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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nix the NIZ Board

Heather Browne
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, State Senator Pat Browne and State Rep. Jennifer Mann - according to The Morning Call - have nominated nine people for their brand-spankin' new NIZ Board. They're all scheduled for confirmation on Wednesday night by Allentown's really, really independent City Council.

It's all or none, too. According to the news account, Council must accept all or reject all. I've scoured City Council ordinances adopted between 2009 and 2011, and am unable to find any that establishes a Board for the NIZ. Some kind of action was taken on December 14, according to The Express Times, but neither the minutes nor any Ordinance is available online. But the City's codified Ordinance on Authorities and Boards says this: "No appointee ... shall hold any other elected office or any compensated position for the City."

Wouldn't that rule out Mann?

The Codified Ordinance also states, "At the discretion of Council, persons not resident of the City, but who have a significant property or Business interest in the City may be selected to serve."

Most of these nominees live outside the City Without Limits.

They are all tainted. Senator Pat Browne had a hand in selecting them even though his wife, a registered lobbyist, has a direct financial interest in and represents two of the biggest participants - J.B. Reilly & Joe Topper - in this NIZ. He has been using the authority of his office for the private pecuniary benefit of his wife and her lobbying firm, which appears to be a violation of the state ethics act.

Who are these people? I thought I'd give you some details about each of them.

Gregory N. Dudkin - Senior VP of PPL operations since '09. He was a PECO executive, but found himself on the wrong side of a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2002. After that, he soon became a Comcast mcuckety muck.

Did I say Comcast?  The very outfit that will be managing the arena? I know, I know. That's just a coincidence.

So far as I can tell, Dudkin still lives in a swanky, Society Hill, condo that he bought in 2007 for $1.5 million.

I'm sure he cares a lot about Allentown.

PPL, incidentally, was Senator Pat Browne's 4th largest contributor in his 2010 campaign.

Alan Jennings
Alan Jennings - Now we know the real reason why Alan was so vocal in his support of a "suburban" Rite Aid development on 7th Street, even to the point of ignoring against his own Main Street Manager. Of course, Jennings will deny this, but all too often, he is the water boy for the bluebloods at the Lehigh Valley Partnership. Now and then, they throw him a few cookies for his CACLV. He will be the token "I really care about the poor guy." He'll do as he's told.

Pedro Torres - This hot shot is a mortgage banker for Premier Mortgage, located on Hamilton Boulevard in South Whitehall Township. Gee, I wonder where he'll be moving his offices any time soon? Is The Morning Call, which is attempting to lease some of its office building inside the NIZ, holding its breath? I don't know if he lives in the City.

Grube, Browne & Haydt
Bill Grube - The Morning Call account lists Grube as a trustee of the Allentown Art Museum, and that's certainly true. He also just happens to be the money behind the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and the inventor of night vision goggles, where he made his fortune. He lives in an obscenely large house in Salisbury Township, much larger than my Nazareth estate. Grube was among Senator Pat Browne's top contributors in his 2010  state senate race.

Seymour Traub - the former Chair of AEDC and retired General Counsel for St. Luke's Hospital. Sy lives in South Whitehall Township, although he originally hails from Brooklyn. From everything I've been able to find, he's a genuinely nice guy, but is playing with the wrong kids.

Donald W. Snyder -A former financial manager at Air Products, Snyder served twenty years in the State House, both as Majority and Minority Whip for the Republicans. Now, he's president at LCCC. Many years before that, he was President of South Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners, and should know what  it feels like to see EIT diverted. According to Michael Donovan, Snyder's presence will ensure that NIZ funds are used for technology education. I would not hold my breath.

Schweyer and Mann
Jennifer Mann - Yep, she recommended herself. And guess what? Once of the persons who is supposed to vote on her nomination, Peter Schweyer, was her Chief of Staff as recently as two weeks ago. He may be working for her again, now that his own electoral plans have been spoiled by the state's Supreme Court. In addition to Schweyer, City Council member Mike Schlossberg worked for her, too. How the hell can either one of them vote at all?

Diane Scott - as Allentown's School Superintendent, Scott caught some flak after a junket to Puerto Rico - in the middle of Winter - to recruit Spanish-speaking teachers for the city's bilingual-education programs.


Mayor William Heydt called the visit, which garnered no teachers, "frivolous." These days, she's a respected former educator and consultant to Symphony Hall's El Sistema Lehigh Valley. She believes in using music as a tool to help impoverished children.

Nelson Diaz -  This Lower Macungie resident is so connected he even has a Google profile. A PPL project manager between 1985 and 2003, Diaz now owns Mi Casa Properties (in Emmaus) and Exit Realty Advantage. A contributor to Allentown Art Museum's annual fund, he's a board member at Sacred Heart Hospital and the Hispanic American Organization.


Anonymous said...

Seriously, is anyone that surprised by this?? Seriously??

When all is said and done one of the little robots the carpetbagger Schlossberg will still become a state representative.

But again, anyone who has followed Allentown politics the past six years should hardly be surprised by this. In fact I am surprised Pawlowski's wife isn't on the board.

Instead of writing about eating himself sick at Musicfest maybe Bill White ought to write a real story about his town. What a mess.

Bill said...

I also clipped some of your story and responded to a blog post of Micheal Donovan on the NIZ Arena project.

First I heard of this board was in the last few days, and council is charged with an all or nothing, up down vote a few short days later? We the people of the city of Allentown (and the surrounding communities that have found out post facto that they will pay for this massive project) deserve a much more open process.

I think council should vote no on principle of open Government.

Anonymous said...

Once in a while one would think Alan would be embarrassed. Thirty years!
Get a new job Alan.

Why doesn't someone demand lobbyists do not marry elected officials.

Anonymous said...

Not only will Council vote on these nominations. Council will form a new NIZ Authority to takeover for ACEDA's role in the negotiations for the Arena.

These will be one of the first votes for the new City Council appointee.

Anonymous said...

cheap shot on jennings.

Anonymous said...

It stinks that Pat Browne would make local community managers "wait" two weeks for a meeting. Who does he think he is, Madonna?

Anonymous said...

How is that fancy Grube restaurant doing? Does he have crowds? Don't hear much about it. Thanks.

Crispus Attucks said...


Not a cheap shot - just the truth. Give him a couple of bones and he'll be anyones lapdog.

Anonymous said...

Surprised Jennings would sign on as the entire episode stinks.

Anonymous said...

Not sure it's a cheap shot. Hasn't Jennings been with CACLV since the 80s? Isn't that 30 years?

Anonymous said...

you people who are attacking jenning's character don't know the man, or the work he does.

i've been both his enemy, and his ally, depending upon the situation. he can often be a royal pain in the ass, but his integrity is not in question.

Jon Geeting said...

So what would be an example of something that a person on the ACIDA board could do to enrich themselves that would not also be good for Allentown? Any new building that gets built downtown is going to be a net plus for the city, unless it's shorter than the existing ones. Seriously, what do people expect to happen?

Issac Touro said...

anon 7:23

Perhaps the people who are "attacking" do know the man and his work. Seems he has many strange bedfellows. Perhaps the ends justifies the means......

Anonymous said...

As an Allentown resident, I was sickened by the choices made for this NIZ Board. What a bunch of cronies and bootlickers! As a former supporter of Pat Browne, he has lost all credibility by his involvement in this whole sordid affair. First they stack the ACIDA with rubberstamping Pawlowski pals and now this!! I've never been so disappointed in elected "leaders" as I have been with Roy Afflerbach, Ed Pawlowski and Pat Browne.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So what would be an example of something that a person on the ACIDA board could do to enrich themselves that would not also be good for Allentown? "

Incredible! Geeting now argues that it is OK to use public power for personal enrichment so long as it also enriches the "urban core." Hate to break it to you, Jonathan, but that kind of defense would never fly in Court.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I like Alan and believe he does so much good for so many people, but his stance on the Rite Aid was a sell out.

Anonymous said...

"So what would be an example of something that a person on the ACIDA board could do to enrich themselves that would not also be good for Allentown? "

It has to be that way Bernie. Progressives are such a small minority in the country and their ideas are so insane that they can't win in the open. It's the smoke-filled back rooms where they do their damage.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

The vote for "all or nothing" concept is arrogant and troubling. It suggests each of the individuals is incapable of providing an independent decision.

While these folks will make a chummy group in one of the VIP boxes, it comes off as an establishment of a new ruling elite that further weakens an already weak city council.

I would prefer a new board that was selected by city council, each candidate drawn from outside an anointed, pre-mixed group like this.

Most likely, Allentown's city council will go along without a fight. After all, their own chummy VIP box is also waiting.

On with the party!


Anonymous said...

I didn't read the story but I did look at the picture. She is pretty good looking!

Bernie O'Hare said...

She is an attractive woman.

Anonymous said...

Are you talking about Heather Rusoli who filed an ethics report against Kent Herman in regard to his involvement with the CACLV plan to build half-way houses on Osweuo& Gordon Street for former Allentown Ste Hosital patients released to the community. Rusoli got her self in a bit of trouble for talking about it to the press... She was joined in taing center stage with the protest by Emma Tropiana ... In the end she lost .. divorced her husband..Got a job with Pat Browne ... Married him and the rest is history

Anonymous said...

I assumed that residency was a requirement on this Board. What about representation from adjacent communities that are also affected by this NIZ.

Anonymous said...

I think some could use a business ethics course.

Let's not forget this is Taxpayers money that is being funneled to ACIDA.

Anonymous said...

Actually this proposed ordinance might usurpt the role of ACEDA .... To be voted the same night ...

Bill 101 Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone....

An Ordinance signifying the desire and intention of the City of Allentown to organize an industrial and commercial development authority under the Economic Development Financing Law, of 1967, P.L. 251, as amended, for the purpose of acquiring, holding, constructing, improving, maintaining, owning, financing and leasing, either in the capacity of lessor or lessee, industrial, special or commercial development projects and serving as successor contracting authority to the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority for purposes of administering, providing financing for and undertaking all other activities related to the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone established pursuant to the law governing Neighborhood Improvement Zones, Article XVI-B of the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code, 72 P.S. Section 1, et seq; also to be referred to as Article 178 of Title Eleven, Authorities, Boards and Commissions, of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Allentown.

Anonymous said...

usurpt <-- hahaha

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

I think what we're seeing here is civic officials doing whatever they want, BECAUSE THEY CAN!

Allentown's citizenry, for the most part, is NOT involved. They pay less than traditional property taxes. They live for the moment. Whatever happens. . . happens!

This whole project is VERY difficult to justify from a risk/reward standpoint. So many other expenditures would make Allentown a more attractive place to live. But, no matter.

The lure of "other people's money" is hard to resist for the players at the top of the card.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what's worse....this lousy board or that red tie on red shirt ensemble.

Anonymous said...

Red shirts are nice for bringing out ones veins and blotches. I think it's working for him.

Bill said...

"So what would be an example of something that a person on the "ACIDA board could do to enrich themselves that would not also be good for Allentown? "

Incredible! Geeting now argues that it is OK to use public power for personal enrichment so long as it also enriches the "urban core." Hate to break it to you, Jonathan, but that kind of defense would never fly in Court."

I was thinking the same thing. This project is ripe for abuse, and the greater the secrecy, the more likely, at the end of the day, the public will get screwed...

Anonymous said...

Problem is with Jennings, is his feeling of entitlement. He loves the club seats and other perks he gets from the "rich" in his quest to help the "poor".

He is a narcissist who love praise.

He is smart and knows he is used as a token neo-liberal on these boards of "partnerships" by the Valley elite. He doesn't care. They throw him some chump change and compliments along with those sweet iron pig tickets and he is good to go.

Shame, the poor could use some real fighters. Agree he was a decent guy, then the fame went to his head and he forgot where he came from. Happens to a lot of people. Thee was a time John Callahan was a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Good points on both Callahan and Jennings. Callahan is a great example of someone who forgot where they came from. He is truly a guy who believes he is entitled to anything he wants.

I don't think Jennings is quite that bad but he likes the praise.

Alan Jennings said...

I rarely respond to blogs because so many who do are fire-breathing weirdos whose visceral reaction to everything makes anything a sane person says a waste of time.

But I'm trying to understand how some of you think I'm a sell-out. That's a new one.

Let's see, as chair of the PUC Consumer Advisory Council I fought retail competition, putting me at direct odds with the utilities that fund our weatherization program.

I bitterly fought predatory lending, challenging the lending industry along with the whole real estate establishment (appraisers, brokers, you name it) even though some companies in those industries fund us.

I push banks to commit to a variety of community reinvestment initiatives when mergers occur, even though they fund us.

I fought the insurance industry when their underwriting practices redlined poor neighborhoods, even though some fund us.

There is a fine line between challenging the system and getting things done and challenging the system and getting ignored.

You're criticizing me for getting that balance right, resulting in a wide range of community benefits, legislative and regulatory changes, and direct, positive impact on real people and their neighborhoods?

Anonymous said...

Alan is right. He deserves all the praise he so humbly gives himself. Three cheers for Alan, "King of the Poor".