About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Updated: Reynolds Unveils Bethlehem 2017

J.Willie Reynolds
Four years ago, Willie Reynolds and Bob Donchez both wanted to succeed John Callahan as Bethlehem's Mayor. But unlike ancient Sparta, which was at one time ruled by two kings, there can only be one Mayor. After a contentious primary race, Bob Donchez emerged the victor. But both sides were bruised. Donchez felt betrayed by outgoing Mayor John Callahan, who had pledged to remain neutral, and then endorsed Willie. For his part, Willie was bitter over campaign ads that made him appear to be too immature. Fortunately, both men were still able to work together for the good of the City, and eventually, put aside past differences and grew to respect each other.

This year, instead of running for Mayor against Donchez again, Reynolds will be supporting him. He's also introduced a 37-page Bethlehem 2017 proposal. He presented this ambitious, eight-point good government initiative at Town Hall yesterday, before a small crowd of supporters that included Bethlehem School Board President Michael Faccinetto and School Director Dean Donaher. Council members Michael Michael Colón and Shawn Martell were there, too.

"If I was going to run for Mayor, this is the stuff I would want to run on," he said. "Why not take this opportunity to work with Bob and work with other people. He said people are "sick of campaigns" and "want to see government work." That's what he intends to do. He pointed out that Bethlehem's focus in recent years has been finances, a subject that was pushed on to the front burner when Bethlehem Steel closed down. But as time has gone on, he thinks it's important to focus on other issues as well. The nine-year Council member noted that people are frustrated with their local governance, and that it's time to take action that includes a big public component.

1) Climate action plan. - In 2006, the Lehigh Valley Mayors John Callahan, Sal Panto and Edwin Pawlowski signed a climate protection agreement to reduce their carbon footprint in city-owned properties by about 20%. Bethlehem achieved that goal, and Reynolds believes it is time to move forward. He proposes this year as a year of study in which to decide on additional steps, along with heavy public involvement. He said the City should lean on its underutilized Environmental Advisory Council. "This is right up their alley," he said.

2) Open Bethlehem. - Reynolds noted that the City has a great deal of internal data that should be shared with the public. He said citizens and local colleges can look at the data and develop applications for it. The use of open data could start with potholes or snow plowing, but basically can be expanded and lead to greater citizen participation. It can provide information about crime, health, transportation, budget, city planning, GIS, education, permits and virtually all information that is not protected by confidentiality.

3) Expanded use of social media.- Just as Open Bethlehem would be a way for Bethlehem to provide data to the citizenry, the expanded us of social media enables citizens to engage government. Bethlehem township has embarked on an ambitious effort touse social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to communicate with citizens.It also is using Nixel to inform residents of weather conditions,accidents and road closures. The use of these social media sites is all the more imperative as daily newspapers provide less and less coverage of local government. Most citizens,especially the young, now get their information from the Internet and social media. When government uses social media effectively, and engages the public, it is more efficient and accountable, Reynolds claims. "The thing people get most frustrated about on any level of government is when you can't give them an answer."

Though I completely support this idea, it is as an in-house idea. In the audience was George Wacker (the Lehoigh Valley with Love blogger),who was hired by the Bethlehem Area School District last year, and at $2,000 a month, to give the school district a social media presence. The last thing government needs is a hired gun to tell the public how great it is. This function should be strictly in-house. If city officials are unsure how something works, they should ask one of their grandchildren for help, not some paid propagandist. I admire Wacker's blog and humor, but question whether he is licking his chops to get a chance to be Bethlehem's spinmaster.

4) Financial Accountability Incentive reporting (FAIR). - Reynolds acknowledged the widespread public perception, one shared with this writer, that tax incentives provided to developers create an unfair playing field in which the City, as opposed to the market, picks winners and losers. Reynolds is opposed to ending them because they are offered everywhere. He instead is proposing an ordinance in which citizens will get answers to the question whether a developer is really doing what he promised. Reynolds credited Philadelphia council member Helen Gym, who managed to get similar legislation enacted in September. "We'll see which programs are working and which programs are not working," said Reynolds.

5) Campaign Contribution Limits.- In addition to posting campaign finance reports online, as currently is happening, Reynolds proposes campaign contribution limits. His proposal is undergoing legal review. Instead of setting up an ethics commission to enforce violations, Reynolds would use the courts. An aggrieved party could file a complaint.

6) Northside 2025.- Calling neighborhoods "the backbone of our City," Reynolds proposes using LERTA funds and private contributions to revitalize neighborhoods on the northside, similar to a similar program on the South Side. He would also lean on Moravian College, with the goal of improving neighborhoods.

7) Parking Authority Revenue Re-Investment. - Acknowledging that no entity is despised more than your friendly parking authority, Reynolds wants to take some of the revenue generated to improve areas where parking meters are in place. The money would provide streetscaping, landscaping and other improvements.

8) Community policing.-Though Bethlehem has a community-minded police department, Chief Mark DiLuzio would like to see it increase among the 154 police officers. Reynolds would want a community discussion to see what is working and what is not. What works will be implemented in 2018.

"It's a vision," said Reynolds. "It's a vision about what Bethlehem can become." But he noted that he is essentially setting up a conversation in which everyone will participate. He acknowledged that he's learned over the years that it's important to get input from everyone.

Willie has also created Bethlehem 2017 as a webpage, so that you can offer your insights there.


Anonymous said...

All of Willie's hot air will affect us on Thursday when the outside temperature hits 60 degrees.

Anonymous said...

The irony is strong with this one.

"Frustrations mount across the country as people ask legitimate questions about the goals and priorities of all levels of government."

So what's the number one priority he chooses?

Climate Change mitigation, with an emphasis on "data collection".

I bet the polar bears feel safer already. Ordinary citizens who value their privacy and pocket books?

Not so much.

How 'bout them gas taxes eh? Wait'll he really gets rolling.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your comment speaks more to your own ignorance than to the merits of these proposals.

Anonymous said...


Number one priority is Climate Change?!?

That's number one...in Bethlehem.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He did not say that. It is listed among eight different items. You are taking one item about which you have your head in the sand, and using that one item to bash all proposals. This is completely ignorant and is what I would expect from someone who lacks the basic integrity to sign his own name.

Anonymous said...

Ahh...the old "you're anonymous so I win ploy."

I didn't attack anyone, I didn't call anyone names, I didn't question anyone's integrity.

I pointed out the irony of seemingly making Climate Change his number one priority when poll after poll shows it to be way at the bottom of the list for most "ordinary" folks.

You seem to agree it shouldn't be, even though it's odd he would list it first. Most folks put the most important item on a list of priorities first, but hey, I'm anonymous and you're not, so what do I know.

But tell me, since you obviously don't think you have your head in the sand regarding Climate Change, are you for higher fossil fuel taxes or not? Most experts say that's the only way to address the problem.

I ask because you seemed to be moaning about high gasoline taxes the other day.

Anonymous said...

The earth is warming because it has an infection...let nature take it's course.

Anonymous said...

The moonbattery of climate change (global whining) eclipses the other proposals. I do agree with the campaign funding limits. Hopefully they will have teeth.

Anonymous said...

Climate change...how out of touch is this buffoon...how about focusing on basic govt svcs...like he is supposed to...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the new guys on council upstaged the veterans. Willie had to quick throw something out there to look good. Where was he on this issue for the past ten years? After new blood brings it up, now he has a plan.

To quote Obama, "Come on man!"

Anonymous said...

A thoughtful and aggressive plan that spans many issues is not a response to the campaign finance proposal last week from the new members of Council. It is clear that lots of time and energy was put in to drafting this plan. The hope is Council and the Administration can work together to push some of these progressive ideas forward. Council has typically had a role to wait for the Mayor to make proposals. So it is welcomed that Willie is starting a conversation about some important issues.

Anonymous said...

6:37, well written wee willie

Anonymous said...

I have zero confidence in the 2 rubber spending stamps:
Bethlehem School Board President Michael Faccinetto and School Director Dean Donaher.

Anonymous said...

He sounds like a mayoral candidate, however, his priorities are screwed up. Unless he trying to control the current mayor, he is delusional!

Anonymous said...

Progressive "ideas" siphon funding away from essential services. Once the essential services suffer we have no choice but to raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

Raising taxes is ALWAYS the plan.

donmiles said...

Whoever the coward "Anonymous" is, as the old saying goes "you will know them by their enemies":
Dumping on Reynolds, Faccinetto and Donaher?
You either don't know these exceptional citizens or are unable to recognize a good human being when you see one.
Given that, your ignorant dismissal of the greatest threat to our children and grandchildren, the cascading devastation to the planet's biosphere caused by human-induced global heating, is not surprising. Locally-focused actions to combat this threat are not useless and to belittle them is mindless.
Is it more important to you that you personally have more money buy things due to "lower taxes" or that your grandchildren avoid climate-induced epidemics, food shortages and disruptive flood-refugees migrations? Is it really all about you?

-- Donald Miles, grandfather, local Sierra Club chair, and Bethlehem resident taxpayer

Anonymous said...

Maybe Willie is "setting the table". He's not going to oppose Donchez, but it's time to self-promote for the future.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I have zero confidence in the 2 rubber spending stamps:
Bethlehem School Board President Michael Faccinetto and School Director Dean Donaher."

This is pretty much an unfair attack against two dedicated public servants who earn no salary for what they do and are subjected to abuse from people who think they should be spending more and people who think they should be spending less. I am a product of Catholic schools, as are my children and grandson. I consider education extremely important, and education requires money. While I do think public school districts tend to have their own language, my judgment of them depends mostly on how well their students do,and how much the boards do to give them an even shot. Donaher has dedicated his life to public education, and I have immense respect for him. Faccinetto is always accessible, and has sometimes commented here. These are good people, and you are lucky to have them.

Anonymous said...

Count me in with the conservative crowd, but regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Willie's vision, at the very least he has the courage to put it out there. It's not so easy to open yourself up to an attack based upon your ideas and ideals.

I will say that if he wants the City to become more transparent and engage the public, they can start at the City Council and City Planning Commission meetings where anyone with any grievance to be redressed gets their allotted time and no dialogue between the City officials.

Anonymous said...

Some of these are hits, some are misses, and some are just ‘meh’. Let’s run down the ideas one at a time:

Climate Action Plan – Might as well study the whole universe, since this one will be sending taxpayer dollars into a black hole.

Open Bethlehem – More transparency is always a good thing.

Expanded Use of Social Media – Depends how it’s used and how it’s funded. In Allentown it seems to be more of a propaganda tool by Pawlowski than anything designed to benefit the city resident.

FAIR Reporting – I guess now we’ll have a government scorecard to prove to us that tax incentives are creating an unfair playing field. Why not just take the lead and actually end them?

Campaign Contribution Limits – This is one of those things that sound good, but doesn’t have the results you really want. It’s probably a favorite of every incumbent, since it virtually guarantees re-election. Incumbents have enough advantages over lesser-known challengers, and this just makes it even harder for a challenger to get their message out.

Northside 2025 – Good to focus on neighborhoods, but see above about government tax incentives.

Parking Authority Revenue Reinvestment – Torn on this one. It would be nice to see some of that parking ticket money reinvested, but things like this lead to reliance on the funds. It would be better to reduce parking fees and eliminate unnecessary meters.

Community Policing – This seems to be a program that always yields positive results and is popular with residents. Why not see what could be done better?

Like someone previously said, Reynolds should be commended for putting the ideas out there. But not all of them should happen.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of one's total income should one be forced to pay in all total taxes combined from local, state and federal levels? ... (please list a separate percentage for each category of person in terms of income: 'poor', 'average' and 'rich')

Anonymous said...

How about windmills on south mountain. They would work great.

Anonymous said...

Joe Kelly where are you!

Patriot2 said...

No significant proposals from Reynolds & the typical liberal agenda to get votes over climate change.