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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eichenwald: A Teachable Moment

When Allentown council member Jeanette Eichenwald speaks, it's as though someone just threw open a window to let a fresh breeze soar through the room. I've seen her in action four times now, and she is one of very few local government officials who really believes in transparency.

To give you some perspective, just look at how some of her colleagues acted on Thursday night. As soon as Parks Director Greg Weitzel had finished his presentation, council members Julio Guridy and Davie Howells broke out the pom poms.

Julio Guridy immediately declared that Weitzel had answered his concerns about park security. And as Pawlowski had played the religion card, Guridy played the race card with this mean-spirited jab. "The park does not belong to just a few people." When the audience groaned, he snapped "I'd like to have a little respect from the public." Really? Then how about giving it?

Howells was even worse. Without having listened to a word from the public, he droned on with condescending comments like "Take Davie's word for it, this is not going to cause any trouble" and "If you trust in Davie Howells, trust in this plan." Davie, you lost in a primary. I think it's safe to say voters no longer trust you. Howells also had a nasty habit of turning his back on speakers, especially if they went over their allotted three minutes.

Eichenwald, in well-chosen words, put her finger on the problem, and this was after listening to the public. A link to her video is here, and this is some of what she said.

"To me, the issue is absolutely not at the playground. I look forward to bringing my children, my grandchildren, to play with all your children and grandchildren. I am sure it all adds to the enjoyment of living here. But I do think, recently on a national level we had a discussion about teachable moments, and on a local level, this, too is a teachable moment. It tells us the difficulty rises not from the issue, but from our lack of a dissemination of information in a timely and correct manner.

"When people are given the opportunity to ask questions, such as there are this evening, and are given the opportunity to have with us members of the administration, then the questions are answered and we can move forward.

"I'm still concerned about several issues - security, flooding, parking, safety, noise - and I hope that our administration will continue to disseminate information, to keep us informed and to make sure we are in receipt of as much information as possible.

"In knowledge there is power and in knowledge there is understanding. I look forward to continue to walk in the beauty of our parks, and I hope, Mr. Weitzel and administration, that you are willing to respond to the citizens at large as well as council and provide us with information. And I, too, look forward, whether it's by computer or in my hand, to have the construction plans and to follow them as they proceed along."

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