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 Democracy has been replaced by an urban growth regime in which politicians and select members of the business community co-opt each other, not for the benefit of the community, but to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.