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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Bethlehem City Council Prove They Can Be Idiots, Too!

Mike Schweder
Allentown City Council, aka the Pawlowski puppets, have demonstrated clearly over the years that they are the most inept legislative body in the Lehigh Valley. By comparison, Bethlehem City Council looks pretty good. But not last night. They're poised to adopt changes to the City's Zoning Ordinance that will enable Martin Tower developers Norton Herrick and Lew Ronca to pretty much do whatever the hell they want on the 53-acre tract, so long as they save a few trees. Most Council members had already publicly announced their support. This made last night's "public hearing" on the new Mixed Use Ordinance, more appropriately called a Mixed Up Ordinance, a complete sham. It was no public hearing. It was instead, as Dana Grubb observes, "a charade designed to ignore and demean public participation and the public's opposition to bad zoning."

Over 100 people were there. Those who could find no seat in Town Hall stood in the hallways, hoping for a chance to be heard. But ordinance backers had a secret weapon at their disposal designed to deter public comment, and they used it, too.

It was Planning Director Darlene Heller.

The Darlene Heller Power Point

For years, Western leaders have fretted over the outrages perpetuated by ISIS in the Middle East. Instead of bombing missions, the Pentagon should seriously consider sending Darlene Heller and her power point to Syria and Iraq. Those poor bastards would be begging for mercy in no time.

Before a single member of the public had a chance to say a word, Heller droned on for 2 hours and 15 minutes about the ordinance. Side yard setbacks. Rear yard setbacks. Misspelled words. A major discussion of the difference between fast and fresh food restaurants. Deleted provisions.

Dana Grubb, who was sitting behind me, passed out. A few people died and are still there, along with the camera bag I left behind when I finally ran out of there.

After Heller was finally finished, Council President Willie Reynolds called a ten-minute recess that lasted fifteen minutes, and then, before allowing the pubic to speak, opened the floor to questions from Council members.

It was now 9:30 pm.

Adam Waldron, believe it or not, asked about the frickin' tree canopy. That prompted a fifteen minute response from Heller. Fortunately, she had no power points to discuss the different kinds of trees or we might still be there.

Then Bryan Callahan, Mike Recchiuti, and Reynolds all went on to say they support the ordinance, something they had already announced to the press.That took another 15 minutes.

Finally, at about 9:45, the public was finally given an opportunity to speak at what was, after all, supposed to be a public hearing. Four of the people who had signed on to speak had already left. But there were still 28 people who spoke against the ordinance. These include many of the merchants who believe they will be adversely affected by a third downtown at Martin Tower.

Only one person spoke in support of the ordinance, the treasurer of the Bethlehem Democratic Committee.

The Bruce Haines Confrontation

Hotel Bethlehem's managing partner, Bruce Haines, condemned the ordinance as one that will lead to 1.3 million sq ft of retail development, about four times the size of the Westgate Mall. He criticized the use of public tax dollars that will permit a single developer "to dramatically increase the use of his property at the expense of existing businesses." He asked why none of $8 million in RCAP funding was ever used to remediated the $12 million asbestos and sprinkler problem at Martin Tower.He scoffed at the notion that this was ever a "shovel ready" project, and added that none of the 12 projects identified in the Bethlehem CRIZ were ever shovel ready, but were misrepresented as such in the application to the state.

Haines also criticized both Reynolds and Recchiuti for accepting $4,000 from Martin Tower developers Lew Ronca and Norton Herrick. That money was contributed this year, and accounts for 10% of Reynolds' funding and 20% for Recchiuti.

"Your five minutes are up," announced Willie Reynolds, but then allowed Haines to go on a bit before cutting him off and responding.

In a rambling speech, Reynolds blasted Haines for daring to "attack the integrity of the people up here." He noted that Haines had received over $14,000 in 2013 for campaign events conducted by Mayor Donchez at Hotel Bethlehem. He then asked Mayor Donchez to vouch for him and Donchez obliged. Reynolds called the very idea of there being a quid pro quo both "ridiculous" and "insulting."

Reynolds failed to address a very real investigation going on right now in Allentown in which one developer has already pleaded guilty to bribery. His contributors include some of the developers and engineers identified on Allentown's  FBI subpoena list

They also include heavy union support from trade unions, which would benefit from building a third downtown.

If Reynolds and Recchiuti really wanted to avoid questions about their integrity, they could have easily refused to accept this money. They also could have announced they are recusing themselves to avoid any question of an appearance of impropriety.

They chose to do neither. So questions about their motives are fair.

Reynolds responded to Haines far beyond the five minutes that Haines was allowed to speak.

"Methinks he doth protest too much," mumbled one thespian in the audience. Finally, audience members began yelling out to Reynolds, "Your five minutes are up!"

Haines asked to rebut Reynolds, but was denied the privilege. He was told he could speak again at the end of the meeting, when three people and crickets would be there.

Mike Schweder Sets Record Straight

In addition to Haines, Council also heard from Mike Schweder, a former City Council President who sat on Council when a zoning overlay at the site was approved in 2006. Darlene Heller had told Council that the 50,000 sq ft limitation on retail development was a mistake, but he set the record straight. He said that the ordinance approved in 2006 contemplated that the Martin Tower site would be 90% residential. At that time, developers assured council that construction would start no later than January 2007. This was two years before the housing bubble burst, but there was no development.

Heller has argued that the 2006 ordinance permitted 50,000 sq ft of retail on the site in addition to retail in the 375,000 sq ft contained in the outbuildings. Not so, said Schweder. He insisted that the ordinance never contemplated anything beyond the 50,000 sq ft of retail use approved.

He recalled being told by the Planning Department that there would be an upscale restaurant at the 412 and 78 interchange. What came was a Waffle House. He recalled being told that a nice drugstore would be built at the intersection of East and Easton. What came instead was a 16-pump gas station.

"You have no idea what you're voting for," he warned Council. He added that it will end up being 95% nonresidential. He also raised the possibility that, as soon as this ordinance passes, the developer will flip the property.

This possibility was repeated later by economist Bill Sheirer. Noting that three members are leaving Council at the end of the year, Scheirer suggested they allow the newly elected Council decide this issue.

50 Downtown Businesses Present Petition Condemning Ordinance

Rachel Griffith, who manages Bethlehem's popular Appollo Grill, told Council that the City is simply unable to handle a third downtown. She presented a petition signed by 50 business owners on both Main Street and the City's south side.

She noted that some Council members have asked her, "Why is the Appollo worried? The Appollo will always be the Appollo."

"We're in this together," was her answer."We support one another."

Myrtle Beach and TriBeCa Examples

Council was also told about similar developments that have resulted in disasters in other communities.

New York City transplant Rocco D'Amato once sat where City Council now sits. Except he governed in TriBeCa, and voted to restore a blighted high rise with retail. Barnes and Noble and other major retail chains came.  Old book stores, Korean delis, health food stores and all the small businesses that make up an organic neighborhood have all "dried up."

Moreover, because the CRIZ is subsidized by tax dollars, there is no fairness.Instead of the market, the government will pick winners and losers. He challenged Council to review "unintended consequences."

So did Dave Klein, who owns properties on Main Street and Stefko Boulevard. He told Council about a Market Common District in Myrtle Beach, where tax dollars used to pay for development, have resulted in declining revenues and property taxes elsewhere in Myrtle Beach.

He also told Council that spending $12 million to remediate 500,000 sq ft of a building is "nothing."

This property maven called the proposed ordinance a "disaster."

Le Cul de Rat

Lehigh Professor Steve Antalics noted that the City will be subsidizing a developer whose real estate holdings are in excess of $5 billion and who owns a stable with 49 thoroughbreds. "[H]is bottom line is maximization of profit," said Antalics. "Is he concerned about the health and welfare of our community? A polite gentleman might say his interests are equal to, in safe French, "Le Cul de Rat."

Put more bluntly for we vulgari, the developers don't give a rat's ass about what is best for Bethlehem.

Updated 6:03 pm, to spell out more clearly how Mike Schweder set the record straight.


Anonymous said...

Between Bobby D and Willie R and their handlers, Bedlum has earned its name. Let the inbreeding continue. The city of complete limitations.

Jamie Kelton said...

We have a winter townhouse at the Market Common Myrtle Beach. It's a re-development of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base that was closed after the Cold War ended.

It's a wonderful place to live, shop and has a lot of recreation opportunities.

Bethlehem should build something similar. Martin Tower is a money pit that best can be developed with an implosion

Anonymous said...

This is why I read this blog before the loccal paper, you're reporting on these local meetings is outstanding and since its yours you can feel free to write in a less formal style. I can just see the public yawning and switching their seat positions all night waiting to be heard, I hope they didn't have little kids with them.

Anonymous said...

So tired of my tax dollars being used to support billionaires in name of progress.

Anonymous said...

Maybe LVDEC can do a study and recommend low income housing or a warehouse.

Anonymous said...

That Darlene has no shame.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is why I read this blog before the loccal paper, you're reporting on these local meetings is outstanding and since its yours you can feel free to write in a less formal style. I can just see the public yawning and switching their seat positions all night waiting to be heard, I hope they didn't have little kids with them.

6:30 AM

When the public, all of us, allowed local governments to mandate the time we are allowed to speak, we lost big time. Let's all in polite procedural protocol insist local governments delete this two, three, minute mandate. Where did we go wrong? Here.

Anonymous said...

Altoona is represented by the same lobbying firm and finance person as the Bethlehem CRIZ. It is like Déjà vu all over again.

Anonymous said...

steel is dead, haines is the #1 crybaby in the whole city, the average Joe does not shop on Main street. Grubbe is a mere disgruntled,got fired from the city for fighting, former employee. He was a whiner then and still is.

Darlene Heller has more brains, common sense and integrity than anyone else in the room. Should have been selected for the Director of E&CD.

Try moving forward.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why the headline is blasting City Council. It is Donchez and his Administration that are bringing the proposed zoning changes forward with their support.

Maggie Mae Mason said...

WOW!!!!! Donchez actually did something besides walk around and hand out smoke detectors.

It took him a year and a half to make a move and of course all he is doing is building on the foundation laid by the previous administration. No original thoughts here. Today must be nap time on the second floor.

This so called administration has accomplished little since January 2014. It is as if they are trying to do as little as possible so they won't have to defend a record when milk toast bob tries to increase his pension by running for reelection.

Bethlehem deserves better.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the Mayor and Council can't win. If they do nothing, then they are asleep at the switch, and they continue to watch businesses go outside the city, and the city's tax base stays stagnant, or worse yet declines. The Mayor proposes this rezoning to try and help the city compete with the townships and Allentown, and he is blasted. And Council is blasted for supporting the Mayor.
As a home owner in Bethlehem, I would rather have businesses locate within the City than outside the City. Why can't Bethlehem get a Costco or some other large retailer to go there? I heard people say about a large pharmaceutical company locating in the tower? Why would they want to? The Tower is old and out of date. Tear it down and build new, and then maybe a large company would locate on part of a site that is mixed use.
City Council needs to represent the 75,000 people who live in the city...not just 50 business owners in downtown. They need to do what is best for the entire city. I hope they support the Mayor.
-John Richter, West Side Bethlehem

Anonymous said...

The downtown merchants can form a group and present funding to buy the Martin Tower property. Once owners of the property they can level the building and do with the property that which they wish. Build a nice park.

While they are at it they can back council candidates who will listen to their needs and act in a manner that benefits them.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a farce that meeting was. I can't imagine having to sit through a 2 hour dog and pony show. The public be damned!

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you Bernie, for the great reporting. I agree with previous commenters that your accounts far exceed anything that can found in local media.

Secondly, did anyone ask if the community wants or needs more stores? another mall? another strip of empty shops with "rental space available" signs in the window?

Go down the road and look at Westgate Mall, one of the most unsightly, hulking and useless uses of space in the area. Most of the shops are either gone or on life support.

Why don't all those businesses dying to set up shop on the old Martin Tower site go down the road a quarter mile or so and revitalize that area before we destroy yet ANOTHER area in the city for empty buildings.

Anonymous said...

This is another case where the young people can't remember the past....so history will again repeat itself. No one seems to remember what the opening of the Whitehall Mall did to the city of Allentown and yes, indirectly, had a negative impact on the City of Bethlehem. It took decades to bring Allentown and Bethlehem back from the Brink of disaster. Allentown is faring much better now than her sister City Bethlehem, but then there are more politicians going to jail in Allentown than will be in Bethlehem. Move slowly on this issue, it can and will destroy Bethlehem's downtown.

Charlie Sch said...

I wasn't at the meeting. However, I think it is wrong to be so hard on Darlene Heller. She has been a major force in carrying out many great improvements in Bethlehem for many years. Let's forgive her if her powerpoint was a little too long.

Anonymous said...

Darlene should have shown some basic courtesy to the many citizens in the audience by not hogging limited time with her inane presentation. That was an insult to those who were there for what was supposed to be a public hearing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Charlie Sch, Your point is well taken. Darlene H does an exceptional job. But I have never seen a hearing for the public wasted with 2 hours and 15 minutes from the City, before the public has a word to say. That is something that should have gone on at a committee hearing. There is little doubt in my mind that letting her go on like that was to discourage the public to leave, and some did.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:28, Thank you for your nice words. The business owners that spoke are not afraid of a little competition and said so. What bothers them is that it is subsidized competition. Instead of the market, rocket scientists like Willie Reynolds are picking winners and losers. Bob Donchez and Callahan are both right to say something needs to be done, but ruining two downtowns and Westgate Malls should not be an option. This ordinance is poorly advised, should be tabled and something more fair to existing business should be produced. As several said, not enough effort has gone into trying to attract some light industry to that site.

Anonymous said...

Schweder is a bore. Surprised they dusted the "elder statesman" off to come back and give his revisionist history. Time has shown that Big Mike and Bruce Haines have been on the wrong side of history over and over. I was neutral on this issue till Schweder showed up now I am FOR the rezone.

Anonymous said...

Darlene does a good job for the city and is a thoughtful person.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Letme add that the current owner of Westagate is sinking $5 million into that mall. I'm pretty sure it's all his own money. This ordinance is a very insulting way of saying thank you. It is crony capitalism once again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Schweder is a bore. Surprised they dusted the "elder statesman" off to come back and give his revisionist history. Time has shown that Big Mike and Bruce Haines have been on the wrong side of history over and over. I was neutral on this issue till Schweder showed up now I am FOR the rezone."

Mike Schweder basically demonstrated that Darlene Heller has been wrong several times and provided examples. He also provided a more accurate explanation of the ordinance that passed in 2006 than what Heller mistakenly misrepresented to Council. I doubt you are "neutral" about anything.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Not sure why the headline is blasting City Council. It is Donchez and his Administration that are bringing the proposed zoning changes forward with their support"

City Council caught the ire of 50 local businesses bc (1) a majority predecided the issue without bothering to hear from the public; (2) two Council members accepted significant sums from the developers just a few months ago, yet refuse to recuse themselves and act all high and mighty; and (3) the way Reynolds conducted the meeting indicated he had prejudged the issue. I think Donchez was presenting a framework for everyone to ponder so that something can be done. Of all of the people in that room, Donchez is the most likely to be fair and take into account the concerns raised by these business owners.

My headline is accurate even though, in most instances, an administration would get the blame. That's not happening and Willie complained about that last night. I have just given him the reasons.

Anonymous said...

Loonacy has no borders.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The Tower is old and out of date. Tear it down and build new, and then maybe a large company would locate on part of a site that is mixed use. "

If you listen to Darlene Heller the tower is old and out of date. She is a planner, but is not a real estate developer.Klein is a real estate investor, has businesses in Bethlehem and other states, and completely dismissed the notion that the building should be torn down and is too old to operate efficiently. It costs $12 MM to remediate and the state set aside $8 MM for that purpose. The developer knew about the asbestos and sprinklers when they purchased the property. Now the City is supposed to bail then out? Why isn't the City demanding a re-assessment based on the CRIZ designation? That alone makes the property more valuable.

Anonymous said...

Schweder's comments are at least irrelevant. As a supposedly seasoned business leader he should know first hand that plans do not always go the way you want them to go. His posturing is very hypocritical and out of touch.

Bernie O'Hare said...

", the average Joe does not shop on Main street. "

No, they shop in Malls and at WalMart. You want to encourage that instead of encouraging people to come downtown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Schweder's comments are at least irrelevant."

A second anonymous attack on Schweder tells me he nailed it.

Anonymous said...

I go to Marget Commons once a month to the Movies.Excuse Me but I see many vacant storefronts. Hope You enjoy Your new Wal-Mart !

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jamie, Market Common, I'm told, is very nice.It only destroyed the businesses in Mytrle Beach and will make a tax hike necessary. Wanting to repeat that disaster at Martin Tower is foolish.

Anonymous said...

50 business signed 0n. How many did under pressure? The needs and desires of 75,000 residents trump the whiners. A second on schweder tells me you are a fool.

Anonymous said...

The public hearing on this ordinance was a joke. You are absolutely correct that the city established an agenda to discourage public participation. First a two hour lecture on the importance of the zoning change. Then, cut people off when they reach the 5 minute limit, while council members did their best to hog more time by arguing with citizens. The meeting was a complete sham and the city and council should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you hit on something that i think the average person misses and it is the effect of crony capitalism.

When government picks a winner, in this case the martin tower developers, they get subsidized with not the government dollars, but the average tax payers dollars.

The two business districts cannot compete on pricing etc when the new tower complex comes into play because they will still be expected to pay the various taxes etc. Once they go out of business, those tax revenues will now not come in and since the CRIZ will forgo collecting taxes for a period of time, the City's shortfall just became the people's shortfall and they will have to make up the difference.

Anonymous said...

Allentown is a mess with their NIZ and Bethlehem isn't too far behind. What do both have in common with one another?

Both feel it is a good idea to subsidize billionaire developers with tax payer cash so they, THE DEVELOPERS, can pay off their mortgages. AKA Crony Capitalism

Both obviously participated in pay to play. little Willie and a few others get 4000.00 in campaign donations as did Fed Ed and his crew. This issue can not be debated. The FBI investigation already demonstrates this in Allentown.
Yet when the people bring this issue up they are lectured by the same snake oil salesmen about questioning their integrity? If it looks bad, it is.

Get the F out of here. Many, not all politicians, in Allentown and in Bethlehem know what integrity is all about. These people have no idea what it means to serve the people and the peoples best interest.

Even worse, the party that continually claims to be for the little guy , has sold out the little guy for $4000 in donations from a developer and a promise to unions for more work. Follow the union cash in Bethlehem and Allentown. both will lead right to the big unions in the valley and in Philly.





I am sure the democrat voter in Marvine Village and the Allentown voter at 4th and Allen have a no clue what is going on . Yet they will throw all of their support and a few bucks to the same democrat party that sold them out once again.

The democrats sold out all of their voters for billionaire developers. This is a fact that can not be disputed. Yet , I have been told by the local and national media as well as the local, state and national democrats/socialists that the GOP establishment supports the rich guys. Really now? It is obvious that all politicians support the rich guys. This makes the vote of the average , "Joe" mean nothing.

Both cities should tar and feather their political leaders on city council and those directly running the city in city hall. In the old days, the people would have dealt with these criminal in the appropriate manner.




WAEB this morning had the man from Hotel Bethlehem on the air to address this concern. Bobby Gunther Walsh asked the mayor and or Bethlehem City council to come on the air live to talk about this issue and not one member of the democrat party elite, in the city of Bethlehem, will make an effort to talk about this issue.

Anonymous said...

The two hour slide show has Karner's fingerprints all over it. She's a political hack much like her counterpart in Allentown. I think Heller was sent out there because she probably wants to keep her job much like Mike Hefele had to do in Allentown. A two hour presentation at a public meeting is beyond disgraceful. What utter contempt for people.

I think Reynolds better be careful - he's inviting the Feds to grow a third eyeball and start looking at pay to play in Bethlehem with his comments and the way he handled that meeting last night.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:19, I can't blame people for not going on Gunther's show. He defames people.

Anonymous said...

The worst Bethlehem City Council ever.

Valley Slacker said...

Outstanding journalism, one of your finest!

Anonymous said...

"Gunther defames people." Yeah, but, which people? I dunno, he does some very good stuff. NObody's perfect.

Bernie is on target in pointing out that crony capitalism is threatening the citizens of Bethlehem. Heck, that is what has been running the US of A for a couple of decades, Republicrats and Demopublicans both practice it, and we the people are being pummeled, robbed, and destroyed by it.

Pitiful but inevitable that it would come to Bethlehem. OTOH, it will be fun to watch the FBI show up next at Bethlehem City Hall, and even more fun to watch Wee Willy hauled away in handcuffs. Yours truly, Resident Populist

Anonymous said...

Since the FBI is right down the road, they shouldn't have any trouble finding Bethlehem. Why these guys wouldn't recuse themselves from making that decision is beyond comprehension.

Carmen LoBaido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Schweder doesn't remember when he railroaded the McDonalds on Wyandotte Street fiasco. He was instrumental in that decision. Why is he injecting his supposed almighty knowledge into this arena again.

Carmen LoBaido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Fourth anonymous attack directed at him tells me must've been very effective

Carmen LoBaido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carmen LoBaido said...

Why would 75,000 residents want more retail when in many areas of the city stores are sitting empty. Don't you think we are retail saturated at this point. It makes no sense to me especially when so many people are buying online why would you want more retail shops? Is it for public entertainment because shops cannot survive on being a "museum" for people that just want to kill time.

Carmen LoBaido said...

Thank you Mr. O'Hare. Very few people care about the small mom and pop shops any longer but then complain when they get poor service, attitude from the workers and shotty materials. In my shop I talk to my customers, great them when they come in and leave, even if they have not purchased something and even on a bad day I have a smile on my face. Many of my repeat customers I know by name. Can you say the same for a Walmart employee. I tried to strike up a conversation with the greeter at the door the last time I was in a Walmart and he didn't even answer me.

Carmen LoBaido said...

Thank you. The powers that be don't seem to care though about the final nail in the coffin for the 2 existing downtowns. Instead if more retail shops which, honestly, aren't we already saturated to the point of drowning, attract a manufacturer such as a pharmaceutical co. that will create living wage jobs not just a bunch of low paying, part time minimum wage jobs.

Carmen LoBaido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Bernie you deserve aa blogger purple heart for sitting through that snake oil show last night. If I was one of the citizens there I would have shouted out a point of order after an hour of Hellers show and tell. This was supposed to be a public hearing, and the public got screwed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carmen, I apologize for not deaturing your own remarks, but they were heard. I believe the City now knows they have a problem with their own merchants. It is my hope that they re-work the ordinance to craft something more acceptable. Ideally, they will allow the new Council to make the call.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:27 has a good idea. The city should do that as part of a city retirement village. Not some ludicrous $300K a unit and more deal but an affordable senior village within the city. Shops, houses. It would be a hit. generate revenue, no more kids for schools.

Greta idea. won't happen.

doug_b said...

Having left the Lehigh Valley a long time ago it's sort of amusing reading about all these IZ's (improvement zones).

My idea is to turn the tower into one big gigantic restaurant. It's working in A-Town NIZ. I heard downtown is now a bustling, lively, dynamic, vibrant place to be!

The other idea is Section 8.

Last idea: Controlled demolition.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:19. I bet you also brayed on about Obamacare and the Democrats. Yet what about this "obamacare" fro Republican businessmen. It has been going on for decades.

Yet there is no doubt you go into the voting booth every election and pull the Republican lever. Your little tirade is typical of modern day teabaggers. Your moaning and groaning is all about condemning Democrats, then lamely claiming both parties are at fault and then voting Republican.

They did that in Northampton County and you see what happened. The so-called non- conservative republicans did not run for re-election. The new Teabagger Republicans ran and won. In the first year they increased the taxes by 10%, wanted 20%, and will not even try to sell the whit elephant Gracedale. So much for your guys.

But then it is about what you say and how you say it, not what you do. My flag pin is bigger than your flag pin, so is my bible.

Anonymous said...

3:38 PM I am not a fan of both parties, and that is quit evident in regards to what was written. do you really think local state and federal govt works for the People?

This is not how govt is supposed to work. My focus was on who is in control of making the decisions today.

I am no fan of political hacks . I am no fan of corp cronyism. I am no fan of waste , fraud and corruption from BOTH pathetic parties. Are you?

All I questioned was who is running the show in both cities and who has been in charge of both cities for decades.

Isn't the two party system just amazing . this is nothing new. this issue is 100 plus years old. Both political parties have been destroying this country for a long time.

BTW for you to call anyone in the Northampton county govt conservatives, is complete a joke. Not one of those recently elected, are conservatives. they all campaign like conservatives , then govern like John Boehner and John McCain. They use their base, as expected. I cant vote for them, I am not a resident of Northampton county.

Rip me all you want but you never answered the question. Who is in charge and who has been in charge of both for decades.

Instead , you went with the anti gay remarks and proceeded to bring up issues that had nothing to do with my question.

How does obamacare factor into this discussion? How did tax hikes make it into this discussion? Funny , you forgot to mention Gov Wolf's tax hikes. Deals like this prevent the state in collecting tax revenue. The people should not subsidize billionaire developers. We should not have to pay their mortgages. I am sure gov wolf would love to get his hands on 100 million or 100 billion tax dollars to help with the "cause". Instead we get threats of tax hikes, both sales and income. Funny, I didn't remember wolf campaigning on tax hikes. maybe I missed it. That's my point. We were told the cash was coming from the energy companies to fund the schools.

How did the tea party make it into this discussion. When in doubt rip the tea party and George bush. Glad I was able to assist you in relieving some stress.

I don't come here to make enemies. I come to debate, discuss and so on .If my statements upset so much, I am sorry. If there is anything I mentioned that is not true, please correct me and point out where I made the mistake.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This comment was posted anonymously on another story.

Hi Bernie! I think you are unduly harsh on Darlene. She is a real professional, deserving of more respect than you have given her.

I have questions about this ordinance, although I was not at last night's meeting. I did attend the previous Bethlehem Planning Commission meeting where it was discussed. There I shared the ten principles of smart growth. If they are going to call it "smart growth" then I hope it really gets built out as something which has a sense of place and that people recognize as smart growth.

Renew Lehigh Valley upholds and advocates for the application of Smart Growth Principles in all planning and development, especially for the future growth of the Lehigh Valley.

Mix land uses
Take advantage of compact building design
Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
Create walkable neighborhoods
Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
Provide a variety of transportation choice
Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

I've heard that there will be big box retail there. I wondered it big box retail can be smart growth. I asked some of my New Urbanist friends, and they said "yes" and provided me with a link to what that would look like. It's a matter of scale...smaller retail footprints that we imagine. It seems that the CRIZ designation will weigh the ultimate development toward retail, which means it won't look like the pictures in this link.


Here's some more free advice from them: http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/robert-steuteville/21756/ten-ways-make-big-boxes-more-walkable.

I would love to see a rendering of what the vision of this site is. That would make this easier for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Schweder looks really old!

doug_b said...

" I wondered it big box retail can be smart growth."

Christ, the Lehigh Valley has collapsed, and someone is wondering about smart growth.

Anonymous said...

Two hours and fifteen minutes? Fidel Castro used to give shorter addresses. Effective presentations should be like a miniskirt: long enough to cover the subject; short enough to be interesting.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We are now at five anonymous shots at Mike Schweder. Looks like the Willie "Your five minutes are up" clan don't take kindly to constructive criticism. I would suggest they drown their sorrows in some Bethlehem bar, but maybe they try it in Allentown instead.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment at 4:37 is from Joyce Marin. Joyce, Darlene Heller is lucky to have a friend like you, and your comments about her are right on the mark. I have defended her here more than once, and consider her a fine public servant. But 2 hours and 15 minutes is ridiculous in the context of a public hearing. Willie Reynolds, who was presiding over this fiasco, should have instructed her to bring it to an end.

She did go thru all the principles of smart growth, and that was hotly disputed by others who claim smart growth should be about building up a downtown, not destroying it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Anon 6:27 has a good idea. The city should do that as part of a city retirement village. Not some ludicrous $300K a unit and more deal but an affordable senior village within the city. Shops, houses. It would be a hit. generate revenue, no more kids for schools."

This has been suggested, and was mentioned last night.

Anonymous said...

I have no opinion on the ordinance. I will observe that those who suggest "make it a retirement village" or just the simplistic "we should bring in a pharmaceutical" should simply pony up their own capital, and go for it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I get your condescending notion that the public is entitled to no opinion. The fact is that the public IS going to be ponying up its own capital at this site. You'll take their money but don't want to listen to them. Their five minutes is up.

John Blankstein said...

Council are idiots because Darlene Heller spoke for too long? First off, she's the Mayor's employee. And more importantly Darlene knows her job...if the proposal was simple enough to explain in 15 minutes that's what she would have done.

Anonymous said...

She's not good at her job if it takes two hours to get to her point.

That was a terrible show last night.

Anonymous said...

I love out of control spending. And I agree with Governor Wolf in that not agreeing to pay higher taxes is unpatriotic. I totally trust Government to solve all my problems, of course. People need to just shut up and let Government do whatever it wants, when it wants.

Anonymous said...

Five minutes?
That's two more than you get in The City Without Limits.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"I get your condescending notion that the public is entitled to no opinion. The fact is that the public IS going to be ponying up its own capital at this site. You'll take their money but don't want to listen to them. Their five minutes is up."

Didn't say that. Said everyone's an economic development expert. A pharmaceutical. Really. Wow, no one ever thought to attract a high paying employer to the valley before

Anonymous said...

"Darlene knows her job...if the proposal was simple enough to explain in 15 minutes that's what she would have done."

You understand if Darlene had done it in 15 minutes, they would have criticized her for rushing it past them, right?

Anonymous said...

4:33, when in doubt, rip unions and Democrats while quoting Bobby,"choke my daughter" Gunther Walsh. Stick it. You are so great, get off your ass and run for office.
East Sider

Anonymous said...

Paying higher taxes so that cronies of government officials can get rich and then make large campaign contributions to those very same government officials is my civil right as an American. Please do not violate it. That would be unpatriotic.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the personalities involved, if something takes two hours to explain, it's clearly problematic. I like the miniskirt rule.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John Blankstein, Council are idiots because it is THEIR meeting, was billed as a "public" hearing, and the public was the one entity that was being shut out. This was the meeting at which public input was supposed to be registered. Instead, two hours and 15 minutes went into rear and side year setbacks and provisions that were actually deleted. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Willie Reynolds was an idiot. He is President of Council, and did nothing to stop Heller from droning on. He also handled himself very poorly when his own actions were rightly called into question.

Anonymous said...

What briefing takes two hours plus????
This hard-working, competent professional was put up to this. How very sad she had to comply ..

Bernie O'Hare said...

" if Darlene had done it in 15 minutes, they would have criticized her for rushing it past them, right?"

Last time I checked, three members of Council are teachers and presumably are educated enough to know that after about an hour, the ability of a person to process information drops dramatically. So I completely disagree with you, and the teachers on Council should have known better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted an anonymous personal attack leveled at Joyce Marin. She is not the topic here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What briefing takes two hours plus????
This hard-working, competent professional was put up to this. How very sad she had to comply .."

I believe you are right. I have seen her review an entire year's worth of planning,along with all the city's goals, in less thsn 20 minutes. I attended two of her presentations on the draft of Bethlehem's new zoning ordinance.The presentations never lasted more than 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when you have one political party in power in Bethlehem for the last, I don't know, 100 years!

Bernie O'Hare said...

One-party rule is never a good thing, but Rs have had several Mayors in Bethlehem. Former Controller Meg Holland was an R. But I agree with your point.

Anonymous said...

The Unions are not promised work at this site. Who said that Ronca a notorious Rat Contractor and his partner from the big city promised to hire Local Union Tradespeople? Where did that come from?

Bernie O'Hare said...

They will have to pay prevailing wage. You know that, and it will mean union wage. I think that's a good thing, but it is very clear that the unions will be doing any work at that site.

Eugenia said...

Bernie do you think when Jim Gregory is released and subsequently elected to council he can restore order and sanity to this body of governance?

Anonymous said...

Ken Smith was a Republican?
Who knew???

Anonymous said...

Joyce Marin is a public figure who use her high profile position in a manner fitting for her position, as such, when she offers a statement under discussion in an open forum, a response is appropriate.......why the need to protect an outspoken public person and political player?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Because your anonymous attack is OT. She is not the subject of this discussion. Moreover, my decisions on comments are final and unappealable. Comments complaining about m comment policy are subject to deletion. You don't like my rules? Don't play. But you don't run this blog. I do.

Carmen LoBaido said...

Great point Bernie.

Rhino Ragni said...

Social scientists have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that anyone who receives gifts and or donations (no matter how small - not to mention 10-20% of their campaign war chest) is immediately biased by those donations. But don't take my word for it. Research a book called Influence by Robert Cialdini, the foremost expert on the subject, who teaches at Arizona State University.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll check it out.

Catherine Johnson said...

The tower has to be cleaned of the asbestos whether it stays or goes, so why not keep it once it's cleaned? It's a starter building. It doesn't have to be worked on right away, either. It can add to something once a neighborhood is established. Take out a couple floors so the tower starts to have a few really special floors for civic and social events.

However, making it one tall tower of restaurants would be a death knell to both towns. Why lock up all that potential for making streets lively and active in a single tower? Let those restaurants be catalysts for 20 streets in town.

If "senior" or "over 55" housing (exclusively) is put there, this would never grow into a regular neighborhood. People think senior housing is trouble-free because there would be no need to pay for kids to go to school. Well, in many over 55 places, there soon is the request to town hall to lower the age limit, because the units have difficulty selling. Even some of the most beautiful places in the world suffer from the lack of no children living there. You need to mix ages and status in life for a genuine place to evolve.

The lure of sales tax to pay the interest is very interesting: could another incentive be devised that is not based on retail use? This region is already supersaturated with big-box retail (6 Walmarts, 4 Targets, Kmarts) and it's not making life any more enjoyable. There is this assumption that development can only take place when it involves big developers. Well if you do that, you'll get more of what you already have. Many people mention how stores have failed: you have too much of THAT stuff. Time to scrap a few and consolidate. Lots of malls have been redeveloped into neighborhoods around the US.

Another course of action could be small scale, incremental development. Regular people with regular means purchase a lot and build a building. Not make a "third downtown," but make a genuine Pennsylvania small town neighborhood, that has all the qualities mentioned earlier of traditional, sustainable places. You could start with small one or two story buildings, then it can grow over time, once it has established its identity.

These two towns survived the tragic lesson of having a single industry. We thought it would go on forever. Learn from that important lesson: time to offer more variety. A mixed product can help during economic downturns: when retail isn't that hot, the residential will carry the day. The recession isn't over - in fact, it may be the beginning of life as we know it for some time. Build small, flexible, and simple, so more people have the opportunity to make a gain from this new development instead of only a few.

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems 55+ communities have is cost. Check out the various communities. They are priced at ridiculous amounts. Most are in the high $200-300's. Then you have to add in the monthly fee. None of which includes taxes.

Don't know who the oldsters are that are buying these things but it is not the average LV resident.

Moderately priced homes geared fro average residents that are affordable would be well-received. Know of many folks who would love to give up their larger homes and upkeep for one of those. The problems they face today is cost.

Anonymous said...

7:59 PM- You are the one who cant accept the facts. You create more division than necessary . Wake up and think for yourself.

Like I stated in my initial post. I could care less which party is involved with this scam and the scam in Allentown. I care about who is running the show now.
I am more concerned , scams like this, make our votes inconsequential.

I have no good feelings towards either party. Over the years , both lied and scammed the people beyond belief. For a guy like We Willie to lecture the People on questioning his ethics, after this came out today, is a complete joke and this guy should resign. Now we see , with out hearing from the public, why Willie and the boys had their minds made up. No political theater We Willie and he wanted to be the mayor. Good God.

7:59 - Read this story then come back and tell us how the democrats and the unions aren't involved with this scam and every other pay to play scam .


Despite the facts , you continue to attack and defend these criminals . Money laundering at its finest. Is it legal? We will see. Is it unethical. No doubt. If it looks bad, it is bad. Ask the hacks in Allentown how things are working out with this NIZ , CRIZ garbage. Do you think this is how govt is supposed to work for the People?

Following the money ALWAYS leads to the truth and explains why politicians vote the way they do.

BOH--An amazing job in exposing political and union corruption. AKA pay to play.
How many Tea party , GOP or Socialist Party members? I see none. Nor do I see many listed here as people who donate to the Tea party or any other group. A majority of their cash goes to democrats like Willie .

Again, thanks for making my point. This is why pay to play needs to be exposed like never before.

Willie Reynolds
$1,000 from Lewis Ronca on 2/26/15
$2,000 from Norton Herrick on 2/13
$500 Laborers Local 1174 on 2/4
$1,000 Internat'l Union Operating Engineers on 2/4
$1,000 from IUPAT District 21 on 2/9
$1,000 from IBEW Local 375 on 2/12
$1,000 from Carpenters PAC on 4/26
Total Raised - $33,650
$1,000 from Lewis Ronca on 5/18/15
Total Raised - $2,270
Total Raised Pre and Post Primary - 35,920
Percentage of donations from Martin Tower Beneficiaries = 24%

Michael Recchiuti
$1,000 from Lewis Ronca on 2/26/15
$2,000 from Norton Herrick on 2/26
$500 from IUPAT District 21 on 2/11
$500 from Internat'l Union Operating Engineers on 4/27
$500 from Carpenters PAC on 4/30
Total Raised - $16,995
$1,000 from Lewis Ronca on 5/18/15
Total Raised - $2,275
Total Raised Pre and Post Primary - $19,270
Percentage of donations from Martin Tower Beneficiaries - 29%

Shawn Martell
$500 from Lewis Ronca on 4/20
$1,500 from Norton Herrick on 4/24
Total Raised - $14,883.35
Total Raised - $700
Total Raised Pre and Post Primary - $15,583.35
Percentage of donations from Martin Tower Beneficiaries - 13%

Michael Colon
Total Raised - $5,390
Total Raised - $0
Percentage of donations from Martin Tower beneficiaries - 0%

Olga Negron
Total Raised - $6,770
Total Raised - $825
Percentage of donations from Martin Tower beneficiaries - 0%

Anonymous said...

anon 3:48you need to calm down. Lay off the caffeine and sugar. The problem with all your self-proclaimed "unbiased" reporting on the evils of government is that your own words betray your immense partisan vibe.

Check out who contributed to Republicans like Sate Sen. Brownie or Norco executive Brownie. Also who get the bulk of money from Shel Adelson and the Koch brothers, on the order of near $100 billion. Give you one guess.

Check out Republican strongholds in the suburbs and some southern urban areas. The money flows baby, the money flows. Hell former Mayor Johnny Callahan was a Republican but switched to Democrat to get elected in Bethlehem. Many former Democrats switched to Republican to "better represent their views" or in plain english, to get elected in their particular areas. It is a game. You are just to biased or dense to get it.

So I ask you a simple question my friend, Why so serious???

Kyle said...

Schweder has done more for the city of Bethlehem than you could imagine. Quit hiding behind your computer screen and posting garbage. Do some research!