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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bill Hansell's State of Lehigh County Message

Under our charter, the Lehigh County executive is required to deliver a “State of the County” message to our Board of Commissioners before the end of February each year. I decided against an elaborate presentation of this message and instead chose to simply deliver it to you in writing. I was invited to speak at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon next month and I will also outline the state of our county to the businesses and members there.

Our county is among the largest in Pennsylvania. More than 350,000 people call Lehigh County home. Tens of thousands of businesses operate here, countless cultural arts institutions and organizations thrive here, and we assess property taxes on more than 125,000 properties. The sum total of all of those people, institutions and businesses is the essence of Lehigh County.

This message is intended to brief you on the state of Lehigh County’s government, not necessarily the state of Lehigh County, which encompasses much more.

Over the past seven years, through Don Cunningham’s stewardship and, more recently, mine, Lehigh County’s government has been managed in a fiscally prudent but responsive manner, balancing the need to keep our tax burden low with providing services needed to help the county’s most vulnerable residents. Despite the increased demand that a recession brings to county services, Lehigh County’s government is considerably smaller than it was seven years ago.

The 2013 budget that my administration proposed was the third consecutive year for the County’s budget to be lower than the prior year and was a full $50 million lower than in 2010. The number of employees working for Lehigh County is now 6 percent below our employee compliment of twenty years ago. As a result of bipartisan collaboration that was carried out in good faith with four commissioners as well as other elected officials, we committed to find another $3.5 million in spending cuts and turn a planned one-year tax credit into a permanent reduction in our millage rate.

I have been privileged to serve local governments for over half a century, from a small town to a growing suburb to the 1st and 3rd largest cities in our Commonwealth. I have lead two major associations devoted to improving local government and have advised local governments from Australia to South Africa to the Balkans.

Because of the long career and wealth of experience that I have with government budgets, I know what a well-managed government looks like. The management and direction of Lehigh County at present and over the past seven years has been a resounding success by any measurable standard.

In that period of time, Lehigh County was able to renovate our county courthouse, saving $20 million in the process, build Coca Cola Park, which is rapidly becoming one of the biggest attractions in our area, and create a plan to significantly enhance the Trexler Nature Preserve. With the capital funds that were saved through numerous cost-cutting measures on the courthouse, the county was able to undertake the most comprehensive facilities and capital program upgrade in this county’s history, ranging from a state of the art 911 dispatch center to more than 20 bridge replacements and repairs.

Through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program we are providing $2.2 million which will be used in neighborhoods that are in danger of decline by purchasing, rehabilitating and selling of distressed properties. Meanwhile, our Green Future Fund program has pushed the total of farmland acres preserved past the 20,000-acre mark and, most recently, released $1.1 million to six municipalities for important parks and recreation projects.

As a result of the business community and our county government’s hard work in the area of economic development, earlier this year, Lehigh County was recognized by the Fourth Economy Community Index as one of the top ten best counties in the nation to attract growth and investment in the future.

The first priority of the county must be to protect the people who live here. Providing a safe environment is the first and most important step to creating economic growth. Our highest priority over the past seven years has been a commitment to public safety and justice.

More than seventy cents of every Lehigh County tax dollar is spent on people, institutions and systems that combat crime and help to maintain law and order. Strong efforts in this area have benefits that are twofold. First, our efforts help to make Lehigh County a safer place to live in the short term, and second, every dollar that we spend today on law and order helps to prevent further spending to pay the costs associated with crime and punishment down the road.

We have fully funded the effort to connect every police department in Lehigh County to police departments in other counties, to each other and to the State Police with “real time” sharing of data records. We also provided funding to put ten new police officers on the streets of six Lehigh County municipalities, opened a new state-of-the-art 911 center and fully renovated and expanded our work release center with a focus on more effective counseling for both men and women.

In collaboration with District Attorney Jim Martin, we have opened a Central Booking Unit designed to put officers back on the street quickly after making an arrest, a digital forensic lab in collaboration with DeSales University and a Regional Crime Center, which can pull in data from an extremely wide range of law enforcement sources to determine crime patterns, cross-match information on potential suspects and provide solid leads to the local police.

The overall goal has been simple. We want Lehigh County to be a safe place to live and a very unfriendly place for lawbreakers.

Just last week, some of you may have attended the groundbreaking of a facility that was the result of a unique partnership between Lehigh County and Cetronia Ambulance Corps. We sold the land to Cetronia, who built a facility that was big enough to house their own public health and safety operations and include a new medicolegal facility for our coroner as well as space to house our emergency management vehicles. We were able to save millions on the facility through this partnership.

In a month or so, we will hold a grand opening for our new Lehigh County Detoxification Center in partnership with a private provider, White Deer Run. This facility was built without the use of Lehigh County tax dollars.

The only way that Lehigh County can enhance services in these crucial areas without putting a burden on taxpayers is to be as frugal and efficient as possible with what we spend on our basic operations, and I’m proud to report that that’s exactly what we’ve done and what we will continue to do. Most important, our employees have been committed to that goal and I take particular pride in recognizing the great partnership that we have gotten from our unions.

Total staffing has been reduced by 143 full-time positions and another 28 positions have been converted to critical public safety positions—with the reductions occurring in both our union and non-union units. All the while, we have successfully avoided having any contract negotiations move to arbitration.

I am also proud to say that the County’s healthcare costs have increased an average of only 1.3% annually since this administration took office in 2006, which is something I doubt many private sector companies can say. We have gotten there by tough negotiating, transferring a significant portion of the costs to all of our employees and increasing the focus on wellness programs to limit the future growth of this very challenging budget line item.

This has happened not in spite of, but because of, our union contracts. Without arbitration, we have negotiated agreements with all our unions to keep wage growth under control and for all workers -- union and non-union -- to pay about 20 percent of the cost of their healthcare.

We are emerging from the recent recession in sound financial condition, and in better shape than many other municipal and county governments in America. Any way that you choose to measure it, the state of our county finances is sound.

Thanks to the spirit of cooperation that has prevailed on the Board of Commissioners, especially through the early years of the administration, we have been able to accomplish a great deal in just seven short years--and we have been able to do what we have done in a cost-effective manner. But I am a strong believer in continuous improvement.

When I was appointed County Executive, I made a commitment to focus on continuous improvement and we are following through on that commitment. I have tapped into my old rolodex and sought out resources and former associates from the professional association that I used to lead, the ICMA, to begin the implementation of a performance management process for all departments. This performance management initiative will sharpen the focus on the goals that we hope to achieve and it will increase efficiency in the processes we use to get to those goals.

We have also launched a major priority-based budget initiative which could have a dramatic impact on the way we approach our budget process and on how we analyze the things we do with our taxpayers’ money. We plan to explore several possible and examine different scenarios for changes or reductions in functions and services. Over the coming months, we will undertake a new way of looking at how we choose what is important and what ends up in our budget.

Despite the County Executive’s veto and the administration’s advice against reassessing last year, we were able to make the best of the situation and follow the Board of Commissioner’s direction to reassess, and the process went smoothly.

We have come through the reassessment process and the required appeals period with very good results from a County financial perspective, if not to the delight of almost half of our property owners. As we have experienced, reassessment can be a very controversial issue and one which can be seriously flawed if left in the hands of politicians. Barring unexpected action by the State to make the process occur at regular intervals, this administration recommends that the Board of Commissioners press for a charter change via referendum to ensure that it happens.

Lehigh County is home to all of us, and the decisions that we make will have an impact not just today, but far into the future. I believe that government has a place in our lives; it has a role to play in the provision of basic services and that it must be properly funded in order to fulfill its mandates.

Overall, the state of Lehigh County government is strong and our county is steadily recovering from the devastation of the recession. Reports from the housing market are encouraging, salaries are beginning to rise again and we are seeing more companies opt to move from outside the area to within our borders, which should work positively on the stalled job market.

However, we’re certainly not out of the difficult times yet and there is a greater need than ever to demonstrate the spirit of cooperation that has always been the hallmark of Lehigh County government. This is a time when we have to put political party differences and ideology aside, as we did in crafting a bipartisan 2013 Budget, and work together toward the common good, and in the best interests of our county’s taxpayers. That’s what I committed to do when I was appointed County Executive and what I continue to hope can be forged with our Board of Commissioners, despite the fact that it is an election year.

We’ve weathered an extremely difficult economic stretch but were still able to get many important things accomplished. We need to do even more together now that we see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Bill White Blasts Barron von Footinmouth

Morning Call columnist Bill White has chimed in with his own assessment of Northampton County Controller Steve Barron, who has been the subject of numerous posts here. Since he asks whether Barron Von Footinmouth is the worst controller ever made,  I think you can surmise that the image is unflattering.

I will say this in defense of Barron. He's really not all that political on the job. That's because he's never there. You'll never see him on a Friday. I'm told, reliably, that his typical work week is just two to three days.

Updated 10:30 AM: Just so you know, the Fake Rev, Mario Martinez of Forks Township, has issued yet another fatwā. White is "now viewed by We The People as a terrorist columnist, who has set his sight's on We The People's representative - County Controller Stephen Barron, with the intent of helping County Executive John Stoffa destroy Mr. Barron."

Next thing you know, they'll be claiming he kicks old ladies in wheelchairs.

Mezzacappa Ejected from Easton Gun Store

The "God Hates Fags" candidate for Northampton County Council, racist Tricia Mezzaccappa, is upset about her ejection from an Easton gun store this week, where she was trying to get signatures for her nominating petition. She emailed her complaint to Matt Vollers of The Heritage Guild, which appears to be some sort of shooting organization. For some reason, she copied my attorney:

Thank you for calling me tonight to discuss my ejection from the Easton gun store. I certainly do appreciate the time that you took to address my concerns that I sent in last week's email. As you know, ejecting a republican from a gun store for circulating a nominating petition is congruent with ejecting a democrat from a soup kitchen. I really need to find those live republicans Matt, and it sure is hard to do. In Northampton County, there are few republicans, and even fewer who answer a knock on the door. I appreciate your follow up call and offer to allow me to handle (and fire) any weapon in the store, free of charge. I also appreciate your knowledge as an NRA instructor, and placing your trust in me, to properly handle (and fire) any weapon in the store. It is a big responsibility, and I am grateful. Very likely, I will return to buy the 22, (even though I said I was never coming back) and when I am feeling particularly strong, I will fire either the desert eagle, or the S&W 500 series revolver, wearing nothing short of 6 inch stilettos (just like last time). As an aside, John is a pleasure to deal with, and I will most likely buy my next firearm from him, but not the manager...definitely not the manager.

In the meantime, if you would like to let me circulate those petitions on Sat. March 8 at 8:30 am (when the line is nice and long) in the parking lot for 30 minutes, please let me know. My guess is that I could grab about 20 signatures in 30 minutes. My deadline to file my petitions is 3/12/2013. My goal is 20 per day , every day until the deadline.
Thanks again,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adam Waldron Running For Bethlehem City Council

From Friends of Adam Waldron:  Adam Waldron, a Democrat, is pleased to announce his bid for Bethlehem City Council. Adam is a third-generation Liberty High School graduate as a member of the class of 2002. In 2006, Adam graduated with a degree in Business Management from West Chester University. As a full time college student, he began a residential painting business to fund his education. Upon graduation, Adam moved back to the area to continue painting homes in Bethlehem and throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Adam’s family proudly owned a small business on the East Side of Allentown called Balloons for all Occasions from 1983 to 1999. At an early age, the fostering environment gave Adam insight and experience how dedication, fiscal responsibly, and great customer service can lead to a successful business. He continues to use the lessons he learned from his parents in his business today. If elected, he will apply these principles to his work on Council for the City of Bethlehem.

Adam believes that Bethlehem needs and deserves clean and safe neighborhoods, where all residents can enjoy the beautiful history of the city. Additionally, accessible and efficient city services coupled with financial accountability are important issues to him. Adam’s passion for Bethlehem and dedication to creating a more responsive and efficient government, are key to his motivation for running.

“Bethlehem needs strong independent businesses to be the keystone of its neighborhoods. My fresh perspective and small business background would be a great asset on Council as the city continues to grow.” - Adam Waldron

Adam is a proud resident of West Bethlehem with his wife Melissa – a Biology teacher at Liberty High School. Together they coach girl’s volleyball at Liberty High School and for Quickset Volleyball Club. The couple also actively competes in local half-marathons and triathlons. Adam and Melissa enjoy walking the neighborhoods of West Bethlehem with their two dogs.

Political Contributions can be made to:
Friends of Adam Waldron
511 2nd Ave
Bethlehem, PA 18018

Morganelli for Lt. Guv?

Although Northampton County DA John Morganelli is downplaying speculation that he is running for Lieutenant Governor, the other names mentioned - Brad Koplinski, Mark Smith and Daylin Leach - are virtual nobodies. He's been building up a warchest, and is sitting on $260,000 right now. Not enough for a statewide race, but not bad for starters.

Morganelli comes from Bethlehem's south side, where he made friends as a boy that he retains to this day. One of them is Bob Donchex, who is currently running for Mayor of Bethlehem. Another is Frank Flisser, the Clerk of Northampton County Council.

Not all that long ago, Morganelli invited Flisser to have lunch with him at some swanky Easton restaurant. His treat.

While eating, Morganelli told Flisser he invited him to lunch to commemorate their 50 years of friendship.

Whether he runs or not, or wins or not, Morganelli is one of those rare persons who make friends for life. Not many of us can say we even remember our childhood friends.

Feral Cat Lovers Offer to Help Hanover Township

Hanover Tp Animal Control Officer Vince Milite
Concerns over a proposed "Responsible Pet Ownership" ordinance prompted a small army of cat lovers to visit Hanover Township Supervisors at their  February 26 meeting. About ten area residents, worried that stray dogs and feral cats would be systematically exterminated, were there to seek clemency. But as they were to learn, the ordinance was actually aimed at irresponsible people, not pets.

Liz Jones, of the Sanctuary of Haafsville, and Martha Kahan, of No Nonsense Neutering, told Supervisors they'd like to implement a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program for feral cats at no cost to the Township. In addition to neutering the cats, they are vaccinated against rabies. "We'll raise the money," promised Kahan. "We'll write the grants." She told Supervisors that at her East Allentown facility, she's neutered over 20,000 feral cats in the last five years.

Supervisors welcomed the news.

They have no intention of eradicating the Township's feral cat population, even though they get numerous complaints weekly. Supervisor John Diacogiannis told Jones and Kahal that the ordinance is aimed at problem residents, like those with thirty feral cats in their backyard. "We're not going to go after people who are doing it right," he explained.

No Nonsense Neutering's Martha Kahan
Supervisors encouraged Jones and Kalal to educate the public concerning the benefits of TNR, which will gradually reduces a feral cat population. The Feral Cat Coalition estimates there are 60 million feral cats in the United States.

Township Manager Jay Finnigan explained the Township simply lacks the resources to target strays. In his six years as Manager, he can recall only one incident in which the Township ever made an effort to remove a cat from someone's home. A home health care worker brought a stray cat into a residence, and the cat began attacking him. The Township's Animal Control Officer responded, but the cat began attacking him, too. This continued until a third person opened the door, and the cat bolted.

Finnigan also complained that the Township has difficulties catching stray dogs because "we have a very slow Animal Control Officer."

It is required by state law to capture stray dogs running at large. According to Finnigan, this has been no problem. "We've been able to place every single dog we've picked up in the last two years," the Manager assured these animal lovers. "But I'm running out of employees."

So who is Hanover's slow Animal Control Officer?

Public Works Director Vince Milite declined to reveal this information to The Bethlehem Press. "I'm not telling you," he said. But as the meeting wore on, it soon became evident that it's him.

He attempted to resign his post at the end of the meeting, but Supervisors refused to let him go.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Steve Barron, John Stoffa Contrast

Stoffa says Hi to someone last Thursday
Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, a farm boy with an alcoholic and abusive father, was pushed so hard as a youth that he lost two fingers feeding corn cobs into a feeder. That no doubt made it more difficult for him to fit in with other kids his age. It would be much harder for him to swing a bat or throw a ball. Tall and lanky, he probably felt a bit awkward as a youth. But it gave him a unique perspective on things, one I've never seen in anyone else. After a stint with Uncle Sam, he was able to go to college. It was there that he met a beautiful woman, fell in love and married. He and his wife, Barbara, have spent their careers in human services, trying to help other children who might be victims of abuse or alcoholism. That's why a centralized human services building was so important to him.

It had nothing to do with his name on a building or the usual political games.

His proposal was rejected his first year in office, but he persisted, year after year. Last week, it finally paid off. County Council overwhelmingly endorsed his proposal by a 8-1 margin. I think the most shocked person in the room was John Stoffa.

A centralized facility for human services makes sense on many levels. Not only does it enable a more efficient delivery, but it helps the many people who need services from several different agencies. It helps abused and neglected children, who currently have visitation in rooms tainted by lead paint chips and mold. It helps Children and Youth caseworkers, who must conduct interviews in neutral settings. It helps our forgotten disabled veterans, who find it difficult to access the Wolf building.

Unlike Stoffa, Northampton County Controller Steve Barron is a child of partisan politics. He got his start in Bethlehem bar rooms, under the tutelage of party boss Joe Long. After that, he got himself involved in the County party, and in 2006, tried to get himself appointed to a Controller vacancy in Bethlehem. He failed to get a single vote.

But we elected him, the very next year, as Controller to the whole County. I am one of the fools who voted for him. He has increasingly politicized the office to the point where someone needs to control him.

Since his election, Barron has injected himself into numerous policy considerations, always from the perspective of public sector unions. He has admitted giving union business agents advice on how to negotiate contracts with the County. He got caught on video, threatening T-Mobile with official retaliation for refusing to speak with some union agents who had no appointment. He dove headfirst into the Gracedale issue, got state officials involved in a ridiculous asbestos investigation., making wild claims about an uncaring administration. He conducted a witch hunt over county monies aimed at yours truly and the Executive, notwithstanding that the DA and the courts refused to get involved. Most recently, he got involved in the centralized human services debate.

With absolutely no regard for the people impacted by these services, including neglected children and our forgotten veterans, Barron pushed for Jim Gregory and SEIU. They wanted guarantees that County workers, i.e SEIU union members, would continue to provide these services.

When I pointed out this blackmail, and noted that our veterans and neglected children were being ignored, Barron had to set the record straight This is what he told Council last Thursday.

"It has been said that somehow my commitment to veterans and the people that would be serviced by this building would be lacking.

"Most people can't remember where they were December 12, 2004. But I can. My daughter was not quite born yet. My wife had a scheduled C-section the very next day, and I had a client that I took care of in Bucks County who was having serious issues with his medication. I was already on vacation in anticipation of the birth of my daughter. I drove 45 miles with my wife in the car because she did not want to be alone the night before her C-section to sort out the situation, and then I drove 45 miles back and at 8 in the morning after getting home about 1 in the morning, my daughter was born.

"That said, it's true I never served a day in the military. Not one. But my grandfather served in the South Pacific. He was on the U.S.S. Mount Olympus, and he was in Tokyo when the Japanese surrendered. He was in Tokyo Harbor.

"My father received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. And that same daughter that was born, December 13, 2004, loved sending my cousin from Northampton County, Richard Check, care packages in Afghanistan.

"This situation clearly hurt me.

"The sad thing is the administration used the people who would be served by this building as pawns to sell you a lease that you are paying a premium for. That's deplorable."


What I think is deplorable is that he could stand before Council and utter this crap, and expect to be taken seriously. The fact that he drove 45 miles to help someone once is no evidence of a commitment to people with disabilities. And it's nice that his grandfather was a vet, but you don't inherit that status.

He objects to pointing out that real people would be affected by Council's decision. That's not fair, I guess.

Superior Court Special Session at NCC to Honor Veterans

Boys & Girls Club Dean Young (L) and Judge Jack Panella (R) 
Earlier this moth, I attended a fascinating lecture at Lafayette College concerning the one and only time the United States Supreme Court has ever conducted a criminal trial. It happened in 1906, when a Chattanooga Sheriff thumbed his nose at a Supreme Court Order. Justice John Marshall Harlan intervened in the scheduled hanging of a black man who was convicted in state court of raping a white woman on evidence that was woefully inadequate. The Sheriff, a former Confederate soldier, would rather hand him over to the mob than a federal judge. And that's what happened.

Since there was no federal homicide statute at the time, the best feds could do was charge the Sheriff with contempt. He spent 90 days in federal prison for his involvement in the murder of a black man, and returned home to a hero's welcome in Chattanooga.

It might sound like a meaningless case to you, especially since the Sheriff only got 90 days, which he could do standing on his head. But it might be among the High Court's more significant rulings.

It was the first time a black lawyer was permitted to argue a case before the Supreme Court. It was the first time that the Supremes ruled that they have jurisdiction over claims that federal constitutional rights have been violated in state court proceedings.

This terrific lecture was sponsored by Superior Court Judge Jack Panella and Northampton County Judge Leonard Zito.

After bringing the law to Lafayette, Judge Panella is bringing it to Northampton Community College. Literally. This is no lecture, but an actual session of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, both today and tomorrow.

The state superior court is a 15-judge appellate court that hears appeals from county decisions. Although the Supreme Curt occasionally will review their decisions, that is rare So their decision is the final word in most cases.

It's an extremely busy bench that still rides the circuit. Judges bounce from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, and each jurist averages at least one opinion a day. But there are times when President Judge Cory Stevens (a coal cracker) will allow cases to be heard at colleges and county courthouses. And he's given Judge Panella permission to conduct a session, both today and tomorrow, at Northampton Community College's Lipkin Theatre.

Both court sessions will begin at 9 a.m. each day during which a panel of Superior Court judges will hear oral arguments on appeals from local civil, criminal and domestic trial court cases. Tuesday’s session will be preceded by a first-of-its-kind opening ceremony to honor veterans that will include a presentation of the colors and pledge of allegiance. It is open to the public.

Judge Jack A. Panella will be the presiding judge on a panel that will include Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen and Senior Judge William H. Platt. Judge Panella served on the Northampton County Common Pleas Court prior to being elected to Superior Court. Judge Platt served on the Lehigh County Common Pleas Court, where he used to scare the hell out of me. Judge Allen hails from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, and won despite all odds.

“Honoring veterans is meant to acknowledge that our government — and especially our armed services — have fought to maintain the high standards of judicial freedom and independence that our Constitution requires,” Judge Panella explained.

I was invited, but unfortunately, I'll be in the court of first guess tomorrow in Northampton County.

Should I avoid the gallows, I'll drop in on Wednesday and try to give you all a first hand report.

Armstrong on Hockey Arena: Fort Apache?

We know that Michael Molovinsky is dour and misguided who despises everyone. I'm even worse. I'm a bottom-feeder who actually sent three increasingly nasty emails to a quadriplegic just two weeks ago. But the writer people really love to hate is Allentown School Director Scott Armstrong. Here's his latest, about Allentown's transformative hockey arena:

I read recently that our local public utility has bought naming rights to the new hockey arena under construction in downtown Allentown. This is apparently big news. However, the bigger story that hasn’t received enough attention is that the police chief and most of the top brass will be leaving the police force in mass to take advantage of the very lucrative pension deal the city’s Democratic leaders negotiated several years ago. One might wonder what the implications of this mass departure of experienced police leadership might be to the city, its crime rate, and its residents. Outside of a single report that dryly reported the exodus of the chief and the captains, the local media remains curiously uncurious. Apparently, they don’t see a story there.

Or do they? Perhaps like many of the city’s residents they are anxious about the departures but hesitant to report further on the story because it would conflict with their “hear no evil, see no evil, report no evil” template of the shiny new buildings and real estate deals that will save the city. Interviews on and investigations into this development are being left undone, but ignoring the obvious won’t change the facts that will soon enough be apparent on the ground.

Residents have every right to be very concerned and those who still have not figured out the press’s angle on the arena might finally see for themselves how special interests shape the news in Allentown.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Callahan Apologizes to Wrestling Ref

Statement by Mayor John Callahan
For Immediate Release: February 25, 2013

Bethlehem, PA – “As a community leader, a passionate wrestling fan, and a supportive parent of a student athlete, I should have handled this incident better, no matter how I felt about the calls made during the match.

I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the sport of wrestling, and I respect the referee, Dennis Buchman’s right to call the match the way he sees it. I personally reached out to Mr. Buchman today to apologize. We’ve both been involved in wrestling for decades and had a warm conversation reflecting on the great passion that we have for the sport.

Certainly, when Mr. Buchman stepped onto the mat, he didn’t expect to find himself in this situation any more than I did. As someone in a line of work subject to plenty of criticism, I can certainly appreciate the difficult job that Mr. Buchman has to do.

That said, both Mr. Buchman and I agree that this was a minor incident that has become overblown and unfortunately took away from the great effort and dedication shown by the young men who participated in the tournament.

I hope that this will no longer distract from the real issues facing Bethlehem and Northampton County.”

Statement by Dennis Buchman
For Immediate Release: February 25, 2013

Drums, PA – “I truly appreciate Mayor Callahan reaching out to me today to apologize. It meant a lot to me and I think it sets a good example for our fans and young athletes involved in sports. Unfortunately this incident has been blown out of proportion and is being made into something different than it was. Certainly John and I both want to put this behind us.”

DA: Philanthropist "Linnie" Fowler Scammed of $1.1 MM

A Grand Jury presentment unsealed on Friday accuses a couple of defrauding philanthropist Marlene "Linny" Fowler of $1.1 million over a four-year period, beginning in 2008. Shawnta and Hassan Carmon have been charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and conspiracy. They've been remanded to Northampton County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail set by District Judge Roy Manwaring.

Because of Fowler's death on February 4, the presentment was sealed to give her family an opportunity to make funeral arrangements.

Unsealed, the presentment alleges a scam that begin in 2008, when Fowler first gave Shawnta Carmon $218,598 for dental expenses. Over the next four years, both Shawnta and Hassan were given large sums of money for dental work, tuition and medical treatments for the Carmon family, totaling $1.1 million. But there never was any dental work, tuition or medical treatment. Instead, the Grand Jury charges that the Carmons spent the money on expensive clothing, jewelry, limousines, travel and casino gambling.

DA John Morganelli called Fowler a "very generous woman." He stated that people would even appear on her porch, looking for a handout, and Fowler never really had a system to protect her against fraud. Instead, she trusted people, said Morganelli.

Morganelli credits the Grand Jury and its subpoena powers for this prosecution, and noted that 20 other unrelated investigations are under way. It is operating under the supervision of Judge Edward Smith.

Row Officer Residency Requirement Fails In NorCo

By a 6-3 vote at Thursday night's meeting, Northampton County Council rejected an ordinance that would require all prospective row officers to be residents of the County. Only Lamont McClure, Bob Werner and Ken Kraft supported the measure ... and Controller Steve Barron.

Under our Home Rule Charter, a Controller is "responsible for the internal control of the fiscal transactions of the County." But Barron has acted like a Junior County Exec, injecting himself into numerous policy decisions that have nothing to do with his office. So on Thursday night, after instructing Council that it should reject a centralized human service lease, Barron advocated a residency requirement.

Along the way, he took a mean-spirited shot at Executive John Stoffa.

You see, in 2008, Stoffa had to undergo a hip replacement. While recovering, he named his Director of Administration, John Conklin, as Acting County Executive. But Conklin is a Lehigh County resident.

Now Conklin was no row officer. He was a cabinet level official. He served at the pleasure of Stoffa. But even he did not set policy. He was there to implement whatever Stoffa wanted done. If that including running the County for the four weeks it took Stoffa to recover, that's what he would do.

Now when this happened, nobody minded or complained. Not even Barron. Everyone recognized that Conklin was there to implement Stoffa's will. But five years later, that was suddenly a big problem.

Stoffa told Barron that Conklin's appointment was "my decision." "It doesn't matter," claimed Barron on Thursday night. ,"It was disgusting."

If it was so disgusting, why didn't Barron say something in 2008?

In addition to demeaning the Executive, Barron also confused judicial decisions, which are sometimes made by the Register of Wills, with policy-making. One has nothing to do with the other.

Ken Kraft, who proposed this measure with good intentions, looked like he wanted to craw into a hole after Barron "helped" him.

"I kinda' like the idea of people working for Northampton County living in Northampton County," said Scott Parsons. But at this juncture, he and five other Council members are unwilling to force employees to live here.

Fake Rev Turns On All Of Council Except McClure

Fake Rev. smiles after photographing himself
Fake Rev Mario Martinez has issued a fatwā against every member of Northampton County Council, with the exception of Lamont McClure. Reason? They let Executive John Stoffa get away with "lawlessness." 

Martinez and his mob are unhappy that neither the DA nor the courts would malign Stoffa, as they have, with false accusations of criminal misconduct. So they want Council to go after Stoffa and demand he resign or something.

With the exception of Lamont McClure, the mob's patron, Council has remained silent, and this is more than the mob can bear. Martinez has yet to state whether they Council members will burn in Hell, but he is speaking ex cathedra as "We the People." So every one of them should probably resign or something. 

Here's part of his screed:

County Executive John Stoffa today received a rewarded [sic] for his corruption - his desired Human Services building, and they will surely put his name on it to further reward  him for his lawlessness. So does he care that we're saying this about him? NO!!! Absolutely not...because he believes he has  gotten [sic] away with his lawlessness.

YES...he thinks he has. 

Is the current council at fault?
John Cusick
Peg Ferraro
Tom Dietrick
Ken Kraft
Bruce Gilbert
Scott Parson
Barbara Theirry
Robert Werner

Yes, in our opinion they are all responsible for John Stoffas [sic] actions because they have failed to speak up against his questionable acts of public mistrust. And yes, they know about it because it was presented to them by the County Controller Stephen Barron. No...we do not place Lamont McClure in the list because he did state publically [sic]  that what Stoffa did was wrong.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Callahan Ejection Story Has No Byline

The Express Times has reported that Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who is running for Northampton County Executive, was ejected from a wrestling tournament on Saturday night. But what I find even more interesting is the lack of a byline.

There's no question that Callahan was ejected. He admitted so himself. But what are the circumstances? Was Callaham being a jerk, which sometimes happens when a parent is watching his children play sports? Was the referee being a jerk, which also sometimes happens with some referees? A byline credits the reporter who submitted the story, and also makes it more credible because he or she is taking responsibility. But "staff reports" is an indication to me that the newspaper does not know what the hell happened, beyond the ejection itself.

While this kind of thing happens all the time, it's rare to see it happen to a County Executive candidate in a three-way primary. It will hurt.

I've already seen two ridiculous explanations:

"Hey, election season has begun, so maybe Glen Reibman slipped the ref a couple bucks?"


"He can't control his emotions and he wants to run the county. Didn't we just get rid of Ron Angle, the crazy uncontrolable clown, and now we get Callahan.

My God are there any grownups around? How can we elect someone like this?"

If you want to see parents thrown out of games every three seconds, watch girls' basketball.

Updated NOON: A Morning Call account of the ejection is bylined.

Callahan's wife Mafalda, who was there, explains what happened in a comment to The Express Times:

When my husband ran for Congress I sat back and watched silently as the anonymous bloggers posted ridiculous lies. I decided, for better or for worse, that I am not going to do that this election cycle. The opposing candidates will have to run on the issues and will not have a forum to post rumors fabricated to tarnish his reputation - not this time boys, so sorry. You are especially not going to do that when it involves my children and the Freedom High School wrestling team.

John and I have a tremendous amount of respect for referrees and the job that they do. However, like any profession, you have a few bad refs and some great refs that sometimes make bad calls. If I make a mistake at work, I'm held accountable and the refs should be held accountable too. Now put into the mix that wrestling is a unique sport & a bad ref or a bad call can cost a senior a spot at regionals and/or impact their seeding, the refs need to feel that pressure and they need to be on top of their game. As a result, many spectators are very vocal at wrestling matches and, as a fan, you're allowed to disagree with calls.

Now, I was sitting next to my husband during the match with our "Freedom Family" and we were all frustrated. My husband is a leader, so when he sees a bad call he's going to hold the ref accountable to the call. He was not inappropriate at all, from his seat he simply screamed "that was an awful call, just awful." He was defending not my son, but another freedom wrestler. He was singled out and asked to leave and he got up and left. It was not barbaric, is was not an embarrassment, it wasn't anything like some of you have been blogging about & quite frankly if you weren't there you have no business portraying the incident in any manner OR making any false correlations. I'm surprised it was even a story.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Centralized Human Services Lease Approved, 8-1

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Jim Gentile, John Stoffa, Tom Harp and Ken Mohr
"Fall down seven times, get up eight."

That's an old samurai saying about the virtue of perseverance.

Northampton County Exec John Stoffa looks nothing like a samurai, but he still persevered after County Council rejected his request for a centralized human services facility in 2006. He persevered after Council tabled his proposal on January 24. And last night, by a 8-1 vote, Council approved a lease for a centralized human services facility at 2801 Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. Only Council member Bob Werner, voted against it. The building should be open for business by the end of the year.

In order to get this approval, Stoffa had to overcome union blackmail, political opposition by three Council members who put themselves ahead of the best interests of the County and a meddling Controller. Three things turned defeat into victory for 18,000 neglected and abused children, single mothers, senior citizens and 23,000 forgotten disabled veterans.

1. Our Forgotten Veterans

First, Stoffa made certain that the plight of our forgotten veterans, forced to chug up a hill in wheelchairs and on oxygen, was driven home to members of Council. While neglected children and single mothers may not vote, veterans do. VA Director Freddie Ramirez backed Stoffa 100% last night.

Ramirez explained that, by the time veterans reach his office, they are often "frustrated and angry." He sees about 5 every day, and added that veterans are also served by other divisions, like Aging.

"Veterans have made many sacrifices for us. It seems to me that the least we can do is give them a decent building to come to when they're in need."

C&Y Caseworker Kristin Kayal
2. Our Forgotten Employees and Children

Just an hour before, Bob Werner had dismissed health and safety concerns at the Governor Wolf building, located in his Easton district. "Is it falling down around your ankles?" he mockingly asked someone. The answer is Yes.

Children and Youth caseworkers Kristin Kayal and Paula Kenderski are two of the 173 caseworkers at the Governor Wolf Building. On their own, with no help from their union, they prepared a jaw-dropping power point presentation depicting grisly conditions that endanger not only the people who work there, but innocent children who are already the victims of abuse and neglect.

A typical day consists of a gauntlet through asbestos, mold, chipping lead paint, bats, guano and an excessive number of large bugs. As bad as that is, even worse are conditions for supervised child visitation. They take place in rooms where lead paint is chipping along the floor and windowsills. Mold is all over ceilings and vents are collapsing.

How can they educate parents about neglect when they expose children to these horrific conditions themselves?

3. The Governor Wolf Building Has a Buyer

Consultant Ken Mohr had told skeptical Council members that he could market and sell the Wolf Building, and he has done so, with the help of Easton Mayor Sal Panto. So instead of an empty, blighted building, it will now be developed by the private sector. Although financial details are still private, they appear to have exceeded the hopes of County administrators.

Union Blackmail

In light of this recent news of a sale, unions suddenly changed course. Union hacks like Jim Gregory and Neil Brown had previously assailed the project. Union steward Neil Brown, with no regard for the single mothers, senior citizens and disabled veterans he supposedly serves, openly blackmailed Executive John Stoffa during a January 24 Council meeting.

"We want to make sure the people providing the services are still County employees."

In addition to Stoffa, he wanted County Council to agree that it would never eliminate jobs in human services, no matter what cuts are made by the state as a condition of his support. In private meetings, he and Gregory, were even more insistent.

Last night, Gregory tried to deny the blackmail charge, which I made here.

"That's ridiculous on so many fronts that it is not even worthy of comment."

He just did.

The County Council record reveals pretty clearly that an attempt was made to blackmail Stoffa and Council for union support. During a Council meeting. Instead of considering what is best for the County and its residents, Brown's own words indicate that his main concern is his paycheck.

Political Controller Steve Barron
The Meddling Controller

Our political Controller, Steve Barron, is currently helping run Lamont McClure's Executive race. Since he injects himself into every policy matter, a centralized Human Services building is no exception. He figured that the safe political call would be to oppose it. After all, neglected and abused children don't vote. "God willing, you'll do the right thing," he somberly told Council on January 24 after advising that this is a bad idea because it is too costly.

But since he's never worn a uniform, he forgot to consider those veterans, and they do vote.

Last night, he was quite indignant and wanted to set the record straight. While admitting his own lack of service, we should cut him some slack because his grandfather, father and cousin ere in the military.

I see.

"The administration used the citizens who would be served by this building as pawns, to sell you a lease that you are paying a premium for. That's deplorable."

He thinks it's "disgusting" to point out that he, McClure, Ferraro and Werner - none of  whom spent a day in the military - were flat out opposed to a facility designed to help our veterans, among others in need. I should have stuck to crazy people and neglected children.

Writing about our forgotten vets is cheating.

Barron is now on record as being opposed to a project that will help our forgotten soldiers and sailors. He can explain that when he runs again.

Council's Frosty Reception

Last month, Council's reception of a centralized human services facility was frosty. Peg Ferraro wanted it at the Gracedale campus in Upper Nazareth, not because it will help people in need, but it's where her voting base lives. But Ferraro must have done some vote counting in her head, and probably began to worry that veterans might come out against her. So she changed course, doing what she thought was best for her politically.

So did Executive candidate Lamont McClure, who's been against this idea from the very beginning. He voted it down in 2006 and was unwilling to even entertain the idea when it was first proposed last year. He voted against it then, with no questions and no explanation.

Last month, McClure argued against an executive session to discuss the possible sale of the Gracedale Wolf building, and its impact on a centralized human services lease. But after word of the sale got out, he suddenly decided that there should be an executive session after all, from which he could emerge and proudly proclaim that private information had caused him to change his mind.

But this time, Council was unwilling to play his game. So when the vote came, he meekly voted for the lease, so he can say he voted with the veterans.

He did not mention whether his father, grandfather or cousin had ever served in the military.

Last month and again last night, Bob Werner argued for a fragmented human services approach because 173 human services employees are at the Wolf Building, located in his District. None of his other arguments make any sense.

He continued to insist that this matter is being "rushed" even though it's been under consideration for 13 months and was tabled last month to give him all the time he needs to do his homework.

In addition to trying to deny the obvious health and safety concerns at Governor Wolf, Werner insisted that any new building should have all kinds of environmental components, like geothermal, solar panels and even LEED certification. Engineer Jim Gentile and Ken Mohr tried telling him that a costs benefit analysis will be performed to determine what could be installed to give the county the biggest bang for its buck, but Werner did not want to hear it.

He began talking about school buildings with all kinds of energy efficiencies built into them and demanded to know why there are no solar panels at this site. Gentile gently told him they'd need about 5 acres of land to make a dent with solar panels. But Werner brayed on until Ken Kraft finally had had enough.

"You're comparing us to school districts that have unlimited budgets and just build whatever they build," Kraft said. "You're looking for utopia that doesn't exist."

In other words, he was allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Last night, good prevailed. Neglected and abused children and single mothers and people with mental challenges have no one to speak for them. But veterans do. And their voice is loud enough to protect these other forgotten souls, just as they protected all of us when they were in active service.

Updated 4:50 PM: I have substituted a better picture of McClure than the one originally posted.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

McClure Fares Well at EADC Candidates' Night

I missed it, but am told the three Democratic exec candidates spoke at an Easton Area Democratic Committee Candidates' night last night. The report I've been given is that McClure delivered the best speech. Callahan spent too much time thanking the EADC for their support in his failed Congressional bid. "Why remind them he lost?" I was asked.

The EADC is neutral in this race.

NorCo Exec Race Websites

Glenn Reibman and Lamont McClure both have webpages. John Callahan is reportedly putting the finishing touches on his.

Centralized Human Services Lease Vote Tonight

McClure Cares About Public Sector Unions, Not Vets
In late January, Northampton County Council was hesitant to vote on a lease for a centralized human services building on Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. The matter was postponed until tonight to give Council members more time to research the matter.

In this intervening period, one of their concerns has been addressed. Governor Corbett's proposed budget next year actually increases the funding available for human services, reversing two years of cuts. In addition, Council has been reminded that Northampton County's 18,000 24,000 veterans, some of them scarred emotionally and physically as a result of their defense of this nation, are very much a part of the equation. Between 25-35 veterans, some in wheelchairs, must make their way up a hill weekly to visit the VA. And according to Director Freddie Ramirez, many of them use other human services like the Area Agency on Aging.

Rather than forcing them to travel to different offices throughout the County, Executive John Stoffa has long advocated a centralized facility.

Tonight, Council makes the call.

My guess is that Lamont McClure, Peg Ferraro and Bob Werner will say No to this lease for the flimsiest of reasons - politics. Werner wants services to remain in Easton, which is his District. Ferraro wants everything out at Gracedale, where she gets most of her votes. And McClure, who wants to be the next Executive, is pretending he cares about the bottom line. He's willing to spend $7 million plus for a "moral obligation" at Gracedale, but not a dime for the vets. Not one of these three served a day in the military.

Row Officer Residency Requirement Vote is Tonight

Late last year, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa selected, as his new Register of Wills, a person with absolutely no experience in that office. She was a paralegal in the Solicitor's Office, and jumped from there to become a Deputy in the elections office. After only eleven months there, with a Presidential election looming, she abandoned ship again, this time for the Wills Office. She ostensibly got the job because she did better in the test than a long-time Deputy. But this written test measured paralegal skills, not Register of Wills skills. Her appointment was also contrary to the wishes of the court, which works with this row office. To make matters worse, this new department head did not even live in Northampton County. It was a blunder. But since that time, Northampton County Council has been trying their best to exacerbate that situation with blunders of their own.

Their first blunder, a bi-partisan one no less, was a proposal by Council members Tom Dietrich (Rep.) and Ken Kraft (Dem.) to make all row offices elected again, just like in the good ol' days. This, of course, would be a giant step backwards in good government, leading to petty little fiefdoms with independent budgets, all of them ripe for cronyism and corruption. Though he backed the proposal, McClure sensed that there was strong opposition to this measure among the remaining six Council members. So, at his suggestion, the matter was tabled and sent to his Legal and Judicial Committee, which has not bothered meeting for over three years. As you might have guessed, McClure hasn't bothered scheduling a meeting.

The second blunder is on tonight's agenda. It's a proposal to require that all row officers be residents of the County.

Northampton County row officers are ministerial. They are not decision-makers. In the Recorder of Deeds Office, for example, I can record a ham sandwich as long as it is acknowledged, properly notarized and has a tax ID number. These clerks would have to take it because they have no discretion. It doesn't matter whether they live in Easton or Emmaus.

So what public policy is served by requiring them to reside inside the County? You could argue that a person who lives here is more invested in his community and cares more. But couldn't that be said of all County workers? And in my experience, it's just not true. A strong work ethic and dedication to duty has very little to do with where someone lives. An Allentown or Phillipsburg resident might very well be a much harder worker than someone who lives just two blocks away from the courthouse.

What this proposal really does is penalize anyone who wants to be a department head. At least thirty per cent of the county workforce lives in New Jersey. This legislation tells them they can never aspire for more than a minor promotion. It also making their lives harder. It reduces their opportunities to find affordable housing, or to be close to family members who help with child-rearing and other intangibles.

If also flies in the face of regionalism. If we are really interested in promoting the Lehigh Valley, a residency requirement should include Lehigh, Warren and Monroe County.

Finally, it reduces the pool of available employees, making it more difficult to find good and qualified people.

So this proposal really has no rational basis and is actually discriminatory. It imposes a burden on some County workers that do not exist with others.

A residency requirement might make sense for first responders like emergency management, deputy sheriffs or even Children and Youth caseworkers. This is because it would reduce their response time during emergencies. But what emergency would require a Clerk of Courts to rush to the Courthouse?

But no attempt is made to impose that requirement on employees where it might actually make sense. That's because these are union positions, and would require 678,932 contract changes.

Aside from an election talking point for Lamont McClure, this proposal is bad government. Good government would entail a re-examination of the selection process for all row officers to insure professionalism over cronyism.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Barron Von Footinmouth Does It Again

Who in their right minds would turn down an offer of help from a very qualified group willing to go out and raise money to make this community a better place? The Bethlehem Township Board of Commissioners. They rejected what seems, on the surface, like a wonderful offer to help restore the glory of the Archibald Johnston mansion at Housenick Park. How could they say No?

I missed it, but on the very day that this Resolution was presented to them, there was a Channel 69 news account that made them look like uncaring assholes. Of all people, Northampton County Controller Steve Barron of this Friends' group took reporter Bo Coldcock on a tour of the historic mansion, pointing out all the defects.

In addition to being a union organizer, certified fraud examiner,and asbestos investigator, Steve is also a historic preservationist. Gee, I thought he was the County's full time Controller. Silly me.

According to Coldcrock's riveting account, "some" don't think the mansion should be preserved.

Who are these "some"?

Coldcrock does not fill in that blank, creating the implication that it's the Commissioner themselves. But in 2011, it is the Commissioners who adopted a master plan that specifically calls for the restoration of the mansion.

Against this backdrop, a parade of well-meaning citizens, only one of whom actually lives in the Township, gave Commissioners the carpe diem pitch. They were stunned that Commissioners said No, but should have expected it.

You don't dis a group on the very day that you want them to give you something.

Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan made matters worse after the meeting, suggesting that Bethlehem annex the park. Good luck with that. All she needs to do now is take a few shots at Catholics again.

It's amazing that so many bright people can be so stupid. But with Barron von Footinmouth on board, this will happen.

Incidentally, he and Charles Dertinger are running Lamont McClure's Executive race. Callahan must have paid for that.

Glenn Reibman Wants to Finish What He Started

... and that should scare the hell out of all of us. I don't know how many more $25 million swaptions the County can endure. Or cabinet members jailed for bribery. Or resigning in disgrace for wife-swapping on County time. Or resigning after sexually harassing female County employees. Or 70% tax hikes. Or a re-election plan disguised as a $111 million megabond. Or layoffs and wage freezes that last three years in the middle of a good economy, driving employees into the willing arms of eleven different unions.

That, boys and girls, is Glenn Reibman's record in two terms as Northampton County Executive. It was so pitiful that he lost a primary to John Stoffa, whose idea of campaigning was promising a half mill tax increase and then going to the movies on election night because it only cost $2.

"They elected me anyway," complains Stoffa.

After this upset, Reibman pulled strings to get himself a job on the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Comm'n, which is basically a rest home for elected officials.

Now, he wants to return to the job he lost eight years ago. Last night, at the Grover Cleveland Democratic Club, he announced his candidacy, claiming he was running at the urging of "citizens of all walks of life and all political persuasions."

I wonder if one of these citizens is Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski.

Everyone denies this, but it's no secret that King Edwin was very upset that Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan refused to drink the kool-aid alike Alan Jennings did and embrace a special tax zone for Allentown. Never mind that its location, a stone's throw from Bethlehem, would hurt the Christmas City. Next thing you know, Glenn Reibman is running for County Exec against Callahan. And Pawlowski's Chief of Staff, Ismael Arcelay, is running for Council. And his campaign manager Mike Fleck, just happens to be running Reibman's campaign.

But this is all a coincidence, I'm told.

They never even spoke, I' m told.

My picture of Reibman is negative. But I'm telling you all of this as one of Glenn's old adversaries. We've tangled for over a decade.

What I don't tell you often enough is that, believe it or not, I always respected Reibman. He is and has always been a gentleman. In his own way, he has as much integrity as John Stoffa. His governing and political style, however, are wanting.

Of the three campaign announcements by Executive candidates, his was clearly the best and most well-attended. Instead of freezing my ass off at Gracedale, as I did in sub-arctic temperatures when John Callahan announced, there was a spread fit for a King Edwin. Instead of a religious revival with all kinds of  "Amens", as happened at McClure's announcement, Charlie Brown's Notorious Groove provided the entertainment.

I was feeling so good I nearly danced with Julio Guridy.

He is kinda' cute.

Although I detected no union presence with my union meters, they went off the chart every time I got near former Council member Greg Zebrowski.

Reibman was introduced by Easton Vice Mayor Ken Brown, whom I see everywhere. Pretty soon he'll accuse me of stalking him, too.

Greg Zebrowski, Glenn Reibman and Mike Corriere
Mike Corriere, a former Council member and the current Public Defender, dropped by. He, Zebrowski and Reibman, who all served together, posed for a picture. Zebrowski used to call me all kinds of polite names during the megabond debates. Instead of "asshole," it would be "nattering nabob." Ron Heckman, Reibman's former Director of Human Services and a close Reibman friend, was there. So were Allentown City Council Prez Julio Guridy and Pawlowski Chief of Staff Ismael Arcelay.

Strangely enough, GOP Northampton County Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa, who is also simultaneously running for West Easton Borough Council, was there, too. So I'll probably get sued for stalking her again.
Mezzacappa gives legal pointers to Chris Spadoni
Above, you can see and hear Glenn Reibman tell you what he'll do in a third term.

Reibman has a website. I do not see one for John Callahan or Lamont McClure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Charlie Dent Holding 5th Town Hall of Year at Upper Mac

It's only Febraury, but LV Congressman Charlie Dent will be holding his fifth town hall of the year at the Upper Macungie Township Building today. The meeting will start at 11:30 AM and will last until 12:30 PM.

The Upper Macungie Township Building is located at 8330 Schantz Road.

All of Lehigh County is contained within the 15th Congressional District.

Why I Won't Be Going to Glenn Reibman's Campaign KickOff

Glenn Reibman is kicking off his race for County Executive tonight. I won't be there. Lamont McClure and John Callahan, the other two Democrats in this race, made their announcements in public settings. Anyone could come. I, a Callahan supporter, crashed McClure's announcement. McClure supporters crashed Callahan's announcement.

But Reibman is charging a fee. If you want to hear his pearls or droppings, it'll cost you $25.

I'll pass.

That alone should tell us all we need to know about Glenn Reibman.

Updated 9:00 PM: Bottom-Feeding Bloggers, Welcome After All! - It turns out that in very, very, very fine print, the bottom of the Glenn Reibman invitation reads, "Bottom feeding bloggers welcome free of charge." 

Reibman campaign manager Mike Fleck called me and read it. So I went. And ran smack dab into Republican County and Borough Council candidate Tricia "God Hates Fags" Mezzacappa. Now I know why Fleck wanted me to come.


I'll probably be sued again tomorrow.

Anyhoo, I'll have a report in a few.

A Lifesaver

Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners heard from a lifesaver last night. Specifically, they heard from a man who saved my grandson Dat's life thirteen years ago. He looked familiar to me, but I was unable to make the connection in my failing mind until long after the meeting was over.

Dr. Andew Unger was a resident at St. Luke's hospital when my grandson was born. Unfortunately, Dat was born with a perforated intestine, and it was killing him. Emergency surgery on a day-old baby had to be performed, and there was a serious question whether he would even make it through the night. We were told to prepare for the worst, especially after his tiny heart failed.

Dr. Unger spent that entire afternoon and night at Dat's side, monitoring his condition and adjusting his treatment, minute-by-minute. Having made it through the worst, Dat was transported by helicopter to a neonatal unit at Hershey Medical Center, where he spent the next six months of his life.

But for Dr. Unger, Dat would have been dead that night.

I never would have believed it possible, but today, Dat is a gifted athlete. More importantly, he's a great young man.

Unfortunately, my picture of Dr. Unger was one of my throw aways. It's not very good. But I want people to know that there are still people out there who care about their fellow man, even a day old baby.

Friends of Johnston Need More Friends With Bethlehem Township's Board

Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners
Despite pleas from the recently-formed Friends of Johnston, Bethlehem Township Commissioners said No at their February 18 meeting to an offer of help in restoring a 22-room mansion that was once home to Bethlehem's first Mayor, Archibald Johnston. In a 3-2 vote, Commissioners declined to support this group. President Paul Weiss, Michael Hudak and Martin Zawarski voted against the proposal, which was supported by Tom Nolan and Phil "Felix" Barnard. But after the meeting was over, President Weiss indicated that Commissioners would support the Friends of Johnston if they are willing to work with and under the Township's Parks and Recreation Board.

The Friends of Johnston has been establish to preserve, restore and repurpose Housenick Park, located off Christian Springs Road. It was donated to the Township under the Will of Janet Housenick in 2006, and consists of the mansion as well as a 55-acre tract of land, nestled along Monocacy Creek. Housenick also established a $2 million trust fund to assist with maintenance costs.

Ten Johnston Friends urged Commissioners to adopt a resolution supporting their mission at the park. Dr. Andrew Unger, respected pediatrician, argued for a restoration of the mansion. "They just don't make 'em like that anymore," he observed. His sentiments were echoed by Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan. "You can't pass up an opportunity like this," she urged. "Accept this gift. You will not regret it."

Vicky Bastidas challenges Board to be visionaries
Victoria Bastidas, who along with Commissioner Tom Nolan has been the driving force behind this movement, challenged Commissioners to be as visionary as Mayor Archibald Johnston, who in his 1918 inaugural address recognized the importance of community centers.

But Commissioner Michael Hudak stated that Commissioners are already following a 2011 Housenick Park Plan that calls for $1.7 million in improvements to the park, with another $1 million for mansion restoration as a public use. The plan envisions 2.29 miles of walking trails, a pavilion, trail head and public restrooms. "Contrary to what we heard earlier, progress is being made there," he stated.

Nolan sharply disagreed. "You put a dagger in the heart of the mansion tonight," he charged. Right after the meeting, Nolan and Hudak engaged in a heated exchange.

Exec. John Stoffa drops in on discussion
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Hudak said to Nolan. "Who do you represent, the people of this Township or Vicky Bastidas?" Bastidas lives in Bethlehem City, not the Township.

But despite the angry words, President Paul Weiss believes things can be worked out. If the Friends are willing to interact with the Township's Parks and Recreation Board, he would support their efforts. He complained that the Board had been blindsided. "They never talked to the Board, they never talked to the manager or any of the staff," he observed. "Before it hit the press, they should have come to the Township and discussed their proposal with us. ... We all found out at the last minute."

Weiss also complimented the Friends. "I think they've got a great group of people there. But collectively, between them and the Township, it's going to be a question about how you dovetail that together."

The Township's Parks and Recreation Board has been charged with facilitating the Housenick Park Plan, but Nolan complained it is collecting dust. "If they [the Johnston Friends] think they can facilitate the restoration of the mansion faster, I'm all for it. I've got no problem with that."

Contacted after the meeting, Bastidas said her group is willing to work with the Township's Parks and Recreation Committee.