Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Easton Mayor Sal Panto!

I've been highly critical of Mayor John Callahan's financial fiasco in Christmas City. The "five point jobs plan" man is now going to balance his budget on the backs of City workers, laying off people in the health department. What a guy! In the meantime, Allentown's King Edwin has never met a campaign contributor he didn't like, and many of them just happen to be City vendors. Layoffs for him are now routine, unless you're a Dem Committeeman looking for a job in the Solicitor's office.

Then there's Easton Mayor Sal Panto, criticized as a "retread" before he ever took office. He ran on a simple campaign - clean and safe. He's pretty much kept his word. At a time when King Edwin holds news conferences to announce new City mottos, Panto has quietly increased the size of his police department. I believe the fire department is increasing or will be increased next year. Panto supports the "good will" Ambassadors, who cover Shadtown's business community, picking up trash and helping people with directions. Streetsweepers now make regular rounds on side streets, something I can't recall ever seeing before.

A few months ago, at a seminar concerning municipal finance, Sal Panto was in the peanut gallery, trying to learn what he could. Callahan, of course, was too busy running for Congress and Pawlowski must have been too busy with his mancave. It's interesting that, of the LV's three City mayors, the only one who could finish a year in the black is Panto.

It's Sal's birthday today. So Happy Birthday, Mr. Mayor. Now will you please screw something up?

20 comments:

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, you have apparently missed the recent morning call article, which states that panto is discontinuing the ambassadors, because of looming budget problems.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I didn't miss it and he is not discontinuing it. He wants the ambassadors to get more private funding next year from downtown businesses. I think there were three years of mostly public funding. I also believe that, when they were established, the idea was that they would eventually get all their funding privately. I think it's a great program and one worthy of consideration if it is unable to get the private funding. It has made a big difference.

Anonymous said...

"supports the "good will" Ambassadors, who cover Shadtown's business community, picking up trash and helping people with directions. Streetsweepers now make regular rounds on side streets, something I can't recall ever seeing before. "

Funny you should mention this. Some residents a while ago recommended "ambassadors" to Allentown's mayor. They even suggested volunteers meet business guests at the airport and escort them about town and business meetings throughout their visit. You can see what came of that.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...

I didn't miss it and he is not discontinuing it. He wants the ambassadors to get more private funding next year from downtown businesses. I think there were three years of mostly public funding. I also believe that, when they were established, the idea was that they would eventually get all their funding privately. I think it's a great program and one worthy of consideration if it is unable to get the private funding. It has made a big difference.

6:31 AM

Wasn't Allentown's much-maligned DIDA, the area's first Ambassadors.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe it was (and is) very similar.

Anonymous said...

"Wasn't Allentown's much-maligned DIDA, the area's first Ambassadors."

Yup... until Pawlowski saw fit to drop the sword on this effort, kind of like he is trying to do to the redevelopment authority. Pawlowski pretty much admits that putting an end to the DIDA was a bad idea. wonder when he'll realize the same thoughts about the redevelopment authority.

Anonymous said...

Allentown had a business improvement district where property owners paid additional taxes for these services. Allentown business owners dropped the district and discontinued the payments. Easton is planning to do the same where downtown property owners will pay as much as several mills of taxes to have services such as Ambassadors. Trouble is a lot of people are moving and trying to get out. What happened to the days when people swept their own sidewalks instead of having a municipal service do it.

Anonymous said...

Easton has unique problems which Panto is trying to deal with.

1. Declining population. This town is no longer 3rd among Lehigh Valley-lucky if it is 5th and in another ten years will be out of the top 20.

2. Limited city employees - Easton does not have enough employees to adequately run most of its services. It cannot afford to hire more. Really unable to effectively deliver. Water department was eliminated and given to Suburban Authority.

3. Declining tax base. Easton residents and businesses have to pay more and more. highest rates in valley

4. Pre occupied with downtown. Most energy goes to downtown. Rest of town forgotten. Problem is that downtown is empty

Jon Geeting said...

Bernie, after you left the muni finance brown bag, Panto and Freeman had a pretty great freewheeling discussion on the politics of all this. My favorite part was when Panto straight up said he ran his campaign on a promise to increase taxes, and then he did. Easton's doing better than the others because they're using their Home Rule powers to collect more revenue. I also dislike Callahan's plan for the city budget, which I think was an unfortunate consequence of an ill-conceived campaign promise not to raise taxes in the 2011 Bethlehem budget. But would he be getting a fair shake from you if he had raised taxes instead? I find it hard to believe.

But what I want to know is - why the double standard? Panto finds outside-the-box ways to get more revenue and you say he's brilliant. Pawlowski does the same thing and he's a villain. I'll bet Callahan wouldn't be getting any more positive coverage here if he had chosen to raise taxes instead of lay off city workers, so what's the deal? What do you think mayors should be doing to deal with the drop-off in revenue that's driving the budget shortfalls?

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Happy Birthday to Sal and Permission to Change the Topic:
We have nothing to personally gain by sharing this information which we just learned about today. It sounds wonderful and maybe might benefit some of your readers.
PPL is currently offering two new programs that benefit consumers and seem to be on the up-and-up.
The first allows consumers to
recycle refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners FREE. Not only will PPL pick up the appliance free of charge which easily is worth $300 if one hired a pick-up service, PPL gives the consumer a small amount of money back, just for recycling.
The second program encourages the replacement of older energy-consuming appliances with newer Energy Star units. Appliances such as dehumidifer, room air conditioners, refrigs,
dishwashers and clothes washers.

The new item must qualify and indicate it is an Energy Star appliance.

Once again, a consumer gets a small amount of money just for buying 'up'.

A friend took advantage of this program and said his family is thrilled with the results.

Thank you for allowing us to share this with your readers.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Sal!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jonathan, Sal Panto was up front and honest about his intentions, and I respect that. Easton is in bad shape, Panto recognized it, and said he would raise taxes and hire more cops. Pawlowski was not. He promised to bring more cops into the City through "grants" and did not. He promised to be transparent and was not. Panto refused to accept PAC money in the primary. Pawlowski bathed in it. Panto is accessible. Pawlowski is not. Panto works with small businesses and has attracted many to Eastopn, which have stayed. pawlowski has played favorites, and his grant and loan programs have been a disaster.

Also, when it comes to layoffs, I do not like them. If it involves a cabinet official or a hallwalker who is there for political reasons, I have no problem with eliminating a job. But I detest it when municipal government attempts to balance a budget on the backs of municipal employees. I've seen it under Reibman. It ruined morale,, resulted in an explosion of unions, and there was a deterioration in the services being provided.

I prefer the attrition approach, and one that is closely monitored to determine if there is a need.

Now you support bi-county health? Then how the hell do you support a goofy mayor who decides he is laying off 7 people in Bethlehem's health department?

He has spent money borrowed for capital projects to pay salaries, something he has been doing for a few years. He has claimed there will be no tax increase in the face of this bullshit. What this means is that his real plan is to continue plundering other projects to meet payroll.

I do not know if a hike is necessary in Bethlehem, but I do know that I prefer honest and accountable government over government that is not. That is the essential difference between Panto and his counterparts. That's why I support him and not them .

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:56, If I can confirm what you are postin, I'll post a blog about it. Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

one is led to believe that the reason 7 people are being laid off in the bethlum health bureau is because they were providing services outside of the city as requested by the state. jc simply cut those programs and thus staff and expenditures.

What any responsible leader (and i use the term loosely) would have done in the face of less income would to have been stop spending TELL THE TRUTH, and effect a moderate tax increase. but that is what a leader would have done, not a two bit politician.

in fairness to jc he inherited a very large festering zit, however he kept eating chocolate instead of treating the ailment. the pimple popped on his watch.
having said that this is a political problem created by wannabe,inexperienced so called leaders which is being taken out on the employees who have no control

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAL!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:

Bernie, thank you for the post and birthday wishes. I would like to address a few items. Firs thanks for responding to MV. He loves to be confused by the facts. This year I have recommended to City Council an appropriation of $475,000 toward the operation of the Ambassadors, Main Street Initiatives and the Easton Farmers' Market. This is approximately 1.5 mils of taxes. I did place them on notice that this is a "bridge to get them to alternative revenue sources, but the programs are too important to the future of the city to let expire."

Jon Geeting, I have no idea what you are talking about. I never ran a campaign on raising taxes and I am proud of the fact that I have not raised property taxes in three years. I am sure you are referring to the raise in the EIT in the first year. Yes, and let me state the reasons. Our administration inherited tremendous deficits. Easton was on the verge of filing for Act 47 oversight by the state. The Early Intervention Program was already completed. We took office with the challenge of better financial oversight and fiscal responsibility. Needing to raise money I chose to present a "senior citizen budget." Seniors are the hardest hit in our city. I didn't raise real estate taxes, garbage, water, sewer, etc. These would have impacted our seniors and unemployed. I chose to recommend an increase in EIT because it affected onlt those individuals lucky enough to be working.

By the way, the EIT is also the tax that has gone down in the last two years as the unemployment rate continues to increase.......BUT WE ARE LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS.

All Mayors, not only in the valley, but throughout the country are dealing with this recession as the federal and state governments are shifting more and more of their resposibilities to the local level. They call it "tickle down" I call it trickled on.

Thanks again Bernie and thank you to all of the Valley residents that participate in their government......in the USA government is not a specatator sport --- you get involved.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Yes its late or rather early in the morning but one more thing. I ran on clean and safe and crime is way down in Easton, graffitti is almost non-existent, neighborhoods are cleaner and we increased the police department from 52 officers to 63 officers and will be adding the 2 firefighters next year that were eliminated by the last adminstration.

We believe in developing the "whole town, not just the downtown." This past year we renovated almost every neighborhood park, instituted clean streets programs, cleaned up the railroad station on the entrance to South Side. We believe that a clean and safe neighborhood is attractive to new families wanting a place to raise their children. And its working. Preliminary census results indicate we may actually be gaining in population and our housing rehabilitation programs we started are gaining new residents to the city.

We have a long way to go but if government sticks to their goals and is fiscally responsible alot can happen in a little time. We are fortunate in Easton that in the last 2 years and through 2012 we have $194 million being invested in our city.

I urge everyone to stop by our neighborhoods and downtown. Stay and shop, dine or attend one of our many attractions. See the Pomeroy building's progress after being vacant for more than 35 years. Stop by on New Year's Eve for our Crayola event as we enter their 15th year in downtown. The new Sigal Museum, the State Theatre (the jewel of the valley) and the many other things there are to do in our "clean and safe city."

Bernie O'Hare said...

And I have seen it myself. I drive down streets that looked like war zones just a few years ago. Now they look downright hospitable. You've made a big difference.

Anonymous said...

I had a pleasant experience during my last visit to Easton because of the Ambassadors. While locals may take the Ambassadors for granted, I found them very helpful and left with a favorable impression of Easton.

Anon 9:05 I presume you are suggesting that Whitehall and LMT have surpassed Easton in population.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fascinating.

mackyton said...

Nice post! Happy birthday to him. I was just looking for some nice venues in NYC because my uncle is going to turn 30 this year. We are planning a nice party for him. Anyways, it was very interesting coming across this post. My uncle is going to like it for sure.