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Friday, March 17, 2017

Terrence Miller Fights To Remain on Easton City Council Ballot

Terrence Miller
Terrence Miller has been a grass roots activist since long before there was even grass. Articulate and involved, Miller has claimed that Easton is a "tale of  two cities." There's a thriving downtown with a food court and a farmer's market. But there's also a west ward classified as a food desert.  At a time when many urban communities are at odds with police, he has called for better communication. He has visited NorCo Council to recommend facilities like West Easton's Treatment Center. He has noticed how we dehumanize persons lost to a life of crime. "We use ex-convict. We use prisoner. We use element. We use derelict. We use addicts. Perhaps if we used different words like person, father, son, brother, then the reasons for creating a facility would change."

Now a thoughtful man like Terrence Miller obviously has no place in government. So Easton's entrenched power base did its level best yesterday to have Miller's Easton City Council nomination petition stricken during a hearing before Judge Craig Dally. I believe the effort failed, but you never know. Judge Dally will make that call by Tuesday.

Miller's nomination petition was challenged by Richard Bader, acting as a stooge for incumbent Jim Edinger. He used Bethlehem barrister Vic Scomillio, too  Maybe Vic was running a special.

According to the challenge (you can read it in all its glory here),  Miller may have obtained 134 signatures, but less than 100 were valid signatures from registered Democrats living in his district. If that is so, Miller's campaign is toast.

Scomillio called Voter Registrar Dee Rumsey, and she testified to her own examination of the nomination petition. Miller's petition did include 27 signatures from people who were of a different party or who lived outside the district or who were actually unregistered. But his complaints about others were petty. The included complaints that someone named Miguel signed only using "M," that someone named  Ronald signed as"Ron,"that various married women sign using their married names instead of what appears on their voter registration card, or that a street number lists "1051" instead of "1057."  If someone with a Spanish surname only uses one of them when the registration shows there are two, his signature will be honored. If someone makes a spelling error or uses a mailing address instead of the actual address, that is insufficient to set aside a nomination petition.

There is a presumption that the signatures on a petition nominating a candidate for a primary election are valid. If there is some question about a challenged signature, it is to be resolved in favor of the candidate's right to run for office and the voters' right to choose their own representatives.

Politicos advise that anyone running for office should try to get twice as many signatures as are need. So Terry should have obtained 200 signatures. This was his mistake, but I believe he has enough padding to squeak by on this challenge.

Miller, at the beginning of the hearing, asked Richard Bader whether anyone calls him Rich. The answer was yes. then asked Bader if anyone calls him Dick. The answer was yes. At the end of the hearing, he told Judge Dally that many people will sign one way when their name might appear another way on the registration records. "We have to be careful that we don't exclude a voter's expression on the basis of a technicality," he warned the court. "Let the voters decide. That's what this is all about."

 A ruling in this matter is expected by Tuesday.

7 comments:

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Bernie,

Thanks for covering this very important story in Easton's West Ward, which I am sure will get no attention from the E-T or MCall. I will have more to say on this matter later today but I need to figure out a way to say it fairly and with as little malice towards the incumbent and his associated cronies on city council and in the mayor's office...which will not be easy.

DRL

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Part One of Three...

This piece on the petition challenge of Terrence Miller's attempt to run for West Ward rep on Easton city council does an excellent job of being both balanced and informative on the technical, nuts and bolts aspects of legal signatures. I am hoping that Judge Dally shows the same level of reasonableness in his decision. The difference between what is technically "the letter of law" and what is the right thing to do for all parties (including the voting public) within the spirit of the law should weigh significantly in the decision.

Regardless of the legal outcome though, there is an entirely different story that has yet to be told. It has a number of aspects. A look at at Mr. Edinger's campaign contributors from his first run for council a number of years ago - as I have done - should raise some questions:

Why so much money raised for what was essentially a small, neighborhood council seat race within an equally small city? Was there even a viable opponent or did that person have their petition scrutinized as well? Eight years ago, when I ran against former councilman and current, self-admitted federal felon in the Allentown pay-to-play scandal Mike Fleck, I spent under $600 dollars. What exactly - beyond actually talking to the citizens that live within a few minutes walk of your home - is the money for?

Why did 95% of contributions come from backers that reside not only outside the West Ward neighborhood but completely outside of Easton? Whom has such a major stake in a seemingly insignificant neighborhood council seat to focus such attention?

Why was a large chunk of that money then re-contributed by Mr. Edinger's campaign to a candidate for higher county office? Hmmm.

When one looks at Mr. Edinger's own circulating petition from the current election cycle - as I have also done - there are other interesting quirks that Mr. Miller chose not to make an issue of.

One of those "quirks" would be why the first 12 names on the petition personally circulated by Mr. Edinger have signatures, printed names and addresses that seem to this independent observer to all have been penned by the same hand?

In Part Two we will examine the current sad state of Easton government.

End Part One

DRL

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part Two of Three...

In Part One we laid out some questions. These questions and the actions of Mr. Edinger so far, if focusing on just one city council incumbent's behavior, is only a symptom of the bigger problem...only scratching the surface of the sad state of Easton government today. Instead of having a fair race, based on the merits of the candidates' positions on important issues within the neighborhood and the city, the immediate knee-jerk reaction is to try to drive the challenger out of the race. This may not be specifically peculiar to the West Ward seat but it sure looks that way to someone who has spent the last 17 years to trying to make some headway here.

Let's look at some other deterrents to challenging the status quo. When the Easton Home Rule Charter passed it gave WW citizens the impression that they now had a direct representative on council that would finally look out for their best interests. But what is the physical dimension of the West Ward in the eyes of the charter? It is not the place where I grew up.

That neighborhood was not artificially bifurcated at N Tenth Street, cutting in half the population able to vote for a WW candidate. When I ran, neither my own family nor long-time friends and supporters were able to vote for me because they had been arbitrarily thrown into the College Hill representative's district. There has been talk off and on of taking another chunk of the SW part of the neighborhood and combining it with Southside for voting purposes. Can anyone with a straight face tell me what the affinity between these neighborhoods would be?

Now, Fleck is not around to defend himself - who cares really since he is an admitted criminal who is getting what he deserves - but I am as sure as I can be that he had paid people to vote for him during our race. I couldn't do anything about it at the time because I had neither the time nor money. After the loss I went back to a normal private life and Fleck went back to scamming the public as a hired gun...until he got caught.

I am done with public office. I don't have the temperament for it. Many of the activists I either met or cultivated and worked with from 1999 through 2012 are gone as well. The older ones have given up. They don't at this point in their lives need the negative rhetoric and insults of city hall and have instead chosen lives of quiet desperation. The younger ones were not tied to place like I am and made the decision to move on when things weren't heading in a better direction. But Mr. Miller is a shining hope among much current political darkness.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part Three of Three

From Part Two: "But Mr. Miller is a shining hope among much current political darkness."

Why?

Terrence Miller over the period of the last few years suffered serious injuries to both knees and underwent multiple painful surgeries to get back on his feet. TO be honest, he nearly died. He didn't have to stay engaged while he went through this process of surgery and rehab. Who could have blamed him if he simply decided to take it easy and concentrate on himself for a while. But he didn't. He didn't have to stay in touch with neighbors and help with the quality of life problems they looked to him for guidance on. He surely didn't have to maintain a regular schedule as chair of Easton's Ethics Commission. And he certainly didn't have to go door-to-door, with a cane in horrible weather, not just to get petition signatures but to actually engage his neighbors and ask them what they wanted this neighborhood to be...what it should look like...how it should work for them.

I've lived for well over fifty years on the same street in the West Ward. I know the physical city inside out and my institutional knowledge is second to none. Terrence has been here one fifth of that time. But in that time has asked more questions of me; has done more independent research; has got out in the street and down the gutter more often; has proactively engaged public officials, NGO's and common citizens more than any combination of five other activists I ever worked with. Since Mr. Edinger took office, which was while I still worked at the West Ward Partnership and had never been shy about my criticisms - as I still am - about the conditions of this neighborhood, he has never attempted to speak with me once. With this recent decision to run and hide rather than compete for the office that we pay him to hold, his window of opportunity to ever engage me is now closed. And I am sure he couldn't care less.

The gist of all this, to put a fine point on it, is that this city's government doesn't want the West Ward to improve. It does not now nor has it ever wanted us to rise above the "ward of the state" status they have labeled us with. Every initiative that gets presented at city hall or boiled up behind closed doors with some third party is then sprung on us without warning. And this includes my time working at the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership when we would often learn of press conferences we were not invited to concerning the West Ward by reading about them in the paper.

I will have a postscript to this piece because I am exceeding the word count for Part Three.

DRL

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Postscript...

Perhaps those of us who have been here as long as I have a different take on what civil society and good government should be. I was taught by my parents to always take care of your own property and take care of the people that lived around you when you could. To set a good example in actions if not words for the next generation. To not brag about accomplishments or make people feel uncomfortable about the lack of similar achievements. I see that way of life fading out. This is what happens when you institutionalize an atmosphere via government mandate that drives young people away; makes long-time residents of different neighborhoods resent each other (as is happening for the first time in my life now between Downtown and West Ward) and cultivate an atmosphere where bottom-up self-help is suffocated at the altar of grand plans from above.

I do not know if my neighborhood can be saved. It certainly can't be done by any one person running for public office. But one person can instill within the population, by being willing to listen to their ideas and facilitate their plans, a new spirit of local decisionmaking and grassroots optimism. If this petition challenge is overturned by the courts, great. We move ahead with the primaries. If it is not, then I will be voting for Mr. Miller anyway as a write-in candidate or as an independent candidate in the fall. I know what I have in office now is blind, deaf and dumb to my concerns. All the Da Vinci Centers, parking decks and tourist trap restaurants on earth won't change that.

Time for a New Era. Time for a New Easton Time for Terrence Miller.

DRL

Anonymous said...

Long winded much there? This is the guy who wanted to see all contractor money go to the west Easton prison, right?

Anonymous said...
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