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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Are There Two Lehigh Valleys?

Bethlehem City Council candidates
Matt McKernan and Michael Colón 
Former NorCo Council member Ron Angle put it best. The other day, while talking shit with me, he called me the Waste Management of Lehigh Valley media. I pick up the garbage and dump it into my very own landfill - the Lehigh Valley blogosphere. I am a bottom feeding blogger, to be sure. But I was surprised to learn that most people think I'm being too kind. They have even lower opinions of me in particular and blogs in general. I learned this during the "Rust or Revival?" symposium being sponsored by WHYY's Keystone Crossroads. That site appears to focus primarily on our cities. More than 60 people showed up at Northampton Community College's Fowler Center. They came despite snow showers that thankfully looked much worse than they were.

Most of the players in this crowd were the usual suspects. The urbanistas who think that the answer to everything is more bicycles. But there were young people I never saw before in my life, including numerous minorities. Whether they were forced to go as a result of some professor's demand, or came on their own, is unclear. But their message clashed sharply with the faux liberals who came in Volvos and Prius'. They're more concerned about getting by than getting by in a bike lane. They notice, and resent, the de facto segregation in our schools and that comes from redevelopment projects like the Allentown NIZ.

Few elected or public officials bothered to show. Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller and Easton Mayor Sal Panto were the most notable officials, along with Bethlehem Planning Director Darlene Heller. Muller came in quietly and went to work, while Panto treated it like a campaign event, glad-handing as many people as he could. Panto left soon after a video that showed him was played. Muller stayed.

Bethlehem City Council candidates Matt McKernan and Michael Colón were there, too.

This symposium split into five different groups. Alan Jennings, Roger Hudak and The Bethlehem Press' Paul Willistein were stuck with my group, which was fairly large.

The Lehigh Valley's Chief Problems and Successes

People in my group complained about the socio-economic divide in Allentown, where the rich get richer and the poor get shoved out; an un-responsive Bethlehem City government that seems to be out of touch; warehouses; "New Jersey's Affordable Housing Program" (Jennings); sprawl; segregated and disparate public schools; the talent drain of young people leaving the Lehigh Valley; police officers who need better training; the need for better mass transit with more north and south routes; and a need for more regionalization of municipal services in a region with 62 municipalities, 48 police chiefs and 17 school districts.

They had positive things to say, too, mostly about Bethlehem. The casino, Musikfest, Moravian heritage and St. Luke's Hospital, which is actually located in Fountain Hill, were mentioned as positives. The Lehigh Valley was described as a "great place to raise kids."

Is the Media Doing Its Job?

The reason that blogs came up is because Harris Sokoloff, our moderator, asked whether the"media" is doing a good job of covering local issues. One person who works at PBS-39 actually admitted he reads no newspapers or blogs. he later said he has read mine and pretty much disagrees with me. He gets his information by watching The Young Turks and Democracy Now. An older gentleman who lives in Easton's College Hill, relies exclusively on print media because the journalists there actually do research before writing stories, unlike people like me.

Everyone lamented the absence of old-fashioned investigative reporters

If people aren't interested in local news, why are they so interested in sports stories, asked Sokoloff. Several people claimed that's different, and this is where I chimed in.

The media is not doing its job. The Express Times, which helped sponsor this event, has just gone through another round of layoffs and has lost some good people again. That paper, along with The Morning Call, is increasingly absent from local meetings. Reporters instead rely on news releases. So when people stop following these news sources, it's because they no longer are doing their jobs.

You can see that pretty clearly in a recent Morning Call story about airport traffic, which basically regurgitates information provided by airport officials who are mostly interested in keeping their jobs. (My story about that is below this one).

I also detest the notion that a report is somehow inaccurate unless it is "objective." There is no such thing. That's why I like sports news writers. They can tell you the Eagles or Phillies really suck and then give you all the hard data. Could you imagine any good sportswriter who tries to cover a game like a local township meeting?

Print media is dead, and the new journalism is going to be in the form of online newspapers, of which blogs like this are progenitors. Right now, the chief problem is monetizing this source of news. But once that's done, and journalism adapts to the Internet, it will hopefully rebound.

The Two Lehigh Valleys 

At the end of the evening, as people shuffled out the door, Northampton Community College's Paul Pierpoint stated that his group had described two different Lehigh Valleys - one for the haves and another for the have nots.


Norco Twink said...

Bernie get back on the bike this spring otherwise there will be no more sugar in your coffee.

Anonymous said...

No shit! So is the world, one for the haves, one for the have not's.

These boys need a hobby.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the E-T has covered the Gracedale financial update provided to council a couple weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Keep electing Republicans and of course there will be a widening gap of haves and have nots. The Repubs stack the deck in our favor. Just look at the absolutely ridiculous fight over college loans going on in Washington right now. Repubs have absolutely no interest in helping finance loans while college tuitions keep going up. Repubs have no interest in increasing minimum wage. Repubs have no interest in building infrastructure and putting people to work. Repubs like the status quo where people like me earn enough not be troubled by what's going on and they never bother to ask us to help out.

Anonymous said...

These "public input"
meeting are such a load of bullshit.
Bla Bla Bla one after another...

Unknown said...

Who can take either LV daily seriously?

Anonymous said...

Word is the McKernan was recruited by Joe Kelly and is part of the Callahan revival plan.

Anonymous said...


You're right about the Republicans.

That's why the 100% Democrat cities and states are such paradises to live in.

Oh, wait, my bad.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Word is the McKernan was recruited by Joe Kelly and is part of the Callahan revival plan."

Do you actually have anything to say about the event? Whey not tell me why none of the other candidates were there?

Anonymous said...

All of this has been solved by minor league hockey. There's no more need for these forums. Ethnics were effectively cleansed from downtown Allentown and the hockey arena and connecting garages can be emptied out of Allentown in fewer than 20 minutes. There's no need to traverse the streets. I'll meet you for breakfast there some morning. The place is a ghost town with lots of parking. Thank God for the NIZ.

Anonymous said...

Is Colon standing in a pothole?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Heh heh. There were a few jokes about these two next to each other last night. Had no idea Matt was so tall.

Anonymous said...

That's why the 100% Democrat cities and states are such paradises to live in.

The vast majority of people live in blue states. And yes, living in blue states is better from a wage, civil rights, and standard of living standpoint. Feel free to move to Alabama, gomer. You are in blue state - one that elected Democrats in the last 6 Presidential elections.

Unknown said...

Maybe the young people and "minorities" were there because they are really interested in the future of their community.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As someone who is attended many of these forms over the years I can safely state that the attendance of so many minorities of young people is highly unusual.