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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, March 08, 2010

Pooley & Panto Tag Team Molovinsky

It was a rough weekend for blogger Michael Molovisnky. He was tag-teamed.

First, Jefferson Pooley's Allentown Afterthoughts nails MM for a post aimed at “brandnew comers” who “don’t even speak English,” i.e. Latinos. Although stopping short of calling Molovinsky a racist, Pooley concludes that Michael is fanning the flames with "nativist pandering." Molovinsky is a miserable bastard, almost as rotten as me, but he's certainly no racist. No one who knows him would consider him a "nativist." Geez, his family is from Transylvania.

So Pooley's jeremiad failed.

But Easton Mayor Sal Panto knocked Molovinsky out of the ring. Let me describe what has happened. MM, by his own admission, has been taking cheap shots at Hizzoner since he was elected. I suspect, but do not know, that some of this is because Panto is a Democrat.

Whatever his reason, Molovinsky has convinced himself that a new bus terminal in Easton will spell disaster for merchants along Northampton Street. Kinda' like what happened on Allentown's Hamilton Street. But what Molovinsky fails to realize is that Panto's whole focus as Mayor has been to attract more people to Easton sidewalks, even those with more limited incomes. Unlike what happened in Allentown, nobody is trying to sweep poor people under the rug.

Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski hid from Hamilton Street merchants, but Panto will speak to anyone. This is what he told Molovinsky, after noting some of the differences between what happened in Allentown and what is proposed in Easton.

"Now let's talk about how we help these few businesses -- I invite you to come to Easton and make some purchases. You see the whole mission here is to put more feet on the street. That's what our merchants need the most -- a clean and safe business district. We in Easton have a tough time ridding ourselves of this perception that there is crime in our city and our downtown. That is simply not true and with more and more people experiencing our town restaurants and shops they are now realizing that it is just a perception.

"I also invite you to talk to the people, not just me. Talk to the 310,000 visitors last year to the Crayola and Canal Museums. Talk to the 110,000 patrons of the State Theatre (who come to town at night).

"And look for the new projects this year. You will be amazed.

"The urban cores are thriving with art, culture, entertainment and tourists. They appreciate what we have. They even envy what we have. Unfortunately it is easier to sell our cities value to outsiders than to native Lehigh Valley residents.

"I will again invite you to meet face to face. You speak a lot about me on blogs but A) you have never met me; B) you have not accepted my invitations and C) you still want to keep spreading accusations and rumors when you have been given the facts."

Molovinsky mentions this on his blog, but has yet to take Mayor Panto up on his suggestion that they meet face to face. That tells me all I need to know.

Mayor Sal, if MM does eventually make an appointment, it will be after sundown. Make sure you wear a few cloves of garlic around your neck.


michael molovinsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
michael molovinsky said...

in the last year I have visited easton a number of times.

although the transfer terminal in easton will have less consequences than in allentown, there are less stores and more tourist attractions, there will be victims. the fate of the dollar stores adjoining the square may well be a price panto is willing to pay for the new lanta facility. however, for panto or bernie to say that although 40 merchants were adversely affected in allentown, none will be in easton (by the same process), strains credibility.

as mayor, responsible for the commerce in downtown easton, it would have been much more relevant for him to visit allentown and learn from the hamilton street merchants, than me as a blogger to visit easton; because of the changes, some easton merchants rightfully fear for their future, and have expressed that sentiment to lanta

bernie, i assure you that my issues with easton are based solely on lanta and panto not acknowledging what the consequences of the transfer terminal will be, having allentown as a lesson plan. panto's political affiliation means nothing to me. btw, you're hardly a impartial referee for this "bout"; more like panto's corner man.

Chris Casey said...

Bernie, I have to side with Mike here. I know him to be sincere in his beliefs and I think much of his argument has merit. That doesn't mean I don't think Panto and Pooley have good points on their side.
I witnessed the destruction of a downtown on a much larger scale when I lived in Columbus Ohio. The city leaders built a much hailed downtown central bus terminal across the street from the vaunted City Center Mall in 1988. To build City Center they razed the existing shopping district and displaced many merchants, some whose families had been there more than a hundred years. They built the big shiny mall where those people couldn't afford to rent.

To make a long story short, in 2008 the city took possession of the City Center Mall and its 95% vacancy rate. Now it is being torn down. The thousands od state workers who worked in office buildings just blocks away never made it a "Go to" destination as it was envisioned. They kept shopping at the much safer suburban malls near where they lived. Sound familiar?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, I side w/ MM in respect to Pooley's critique, but also side w/ Mayor Panto when it comes to Easton.

The reality is that MM does not know what he is talking about. He delivered snide shot after snide shot to Panto from behind his computer, but is afraid to deliver his accusations face to face to discuss the actual facts, and has ducked a few invitations. Instead, MM posts a blog to slam the Mayor some more, w/o mentioning that he is running from an invitation to meet and discuss his concerns.

That tells me all I need to know about MM. Telling the Mayor of Easton that he must come to A-town first is just more of his typical pettiness.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" btw, you're hardly a impartial referee for this "bout"; more like panto's corner man."

That's right, and I've got a metal chair with your name on it.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, panto wants me to interview 300,000 visitors to the crayon museum, i want him to talk to a few hamilton street merchants. my face to face with panto means nothing, it is a distraction from the lanta terminal/merchant issue. the morning call reporter, as you know, interviewed both the easton and allentown merchants. easton's dollar store merchants are upset about losing the existing adjoining transfer stops. panto should met with them, not me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"my face to face with panto means nothing,"

MM, you're afraid he might prove you wrong, something you can never be, and that's why you duck him.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, you know full well that the issue is moving the transfer stops away to a terminal, and the consequences that causes to merchants who now count on existing transfer stops for foot traffic. as someone who participated as an active advocate on behalf of the allentown merchants, you, more than most, understand the different between transfer stops and bus stops. panto thus far hasn't grasped the difference.

i'm on the mend and traveling is currently difficult for me. although me sitting down with panto doesn't help the affected easton merchants, i will do that as soon as i'm capable. readers of this blog would be shocked if they use your search engine and substitute pawlowski and lanta for panto and lanta, what a difference the WHO makes with you, instead of the WHAT. actually, probably most already know that, and wouldn't be shocked.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's because EASTON and ALLENTOWN are two completely different cities, and whle you know a lot about A-town, you know jack shit about Easton. PANTO & PAWLOWSKI are two completely different mayors. Panto has already demonstrated that by his willingness to ewngage you, while Pawlowski hides from his critics. Allentown was promoting GENTRIFICATION while Easton is promoting shopping by everyone. In your vast research, did it dawn on you that Easton is running trolleys to West Wars this summer for the express purpose of attracting more low income shoppers? It is a completely different city. Its focus is different and so is its attitude. But you won't see that bc you have to be right about everything.

Sorry to hear that you're unable to move, but that makes me wonder just what the hell research you could have been doing in Easton, if any. And your immobility does not extend to phones. You could still presumably pick one up and call Panto to learn his side in more detail. But once again, you have to be right about everything.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll stop now. I'll even let you have the last word. I don't want to kick you while you're down. That's your specialty.

Anonymous said...

Sal is no dumby. I've engaged him on a number of Easton's downtown and neighborhood revitalization efforts. He asks questions and probes for unintended consequences. I have little doubt that he has done his research and understands the pitfalls that may be present in the change of transit services in Downtown Easton. It is a delicate balance and it will undoubtedly have an impact. My best is that it could pose a challenge to Subway, Dunkin Donuts and the dollar store, but I am not sure the change in services outright removes service to the square or even removes a stop from the square. As I understand it, the only change will be the relocation of transfer services. So, the key question, is whether the relocation of transfer services will pose a significant shift in pedestrian traffic if everything else remains the same.

As far as I am concerned, neither Sals or Mike's commentary account for that question. All I am hearing is that Easton is either comparable to Allentown or it is not. That isn't the important question. The important question is the degree to which the change in services will increase, decrease or have a neutral impact on the Square. Only with that question answered will I be able to assess the impact. As it stands right now, everybody is making assumptions. We all know what happens when we assume...

Transportation issues aside, it's nice that the mayor would jump into a conversation like this.

Related to Chris' comments, the Easton Main Street program is at the table on this matter. I am familiar with Columbus' failed transportation center efforts. It is a classic case study of what NOT to do. No shopping district is being dismantled. Easton has a fantastic preservation ethic. Design considerations are being explored to improve on the street. On this, my professional opinion is that this is not a pie in the sky quest to use a transportation center as a pancea for all that ill-center city. There are remarkable strides being made that don't hinge on the creation of this terminal. The terminal is just an added boost. Moreover, community stakeholders that were unsupportive of the previous transportation mega-center project are supportive of this one (if I am wrong, please correct me).


michael molovinsky said...

bernie, beyond you, me, and chris there is no interest in the lanta/merchant issue. unfortunately, the average person in either city could care less about the bus riders or the center city merchants. i took great pride in the gratitude the allentown merchants extended toward me after the lanta meeting in that city. i noticed on your earlier post, panto thanked you. we all have our own priorities. remember, i'm supposed to have the last word.....

Anonymous said...

THe one undiscussed issue about the transportation center including parking garage is the financial commitment by the city of easton and its taxpayers.

No one has produced any evidence that this project can support itself. We have heard that there is a need for excess parking in the summer because of Crayola. But, without real numbers, how can anyone absolutely conclude that this project makes sense for the taxpayer. If the parking is not present, the taxpayer has to pay for the spaces.

Easton got burnt on its first parking garage. For twenty years Easton taxpayers probably contributed as much as a mill of taxation to pay for an underutilized facility. Now, we cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

michael molovinsky said...

geoff, in all due respect, as an allentown resident the effect of losing transfer stops on hamilton street, while still having regular bus stops, is well documented., unless you want to pull a steve schmidt and insist the merchants PROVE they're down 40%.

the previous project was on the parking lot behind the wolfe school. (bernie, many years ago, in a different time, i worked at that school) that location was moronic (btw, panto supported it till the bitter end) that location would have actually punished the bus riders, yet lanta was willing.

do you think any bus rider on the way to the transfer terminal will make an extra stop to get a coffee at dunkin?

Anonymous said...

Just on the general topic: You don't have to belong to the KKK or Arian Nation to be a racist. You just have to stay silent when you hear racism from someone else. And if you're a white person, you hear it all the time. You know, the n-word jokes, the comments about "those people." If you don't challenge it, you're assumed to support it. As we used to say, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Anonymous said...

One Huge difference between Panto and Pawlowski is Panto is
a secong-generation Eastonian and seems to sincerely care about his city. And, he did invite Molovinsky to Easton, he didn't just ignore the guy's comments.
Has Pawlowski even stopped by
Hamilton St. merchants to see how they are doing since the bus routes were changed?

Anonymous said...

MM, cut the due respect stuff. it denotes a quick way of saying "you are full of crap." If you disagree, tell me you disagree. I'll assume respect unless you start calling people elitists or throwing political tags.

there were multiple changes along Hamilton Street, not just the reshuffle of the transfer station (stops were moved, consolidated and eliminated). What I am asking in Easton is the degree to which riders at the stop designated for transfers are at the stop b/c they are waiting for transfers (secondary stop) or is this the closest stop to their home (primary stop), and therefore the stop they will take regardless of the transfer status. It was very clear that the hamilton street transfer stop was a secondary stop. Knowing Easton's population distribution, I am honestly not sure if the center square stop is largely a primary or a secondary stop. Nobody has answered that question. Everybody is quick to make assumptions. If you really are interested in good public policy, we need to ask questions and get thorough answers, not just make assumptions.

I have said many times to many people that the relocation of transfers from Hamilton Street to the 6th/7th location had a HUGE impact on Hamilton Street. It also had a HUGE impact on 7th Street. I was walking in that area a couple days ago and noticed that the once vacant buildings are starting to fill up (not surprisingly with the types of businesses that were once the norm on Hamilton Street). Anybody who ever states that public transportation doesn't impact a downtown is full of crap. My general belief is that consolidated public transit stops, unless in NYC or Philly, restrict access to public transit (thereby reducing the ridership), so I prefered the transfer stops being scattered.

But to answer your last question, the answer is "no". Want evidence of that? What is the primary tenant of the new transportation center in allentown? Dunkin Donuts! If a Dunkin Donuts opens at the new transportation center in Easton, then we know the answer to my question and I'll just as readily tell Sal that he has to deal with the consquences of failed businesses in Easton. And he'll have to deal with that b/c he is the one making putting together the deals on this project.

Anonymous said...

sorry, 10:12 AM is me.


michael molovinsky said...

geoff, point taken; my "all due respect" was a suspicion about how much of an honest broker your career allows you to be in this discussion. contrary to bernie's nonsense that i should meet with panto (what's that got to do with anything?) i have interacted by blog with renew LV and the Lanta Blog. i do understand that there are differences between the two projects (allentown and easton) and that less merchants will be adversely affected. however, lanta should (as you have done) concede the fact that there are consequences to merchants when transfer stops are displaced by a terminal. panto, he won't even acknowledge that there is a different between transfer stops and regular stops.

it is getting to the point where i feel guilty debating this issue with blog people, but not organizing the merchants. my health and the distance must leave that to some eastonian. i do take some consolation about influencing michael duck to interview hamilton street merchants. because of him, lanta and panto have not been given a free pass

Anonymous said...

"You see the whole mission here is to put more feet on the street"

Is this why Panto public opposed investment in Route 22 in Lehigh County? Or did he just want the money diverted to something else.

What is the next smart growth suggestion, a moat around our three cities with one-way bridges?

It is time elected / quasi-governmental officials stop knocking other projects with intent of diverting funding to thier own projects.

If you do not like prosperity outside out third class cities, then by all means decline those state grants funded by those communities.

Anonymous said...

just on the general topic :

black people hear racist remarks directed at other groups made by black people all the time, too.

white people don't monopolize the practice of racism, as is so often implied

Anonymous said...

MM, my world view shaped my career path, not the other way around. The moment my career path doesn't jive with my world view, I'll be seeking a different career. Besides, nobody in Lehigh/Norco pays my salary. I think you can rest assured that I am being honest in my views. You may not like them, but it doesn't make them any less honest.

I'll say this to close my thoughts on the matter: anybody seeking to disconnect the health of a downtown from mass transit is fooling themselves or has an agenda that is not consistent with the downtown. I don't see Sal Panto as a fool and I know him to be gravely concerned about the health of center city easton.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky: I see you have some pretty strong opinions on Allentown, but I saw somewhere that you live in South Whitehall Township. In order to better understand where you are coming from, can you provide us with an overview of your educational and professional background, maybe some of your accomplishments or appopintments to boards or authorities, that will provide some examples of your standing as a local expert on such issues. Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Downtown Easton is still frightening after dark.

Anonymous said...


You just walked into a trap.


Anonymous said...

MM wouldn't last a minute in the ring with Sal.

Who the hell is Michael Molovinsky anyway. He must be lonely.

The bus depot in Easton has changed many times and no one has complained about it. It will do nothing negative or positive to the businesses that are near by. If anything it will encourage new businesses to open up shop in the vacant storefronts the buses hide when they pull up.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:

Anon 12:19 PM I am not sure what Rt 22 project you are speaking of that I was against or tried to take grant money from. I am admittedly a huge supporter of passenger rail and mass transit of all types, as well as alternative transportation like bikes. However,I am somewhat confused about your comment about Rt. 22? I have never tried to take grant money from other Valley municipalities. As a matter of fact when I was in office last time I allowed the 25th St and Freemansburg Ave intersection to jump ahead of a city project to help Wilson Borough and Palmer Township -- and yes the many resdients on our South Side that use that intersection. I have stated that $100 million on Rt 22 is absurd. There has to be other ways to alleviate the congestion. The wider we make the road the more cars and trucks seem to be attracted to it.

As for our new transportation center and the financial concerns. I too have concerns and that is why we have taken it slow and aren't building another 550 car garage. We don't need one that big. We do however need additonal parking downtown. Urban parking needs to be a forethought and not an afterthought. A lot of good things are happening in town but if people cannot park they will stop coming.

Now for the merchants. MM doesn't know me but the merchants, residents and businesses in our downtown do because I am there every day and my wife and I shop and dine in our city. The news MM should be spreading is not about the loss of a few cups of coffee at Cafe Tera (where I lunch often)or a few sales the Dollar Store may lose. He should, like the businesses on that block, develop a plan to attract the residents moving into the 20 apartments in the Pomeroy building or the visitors to the new museum opening this summer. Oh, and the two Dollar stores on that street might just want to wash the windows, clean up their entrances and also shovel the snow from their sidewalks. I shop in the Dollar Store and have told them about the snow. And if they really want the LANTA riders, why not shovel the snow and make a path to the bus instead of making elderly people walk over a snow mound.

MM, you really should stop by our city. Great things are happening and yes, we have a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Panto,

In March of 2006 public meeting, PennDOT was committed to a $190M of improvements to Route 22 section 400 which included four exits and the Lehigh River Bridge. Soon after that, RenewLV was born and co-chaired by Joyce Marin who is the spouse of the LV most vocal rail advocate. On this blog it was noted that many of RenewLV members found their way to the Route 22 advisory board. Suddenly poof, Route 22 was downgraded to a new layer of asphalt and a rework of some ramp, and elimination of an overpass.

I make reference to a November 14, 2006 MCall Article entitled “Kill Rt. 22 plan for rail service, officials says” where Bethlehem and Easton City Council played their hand on rail at the expense of investment in Route 22.

I also recall similar suggestions by you in the October 12, 2009 Business Matters “Talking Transportation” forum this past fall where you and Mr. Marin went head to head with Mr. Doughty and Mr. Angle. You pushed rail over Route 22 and Angle rightfully called it a “distraction” to proper investment in Route 22.

Do you know the Lehigh River Bridge has exceeded its life span and must be replaced. Do you know what it cost to replace such a structure?

Do you have any insight into other Transportation investments across the Commonwealth like Route 30 and 283 in Lancaster, Route 202 to Exton. Carbondale highway, not to mention the vast transportation projects out near Pittsburgh and ongoing widening project on 581 near Harrisburg? How can you say the busiest, most dangerous section of highway in the valley based on Commonwealth standards is not worth the investment of $100M or even $240M?

Since you specifically noted that Route 22 was not worth a $100M investment for 100,000 vehicles, how do you feel about the $90M for Route 412 widening for 27,000 vehicles? How do you feel about the $70M investment for 1.5 miles or Route 33 extension to service 25,000 vehicles? How do you feel about the future investment of $90M for the American Parkway extension for 25,000 vehicles? I am not questioning the merits of other projects but simply want to make you aware of the economies of scale benefit Route 22 has to the Valleys economy. Not to mention four fatalities in the last year on just on segment of Route 22.

As far as more asphalt, more cars suggestion, the six lanes or Route 78 still has less traffic than Route 22. Asphalt does not create more traffic, development does. Development will continue and Route 22 will get more congested either way.

We see how backups on Route 22 now contribute to induced congestion on secondary roads. Building new infrastructure to avoid investing in existing infrastructure is absurd.

Your interests are Easton and I applaud you for what you have done for the City. However, like 100,000 other vehicles, I travel Route 22 every day and see the near misses, the remnant of serious or fatal accidents, and like many, feel disenfranchised that political maneuvering has delay proper investment and a safer Route 22.

michael molovinsky said...

mayor panto, your comment about dirty windows and snow piles doesn't address the fact that these merchants will be affected by the loss of the current transfer stops, but connotes that they deserve what's going to happen to them.

i also take exception with a previous comment you made on another post that the terminal will increase lanta use by providing shelter and facilities. i i don't think it's true, in our society most people take the bus out of economic necessity. HOWEVER, i believe that your concern should be the easton merchants, not the rider-ship of lanta.

thank you for participating in this dialogue. our feelings aside, i think it can only help what happens in easton. michael molovinsky

Jeff Pooley said...

I want to defend Mike Molovinsky. He may be right or wrong, but he's making a plausible (and very limited) prediction: the shift from transfer stops to a terminal will hurt a few merchants who probably draw many bus-riding customers. This is it.

Now, even if he's right, perhaps that drop-off in some businesses is a worthy tradeoff.

Clearly the Easton and Allentown situations are very different.

But on Molovinsky's core claim--that a few businesses might be hurt--it's hard to say that this isn't plausible.

When MM started defending downtown Allentown merchants over the LANTA move there (a different situation, I realize), I thought he was grandstanding at first. He stuck with it, though, and won me over with his genuine advocacy for those merchants. His comments about Easton are, I believe, delivered in that same spirit.

As an aside, I keep hearing great things about Sal Panto, and I'm impressed that he's engaged on this blog. MM: when your health picks up, you should accept his generous invitation. (And it wouldn't hurt Panto to visit Hamilton Street either.)