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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Bethlehem City Council Celebrates Cinco de Noviembre

I know Cinco de Mayo is a pretty big deal in this country, especially those who use it as an excuse to get schnokered. But Cinco de Noviembre? Si. Three people got up last night to deliver speeches to Bethlehem City Council in Spanish. I have no idea what they said. Nor did City Council. But that makes no difference. They are just as good at ignoring people who speak Spanish as they are for those who speak only in English.

The first one of these wanted City Council to appoint Olga Negron to Karen Dolan's vacant seat. He only spent half his time speaking in Spanish, and then  Council should have interpreters on hand to translate. Kinda like the United Nations. A second fellow, who was as big as Baby Hughey, did that, too. "I deserve representation of my own people," he said in English. He added he happens to be Negron's nephew.

A third person just got up and just went off, spending her entire five minutes speaking in Spanish. It must have been a powerful speech. A red head in the audience wiped away tears. Basilio Bonilla told Council they missed a good one. So, apparently, did he, if the report that he speaks no Spanish himself is true.

It was that kind of night. It started at 7 pm. I left around midnight, unable to take it anymore. But I got most of what happened.

I was there to see who they would pick to fill the vacancy created by Karen Dolan's resignation.

Though thirteen people had applied, Council members were doing all their talking with candidates one-on-one, with the idea of getting someone picked right away.

But though they were ready to move quickly, Olga Negron in particular wanted to put on a show, and drummed up a number of people to speak on her behalf. On top of that, the Birkenstocks were there in force to oppose Developer Dennis Benner's proposal for a 9-story building at 4th and Vine.

It made for a long night.

On my way in, walking past a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" van next to the library, I saw all kinds of signs opposed to the development. One of them stated, "Size Does Matter."

Inside the Town Hall were all the wimpy kids with more signs. One of them told Council he's on the fencing team. Even Gloria McVeigh was there, holding more signs, fresh off the crushing defeat she experienced just yesterday in her effort to get Mike Beyer elected over Justin Simmons.

Between the candidates, their supporters, the Birkenstocks and the Lehigh Professors, there were around 100 people jammed into the room.

Since the public gets to speak first, we were treated to condemnations of Benner's 9-story building, interspersed with endorsements of candidates.

Spadoni Fails to Get One Nomination. 

Obviously, the most qualified of these candidates was the person who sat there for 16 years as Council's legal advisor. That would be Chris Spadoni. He sat next to me. That was his first mistake.

The second mistake was when Republican Tom Carroll, who ran for Council himself in 2011, got up and endorsed Spadoni. Strike two.

Strike three came when Carroll, who is openly gay, claimed Spadoni would "plug all the holes." He was referring to the budget, but the Beavis and Butthead in me was laughing.

Chris failed to get a single nomination.

Esther Lee Actually Makes Sense

The Queen of Race Cards, Esther Lee, was another applicant, After listening to numerous people claim that Bethlehem needs more diversity, she claimed she wanted to be considered, not as a "tall black woman," but as a citizen.

That's a first for Esther.

She also failed to get a single nomination.

Barron Claims Council "Sold Out"

Controller Steve Barron was there as well, in his capacity as President of the South Bethlehem historical Society. "You sold out for $9,700", he accused Council, referring to campaign donations they had received from Benner. "We all do vote," he warned. He also called South Bethlehem a "magical place."

If Barron believes that Council members sold their votes in exchange for these campaign donations, doesn't that mean that he sold out, too, when he accepted all that union money in his own races?

Reynolds addressed that accusation.

"The idea that anybody on City council or the Mayor would do anything they didn't think was in the best interests of the city, is ridiculous and insulting."

Grace Smith Threatens To Speak Gaelic

One of the applicants for Dolan's job, Grace Smith, claimed she learn a lot about compromise by living in a twin home with one bathroom shared by nine family members.

But I think she was as puzzled as everyone else by the audience members who insisted on speaking Spanish. During a break, she threatened to speak Gaelic.

Sarabeth Brockley, Lead Birkenstock

The coordinated attack on Benner's 9-story building began with Sarabeth Brockley, a Lehigh University Research Fellow  She spent the fist half of her speech demeaning and condescending to Council, doing things like defining the word "expert" and telling them that she was leading a procession of experts who were going to TEDx everything. As a Lehigh professor handed out papers, she spent about two minutes that essentially equated Karen Beck Pooley, a planning expert, with God.

Pooley did make some good points, noting that the density in that area of south Bethlehem is equivalent to Boston. Instead of more density, she argued that people need a reason to come there.

Then came a mixture of Lehigh people, many of whom don't live in Bethlehem, telling City Council how to run the City.

Some south side residents and two business owners spoke in opposition to the 9-story building too. But Lucy Lennon, who does work for one of Benner's sons and is a realtor who specializes in rentals, ticked off about ten businesses that have closed shop on the city's south side. She stated there is an "urgent" demand for housing on the south side, but students want a "nice place" to live. She believes the 9-story building will provide that and attract business.

The 9-Story Building Gets City Council Backing

In the end, Bethlehem City Council voted 4-2 to back the Benner building, as the developer sat in the room. Cathy Reuscher, who voted No, called it a "hard decision."  Waldron was not "comfortable" with the proposal. It was supported by Willie Reynolds, Eric Evans, Bryan Callahan and Michael Recchuiti.

After that, the wimpy kids left.

Council Names Louis Stellato

Despite the speeches in Spanish, Council went with an old fart. Louis Stellato was picked as a 14-month Council member by Eric Evans, Willie Reynolds and Bryan Callahan. Three members are a majority of a quorum,and that was good enough, according to Council Solicitor Jack Spirk.

Recchiuti wanted to nominate three people, but Spirk said he could only name one. He went with Dave Sanders, owner of Lump's Deli and its table of Knowledge.

Lynn Rothman, president of temple Beth El and a regular attendee at city council, got a vote from Waldron.

Reuscher went with Olga Negron.

Dem Party boss Matt Munsey was slinking about in the hallways s the meeting went on.


Anonymous said...

Who is this Stellato person?

Bernie O'Hare said...

a retired businessman, former coach.

Anonymous said...

In other words he was wired in before the vote even happened. This is such bullshit. No wonder many of the people who put in some months ago didn't even bother this time. why? Decisions are made by this bunch before the meeting even begins.

What a crock. These people have zero credibility!

Anonymous said...

Giving speeches to an English-speaking body in a US city is insulting, and, considering nobody understood them, stupid.

Anonymous said...

""I deserve representation of my own people,"

then don't demand, vote.

Anonymous said...

Rechutti must still be getting free lunches at Lump's Deli.....City business is already over at Lump's imagine if He were on council???? LMAO!

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Were Colon and Rothman the 2 applicants from the previous vacant seat application?

Anonymous said...

Big surprise - the one guy everyone knew they wanted for weeks is the one they picked.
So glad they wanted someone diverse, too -- like the white guy isn't represented enough on Council! With the exception of one person, they're all white guys....

And after listening to 30 people talk about how the Benner building is bad for South Side, they turn around the vote for it anyway.

Why even bother, when all the deals are already made and it's just a show to make people think we have responsible government.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the fuss about the height of this building is about. The Fred Rooney low income housing building in South Bethlehem is 14 stories.

Anonymous said...

Barron von Footinmouth claiming that south Bethlehem is a "magical place"? What, where businesses disappear?

jerry Seyfried said...

Louis Stellato is an "ole friend" who I admire an respect. A good choice for the City.
A Graduate of Liberty High School Class of 1960 and a personal friend. The other candidate that I thought would be a great choice was Chris Spadoni.
Congrats to Lou. He will do a great job for Bethlehem. He didn't accept any campaign donations so he will have a free will do what is right for the City.

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt that both Stellato and Spadoni would be great choices -- I don't question the commitment or capacity of either.

I -- and a lot of others -- feel that the decision was already made and that it's more of the same backroom politics that this group said they wouldn't be a part of.
And why would anyone else put themselves out there?

Between that done deal and the council's support of the Benner building that so many took the time to voice opposition to, it just feels like a huge waste of everyone's time.

You wonder why citizens feel disengaged -- well, this is why. A panel of white men pick another insider white man, and the developer who is only looking at his personal financial gain gets the go-ahead, no matter what the people WHO LIVE THERE and WORK THERE and invest in this city want.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that when a governing body makes a controversial or unpopular decision, it was a "back room" deal. Here, City Council voted 3-1-1-1 for the replacement. Barely a consensus. I am sure if Council would have voted for Olga Negron unanimously, that would have been okay with the negative commentators.

To not think that these elected officials don't discuss this before hand would be naive. I am not saying they violated the sunshine act, but individual conversations about votes take place. It is a fact of political life. .
Without these conversations, most legislative bodies would not accomplish anything.

Anonymous said...

Ní féidir liom cónaí i mBeithil, ach d'oibrigh mé ann ag aon am amháin agus le déanaí i gcrích téarma mar Steelworkers Cartlann Uachtarán ..... In oideachas mé i gcoinne gníomhaíochta dearfa sa phróiseas roghnúcháin múinteoir ... Mar an gcéanna Tá mé i gcoinne gníomhaíochta dearfa i roghnú de cheannairí polaitiúla ... Chun liom Ba chóir an duine aonair is cáilithe a roghnú tréimhse.

A bheith ina bhfuil cónaí ar feadh an tsaoil de Allentown. Chuir mé isteach ar phost Comhairle Cathrach ... Go seasamh chuaigh go dtí dhúchas Phoblacht Dhoiminiceach nach raibh chomh cáilithe don oifig mar a bhí mé go príomha toisc go raibh sí Hispanic. Chun liom go raibh mé i gcoinne idirdhealú toisc go raibh an cheist mhór ag an am uisce agus séarachais agus bhí mé saineolas sa mhéid is go agus i réimsí eile.

Peter Schweyer am saol Allentown Cónaitheach a toghadh don Tionól Stáit Dé Máirt tairbhe mór as an bhfíric gur oibrigh a athair don Chathair agus bhí sé post foirne le iar-ionadaí stáit Jennifer Mann ... riamh Bhuel bhí mé go bhfuil cineál de bhuntáiste agus resent mé á overlooked mar tá mé Meiriceánach White Dúchasach Hombre de chúlra na hEorpa - Béarla agus fréamhacha na Gearmáine. Agus toisc go raibh mo shinsir ar an dá thaobh anseo roimh an Réabhlóid Mheiriceá mo theaghlach riamh an chuma os comhair na Cúirte Meiriceánach ag lorg eadóirseachta. Ach iad siúd de fréamhacha labhartha Germanic raibh dul os comhair cúirte na Breataine i Meiriceá ag lorg Eadóirseachta mar Ábhair Breataine.

Mar sin, cad iad na trí daoine ag labhairt Spáinnis ag an gComhairle Cathrach Beithil ag iarraidh a chruthú ... An bhfuil siad ag iarraidh a lorg a fhruiliú ateangaire teanga Spáinnis ... Más rud é nach chóir mar sin againn a chruthú túr de Babel ag an gComhairle Cathrach agus labhairt rud ar bith ach Béarla.

An chéad uair eile a théann mé go dtí Comhairle Cathrach a bheidh mé ag labhairt i Lennie Lenapi ---- Wanashi (Go raibh maith agat)

Pipeline Guy said...

Stellato will do fine.

I still can't figure out what legit reason the "Birkenstocks" have for opposing this building. Make it 100 stories tall, as long as it will bring new residents or businesses to the neighborhood. I hope it gets built.

What is Lehigh and its staff so afraid of? Losing revenue because students would rather live in a nice new off-campus building than some dumpy on-campus dormitory? Moravian freaked out about this kind of thing years ago and bought up most of the nearby rental houses so they could get the revenue and retain control.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11;17, Arighty then.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Rechutti must still be getting free lunches at Lump's Deli.....City business is already over at Lump's imagine if He were on council???? LMAO!"

He would bring quite a bit of common sense. I like Dave and his Table of Knowledge. I think Mike Recchiuti was recognizing him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment at 11:16, Written in Irish, appears to havve been authored by Dennis Pearson. Here is a translation:

I do not live in Bethlehem , but I worked there at one time and recently completed a term as president Archive steelworkers in education ..... I am against affirmative action in the selection process ... The same teacher is I am against affirmative action in the selection of political leaders ... I should order the most qualified individual to choose period .
To become a lifelong resident of Allentown . I applied for a job City Council ... That position went to the Dominican Republic native was not as qualified for office because I was mainly because she was Hispanic . To me that I was discriminated against because the big issue at the time and sewerage water and I had expertise in that and in other areas .

Peter Schweyer life time Allentown Resident elected to the State Assembly Tuesday benefited greatly from the fact that his father worked for the City and was a staff position with former state representative Jennifer Mann ... Well I was never that kind of advantage and resent I being overlooked because I am Native American White Male of European background - English and German roots . And because my ancestors on both sides here before the American Revolution my family never appeared before the American Court seeking naturalization . But those of Germanic roots were speaking to appear before British court in America looking for Naturalisation as British Subjects .

So , what are the three Spanish speaking people at the Bethlehem City Council wants to create ... Are they trying to look for a Spanish language interpreter hiring ... If so we should not create a tower of Babel by the City Council and speak nothing but English .

The next time I go to City Council I will be speaking in Lennie Lenapi ---- Wanashi ( Thank you )

Bernie O'Hare said...

"To not think that these elected officials don't discuss this before hand would be naive. I am not saying they violated the sunshine act, but individual conversations about votes take place. It is a fact of political life."

If those three huddled together in a back room before the vote, which they almost certainly did not do, iy would not be a Sunshine Act violation. That would have required a majority of them, i.e. four.

There is no doubt in my mind they exchanged views back channel and so long as communications did not involve four at once, it was legal.

If it did, this violation was remedied by taking action in public, rendering the violation moot.

I am a strong advocate of transparency in government, but saw nothing here that was remotely improper, except from some of the citizen speakers, and they're allowed to be improper.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"A panel of white men pick another insider white man, and the developer who is only looking at his personal financial gain gets the go-ahead, no matter what the people WHO LIVE THERE and WORK THERE and invest in this city want. "

Government in the United States is not a matter of mob rule. Council members owe the citizenry their best judgment, not some obligation to follow the vocal suggestions of a group of less than 100,many of whom do not live in Bethlehem.

Your use of the race card is unnecessary and designed to stir up hatred. So far as i know, Lou Stellato is pretty much an outsider. While i am sure they all know him, it seems to me that he has no interest in politics.

I would have preferred to see Spadoni to them all bc he simply is the most qualified. But I am not sitting up there. They are. They made their choice, and i won't whine about it.

It's 14 months, and in that time you can set up a campaign to complain about the "insider" white man who runs everything.

I appreciate the need for more diversity, but playing a race card is a poor way to get it.

Would I want Basilio Bonilla running things in Bethlehem simply bc he is Latino? No.

Would I want Olga Negron, who granted a sidewalk deferral bc she likes green space, making decisions, especially when she is becoming President of a nonprofit that has all kinds of deals with the City? Absolutely not. And if she runs, she had better resign her role there.

How about Colon? He applied and seems very capable. But the fact he was passed over is no slur on him or his ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

Sanders would be a great choice, if he could only figure out the postal system. Evidently he has an immunity to "the table of knowledge". Me thinks he has inhaled the vapors rising from the "grill of his dreams" rather than the 'table of knowledge".

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hey, he looked very good last night and was a class act to one and all.He is, as one student described him some months ago, Mr. Bethlehem. I am glad Willie allowed his application to go forward.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Were Colon and Rothman the 2 applicants from the previous vacant seat application?"


Anonymous said...

I wish the new Bethlehem City Councilman well in performing his new responsibilities through 2015.

I note that 3 Council people gave their support to the new guy thinking that he was the best choice at the time.

But 2015 is a new political year, so I encourage good people of all stripes to test the political waters with their candidacy.

Of interest - my inspection of an English newspaper called the Daily Telegraph has speculated yesterday that a British Subject with an Pakistani surname may someday succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister..... And of course, in Allentown Peter Schweyer has resigned from City Council creating an opening there. The remaining Council already has two Latinos and a member married to a Latino on board. The 6 member Council has 4 people residing in the Allen HS area of the City, 1 person residing in the Parkland HS Area of the City and 1 person residing in the Dieruff HS area of the City.

Former School Director and Council mam Glazier attended yesterday's meeting. Looks like he wants to be reappointed to Council.

Dennis Pearson

Anonymous said...

Before Glazier was a rubber stamp for the Mayor, he was a rubber stamp for the ASD Superintendent.
I think the hack would like to be mayor,perish the thought

Anonymous said...

Oh please. Of course this Stellato person was wired. Was he an applicant at the last go around? No. So they got him for this time. Why do you think so few of the last group applied. As one person put it, "this group decides, then debates".
It is the Bethlehem way. Spirk probably helped make the decision, he is bog into that backroom stuff.
The guy is an old Liberty HS guy, heaven forbid new blood, he will vote as expected.

Nothing new in ole Bedlum, move along.

Anonymous said...

How did Callahan and Seyfried make out in the council races Tuesday night? You were predicting they'd be shoo-ins. Were they shooed?

Politics is best handled by incestuous insiders. Council's selection was perfect.

Anonymous said...

"The 9-Story Building Gets City Council Backing"

I find it very ironic that today, Lehigh people are leading the charge against this development by urging restraint and "paying careful attention to the past..."

50 years ago, Lehigh led the charge in acquiring an entire south side neighborhood when it was in their selfish interest to do so. At that time, there was only "pedal to the metal" and every dirty trick in the book (with the city and RA) just so they could expand their campus. There were no feelings of pity or understanding toward the hundreds who were unceremoniously herded out of their homes for pennies on the dollar.