About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Is Nazareth Mayor Blowin' Oil?

Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye blocked me from his Facebook page some time ago for some reason. But a friend has sent me a rant Strye posted there yesterday, battling his foes with sports cliches. Someone better throw him up on a lift and find out why he's blowin' oil. Here's what he says.

There comes a time in ones life to throw up your arms and just give in. NOT ME! I am in it to win it. Throw what you want at me. There is always a bright light at the end of the tunnel and I know how to find it. I will not be intimidated or controlled! Take your best shot and most likely it will be your last.

I'm unsure exactly who his enemies are because he never names them. But he has made few friends among full time Nazareth police officers. He and Borough Council recently fired Adam Shimer, a military veteran and Nazareth resident, just days before his probation was set to expire. Officers from other police departments, many of whom know Shimer, consider him a good cop. They consider this termination "chickenshit" from a Mayor and Council intent on destroying good cops and replacing them with those who will do their bidding and let them know when the next gambling raid is coming and who is working undercover at the clubs.

I cover Hanover and Bethlehem Township for a local weekly. Elected officials there only get involved in police budgetary considerations. They leave police operations to the police. It's much different in Nazareth and many other small communities, where Mayors intercede in matters as minor as a parking ticket and many just happen to be involved in the social clubs.

Nazareth is currently facing three civil rights suits filed by current (Stephen Schleigh, Fred Lahovski) and former (Connie McGinniss) police officers. That alone should send off all kinds of warning signals that something is seriously amiss.

But that's not all.

A civil rights suit has also been been filed over the death of Timothy Nixon, who was battling mental illness and shot himself when part-time Officer Danny Troxell, a full-time wannabe and protege of Chief Thomas Trachta, barged into his apartment building.

Nazareth Police Department and Troxell were sued over the use of excessive force on a man who was repeatedly tased while handcuffed, inside of a police vehicle. That matter was settled prior to trial. (Hendricks v. Swan, et al., Eastern District of Pennsylvania, # 11-cv-7394).

Chief Thomas Trachta and Troxell unlawfully prosecuted three Borough residents for exercising their First Amendment rights by allegedly posting small postage stamp stickers urging the dismissal of Chief Trachta. Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner admonished Trachta that sometimes, “You have to suck it up, cupcake.”

Instead of doing that, Trachta next fired school crossing guard Karen Herbst because her husband dared run against Mayor Strye.

Officer Lahovski's complaint, which has survived a Motion to Dismiss, details a series of unlawful retaliatory actions taken by the Nazareth and Trachta. They show an utter disregard for the constitutional and legal rights of residents and some individuals within the Department. Officer Schleig's lawsuit is a mirror image, listing all kinds of retaliatory actions taken against him for union activity, including the refusal to provide a proper uniform.

Now Borough Council did order an investigation into its police department’s operations. But they rejected the report when it came back highly critical of them and the Chief. When I confronted Council over this study, they denied its existence twice during open meetings.

When Nazareth hired Randy Miller as Deputy Chief, I though things would improve. They've grown worse. Now it's a top heavy department with too many chiefs. Miller did nothing to stop the unnecessary termination of Officer Shimer while civil rights violator Troxelll is allowed to come and go as he pleases. He appears to have been brought aboard as a union buster, not a police officer.

Nazareth condones and ratifies violations of Constitutional and legal rights by certain officers and the Chief. They have hired lawyers to scour the sagebush and bayous of southern circuit courts to find opinions friendly to their view, which seems to be that the Constitution has no application in Nazareth. They will fail.

Now that Shimer has been shoved aside, the door is open for Trachta to insert Troxell as a full-time officer.

Against this backdrop, I find it astonishing that Strye is lashing out the way he is.

Very few people are willing to publicly criticize elected officials. Most keep their heads down, while others become sycophants who blow smoke up the asses of these officials, instead of being honest with them.

On Strye's page, one of his cheerleaders actually states, "A lion doesn't need the approval of sheep."

That comment betrays a rather condescending opinion towards the people that any elected officials is supposed to serve. I always thought of government officials as servants, not lions.

Wolves might be a more appropriate word.

Sam Murray Kicks Off Judicial Quest

(From left to right: Marge Murray, Stephen J Barron Jr, Lisa M. Boscola, Sam Murray, Nuria DiLuzio, Bob Donchez, Melissa Rudas and Mark Diluzio). 

This weekend, in the midst of splendid weather and a bevy of beauties, Easton Attorney Sam Murray kicked off his race to be elected Northampton County's next judge. He did so from Missy Rudas' back yard, in a speech that told voters that they have a very clear choice. One is a man who has practiced law for 32 years, including ten as a Juvenile Hearing Officer. The other is a man whose rash judgment has cost Northampton County taxpayers nearly $300,000. One believes in due process, the most important quality in a judge. The other has been found to violate this basic right. One of them follows the Home Rule Charter. The other defended the Exec's decision to hire a public relations consultant and even advised him to go ahead and borrow $20 million to balance the budget.

Controller Steve Barron, who is seeking re-election was there. So were State Senator Lisa Boscola, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. and Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio.

Murray came out swinging. Though most judicial contests are sleepers, this one promises to be quite interesting. He spoke out quite forcefully about how Jill Mancini, a former Assistant NorCo Solicitor, was fired by Murray's opponent, Vic Scomillio, just two days before Christmas.

Though Scomillio was not yet in office as County Solicitor, he fired her anyway. By cellphone. From a car. In a call that kept fading in and out. He even sent a Deputy Sheriff up to collect her card key at the end of the day. A federal jury would later determine that in doing so, Scomillio violated this person's rights to due process. He failed to provide this person with notice or an opportunity to be heard, instead acting precipitously.

That's why a judge exists. He is there to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard.

Scomillio's error will cost taxpayers at least $300,000.

When finally sworn in, Scomillio would go on to argue that it was perfectly legal for Executive John Brown to have taxpayers pay for a public relations consultant to shovel propaganda at us. He even advised brown he could borrow $20 million to balance the budget, in clear violation of the Home Rule Charter.

People need to know these stark differences before they decide on who they want to elect as a judge to ensure their own due process rights.

You can see my pictures from this event here. As a matter of full disclosure I support Murray for judge and have contributed to his campaign. I will attempt to be fair to Scomillio, but his violation of due process disqualifies him in my mind.

Where's the Gift Ban in Allentown and Easton?

Some people like former NorCo Executive John Stoffa have a deep sense of personal integrity. He once refused a bag of pretzels from someone who wanted money from the County. He refused to accept a parking spot just for him, choosing instead to trudge up the hill to the courthouse until his hip gave out. In Bethlehem, former City Council Clerk Cindy Biedenkopf refused a gift of tickets to some event she wanted to see, choosing instead to write out a check. Vic Mazziotti would tell NorCo vendors who wanted to buy him lunch that they could, but they would never do business in the County. Some people do the right thing without others telling them. For others, there's a gift ban policy like the one recently announced by Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. Why has neither Allentown's Fed Ed nor Easton's Sal Panto imposed a similar ban? Their silence on this topic speaks volumes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Opinions Online, August 29, 2015

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.

The Northampton County 911 Center is definitely filled with less desirable employees, people wake up.


START SPEAKING OUT AMERICA! Our nation is in trouble and it's too far gone to hide anymore. Remove incumbents.


I have developed a friendship with incarcerated former Bethlehem City Council President James Gregory via letter and phone, my feeling is he was railroaded by his political enemies and now is forced to endure barbaric conditions simply because he refuses to admit guilt to crimes he is insistent that he did not commit.

My hope is that all can find it in their hearts to put some money on Jim's books to support him in this darkest hour, Harvey is simply not enough to carry him through.


When Obama said he has "the most transparent Administration in history," he meant that he doesn't hide the fact that he's a Manchurian Candidate hell-bent on destroying America.


As a court-appointed employee of Northampton County, I'm routinely told by my supervisors and Court Administration that I'm prohibited from publically expressing my opinion regarding politics in any way. For example, an e-mail from Jill Cicero dated 1/28/13 states: "Please remind staff that the Supreme Court Prohibition against Political Involvement extends to social media, ie. Facebook, Twitter, etc. Staff are prohibited from “liking” and/or commenting on statuses or pages for political candidates and cannot respond to invitations for events for same." Court Administration's interpretation of the 1998 Supreme Court Order is overly broad and is, in my opinion, a violation of hundreds of employees' First Amendment rights. I understand that running for public office or soliciting campaign contributions are prohibited, and rightly so. However, I believe that employees have the right to discuss politics or express support for a political candidate via their personal social media accounts or in any other public forum, so long as it's not done in their official capacity or on county time.


In the recent cases of Jack Cuvo, the Blog Mentor, Mezzacappa, J. Gregory and who ever else fits the case, how does a person as such get and receive the help they need in today's society. Or do we just see them throw their and ruin lives away along with their loved ones?


Chamber of Commerce - Still a good old boys network or really worth the time?


Good government REQUIRES an underlying system of checks and balances. News media, both national and local, was once a big part of that mechanism. It brought resources to the discussion of events and proposals that no average citizen could match. It's role was as guardian of the public interest. It had leverage in securing accuracy and moderation. Most, not all, news agencies valued the public's trust.

In today's America, citizens are being deprived that same protection. They are often purposely misled by an owner/publisher who answers to another 'Master.' - Fred Windish


Officer Hendricks should quietly, and quickly, slide back into his private life where he can enjoy his fat public pension.
Think of him (and Juilo) next time you pay your water bill...and you'd better damned well not be late or it WILL be shut off.
That you can count on.

Okay, lets consider something. let's rate the best to the worst County Executive ever to hold the office........
Hartzell is my no 1
Seyfried is my no 2
bechtel is my no 3
brackbill, brown, Stoffa and reibman are all tied for last.
Cmon Bernie, let's have a column dedicated to this issue.
How do all you other Bloggers rate the executives.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Officer Schleig's Lawsuit Against Nazareth

A reader has asked me to post Officer Stephen Schleig's lawsuit against Nazareth. Below you will see his Complaint, which was filed earlier this month.

Stephen Schleig Lawsuit v. Nazareth

NCC Dedicates New Residence Hall

From L to R: Dr. Susan Salvador, Dr. Mark Erickson, Martin Till, Lauren Strong, Arif Fazil and Robert Fehnel 

A new residence hall for up to 330 students is open for business at Northampton Community College. During a brief ceremony on August 27, President Mark Erickson lauded the $20 million project, which will house students from 20 different countries, as a "learning laboratory." He was especially happy that the dorm, which connects with existing facilities, was finished on time and under budget. It nearly doubles the number of students who will be able to live on campus.

Lauren Strong will be a Resident Advisor
J.G. Petrucci Co., Inc., managed the construction of the facility, whose centerpiece is a dining commons with a 35' high ceiling. It includes free Wi-Fi, computers, 24-hour security, a den for late night snacks, an outdoor courtyard, and most importantly, washers and dryers.

Arif Fazil, President of D'Huy Engineering, was especially impressed by the washers and dryers.

"Do laundry often," he advised students. "Don't bring it home."

Lauren Strong, a NCC student who will be a Resident Advisor, explained to the audience of about 80 that she and many others are continuing their education after a break from schooling. In her case, it was a five-year break. What she likes about Northampton Community College is that it provides "quality and affordable education without sacrificing the college experience."
Toni DeHart and Josh Lopez are two of the cooks at the dining commons, which will include gluten and dairy-free options
The NCC Spartan provided security

Chris and Bill Murphy Celebrate 43 Years of Marriage

You've probably read Bill Murphy's name from time to time in the newspapers. He is Easton's Solicitor and has somehow survived through at least three Mayors. What you may not know is that he is also Solicitor to Northampton Community College. His firm has represented the school since it was founded in 1966. He attended yesterday's dedication of the new dorms, accompanied by his beautiful wife Christine.

Christine and Bill celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary on Wednesday and are looking forward to seeing Gladys Knight at the Sands tonight.

Christine, incidentally, is the daughter of Andrew Herster, who as District Attorney gave a job to a young lawyer from Shenandoah. That lawyer was my father, who would succeed Herster as District Attorney.

Muller to Unveil 2016 LC Budget at Cedarbrook

Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller has chosen Cedarbrook as the backdrop for the release of his 2106 Budget. He's expected to make it official on Monday at 1 pm.

Muller and Lehigh County Commissioners have sparred over the nursing home.But according the Commissioner Vic Mazziotti, the prognosis is good. On Thursday, he told Lehigh Valley Business that he'd like to renovate or rebuild the existing 451-bed facility. He's been critical of housing four residents to a single room, and would prefer to see two to a room, with bathroom access.

Muller has accused both Mazziotti and Commissioner Lisa Scheller as supporting Cedarbrook's sale, a charge that both deny.

What amazes me is how Lehigh Valley state legislators turn a blind eye to the very real financials crisis facing publicly owned nursing homes in both Lehigh and Northampton County.

Tom Killion, a State representative from Montgomery County, has introduced legislation that could make more Medicaid reimbursements available. In Northampton County, that would translate to about $2.5 million per year, and my guess is that a similar sum would go to Cedarbrook.

To date, the following Lehigh Valley State Representatives have NOT signed on as sponsors: Gary Day, Ryan Mackenzie, Steve Samuelson, Pete Schweyer and Justin Simmons.

I should point out that sometime between my irst story about this house bill and now, Mike Schlossberg did sign on. Geoff Brace, who works for Schlossberg, is a Lehigh County Commissioner and should have been pushing the matter long before I did. Lehigh County Commissioners have yet to adopt a resolution calling on the their local state house delegation to sponsor this important bill.

You Can Now Register to Vote Online in Pa

If you want to vote in November, it is now possible to register online in Pennsylvania. This was one of Governor Tom Wolf's campaign promises. The Keystone State is the 23rd to take advantage of the Internet, which confirms identity through examination of driver licenses. In addition to registering, the Pa. Online Voter Registration site can be used to update addresses, names and party affiliation.

The last day to register to vote for this November's election is October 5.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Are Republicans Winning in Northampton County?

year democrats republicans difference indies notes
2007 16,960 13,255 3,705 2,049 barron upset
2009 15,800 15.056 744 2,251 rs sweep at-large
2011 17,082 13,846 3,236 2,301 gracedale, angle
2013 17,799 15,883 1,916 2,763 rs sweep

Aside from the fact that they get more votes, I really have no idea why Republicans are winning in Northampton County, despite a Democratic voter edge. But I do have something better - a table showing the patterns in the last four municipal races.

The last four elections

In 2007, Democrat Steve Barron upset John Shimmel in the Controller's race, winning by 414 votes. In the other races, the incumbents prevailed, although in Lamont McClure's case, it was only by 91 votes.

In 2009, Democrats Leonard Zito and Michael Koury captured two judgeships, with the third going to Republican Craig Dally. Democrat John Stoffa was unopposed in the Executive race. Republicans managed a clean sweep of the at-large Council seats.

Just two years later, in 2011, Democrats managed to not only make a clean sweep in the district council races, but also ousted incumbents Mike Dowd and Ron Angle. Steve Barron also retained his seat as Controller.

Most recently, in 2013, Republicans won every race, including a judgeship, the Executive and five at-large Council seats.

What are the patterns?

First, it is clear that independents are a factor. Their numbers have increased by 35% since 2007, much more than either of the major parties. My guess is that they are anti-incumbent.

Second, there is an ebb and flow. When there's an Executive race, Republicans become much more interested. They are less likely to vote in races when just district Council seats are in play.

Third, Gracedale was definitely a factor in 2011, when only 13,846 Republicans voted . The larger turnout in Easton doomed Mike Dowd. Ron Angle was condemned by his stand on Gracedale, along with disputes over his father's will and a fraud verdict in a business dispute.

Fourth, in 2013, well known Democrats were defeated by unknown Republicans, suggesting a desire for something new.

Fifth, Democrats are obviously splitting their tickets.

Things look bad for Democrats, but the tend to do better in races where District seats are in play.

Do you see any patterns?

Glazier Defends Eichenwald Reform Delay

Thanks to a bad back that occasionally flares up, I was unable to attend the Allentown City Council Committee that has decided to delay taking any action on Jeanette Eichenwald's bill to provide for more oversight over city contracts. Fortunately, activist Lou Schupe videotaped the lengthy hearing. The fireworks begin near the end, when Eichenwald confronts Jeff Glazier. He's the council member who unilaterally decided to delay her bill.

Eichenwald approached at the end of the meeting. She noted that once a bill has been introduced and seconded, it is customarily reviewed by a committee. But Glazier wants her reform measure reviewed by an "ad hoc" committee that includes citizens. She found it ironic that Glazier, who ordinarily wants nothing but silence from the public at meetings, would suddenly want to reach out. She indicated Council has had ample opportunity to research good government reforms in the six weeks since the FBI raid. "The citizens of Allentown are looking for good government, and it is the responsibility of members of City Council to do what is in their utmost capability to provide that. I am extraordinarily upset about this decision and I find it inappropriate and certainly not in the interest of good government."

Glazier defended his decision, calling himself a "most astute observer of things on Council." He stated that Eichenwald has herself delayed placing a gun bill that has been introduced by the administration.

"We were told by the law department, our own Solicitor, that we should not have that particular legislation here, that it would open us up to be sued.

Glazier then stated he wanted "to take a few moments" to understand the "ramifications of the bill" and then actually seemed to complain that the bill is too much like a similar contract oversight law in Bethlehem and that his agenda was too full that night.

Sticking to her guns, the Iron Lady accused Glazier of delaying the bill, calling it a "disservice to the citizens of Allentown."

In an exchange with reform activist Robert Trotner, Glazier stated he supports the bill.

Daryl Hendricks justified dragging his feet, and complained about "new legislation." He supports a delay of six to eight weeks and said it is "very unfair" to accuse him of being part of the problem because he was a cop.

The bill is scheduled for review on September 10.

Opinions Online Also Now Includes Phone Capability

Opinions Online, which I hope to make a regular Saturday feature, now has a phone feature. You can click on the button on the left sidebar to post your thoughts on any topic. You can also phone in a comment by calling 385-325-2564. At this point, I have received five comments for this week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hanover Township Wants PennEast Pipeline Away From Watershed

Left to Right: Mark Tanczos, Glenn Walbert and John Diacogiannis
The latest changes made in the 114-mile route of the PennEast pipeline, which extends between Wilkes-Barre and Trenton, has Hanover Township Supervisors concerned. At their August 25 meeting, they directed Township Manager Jay Finnigan to send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), expressing concerns about route changes that might have a negative impact on the water supply for 115,000 Lehigh Valley residents, including those in Hanover Township. While expressing no opposition to the pipeline, Supervisors were disturbed to learn that the latest changes not only go through the watershed, but place it too close to Bethlehem Authority's water transmission line.

The pipeline was re-routed so that it can supply gas service to the Blue Mountain Ski resort.

"It is the issue of the water supply that we're concerned about," observed Supervisor Glenn Walbert.

Finnigan Henpecked Over Hanover Fowl Ban

Amy Zanelli
Although part of Hanover Township was once known as Chickentown, animal husbandry has been banned in residential areas since the '60s. Northampton County Children and Youth caseworker Amy Zinelli would like that policy to change, and appealed to Supervisors at their August 25 meeting. Flashing her badge, she complained that Township Manager Jay Finnigan had engaged in fowl play when he told her that the Board is unlikely to change its mind. "I don't think it's fair that one Board member should speak for the rest," she argued. She asked Supervisors to allow her to make a presentation at their next meeting, and they agreed.

Finnigan, who is Manager and not a Board member, was relaying their policy as of November 2011, which was the last time this issue was discussed. "We've been down that road before,and rather recently," observed Chairman John N. Diacogiannis. But he told Zinelli that she is welcome to make a presentation at a meeting in September.

Zinelli told Supervisors that she began circulating a petition that afternoon, and in two hours, had 50 signatures in support of backyard chickens. The only person who refused to sign was the neighbor who had complained. She has been ordered to shut down her operation, or face a fine of $500 a day. She explained that she has a tiny coup of four hens, with no rooster, and uses it to teach her own and other neighborhood children about the benefits of urban agriculture. "I am sure this was not the type of activity that the community was seeking to prevent when it enacted the ban," she remarked.

She made clear that she wants more than a special exception. She wants the animal husbandry ban changed.

The increasing popularity of urban chickens has extended into some major metropolitan areas like New York City, Portland and Seattle. But to some, backyard chickens are for the birds. Among the concerns raised are odors, unwanted predators, declining property values, noise and disease.

Opinions Online Will Publish On Saturday

Opinions Online is going to be a regular Saturday feature on this blog, and gives you the opportunity to weigh in on any topic. So far, four comments have come in for this week.

Geissinger Eyeing Congressional Bid

Northampton County Council VP Glenn Geissinger, is reportedly considering a challenge to U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright in Pa.'s heavily Democratic 17th Congressional District. Geissinger, a Republican. is finishing his second year in office. He is expected to make an announcement on September 8.

Geissinger is a Whitehall HS grad, a Lehigh and Moravian alumnus, has a B.S. in Accounting and is also an Army veteran. He is very active in his church, has served as a cub scout den leader, and has two great children.

Cartwright is a Scranton-area lawyer who graduated from the University of Pa. Law School. Like Geissinger, he is very proud of his two sons.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RIP Doris Lombardo

Doris Lombardo is a name well known to people who participated in Northampton County Sheriff Sales. I could give her a name and she could tell me when the property was sold and whether there were any problems. She was part of the Great Exodus of county workers who left at the end of the year.

She died yesterday after a brief illness. She will be missed by many people, including me.

Protest Planned Over Eichenwald Reform Delay

Robert Trotner is an attorney, Internet radio host and good government activist who was advocating campaign finance reform long before the feds visited Allentown. Upset by the news that City Council intends to delay a Jeanette Eichenwald bill to provide for more oversight over Allentown contracts, he has scheduled a protest outside City Hall on Wednesday, between 5 and 6 pm, ending just before a city council committee is scheduled to meet. "They had agreed to consider Bill 39 to stop the Pawlowski administration from continuing to hand out illegal crony contracts tonight but are now reneging. Council needs to be accountable as the People's Bulwark against Pawlowski corruption."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ron Angle Appointed to School Board despite Judge's Hissy Fit

Angle amused at Grigg's histrionics
He may have dropped his bid to be Controller, but Ron Angle is back in public office. He was appointed to Bangor's School Board last night from a field of five well-qualified candidates. He was elected on the first ballot, too, after all five candidates had been nominated. Angle received votes from President Michael Goffredo, Ken Brewer, Bruce Cameron, Toni Lynch and Bob Cartwright. He will only be in office for the next three months, finishing the term of Pam Colton. He was elected on the first ballot despite inappropriate meddling from Magisterial District Judge Sherwood Grigg, a die-hard Democrat who lobbied against Angle. He was elected on the first ballot despite the slinking presence of Northampton County Democratic Chair Matt Munsey, who apparently has given up on the actual partisan races for judge, controller and county council. Angle was appointed because he could hit the ground running. Unlike the other candidates, who quickly disappeared after the vote, Angle has been a regular at school board meetings and understands the issues. He proved it last night, proposing an approach to financing debt that could save the school district as much as $70,000.

Magisterial District Judge Sherwood Grigg Meddles in Angle Appointment

Grigg not a happy camper
Sherwood Grigg is a senior Magisterial District Judge. By now, he should know that it's inappropriate for a jurist to be involved in political activity, as prescribed by Canon 4 of the Rules Governing the Standards of Conduct for Magisterial District Judges. He should also know he has an obligation to be impartial, which is spelled out in Canon 2. But Grigg threw judicial ethics to the four winds in an attempt to sabotage Angle's appointment.

Angle is the Republican that democrats love to hate.

Earlier in the day, Grigg was promising people that there was no way Ron would be appointed,. Grigg would make sure of that himself by calling school directors and urging them to vote against the Northampton County Bulldog. .

Before the school board meeting started, he explained to the person seated next to him that he had come to swear in the new appointment, but refused to bring his robe. Then he added, "If a certain person is nominated and elected, I'm out of here because I don't get paid to do this."

Grigg also spoke publicly in support of Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who earlier that day had been ordered to stand trial on perjury and other charges. "She was set up," he pontificated, and then noted how easy it is to set someone up.

When Angle saw Grigg, he sat next to him. Like the hypocrite he is, Grigg smiled and made small talk with Angle.

After Angle was nominated and elected with five votes, Grigg got up to complain that the board needs to go through all the other candidates. But Angle had already been elected, a point made by both Solicitor Don Spry and President Goffredo..

Despite his earlier threat to leave, Grigg remained to administer the oath. But it was a special oath> One I never heard before. It  went on about three times longer than most oaths of office, and included pledges like "I will not take kickbacks."

A bemused Angle went along for the ride.

Obviously, Grigg failed to act fairly and impartially. .

Angle Did Hit the Ground Running

Angle and Bob Cartwright. Those two could set fire to the Lincoln tunnel. 
Once sworn in, Angle actually did hit the ground running. In fact, he may have saved the school board as much as $70,000 in his first meeting.

The school board was considering refinancing some debt with an $8 million bond issue. This would save the district about $230,000, even with administrative costs. Bond counsel Kevin Reid estimated those to be about $110,000.

Angle suggested that, instead of floating a bind, the school district could save a huge chunk of the underwriting money by approaching several banks and getting a loan at a lower rate. Reid called Angle's suggestion reasonable, and Business Manager Mark Shiavone acknowledged he had seen that approach when he was in the banking industry himself.

Legal fees will remain the same, but the elimination of other underwriting costs could save around $70,000. So instead of just voting to float a bond, the Board unanimously directed the Business Manager to first explore the option of obtaining a loan

From there, the school board went into other matters, like how much to pay substitute teachers and whether it is paying too much for bottled water. I could only take so much and left after three hours. As I've written before, I think anyone who serves on a school board is nutz. It's a thankless job.

The Angle and Slate Belt People Don't Know

The slate belt is often derided as the armpit of the Lehigh Valley. I know this because I am one of its chief tormentors. But I'll let you in on a little secret. I love it up there. The air is just a little cleaner. The people are nutz, but are just a little happier. Its terrible economy, which results mainly from a lack of infrastructure, might just be a blessing in disguise. Instead of 500,000 and 600,000 sq ft warehouses, the area is dotted with beautiful farms and magnificent views.

Before last night's meeting, I brought Dat's grandmother up to see Ron and his wife Sharon. This person is Vietnamese and has been in this country since 1985. When she first arrived, in the dead of Winter, they were hosted by a family that could only afford to give them one meal a day. Her family scoured the fields outside of Bath, looking for corn. She knows little of the Lehigh Valley, outside of its three cities. She went nuts on Angle's farm, picking apples and pears. The Angle no one knows actually helped her. His wife Sharon offered a jar of homemade plum butter.

She then asked Angle for a chicken. Ron has no chickens, only geese. But he told her she was welcome to take a cow home. Unfortunately, she could not fit it into my car.

It's a Toyota.

He made her day, and all she could talk about on the ride back to her home is how nice Ron and Sharon are.

And they are.

The school board made a good call.

Express Times Reports Nazareth Police Officer's Civil Rights Lawsuit

The Express Times has picked up on Officer Steven Schleig's civil rights lawsuit that was first reported here on August 14. The content provider has yet to report Nazareth's termination of Officer Adam Shimer, which I also reported that same date.

Behind the Curtain, Allentown Burying Eichenwald Reform Measure

Robert Glazier, below the egg timer
Jeanette Eichenwald, who I like to call Allentown's very own Iron Lady, has opted against seeking a third term on City Council. But even in her last moments on Council, she is fighting hard for good government. She recently joined hands with Lehigh County Republican Vic Mazziotti to push a reform aimed at curbing pay-to-play. Prior to that, she proposed legislation that will give Council more oversight over how contracts are awarded. Though Julio Guridy has seconded the measure, Council members are trying to kill it in committee.

After its formal introduction last week, Eichenwald's reform was forwarded to Jeff Glazier's Budget and Finance Committee. But he refuses to conduct a hearing. This is completely contrary to what happens after a bill is introduced and seconded. Here's the run down, as it appears in an email chain that is public record.

Eichenwald to Clerk Mike Hanlon: "Did you forget to include in the Budget and Finance Agenda a discussion of the legislation to amend the manner in which service contracts are awarded introduced by Jeanette Eichenwald and Julio Guridy?"

Hanlon to Eichenwald: "Jeff did not want it on this agenda."

Allentown's Iron Lady
Eichenwald To President Ray O'Connell and Council: "Ray, The fact that Jeff Glazier has unilaterally decided that the contract bill is not on the Budget and Finance Committee agenda is absolutely disgusting and a disservice to the citizens of Allentown. It is customary procedure that once a legislation is seconded and assigned to committee, that legislation is placed on the committee agenda for the next meeting which in this case is August 26th. Jeff certainly has the right to vote against this legislation, but he does not have the right to stifle discussion on it. If Jeff does not want this legislation to be on the agenda of his committee, then Ray, as the president of the city council, has the right to assign it to a different committee.

Ray, as president of city council I expect you to enforce the customary procedure and avoid the need of my going to the public.

O'Connell to Eichenwald: "Jeff is the chairperson of Budget and Finance and has asked that it be not on this agenda due to the fact that he wants to form an ad hoc committee made up of council members and community members to do research on the topic and look at how other places handle this topic. With that being stated I support his decision and it will get on the council agenda in the VERY near future. I would respectfully ask that you support this endeavor.This is very important legislation going forth. Thank you.

Eichenwald to O'Connell and Council: "Here we go again. The plan that you and Jeff put forward is a delay tactic. The motion will be delayed again and again with the excuse that the Budget and Finance Committee is too busy reviewing next year's budget. Nothing that you have proposed obviates the fact that the legislation should be included in this month's agenda. You either want city council to have greater input in the awarding of contracts or you wish to continue the procedure that has led to an FBI investigation placing a dark cloud over the city. I and the citizens of Allentown will not be silenced by this disgusting ploy. There is absolutely no reason not to begin the discussion on this important issue NOW!! You can vote against the motion; you can create myriad ad hoc committees to discuss and research the motion; you can even hire consultants to study the motion, but it must be introduced NOW!!

Updated 1:10 pm: O'Connell denies desire to let bill die. His exact words: "There is no way shape or form that I want to kill this bill. This bill is certainly needed in Allentown.Jeff Glazier is the chair of Budget and Finance and asked me and others on the committee that he wants to form an ad hoc committee made up of council members and community members to get more insight and input concerning the bill. He would be looking at other cities,municipalities to gain the best practices available.

"I support that decision. I will not let this drag on for a long time. I would surely like to see something introduced and
voted on no later than the end of September. This is too important of legislation to rush it.

"Thank you for listening.'

Allentown Needs More, Not Less, of the First Amendment

A large crowd was on hand for last Wednesday's City Council meeting
Allentown is a crony capitalist economy and government. Its success depends on a close relationship among politicians, businesses and even the media. A recent illustration of this is Upward Allentown, a consortium of eight local Neighborhood Millionaire Improvement Zone (NIZ) developers and beneficiaries intent on creating the false impression that the ripple effect is underway. This requires propaganda, not truth or free speech. And the Morning Call obliged.

In a weekend story about Upward Allentown, a Morning Call headline (Activists: Neighborhood Improvement Zone has helped improve neighborhoods) actually depicts six banks, Butz and J.B. Reilly) as "activists."

That's like saying all the natural gas companies that make up the PennEast Pipeline are activists.

The Upward Allentown article was pure propaganda. It was like living in Moscow, circa 1975, reading Pravda or Izvestia and hearing how great things were as we all struggled to find enough money to live on. We are not supposed to believe what we "see" but rather, what we are "told." It was rather frightening and showed just what a shameless promoter Commissar Alan Jennings has become for his corporate overseers. A perfect yes man who does what he's told. They in turn throw a few coins at him and then go to church on Sunday.

This misrepresentation from the area's largest newspaper is intended to mislead you. In reality, the NIZ has destroyed many small and minority-owned businesses along Hamilton Street. Mosser Family Village, which has lost funding for its food bank and after-school programs, is in danger of closing.

City oligarchs have balked at a community benefits agreement, the one thing that might make a difference in the third world country that Allentown has become outside of the NIZ. This has been advocated both by former City Council member Michael Donovan and Allentown School Director Ce Ce Gerlach.They've been ignored.

Here's two more myths that The Morning Call (exclusive sale agent for Abe Atiyeh's billboards from its offices in the heart of the NIZ, as well as advertiser for many of the NIZ developers and beneficiaries) is covertly pushing:
  1. The federal investigation into Allentown's pay-to-play practices begins and ends with former political consultant Miked Fleck, and not the $54 million in state taxes that have been poured into the NIZ board coffers.
  2. The Allentown crooner who was recently bodyslamned by a police officer is a nuisance (suggested in a headline) who has no right to exercise free speech inside the NIZ, where it might interfere with the "dining experience."
While spreading misinformation and propaganda, Allentown's urban growth regime hates free speech.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Allentown City Hall chambers.

Before last week's meeting, a nervous Julio Guridy whispered to President Ray O'Connell that he better address the unwashed masses who had come to speak.

After a bullshit holier-than-thou prayer from Julio Guridy, the people were warned that no signs were permitted and even hats would have to be removed.

The signs, in particular, are core political speech. Nobody removed a sign. Fortunately, no one was bodyslammed, but I can see that day coming.

After three minutes, a microwave oven warned when each speaker that he was done, like a three-minute egg.

Allentown's Richard Fegley
One property owner complaining about the tax farmers who now collect in Allentown asked a rhetorical question of the audience, and Jeff Glazier immediately shut him up.  "Sir, your comments are to be directed to the President." Glazier than audibly sighed several times as though listening to the people speak is a real waste of his time.

When Council come to a public hearing on the Elias market expansion, Assistant City Solicitor Shawn M Dethleson actually advised them they could skip letting the public speak, despite of Home Rule Charter provision that specifically gives the public such a right.

That brought Rich Fegley, a real activist, to his feet. Council members tried to shout Fegley down until Council Clerk Mike Hanlon admitted that a mistake had been made.

"I'm glad I spoke out of place and spoke loudly," remarked Fegley. The rest of them would have preferred to keep the public silent. Certainly nobody thanked the brewmaster.

The first amendment is first for a reason. In a democracy, it is our most fundamental right. If that is to be restored in Allentown, we need more Shula singers, sign carriers and Richard Fegleys. And The Morning Call needs to decide whether it exists to perform the public service of providing the news or is just a paid content provider.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Opinions Online

Blogger's Note: The following is my first installment of Opinions Online, which I hope to make 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. I am also taking  five comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.


I like cheese.


It seems so odd that a woman as paranoid as Hillary Clinton would not have kept every document She ever was associated with filed somewhere.She has had 30 + of obstructing criminal investigations and has to have the documents needed for a criminal defense.


Please interview Ron Angle and get his opinion on the National Penn/BB&T merger. Will his stock go up? Did they merge so that Ron will not attend anymore NatPenn stockholder meetings?
Hereford John


Parking in downtown Allentown ought to be free throughout the NIZ, not just for Reilly-Ruled properties.


My views on the political rights attacks on Socialism backed with facts.

Not just my Opinion but actual numbers as well.


~Elijah LoPinto


Northampton County has wasted millions on the 911 system. Your asshole buddy Seyfried started it, Brackbill implemented it for 45 million, Reibman screwed it up and cost 10 million, a new center was built for more millions and staffed with in-experienced workers, now we might be asked to go into a regional 911 center with Lehigh County. How many millions must we spend before we get an efficient 911 system?


Bobble-head elected officials are increasingly the norm in Allentown. Not only in city council but on the school board as well. Seems they have their own motivation for running for office and then essentially doing nothing of any substance to protect the interests of the tax payer and residents of the city. Not too difficult a job, just sit there and say "Yes" to either the mayor or superintendent. Then they seem to end up accusing each other of exactly what they themselves are doing.


As a resident I am also mildly annoyed by the weekly trash that the Morning Call deposits on my lawn. It's like a weekly ritual, pick up their little trash bag and deposit it in my bigger trash bag. The township can solve this easily with a new ordinance, such as: Any periodical that is delivered to the property of a resident without their consent by means other than the US Mail is considered a littering offense and subject to the fines/penalties thereof.

I'm tempted to go to the next meeting to pitch this and have Hudak call me a piece of crap so I can call him a f*cking asshole in return. That would be neat.


You know who are true heroes? Firefighters. They constantly risk their lives, save others and they do it all without a gun.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Jimmy Carter For Cancer Survivor!

Donchez Imposes Gift Ban in Bethlehem

(Bethlehem, PA August 21, 2015) – Bethlehem Mayor Robert J. Donchez announced today a policy restricting all employees of the administration, including the Mayor, from accepting free tickets, gifts, invitations, gratuities from businesses, including any agency under within the administration where it can reasonably appear to be an attempt or intended effort to influence the employee in the discharge of that employees duties.

“As Mayor, I have been a strong advocate of transparency and openness. I believe that this policy will continue my belief that transparency in government is the best practice.”

This is similar to a gift ban imposed by Governor Wolf.

His policy, in its entirety, is below:

City of Bethlehem Administrative Gift Policy       


A.    The Public Official and Employee Ethics Act

The Pennsylvania Ethics Act prohibits “conflict[s] of interest” which are defined as:

Use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated.

Excluded from this definition is conduct that has a “de minimis economic impact” which is an economic consequence of an insignificant effect.

The term also does not include an action that:

affects to the same degree a class consisting of the general public or a subclass consisting of an industry, occupation or other group which includes the public official or public employee, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated.

The Ethics Act applies to elected and appointed officials, as well employees
who [are] responsible for taking or recommending official action of a nonministerial nature with regard to:

(1) contracting or procurement;
(2) administering or monitoring grants or subsidies;
(3) planning or zoning;
(4) inspecting, licensing, regulating or auditing any person; or
(5) any other activity where the official action has an economic impact of greater than a de minimis nature or the interests of any person.”

B.     City of Bethlehem Code of Conduct

City Council adopted Resolution No. 11,471 on June 18, 1991 which established a Code of Ethics for all City of Bethlehem Employees. Among other things, the Code requires all employees and officials of the City to:

Maintain a course of conduct at all times which will bring credit to [the employee or official] and the City of Bethlehem.

Avoid conflict of interest.

Avoid actions which create the appearance of impropriety.

Not ever use [the employee’s or official’s] position with the City of Bethlehem for personal gain.

Insist that all business transactions of the City of Bethlehem be on an ethical, open and above-board basis.

II)        General Background

Every City official and employee is a public servant.  Public servants must treat members of the public fairly and equitably.  Receipt of money, favors, gifts, gratuities invitations, food, drink, loans, promises or other benefits (collectively and subsequently referred to in this section as “gifts”) offered to a public servant because of that person’s position, may create the appearance of a conflict interest, if not an actual conflict of interest.  Similarly, solicitation of gifts by a public servant in that person’s capacity as a public servant, for that person’s own benefit, likely establishes a conflict of interest.

Public servants, in performing their duties, must work for the benefit of the community as a whole, giving equal consideration to each member of the public, and doing so without giving special regard because of finances, political affiliations, gender, orientation, creed, or other categorization.

Conflicts of interest betray the trust of the public with its government and violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. 
Premised on the above, I hereby issue the following:


Restriction on Acceptance of Gifts

City officials and employees are prohibited from soliciting or accepting money, favors, gifts, gratuities, invitations, food, drink, loans, promises or other benefits (collectively and subsequently referred to as “gifts”) from businesses, individuals, any agency or organization under circumstances indicating the donor has an actual or implied hope or expectation of receiving more favorable treatment than accorded the public generally or in legal, legislative, policy or transactional matters affecting the business or individual.  Noncompliance is subject to discipline. 

City officials and employees are prohibited from receiving gifts, under circumstances where it can reasonably appear to be an attempted or intended effort to influence the employee in the discharge of that employee’s duties.  Noncompliance is subject to discipline.

Acceptance of Gifts and Favors

When practical, gifts shall be returned to the giver.  When it is not practical to return a gift, the gift shall be given to the Controller who shall record the gift and the giver and donate the gift in the name of the City to a charity located in the City. 

Gifts may be accepted in the following circumstances:

When a gift has a clear market value and is one that is also available for the public to purchase (e.g. concert ticket; meal), the public official or employee may accept the gift provided the public official or employee pays its face value, publicly listed price or the fair market value if there is no fixed value for the gift. 

Gifts of food (cookies, candy, etc) may be available for consumption on the premises to the public and employees when such offer may not be reasonably seen as seeking to influence the public servants or to induce more favorable treatment toward the gifter.

From family members, business acquaintances and friends who are not seeking official action or business, and whose offer of the gifts may not reasonably be seen as trying to influence the public servant so as to receive favorable treatment in the discharge of the public servant’s official duties.

Promotional offers or discounts on goods or services when offered to all employees may be accepted when such offer may not reasonably be seen as trying to induce the public servants to provide better treatment to the offeror than is accorded the general public or as trying to influence the public servants’ discharge of official duties. 

Nominal, de minimis tokens of appreciation at public appearances may be accepted.

Food or drink of nominal value supplied at business or informational meetings or at social events where it is available to all attendees (meaning nominal offerings commonly provided in the spirit of convenience or hospitality) may be accepted when such offer may not reasonably be seen as an attempt to induce the public servant to give favorable treatment to the host, sponsor or supplier in the public servant’s discharge of official duties. 

Offering of Gifts

The Mayor reserves discretion to debar a contractor, vendor, professional or other party deemed in the Mayor’s judgment to have either attempted to influence or in fact influenced an employee in the discharge of that employee’s duties by providing gifts.

Meetings with Individuals or Businesses

Department Heads or individuals representing department heads, at meetings with individuals, groups, or businesses reasonably likely or possibly having legal, legislative, transactional, or policy related business with the City, or in the City, shall have an additional department employee attend the meeting except where reasonably impracticable.  At least one of the City participants shall take, prepare and retain notes that identify the participants and summarize the content of the meeting. 

Review Committee

A Committee will be created to address questions regarding the application of these rules in particular situations.  The Committee will consist of the Chief of Staff, the Director of Human Resources and a representative of the Law Bureau.

Executive Brown Commends West Easton Borough Council

John Brown
At the August 20 meeting of Northampton County Council, Executive John Brown expressed his appreciation to West Easton Borough Council for agreeing to the addition of low level offenders to the work release facility. The County had been averaging about 50 prisoners at this center, but by next week, there will be over 100 residents. "That will take some pressure off of the old portions of our current jail," he remarked.

Northampton County's jail, built in 1871, is one of the oldest in the nation. It cost $200,000 to build.

"I wanted to just publicly thank the Board from West Easton for allowing us, because without that change, we would be kind of where we were before," Brown remarked. "This is a huge step forward."

Brown also told Council that he is relaxing the agility testing for new corrections officers so that he can eliminate the nearly 40 vacancies among corrections officers.

Brown also reported that the County is participating in a joint study with Bethlehem, Lehigh County and Allentown to study the feasibility of a regional 911 center.

When Pat Broscius is sworn in as a Magisterial District Judge in January, she will have a courtroom and office in which to hear cases. It will be at the Trolley Station at 3650 Nazareth Pike,  the same place where Magisterial District Judge Joe Barner mediated disputes. By an 8-0 vote, Northampton County Council approved a 10-year lease for 2,520 sq ft of office space with Bethlehem Village Associates at a rate of $4,410 per month. Bethlehem Village will be responsible for most utilities and improvements.

In other business, Council approved some personnel requests. An accountant in Court Administration will be reclassified as a Court Fiscal Administrator with a top salary of $69,359. Sixteen part-time Registered Nurse Supervisors were approved at a salary of $29 per hour. These measures passed 8-0, but Mat Benol was troubled by a request to transfer a painter from Housekeeping at Gracedale into the Maintenance department and also, to add a second painting position at a top salary of $43,349.

Though this salary has already been set, Benol complained that taxpayers are really paying between $60,000-75,000 for these positions, when benefits are included.

"Yeah, but that's $10 below prevailing wage for what painters are paid in the county," responded Ken Kraft, a business agent with a local painters' union. "I was going to make a motion to increase the rate $10,000 more so it's equivalent to the prevailing wage rate for the county."

"$75,000 for a painter!" continued Benol, saying he'd prefer to have jail inmates do the work."This is just a lot of money that the county is spending." Executive John Brown observed that bringing people from the jail would actually cause more work than the painters themselves. "Sometimes, it makes sense to add a particular position," he argued.

Only Benol voted against the painting transfer and new hire.

Council voted 8-0 to approve two bridge repair contracts

The first of these was with Bi-State Construction Co.for stream and channel cleaning at three county bridges. Bi-State bid $82,875. for the work, which was much lower than a $210,932.17 bid.from Bill Anskis Company, Inc.

The second bridge contract was with Clearwater Construction,Inc. for a bituminous concrete overlay on eight county bridges. Continuous bid $228,805,00, which was lower than the $364,004.00 bid submitted by Barker and Barker Paving.

Seth Vaughn, who missed the committee meeting in which this purchase was discussed, asked Public Works Director Stan Rugis, "What's a bituminous concrete overlay?"

"Basically, it's asphalt."

"So these bridges are in need of it?"

"No, they're just doing it for fun," wisecracked Scott Parsons

 Finally, Council voted 6-2 to approve a no-bid contract with Xerox for blade servers and upgrades at a cost of $241,987.20. Xerox is the County's IT provider and is able to use Xerox' global reseller status for cost effective purchases. Glenn Geissinger and Benol voted against this purchase without explanation.

Lamont McClure was unable to attend the meeting as a result of a business conflict, and Glenn Geissinger participated by phone.  

Many LV Legislators Ignoring Gracedale, Cedarbrook Crisis

Gracedale and Cedarbrook are two of just 23 publicly owned nursing homes that still exist in Pennsylvania. Most have a Medicaid occupancy rate of over 75%. Unlike private homes, they must accept Medicaid patients from the onset, and they thus provide an important safety net for some of the state's most vulnerable citizens. But unlike private homes, the counties are required to pay ten per cent of this Medicaid cost. In the case of a place like Gracedale, that's about $2.5 million per year. State Representative Tom Killion, a Republican from Newtown Square, has proposed legislation that will eliminate this requirement and make it easier to keep Gracedale and Cedarbrook county-owned. Though this bill is supported by some members of the Lehigh Valley delegation to the state house, and is endorsed by the state county commissioners association,  I am astonished to see that many of the people's supposed representatives don't give a shit.

The Good

Members of the LV delegation to the state house who support Killions's bill are Joe Emrick, Bob Freeman, Marcia Hahn, Julie Harhart and Danny McNeill. That's three Republicans and two Democrats.

The Bad

Members of the LV delegation who have ignored this bill are Gary Day, Ryan Mackenzie, Steve Samuelson, Mike Schlossberg, Pete Schweyer and Justin Simmons. That's three Republicans and three Democrats who can't be bothered.

The Ugly

Mike Schlossberg's failure to sponsor this legislation is totally irresponsible. He apparently thinks he's in office to foster the desires of J.B. Reilly and Fed Ed instead of the many people in his district who fall between the cracks. What is especially appalling about this lapse is that one of his aides, Geoff Brace, is a Lehigh County Commissioner.

Don't you guys talk?

Lehigh County Commissioners are blown' oil right now over the financial crisis at Cedarbrook. What they should do is adopt a resolution calling on State representatives in Lehigh County to start helping Cedarbrook, instead of ignoring it.

Jim Hunter: Watching the Bucks ... and the Does

Doe hunting licenses first became available on July 13 to state residents in any one of 23 different areas. Much of Northampton County, for example, is in WMU 3D. Hunters seeking a license pick out three Wildlife Management Units in case the first or second choice is sold out. Nonresidents can apply for license, too, but they must wait until July 27.

Northampton County is one of 12 licensing agents for the state. Lehigh County does not accept applications for doe licenses.

According to Scott Parsons, at least ten hunters have complained to him that they sent in applications for doe licenses to Northampton County, but have been turned down in the northern areas that are sold out.  He has been told that other hunters who have applied elsewhere were able to get their first choice honored. "It seems to me the problem is here," remarked Parsons, wondering whether staffing shortages have resulted in processing shortages.

Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter denied there are any staffing shortages. Staff in Revenue is down one person, but there have been no delays in processing applications promptly, even if overtime is required.

After Hunter was done explaining that there have been no issues, Hayden Phillips remarked, "Not only do we have this guy watching the bucks, but now we have him to watch the does."

Dennis Lieb: Easton Needs A Real Parking Plan

Blogger's Note: Dennis Lieb, a former Easton Planning Commissioner, offers his analysis of parking in Easton. 

I have copied below this  parking rate chart from a sidebar of today's  Easton Main Street Weekend Events Email  (08/07/15). I had not read the particulars of the parking rates in Easton since the regular meter rate increase from 50 cents to $1, which took place after the Cleveland-based parking consultants' concluded their series of public meetings a few years ago. This is yet another example of Easton not having a clue about parking management or even the reason  why you charge people to park. The issue at question is the rate for garage parking vis-a-vis on-street parking. The new deck is priced at twice the meter rate and the old deck at triple the rate. HUH???


The NEW South Third Street Parking Deck is now open to the public.
Rate: $2/hour 5am-5pm*
Flat $1 fee 5pm-5am (available at both parking decks)

Meter Rates and Times:
$1/hour 9am-8pm Monday-Saturday
$1/hour 12pm-6pm Sundays
Most meters accept nickels, dimes, quarters and credit cards.
Parking meter app com ing soon!
Pay from your phone!

*Please note the Pine Street Parking Deck 5am-5pm rates have increased to $3/hour. 

Curb parking in a downtown is like inventory on the shelves of a retail shop. You must have something on your shelves to sell or you don't make money. You must have spaces available to park for some portion of visitors (assuming alternatives like walking, biking and public transit are  limited) or people leave. If all your shop's shelves are bare you aren't charging enough for your product. If all your curb spaces are full you are not charging enough for metered parking.

In a well managed, public parking system, the garages should ALWAYS be the cheapest place to park. This is why public parking decks generally lose money and shouldn't be built at all unless there is a critical shortage of parking that no private entity can fi ll (and do so at a profit). The price visitors are willing to pay to park then justifies the cost to build - this happens when people want to  be in a place bad enough to pay for that privilege.  There is also an "opportunity cost" associated with the decision to build decks: they shouldn't be considered until land prices are relatively very high since the value of that land for other development has more value than the storage of cars on surface lots, hence the necessity to stack them in structures to preserve the land for higher valued uses.

The  viability of the Easton Farmer's Market currently has a stacked deck in it's favor since parking at the Governor Wolf lot is free on Saturdays (if you are aware of that option). We would see how popular the EFM really is - and I think it would hold its own very well - if that free option were removed. Otherwise, the street meters should be the most expensive option because - as busy people have shown in study after study from around the world, going back to the introduction of meters in the 1930's -  they value being as close to their destinations as possible and will pay more in the short term and stay just long enough to complete their shopping or other errands and then leave, which opens the parking inventory for the next person with a critical need for that space (and the willingness to pay for it).

This does not mean all downtown streets should be metered or that all meter prices should be the same - Easton has missed the boat on this too; the recent metering of Bushkill Street between Larry Holmes Drive and N Second being the latest example of cluelessness. If I were making these decisions the pricing would be based on a data set that studied where people park and for how long across the width and breadth of downtown and over different lengths of time.  Data would be gathered over the course of at least one month on  both weekdays and weekends, in both summer and winter.

Cutting to the chase, the most expensive spaces should be where the greatest demand is. Maybe that's Centre Square but I can't say for sure because I don't have that data...if it is there, then those spaces might be $2.00, $2.50 or even $3.00/hr.  An ideal vacancy rate is 15%, which equates to 1-2 available spaces per each block face. In this way no one has to cruise for parking, tying up traffic for no good reason, having already reached their final destination. As you filter out to less and less desirable locations the meter rates decrease to $1.50, $1.00 or even as low as 25 cents/hr. It almost doesn't make sense to charge that little in those locations since the demand could be so low that more than 20% of the spaces are always available. 

When demand is this low there is always a spot open for new drivers and therefor no reason to chase cars away by ticketing over-staying the meter. At this vacancy rate it isn't worth the cost of emptying, enforcing and maintaining them. This is the current situation on the newly metered section of Bushkill Street, where tickets are regularly left on windshields despite the fact that literally 80% of the spaces are empty all day long during business hours. I contacted the Planning Director about this before they were installed but never received a reply (something the city has become expert at is ignoring the public).

Summing up, we need a REAL plan for parking in Easton. The new garage is looked at as a panacea but it is just a physical entity (a large and hideous one at that) and not part of any coordinated strategy. I'd bet it doesn't break even and that we end up subsidizing its operation out of tax revenue. 

Here is what a REAL parking management plan would look like,  in a 13 Point format:

Point 1
Meters have their rates set based on demand in any particular location with the most in-demand spaces priced highest. 
Point 2
Rates are NOT set to raise revenue but to  clear the spaces to maintain an approximate 15% vacancy rate during most desirable hours.

Point 3
Streets with less than 85% occupancy (low demand) may not need to be metered at all.

Point 4
Rates may eventually be varied electronically by day of week and hour of day to maintain the vacancy rate based on usage volume. 

Point 5
The above-mentioned rate adjustments are achieved via data collection by volunteers, digital meter data and/or electronic street sensors. Rates are only adjusted after reasonable study periods and not more than twice yearly at most so as not to frustrate users.

Point 6
You do not limit people's time at meter parking. They should stay as long as they are willing to pay for. It simplifies enforcement and benefits the parking user.

Point 7
Parking decks are priced at the lowest rates in the city so as to attract the long-term visitor and the frugal visitor. Both are important contributors to the economy and should be accommodated. They will stay longer at lower rates when the option is available. The busier or less frugal visitor will use (and  more quickly turn over) the street spaces since their expenditure on meters is a worthwhile trade-off for saving them time and aggravation. 

Point 8
Many people do not like parking decks and avoid them out of fear of crime, dirty conditions or unfamiliarity of use. These people willingly pay more to park on-street. Decks therefor can only be built - and priced accordingly - when there is a need for a LESS EXPENSIVE alternative for a substantial number of visitors who are staying longer or don't like to spend money - you DO NOT want these people at meters all day just because those spaces are priced cheaper than decks.

Point 9
Off-street parking requirements for downtown (as per most zoning regs)   if not already totally eliminated, should be. They are a drag on the production of affordable housing,  promoting commercial activity and the  adaptive reuse of historic buildings. 

Point 10
Developers should be charged a fee in lieu of providing their own parking so that the money provides parking for all users and not just for the exclusive use of any specific developer's project or business. It is uncategorically proven that this costs developers less in the long run than providing for and maintaining their own private parking for customers.

Point 11
Over time the in-lieu fees should be combined with other resources and put toward consolidating all privately held surface lots and garages into public hands. Eminent domain can be used to secure a "public good" in the form of parking available to all, while current lot owners  gain unrestricted access to any surface lot for their employees and customers.

Point 12
In fringe areas, where residential neighborhoods suffer from overflow of parking from adjoining uses (In Easton the courthouse district is an example) there shall be Parking Benefit Districts (PBD's) established. A PBD is NOT a parking permit program...anyone can park in the neighborhood  if they are willing to pay for it.

In a PBD all residents get parking passes (limited in number) and  always park free on their block. Visitors that use the block pay a monthly fee to the PBD.

The street is a public good ** and no one person can claim it as their own although typical sentiments claim otherwise. Neighborhoods pose a political problem due to this sense of self-entitlement.  Residents can be educated to overcome this notion with the incentive of cash. All fees for visitor parking are collected by the PBD for use  only in that neighborhood in any way the residents see fit: new street trees, sidewalks, facade grants - whatever. You may not always get to park in front of your own house but you WILL get paid for the inconvenience. This is in direct contradiction to the typical policy in Easton of dumping incremental parking revenue into the general fund. This revenue should ALWAYS go to the parties most responsible for generating it - the neighborhoods themselves.

Point 13
A good parking management plan is about Information, Education and Direction: people need to know how the system works and how much it costs; they need to know what the money is being used for and why it benefits them - especially downtown; and finally they need to know where and when to find the parking services they need in an easy and direct way. 

A History and Summary...

I proposed that the above policy of PBD's be instituted in the downtown fringe neighborhoods. I presented it to city council as a way to forgo the institution of a BID, which was heavily resisted by the downtown property owners (mostly residents) when a new way to fund Main Street became critical. The BID could have become a PBD with the increment in parking revenue from increased meter rates and times of operation creating excess cash. Instead the city raised the rates without a PBD, put the money in the general fund where it is held hostage for us to beg for when we need it, and the BID died a slow death due to public resistance. Main Street, the Ambassador Program and the EFM no longer have the guaranteed funding stream they would have had from a citizen-managed PBD and the city holds the purse strings to all parking revenue.

Someday we may have a mayor not named Panto, Mitman or Goldsmith. On that day we may see some hope of this strategy being implemented. In the meantime, all we can do is stare in abject horror at the concrete megalith taking shape on S. Third Street and wonder how it is making Easton a better place to live.


**DEFINITION of ' Public Good ' A product that one individual can consume without reducing its availability to another individual and from which no one is excluded. Economists refer to  public goods  as "non-rivalrous" and "non-excludable" 

(Changing the public's decades-old misconceptions about  "ownership" of on-street parking and the civic use of public goods is a tough task. Not every aspect of the parking conundrum could be addressed here. Any and all comments and questions are welcome.) 

Post Script...I spoke yesterday (08/19/15) with a large family that I met on the street that was visiting Crayola for the day and had parked on N 4th Street next to Lafayette Bank. I wanted to know the details surrounding why they made that choice over the garage. They said they arrived at 10:45 am and tried the Pine Street garage first but it was already full. Not having been here in eight years and having no reason to assume we had added another garage they just took the first available meter they found. (They had out-of-state plates and probably entered downtown from a direction that obscured the existence of the new deck.) 

They had been here for 4-1/2 hours. Our supposed parking management program that controls both public garages failed to make them aware by any obvious means that another garage option existed only a half block away. Nor had they any idea that the decks charged anywhere from 2-3 times as much to park as the metered spaces did.  They seemed genuinely puzzled as to why two, publicly-owned parking facilities a half block apart and providing the exact same service would charge different rates. 

And so a valuable resource that could have served people conducting downtown business was lost for the good part of the day while many available spaces in the new deck sat empty. One may ask; what difference does it make as long as the meter was occupied and producing revenue?

Remember; the point is to maintain an inventory of spaces available to new users - NOT to generate revenue. The revenue generation is a happy by-product of the provision of public goods in a manner that is equitable and fulfills the social contract of government. How that revenue is spent can be an added bonus that enriches a neighborhood or a bone of contention that generates ill will. As an administration, this one still clings to fomenting the latter.