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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

If Jeb Bush Can Release His Emails, Why Not John Brown?

Jeb Bush, widely believed to have the inside track to the GOP Presidential nomination, has recently released a treasure trove of hundreds of thousands of emails during his time as Florida Governor. Believe it or not, the released emails paint a flattering picture. So why can't Northampton County Executive John Brown do that as well?. Here's an email I sent to him.

Dear Mr. Brown, With the exception of personnel matters and legal issues, Jeb Bush has decided to release his email correspondence during his tenure as Florida Governor. I am asking you to do the same thing. In your first year, you established yourself as secretive and remote. If that perception is inaccurate, disclosure of your emails can only help you. So why not release them all? This is not a formal Right-to-Know request, but an appeal for transparent government.  

I'm Back - No More Mr. Nice Guy

I've made it back from York, and am raring to get back into Lehigh Valley issues. But before I do so, I have to tell you that I have made a New Year's resolution.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Simmons Sparks Becahi to 76-56 Victory Over York Catholic

Freddie Simmons scored just ten points in Bethlehem Catholic's convincing 76-56 victory over York Catholic during the Robert H. Griffith Holiday Classic on December 30. But the aggressive defense provided by the team's only senior was just the spark needed to galvanize the rest of the team to start putting points on the board. A team that just one night before seemed hopelessly adrift, has suddenly seemed to find itself. What was just a group of individual players players is now suddenly a team.

During a team meeting after a disappointing loss to Danville, Becahi's sole Senior challenged the younger players to come together, and they did.

Every time that York Catholic Point Guard Tanner Yannick came down the court, he was greeted by the Simmons stone wall, while DeAndre Tillett and Chance Neilly guarded all around the perimeter. This prevented penetration and resulted in turnover after turnover, upon which the Hawks quickly capitalized. Junior Chance Neilly, who finished the game with a team-high 17 points, scored 13 of them in just the first quarter.

In the second quarter, it was another junior, Nick Maff, who connected on four 3-point field goals in a row. He managed to do this while guarding the Fighting Irish's most dangerous scorer, Chris Martello. Maff finished the game with 14 points.

Andrew Posch, Becahi's most solid player, added another 12 points.

Two younger players, Freshman Dat Lambert and Sophomore Nick Petros, were able to keep the pressure going when the starters were given breathers. Lambert scored nine points, including a three pointer. Petros sunk 5 out of 6 free throws, finishing with seven points.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hello From Lovely York

Some of you go to Florida for your vacations. Perhaps Europe. Me, I'm in York. I fit right in with the dumb bells.  I'm here as the scorekeeper in a Becahi Boys Basketball tournament on Monday and Tuesday. It's being played at York Vo-Tech.

The Danville Ironmen defeated Becahi during Monday night's clash. It wasn't close, with the final tally being 59-37. Lead Becahi scorers were Chance Neilly (10 points) and Dat Lambert (7 points). The lead Ironman scorer was Shayne Riley, who scored 21 points, including 3 3-pointers.

So far, I have managed to get the Becahi coach lost three times.  He's beginning to wonder whether I've been sent in by the enemy. 

I'm no coach and have little knowledge of basketball. They did play poorly. I understand that much. It's been a tough season. Several starters decided at the last minute that they needed to focus on their grades, and I can't blame them for wanted to do well academically. Another starter had the flu. But they are a great group, like so many of the other teams I've seen. Things are going to change for the better next year. There are se great players coming up. It should stay that way for at least three years. 

Many of you have read my stories about my grandson Dat, growing up and playing football, baseball and basketball. Most of you have been very supportive and kind. Well, Dat got his first start last night. I thought you'd like to know. Though he scored 7, including a 3, they were all in the first quarter. He did get stuck on the sides twice. 

Unfortunately, his mom was at work and missed his first start. But his aunt was there. 

Tonight, Beca will play again, this time against York Catholic, at 6 pm. 

Because I'm away, I don't really have much for you today. My regular blogging schedule will resume on Wednesday.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Want Pa. Dutch? Try Point Phillips Hotel

Most of us take this for granted, but parts of the Lehigh Valley are simply gorgeous. All along the Blue Mountains, which start at the Delaware Water Gap and separate us from the coal crackers,the views are simply breathtaking. Along the foothills, between patches of state gamelands, are the homes of the Lehigh Valley's mountain men, most of them descendants of our original residents. This story is about an out-of-the-way tavern buried in those woodlands called Point Phillips Hotel. No chain would dare start a business there. I'm sure it would fail every business model. But judging from the parking lot, I'd say the chains are wrong. The place was packed with customers attracted by the outstanding fare, friendly atmosphere, quick service and reasonable prices.

The place is owned by amiable Dan Tanczos, who grew up in the area. In fact, his mom and pop enjoyed their first date there. I had seen Dan at the courthouse numerous times, checking out older deeds, as some people like to do. But I never realized who he until I saw his brother Mark.He was there for dinner with his family, including his mother.  I know Mark because he is a Hanover Township Supervisor. Though Mark warned his brother about me, I was allowed to stay so long as I paid in advance.

What initially drew me to this country restaurant was the smoke house and promise of Pennsylvania Dutch fare. When I was a boy, going to Walp's was a big deal. But for reasons unknown to me, Pennsylvania Dutch food is all but gone from the Lehigh Valley. Outside of the Allentown's Farmers' Market, it's hard to find. But Point Phillips offers Pa. Dutch Pork and Sauerkraut, Dutchman's Steak, Bratwurst and Dutchy sides like red beet eggs, crunchy coleslaw and warm German potato salad.

In addition to the fare that used to be so common in this area, what I loved about the place is its sense of history. Tanczos, who is in the process of helping for a Moore Township Historical Commission., is a walking encyclopedia full of the history of the area.

It's a fascinating story. The original inhabitants along the foothills of the Blue Mountain were subjected to frequent Indian attacks, and would be forced to take refuge in the relative safety of Nazareth. A girl in the first family living at the property may have been abducted (and later adopted) by native Americans.

Across the street from this tavern is what was once known as the Chubbsville Hotel. That has a nice little spring in its basement, and the owner was often teased about watering down his drinks with water from that stream. A customer apparently saw a chub minnow swimming around in his beer.

The Point Phillips Hotel has named a drink after this piece of folklore.

Although the service is quick, this is the kind of place wherre you might want to stay awhile and relax, especially if you like to drink. One of the 12 beers on tap is Point Phillips Pale Lager. From every pint of Point Phillips sold, a donation is made to the Klecknersville Rangers.

I posted my find on Facebook, and learned I am far from the first person to discover what a truly great place this is for a family get together, romantic dinner or just someone who enjoys Dutchy cooking. One of my friends tells me he had a funeral dinner there when a family member passed. Though it was outside the hotel's normal hours, they opened and offered their full menu and bar to his family.

NIZ Cheerleading Backfires on Schlossberg

Mike Schlossberg is a member of the country's second highest paying legislature, after California. He ran unopposed last year, primarily because democracy is dead in Allentown, He's nominally a Democrat, but in truth, he's following Jennifer Mann's footsteps as a servant of the urban growth regime. He's a Moneycrat, like King Edwin Pawlowski, Pat Browne and others. Instead of representing the people, his boss is J.B Reilly. Over the Christmas weekend, he made the mistake of praising Allentown's controversial NIZ on his personal Facebook page. This is a government sanctioned tax gimmick that allows Reilly and fellow developer Joe Topper to use state tax money sorely needed in Allentown's schools to transform themselves from millionaires to billionaires.  As you might have guessed, Schlossberg had his head handed to him by people who can see through the bullshit.

Schlossberg is one of my first readers. I remember meeting him when he was the Manager of Hellertown's Main Street program. At that time, he had ethics and cared about people. He came from a middle class background in Jersey, so I doubt he knew or understood much of anything about people in Allentown who are literally hungry, but I thought his heart was in the right place.

Something happened. Once elected to Allentown City council, he became one of King Edwin's men, a rubber stamp. He was one of the Yes votes for Pawlowski's slap across the face of anyone who cares about a healthy environment. He actually voted in favor of a goofy plan to convert New Jersey shit into energy, which sounds a hell of a lot more offensive than spreading it on farmland.

Because this plan was being promoted by major Democratic fundraiser Marcel Grown, I guess it looked liberal enough, though it obviously was just the greedy action of a few oligarchs out to pillage and rape a City.

Schlossberg is getting a raise as legislator while most of his constituents are below the povery level. But that's not enough for him. He also ranks #36 for expenses. Those include $9,782.00 in per diems and $8,027.43 for mileage. That $18,000, which is on top of his salary, is about $1,000 more than the per capita income of an Allentown resident.

It does not stop there. Schlossberg also holds himself out as a social media consultant. He has whored himself out to privatized tax farmers like the Portnoff law offices for his so-called expert advice. Of course they will use him and contribute to his campaign, and in return, he will support legislation that makes it easier for leeches like Portnoff to soak residents with municipal liens and Sheriff Sales. He's hardly the first pol to use his government position to put a few extra coins in his pocket, but it's still disappointing to me because  remember when he used to have ethics.

Over the weekend, for shits and giggles, he published the results of a study predicting job growth in the Allentown area. "[Y]ou can bet that's largely because of the NIZ," he says. "Let's keep up the great work!" . He goes on to predict that the NIZ will cure all disease, end hunger and bring us world peace.  Amazingly, he made these bold statements on his personal Facebook page, where people would prefer to see pet pics and watch fart videos.

The best thing a pol can use Facebook for is to humanize himself. Let people know he's one of them, even if he's not. If he wants to make a political statement, he can do that on his legislative page or somehere else. Another social media expert thinks you lose friends and clients by using your personal page to get into thse kinds of subjects. It's the wrong platform for discussing politics unless it is in a group with a closed membership.

Schlossberg slipped. His initial remarks, and subsequent defenses, indicate he is not one of the people, but part of an urban growth regime. Several astute readers, including Michael Molovinsky, saw through the bullshit and really let Schlossberg have it. Pawlowski did his best to post links to news releases. Ed Disgrace [he's a troll who used this blog to slime a Hispanic leader] rushed in and called all NIZ critics naysayers. But the damage was done. The urban growth regime and Schloss looked pathetic yesterday.  Here are some of the comments.

Michael Phoenix Mike Schlossberg a majority of the jobs created are low paying. Not helping the residents. If you would walk the streets, you would find out there is still very low confidence. A majority of people tell me the city is trying to get rid of the lower income people. A majority of center city still has a serious drug and gang problem that people worry will take over the Hamilton st. Area. I thought you were aware of the real city and not just promoting the rich and high income. That was not the reason I voted for you. I voted for someone who would walk the streets off Hamilton and try to raise the standard of living for everyone.

Michael Molovinsky shameful post considering that most of the jobs of any substance were poached from elsewhere in the valley. furthermore, the state coffers are down $33 million paying for these privately owned buildings. lastly, even the cigarette tax previously going to CHIP is being diverted.

Michael Molovinsky michael phoenix, you also voted for him because you had no choice, mr. schlossberg had no opponent.

Ed DisGrace (to King Edwin) Hey Ed, you can count me among the cheerleaders. Allentown has come a long way and you've had your hands and your heart in her rebirth since ABC, DEDC- Allentown, etc. My beef is with ASD and we have a long way to go in the areas of education, income disparity and minority engagement toward building the new but, I'm sure you're aware of these continuing battles. Maybe some of the naysayers should consider running for Mayor, against you and your record. Statistics show that even a generic, recalcitrant, yelping opponent could muster 35%. Good job Ed. Still much to do but, keep building the new.

Michael Molovinsky ed degrace, i thought i was done with this dialogue because ed pawlowski only wants to keep linking to articles which are nothing more than press releases for reilly and city center (vs. center city). you however are far worse. nothing has been done to raise the stakes of the hispanic minority majority in this city, yet you have the gall to mock those who would "dare" to challenge the status quo.

Michael Molovinsky my problem with schlossberg and pawlowski is the lack of candor. yes ed, the morning call has been acting like a press agent for the NIZ, even writing multiple articles and promotions for an out of town cheesesteak. how cheesy, considering that zandy's has been paying for advertisements for 40 years. no mike, the other communities will not be able to have an NIZ, because the state cannot afford any more of such tax give-aways, that's why it now doling out CRIZ's instead.

Gina Blevins I think the very valid point is that it's entirely premature to claim victory or celebrate success regarding job creation when those jobs don't even pay enough to live in what you Ed refer to as the poorest of neighborhoods. Creating poverty level jobs isn't really something you should want to be known for. But maybe you do. The reality is this study proves nothing. I will end simply with the number one rule of data. CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. Just because the NIZ exists does not mean that it is the reason for these results that is a non fact based assumption.

Michael Molovinsky gina, "naysayer" was first employed locally by pawlowski to discount anybody critical of any of his plans. if he had his way we would be burning a mixture of sewage and new jersey trash, and he would be moving into the governor's mansion. degrace, don't confuse the voting public with democracy. if you weren't so self-serving you would concern yourself with the very meager hispanic voter turnout, instead of spending your energy licking those you hope can further yourself.

When the NIZ is pronounced a failure, and that will eventually happen, J.B. Reilly will have already made his money, King Edwin will be long gone, and Schlossberg will be trying to get elected to Congress or the State Senate. ... And taking in more consulting fees.

NorCo Retirements Up to 139

In October I told you that 92 Northampton County retirements were possible by the end of this year. The latest figure is 139 people leaving the County at the end of this year or early next. That is 2.5 times more than the average of 55 employees yearly. It should serve as a warning bell to Executive John Brown that he is doing something wrong.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Breakfast at the Angle Estate

Yes, those are windshield wiper glasses. The derringers were
Ron's gift to Max.
Most of my Jewish friends celebrate Christmas by going to Chinese restaurants. I used to like to do that myself, but let's face it. I'm a bottom-feeding blogger. I've worn out my welcome [and credit] at most places.  But there is one spot where I am welcome. Yes, I have to scale the electric fence with concertina wire and get past the hounds. Then  I have to swim a moat infested by sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. But after that, it's all good. I had Christmas breakfast at the Ron Angle estate yesterday.

Because he had given his servants a half day off, Angle did the cooking. He's pretty good.  Just last year, over 500 people in Upper Mount Bethel were ready to string him up over what he insists is his God-given right to spread shit on his land. So naturally, the first course was shit on a shingle. Quite tasty, too. There were also slabs of bacon, mountains of homefries, eggs cooked however you want them and, believe it or not, filet Mignon.

I was joined there by Bangor School Director Bob Cartwright and the evil Mark.

There are two Marks in Upper Mount Bethel. The good Mark is Mark Cotturo, a former male model adored by women everywhere, kinda' like me. His flaw is that he is always trying to help people. He probably spent Christmas at some food bank or conent.  Evil Mark is Mark Thatcher. He gained some notoriety last year when he flushed Tony Lynch's cell phone right down the shitter at the Mount Bethel Diner.

Though Angle got a crack scuba team to fish it out of there, the phone was beyond hope and had to be shot.

Evil Mark is badass, almost as bad as me. Almost. Nobody has ever written any essay calling him the Son of Satan. 

Thatcher also likes to heckle people at public meetings. He sometimes goes to Upper Mount Bethel or Bangor school meetings just so he can torment officials. He and Angle pull a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 act. Most of it is barely audible. Cartwright pretends he doesn't know them.

At one school board meeting that I attended, I got blamed for the Thatcher and Angle wisecracks. A school teacher got up and tried to give me a detention, while Angle and Thatcher sat there like altar boys.

Cartwright, who lives in Portland, tells me it's the Cancun of the Lehigh Valley. He has been criticized over the years for just about everything. But one thing even his enemies agree on is that he is a great father to his 18 and 19 year old daughters. They gave him a coffee mug (he ordered them to give him nothing) inscribed with some very sweet sentiments by these two young ladies to their dad.

Badass Mark  usually gets despondent at Christmas because there are so few row home fires. But after Cartwright read him a week's worth of obituaries, he was smiling again. He didn't have to flush anyone's cell phone.

Ron's sons Max and Ron, Jr., were home and sat down with us old farts for a bit, which was very nice of them both.  Ron's beautiful wiife Sharon, who was at the barn when we first came, eventually joined us, too.She tried to get away, but we got here just as she was hopping the fence. She got stuck on the barbed wire.

She gave me a kiss.

But then again, so did Badass Mark.

A lot of you wonder if Ron is running for this or that office. I like to fan those flames myself, from time to time. I know it drives his detractors nutz.. Also, there are very few people who are as knowledgeable about local government as he. But he seems unenthusiastic about a do-over. He actually enjoys occupying the highest office we have - citizen.

As I left him, he was going out to feed his cows.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Brown Ends CEC Contract at Jail

Northampton County has ended a controversial program intended to treat jail inmates like human beings instead of animals. The goal was to reduce the number of people returning to jail, But it would cost as much as $5.5 million over the next five years.

This contract was one of the last things that John Stoffa pushed through Council before leaving office.  He argued the contract could be canceled if unsatisfactory to the incoming Council. Lamont McClure was the sole dissenter. But this year, he managed to turn the entire council around o n the basis of an audit that showed the program was not as effective as it had been represented to be.

This program was also unpopular with corrections officers, although i unfamiliar with all of their objections.

Council jumped at the opportunity to cut this line item from the budget in 2015. Inmates, and their needs, are pretty low priority to most members of council. By being assholes to these unfortunates, most of whom are victims themselves, Council members can portray themselves as tough and fiscally responsible and all that good stuff.

When Council decided to eliminate these treatments programs from the budget in a 6-3 vote with only Ferraro, Benol and Geissinger opposed], they inserted nothing to take their place. Now, instead of there being some treatment that may be less effective than represented, there'll be none.

John Brown had no strong objections to getting rid of CEC. His only concern was putting something else in place, but Council would rather have the money.

The Executive has sent a memo to President Judge Baratta advising him of the contract's termination, effective January 16. Though a mental health court is in the works, the caseload proposed for that is much smaller than what was being provided by CEC.

CEC also provided treatment for female inmates.

Council members seem to think there's a vast pool of volunteers just pining away to spend their time the jail. But they're wrong. What is out there are predators, wolves in sheep's clothing who will strip away anything that's left of these inmates after their release. I've seen it and so have some of my readers.

This was a bipartisan mistake. This elimination was opposed by Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol.  But nobody gives a shit about inmates until it's someone you know or love.

Post Script: Executive John Brown could use a few courses in the proper way to address a judge. Instead of firing off a memo to Stephen G. Baratta, P.J., the proper way to refer to a jurist is as Hon. Stephen G. Baratta, President Judge..Considering what the taxpayers are spending for public relations, you'd think he'd at least try to get it right. If Baratta were to write to Brown, you can rest assured that he would refer to him as Hon. John Brown. His office deserves that form of respect, and Judge Baratta knows that much. John Brown should never send any form of correspondence to a judge, the District Attorney and even the Controller, without an indication of respect for the office.

This is a small matter, but this is one reason why his Administration needs more educated people than high school grads.

Updated 12/24, 12:16 am.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ken Kraft Seeks Re-Election to NorCo Council

From his Vote Ken Kraft Facebook Page: "I am announcing that I am running for Re-election for the District 1 Representative on Northampton County Council. Petitions will be going out in the new year, so if anybody who lives in District one (Bethlehem, Hanover Township, Hellertown & Freemansburg) and is a registered Democratic voter that would like to circulate for me please send me a Private Message."

Kraft's seat is widely regarded as a safe seat for Democrats, given Bethlehem's heavily Democratic population.

Morganelli Refers Scheuermann Decision to AG

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli has all the information he needs to make a decision in the Richard Scheuermann homicide. But he's decided to refer the matter to the state AG, whose recent behavior has at least one state senator seeking her impeachment.

Morganelli is punting because he recently discovered that he is acquainted with some of Scheuermann's family, and knows and has worked with the EEaston police officer whose shots ended Scheuermann's life.

Though he gave no indication how he felt about the matter, Morganelli made the following observations:

  • Police had "seconds" to make their decision to use deadly force.
  • The Palmer police officer who fired shot into Scheuermann's tire.
  • One Easton police officer fired two shots aimed at Scheuermann. . 

Morganelli cited three previous examples in which police shootings were referred to the AG. In 1997, then Attorney general Michael Fisher ruled that the shooting of John Hirko by Bethlehem police was justified. In 2005, when Easton Police Officer was killed by a fellow officer, the shooting was deemed accidental. But in 1998, involuntary manslaughter charges were filed against Easton police officer Scott Cameron, who fired at John Rapp after being knocked over by Rapp's truck.

Morganelli waited until now to make the referral because the investigation was still in progress.

Courthouse Rally Open Salvo in County Races

Monday's courthouse rally, though brief, may very well be the opening salvo in next year's County races. Four District Council seats, the District Attorney, Controller and a judgeship are all at play. It had been thought that Republicans are the favorite in most of these races. But Democrats have had a lot of help from an unlikely source - John Brown.

When John Brown first took office in January, it all started innocently enough. He said he was "here to serve." In March, he called the County workforce its most important asset.

But his secretive nature, combined with a distrust for anyone outside of a small circle that includes Cathy Allen and Matt Deibert, has resulted in a year of disaster.

The low point for his administration came in October, when he posted armed guards outside of a news conference to keep Council members at bay. Even Peg Ferraro, who is usually fairly laid back, condemned Brown.
"[T]o have the Sheriff's Deputies stand - armed Sheriff's Deputies - standing guard at the door between a Council Chamber and the County Executive Chamber, to me, is absolutely appalling and sends completely the wrong message to the elected officials that sit up here on this dais with me."
His appointments have been perplexing, too. He named a voice over artist to play the role as his Director of Community and Economic Development. He wanted to name a recently elected Republican judge's husband as chief Public Defender, even though it would effectively prevent that judge from hearing criminal cases. But his goofiest nomination was Cathy Allen for Director of Administration.  She's a high school grad whose experience was limited to managing a two-person office.

His penchant for government by consultant has even drawn the ire of conservative Elmer Gates, who said Brown should "roll up his sleeves and start doing the job we elected him to do." In February, Brown proposed a $715,200 no-bid contract for a business consultant. Though some of the newbie Republicans on Council were more than ready to give Brown what he wanted, Hayden Phillips was concerned. "I like to shop," was Peg Ferraro's assessment. His initial attempt at government by consultant failed.

But at the same time, Brown had inked another no-bid deal for an $84,000 public relations consultant. That ultimately spawned two Controller lawsuits, which were withdrawn once Brown followed the RFP process, under which he seeks proposals from several vendors.    

His public relations consultant is best known for her "Dear Leader" news letter, in which she said we should all thank John Brown for allowing a Hispanic Center to conduct a food drive at the courthouse when previous administrations said No. In addition to being insulting, this newsletter was also wrong.

But his biggest error has been his treatment of County workers.Instead of treating them like the county's most valuable asset, he has attempted to balance the budget on their backs.He has created staffing shortages that have union officials worried about the safety of corrections officers at the jail. He has allowed a major backlog to develop in both the Civil and Criminal Division, where cases are no longer being indexed promptly. Vital Human Services positions in Children and Youth are going unfilled.

In addition to the shortages, brown has unilaterally decided to reduce healthcare coverage for most workers, while denying raises and proposing other cuts in benefits. This has made morale the worst it has ever been since the inception of home rule, and has led to a mass exodus of the best and brightest County workers.

On Monday morning, there was more than a brief courthouse rally that slammed Brown. There were also 500 signs planted all over the northern end of the County, from Bangor to Easton, and from Nazarerth to Easton.

Though Democrats rarely vote in any great number in off-year elections, John Brown has given them reasons to do so. The County's 2,200-person  workforce translates to about 7,000 vote throughout the County. This should help Democrats who are outnumbered in the Nazareth, Easton and Slate Belt races  It should definitely help the Controller, And it will hurt Vic Scomillio. He and all Republicans will be tied to every illegal action taken by brown, and there are a few, in his first year in office. They will all be painted as lacking transparency. They will all be painted as promoting a heartless government that sacrifices both services and fair treatment in the name of the Almighty Dollar.

Nobody has announced. No one is circulating petitions. But the County races have started.

Monday, December 22, 2014

DA Schedules News Conference About Scheuermann Homicide

District Attorney John Morganelli will provide an update today into the PSP investigation of the Richard Scheuermann homicide. Police officers in both Easton and Palmer Tp are currently under administrative leave as that matter is resolved

Northampton County Says Good-Bye to Frank Flisser

Flisser before his last Council meeting
Marie Cunningham, Doris Lombardo and Frank Flisser are names you'll rarely see in the daily newspapers. But for decades, they have been some of the spokes that keep the wheel of Northampton County government going. But after one year of Executive John Brown, more than 120 of them will be gone. This is over twice the average over the past five years. Brown had promised to provide final numbers at Thanksgiving, but never did.

Frank Flisser's last day was on Friday, December 19. He left the way he operated during his 37 years as County Council's only Clerk. Quietly. No parties. On his final day, as the seconds ticked away, he had just four cardboard boxes to take home with him. Occasionally, the phone would ring, and he'd say good-bye to one of the many people he worked with over the years.

Q. You were born and raised on Bethlehem's South Side, and grew up with troublemakers like district Attorney John Morganelli and Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. Did that experience on the south side help? 

My father was the Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Windish Church. For 31 years, I had the honor and privilege to live on Bethlehem's south side. I learned true old world values from people who came to this country from Yugoslavia and Hungary It gave me a good base for my value system.

Q. Who were council's best sparring partners, Ron Angle and Lamont McClure, Ron Angle and Charles Dertinger?

I'd have to say Bill Moran and Jim Hemstreet. They loved to spar with each other, were good at it, and and each was iconic.

Q. In all your years as Clerk, is there any single meeting that stood out as the wildest and craziest of them all?

I'd have to say the bond hearing in 2000, when a $110 million bond issue was approved at 2 am.

Q. That's the meeting in which Ron Angle's name plate was stolen, and found later in a urinal. Now that you're leaving, will you admit you're the thief?

No (laughing), I think [Jim] Hickey did it.

Q. Although you serve at the pleasure of council, you lasted 37 years. What advice would you have for your successor? 

Be honest. Treat everybody the same, including members of the public. Be open and direct.

Q. Having seen a home rule form of government for 37 years, do you think it's time to go back to the commissioner form of government?

Maybe a Charter Study Commission should be convened.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Santa's Coming to Courthouse Rally on Monday

LV Labor Council Prez Gregg Potter reports that there will be an "important rally" on Monday morning, 8:30 am, at the Easton courthouse. It's aimed at NorCo Executive John Brown, depicted by Potter as a Scrooge. But that depiction is inaccurate. At least Scrooge paid his workers.

Executive John Brown, when he first took office, said he was "here to serve." He tried cozying up to employees, even attending a few union meetings. But he has attempted to balance the County books on their collective backs. Not only has he reduced health care benefits, but he wants to reduce other benefits like vacation and sick time as well. There were no raises for anyone. He has reduced staffing to dangerous levels, especially at the jail. Employees have left in drove, and morale is at an all-time low.

While reducing services to the public, Brown has tried to engage in government by consultant. He tried hiring a $700k business consultant, and did get away with hiring a cost control consultant without bothering to follow the Administrative Code. He is also forcing taxpayers to pay for his spinmeister. She prepared "All Hail Dear Leader" newsletters while he ignored the press and Council. Distant and nontransparent, he even posted armed guards outside his office before a news conference.

He is indisputably the worst Executive Northampton County has ever seen. Instread of standing up to him, Republicans on Council have more or less been the third wheel on the bicycle he is riding over a cliff.

For these and several other reasons, the one and only Santa Claus will be there. Brown, who has apparently been designated a naughty boy, is getting a bag of coal. I hope he drops off a piece of that coal with Easton Mayor Sal Panto, who like Brown, is balancing his budget on the backs of those who can't afford it, whole embracing developers like Mark Mulligan. .

Members of AFSCME will also make a contribution to five different non-profits who provide food and basic needs to the residents of Easton and Northampton County.

Friday, December 19, 2014

PPL Giving $5,000 For New Bethany Food Bank

On Monday, PPL Electric Utilities will present New Bethany Ministries with a $5,000 donation for its emergency food pantry as part of a $250,000 commitment this winter to help people in need.

“We are grateful to PPL for their demonstrated commitment to helping people in need,” said New Bethany’s Executive Director, Diane Elliott. “Many families are struggling, and this gift will help us continue providing critical services to the community."

In 2013, New Bethany Ministries distributed 4,292 food baskets from its emergency food pantry, representing 70,389 meals. The agency reported a 149% increase in the number of children receiving food from the pantry and a 336% increase in the number of elderly utilizing the pantry from the previous year.

Celebrating its 29th year, New Bethany Ministries provides assistance to families affected by poverty, hunger and homelessness; and individuals with mental illness. For more information about New Bethany’s programs, call 610-691-5602 or visit www.newbethanyministries.org.

Rosado Settles Dispute With Allentown Schools ... For Now

Jose Rosado, erstwhile principal of the Allentown School District's Alternative School program,resigned last night in  deal that guaranteed him back pay and other benefits. It also leaves the door open for him to pursue a federal lawsuit.  He released a statement claiming total vindication.

"This settlement vindicates me and allows the option to pursue our claims in Federal Court where the process will be fair. My Federal Complaint will be filed soon and the whole story will be told in Federal Court.

"As an educator, I have always believed that our community is only as vibrant and viable as the quality of education our students receive in our schools."

NorCo Council: Workhorses, Showhorses and No-Show Horses of 2014

Parsons gives me the hairy eyeball
Who are Northampton County Council's workhorses, show horses and no-showhorses in 2014?What is their attendance, including Committee participation, where most of the real work is done? What is the attendance like for four brand new members of Council, finishing their rookie year?

This is my annual report card, something I have done since 2006.

Northampton County Council met 30 times last year, including four budget hearings.

In addition, its committees met 30 times. Each Council member is encouraged to attend those meetings, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. The committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members.

As might be expected, Finance and Personnel head that list. They each met nine times last year. Human Services was a hot Committee, too, meeting six times. Other committees doing a lot of heavy lifting were Economic Development (7), Open Space (4) and Capital Projects (3).

But some committees never got rolling. Despite the need to address regionalization and shared services like 911, Peg Ferraro failed to call a single Intergovernmental Committee Hearing this year. Also, though it is more than clear that both the Administrative Code and Home Rule Charter are in dire need of an overhaul, Mat Benol only conducted one meeting for what is now being called the Courts and Corrections Committee.

Below is a table showing attendance at 60 Committee meetings, regular meetings and budget hearings during 2014. As was the case last year, Scott Parsons is Northampton County Council's Workhorse of the Year. He will receive a Major Award from Lehigh Valley Ramblings at the beginning of next year.

Scott is a bue collar worker who worried he might be late or miss committee meetings. But in his years on Council, he has set the pace. He was at an amazing 58 meetings last year, giving him an attendance percentage of 97%. Though he is still ugly, his devotion to the County is inspiring.

We have a tie for #2. Democrat Bob Werner and Republican Glenn Geissinger both attended 54 of 59 meetings, giving them both a 92% attendance. Though they miss out on Parson's Major Award, they both make the Dean's list, just as soon as I find out who the Dean is.

The Middle of the Pack is reserved for Ken Kraft and Peg Ferraro. Kraft and Ferraro have good attendance, but not great. They'll have to work harder if they expect to receive a Major Award from this blog. I don't just hand them out.

D students include Mat Benol and Seth Vaughn. They were elected to serve, not miss Planning Commission meetings like Vaughn regularly does, or fail to conduct more than one single Courts and Corrections Committee hearing, as is the case with Benol.

Receiving an F for his 67% attendance record is Hayden Phillips. His record on Council is good and his Capital Projects Committee is innovative. But in one year, he has betrayed a complete lack of interest in many aspects of County government. For example, he failed to attend a single meeting of human services, open space  or economic development in 2014. He can be all about personal responsibility and limited government and still make time for these meetings.

My final F goes to Lamont McClure, who has failed to break 50% attendance since 2011. If I could send him to reform school, would. In his defense, I will state he did attend all but one of the budget hearings his year was understandably ill. He also did attend two committee meetings. If he wants to make a difference for struggling county workers, he needs to show up at more committee hearings.

council meetings
2014 2013 2012 2011
mat benol 28 3 1 5 0 7 75% n/a n/a n/a
peg ferraro 27 1 5 5 2 9 83% 90% 85% 67%
glenn geissinger 27 2 7 5 4 9 92% n/a n/a n/a
ken kraft 27 2 6 3 0 9 80% 88% 84% n/a
lamont mcclure 28 0 0 0 1 1 50% 43% 47% 41%
scott parsons 30 2 6 6 4 9 97% 92% 89% n/a
hayden phillips 28 3 0 0 0 8 67% n/a n/a n/a
seth vaughn 27 0 4 6 0 6 72% n/a n/a n/a
bob werner 27 2 7 6 3 9 92% 90% 82% n/a

Here are my attendance reports from Here are reports from  2013, 2012, 20112010200920082007; and 2006.

Blogger's Update 3:25 pm. I recalculated my attendance records, which reveal that there was one courts and corrections committee meeting on 4/23. They also reveal that McClure was present for all but one budget hearing. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dunkin' Donut Drive Thru Approved on Hellertown Road

The Carlos Brothers are hungry
In a close, 3-2 vote, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board has approved a drive-through window for a franchise planned along the west side of busy Hellertown Road. During their December 17 meeting, Attorney Jim Preston successfully pressed the case for owner Dhruv Acharya. He owns another Dunkin' Donuts in Bangor, and manages three more of these popular franchises in the Poconos.

The Dunkin' Donuts franchise, located on a 10,095 sq ft lot, is located in the CL Commercial Zoning District, which permits restaurants. But Acharya needed a variance for the drive-through window. The business will be located north of the Route 78 exit onto Hellertown Road, which runs between South Bethlehem and Hellertown and is also known as Route 412. It is almost directly across the street from Commerce Center Boulevard.

Hellertown Road is undergoing a major expansion by PennDot, which is expected to continue until 2016,  The road is being widened from two to four lanes, with five lanes in places. It is also expected that there will be a medial divider separating north and south bound traffic.

Acharya and his engineer, Brian Gasda of Lehigh Engineering, both told zoners that they expect that it will be a divided highway, and they will be limited to customers coming south from South Bethlehem. They are proposing a lane that circles the proposed 2,200 sq ft building, like most drive through establishments. There will also be a separate bypass lane and 22 parking spots, well beyond the nine required.  They also plan to place buffers along the northern and southern sides of the property for the privacy of neighbors.

Only one of those neighbors was at the hearing. Francisco Sousa, who lives next door, actually has a driveway easement along this property. It had only been discovered the day before the hearing. But so long as his own parking arrangements are guaranteed, "I'm all for it."

Linda Shay Gardner worries that cars waiting for coffee at the drive through will trickle out along Hellertown Road. Acharya told her that is unlikely because their goal is always to provide service within two minutes. He pointed out that the Dunkin' Donuts standard is 150 seconds.

Gardner, however, pointed to a franchise on Schoenersville Road where the cars do stack out and only the highway. "That's dangerous," she observed, and added it would be dangerous along Hellertown Road as well.

Michael Santanasto questioned Acharya about the lighting on the drive through order sign, noting it is only 100' away from someone's home. He was told there would be no light pollution.

Bill Fitzpatrick and Jim Schantz had questions about the hours.  They were told the Donut shop may open as early as 3 am, but will be open less than 24 hours per day. They ultimately moved to approve the application, conditioned upon a thorough review by the Planning Commission. Chairman Gus Loupos joined them, but Gardner and Santanasto remained opposed.

The remaining hearings were far less controversial.

JoAnne Matthews was granted a special exception to establish an art therapy counseling office for children at her home on 1569 Kadel Drive. She explained that children who are reluctant to speak out about what bothers them can often express themselves much better by drawing.

Finally, Alfredo Carlos was granted a dimensional variance to construct a carport for his property at 1532 Siegfried Street. His brother Mario, who was with him, will do the work.

Carlos explained that nearly everyone else in his neighborhood has a carport, and his wife and daughter have been after him to build one. Last winter, he had to get up at 3 am to shovel his wife and daughter out, and his wife cries about the lack of a carport. So he paid the $250 to apply for a special exception.

"Happy wife, happy husband," he argued.

The Board quickly and unanimously granted relief.

"Do you want me to call your wife and tell her you got it?" asked Chairman Gus Loupos.

"Yes," answered Alfredo, "I'm hungry."

Dent Opposes Normalization With Cuba

Representative Dent’s Statement on the Decision by President Obama to Normalize Relations with Cuba

We as Americans are rightfully glad that our fellow citizen, Alan Gross, has been released by Cuban authorities and has now returned home. This is great news for Mr. Gross and his family, given his unjust five-year imprisonment.

However, like many Americans, I question not only the President’s decision to release the Cuban agents in our custody, but also his decision to normalize relations with the Cuban regime at this time.

Make no mistake – the people of Cuba are not free nor has there been any softening by the Castro brothers on human rights issues. Cuban citizens still live with the haunting fear of unjust imprisonment based on the political views they might hold or espouse. Any attempt to normalize relations with the Cuban regime must be conditioned upon real humanitarian, political and social reform for the betterment of the Cuban people. It’s clear the Administration has received no such commitment from the Castro regime.

The President’s action will have repercussions and Members of Congress will be heard on this issue. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I anticipate that there will be an amendment offered to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being spent on the construction or acquisition of any sort of embassy facility in Cuba. If offered, that amendment will have my support.

Charlie Dent's criticism is relatively restrained, compared to the rants of his Republican colleagues. Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, himself a Cuban-American, is calling President Obama the “Appeaser-in-Chief.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio has branded Obama the "worst negotiator in modern U.S. history."

On the other hand, Pope Francis believes normalization is in the interest of both countries.

So do I. Maybe he'll make me a Bishop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NorCo DA Announces Task Force to Prevent Elder Abuse

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is taking aim at those who prey on our senior citizens. Former bank President Richard Freer, a financial predator, recently pleaded guilty to squandering the life savings of many elderly clients who trusted him. But this extends to family members, too, who often steal from and physically abuse older relatives. In addition, our elderly are often targeted by scam artists. After meeting with the Department of Aging Director John Mehler, the DA has decided to establish an Elder Abuse Task Force.

Explaining his motives, Morganelli repeated Hubert Humphrey's often quoted moral test of government, stating government is judged not just by how it treats those in the dawn of life, but those who are in their twilight as well as those who are in the shadows.

Morganelli has established a child sexual assault division and court school to help those in the dawn of life. His recently announced Mental Health Court should provide relief for some of those in the shadows. Now he proposes that we pay closer attention to elderly crime victims. His hope is that an Elder Abuse Task Force will prevent those crimes from happening.

Morganelli is no fan of establishing a task force just for the sake of having one, he stated, but believes an elder abuse task force would educate the public, seniors and law enforcement. He said it will be a small group wuth the following goals:

  • Education. - Bankers and health care providers should be trained to recognize signs of exploitation, like a dwindling bank account. He believes local television, radio and social media should be used to disseminate information to the public. 
  • Link Elderly Service Providers With Law Enforcement. - "More communication will result in less victimization," Morganelli explains. 
There are currently about 20 different task forces in the state. Some operate as nonprofits, while others are under the direct control of the District Attorney.

Originally published at 2:48 pm in outline form.  

Mezzacappa Defies Sheriff's Levy

As most of you know, I have a $70,000 plus judgment against perennial West Easton Borough Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa. I've held off on executing against her home, but did file a writ of execution against her personal property. This is an order directing the Sheriff to levy on her personal property, and then sell it. She was also notified to appear at a deposition to disclose her assets, but she failed to appear

Once Mezzacappa got wind of the writ of execution, she began hiding her black Toyota RAV to prevent the Sheriff from levying upon it. She also refused to answer the door whenever Sheriff's visited her. But not long ago, her RAV was spotted, parked in an alleyway a few blocks from her home. I notified the Sheriff's Office, and they immediately levied on it, and posted notice of the levy at her home.

Once a property has been levied on by the Sheriff, it is unlawful to hide it. That is considered defrauding a secured creditor. Here's what the Crimes Code says:
§ 4110. Defrauding secured creditors. A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he destroys, removes, conceals, encumbers, transfers or otherwise deals with property subject to a security interest or after levy has been made thereon with intent to hinder enforcement of such interest.
The levy posted on Mezacappa's house and car advised her it is unlawful to remove it. But within hours of the levy, her vehicle was gone.

I sent her an email requesting her to return the vehicle back to its original location. I told her she is committing a crime.

I got this response from her yesterday.

"Keep lookin""

In addition, this anonymous comment was posted on my blog.

"Did you find the toyota?"

Finally, my West Easton Sources tell me that Mezzacappa is now driving a silver colored Mercedes with New Jersey plates.

I think it's pretty clear she violated the law. It is one thing to thumb her nose at me. But her actions threaten our system.

Guridy's Days as Allentown City Council Prez May Be Numbered

Inside word has it that Ray O'Connell is working on a coup of Julio Guridy as Allentown City Council Prez. All this really means is that Ed Pawlowski is replacing one yes man with another.

Becahi Boys Basketball Ekes Out Its First Win

Though I have many stories to tell,I spent most of last night watching Bethlehem Catholic basketball. Though the team started out 0-4, it never gave up on itself and scored its first victory last night against Freedom, 63-61. Bonita Crowe, who some of you know, has to be very proud of her grandson. He's Chance Neilley, and had a game-high 21 points. He has also been a consistent scorer in Beca's losing efforts.

Though Freedom got off to an early lead, it just could not put Becahi away. Then, in the 4th quarter, the Golden Hawks took the lead briefly, and then things went back and forth in a very exciting game. 

Fabulous Freddie Simmons seems to have made the transition from football into basketball. It was nice to see some of his senior team mates there to cheer him on. 

Antwon Keenan, who had been injured, should return to the roster soon,and that will help, too.

I've seen them lose and now I've seen them win. Their smiles should have stopped the rain. 


Bethlehem Tp Monthly Reports - November

Once every month, department heads provide a monthly report to Bethlehem Township Commissioners. I love these because they provide a perspective from the people who actually do the work. Here are some November highlights:


- A comprehensive Parks Plan has been approved by the recreation Board and is on its way to the Planning Comm'n.
- St. Luke's is proposing a 3-story medical office building at its Anderson campus.
- Intermittent blasting has stopped at Madison Farms, and building permits have been issued for retail pads.
- People FCU is coming to Easton Avenue.
- Northampton Community College dorm expansion is under way.

Public Works

- New fitness stations at the municipal park are now installed.
- Four big leaf vacuums were working ten hours per day for two weeks to help with leaf collection.
- Yard waste recycling center had 738 visits.


- Patrick Brehm continues his training at the Montgomery County Police Academy.
- Officers received training on defense tactics and handcuffing techniques.
- Chief Dan Pancoast visited and read to the 5th grade class at Our lady of Perpetual Help.
- Police investigated 69 accidents involving 122 vehicles and 7 injuries.
- Police issued 143 traffic citations, 125 warnings and 30 parking tickets.
- Police made 27 felony/misdemeanor arrests, filed 6 DUI summons and issued 16 citations for summary offenses.


- The township has received 249% of the building construction fees budgeted for the year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Local Names on Wolf Transition Team

The Patriot News has a listing of Governor Tom Wolf's 250-plus person transition team.  The following local names are included:

Rob Wonderling (former state senator) - Community and Economic Development

Bob Donchez (Bethlehem Mayor) - Chair, Drug and Alcohol Programs

Sonia Vasquez (Donegal School Principal) - Education

George White (Lehigh University) - Education

Jim Hickey (Norco former hatchetman) - General Service

TJ Rooney (former state rep) - Insurance

Willie Reynolds - Emergency Management

Abe Kassis (Norco Ass't DA) - State Police

If I missed any names, fill me in.

Only Bethlehem Tp Will Fight Over No-Tax Hike Budget

Michael Hudak
For the sixth straight year, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted last night to adopt a no-tax hike budget. This one was a no-brainer. But not in Bethlehem Township. Arguments erupted over 4-way stop signs, back-room meetings, fire rescue trucks, a $200,000 shitter, a raise of up to 3% for 17 non-union employees and the power of the Evil Bulldogs.  Before I get into the histrionics, let me lay out the facts.

The Facts

A taxpayer in a median market value home worth $177,618, can expect to see the same $521 tax bill he saw in 2014. It's his lowest tax bill, too. County taxes last year were $940, while school taxes were $4,428. The millage rate is 5.99 mills.

It does spends $1.6 million more than it takes in. This shortfall will be made up by taking money from the fund balance On paper, the fund balance is projected to drop $2 million over the next year and end at just $1.46 million. Funds on reserve will only be 10% of the budget. Freda stated that the reserve should be between 12-18%.

The Township's largest revenue source is Act 511 taxes, which consist of transfer taxes, earned income taxes and business mercantile taxes. These provide 31% of the Township's revenue. Real estate taxes, the second largest revenue source, brings in 27% of the Township's income.

The biggest drain on revenue is personnel. Ten years ago, the Township had 93 employees. Today, there are just 85 left, represented by three different unions.

Shit water cameras

Pat Breslin, who has missed three Board meetings this year, had a large audience of fellow tea party members in the audience. Not one of them attended a single budget hearing. Only two of them are regular attendees. But last night, they all suddenly became financial experts with all kinds of observations.

One of them, who was wearing goggles for underwater diving, is a shit expert, He questioned the cost of some camera system for viewing shit water, something I admit escaped my notice. Now I have no idea why municipalities buy cameras for watching shit water, but they do. This guy has a system himself, He might even have a few stills of some ploppers hanging on his wall. He told Manager Melissa Shafer that there are all kinds of shit shows where you can pick these cameras up real cheap. He goes to them all the time.

Shafer smiled, like she does at everyone, even me. But i don't think she'll be going to any shit show any time soon.

$200,000 shitters

Michael Hudak was blowin' oil over $200,000 shitters slated for what they like to call the North 40. Normal people would call it the Bulldogs' playing fields. Bulldogs is the name of the Township's Athletic Association.

You see, even in Bethlehem Township, people do shit. And during football and softball games, they shit a lot, Moms, dads, grandfathers, grandmothers. Especially after ordering nachos. Hudak sneered at people who "feel embarrassed" to use a port-a-john, and argued the only reason this was included in the budget was politics.

"The Bulldogs are a large group of voters." he observed. But he's not about the politics, although he claimed to have spoken to a lot of people who feel like he does, so maybe he is about the politics and is just full of shit from not using the shitter enough. I don't know.

Hudak always ends his speeches with, "That is all I have to say."

Tom Nolan, who is up for election next year and supports the $200,000 shitters, was very offended at the suggestion that his vote was political.

He pointed out that the shitters are also being used for storage. I have no idea what will be stored there, and don't want to know.

From the floor, Martin Comer complained that the Bulldogs tell people who to vote for when they register their kids to play sports. Most bulldogs would call that bullshit.

One of the Bulldogs' coaches, Frank or Mike Grillo, pointed out that the sanitation at that area is "absolutely disgusting" and numerous children have been stung by bees while using the port-a-johns.

The 3% Raise

Though he's missed three meetings this year, Pat Breslin claims to have spent the last five weeks speaking to 400 people, and got a lot of "ill feedback." Maybe they're using the port-a-johns. Then Breslin started talking about the national debt, the Harrisburg bankrupticy and went on the claim that even his "dear friend" Hayden Phillips had to take a pay cut. So he's opposed to any raises at all for the 17 non-union workers in the Township.

Rather than arguing that his dear friend should get a raise, Breslin wants everyone else to suffer.

If the raises were removed, the Township would save about $38,000

Over the past seven years, the salaries of nonunion workers have gone up just 2.4%, states Manager Shafer.  Roy Roth stated he has not had a raise since 1992.

Chetwin residents: What About Us?

Wayne Kresge, who has been at the spearhead of complaints about stormwaters at 15 homes along Chetwin Terrace, is incensed that the Township would build $200,000 shitters without addressing the storm water issue in his area.

He's been coming to meetings for the past 1 1/2 years, and Township employees cleaned out a swale, but he contends disaster is on the horizon.

$1.1 million for fire rescue trucks

Hudak also objected to $1.1 million to replace two fire rescue vehicles, each of which is over 20 years old. He claimed they aren't in "dire need" of replacement, though both have no state certification. "I speak from logic and facts," stated Hudak at one point. "That is all I have to say."

At least until firefighter Ron Ford said he was "disgusted" by Hudak's remarks. Hudak was offended by that, but Fire Chief Dave Stapinski got up to say that each vehicle has been carefully researched and that was based on the assurances of a committee that included two Commissioners.

Tom Nolan stated there were a lot of half truths being disseminated, and the realitiy is that the more expensive fire resuce truck was part of the approved 2014 budget. He pointed out that the Township did not spend 57% of its capital projects in 2014.

Hidak claimed that the Township has not raised taxes because of all the building, but the Township is nearly built out. "That is all I have to say," he stated for the fifteenth time.

Voting in favor of the budget were Marty Zawarski, Tom Nolan and Phil Barnard. Voting against it were Pat Breslin and Michael Hudak.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gas Compressor Foes Ask NorCo Council For Help

Columbia Gas plans to expand a compressor station in Forks Township. But a group of local residents are urging the state Department of Environmental Expansion to deny a permit. Forks Township has already adopted a resolution signalling its opposition. Although the deadline for public comment has passed, compressor foes asked Northampton County Council to take similar action at their meeting last Thursday.

According to the state DEP, the project application can be reviewed at its Wilkes-Barre or Bethlehem District Offices. but you have to make an appointment. (610-861-2070).

The state has already ruled that compressor stations are not major sources of pollution, but four people at Thursday's Council meeting had a different view. Joan Deen, who is active in the Northampton County League of Women Voters, made the following observations:
  • Columbia Gas wants to increase the horsepower at the compressor station from 2,250 hp to 21,000 hp (The Express Times said the increase would be from 5,000 to 22,000) "Obviosuly, they have plans for the future, notes Deen.
  • Though a school bus is unable to idle for more than 15 minutes because of air pollution concerns, this expanded station will be the equivalent of 168 school buses idling 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. 
  • The station as expanded will annually emit 70 tons of nitrous oxide; 163 tons of carbon monoxide; 15 tons of particulate matter that we will breathe in; 9 tons of volatile components; 99,000 tons of greenhouse gases; and 1/2 ton of sulfur dioxide.  
Tom Church, who worked for natural gas companies for 15 years, is opposed to the expansion. He argued that even if council fails to adopt a resolution opposing the permit, it really should update its emergency response plan. He stated the station is only 300' from some homes, though a google map search reveals that the compressor station is surrounded mostly by farmland.

Compressor foes have established a Facebook page, Stop the Easton Compressor Station.

We Really Are Still Bigoted

On Saturday afternoon, I stopped at my grandson's favorite sandwich shop to get him his favorite - a turkey hoagie with just lettuce and a little mayo - no cheese.  He would be playing in two basketball games that evening, so this was his fuel. As I waited, the owner of the store and one of his customers were trashing the "moolies" who are rioting down South, Then I heard one of them stating that he had just listened to crackpot radio, and it's really hard to give one of them the death penalty.

Most of you know me to be pretty confrontational. But I just kept my mouth shut, wishing to avoid an argument instead of telling two racists that they are racists.

The Councilperson Formerly Known as Karen Dolan

Karen Dolan, the Bethlehem City Council member who engaged in multiple conflicts of interest to benefit the financially mismanaged Illick's Mill, resigned her position after an Investigating Grand Jury demanded she do so. She still may face criminal sanctions for multiple Ethics Act violations. But if charges are filed, it will be under her new name, too.

After being disgraced by the Grand Jury report, Dolan high-tailed it out of town. She told everyone she was running off to Canada, but only made it as far as Burlington Vermont. She's using a new name, too. Instead of Karen Dolan, she is now K. Dierdre Dolan, both on LinkedIn and Facebook. Dierdre does sound more artsy, and could help her pick up freelancing gigs at Elance. It also will prevent google search users from learning the truth about her, It's dishonest, something I've come to expect from Dolan.

This could confuse even prospective clients into thinking she is journalist Dierdre Dolan.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Brown, Allen Reimburse NorCo Travel Expenses

From NorCo Controller Steve Barron:

Dear Members of the Media,


This e-mail is to inform you all that Ms. Allen and Mr. Brown have paid back the money that they owe the county for mileage.


Mr. Brown has paid back $220.53

Ms. Allen has paid back $1,248.33


While these amount were not the original amounts proposed by my office I am sure they went back over their records and am satisfied with these repayments and as far as I am concerned the matter is resolved.


I would like to commend them for doing the right thing and following IRS and County Policy. I will continue to pursue county tax dollars that are not spent properly. No matter how large or how small.





Stephen J. Barron, Jr.

Northampton County Controller

Office 610-559-3185

NorCo Exec Brown "Will Accept the Budget as Adopted"

During their final meeting of the year last night Northampton County Executive John Brown stated he "will accept the budget as adopted", meaning that he has no intention of vetoing the one-mill tax hike. He is pleased that this year's budget is $17.3 million less than last year, calling it a "quite an achievement." He did call on Council to establish a "true stabilization fund," i.e. rainy day fund.

He said that "we put together our strategic plan" and that "our intention is to look at contracts, look at business processes and pull out as much of the excesses that we can within the system." Though I am far from proficient in corporate babble, it appears that Brown intends to continue cutting, even though it has already compromised both services and safety.

"Expect more of the same," he warned.

If his second year is anything like his first, I can guarantee there will be no fifth year.

"I have met with the team," he states, but it's unclear just who that team is.

NorCo Council Keen on Keen

NorCo's New Director of Corrections, Dan Keen
Franklin County Warden Daniel Keen is now Northampton County's Director of Corrections. He was confirmed by County Council last night during their last meeting of the year. The vote went along party lines. Republicans Mat Benol, Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn supported the nomination. Democrats Lamont McClure, Scott Parsons and Bob Werner were opposed. Council's fourth Democrat, Ken Kraft, was delayed by a business trip in bad weather.

Keen has overseen a 474-bed facility at the Franklin County jail, located in Chambersburg, for the past three years. He began as a corrections officer in Clinton County in 2000. Since then, he's been at five different prison facilities, including a 1 1/2 year stint with the state, doing inspections of county jails. A Lock Haven high school graduate, he lacks a college degree. In a nervous and sometimes halting voice, Keen explained that he lost his football scholarship at Edinboro University when he was injured after completing nearly four years. But he has now resumed his studies and expects to graduate with a B.S. in criminal justice in the Spring of next year.

Keen comes highly recommended by the wardens at Clinton, Cambria and Pike Counties. According to Executive Brown, the nominee had been vetted by the Sheriff and the Courts, too. But he only gave Council four days to make a decision. Keen's name was submitted to council on Monday, with a request for a vote on Thursday.

This bothered both Phillips and McClure. Phillips threatened that, in the future, he will vote No as a protest vote to nominations that do not first go through Ken Kraft's Personnel Committee. McClure asked that the matter be tabled until the first meeting next year. "This is such an important job,"McClure reasoned, adding that Council should have "a little bit more than two days to vet the nominee, especially bringing the nominee in at such a high salary."

Along party lines, the table motion failed 5 to 3.

Scott Parsons was bothered by the starting salary of $100,237. "[W]e didn't give any raises to anybody", he observed, He added this sum is much higher than the $87,300 starting salary when recently retired Corrections Director Arnie Matos was hired in 2012. Bob Werner added, "We are reducing people's salaries here, we're reducing things throughout the County, and then we're giving someone maybe a 15-20% margin."

Executive Brown defended the higher salary.  "I think he will demonstrate his worth in a very short period of time," he assured Council.."Our job was to find the best candidate that we could that is willing to take the helm of probably one of the most difficult institutions the County has to operate ..." He twice referred to the $13,000 difference in salaries as "a few dollars."  he said Keen would "help restore our prison system. We are looking at it. We are looking at the administration."

Hayden Phillips is willing to pay the "few dollars" referred to by Brown, stating he has "high hopes." Peg Ferraro added, "We have hopes, too, of some major restructuring."

Parsons moved to reduce the starting salary to $87,300, but that failed in a 5-3 vote along party lines as well.

After being rebuffed in a motion to table as well as to reduce the salary, Democrats voted against Keen's hire

Blogger's Note: Updated from story published 12/11/14 @ 6:05 pm

Cartwright Seeks Better Reporting and Transparency For Auto Fatalities

Under a 2000 law described as an early warning system, automakers are required to report traffic deaths and injuries so that possible defects can be spotted. But the law applies only if the automaker is sued or receives a written claim.

Congressman Matt Cartwight (Pa. 17th) has proposed a new law, the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act of 2014, to tighten up the reporting and
  • Require automobile and equipment manufacturers to automatically submit the accident report or other documents that first alerted them to a fatality involving their vehicle or equipment to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting database. NHTSA is then required to automatically make those documents public unless they are exempted from public disclosure under FOIA.
  • Require NHTSA to consider Early Warning Reporting information when it is investigating potential safety defects and when it is evaluating citizen petitions for automobile safety standards or enforcement actions.
  • Require NHTSA to upgrade its online database to improve searchability, integrate its different databases so they can all be searched at once, and ensure that all documents obtained or created by NHTSA related to a safety incident are both made publicly available and keyword searchable in its databases.
  • Require NHTSA to provide public, searchable notices of all inspection and investigation activities it undertakes.

Cartwright points to Kelly Ruddy of Scranton, who was only 21 years old when she lost her life in a deadly crash on Interstate 81. She was driving north a 2005 Chevy Cobalt. A faulty ignition switch was responsible for that and numerous other crashes and deaths across the nation. GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles, including 2005 Cobalts, earlier this year.

Similar legislation was been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Easton Commuter Tax Hearing Delayed

A lawsuit challenging Easton's controversial and unpopular hearing tax, which was scheduled for 11 am today, has been delayed. Northampton County Solicitor Vic Scomillio is asking the Court to invalidate the tax because it applies different rules for nonresidents and residents and lacks uniformity. He is also seeking an injunction to stop collection.

Though no one stated why the matter has been delayed, it is probably because of another looming lawsuit. A group of County employees are filing their own suit, and as a matter of judicial economy, it makes sense to hear both together.

Big Oil's Message - Please Join Us

John Felmy is Big Oil's Chief Economist. He can tell you everything you need to know about the history of our oil-based economy. But he didn't start out being their financial czar. He's a Pennsylvania boy who was born in Williamsport, went to high school in Jersey Shore and ended up going to Penn State University with just $20 in his pocket. His interest in oil and the Lehigh Valley began during summers spent working with a repair crew on the Tidewater Oil Pipeline, He learned something about both the economy and oil in those early years, and was in town recently to speak to the Lehigh Valley Tea Party. He spared some time for a bottom-feeding blogger, too. "I'll speak to anybody," he admitted.

One of the first things he pointed out is that the Tidewater Oil Pipeline, which extends from northwestern Pa. to Bayonne, N.J., was built to break J.D. Rockefeller's grip on the railroads. You see, King Cole and rail used to be the main mode of transportation.

These days, it's impossible to deny the impact the oil industry has on the economy. Nearly 10 million Americans are employed in the oil and gas industry, which accounts for nearly 8% of our gross domestic product. Moreover, Big Oil is actually owned mostly by you and me. Tens of millions of Americans have IRAs and pension funds that are heavily invested in oil and gas.

But haven't we peaked? Not so, states Felmy. He notes that, over the years, there has always been a fear that we will soon run out. In the 1870s, when oil was used primarily for kerosene, the first big scare occurred. This was repeated again in the 1900s, when the first cars began appearing on highways. It happened again in the 1970s, when the long lines at fuel pumps resulted from price controls on oil that had already been produced.

The likelihood of a real oil shortage anytime soon is remote. The reason for that is twofold - technology and markets.

"Technology has changed everything, especially in Pennsylvania," Felmy assures. He notes that we now have the ability to drill in deep water, more than two miles under surface. In addition, it is now economical to draw oil from the Canadian Oil Sands, which will result in 170 billion barrels. Finally, he points to advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have made Pennsylvania the third largest producer of natural gas in the country.

Markets are better now, too,he claims. The market now dictates price. "If you don't allow the markets to set the price, that's when you run out of stuff because the price is set too low," he explains. He derided the windfall profit tax, which was finally repealed during the Reagan years. as a terrible idea that "decreased production, increased imports and destroyed jobs."

As an economist, he supports the PennEast pipeline, a proposed 110-mile long pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, going through parts of Northampton County. "Policy has to be robust, redundant and reliable," he argues."If you don't have enough natural gas where you use it, you lose opportunity. This gives people and business the benefit of a lower price."

Noting that Pennsylvania has one of the highest corporate income taxes in the country, he opposes a severance tax. "Before you move down this road, tell us we're not paying our fair share already." But he supports an impact fee as "something you clearly need. Communities are clearly impacted and should share in the revenue."

Felmy stressed that the notion that the oil industry receives tax subsidies as "sheer nonsense." He noted that, like any other business, they can deduct the cost of production.

The immediate problem facing Big Oil, states Felmy, is a lack of education. "In Washington, facts don't matter," he notes. "It's talking points," which leads to misconceptions. But there's an even bigger, long range problem. A lack of labor.

"People are retiring and we need to get people in and trained," he explained. There are good-paying jobs for welders, gauge readers and those who have acquired technical skills that are taught in our community colleges. It is possible for a person in his early 20s to make $100,000 per year in these jobs. And this has a ripple effect. In North Dakota, for example, where the oil industry is well-established, he saw a local McDonald's offering a $200 signing bonus because it is strapped for labor as a result of so many people working in the oil industry.

"Please join us," he concluded.