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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dieruff Stuns Nazareth Blue Eagles in Wild Game

ACCHS's Chad Kratzer, Dat Lambert and
Jordan McChristian scouted their oppoents
What makes Dieruff's boys' basketball team so entertaining is that you never know what is going to happen. It is always going to be a wild game, both on and off the court. That's precisely what happened tonight when the Huskies hosted the overconfident Nazareth Blue Eagles. Dieruff won the game, 64 to 56.

Right from the National Anthem, I knew we were in for a teat. The announcer basically gave a "Make America Great Again" speech right before it was played, and invited everyone to sing along. I thought he'd finish with "God Bless Donald Trump."

Fans were also warned about cursing and were told the building would be locked after halftime. 

Nazareth is ranked higher that Dieruff and apparently thought they were going to have an easy night. And that's the way things looked at first. But Dieruff, a very scrappy team, hung in there, and started cooking in the second quarter. That's when Chico White and CJ Richardson began to take control under the boards. Will Melson and Justin Rockmore could streak down the court faster than most teams. But their deadliest weapon is #1, Honor Huff. He's the shortest player I've seen in the Lehigh Valley, but can kill you from beyond the arc. 

Will Melson fouled out during the game, drawing protests from the Dieruff coaches. Four Nazareth players fouled out, too, which had Nazareth coach Joe Arndt apoplectic. I thought they'd have to wheel him out of there.

Since Central Catholic will be playing both of these teams, a number of players played scout.   

ACCHS Beats PMW to Win Christmas Tournament

ACCHS Boys Varsity Basketball Squad, 2017-18
In a weekend filled with Christmas basketball tournaments all over the Lehigh Valley, Allen's 62-52 victory over Emmaus was the one that garnered most local interest. But just over a mile away, another game was going on at Rockne Hall that had all the feel of an EPC playoff game. That's because Pocono Mountain West (PMW), rated Number 3 in Lehigh Valley Basketball's 12/20 power rankings, was squaring off against the Allentown team ranked second. It's not Allen. It's not Dieruff. It's Allentown Central Catholic. The Vikings, which failed to even qualify for the EPC playoffs last year, had an 8-0 record going into the game against the Panthers. That record is now 9-0.

MVP Jay Vaughan and All-tournament Dat Lambert
Central, a team known for its shots beyond the arc, nailed 10 from downtown last night, but only after a slow start. It looked at first as though the Panthers might run away with the game.  Kevin Kern (9 points) was getting a lot of pressure under the boards from PMW Senior Travis Elmore, who led both teams in scoring for the night with 24 points, including 10 buckets and 4 free throws.

Ordinarily, Kern could look for help from Keyshawn "the beast" Kellman. But he's been sidelined by a back injury, so it was up to John Mickley and Dennis Csenscits to help.

All tournament Travis Elmore and Lee Mosley
When PMW spread itself out to prevent the 3-point shot, Central just went inside and drew fouls. Dat Lambert scored 10 of his 22 points with free throws and still managed to sink two from beyond the arc and two field goals.

While PMW keyed in on Lambert and PG Jay Vaughan, Sophomore Nick Filchner sunk 5 from downtown. Junior Sam Vaughan and Senior Jordan McChristian added two more apiece

Just two points separated these two teams after three quarters, but that's when PMW started getting into foul trouble with Lambert, Filchner and Chad Kratzer

If last night's game proves anything, it's that Allentown Central Catholic is a real threat this year  They may stumble at times, as all high school kids tend to do.

Scoring:

ACCHS: Lambert -22, Filchner - 19, McChristian - 11, Kern - 9, S. Vaughan - 6, J. Vaughan -  4, Kratzer - 4.

PMW: T Elmore -24, S Ernest - 14, Lee Mosley -11, Josiah Burns -8, Haybert Louche - 4, Ishyne Pilgrim - 3, Joseph Kidney - 2.

J. Vaughan to D.Lambert three-point:

Friday, December 29, 2017

ACCHS Christmas Tournament Continues Tonight


Last night's games:

5:30PM Pocono Mountain West (4-1) defeated Notre Dame Green Pond (5-3) by a convincing 68-43 score. Despite being smaller, the scrappy Crusaders won the battle of rebounds. But both teams were missing a lot. But it is hard to match the sheer athleticism and speed of Pocono Mountain West.

7:30PM Freire Charter (2-6) as annihilated by ACCHS (8-0), 79-56. Senior Jay Vaughan was unconscious in the first half, the team had 11 from beyond the arc, with 5 coming from Vaughan. By the time the first half was over, he had 23 points, and Coach Dennis Csensits rested him most of the second half. Dat Lambert had 13, including two from downtown. He also had 4 assists, 3 steals and three rebounds. Nick Filchner and Chad Kratzer had excellent games, but I neglected to get their point totals. Central only scored six points in the final quarter.

Tonight's games:

5:30PM Consolation Game between Notre Dame and Freire Charter.

7:30PM Championship Game between Pocono Mountain West and Allentown Central. - Will discipline, stingy defense and accurate shooting trump blinding speed, size and sheer athleticism? We'll find out.

The Morning Call's premier sports journalist, Keith Groller, covered this game and will have a detailed report. This is just a fan's take.

I said yesterday that I'd be handing out autographed pictures of myself for $25. I had no takers, so I'm increasing the price to $100.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

ACCHS Christmas Tournament Starts Tonight


As The Morning Call's Keith Groller reported on Christmas Eve, Allentown Central Catholic usually travels over the Christmas holiday to play in a few boys' varsity basketball games.But this year, they're staying out, and why not? Rockne Hall is one of Allentown's seven wonders. Its hardwood floors have beckoned ballers from Notre Dame Green Pond, Pocono Mountain West and Freire Academy in Philly.

Tonight:
5:30PM Pocono Mountain West (3-1) vs. Notre Dame Green Pond (5-2)
7:30PM Freire Charter (2-5) vs. ACCHS (7-0)

Friday:
5:30PM Consolation Game
7:30PM Championship Game

Former Central Catholic and Princeton standout Gabe Lewullis, now an orthopedic surgeon, will be the special guest. I will also be handing out autographed pictures of myself for $25.

Updated: McClure to Announce Cabinet Picks January 4

For weeks, rumors about Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure's cabinet picks have been swirling around the courthouse and this blog. I contacted him yesterday, and he told me he has made some selections. He plans to announce them on January 4.

From the Brown staff, he is keeping Attorney Dave Ceraul on the Solicitor's staff, even though Ceraul was a Brown contributor. My guess is that McClure has a personal relationship with this slate belt lawyer that transcends partisan politics. He also plans to hold onto Mark Hartney, a Deputy Director in Community and Economic Development. Hartney is a relatively recent hire and appears to be apolitical.

The only appointment I know of for sure is in Fiscal Affairs. Steve Barron, the current Controller, will take control of that department. I had to waterboard him, but Barron eventually talked.

Barron will obviously have to resign as Controller if he is confirmed by Council. They will have 30 days to appoint Barron's replacement.

The day after the election, Peter Melan was reportedly on the phone, asking Council members to support him. Melan had served just one year on Easton City Council when he announced that he was running for Northampton County Council. He nearly ran for Executive. After a mega kickoff at the swanky Grand Eastonian, he did nothing. He just disappeared. The only time he's been at Northampton County Council was to sit with the DaVinci fish tank cheerleaders. I think his appointment would be a mistake, but that call is above my paygrade.

As for other cabinet positions, I have no definite knowledge.

Yes, I've heard the rumor that Charles Dertinger will be the next Administrator, but do not know that to be fact. Dertinger and I have crossed swords many times over the years, which means he's probably be pretty good in that role. He has never thrown me off the courthouse roof like Jim Hickey did, but I'm a lot heavier now. If he takes this job, it's not for the money. He makes a very good living managing construction projects in the Big Apple. If he takes the job, it will be out of respect and admiration for McClure, with whom he is close.

I've also been told that Ken Kraft will be the next Administrator. Though he's another proper bastard, I believe he will be the next Council President.

As far as the Sheriff's appointment is concerned, McClure plans to follow the process set forth in the Administrative Code. The position will be advertised, and after reviewing applications, McClure will send a list of the top three names to the President Judge. The Court will rank them and has the option of adding additional names. Then, after consultation with the judges, McClure will make his selection, which must be confirmed by Council.

Bethlehem Police Chief, Mark DiLuzio, has already ruled out the Sheriff's job. Chief Deputy Christopher Zieger, who appears to have earned the respect of fellow deputies and the courts, would be the obvious choice. But he'd have to surrender his career service status, and I doubt he's ready to take that chance at this point.

Will Missy Rudas be Northampton County's first woman solicitor? We'll find out next week. She searched titles at the county in her college and law school years. I actually worked with her, and she is extremely knowledgeable about the County and has the respect of the judges.

Will Nuria DiLuzio be Northampton County's first public defender? She is another excellent attorney with a good reputation. But one question that's sure to arise is whether she has a conflict. She is married to Bethlehem's Chief of Police. Will she and her office have to recuse themselves from all matters involving that department? I am unaware of any ethical guidance in Pa., but this situation has been addressed in Arizona. The state bar there calls for a case-by-case determination. Obviously, the potential for a conflict would be greatest in a case in which Chief DiLuzio is directly involved, but that appears unlikely.

At the jail, McClure said he's reviewing the administrative structure, and believes that the person in charge should be called a warden.

Update 11:20 am:  I have been informed by a highly placed member of McClure's transition team that Scott Parsons has been offered the position of Deputy Director of Public Works, and has accepted.Parsons is a former member of NorCo Council. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What Will McClure Do As NorCo Exec?

Unlike the President, newly elected county executives give no inaugural speeches. Perhaps they should. Common wisdom is that elected executives are judged by what they get done during their first 100 days in office. NorCo Executive Lamont McClure, who will start his term of office on January 2, has explained what he intends to do in an op-ed published in The Morning Call. As he explains it, his top priority is the selection of a cabinet that will help him pursue his broader goals of protecting seniors and youth, preserving the county's diminishing supply of open space and creating an economic environment that attracts and retains jobs. He also believes it's time to treat county workers with dignity.

Did you know that an employee in Northampton County's Civil Division makes $3 an hour less than his and her counterparts in Lehigh County? Not only is this worker paid less, but the benefits are worse, too. I know this because the employees know this. They know lots of things.

McClure's greatest resource - the employee - is at his fingertips. That's where he'll find the best suggestions on how to get things done. Fortunately, he knows this, unlike his predecessor.

Jim Hunter is Staying at NorCo

Jim Hunter is currently NorCo Exec John Brown's Director of Fiscal Affairs. He distinguished himself there as brutally honest, yet accessible and affable. Yet as a former athlete, Jim understands better than most that Executive Lamont McClure is entitled to his own team once he assumes office.

But Hunter is staying. Not as Director of Fiscal Affairs, but in a position where he will be able to order attorneys around and demand that they be in three places at once.

That's because Judge Emil Giordano has hired Hunter as a tipstaff. Jim's salary will drop precipitously, but he will get full medical benefits.

Hunter brought his grandson to work yesterday. This young man just happens to be the ball boy for Easton High School's boys varsity basketball team. He was proudly wearing a badge that Northampton County sheriffs gave him. He said his favorite person is his Poppy.

"If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?" I asked.

"Play basketball," he answered without hesitation.

His father, Ben Childs, is the coach at Easton, and  has turned the team around. They are young, and in two years, will be the team to beat.

Childs is Hunter's son-in-law, so Jim goes to all the games. But he is secretly a Central Catholic High School fan.

In an effort to get Hunter fired before he starts, something I've never done before, I relayed all this information to Judge Giordano. He's a huge Bethlehem Catholic fan, where his 19' tall son Caden plays both baseball and basketball. 

But the Judge had already done a background check and is hiring Hunter anyway. "I've decided to overlook this obvious flaw," said Giordano.

Hunter incidentally lives in Pen Argyl. If you ever visit that slate belt oasis, you may notice a peculiar odor. It's not coming from the landfill. It just means Hunter is home.             

Who's replacing Hunter? It's no secret that McClure intends to nominate Steve Barron, the County's current Controller, as the finance maven. If confirmed, Barron's salary will increase substantially from the current $65,000 per year. Hunter is currently paid $93,000.

Barron is a graduate of Freedom High School, where he claims to have played football  I understand he is now an accomplished Irish dancer, and plans to perform Riverdance when McClure is sworn in.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: A Final Glimpse at a Time When We Were "Prima"

These are the final entries from my dad's brief writing career, a diary which he started almost immediately after being released as a German POW. My father was a complicated man, and I considered him a cold bastard much of the time. These diaries, and some other letters he wrote to his own "mommy and daddy," opened my eyes in many ways.

I wish I had been a better son.

In addition to the personal impact, these diaries provide a brief glimpse into that greatest generation. Like my father, most WWII vets share very little about the sacrifices they made when the entire world needed them. Sadly, a thousand of them die daily, and with them the memory of a time when Americans were considered "prima."

5/23/45

My lazy senses responded sluggishly to the blare of a bugle that had commenced blowing about 5:30 this morning. Some character dramatically announced that it would be appreciated if everyone fell out. A true count was needed due to the fact that today had been chosen as 'the day' by the powers that be. I did not fall out. Soon after we drew rations and packed. At 11:30 we fell out, were issued cigarettes and were given cigars by the Russkies. Then, after waiting for the usual period, we marched to the exchange lot. As is usual in all these matters nothing went as scheduled. We waited in the exchange lot for almost three hours during which it rained most of the time. The trucks finally arrived and we loaded and were off.

Vonnegut, Dannine and I were lucky enough to get a civilian bus instead of a G.I. truck. Kruse, Jones, Coyle, Watson and Burns also piled into a civilian bus but unfortunately not the same one. After three hours rolled around we arrived in Halle. According to the authorities we will be here three days at the most waiting to be flown via C-47 to LeHavre, France.

I have just digested my first Army food in 6 months - '5 in one' rations consisting of ham and sweet spuds, cheese, crackers, pineapple, rice pudding cigarettes and chocolate. How amazed the limeys were when we told them that the above was for one meal and not one day! We got separated from Jones, Kruse, Coyle, Watson and Burns.

5/24/45

Awoke, washed and drew more '5 in 1' rations of the same unsurpassed American caliber. Before much of the day had passed we moved to a new area of camp. They are separating the English and Americans. I wish they had done that six months ago. Spent the rest of the day on my lazy back reading.

5/25/45

Routine day. I showered, deloused, read, ate and am about to turn in. Red Cross Clubmobile presented itself and I basked in about six doughnuts and a cup of real coffee. Prima.


Blogger's Note: First published 12/17/07.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dent: Loyalty to Trump New Litmus Test For GOP

Back in August, Charlie Dent participated in a panel discussion of the food and beverage industry following a tour of Hanover Township's amazing Freshpet facility. He was very much a Republican. He favored a corporate tax cut from 35% to about 20% as well as "clearing out some of the regulatory underbrush" that can make life difficult for an expanding business.

At that time, I asked Dent him about NorCo GOP Chair Gloria "General" Lee Snover, who participated in an anti-Dent rally and basically attacked his personal integrity.

At that time, Dent told me that there's a new litmus test for Republicans in office. You are wither loyal to Authoritarian Donald Trump or you're not. If you support him, you can take whatever position you want. But if you oppose him for his disgusting style, his fear-mongering and thinly disguised racism, you're no good.

Dent has now said the same thing to ABC's "This Week." "Before Donald Trump became president, the litmus test for Republicans was— it was really about the ideological purity and conformity. Now the litmus test has changed. The issue is loyalty to the man.”

Thanks to General Lee and political opportunists like Justin "Absent" Simmons, the Pa. 15th Congressional District will go blue in 2018 when John Morganelli, another centrist, enters the race.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Half-Starved Soldier Worries About Brother in South Pacific

This is the latest installment from my dad's short-lived diary, penned shortly after his release from a German POW camp. In these entries, my eighty pound and half-starved father worries about his brother, Art, who was then serving in the South Pacific.

Uncle Art was wounded shortly after my father's posts, but not seriously. He was shot in the ass. When I once questioned him about it many years later, he snarled, "I was in front of the front lines, going for extra ammunition."

That's about all he ever shared. He kept no diary. He drank a lot, too.

5/20/45

All of my equipment, loot, real and personal property was once again in moving order waiting to be donned on my aching back as soon as the order to move was given. I waited and waited, a practice at which I have become very adept, for hour upon hour but no such order came. As we were lined up for midday chow ten G.I. trucks pulled up as only G.I. trucks can and I thought that this day would at last see me back to our own lines. However, due to the absence of certain documents or some such reason we are again detained by the Russians. I'm becoming a firm believer in the Vonnegut statement that "getting out of Germany is like walking in sand." The rumor now seems to be that we will pull out tomorrow when the trucks return with the proper papers. More of Hq. Co. showed up today in the persons of Sgt. Shuve and Pfc Sabbatino. Both look OK except for the loss of weight common to all POW's. Neither could give me any info regarding the whereabouts of Sgt. Boyle, Heinbeck, or Edgeworth. I'd certainly enjoy seeing those boys again.

The war in the Pacific seems to be progressing favorably, although we are meeting stiff resistance on some of the islands. I have an uncomfortable feeling that I'll learn more of that phase of our international troubles through first-hand experience. I'd like to see that part of the world but it would be just my luck to accomplish the feat through the medium of being a POW of the Japs, and twice in a lifetime is too much. The Russian band serenaded us again tonight. I'm getting to really like Russian music. The Russians are very much like Americans in their outlook on life. I suppose that is what queers the English with them. A few of us went across the hall to where we had discovered a radio in the room of one of our comrades. We listened for a while and left being driven out by static and by the system the joker in charge was using to operate the darn thing. He's one of that particular species of mankind who thinks he's operating the blue network whenever he comes across a radio with more than two dials on it. We are now preparing for bed at the end of a rather uneventful day.

5/21/45

Lo and behold I am still in Riesa. No trucks appeared today or had been rumored. However, we did receive a visit from two chaplains - one Protestant and one Catholic. They both held services and I heard mass and received communion for the first time in five months. The chaplain who was from the 69th division claimed that we would be out of here in three or four days. He seemed pretty confident that we would be back in the states within a few weeks after we hit our own lines. My inbred scepticism [sic] prohibits me from placing too much stock in his optimistic statement. Time and time alone will tell. The chaplains also brought some V-mail along with them. I wrote to my parents and to Aunt Mae. The letters are supposed to be on their way, having been brought back to our own lines with the chaplain who left here seven o'clock this evening.

5/22/45

A very routine day. I slept through reveille and all the morning, arising only for breakfast. Most of the afternoon was spent by all of us chewing the rag in the room where we were assembled. I thought of home today. Nothing now seems more welcome than news of the family. I am worried especially about Art. I certainly hope he has been as lucky as I in regard to ducking bullets and artillery.

It is early evening now and all of us are in the room now writing, reading, playing cards and talking. Things will no doubt continue along the same line until bed time.

Blogger's Note: First published 12/17/07.

NorCo Council's 2017 Workhorses, Showhorses and No-Showhorses

Who are Northampton County Council's workhorses, show horses and no-showhorses in 2017? What is their attendance, including Committee participation, where most of the real work is done?

This is my annual report card, something I have done since 2006.

In 2016, Council's workhorse was Hayden Phillips. He had a 96% attendance record at all Council and Committee meetings. The no-showhorse was Glenn Geissinger, who had an appalling 54% attendance record so he could run for Congress, yet hypocritically contended at a Council debate that attendance is important. .

Both Phillips and Geissinger were swept out of office in 2017. I doubt many voters knew about their attendance. They were caught up in a blue wave of resentment against Donald Trump.

What about 2017?

Northampton County Council met 29 times last year, including 24 regular and 5 budget hearings. In addition, its committees met 50 times. Hayden Phillips' Capital Projects Committee met 8 times to deal with the county's nuts and bolts, its infrastructure. bridges to generators. Seth Vaughn's Human Services Committee met 9 times for periodic updates from Gracedale and other human services departments.  Peg Ferraro's Economic Development Committee huddled 9 times, mostly for repetitive updates from the DaVinci Science Center and its quest for public funding of a $130 million fishtank. Finance and Personnel remain the nuts-and bolts committees . Other committees that met were Matt Dietz' Parks and Open Space (7), Governance (2) and Courts and Corrections (1).

Each Council member is encouraged to attend committees, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. The committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members. This Council appears to be very concerned about county bridges, funding DaVinci and our responsibility to help those in need.

It's hard to argue with these priorities.

I have graded each council member based on his attendance of the 79 committee and full council meetings. If participation is by phone, I have decided to count it since the member can vote. If a Council member is only present for part of a meeting, or participates in a combined meeting of two committees, I count him as present at both.
Hayden Phillips, one of NorCo's workhorses of the year
Based on this system, this year there was an unusual tie for workhorse of the year. Both the Colonel, Hayden Phillips, and Council President John Cusick had perfect attendance this year.  Each attended every one of Council's 79 meetings.

Bob Werner, who was sidelined at times by a family illness, still managed to punch in for 74 of 79 meetings this year for a 94% attendance record. A liberal Democrat, Werner has worked closely with Phillips and has tried to avoid partisanship.

From these top three the attendance record begins to slack off. The remaining Council member report cards are as follows: Matt Dietz - 76% (60/79); Mat Benol - 75% (59/79); Seth Vaughn - 72% (57/79);Peg Ferraro - 71% (56/79); Glenn Geissinger - 71% (56/79); and Ken Kraft - 67% 53/79.

So Kraft is the no-show horse of the year, which is hardly an encouraging sign from someone who is supposed to take over as President of Council in 2018.  He is the only Council member with a failing attendance grade, but he has been plagued by two problems. He had a number of medical procedures last year, and in fact attended one meeting at which he should have stayed home because he was trying to talk with a broken nose. He also admitted that his work schedule this year was hectic, and included one session that conflicted with a committee meeting. Neither his bosses nor committee chair was willing to change the time. 

Vaughn likes to claim he has a perfect attendance record, but that's false. He has managed to attend more meetings, but mostly by phoning it in. In 2016, he missed the one meeting of the year that should be a must for every Council member - the vote on Budget amendments. When I confronted him over this, his response was, "So what? Who cares? I'll still win the election next year, pal."

I created a Facebook page to remind voters of his prediction right before the election.

Like the other Republicans, he was swept out of office by an anti-Trump surge. But my Facebook page reached  1,742 people in the three days before the election. I doubt it helped him.

Here's the breakdown.

Capital Projects (8 meetings): Hayden Phillips, Chair; - 8; Bob Werner - 7; Mat Benol - 7; John Cusick -8; Peg Ferraro - 3;  Matt Dietz - 7; Seth Vaughn - 3; Ken Kraft -0..

Courts and Corrections (1 meetings): Mat Benol, Chair; - 1;  Bob Werner - 1; John Cusick -1; Hayden Phillips - 1: Peg Ferraro - 1;  Matt Dietz - 1; Seth Vaughn - 1: Ken Kraft - 0; Glenn Geissinger -0.

Governance (2 meetings): John Cusick, Chair, - 2; Hayden Phillips - 2: Seth Vaughn -1; Bob Werner - 2; Matt Dietz - 2; Ken Kraft - 0; Peg Ferraro -0; Mat Benol - 1; Glenn Geissinger - 0.

Human Services (9 meetings): Seth Vaughn, Chair -9; Matt Dietz - 8; Mat Benol - 9; Hayden Phillips - 9; Bob Werner - 9; John Cusick - 9; Glenn Geissinger - 9; Ken Kraft - 9; Peg Ferraro - 4.

Parks and Open Space (7 meetings): Matt Dietz, Chair - 5; Bob Werner - 6; John Cusick - 6; Hayden Phillips - 5; Seth Vaughn - 3 (1 by phone); Peg Ferraro - 3 (1 by phone); Glenn Geissinger - 2; Mat Benol -1; Ken Kraft - 1.

Economic Development (9 meetings): Peg Ferraro, Chair - 9, Ken Kraft - 7; Seth Vaughn - 7; John Cusick - 9; Hayden Phillips - 9, Matt Dietz - 8; Bob Werner - 8; Glenn Geissinger - 4; Mat Benol -0.

Personnel and Finance (11 combined meetings): Ken Kraft - 8; Peg Ferraro - 8, Mat Benol - 10, Glenn Geissinger - 11, John Cusick -11, Bob Werner - 11; Hayden Phillips - 11; Matt Dietz - 11, Seth Vaughn - 6. [Since these are combined meetings, I consider attendance at one as attendance at both].

Council meetings (24 meetings) John Cusick - 23/24; Peg Ferraro - 22/24; Ken Kraft - 21/24; Bob Werner - 22/24; Matt Dietz - 23/24; Glenn Geissinger - 21/24; Hayden Phillips - 24/24; Seth Vaughn - 24/24; Mat Benol - 24/24.

Budget Hearings (5 meetings) Seth Vaughn 3/5 (2 by phone), Matt Dietz 5/5 (2 by phone), All other Council members were physically present for all five budget hearings.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bethlehem Township's Top Administrators to Get Payhike

Melissa Shafer
On Monday, when Bethlehem Township Commissioner adopted the 2018 budget, they also included some nice raises for the township's top two administrators. Manager Melissa Shafer, employed with the Township since 2014, will see her salary go up from $105,000 to $115,000. Assistant Manager Doug Bruce, who has been at the Township since 2004, will see his salary increased from $72,472 to $87,500. He is also being promoted to Director of Administration.

Someone complained anonymously, "THE REAL PROBLEM I HAVE IS THE $10,000.00 RAISE BOTH THE MANAGER AND ASSISTANT MANAGER GOT. $10,000.00 EACH. AND THIS WAS ADDED AFTER THE PUBLIC BUDGET MEETINGS. SOMETIME BETWEEN NOVEMBER AND MONDAY NIGHT THEY WERE BOTH GIVEN $10,000.00 RAISES AND YOU PEOPLE ARE CRYING ABOUT CALLING A LIAR A LIAR ! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN WITHOUT INFORMING THE PUBLIC. AM GOING TO ASK BERNIE TO LOOK INTO THIS. TALK ABOUT YOUR BACK DOOR DEALING. AND SHAFER AND DAVIS KEEP SPOUTING TRANSPARENCY. WHERE THE TRANSPARENCY HERE ?"

There certainly is no transparency in $10,000 raises slipped into a budget after the final hearing. But when someone posts anonymously and uses the CAPSLOCK button, those are two red flags. What I have learned is that both Administrators received the raises claimed, but in an open and transparent process. Moreover, the raises are overdue.

According to a 2016 salary study of Lehigh Valley township and borough managers, the following compensation packages (salary plus benefits) were being paid: Bethlehem Tp- $101,400; Emmaus - $84,718; Forks - $99,184; Hanover (NorCo) - $121,771; Lower Macungie - $121,206; Lower Saucon - $84,496; North Whitehall - $107,186; Palmer - $104,887; Salisbury - $103,043; South Whitehall- $108,604; Upper Macungie - $128,974; Upper Saucon - $95,093; and Whitehall - $86,331. Bethlehem Township is exceeded in population only by Whitehall and Lower Macungie.

According to several Commissioners, another municipality had offered Doug Bruce a Township Manager position, and at a higher salary than he currently receives. They wanted him to stay, and also realized that Shafer is underpaid compared to smaller Lehigh Valley communities.

The proposal to increase salaries was made prior to the final budget hearing, and all Commissioners supported the raise. No one spoke against it.

The increases were a part of the advertised budget. So you could say that the salaries are too high, but this was done with complete transparency and no objection.

For what it's worth, I think it was the right decision.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hanover Holds Line on Taxes For Ninth Straight Year

Blogger's Note: Because I was sidelined by basketball, I was unable to tell you about Hanover Township's final meeting of the year on Tuesday night. Fortunately, Agent 25 was there. Below is his/her report, lightly edited.

Mark Tanczos commended by John Diacogiannis
Hanover Township (Northampton County) Supervisors, at their final meeting of the year on December 19, adopted a 2018 budget that will maintain a stable tax rate and spare residents a tax hike.

The millage rate, which has remained the same since 2008 and includes a fire tax of 0.5 mills, will hold steady at 3.90 mills. The township is expected to receive $2.1 million from property taxes next year. The Earned Income Tax and local Services Tax will be 1 percent and $52, respectively. The balanced general fund is estimated to have $8.6 million on hand in 2018, which represents a $20,579.00 decrease from last year.

In other business, the board unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights provides taxpayers with a procedure to contest the imposition of Act 511 taxes if they believe they were unfairly charged. The ordinance covers the Per Capita Tax, Business Privilege Tax and the Earned Income Tax.

H.A. Berkheimer, Inc. collects the township’s Per Capita and Business Privilege taxes. Keystone Collections Group collects residents’ Earned Income Taxes. Residents can request a copy of their rights from the collection agencies, at no charge, according to the ordinance.
If one of the collection agencies decides that a resident owes additional taxes, it must inform residents in writing why it reached the decision, including the amount due and the legal grounds for the decision.

If it is determined that a resident owes additional taxes or if a resident’s request for a tax refund is denied, the resident can file a petition with Keystone or Berkheimer to appeal the decision.

The board also passed unanimously an ordinance rewarding volunteer firefighters with tax credits, similar to an ordinance adopted in Bethlehem Tp.

Joan Rosenthal honored for her service. 
The Board recognized Vice Chairman Mark J. Tanczos for his service to the Township. Supervisor Tanczos decided not to seek reelection this past November. Mr. Tanczos served on the Township’s Planning Commission from June 21, 1993 as Vice Chair 2000-2002 and Chair 2002-2008. In 2008 he was appointed to the Board to fill the unexpired term of Dr. Frank Colon and was elected to an additional term.

Finally, the Board recognized Joan R. Rosenthal for her service to the Township. Mrs. Rosenthal is stepping down from the Zoning Hearing Board at the end of the year. Mrs. Rosenthal served on the Hanover Township Planning Commission from October 9, 1979 through October 21, 1984; on the Hanover Township Zoning Hearing Board from January 3, 1984 through January 27, 1987; and again May 23, 2000 through December 31, 2017. She was also a member of the Board of Supervisors from January 27, 1987 through January 3, 2010.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What Do You Think of the Tax Reform Bill?

I've been reluctant to weigh in on the GOP tax plan that will almost certainly be enacted today. Real details only emerged late last week, and it has been difficult finding stories that are more factual than they are slanted. NPR has a nice comparison of the difference between the current plan and what is being proposed.

The proposal does reduce the corporate tax rate, and I've read that it benefits the wealthiest most of all. But it actually seems to help middle-income and low-income Americans, too, at least in the short term.

Matt Cartwright (Pa. 17th) voted against the bill for two reasons.

First, he is offended by the lack of transparency. He's right, but the very same lack of transparency existed when Obamacare was enacted)

Second, Cartwright believes with some justification that the bill does little to discourage multinational corporations from moving jobs overseas. Cartwright observes that when Trump ran for President, he pledged to impose a 35% import tax rate on businesses that move jobs overseas. But he's unable to find this in the finals bill.

Charlie Dent (Pa. 15th) voted for the bill because he thinks It will provide real tax relied, which in turn will lead to the creation of jobs.

"Tax data show that nearly 70 percent of the taxpayers in the 15th Congressional district of Pennsylvania do not itemize on their federal tax returns," he noted in a statement. "That makes the near doubling of the standard deduction ($12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples), tied to lower income tax rates, a great benefit to the overwhelming majority of them.”

Dent noted that the typical family of four, earning the median family income of $73,000, will receive a tax cut of $2,059. He also applauded the doubling of the Child Tax Credit and the provision that raised the fully refundable portion of the credit to $1,400.

Though this is rushed legislation, which always means trouble, I like aspects of this bill. It's a shame everything is so partisan. I think both sides could hammer out something that serves the American people, if they try.

That's why they are there.

Unfortunately, the tax cuts for individuals are only temporary.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Still No Word About Dresden Firebombing

This is the second in a series of entries from my father's recently-discovered dairy. He kept it about a week after his release from a German POW camp. This second post, like the first, is strictly present tense. Yet just three months before, my dad and writer Kurt Vonnegut had ringside seats, as POWs, to the American and RAF firebombing of Dresden - Florence of the Elbe.

POWs hid in meat lockers underneath a slaughterhouse during this incineration. One POW blurted out, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight." I can't help but think that was my dad. That was his humor.

In a public radio interview, Vonnegut speaks of a conversation he had with my father, some twenty years later.

"What did you learn?" Vonnegut asks.

"I will never believe my government again."

Churchill, who had advocated the firebombing, was knighted.

5/18/45

We moved over to the other compound today. That seems to be the chief benefit accruing to those who have been deloused. The rooms here are much cleaner and better equipped. We eat three times per day restaurant style and the shilly (chile?) is both good and thick - a happy set of circumstances not found readily in Germany. We spent most of the day getting our loot in order and this afternoon learned to our gratification that we were scheduled to move out. About an hour later a sergeant from the 1st Rangers division put in an appearance and announced that trucks were on their way to bring us either to Riesa or Leipzig where there are concentrations of former P.O.W.'s. I had no idea the sight of a G.I. would be so sensational. Needless to say, the limeys hogged him before any of his own countrymen had a chance to learn much from him concerning the good old U.S.A. Well, the trucks finally arrived and after the normal red tape we piled into them and took off. Approximately two hours later we found ourselves in Riesa. Temporary quarters were provided for us in some Jerry barracks. We are supposed to move in the morning to some other place in town where there are more G.I.'s. Our present barracks aren't at all bad except for the lack of anything soft upon which to lay our weary bones. There are some limeys here who have been waiting to get out for almost a month. It seems that Stalag W-B was liberated by the Russians on April 23.

Blogger's Note: This was originally published on 12/12/07.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

NorCo's Failing Elder-Abuse Grade

Back in August, when he was running for Northampton County Executive, Lamont McClure called a news conference to discuss Human Services vacancies that endanger children and the elderly. Aside from one bottom-feeding blogger, the mainstream media turned up its nose. It refused to dirty its dainty little hands covering a story that might have political overtones.

Well, as it happens, McClure was right on the money. According to the state Department of Aging, Northampton County gets a failing grade in its handling of elder-abuse complaints.

Now that the election is over, the mainstream thinks it's safe enough to tell you what is going on.

A responsible press informs the electorate about issues.

Bethlehem Tp Approves No-Tax-Hike Budget

In their final meeting of the year last night, Bethlehem Tp Commissioners voted 4-0 to adopt a 2018 budget for next year that holds the line on taxes for a second year in a row. But to do so, officials will have to dip into cash reserves. They will start 2018 with an opening cash balance of $3.2 million, but expect to have only a little over $2 million left at the end of the year.

The spending plan next year will maintain the current real estate tax of 7.09 mills. According to Finance Director Andrew Freda, this translates to an annual tax bill of $647 for the average taxpayer.

In addition to real estate taxes, the Township imposes an earned income tax (0.5%). Freda predicts that the annual earned income tax payment per household will be $415.

Of the $18.5 million the Township will spend next year, nearly $8.5 million is budgeted for public safety, about two per cent more than in 2017. Nearly a third of the tax bill will fund police protection.

The vote was 4-0 because Commissioner Howard Kutzler was absent.

In another 4-0 vote, Commissioners ordained a tax exemption of up to $1,000 in earned income tax for volunteer firefighters. This is permitted under recent changes to state law aimed at helping municipalities to retain dwindling numbers of volunteer firefighters and other first responders.

Thanks to brilliant advocacy by prominent Easton Attorney Chuck Bruno, plans for a 400,000 sq ft flex building off Hecktown Road were approved. The property is a 28-acre tract, located mostly in Lower Nazareth Township, along Commerce Park Drive near the Route 33 exit. Bethlehem Township officials had concerns about drainage, but those were addressed by principal Lewis Ronca. This project had been recommended by both the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

Ronca told me he's moving Martin Tower there.

Commissioners also approved the following police promotions: Shaun Powell, from CPL to SGT; and Officer Jeremy Anderson, from OFC to CPL. Both of these officers are heavily involved in community outreach, and I hope to tell you more about them when they are officially sworn in.

The meeting ended in a debate over, of all things the field use policy at township parks. Commissioners voted 3-1, with Mike Hudak dissenting, to revoke the current field use policy and replace it in a few weeks.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here yesterday. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for an entire week.

Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.

He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.

But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.

5/17/45

Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.

I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.


Blogger's Note: First published 12/11/07.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Christmas Present From Kurt Vonnegut

A biographer has asked me for information concerning the friendship between my father and author Kurt Vonnegut. My brother, a pack rat, produced a letter that Vonnegut wrote to his own family, not long after he and my dad were released from a POW camp at the end of WWII. In many ways, this three-page letter is his first draft of Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut sent my family a copy of that letter, apparently as a Christmas present, in 1996.

Bewildered that he has somehow survived, the young Vonnegut tells his folks, "I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait." Fortunately for us, he got around to it.

This letter is too important to sit in a dusty attic, so I'm sharing it with you. If you'd like to see a pdf copy, just click this link.

Dear people:

I'm told that you were probably never informed that I was any­thing other than "missing in action." Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do - in precis: I've been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler's last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges' First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Mont­gomery for it, I'm told, but I'll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren't wounded. For that much thank God.

Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, un-heated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations - the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn't room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year's Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn't.

Under the Geneva Convention, Officers and Non-commissioned Officers are not obliged to work when taken prisoner. I am, as you know, a Private. One-hundred-and-fifty such minor beings were shipped to a Dresden work camp on January 10th. I was their leader by virtue of the little German I spoke. It was our misfortune to have sadistic and fanatical guards. We were refused medical atten­tion and clothing: We wore given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: - one boy starved to death and the SS Troops shot two for stealing food.

On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden - possibly the world's most beautiful city. But not me.

After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.

When General Patton took Leipzig we were evacuated on foot to [...] the Checkoslovakian border. There we remained until the war ended. Our guards deserted us. On that happy day the Russians were intent on mopping up isolated outlaw resistance in our sector. Their planes (P-39's) strafed and bombed us, killing fourteen, but not me.

Eight of us stole a team and wagon. We traveled and looted our way-through Sudetenland and Saxony for eight days, living like kings. The Russians are crazy about Americans. The Russians picked us up in Dresden. We rode from there to the American lines at Halle in Lend-Lease Ford trucks. We've since been flown to Le Havre.

I'm writing from a Red Cross Club in the Le Havre P.O.W. Repat­riation Camp. I'm being wonderfully well fed and entertained. The state-bound ships are jammed, naturally, so I'll have to be patient. I hope to be home in a month. Once home I'll be given twenty-one days recuperation at Atterbury, about $600 back pay and - get this - sixty (60) days furlough!

I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait. I can't receive mail here so don't write. May 29, 1945


First published 12/10/07.

Jim Hickey Should Be Exiled.

Jim Hickey
Last week, former Northampton County Administrator Jim Hickey entered a guilty plea to two counts in a federal corruption case aimed at Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and Reading's former Mayor, Vaughn Spencer. Under the deal, he could be sentenced to 18 months in the slammer. But I know Hickey, and he's a miserable bastard like me. He can do 18 months standing on his head while monkeys throw shit balls at him. He'd probably even like it and ask for more time. Jailing him is the worst thing the feds could do. He's a frickin' Druid, for Christ's sake! A Merlin! The last place to put him is in a prison where he will unite the Aryan Brotherhood, Crips and Nuestra Familia into an unholy alliance that will make the Penguin look like a boy scout.

Do what should Judge Sanchez do? A firing squad would be more appropriate, but bullets just go right through him. The best bet would be to exile him to a despised country like New Jersey, provided a steady supply of priests are on hand for the inevitable exorcisms that will be necessary for the rest of the population.

Hickey's very surname should tip you off. It's an Anglicization of the Gaelic ilchruthach, which means he comes from a long line of shape shifters. He could be Glenn Reibman one minute, Don Cunningham the next, then himself.

Hickey got his start in the US Navy, where he wrote safety manuals on how to avoid accidents on the high seas. While there, he met his wife Carla in a discussion about, of all things, Irish writer James Joyce.

I first got to know him when he was Glenn Reibman's Director of Administration. I'd pass by him on my way inside. He'd be outside by his Death Star, smoking seven cigarettes simultaneously with two cell phones going off nonstop and all kinds of wires coming out of his head.

He and I were on opposite sides during the debate over Reibman's $110 million bond. A group of five citizens that included yours truly challenged it in court, and won.

It was the first time in my life that anyone took me seriously.

Hickey's response? A $111 million bond. We fought that one, too, but lost.

During this debate, Hickey and I clashed constantly. In his Jim Hickey Belongs in the Hall of Fame column, The Morning Call's Bill White mentions one profanity-laced tirade that Hickey directed at me in the hallway outside a Council meeting. In fact, Council stopped the meeting so they could listen to it.

Me: I'll never join you!
Hickey: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Ron Angle never told you what happened to your father.
Me: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Hickey: No. I am your father.
Me: No...no. That's not true. That's impossible!
Hickey: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
Me: Noooo! Nooooo!

Then he cut off my arm and threw me off the courthouse roof, which explains why the parking lot needed work.

After one particularly nasty session, I gut a call from him early one morning. He was fishing, and thought of me for some reason.

Maybe he was cleaning his catch.

But he and I became friends.

As I got to know him better, I learned that Hickey is very loyal to his friends, even when it hurts him. One of those friends was Mike Fleck. I know him to be honest, so much so that he turned down two bribes while in the public arena. He is also brutally honest with people. One day he told me, "I think I've finally gone too far."

"Why?"

"I just told Judge Moran to go fuck himself."

Gotta' agree there, but that's Jim. He likes to talk badass, which is probably why the feds were so hot for him.

But the truth is completely different. 

He and his wife Carla have raised three fine sons, which really is the ultimate achievement. He goes to their football games, even the ones in Canada.

Newspapers throughout the state should have pooled resources to contribute to his defense, if only because a trial would have resulted in a supply of colorful quotes that could be used until the next century. But here in America, justice is available only to those with money or a good lawyer. Hickey has no money. He spent it all on campaign contributions. He was lucky enough to get a good lawyer. But the feds knew it and were trying to disqualify him.

He is a good man,and I am honored to call him my friend. 

Lower Saucon Tp Agenda, Back-Up Docs, Now Available Online

Lower Saucon Township has joined the growing number of municipalities that include background information for Council agenda's on the township's website. Lehigh County, Allentown and Bethlehem have been doing this for some time. Northampton County and Bethlehem Township started making this information available within the last year. Easton posts unfinished business and bending legislation.

Priscilla deLeon spearheaded the effort in Lower Saucon. "I feel residents can only ask questions if provided with information," she said.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tidd Exonerated by Judicial Discipline Court

Until he resigned in July 2016, David Tidd was Magisterial District Judge in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township. It was a position he had held since 2009. He should be there now. But he stepped down because of a distracting investigation and eventual complaint filed by officious lawyers on the Judicial Conduct Board. Chief Counsel Robert Graci and his Deputy, Elizabeth Flaherty, had painted a bull's eye on Tidd's back. They were all-too-willing to accept the word of clerks who had tried and nearly succeeded in setting up a good man. Fortunately, the Court of Judicial Discipline saw things differently. Except for one instance in which Tidd angrily confronted his staff, the Court found no merit in any of the numerous other accusations.

Tidd was represented by West Chester Attorney Samuel C. Stretton. The judges on this panel were Allegheny County Magisterial District Judges David Barton, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart and Lackawanna County President Judge Michael Barrasse.

This ordeal took its toll on Tidd. In addition to resigning as a Magisterial District Judge, he also moved his law practice to Berks County.

He still faces a potential parallel complaint with the state Disciplinary Board, but Friday's ruling makes that far less likely. .

Though exonerated by the Court of Judicial Discipline, Tidd was convicted by the Express Times long ago. Here are some of the headlines. "Bully judge dropped F-bombs, slept on floor in robes, panel finds." "Misconduct trial starts for ex-judge who ran 'fast food' court." "Bully judge ignored warnings about misconduct, clerk testifies." "Work was 'intolerable' with judge's cursing, abuse, clerk testifies." "Judge held clerks 'against our will' in confrontation, witness says." "Disgraced judge admits regrets, suicidal thoughts, but not misconduct."

As if this were not bad enough, he was also accused of playing favorites with a local defense lawyer.

Headlines are one thing, but facts are another. As the 32-page opinion below makes clear, Tidd was victimized by office staffer Brenda Anthony, who for some reason had it in for him. You'll have to ask her why. Tidd even hired her daughter, Amber Glass, to work for him. Tidd lent his staff money, too. But behind his back, Brenda Anthony was talking to Tidd's election opponent, feeding him confidential information. This is in violation of a ban on partisan political activity by court-appointed employees. She and Amber kept notes about Tidd, and would save video clips from within the office if they were juicy, while deleting everything else. They even scheduled hearings for him on election day, forcing him to leave the campaign trail.

They dimed him for sleeping on his robe without bothering to point out that he used his robe as a pillow to take a nap one day because of a serious medical illness.

He was slammed for running a "fast food" court, dispensing justice from his office counter. But as witnesses explained, Tidd never conducted trials from a counter. He did sometimes ask a police officer or a defendant of there was going to be a plea arrangement. His function there was mostly administrative and had more to do with being in confined quarters than any desire for a judicial McDonald's.

He was also accused of playing favorites by notifying a local defense lawyer he knew of outstanding parking tickets so he could come in and pay the fine before an arrest warrant was issued.  Testimony showed that Tidd offered this same courtesy to others.

He was charged with using his position as a judge to pick up work as a lawyer or to represent peiple who had matters before him as a jurist. Testimony showed that Tiidd sought and followed ethical guidance concerning anyone who approached him for representation when there was a matter before him as a judge. When there was a conflict, he'd have the judicial matter reassigned. One of the persons who testified against him was Leslie Ziegler, the wife of one of Tidd's judicial opponents in 2015."We find troubling the apparent motivation behind Ziegler's April, 2015 complaint concerning acts that occurred in 2010 and 2011," the Court observed.

So after being tarred and feathered, where does Tidd go to get his reputation back?

As of November, Brenda Anthony was still listed as a Magisterial District Judge Tech. Her daughter, Amber Glass, is a 911 operator.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Brown Does Go Out On a High Note After All

John Brown
Last night, Northampton County Council met for the last time this year. For four of them (Mat Benol, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn) it was their last meeting, at least for now. As Council President John Cusick observed, "There are second acts in government." 

Seven of the nine Council members were there. Bob Werner, who is dealing with a family illness, was absent. Seth Vaughn, hardly known for his attendance, was also absent.

One of you said that Northampton County Exec John Brown had left for a long vacation, and we'd never see him again. But he was there, along with Administrator Cathy Allen and a few of his cabinet officials.

I was deeply concerned that Brown was intent on mischief. Just a week before, he asked Council to cut taxes a mill, which would throw his budget out of balance and require deficit spending. I had also discovered that, contrary to what he said on the campaign trail, he did meet secretly with Upper Nazareth Township officials on March 27 to pitch a jail at Gracedale. I was certain he would veto the budget, millage rate ordinance, or both.

But he didn't.

Ken Kraft had a broken nose
Earlier that day, Brown signed both the budget and millage rate ordinance. "The 2018 budget is balanced and balanced on its own revenue. We did not need to use any of the general revenue funds to balance the budget."

Going all the way back to 1982, Brown said this was the first time that the County has seen a budget that involved no deficit spending. When he came into office four years ago, he had to spend $19 million in cash reserves to balance the budget, but spent his time in office looking for operating efficiencies. He thanked his "team," as he likes to call his cabinet, and wished the new Council good luck.

Later that night, Solicitor Ryan Durkin complimented Brown's integrity and organizational skills. "You had a  hell of an Executive here," he said. 

At this meeting, departing Council members were presented with plaques thanking them for their dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom. ironically "dedicated" public servant Seth Vaughn was playing hooky so his plaque will be mailed.

Phillips, who is unfairly beating himself up over his loss, said he would "treasure" his four years.

Geissinger admitted to "mistakes along the way," which I've been all to happy to point out. He claimed to have learned, but after the meeting was over, he was already planning for his next election - challenging Lamont McClure for County Exec.

Benol claimed everyone is his friend and apparently even gave his decalogue to Ken Kraft, but I missed it because at this point, I was throwing up while these politicians all pretended to like each other

Ken Kraft came closest to the truth when he told fellow Council members, "You made my life a living hell."

Cusick thanked everyone and hinted a little that he'll be out as Council president next year. Ken Kraft is reportedly taking his place at the helm of County Council.

Kraft came to the meeting with a broken nose. His wife was seen earlier, running from the building and laughing. 

State Theatre's Denise Smith
In an indication that Council Solicitor Phil Lauer is getting fired, Council presented him with the "dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom" plaque. Lauer said that when he first came on board, he knew very little about County government. Now that he's finally figured it out, he's getting kicked out.

Lauer will likely be replaced by Bethlehem Attorney Chris Spadoni, so hide the $800 popcorn machine.

In other business, Council hired the Haviland Hughes law firm to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers. I will have a more detailed story about this next week. I will be speaking to Lehigh County attorney Bill Platt, who is a member of that firm.

Finally, as it does every year, Council dipped unto its contingency fund for three worthy entities that were unable to make timely applications for grant awards.

* The State Theatre's Denise Smith asked for and got $20,000 to help the State update its ticketing system so that patrons can print out tickets online. "She's a money pit, but she's absolutely gorgeous," she said in reference to the State, not Executive Director Shelly Brown.

* "Because of a Dog" got a $5,000 grant for a kennel in Bethlehem to hold stray dogs. Because Bethlehem has no kennel, police officers lose time on patrol while taking dogs to temporary shelters.

* Stephens Place, a halfway house for nonviolent but addicted adult males who are reintegrating from prison to society, received $5,000.

DaVinci's Lin Erickson was also hovering at the meeting with her hand out again, but received no money last night.

Nothstein Pledges Self-Imposed Term Limit in Congressional Bid

FROM THE NOTHSTEIN FOR CONGRESS CAMPAIGN: - Conservative Republican Marty Nothstein has formally pledged to self-imposed term limits if elected to Congress for Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District.

Nothstein, a small businessman and Lehigh County commissioner, called term limits crucial in the effort to eliminate the problem of government gridlock created by career politicians.

“It's no secret that the longer our elected officials are in office, the more likely they are to become career politicians,” Nothstein said. “Term limits are the first step to getting rid of career politicians in Washington who end up working for big special interests instead of working for those back home. If elected, I promise to term limit myself to no more than 8 years. If it's good enough for the President then it's good enough for Congress."

He cited the current gridlock in Congress as a prime example of the dangers of returning career politicians to office for decades.

“I'm tired of career politicians telling us they are going to do something but then it never getting done,” Nothstein said. “There's no urgency in Congress because they are guaranteed their paycheck whether or not they get anything accomplished. I have lived my entire life setting goals and then working hard to achieve them. I will bring that same drive and determination if given the honor by voters of the 15th district.”

Nothstein said he would also favor and work toward a Constitutional Amendment to create term limits on members of Congress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Brown Signs Budget, Millage Rate Ordinance

I was deeply concerned that outgoing NorCo Exec John Brown would veto the budget, millage rate ordinance or both. I have just learned that he signed them both. Based on his last-minute attempt to sabotage incoming Exec Lamont McClure with a tax cut, I fully expected the games would continue.

Freeman Wants to Expand State Insurance Fund For Medical Insurance

Whether you support or oppose Obamacare, I think just about everyone agrees that health insurance has simply become unaffordable. It's one of the biggest line items in both municipal and private sector budgets, and the costs just keep rising as hospitals multiply.

State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation that would make health insurance more affordable for Pennsylvanians by permitting the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to sell health insurance.

The State Workers' Insurance Fund provides a workers' compensation program for Pennsylvania businesses unable access workers' comp insurance in the private sector. It is only permitted to sell workers' compensation insurance. Freeman's bill would expand its offerings to include health insurance.

"[I]t would make a quality insurance product available to Pennsylvanians at a lower cost than current rates because of its lower administrative overhead, and it would create more competition within the health insurance market," Freeman said. "In addition, by making this available in the market, it would serve as a yardstick by which to measure the fairness of rates charged by private health insurance companies."

Freeman said this would be paid for with premiums to health care subscribers and a loan from the SWIF fund, which would be paid back.

His bill was just introduced yesterday, but has attracted four co-sponsors.

Some Brown Hires Want to Stay at NorCo

It started on Monday. Letters started arriving at the Northampton County Courthouse, informing numerous exempt employees that when John Brown leaves office, so should they. Unlike career service personnel, these are the cronies. They are here because of their connection to Brown or one of his cabinet officials. If they stay, Executive Lamont McClure will have to prepare for numerous knives in the back. But some of the people who came here under Brown want to stay. They've worked out deals so they can continue collecting a paycheck by taking career service and union jobs.

One of these is Deputy Director of Human Resources Michael Twining. He's the guy whom HR Director Amy "Toxic" Trapp sent to Las Vegas, and then to New Orleans, on the public dime. You may have seen him operating Trapp's $800 popcorn machine at the "wellness" fair.

The deal with Twining is to send him to take over Bill Hillanbrand's job at 911. Bill, unfortunately, retired. This position was advertised, and lo and behold, the only person qualified was none other than Twining. What a coincidence!

Here's what a reader tells me:

"My main concern is that fact Michael Twining is suddenly popping up as a supervisor at the 911 center. Myself and Mr. Twining went head to head on several issues during his time in HR and now he's going to be my supervisor. I fear retribution. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide on the legality of this process."

The other special arrangement is with Deputy Director of Public Works Landon Parker. He's going from there to a union position somewhere in the County.

This is contrary to tradition in Northampton County, but so far as I know, it is legal.

The problem that both Twining and Parker have is that they will be considered probationary employees. They have no property right to continued employment unless they successfully make it out of probation.

Brown's Detailed Plans For Gracedale Jail

Lexington jail
On the campaign trail, Northampton County Executive John Brown adamantly denied any plans to build a jail at Gracedale. He accused Lamont McClure, the man who beat him of fear-mongering. He derided my reports, collected over a period of one year, as "fake news." But as I told you yesterday, the truth is that Brown had a secret, two-hour long meeting with Upper Nazareth Supervisors on March 27 to lay out his plans for a jail at Gracedale. He only changed his tune when Upper Nazareth residents became alarmed.They have no interest in politics,but care about their children.

I looked through the 30-page power point that Brown (along with Administrator Cathy Allen, Corrections Director Dan keen, Public Works Director Stan Rugis and General Purpose Authority Solicitor John Lushis) presented to Upper Nazareth officials.

Brown went through several correctional facilities visited by Corrections Director Dan Keen. All had been designed by DLR, which just happens to be the firm he hired with a $72,000 no-bid contract to do a jail study.

Here's what he claimed it would look like from the front.


He also presented an aerial view that includes the new jail and Gracedale.


He told Supervisors that residents would barely be able to see t from the roadway. They'd never know it was there.


There was also a discussion of specific site issues like "integration" with the community, traffic mitigation,night lighting, a nice buffer and the clearance needed for a Medevac helicopter next door.


Minutes of the Upper Nazareth Supervisors indicate that this private meeting was not mentioned for nearly three months, but I've been informed that it was disclosed on several occasions in April.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Approves 70-Unit Apartment Complex at Armory

Earlier this month, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board considered a request for a 70-unit apartment complex at the Armory on Second Avenue. Last night, the Board voted 3-0 to grant the dimensional variances sought. Voting in support were Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Attorney Mike Santanasto. Twoother members of the Board - Gus Loupos and Attorney Linda Shay Gardener - were unable to participate.

Because I was at a basketball game, I missed the deliberations and vote. But Agent 54 was there, and let me know what happened. he also provided a copy of a motion that Attorney Micahel Shay filed, seeking to strike the testimony of Darlene Heller. That motion was also denied, 3-0.

Shay argues that Heller was essentially acting as a witness for developer Michael Perrucci.

It's perfectly acceptable for a Planning Director to appear on behalf of a Planning Commission that is recommending variances. This ios expressly permitted by the Pa Municipalities Planning Code. In this case, she was there to relay the recommendation of the Planning Commission. But she went too far, injecting her own opinions about some of the testimony opposed to the variances. What I also find noteworthy is that whenever Heller does appear on behalf of a developer, it is Michael Perrucci.

Below is Shay's motion.

May Planning Director Testify in Support of Zoning Appeal by BernieOHare on Scribd