|Callahan and Dent together at Pulaski Park|
Back in 2010, when Callahan first announced for Congress, he played it safe, ducking issues. He even refused to take a position on Obamacare until it was adopted by Congress. Now, he leads from the front. He pushed for a single hauler trash proposal in Bethlehem, knowing that it is unpopular in certain quarters and could hurt him in the Executive race. He owes the voters his best judgment, and gave it to them.
Washington handlers, three years ago, kept Callahan under wraps. He failed to respond to emails or phone calls from bottom-feeding bloggers because the DCCC had scripted his race in advance, with absolutely no regard for transparency. That made me suspicious and led to RTK requests and numerous other headaches for Bethlehem officials. Now, Callahan's office sends out news releases as a matter of routine, and the Mayor was even willing to sit down on several occasions and explain his stewardship of Bethlehem in great detail.
When Callahan ran against Dent, the City was still reeling from the Great Recession, and city finances suffered. His finance guys engaged in a decades-old practice of juggling funds between different city accounts, This was done to eliminate the need to borrow, but City Council often had no idea it was happening. Now, that practice has been eliminated, and City Council is fully apprised of interfund transfers.
At the worst possible time in the Congressional race, an independent audit revealed a serious deficit and numerous other internal control problems. Not only did the City address those internal controls, but it finished the last two years in the black.
While all this was going on, Callahan managed to eliminate $90 million in long-term debt, helped create 5,500 jobs and managed to get the City's S and P bond rating increased from "neutral" to "positive." He also implemented a Continuous Improvement (CI) program, which encourages workers to find better and more efficient ways of doing thins. A restaurant permit that used to take 42 days now takes 14.
Callahan is a much better Mayor in 2013 than he was in 2010, primarily because he is one of those rare individuals who is capable of implementing continuous improvement to himself, not just his City.
That's my assessment, but the real test of Callahan's success is what Bethlehem voters think. In 2010, when he ran for Congress, Congressman Charlie Dent took six Bethlehem wards from Mayor John Callahan on his way to a 56-38-6 victory in a three-person race that also included independent Jake Towne.
Three years later, in a three-way primary, Callahan won all but one Bethlehem precinct. He walked away with 1,886 votes, 53.4%.
Bethlehem voters have obviously noticed that Prince Hal has become Henry V. Below is the Bethlehem tally.
Updated 11:30 AM: Callahan won every Bethlehem precinct! - As explained in a comment, "Callahan won all the precincts in Bethlehem. The 17th Ward is counted in two parts, but is one precinct. Part of the 17th ward in in the 17th Congressional District, part in the 15th."
Let me add that Blogger Jonathan Geeting, who is an expert on ... everything, has called this a "remedial" political analysis because I am comparing a Democratic primary in a local race with a general election in a Congressional race. That's certainly true.
But unlike Geeting, I took the time yesterday to tally the Callahan vote in each Bethlehem precinct and share it with my readers, especially since I heard all kinds of claims that he is unpopular in Bethlehem. Also, I do think there are similarities. In both races, Callahan's character was the chief issue. It appears that Bethlehem voters, who know him best, have a higher opinion of him now than they did in 2010. Also, since there are so few Republicans, their primaries really are the general election.