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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Callahan's Rabbit Ears

A few weeks ago, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan was tossed out of a high school wrestling match after claiming that the ref was unfair and had rabbit ears, i.e. was listening too much to fans. All kinds of pious indignation followed, although it probably got him even more votes in South Easton.

Today, Easter Sunday, Callahan tweeted, "Happy Easter to everyone. A great day to have 'rabbit ears'!"

NorCo Kids Hunt For Those Easter Eggs

The "Cunningham Crew": Noelle (2), Jade (6), Gavvin (6), Preston (4) McKenna (5) and Jordan (10) are the grandchildren of Deputy Prothonotary Marie Cunningham
Thanks to the Northampton County Deputy Sheriffs' Association, along with $800 from County Council, about three hundred children have plenty of candy for Easter. The Deputy Sheriffs' annual Easter Egg hunt took place at Tuskes Park in Upper Nazareth Township under sunny skies and balmy temperatures.

In addition to candy, kids were treated to pony rides. Dana McCloskey, age 7, is saddled atop Flash, age 6.

Bethlehem DCED Director Joe Kelly, along with wife Amy, brought his twin daughters Beatrice and Abigail to pick up some pointers on egg hunting techniques.

No Easter Egg hunt would be complete without an appearance from the Easter Bunny who was seen with 6-month old Aliyah and her foster mother.

These kids are happy with their catch.

Meet Wayne Grube

Though he's no relation, Wayne Grube (pictured above) is named in honor of the late, great Easton High School football coach and Northampton County Council member. Like his namesake, Wayne is very active in youth sports. He coaches for the Bethlehem Steelers, as well as North Central and Northwest Little League organizations.

Grube, along with fellow coaches Bob Hock and Mike Richline, spent Holy Saturday getting a baseball field behind the Steelers' complex ready for baseball. Sons Matthew Grube and Andrew Hock, both pitched in.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Harassment Charges Being Sought Against Mezzacappa

Last week, Northampton County Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa tried to sue me again. She threw Angle into the pot, too. Her case was dismissed the very next day by Judge Anthony Beltrami. One of these dismissed claims is this:
As recently as February, 2013, Plaintiff O'Hare has fraudulently registered a domain in the name of West Easton resident Matthew Dees, 402 Second Street, West Easton, PA 18042. . The domain www.westeastonPA.com, is registered with a false address and false phone number. On this domain, O'Hare impersonates Matthew Dees, with the same exact same viscous screeds, accusations of racism, accusations of crimes, mental instability, etc.. about Mezzacappa, that he has been publishing on his own blog for the last several months. His actions have no purpose but to stalk, harass and intimidate Mezzacappa as a witness in the above court case.
She has published comments from "Matthew Dees" on her own moderated blog that tell her, "[Y]ou have my vote.  She even claims to have an email from him, denying he is the author of Westeastonpa.com. "It is my personal belief that Miss Gross is utilizing Bernie O'Hare to impersonate me online, as he has done to several other people."

Yesterday, the real Matthew Dees, who is in fact the author of Westeastonpa.com, asked the District Attorney to approve harassment charges against Mezzacappa.

I love this line in Tom Shortell's story: "Mezzacappa declined to comment for this story and instructed a reporter not to contact her at her home again."

At WestEastonpa.com, Dees explains his actions:
She has harassed me by repeatedly posting on her blog, using my name, that insults other candidates and said I was voting for Mezzacappa. She refused to remove the first offending comment when I told her to and after I posted my opinion of her on this website she then proceeded to create another post with a false email, wherein I supposedly said that I do not own this website, again insulted other candidates, and again gave my support to her.

It annoys the Hell out of me and definitely alarms me that she would use my name to personally insult elected officials of West Easton and claim that I support her candidacy.

Her course of conduct serves no legitimate purpose. In fact, it is as illegitimate as one can get. Her actions are trying to convince voters that her campaign has merit and that, as an ex-candidate, I support her. I will not allow my name to be used without my approval by anyone who thinks such use will get them elected to office, or gain votes from a public that isn’t informed of the truth. Which really toasts me, because I am only a resident who filed to run for a Borough Council position, but almost as quickly withdrew from the race. My name should have no influence on voters, but Tricia Mezzacappa must believe that using it will benefit her somehow.

Hopefully, this action against her will convince Mezzacappa that I am the owner of this website and to stop creating more offensive posts on her blog that use my name, should she be considering it.

I’ll be honest. I don’t have much hope that Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli will accept my filing. Most DA’s don’t want to be bothered with what they consider to be a trivial matter. He being a Democrat and Mezzacappa being a Republican will probably have him considering the political ramifications of pursuing a case against Mezzacappa. Undoubtedly, she would scream that she was being prosecuted simply because she is a Republican running for a position on the County Council.
I would add that Morganelli, to his credit, is something of a First Amendment purist. He has historically been reluctant to approve criminal prosecutions over mere words.

The Tea Party Threat in NorCo GOP

Mike Lordi, Tom Carroll (judicial candidate), Bob Kerr and Tony Simao are all LV Tea Party alums
Last night, I attended a public meeting of the divided Northampton County Republican party in Courtroom #1. Nobody was sentenced to death, but I was finally able to see for myself why Chairman Bob Kerr is under attack. He even managed to insult the Republican party's top vote getter, Peg Ferraro. Her crime? She had something to say. As the crowded meeting grew more and more contentious, it quickly became apparent that Republican Regulars, who aren't really all that different from blue collar Dems, have been infected by extremist elements from the Lehigh Valley Tea Party. Instead of concentrating on getting Republicans elected, they are intent on grabbing control for themselves. Let me tell you how it went down.

Chairman Bob Kerr made a special point of telling me that I was welcome, even though I belong to the other team. Since the meeting was held in the courthouse, the people's building, he had no legal basis for excluding me. He later acknowledged that he had called Court Administrator Jim Onembo to look for ways to keep bottom feeding bloggers out. Unable to do that, he did the next best thing. He had signs planted all over the room, prohibiting any photography or recording of any kind. I was also ordered to sit in the jury box instead of with the 80 or so Republicans in the house.

That's OK. I got the comfy seats.

While party regulars made their way to the cold hard pews in the historic courtroom, Lehigh Valley Tea Party faces populated the judges' bench and counsel tables. Tony Simao, Mike Lordi, Joy Hemming and Bryan Eichfeld  - all of them alums of the original LV Tea Party - were conducting what was supposed to an election of Vice Chair. Other alums, like Ronnie DelBacco and Arlene Klosic were mixed in among the rest.

The meeting started out peacefully enough. It's hard to argue over a roll call. Three candidates were in contention for Vice Chair. Craig DeFranco, a Republican Regular who has served as Plainfield's police chief and is the CFO of a major corporation, was being promoted by mainstream GOP members like Lee Snover and John Van Arman. The other two candidates, Freedom High School Senior Luke Yerger and political ninja Mike Morey, were being touted by tea party alums Ronnie del Bacco* and Mike Lordi. They all gave nice speeches and all have their strengths. But after this was done, and while party members were casting their ballots, party boss Bob Kerr insisted on delivering a rambling homily during which he defended his support for judicial candidate Tom Carroll as a friend, but vowed to support Jennifer Sletvold when she wins the primary in May.

That's when the fireworks began.

Ron Angle, the Northampton County Bulldog, stood up and said that since Kerr had just delivered a sermon, the foor should be opened up for public comment.

"Absolutely not!" insisted Kerr.

People began complaining loudly, and Tony Simao chimed in from the judges' bench, "We will have order on the floor."

Angle was told to sit down.

"This is my meeting. I'm the Chairman," Kerr asserted. "You can sit down. This is an election." Kerr had delivered a speech in the middle of the election, but no one else would be afforded that privilege.

Then Peg Farraro, a current County Council member who is up for election and is very unhappy with the direction in which the party is headed, asked Kerr to let her speak. She reminded him that she had devoted forty years of her life to the Republican party and is a past Chair.

"A past Chairman is just that - past," answered Kerr, as the crowd gasped.

At this point, both Angle and Ferraro were boiling over and Angle made a motion to open up the floor for debate, which was seconded by Ferraro. Kerr ruled them out of order.

When the votes were tallied, Republican Regulars had won. Craig DeFranco pulled down 64 votes to the 24 cast for Moyer and the 10 that went to a Freedom High School senior. In addition, all of the Committee people that Kerr had fired, like Teg Hughes, were unanimously reinstated.

Then Angle again tried to speak and was shut down again. Mike Lordi, who should just shorten his name to Lord, ruled that Angle was out of order. A motion to adjourn was made and the meeting disintegrated without a vote.

After it was over, Angle told Lordi that the vote for DeFranco was actually a vote of "No confidence" in Kerr's leadership, and he should just step down.

Kerr defended his conduct to me, stating that the letter complaining about him is the work of a "belligerent few."

"Are you calling Peg Ferraro belligerent?" I asked. I have heard her called many names, but "belligerent" is not one of them.

Kerr had no answer, although he stated that nobody had bothered to talk to him in advance about their concerns.

Regarding the fifteen judgments filed by Lafayette Hills against him since 2000, Kerr stated they were all paid and that I was attempting to ruin his family. I explained that his inability to manage his own finances is an indication that he'll do poorly with Republican fundraising. He countered that he has turned a $4,570 deficit into a $4,804 surplus. But Angle, who knows a little bit about finances, later asked me, "Do you picture a party with $4,800 as being a viable party?"

The party meeting ended with absolutely no discussion about getting out the vote for an upcoming primary, fundraising efforts or what they will do about the Tricia Mezzacappa problem. She's a Republican racist who filled out a fraudulent LTCF application and who was recently convicted over death threats directed at an elected official. Other candidates are worried, and rightfully so, that she will drag down the entire ticket with her.

Kerr evaded answers to my questions about what he is going to do about her, which is apparently nothing. Republican Regulars tell me that tea party extremists have actually encouraged her, not because they think she will win, but because she supports them in their attempts to seize power.

Although tea party extremists failed to get their Vice Chair last night, Kerr is still in control and seems more intent on securing his own power base than in getting Republicans elected.

"I'm a draw," Kerr told me, handing me a sheet off paper listing all of his accomplishments.

We'll see what he's accomplished in November.

* Updated 8:20 AM: Ronnie delBacco, Team Kerr, has just copied me on a missive to the new Vice Chair. "My first request of you as Vice Chairman is that you forcefully address, with all the provisions afforded to you through our by-laws, the committeemen who so disrespectfully continue to drive a wedge in the gears of unity within our committee and who continue to berate our hard working and committed Chairman, Mr. Robert Kerr. Names need not be mentioned as they were on full display for everyone to see last night...again. Many in our committee were hoping that whoever won this election would be able to reunite our fractured committee. You are now that man." Ironically, it is Ronnie delBacco, who just a month ago stated, "[Kerr] has been a disappointment in that he seems to be all about control and not about serving. I think he is in this mess for himself more and more."

DelBacco appears to be, after all, a phony.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mezzacappa Lists Orloski & Stoffa as LTCF References

As you all know, I consider NorCo Council candidate Trica Mezzacappa precisely the kind of person who should not be allowed to carry a firearm, but she has a license to carry.  Her application was recently leaked to my attorney, Rick Orloski. She listed him and Northampton County Executive John Stoffa as references even though both consider her a menace.

Mezzacappa has recently been convicted of disorderly conduct for death threats directed at the West Easton Borough Council President. The Express Times banned her as a commenter after she repeatedly posted this death fantasy, obviously intended for me:
When armagedon comes a runnin towards my house, I stand armed and ready. I picture armegedon about 5 ft 9 and balding, little eyeglasses on the tip of his nose, and enough fat flaps to insulate a bull. Deep breath, aim, shoot, and....one hollow point goes right through his skull, he's dead before he hit the ground, kersplat....PERFECT
She has also recently advocated the use of deadly force against a 14 year-old Dieruff High School girl who was tased by Allentown police last year: "Too bad he didnt [sic] shoot this wildly obnoxious imbecile with a real weapon. One less problem student who will ultimately be a terrible leach [sic] on society, after being trained to think she is above the law. One shot, kersplat, perfect, problem solved."

Orloski has sent this letter to Sheriff Randy Miller, asking him to pull the plug on Mezzacappa's gun permit:

Re: Application for Right To Carry Permit: 4/13/12
Tricia Mezzacappa

Dear Sheriff Miller:

It has come to my attention that Tricia Mezzacappa listed my name as a personal reference on her application for a Right-To-Carry Gun Permit. The application is dated 4/13/12. Implicitly, by using my name (and also John Stoffa’s name), she was suggesting to you that I was endorsing her application. Nothing could be further from the truth and she already knew it.

About April 10, 2013, I started receiving nasty emails from her and her supporters. I was already being parodied on her website. She had called my office multiple times during that period, and she was explicitly told by my receptionist that I was absolutely refusing to talk to her on the telephone, and all of our communications must be in writing. I did not trust her.

There was no way on April 13, 2012 when she filled out the application for a gun permit that she believed in good faith that I was endorsing her right to carry a concealed weapon on the streets of our Commonwealth. A sample of said e-mails during that period have been faxed to your office.

To the extent that you issued her a Right To Carry Permit relying upon her patently false assertion that I was a “personal reference,” I would urge you to re-visit her application. Tricia Mezzacappa has suggested, in published writings that she would enjoy killing people. There is no way that she should be given the privilege of carrying a concealed weapon on the streets where she may attempt to make her fantasies come true. Her “hollow point bullet in the skull” missive is attached hereto.

Very truly yours,

Richard J. Orloski

Cc: Honorable John Morganelli, District Attorney

Cc: Tricia Mezzacappa

Can't You Just Put Those Fleabags to Sleep?

Every year, Northampton County employees, both current and retired, volunteer their time and energy to raise hundreds of dollars for what is now called the Center for Animal Welfare.

And I torment them.

"Can't you just put those damn fleabags to sleep?" I ask, as I walk by their bake and book sales and raffles, muttering that they waste valuable courthouse resources. The truth is that these courthouse workers actually sacrifice vacation days to sell all sorts of goodies to other row office workers, weird title searchers, nasty judges, crooked lawyers, deputy sheriffs, civil litigants and criminal defendants. The only ones they really have to watch out for are those damn lawyers.

And me.

Retirees, who should be spending their pensions at the Cayman Islands or at least the Sands, do a great deal of this work as well.

What they do is very commendable, but I have an image to maintain as a miserable bastard.

Every penny they raise goes right to the Center.

Velez Takes Her Case to Court

Allentown City Council candidate Kim Velez, who was essentially conned into withdrawing her nomination petitions by an attorney working under the supervision of Pawlowski's Puppets, has taken her case to court.

Papers filed later yesterday by Attorney Bill Platt seek to have her reinstated as a candidate. In addition to claiming duress, Platt argues that the withdrawal was ineffective because it was never forwarded to the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

The Petition is below. How do you rule? I do not yet have a Court date.

Updated 10:30 AM to include Petition

Barron Von Footinmouth Endorses McClure ... Again

Following Congressman Matt Cartwright's and Governor Ed Rendell's endorsement of Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan for NorCo Executive, Lamont McClure today announced that Controller Steve Barron will be endorsing the asbestos lawyer ... again. "Nobody really noticed the first tine," explained McClure.

The endorsement is taking place this morning at Dunkin' Donuts, 13th and Northampton in Easton, one of von Footinmouth's favorite haunts. He recently failed in an attempt to organize a union there.

"Please remind the manager that if he needs anything from Northampton or Lehigh County, we're going to remember this day and we'll make sure that it will be part of the negotiations," Barron declared while munching donut holes in advance of his announcement.

"Dude, I'm just workin' the counter on work release. Give me a frickin' break, and put that badge away. It gives me nightmares. Want some weed?"

McClure is going to have Barron endorse him a third time in a few weeks. In addition to being Controller, Barron is an almost lawyer, a certified fraud examiner that the court won't permit to testify, union organizer, witch hunter and a tour guide at the Archibald Johnston mansion.  

"Imperious" NorCo GOP Chair Bob Kerr Under Attack

Kerr gives Treasurer Tony Simao a major award
It should be a barn-burner tonight. Northampton County Republican are ostensibly meeting en masse, at the Courthouse, to fill a vacancy for Vice Chair. But before the night is out, they might be filling two vacancies, Vice Chair and Chair. GOP boss Bob Kerr has been savaged in a letter signed by two former party leaders, a former Vice-Chair and four state committee members.

Prominent local Republicans Peg Ferraro and Ron Angle rarely agree on anything, but they are unified in their opposition to the "imperious" actions of Bob Kerr, who has "fractured the party" and "alienated party members" on the eve of what promises to be a Democratic slaughter in the municipal races this year.

Kerr has been the subject of several recent postings here. He was elected nine months ago with little inquiry about his background or what he even does for a living. PoliticsPa him rated as one of the state's best party chairs, but must have reached that conclusion from talking to him. As revealed in the letter below, County Republicans are in a state of rebellion, and at the worst possible time.

Kerr has been accused of being a control freak. Perhaps he should take control of his own life first. Since 2000, he and his wife have been Defendants in fifteen landlord tenant actions filed by Lafayette Hills.  Fifteen. That's the sign of a problem. The most recent of these was filed in September, and resulted in a judgment for $3,626.20 in back rent as well as an order of possession. (Blogger's Note, 3:05 PM: What I found in the course of researching Kerr has nothing to do with the letter from Norco Republicans. It's something I discovered independently.)

But I'll let Republican do the talking.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rendell: Callahan is NOT a Wuss

Before an enthusiastic crowd of about 220 supporters at the Bleu Event Center, former Governor Ed Rendell endorsed Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan for Northampton County Executive last night. He did so in his own inimitable style, after being introduced by former state Rep. Rich Grucela.

"Let me ask you a question," Rendell started. "If you were trying to decide who would be a county executive, and you had a Mayor who presided for almost a decade over a City, and that City was named by Money Magazine as one of the best hundred places to live in America, and that City was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the hundred best places to do business in America, wouldn't you elect that Mayor?"

The crowd on hand was a Who's Who of local politicos. Easton Mayor Sal Panto, State Rep. Steve Samuelson, State Senator Lisa Boscola, Bethlehem Mayor candidate J. Willie Reynolds, Palmer Supervisor Ann Marie Panella, Bethlehem City Council members Karen Dolan and Mike Rechiutti and numerous political hopefuls were in the house, dodging vegetarian egg rolls and chicken fingers to work the crowd.

Even Jennifer Sletvold, a Republican judicial candidate, was introducing herself, accompanied by Lehigh County Commissioner hopeful Susan Wild. Two of Jennifer's opponents, Chris Spadoni and Abe Kassis, were also making the rounds.

Evil Jim Hickey was there, insulting everyone. Dressed in jeans like me, he slammed Sheriff Randy Miller's dress shirt and laughed as he made people cry.

But I wanted to hear from the people who came out to see Callahan. Here's a sampling of what they said.

Carol Ritter: "I think he did a nice job in Bethlehem. If you look at the economic development projects that have gone on since he's been there, it's impressive. I love Bethlehem."

Laurel Mikovits: "He's a positive guy. He's got a real handle on what makes cities move forward. He's a good leader."

Faye North: "He's a real, positive people person. He is by far the best candidate we have in the Lehigh Valley for any office. He will be a great County Executive."

Rolf Treisner: "He moves the City forward. I don't agree with everything he's done. I like 'em all. But I know John better. I've seen what he's done."

Sam Royer: "I see him take stands for things that need to be done instead of 'I'm just going to try to be popular.'"

These are what people were saying before Rendell spoke. After the Governor was finished, Callahan picked up a few more votes. Rendell provided a voter's guide that can be used in any race of three things to look for in a candidate.

Rendell: Three Things You Should Look For in Any Candidate

During his endorsement of Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan last night, former Governor Ed Rendell gave some pretty good advice. It's not just on who to pick for Northampton County Executive, but for any office. And it's advice that really should apply to candidates in both parties.

First, "Make sure that the candidate has a good head. Smart enough to understand all the issues that are brought before him or her, and someone who is also smart enough to know that they're not the smartest person in the room." - Rendell claims Callahan had the intelligence of an Einstein, or at least of Lisa Boscola ... or Sal Panto.

Second, "You gotta' want someone who has a good heart. ... I do believe that government has a job to do in promoting growth, but also in protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Our very youngest, our very oldest, our disabled, our challenged. We have to be there for them. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And we have to create opportunities for people who've never had opportunities. I think government can do that if it's led by someone with a great heart." - Rendell claims Callahan has the "heart of Mother Therese".

Third, "We need someone who isn't a wuss. Too many elected officials don't have the courage of their own convictions. ... If you run for office and you don't believe that there's some things you want to get done, some things you want to protect against, that are important enough to risk your job, then save us the trouble. Don't run. Don't run. You have to have the courage. Do you know what the most difficult thing to do in politics is? When public opinion is against something and you know you gotta' do that because, in the long run, it's gonna' come out well for the public. .. You gotta' have the courage to do it." - Rendell claims Callahan has the "courage of a lion", and after his unpopular stance in favor of a single trash hauler in Bethlehem, I'm inclined to agree.

The Callahan Steamroller is in Full Throttle

First Cartwright. Then Rendell. The John Callahan steamroller is in full throttle, cruising its way to a primary victory in May. That's the impression I got last night when Ed Rendell endorsed the Bethlehem Mayor for Northampton County Executive.

Aside from all the luminaries who have come out of the woodwork for Callahan, there's his operation itself.

Callahan spent last weekend knocking on 500 doors in Easton. No matter how much money you have, that is still the most effective way to campaign. Personal contact. Especially is a race that will have a low turnout.

But it does not end with him. In every municipality, he has at least one person knocking on doors, getting the word out. Last night, he asked the 220+ crowd for their help, knocking on doors or making calls.

Why Did Arcelay Quit NorCo Council Race?

Drivers boycott before this crew is allowed on the bus. Donovan had to sit in the back.
I had a special quiver full of arrows for Northampton County Council candidate Ismael Arcelay. Just last week, campaign consultant Mike Fleck was claiming that Izzy was right behind Jerry Seyfried and Ron Heckman in the polls, but Izzy has suddenly pulled out.


Official explanation to The Express Times: "[M]y current position does not allow me the time necessary for campaigning, and that's not fair to the city of Allentown, or to my volunteers and campaign staff ... blah, blah, blah."

Translation: "Fleck bled me dry, bro. I couldn't raise enough money to pay him. Can you spare me some bus fare to Allentown?"

48 Years of Wedded Bliss ... at Least For Jerry Seyfried

Julie and Jerry Seyfried are celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary today. Congratulate Jerry if you see him, and offer Julie your condolences.

"I don't know how she put up with me for 48 years," Jerry told me yesterday.

I know.

Poor eyesight.

All kidding aside, they are a wonderful couple, and if you spend any time with them, you'll see that they are still very much in love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NC GOP Exec Hopeful John Brown to Hold Fundraiser

Despite all the chatter about three Democrats seeking a seat as Northampton County Executive, there is a Republican is the hunt. Bangor Mayor John Brown is the sacrificial lamb, and will hold a fundraiser in April.

When: Sunday, April 7, 2013

Time: 1-5 PM

Where: Detzi’s Tavern
570 N Lehigh Ave, Wind Gap PA

Suggested Donation: $30 per person, $50 per couple.

LCA Approves Bid On Allentown Water Privatization

You can read the details on their webpage. The resolution to bid was approved by a 6-1 vote.

Should Campaigning Be Allowed Inside a Government Center?

Most municipalities frown on political activity inside their government centers.. They refuse to allow campaign signs or banners. Employees who wear pins are asked to remove them. Northampton County does occasionally allow party meetings and debates, but that is it.

Yet AFSCME, on a bulletin board inside the courthouse, has posted its own flyers for Lamont McClure's Executive race. Does this mean that John Callahan and Glenn Reibman should be allowed to post their flyers on bulletin boards, too? Or should AFSCME be asked to remove the outdated McClure flyers?

Kerr Dumps Freedom HS Senior

NorCo GOP Chair Bob Kerr has apparently dropped the idea of installing Freedom High School Senior for the Vice Chairmanship of the party. He's going instead with Mike Morey, the Lehigh Valley field director for the state GOP. If he's who I think he is, he is an evil genius and quite a catch..

An Argument Against Elected Sheriffs and Row Officers

Do you want a professional in charge of the County's Deputy Sheriffs or would you rather have an elected hack? In Northampton County, voters have already answered that question. In an exercise of direct democracy, they said they want appointed row officers. Here's how Jerry Seyfried, a Home Rule Charter expert, puts it.
"In 1978, the row offices were abolished, not by politicians, but by the voters of Northampton County. The voters, through the process known as voter referendum, have told you they don't want row offices. The change that was implemented provided a system of checks and balances like no other in the history of the County. The efficiencies that came with the elimination of the row offices and the adoption of the Northampton County Home Rule Charter resulted in cutting property taxes almost in half."
If you're still on the fence about this issue, an excellent argument against elected row officers and sheriffs appears in an Express Times account about an elected Beaver County Sheriff, who's just been arrested and charged with some batshit cRaZy shenanigans.

He told a campaign worker that he'd chop off his hands and eat them.

He told an online reporter that if he asked too many questions or got too cute in his stories, he'd beat him worse than he used to beat the [blacks] in Aliquippa.

He also made conditional threats to "blow out the brains" of several people, including a Prothonotary and another reporter.

Beaver Countian's John Paul, who has had to endure the Sheriff's wrath, says this:
"Small town politics and cronies with big time influence had blanketed his misdeeds from view for far too long. It makes me physically ill when I think of how many he has hurt over his 40 year career, abusing both power and persons to achieve his own self-interests."
With appointed row officers and sheriffs, there are less small town politics or cronies with big time influence.

Centralized Human Services Bldg Gets Green Light

Planner Kenn Edinger worries about safety at mid-block crosswalk
At their March 25 meeting, Bethlehem Township Planning Commission unanimously endorsed a revised land plan for a centralized human services building at 2801 Emrick Boulevard. In February, Northampton County Council signed off on a 15-year lease for a 3-story, 66,375 sq ft building on 5.36 acres, with 256 parking places, at a cost of about a million dollars a year in rent. Because the plan previously approved by planners contemplated a medical office building, it had to be revised for human services. The plan must also be endorsed by the Board of Commissioners.

Planners are concerned, however, about a new bus stop being proposed by LANTA at the site. It includes a mid-block cross-walk. "We already got a problem at the Community College," complained resident Barry Roth, referring to a mid-bloc pedestrian crossing there. "Somebody's gonna' get hurt. It's not going to look good on the front page of the newspaper."

Roth's concerns were shared by Planner Kenn Edinger, who suggested that safety concerns be addressed. "I like the idea," he added. Project manager Jim Gentile assured planners that the safety concerns will be addressed.

This project, which is imminent, will result in 100 construction jobs at prevailing wages.

In other business, planner considered a Coordinate Health proposal for a 3-story, 49,000 sq ft medical facility contiguous to Outback Steakhouse. Attorney Tom Stitt, representing the Outback, urged planners, "Don't just rush this through." He complained he had concerns about drainage, parking and access.

Lee Snover worries about overcrowding at Coordinated Health
Although he's been a patient at Coordinated Health, Stitt told planners, "I don't want to be the first patient whose car gets towed." Chairperson Lee Snover noted that Coordinated Health does get crowded at other sites. "They get their foot in the door, and then explode in the building," she observed. Edinger added that Coordinated Health has a "bad track record" as a result of "overbooking."

Coordinated Health's Erin Kintzer, however, told planners that "this facility is different." She noted it is an out-patient facility, not a hospital.

Planner James Daley told Stitt, "Nothing goes zipping through here."

And it didn't. The plan is under review by township officials and engineers. "The bottom line is they gotta' meet with what the Ordinance say," noted Daley. "If our Ordinance is deficient, feel free to bring it up with the Board of Commissioners."

Township Seeks Contempt Ruling in Streetlight Scam

Following a nearly week long trial in January, a Northampton County jury convicted two Scranton area businessmen - Robert Kearns and Patrick "P.J." McLaine - of stealing nearly $832,000 from Bethlehem Township. Instead of buying street lights from PPL, as promised, this duo spent large sums of money on themselves.

This streetlight scam, as some have called it, is by no means unique to Bethlehem Township. Over the past five years, thirty Pennsylvania municipalities bought into the Kearns and McClaine proposal to buy streetlights from PPL, and then get big discounts on the electricity used. For 11 municipalities, the plan worked. But for the rest, including Bethlehem Township, it's been a disaster.

In addition to the criminal prosecution, Bethlehem Township has civilly sued both Kearns and McClain. On March 25, Township Attorney John Harrison, asked Northampton County Court to hold Kearns in contempt for refusing to produce documents after being ordered by the Court to do so.

A ruling from Judge Edward Smith is imminent.

Att'y Bill Platt Takes The Banner For Kim Velez

Last week, I told you about Allentown City Council candidate Kim Velez, the victim of strongarm tactics by the Allentown Democratic machine. You see, they already had enough Latinos. She would just draw votes from Julio Guridy and Cynthia Mota. To make matters worse, she opposes Mayor Edwin Pawlowski's water privatization scheme. Attorney Tim Brennan was dispatched to bully her out of the race, and after Sunday calls to Velez and her family, he succeeded. He event sent her a pre-printed withdrawal form, which she filed the next day.

Velez was to learn later that week hat she had been conned, the victim of a lawyer who, even putting the best spin on things, had acted inappropriately.

Is this the end of the line?

No. And that's thanks to an attorney who is acting not just appropriately, but in the highest traditions of the Lehigh County Bar. Bill Platt and his partner, Jeffrey Fleischaker, are representing Velez pro bono publico.

Velez, who is both attractive and well-spoken, is a potential Democratic Superstar. Platt, a former GOP Chair in Lehigh, is representing her anyway.

Why? Because our democratic system should be above party affiliations. Whether Velez is ultimately right or wrong, her cause needs to be heard. Platt, to the credit of his profession, will make sure that happens.

I'm proud to know him.

But his father still scares the shit out of me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day on April 7

This is from the Lehigh Valley Jewish Federation: – There are two important ways that people who did not live through the Holocaust try to grasp it. They hear the numbers, like the six million Jews that perished. They remember the photographs, powerful black and white imagery ingrained in our collective minds.

On Sunday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of Allentown, the Lehigh Valley Jewish community will commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day with a program that asks us to look beyond those numbers and pictures.

Featured speaker Dr. Rachel Korazim was born in Israel and served in the IDF as an officer in the central training base for women. She is a graduate of Haifa University with a doctorate in Jewish education. As an educator and daughter of Holocaust survivors, she focuses on the influence of the Holocaust and how it shapes our thoughts and actions.

This year's ceremony will also feature a special commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on this, the 70th anniversary.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the 1943 planned act of Jewish resistance within the Warsaw Ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, opposing Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining Ghetto population to the Treblinka extermination camp. The most significant portion of the rebellion took place from April 19, and ended when the poorly armed resistance was crushed by the Nazis, who officially finished their operation to liquidate the Ghetto on May 16. It was the largest single revolt by the Jews during World War II.

A memorial reading of names – including those who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto – will begin at 6 p.m.

The program is sponsored by the Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley. Visit www.jewishlehighvalley.org/yomhashoah.aspx to learn more.

GOP County Council Candidate Impersonates Resident

After going silent on Friday, Northampton County Council and West Easton Borough Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa's hate blog is back in full force. She is now impersonating people. Let me tell you the story.

Matthew Dees is a West Easton resident who decided to run for Borough Council, but then withdrew. He is also the owner of a webpage called WestEastonPa. Mezzacappa decided to impersonate him.

On her moderated blog, Mezzacappa published a comment ostensibly coming from a "Matthew Dees", that bashed West Easton Borough, using exactly the same language that Mezzacappa uses. When the real Matthew Dees saw the comment, he asked Mezzacappa to remove it.  She refused. So on his own webpage, Dees posted this:
"I wouldn’t vote for her if the only other candidate was a rattlesnake with its fangs embedded in my carotid artery. For Mezzacappa, the gate is down and the lights are flashing, but there just isn’t any train coming. While some people are a couple of bricks short of a load, Mezzacappa lost her entire load of bricks driving to an insane asylum.

"Since Mezzacappa may be the only Republican candidate in the May 21st primaries, it’s a sure bet her name will be on the ballot as a Republican candidate in the general election, come November. Hopefully, she won’t survive the County Council primaries – another race she’s entered. Yep, not only is she running for a seat on the West Easton council, but she wants to be elected to the Northampton County Council, as well. God bless the NorCo Republicans for welcoming the wretched into their fold.

"I’ve never met Mezzacappa and have never spoken with her. She doesn’t know me and what I know of her has come from her own blog. It isn’t easy to read. Post after post of venom and hate. I had to keep a bucket and towels nearby to deal with the vomit from an upset stomach, as I continued to read and comprehended the twisted mind of Tricia Mezzacappa."
Now, Mezzacappa claims to have an email from Dees denying that he is the publisher of Westeatonpa.com. "It is my personal belief that Miss Gross is utilizing Bernie O'Hare to impersonate me online, as he has done to several other people," the supposed Dees email reads.

Unfortunately for Mezzacappa, the registration information for westeastonpa.com reveals that it is, in fact, registered by Matthew Dees. His email address and phone number are included. I will not list them here, but you can see them by clicking on the link.

Mezzacappa is not just a liar, but a bad one.

A bill to criminalize her kind of online impersonation is under consideration in the state house. State. Rep. Katharine Watson states, “The type of damage that is caused by fake email accounts, Facebook profiles or Twitter handles can be malicious to the point that it is now consider a form of cyberbullying.”

Updated 9:10 AM: Mezzacappa shuts down blog ... again. - After a torrent of vulgar attacks and online impersonation, Mezzacappa has taken down her blog for the second time since Friday.

Fractured NorCo GOP To Pick New Vice Chair

On Thursdays, after everyone has left the courthouse and night skies descend upon Easton, little mice and the occasional big rat come out to play. I'm referring, of course to Northampton County Council and other government officials, who happily carve up and gulp down the wheels of cheese left behind by taxpayers. Traps left by the local press and public have been completely ineffective. This Thursday, another kind of rodent will infest the County Courthouse - NorCo Republicans. Almost as evil as Democrats, they intend to use Courtroom #1 to pick out a new Vice Chairman.

Chairman Robert Kerr is running a just-turned 18 year-old Freedom High School Senior against Craig DeFranco, a party stalwart. But Kerr wants people he can control. He's already eliminated the worker bees, people like Dottie Niklos and Mary Barket. They've even been anonymously derided, on this blog, by a Robert Kerr toadie.
These people that you refer to as worker bees are the biggest bunch of belligerent, self serving trouble makers that NorCo has been cursed with. One is drunk at meetings, the other abuses her husband and these people hate robert kerr because he got them a new office.
Niklos and Barket are trying to figure out which one is the drunk and which one the husband-beater. I asked them, and they beat me up.

Kerr has also fired long-time Solicitor Brian Monahan, who never charged the party a dime. Kerr has also moved the offices out of Nazareth, and now, he's installing his own leadership.

Teg Hughes, who has been the party's Slate Belt backbone, has been fired as their area Chair because he's unable to meet with the clique when his work schedule conflicts. Never mind that nobody does more than he when it comes to distributing yard signs and working for candidates.

At a Saturday breakfast meeting with some of his power elite, Kerr is also focused on how to get rid of Ron Angle and Lee Snover, who sit on the party's Executive Committee. They could probably get away with dumping Angle. But Snover is an elected State committeeperson, and under their by-laws, has an automatic seat on their board.

The reason he wants to remove Angle and Snover is they ask questions. "He wants full control," I've been told by a Committeeperson at this little breakfast. "If you are not on his side, you are the enemy and must be dealt with severely."

While focusing all his energy on dumping Angle and Snover, he is actually encouraging Tricia Mezzacappa to run. An Easton police report* clearly describes her as a racist who would not hesitate to use her official position to retaliate against those who do not do her bidding, as she did to a police officer who refused to follow her directions.

One person who is apparently outraged and concerned about the direction of the party is County Council member Peg Ferraro. She's up for re-election this year, and could lose to Mezzacappa. Worse yet, she could be stuck on the ballot with her. That would make her a sitting duck for an inevitable Democratic onslaught that will tie Mezzacappa to every Republican seeking office.

Dem party boss Walt Garvin, who does pretty much the same thing as Kerr in his own party, has to be thrilled at this complete disintegration.

Since this meeting will take place in the people's building, I have a right to be there and will attend.

I've asked Robert Kerr and Treasurer Tony Simao to respond to the accusations that they have essentially become control freaks.

* That Easton police report might be the most-read police report in Easton's history. According to Scribd, it's had 10,200 views in its embedded form, along with 589 separate reads.

Bottom-Feeding Blogger Receives Major Award

Last night, while the rest of you were circled around the TV or curled up with a good book, I was diving into Lamont McClure's garbage cans, looking for dirt. As most of you know, I'm a bottom-feeding blogger with no redeeming virtues. But now, I'm a bottom-feeding blogger with a major award. Believe it or not, it's for journalism.

The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association has given me second place in its annual Keystone Press awards. It's in the "ongoing news coverage" category for my NIZ stories published at The Bethlehem Press, a weekly newspaper that comes out every Wednesday.

I was up against heavyweights like The Abington Journal and The Susquehanna County Independent, not the dailies. They have their own category. The Morning Call picked up five awards. I was unable to locate the correct category for The Express Times, and will update this post when I find it.

I was in a small category. But hey, a win's still a win.

I want to thank those of you who sent emails to The Press last year, urging them to fire me. You inspired me.

The Bethlehem Press did pretty well in the awards category this year. Here are the other winners:

Dana Grubb - Second place, column writing.

Karen Samuels - Honorable mention, column writing.

Brandon Taylor - Second place feature beat reporting; Second place photo story.

Tim Gilman - Honorable mention, feature photo.

Linda Anthony - First place, photo story.

Ed Courier - Honorable mention, graphic/photo illustration.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Don't Mess With Nazareth

Last night, Northampton County Council voted for the second time in five months to reject a proposal that would have transferred nonemergency ambulance services for Gracedale from Nazareth Ambulance to Lifestar. By a 6-3 vote, Council dismissed a bid from Lifestar that was $86,556 cheaper than Nazareth's proposal. Only John Cusick, Scott Parsons and Bob Werner would have gone with the low bid.

The other six Council members went against the administration, Gracedale's management, the Gracedale Advisory Board and even the so-called Coalition of Alzheimer Families, whom I prefer to call the Gracedale Goons.

What I found interesting is that Nazareth Ambulance employees came and spoke, as they did a few months ago. I was particularly impressed by Lois Sutliff, who explained that they know the residents and can often tell when something is wrong, even when the nurses don't see it. "We might be a small company, but we know those patients," she said in a breaking voice. "We care about those patients."

Numerous Lifestar employees were on hand, too, but not one of them spoke. They did not come to the meeting in their own cars, but drove about a dozen Lifestar ambulances. Their attendance was obviously orchestrated, and I suspect they were probably compensated for their time.

Peg Ferraro, who spoke forcefully against the bid, was obviously concerned about her voting base in Nazareth. She denied that, stating she would have the same concerns anywhere else. Even Portland. But then she called out to County Council candidates in the audience, noting that these are the kinds of tough decisions that have to be made. This year's election was obviously very much on her mind, no matter how much she protested to the contrary.

Much more persuasive was Ken Kraft. His Bethlehem District includes 100 Lifestar employees, so it would be politically expedient for him to go with them. But he noted that he ran for office on a platform of bringing jobs to the County, and this would have the opposite effect. "I would be closing a company by going with a bid I consider low ball," he reasoned. He noted his decision would not put Lifestar out of business.

The most persuasive, at least to me, was the usually quiet Barb Thierry. Disgusted with politics, she's leaving at the end of the year. She's a conservative Republican, so I expected her to go with the low ball. But she went the other way, and this is what she said.
"I understand Lifestar delivers the best bang for the buck. But what about three years from now, when Lifestar has no competitors and it is free to charge what it wants? What about the personal relationships that have been fostered by members of Nazareth Ambulance and residents of Gracedale? How can we sever those tie without affecting the quality of service to residents?

"I voted to sell Gracedale because I felt that was the only way to ensure the best quality of care to residents in the long run. That same concern prompts me to vote against Lifestar."
I think it's important to note that, as cost-savings measures go into effect at Gracedale and $2.5 million in worker benefits have been returned to County coffers, it is apparent that the quality of care has suffered. The latest Medicare ratings give the nursing home just two stars, which is "below average" and far below the four stars at Cedarbrook.

In the face of this reality, Councilman Bob Werner ticked off a list of items that he claims makes Gracedale better. Funny how that never translated to better ratings. Human Service Director Ross Marcus claims that the two stars is a "good thing," a result of "better reporting."

Ask Tom Muller in Lehigh County if he would call two stars at Cedarbrook a good thing.

I do agree that this vote was a very tough call, and I know it exasperated Ross Marcus, who later snarked Council about not listening to their own nursing home administrator.

But aside from all the merits of both companies, I'd add this - you just don't mess with Nazareth. Cross them and they'll bombard you with Moravian Sugar Cakes and hit you with red roses. Their residents are extremely nasty, which is mostly the result of eating copious amounts of red meat. Had the vote gone the other way, Borough Council was ready to confiscate all County TVs.

LC Dems: Brennan Lacked Authority to Contact Candidate

Yesterday, I told you that Allentown City Council candidate Kim Velez was pressured into withdrawing by Allentown Attorney Tim Brennan. He called her on a Sunday, and according to both Velez and members of her family, identified himself as an attorney for the Lehigh County Democratic Party. After telling her that her signatures were inadequate and that she failed the residency requirements, he told her she had to withdraw and emailed her a form, all neatly filled out.

Thinking he was some official in the government and was there to help, she complied, especially after he warned her that fighting"could be costly."

Brennan denied he ever said he was calling on behalf of the Lehigh County Democratic Party, but clammed up pretty quickly when I spoke to him yesterday. Democratic Party Chair Rick Daugherty has told the Morning Call he was not acting on behalf of the party, and party leader Bar Johnston also confirmed that in a telephone conversation with me last night.

Having been disbarred myself, I'm an expert on lawyer ethics. It appears to me that, regardless whether he misrepresented himself as a lawyer for the Lehigh County Democratic Party, Brennan's conduct was unethical. According to Disciplinary Rule 4.3(b),
During the course of a lawyer's representation of a client, a lawyer shall not give advice to a person who is not represented by a lawyer, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know the interests of such person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the lawyer's client.
Instead of using scare tactics, Brennan should have filed a ballot challenge and advised Velez to seek counsel.

This rule obviously exists to prevent precisely the kind of intimidation that occurred here. Violation of this rule is prima facia evidence that the Velez withdrawal was under duress.

There is no doubt in my mind that Brennan was acting on behalf of incumbent Council members Julio Guridy and Cynthia Mota, who are fearful she will draw Latino votes from them. But I have not contacted them.

Attempted Arsons at Orloski Law Offices

Prominent civil rights attorney Rick Orloski has made the mistake of representing me. Now, there have been two recent arson attempts at his historic offices, located at 111 N Cedar Crest Boulevard.

The first incident occurred late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, March 9-10. After two failed attempts to set the building alight with what is commonly called a "booze bomb" or "Molotov cocktail", a rock was thrown through his window.

The second incident occurred late Sunday night into early Monday morning, March 16-17th. This attempt was more successful than the first, though fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Whoever did this left physical evidence behind, and the South Whitehall Township Police are building a solid circumstantial case, brick by brick.

If you have any information, however remote, about this incident, please contact Sgt. Sorrentino or Detective Creamer at the South Whitehall Police Department at 610 398-0337. The police have been intentionally sitting back on some crucial information, according to Orloski.

Here's what he has to say: "Arson is a felony, not only because of the potential for a major property loss, but it carries the risk of death to the occupants of the building as well as the first responders who arrive to fight a fire. Our fire fighters should not be risking their lives because of an arsonist. If someone has talked to you about this, or made an inappropriate joke, or even bragged to you about it, please call the South Whitehall Police Department and share that information with them. 610 398-0337. Sgt. Sorrentino or Detective Creamer. You never know how valuable such information might be in the hands of a knowledgeable police officer."

If you have something to say, don't post a comment here, but call the police. I am disabling comments on this post to prevent wild anonymous accusations.

Mezzacappa's "Bite Me" Blog Goes Silent

Tricia Mezzacappa, Republican candidate for both Northampton County Council and West Easton Borough Council, has taken down her vicious hate blog, West Easton Foot Print. According to her blog header, it was "intended to provide a forum for accountability and transparency in West Easton government. This blog contains factual and truthful information about the shenanigans that take place at West Easton Borough Hall. The truth will be posted here, no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient or infuriating it may be for the crooked elected cronies who read it. If you cant take the heat, leave the kitchen, get a job, stop blogstalking, and while you're at it, BITE ME!"

Somebody must have bitten her. Her blog has thankfully gone POOF!

She regularly attacked and defamed West Easton borough officials, Easton police, Mayor Sal Panto, John Stoffa, Ron Angle, Attorney Rick Orloski and yours truly. I'm sure I missed a few. In recent days, she has been particularly venomous to Orloski.

Cartwright: Support Our Military Families

From Congressman Cartwright's Offices: Yesterday, LV Congressman Matt Cartwright introduced the bipartisan Military Family Leave Act with 25 original co-sponsors. The bill would allow parents, children and spouses of military service members to spend time with a loved one who has received notification of impending active duty deployment. The legislation would give certain immediate family members two weeks unpaid leave from work.

Cartwright said, “This bill simply creates two work-weeks of unpaid family leave for immediate family members of active duty service members who are exempted from getting such leave under existing law. Given the sacrifices all our troops and their families make in the name of national security, the legislation is the least we can do to ensure that the needs of all military families are met, regardless of their employment situation.” Cartwright added, “My bill also respects the challenges faced by small businesses.”

Under provisions added to Family and Medical Leave Act by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, parents, children, and spouses of military personnel are allowed 12 weeks of leave if a family member is notified of impending active duty. However, as is the case with all Family and Medical Leave Act scenarios, the law excludes Americans who work part-time or who are employed by companies with fewer than 50 employees. This Military Family Leave Act would create two work-weeks of the same unpaid military family leave for employees of all stripes.

“The parents, children, and spouses of military personnel are deeply affected by the deployment of a family member. After getting news of impending active duty, time with a loved one is short and precious,” Cartwright said. “This legislation closes gaps in current law to provide family support to all service members called to active duty. And we know that this support is invaluable to soldiers,” said Cartwright.

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President, Retired Naval Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan Jr. commented, “The MOAA applauds Rep. Cartwright for championing this important benefit for the families of our active duty service personnel and pledges our strong support to secure enactment of the Military Family Leave Act.”

Congressman Cartwright was sworn in as a Member of the House of Representatives on January 3.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Russin Tossed Off Bethlehem Tp Ballot

Failure to file a Statement of Financial Interests with Bethlehem Township has proved fatal to Democrat Raymond Russin. He was removed from the ballot following a brief hearing today before Senior Judge Lawrence Brenner. Russin was absent and did not contest the challenge. Russin had challenged the seat held by incumbent Commissioner Paul Weiss, a Republican.

Objections to Russin were filed by fellow Democrat Suzanne Robertson. She was represented by Easton Attorney Brian Monahan. Prior to the hearing, Northampton County Democratic Chair Walt Garvin advised Monahan that Russin would not appear.

Browning Wants to Debate Ott

Dean Browning and Scott Ott, the two Republican candidates for Lehigh County Exec, will tape a WFMZ’s “Business Matters” program with Tony Iannelli today. That half hourt show will air April 1 on Channel 69. But Browning would like a few more bites at the apple, and has challenged Ott to four additional debates over the remaining eight-plus weeks of their primary campaign..

“Serving as Lehigh County Executive is an important job and the decisions made by the next County Executive will have a direct impact on the lives of every resident who calls our county home,” said Browning. “I am eager to compare my qualifications as a businessman with more than thirty years of private sector business and financial experience versus Commissioner Ott’s background as an author and online media personality. There is no doubt that Scott is a talented political pundit, but I am confident that my qualifications are far better suited to manage and reform a county with 2,000 employees and a $360 million budget. County Executive should not be a position for on-the-job-training.”

Browning suggested the two campaigns sit down and hammer out a schedule for the debates that included agreement on formats, moderators, locations and dates. Browning also said his campaign was willing to split the cost with Ott’s for promoting the debates to voters.

“I hope Commissioner Ott will accept this challenge and spare Lehigh County voters from a campaign of empty rhetoric and bumper sticker-ready slogans that won’t solve the economic and fiscal challenges facing Lehigh County,” said Browning. “Since Commissioner Ott took office the 16% property tax cut that was the basis of his 2011 campaign has never materialized; he pushed through an ill-timed reassessment that is about to jack up local, county and school taxes on tens of thousands of residents and small businesses; and our county deficit is on the rise again with no plan in place to balance the county budget without raising taxes. I look forward to a spirited series of debates on these issues and more and am I hopeful Commissioner Ott will work with me to make them happen.”

McClure Misses Meeting Involving Gracedale and His Own District

At yesterday's meeting of the Northampton County Council Finance Committee, a decision was made that could have a positive or deleterious effect on Gracedale, and will definitely have an adverse impact on Nazareth. But Lamont McClure, who is supposed to represent the Nazareth District on Council, was absent as usual. So was Council member Bruce Gilbert, a lame duck. McClure would like to be County Executive, and claims he is  Gracedale's Savior. But he was MIA for a meeting concerning the nursing home and its relationship with an ambulance service within his own district..

At issue was nonemergency ambulance service to Gracedale, which is currently provided by Nazareth Ambulance. Gracedale Administrator Millard D. Freeman, employed by Premier Healthcare Resources, is recommending a switch to Lifestar. Their $225,000 per year proposal is much lower than the $311,556 bid from Nazareth Ambulance. The company has agreed to pay a performance bond. The wages it pays its workers are equivalent to what is paid to Nazareth. And Lifestar is bound by a requirement that at least 80% of its workforce must consist of Lehigh Valley residents. So on paper, it seems like the better deal.

Peg Ferraro, who counts on Nazareth for much of her support and is facing re-election, is opposed to the switch. She wants to stay with Nazareth. "They live here, they work here, they pay taxes here," she said.

But Freeman countered, "You said you wanted us to run Gracedale more like a business and that's what we're doing."

Council President John Cusick added, "Taxpayers who don't live in Nazareth are indirectly subsidizing an ambulance company."

Ken Kraft seemed satisfied with the proposal once he learned that performance is guaranteed and that the workforce must be 80% local.

Is this good or bad for Gracedale? It's good for the bottom line, to be sure. But is a good bottom line good for the residents? Does it make sense to replace an ambulance service that knows the residents and their peculiarities with a bigger one that does not?

Just today, I was told by a Gracedale supporter that the $2.5 million in employee givebacks has made it harder to maintain the same quality of care. I am told that it has become much more demanding on the employee, which might explain why the Medicare ratings have dropped from three to two stars. Now, an ambulance service with strangers will replace those who know the residents.

This might be the right choice. I believe we have an obligation to support the choices made by Premier and Freeman, who have excellent track records. McClure was busy yesterday, circulating a flyer about Gracedale that uses actors, not actual residents or workers.

Ballot Positons in Northampton County Races

"So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."

The lowest drawn numbers are first. So Lamont McClure, Seth Vaughn, Christen Borso, J Willie Reynnolds and Steve Melnick will be at the top of their ballots in the Northampton County Executive, County Council, Bethlehem Mayoral and City Council races.

Allentown City Council Candidate Scared Off Ballot

Kim Velez
I've been pretty disgusted with Allentown lately. Democracy there has been replaced by an urban growth regime in which politicians and key figures in the business community have co-opted each other, to the detriment of its dirt-poor citizenry. For most of them, the challenge is paying next month's rent, not some stupid election. But when you don't take an interest in your government, it sure has a way of taking an interest in you, and often in ways that are very detrimental. The latest instance of this in Allentown is Mayor Edwin Pawlowski's water privatization scheme. His bobbleheads on City Council are prepared to do everything he wants, but the cracks that first began to appear with his NIZ proposal are now gushing forth with a torrent of public discontent.

This is where Kim Velez enters the scene. She's a well-spoken young lady with excellent credentials. She's currently a manager in Marketing and Public Affairs at Lehigh Valley Health Network. A Hofstra grad, she's also done marketing for Telemundo, USA Networks and Comcast.

Allentown is her home. It's where she grew up.

Concerned about Pawlowski's risky proposal, Velez began attending City Council meetings. Three of their seven 7 members are appointees. "I didn't feel that we had the proper representation," she told me yesterday and decided to take the plunge and run for City Council herself.

With the help of the Grand Dame of Allentown politics, Jeanette Eichenwald, Velez went door to door with a voter list, soliciting signatures. She tells me she collected between 130-145, and filed her petition last week.

But on Sunday, she received a threatening call that scared this newbie right off the ballot.

Attorney Tim Brennan, who just happens to be Barron Von Footinmouth's Solicitor, called her in his most official sounding voice and told her she failed to meet residency requirements. He identified himself as an attorney for the Lehigh County Democratic Party, although I doubt anyone inside the party leadership authorized him to hound her.

When Velez heard the words "Lehigh County," she immediately concluded he was some official from the government. Brennan began telling her that she failed to meet the residency requirements, which is complete and utter bullshit.. Under Allentown's Home Rule Charter, if she can vote anywhere inside the City, she's qualified to run for office.

Once it became apparent to Brennan that Velez could jump through that hoop pretty easily, he switched gears and told her that only 75 of her signatures were valid and she had to withdraw. If she refused, "it would be very costly," he warned.

That's just more bullshit. It would cost her nothing to defend a petition challenge, unless she hied an attorney.

"I figured he was with the County, so I filed a withdrawal," Velez tells me.

She was to later learn that Brennan, who does legal work for political consultant Mike Fleck, had conned her. Now she's wiser and is upset at the "scare tactics" used to get her off the ballot.

Velez, a Latina, would draw votes from Julio Guridy and Cynthia Mota. They had promised to support her and even initially misled her into thinking they opposed Pawlowski's privatization plans. Guridy and Mota are both using Fleck, who also happens to be Mayor Pawlowski's political consultant.

The last thing they want is a Latina Eichenwald.  

"It leaves a lot to be desired," Velez states of Brennan's Bluff. "Should I be scared because I want to do public service?"

In Allentown, the answer to that question is Yes.

I received this report too late in the day to get a reaction from Tim Brennan. I will call him later today. I believe he misrepresented himself.

Velez is currently seeking an attorney so that she can be reinstated on the ballot. That should be an uphill battle but should be fought. I think a judge should make a decision in this matter.

Michael Molovinsky has a report as well.  

Updated 10:50 AM: Brennan Declines Comment. - As promised, I reached out to Tim Brennan this morning. At first, he denied having identified himself as being with the Lehigh County Democratic Party, though Velez claims that is what he told her and several members of her family. "It's something I'm comfortable with," he said. But as I continued to ask questions, he suddenly said he was unable to talk about it because of the "ongoing matter."

Actually, it's far from "ongoing", thanks to him. Her candidacy is pretty much at an end, given a public policy that favors quick resolution and finality in election disputes.