Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Expansion of Allentown's Urban Growth Regime


Almost two years ago, I told you that democracy is dead in Allentown. Sure, there will always be a Don Quixote like Michael Donovan, who is willing to challenge the status quo. But Allentown's experiment in democracy is dead. Its people just don't know it. In the last Mayoral race, Edwin Pawlowski was re-elected by just 5,845 of the Queen City's population of 118,974. Less than five per cent of the people voted for him, and that's all he needed. Democracy has been replaced by an urban growth regime in which politicians and select members of the business community co-opt each other, not for the benefit of the community, but to advance their own interests. There is no Democratic or Republican party. Money is King, and everything else is illusion. This becomes abundantly clear when looking at campaign finance reports, especially the recently formed "Citizens for Urban Renewal."

Allentown is ruled, not by Ed Pawlowski or his rubber stamps on City Council. It's real Kings are developers J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper, the NIZ twins. Thanks to State Senator Pat Browne, they are using state tax money that should be funding better education for our children, to make themselves even more rich. They use this money to lure businesses from other parts of the Lehigh Valley into publicly subsidized office buildings. Once the public money runs out, they'll be gone.

The NIZ twins have gone out of their way to ensure their business interests are protected by public officials. The best way to do that is with legal bribes known as campaign donations. In addition to ensuring that the politicians who support their agenda are well-funded, Reilly and Topper have gone out of their way to fund anyone who stands in their way.

They did that last year to Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who at the time was running for Northampton County Executive. He had been mildly critical of the NIZ size and poaching tactics being used. So Reilly and Topper poured $50,000 into the campaign coffers of John Brown, Callahan's opponent in that race.

Instead of funding Brown directly, which would give him the appearance of being bought and paid for, they laundered this sum to the state Republican party. On October 14, Reilly and Topper each kicked in $25,000. They were the only individuals contributing to the Republican party that election cycle.

And lo and behold, in the waning days of the campaign, the Brown campaign flooded Northampton County with TV ads and mailers. That's because the state Republican party had provided $41,217.12 in last-minute, in-kind contributions to Brown.

But the NIZ twins did not stop there.

According to Brown's year-end report, he received another $5,000 from a PAC calling itself "Citizens for Urban Renewal." He lists no address for this PAC in violation of state campaign finance laws. He claims to have received this sum on December 16.

Who are "Citizens for Urban Renewal"?

No such PAC is registered in Northampton or Lehigh County. That's because it's registered with the state, where it can file paper reports that won't be seen for months after the contribution is made, totally defeating the purpose of campaign disclosure laws. This is exactly what Wayne Woodman and Scott Ott did when they formed a state PAC to run local races. It hides the money, at least temporarily.

According to Department of State records, this Urban Renewal PAC was formed on 10/28/13, right before November's election. It was formed by Jeff Vaughan, one of Reilly's cronies. And Reilly and Topper each kicked in $20,000 for starters. They then contributed $5,000 to Brown's campaign on November 19.

Brown failed to report this contribution in his post-election report. This might be an innocent book-keeping error, although it's certainly possible that he wanted to keep this information from the public, and tried to slip it in with his year-end report. In his year-end report, he "forgets" to list the address, making it hard for the casual observer to realize this is actually a NIZ-twin PAC.

In any event, the NIZ twins have invested $55,000 into Brown. Because they are businessmen, they will expect a return on that investment.

Who else is part of the urban growth regime?

Allentown Future Fund, $15,000, on 11/12/13. (This is obviously Pawlowski).
Dan McCarthy, $4,000, on 10/30/13.
Ryan Mackenzie, $3,000, on 10/30/13.
Jim Martin, $5,000, on 11/18/13.
Justin Simmons, $2,000, on 11/18/13.
Joe Emrick, $1,000, on 11/18/13.
Pete Schweyer, $2,000, on 12/6/13.

Democracy is dead in Allentown. NIZ twins Reilly and Topper are doing their best to kill it in the rest of the Lehigh Valley.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a Buffalo Springfield song back in the 60's:

There's something happening here...
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down



Read more: Buffalo Springfield - Somethings Happening Here Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Anonymous said...

Put a way the magic mushrooms and go to bed.

A new arena and redevelopment isn't exactly the Chicago Convention Riot of 1968.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand how the NIZ hurts local education. Aren't real estate taxes (the primary funding mechanism of education) specifically excluded from the NIZ? I would have tax revenues generated in Allentown stay in Allentown and create jobs in Allentown.

Anonymous said...

O'Hare is just pissed that his boy Callahan got dissed by these guys. If they had handed Cally a check he would have loved them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, nothing to see here. In he span of less than a week, the NIZ twins spent $90,000 to buy local pols. $55,000 was for Brown. These LC residents did not do that bc they want good government. This goes beyond revenge for Callahan. They want something and that will soon be clear.

Anonymous said...

What other expenditures did Citizens for Urban Renewal have?

Was it only the contribution to Brown?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I list them all at the bottom of my report.

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:14, State taxes fund a large portion of public education, especially failing school districts in Allentown. You know this, but are shillin' for the man. Hope you're getting paid.

Anonymous said...

All this money and yet the Allentown schools can't afford libraries.

Anonymous said...

I thought the numbers at the bottom of the report were other contributors.

Why would the PAC give money to McCarthy? He wasn't running for anything.

Anonymous said...

Same question with Martin

Anonymous said...

not for the benefit of the community, but to advance their own interests

I'd say a nice arena with concerts and a pro hockey team is an excellent benefit for me, a community member. Speak for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I see much in common between Allentown and Washington, D.C. None of it makes me feel warm and cozy.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

i heard this explained as a field of dreams project; build it and they will come. the problem is it is being built with our tax dollars by politicians and well connected private parties
now add this reporting on the donations and deals and we see who is making out and who is getting screwed

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'll remember that as I'm eating crab fries at Chickies and Petes watching the Phantoms crack some skulls. Finally, after all these years, the Lehigh Valley will provide stuff to do so we don't have to drive to NYC or Philly. IronPigs starting up soon too. Life is good people, relax.

Anonymous said...

You've uncovered that there's money in politics. Your groundbreaking work is Pulitzer caliber. Callahan lost because his own party abandoned him long before Brown got his filthy lucre.

Anonymous said...

You can't have NIZ and CRIZ everywhere there is a blighted building.

That's the real issue here that the hockey simpletons and the locals don't care to address because we've gotten ours so who cares, right?

You can't be diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from the state treasury all over the place and not expect consequences.

Places like McKeesport, York, Reading, Scranton, pretty much all of Harrisburg- desperately need a CRIZ but where do you draw the line?

Whitehall and Bethlehem are in far better shape than those awful places.

Anonymous said...

Let's also not forget, the NIZ money is NOT a loan in the typical sense of the term.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Callahan did not lose because of a 50,000.00 donation. Callahan lost because of Callahan!!!

Anonymous said...

You can't be diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from the state treasury all over the place and not expect consequences.

That's why we get rid of Corbett and legalize marijuana and close some prisons.

No one is ever going to develop anything in those places you mention without large incentives.

Anonymous said...

Callahan did not lose because of a 50,000.00 donation. Callahan lost because of Callahan!!!

No, Callahan lost because the Democratic base thought he was a lock and didn't turn out. Add voter apathy into the mix as well, because after all, who gives a shit about county government?

Anonymous said...

the state has largely abandoned its responsibility to properly fund any education. by contrast, if NIZ development totals $500 million, ASD will see an additional $6million each year w/o have to to go to Harrisburg and beg. Prior to this ASd's tax base has not shown any appreciable growth for 20 years

Anonymous said...

I was excited when I heard the Brooks Brothers were coming to Allentown.

Finally I could shop for my custom made shirts locally. Dang what a disappointment.

May they shove their artery blocking crab fries up there collective a**.

Culture is dead. Long live narcissism and drunken consumerism in Allentown.

Soon all the movers and shakers will be driving around in Maseratis.

No more Jags, Land Rovers, or Porsche Panameras for that crew.

Gotta love JB Really and Tip Topper, the latest and greatest carpet baggers to ever visit Allentown.

BTW who is Ed Pawlowski? Do you think when Nat Penn is taken over they will have any trouble breaking their lease?

Anyone buying charter school petition signatures out there?

Let me know I just got a new Bic.

Anonymous said...

"but are shillin' for the man. Hope you're getting paid."



O'Hare you have been doing that for Dent and Stoffa for years. What a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:27,

Callahan lost because he could only carry his own city by 200 votes. More voters would have made no difference. The guy was as flawed as they come. Bethlehem led the way to say no to the frat boy Mayor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:43, Other than what I get paid by a local weekly I have never received a dime from anyone for what I have rewrite. The NIZ twins by contrast have virtually unlimited resources with which they have hired a public relations firm to form a PAC. In addition to buying properties they're buying politicians

Bernie O'Hare said...

In addition it is not just possible but likely that they are spending the blogs when they can. But unlike the morning call this blog nor Molovinsky's blog is for sale

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:19, the operative word in your comment is "if".

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:39, in other words, baa.

Anonymous said...

What a noble man you are. Please dont delete this comment due to its anonymous nature

Anonymous said...

Callahan is looking to 2017 to run again. Apparently he is "repairing" his public image. Hopefully the Dem's don't make the same mistake twice.

Anonymous said...

Rewrite?

Anonymous said...

2:45-

Well, let's see . . .

Callahan-Democrat-Express Times-Morning Call? He'll have NO problem telling whatever story he wants to tell.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...



I believe the NET financial benefit of the NIZ helps local schools. NO expert, but the property taxes paid by businesses in the NIZ area prior to the new construction are less than the property taxes they will get after construction. ASD is already budgeting more tax revenue.

Other state taxes that result from the new businesses go to the NIZ development. But, if the new development didn't happen there would not be additional taxes available to the state anyhow.

I guess it comes down to what would have been the tax revenue before and after the NIZ.

I've got other issues with the NIZ concept, but I don't think it hurts local education.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the inhabitants of Allentown squarely responsible for abandoning or not, democracy? It's their town, after all. Perhaps their complacency reflects satisfaction with their city. Given the city's demographics, your charge is racist. Are Allentonians lazy or stupid ? Is that what you're saying?

Anonymous said...

The goal of the NIZ is gentrification of the rest of center city Allentown.

There is a group of business folkwho meet regularly to decide on the fate of Allentown.

What school taxes? Nothing has come to the ASD as a result of the NIZ.

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:14, my charge is far from racist. I recognize the heavy proportion of very low income people and Allentown. Many of them are minorities. They have learned from bitter experience that local politicians will do nothing to help them. They will work their asses off to make your crab fries. And will be paid a pittance for their effort. Nobody in local office is doing anything to help them. In fact the people in local office would prefer to brush them under the rug. So they don't waste their time voting. And matters as a result just get worse. In the meantime you'll sit at your computer and talk about racism. It is actually cynical people like you are the worst kind of racist

Anonymous said...

1:04

w the riverfront not yet developed the city could be looking at over$800 million in taxable development. In any event, what they've built so far is worth much more than what was there before.

Anonymous said...

central planning, all done by the best and brightest for everyone's own good. and people defend this....

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree a lot of planning went into this, from Reilly giving boyhood chum Pat Browne the enabling legislation, to shoving property owners out of the way. But it's not for everyone's benefit. This is all about benefiting J.B, Reilly and the politicians he has purchased. Outside of the wasteland known as Allentown, people know better. This is why Pawlowski's gubernatorial bid went nowhere.

Anonymous said...

You may be right to a point but on the state tax issue. The problem is a majority of that "new" development isn't really new, they just poached businesses out of surrounding areas. Look at that cigarette wholesale company. The State was getting all the revenue from the cigarette tax but once it went in the NIZ it went away. The same is true for most of the businesses going in the NIZ.

Anonymous said...

"Not" on the State tax issue

Anonymous said...

Tony Hanna wishes he could get his hands on a piece of that. So did his partner Johnny Casino.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Under Tony Hanna, bethlehem steered clear of tax handouts like KOZ. Callahan was in favor of using any tool he could. Not Tony. His focus has been slow and steady, and has worked.

Anonymous said...

Vaughan is married to JB's sister.anybody want to see the origin of the niz, just go to meadow brook circle and see JBs childhood home across the street from pat browne's. What a country

Anonymous said...

Good article Bernie, finally someone can tell it like it is.Im glad to read your blog every day so im not over come by bs the call writes. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Great research Bernie; you should start a detective agency.

Anonymous said...

Great research Bernie; you should start a detective agency.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can't be a private detective. Only ex cops can apply for a license. At least that's the way the law looks to me. Thanks very much for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

"Under Tony Hanna, bethlehem steered clear of tax handouts like KOZ"

Bullshit of the highest order. You may live up their asses O'Hare, why God only knows. You are all wrong. Hanna and Callahan tried to get that very deal for Bethlehem and it did not happen.

Anyone telling you anything else is lying to your face and you are a deluded mncrushed fool to beleiv ethem.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are absolutely a liar. Hanna has ALWAYS opposed KOZ. His approach has resulted in the most meaningful development in the urban core, too, so that should tell you some things about tax gimmicks you defend anonymously at 2:46 AM.

Anonymous said...

Lets all remember Brown lost his own little shitty town of Bangor before we get too excited. Callahan did lose in part because bethlehem Dems did not get out to vote like they needed to AND because after 10 yrs of governing and making some tough decisions he pissed some people off. Bottom line is in a place like Easton Callahan got 72% of the vote but only 13% turn out. None of it matters. John Brown is proving himself to be in over his head and now the Lehigh County NIZ twins are running Northampton County. No way that will EVER be good for us in Northampton. Callahn raised some concerns about the NIZ and its impacts on Bethlehem and Northampton and time will likely prove him right and for that they paid him back dearly. Maybe he should have kept quite but I like a pol who stands up for what they believe in.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:12, you running the boys 2017 campaign already. He will be vigorosly opposed by numerous Democrats. No more Johnny Casino nonsense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He was vigorously opposed the first time, too.