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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gerrymandering: How Our Elections Are Really Rigged - Part Two

State Sen. Lisa Boscola
Blogger's Note: This is a continuation of a series on gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Yesterday's story was an explanation of the problem. Today's entry is a review of bipartisan legislation aimed at ending the practice. Tomorrow, Common Cause's Barry Kauffman has some suggestions on what you can do. On Friday, I'll let you where some other local legislators stand on this issue.  

Democrat Lisa Boscola is without question very popular in her state senatorial district. Her constituents may actually love her. The leaders in the state house and senate? Not so much. "I swear, if there was a bridge you could build to New Jersey, they'd put me there," she only half-jokes.  That bridge might be under construction right now. Boscola is the prime sponsor of a senate bill (SB484) that would eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by establishing an independent citizens' commission to draw the boundary lines for Congressional and state legislative seats every ten years. A companion bill in the state house (HB 1835) has been offered by State Representative Dave Parker, a Republican from Monroe County.

Both Boscola and Parker were among the panelists at Friday's crowded gerrymandering conference at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

State Rep.David Parker
Boscola has first-hand experience with gerrymandering. As a victim. When she was a State Representative, she and two other Democrats rebelled against party leaders to support then Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, on some matters. Party leaders retaliated by gerrymandering the defectors out of a job, and were aiming at her. Boscola survived only because she ran for the state senate, and won. "They couldn't get me," she laughs.

In addition to being a victim, Boscola has witnessed legislators abandon their principles very quickly when their job security is threatened by party leaders. Though everyone wants to see property tax reform, she watched in amazement as the infamous SB76 property tax relief bill was struck down by just one vote in late 2015.  "If you really represent your district, you should do what you think is right," she argues. But she watched as leaders pulled one Senator aside and sent him home for the day. Another switched his vote when threatened.

Unlike most, Boscola has publicly expressed her disgust for our current redistricting system, right from the Senate floor.

"[O]ur current system has become a tainted, corrupt, disingenuous mess. Gerrymandered and distorted district boundaries have become the rule rather than the exception. If you do not believe me, take a look at the map of some of our State's congressional districts. There is a so-called 1-81 district [Lou Barletta] that stretches from Adams County in the south all of the way to the northern tier in northeastern Pennsylvania. Then there is the 1-78 district [Charlie Dent], which snakes its way through the Easton line all the way to the Harrisburg suburbs. Do not even get me started on the 6th Congressional District.

"Mr. President, we should be embarrassed and ashamed. The blame for this politically polluted system lies squarely at the feet of politicians who have the power to choose their own constituencies. It should not work that way, and all of us know it. Our current system has harmed everything from fairness of our elections to the level of cooperation and compromise between lawmakers." 
The Boscola-Parker bills

Instead of the inherent conflict of interest that exists when politicians are allowed to choose their voters, instead of the other way around, the Boscola-Parker bills establish an 11-person commission to draw the boundaries. It will consist of four members of the largest party, four members of the second largest party and three members who are registered as independent or with another party. Elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and state party officials are ineligible. No politics.

New maps require a super-majority of seven votes and there must be at least one vote from each of the three groups. The newly drawn districts must meet a standard test of compactness, and no district may be drawn to favor a political party or, for that matter, anyone else.

This proposal is based on how redistricting is done in Iowa (since1980), Arizona (2010) and California (2010).

A proposal for a citizens' commission in Illinois has been blocked by its state supreme court, along party lines. But the United States Supreme Court upheld an independent commission in Arizona. Legislators had contended they had the power, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg countered "that the people themselves are the originating source of all powers of government."

The Iowa system, which consists mostly of compact rectangles, has never been challenged. "I see a pathway to Republican control. I can also see a pathway to Democrat control," says their Republican House Speaker. 

Boscola also said that a citizens’ commission to end gerrymandering should be part of any attempt to downsize the state legislature. 

"If you're going to downsize the legislature, you better do something about redistricting and how the citizens redistrict because if the leaders get to decide which House and Senate members get to stay, who do you think they are going to want to stay? The leader is going to be able to pick which ones stay. Not the people.

When the legislature voted to reduce its size (it must vote again), Boscola offered an amendment to provide for a citizen redistricting commission, but she said the Senate was able to sidestep it without a vote. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gerrymandering: How Our Elections Are Really Rigged - Part One

The original gerrymander
Do any of you know what gerrymandering is? Put in its simplest form, it's a process by which our legislators pick the voters instead of the other way around. It takes place every ten years, after the census. Though it's almost unnoticed, it is probably the biggest danger to our representative democracy. It's a rigged system, designed to provide job security for legislators who toe the line while punishing any who dare rebel. The fox is in the henhouse, as politicians themselves decide on new districts. They can extend their stay as long as they want. It has resulted in a Pennsylvania State legislature that is completely unresponsive to voters. And it's getting worse.  

On Friday night, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethlehem, a large group of nearly 100 people attended a gerrymandering panel discussion that included Pa LWV Board member Carol Kuniholm, State Sen. Lisa Boscola (Dem.), State Rep. David Parker (Rep.) and Common CausePA's Barry Kauffman. Boscola and Parker have teamed up with bi-partisan legislation to fix a broken system, but they will be the first to tell you nothing is going to happen unless voters themselves get involved and start pressuring their own legislators. In addition, leaders like House Democrat Frank Dermody and Republican Speaker Mike Turzai, who have been unwilling to act, need to be targeted.

Today's focus is the problem of gerrymandering itself, as laid out by Kuniholm. Tomorrow, I'll get into the bi-partisan legislative fix proposed by Boscola and Parker. Thursday, I'll tell you what wizened reformer Barry Kauffman thinks about the problem. Friday, I'll finish with what our local legislators are doing, or more accurately, not doing.

Over 100 people crowded into a hot church basement
Every time there's a poll of Pennsylvania voters, the issue that bothers them the most is school district funding. Most people think the state should contribute more, and less money should be coming out of their pockets in the form of increased property taxes. They want a fairer way to fund schools, and one that keeps seniors on fixed incomes in their homes. And of course, there has been a rash of bills over the years to change the way schools are funded.  Lisa Boscola herself has for years been a champion of property tax reform. But it always fails. It will continue to fail, too. That's because legislators no longer serve you. 

Though gerrymandering has existed since the 1800's, there was a big change in the 2012 election cycle. "Something went crazy," says Kuniholm. 

First, a new mapping technology called Maptitude provides locations of candidates and incumbents, census information, economic information and precinct-by-precinct reports of election results in previous elections. It's just the thing to have to draw a district so that a preferred candidate wins.         

Second, technology and computing power has made for a vast increase in data mining capabilities over the past ten years that Kuniholm calls the "difference between a horse and buggy and a rocket ship."

The third big change is money. In the wake of Citizens United, hybrid Super PACs have provided a huge infusion of undisclosed outside money that is then used to win elections. It can't be traced. 

Both parties have these hybrid SuperPACs.


Pa. League of Women Voters Carol Kuniholm
For Republicans, it is RedMap2010, which dumped $30 million into state races to affect the redistricting, with the ultimate goal being control of the US Congress through reapportionment.  

Republicans admit this. They were able to buy Pennsylvania for just a little under $1 million in 2010, despite having fewer votes than Democrats. Here's what they themselves say:

"[T]he RSLC [Republican State leadership Committee] spent nearly $1 million in Pennsylvania House races in 2010 – an expenditure that helped provide the GOP with majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Combined with former Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett’s victory in the gubernatorial race, Republicans took control of the state legislative and congressional redistricting process. The impact of this investment at the state level in 2010 is evident when examining the results of the 2012 election: Pennsylvanians reelected a Democratic U.S. Senator by nearly nine points and reelected President Obama by more than five points, but at the same time they added to the Republican ranks in the State House and returned a 13-5 Republican majority to the U.S. House." 

Things went so well that Republicans are raising $125 million for the 2020 redistricting, four times what they spent in 2010. 

By winning control of the state legislature, they were able to insure a nearly three to one advantage in Congress, despite having less numbers 

Advantage 2020

Before you get too upset at those evil Republicans, I have to tell you Democrats are now doing the same thing with a hybrid SuperPAC called Advantage 2020. They are focused on Pennsylvania, and have the 6th Pa. Congressional District featured on their homepage. This SuperPAC blasts the gerrymandering done by the GOP, but that's precisely what they want to do, too. 

Kuniholm failed to say how much money Democrats intend to raise, but it has to be substantial. 

The money spent by both parties has nothing to do with you. It is all about flipping districts to win control of the state legislature and, ultimately, Congress. He who controls the state legislature, controls redistricting. He who controls redistricting controls Congress. 

International groups on both sides contribute to these SuperPACS, so far all we know, China are Russia could be buying the Democrat or Republican Party

Focus is Winning and Control, Not Effective Governance 

This enhanced gerrymandering has resulted in a significant change in state government. The focus is winning and control instead of effective governance. Legislators who rebel and want to work for the common good end up being targeted or ignored.  

The political agenda is no longer what is right for the people, but is instead held hostage to outside moneyed influence. "That money that's pouring in is much more than what is being raised locally by the legislators," said Kuniholm. "There's a lot of research that shows that once that outside money comes into an election, the loyalty of those who are elected has shifted. They are no longer loyal to the constituents, who did not put them in office. They are loyal to the outside interests that put them in office."

At the same time, the extremes within the party of a safe district become the norm, leading to disaffection by everyone else. So nationally, 43% of Americans refuse to declare themselves with either party. In Pa, only 13% are independent, but that is only because primaries are closed.

"There's basically no effective choice," noted Kuniholm. To drive that point home, she said that 86% of our state incumbents had no primary challengers this year. For the general, 57% have no opposition.

"How do you vote them out if nobody's running against them?" she asked.

Coming Up: On Wednesday, I will bring you a bi-partisan legislative fix proposed by Senator Boscola and Representative Parker. On Thursday, I’ll tell you what Barry Kauffman thinks you can do. Friday, I'll report where LV legislators stand (or hide). 

Bethlehem's NAACP Story - Airing Dirty Laundry

My story concerning last week's community relations forum at Bethlehem's Town Hall is now at the online edition of The Bethlehem Press. It is an expanded and more detailed version of what was reported here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brown and Christie Share a Tender Moment

... and then they kissed.

The National Anthem and Our False Patriotism

Break out the torches and pitchforks. It's time to lynch an American for acting like ... an American. I refer to NFL back-up QB Colin Kaepernick (he must be an Irish Muslim), who had the temerity to refuse to stand like everyone else and pretend to be a patriot during the singing of the meaningless National Anthem during an equally meaningless preseason game that his team lost. He should show respect to the Flag, they say. Move to Canada, they roar. Kaepernick was simply exercising his First Amendment rights, something a lot more important than a song penned by a bigoted slave owner while the British were burning the capital to the ground. It probably should be scrapped.

I am always leery of these forced displays of false patriotism. A true patriot does exactly what Kaepernick did. A true patriot goes to government meetings or gets involved in his community. He informs himself before voting and is willing to take unpopular stands if he thinks he is right. A false patriot condemns those who follow their conscience.

When I was growing up, I remember quite clearly how people vilified Muhammed Ali for courageously refusing to sign up for the draft. He was stripped of his title, prosecuted and condemned. Except by one loudmouthed Jewish broadcaster who himself happened to be a WWII vet - Howard Cosell. Cosell then realized and said that what really had people fired up about about Ali is that "he was black and he was boastful."

And so it goes with Kaepernick, another black man (his father is black) who does not know his place.

Oh but he disrespected the Flag, you say. How dare he! This reminds me of another time, when America was in its infancy, and Pennsylvania Revolutionaries required everyone to take a loyalty oath. Whiskey patriots would ride throughout the Lehigh Valley, looking to line their pockets with the assets of Mennonites, Moravians and Quakers. In 1778, for example, eleven wealthy Mennonite farmers were herded onto Northampton County Court and ordered to swear their allegiance. Because their religious scruples made that impossible, they refused. Their assets were declared forfeit and they were ordered to leave Pennsylvania. Of course, most of the money ended up in the pockets of a few officers.

And let's talk for a moment about the real verses in Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner. At that time, the British military was recruiting and using runaway slaves. Key, who in fairness did think slaves should be treated humanely, writes gleefully about slaves being killed by American bombs.
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The Star-Spangled Banner became our National Anthem because Woodrow Wilson, another bigot, issued an edict making it so. Congress eventually rubber-stamped Wilson's decree.

There is nothing remotely American about that song, unless you want to emphasize the ugly American. Nor should we be required to pledge allegiance every time we fart.

The whiskey patriots say otherwise, but any real patriot would understand and respect what this quarterback did.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Opinions Online, 8/27/16

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. I prefer local topics, especially concerning topics I miss, as opposed to talking points. 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. Anonymous personal attacks will be deleted, especially when aimed at other readers. Same for anything I consider possibly defamatory.


Olympics: "Bummed to see that the two US shot putters did not have their hands over their heart during the anthem. Gabby Douglas caught a ton of grief for the same thing."

Blogger's Reply -I see no reason why athletes should be forced to take some sort of loyalty oath every time they fart. This false patriotism, which extends to the pledge of allegiance before meetings, is complete bullshit.


Internet Trolls: "Inquiring minds want to know: Is Leroy21 , ripping you and Rick a new one in the MC comments; The Slog Mentor (soon to be Martin's serf) or that ugly skank ( soon to get booted out of West Easton) ?

Blogger's Reply - It makes no difference. I'd rather discuss issues.


IS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT A TWO EDGED SWORD? - Yesterday I drove past the new Fed Ex site and sure enough ground displacement has started. (They didn't even wait for the corn to mature...just bulldozed it over.) The thought occurred to me ,will the day come when we will regret the unabashed economic development we now see which is primarily all warehousing anyway. How many jobs do we really need?? Does anybody know? How many more days of unhealthy air will we have? need for new schools? increased congestion on our roads etc.? Virgin land sacrificed for a warehouse...go figure.


Hillary Clinton's "boring" emails: "These days, Hillary brazenly goes on Jimmy Kimmel to clown around about her “boring” e-mails.

"Well, if they’re so irrelevant, why was she hiding them from the Justice Department? If it’s no big deal, why did it take four years and a lawsuit against the State Department to gain access to her planning schedules? Why did she lie to the American people? Erase tens of thousands of e-mails? Set up a private server in the first place?"

Iran Money: "It is being reported that 13 identical payments to Iran of exactly $99,999,999.99 ($1.3 Billion Dollars) from a State Department fund that pays foreign claims against the U.S. government were made. These payments were not authorised by Contress.

"While the evidence suggests that the payment was made via routine wire transfer, there is no definitive word on just how the money got to Iran and whom or what it was sent to."


Northampton County elected officials should be embarrassed that expense reports are no longer listed online for candidates running for office throughout the County. The last reports are listed for 2013. Where candidates get their money is often key for decisions they make later. The public should know this information, without having to go to Easton to look for it. Why aren't these reports online?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Even Fed Ed's Supporters Cringe

So last Sunday, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski was at Allentown's Pride in the Park celebration, along with a gaggle of Democratic political hopefuls. Republicans were building a wall. The MC, probably Adrian Shanker Rob Hopkins, introduced Fed Ed to the faithful, and got a little carried away. He called him the greatest Mayor in the universe.

Fed Ed was thankful for the wonderful introduction and told the MC, "I'll send you a check later."

Not the best joke from someone being investigated for political corruption. Though the gay community loves to get outrageous on Pride days, even they reportedly cringed.

Sources close to the investigation say that the feds have former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer on tape, accepting a bribe in the Mayor's office.

Updated 11:05 am: Rob Hopkins confirms it is he who introduced Fed Ed, and not Adrian Shanker. Several years ago, it is Hopkins who launched a vicious robo call against Fed Ed foe Lou Hershman, who was attempting a come back on City Council. Hopkins tells me he tends to use superlatives in describing anyone who speaks at his events. He admits he did call Pawlowski the "best Mayor in the City of Allentown." He points out that the true MC was Bob the Drag Queen.

John Brown: NorCo's MIA Exec Aboard the Trump Train

How Brown has expanded services
I had to laugh when Northampton County Executive John Brown discussed absenteeism at Gracedale during the last County Council meeting. He piously condemned underpaid bastards who "abuse the system." That's precisely what he's doing himself.  Our full-time, $85,000 per year, Exec is playing hookie while he runs for state auditor general against incumbent Eugene DePasquale. Your real estate tax dollars are paying him to traipse all over the state, as his Facebook page reveals.

But don't worry. While he's out looking for another job, he's placed the County in the capable hands of a high school graduate with no education, no experience but plenty of tax liens and a foreclosure. You have no reason to worry.

In Rome Township,136 miles away from the courthouse, he bragged that he's fixed Northampton County  and has actually expanded services, and without raising taxes. I wonder how big his nose grew as he spoke. County services are at an all-time low, thanks to his refusal to fill vacancies. In his first year in office, his Republican-led Council raised taxes a mill. Just a month ago, he unsuccessfully lobbied Council to impose a $5 hike on vehicle registrations.

Brown brags that he's a creature of "corporate America," but has never named any of the companies he turned around in the private sector, if they exist at all.

That's none of your business, like Trump's tax returns.

It's little wonder that Brown has announced from his Facebook page (which has only about 300 "likes" statewide) that he endorses Trump. "We need to make both America and Pennsylvania great again!"

I'd like to make Northampton County great again, and the best way to do that is by getting rid of John Brown. 

Even Republicans have tired of his corporate babble and insistence on "government by consultant," as Lamont McClure liked to say. 

The Colonel, as Council member Hayden Phillips is called, is reportedly considering a run. Even more ominously, so is State Rep. Joe Emrick.  

NorCo DA to Drug Dealers: We Will Take Your Money, Car, House

Morganelli with Forks Tp Detective Philomena Kelly earlier this year,announcing
homicide charges against a drug dealer who provided a fatal overdose. 
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced yesterday that his drug forfeiture Program netted $140,290 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. This includes $119,632 in cash, $16,019.13 from the sale of 15 forfeited vehicles and $4,638 in shared proceeds from Attorney General Forfeitures. ​

​Forfeited money is used to purchase police equipment for police, fund undercover drug purchases and provide police training. It also pays for an assistant District Attorney. Seized vehicles are used by local police as unmarked or undercover vehicles or sold at auction. Real estate used to facilitate drug distribution can be forfeited as well, although the District Attorney only uses that tool against convicted drug dealers. "I will continue to return monies we have seized to our local police departments, block watch groups, civic groups and other organizations that assist us in prosecuting drug crime and in educating our youth on the dangers of drugs," said Morganelli.

In a strange sign of economic recovery, the $140,290 forfeited over the past year is substantially more money than was taken in any of the last three years (2015 - $107,802; 2014 - $120,544; 2013 - $79,831). Since he began this program, which is authorized by state statute, Morganelli has seized over $2 million from drug dealers and returned it to the community.

"Just about every municipal political subdivision in Northampton County has at one time or another benefited from a donation from the drug forfeiture fund," said the District Attorney. “The message that we want to send to those who deal in illegal drugs is a simple and clear one: be assured that you are doing it at your own risk. When we catch you we will seize your money, your house, your vehicle and any other ill gotten gains from your drug dealings. Drug use and drug dealing in Northampton County will be very unprofitable."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nazareth Cop Admitted He Hates Black People

On Monday night, Esther Lee and the Bethlehem NAACP conducted an overdue forum on race relations between the City's minority population and a bunch of panelists about the City's mostly white police department. Several instances of possible bias were reported, although they seem to really boil down to questions of respect. In fairness to Bethlehem police, whom I consider the best in the Lehigh Valley, it should be noted that beat cops were not invited. I think the discussion would have been even better had they been asked to come. Despite their absence, however, there were no reports of overt racism from the audience.

In Nazareth, things are different. A lot different. Two years ago, I reported claims that then Nazareth Police Officer Danny Troxell was referring on radio to blacks spotted in Nazareth as UNT (Unauthorized N---er in Town) or UNB (Unauthorized N---er in Town). This report came to me from other police officers. I went with this complaint to Nazareth Borough Council, which pretty much ignored me.

I now have additional evidence to support overt racism at Nazareth's police department. It is a written and signed statement provided by Parking Enforcement Officer Mike Tarnok, who has retired and moved out of the area. Because he is gone, I have no fear that he will experience retaliation. That will pretty much be limited to me, and will consist of snide remarks on the newspaper comment boards.

I have thick skin.

Tarnok’s statement concerns Officer Daniel Troxell. His name is no longer listed on the active police roster, but until recently, he was very much in contention for a full-time job and might still be on the Civil Service list

I have decided against publishing the entire two-page, handwritten statement because Troxell makes references to others who should be kept out of this matter

Troxell starts with some bizzaro claims about the Masons: "[Troxell] feels that Stephen and Fred [two other cops] are using their membership in the Masons to try to make him look bad. Danny says you can't beat the Masons and a lot of influence and power."

From Masons, Troxell goes on to blacks.

"Danny told me he hates 'ni--ers.' He also told me he is not fond of [a Nazareth female] because she 'fucked 'ni--ers.'"

Troxell very nearly became a full-time Nazareth police officer. Troxell is the Nazareth police officer who smashed a door down when a mentally distraught Timothy Nixon had stolen a friend's gun and then called him to tell him. He refused to call back-up, setup a perimeter or just call Nixon. When Troxell kicked in the door, Nixon committed suicide. A dismissal of Nixon's wrongful death lawsuit is in the Third Circuit Court.

Incidentally, Timothy Nixon was black.

Hanover Tp to Name New Park After First Responders

Hanover's Supervisors, from L to R: Michael Prendeville, John Tanczos,
 John Diacogiannis, Steve Salvesen and John Nagle 
At a community forum in Bethlehem on Monday night, Police Chief Mark DeLuzio heard several complaints from citizens who felt they were being treated rudely and perhaps even subjected to racial discrimination. But the very next night, in Hanover Township, Supervisors voted unanimously to give the newly expanded Village View Park a new name - First Responder Park. That 23-acre park, located on the east side of Airport Road, is on target to be dedicated in the spring.

"Sometimes, we take things for granted," said Chairman John N. Diacogiannis. "This is one way for us to show how we here feel." In addition to renaming the park, Diacogiannis reported that the Colonial Regional Police Commission has agreed to raise funds to supply police officers with new body armor. He said preliminary cost estimates are in the range of $400 per officer, although some body armor can cost as much as $1,800.

This resolution was suggested by Michael Prendeville, who also proposed the blue line painted along a small stretch of Brodhead Road, in front of Colonial Regional Police headquarters.

Hanover Township's first responders include the Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company, including its Ambulance Corps; the Colonial Regional Police Department; and the Township's own Office of Emergency Management.

The volunteer fire department was first formed in 1942, and began offering first aid at fire scenes in 1965, when the Bethlehem Jaycees donated a 1956 Cadillac ambulance.

State police at one time provided police protection to Hanover. That changed in 1995, with the formation of the Colonial Regional Police Department. Police officers patrol Hanover and Lower Nazareth Townships, as well as Bath Borough.

Emergency Management, always a priority in Hanover Township, was formalized in 2008 with an Office of Emergency Management. Its purpose is to help coordinate and manage resources to prepare for and respond to community.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Hopeful Bigot

Yesterday, some of you were outraged when a few people suggested, at a Bethlehem forum, that some police officers are racists. Some of you seemed to argue that driving with an expired inspection sticker is a capital offense for which cops should shoot you on sight, black or white. 

Fortunately, most people don't feel that way, including cops. Most officers try to be fair, respectful and polite to one and all, regardless of their race. But racism still exists, even among cops. They are human beings and have the same shortcomings as the rest of us. 

I'm a racist myself. The first thing I notice about a black person is his or her color. If I were truly free from prejudice, the first thing I would notice is the person. But I'm not. Bigotry has been hammered into me. I grew up in Hellertown, where I was told as a child that black people were not allowed to use swimming pools like the rest of us because they smell funny in the summer.

As a kid, if I thought someone cheated me in a deal over baseball cards, I'd say he "Jewed" me  

This thinking started to change by the time I reached high school. I delude myself into thinking I have finally been enlightened and am nothing like those real racists. But then some poor black or Hispanic will walk across the street in a crosswalk in front of me, and will be moving just a little too slowly for me. 

"That n---er has an attitude," I tell myself.

But the person with the attitude is me.

I'm a bigot and will die a bigot. It's ingrained in me, as it is with most people my age who grew up in the Lehigh Valley, at least in the 'burbs.

But there's hope. Not for me, but our kids. 

Just the other day, another bigot on this blog derided President Obama as our "dark hero."  There are kids like my grandson who grew up seeing a black (well, half black) man in a suit everyday on television, talking about important things. Regardless what you think of him, and I don't think much of him myself, the children who have grown up watching him are not buying into the prejudice that has permanently infected me.

So though we are racially divided and there are still confrontations, I am very hopeful for our future. I see it in our children. 

They are better than we are. 

DA: Mayor Strye Can Have ARD If He Resigns

Morganelli with former Nazareth Police
Officer Eric Schwab, who left for
Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye has been charged with skimming $8,000 from gambling operations at the Vig Hose, where he was president for many years before being appointed Mayor. He admitted his theft in Grand Jury testimony. After being charged, he waved his preliminary hearing, something innocent people don't do. Last week, he applied for something called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). That's a special program for first offenders in which charges are dismissed after a period of probation.

On Monday, I argued that Strye's resignation should be a condition of ARD. NorCo DA John Morganelli agrees. (His letter approving Strye's application is below). Morganelli is willing to admit Strye into this special program, but on two conditions. First, Strye must make full restitution of the $8000 he skimmed. Second, Strye must resign his position as Mayor.

Morganelli is troubled by Strye’s involvement in, not just theft, but illegal gambling. Some of you have wondered about this, so let me stop for a moment to make clear that a District Attorney enforces the Crimes Code, not the Liquor Code. The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement investigates allegations of illegal gambling. The state usually acts administratively through the Liquor Control Board, and not criminally. That is why DAs across the state have little involvement in illegal gambling.

Still, I personally believe there is a direct connection between these machines and organized crime. Who supplies the machines these clubs use? Who gets part of the take? Who showers people like Strye with tickets to big sporting events? Strye has admitted to me that he accepts tickets, and I am sure those were never shared with members of the Vig, nor was the value of these tickets reported on income tax returns.

In 1990, the now defunct Pa. Crime Commission claimed that a loose confederation of racketeers, including Bootsie Shumar, were bookmakers who ran the poker machines in the Lehigh Valley. Feds raided the Easton Fleas, where Bootise was an owner, in 2004. According to the US Attorney, Bootsie was giving $1,000 per week kickbacks to club stewards. He was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison despite words of praise from Easton Mayor Sal Panto. It was Shumar's sixth gambling conviction.

Was Bootsie supplying the machines used by "Sneakers" Strye, as they call the Nazareth Mayor?

Strye would know.

And that's a problem. In addition to being associated with the gambling underworld, something he has continued at other clubs, Strye is in charge of Nazareth's beleaguered police department. The fox is quite literally in the hen house.  So is Council member Larry Stoudt, who is also involved in the illegal poker operations at the clubs. He actually tried to use local police to rat out a state police informant at the Legion, where he tends bar.

Ironically, Borough Council President Dan Chiavaroli praised Strye in The Morning Call for his work on the police department, which they've emasculated. The last thing Strye or Council wants is an effective police department. 

Fortunately, Morganelli rejects Nazareth's so-called  leaders. "This office would be remiss in allowing Mr. Strye to continue to be in charge of police operations and supervision as a result of his criminal conduct."

A Cause For Paws

Caden Giordano is a rising sophomore at Becahi. When I say he's rising, I mean rising. He's about 6'7" and grows about an inch every day. He was not supposed to play varsity basketball this summer, but ended up starting in nearly every game at Cedar Beach Park while simultaneously playing in baseball tournaments.

He's apparently also a promoter, and has lured The Verdict for a concert to benefit Peaceable Kingdom, a non-profit no-kill animal shelter and vet clinic in Whitehall.

Date: 9/23/16, 6 pm
Where: Van Bittner Hall (Steelworkers Union)
Price: Whatever You Can Afford

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

DiLuzio Shocked By Complaints About Bethlehem Police

Jamie Strouse tells her story, as her husband William listens.
Esther Lee is attired,as usual, in her church lady hat.
Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio was taken aback by allegations of disrespect and possible racism in his own police department during a crowded NAACP meeting on community relations at Bethlehem Town Hall last night, attended by over 60 people. I will have a more detailed account in The Bethlehem Press. This forum was chaired by the indomitable Esther Lee, wearing her church lady hat. Mayor Bob Donchez, Police Chief Mark Diluzio, several members of Council, State Representative Steve Samuelson and several pastors attended. But it was the audience, not the panelists, who had the most to say. 

Jamie and William Strouse, a biracial couple from West Bethlehem, actually had several stories.  

William, who is white, was pulled over by Bethlehem police for driving a car with an expired inspection sticker. He was issued a warning. But when his black father-in-law committed the same violation in his car, the police reaction was quite different.  

"What are you doing in this part of town?" is the first question the officer had for the black father-in-law, who lives on Union Street in Allentown and was picking up his granddaughter to watch her for the day. The officer, who spotted the expired inspection, did a U-Turn as Jamie Strouse's father pulled over at his daughter's home on West Broad. Nervous, he thought he may have brushed up against her car. When she came out to explain the situation to the officer, he told her to “step away from the vehicle." A K-9 van from Allentown was soon at the scene of the expired inspection sticker. The granddaughter was crying while neighbors stood outside, gawking     

"I get a warning, and he gets a K-9 call," noted Strouse.  

Jamie, who is black, also discussed a September incident in which she was driving her son Calypso school (she also works at the school district). She noticed police cars everywhere at the school. When she asked an officer what was going on, he said it was because of “people like you." He instructed her to move, and an officer started following her. The bus driver in front of her had to vouch for her. When she left, a third police car followed her out. "The worst part of this is it happened in front of my son," said Strouse, noting that she had always taught her son that police officers exist "to serve and protect."  

"When we think about African American men wanting to become police officers, we first have to be able to view them as our allies, and that's a big problem," she told the gathering. "There's this divide. It's us versus them. It's not helpful to anyone on either side."

"This is the first time I'm hearing about this," said Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who had just finished explaining how difficult it is to recruit minority officers. "If I had heard about it ahead of time, believe me, heads would have rolled," he said. But he was also skeptical. "I've been doing this job 36 years. I know a lot of good cops in Bethlehem. You’re not talking about anybody I know."

Unfortunately, no rank-and-file police officers were on hand to respond. 

"I don't care what color the officer is," noted William. "That doesn't matter to me. It's the treatment and respect of the officer to the community." He added that now, when his five-year old son sees an officer, he asks, "Is he going to be rude like the other one was to Mom?"

Did the Strouses simply misinterpreted things? Not according to Sonia Zahm, a guidance counselor with the Bethlehem Area School District for the past 15 years. She said she hears the same tales from families at Donegan Elementary, on the City's South side.  "Those kids that I heard those stories from are now Liberty High School teenagers, and they're angry and their families are angry," she said.  

"Maybe they [police officers] need to be trained about how to be human," she suggested, and related what had just happened to her 16 year old white son, who was driving a car his family just purchased for him. Once again, it was an expired inspection sticker. "Mom, why was it necessary for the cop to be mean and rude to me?" he asked his mother when he got home. 

He was given a $103 fine and told that costs will be more. "I hear these stories all the time," said Zahm. "It makes me sad for our community."

Esther Lee suggested her son is lucky "Your son can say 'No sir; Yes, sir" Our son can say that and if they move their hands, they're dead." 

DiLuzio noted that a cosmetologist gets 1500 hours of training compared to only 600 for a police officer.   

Mary Smith claims there are "different laws for different races." Her grandson (half Spanish, half black) went with five white friends to McDonalds. She said Bethlehem police pulled the car over and let the five white boys go. But she had to pick up her grandson. "Why can't you just treat them the same?" she asked

As the evening ended, Esther Lee stated that "every child has a right to education and should not end up in prison or murdered just because he didn't know which way to put his hands."

About The Bethlehem Police

The Bethlehem Police Department is one of 107 police departments accredited by the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association, having first been formed in 1917. Over that time, six officers have been killed in the line of duty. There are currently 155 police officers. There are six Latinos, four African Americans, one Asian and one of Middle Eastern descent.

In their Mission Statement, Bethlehem Police vow to at all times "conduct ourselves with the highest ethical standards to maintain public confidence, community support and respect, treating all persons with dignity and fairness, protecting their constitutional and civil rights, and providing equal protection under the law."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Best Comeback Ever

Is That Budweiser Vegan?

Bethlehem City Council member Michael Colón (with an ó, damn it!) volunteers every year at Veg Fest, and most beers are vegan friendly. But they are not alcoholic friendly. So I ate a delicious falafel wrap and washed it down with ice-cold lemonade at Victoria Lahoud's Lebanese Street Food truck.

"I didn't ask to be Lebanese; I was born lucky," she says.

I eat enough falafel and hummus that I'm hoping to be named an honorary Lebanese.

Nazareth Mayor's Resignation Should Be Condition of ARD

On Friday, from Bluff City, TN, in what appears to be his seventh out-of-state trip this year, Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye stopped long enough to post this Facebook entry concerning his ARD application.

"The news is out, I have applied for the ARD program. All though [sic] I will not comment yet, I want to take this time to thank all of my family, friends and the numerous supporters for supporting me through this very awkward time in my life. Again thank you! I love all of you, I love this borough and appreciate everyone's love and support."

He's making no comment. He minimizes criminal behavior as nothing more than a "very awkward time" in his life. He also wants you to know he loves all of you, as well as Nazareth, like Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski loves Allentown. If either of those so-called leaders had even the slightest regard for their communities, they would have resigned long ago. They both need to resign now.

Fed Ed is enmeshed in a federal political corruption investigation, and will almost certainly be indicted by the end of the year. Strye is a thief who admitted to an investigating Grand Jury that he skimmed $8,000 from illegal gambling operations at Vigilance Hose, where he was the "responsible officer."

Just as there are those who say we need to be erecting a statue to Fed Ed, Strye has a large number of local cheerleaders. His Facebook post resulted in 187 "likes" and 13 "loves" from people that include Dave Mattei (State House candidate), Stephanie Varone (Main Street Manager), Don Keller (Nazareth's retired engineer), Fiorella Reginelli-Mirabito (Bath Mayor) and Brian Regn (Nazareth Borough Council). Jeremy Setzer writes, "This isn't a big deal, it's not like you deleted 33,000 emails." David Sevi philosophizes, "Shit happens." Sandy Kromer Eggert tells Strye "it takes courage" to seek ARD. Joey Murante invents a "#screwthehaters" hashtags. Some of these people are drinking or gambling buddies. A few may be real friends. Most obviously have agendas.

Unlike Jeremy Setzer, I know that it's a pretty big deal when a sitting Mayor is charged with a third degree felony involving dishonesty and the theft of funds entrusted to him. When he admits his criminal behavior to an Investigating Grand Jury, that's a disqualifying big deal. He needs to resign, and that should be a condition of ARD.

ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) is a special program for first offenders. Its primary purpose is the prompt disposition of charges, eliminating the need for costly and time consuming trials and other court proceedings in minor matters. But it is not a program for sweeping away unpleasant truths about elected officials.

Contrary to what Strye thinks, it is not he or his lawyer who files the motion. That is completely within the discretion of the District Attorney. And even if Morganelli files such a motion, the final decision is up to the Court.

The Stoudt ARD Experience

Morganelli has some experience to draw upon in Nazareth.  ARD was granted once before, in 2013, to an elected official - Nazareth Borough Council member Larry Stoudt. He is a bartender at the American Legion, which like many Nazareth clubs, is a hotbed of illegal gambling and who knows what else. He demanded Nazareth police to check out a suspected rat at the clubs. Chief Thomas Trachta refused, and after the third time, went to the Pennsylvania State Police. Because of his age, his veteran status and the widespread belief that Stoudt would never seek office again, he was placed on ARD.

Stoudt not only sought re-election, but still tends bar at the same club caught up in periodic gambling raids. Amazingly, he convinced the rest of Council to unanimously vote last year for a $52,900 gaming grant from the Commonwealth Financing Agency at the very same American Legion where he wanted local cops to rat out an informer. This is a private social club, and is of absolutely no benefit to the Borough, unless you like to gamble. The club has been cited seven times since 2000 for illegal gambling, sales to nonmembers and visibly intoxicated persons and dummy records. In 2013, the very year Stoudt was placed on ARD, the club was cited three times.

After being placed on ARD, Stoudt engaged in a clear conflict of interest in violation of the state Ethics Act. His fellow Council members, who themselves are well aware of this conflict, voted for the grant anyway.  On July 1, the Commonwealth Financing Agency granted $48,000 of the grant request while denying Bethlehem Township funding for a police car.

So ARD for Stoudt was a failure.

Vigilance Hose and Strye

While Stoudt essentially laughed off obstruction charges, Carl Strye was watching from Vigilance Hose, yet another Nazareth Club with a tradition of illegal gambling. He was the "responsible officer" at the Vig, which during his tenure was raided seven times for gambling machines and sales to nonmembers. The club was fined $1,000, $1,000, $100, $400, $400 and $600. Its license was also suspended once.

Either shortly before or after being appointed Mayor, Strye skimmed $8,000 from gambling operations at the Vig in 2013. His lifestyle certainly supports the conclusion that he has stolen far more in his years the Vig. White collar crime is extremely difficult to prove, but Detective John Casciano never hesitated at the painstaking task of putting together the evidence, helped by a John Morganelli Investigating Grand Jury.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Strye admitted his theft in testimony to the Grand Jury.

Retaliation Against Local Police

As you might imagine, Larry Stoudt was enraged at the indignity of being caught in misusing the authority of his office. He, along with other Council members, did what they could to weaken the police force. The best way to accomplish that is by keeping full-timers at a bare minimum. Officer Freddy Lahovski, arguably one of the best cops in the Lehigh Valley, was illegally fired. He was reinstated with nearly two years of backpay. He then sued and was given $440,000 to walk away. Another full-timer, Steve Schleig, was harassed repeatedly in an effort to force him to quit. He sued, too. So did a third police officer, Adam Shimer, a veteran from Nazareth who always wanted to be a cop in Nazareth.

After a series of raids in 2015, which ultimately led to Strye, the social clubs got together and were able to out the undercover officer responsible. Carl Strye was one of the insiders making sure that the identity of this person was disclosed at a Super Bowl Party held at Holy Family. But the fun was just beginning.

One Nazareth cop, despite being dumped on from every direction, was sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. That cop is Freddy Lahovski. He got the DA's office involved.

When Lahovski was paid $440,000 to walk away earlier this year, Strye thought his troubles were finally over. They were just beginning, as he later discovered.

Strye's Lack of Remorse

Far more troubling than the theft charges is Strye's complete lack of remorse, as evidenced by his Facebook comments and in statements to The Express Times. He lied to me in several email exchanges, denying he had even been to the Grand Jury or that he ever engaged in skimming. After being charged, he incredibly told reporters that he could still run the police department with a "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing" bullshit argument. He even complained that he wanted this kept "in house," out of the public eye. There was no apology for letting the community down. No shame.

I have told you all along that Strye would cry for ARD. But now the DA has a track record of what happens when ARD is handed out like candy to an elected official. Stoudt never displayed an ounce of remorse, and is up to his eyeballs doing exactly what got him in trouble in the first place. Because of his complete unwillingness to accept responsibility, Strye should be denied participation in this program unless he resigns as Mayor. He was voted into office when most people had no idea he was a thief and was heavily involved in Nazareth's illegal gambling. Allowing him to remain in office is a slap across the face of every voter.

Stoudt and Strye then have done their level best to weed out good cops. They want a culture of corruption.

Morganelli and the courts can prevent this from happening.

This is precisely what erodes public confidence in government. Strye needs to "suck it up, cupcake!" and resign. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Opinions Online, 8/20/16

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.


Musikfest: Should Musikfest at least consider making a portion of its festival alcohol & smoke free?

Joanne Jackson: Bernie - Please investigate the Joanne Jackson campaign. She is in the process of having an illegal fundraiser next week.

Blogger's Reply: I am unable to tell whether that is true until a campaign finance report is filed.


Dirt Bikes in Allentown? Interested in knowing if any other reader's have noticed the illegal dirt bike motorcycles flying down main streets the last few weeks in Allentown. Spotted some of these clowns driving right down Lehigh St. at night with no lights on. The only way the police are catching these kids is with dirt bikes of their own or helicopters.


Keystone Collections: Got to love Keystone Collections. I went in person to pay my per capita tax, but forgot that they moved to 378 in Lower Saucon (by the way they left no sign with where they moved to). No big deal I said, I will just pay it online. Went to pay it online and they are charging a processing fee (mine was a dollar). Normally I understand this , but I think it is BS here since they are collecting taxes.I paid it anyway since I want a receipt. I got the following confirmation message "Please note this is not an official receipt, but rather a confirmation record of your intent to pay with the account info listed below". What the hell? You cant get me an actual receipt after I paid your processing fee!

Don't even get me started on a private contractor collecting taxes for government entities that still have tax offices.


Political Corruption:

http://observer.com/2016/08/class-action-lawsuit-against-debbie-wasserman-schultz-moves-forward/ cause I know you like her so very much (snark Snark ) how about Kane? and Castor and now Castor's out and Beemer's back in and what about the Gansler's investigation - we are all in this mess together that is a FOR Sure have a great weekend.


Time for the FBI to arrest Fed Ed already! Throw some more of these crooks in the slammer!


In what might be a record week for hubris among mayors, sources say Pawlowski is going to run for A'town mayoral re-election AND Strye finally applies for ARD but still refuses to resign.

While FedEd lumbers on posting that everything is peachy on facebook, mator sticky fingers keeps rubbing the community's nose in it by giving everyone updates on his summer follies.

I realize summers are for vacation, but does this guy ever work? It seems to me that now would be a prime time to sell car wash systems.


I read in the Morning Call that Ed Pawlowski is going to run for a fourth term as mayor of Allentown. despite the FBI investigation of him and his activities while in office

This is just like Hillary Clinton running for President. Would you believe that someone with her record of lying and corruption along with several FBI investigations would actually have the gall to run for President?

She and Pawlowski are like peas in the same pod.

Well, they're both from Chicago and both Democrats. What do you expect ? Honesty in government ?


Why are no Presidential candidates in LV? - One has to wonder how important politically the Lehigh Valley is since none of the candidates for President have visited here. Enough about Scranton Pa. already. Also may show the folks we have elected to office have no political clout as well.


High School Football:

Anyone want to predict the local high school football teams outlooks for the upcoming season? I am a Notre Dame of Greenpond fan. I hope the Crusaders will win, but I don't think it is likely. Like to see them square up even if it is a scrimmage against Easton or P'burg.


IRS Scam: Bernie, there is a scam going on about unpaid taxes owed to IRS that I got a call about this afternoon. The caller says he is from the treasury department. Don't believe me? Their NUMBER IS 1 713 609 1144. I called the FBI in Philadelphia who verified it. Driving folks crazy, I am told. - John Stoffa


$400MM to Iran: That 400 million Obama gave to Iran as a ransom would come in handy for the people of Louisiana, and Mississippi right now.


HOPE for Heroin Addiction: Need Something To Do Today???

Join Partners For A New Beginning for their Heroin and Opiate Awareness Day from 2pm - 7pm at Bushkill Vol. Fire Company. They will have guest speakers, games, tricky trays, music and more.

This is a Free Event to the public! Come out and Join the fight and get educated.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Gracedale Update: Four Deficiencies Noted by State Officials

Gracedale's two-year run as a deficiency free nursing home is over. Raymond Soto, Permier's new Administrator, informed Council at their August 18 meeting that four deficiencies were noted by the State Department of Health in July. All relate to resident care.

According to Soto, the nursing home was cited for failure to notify a resident's doctor and family concerning an injury; failure to rule out potential abuse as the cause of an injury; a medication error with a resident suffering from dementia and anxiety; and a resident who fell when not provided with a doctor-ordered pelvic belt.

Council also noted a substantial increase in the number of employees taking FMLA (unpaid family medical leave), which was at 123 in July.

Executive John Brown explained that he believes this increase is a reaction to changes in the facility's absentee policy.

Last year, he explained, as many as 700 of 800 employees were calling in sick at least once every month. He claimed the cost was between $2.5 and $4 million, and that Gracedale could have been budget neutral but for all these absences. "We're bleeding out the backdoor," he complained.

So Brown, in conjunction with AFSCME, the union representing most Gracedale workers, tightened the absentee policy. This new policy, which took effect at the beginning of this year, reduced absenteeism by 50%.

But he said that as he tightens one policy, some employees who "want to abuse the system" will take advantage of other programs.

Brown indicated that Human Resources Director Amy Trapp is educating managers and supervisors on the various policies so that no program is abused.