarrett also has Tony Phillips' report, and was able to compare the two.

No, I Am NOT Headed to Tehran

During Desert Storm, I was an artillery gun chief for a self-propelled howitzer in the U.S. Army Reserve. We were based in Stockertown, and we were never attacked, so we must have been pretty good. When there was a call for volunteers, I proudly stepped forward.

There was a going away party and I listened to a few speeches about what a great guy I was and then I was off to Burlington, expecting to be in Saudi Arabia or someplace really hot in about a week.

A day later, I was sent home. Brass told me they needed noncoms like me here in case my entire unit was mobilized. I was probably just too damn old. But the next day, when I walked in the courthouse, I earned my combat badge. Some people claimed I just made the whole damn thing up. Others just laughed at me. I still hear about it to this day.

Well last night, Angle conned a few people into thinking I was going away again. He fooled me, too, telling me he had to meet me for "something big."

"Should I bring my camera?"

"It wouldn't hurt."

Angle had arranged a surprise birthday party. Knowing no one would come for that, he conned people into thinking I was leaving the LV to blog in Iran. A bunch of them quickly kicked in the dough for a fancy new Gateway laptop. It came in a box with a nice picture of Ann McHale, claiming "Nice blogs finish last."

I ran out with the laptop before anyone could realize I'm actually staying to fight all the Mullahs here. Now I'll be able to blog during council meetings, snapping pictures with the web cam. Imagine how happy this will make them!

When I opened the box, a letter fell out. It was from a former Reibman era official, who used to delight in throwing me off the courthouse roof.

"When Ron told me you where leaving the Lehigh Valley, I couldn't wait to forward my donation to help defray your moving expenses. Best money I've ever spent.

"I often dreamed about the day you would leave the Valley, but I always presumed it would be upon a rail.

"Good luck in Tehran leading the 'Freedom Blogger Movement.' They have an amazing and surprising amount of media freedom over there, so I can only encourage you to criticize the current regime with the same elan and enthusiasm you have heretofore reserved for Joe Long.
"I'm sure Joe would encourage this as well. Don't forget to include a couple quips about Mohamed.

"You'll be huge, I promise.

"Now get the hell out. - XXX XXXXXX

"P.S. I told Councilman Angle that I couldn't be at your dinner because I was out of town. The truth is, in fact, I am using this event as a diversion while I plant explosives in your car.

"P.P.S. Keep laughing, motherfucker. You know you're going to check under the seats when you get out into the parking lot."

Rich Grucela: A Nurse in Every School

Imagine a 17 year old high school senior who suffers a rare heart attack at school. Imagine a ten year old who suddenly experiences seizures in class. Now imagine that in both of those instances, there's no school nurse. The ten year old survived, but the high school senior is now dead.

State Rep. Rich Grucela (D-Northampton) has just introduced legislation designed to save lives. It will require every school district to employ full-time nurses. These professionals are often a child's only resource for conditions like asthma and diabetes, or drug and alcohol abuse, school violence and teenage pregnancy.

"School nurses are of fundamental importance to a successful school system," said Grucela, a former teacher who also serves on the House Education Committee. "They help create and maintain a safe school environment through education and outreach, in addition to performing essential health screenings and immunizations. They are also familiar with and can monitor chronic illnesses, which could require immediate attention at any given time."

"Most importantly, if a medical emergency arises, a school nurse is a professional health-care provider who is on hand to immediately assist a student," Grucela added.

The cost for this proposal would be evenly shared by the state and individual school districts.

According to a 2008 National Association of School Nurses report, Pennsylvania schools have one nurse for every 832 students. That's much better than the national average, which is one nurse for every 1,461 students. More than 50% of U.S. public schools have no full-time Registered Nurses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Northampton County Campaign Finance Snapshot

I've ordered copies of the post election campaign finance reports filed late last week by county council candidates, as well as exec hopefuls John Stoffa and Ann McHale. They will be posted here later this week so you can follow the money yourself. In the meantime, let me give you some tidbits.

Northampton County Exec John Stoffa spent just $22,375.91 in his county executive quest. Because Republican ** ********* has dropped out to pursue a career on American Idol, that's all he needs to spend. This is probably the lowest sum spent since Gene Hartzell was top dog. Stoffa accepted no contributions.

Stoffa refused to accept money from Ron Angle, so the Bulldog took out ads in both papers that ran the Monday before the election. It cost him $1,129 for a quarter page in The Morning Call, but only $540 for a half page ad in The Express Times. The ET also gave him a cup of coffee, a free newspaper and an 8" X 12" glossy of Joe Owens.

During the election cycle, gigantic Stoffa signs began popping up everywhere. There was even a mini-billboard along Route 22. It was a miracle! I've seen no independent expenditure taking responsibility for those signs, most of which appeared on property owned by Abe Atiyeh. It was probably God.

Don't tell the Joe Long Dems, but Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan gave $100 to Lehigh County Commissioner Percy Dougherty. Douigherty happens to be a Republican. Shhhh! Speaking of Callahan, all the Dems want him to take on Charlie Dent and run for Congress. But at the same time, the state Dem party opened its coffers to city council candidate Jean Belinski. She spends her free time sticking pins in Callahan voodoo dolls. Even state party boss T.J. Rooney threw her $1,000. That's sure a strange way to encourage Callahan to run for Congress.

Speaking of Congressional material, there is Shadtown's one and only Mike Fleck, who is running for Easton City Council. You're not gonna' fleckin believe this, but Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has actually hired Fleck as his campaign manager. When Fleck was running Archie Follweiler's campaign for the state house, he soaked that campaign $21,000 over just eleven weeks. He was also paid in advance for lawn signs, but failed to produce them. God, I'd really hate to see something like that happen to King Edwin. Pawlowski, who never gives money to anyone, has kicked $300 into Fleck's Easton race. Fleck has also hired Lehigh County's Matt Crossliss to run his campaign, and has even paid him $1,000.

Anonymous commenters here constantly thank God for Charles Dertinger, but the Omnipotent One refuses to give this union guy a dime. DA John Morganelli, who is almost God, gave Dertinger $400.

You'll be pleased to know that Northampton County Dems have contributed another $1,000 to the Scissorhands Severson defense fund. They still owe him $5,586.45.

Last week, some of you were very upset when I suggested that Lorraine Pasquali is a Joe Long Dem. Well, lookee, lookee. Of the whopping $1,125 she raised, $500 comes from Long Dem Charles Dertinger. Another $500 comes from former county exec Glenn Reibman, who lost to Stoffa four years ago.

Glenn Reibman is up to his old tricks. Here's what he and Ron Heckman did. Heckman gave Reibman $5,000. Since Reibman is running for nothing himself, this lets Ron off the hook until the end of the year. Heckman filed no report. Reibman could play Kingmaker. He gave $500 to each of the five party-endorsed candidates running for county council. He gave another $500 to exec candidate Ann McHale. Incidentally, Glenn is still sitting on $75 thousand in pay to play money from all those pool parties.

I'll have more detail when the copies are provided to me later this week.

Hershman Demands Debate With Hopkins & Pawlowski

Yesterday, I gave you three explanations about who was really behind the anonymous, last-minute smear campaign against Allentown City Council candidate Lou Hershman.

In their "official" explanation, contenders Mike D'Amore, Mike Schlossberg and Ray O'Connell admit funding these unidentified anti-Hershman robo-calls. But they had no idea former Pawlowski campaign manager Rob Hopkins would be so sneaky. Privately, the whole fiasco is blamed on Pawlowski, who may have even picked up the checks for Hopkins. Pawlowski was supposed to help fund the robo-calls, too, but backed out at the last minute so he could deny everything. In his story, Rob Hopkins falls on the sword. In a lengthy statement, he claims no one knew his specific intentions.

Hershman has his own impassioned statement, which appears in Jarrett Renshaw's Queen City Daily. "I have to ask these gentlemen, what are you afraid of? Why does a 73-year old senior citizen named Lou Hershman scare you?"

Ray O'Connell, to his credit, feels pretty bad about the whole thing. He told me, "If I could see Lou in public, I would reach my hand out and say, 'Lou, I'm sorry about what I did and it will never happen again." That was a noble gesture from O'Connell, and Hershman just as quickly accepted the apology. "I know Ray and when I read his name, I couldn't believe it. He's not like that at all. I accept his apology."

One person who has offered no apology is Rob Hopkins, the Pawlowski sycophant who actually prepared the anonymous attack. He piously claims no one has dared disagree with his assertion that Hershman allowed young police officers to retire early, costing the city a gazillion dollars.

Well, I disagree. Of all people, Hopkins should know the truth. Hershman had actually sued to stop these police pensions. But in 2005, a desperate Pawlowski begged Hershman to drop it. At the time, Hopkins was Pawlowski's campaign manager, and they were trying to wrangle an FOP endorsement. In a meeting arranged by Julio Guridy, Pawlowski promised Hershman that only between 9 and 12 officers would retire, and this would actually save Peanutville $240 thousand. Hershman took Pawlowski at his word, only to learn later that he had been misled. Fifty-three cops would retire.

Quelle surprise.

As you all know, even the filthiest criminal is entitled to face his accusers. But not Lou Hershman. Hopkins and Pawlowski made sure of that. That's pretty amazing from someone who relies on the Constitution to justify anonymous sleaze.

Yesterday afternoon, Hershman exercised some constitutional rights of his own. He is demanding an opportunity to face his accusers. "I want to debate Hopkins and Pawlowski to refresh their memories."

When I reached Hopkins yesterday, he seemed stunned. "Well, I'll have to ... I'll have to ... um ... think about it." He said he'd be happy to meet Hershman face to face, but I told him public accusations warrant a public setting for response. Hopkins is very quick to make anonymous accusations, but seems much slower in defending them.

I'll be happy to arrange a venue.

Lehigh County Campaign Finance Reports Available Online

While Northampton County Council squabbles over who gets to vote last, Lehigh County Commissioners have focused on a strange concept. It's called government.

As a result of an initiative adopted earlier this year, campaign finance reports for Lehigh County candidates are available online, and can be accessed here. (I have also posted the link on my left sidebar.) Twenty-seven post primary reports are available for your review. Here's a few words from my favorite Republican, Commissioner Dean Browning:

"The easy part was voting to make this a requirement for County candidates. Stacy Sterner in Voter Registration and our IT folks had the harder job of making it work. There was some concern about posting the signature page of the reports online. Stacy's solution was to use the summary page used for state filings and transcribe the information on the signature page onto that form. The rest of the campaign finance reports are posted online as they were submitted. Also, Stacy and her folks scanned all the reports so they had a uniform look. They were able to get all this done and and put the reports up on our website the day after the filing deadline. Kudos to our Voter Registration and IT Departments.

"This is certainly something that Northampton County, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton could do if they wanted to.

"This is one small item but certainly something local governments can easily do to make things more accessible."

Northampton County Council, unlike Lehigh, allowed campaign finance reform to die. So County Exec John Stoffa has ordered that campaign finance reports be posted online. But we move much more slowly, and Lehigh County Commishes are now working on a new airline.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stoffa's County Exec Race Cost Just $22k

At a time when even local candidates are raising over $100 thousand for primary contests, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa is a breath of fresh air. His county exec race cost him just $22,375.91, well below the sum most experts will say is needed. What's even more impressive is that Stoffa accepted no contributions and owes nothing to anyone.

Later this week, I'll be posting some of the campaign finance reports so you can follow the money yourself.

Pa2010's Top Ten Political Consultants

Pa2010, a new Pa. poliblog, has listed the Keystone state's top ten political consultants. Interestingly, Scissorhands Severson failed to make the cut.

RIP Neda

The death of a young Iranian girl, Neda Soltani, may have done more to damage the legitimacy of Iranian government than any election fraud. Her last moments are caught on a graphic youtube video. I won't post it. I saw about half of it, and that was enough for me.

"Supreme guide" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the real source of power, delivered a speech on Friday. Most noteworthy about that was the absence of many senior leaders from Iran's military/security establishment.

And that was before Neda had been shot through the heart.

Schlossberg Recognized for Façades

Image is everything. Phony storefronts were all the rage during the Bejing Olympics. According to a hot news release from Lehigh County, they're very popular here in the Lehigh Valley, too. We call them façades. They're false fronts, designed to make a building look prettier than it really is. Kinda' like a nose job or breast implants.

Pennsylvania's Downtown Center (PDC), a statewide non-profit, has given Lehigh County’s Borough Business Revitalization Program(BBRV) an Honorable Mention for excellence in these phony storefronts. The PDC calls them "physical improvements and design." This praise came at the PDC’s annual Townie Awards Gala earlier this month in Johnstown.

Michael Schlossberg, coordinator for the BBRP through theGreater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, got more than an Honorable Mention. He was named Manager of the Year.

Did I mention Mike is running for Allentown City Council?

Schlossberg received this major award for his revitalization efforts in Alburtis, Macungie, Coopersburg and Hellertown. He helped secure $700,000 in state and local grants for the façade program.

By the way, he's running for Allentown City Council.

“The Façade Grant Program has been extremely successful at stimulating investment in many of our area business districts,” said Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham. Lehigh County Director of Community and Economic Development Cindy Feinberg adds that Mike has "been an enthusiastic advocate" for façades.

Mike demonstrates this commitment to phony fronts with his own façade concerning contributions to an anonymous smear campaign in the primary. You can read about that below.

Allentown's Three Blind Mice

The weekend before May's primary election, long-time Pawlowski operative Rob Hopkins launched an uncharacteristic anonymous robo-call campaign directed at then Democrat Lou Hershman. Lou's Democratic bid for Allentown City Council went down in flames, but he did manage to get on the Republican ballot as a write-in candidate. Who is really behind these robo-calls?

The Official Version

Mike D'Amore, Mike Schlossberg and Ray O'Connell are three Democrat candidates for Allentown city council. The Morning Call has just linked them to the anonymous anti-Hershman robo-call campaign. Although the newspaper did talk to O'Connell and D'Amore while those calls were going out, neither admitted any involvement.

Now, in a joint statement, these three blind mice have circled the wagons and publicly plead ignorance. They they had absolutely no idea that evil Democratic operative Rob Hopkins would use their campaign funds to go after Lou.

They're shocked! Really!

I'm shocked, too. Do they think we're really that stupid?

The Private Version

Privately, there's another story. Insiders tell me the three blind mice are furious at the big rat behind this operation - Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. He orchestrated the entire operation, but they're taking the fall. They've leaked news of their resentment, and it's found its way to me. They also forced Pawlowski henchman Rob Hopkins to resign from one of his many positions in the local Democratic party.

These independent voices are too "loyal" or, more likely, afraid to blow the whistle on Pawlowski over an anonymous smear campaign. Can they really be trusted to be watch dogs when Pawlowski cooks the books and presents false revenue projections?

I'm disappointed.

The Hopkins Version (It's a long one)

The final version comes from Rob Hopkins himself, who was willing to speak to me on the record. He falls on the sword, taking complete responsibility. His message also reveals his personal disdain for Hershman. He spends a lot of time explaining things, never a good sign in politics.

"As we approached the primary election earlier this spring several members of the Executive Board of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee discussed at a meeting the fact that Lou Hershman was running for Allentown City Council again in the Democratic Primary. We were joined at that meeting by several other candidates for council and Mayor Pawlowski. Several people had expressed, among other concerns, the fact that Mr. Hershman had endorsed Republican candidates in the past, including the current Republican candidate for Allentown Mayor. Some of the guests at the meeting asked if there was anything the County Committee could do to inform Democratic voters of these facts. There was a spirited debate on the matter, but ultimately it came down to the fact that Lehigh County Democratic Committee does not make primary endorsements and there was little we could do to help.

"Having always been frustrated with the County Committee 'hands-off' approach to primaries (even against 'bad' Democrats), I set out to help in a different way.

"Shortly after the aforementioned meetings, I began to discuss quite openly the idea of creating an independent political action committee (PAC). Ultimately, I created the PAC as Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley, with the intention of helping to elect better candidates to office and to help defeat the bad candidates. Many people in Democratic circles were well aware of this move, and many were also aware that Mr. Hershman was a likely target.

"In early May I resigned as Communications Chair for the Lehigh County Democratic Committee, based largely on other time commitments, but also to separate my PAC activities from the party. Nobody requested this separation, but I personally feel it is appropriate. I will retain a seat on the Executive Board and will continue other Democratic activities, but will no longer be involved actively with county party affairs.

"Anyone who knows me knows me also knows that I take politics very seriously, which is the reason that I am no longer doing any paid political consulting. My passion is more about specific issues and having a better representation in our government.

"Regardless of my past affiliation with Mayor Pawlowski’s original campaign for office (I was his campaign manager for the 2005 primary), I am not involved in his reelection campaign. The allegation that Pawlowski was 'pulling the strings' or that he was the 'ring leader' doesn’t hold water in light of my personal involvement in this PAC and my passion in regards to the dangers in reelecting Mr. Hershman.

"While I have no need to defend the calls that were made on behalf of Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley, I would like to convey my thoughts on the matter for the enlightenment of those interested.

"First of all, I know that voice communication is exempt from any disclosure requirements. This fact has been confirmed by many experts in the legal profession. Voice communication is explicitly protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right to “freedom of speech” has been upheld many times by the U.S. Supreme Court, and is precisely what separates our country from the less free countries of the world.

"Second, I do agree with many others that our commonwealth has a poor requirement for financial disclosure related to campaign expenses. I have long advocated for campaign finance reform on the state and federal level, and I will continue to advocate for such reform. Our state’s requirements for timely disclosure are greatly lacking, but in a competitive political world it is unrealistic to expect any candidate or committee to go beyond the legal requirements set forth by our governing bodies. The committee I represent has complied completely with the relevant Pennsylvania campaign finance laws; to go beyond those requirements would place the committee at competitive disadvantage compared to other political efforts.

"Third, nobody has challenged the accuracy of the statements made in the telephone calls made by the committee I represent. When I spoke to a Morning Call reporter the day after the calls were delivered to acknowledge that Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley was responsible for the calls, the reporter affirmed that in all of the communication he had made related to the story (including an interview with Mr. Hershman), nobody had voiced any disagreement with the statements made in the calls. I wholeheartedly stand behind the statements made by a voter in the call. A transcript of the 30-second calls made on behalf of Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley is provided below for your reference.

'Hello. As a voter, I feel there is one candidate who we cannot allow back on City Council. Lou Hershman has done many things to hurt our city. Lou Hershman’s votes are exactly why Allentown is in financial trouble. Lou Hershman voted to give away your money and allow young police officers to retire early. I urge you to keep Lou Hershman out of City Council so he doesn’t hurt Allentown anymore. We can vote to make Allentown a better place to live, by voting against Lou Hershman on Tuesday.'

"Fourth, the political action committee I represent operated independent from any other campaign or political committee. I approached several people in regards to the future of Allentown and my concerns related to Mr. Hershman. I expressed my intent to raise funds sufficient to send a direct-mail piece to Allentown voters addressing the divisive and detrimental activities that Mr. Hershman has been party to while serving on City Council in the past. I received some contributions for the political action committee from a few interested parties, but the fund did not raise sufficient funds to produce and mail the document I had envisioned. With days left until the primary election, I made the unilateral decision to spend PAC funds on telephone calls to Allentown voters. While I would have preferred to send a direct mail piece, I felt that the telephone call might suffice to remind voters of Mr. Hershman’s record. I was unwilling and unable to consult with the PAC’s donors about the vehicle or message of this campaign, since they were candidates in this election. Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley operated as an autonomous campaign, without consultation with any candidate or candidates committee; consultation about the campaign’s message or mode of the campaign with the candidates involved would have been inconsistent with my responsibility to keep this PAC independent.

"Finally, while Mr. Hershman may like to practice revisionist history, I stand firmly by the accuracy of this campaign and the right to of this committee to voice our concerns in any method we so chose. Mr. Hershman, as a city council member and council representative on the city pension board was complacent in failing to recognize the problems of the pension contacts. He continues to promote ideas that I feel are harmful to the city.

"While I enthusiastically recognize some of the positive contributions Mr. Hershman has made to the city, I would be remiss to not weigh these contributions against the harm he has done. Mr. Hershman has been involved in politics for over thirty years and is no stranger to the rough and tumble world it is; over the years he has thrown many political punches at his opponents. Not only in his municipal races in Allentown, but also during his 1986 campaign for the State House, Mr. Hershman has exercised his right to free speech with great vigor. I stand behind his right to express his opinions, even if I do disagree with them.

"I have and will continue to oppose Mr. Hershman’s political agenda. From his promoting of discriminatory legislation to his efforts to stall progress, Mr. Hershman stands contrary to what I feel is right for the Allentown and Lehigh Valley. Mr. Hershman has demonstrated to me his disregard for the public by circulating petitions in 2002 related to a proposed city referendum. Enough signatures were later deemed to be fraudulently obtained that the referendum failed to reach voters. Overall, during the course of his political career, Mr. Hershman has on many occasions voiced potentially deceptive messages to voters and left me wondering about his motives."

No matter which of these versions is accurate, it is clear these three blind mice contributed to a PAC designed for the sole purpose of trashing Lou Hershman. By his own admission, Hopkins was very clear about his intentions. It is equally clear that Mayor Pawlowski knew exactly what was happening, but was smart enough to be able to maintain deniability.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Armstrong to Peanutville: Told You So

If not the most unpopular person in Allentown, Scott Armstrong is certainly among the top ten. Posting one of his laments is almost always guaranteed to produce a few personal insults. But like it or not, Armstrong was right all along about Allentown's sinking financial ship. He was right to ridicule Mayor Ed Pawlowski's smoke and mirror power point presentations. He was right to criticize a city newspaper, although in recent months, The Morning Call has drawn public attention to Peanutville's growing deficit and the pay-to-play practices of its governing elite.

"Allentown’s financial situation has become so alarmingly apparent that even the Morning Call and the city controller have expressed public concern. Although the problem has been in the making for the past eight years the news that the city could face a nine million dollar budget shortfall this year seems to have come as a surprise to those who should have been the public’s watchdogs. How unfortunate.

"For the Cassandras whose vain attempts to warn of the pending disaster brought them only ridicule and scorn from the elite there is little satisfaction in this vindication. Those who put faith in elected leaders and partisanship above the evident truth of facts and figures should now be ashamed and contrite. Will they be? Of course not."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Northampton County Dems Never Have Meetings

Lehigh County Commissioners are probably going to need some time to recover from their encounter earlier this week with Northampton County Council. Commissioner Bill Leiner, for instance, thinks we could do better with feral cats.

Northampton County politics is, without question, a bloodsport. But we can be civilized at times. Last night, for example, I bumped into Lamont McClure and Charles Dertinger at Easton's River Grille after the council meeting. They were both very pleasant and shook my hand. They even introduced me to Charles' very pretty young daughter, who was spending the night with her old man. Lamont gave me a little hug.

I thought to myself, "These guys aren't so bad. I really should try to be nicer to them. After all, they're fathers. Why am I such a jerk?" Later that evening, I realized the bastards had stolen my wallet. That's OK, because I had earlier alerted the police to be on the lookout for two drunks.

Northampton County Dems have always been nutz. When they met in downtown Easton in 1861, they burned Congressman Philip Johnson in effigy and then rushed him. A mob of two thousand gutted the Sentinel newspaper office and even tried to destroy two other newspapers. The mayhem continued until 2 AM, when the bars closed. Now you know why Northampton County Democrats never have meetings.

Here'a a partial account from the August 20, 1861 edition of the Daily Evening Express, which sold for 2 cents, when Shadtown consisted of the Boroughs of Easton and South Easton.

"We are called upon, to day, to record one of the most violent outbreaks that have ever occurred in our usually quiet Borough. As is generally known, the Democrats of Northampton County held their regular County meeting yesterday afternoon. In ordinary times, these gatherings pass off with little or no ex­citement, but yesterday a number of hot debates occurred between members of the different political parties, one or two fights occurred, engendering much bad blood, and the whole thing ripened by night into one of the most terrible affairs that we have ever been witness to. At an early hour in the evening, a party of men, many of them returned volunteers, proceeded to the residence, in Centre Square, of Hon. Philip Johnson, member of Congress from this District, and elevating an effigy of Mr. J., they set fire to and burned it, in the presence of Mr Johnson, who sat upon his front step with one or two friends. After the burn­ing of the effigy the crowd made a rush in the direction of Mr. J., who fled into the house on their approach, and escaped. They then called upon him to show his colors, when he appeared at a window with a small flag in his hand and spoke a few words, assuring them of his devotion to the Union, and stating that if they would come to him in their calmer mo­ments, he would convince them of his loyalty to the Government. For a time, it wns feared that violence would bo done him, so terribly exasperated were the crowd in front of his dwelling, but they became somewhat appeased by his remarks, and finally moved off from the house. The cry then arose: 'To the Sentinel office!' when the crowd, with a tremendous shout, turned their steps towards that establishment, and entering, gutted it completely. Type, cases, desks, stands, stoves, this week's edition of the paper, (printed on one side,) cards, books, and everything that could be moved, was thrown into the street. The office, in a few minutes, was a complete wreck, the material lying in one confused heap in the street.

"From the Sentinel office, the crowd made their way to the Argus establishment. — This office is on the second floor, and the heavy steel door leading to it having been well barred, in expectation of an attack, the destroying party were obliged to climb over an awning to gain entrance to the office. They destroyed but little property at this office, having been in­duced by their friends to forego, for the present, their purpose. No less than two thousand persons had gathered at this point. After abandoning their design to gut the Argus, the crowd proceed­ed to the office of the Correspondent and Dem­ocrat. Here they broke in the door, and were about commencing the work of destruction, when some one suggested that the proprietor be given till the next night to publish a card containing his sentiments. This arrangement was agreeable to all parties, and the crowd moved on again, bound, this time, for the resi­dence of Hon. Richard Brodhead, where they found the stars and stripes floating over the door, which satisfied them."

There's more, but I think you get the drift. I was unable to find any reference to Joe Long.

Who Will Replace Neiper?

It became official last night. Diane Neiper's resignation letter, dated June 8th, was accepted "with regret" by Northampton County Council. President McHale laid out the now familiar drill for filling the vacancy. The position will be advertised on June 20th, with applications due on June 30th. Council will attempt to fill the vacancy on July 9.

Lamont McClure hinted that the person Council selects should have some "experience." That opens the door for someone like Ron Heckman or Jerry Seyfried, both of whom have a deep understanding of county government.

Whoever is selected will only serve until the end of the year.

Norco Council Appoints Zorro to LANTA

Last month, Northampton County Council derailed alternative transportation advocate Steve Schmitt's appointment to LANTA's board. They disregarded pleas from LANTA board member Paul Marin, community activist Dennis Lieb and Schmitt himself. But last night, all eight council members unanimously approved Lázaro Fuentes (with an á, damn it!).

I call him LáZorro, but he's really a venture capitalist who helped make the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce a vibrant business voice. One of his latest projects is HipChicas.com, a virtual community with a focus on socially conscious, young Latinas, and an "eco-friendly" stance. He is also one of citizen-soldiers who has been honored with the Army Commendation Medal for his heroism and meritorious service during rescue efforts on 9/11.

When LANTA and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski ignored minority businesses devastated by routing changes along Hamilton Street, LáZorro is one of the civic leaders who peppered Pawlowski for a solution. He has asked The Morning Call to stop the bigotry and hate on its reader forums. He was outraged by the way Allentown police responded to the racial assualt of Kari Holmes.

LANTA is lucky to have this guy, and so are we.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stoffa's Reelection Sure Thing

The Morning Call and Express Times are both reporting that Republican J.C. Kelleher, citing "pressing family matters," is out of the Norco Exec race. It is unlikely the local GOP will search for a substitute.

With his reelection all but assured, John Stoffa and his supporters are now free to concentrate on council races. There are some good government advocates from both parties who deserve consideration.

LC Comm'r Leiner Prefers Feral Cats to NorCo Council

Some of you think I exaggerate in my posts about Northampton County Council. After seeing them up close and personal, this is Lehigh County Commissioner Bill Leiner's assessment.

"Bernie, All the feral cats in Coplay have been spayed and/or neutered. The Coplay Town Watch Feral Cat Committee, under the distinguished leadership of chair Dennis Gery, have spayed/neutered 73 ferals in Coplay. The Coplay ferals are now well behaved. I wish I could say the same for NorCo Council. The Coplay Ferals are better behaved. Bill"

Bill's funeral arrangements will be announced tomorrow.

Baseball Best Left to Kids

Once he stopped hunting down Christians, St. Paul told the Corinthians he was all grown up. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Paul may have been one hell of an Apostle, but he'd be a lousy baseball coach. Last night, a gaggle of mini-Apostles put away childish things and ruined a baseball game for 9 and 10 year old kids.

It's the playoffs, damn it.

I skipped last night's meeting of Northampton County's Personnel and Finance Committees for something far more important - kids' baseball. In fact, I snuck out of the courthouse early so I'd be at Bethlehem Northwest Little League by 4:30 PM. I threw on my old baseball cap amd lumbered along in my battered old jeep, which is always full of spilled sunflower seeds and loose baseballs this time of year. Along the way, I stopped for more sunflower seeds, gatorade and some jerky. Hickory smoked. I embrace those childish things. To hell with Paul.

Would baseball's deadliest enemy - rain - ruin another game? Would one of the boys send one over the 200' fence? Would another make a diving catch? I pondered these weighty questions as I drove between the raindrops.

Amazingly, the baseball gods did stop the rain, but those grey skies told us this was just temporary. Everyone came early to do their warm ups and take a few mighty swings. We were ready to go by 5:45 PM, game time. But instead of seeing one playoff foe, we saw two.

The Fountain Hill Hoses and Lower Nazareth Diamondbacks both insisted they had the right to play us. Both had just played each other. Both were equally certain they had won the game, which involved all sorts of protests and appeals that are probably winding their way through the courts. Coaches put away their childish bats and went for their very adult cell phones and earpieces to talk to district commissioners and league presidents. Nobody would budge.

We tried staying loose. Some kids went out to toss the ball while a few others snuck to the concession stand for a hot dog and candy. Those are their power bars.

Finally, at 6:15 PM, some Apostle announced we would play The Fountain Hill Hoses. Our kids call them the Hos. They have absolutely no idea what they are saying. I think.

The kids rushed out into the field and started a pretty good game. But after five minutes, another Apostle made a dramatic appearance and stopped the game. He called the coaches and a puzzled ump to the mound, and began yelling at them all. He even yelled at our manager, whose only crime was to let the kids play. "This game is illegal."

"Can't the kids just play for fun?" asked a childish mother. The Apostle ignored her. Fun has nothing to do with it for some of these guys. It's instead about standings and bragging rights.

The baseball gods can't be happy about this.

Blogger's Note: Jeff Stoffa sent me the cool baseball pic. Each ward in Peanutville had its own baseball team, as did many businesses. A baseball field mural above the Call Chronicle building in Center Square (southwest corner) appeared with every World Series. Crowds would watch as figures would be placed and moved around the mural to see what was happening in each game. The Call Chronicle used teletype to get the updates.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

LV Health Comm'n Needs More Deputies

When the Lehigh Valley Health Commission met on June 3, it was only for 92 seconds. That's because Northampton County Council failed to supply a quorum. Lamont McClure decided to boycott the meeting, but never bothered telling anyone. Charles Dertinger claimed the dog ate his email notifying everyone of his absence.

And so on.

Aside from a few health care professionals, nobody was there, not even the press.

But at the rescheduled meeting in Peanutville last night, the house was packed. A TV camera whirred in the front of the conference room. Reporters anxiously took notes, and a photographer gave his flashbulb a workout. Around forty vocal spectators were on hand, too, along with a deputy sheriff ready to shoot anyone who misbehaved.

This time, Northampton County Council was able to produce a quorum. Six of its nine council members actually showed up. Eight of nine Lehigh County Commissioners were on hand as well. Northampton County Exec John Stoffa quietly took a seat.

As expected, the LV Health Board's initial budget was overwhelmingly adopted, with only Ron Angle dissenting. Just as important, a financial intermediary was unanimously authorized to accept a $1 million grant from the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and the Two Rivers Health & Wellness Foundation.

But the real story is the contrast between two county legislatures, seated at opposite sides of the room, sometimes glaring at each other. Lehigh County Commissioners were cordial and professional, but were clearly put off by what they saw from their neighbors to the East. Northampton County Council certainly lived up to its reputation as the most dysfunctional legislature in the Lehigh Valley.

I was very proud.

An exasperated Percy Dougherty at one point threatened to have a petulant Ron Angle removed. Big mistake, Percy. Shadtown always beats the shit out of Peanutville. Sure, a Deputy Sheriff was ready to spring into action. He even had his revolver. But Angle would have rolled him. For one thing, Ron wears bulletproof vests whenever he visits downtown Allentown. For another, he's been working out a lot at the Y lately. Finally, I'm not sure he's human. Once, Hickey accidentally ran him over at 70 mph. Ron's skin broke open and it was all titanium underneath. You just don't want to mess with that.

The highlight of the evening has to be the roll call vote on the budget.

Clerk: "We will vote on the adoption of an initial budget for the Lehigh Valley Board of Health."

Commissioners Dean Browning, Glenn Eckhart, Gloria Hamm, Dave Jones, Bill Leiner, Dan McCarthy, Sterling Raber and Percy Dougherty all answered with one word - "Yes." Very nice.
Clerk: "We have eight votes in favor from the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners."

"Councilperson McHale?"

McHale: "Yes."

Clerk: "Councilperson Angle?"

Angle: "No."

Clerk: "Councilperson Capozzolo?"

Capozzolo: "I have a question on this vote. Does this have to be five votes? Am I like the guy in the middle ..."

Dougherty: "Yes you are."

Dertinger: "Yes."

Capozzolo: "... because I don't think that's really fair."

(Audience starts laughing.)

Dougherty: "That's why you get the big bucks."

Capozzolo: "What would Mr. Grube [Capozzolo's predecessor] do if he was here?"

Angle: "He wouldn't have come over to Lehigh County." [Audience starts laughing again.] "Mrs. McHale, you'll agree with that."

McHale: "Yes."

Angle: "He wouldn't have came [sic] here."

Ferraro: "It moves the process forward so we can get information. It's not ...."

Angle: "It grows a life of its own."

[At this point, Angle, Ferraro, several other council members and various members of the audience begin talking at the same time. Commissioner Leiner's jaw drops to the table.]

Dougherty: "It's a yes, a no, or abstain. No discussion."

Capozzolo: "I'm going to abstain."

Ferraro: "Come on, Yes. Come on, we need a Yes or it's gonna' die. We worked for twenty years , I've been thinking about a health bureau. And we just, we just, it's not fair ..."

[Audience members begin yelling at Capozzolo to vote yes. "Come on, it's the people's health." Once again, several people are talking at the same time. Jones reaches for his bible while Browning passes a flask to Hamm. One nurse menacingly pulls out a syringe.]

Capozzolo: "All right, I'll vote Yes."

[Audience applauds.]

Clerk: "Councilperson Cusick?"

Cusick: "Aye." [Hey, it's better than "present."]

Clerk: "Councilperson Dertinger?"

Dertinger: "Yes."

Clerk: "Councilperson Ferraro?"

Ferraro: "Yes, with pleasure."

During a roll call vote, Northampton County Council members repeatedly interrupt each other. Even the audience gets into the act. Capozzolo votes to abstain, then changes his mind after a browbeating by Ferraro and all the nurses in the room.

I'm not sure what the hell happened, but I doubt Lehigh County Commissioners will ever be the same. Several were reportedly hospitalized. No wonder we need a public health bureau.
Update: The Morning Call and Express Times both have informative, well-written accounts of last night's meeting.

Lou Hershman Now Batting Righty

Last Fall, many Republicans switched parties to vote for Obama. Even U.S. Senator Arlen Specter and Easton City Controller Tony Bassil are now both Democrats. But here in the Lehigh Valley, some prominent leaders have become Republicans.

Claiming that "[t]he Democratic party in Allentown is so far to the left that I feel like a Republican," Allentown City Council member Tony Phillips switched teams last summer. Then it was Judge Leonard Zito, who became a switch hitter to guarantee his confirmation by the state senate.

The latest defector is Allentown City Council candidate Lou Hershman. Victim of an uncharacteristic anonymous, last-minute, smear campaign by Pawlowski supporters Rob Hopkins and Jimmy Spang, Hershman has little reason to remain blue.

Rejected by Democrats, Hershman achieved a write-in victory from Republicans. Now that Lou has changed his voter registration, there are seven Republicans in Allentown.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Allentown's Greatest Baseball Game

My grandson spent his first year of grade school at St. Paul's in south Allentown. I've asked him whether he's ever had a strange urge to take a great swing or throw a heater while going to school and church there. He just looks at me like I'm nuts. But the place is magic. It's the scene of the greatest baseball game ever played in Allentown.

The year was 1923. It's the year that Yankee stadium was first built. Babe Ruth hit 42 homers that season, with an astonishing .393 batting average. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series that year in six games against the NY Giants.

But before that would happen, the Yankees would play a game in Peanutville, as Allentown was called. In those days, major league teams often played exhibition games on their off days so players could add a few bucks to their pockets. The baseball gods had already smiled on Allentown once in 1894, sending Mike "King" Kelly to wreak havoc against the menace from Easton. Nearly thirty years later, they would smile again, sending the American League champions for a game against a little known team called the Allentown "Dukes."

The game was played before 4,000 screaming fans in what has been called Edgemont or Allentown Park. Mayor Gross posed for a picture with the Babe, who is holding his 36 inch, 37 ounce war club like a gentleman's walking cane. During batting practice before the game, the sultan of swat wowed the crowds several times by "lifting the apple over the fence."

Once the game got underway, the Yankees dominated, and were leading 7 to 1 at the beginning of the seventh. Then the Dukes exploded, and the game was suddenly 7 to 6.

Babe Ruth trotted out to face George "Scrap Iron" Papsin, who was now hurling for the Dukes. Here's how the Bambino himself describes that encounter to an Allentown Morning Call reporter. "'That boy has something on the ball, he crossed me up all around,' said Ruth as he reached for the water dipper. 'I wanted to knock that first ball a mile, and when I missed that fast one I figured that he was going to throw me a slow one. Instead it was a fast hook inside. The third one looked good, and I bit for it. I missed it though.'"

When the dust had settled after nine innings, the Dukes were victorious, 8 to 7. The major part of the Yankee starting line-up had played all nine innings, fighting for the win. But the baseball gods smiled on Allentown that day. Their Dukes beat the World Series champions on a field that no longer exists in a game that is all but forgotten.

Are You a Joe Long Dem?

Are you afraid that you just might be a Joe Long Democrat? Never fear, I'm from the blogosphere and I'm here to help.

First, take the Long Dem quiz.

1) Do you find registered voters a nuisance that get in the way of you choosing our rulers?

2) Do you think only homeowners should have a say in government?

3) Are you the only people left on the planet who endorse in primaries?

4) Do you like calling a Northampton County Council member a "low hanging fruit" or joke during a public meeting about guys holding hands?

5) Does every candidate you endorse lose?

6) Were you illegally elected to your position as Party Boss?

7) Do you create havoc, discord, mayhem and chaos every time you appear uninvited to a municipal Democratic meeting?

8) Do you have a tiara in your glove compartment and 600 Stoffa signs in your trunk?

9) Do you like using a political consultant convicted of disrupting a funeral mass with a few well placed "Fuck you"s.

10) Do you like using a political consultant currently being prosecuted for deceptive campaign practices?

11) Do you believe council candidates should stay away from meetings because it might spoil the surprise?

12) Do you believe council's best work is done behind closed doors with corporate executives?

13) Do you think committee work is for chumps?

14) Did you walk out of a Michelle Obama speech because you were denied a front row seat for stupid military families?

15) Did your daughter get knocked up by Ron Angle at your primary results party?

16) Do you feel under some sort of compulsion to note daily, on this very blog, that I am a suspended lawyer and drunk who changes in the men's room after I ride my bike to the courthouse?

17) Are you sexually attracted to me, but too shy to ask me for a hug?

18) Have you ever opened the paper the day before an election to find that County Council member Ron Angle has spent his own money to expose you to the public, thus helping to cause your defeat 24 hours later?

19) Are you bitterly opposed to a Democratic county exec whose fiscal policies have saved taxpayers $10 million per year and have increased the county's bond rating?

20) Are you bitterly opposed to a Democratic county executive who actually gave voters their first open space program?

21) Are you bitterly opposed to a county executive who has improved county services and saved lives by bringing us reverse 911 and pictometry, which enables 911 dispatchers to see oblique angles inside buildings?

22) Are you bitterly opposed to a Democratic county executive who supports a regional health department?

23) Do you feel some inexplicable urge to hug Mike Fleck right now?

24) Are you afraid of getting on a LANTA bus to have your picture taken with those people?

If you've answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you're a Joe Long Dem. If you've answered yes to #s 1, 8, 14, 18 &24, you are probably Council Prez Ann McHale. If it's all of the questions, you're probably Charles Dertinger or Bossman Long.

If it turns out that you are a Joe Long Dem, don't worry. I can help. Here's what you do. Go to the courthouse, take off all your clothes in the can and then streak through the courtrooms inside and fountain outside. While doing that, try shouting, "I love birdhouses."

If this fails to cure you, you'll still be locked up long enough to enable John Stoffa to get a few things done.