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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Opinions Online, 4/30/16

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. Please keep your comments brief, if possible.


I believe that Montgomery County uses the same property record software as Northampton County, yet the Montgomery County implementation provides much more information--including ownership history. The tools are available for Northampton; they're just not being fully utilized.


i AGREE, THE ncpub.org website is usually inaccessible to a person who wants to look up comparable properties, or wants to research a potential property. Let's face the real estate agents can't get all the info correct all of the time, and if the records are incorrect how do you fix them ? Go to court like Bob Rudas did ?


You have to love the trails of litter on I-78 and Route 22 that lead to the renaissance downtown! When was the last time you saw a PennDOT litter crew working the roadways? Been a while, hasn't it.


I've never cared before, until I had to pay. Do you have any idea how it much it costs to deliver soap and deodorant, or a card to an inmate at NCP? Or make a call, when the inmate calls you? Who collects the fees; are they recorded? Why not? Now N.C. is on line for prisoner candy bars and soap, and the price to supply is robbery. Who gets the Vigorish?


Great job on the elections.

G. John Bryant, Jr.

Blogger's Reply: Thanks, John. I did a poor job covering the Senate race, but tried to do a good job covering the contested state house races in the LV.


From a Facebook post by Jim Reinhart 4/27/16....So today at work we look out the window to see two Nazareth Borough workers removing a monument and flag pole at the corner of Spruce and Belvidere Streets. To our disbelief they did not take the American flag down before removing the pole. Thus they dragged the pole along the ground to their truck. Then set the flag and pole on the ground. THEN removed the flag. I had to go out to just inform the workers that now the flag MUST be destroyed PROPERLY. I felt that this was necessary since they didn't appear to know flag etiquette. The worker I spoke to was only saying that they were taking it to the Legion. I asked if they would tell they Legion that the flag touched the ground. He said they would. I asked then if he knowingly let the flag touch the ground and he did. This infuriated me and said I would call his supervisor. I was told to and "good luck". As I walked away I did swear but not at him. He said he was going to call the cops. Go ahead and I also said to call his supervisor. He then told me to walk away. I called the public works office with no answer. Then I called the main Borough number and talked to the lady there. She didn't seem to understand the impact this had on me. She would pass along my information to the supervisor. Guess what? Turns out the guy I talked to is the supervisor. What a great example he is. All I know is his name is Bob. Then I wanted to talk to the mayor but I remembered he was just arrested for stealing money from the fire department. Have to love working in Nazareth. My passion for the flag comes from my grandfather, father, uncles and friends that have fought for my freedom. No matter what, NO ONE has a right to desecrate the American flag. I will not stand by quietly when I see this.
Blogger's Reply: These allegations were strongly denied at the Borough Council meeting, not by Public Works but a WWII vet named Frank Adams. I did not hear from Public Works and left before the meeting was over. Apparently, a flag did touch the ground. Borough workers claim it was accidentally, while Reinhart says it was intentional..


Unless Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee, I can't see any possibility of a Cruz or Kasich defeating Hillary Clinton. If anyone reading does, please explain.

In a General Election, we'll need to factor in Independents, unattached (like me), plus a huge loss of votes from rabid , disappointed Trump supporters. Consider, too, a recent poll showing 46% of Bernie Sanders voters who claim they will feel cheated by his Primary loss and then vote for Trump over Hillary.

Understanding the media is heavily biased toward the Democratic Party, the Republican Party leadership is a group of delusional fools, how in the world could a Cruz, Kasich , or some last-minute alternative draw more votes than Trump?

Fred Windish


The local Express-Times newspaper reported a story about a City Council member being assaulted by the member's spouse. They also reported the victim's name. I find this reprehensible. The newspaper generally does not post names of domestic violence victims, but in this case they choose to do it. This is horrible. Just because one is an elected public official, they should still get the right to privacy when it comes to an issue like this. I pray that the City Council member is okay after this attack.

Blogger's Reply: The victim herself called attention to the issue, so this is an unfair criticism.


Ever since Anne Werkheiser Shoe Store closed, if it wasn't for Holy Family Gymnasium, Paul's Army Navy store, and Pott's Doggies, I would not have a reason to go to Nazareth. I won't even step foot into Gracedale. The Mayor of Nazareth and Council should be proud of what they created. I hope the Sticker Gang makes stickers for the Mayor and Council.

Blogger's Note: Let me give you some good reasons to go to Nazareth, aside from the great businesses you mentioned. 1. Pizza Joe - Perhaps the best Italian food in the Lehigh Valley at reasonable prices in a family atmosphere. 2. Hana Sushi. - The best sushi you will find in this area, according to the experts. 3. Rios - Magnificent Brazilian steakhouse, where the meat melts in your mouth. 4. Rice 'n Beans - great Latin cuisine and a fusion of American cuisine. 5. Nazareth Diner - perhaps the best diner food in this area, rivaled only by the nearby 248 Diner. 6. Nazareth Ace Hardware - reasonably priced with a personal touch. 7. Lynn's Florist. - She is a flower herself. She is that kindhearted. 8. The Pie Shop. - This is one of he stores Varone touts as coming to main and she can giver herself credit for that, but it has always been in Nazareth and is great. 9. Nazareth Music Store.- This has everything a budding musician needs and even offers lessons. There's lots of great places in Nazareth already.

Nazareth is a great place. Its government sucks, and i doubt very much that many more businesses will be moving in with a Mayor who is an admitted thief and council members who meddle in police business, making the borough a laughing stock.

Friday, April 29, 2016

NorCo Jail Investigator Under Investigation

Christopher Naugle, an investigator at Northampton County jail, is apparently under investigation himself. He was recently escorted out of the jail and placed on paid administrative leave. Human Relations officials have declined all comment on a personnel matter. I have some details, but they are only rumor.

Nazareth Circles the Wagons

Lance Colondo with his favorite blogger
Note: This is obviously my spoof.
Last time I visited Nazareth's thin-skinned Borough Council, nearly two years ago, I brought cupcakes. They were tossed in the garbage. Things were even worse last night when I decided to mosey over and chime in on theft charges filed against Mayor Carl Strye for skimming at the Vigilance Hose. Before the night was over, I had been called venomous, a cancer, a disbarred lawyer with no credibility, a landless peasant and a variety of other insults I'm unable to recall at the moment. It was chaos, mayhem and misery. My work was done. I had called on each and every one of them to resign. Unable to argue facts, these petty tyrants descended into name-calling.

When I arrived at Council, what caught my attention was how jocular they all were. Not a care in the world despite serious criminal charges of theft against the Mayor. It was still business as usual for the good ol' boys.

I also noticed that the room was packed with what appeared to be about 20 residents. I assumed that several of them would demand the Mayor's resignation for an admitted theft.

I assumed wrong. One fellow wanted to know about street sweeping and driveways on Green Street. Another talked about flowers in the circle and the need to combat the bad press and tell the good news about Nazareth. "This town rises to the occasion," said a male cheerleader who completely ignores the reality is that the worst thing you can ever do is ignore bad government. Then there's Becky Butz, who was in a tizzy last year over mailers by the Nazareth Borough Police union to raise money for scholarships. She had nothing to say about criminal charges against the boss of that police department. She instead spoke about plants until we were all ready to wither away.

They were all ignoring the elephant in the room.

A culture of corruption in Nazareth.

I chose to confront it head on. I barely got three sentences out before Lance Colondo, the newbie on Council, began interrupting. Colondo, who looks as though he just stuck his fingers in an electric socket, was unwilling to entertain any criticism at all. If he could dig a hole and his spiked-hair head could fit inside, he would put it there. 

But facts are facts.

Nazareth Borough Council was warned two years ago that, unless it acted, it would be facing a shitload of civil rights lawsuits. Now it is.. Amazingly, some of them are from their own police officers. Nazareth has already paid one police officer off with $440,000, the largest sum I know of for a police officer in the Lehigh Valley claiming a civil rights violation.

Nazareth Borough Council was warned two years ago that, unless it did something, the DA would start sticking his nose into what's going on. Now he is. The result is theft charges against the Mayor for skimming at the Vig Hose. And who's to say it ends there? I certainly don't.

I point blank accused him of lying to my face when I asked him about the Grand Jury. The man who wanted to handle things "in house" couldn't even look me in the eye. But Colondo and soon others began shouting away.

"You're a disbarred lawyer!" shouted Colondo, reporting news that is now 31 years old.

"Stop the presses!" I retorted.

I also slammed Borough Council for unanimously voting last year to seek a $52,900 gaming grant from Monroe County for the American Legion.

That is a private social club, and this is of absolutely no benefit to the Borough, unless you like to gamble.

"What were you thinking?" I asked them.

Amazingly, Council member Larry Stoudt  voted for it even though he tends bar there and was actually placed on ARD not long ago for trying to use police resources to find out who is diming the clubs.

This is a clear conflict of interest, but Stoudt last night claimed he is an unpaid volunteer. That is horseshit because I know for a fact that he accepts tips there.

None of them seemed to understand that you don't spend public money on a private social club.

In the meantime, we have a police department going to hell in a handbag with a police chief, a police commissioner in charge of two full-time cops as well as one part-timer who does not back up other officers and likes to go on 70 mph chases.

When I was done exercising my right to speak, which I had to do over their shouting voices, they of course retaliated with epithets instead of addressing the facts.

The only one who came close to actually responding was Carl Fischl, who announced everyone is entitled to due process of law. That is certainly true, but I am not asking Council to hang the Mayor. I want him to resign, and so should they.  He admitted to his theft in grand jury testimony and has waived his preliminary hearing. Innocent Mayors don't do that. He's slinking around for an "in house," as he would put it, deal.

Allentown City Council, to its credit, has unanimously called on Fed Ed to resign, and he hasn't even been charged. He's entitled to due process, too, but City Council believes that the federal investigation is a dark cloud over Allentown that won't be lifted until he is gone.

The same situation is true in Nazareth.

Thee rest were just insulting, and would applaud each other's epithets. The audience was on their side, too.

How dare I speak poorly of the good ol' boys!

One of the biggest cheerleaders, pom poms and all, was downtown manager Stephanie Varone, who complained that I am a "cancer" preventing her from bringing five businesses to Nazareth by June 1.

Varone has 20,000 reasons to be a cheerleader. But she's wrong. Businesses will not come to a town run by a thief or a top-heavy police department that is failing miserably. . .

The highlight of the night, for me, was when John Samus wanted everyone who owns real estate in Nazareth to rise their hands. Most people did. I did not.

Then he asked me, "Do you own a home?"

I don't, and he was very pleased with himself.

"Does this mean I'm a second class citizen?" I asked.


"Are you saying that only the landed gentry may speak?"


"Then what is your point?"

His only point was to establish that, unlike the good ol' boys. I am poor. I'm part of the riff raff and need not be taken seriously.

I am under the impression that every citizen has equal rights, regardless whether he owns real estate and pays property taxes.  I know my vote counts as much as a millionaire's.  That means something comes election time. These people need to be removed from the offices in which they've become far too entrenched.

I will work very hard next year to ridding the borough of these weeds.

Korean War Boringqueneer Receives Congressional Gold Medal

On Monday,  I was at the LV Hispanic Center in South Bethlehem to cover a well-attended Town Hall with Mayor Bob Donchez. I had no time to tell you the story, but did give you a teaser. Hispanic Center Executive Director Lorna Velázquez, who is like a mother to so many at that center, intoduced me to an elderly gentleman named Enrique Vazquez Vega.

He was a Boringqueneer.

That's the 65th Infantry Regiment, comprised primarily of Puerto Ricans, which made its mark during the Korean War. That regiment earned nine Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze Stars, and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts.

Their meritorious service actually demanded even more recognition, but problems in translation made it difficult for a mostly English-speaking Army to decide what was deserved.  So Congress recently decided to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment , the highest civilian honor it can bestow, on the Boringqueneer.

Each soldier who served received a replica of the medallion.

Enrique Vazquez Vega, who served in both the Korean War and in Panama, received one of those medallions.

Mayor Donchez: "The South Side Is Not Forgotten"

Mayor Bob Donchez
Every year, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez sets aside three days for walks in the neighborhoods of the north, west and south sides. Accompanied by staff, he usually carries a few smoke detectors to hand out, along with batteries. He wraps up with a town hall, where he'll answer concerns in that specific community. Donchez grew up on Bethlehem's South Side and mentioned his roots with pride following his most recent South side walk. His town hall was at the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Center, and was attended by about 40 residents. Reminding everyone that he grew up just a block away on Evans Street, he assured his audience that "the South Side is not forgotten, believe me!"

Donchez, a transparency advocate, started things off by providing his home telephone number. 610-868-4680. "Feel free to call me anytime and leave a message," he said. "I'll call you back." In addition, he told the group that he conducts open office hours on the second Monday of every month, when citizens can see him without an appointment, between 9 and 11 am or 1 and 3 pm.

During his walk, Donchez was "proud to see so many homes being rehabilitated." He believes zoned garbage hauling, in which refuse is picked up on Mondays and Tuesdays, has made the area more attractive. He was happy to report that crime is down, with more cameras, more marked and unmarked police vehicles and more police in the neighborhood. He encouraged people concerned about drug activity at specific properties to report the address.

He introduced Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who he called "the most popular man in Bethlehem." The audience roared in delight when DiLuzio announced who he is in Spanish - "el jefe de policia."

About 40 residents met Donchez at the Hispanic Center
"We need to work together to break down walls, break down barriers," said Donchez, referring to Bethlehem as the "jewel of the Lehigh Valley."

Donchez filled in his south side audience on the bridges connecting to the north side. The Fahy Bridge improvements, started in March, will go on for 18 months. At the end of the year, work will begin on the Lynn Avenue bridge, and that should last until Fall 2017. When will work on Rte 412 finally end? Donchez said the project will be finished in August.

He also discussed the Benner building and 600-space municipal parking garage at 3rd and New. In addition to the 200 employees that St. Luke's Hospital will bring, he added there's a "good possibility" that St.Luke's will bring another department. But not without the garage."No garage, no St. Luke's, no Lehigh," he explained.

In response to concerns raised by the audience about the $17 million cost, Donchez stated that one parking space there comes with a price tag of $26,000. He noted that parking revenues will pay for the garage, and that meter rates would only go up once every five years, if necessary.  He also noted that physical therapy patients visiting St. Luke's are unable to walk.

William Seixas has been a vocal opponent of the garage,. He explained that's not because he opposes the garage, but is concerned about losing access to his residence on Graham Place. But he complimented Mayor Donchez and his administration because he claims they listened to him, evenif theyy disagreed. "In New York, I'm just a number," he said. "But here, I matter."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Zoners Ponder Offices in Bethlehem's Historic District

After a four and a half hour hearing at their April 27 meeting, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board has decided to wait until next month to decide whether to approve plans that allow Morning Star Partners to locate a financial services business at the northwest intersection of West Market and North New Streets. This unique property, known both as 2 West Market and 511 North New Streets, is located in the heart of the City's historic district, and about 35 residents were on hand to speak for or against the project. The Board usually decides these cases immediately after the hearing. But questions raised at the end of the hearing by Board member Michael Santanasto, who is an attorney in private practice, left Board members feeling they need more time.

They will make a decision at their May 25 meeting, but with only four members. Vice Chair Bill Fitzpatrick declared he had a potential conflict of interest at the onset, and recused himself.

Zoning attorney Jim Preston, who represented Morning Star Partners,called Mark Bahnick from Van Cleef Engineering to explain what is being proposed. The Morning Star property includes a single-family residence facing West Market, a garage, two apartments and two retail businesses facing North New Street, known as the green buildings. The home, known as the Schadt house, is a single-family residence built in the 1840s. The green buildings, first built in the 1820s, are retail establishments and once included the manufacturer of brass instruments for the Moravian Church. These all pre-dated Bethlehem's zoning ordinance, and thus the mixed use of residential and commercial was grandfathered, It is called a "non-conforming use."

Bahnick explained plans toe xtend that nonconforming use by converting the single family home, as well as the retail buildings, into office space for Morning Star. Construction manager Jim Kostecky testified that Morning Star would invest $64,000 into exterior and another $722,000 for interior improvements for an office building with 14 employees.

Kori Lannon explained that she and three other financial advisers at Merrill Lynch, broke away to found their own firm under the tutelage of Herman Rij. It's called Quadrant Private Wealth. She said this property represents an opportunity for her firm to "become part of the fabric of Historic Bethlehem." She added that what they would do would be "would be good for the neighborhood, good for Historic Bethlehem." She said she "wants to restore this building to what it was in its heyday. We want it to be majestic, and yet we want it to blend in with the neighborhood."

These plans were opposed by a trio of Historic Bethlehem residents that include Bruce Haines, Beall Fowler and Robert Romeril. They generally oppose extension of business in the Historic District. Haines argued that Morning Star could establish their business on West Broad Street,and would need no relief at all if they abindined the mixed use for pure residential. But according to Zoning Officers Suzanne Borzak, as many as seven apartments could be placed on the property's footprint.

Many more residents support the application. Suzanne Virgilio, who with her husband owns and operates the nearby Bethlehem Inn, produced a supportive petition signed by 114 Historic District residents.

The project also received the support of several merchants. Steve Kershner, who owns and operates the Twisted Olive, bluntly stated, "Business drives business." Diane Holt, owner of the Apollo Grill, said there needs to be a good mix of residences and businesses in Bethlehem. "We have a lot of empty stores right now. We have businesses that are leaving because of the NIZ in Allentown. ... We cannot afford to lose any more companies or any more stores." Holt drew a stark contrast between Rij, who has invested heavily in Bethlehem businesses and even its mounted police and "developers who do not even live in our City.

Herman Rij,Morning Star's senior partner,  told the Zoning Hearing Board he said he was "overwhelmed" by all the support his project has been received. He thanked Brice Haines and Beall Fowler for suggesting that they could find other locations. "Unfortunately, in a capitalistic system, we're allowed to acquire property and make investments where we choose to do so," he added.

He'll discover whether he's right when the Zoning Hearing Board decides this matter on May 25.

HOPE at Bethlehem City Hall Tonight

Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Division, in conjunction with the Center for Humanistic Change, will present a drug prevention education program this evening at Bethlehem's Town Hall, 6:30 pm.. It's called H.O.P.E., for heroin overdose prevention education.

What exactly is Heroin? Has it really become the leading cause of accidental death in the state? What are opioids? How do they relate to heroin? What are the signs you should look for when someone you love is using? What are health effects of heroin and opioid addiction? What does it impact relationships and work? Are there any local resources? Where can you go for help?

These questions and more will be answered.

"Educating the public is a key factor in helping to fight the heroin overdose epidemic that we are facing in our County," says Tiffany Rossanese, Northampton County Drug and Alcohol Administrator.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mattei Claims Write-In Victory in Emrick Race

Dave Mattei, a Nazareth businessman and retired New Jersey State Trooper who waged a last-minute write-in campaign against incumbent State Rep. Joe Emrick, is claiming victory. He believes he earned enough votes to be the Democratic nominee. Official word will have to wait until the votes are canvassed.  

The Man Who Couldn't Lose ... Lost

In his quest for the 17th Congressional District, Glen Geissinger has painted himself as a winner who would defeat Matt Cartwright where others have failed. He certainly would do better than Matt Connolly, who is 0-3 in runs for elective office. Well, Geissinger the winner is now Geissinger the loser.  Matt Connolly has beat him convincingly, and is now on his way to getting his ass kicked up and down the northern tier by Matt Cartwright.

Maybe Geissinger will now start doing the job he was elected to do.

Lady MacBeth Falls to Dumbo

Cindy Miller, who I dubbed lady MacBeth this election cycle because of a mean-spirited campaign that included a campaign announcement before incumbent Julie Harhart announced her retirement, as well as an unpopular nomination challenge to Marc Grammes, has been defeated in a race she should have won. She has lost to perhaps one of the ill-informed candidates I have ever seen. Zach Mako. You can call him Dumbo. This makes it far more likely that Democrat Phillips Armstrong will be elected.

Simmons Crushes Coyle

If you've read any of the comment threads on this blog concerning Bill Coyle's state house challenge to Justin Simmons, you'd know that Simmons was going to win. Still, Simmons' 78-22 smackdown had to be a surprise, even to him.

On Facebook, Simmons was pretty gracious to Coyle. Justin is waiting to see if a Democratic write-in like Joanne Jackson has prevailed.

Pa Democrats Make GOP Success in Fall Likely

The very same Democratic establishment that failed to do anything about AG Kathleen Kane has now opened the door to a certain GOP victory in the Fall, at least among statewide candidates. The Obama Rendell Wolf Groen faction has managed to elect the worst possible standard bearers for their party in the Offices of U.S. Senate and Attorney General. Instead of picking an independent voice like Sestak, they wanted McGinty, who they could control. In the AG race, they elected politically ambitious Josh Shapiro, who has never seen the inside of a courtroom. These candidates will both fail in the fall, and drag down several good Democrats with them.

A Day at the Polls

As I mentioned to you yesterday, I was busy yesterday working as an election judge in Hanover Tp. The elections office suffers from a shortage of poll workers. This is a good way to pick up a little cash while simultaneously performing a public service. Poll workers get $175 for their work, while judges are paid $200. You can apply to become one by calling (610) 559-3055, but I'd wait a week or two.

It's long day. We start at 6 am, and judges like myself are not free until 9 pm or even later.

In my district, things got off to a bad start at 6 am when I turned on one of the machines and it just died. Fortunately, elections machine technician Dave was able to square me away over the phone in time to be ready for the 7 am opening.

I must have hounded the elections office with at least 30 calls. Someone in the Brown administration screwed up and the phones into the elections office itself were not working until 8:30 am.

One call was a result of my own stupidity, but the rest were attempts to find out precisely where several voters needed to go to exercise their rights.

In all but one case, we got them to the right place. In one instance, we blew it. A young man voting for the first time was not listed, and when I called in, I was told he is not registered. He assured me he was, and I suggested he go home to get his voter registration card. I told him if he couldn't find it, I would let him vote provisionally until elections officials could sort things out. I then called voter registration and learned that he was registered after all, and should be voting in another Hanover precinct. I hope he discovered that when he went home, but never heard back from him.

I also lost a vote. What I mean by that is that we had one more person signed on the register than actually voted. This happens when someone walks away without actually casting his ballot on the machine, and we miss it.

That likely happened when I was operating the machines so that the regular operator could take a break.

I also filled out four provisional ballots by Independents who insisted they were either Democrats or Republicans. One fellow told me he has changed his registration many times, but always shows up as a Republican. I got the opposite claim from a woman who said she is always listed as a Democrat.

Most people were very cheerful, even when bounced to as many as three different districts. Little flag stickers were a big hit. They were brought in by elections worker Ellen Solarek, and really made up for waiting in line or having gone to several different places.

One lady insisted that the elections office had "conveniently" removed several delegate candidates from the ballot. When she went home, she discovered that she had written down the wrong names. She made a point of coming back and saying she was sorry.

It was quite busy, with a little under 50% turnout.

My precinct is at a school,and the principal pulled me aside to ask me not to let people wander down the halls because of concerns raised by some parents. We did our best, and he rewarded us with coffee.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Innocent Mayors Do Not Waive Preliminary Hearings

The Express Times reports that Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye has waived his preliminary hearing on theft charges before Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner. That's a neat trick because, as of yesterday morning, no preliminary hearing had been scheduled.

The last thing an innocent person does is waive a preliminary hearing. That's an opportunity to learn how bbad the case against him actually is. Those who waive already know..

Strye will apply for ARD and will likely get it, but I believe he will be required to step down as Mayor to show his remorse, especially after his antics at the time when charges were filed.

Make Your Last-Minute Pitches Here!

My mom always wanted me to be a judge. I am, too. An elections judge. I'll be working the polls today in Hanover Township, and it is very difficult to go online from my polling place. So you will be spared my last minute pitches. Please feel free to make your arguments for or against any of the candidates seeking election today. Let us know where you voted and what turnout is like. If you see anything out of the ordinary, post it here. If I can get on during the day, I will More likely, I will be back in action very late tonight.

NorCo Gaming Board To Fund Regional Crime Center

Karen Collis and Jay Finnigan keep track of the numbers.
It's been a long wait for Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. Since it was first established in 2012, Martin has had to ask Lehigh County Commissioners, year after year, to fund a Regional Intelligence and Investigative Center (RIIC), which is also called a Regional Crime Center. Though he made its resources available to police departments in Northampton County, Lehigh County had to pick up the tab.

Good things come to those who wait. At their April 25 meeting, Northampton County's nine-person Gaming Board voted unanimously to dish out $407,000 out of an expected $1.7 million in slots revenue this year so that Northampton County police departments can finally integrate with their counterparts in Lehigh.

The main obstacle in Northampton County was then Sheriff Randy Miller, who drafted a memo objecting to the cost and suggesting he could establish a system county-wide Ironically, the driving force for the RIIC is his successor, David Dalrymple. Before replacing Miller, Dalrymple ran the Intelligence Section of the New Jersey State Police, and called the RIIC  "a step beyond" what he saw in New Jersey. He spearheaded the drive for participation in the RIIC, with the unanimous backing of the Northampton County Chiefs of Police and the Northampton County District Attorney's Office. .

Earlier this year, Northampton County DA John Morganelli announced that Northampton County had signed on to a digital forensics lab established at DeSales University by Lehigh County DA Jim Martin in 2011. At that time, Morganelli expressed his desire to join the Regional Crime Center, using gaming funds.

What is the RIIC?

Located in Allentown, the RIIC offers investigative case support, strategic analysis and situational awareness to county law enforcement. In addition, it provides expert assistance from crime analysts who can review millions of pieces of data from numerous incident reports, investigatory files and prison records to make connections that solve crime. It even provides a daily blog for police officers, not about politics, but recent criminal activity

Coroner Zach Lysek looks a little pale. 
Chairman Jay Finnigan told fellow members that he, Joe Kelly and Executive Director Karen Collis visited the RIIC. He spoke of armed robbers using bicycles they would stash in SUVs to hit various convenience stores in both counties. Information developed by the RIIC led to their apprehension.

Joe Kelly said what he likes about the Regional Crime Center is that it provides police officers with access to data."Information is power," he said. Kelly was really impressed at the information that can be gleaned from county jails, calling it a "treasure trove.".He added that the RIIC "does make us safer." But he cautioned that though he will support the funding for integration, annual supporting costs should come from the County.

Sheriff Dalrymple told the Board that the County's police departments currently use a "Cobra" system, which he called a "passive" system that simply points you in the right direction. In contrast, the RIIC is active, and provides instant access to reports from Northampton County's 30 police departments, Lehigh County's 17 police departments, state and federal agencies, and data from both county jails.

Total of $2.2 Million in Grants Sought 

The Regional Crime Center was one of just $2.2 million in grant applications from slots revenue. That is projected at just $1.7 million this year. By law, the first round of grants must go to Bethlehem, Northampton County and the five municipalities surrounding Bethlehem. These are Hanover Township, Bethlehem Township, Lower Saucon Township and Freemansburg and Hellertown. To be successful, they must show they've been impacted by gambling. If any money is left over, it can be awarded to other municipalities.

Other grant applications approved this year are as follows.

Bethlehem Tp.
$6,813 - Tasers.

$73,854 - Public safety software. 
$42,400 - Two License Plate Recognition Systems. 
$104,723 - Two police vehicles. 
Freemansburg. -
$110,000 - Full Time Police Officer.
Hanover Tp.
$50,633 - Ford Police Interceptor operated by Colonial Regional Police
$219,150 - Two police officers.

$164,777 - Ambulance for Dewey Fire Company (replacing 11 year old vehicle. Dewey Ambulance responded to the casino six times last year.)
Lower Saucon. -
$105,438 - Police officer.

$37,571 - Police vehicle.
Northampton County. -
$112,076 - for Coroner equipment modernization, including portable X-ray machines

$10,000 - Interpreter Fees. Court Administrator Jill Smith explained that the County does have an in-house Spanish interpreter, but paid $38,720 last year for interpreters in other languages. She indicated there's been a rise in the need for Asian language and Indian language interpreters, largely as a result of the casino.

$100,442 - Gambling Addiction Treatment and Support. Drug and Alcohol Administrator Tiffany Rossanese [reviously  explained that her department did 967 gambling screenings last year, and 10% of those were identified as being at risk, which is twice the national average and five times what Northampton County was before the casino. The funding provided to the County goes to education at the schools and faith-based institutions, and provides transitional housing to people who have lost their homes as a result of gambling.
The Gaming Board expects to have about $200,000 left to distribute, and will be inviting Northampton County's remaining municipalities to submit grant applications of up to $25,000, which will be awarded later in the year.

The nine-person Board includes Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Tom Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Dave Willard (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth). Karen Collis is the Executive Director.

Ever Hear of the Borinqueneers?

Lovely Lorna Velázquez with Enrique Vazquez Vega
Yesterday, I was at the LV Hispanic Center in South Bethlehem to cover a well-attended Town Hall with Mayor Bob Donchez. Before that, he and his staff were walking through the neighborhood as I watched from my air-conditioned car and laughed. I will tell you about the town hall, at which there were about 40-45 people. But that can wait until Wednesday. I want to give you a quiz

Thanks to Hispanic Center Executive Director Lorna Velázquez, I was fortunate to meet a Enrique Vazquez Vega. He was doing Zumba when I came in, but when he saw me, he snapped to attention and saluted.

Must be my Australian hat.

He was a Boringqueneer.

I never knew their story until I spoke to him. I will share it with you on Wednesday, when I tell you about Mayor Dionchez' visit.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mattei Waging Write-In Against Emrick

I am more than a little disappointed to see that State Rep. Joe Emrick has no opposition in tomorrow's primary, and that no Democrat sought his party's nomination. Dave Mattei, a Nazareth insurance agent and former New Jersey State Trooper, must have been upset, too. But unlike me, he is doing something about it, and has formally announced his write-in campaign in the Democratic Primary tomorrow.

Mattei is asking Democrats in the 137th PA House District to write him in for Representative in the General Assembly, where there is currently no candidate on the Democratic Primary ballot. He needs to get at least 300 write-in votes to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Joe Emrick on the November ballot, and he has knocked on several hundred doors over the past two weeks to let Democrats know.

Dave Mattei opened the Farmers Insurance agency in Nazareth four years ago and serves on the board of the Nazareth-Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce. He recently moved to downtown Nazareth after several years in Washington Township and more than a decade in Lehigh Township, arriving in Pennsylvania after his first career as a New Jersey State Trooper.

Earlier this month, Mattei earned the “Spirit of Nazareth” award for his dedication to the local community. He helps regularly with events, volunteers at the weekly “Loaves and Fishes” soup kitchen, and recently rebuilt the Nazareth’s nativity scene with all parts and labor donated.

Mattei is tired of the partisan obstructionism and gridlock in Harrisburg that prevented a budget compromise, leaving Pennsylvanians nine months later with a budget that still does not balance, nor addresses the problems of restoring school funding or responsibly lowering property taxes.

Though Mattei has been registered with no party affiliation since locating in Pennsylvania two decades ago, he finds himself increasingly frustrated with the Republican legislature’s unwillingness to negotiate a compromise on key issues that affect nearly all Pennsylvanians. The first compromise budget proposal with a bipartisan majority was only blocked by Emrick’s Speaker of the House quick gaveling the session closed days before Christmas, and it nearly passed in spite of no support from Lehigh Valley Republicans.

“Joe Emrick is part of the problem, and I’m ready to be part of the solution,” Mattei said. “Residents from the Bangor area of the Slate Belt to Nazareth and the Easton suburbs deserve a leader, one who will reach across party lines to find broader compromise to do the business of Pennsylvania.”

To avoid a challenge that would force him to answer tough questions about his record and failure to compromise in Harrisburg, Republican Joe Emrick is trying to block any opposition for November by sending a glossy mailer to Democrats asking them to please write him in. Doing so would only have one purpose -- to prevent voters of the 137th District from having a choice in November.

Democrats in the 137th who want an honest discussion of what’s been going on (or rather, the dysfunction) in Harrisburg should write in DAVE MATTEI at this Tuesday’s Primary.

Because I've already voted absentee, I am unable to give Mattei a vote. But I ask every Democrat in the Nazareth - Palmer - Slate Belt district to do so.

Emrick has got to go. He is a poster boy for a complete lack of transparency in government.  I also understand that his constituent service is horrible because he refuses to give people more than three minutes of his time.

Who Are Your Election Picks?

As many of you know, candidates I like tend to lose. So I'm tempted to pick out who I want to lose, but suspect that would be the one time I'd be right. So below are my election choices. There are amazingly only two contested state house races and only one contested congressional race.

President. - The only candidate I like is John Kasich. Feel free to tell me I'm full of shit.

Senator. - In the contested Dem primary, I like maverick Joe Sestak, a formerAdmiral who is willing to take on the Tom Wolf-Ed Rendell-Josh Shapiro machine. I doubt he can beat Toomey, but I know the others can't.

Attorney General. - Of course, as I've noted many times, I consider NorCo DA John Morganelli the best choice. And he could win. Shapiro is pouring money in attack ads aimed at Zappala. If he can drive down the vote for Zappala in Pittstburg, and does not win Philly by a huge margin, John can be the Dem nominee. I do like Zappala, but will ot support Shapiro, a politician who is using this office as a springboard. I like both Republicans running.

Treasurer - There is a Dem Primary between Joe Torsella (Montgomery County) and Albert Baker Knoll (Pittsburgh). One is an Obama flunkie and the other was an oil industry lobbyist. I'll be voting Republican in the Fall.

State House 131st. - From stumbling in radio interviews to failing to file a timely pre-primary finance report, Bill Coyle has basically destroyed his own campaign. Justin Simmons should win easily, but may face a Dem opponent in the fall if Joanne Jackson is successful in her write-in campaign.

State House 183rd. - Zach Mako has the support of Julie Harhart and GOP state representatives her in the LV who could not be honest and had to launder their contributions to him instead of giving to him directly. He himself ins completely clueless, and I really question whether he should be permitted to fly a helicopter. On the other hand, Cindy Miller is a conniving Lady MacBeth who schemed to remove Marc Grammes from the ballot, tried to have herself placed on the Gaming Board and reportedly pissed off Julie Harhart by the way she announced her candidacy. Grammes' supporters are waging a write-in campaign, which will probably help Miller. Fortunately, Democrat Phillips Armstrong is a breath of fresh air.

17th Congressional. - Glenn Geissinger? Matt Connolly? Doesn't matter. Another Matt named Cartwright will crush the hapless GOP nominee in November.

Nazareth Jazz Festival Should Be Blues Festival

The 3rd annual Nazareth Jazz Festival will take place this Saturday from 12pm - 5pm at the Nazareth Boro Park.

Considering the recent arrest of its Mayor on theft charges, his refusal to resign, a completely clueless Borough Council and a top-heavy police department, it should really be a blues festival.

Maybe Mayor Carl Strye will roll out a few poker machines and instruct cops to look the other way.

Armstrong Shines in State House Debate

Long time State Rep. Julie Harhart has decided to retire at the end of her term this year in the gerrymandered 183rd, which twists and turns from part of South Whitehall to Northampton and Slatington and over to Lehigh Township and points east.

The LV Tea Party has already hosted one debate featuring Republicans Cindy Miller and Zach Mako. Unfortunately, Democrat Phillips Armstrong was unable to attend that debate because of a family emergency. But he was free for a second debate at Fellowship Hall last week. You can watch the video above and reach your own conclusions. I consider Armstrong a very impressive candidate, the best I've seen in some time.

A little bit about each candidate.

Mako is a helicopter mechanic turned pilot after making it through two years of flight training. He claimed that Julie Harhart "has been helping me out, keeping me motivated along the way.". A candidate who accepted money from other Republican State Reps, laundered through State Rep. mark Mustio, claimed he would be an "independent voice."

Miller, who claims to have spent 98% of her career in the private sector. She took credit for many of the satellite facilities that Lehigh Valley Hospital plants like dandelions.She has been a Lehigh Township Supervisor for five years, has been a Planning Commissioner there for 14 years and also works for and has accepted contributions from State Senator Mario Scavello. Miller has a Master's degree from Wilkes in health care and is a certified paralegal.

Phillips is retired after 40 years as a social studies teacher at Whitehall High School. He also has a master's degree. While teaching, he was also a tour bus driver for 38 years "I totally enjoyed that," he said. After retiring, he decided to continue public service in local government. He is currently the President of Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners. He also is involved in CTC (Community that Cares). He wants to go to Harrisburg "to make a difference." "I don't want a job,. I don't want a career," he said. His campaign finance reveals heavy union support. The root of all evil in state government, according to him, is gerrymandering. "We don't vote for our representatives. They vote for themselves. We can't do that anymore.

State Police Funding Shortfall.- Mako was stumped by the very first question of the debate, demonstrating for a second time that he really is clueless. You can make your own call. Miller said it's time for municipalities with no local police coverage to be assessed. Phillips called for more regional police departments, which he claimed would solve the financial dilemma of state police while allowing for a greater "police presence."

Medical Marijuana. - Miller is opposed, claiming it would be difficult for those who need to be drug tested for jobs or for police who stop drivers suspected of impaired driving. Armstrong disagreed noting that the bill passed into law already contains "numerous regulations." He doubts that people will be able to get it for recreational use. He suggested we should look "at all the children and all the people suffering from diseases who will be helped by this." Mako agreed with Armstrong, noting that the benefits and revenue outweigh Miller's concerns.

Privatization of state liquor stores. - Phillips would support privatization if Prohibition were just ending now, but he said that solution is impractical st this time. It would lead to one-time revenue as licenses are sold, not the steady stream received from state stores. He pointed to the possibility of some 18 year-old clerk selling hard liquor to her underage friends. He argued that the state generally has lower prices because it purchases in bulk. "Just like Wal Mart, the more you buy, the cheaper you can sell."

Mako was unable to pronounce the word "privatization," but said it would be beneficial for the state. "That is all," he said as he handed the mike to Miller. She expressed concerns about auctioning off licenses, which would lead to a few chain stores ruining small businesses. But she supports privatization anyway.

Bipartisanship.- Mako claimed the state legislature is already bi-partisan, but the Governor has been an obstacle. Miller added that the Governor has retaliated against Democrats who compromised. But she agreed there should be more cooperation on pension reform, privatization and education reform.

Armstrong blames this lack of dialogue on gerrymandering. He noted that if a legislative district is made up of all kinds of people, state representatives would have to represent everybody. He noted that, fortunately, the 183rd is one of the few split districts left.

"This country was formed on compromise," he said. "Something that I think the legislature has forgotten, and maybe even the Governor. We have to be able to compromise. Some of the biggest decisions in American history came because two sides differed, but were statesmen, not politicians."

Term limits.
- All three candidates agreed there should be term limits.

NorCo DCED Department Moving to Human Services Building

Diane Donaher and John Brown
Northampton County's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is moving. Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen informed Council's Finance Committee on April 20 that the Department, headed by Diane Donaher, will be moving to the County's Human Services building this Summer. No permission is needed for this change, but Allen said that she was informing Council in an effort at transparency.

During the 2013 Executive race, Democrat John Callahan complained that the County's economic development office is located "in the bowels of Northampton County," next to the jail's bullpen. He wondered how that is supposed to attract investment.

Brown apparently agrees.

Tribute to 32 NorCo Retirees Who Passed Away Last Year

Often maligned, most in the public sector workforce are actually very dedicated employees. They are mostly unsung heroes. Elected official will hog the limelight, but they know who's really responsible for plowing your roads and keeping you and your loved ones safe. On the County level, it could be a nurse's aid changing a bedpan or a caseworker investigating abuse. I want to take a moment to honor 32 County retirees who passed away last year.

Sadly, there are a few about whom I know nothing. But there are many more who have very fascinating stories and who touched many people.

Doris Lombardo was one such person. She was in her 70's, but could still go out with the girls on a Friday or Saturday night and enjoy herself. She knew everything, and when she retired, I know a few people who offered her jobs. She was always willing to work with someone about to lose his or her home.I also remember Charles Trapani, a courthouse fixture for many years.

As you go through these names, if you remember something about anyone who passed away last year, please share it in the comments. I will attempt to have Jerry Seyfried pass your remarks along at the semi-annual retiree luncheon on May 10.

Their keynote speaker will be the Hon. Jack Panella, Superior Court Judge of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I once had lunch with him at the courthouse and can still remember all the women swooning over him. He recently became a grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandson was born on February 29, and will only have a birthday once every four years.


Malcolm Shaffer, 1/3/15 - He was employed as an accountant.

Lois Allen, 1/12/15, - LPN who retired from the County in 1997 after 12 years at Gracedale.

Vincent Ramunni, 2/5/15 - a U.S. Marine, Easton police lieutenant, member of Bach Choir, deeply involved at St. Anthony's.

Pat Repsher, 2/23/15 - LPN who retired from Gracedale after 20 years.

Carol Benn, 2/24/15 - a retired beautician from Gracedale and graduate of Empire Beauty School.

Charles Trapani, 2/26/15 - Army vet, self-employed mason and maintenance worker in Northampton County who retired in 1989.

Alan Fowler, 3/1/15 - He recruited Jerry Seyfried, when they both worked for the Bethlehem Steel, to run for Exec. He founded rock nband Alexander Rabbit and Pickens, where he was the drummer. He was hired to work in the County and made his way through the ranks until he was placed in charge of the county's communications system. Controversial and outspoken, he sued The Bethlehem Globe Times for libel for articles that implicated him in a marijuana-growing operation in Bethlehem Township.

Sandra Donato, 2/18/15 - A graduate of Northampton Community College's nursing program, shewas anurse at Gracedale for 15 years. She passed away at the young age of 52.

David Wood, 3/24/15 - He was nicknamed "Woody" and passed away in an auto accident.

Kathryn Werner, 4/14/15 - She was a graduate of Churchman's Business School.

Vera Sisolak, 5/4/15. - She was the real estate supervisor in Northampton County until her retirement in 1979.

Elizabeth Ace, 7/2/15 - She was a nurse's aid and then a LPN at Gracedale for 40 years.

Dorothy Neuner - 7/17/15. - She had been a dietery aid at Gracedale for 17 years and was a volunteer there as well as a driver for meals-on-wheels.

Betty Buralli, 7/3/15.- She had been the Executive Sec'yto Commissioner and then Executive Marty Bechtel. She retired around 1985 and moved to Florida.

Kathleen O'Connell, 4/16/15. -

Susan Bendus, 6/18/15. - A graduate of St.Luke's School of Nursing, she served this country as a nurse in the Korean War. She then devoted her nursing career to Gracedale, where she retired as a supervisor. She returned to nursing at area hospitals during a polio epidemic.

Pauletta "Pat" Meixsell, 8/23/15. - She worked in Northampton County's HR Department for 25 year and had only recently retired. She was also active in St. John's Lutheran Church in Nazareth.

Doris Lombardo, 8/24/15. - She ran the Sheriff's Sales in Northampton County for 30 years, and had a photographic memory. I could walk up to her with just a last name, and she would know immediately when the sale had occurred and would have the file in my hand. Though she was 78 years old, she was one of the County's hardest and most highly regarded workers.

Jane Schaeffer, 9/9/15. - retired from the laundry department at Gracedale. After her retirement, she came back as a volunteer. She was a graduate of William Allen High School.

Larry Rex, 8/17/15. - An avid outdoorsman who grew up "on the montain," was a Vietnam War vet, worked the railroad and was invilved with the Game Commission.

Elizabeth Lipko, 10/4/15. -

Frances "Fanny" Vogel, 10/4/15. - She was a nurse's aid at Gracedale until her retirement in 1992, and then came back as a volunteer.

Frank Mincavage, 4/24/15. - was a caseworker and had transferred to Lehigh County.

Margaret Brandt, 9/18/15. - a dedicated nurse that served as the STAFF DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR at Gracedale up until her retirement.

Dorothy Hariegle, 10/20/15. - She was a custodian at Gracedale who retired in 1980 and made it to age 100.

Regina Fritchman, 10/14/15. - a 40-year medical assistant at Gracedale who remained very active in St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Nazareth.

Barbara Gregalis, 10/23/15. - a LPN at Gracedale for over 25 years.

Donna Bachman, 11/6/5. - a ballerina in her youth, Donna worked in the County's Area Agency on Aging, from which she retired in 2013. She was only 66.

Damon Morrell,10/31/15. - Damon worked 17 years at Gracedale, and then returned as a volunteer like so many others.

Craig Bellis, 12/28/15. - A Vietnam War vet, Bellis served as a corrections officer for 33 years before he retired in 2007.

Barbara Johnson, 11/4/15. - She was a house parent at the Juvenile Justice Center for 25 years.

Peggy Constable, 8/7/15. - a resident of Allentown.

Sandra Erickson.
- a nurse at Gracedale who also worked in Staff development.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Opinions Online, 4/23/16

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. Please keep your comments brief, if possible.


Would you want sexually-confused men who say they want to be women into a public bathroom where your wife and daughter are?


FWIW, I am in a snit about public records being accessible to the ordinary person online...ie, property ownership records. We went to the Northampton County web site, searched for a particular property that my husband used to own, and found that the sales history had been scrubbed of names of previous owners. We looked at our own present residence, same thing there. Years ago, Northampton County had a fine web site with all the info on chain of ownership available. Why the heck would they hide this info? I sent an inquiry via email to the address shown on the website, but they never replied.


Friday, April 22, 2016

NorCo Council Wants Competitive Bidding For Gracedale Administrator

If there is any single reason why Northampton County nursing home Gracedale has turned around, it's most likely Premiere Healthcare Resources That company was hired in 2011 to take over the administration at what was then a beleaguered nursing home. Five years later, a nursing home that was projected to lose $7.7 million last year still lost money, but it was only $2.1 million. Even more importantly, the facility received an unheard of "zero violation" inspection for two years in a row. But as the fifth and final year of its contract comes to an end, Northampton County Council had to decide on April 21 whether to seek new bids or just continue with a company that has been providing excellent service.

Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen advocated a new contract with Premier for the next two years. "If it isn't broken, don't fix it," was her argument. She noted that if the nursing home is revenue neutral at the end of that time, the County could consider resuming control once again.

Peg Ferraro agreed with her, noting that two years would fly by quickly. "Just give 'em two years, and then rethink it," she argued. Bob Werner stated that keeping Premier on would ensure that Gracedale would remain on track to be revenue neutral.

But six other Council members felt differently.

Council President John Cusick stated that "taxpayers are best served by going out to competitive bid whenever it is necessary."  He agreed that Premier had done an excellent job, but noted that he believes should be putout to bid.

"We're a nation of laws, not people," added Hayden Phillips. "I'm pretty sure we have to send this out."

Mat Benol scoffed at Allen's suggestion "to put Gracedale back in County hands when the County has already proven that it did not take care of Gracedale the first time."

Controller Steve Barron warned Council that this was a "slippery slope" that sounded very much like the Sahl contract, a public relations contract that Executive Brown executed without Council approval during his first year in office.

By a 6-2 vote, Council recommended that any new contract for Gracedale's management be competitively bid. The two No votes came from Ferraro and Werner.

Ken Kraft and Executive John Brown were absent from the meeting.

Drug Court Lauded by Drug and Alcohol Administrator

Judge Craig Dally at Drug Court Training
Tiffany Rossanese, Administrator of Northampton County's Drug and Alcohol Program, updated Northampton County Council on April 21 concerning the Drug Court, which meets every Thursday afternoon. This is a post-conviction court that usually includes probation violators.

Rossanese reports that there are 16 participants right now in all phases of a four-phase system, with five pending applications. The drug of choice varies, from alcohol to heroin. The majority are heroin addicts.

"Honestly, I think it's a great thing," she said. "I'm very happy it's there." She is part of what she calls "the treatment team." Many of the Defendants who enroll receive medical assistance. "The successes we're seeing speaks volumes about how great this program is," she noted. She praised Judge Dally and his commitment to the program. Though it is too early to produce hard evidence that this works, she believes that the data will show that drug court "is a huge benefit to the County."

Judge "Cap" Recuses Himself in Theft Case Against Nazareth Mayor

From Carl Strye's Facebook 
Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye, a carwash salesman, never showed his face in the courtroom when Magisterial District Judge Jacqueline Taschner, a former FBI cryptanalyst who also served as an Assistant District Attorney, acquitted the Sticker Gang in 2014 of all charges in a ridiculous and vindictive prosecution over tiny,postage stamp stickers that criticized the police chief. "I don't care what a judge says," he told The Express Times, He also moaned that the acquitted Sticker Gang, "didn't get any kind of sentencing, they were sort of let go." Well, now he'll have a chance to set Judge Taschner straight. Theft charges filed against him for skimming at Vigilance Hose are going to be heard by her.

Magisterial District Judge John "Cap" Capobianco has decided to err on the side of caution and recuse himself, though few people would dispute that he would be fair.

It's unclear whether Strye's Preliminary Hearing is still scheduled for May 3.

Maybe Strye should bring her cupcakes.

Inside word is that he plans to waive his Preliminary Hearing.

When Strye states he "does not care what a judge says," what he is really saying is that he can ignore the rule of law. A Mayor who thumbed his nose at the courts and our criminal justice system, thinkinghe is above the law, has discovered that they do apply to him after all.

Even in Nazareth. .

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Updated: Fleck Plea Expected Today

Reliable sources tell me that Mike Fleck, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's former right arm, is in federal court today and is expected to plead guilty to participation in a broad pay-to-play scheme that directly implicates the Mayor.

The federal information, now available on the US Attorney's Office webpage, presents an ugly picture of political corruption in Allentown and Reading. Far from being an unwitting victim duped by a craven political consultant, Fed Ed is portrayed as a greedy Mayor who was more than willing to use his clout as Mayor to punish those who failed to contribute.

When Fleck told Fed Ed that Donor #4 (believed to be Scott Allinson) had expressed concern about making political contributions, Fed Ed reportedly responded,
"Really! I've given him millions of dollars.. .. Relatively, compared to other law firms, they've given nothing. [Donor #4] for sure will get nothing now. ... You know, f--k them! And I'm not gonna [award work to Donor #4's law partner] or anything. Screw it all!"
Given the use of quotation remarks, this statement from Fed Ed may very well be a transcript from a wire that Fleck was wearing.

Here's what I can tell you.

Public Officials #1 and #3, as we all know, are former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer and Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawloski, respectively.

Donor #1 appears to be Jack Rosen, a major Obama fundraiser. Donor #2 appears to be engineering firm McTish and Kunkel, which was also implicated in the turnpike scandal but was never prosecuted.

Donor #4 appears to be Attorney Scott Allinson, and law firm #4 appears to be the Norris McLaughlin law firm.

I am unsure about Donors #3 and #5. What do you think?

Updated 11:48 am

Long Live the Queen ... and Princess

Queen Elizabeth turned 90 today.I'm still waiting for her to Knight me or at least make me a Count or something. Below is Princess Madison Dietz, who took over the reins of Northampton County Council yesterday.

Morganelli Wants Teacher Bill of Rights

Morganelli wants teacher Bill of Rights
John Morganelli is Northampton County's DA. Allentown is outside his jurisdiction. But he walked into a hastily called news conference on April 20 with a copy of The Morning Call in his hand. Over the weekend, he read a Watchdog report detailing over 3,000 incidents involving unruly students last year, including assaults on other students and staff.  That was the "last straw" for him. Noting that this is a Lehigh Valley wide problem that includes suburban schools, Morganelli said "it is time to clamp down on the recent escalation of disruptions occurring in our schools due to a small out of control,segment of unruly, disrespecting and disruptive students."

He noted that Lehigh County DA Jim Martin is similarly frustrated, and in the wake of student assaults against police officers, has called for stiffer penalties for this criminal behavior. But he believes it;s time that teachers know they have rights, too. Noting that most of them feel handcuffed, Morganelli called for a Teacher Bill of Rights to protect them from lawsuits for insisting on order in an educational environment. He noted that under existing law, teachers "have an absolute right to protect themselves and use force to maintain order."  despite an atmosphere of "political correctness run amuck" in which teachers tell him they are afraid to put up their hands to defend themselves. "Teachers need more rights. not students, and they need to be able to discipline student without fear."

Morganelli was especially critical of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which he claims has been perverted to include disruptive and violent students and school administrators who are unable, without parental or court permission, to place a disruptive special needs student into an alternative program or suspend for more than 10 days or even require counseling. "IDEA needs to be revamped so schools can truly take a zero tolerance approach toward school violence," he said.

Morganelli announced he is calling on federal legislators to amend IDEA to give educators more flexibility in dealing with and expelling students who cause problems in school, regardless how they are classified.

"These kids have no fear," he complained.

"This is my message to teachers and educators: In Northampton County, this District Attorney is not going to allow a bunch of unruly and disruptive students, no matter how they are classified, to create havoc and physical danger to other students in out schools and our educators. If you use reasonable force to maintain order or protect yourself, you are within the law and will not be criminally prosecuted."

Eagle Scout Honored by Miller-Keystone Blood Center

From L to R: Miller Blood Center's Diane Lee, Holly Fereno, Chris Fereno, Jim Fereno

This is a story about MacKenzie Cleffi, the two-year old daughter of poplar Freedom High School gym teacher Michael Cleffi. Last July, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. That's a rare type of cancer that attacks the white blood cells. This is also a story about Christopher Fereno, age 17, a Senior at Freedom who plans to study biopharmaceutical engineering at Lehigh University next year. This is a story about the Miller-Keystone Blood Center, which needs 450 donors every day to supply area hospitals with the blood needed to treat sick children like MacKenzie. This is finally a story about Eagle Scouts from Troop 317 in Bethlehem Township, who must complete a community project among all the other requirements to attain this rank.

Fereno family surprised by scholarship
Fereno was a Life Scout hoping to become an Eagle. At Freedom, he learned of MacKenzie's plight, and decided that the best way he could help her was to organize a blood drive in her honor. He approached Diane Lee at the Miller Blood Center, who suggested he could recruit donors on MacKenzie's behalf.

Most schools who organize blood drives look for about 25-50 donors. Fereno, acting on his own, decided he'd get donors. And off he went. He recruited students and teachers. He made a pitch to the Township's athletic organizations. He visited Lions' Clubs, Masons and various civic groups.

"The kid was unbelievable," aid Lee.

When all was said and done, Fereno had managed to recruit twice the 100 donors he had pledged.

He will get his Eagle.

After it was all over, Fereno received word in class one day that the Principal wanted to see him. "You don't get called into the Principal's office unless there's a problem," said his mother Holly. But it was good news. Fereno had received an invitation from the Blood Center, which wanted to reward him for his efforts.

"Sometimes it's good just to be a dad." 
In the middle of a school week, Fereno was released from class to visit the Miller-Keystone Blood Center. Accompanied by his parents, he was surprised to see the entire staff waiting there to greet him, including Dr. Kip Kutner, the Medical Director.

Fereno had surprised everyone by producing over 200 donors for a blood drive, a feat never seen before. As he stood there in his Eagle Scout uniform, with a sash containing 40 merit badges he was awarded a certificate of appreciation. But the Miller-Keystone Blood Center had another surprise for him. It was a $500 scholarship to help defray his costs at Lehigh.

His father Jim is himself a Scoutmaster at Troop 317. But that was not on his mind as his son was honored.

"Sometimes it's good just to be a dad," he said.

Why give blood? "There's no substitute for it," explained the Blood Center's Scott Appnel. "People who donate blood are truly assisting in saving the life of someone they've never met."

Like MacKenzie.

If you'd like to donate, you can call to schedule an appointment at 800-B-A-DONOR (223-6667).

Bethlehem Firefighter Blocks Fire Hydrant

About a month ago, in "Hero Next Door" Parks Next to Fire Hydrants, I told you about an Ass't Fire Chief at Nazareth's Vigilance Hose who routinely parks a Nazareth School District van next to a fire hydrant at borough hall. "I'm the fire chief," he told a Nazareth cop.

I guess that makes it OK.

Unfortunately, it's happening in Bethlehem, too. On the left, you can see a picture of a fire department car parked right next to a fire hydrant right outside of City Hall.

He must be a fire chief, too.

Parking space at City Hall is insufficient for all the municipal vehicles, so a section is marked off for municipal vehicles only.

I suppose that's cheaper than another parking garage, but that's no excuse for parking next to a fire hydrant.

This "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude sends a terrible message to the public.

131st Update: Coyle Fails To File Pre-Primary Finance Report

Bill Coyle
I've been highly critical of statewide candidates who still file paper reports instead of the electronic reports that can be seen immediately on the Internet. Though no law requires electronic report, candidates who choose to go the paper route know that voters will never see their finances until months after an election is over. This lack of transparency is a slap across the face of citizens these candidates claim they want to serve.

Usually, the biggest offenders are the very persons who pretend they're all about transparency and accountability. Take Bill Coyle, for example. He has repeatedly slammed Justin Simmons for seeking a fourth term, and has claimed that, unlike Justin, he's a man of his word. But Coyle completely failed to file his pre-primary finance report, which was due on Friday.

“It is absurd that a candidate who talks about integrity and transparency refuses to release campaign finance reports as required by law,” said Jason Ercole, a spokesman for the Simmons campaign. “For someone seeking to be an elected official, whose sworn duty is to uphold the law, to run his campaign this way is simply unforgivable and should cause great concern among voters.”

It does raise a red flag or two. I have seen candidates drag their feet on filing required reports precisely because they want to hide who is supporting their campaigns.

I contacted Coyle, who admitted that he has failed to file his report. He told me he had been "out of town." He indicated his report will be filed tomorrow, and vowed to do so electronically.

183rd Update: Fellowship Manor To Host Forum With Phillips Armstrong Today

I've written pretty extensively about Cindy Miller and Zach Mako, the two Republicans seeking their party's nomination in next week's election. A Democrat, Phillips Armstrong, is also running. He is the current President of Whitehall Township Commissioners and will participate this afternoon in a question and answer forum for the residents of Fellowship Manor and the general public about issues affecting the residents of the 183rd Legislative District. He is a retired educator from the Whitehall School District.

183rd legislative district. Whitehall Township, part of South Whitehall Township, Slatington, and Washington Township in Lehigh County, and Allen Township, Lehigh Township, North Catasauqua, Northampton Borough and Walnutport in Northampton County.

WHAT: Question and Answer Forum hosted by Whitehall Manor
WHEN: Thursday, April 20, 2016
TIME: 3:00pm
WHERE: Fellowship Manor, 3000 Fellowship Drive, Whitehall, PA 18052

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Phantom Economic Development

I want to share an email I recently received from a hockey fan.

The Phantoms' season is over and, once again, they failed to make the playoffs (finishing 7th of 8 teams in the Atlantic Division of the AHL).

Notably, the Phantoms won a sterling 14 home games this year (out of 38).

That means PA taxpayers forked over nearly $1 million in taxes per Phantoms home game victory to pay the debt service on the PPL Center.

That on top of the highest gas tax in the country (70 cents per gallon which beats even California!) and a governor who wants to increase any number of other taxes.

Any wonder both the NIZ and the CRIZ are having an extremely hard time landing new business from out of state?

Independents: You Can Still Vote In Next Week's Primary (Updated 9:27 am)

Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, so you can't vote for any of the candidates seeking their party's nomination unless you yourself are a member of that party. But there is one ballot question being considered in the Lehigh Valley - abolishing Philadelphia's Traffic Court.

Why do we vote on the Philadelphia Traffic Courts? Because it involves a change in the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Committee of Seventy, Philly Bar Ass'n, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts and Inky all support the abolition of Traffic Court.

How should you vote? Here's what The Inky says:
The freewheeling former Philadelphia Traffic Court, where tickets were fixed for gifts of crab cakes and porn or just to keep political bosses happy, could soon be officially relegated to the history books where it belongs. As voters contemplate whether to abolish a court that brought so little justice and so much embarrassment to the city, they should consider the real justice that was visited upon the court.

Traffic Court was so corrupt that a federal jury found four of its judges guilty of lying to a grand jury or the FBI in a sprawling ticket-fixing case. Three more pleaded guilty to fixing tickets, one of them in exchange for the seafood and dirty DVDs. Another, found not guilty in the ticket-fixing case, pleaded guilty to separate tax charges.
There had been a second ballot question raising the mandatory retirement ages for judges from age 70 to age 75. Concern over the wording of the question has prompted a delay.

According to Lehigh County Register of Elections Timothy Benyo, the mandatory retirement age question will remain on the ballot because some state senators have questioned the legality of this delay

No Excuse For Child Abuse

Unfortunately,I was busy searching titles on Monday, so I missed the annual observance of Child Abuse Prevention month held by Northampton County's Department of Human Services at their Bethlehem Township offices. The purpose of the event was to bring both awareness to child abuse and to acknowledge the staff who have a direct impact on the families they serve.

According to Director of Human Services Allison Frantz, there has been a significant increase in abuse referrals from 2014 to 2015. It is important that we acknowledge the vital role the Department has in protecting our youth. During the state budget impasse, Brown proposed and Council adopted a $50 million line of credit to continue providing these services, though it was never used. "Without the Administration's effort services would have been in jeopardy," says, Allison Frantz, Northampton County Director of Human Services.

"The Northampton County Children, Youth and Families Division works with families to provide education and support for families in need of counseling with the goal of preventing additional abuse," said Paula Kenderski, Northampton County Casework Supervisor. "We work hard on a daily basis for these families and leverage all available resources to provide support."

According to Director of Administration Luis Campos, 200 pinwheels where placed on the lawn by Human Services staff. "The purpose of the pinwheel is to remind all of the youthful energy that children display," said Case Worker Kimberly Lara.

That's Northampton County.

But across the river and in The People's Republic of Lehigh County, Judge Jim Anthony sentenced a woman who systematically tortured her son (according to a medical examiner) to just 12-25 months in County jail. A WFMZ-TV69 account claims that the mom displayed no remorse and denied her minimized a pattern of abuse that included strangling her son until he'd pass out and scarring him. Judge Anthony found even more excuses for her, claiming she was "overwhelmed." According to the Morning Call, it's possible she'll be out in a little over nine months. Lehigh County prosecutors have asked Judge Anthony to reconsider, and he really should or be "overwhelmed" himself when he seeks retention next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Updated: Dougherty Resigns in Allentown

City of Allentown Managing Director Fran Dougherty has submitted his resignation. You can read the news release on Allentown's website.

Here's what I know. Dougherty and Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski have had an increasingly strained relationship. Dougherty began looking for a Township Manager job months ago, and actually had an offer that he turned down. He has no job lined up at the moment, and does not need one because he was awarded $700,000 in a whistle blower suit against the Philadelphia School District

Here's what I believe. He has been a cooperating witness in the investigation into pay-to-play in Allentown, and has already testified against Fed Ed before the federal Grand Jury.

Note: This story originally was published 4/18/16 at 4:13 pm.

Green Pond Marsh Coffee?

Don't worry. I'm not suggesting that you drink algae. But Monocacy Coffee Company is offering a new "Save Green Pond" blend, and is going to donate 10% of all proceeds to Save Green Pond.  You can make a purchase online or buy at the establishments listed below.

Amy's Coffee Connection
8030 William Penn Highway

Greenmouth Juice Cafe
526 Northampton Street
Easton, PA

1342 Chelsea Avenue
Bethlehem, PA

The Old Library Bookshop
1419 Center Street
Bethlehem, PA

Lil' Miss Organic
Allentown Farmers Market
17th & Chew Street
Allentown, PA

Coffee House Without Limits
707 N 4th Street, Suite 101
Allentown PA

Monocacy Coffee Co. also serves their coffees weekly at Northampton Community College's SlowMarket.