Thursday, December 31, 2015

Norco Council: The 2015 Workhorses, Showhorses and No-Showhorses

Who are Northampton County Council's workhorses, show horses and no-showhorses in 2015? What is their attendance, including Committee participation, where most of the real work is done?

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

Northampton County Council met 28 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 10 times last year. Human Services was a hot Committee, too, meeting eight times. Other committees doing a lot of heavy lifting were Economic Development (4), Open Space (3) and Capital Projects (6).

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 or two meetings for what is now being called the Courts and Corrections Committee.

This year, Bob Werner is Northampton County Council's Workhorse of the Year with a perfect record, the first I've ever seen. He attended every meeting and will receive a Major Award from Lehigh Valley Ramblings at the beginning of next year.

A retired teacher, Werner has taken a bipartisan approach to government, even to the point of inviting all Republican Council members and Executive John Brown to his Christmas party. I'm told one of them refused to attend simply because Werner is a Democrat, and I hope that's untrue.

We have a tie for second place. Right behind Werner is last year's Workhorse, Scott Parsons and Council President Peg Ferraro. Both have a 93% attendance record.  .

After receiving my award last year, Scott lost the election. He tells me he was too tired to campaign.

Peg's record is amazing, In addition to her 93% attendance, she also attended biweekly meetings with the Executive, and is the County's face at many functions.

This year's B students are Hayden Phillips (85%) and Mat Benol (83%). Phillips is weak on two committees, including open space and human services. He may not like those areas of government, but that's all the more reason to attend their meetings, especially since human services disposes of 2/3 of the County budget. Benol appears to be juggling the responsibility of his private sector job with his public employment.

This year's C students are Ken Kraft (78%) and Glenn Geissinger (76%). They were both slackers last year, getting by on their good looks. It's not working.

The two failures are Seth Vaughn (64%) and Lamont McClure (48%). McClure decided early in the ear that he was leaving public office, but his attendance this year is actually better than it has been in the past. But he still flunks.

Seth Vaughn misses these meetings and then has the gall to ask that the same matters presented in committee be repeated again, entirely for his benefit. Vaughn should really resign because he lacks the time to do anything except vote the way Brown tells him.

Mike Schlossberg - Darth Voter

On Christmas Eve, I stole a story first published in The Patriot News about Lehigh Valley State Rep. Mike Schlossberg. It seems that State Rep Daryl Metcalfe watched as Mike Schlossberg did a bit of ghost voting, casting at least one vote for an absent fellow Democrat in a crucial budget matter. This is a violation of state house rules, and Metcalfe vowed he would take it up with the House Ethics Committee.

WFMZ-TV69 decided to steal this story, too, and contacted Schlossberg. Like his Mentor Fed Ed, Schlossberg has ignored requests from me for public comment. He's ignored constituents on his official Facebook page, too. But when a TV news station with a much wider audience than yours truly wanted to know what's going on, he could no longer hide.

I'd expect a normal person to act contrite and claim he simply didn't know what he was doing. I could see him blaming an Evil Twin who did it while his head was turned the other way.  Instead, Darth Voter was arrogant. He called it "much ado about nothing," a "common practice," and said it is "expressly allowed" in the Senate.

He also blamed everything on "tea party extremists."

Last time I checked, neither I nor The Patriot News are "tea party extremists." Daryl Metcalfe, the person who actually saw Darth Voter in action, is certainly a tea party enthusiast. But he's not the one who was ghost voting. That was Schlossberg.

The rule states, "No member shall be permitted to vote and have his or her vote recorded on the roll unless present in the hall of the House during the roll call vote." There is no exception in this rule for members who wish to vote against the tea party agenda.

Is it common practice?

It's not supposed to be. In fact, under House rules, a state rep must vote if he or she is at his desk when a matter comes up. He is unable to vote "present."

There's good reason for this requirement. You see, if a legislator votes, he is considered present and is entitled to claim per diems. The complaint over a "common practice" that Schlossberg derides as "much ado about nothing" is one that enables state legislators to rip off taxpayers by claiming per diems while sitting on a beach. That may not mean much to him, but it matters to those footing the bill. As Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kauffman noted way back in 1998, "Each time the rules are flagrantly violated, it breeds more violations. It breeds contempt for the whole system."

Schlossberg, who claimed $60,857 in expenses in 2014 on top of his $85,338.65/year salary, is hardly one to be concerned that legislators are taking too much from the citizens. He doesn't think much of them, and in fact disparages them for spending too much time watching TV.

Is ghost voting "expressly allowed" in the Senate?

In a word, No. In the Senate, all votes are roll call votes. If a State Senator is going to miss his vote, he advises the leader of his party how he intends to vote, and the leaders honor those wishes.

After reading Darth Voter's arrogant and dishonest explanation to WFMZ-TV69, I can only guess at what he's said to Miked Fleck.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pawlowski Meeting With Feds

Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski likes to litter his Facebook page with numerous comments like "Have a great day!" On Sunday, the Moody Bible Institute grad even shares inspirational thoughts. Given what is going on in Allentown, his social media posts seem more like taunts than anything else. But his page was strangely silent last Monday. That's because he, along with his lawyers from Philly and D.C. were meeting with prosecutors in the City of Brotherly Love to discuss the case against him.

Federal investigators have laid out a road map showing what they have and where the case against him is going. There is no deal yet, and Fed Ed could decide to hold out until the last bitter moment, especially since he has no.job outside of Mayor. Another meeting has been scheduled in January, at which time I suspect Fed Ed will be offered a plea deal, if one has not already been made.

Will this case go beyond him? I suspect that will depend on what he tells them..

CCHS Wins Allen Holiday Basketball Classic

No matter how cool it must seem to dunk a basketball, you only get two points. The Allen Canaries found that out the hard way last night when their hopes of winning the William Allen Holiday Basketball Classic were crushed by Allentown Central Catholic in a battle before a packed house. It was a shootout between Central's Zay Jennings (29 points) and Allen's Talek Williams (24 points).

But it was much more than that as the lead changed throughout the game. Central was down the first quarter 15-12. But it was up at the half, 26-24. The Canaries finished the third quarter leading by just one point, 42-41.

And then there was an explosion. It was not the shattered glass that sometimes comes with a dunk. It was sophomore guard Jay Vaughn, who turned the momentum in Central's favor with inspired play. Three threes and another three 2-point baskets. In addition to his 15 points, he had a steal, three crucial rebounds and three important assists.

He was wearing a headband last night, and should consider wearing one the rest of the season. He only missed on two shots.

Kevin Kern was also a force under the boards, with at least four assists and one steal.

Allentown might have a hockey arena, but it really is a basketball town. Both sides of the gym were packed with all kinds of fans as well as players from other schools. They were treated to a great game. I sat with an old-timer Canary fan who told me story after story about their program. I saw Wall2Wall's Chuck Rockmore, whose son Dante is playing for Dieruff. He started with a lot of these kids when they were in first grade.

"It's all about the love," he said.

But that love only goes so far. At the half, when the announcer reported that the Eagles had just fired Chip Kelly, the entire room burst into applause.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Basketball Tournaments

It's an exciting time of year for high school basketball fans. In the week between Christmas and the New Year, there are always several tournaments at various different LV high schools. The shocker to me last night was to see Easton bow to Notre Dame-Green Pond, 63-57. It makes me wonder about a reader's suggestion that the two schools compete in football.

Parkland upended LaSalle, 63-53, in a showdown between two of the state's top 4A teams. After seeing what the Trojans did to Central Catholic last week, that's no surprise.

Liberty is 0-2 in the Parkland tournament and has now lost three in a row. That leaves Freedom perched atop the EPC Steel Division at 5-1. But right behind Freedom is Allen High School, with a 4-1 conference record and an overall record of 6-2.

Allen demolished Wilkes-Barre GAR 77-51 in the Canaries' holiday tournament last night. Talek Williams, who dies his hair yellow and blue in honor of his school's colors, makes you forget about all the problems faced by Allen and its financially strapped school district. Not only did he score 31 points, but two other players were in double digits, too.

But how will Allen fare against Central Catholic?

Both teams can be very explosive. Zay Jennings can get very hot very fast. Shack Dezonie is always in de zonie. Central is much younger, but this Summer, at the A-town Throwdown, Central managed to beat Allen.

Williams cramped up in the unbearable heat. Central's players didn't.

It's a lot colder now.

Allen hosts Central tonight, 7 pm.

Schlossberg Mum On Ghost Voting

On Christmas Eve, I told you that State Rep Daryl Metcalfe's physically saw Mike Schlossberg do a bit of ghost voting. He cast at least one vote for an absent fellow Democrat in a crucial budget matter. This is a violation of state house rules, and Metcalfe vowed he would take it up with the House Ethics Committee.

Since that time, Schlossberg has failed to address these ghost voting allegations on his State Rep.Facebook page or his Twitter account, despite requests from myself and others that he do so. He has also failed to respond to a message I sent to him concerning this issue.

Fed Ed has taught him well.

But he's had time to update his Political Fails blog, which he uses to hawk his book.

In  fairness, he might be busy right now looking for a ghost job for Lisa Pawlowski. .

This is the guy who bragged, "The City's finances are on stable ground for the first time, really, in decades ... ."

He won't be answering me because he thinks you're stupid. Last summer,he defended raising money against nonexistent opponents and said, "[I]f the average American took as much time to independently research their politicians and candidates for office as they did to watch half of a TV series, we could eliminate corruption and bad politicians overnight."

You have the research. I have even more here, in an article entitled "Schlossberg Has 141,498 Reasons To Be Sick."

But he thinks you're too absorbed in your TV set to want to get rid of him and his corruption.

I Speak Fluent cRaZy

In the courthouse last week was a sad couple apparently trying to get a passport, although they looked very little like jet-setters. They are probably still filling out the application. But they were a nice enough pair. The male, in particular, shouted "Merry Christmas!" after every question he asked.

"How much are these again? Merry Christmas!"

"Can we fill this out at home? Merry Christmas!"

Soon after they wandered off, the male returned to ask, "What is a Prothotonaotatary? Merry Christmas!"

I immediately answered, "The Clerk of the Civil Division."

"Oh, I learned something new today. Merry Christmas!"

After they left for the second time, the ladies in the Prothonotary asked me how I understood him.

"I speak fluent cRaZy," I answered.

I've had plenty of experience since I started blogging.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Lauer Lynching

When he was a member of Council, Ron Angle first suggested Phil Lauer as Solicitor. Phil expressed his gratitude by ruling against something Angle wanted to do. Instead of telling Council members what they want to hear, Phil has instead been guided by the law. As exasperating as that might be, Phil has been undefeated in Court on any issue involving Council. He's the kind of guy you want on your side. Unfortunately, Mat Benol wants to get rid of him.

He's been heard droning on in parking lots about Lauer's inability to get back to him immediately when he has a question.

I got news for Benol.

The Council Solicitor does not represent him. He represents the Council as a whole, and should not do any work that is not authorized by a majority.

Benol, who incorrectly views himself as some sort of constitutional expert, has reportedly recruited Hayden Phillips, newcomer Matt Dietz, John Cusick, and Glenn Geissinger. It's unknown whether any of them is biting.

Hopefully not. Both Cusick and Phillips would like to be Council president. They might give Benol something in exchange for a vote.

I've heard one very ridiculous name as Lauer's replacement, but won't repeat it here until I check it out.

Perhaps Benol  wants Council to do way with its own solicitor because having to listen to another opinion makes his head hurt.

All this palace inrtrigue is precisely why I did not want to see Cusick back in office. Instead of trying to stick a knife in a good lawyer's back, Benol should try to represent the people he was elected to serve and update his Council Facebook page more often than once every 18 months.

NorCo Gaming Board Prepares for 2016

Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Board met on December 14 to gear up for next year's round of grants. It awarded $1.66 million this year in slots machine money from the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, and can be expected to do the same next year. Northampton County also receives about $1.2 million in table games revenue from the Sands, but that money is controlled by County Council. Table games revenue can be spent on anything considered in the "best interest" of the County, but with slots revenue, priority must be given to requests dealing with the impact created by gambling. In addition , these impact grant requests are limited to Bethlehem and the communities surrounding the Christmas City. Those are Freemansburg, Hellertown, Lower Saucon Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township.

If there is money left over after impact grants are awarded, the Gaming Board may consider grant requests from other municipalities. Last year, the slots revenue was only enough for impact grants.

Executive Director Karen Collis reported that grant applications will be accepted, starting on January 6.

She indicated there are currently 17 active grants in process. She also makes periodic compliance visits to determine the money is being spent according to the terms of the request. She has found no issues.

Treasurer Tom Nolan indicated that the authority is sitting on $390,000 as of the end of November, but $107,476 is set aside to pay for grants that have been awarded.

The Gaming Board is made up of nine members: Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Tom Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover, Chair), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Dave Willard (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth).

Executive John Brown attempted to replace Prostash earlier this year, but was rebuffed by Council and was forced to withdraw his nominee.

Bethlehem Plaza Owner Prepared to Invest $15-20 Million

Owner Kirpal Saini with engineer Phil Malitsch
Bethlehem Plaza owner Kirpal Saini, along with engineer Phil Malitsch, have presented sketch plans for access improvements at Bethlehem Plaza, located along the west side of Nazareth Pike near Route 22.

The Plaza hosts a small office building, Dollar Store and a Hibachi restauraunt. But its anchor tenant, a K-Mart, closed in 2013.

Saini told Bethlehem Township Commissioners at their December 21 meeting that he is currently looking at between 15-20 prospects, and that he plans to invest between $15-20 million in improvements once he has secured a new anchor tenant. But he needs to make it easier for shoppers to get into and out of the shopping center. He noted he loses $1 million per year at this point.

"We are trying to survive," he told Commissioners. "We need your help."

A sketch plan is just an informal presentation at which no official action is taken. Commissioners had no negative comments.

Barnard, Zawarski Say Good-Bye

Phil Barnard and Marty Zawarski
One week ago today, Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard served in their last meeting as Bethlehem Township Commissioners. At the end of the year, they will return to the highest form of office in America - citizen. Their defeat at the polls is largely the result of two factors.

First is the hysteria that Pat Breslin managed to whip up concerning what was originally proposed as a 37.6% tax hike Although it was eventually whittled down to 18%, angry taxpayers jammed into four budget hearings in protest.

Second, Facebook condemnations from incumbent Comm'r Michael Hudak added fuel to that fire. Hudak also portrayed the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association (Bulldogs) as a money-grabbing bogeyman intent on shackling taxpayers with $500,000 bathrooms at the athletic fields. When one taxpayer challenged Hudak, he responded that he was reporting the Bulldogs to the IRS and insinuated its membership consists of people who transplanted here from New Jersey.

Third, the township is plagued by overdevelopment and a real stormwater problem. A lot of the blame for that was placed on Marty Zawarski, whose father was a developer.

Barnard faced Democratic candidate Kim Jenkins. She ran no campaign and may have attended one meeting. She won by a scant eight votes. Zawarski, who faced Democratic replacement Malissa Davis after Jack Glagola bowed out of the race, lost by a much wider margin. He was defeated by 445 votes.

Ironically, much of this support came from the large tea party faction living in Bethlehem Township. .

Neither Zawarski nor Barnard expressed any bitterness at their final meeting. Zawarski thanked everyone "for putting up with me." For his part, Barnard commended the Township's "tremendous staff."

Zawarski and Barnard, along with Tom Nolan, then voted to adopt the 2016 Budget. Michael Hudak and Pat Breslin both skipped this meeting, perhaps the most important of the year, in which the spending plan is adopted. Hudak had opposed the Budget, but Breslin supported it at the previous meeting, and cast a vote in favor of an amendment that would restore funding to the Bulldogs. By absenting himself from the final vote, Breslin can claim, disingenuously, that he never supported a tax hike.

Breslin was absent from five of 22 meetings in 2015. Hudak missed three, and walked out of a fourth.. Zawarski was absent once. Both Barnard and Nolan had perfect attendance.

Michael Molovisnky to Seek State House Seat Again

From Facebook, Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky has announced his candidacy for the 183rd state house seat currently occupied by Julie Harhart. Here's his announcement: "I announce my candidacy for the 183rd state house seat, under the Republican banner. As an outsider to R&D party politics, I'll need your help gathering petition signatures to get on the ballot. I can be reached between 7am and 7pm, 7 days a week, at 610 395-1815. Lets change Harrisburg together."

He ran for Harhart's seat two years ago as an independent, and managed to snag 9% of the vote, not bad for an independent. This time around, he's running as a Republican.

It's unclear whether Harhart will seek re-election. She's been there since 1994. There supposedly is a report to that effect somewhere, but I haven't seen it.

Marc Grammes, a former Lehigh County Comm'r who lost the primary to Harhart two years ago, announced that he was running for the GOP nomination back around Thanksgiving. He's already picked up the endorsement of Controller Glenn Eckhart.

There may even be a third candidate seeking the R nomination, which leads me to believe Harhart is stepping off the stage and has anointed her successor..

It's unknown whether Terri Powell, the Democrat who ran two years ago, plans to run again. I would have to say that the Democrat, whomever he or she may be be, will be the favorite in this race. That's because it coincides with a presidential race. As bad as Democrats are at voting in local races, they will come out in a presidential race.

Updated 10:20 am. - Lehigh Tp Supervisor Cindy Miller, who also works for State Senator Mario Scavello, appears to be Harhart's anointed one. Of the three Republicans running, she is definitely the strongest. Now I know why John Brown attempted to name her to the Gaming Board earlier this year. He was trying to raise her visibility. It was pure politics, not good government. But I don't fault her for his foolishness. .

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Opinions Online, 12/26/15

Blogger's Note:Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.

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Bernie, I want to bring to your attention and others, that back in 2009 the governing bodies received $2.15million for Martin Tower redevelopment and asbestos abatement, as reported by the Mcal. I think this and any other past financial funding should get a full accounting of where it went. There is probably no cost advantage in removing the asbestos in a tear-down vs just removal, if removal is necessary at all. After all, Martin Tower was used 35 years up until 2007 with asbestos laws in place.

I had an opinion printed in the Mcall 12/10/15, which was edited a bit, but basically called for the protection of Martin Tower for historic, architectural and financial reasons. The tower makes high pay jobs possible; the loss of it and the rezoning plans bring minimum wage jobs. With the property value so low I called for the possible use of eminent domain to protect and benefit the public's interests in the property. Please keep up your effort and reporting.

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Why is the city of Bethlehem increasing taxes in the city by 2.2% and giving the dept heads and their subordinates a 6% wage increase. This will raise their wages to over $104,000 a year . With this increase the Business Administrator will be paid $107.000. Nice when you are not a resident of the city and pay no wage tax. Once again the property owner suffers. Hey how about our recycling going up $10.00 and the recycling coordinator get a $12,000 raise. Wake up property owners.

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Few people realize or ever talk about the two sides to economic development. Yes, jobs are necessary but how many more do we need ? Do we want unlimited growth and all the problems associated with it ? Increased traffic , more unhealthy days of bad air, loss of farmland and green space increased crime and basically more and more people , are just some results of more and more development. Remember when people move here they bring their problems with them; they don`t leave them in New Jersey.

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Why is it that people from this country who leave to join ISIS and other such groups don`t have their citizenship revoked along with passport and denied future reentry into this country ? If present laws do not allow this the laws should be changed and soon. We don`t need folks like this.

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Has anyone ever looked at the various boards, commissions, authorities and who sits on them, especially in light of all that is going on in Allentown?

While they are listed online with descriptions on the city website, their members aren't. But, looking a bit more closely, say, for example, the Allentown Housing Authority, where you've got Guridy (City Council), Jennings (ANIZDA), Hailstone (ANIZDA, Community and Economic Development)...small wonder Pennrose got involved in the NIZ.

But what about AEDC, ACIDA, ZHB, etc.?

Would be interesting if someone laid out a graphical "web" of players and their connections.

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What's going on with the hit-and-run death of Kyle Smith in Bushkill Township? There hasn't been any new information in the local press since the car was located. Given this is Nazareth, I can't help but think there's some shady business going on.

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Bethlehem just raised taxes and recently paid off Hirko suit for 7 Mil. They continue to tax us for Hirko, even though it has been satisfied and bonus tax us for more property taxes. What about the casino money? Where the hell is that going. Why increase recycling tax, when initially it was intended to be an income producer for the City of Bethlehem.

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Ben Long is licking his chops to run for a certain ghost voter seat.

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the saddest municipal Christmas Tree is South Whitehall Township. They totally broke a 50 year tradition of lighting the two huge evergreen trees at the township building with a high visibile road out front to go to a covered bridge that no one drives near at night near Molovinskys favorite Wehr's Dam..... its awful.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Schlossberg Caught Ghost Voting For Missing State Rep

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, whose mentor Fed Ed taught him everything he knows about honesty in government, has been caught red-handed casting a vote for a missing House member in yesterday's very tight 100-99 vote on the still unresolved state budget. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is calling for a House Ethics Committee investigation, according to The Patriot News.

This is a clear violation of a state House rule that provides, "No member shall be permitted to vote and have his or her vote recorded on the roll unless present in the hall of the House during the roll call vote."

The member for whom Schlossberg voted, Pete Daley, said he gave no authority to anyone else to vote on his behalf.

Schlossberg publishes a blog that chronicles political gaffes, usually by Republicans. Time for him to include himself.

Christmas Trees From LV Municipalities



Above is a slideshow of the municipal Christmas trees in 18 different Lehigh Valley communities. Where did I miss? Which ones are your favorites? My two favorites are Nazareth and Tatamy. To see where each tree is from, click on the green rectangle in the lower left corner.

Updated 8:55 am: "The 'green rectangle' you refer to is actually white, until it is clicked. Then it turns green. Took me a little time looking for a green rectangle before finally figuring out you were referring to the white comment box."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nazareth Faces Another Civil Rights Suit By a Police Officer

Police officers are often named as Defendants in civil rights suits, but not in Nazareth.  It has paid out $500,000 to settle claims brought by two police officers over violations of their own civil rights. Officer Fred Lahovski, who had already been awarded and paid backpay as a result of an illegal termination, got an extra $440,000 out of the Borough. This might be the highest sum ever paid to a police officer in the Lehigh Valley for a violation of civil rights. But there are two more police officer claims that need to be resolved, including a suit that was just filed on December 11.

The Shimer Suit

This suit was filed by Adam Shimer, a Nazareth resident and veteran who always wanted to be a cop.Chief Thomas Trachta wanted his lackey, Danny Troxell hired. But unlike Shimer, Troxell was no veteran and Trachta knew that Shimer would rank higher with the Civil Service Commission. So Trachta set out to sabotage Shimer's chances.

When he was still a high school teen, Shimer had experienced a number of deaths in his family. When his father passed away unexpectedly, he had trouble accepted what had happened and decided to seek help. He voluntarily committed himself to a mental health facility for a brief period. But Trachta misrepresented that as an involuntary commitment, which would disqualify Shimer.

Shimer was forced to retain Allentown civil rights attorney Pat Reilly to fight for him, and Shimer was ultimately hired by Nazareth on August 14, 2014.

After being hired and during his one-year probationary period, Trachta continued to sabotage Shimer with chickenshit claims of mishandling evidence. That's ironic because a state study of the police department came down very hard on Trachta over the way he handles evidence  I'd peronally love to see a firearmsaudit to determine if everything is where it should be.

Shimer was also given a rough time over his service in the Coast Guard as a reservist.

Exactly one year after her was hired, Shimer was fired by Nazareth Borough Council. Those are the same rocket scientists who publicly denied the existence of Investigator Dan Moneck's study of the police department and are so terrified of Trachta that they refuse to fire him and instead are going to name Randy Miller a "Commissioner" to be boss over Chief Trachta and two full-time cops.

In a suit filed by Attorney Reilly, Shimer claims that Nazareth was penalizing him for serving in the Coast Guard. In addition, he alleges that Trachta intended to fire him all along, and just strung things out.
Shimer is seeking reinstatement, back pay, punitive damages and attorney fees.

The Schleig Suit

Nazareth also faces a civil rights suit by Officer Stephen Schleig, who claims the Borough retaliated against him for union activity. Among the things they did was require him to seek mental counseling, at his own expense. He was publicly berated and even threatened by Trachta lackey Danny Troxell, wjo was hoping to get a job as a full-time officer. The humiliation included forcing this officer to wear the same worn bicycle uniform for several months. That suit is still in the pleading stage.

Other Civil Rights Suits

In addition to the civil rights suits filed by police officers, there's a civil rights suit against Nazareth by the heirs of Timothy Nixon, who was re or less goaded into killing himself by Nazareth Police Officer Danny Troxell. Nixon is dead because Troxell just had to be a cowboy. That case, filed by Attorneys Phil Lauer and Joe Welsh, is still in the pleading stages.

Still to come are the Sticker Gang suits.

The Michael Molovinsky Christmas Tree

The Molovisnky Christmas Tree
Although Christmas is supposed to be a time of good cheer, it's very stressful to miserable bastards like dour and misguided Michael Molovinsky. I keep trying to persuade him to be a nice guy like me, but he refuses.

He hates Christmas. When I first started posting pictures of trees from different municipalities, he suggested they might be illegal. I explained that a Christmas tree has nothing to do with any religion. I have pics now from 19 different municipalities, and he has been going batty as I post them.

Wait 'till I load the slideshow. That might send him over the edge.

This latest tree is from Hanover. Because it's next to a church and not really a municipal Christmas tree, I can't include it in the slideshow I'll be publishing on Christmas Eve. But I'm posting it here in honor of Michael Molovinsky.

The poor bastard needs help. The other day, he slammed Alan Jennings for randomly giving away money at Christmas, calling poor Alan a hypocrite. Other misanthropes like Scott Armstrong agreed with him. Then he slammed Fed Ed for collecting money for Salvation Army, (and we all know he's really good at raising money), and called him a hypocrite. When I defended Justice Eakin over those naughty emails, Molovinsky said he should be fired. Judge Panella suspended Eakin with pay, but Molovinsky is still miserable. He wants Eakin sentenced to 20 years in the electric chair.

I told Molovisnky he's a frickin' anti-Gentile and needs to lighten up. I offered to give him some of the valium I take for back spasms, but I ran out about 18 months ago. Had I given him some, the bastard would probably have dimed me as a drug dealer.

I really don't understand why Molovisnky acts the way he does when he has a good example like me.

After Christmas, Ron Angle is going to invite Michael to spread some sludge on a few of his farms. Maybe that will cheer him up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fed Ed: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like RICO

Earlier this month, I told you that former Allentown Finance Director Gary Strathearn, known to the feds as Public Official No. 4, would be the next head to roll in the pay-to-play investigation that is clearly targeting Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. Yesterday, that's exactly what happened. So far, three of Fed Ed's myrmidons have been toppled as prosecutors methodically build a RICO (racketeering) case against him. For his part, Pawlowski is still in denial, trying to pretend nothing is wrong.

The federal information filed against Strathearn (you can read it here) is similar to the one filed against former Assistant Solicitor Dale Wiles. At the direction of Fed Ed, both participated in a bid-rigging scheme to ensure that an unnecessary revenue collection contract would go to Northeast Revenue.

This work was being done by Portnoff, but Pawlowski was apparently unhappy that contributions had dropped off. Northeast Revenue, in contrast, has kicked in $15,000

Lehigh County, incidentally, as a similar deal with Northeast.

What no one has answered is why.

If a person fails to pay his municipal, county or school tax bill for two years, his property is going to be sold. So there really is no need for privatized tax farmers. The only thing these firms manage to do is penalize homeowners are already down on their luck after losing a job or incurring major medical expenses. They file liens and tack on extortionate attorney fees. if the liens are unpaid, they sell the property and will include attorney fees and other costs that are sometimes as much as ten times greater than the unpaid taxes.

If there were no tax farmers, a homeowner could set up a payment plan with the County to get caught up on his taxes. Even if he fails to make good, the County can eventually sell the property without imposing onerous charges.

The only reason for tax farmers, which first started in several school districts is pure greed. Short-sighted school districts failed to realize they have an obligation to be fair to the taxpayer.

Cities have jumped on this bandwagon, too. Bethlehem and Easton both use tax farmers.

Fairness to taxpayers is obviously rather low on Fed Ed's list of priorities. We now know that, despite his private protests to the contrary, he knew that the feds were looking at him for at least a year before the investigation became public knowledge. Both Wiles and Strathearn gave materially false statements to FBI agents investigating the bid-rigging scheme in May 2014. That explains why, as explained in the Ramzi Haddad information, Fed Ed started using burner phones and sweeping his office for electronic bugs.

The Moody Bible Institute grad had a guilty conscience, something that even his prayer meetings failed to prevent.

Like Lady MacBeth, he washes his hands to remove the stain of guilt, but it's still there. "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!"

Federal investigators still have plenty of work ahead of them. There's the purchase of land the City did not need, using money it could ill afford to spend, to purchase two tracts of land from Abe Atiyeh at an inflated price. There's the nonexistent Ruckus Brewery at the old Neuweiler Building. There's the City water lease.There's the removal of Allentown Brew Works from the golf course. There's the trash-to-energy plant and the strange switched vote by Cynthia Mota. And of course, the NIZ.

Feds are setting Pawlowski up for a major RICO indictment, and that's going to take time.

PC Police Take Aim at Supreme Court Justice Over Naughty Emails

It was quite the sight yesterday morning, As I made my way into the rotunda at the Northampton County Courthouse, I was astonished at the sheer volume of reporters from all over, waiting outside. Was this gaggle waiting for some evil ax murderer to be hauled in, shrieking and howling? Hannibal Lecter? A terrorist cell? No. They were waiting for a sitting justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to do the perp walk. His dastardly offense is far worse. Naughty emails. So egregious were his deeds that he was ordered to appear before a three-judge panel to explain why he shouldn't be suspended immediately.

Justice Eakin did eventually make it through the gauntlet. He actually stopped and talked to reporters, asking only that they be fair to him. Once he got inside, he was forced to go through a metal detector, just like anyone who lacks one of the passes issued by Sheriff David Dalrymple. I saw him as he wandered down a hallway, with a bewildered look on his face, obviously well outside his comfort zone. It had to be a humbling experience for a man who has served as Cumberland County's District Attorney, Superior Court Judge and Supreme Court Justice.

On December 8, in a 51-page complaint, Justice Eakin was charged with violating all kinds of Judicial Canons as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution for acting like a human being. Though there was absolutely no hint of any evidence that he engaged in any ex parte conversations with attorneys about pending cases, he did use a state -supplied computer to send and mostly receive naughty emails. The kind most of us get every day.

Interestingly, the Complaint makes clear that Justice Eakin set up a personal email account under the name "John Smith" for his private exchanges with golfing and fishing buddies. It was a way to enable a high-profile Supreme Court Justice to still be one of the guys.

Or so he thought.

The presiding judge in the three-judge panel that heard the evidence yesterday was one of Northampton County's own - Northampton County Judge turned Superior Court Judge Jack Panella. Judge Panella started by explaining why the hearing was being held in Easton. "There's a very simple and short answer," he said. "I am from Easton."

Judge Panella was joined by Judge David J Barton, a Magisterial District Judge, and Carmella Mullen, a lay member first appointed to the Court by Governor Corbett. Both Barton and Mullen hail from Allegheny County.

The case against Justice Eakin was very simple. It consisted mainly of the hard drive containing the emails.

Eakin was represented by prominent attorney Bill Costopoulos.

He called two of Eakin's staffers, who were discussed suggestively in a few emails exchanged between Eakin and a former Assistant DA who worked with Eakin when he was Cumberland County's DA. Both of these women spoke on behalf of Eakin. Both stated that he has always treated them professionally and has never made suggestive comments to either of them. They both denied that they had every gone on any outing or trip with him or anyone else in this group of golfing and fishing buddies. When one of them married recently, Justice Eakin attended the ceremony. Both said they respect him.

In addition to these two staffers, Sam Stretton testified as an expert on judicial ethics. He attended Dickinson School of law with Eakin, and represents a large number of lawyers and judges charged with ethical breaches. Stretton's conclusion is that there was no ethical breach by Eakin because his emails were for a very limited group of close friends. He said they were "locker room mentality" and that "judges have to have a sense of privacy in their lives."

"There's not a man or judge alive who has not looked at pornography and laughed at off color jokes," he added. He warned that the Judicial Conduct Board was on a slippery slope and worried about "thought control."

But Disciplinary Counsel Elizabeth Flaherty called the emails a "runaway train" and her associate, Francis Puskas, told the Court that one has to wonder whether Eakin has a conscious or unconscious bias.

That concern was answered by Attorney John Hare, an appeals lawyer who read through 20 years of decisions written by Eakin. "Nothing in them suggests anything that is inappropriate," he testified.

Eakin himself repeatedly apologized and nearly broke down a few times.

As I left, two local lawyers told me that Justice Eakin should be held to a higher standard and suspended. But a reporter with one of the TV stations called the whole hearing a waste of everyone's time. I'm with her.

But it's not up to me. Cases like these are why Judge Panella gets the big bucks.

Judge Panella, incidentally, made it a point to thank Sheriff David Dalrymple, Executive John Brown and President Judge Steve Baratta for their cooperation and willingness to provide a forum.

Updated 5:49 pm: Justice Eakin has just been suspended, pending full adjudication, with pay.

Monday, December 21, 2015

More Political Corruption Charges

On Friday, former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green was charged with bribery for virtually abdicating control over Sheriff Sales to a business associate who returned the favor with campaign donations, gifts and interest-free loans.He's just the latest high-profile Democrat to be snared by federal prosecutors. Others caught in a web of political corruption include former State Treasurer Rob McCord (extortion), US Congressman Chaka Fattah (racketeering), former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed (public corruption), Reading City Council President Francisco Acosta (bribery) and Allentown Assistant City Solicitor Dale Wiles (bid-rigging). Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and Reading Mayor are obvious targets. Pawlowski, in particular, has been identified using burner phones and sweeping his office for electronic bugs.

As if this was not bad enough, we have an Attorney General with a suspended law license who is facing perjury charges.

What do these folks have in common?

All of them - every single one - is a Democrat.

Not good.

This little coincidence has surely been noticed by Republicans, and they are certain to make it a campaign issue in the races next year.

Against this backdrop, Governor Tom Wolf 's choice for state Democratic chair is himself a man who himself is in the federal spotlight - Marcel Groen. It's what I'd expect from a Governor who was willing to shackle Pennsylvania's poorest citizens with a regressive sales tax hike. It's what I'd expect from a Governor whose intransigence during budget talks has become so ridiculous that several schools may have to shut down.

Senatorial Candidate John Fetterman Visits Allentown

U.S, Senatorial candidate John Fetterman had a very friendly reception at the Allentown Brew Works on Saturday night. Most were there to cheer for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Presidential Debate being shown on the big screen later that evening. You might say Fetterman was the undercard.

In person, he's just as big as he looks in video. He's the kind of guy I'd expect to see in a bar, but he looks more like an NFL lineman than a community organizer. I'd expect to see him at Big Woody's scarfing wings or Stahley's inhaling a few dozen steamed clams, not at a pub that makes and serves hand-crafted ales. I'd expect to hear him talk about the Eagles or the Steelers, not income disparity. With his tattooed arms, he might be even be a retired member of the Warlock or Pagan motorcycle gang, not someone who refurbished a bicycle and brings it to a lady who kicked heroin and needs transportation to and from her job.

Those tattoos, incidentally, have a story. On one arm is the Braddock zip code, where he is Mayor. On the other arm, he has the date of every person killed since he assumed office to a mostly ceremonial position after winning by one vote in 2005.

That one vote, incidentally, was a provisional ballot that counted.

Fetterman is originally from a rather well-to-do and Republican family in York."I'll be the first Democrat they ever voted for," he joked.

He night have been one of those Republicans himself but for a life-changing event during his last year in college, when his best friend died in an automobile accident. Fetterman joined Big Brothers and then ultimately went to work for Americorps. He worked in Pittsburgh and went from there to Braddock.

In just the last 13 years, Braddock has lost 26% of its population. It was a steel mill town and now has a population of about 2,100, not much larger than West Easton. It's 73% black has a per capita income of just $12,627.

His agenda is what I'd call working-class liberal, and his argument is that he's the only Democrat who can beat Pat Toomey. He's pro-Obama, pro-Obamacare, and favors a more compassionate view towards immigration. But he's also a gun owner, actually took his shotgun to respond to a robbery in his community and believes any gun reform needs to be based on a scientific study as opposed to emotion. He supports the legalization of marijuana, but decries the heroin epidemic.

His over-riding theme is inequality, whether it is in wages or living conditions.

I'm not crazy he attended the Pa Society Gala. because, as he said, that was where the "Pennsylvania political universe" is. Last time I checked, the Pa political universe is in Pennsylvania, and consists mostly of the very people who elected him, not the oyster-eating, tuxedo-wearing aristocrats.

Though he's very outspoken on domestic matters, he offered no comments about foreign policy and no one bothered to ask him any questions. That is the Achilles heel of both the Democratic party, President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Fetterman has also been attacked for failing to file the required financial disclosure, but he claims it's on its way.

After giving his speech, Fetterman was soon back on the road for the five-hour trip to Braddock. He and his wife, a Brazilian immigrant, are the parents of three children.

Fetterman is running against Joe Sestak and Kathleen McGinty for the Democratic nomination in next year's race for the U.S. Senate. Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has suspended his campaign.

The presumptive Republican nominee is Pat Toomey.

Two More Christmas Trees!

I now have 18 different municipal Christmas trees, along with one gigantic peace candle, to bring you on Christmas Eve. That's when I'll upload a slide show and ask you to select your favorite. So far, my two top pics are Nazareth and Tatamy.


One of Santa's elves sent this to me from Tatamy. This is not the largest tree, but is among my favorites.


This beautiful display is off of Route 145, near Whitehall High School.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Opinions Online, 12/19/15

Blogger's Note:Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.

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Why is it that people from this country who leave to join ISIS and other such groups don`t have their citizenship revoked along with passport and denied future reentry into this country ? If present laws do not allow this the laws should be changed and soon. We don`t need folks like this.

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Bernie, I want to bring to your attention and others, that back in 2009 the governing bodies received $2.15million for Martin Tower redevelopment and asbestos abatement, as reported by the Mcal. I think this and any other past financial funding should get a full accounting of where it went. There is probably no cost advantage in removing the asbestos in a tear-down vs just removal, if removal is necessary at all. After all, Martin Tower was used 35 years up until 2007 with asbestos laws in place.

I had an opinion printed in the Mcall 12/10/15, which was edited a bit, but basically called for the protection of Martin Tower for historic, architectural and financial reasons. The tower makes high pay jobs possible; the loss of it and the rezoning plans bring minimum wage jobs. With the property value so low I called for the possible use of eminent domain to protect and benefit the public's interests in the property. Please keep up your effort and reporting.

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Why is the city of Bethlehem increasing taxes in the city by 2.2% and giving the dept heads and their subordinates a 6% wage increase. This will raise their wages to over $104,000 a year . With this increase the Business Administrator will be paid $107.000. Nice when you are not a resident of the city and pay no wage tax. Once again the property owner suffers. Hey how about our recycling going up $10.00 and the recycling coordinator get a $12,000 raise. Wake up property owners.

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Few people realize or ever talk about the two sides to economic development. Yes, jobs are necessary but how many more do we need ? Do we want unlimited growth and all the problems associated with it ? Increased traffic , more unhealthy days of bad air, loss of farmland and green space increased crime and basically more and more people , are just some results of more and more development. Remember when people move here they bring their problems with them; they don`t leave them in New Jersey.

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There should be more Bernie O'Hare's in this world. He fights for what is right in this world.
I am as far to the right as he is to the left. I have known him for many years and can call him a friend.

G. John Bryant, jr.

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Has anyone ever looked at the various boards, commissions, authorities and who sits on them, especially in light of all that is going on in Allentown?

While they are listed online with descriptions on the city website, their members aren't. But, looking a bit more closely, say, for example, the Allentown Housing Authority, where you've got Guridy (City Council), Jennings (ANIZDA), Hailstone (ANIZDA, Community and Economic Development)...small wonder Pennrose got involved in the NIZ.

But what about AEDC, ACIDA, ZHB, etc.?

Would be interesting if someone laid out a graphical "web" of players and their connections.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Should Airport Authority Extend Charter 50 Years?

I've told you that the Board of Governors of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority recently met at, of all places, the Saucon Valley Country Club. Executive Director Charles Everett wanted to hire a law firm that employs his wife "of counsel." And that same Executive Director, with his wife, was spotted over the weekend making a booze run in a government-supplied Chevy Tahoe. Now comes word that the Airport Authority wants to extend its Charter by another 50 years.

This was a topic for discussion at the last meeting of Northampton County Council. But its liaison to the Airport Authority, Glenn Geissinger, was absent. He's running for Congress and has no time for lowly county government. But he was nice enough to email Council members a few days later. Here's what he said.

The LNAA is requesting a 50 year extension of its charter in order to enter into a lease agreement with a vendor. The terms of the lease that are being negotiated would exceed the current life span authorization of the authority.

The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners brought this item to its meetings and determined to table it in order to enter into an open discussion about the LNAA with Northampton County Council. Lehigh County Chairman, Brad Osborne is working to set a joint meeting of both our boards and the executive leadership of the LNAA.

Since it has been the general feeling by both county governing bodies that the LNAA has not been as responsive to the needs of the citizens of the Lehigh Valley as it could have been in the past and both boards, along with their respective county executives, have placed a sitting member of their body on the LNAA Board of Governors, Mike Schware is Lehigh County’s, I support moving forward with such a public meeting to allow the LNAA leadership to layout its vision for the future of the aviation assets in its control and to allow the governing bodies to openly counsel together and have public input into the future direction of the LNAA.

President Ferraro has authorized me to work with Commissioner Osborne to ensure that such a meeting is coordinated in the near future. I expect we will have it shortly after the beginning of the New Year after our new members are sworn.

Please contact me with any questions or concerns.

Rare Bi-Partisan Tax Relief For Business AND Middle Class

Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15) is reporting that he supported a tax relief package yesterday to extend or make permanent a number of key tax provisions designed to help individuals, families and businesses. The bipartisan measure passed the House by a vote of 318 to 109. As reported in Reuters, it's the "closest thing to a grand bipartisan tax bargain in years." It makes permanent the research and development tax credit, suspends the medical device tax and provides aid to students, low-income parents and teachers.

Rep. Dent issued the following statement:

“Today we saw the House come together to provide more clarity and stability on key tax provisions that will help individuals, families, and employers. This bill makes permanent the enhanced Child tax credit, Earned Income tax credit, the current Research and Development tax credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for defraying educational expenses. It also facilitates giving to charities and protects taxpayers from politically-motivated investigations by IRS officials."

"Importantly for the 15th Congressional District, the legislation suspends the job-crushing Medical Device Tax for two years. This will allow us to protect manufacturing jobs and encourage, rather than stifle, business investment in our communities. During the two-year suspension, I will continue working to permanently end this job-killing tax."

"This legislation is an important step for providing American families and businesses better predictability when it comes to federal tax policy. That predictability will lead to more jobs and a better climate in which American businesses can succeed.”

Nazareth Forced to Return $27K Road Grant to Gaming Authority

In 2012, Nazareth certainly had its fair share of capital needs. Numerous roads always need work. Main street is like a lunar landscape, especially around the circle. There's always a demand for new police and road crew vehicles. A new pool was in the works. With all these pressing needs, Nazareth Borough Council unanimously decided to seek $50,000 in uncommitted Northampton County gaming funds to build a road in Upper Nazareth, outside of the Borough. Does this make any sense at all?

I've looked at the documents filed with the County, pursuant to a Right-to-Know request. Get this. This project was actually a $270,000 project. Nazareth would kick in the balance for a road that would be extended partially outside its own boundaries.

Nazareth never got the $50,000 it sought. But it was awarded $27,500 to extend G.W. Stoudt Boulevard from from its current terminus at the Highway Garage to intersect with Gracedale Avenue. In the application, Nazareth makes clear that the grant was for the benefit of Nazareth Ambulance, not borough residents. With this road extension, response time to Gracedale would improve. So would response time to the western portion of Upper Nazareth.

Undoubtedly, this would save lives. But should borough residents be footing the bill to help out Gracedale and Upper Nazareth residents when they have their own needs?

The reason Nazareth Borough Council ignored its own residents is because borough officials have divided loyalties. Its 2012 nonprofit tax return, the most recent one on record, listed the Mayor, two Council members, the Borough Solicitor and the Borough Secretary among its eight board members.

Under the terms of the grant, the project had to be finished by October 2013. Nazareth sought and received a one-year extension because, for a time, it was unclear whether the County would hire Nazareth Ambulance for nonemergency medical transports.In fact, since Nazareth was operating under an old contract and different proposals were being sought, it really was foolhardy to even seek this grant.

Nazareth sought and got another extension, but work on the road extension never started.

I predicted well over a year ago that Nazareth would eventually be forced to return the dough, and that's what has happened. It quietly sent a check to the County last month.

This is the gang that claims it's going to straighten out the police department by making it even more top heavy. Deputy Chief randy Miller is going to be promoted to Commissioner over a three-man police department that still includes a Chief and two full-time officers. Instead of firing Chief Thomas Trachta, who thus far has cost the Borough about a half million in civil rights litigation with more on the way, they're keeping him and putting him on the streets during middle shifts. They'll be bossing around two full-time officers.

NorCo Gaming Authority Gears Up For 2016

Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Board met on December 14 to gear up for next year's round of grants. It awarded $1.66 million this year in slots machine money from the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, and can be expected to do the same next year. Northampton County also receives about $1.2 million in table games revenue from the Sands, but that money is controlled by County Council. Table games revenue can be spent on anything considered in the "best interest" of the County, but with slots revenue, priority must be given to requests dealing with the impact created by gambling. In addition , these impact grant requests are limited to Bethlehem and the communities surrounding the Christmas City. Those are Freemansburg, Hellertown, Lower Saucon Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township.

If there is money left over after impact grants are awarded, the Gaming Board may consider grant requests from other municipalities. Last year, the slots revenue was only enough for impact grants.

Executive Director Karen Collis reported that grant applications will be accepted, starting on January 6.

She indicated there are currently 17 active grants in process. She also makes periodic compliance visits to determine the money is being spent according to the terms of the request. She has found no issues.

Treasurer Tom Nolan indicated that the authority is sitting on $390,000 as of the end of November, but $107,476 is set aside to pay for grants that have been awarded.

More Municipal Christmas Trees

I have two more municipal Christmas trees to add to my growing list  of Christmas trees from 16 Lehigh Valley municipalities. I didn't even have to file a Right-to-Know request. On Christmas, I'll treat you to a slide show.  Please feel free to send me pictures of any tree or other major Christmas symbol from your town.


This is Lower Saucon's tree, located inside the municipal building.


West Easton's tree is one of the prettiest indoor trees.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here early this week. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for a few days.

Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.

He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.

But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.

5/17/45

Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.

I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.

Blogger's Note: First published 12/11/07.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ramzi Haddad Sentencing Delayed Until April 2016

One of the chief witnesses against Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, Ramzi Haddad, has had his sentencing postponed until April 14, 2016, according to records on file at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On September 10, Haddad pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Pawlowski, known in federal papers as Public Official #3, in exchange for favorable treatment in Allentown. The criminal information reveals that Fed Ed went to extraordinary lengths to hide his criminal conduct, including at least one sweep of his office for electronic bugs and the purchase of burner phones.

There is also a sealed order entered in the Haddad case, dated November 19, which likely reveals the amount of cooperation expected from him.

Dale Wiles, a former Assistant City Solicitor who pleaded guilty to bid-rigging for Pawlowski, is scheduled for sentencing on March 2, 2016. He's out on $50,000 unsecured bail, and received a notice yesterday concerning his passport.

An Open Letter to Marcel Groen,

Dear Marcel Groen,

I am writing to you as a good Democrat who is disturbed at how many good Democrats are leaving the party because of Democrats like you. Your name has been added to the growing list of Democrats caught up in what increasingly appears to be bribery and outright shakedowns.

This list started with former Gubernatorial candidate Rob McCord, who pleaded guilty to extortion earlier this year for the way he threatened possible campaign donors.He is awaiting sentencing as the feds have used former Democratic campaign consultant Mike Fleck to snare City officials in Reading and Allentown in a gigantic pay-to-play scheme involving Democratic Mayors, a Democratic City Council President in Reading and a Democratic committeeman who was rigging bids while employed as an Assistant City Solicitor.

We have a Democratic Attorney General who has been caught up in perjury and who refuses to resign, even after her law license has been suspended.

And we have you.

You're no Democrat. You're a crony capitalist who pimped for a $28 million waste-to-energy plant at Kline's Island with no emission monitors for air quality in the heavily polluted Lehigh Valley.

And now, the feds are looking at you.

Do you honestly think that Republicans are going to let this slide in the state and presidential elections next year? If you really are a Democrat who wants your party to win at least some races, you need to step aside for Democrats who act more like Democrats.

Do the right thing.

Resign.

How about a Bag of Sludge?

So yesterday, in Bill White regular "What Is It?" column, he showcased an item owned by the Sultan of Sludge, Ron Angle. His Eminence has even offered to take the lucky winner out to lunch with me and him.

Dour and misguided blogger Michael Molovinsky told White that he "would consider the prize a punishment." Instead of defending us, White tells Molovinsky, "I know what you mean."

Bastards.

So for the one or two people on the planet who would not kill his mother for a chance to dine with us, Ron's going to sweeten the pot. In addition to the lunch, he's throwing in a bag of free sludge, right out of his own ass. That has many uses. For example, Upper Mount Bethel is using Angle's sludge pellets to light their Christmas tree.

Vince Foglia Resigns in Williams Township

Vince Foglia
Vince Foglia resigned from Williams Township's Board of Supervisors earlier this week, for personal reasons. It is Vince who spearheaded the drive to re-examine the out-of-control open space grants, in which a certain few have been preserving cliff land and properties that they themselves own. He helped expose abuses in what he calls the "open space industry." Under his guidance the Board rexcinded two open space grants. One of them was a tract owned by a millionaire who had no intention of developing anything.

"It has been an interesting experience," he tells me. I" never thought it would be so difficult to convince folks about the concept of the rule of law. But I should have known when early in my term someone stood up and said 'We've been doing things this way for thirty years, why are you bringing the law into it now?' I found out that he was not alone."

Foglia endured a lot of abuse from members of the Land Preservation Board, who could get pretty ugly when challenged. But he endured.

"I wish the new Board and the Williams Township staff the best," said Foglia. "No matter what you hear, I worked well with the fine Township staff, especially Jen Smethers and Rich Adams with whom I interacted most. We had a running joke that any mistake would result in someone getting fired, because that was the false narrative about me during my election campaign. I made plenty of mistakes myself and took all the jabs. We had mutual respect and some fun."

Rich Adams, incidentally, is a runner against whom I raced many years ago. He made it to Boston. I made it to the refrigerator.

Glenn Walbert Honored For 30 years Service to Hanover

From Secret Agent 104 - On Tuesday night, Glenn R. Walbert, participated in his last Hanover Township Board of Supervisors meeting. First elected in 1986, Glenn served the last 10 years as the Board’s Vice Chairman.

In attendance was representatives from Senator Toomey, Congressman Dent and PA Representative Marcia Hahn all who recognized Glenn and presented him with proclamations and citations. PA Senator Mario Scavello attended and presented Glenn with a Citation from the Senate of Pennsylvania. Offering public input was former Township Engineer Jim Birdsall, Police Chief Roy Seiple and Supervisor-elect Michael Prendeville. Warm applause followed each one of the presentations and comments from those in attendance.

Chairman John N. Diacogiannis then asked those on the dais for their input. Warm thoughts were offered by Supervisors Jack Nagle, Mark Tanczos, Steve Salvesen and Diacogiannis. Salvesen and Diacogiannis were both members of the Board when Glenn was elected in 1986.

Solicitor James Broughal, Engineer Brien Kocher, Director of Administration Ryan Kish and Manager Jay Finnigan also offered comments. All spoke of Glenn’s commitment to the residents and business community in Hanover. Common descriptives used by everyone throughout the evening were ethics, honesty, tireless and professionalism.

Solicitor Broughal summed up everyone’s thoughts when he commented, “Over the years you may have had many equals, but there was no one that could beat you.”

After Glenn was showered with acolytes, proclamations and citations Chairman Diacogiannis passed the gavel to Glenn and allowed him to preside as Chairman for his last meeting. Also in attendance for his last meeting was Glenn’s wife Karen. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bill White's "What Is It?" Offers Major Prize


Morning Call columnist Bill White's latest "What Is It?" feature is offering a major prize - lunch with His Eminence Ron Angle, as well as yours truly, to the lucky person who guesses correctly just what is in this wooden kit. Guessing it here does not count.

I was at Angle's home for dinner with Ron and his lovely wife Sharon on Sunday night. He's at DEFCON 2 these days, and it now takes about three hours to get through the gates, strobe lights and various searches. He collects all kinds of weird stuff.

Bethlehem - A City Divided Against Itself

Rev. Mable Humphrey warned against a house divided 
Rev. Mable Humphrey, a preacher at Grace Deliverance Baptist Church who delivered the invocation at last night's crowded meeting of Bethlehem City Council, just might have set the record for lengthiest prayer ever, but it was a good one. Although I'm sure the Jesus references were something that the Jews in attendance could do without, she prayed for unity and reminded everyone that "no city or house divided against itself will stand."  If that's so, Bethlehem should come crashing down even sooner than Martin Tower. Last night, a nearly unanimous Council voted 6-1 to approve a new ordinance that permits developer Lew Ronca to tear down the tower with $9 million of our money, and develop the 53-acre site with a mix of office buildings, residences and retail. They did so despite protests from 21 of 22 residents, merchants and assorted professors.

Rod Holt, Apollo Grill co-owner, reminded both City Council and Mayor Donchez of what Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto supposedly said after the Pearl Harbor attack. "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

"You all know how that ended," Holt concluded.

He was hinting that the Administration and Council will pay a heavy price at the polls for their actions last night in adopting an ordinance almost universally opposed by Downtown Bethlehem and South Side merchants. Some say this anti-incumbent sentiment is what has already swept Olga Negron and Michael Colon into office.

Although Mayor Donchez insisted at the start of the meeting that the process was fair to all involved, Holt countered he was at a meeting with Planning Director Darlene Heller denied that the Administration was talking to the developer in and that Community and Economic Development Director Alicia Karner twice refused to let merchants meet with the Mayor. Diane Holt, Rod's wife, added that Karner came into a meeting with "guns blazin'" and yelled at merchants who wanted to meet with the Mayor.

Throughout the evening, Holt's allegations were confirmed by Brew Works owner Jeff Fegley, Donegal Square owner Neville Gardner and Hotel Bethlehem Managing partner Bruce Haines.

"We were shut down," complained Fegley.

Neither Karner nor Heller responded to these allegations, but they were praised earlier by the Mayor and later by City Council. They have previously denied that they prevented merchants from seeking out the Mayor.

Jim Fiorentino, Chair of the Planning Commission, also addressed Council. He told them he first became aware of the new ordinance at Martin Tower in June, and was immediately struck by the detail. He believes he and other planners were misled about the involvement of developer Lew Ronca.

He likened planning to building a snowball, which he said should be built at the top of a hill, with many people helping. Once that snowball starts rolling down a hill, it's hard to change it.

Fiorentino concluded that adoption of this ordinance would send the message that the City can be underhanded in everything we do."

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines had three points. First, even with Eric Evans' amendments, the amount of destination retail permitted at the Martin Tower site will still be 2 1/2 times the size of Historic Downtown Bethlehem shopping district. Second, the developer is being rewarded with a windfall after he blighted the tower himself. Finally, he called the City Revitalization and improvement Zone (CRIZ), a special incentive under which Ronca can use state and local taxes to finance development, the "root cause" of the problem. He warned that Ronca can use the CRIZ to drive every downtown merchant out of business, and then move the CRIZ downtown after buying all their buildings at reduced prices.

Irishman Neville Gardner told the story of being forced to call Ronca from Scotland because the developer was going to refuse to permit parking at the Martin Tower lot during Celtic Classic."You're dancin' with the Devil," he warned.

Dana Grubb suggested that the City should conduct a number of neighborhood meetings, as it did when it considered a new zoning ordinance.

Kisann Albanese, a massage therapist downtown, noted the absence of both a plan and the developer.

The sole supporter of Martin Tower rezoning was David "Lump" Sanders, owner of the popular Center Street deli where the famous Table of Knowledge is located.

"Some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield," he started.He noted plans like these always have opposition, including the Sands and Lowe's. He said that Martin Tower doesn';t generate enough taxes to even pay for a police motorcycle.

When all were said and done, all Council members save Cathy Reuscher voted for the mixed use ordinance. Eric Evans stated that the people in the room do not speak for all 77,000 Bethlehem residents. Recchiuti, who plans on moving to Hanover Township, voted for big boxes and suburban sprawl. Bryan Callahan amazingly avoided insulting the audience for the first time in several meetings. Lou Stellato said, "We gottta' do something!" for the third time. Adam Waldron wants to "scale it down," a little bit, but not enough to vote No.Reynolds tried to be conciliatory, but

It's too soon to say whether merchants will challenge this ordinance in court. But it's very likely that supporters of this ordinance will be challenged in upcoming elections. Historically, mercahnts have stayed out of electoral politics, but that appears to be changing.

The City is divided against itself.

Updated 11:45 am. There are stories at WFMZ-TV69, Morning Call and Express Times.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Story About Mayor Donchez

Mayor Bob Donchez at BSI and RHF Holiday Open House
On Friday afternoon, I was sent to cover the grand opening of some business on West Market Street. Everyone was dressed very nicely, while I looked like shit. But I was on my way to a basketball game, and did not ant to wear a tie and be mistaken for a coach.

I parked my car and started to make my way down the hill to this shindig, wondering if I'd be able get even one decent picture. As I was on my way down, I saw Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez parking his car on the other side of the street. Like me, he was distracted by the caws of what must have been a million crows at the nearby Moravian Cemetery.

Then he did something I consider pretty unusual for a Bethlehem Mayor. Instead of marching down the street, he fished into his pocket for some change so he could feed the meter. Turns out it was unnecessary because the party hosts had permits, but Donchez was putting money in anyway.

After watching this from across the street, i outed myself and said Hi.

When he arrived at the party, it turns out the hosts had people waiting outside and had a special spot ready for him. He quietly answered he found a spot up the street, acting as though he hadn't noticed them. I think it's likely he did, and next time I'll pull in.

Anyhoo, this is an honest guy. The son of a cop. He's not the kind of guy you'll see at the liquor store, with a city-owned vehicle, buying cases of booze that he then lugs off to his house in a Chevy Tahoe. He's not the kind of guy who justifies this flagrant abuse of public trust as the incidental personal use of a government vehicle. This is not the kind of guy who buys burner phones or who uses City funds to sweep his office for electronic bugs.

I think Bob is wrong about Martin Tower rezoning, bit do not for a second challenge his personal integrity.

In my view, he really should wait until developer Lew Ronca decides what he wants to do there. Merchants think that, too. They are upset that their voices were not heard. Perhaps Bob could have done a little more to reach out to what he had to know was a problem. But I think the main problem is the one-way dialogue at City Council meetings. It's a system bound to lead to communication breakdowns. In fact, it is those one-way dialogues that ultimately created the misperception about City meetings with Ronca.

Let me explain.

At the very first public hearing on October 6, both Mike Recchiuti and Willie Reynolds incorrectly stressed that this rezoning at Martin Tower was city-driven, not developer driven. Mike Recchiuti went so far as to say that he did not believe the developer came and requested this change.

Now Alicia Karner, Bob Donchez or Darlene Heller could have easily refuted or clarified that statement. But they said nothing. In my opinion, they said nothing because Bethlehem City Council meetings have become far too formal. There's no real back-and-forth.

When my Right-to-Know later revealed that the City and Ronca had been exchanging love notes for six months, people understandably exploded. They felt they had been misled, and they had been misled. But I think this was unintentional. It's because of the system for delaing with public input, not the Council members or City officials.

Donchez told me that if he had to do it over, he'd do some things differently. This kind of one-way dialogue and formality during meetings is a prescription for the very distrust we now see. That has to change.

Though he often puts his foot in his mouth in his exchanges with merchants, Bryan Callahan seems to be one Council member who understands this is a problem. Maybe other Council members will soon start seeing it, too.