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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy "A Long Night" For Hanover Township

On the day following Hurricane Sandy, most of the Township was without power. But according to Township Manager Jay Finnigan, Public Works was able to clear 125 trees from the roads and fixed over 50 signs.

Hurricane Sandy also prompted over forty calls about downed wires and trees to Hanover Township's volunteer firefighters. "It was nothing too serious," stated volunteer EMT Chris Smith. "But it was a long night for sure."

The fire company, located near Wegman's, also served as a back-up shelter for the American Red Cross. Twenty empty cots decorated the meeting hall, just in case.

Updated: 10/31/12, 10:40 PM.


A nice thing to see.

Hurricane Sandy Swats Salisbury

Pippysqueak reports from Eastern Salisbury Township: "Power has been out since 10 pm Monday night in eastern Salisbury. Massive tree came down on some major power lines." She tells me that, fortunately, this tree only hit part of the house.

Hone located at Lawrence and Savercool Sts. in Bethlehem - Salisbury Township

Hurricane Sandy Nails Nazareth Hard

The Fighting 54th, Upper Nazareth's Volunteer Firefighters, respond to a funky generator at Gracedale yesterday, which was belching black smoke.

Hurricane Sandy rips half the shingles off a roof along Mauch Chunk Street.

Tree at Nazareth residence is completely uprooted. Fortunately, it fell away from the home.

U.S. Military Assists in Hurricane Recovery

Military Responds to Weather Emegency
My walkabout yesterday took me past Northampton County's Emergency Management Services, located next to Gracedale in Upper Nazareth. I was surprised to see Humvees going in and out of the place, and talked to three soldiers (Two Air Force, one Army).

They told me they were assisting in "situational awareness." Because communications between Emergency Management and the local municipalities was out at numerous locations, they were driving back and forth to determine needs and pass it along.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tell Me Your Hurricane Stories

Although I am one of the fortunate souls who never lost power during Hurricane Sandy, I did lose Internet service. So I spent most of the afternoon walking, listening to the humming of more generators than I knew existed. I saw numerous downed trees, some of them pulled out by the roots. I saw a few homes that lost all their shingles. I saw Upper Nazareth's Volunteer Fire Department at Gracedale, responding to a generator gawn awry.

It appears most of Nazareth, and even beyond, is still in the dark. But it also appears that most everyone is ok.

The line was very long for gas at both the Nazareth Giant and the WaWa on Route 248.

Panera is packed with people who have lost power and want something warm to eat. I took off and gave them some room.

If yoy have any hurricane adventures, feel free to post them here

Is Sandy a Sign of Things to Come?

In view of the Superstorm that has descended upon us, I don't feel comfortable writing about the usual political shenanigans so common on a local, state and federal level. I've never been better prepared for a storm, thanks to all the warnings that were repeated all weekend.

Why did Sandy make a sudden left turn and come inland, instead of going out to sea like a good little hurricane? How often are we to expect 1,000-mile wide storms, pushing 11-13' of water right into the heart of New York City?

Are we at the forefront of some major climate change? Is it man made, or just the way of things?

According to The Nation,
"[I]t’s not our imagination that hurricanes have grown more ferocious than in the past. Multiple scientific studies in the past few years have found that rising sea-surface temperatures linked to global warming are causing an increase in the number of stronger hurricanes. Sandy, right now, is approaching the east coast atop Atlantic sea-surface temperatures a full five degrees Fahrenheit above normal. One study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that hurricane wind speeds have doubled in the past 30 years. This may account for the fact that among the six most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic Basin—going back 150 years—three occurred over 52 days in 2005: Katrina, Rita and Wilma. And Sandy, as measured by its area of influence, is now the biggest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lehigh County Government Will Be Closed Tuesday

From Lehigh County: "Lehigh County Government Center and Courts Offices will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday October 30 due to the storm. Certain Emergency Functions will remain in operation, but all County and Courts Offices will be closed. We will provide an update at a later time."

Hurricane Sandy - The October Surprise

Move over, Donald Trump. Take a hike, Gloria Allred! These two publicity hounds have tried, and failed, to unleash the dreaded October Surprise that comes with every Presidential race. But Hurricane Sandy is doing one helluva' job of throwing a gigantic monkey wrench into an already tight race. If President Obama does a reasonably good job of handling this crisis, he'll win. If he fails, or if there is some major screw-up by some fed, he loses.

Is it fair to keep on playing politics during a natural disaster? Of course not. In baseball, games are called when it begins to rain. The tarps come out and everyone goes home. But this is Presidential Baseball, and like it or not, Barack Obama is the dude on the mound. True, he's mostly throwing screwballs, but look who he's playing against.

He's bearing down right now, in the closing innings. He's canceled political events and is instead sending email blasts every five minutes so everyone knows he's on top of this thing. He might be out there right now, helping someone with sandbags.

But if Hurricane Sandy sends one right into the glove of one his FEMA dudes, who then proceeds to drop the ball, Obama will be blamed and the game will be over.

In regular baseball, no pitcher is held responsible for a fielding error. If the runner scores, it's considered unearned. But this is Presidential Baseball, baby.

Now Romney is in the bullpen, warming up. He's got a screwball, too. It might be better than Obama's. It might be worse. With a name like Mitt, he should make no errors. But if Obama gets us out of the inning, we'll never know. If Obama fails, the American people will send in the reliever.

Bethlehem's School Tax Farmers Cometh

Bethlehem Area School District, which wisely cancelled classes today, last year made the not-so-wise decision to hire tax farmer Portnoff Law Offices to collect its delinquent property taxes. So far this year, this privatized tax collection agency has filed 408 municipal liens for the school district. And that's just in Northampton County. A good chunk of Bethlehem, along with Fountain Hill, is located in Lehigh County. I am certain that at least another hundred liens are on file there.

Portnoff is notorious for its excessive attorney fees, which are usually imposed on struggling homeowners dealing with financial difficulties. They're usually in no position to fight. After filing the lien, Portnoff immediately starts the process to sell the home on which the tax is based.

Privatizing a nursing home or a water and sewer system is quite incendiary. But amazingly, government officials are privatizing one of their most important governmental functions - the collection of revenue.

Benjamin Franklin once sarcastically predicted that tax farmers like Portnoff will ultimately be the cause of the next revolution. "Let these have large salaries out of extorted revenue. . . . If any revenue officers are suspected of the least tenderness for the people, discard them."

In the meantime, another group of lawyers is filing Revenue Appeals Board challenges against local small businesses in Bethlehem Area School District, demanding higher assessments. In Hanover Township alone, there may be as many as fifteen such challenges pending, according to a report at last week's Supervisors' meeting.

For All Your Hurricane Needs

... check out Northampton County Emergency Emergency Management. No bike riding today!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hanover ZHB Shows No Love to "That's Amore"

L to R: ZHB members Paul Balla, Joan Rosenthal and Joseph Bednarik
Following a three-hour hearing on October 25, Hanover Township's Zoning Hearing Board has denied Chef Joseph Jurkivo's request to allow seasonal outdoor seating at That's Amore, a gateway to Hanover Township located on Schoenersville Road. Two ZHB members, Chairman Paul Balla and Joseph Bednarik, rejected Jurkivo's argument that outdoor seating on an adjoining lot was a permissible "accessory use." A third ZHB member, Joan Rosenthal, dissented.

In zoning, an accessory use is one that is customarily incidental and accessory to the principal use, such as a shed at a residence.

Joseph Jurvinko is certainly familiar with That's Amore. He started working there as a bus boy at age 15, when it was known as Pane e Vino. He eventually became the chef at Bethlehem's popular Mama Nina. Early this year, he went into business for himself. But he soon learned that he has lots of competition from local area restaurants that offer outdoor seating. That includes nearby P.J. Whelihan's, Prime Steak House, Gregory's and even Wegmans.

Under questioning from his attorney, Mickey Thompson, Jurvinko testified that he spent $115,000 in improvements at the restaurant, including an adjoining lot at which he proposed seasonal outdoor seating for dinner. The area includes a decorative gazebo, bocce ball pit, fountain and landscaping. There would be no music, no alcohol sales, no big-screen TV, and only low-wattage lighting.

Att'y DeVito cross-examines P.E. David Harte
But Township Attorney Leo DeVito argued that Jurvinko's zoning appeal is nothing more than "a veiled attempt to expand the size of this property by 50% in an area that is already deficient in parking." Jurvinko acknowledged under cross-examination that he would be adding 25-30 diners to the 80 maximum that could be seated indoors. Thompson countered, "We're allowed as a constitutional right to expand a business. ... All he wants to do is compete."

DeVito also argued that the outdoor seating is a "principal," as opposed to an "accessory" use. Under Hanover's zoning ordinance, an accessory use is permitted on an adjoining lot under common ownership. But Thompson told zoners that outdoor seating, which requires a restaurant, is necessarily an accessory use. He also hinted that the zoning ordinance, which makes no specific provision for outdoor dining, is a "tad exclusionary."

Where would these outdoor diners park? While the arguments concerning principal and accessory use dominated the hearing, the subplot was focused on a business expansion in an area that is already crowded.

Jurvinko showed zoners lease for 10 parking spots at a small strip mall on the south side of his restaurant. Testimony from both Jurvinko and engineer David Harte established that this lot is never full. A bike shop, dry cleaner, barber and pizza shop usually have customers that come and leave rather quickly.

ZHB Solicitor Ted Lewis questioned whether the owner of the strip mall had an obligation to seek a variance for a reduction in parking. Township Solicitor DeVito argued that he did, while Attorney Thompson noted that parking at a strip mall is far safer than anywhere else in that proximity. Engineer David Harte explained that Jurvinko could add about 6 parking spaces on the adjoining lot, but doing so would cause him to lose six spaces on the main lot.

Although some members of the public came and asked questions, none stuck around for the final decision.

Following the adverse ruling, a grim Joseph Jurvinko vowed to appeal. Township Solicitor DeVito declined comment.

General Powell is Still a "Shock and Awe" Guy

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Colin Powell endorsed the "shock and awe" theory of warfare. So I wondered whether he was concerned by President Barack Obama's preference for a "leaner" military with "smaller conventional land forces." After all, that's pretty much the same theory advanced by a very unpopular Donald Rumsfeld during the Bush Presidency.

Powell, a moderate Republican, has endorsed Obama again. He seems to be satisfied by Obama's policies and notes that Romney is a bit "vague."

While I don't place much stock in most endorsements, this one matters to me. I am still undecided, but this will definitely help Obama.

Does this endorsement mean much to you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Philly Swaption Tab Might be $186 Million

Northampton County recently forked over around $25 million as a result of a swaption deal gone bad. According to the Inky, a similar deal in Philly could end up costing 186 million.

Two Zoning Appeals Continued in Bethlehem

Happy birthday, Suzanne!
Unlike the 4 1/2 hour hearings that are becoming the norm for Bethlehem's Zoning hearing Board, its October 24 hearing was a quick one. Zoning Officer Suzanne Borzak, celebrating her 25th birthday, was actually able to go home early.

The first matter involved the former Anna Maria Restaurant, located at 114 W. 4th Street. When Pastor Wesley Jun purchased the property in 2004, he lived on the third floor, and the restaurant operated below him. When it closed a few months later, he moved his family into the building.

"I had no idea I needed a permit to live there," Jun told zoners. So he filed an application allowing him to convert the former restaurant into a single family dwelling. But during the hearing, he disclosed that he is now renting out the third floor. As a result, his matter was continued so that it can be re-advertised as a multi-family dwelling.

In the second case considered, Keystone Country Building Group is seeking relief that would allow it to build a dwelling at 1456 Philip Street, even though the property is located on a steep slope. But that matter had to be continued, too.

Under questioning by Attorney Lisa Pereira, Keystone principal Brad Stine revealed that he had just revised his plans. The proposed home would be located less than 5' from the street, in violation of the zoning ordinance. In order to obtain relief from this requirement, the matter needs to be re-advertised. Stine's proposal is already being opposed by neighbor Jeff Hernandez, represented by Attorney Frank Trodato.

Both cases will be heard at he next regularly scheduled Zoning Hearing Board meeting, on November 29 at 7PM.

Abe Aims at Bethlehem Township

Abe Atiyeh sure gets a lot of ink. Last week alone, I covered two very long nights of hearings with him before Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board. Every news outlet in the universe was there, too. He doesn't need to advertise himself, but that's what he just did. He took out a full page ad in Wednesday's Morning Call, to complain about increased traffic and density that will come from two recently approved developments in Bethlehem Township, where he lives.

His ad was a prelude to a meeting of the Township's ZHB last night, where he's challenging the zoning that made those developments possible.

The first of these developments is William Penn Commons, which will soon be a high-end Scheetz gas station along William Penn Highway, right across the street from Farmersville Elementary School. Lou Pektor and Ed Novak are working that deal. Because of improvements to pedestrian access along William Penn Highway, Farmersville Elementary School actually supports the project, located a stone's throw from Route 33.

The other development is a humongous 103.9 acre site of farmland. It will be a self-contained traditional neighborhood on the north side of Freemansburg Avenue, replete with walking trails, two ponds, restaurants and a Shop-Rite supermarket. It's called Madison Farms for some reason.

Township officials and developers call it smart growth, consistent with the comprehensive plan. Atiyeh calls it sprawl and contract zoning.

I was unable to cover last night's adventures in Bethlehem Township because I was covering Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Superman Becomes a Blogger??

This will certainly ruin my image, but Superman is apparently becoming a blogger. You see, he's frickin' upset at things over at The Daily Planet. It seems that newspaper spends all its time writing about mindless subjects like American Idol. So for truth, justice and the American way, Clark Kent will ditch his job and enter the Kryptonite-infested world of the blogosphere.

Instead of facing arch-villain Lex Luthor, his new nemesis will be Matt Drudge or Arianna Huffington.

Bethlehehem Police: Attempted Child Luring

Details here.

Politics of Personal Destruction

As Obamaphiles pursue a whisper campaign against Mitt Romney's religious beliefs, birther Donald Trump plans to reveal that at one time, Barack and Michelle Obama may have experienced marital difficulties. So we've got religious intolerance on one hand, and a mean-spirited personal attack on the other.

Here's an idea. Instead of discussing the finer points of Mormonism or whether the Obamas may have at one point gone through a rough patch, how about dropping the bullshit and discussing the actual issues?

Updated 10 AM: In response to Trump's claims, the National Review responds, "I Liked It Better When Trump’s Bombshells Were His Girlfriends."

For 6th Year, Hanover Township Eyeing No-Tax-Hike Budget

Supervisor Mark Tanczos has a budget question.
Although details are still under wraps, Hanover Township Manager Jay Finnigan is well on his way to producing a no-tax increase budget for year 2013. He made this announcement following a Supervisors' meeting on October 23. If Supervisors adopt Finnigan's spending plan, it will be the Township's sixth straight year without a tax hike. Supervisors will review it in more detail at their November 13 meeting.

"I didn't get a raise?" joked veteran Supervisor Steve Salvesen.

"No," Finnigan somberly replied.

In addition to the good news about next year's budget, Supervisors approved a reduction in next year's residential waste and recycling fees. A typical single family residence will see an annual bill next year of $225,  down from $245. Multi-family dwellings will also see their garbage bills go down between $20-25 over what is being paid this year.

This lower fee is the result of a five-year garbage hauling contact with Raritan Valley Disposal, approved earlier this year.

"We're certainly headed in the right direction, especially during these tough economic times," said Supervisors' Chair John Diacogiannis, thanking Finnigan for his work on the budget.

In other business, Supervisors unanimously approved two new developments.

Virginia-based Patient First, a primary and urgent care facility, received authorization for an 8,000 sq. ft, one-story building at the busy intersection of Schoenersville and Jacksonville Roads. It plans to open this facility next Summer.

Supervisors signed off on the first phase of Traditions of America at Bridle Path. This community, aimed at active adults aged 55 and older, will include 204 homes on a 68-acre lot. It is located along Bridle Path Road, next to the former St. Frances Academy.

Supervisors will meet again on Tuesday, November 13, 7 PM, at the Municipal Building, located at 3630 Jacksonville Road.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NorCo Dem Boss Walt Garvin Makes Republicans Emrick, Hahn, Look Good

Incumbents Marcia Hahn and Joe Emrick
The undercard for the big Presidential debate last night was a state house debate for the 137th and 138th legislative district seats currently held by Republicans Joe Emrick and Marcia Hahn, hosted by the Northampton - Monroe County Farm Bureau. I thought Emrick and Hahn were running against Joe Capozzolo and Leslie Altieri. Somebody should tell Northampton County Boss Man Walt Garvin. He was among the 25 or so people there, and posed a rambling and argumentative question, supposedly about partisanship, that made Emrick and Hahn look pretty good, while Garvin looked petty. In the process of doing so, he hurt the real challengers, who were doing just fine without his "help."

You can see the video here.

I gotta' tell you that I was about 15 minutes late. I always get lost on the roads around St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Plainfield Township. But I arrived just in time for the Walt Gravin show. His ranted about partisanship, fracking, voter ID and education cuts for over two minutes, refusing to allow any of the actual candidates to respond to his tirade.

"Is this the Walt Garvin show or is this a state house candidate debate?" I finally asked. The moderator then shut Garvin down. But the damage had been done. Garvin had just opened up a door that both Emrick and Hahn could drive through with a Mack truck.

Hahn was able to defend her own record.

"I was called to task with one of the newspapers even though I voted against the Congressional redistricting plan and went with the Democrats. I was still chided for it because they said, 'Oh, well, they gave me a bye.' Well, if you were there, and you would know how it worked, we didn't get a bye.

Emrick got in the best shots.

Challengers Leslie Altieri & Joe Capozzolo
"Thank you for demonstrating partisanship," he told Garvin. He could have ended it right there. But he instead corrected the party boss on his education claims.

"The reason that Republicans swept the state, to a large degree, is because they got sick and tired of the people in office, especially Ed Rendell, who increased spending 40% over 8 years, $8 billion, didn't out a dime in the transportation funding, we still face a $3.5 billion transportation shortfall. Mr. Rendell also took $4 billion in federal stimulus money, which is where that budget gap came from that we had to close. While he was taking a two year revenue stream of federal stimulus money that was supposed to be for shovel ready job creation, he was gutting the state's contribution to K-12 basic education, backfilling it with federal stiulus money that they knew was going to disappear in two years, the day he left office. So we come into office with a billion dollar gap in basic K-12 education finding.

"We had to back fill as much of that money as we could, knowing that we're in the heart of a brutal recession. ...

"How irresponsible was that? How do you spend $8 billion and not address the transportation needs of the state? So you want to know why the Democrats were swept out of office?"

Garvin: "No. That was not my question. That was not my question."

Emrick: "You don't have a question."

Joe Cap tried to deflect the damage Garvin had done.

"I don't really know what your question was, Walt," he said, as everyone started laughing. Cap pointed out that he has a history of bipartisanship. "I don't think either party is always right or the other arty is always wrong, he said, noting that his own family is split between the two major parties.

But after the debate, Cap was a little worried that Democratic photographer Michael Laws would snap a picture of him talking to me.

Leslie Altieri pledged she would be bipartisan, but unlike Cap, has no record of it one way or the other. She did agree that her opponent, Marcia Hahn, voted about redistricting,. But Leslie also pointed out that Hahn agreed to send the measure to the House floor.

Garvin? He took off. After his failed attempt to monopolize the dialogue, he lacked the courtesy to stick around and actually listen to what was being said.

Maybe he was giving Obama advice.

Then Joe Cap and Joe Emrick demonstrated their bipartisanship with this little exchange about Voter ID ... in Klingon.

Alrighty then.

Then they all agreed they love farmland preservation and oppose Sunday hunting.

Emrick and Hahan both support reforming prevailing wage laws, with Emricjk adding it would result in lower bids. Altieri is opposed to this, while Cap said he needs to study the issue.

Updated Wednesday, Midnight: Removed the videos and replaced them with links because they awere causing problems for some readers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Final Presidential Debate: Is Romney Challenger or Incumbent?

Does Mitt Romney know something the rest of us don't? Watching tonight's third and final Presidential debate on what was supposed to be foreign policy, I got the distinct impression that he, and not President Barack Obama, was the incumbent. And Obama, who hounded Romney aggressively throughout the night, seemed more like a challenger who is down in the polls. Both kept straying into our domestic issues, where there are real divides. But in the foreign arena, they basically agreed.

As someone who has spent the last four years dealing with foreign princes and traveling across the globe, I thought Obama sounded like a President. But he failed to demonstrate that Mitt Romney is a war-monger or "all over the place," despite saying so repeatedly. For his part, Romney handled the constant attacks very well, and was even able to chide the President twice that he was there to discuss issues.

If Romney intended to establish that he's no neo-conservative itchy to start wars, he succeeded.

Obama wins on substance. Barely. Romney wins on style. Barely.

Overall, I say Romney won. I particularly disliked the way Obama evaded a direct answer to the question whether he would regard an attack on Israel as the equivalent of an attack against the United States. How hard is it to answer a question?

What's your call?

11:00 AM Update: A BBC Survey indicates that, in numerous nations throughout the world, Obama is the favored candidate. In France, he's supported by a whopping 72% of the people. Israel was not among the nations polled.

Norco's Former First Assistant Public Defender Charged With Theft

On August 15, I told you that Northampton County's First Assistant Public Defender, Anthony Martino, was under an ethical cloud as a result of the possible misappropriation of money from his law firm, as well as the outright theft of client money. I followed up on August 24 with a second story, reporting that he had been suspended and listing numerous tax claims filed against him.

I was taken to task by numerous people for exposing Martino. "Things are often enough not as they first seem and this type of career damaging information should not be disseminated without certainty," huffed Jim Fiorentino, himself an attorney and Chair of Bethlehem's Planning Commission.

According to The Express Times, Martino was charged today with nine counts of theft, three counts of receiving stolen property, three counts of misapplication of entrusted funds and one count of forgery.

Is that certain enough?

Mitt's A Mormon: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Some of my Democratic Facebook friends are blithely posting and reposting a video about "secret" Mormon rituals. Of  course, what they are really trying to do is scare the shit out of you. It amazes me that people who normally would decry this type of intolerance will promote it if it serves their political agenda.

Archibald Johnston on Pawlowski's Privatization: "Criminal Negligence"

None of us is old enough to have experienced the frequent cholera outbreaks of the 19th century. They were all the result of contaminated food or water. And in 1918, the United States was reeling from the deadly Spanish flu, a pandemic that may have killed as many as 100 million people worldwide. Many blamed "swamp gas", electricity in the air, and of course, a vengeful God. This is the world in which Archibald Johnston became Bethlehem's first Mayor.

His city, which had both a strict quarantine and a makeshift hospital at the Steel Company, suffered only about 100 casualties. More corrupt cities like Philadelphia, which failed to plan for or react to this calamity, dumped close to 13,000 bodies outside police stations and in trench graves.

Johnston, an engineer, believed in planning. He opposed private water sources. In fact, in his first message as Mayor, he explained why.

"The municipal problem is primarily and essentially one of human welfare," stated Johnston. "Every municipality is morally bound to furnish to its inhabitants an abundant supply of pure water, the purest air possible, and a well-drained soil (which means proper sewerage), street cleaning, garbage and refuse collection and disposal. Any other than these sanitary standards in a city will be considered, some day in America, as criminal negligence and sufficient cause for just punishment; since public health is a public duty."

At the time Johnston took office, Bethlehem had both a municipal water supply serving West Bethlehem and a private supply for the rest, furnished by The Bethlehem City Water Company. This private company gathered its water from the Lehigh River. It met state quality requirements of 1918. But according to Johnston, it was still contaminated by sulfur, sewage and manufacturing waste.

As Johnston points out, a private company is motivated more by profit than concern for a citizen's welfare.
One important difference between a privately owned and a municipally owned public water works is, that the former is considered in the light of an investment upon which the fixed interest and other charges must of necessity be earned at not less (let us assume) than the legal rate of interest. Hence the water company must consider extensions and improvement of plant and service in the light of probable returns on capital investment, otherwise bankruptcy might result; but a municipality, owning its own water works system, may elect at any time, on the score of public policy, to make extensions and betterments and distribute the cost by general taxation. The facilities and SERVICE ARE PARAMOUNT in the latter case, while in the former, they MAY be subordinate.
Those words are as true today as they were in 1918. They demonstrate clearly that Allentown Mayor's short-sighted water privatization plan, is nothing short of what Johnston himself would call "criminal negligence."

In numerous power points, Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski essentially claims he has no choice but to privatize the Queen City's water and sewer. There are no other options, he argues. But that is simply untrue.

First, while demanding state protection for a pension mess caused by the state, Pawlowski could demand some help from Harrisburg while refusing to make the MMO payment until he gets it. If state legislators are so willing to create a gigantic NIZ to help out J.B. Reilly, perhaps they'd also be willing to help out the people they are actually supposed to represent.

Second, Pawlowski could send the pension portfolio to an outfit that actually can generate a higher annual return, instead of one of his campaign contributors. Even a small, 1.5% increase in pension performance can sometimes reduce the annual required payment (MMO) on a pension by as much as one-third.

And of course, there's always the possibility of doing a combination of small tax hikes and borrowing.

None of this three options has even been mentioned, probably because they would work. Besides, I thought the NIZ was supposed to "transform" Allentown. If that is so, why the hell does he need to privatize what Archibald Johnston regarded a moral imperative?

But what the hell did Johnston know? He just steered Bethlehem through a pandemic. He was never a Chicago community organizer.

The Moravian Defect

Sunday is always a busy day for bottom feeling bloggers. While everyone is at church or eating pancake breakfasts, I'm looking through their garbage. Unfortunately, I had to use my car (instead of my bike) yesterday because I had a succession of appointments all over the place. Anyway, while driving west along Route 22 yesterday afternoon, I almost ran right off the road! There, smiling at me, was an enormous headshot of NorCo DA John Morganelli, plastered all over a billboard. Next to his mug shot were these words - "The Moravian Effect."

John is a '77 Moravian grad, so it kinda' makes sense that the college would want to play that up and make itself look like a DA factory. After all, Lehigh and Lafayette have the engineer market tied up.

But here's what Moravian would prefer you forget. I graduated from that school, too. You won't see my puss on a billboard anytime soon, although I might get on a Most Wanted list.

I'm The Moravian Defect.

Bob Freeman: Defender of Rednecks

State Rep. Bob Freeman's bill to protect trailer park tenants sailed through the state house on March 8 with a 190-7 vote. On October 16, it was passed unanimously by the State Senate. Now all that's needed before it becomes state law is Governor Corbett's signature. 

Freeman introduced this bill after the Barbosa Trailer Park, located in Bethlehem Township, was sold to developer Lou Pektor for condos, without giving tenants enough time to find alternative housing. The project was never developed. 

Freeman's bill requires manufactured home community owners, when closing the community, to:

(1) inform residents within 60 days of any decision to close the community;·        
(2) inform the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the home municipality also within 60 days;·        (3) give residents at least six months to leave the community when the closure notice is made -- under current law they only have 30 days;
·     (4) consider any offer to purchase the community by a resident association representing at least 25 percent of the manufactured home spaces;
(5) pay relocation expenses of up to $4,000 for single and $6,000 for multi-section manufactured homes;·        (6) pay at least $2,500 or the home's appraised value, whichever is greater, when the homeowner is unable or unwilling to relocate the home; and·        
(7) allow tenants to terminate any leases without penalty after receiving the community's closure notice.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Edwards For President!

The Salt Lake Tribune, located in what it itself calls a "largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state," has just endorsed Obama. So have The Denver Post and Tampa Bay Times.

But the endorsement that carries most weight with me is The Onion, which has just endorsed John Edwards. Among its reasons? "Mr. Edwards conducted a protracted extramarital affair with a younger woman while his wife was dying of cancer, and we like that he did this."

So there you have it.

Five Allentown Residents Seek H2O Privatization Referendum

Five Allentown residents, including a former Controller and former City Council member, are spearheading an effort to have voters, and not City Council, decide whether to privatize Allentown's water and sewer systems. Former Controller Bill Hoffman and former City Council member Michael Donovan are part of a five-member petition committee that also includes Dan "Camera Dan" Poresky, Glenn Hunsicker and Glenn Scott Hunsicker.

They need three thousand signatures from registered Allentown voters in less than two months. To do that, they plan to hit voters at the polls this November.

Here's what they are saying:

We are circulating a petition to have a question placed on the Allentown election ballot in May 2013.

You don’t have to be an Allentown resident or registered voter to circulate the petition.

The ballot question will ask whether the city must come to the voters to approve any sale or lease of city land or assets valued in excess of Ten Million Dollars.

We need to collect three thousand signatures of registered Allentown voters in less than two months. Can you help collect signatures on election day at polling places? Do you attend neighborhood group meetings? What gathering places can you attend or recommend?

Meeting: Sunday October 21, 1:00 PM Allentown Patriots Community Building, 1027 Wyoming St., Allentown 18103 Map= Enter rear.
A second meeting will be held on Thursday October 25th at 7PM at The Allentown Brew Works second Floor 812 West Hamilton St.

You are not required to attend a meeting to obtain a petition to circulate. To get a petition to circulate or to sign a petition without attending a meeting, please contact Glenn Hunsicker ghunsicker@ptd.net Phone 484-515-3011 or Glenn S. Hunsicker gshunsicker@msn.com 484.707.8107.

Lawn Signs Available: Contact Dan Poresky dporesky@yahoo.com

Please distribute this announcement by all available means whether or not you can attend the meeting.

The ballot question is an initiative of a city registered petition committee consisting of five Allentown residents:
Glenn Hunsicker: ghunsicker@ptd.net 610-433-7365
Glenn Scott Hunsicker gshunsicker@msn.com 484-707-8107
Michael Donovan Michael.Donovan@cedarcrest.edu 610-428-8749
William Hoffman wjhoffman10@gmail.com 484-695-1157
Daniel Poresky dporesky@yahoo.com 610-434-1396
You may contact any of us for more information.

Friday High School Football Picks

I enjoy high school and college sports much more than on the professional level. For on thing, I can afford to see the games. For another, they're so unpredictable. My calls this week are below. Tell me who you like, if you dare.

Bangor bangs Northern Lehigh (Got this one wrong. N. Lehigh came out on top, 34-27)

Catty claws Palmerton (48-7)

Pocono Mountain West pulverizes Dieruff. (postponed 'till 1 PM today)

Liberty lambasts overconfident Easton. (Easton might think Liberty is an easy target).. (Easton wins, 31-21, but Liberty led in the first quarter.)

Nazareth numbs Central Catholic (prepare for last rites) - (Wow! Central upsets Nazareth 27-21, but game suspended until Saturday, 6 PM.)

Northampton knocks Freedom. (Freedom knocked the conkrete out of 'em, 34-16)

Notre Dame beats Palisades (They're due.) (But not yet. Palisades pounds out a 23-7 win).

Whitehall whoops Emmaus (How the Hell did they ever come up with "Zephyrs"? Sure, it beats Hoboes, but not by much.) (Zephyrs beat the Hornets, 27-14. An explanation of the Zephyr is in the comments.)

Pleasant Valley unpleasant to Allen. (This game was called after the first half, with Pleasant Valley up 42-0)

Wilson whacks Salisbury (I know, I have a soft spot for Wilson). (Wilson wins! 48-19!)

Northern Lehigh pastes Pen Argyl

Parkland pulverizes Becahi. (Forget the Atiyeh rehab and build a hospital).

Updated Saturday PM. - With two games left, I am 4 for 9. I'll order a new crystal ball.

Groundhog Day For Abe Atiyeh

Instead of Bill Murray, who played a weatherman living the same day over and over again, it is now developer Abe Atiyeh's turn. In September, zoners and lawyers from all sides agreed to postpone his application for a 47-bed substance abuse facility at 2349 Linden Street, the site of the vacant Moose & Bug Florist Shop. Differences between the application, and how it was actually advertised, presented the possibility that someone could later file a challenge. But on October 18, when the case was presented to Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board again, the same problem still existed.

"It's groundhog day," stated City Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni.

Just two nights earlier, zoners went through 4 1/2 hours of testimony on another Atyeh request for a rehab center near Becahi, spurning an offer by Atiyeh Attorney Mark Malkames to knock off early so everyone could see both a Presidential and Congressional debate scheduled that evening.

But this time, something far more important was going on. The Yankees were playing the Tigers in the ALCS.

Atiyeh's application was postponed, at everyone's request, until November 29 at 6 PM.

Salute to Volunteers

At Tuesday's ZHB meeting, I posted a picture of four of Bethlehem's five Board members. Jim Schantz, unfortunately, is blocked from view. I remedied that tonight with this solo shot of Jim, as he listens to some points made by his colleagues.

It's the least I can do. Jim probably thinks I'm giving his growing list of enemies a target, but I'm actually trying to compliment people who volunteer untold hours to serve their community.

Some psychotherapist (who also does amazing things with cabinets) with a Master's Degree from Kutztown testified earlier this week that more than half of all drunks and pot heads are actually raving lunatics who want to have sex with giraffes. He might even be right because I do think giraffes are kinda' cute. But we addicts and alkies are perfectly normal compared to your average Zoning Hearing Board member.

These guys technically get paid . But it's about three cents an hour to sit through never-ending meetings. No matter how they decide, they're going to piss people off.

Who in his right mind is willing to do that?

Then there's school boards, who also have an uncanny knack of never being able to make anyone happy. And these are volunteers who don't even get three cents an hour.

I could see volunteering to be a firefighter. True, you could get fried, but  sounds pretty cool.

They make movies about these guys running into burning buildings and thwarting terrorists. But school director? ZHB member? What cool movies do they make about them?

We bloggers are starting to get into movies. True, we're usually cast as bad guys. But we're there.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coroner: Heroin Overdose Killed Son of Eagles' Coach

At a October 18 news conference, DA John Morganelli provided a glimpse into the final hours of 29 year-old Garrett Reid, oldest son of Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid. Just a few hours before his death on August 5, he was fine, according to two witnesses who saw him on Lehigh University's campus. But at 7:20 AM, he was found dead in his private bedroom at Sayre Park Village, where the Eagles were housed during training camp. According to Coroner Zachary Lysek, an autopsy and subsequent toxicology tests reveal that Reid's killer was heroin. Lysek added that Reid was in fact a chronic heroin user.

"Unfortunately, Garrett Reid did have a battle with drug use," stated Lysek.

LU Police Chief Edward Shupp
But how did Reid get the heroin? That's what Morganelli and Lehigh University police are still investigating. Police uncovered 19 vials of a still undetermined liquid substance, 47 syringes and 64 needles in Reid's gym bag. The also found two empty wax papers in which heroin is commonly packaged.

Officers also have Reid's cell phone, from which they continue to investigate calls and texts to and from Reid.

Morganelli wants the identity of Reid's supplier, whether it is in Philadelphia or Northampton County. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has pledged to assist Morganelli in any way needed. Morganelli also noted that the Philadelphia Eagles' organization has been completely cooperative, from Coach Reid to the players.

Whether investigators will ever be successful in identifying Reid's supplier is by no means clear. "Every investigation is its own animal," stated Morganelli.

Leslie Altieri Attacks Marcia Hahn Over Sandusky Investigation

Marcia Hahn
The Sandusy investigation?

That's right. In a news release, State House candidate Leslie Altieri has essentially called her opponent, incumbent State Rep Marcia Hahn, a pedophile enabler. Them's fightin' words. Here's her news release.

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Marcia Hahn and fellow House Republicans walked out while the house was still in session when House Resolution 520, which requests the US Attorney General to investigate whether or not there were Federal Violations associated with the Jerry Sandusky case
This week, representatives twice tried to bring the Resolution for a roll call vote, and twice Marcia Hahn wouldn’t stand up and let a full investigation be held. Then, in a bold move, Marcia Hahn voted to cut this legislative session short by 2 days in a procedural loophole that prohibits the discharge of resolutions within 6 days of the end of a legislative session, ending the possibility of a federal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky case.

Marcia Hahn this year has cut funding to Veteran’s services, cut $900 Million from education in 2011 then made further cuts in 2012 which has continually raised our property taxes and eliminated programs like cash assistance for our most vulnerable citizens and HEMAP for people to stay in their homes. These are programs that assist families in our community that need the most help. Hahn also voted for salary increases both years she was in session. Now, Marcia Hahn is cutting justice for the victims of the Sandusky case.

Leslie Altieri, a resident of Bethlehem Township, is challenging Hahn for the 138th House District because the education of our children and their safety must be our number one priority. When representing our district, Hahn’s partisan politics and corporate interests are ultimately hurting our veterans, fixed income seniors and working families. Property taxes have increased, our children’s education is suffering due to gutting of our public schools, and now one of the highest-profile child abuse cases won’t get an independent federal investigation.

“I was willing to give Marcia Hahn the benefit of the doubt because people believe she is a nice person - however how nice is it to the constituents of our district when she votes against our best interests “.

Apparently, House Republicans did scatter when State Rep. Anthony DeLuca called for a vote on the appointment of a lawyer to determine whether the Sandusky saga might have included violations of federal law.

That could be because we already have federal lawyers to do that sort of thing. They're called United States Attorneys. They need no House Resolution to investigate possible federal violations.

Right before an election, this seems politically contrived.

But instead of running, Republicans should explain why they did what they did. I have forwarded this news release to Rep. Hahn, and will publish any reply I receive.

School Principals, Psychtherapist, Testify Aganst Atiyeh Rehab

(From left to right: Solicitor Erich Schock and ZHB members Gus Loupos, Bill Fitzpatrick, Linda Shay Gardner and Michael Santanasto. James Schantz is blocked, but he's there.)

Two school principals and a psychotherapist spoke against Abe Atiyeh's quest for a residential drug and alcohol rehab center during a 4 1/2 hour hearing before Bethlehem's five-member Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) on October 16. About thirty-five people attended this second night of testimony concerning this proposed facility, which would be located at 2110 Center Street. That's just 380' from Bethlehem High School, and right next door to Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School.

At an earlier hearing in September, Atiyeh's engineer, David Harte, outlined plans for a 28-bed facility, 2 1/2-story treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction, to be staffed by a maximum of 16 people at any one time.

Ron Deiaco, principal and acting CEO of Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School, told zoners he had concerns about the possibility of inappropriate contacts between treatment center residents and the 100 elementary school children under his care. "As a principal, my first concern is the safety of my children," he testified, noting that kids playing outside during recess could come into contact with residents taking smoke breaks outside.

Just that day, Deiaco testified, somebody wondered into the school, looking for the yet-to-be-built rehab center.

When ZHB member Bill Fitzpatrick asked whether a fence would address those concerns, Deiaco acknowledged that "it would certainly be a start." He also admitted, in response to cross-examination by Atiyeh Attorney Mark Malkames, that he conducted no Megan's law search before moving into his new school in September.

According to the Megan's Law Website, two registered sex offenders live within a mile of his charter school.

Principal John Petruzzelli
Bethlehem Catholic Principal John Petruzzelli stated that, because of the "tremendous stigma" associated with narcotics addiction, his 745-student school would see its enrollment decline. It would also negatively affect its land value. "Please do not threaten our ability to interest parents and attract students," he pleaded. "Please don't threaten our viability."

Petruzzelli conceded, under questioning by Attorney Malkames, that he had no evidence demonstrating that a treatment center would lead to increased crime or violence in the neighborhood.

But William Henry, a psychotherapist who can walk from his home to the proposed center in thirty seconds, claimed that there is a connection. Between 50-75% of people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction also suffer from an underlying mental disorder, said Henry. He insisted this could lead to "complete breakdowns," resulting in violence.

For that reason, he argued that no rehab center should be built near a school. "I don't think there could be a worse place," he said.

He also ridiculed Atiyeh's proposal because there "clearly" is no treatment plan in place.

When questioned about rehab centers like the Keenan House, located in Allentown, Henry responded, "I don't like to go to Allentown. It's a little dangerous."

When Attorney Malkames asked Henry whether he really believed that a DUI offender is suffering from some kind of psychosis, Henry responded, "That's an incompetent statement."

Testimony in this case will continue, and hopefully conclude, in a hearing on November 20, 6 PM, at the Bethlehem Public Library.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Are Becahi's Three Words of Discipline?

... Freedom or Liberty.

Abe Atiyeh Zoning, UFOs or Presidential Debate?

While most of you were snuggled in your comfy chairs to watch last night's Presidential debate, I was sitting on the second floor of Bethlehem Public Library. In one room, a rather large bunch of kooks met to discuss UFOs. In the next room, an even larger bunch of kooks assembled for an Abe Atiyeh Zoning Hearing Board appeal for a residential rehab facility pretty close to Becahi.  This site, located at Center and Dewberry, also happens to be right next door to a charter school for special needs grade school children that just opened its doors in September.

All Abe needs now is a nearby college.

This case, which was first heard last month, went on for 4 1/2 hours last night. And they're still not done. Another hearing is set for November 20, where resident after resident will get up and swear under oath that Abe Atiyeh is a dirtball. For another 4 1/2 hours.

Every now and then, I would sneak out of the zoning hearing and drop in on the UFO crowd. It was quite enlightening. I learned that not only have we been visited by aliens in the past, but they are among us right now.  After 4 1/2 hours of a zoning hearing, I could see antennas popping out all over the place

I also noticed a giant pod next to City Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni, who was trying his best to stay awake.

Mark Malkames, representing Abe Atiyeh, offered to finish up early so we could all go home to watch the Presidential debate. But this is Bethlehem, and everybody there is already voting for Obama. So they all said No. They were anxiously waiting for their chance to call Abe Atiyeh a dirtbag.

Some pompous psychotherapist who claims he's gone to school for a zillion years, but has no Ph.D., testified that 50-75% of alcoholics and drug addict are whack jobs who get violent, psychotic and schizophrenic. Some of those bastards might even see UFOs. When an incredulous Malkames asked this guy whether he was frickin' serious, he called the Atiyeh advocate incompetent.

I think this psychotherapist might need some help.

Either that or he's an alien.

When the hearing was over, I hopped in my bike to cycle back to Nazareth. It was dark, but I have lights all over my bike. Some are steady. Others flash. At a light, one motorist rolled down his window to tell me that, from a distance, I looked like a UFO.

Anyway, I missed the debate I wanted to see and got home too late to recap the meeting. I'll do that tomorrow.

I've read a few news accounts of the debate, and really regret having missed some fiery exchanges. I'll try to find the debate online after getting some sleep and watch it. But I am interested in knowing what you thought.

Who won?

Did Obama make a comeback, as I've read. Was Romney still strong, as I've read. Was moderator Candy Crowley pro-Obama, as I've read? Was she a great moderator? I read that, too.

When giving your debate analysis, please indicate whether you are an Obama or Romney supporter, or whether you are undecided like me.

I'm getting some sleep, just as soon as I get rid of that damn pod.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Morganelli Endorses Kathleen Kane for AG

At an October 15 news conference, Northampton County DA John Morganelli endorsed fellow Democrat Kathleen Kane for Attorney General. This former Scranton prosecutor is opposed by Republican David Freed. The latest polls give her a 5% edge, but 37% are still undecided.

In addition to her obvious experience, Morganelli likes her vision for the AG's office, particularly when it comes to her focus on child abuse investigations. He contrasted her proactive views with those of then Attorney General Tom Corbett, whose office in 2009 was investigating child abuse allegation against PSU Assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to Morganelli, Corbett "dragged his feet, allowing Mr. Sandusky to be out there, with other potential young victims, for a period of two years and eight months."

Morganelli claimed Kane, if elected, would put a "big flashlight" on the Sandusky investigation. In addition, she would fight to give local prosecutors more tools to take child predators off the street.

Having run for the office himself, Morganelli claimed the AG's office needs "sweeping changes." He noted that, in thirty years, there has never been a Democratic Attorney General.

"It's amazing that this office has been controlled by one party, and it's just constantly rehashing the same people over and over in various positions," said Morganelli.

Thanking Morganelli, Kane vowed to be "an independent prosecutor that we can trust, who is not a part of the good ol' boy network in Harrisburg, and who we can trust to uncover the truth."

"I am an independent voice," stated Kane, with the piercing eyes of a veteran prosecutor. "I am not beholden to any political party and I am not beholden to any politician, and I will get the right things done for the right reason. The Attorney General's office is an independent agency, and it needs to remain that way."

"It's time to open up the window, and let the sun shine in that place," Kane told me after her news conference.

In addition to extending the statute if limitation for child abuse prosecutions, Kane advocates a requirement that police, in addition to child protective services, be notified of suspected cases of child abuse.

Lafayette Study: Better Communication Needed Among Bethlehem Tp Firefighters, Comm'rs

Bethlehem Township, like many municipalities, is served by more than one fire department. Two volunteer fire companies - Nancy Run and Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Company (BTVFC)- serve the Township. Last year, Township Commissioners authorized Lafayette College's Meyner Center to identify areas where operations can be improved at both volunteer organizations. On October 15, the Meyner Center's David Woglom presented a litany of recommendations to Commissioners. But they could be summed up in one word - cooperate.

As Woglom explained in great detail, the level of cooperation between the two fire companies, and with the Commissioners, needs to improve. He suggested monthly meetings between the two fire chiefs, a fire relations committee made up of Commissioners and firefighters, a shared inventory, standardized guidelines at both volunteer companies, as well as monthly joint training that would include members of both departments.

Woglom called Nancy Run and BTVFC "two halves of a whole, not two separate entities." But, noting that the two fire companies are very different, Woglom stopped short of recommending a consolidation. BTVFC, for example, has a very active and financially successful EMS service. In addition, Woglom pointed out that both departments respond to more calls than any other fire departments in the County, even though the annual municipal contributions are among the lowest. Last year, the Township contributed $130,000 to Nancy Run Fire Co., and $295,778 to BYVFC.

Commissioners and volunteer firefighters both welcomed and intend to implement Woglom's report. Tom Nolan commended Woglom for an "excellent job." Martin Zawarski noted that "fire companies can still retain autonomy, but they can see how working together will help both."

Noting that Bethlehem Township's EMS has done a "terrific financial job," Woglom suggested that Commissioners might want to reduce its contribution if the EMS remains successful. "I'm not trying to suggest that they be penalized for being successful," Woglom stressed.

After the meeting, President Paul Weiss indicated that Woglom's specific recommendations will be considered when Commissioners review next year's budget. But he dismissed any suggestion of consolidation. "At the end of the day, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.

Firefighters were happy with the report, too.

"The communication with everybody needs to improve," acknowledged BYVFC Fire Chief Dave Stapinski. Assistant Fire Chief Ron Ford likes the idea of joint training with Nancy Run. "There's always room for improvement," he said.

Bethlehem Townhip Commissioners will meet again on Monday, November 5,  7 PM, at the Municipal Building, located at 4225 Easton Avenue.

Breast Cancer Survivor: My Faith Kept Me Strong

It was the last thing Hellertown resident Jacqueline Yelovich ever expected to hear. There was no history of it in her family. She never even smoked. She was only 40-ish. Yet after a routine examination in 2008, she learned she had breast cancer. "I thought I was going to die," she said. Not only did she live, but Jacquie just completed her fifth breast cancer awareness 5-k earlier this month.

A Fountain Hill native and self-employed title searcher at the Northampton County Courthouse, Jacquie knew she'd have to undergo surgery and radiation. "I sucked it up and I did it," she said, explaining that the staff at St. Luke's Cancer Cure Unit are wonderful. She experienced side effects, from headaches to irritated skin. But she continued working. "My faith kept me strong," she explains.

In addition to her faith, Jacquie has made lifestyle changes. She avoids processed foods, drinks more water than she did and has reduced her alcohol consumption.

Like Jacquie, her children did not know what to do when she was first diagnosed. Now her son Mitch asks her to speak to others with breast cancer. And daughter Rachel joins her mother in those 5-ks, along with walks along the Saucon Rail Trail. She dresses in pink, in honor of her mother's fight.

"I'm lucky and I'm blessed," explains Jacquie.

So are we.

Wanna Buy a Cop Car?

You can buy one, or a dump truck, at the Lehigh Valley Municipality/Surplus Equipment Auction on Saturday, November 3, at 9 AM, at 1401 Laubach Avenue, Northampton, Pa. 18067. You can check the details here. Bethlehem Township is trying to sell a dump truck, among other things.

Believe it or not, there will be loads of bicycles for sale, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Charlie Dent on Arlen Specter

LV Congressman Charlie Dent issued this statement on the passing of Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. Senator.

“It is with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter had a front row seat and was actively engaged in many significant issues of the past half century -- from the Warren Commission to Supreme Court nominations to the advancement of scientific research.

“A tough, fierce competitor, Arlen Specter courageously and tenaciously battled cancer as passionately as he advocated for the causes in which he believed. He will leave an everlasting legacy of service to the people of Pennsylvania and his commitment to medical research may well be remembered as his greatest public service achievement.

"My wife Pam and I send our heartfelt condolences to Joan and the entire Specter family.”

Stoffa: State Legislators Need To Help Fund Gracedale

While Ron Angle and I were discussing Gracedale on Business Matters, County Executive John Stoffa laid out his own approach to the Northampton County-owned nursing home at Council's first budget hearing last week. Here's what he had to say.

"I think when it comes to Gracedale, we need to think of a different way of solving that issue up there. We've been trying to solve the funding gap by cutting, and I don't think that's possible. It's my opinion we'll never be able to operate without a contribution from the County. I know of no county nursing home that doesn't get a county contribution right now. I think we'e going to have to realize that we're going to have to put in between $4 and $6 million per year. There's nothing wrong with that. We put about $7.4 million into Human Services. 

"But I think one of the things we haven't done a good job of is looking for increasing the reimbursement rate from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

"A lot of legislators have supported keeping Gracedale open. But ask yourself the question, What have they done to increase our reimbursement rates?  "Nothing. 

"I think our efforts should be towards getting the Commonwealth Department of Welfare to increase those reimbursement rates or else we're gonna' put more and more money into Gracedale."

Stoffa went onto point out that, despite $13.5 million in GESA improvements, another $7.5 million is needed for problems like a moon-crater parking lot.

State Reps Joe Emrick and Marcia Hahn Schedule a Debate

The Northampton-Monroe County Farm Bureau invites you to attend a "candidates' night for the 137th and 138th Legislative Districts on Monday, October 22, 2012, at 7:30 pm.

It will take place at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 1422 Church Road, Pen Argyl, Pa. 18072. (if using a GPS use 1422 Delabole Road for the address).

This will feature 137th Legislative District candidates Joe Emrick (incumbent) and Joseph Capozzolo; and 138th Legislative District candidates Marcia Hahn (incumbent)and Leslie Altieri.

There was supposed to be a debate in Wind Gap last week, but only Joe Cap and Leslie Altieri showed. Emrick and Hahn told The Express Times they had given several weeks' notice of their unavailability, but Joe Cap nevertheless called Emrick a chicken.

They can argue whether the chicken or the egg should come first, or they might explain why Executive John Stoffa claims the legislature has done NOTHING to help county-owned nursing homes like Gracedale.

PoliticsPA Notices Deely Disaster at DeSales

Giving State Rep. Justin Simmons an up, PoliticsPA explains: Justin Simmons. "One of Dems’ top 2012 targets, Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh) appears to be on a roll against public school teacher Kevin Deely. He picked up the endorsement of the Easton Express-Times, launched a new TV ad, and by one account (with video), he cleaned up at a debate Monday night. He looks like he’d have given Mitt Romney a run for his money on the debate stage."

Deely said during the debate that he loves his job as a teacher. "Education is one of the best things a person can do," he argued. If this is so, then perhaps that's what he should do.

Just don't ever let him teach debating.