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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Opinions Online, 1/30/16

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 sometimes highlight comments from throughout the week and re-publish them here.


Fred Windish: Many condemn Donald Trump for making incendiary statements. He does say things people have been willing to pounce on. What he says is essentially correct, but he knows his method of delivery, as a publicity strategy, is brilliant.

Every time he throws 'red meat' out there he gains millions of dollars in free media attention. Trump dominates the information stream and controls the narrative. All the while spending very little.

No one can resist the bait. He's working the media and beating them at their own game. I like that.


PA Dog Licenses - Prior to this year there were many local merchants who sold these. Now this year we have three options: mail an application to the courthouse, drive the courthouse and apply in person, or do it online which involves a $2 fee (padoglicense.com).

It seems to me that the government is encouraging us to use the online option, which leads me to think that someone lobbied to eliminate the in-store option. The idea here being that if we take away one convenience and add another that has a fee someone gets to pocket that fee.

This is just one of the many reasons I cannot find myself able to trust the government.


The City of Bethlehem's snow removal needs to be re-evaluated. First, the plowing operations are a joke. Why can't they plow to the pavement? Second, while I appreciate the effort to remove the snow from some streets, the coordination of this removal needs to be done much more effectively. Why are they closing major roads like Wyndotte, 3rd Street and 4th Street during rush hour? People were stuck for hours in traffic. Heads should roll for this mistakes.


Really sick and tired of the fastest growing community in Pennsylvania....Lower Macungie Township with 30,000 residents relying exclusively ont he Pennsylvania State Police for Police protection. I think the citizenry of lower mac can afford their own Police Department, we all know they can afford it.


I need help i am having all kinds of trouble in east allen twsp. Yesterday the lead home in spector admited that he altered my permit application with out consulting me and there is so much more like a twsp official that on first meeting said well someone like you. How would she know me if we never met. Did you know that those ugly dead stips down the side of the road twice a year is dbi services contracted by the state to spread residuail growth retardant every 6 months and they will zoray open bodies of water and your front yard.

(Blogger's Reply): I need to know who you are to do anything.


Did anyone out there know that code masters inspectors are also Boyle construction.

(Blogger's Reply): I have no idea what you mean.


How about that punk teacher that got all of the A-town kids to walk out of school? I hope he literally gets books thrown at him!


Rumor has it that during the NORCO bomb scare lockdown, the dogs found no explosives but did locate the "Ten Commandments"......
Can you confirm or deny?


While helping a friend search for a site to build a small warehouse for his business, I noticed that the city of Allentown and the school district own a ridiculous amount of surplus properties...ranging from residential building lots to acres of woods. These aren't parks. Why is there no effort to market/monetize these? What the heck are they holding them for?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Who's Going To Fed Ed's State of the Shitty?

Fed Ed is scheduled to give his State of the Shitty address today at the Renaissance Hotel, right in the heart of the NIZ. Doors open 11:30 am, but the program itself does not start until 12:20. Despite the $30 cost, I registered and am attending.

Last year, his State of the Shitty drew about 250-300 people, with people lined up along the walls. So it will be interesting to see if this year's attendance is the same.

According to the Facebook announcement, this event will be attended by community and business leaders, City Council, members of his cabinet and department heads. But that announcement was published before City Council's no-confidence vote last week. I seriously doubt that a single Council member will be there. After calling on him to resign, it would be hypocritical to attend his address.

I also doubt that many community and business leaders will be there. They don't want to be handed a subpoena as they leave. But I'll try to note as many of those who do appear as I can. I'd just love to meet Lehigh Conference of Churches Exec Director Jack Felch.

Fed Ed's cabinet will be there, but only because they have no choice.

I fully expect His Goner to report that the State of the Shitty is just wonderful. I doubt he will mention the federal investigation or the four Allentown indictments, including three City Officials. I also doubt he'll discuss his failure to call a snow emergency before Saturday's storm. Or sending 30 homeless people into a blizzard. Or the delays caused by transfers of trucks and personnel to the Lehigh County Authority. Or the damage caused when Allentown's schools are forced to close their doors for a week. Or the poor children who will go hungry without the breakfast or lunch they can count on at school, if not at home. Or the news that federal investigators have expanded their investigation to the Parking Authority.

He's going to have to lie, but as the federal informations make clear, he's been lying to the FBI. Lying to the public is much easier.

If I have an opportunity to question him, I will. I have no intention of disrupting his speech. But when he lies, he knows he is going to be looking right at a number of people who know he's a liar.

I believe Rich Fegley and Bob Trotner are going. Deb Boylan, King Allentown's campaign manager, may be there as well.

Bethlehem Township Windfall Makes Tax Hike Unnecesary

This year's $16.9 million spending plan in Bethlehem Township comes with a price. Taxes were increased 1.01 mills (18.4%) from 5.99 to a 7.09 millage rate. The good news is that this hike is about half of the increase originally expected. But it appear that there was no reason to increase taxes at all.

The reason for this is because of the recent sale of two major properties. Southmont, located off of Rte 33, was just sold for $53.7 million. Another commercial property off of Broadhead Road also sold for about $30 million. The transfer tax generated by these sales will mean a windfall of about $400,000 to the Township. That's about the same about of revenue that will be generated by the tax hike.

Commissioners were apparently unaware of these impending sales while finalizing the budget. But code inspectors had to know because they would be required to do inspections.

Will Commissioners open the budget and return this money to the taxpayer?

Don't hold your breath.

NorCo Controller: Procurement Practices Need Review

Northampton County's procurement practices, outlined in the Administrative Code, are badly in need of an overhaul. That's the biggest recommendation made by Controller Steve Barron in his detailed annual report on county operations. (You can read it here.)

The County's procurement practices have resulted in two lawsuits within the past two years, pitting Council against the Executive, over interpretations of bidding practices contained in the Administrative Code. Barron calls these provisions "unclear, inconsistent, and in some cases, overly restrictive. As a result, it does not always provide clear and reasonable guidance for the procurement of goods and services."

Given what is going on in Allentown, this should raise all kinds of red flags to anyone interested in good government. Moreover, no one who disagrees with Barron's assessment. Throughout the past year, members of Council and the Administration have both expressed dissatisfaction with the procurement provisions. Yet Council has failed to take action.

Barron is recommending a "comprehensive revision" of procurement practices, which he suggests should be a "cooperative effort between representatives of both the Administration and County Council."

In other aspects of his report, Barron makes the following findings:

1. DA Drug Forfeitures. - "The County Detective should document the procedures for processing Drug Forfeiture Agency Fund transactions."

2. Public Works timekeeping. - "We were unable to reach a conclusion about the overall accuracy of payroll in the Public Works Department due to the lack of adequate documentation, and supervisory review and approval."

3. County's P-Cards. - These are responsible for nearly $1 million in purchases every year. "The Procurement Card Program continues to be an efficient, cost-effective method of paying for purchases without the need for petty cash, small purchase orders or accounts payable checks. Overall the program is working as intended."

4. Tax Claim Agency, (handles tax sales of real estate). - "[T]axes recovered through Upset and Judicial Sales are disbursed prior to obtaining an order confirming distribution from the court, in violation of Section 205 (3) of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law."

5. Hotel Tax Grants - "The Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development should ensure that these grants are monitored for compliance with Ordinance 484 and the terms of the grant agreements. Monitoring is a valuable tool that could have resulted in the avoidance or correction of non-compliance issues that were experienced by ArtsQuest."

6. Medical Claims - "In 2014, the County spent just under $22.8 million to pay for medical and prescription claims for enrolled employees, retirees and eligible family members, and an additional $1,213,535.66 in administrative fees to CBC for third-party administration and stop loss insurance."

7. Conservation District. - "The application tracking process involves eight different logs covering approximately 113 different data fields. The number of logs maintained results in inefficiencies in the office as it is a duplication of effort."

8. Constables. - According to Barron, they are "overpaid for server fees," payment sheets are not signed, duties are not rotated.

9. Mail. "Savings could be attained by the County in the handling of postage machine leases. Some machines aren’t necessary, such as the one at the Jail and one of the machines at the Human Service building. Mail that could be processed through the Mailroom should flow through there as it will reduce the need for manpower to operate the offsite machines, and correspondence would be mailed at a cheaper rate."

10. Recorder of Deeds. - "[P]erform more frequent random cash drawer verifications."

11. DUI Offendors. -
"Offender supervision fees were not assessed on defendants under the supervision of the DUI Office. Defendants under the supervision of DUI are charged a $30 monthly “DUI Parole Fee” which amounted to $307,036 for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014."

12. Payroll. - "We identified three instances in which employees did not receive the longevity payment to which they were entitled."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Allentown Stops Issuing Tax Certs

Many of you who live or work in Allentown are a bit upset with your government right now. No one is blaming Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski for 31" of snow. But he did refuse to declare a snow emergency despite having several days notice of a major snowstorm making its way up the Eastern seaboard. This failure resulted in cars getting snowed in along the City's snow routes. It made it impossible for plows to do their jobs. When His Goner finally did decide to take action, he was actually sending cops out at 2 and 3 am with bullhorns to tell people they had to get up and move their cars. As bad as that problem is, there's another one you don't know about, unless you're buying or selling property in the Queen City. This problem is the City's decision to suddenly stop issuing tax certs.

What the hell's a tax cert and why should I care?

Most of you know very little about how real estate transactions are conducted. They involve some of the most important services that local government provides. Exhaustive title records maintained at the county permit you to search every square inch of real estate for hundreds of years. In addition, cities like Allentown keep a record of the real taxes paid on each parcel and whether anything is owed. These must be paid before anything else, including mortgages.

If you're buying or refinancing in downtown Allentown, your title agent or lawyer will contact the city and ask for something called a tax certificate. For $25, the City can tell you exactly what is owed and whether taxes are delinquent. Without a tax cert, most title agents and lawyers will postpone a settlement because it's needed for a clear title. In Allentown, don't plan on settling anytime soon. The City will take your money and process your request for a tax cert, but it won't be issued. The City stopped doing so on January 14.

When I called Allentown yesterday to find out why, I was transferred to City Communications Director Mike Moore. That's not even his real name, which I find completely outrageous in local government officials. I would expect an honest government worker to tell me who he really is, but Moore uses a stage name. (His real name is Mike Korp). I pointed this out in a voice message to Moore (Korp), and as I suspected, he refused to respond.

But I also have friends in the title biz. One of them called, too. He is actually one of those waiting for a tax cert so he can schedule a closing. He was told he'll just have to keep waiting. When he asked for the reason for this holdup, he was told the decision came from "management."

Bob Cimerol, who runs First-United Land Transfer, has expressed his frustration in an email to City Council.
We have been informed by individuals who work for the City of Allentown Treasury Department that they were instructed by management on January 14, 2016 not to release any tax certifications to any parties until further notice. This order complicates real estate transactions for all properties in the City of Allentown since a tax certification is necessary to convey clear title. City administration is not giving a reason for this hold action. This action will delay real estate closings in the city for buyers, seller, Realtors and lenders. Your help in resolving this issue is greatly appreciated.
My guess is that this has something to do with Northeast Revenue, a privatized tax collector with a contract to collect delinquent taxes in Allentown. Two former City officials, Ass't City Solicitor Dale Wiles and Finance Director Gary Strathearn, have pleaded guilty to participating in a bid-rigging scheme for Northeast Revenue at the instance of Fed Ed, identified in court papers as Public Official No. 3. Northeast had contributed $15,000 to Fed Ed's various campaigns. Wiles and Strathearn created a bogus panel that falsely gave Northeast higher scored that two other firms that were rated higher.

Northeast would later rely on this bid-rigging scheme when it tried to convince Fountain Hill to allow it to do its collection work. According to Fountain Hill's July 22 minutes, Northeast Revenue told borough officials that it was interviewed by a panel that did not include the mayor. An ordinance that would permit Northeast to collect delinquent taxes in Fountain Hill was tabled on September 8, but approved in October. It's unclear whether a contract was ever fully executed.

Strathearn's plea was entered on January 11, and the decision to stop issuing tax certs became effective January 14.

Though Fed Ed can't be blamed for the heavy snowstorm, his refusal to treat it seriously is one reason why many residents were unable to dig out of their homes and get to work. And the suspension of tax certs means that people will be unable to get into their newly purchased homes, too.

Morganelli Calls For End to PornGate ... and Kane

I am one of those who voted for Kathleen Kane ... twice. I voted for her in both the Democratic primary and general election. I never imagined that someone who had so much potential could go so wrong so quickly.

DA John Morganelli was one of her original supporters, too. Not anymore. Now, he is seriously considering a run for the job himself, in what will undeniably be an uphill battle against other Democrats as well as Republicans who have allowed Kane to twist slowly in the wind, hoping to get political mileage out of this walking disaster.

Morganelli conducted a news conference in Harrisburg today. He is calling for a complete housecleaning in the Office of Attorney general (OAG), including the elimination of a special prosecutor who is not even licensed in Pennsylvania and who has been given unfettered access to Grand Jury materials. That's the same thing that got Kane into hot water in the first place.

John's statement is below:

Kathleen Kane mug shot
The OAG is a paralyzed and divided ship adrift at sea in need of a complete house cleaning. The first place to start is the termination of the so called special prosecutor Douglas Gansler. Let me explain.

It was reported last week that First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer has demanded the return of 850,000 emails that were handed over to the so-called special prosecutor, Douglas Gansler, by AG Kane in the so called "Porn Gate " investigation. Mr. Beemer contends that Kane, in turning over the emails to Mr. Gansler, improperly gave him many messages with confidential details of secret grand jury investigations. According to Mr. Beemer, the emails handed to Gansler contain a relatively small set of offensive messages, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary work emails in which prosecutors discussed pursuing criminal and civil cases. Beemer further stated that anyone who reviews grand jury material must get permission from the grand jury supervising judge who apparently has not given such authorization to Gansler. Letters made public last week suggests that the supervising grand jury judge may be taking steps to investigate yet another unauthorized disclosure of protected grand jury material.

Attorney Gansler has apparently refused the request of the OAG, Mr. Gansler is apparently going rogue. This matter represents, yet another legal mess that has the OAG paralyzed and divided. There continues to exist a disconnect between the elected AG and top people in her office. This has resulted in the OAG being akin to a ship adrift at sea with no one knowing for sure who is in charge. In fact, there is outright revolt.

As Pennsylvania's most senior district attorney, today I am calling on the termination of Mr.Gansler's relationship with the Pennsylvania OAG and the immediate return of property of the OAG. If Mr. Gansler continues to refuse to return property that is not his, I am also calling on the Department of Justice to intervene and seek in federal court an Order of Court directing Mr. Gansler to return the property of the Pennsylvania OAG. I call for this for several reasons:

First, there is no need for a "Special Prosecutor" that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars to do this type of investigation. The fact that the OAG's email servers have been a hub for the exchange of sexually explicit content and messages mocking women, minorities, gays, and others, while reprehensible, is not a crime. There has never been the slightest indication that any of the material contained child pornography which IS a crime. Adult pornography is generally viewed as legal and non prosecutable. Further, even if one could argue that Pennsylvania's obscenity statutes, which are still on the books, are in play, the OAG would not even have jurisdiction. The OAG has only limited criminal jurisdiction as authorized by the Commonwealth's Attorneys Act with the rest left to county district attorneys. Enforcement of obscenity statutes is not within their authority.

Second, there has never been the slightest indication that any of the material establishes to any degree any case fixing, criminal conspiracies to obstruct justice or any other crimes. Thus, Pennsylvanians may foot a bill for millions of dollars for a lawyer to look for material that at most will embarrass folks. That is not a proper mission of a special prosecutor appointed by the AG or the goal of a criminal investigation in general. Criminal investigations are initiated when there is some hint that criminal activity may be occurring. In this case, there has never been that suggestion and it appears that the goal here is not to look at folks who may be committing a crime, but rather, to try to find a crime against someone.

Third, Gansler is NOT independent. He was retained by Ms. Kane. He has made public remarks critical of both the Supreme Court's decision to suspend her license and the Senate's bid to remove her. As such, he is tainted. If it is in the public interest to finish the job of an independent review of the emails for the purpose of determining whether ethical violations may have occurred, the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board that oversees lawyers, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission and the Judicial Conduct Board working together offer a much more independent review with out bias or with any agenda of revenge and/or retribution. In short, it is not the role of the OAG to conduct this kind of inquiry or appoint a special counsel to do it.

In addition to the termination of Gansler, the OAG itself needs a house cleaning of all top tier people. If Ms. Kane is removed by action of the Senate and Governor, and an interim AG is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, the first order of business should be to ask for the resignations of all top level people. A new AG just cannot be saddled with Kane appointees, people loyal to Tom Corbett and/or people mired in "Porn Gate". A new AG needs a completely new team of professional prosecutors with no agenda, bias or loyalties other than to the people of Pennsylvania devoted solely to clean up this mess. "Porn Gate" must end, and the OAG must return to its core mission.

Robbery Victim Gets Relief at Zoning Hearing Board

Irene Skelly has good reason to like Bethlehem. On January 19, Bethlehem police nabbed a suspect in the gunpoint robbery of her S. New Street store, Pat's News Stand, earlier that day. And at their January 27 meeting, Bethlehem's Zoning hearing Board unanimously agreed to allow her to continue operating a five-room boarding house next door, located atop a tavern she owns next door.

Since she and her husband first purchased the property in 1978, Skelly has always operated a boarding house atop her bar. But when she recently applied for an inspection, City officials told her that she'd need a special exception and variances to continue.

She applied for relief, paying the $500 fee. But when he examined the file, Zoning Hearing Board member Michael Santanasto found records indicating that, as far back as 1968, the two floors above the bar consisted of rented rooms.

Skelly told zoners there are three rooms and a bathroom on the second floor and two rooms and a bath on the third. "It's always been that way," she testified.  

In 1968, it was called the Manhattan Bar. he was asked what it's called now, and replied, "You're Welcome."

"No, what's it called?" asked a spectator.

"You're Welcome"

The tavern is called the You're Welcome Inn.

After the hearing was over, Skelly asked that the $500 filing fee be returned. Though the Zoning Hearing Board has no jurisdiction over that matter, Skelly was advised to take it up with the Zoning Officer and City Council.  

In other business Gus Loupos and Bill Fitzpatrick were unanimously re-elected as Chair and Vice Chair of the five member board. The other three members include Attorney Michael Santanasto, Attorney Linda Shay Gardner and Jim Schantz, a legislative assistant to State Senator Lisa Boscola.

"This Board works very diligently," said Chair Gus Loupos. "We don't just make decisions off the cuff, but try to do what is in the best interests of Bethlehem."

As if to prove that point, the board spent nearly an hour reviewing Skelly's application in a room with just two spectators, one of whom came just to ask Skelly if she is related to a former Bethlehem clergyman by that name..

She is.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Blizzard of 2016 Results in Four Snow Shoveling Deaths in NorCo

That's the unofficial word. Since Saturday, four people have died in Northampton County as a direct result of shoveling snow.

Donations Sought For Allentown's Homeless

On Saturday, I told you that the rocket scientists at the Lehigh Conference of Churches decided to "street" (evict) about 30 homeless people who had sought refuge from the Blizzard of 2016 at their warming shelter. That story was picked up by WFMZ-TV69 and The Morning Call. Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and Conference of Churches Exec Director downplayed the incident. "I don't know why they are concerned and complaining," Fed Ed incredulously told a Channel 69 reporter. But there was no repeat of the streeting on Sunday. That's because Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell made it very clear to the Conference that its behavior was unacceptable.

One of those upset by what happened is MJ Muller, wife of Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller. Although this is never publicized, she is one of the tireless volunteers at Mary's Shelter, which provides transitional housing for pregnant women. Her husband has told me more than once that he thinks I qualify.

MJ has sent this email to her friends, and I will share it here.
Good afternoon friends!! Most of you know I work at a homeless shelter in Bethlehem, but today I am calling on you to help out with another special and much needed cause. I am sure you have read about the warming shelter in Allentown where approximately 40 - 50 homeless people are able to stay warm and safe over night. During the day is a different story. This group must leave the shelter during the day and return again in the evening. We are looking for the following items to help these folks: Warm socks for both men and women, personal care items must be new not used, cases of water, snacks and non perishables that do not need refrigeration or heating. These can be crackers, granola bars, applesauce cups, pudding, Jello, dry cereal, pretzels, graham crackers, fruit cups, etc. You get the idea. They can not accept home cooked items, so please do not bring those kinds of items. Any donations need to be dropped off at the Lehigh Valley Conference of Churches facility at 1031 Linden Street, Allentown, PA 18102. Please call before you go to drop any donations. The contact number is 610-433-6421. If you would like to indicate that your donation should go directly to the warming shelter which is located on Martin Luther King Parkway, please do so. This is going to be a very long and bitter cold winter. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated. Please do not drop any donations at the actual shelter on MLK Parkway. No one is there during the day to accept your items.
I get her point, but suggest a monetary donation to Zion's Liberty Bell Church. That's where the homeless went after being evicted by the Lehigh Conference of Churches.

At Least Six Green Pond Stockholders Still Have Local Ties

On Monday, Green Pond Attorney Graham Simmons told the Bethlehem Township Planning Commission that there were 24 stockholders at Green Pond Country Club, and that except for his uncle John, they have no ties to the township or, for that matter, the Lehigh Valley. The implication was that these were heartless bastards only interested in seeing a return on their investment, and that they would not hesitate to rip apart the Green Pond Golf Course if that meant more money in their pocket.

Green Pond Attorney Graham Simmons was less than honest. Thanks to regular reader Hank_Hill, I have a list of the 21 (not 24) stockholders. They are all listed on Green Pond's liquor license, which is a matter of public record.

W J DAUB III (Uncle John) is PRESIDENT and DIRECTOR. CHARLES W CHURCHMAN JR is VICE PRESIDENT and Director. His family is associated with Easton's Churchman Business College, and the family may still reside in Easton. ALDO BRAIDO, a Director, is Chairman of the Board at General Supply. His company is located in Bethlehem Township. JOSEPH E MILUTIS, another Director is a former NorCo GOP Chair and IBM Exec. He is listed as an officer at AAA Northampton County and appears to be an Easton resident. RICHARD R RULAND is a Director and someone with that exact name lives in Bethlehem. The same is true of another director, Someone with the exact same name as director John J Simon lives in a $400,000 home in Bethlehem Township. RODGER L ZELLNER JR is listed as ASSISTANT SECRETARY, ASSISTANT TREASURER and MANAGER/STEWARD. He is a local resident.

Stockholder ELSIE L BROWN may be John Daub's deceased aunt and widow of Thomas Brown, who co-founded the Brown Daub car dealership in 1936. Thomas Brown had been employed at General Supply Co.


For you Caddyshack fans, I did not see the name Carl Spackler.

Contrary to what Simmons told the Planning Commission, at least six stockholders are still tied closely to the Lehigh Valley. There are likely more, and I will determine that today.

You can help, too. If you recognize any of these names, please feel free to share what you know in the comments.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Green Pond Marsh Good Cop, Bad Cop Routine

Green Pond Marsh
They're back!

Now that the election's over, plans to develop Green Pond Marsh into an active senior community are back on the table. The Planning Commission was subjected to a good cop, bad cop routine at their January 25 meeting.  They've already granted waivers and deferrals once, and did so again.

This project is the brainchild of developer Traditions of America (TOA), which specializes in building 55+ neighborhoods. TOA was first started by J.B. Reilly, who is developing the lion's share of projects within Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).He still maintains a financial interest in the company. David Biddison, a partner and TOA's Director of Operations, made the presentation.

He was the good cop.

Originally proposed as a 256-home retirement community, the plan has been highly controversial because of its location at Green Pond Marsh. During numerous crowed meetings, many were concerned about the 180 different bird species that have been documented in wetlands so rare that the Audubon Society designated them an "Important Bird Area." Others worried about increased traffic on back country roads. Still others complained about storm waters, a major problem in Bethlehem Township and a sore spot with many residents.

Biddision originally insisted that only 27,000 sq ft directly across Farmersville Road from the pond has actually been delineated as a "wetland." But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and PA Department of Environmental Protection visited the site and determined the wetlands actually make up nearly five acres of a 68-acre parcel.

That was obviously a setback, and in the meantime, "Save Green Pond" signs began appearing all over the Township.This drew the ire of Planning Commissioner Les Walker, who called the signs "ridiculous." He called opponents NIMBYs (not in my back yard).

Les Walker would soon see many more "Save Green Pond" signs as Malissa Davis ran on that theme and was elected to the Township's Board of Commissioners, along with democrat Kin Jenkins. Republican Commissioner Tom Nolan had already declared himself against the development, calling it a "poor plan" at a "terrible location."

TOA went back to the drawing board and submitted what they are now calling a "revised" plan.

Good cop Biddison said he was "receptive to some of the concerns" and presented a plan that reduces the density of the development while increasing the amount of open space as well as buffering the wetlands area. The number of homes will decrease from 261 to 229, while the traffic from the development itself should be reduced from 541 to 481 trips per day. He has expanded the open space from 22 to 29 acres, and 18 of those acres will be true open space, independent of any storm water management. Buffering of at least 50' will surround the wetlands. The closest any home will be to the wetlands in 309.' This revised plan will also contain 4.5 acres less of impervious coverage, which tends to create storm waters.

Biddison also pointed out that the Township would benefit in the form of a $343,500 recreation fee, $250 thousand in annual property taxes and $500,000 in realty transfer taxes. The school district would also receive $1.9 million in taxes from a development with no children.

He wrapped things up by noting that, in addition to protecting the marsh, this plan would save the contiguous Green Pond Golf course.

Next it was the bad cop's turn.

That would be Graham Simmons an attorney at the Norris McLaughin law firm up to its eyeballs in the federal investigation into pay-to-play in Allentown. They represented Miked Fleck, J.B. Reilly, Scott Fainor and numerous regular Pawlowski contributors like Rob Bennett of Bennett Toyota. Fed Ed is rumored to vacation at the Florida Keys home of Norris McLaughlin partner Robert Somach. That firm just happen to be involved in numerous boards and authorities that dole out public money, in both Northampton and Lehigh County. Well, it's no surprise that this firm now represents John Daub, the President of Green Pond Country Club. It's even less of a surprise given that Simmon's father-in-law just happens to be Republican benefactor L. Anderson Daub. I suppose that makes John his uncle-in-law, so you could say he got the biz the old-fashioned way - by marrying well. Uncle John himself was unable to be present because, as Simmons explained, he winters in Arizona.

Simmons was there to engage in a little bit of legal extortion. All very legal, bit still a shakedown.

He noted that his client Daub is one of 24 stockholders, most of whom have no ties to Bethlehem Township or the Lehigh Valley. They want a return on their investment. Simmons explained they have two options. They can develop Green Pond Marsh and save the golf course. Or they can sell everything, including the golf course, for residential development that he claims is permitted by right. "The decision has already been made if TOA is unable to process its plans," he threatened.

Of course, the Green Pond Marsh Plan could be approved and nothing would stop Daub and his fellow stockholders from selling off the rest of the land anyway. Since 23 of 24 shareholders have no ties to the Lehigh Valley, what's stopping them?

Though the room was packed and included four of the Township's five Commissioners, there were few questions or observations.

Jack Glagola, perhaps the most formidable opponent of the Green Pond Marsh development, chose to listen, as did his wife.

Poet Matt Wolf, whose day job is information technician at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, condemned the revised plan, noting that a home less than a football field away from these migratory birds would scare them off. He also complained that the buffer is too small. "Whenever development comes in, nature loses," echoed Robert Adams.

But Mike Ryan, who lives near the site and calls himself "just a guy with a home right at the edge," complimented TOA's Biddison. He indicated that TOA reached out to him about plans as they've progressed. "This is a better option than a redefined golf course," he concluded.

Distinguished environmental Attorney Tom Elliott, who himself is Bethlehem Township's former Solicitor, represents the Save Green Pond coalition. Instead of raising environmental concerns, he is concerned that there are now two competing plans in play by TOA when zoning law only permits one at a time. He also indicated that the Township zoning ordinance requires direct access to the golf course, a point disputed by current Solicitor Wendy Nicolosi of the Broughal law firm..

His points were also disputed by Planning Commissioners. "I don't know anybody who would want to lug a bag of golf clubs from one of the houses," said John Daley, adding that access is by car. Les Walker wanted Elliott to identify the members of the coalition that he represents, but he politely refused.

Planning Chair Lee Snover abstained from voting on the waivers and deferrals because, as she has explained in the past, she is friendly with J.B. Reilly and her family has at times had a business relationship with him. She also pointed out that no plan will be approved until traffic, environmental and storm water studies are complete.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Blizzard 2016: Post Your Commuting Reports Here

How was your drive in to work? Once you got there, were you able to park? I am especially interested in those who are travelling to or from our Lehigh Valley cities. I made a few calls and decided to stay away from the courthouse in Easton today. There's no place to park, so having free meters is really kind of useless.

Updated 5:15 pm: Nazareth Digs Out Around My Estate.

After learning that I decided to remain in Nazareth today, borough officials devoted all their resources to dig out my estate, which is located atop the Army Navy Store. They didn't just dig it out, but removed all the snow as well, thanks to an industrial size snow blower and dump truck combination.

I was going to commend them, but slipped on a piece of ice that one of my servants missed. Of course, I had him shot.

LV Street Medicine: "Sreeting" Homeless In Face of Blizzard

Everyone at Zion had a sandwich for the road when
they returned to the warming center. 
On Saturday, I told you that the Lehigh Conference of Churches "streeted" about 30 human beings who had spent the night at their Martin Luther King Blvd warming station. At the time this occurred, winds were blowing at about 20 mph and there were already about nine inches of snow on the ground. Fortunately, these souls were taken in by the Zion's Liberty Bell UCC Church, where they remained and were fed until it was time to trudge back to the warming station.

Corinne and Brett Feldman are certified physician assistants whose vocation is to provide what they call street medicine for the homeless. They also have a blog called Street Medicine Lehigh Valley, and make some interesting observations about the shut-out, in a post entitled "Whose Job Is It Anyway?"

First, though we all know that the freezing point for water is 32 degrees, but human flesh can freeze at 40. The Code Blue designation used by Lehigh County Emergency Management is set at 32 degrees, and should probably be higher. The LC Emergency Management website fails to list the Code Blue designation, even when the temp is below 32 degrees.

Second, the Lehigh Conference of Churches, which receives public funding and claimed to have plans for these kinds of contingencies, needs to be held accountable. But we are all accountable.
In times of trial when human lives and dignity are on the line it is ALL of our responsibility to care for those in need. If you’ve accepted the public commission to care for the most vulnerable, you can’t abandon that post in the worst of times. At the same time, if you haven’t accepted that post in an official matter you aren’t absolved of your moral responsibility. This weekend in Allentown that is exactly what happened. Although not bound by grants or funding, Zion Church opened their doors to those most in need of sheltering from danger, just as they did in 1777 when they “housed” the Liberty Bell, keeping it safe from the British during the Revolutionary War (www.libertybellchurch.org). Let it be a lesson learned; that true responsibility comes from within.

Bethlehem Zoning Critic Convicted of Harassment

Al Bernotas
A former Bethlehem City Council candidate and long-time critic of the City's Zoning Hearing Board was convicted of harassment  Magisterial District Judge Patricia Engler reached her verdict against Johnston Drive resident Al Bernotas, age 74, following a lengthy trial on Friday.

This conviction stems from the zoning case that just won't go away. Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to get involved in the proposed business expansion of Elias Market, located on Linden Street in Bethlehem. That should have ended a case that spawned multiple zoning hearing board decisions, a lost transcript that required more hearings and numerous court reviews along the way. Despite losing at every step, an increasingly small group of neighbors calling itself the Bethlehem Homeowners Association, has continued the fight with a litany of complaints to the City. That in turn has resulted in several enforcement actions. In September, when one of these enforcement actions was dismissed, six police officers had to calm down Yong Hao, an Elias opponent who lost his composure and began pointing at affable Chairman Gus Loupos.

Al Bernotas was at that time already facing three counts of harassment for following an Elias delivery truck from Bethlehem to Allentown in April, ostensibly to prove that the business is involved in wholesale distribution. Wherever the truck went, he went, Wherever the truck stopped, so did he. He also snapped pictures. A spooked driver called Elias, and a private criminal complaint charging three counts of harassment against Bernotas was approved by DA Jim Martin.

Bernotas disputed allegations that he directed profanities at the driver, and vowed he will continue following the trucks because "my name is Al Bernotas."

The case against Bernotas was presented by distinguished Bethlehem Attorney Richard Pepper, a long-time prosecutor. The matter had to be continued several times to arrange for an Arabic translator. Bernotas was represented by Kathryn Elizabeth Roberts, who is reputedly an excellent Allentown criminal defense lawyer

Prior to the hearing, on this very blog, Bernotas called Joe Elias the "Godfather." He also suggested that the driver he followed might flee to Iraq, where he could support Muqtadā al-Ṣadr.

I don't think that helped him.

He was convicted and fined $200, but at Pepper's request, this was reduced to "a finding of guilt without further penalty" because "these people need to get along in their neighborhood."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lehigh Conference of Churches Sends Homeless Into Blizzard

Two years ago, I told you that the Lehigh Conference of Churches are nothing less than modern pharisees, especially when it comes to the homeless. Today, it proved my point. In a storm that is on track to eclipse the Blizzard of 1996, the warming shelter run by the Lehigh Conference of Churches closed its doors at 7:30 am and sent the individuals who had stayed there overnight out into the storm, in 20 mph winds with no bus service. Many of those people made their way by foot to Zion UCC for breakfast, which committed volunteers came to prepare and serve. Pastor Bob Stevens, upon learning that the shelter would not be open during the day, made the call to keep the church open to provide a safe place for people to stay out of the elements. 30 people stayed there, today, and would have to brave the elements, again, to get back to the shelter in order to have a place to sleep tonight.

This is unacceptable.

What can you do?

1. Follow and support Jubilee Breakfast Ministry at Zion UCC.

2. Send an email to the Executive Director of the Conference of Churches and tell him that it is not ACCEPTABLE that he risked HUMAN LIVES today by throwing homeless people onto the streets in this blizzard: jfelch@lehighchurches.org

3. Go to their FB page and give them a bad review for this inexcusable behavior

4. Find out if your church is a member and demand answers. They will not address their mismanagement as long as they still have strong financial support and as long as member churches are silent.

NPR Covers Allentown Political Corruption Scandal

On Wednesday night, there was a bit of journalistic royalty at Allentown City Council. No, not Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky. It was Andrea Seabrook, the former weekend voice of All Things Considered. Her story aired on Friday, and I've embedded it below instead of Opinions Online, my usual Saturday feature.

Brad Bumstead, the state's premier investigative reporter, has begun snooping around as well.

Friday, January 22, 2016

NorCo Council Approves $500,000 in Hotel Tax Grants

Bruce Haines
Northampton County is expected to generate about $2 million in hotel tax revenue this year, based on a four per cent hotel room rental surcharge. Most of that money goes to Discover Lehigh Valley, a bi-county tourism bureau that also helps fund the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. In addition, the Steel Stacks Performing Arts Center and PBS-39's broadcast studio will collect $270,000. The rest of the money, nearly $500,000, was awarded in the form of hotel tax grants at Council's January 21 meeting to 32 different organizations. These were based on applications vetted in advance by the County's Department of Community and Economic Development, and are designed to promote community development or enhance tourism within Northampton County.  A list of the various projects considered is located here.

These grant requests were originally scheduled to be considered the previous day at Council's Finance Committee.But a bomb scare phoned into the courthouse earlier that day resulted in an evacuation, and the building was off limits until about 4 pm, right around the time that the committee had been scheduled to meet. Road blocks set up around the perimeter of the courthouse prevented access until after the meeting had been scheduled to start. As it happened, several of those turned around were grant applicants who wished to address Council.

I raised this possibility to Council before they started yesterday, having no idea at the time that I was actually right. Go figure.

"How many people are there who are on their way in here, who wanted to speak to this issue, who were turned around?" I asked. "We don't know."

Meeting at a place where the public had been turned away all afternoon is a pretty obvious violation of the Sunshine Act. Our open meetings law specifically provides that "the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decisionmaking of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process." But that right fell by the wayside for a Council that was unwilling to do the right thing and reschedule the meeting.

Glenn "I wanna' be a Congressman" Geissinger, who chairs the Finance Committee, decided that the show must go on. And without the public's presence, that's precisely what it was. "While I understand your concern, I don't believe we are violating the Sunshine Act," he ruled. "So we will proceed."

This was great news for a few hardy souls, like Hotel Bethlehem's Bruce Haines and the Bach Choir's Bridget George. They had managed to slip in under the velvet rope, and had their hands out. Thanks to their well-reasoned arguments, Council voted to increase their funding. But others like Lynn Cunningham of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Gerry Yasso of the VIA Marathon, had been turned away. The Committee voted to reduce Yasso's funding, even though the VIA Marathon is without a doubt the most worthy application in terms of promoting tourism and hotel stays. Geissinger's Committee also recommended the elimination of a $4,000 arts study, even though applicant Randall Forte was among the missing, and as it happens, was one of those who were turned away.

Prior to the Council meeting, County staffers called applicants and told them they were welcome to pitch their projects. But many who had already been turned away once were unable to adjust their schedules at the drop of a dime. Some did come.

The "Docents on Main" and "Blacksmith Shop Demonstration," which had been pitched by Bruce Haines the previous day, saw their funding by $10,000 over the $55,000 recommendation. The Bach Choir will get $18,000 instead of the $13,000 allocated by County staff. The South Side Film Festival will get $1,000 instead of nothing, thanks to some juggling by Ken Kraft.

Gerry Yasso managed to get his funding restored, thanks to an amendment proposed by Geissinger.

Randall Forte of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council did get a chance to pitch his project, but was still shot down.

Lynn Cunningham was unable to squeeze a nickel for website redevelopment for the Bethlehem Visitor site. She had sought $15,000. She was asked whether she sought the money from the CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, who just happens to be her husband. "I have not but I'm sure I'll read about it on Bernie's blog tomorrow," she joked.

He was a last resort.

Poll: When Will Fed Ed Be Indicted?

When I heard that Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski snubbed City Council on Wednesday, I assumed that Managing Director Francis Dougherty was with him because he was MIA from Council  as well. Turns out that Dougherty is not with Fed Ed. I learned yesterday that they are barely on speaking terms. I believe that's because he's been cooperating in the federal investigation. I suspect that is true of Sara Hailstone as well, and that is why she resigned her positions in Allentown so suddenly.

City Council member Daryl Hendricks stated at Wednesday night's meeting that there is no doubt in his mind that His Goner will be indicted. The question is when. On my left sidebar, I have a poll asking you what you think.

Brown Fares Poorly in Unscientific LVR Poll

Last week, I asked my readers to rate Northampton County Executive John Brown's first two years in office. Though I fashioned the poll to prevent too much game-playing, I have little doubt it still occurred. It can hardly be considered a scientific poll. But since he wants to be state auditor general, I thought it would be fun to see how readers grade him.

Of the 222 votes cast by readers, Brown received either an "A" or "B" from 19% of those who responded. The remaining 81% gave him a "C", "D" or "F." He received an "F" from 47% of those who participated, which is nearly half of those who responded.

This is something he should consider as he embarks on his statewide campaign.

By way of full disclosure, I should note that I gave Brown a "C."

His performance as Executive improved markedly in his second year as Executive. He still is far too secretive, but has opened up a little. I believe that some of his changes, like reducing worker compensation payments to 66% of a person's salary, were long overdue. Even workers lauded that change. I love his plan for setting aside money for future capital projects, which should avoid the need for an expensive bond. His second year might warrant a high B.

But his first year was a total disaster. He attempted to govern by consultant and used precious tax dollars for a completely unnecessary PR firm. His unilateral reductions in health care benefits were wildly unpopular and resulted in a record number of retirements of the County's very best people. The low point was when he posted armed guards outside his office before a news conference to prevent Council members from attending. His first year was clearly an "F".

He will spend his third year largely being absent as he runs for statewide office.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NorCo Chief Deputy Sheriff Warns of Snow Cancellation

Northampton County Chief Deputy Chris Zieger, like any committed public safety official, has been tracking the impending snow storm, and has issued a warning to his son that there will likely be no school this weekend, on either Saturday or Sunday.

City Council Wants Fed Ed to Resign

Fed Ed supporters give me bottle of snake oil.
It tasted like something else. 
A unanimous City Council called on Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski to resign at their meeting last night before a packed house of about 80 residents and a large contingent of newspapers, TV stations and even NPR. The one person who should have been there was Fed Ed, the embattled Mayor. But in his typical style, he snubbed Council and was instead in Washington, at public expense, attending the US Conference of Mayors. He apparently had time to squeeze in a meeting with his D.C. lawyers as well.

Until last night, City Council has been largely derided, and with good reason, as the third wheel on the Pawlowski bicycle, leading Allentown over a cliff. But that sentiment seemed to shift last not. Council President Ray O'Connell was actually defended by usual Council critics as a man of integrity after he was insulted with a cheap shot by a Fed Ed supporter who believes we should be erecting a statue in his honor. Candida Affa, one of Fed Ed's biggest supporters, acknowledged she has been a long-time Pawlowski supporter, but that she was elected to represent the people. "It breaks my heart," she said, "but I don't vote with my heart. I vote with common sense and the facts."

Instead of being Fed Ed's representative to the people, this Council was acting more like the people's representative to Pawlowski. Though this is a nonbinding resolution, it is a triumph for democracy.

I refused on general principle to stand for a prayer led by a member of Council, which I find offensive, particularly when there was at least one ordained minister and a rabbi in the crowd. Nobody seemed to mind. I had a front row seat, with NBC10 on my left and the NPR reporter to my right. I was hoping that her civility might seep into a bottom feeding blogger. And it might have worked.

Then one of Fed Ed's goons walked up to me and handed me a bottle marked "Snake Oil" with some yellow liquid inside. "This is for you," he said, and bolted. I drank it, and it tasted nothing like snake oil. It tasted like something else, but I was thirsty.

I think it must have been an energy drink because I'm still pecking away at 3 am. .

Numerous people spoke before the vote, including several Pawlowski supporters who belong to his church.

"Ask him to resign? You should be erecting a statue to him," argued Roberta Carter, who added that none of the current members of council are fit to be Mayor and that Ray O'Connell is particularly inept because he was a school administrator. She stated nothing she's read is detrimental to the City, and that City Council should adopt a resolution increasing Fed Ed's pay. "Sometimes, you have to overlook some things," said Casey Stengel, former owner of the Bada Bing restaurants in Allentown and a member of Pawlowski's church. Carl Furhrman said Pawlowski is one of the "straightest arrows I've ever met" and called the investigation into him a witchhunt and a vendetta.

But many more told Council that Fed Ed needs to go.

"This is about ethics," claimed Glenn Hunsicker. "City Council is the voice of the people, not the voice of the Mayor."

Perhaps the most eloquent speaker was Dennis Pearson. "All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride," he said, quoting from Sophocles' Antigone.

"He has stolen from our citizens, from our children," argued Chris Cocca, referring to the honest services fraud. Ken Heffentrager noted the first thing Pawlowski did as mayor was gut the rental rehab program. "He has turned his back on [the poorest] 27% of the population."

Joe Hoffman worried that the City staff is in "lock down mode," afraid to do anything. "Your city is grinding to a halt."

Kim Velez, a former City Council candidate, related her own experience in dealing with Pawlowski's "scare tactics" when he attempted to bounce her off the ballot a few years ago. "Democracy must be led by the people," she asserted.

Lou Hershman stated that "[t]he people who support the Mayor for the good things he's done should support you for the bad things he's done."

After giving everyone an opportunity to speak, Ray O'Connell read his own message to Pawlowski, noting he completely disagrees with Fed Ed's assertions that he's done nothing wrong. Likening Allentown to a silver bowl, O'Connell said that "silver tarnishes if not polished." He said the Mayor calls himself an honorable man, and then spoke directly to the absent Pawlowski. "Do the honorable thing, and resign so this silver bowl can shine again.

Jeff Glazier noted that all seven member of Council have sponsored this resolution, which is highly unusual, and that all seven members contribued to the resolution calling on Pawlowski to step down.

Cynthis Mota echoed Affa's observations, and Julio Guridy noted that all the accomplishments attributed to Fed Ed have often been the handiwork of Council.

City Council includes two former law enforcement officers. Daryl Hendricks was a police officer for 38 years and Roger MacLean was Chief of Police. Both spoke highly of the FBI, with Hendricks calling it the "premier law enforcement agency. "There is no doubt in my mind that our Mayor will be indicted," he said with the certainty that only a former cop possesses. "This is something that has to be done for the betterment of the City," added MacLean.

After the 7-0 vote was tabulated, City Clerk Michael Hanlon informed Council that he had just received an email from Fed Ed, which he wanted read into the record. According to the email, it was sent at 7:50 pm, after the meeting was underway. In this email, Fed Ed talks about the presumption of innocence, but fails to address the reality that this investigation has paralyzed city government.

His email, reproduced below leaves no doubt that he has no intention of stepping aside until he runs out of money to pay his lawyers or is arrested and dragged out of office kicking and screaming.

For the past ten years, I have proudly served the people of Allentown. I have led the massive rebuilding of this great city and been one of the architects of the unparalleled revitalization of Allentown as a place to live, work and play.
A bedrock principle of our justice system is that everyone, which includes Mayors, councilmen reporters, and the public are presumed innocent. I certainly hope that this concept has not been suspended in the City of Allentown. You would all want this protection for you, your friends or a family members. I am simply requesting the same and am disheartened that council is taking punitive and dramatic action against me without the benefit of affording me due process.

Hundreds upon hundreds of people who have approached me over the last several months to encourage, support and pray for me and my family during these last several months.

I understand this has been hard on our city, it has been even harder on me and my family. Yet I remain committed to serving the city and its residents as the Mayor, trusting your patience with this process.

No matter what the outcome of your vote is tonight, I commit to work with you for the betterment of our city and ask you to commit to do the same.

I ask that you afford me the courtesy of publicly reading this into the record at this evenings proceedings.

I thank you for your consideration and I apologize I am not able to be there personally tonight but am in Washington representing our great city at the US Conference of Mayors.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski

Updated 12:06: Randy Kraft at WFMZ-TV69 has the most detailed coverage of last night's meeting.

Hunter: $50 MM LOC Remains Untouched

Northampton County Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter reported yesterday that the $50 million line of credit  taken out to deal with the state budget shortfall had remained untouched. "We did not borrow any money," he said. "We were able to escape that by one day."

The day before he was going to tap into the line of credit, money from the state began flowing in.

Did NorCo Council Committees Violate the Sunshine Act?

roadblocks around courthouse
Yesterday, Northampton County Council's Personnel Committee was scheduled to meet at 4 pm. The Finance Committee was supposed to meet as soon as the Personnel Committee was finished. But the 1 pm bomb scare threw a monkey wrench into things, and really prevented people from getting into the courthouse. So in my view, these meetings needed to be postponed to comply with the Sunshine Act. They went on anyway.

When the courthouse was evacuated yesterday, roadblocks were set up along the perimeter of the courthouse, preventing access. These roadblocks were still up after the "all clear" had been given, though only for about ten minutes. I know this because I had left the courthouse and was unable to get through until about 4:10 pm.  The only reason I persisted is because I was told about he "all clear." But how many people who intended to visit one or both of these committees left?

Yesterday, the Finance Committee was reviewing $753,000 in hotel tax applications from nonprofits all throughout the county. My concern is that there may have been applicants who intended to pitch their projects but were unable to do so because they had been turned around.

I voiced these concerns to Council, and suggested the meeting be rescheduled. That suggestion fell on deaf years.

Obviously, applicants who made it to the meeting would have little sympathy for those who did not. But I expected better of Council.

Oxford educated Bridget George made an impassioned plea for additional funding for the Bach Choir, which receives 20,000 visitors every year from 33 different countries. Her funding had been cut in half from $20,000 to $10,000, and it appears that Council will restore it.

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines was no less effective in his pitch for docents used by Historic Bethlehem in its downtown and at its smithy. The administration had proposed a $10,000 cut but Council appears to be ready to restore the $65,000 requested.

John Cusick had concerns about a grant by LV Arts Council, but no one was present from that group to pitch its small grant request.

You can see the hotel tax grant applications here.

NorCo Bomb Scare Results in Unexpected Half Day Off

Mike Thompson, dance machine
Sometime around 1 pm yesterday, Northampton County received at least one call warning that there were explosives at the courthouse. Sheriff David Dalrymple did the only thing he really could do - he ordered the building evacuated while police and fire officials swept the building.  Businesses and homes adjoining the courthouse were also warned of the threat and advised to leave, while sheriffs set up road blocks to prevent anyone from getting too close to the courthouse.

Most employees were eventually sent home. I have an excuse for being behind on several title searches, which I'll milk for about a month. Even judges and Assistant DAs were  required to leave the building, but they seemed to enjoy the opportunity to chat with workers in other departments. Ass't DA Mike Thompson, sporting the Indiana Jones fedora in the photo, even practiced his dancing,but was promptly arrested for disorderly conduct.

The building remained closed until after 4 pm.

There were no criminal trials in progress yesterday. Several years ago, a bomb scare was called into the courthouse in the middle of a trial being conducted by Judge Kim McFadden. Instead of sending everyone home, she moved the trial into the parking lot next to the courthouse.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fed Ed's State of the City and the City's State of Fed Ed

The Morning Call is reporting that all seven Allentown City Council members have agreed to sponsor tonight's resolution calling on Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski to resign. This is despite his own lobbying efforts, which he began last Thursday. Though he's entitled to the presumption of innocence, he lost his legitimacy as a leader as four guilty pleas have rolled in that point directly at him. He needs to resign. For his sake. For his family's sake. For the City's sake.

But he won't.

City employees in some departments are actually under instructions to contact the FBI immediately if Fed Ed or a list of other City officials contact them. Instructions like these tend to paralyze government. If Fed Ed had any regard for city government,he'd stop making himself an issue

But he won't.

He has two children attending public schools. I can only imagine the snide remarks being cast at them. If he cared for his own children, he'd move on.

But he won't.

Fed Ed is in complete denial. His Facebook page makes that clear. He has no source of income aside from his salary as Mayor, so he will continue to draw on that while spending campaign funds to pay his lawyers. Once that well runs draw, he'll have to deal. But he will wait until then.

Amazingly, at a time when he is under a federal microscope and is being asked to resign, he's actually giving a State of the City address on January 29, 11:30 am at Allentown's Renaissance Hotel. This is being sponsored by the Rotary Club, and costs $30. Community and business leaders are expected to be there as well. The urban growth regime in the flesh. I plan to attend, and if i get a chance, ask Fed Ed to resign.

Bethlehem Township's Mini Junkets

Bedford Springs Resort and Spa
On St. Paddy's Day, Bethlehem Township Police Chief Dan Pancoast and CPT Greg Gottschall will be enjoying themselves at Penn State, thanks to a unanimous vote of  the Board of Commissioners on Monday night. Taxpayers will spend $220 for them to go to a labor conference, and will also pay about $120 per night per officer for hotel accommodations.

Now I have a lot of respect Chief Dan Pancoast and CPT Greg Gottschall. But there is no way I would spend public funds to send any public employees to a news conference on St. Paddy's Day and at Penn State no less.

What were Commissioners thinking? We'll never know. Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution approving this little junket with no questions asked.

Nor did they question the trip that Manager Melissa Shafer will take to the Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa on Feb 18-19. In addition to spending $305 for an "executive development" conference, taxpayers will pay for her discounted $139 per night stay. She can dine in their Signature Steakhouse and be pampered at the "springs eternal spa." And of course, there's Afternoon Tea.

In the spa brochure, the experts hosting this conference blather, "The greatest challenge facing public managers today is the sea of change in citizens’ perceptions and expectations of their government, and their interest in providing a contribution to local governance."

That challenge is hardly reduced when taxpaying bodies send these managers at taxpayer expense to a resort spa. Kinda' makes you wonder whether Shafer will really learn a damn thing, except how to get one over on the taxpayer. When you whoop it up at some spa, that tends to create a negative perception, and citizens expect better.

OK, I've just explained everything Melissa could hope to lear for free, so she can cancel her little trip.

There was a third trip on the agenda, too, for police training. But that matter was not voted on with no explanation.

Maybe they forgot.

Bethlehem Tp's Proposed Public Comment Policy

Here is the public comment policy that Bethlehem Tp Comm'r Malissa Davis has proposed, as revealed by the back-up documents to Monday night's agenda.
A consensus of the Board (Pat Breslin, Tom Nolan, Kim Jenkins and Malissa Davis) would like to discuss changing meeting rules with respect to when meeting attendees could ask questions and make comments. We would like to discuss using the same policy as the Planning Commission, i.e. Courtesy of the Floor is used for topics not on the agenda, but agenda items can be discussed after the board has commented and before a vote. We believe this will result in more informed comments, more relevant questions and more informed residents.
I find it incredible that the first thing she would do is propose a public comment policy when she herself last year stated one was unnecessary and was "disrespectful to the citizens." During Monday night's meeting, she hinted at placing a time limit on speakers. But that's not in this version. Solicitor Jim Broughal has already ruled that this policy, if adopted, complies with the Sunshine Act.

The problem with this policy is a requires a strong Chair who will make sure public input is solicited as each agenda item is raised. Lee Snover does this on the Planning Commission and is very effective. Nobody leaves one of her meetings feeling they've been ignored. It appears that Malissa Davis really likes the Lee Snover approach, but Pat Breslin is no Lee Snover. He's still in the meeting room, trying to say "adjourned."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Traditions of America Revives Green Pond Plans

Bethlehem Township failed to load its back up documents to the agenda for last night's meeting. Had it done so, the public would be aware that Traditions of America (TOA) is once again on the Green Pond horizon. According to Planning Director Nathan Jones' monthly report, the developer has submitted a "modified Tentative Plan," which reduces the number of homes from 261 to 229.The main entrance has been changed from Farmersville Road to Green Pond Road. The clubhouse has been re-located to the northern part of the development. The buffer space around the wetlands, located at the northwest corner of the site, have been increased.

This matter has been placed on the Planning Commission agenda for January 25. The developer wants all previous waivers and deferrals ratified.

Malissa Davis ran for office based on her opposition to the Green Pond development, yet never said a word at last night's meeting. Nor did any other Commissioner.

Lahoud: LV Dems Should Seek Fed Ed's Ouster

Despite Fed Ed's lobbying efforts, it appears that City Council will call on him to resign on Wednesday night. In addition to being Mayor of Allentown, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is also a member of the Democratic state committee.Marcel Groen, who was closely associated with Allentown's aborted Delta Thermo Energy deal, is the state party boss. The Democratic party has taken no action against Fed Ed.

Ray Lahoud, a prominent immigration attorney and one of the Lehigh Valley's brightest lights, thinks it's time for the Democratic Party to put the heat on Fed Ed.
As a lifetime, young Lehigh Valley Democrat, I feel it is time that the local county parties take a stand here. The local party chairpersons must call for a party meeting, where a resolution demanding FedEd's resignation may be considered and put to a vote. The Lehigh Valley Democratic Party cannot sit silent as this corruption casts a shadow of shame on the entire party.

* * *

Every week, it seems, one of his cronies is indicted, only to enter guilty pleas to those indictments days later. I understand that FedEd has not been charged. And, yes, if FedEd is charged, I understand that he is innocent until proven guilty. But, come on Democrats! Why is everyone sitting silent? You do not have to wait for a trial to stand up to him and tell him that he is destroying the party--that he is no longer an effective leader within the party. You do not have to wait to tell him that he is a detriment to the party. Where is the party leadership at the county and the state levels? What is everyone afraid of? What a joke.

* * *

By the way - he is "censoring" his Facebook Page. I commented on his posting and he deleted it. What a loser. The citizens of Allentown are not paying him to sit on Facebook all day. If he is going to remain mayor until he is dragged out of city hall by either the Feds or the citizens of Allentown, the least he could do is try to get some city work done.
In the meantime, Fed Ed is scheduled to give a "State of the City" address on Friday, January 29, 11:30 am at Allentown's Renaissance Hotel. A group of us is going.

Bethlehem Tp Takes Aim At Library, Public Comment

Breslin struggles at helm in Bethlehem Tp
At a brief meeting of Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners on January 18, there was virtually no explanation of three pages of agenda items. The public had no ability to check on them in advance because the Township failed to post its back-up documents online.

Manager Melissa Shafer will attend a two day "executive development conference," but there is no indication anywhere what it will cost. The same is true for Chief Dan Pancoast and Capt. Greg Gottschall, who will be at Penn State on St. Paddy's Day for a three day labor conference. Commissioners rubber-stamped $118,000 worth of purchase orders with just one question, and approved a series of "blanket" purchase orders for this year with no questions at all.

Commissioners did table what appeared to be a $9,205 insurance police for cyber security. There was no explanation of who would be providing this insurance or whether the Township bothered to shop around.

Throughout the meeting, President Pat Breslin mangled the English language. "Conservation" became "Conversation." He didn't even try to read the word "indemnification." It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Commissioner are about to embark on something called a "library referendum."

Noting that Bethlehem Township pays $405,000 to participate in the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Michael Hudak said it's time to reconsider. According to him, the public "has been very vocal, to say the least."

Malissa Davis echoed Hudak's concerns, noting that Bethlehem Township pays 20% of the cost of the library, but only gets 14% of the use.

Hudak decided, apparently in advance of the meeting, that the subject should be tabled because "there really isn't enough information to have an intelligent conversation [not conservation] at this time."

Malissa Davis is also proposing a public comment policy.

Last year, when former Commissioner Marty Zawarski proposed a public comment policy, Davis called the very notion "disrespectful to the citizens," adding that public comment has never been an issue. But now that she's on the other side of the dais, it appears that it is. She wants to bar public comment on agenda items until the item comes up and is explained. At least that's what I think. She also said she'd support a time limit on speakers if a meeting is crowded. Since the back up documents were not attached to the agenda online I have no idea what this public comment policy states, or if there even is one. But Solicitor Jim Broughal ruled that whatever it is, it's legal. Considering that the Sunshine Act has virtually no teeth, he's probably right.

Everyone has left, but Pat Breslin is still there, trying to pronounce the word "adjourn."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fed Ed Lobbies City Council Against No-Confidence Vote

On Wednesday, Allentown City Council is expected to vote on a resolution seeking the resignation of Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. As of last week, this was supposed to be unanimous, but that may no longer be so. Reason? Since Thursday, Fed Ed has been wearin' out his burner phones with calls to City Council members, demanding that they vote No.

To those of you thinking that he would quietly resign and go away, think again. He is in complete denial. He's telling them he's done nothing wrong. I guess the four guilty please relating specifically to him are fiction. He may also be making promises or threats.

He'll remain in denial until he's no longer able to pay for his Washington lawyers with his campaign funds. But by then, it might be too late for him to watch at least one of his two children grow up.

Pa GOP Pumps Brown For Auditor General

On my left sidebar, I have a poll asking you to rate NorCo Exec John Brown's first two years in office, from A to F. Though this is by no means scientific, he's doing poorly. Nevertheless, he has his eyes set on the Auditor General's seat, and picked up the support of the state GOP at their Winter meeting in Hershey on Saturday.

I first told you that Brown intended to seek this seat on November 1.

What this means is that he will be getting paid by the taxpayers of Northampton County to be a full-time candidate because in this state, we have no resign-to-run laws. While Brown is criss-crossing the state trying to pick up votes in a race he must know he will lose, he will assign responsibilities to Cathy Allen, his de facto second in command.

After he falls on the sword and loses, the state GOP will be obliged to find him a nice job, like they did for Bob Nyce.

Fed Ed Thinks He's TR

As we all know, the mountain of evidence against Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski grows larger every day. Three City officials and an entrepreneur have entered guilty pleas to bribery and bid-rigging in a criminal enterprise to which Fed Ed, identified by Feds as "Public Official No. 3," appears to be the mastermind. At least two people, including someone he considered his closest friend, wore wires. There is evidence that he even resorted to using burner phones and sweeping his office for bugs, like some Mafioso or drug kingpin.

This is organized crime. A racketeering indictment is looming for this Moody Bible Institute grad. Even his former supporters on City Council have agreed it's time for him to go. He simply has lost the moral authority to lead.

But he's in denial, and nowhere is that more evident than on his Facebook page. His Sunday inspiration this week was Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better."

This speech was also quoted from by Richard Nixon when he resigned.

Miley Cyrus might even have a few words from it tattooed on her ass somewhere.

Both Nixon and Fed Ed make the same mistake. TR was defending those assailed for trying to make the world a better place, not criminals. . But I suppose criminals in their own way delude themselves they meant well, and maybe they did.