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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rebranding John Morganelli

Rudiger Lyle Martinez
During daylight hours, he's your typical Northampton County courthouse worker. But once that clock hits 4:30 pm, Rudiger Lyle Martinez is out the door and working on his second job as a rising political pundit. In a rare interview yesterday, he told me that, had John Morganelli listened to him, he'd be Attorney General today. "Instead, we're stuck with Not-so-Sharpiro," he laments. So what would he do?

"It's no longer Morganelli. It's J-Mo.And everything he does should end with #J-Mo. Everything he does. Speeches. Briefs. Court appearances. Grand Jury indictments. All should end with #J-Mo. He should also send a letter to #J-Lo calling her an inspiration, and this should get him the Hispanic vote even as he's deporting them."

What about Twitter?

"Absolutely! We millennials love that shit. He should say outrageous things like 'I would have nailed Cosby -#J-Mo,' or 'Our so-called judges suck - #J-Mo.' Boom! His positives will shoot up."

Though no one has hired Rudiger, he claims all his computer models prove that #J-Mo would take out Governor Wolf if the DA just started using the hashtag. He also claimed that Judge Giordano would easily win the Superior Court race if he started referring to himself as "#G-Man."

Lafayette College Gets a $10,000 Jazz Grant

US Congressman Matt Cartwright proudly announced yesterday that Lafayette College has received a $10,000 federal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This grant will provide support for their long-running Jazz Series programming at the Williams Center for the Arts. Alison R. Byerly, president of Lafayette College, gushed, “The Jazz Series enriches student experience, contributes to the artistic growth of this important field, and provides uniquely inspiring encounters for the public at large. The NEA’s endorsement of this program is valuable testimony to the important role the arts play in our region."

This bothers me. First, Lafayette is a private school with a $740 million endowment. It has no need for federal grant money. Second, a grant for jazz appreciation would be better spent in venues where it's actually created, not an engineering school for people who are already too rich to much appreciate anything. Third, members of the public who wish to see these jazz series programs have to pay for the privilege. Lafayette makes no effort to bring in the unwashed masses. This is a subsidy for the artsy-fartsies.

I believe that the arts do need our support, but this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. We are paying for grants to put on shows we have no money to see.

Slate Belt Watch: Bomb Scare in Bangor

Slate Belt Watch, a very informative Facebook page that I consider a form of participatory journalism, alerted citizens close to rush hour that an evacuation was in process in downtown Bangor on S. 1st St because of a blue book bag sticking out of the UPS box located by the post office. About an hour later, the scene was declared safe. Because a Daycare is in the vicinity, many parents were understandably concerned.

One Slate Belt Watcher snapped a pic of someone in a bomb squad outfit, although it could also be a giant Kermit the Frog.

I loved the humor.

One watcher remarked, "I just ask that all of you keep this in mind, this is Bangor, and no one here is smart enough to make a bomb."

"Just meth," added another.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Inmate Suicide at Lehigh County Jail

From Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller: "On Saturday, 6/24/17, at approximately 9:34 a.m. a Lehigh County corrections officer found Jail Inmate Trevor Vaden unresponsive in his cell.  Vaden, who did not have a cellmate, and was not under any special monitoring precautions, was discovered by a corrections officer performing routine rounds.  The officer immediately declared a medical emergency and began administering CPR.  On site medical personnel assisted in providing life saving measures.  The responding local paramedics continued treatment and he was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10:06 p.m. 

"The cause of death is apparent suicide.  The coroner will issue a formal finding at a later date.

"Trevor Vaden, 21 was committed to jail on April 20, 2017 on a parole violation.  His original charge was robbery."

Why Colonial Regional Police Are Worth It

Bath Borough, which recently moved into a new $450,000 municipal building in need of $250,000 in improvements, is pondering whether to cut costs by eliminating Colonial Regional Police Department in favor of some cheaper alternative. This borough thought nothing of borrowing near the limit and didn't blink an eye when legal fees doubled. But Borough Manager Brad Flynn was very upset that the cost of police coverage went up five percent, from $398,000.00 in 2016 to $416,000.00 in 2017. "This increase in cost will prompt upcoming discussions with the Colonial Regional Police Commission about the Borough’s seat at the table and to what future extent," he huffed in his budget message last year.

Decades of fiscal mismanagement from leaders that once included a Mayor who pleaded guilty to stealing from her local church, are being blamed on the men (and women) in blue. Flynn prepared an "informational" packet that was distributed at a Saturday morning town hall, slamming police coverage. Officers were prevented from speaking and were told they could make their case at the next Borough Council meeting. They did so, and were politely ignored. No questions. Not even a "Thank you for your service." At least Borough Council President Mark Saginario opted against open carrying, something he did when AFSCME once appeared at a meeting.

I have requested Colonial Regional to supply me with their response to Bath's "informational" packet.

Here are the points they make.

Bath Compared to Six LV Boroughs


Each of these boroughs has its own dedicated police department, small in size, and staffed by a few full-time and part-time officers. Bath is part of a regional department that has no part time officers. Bath pays the highest salary is not accurate. When compared to similar other boroughs in the Lehigh Valley, Bath is paying a comparable cost to all other departments,but is getting an accredited police department . Bath spends 22% of its budget for police services at $413,536,the second lowest rate for the boroughs listed above.

Cost per officer

Bath pays its portion of the police budget (12%) for the entire department, which includes 25 sworn officers and 2 civilian positions. Bath’s portion of the total police department budget is around 12%.Bath falls far below the average of the compared boroughs at $153/resident. The average is $200/resident. The attempt to compare specific salaries is impossible because many municipalities rely heavily on part-time officers.

Crime Statistics

Bath officials attempted to downplay the severity if crime. That is a mistake. In 2016, there were 141 reportable offenses. These include manslaughter (1), rape (1), burglary (12), theft (44), vehicle theft (2), Forgery/Fraud (15), vandalism (20), Arson (1), Drugs – Sales/Manufacturing (2), Drugs – Possession (16),
Alcohol – DUI (16) and Alcohol – Drunkenness (5).

For the municipalities cited above, Bath has far more reportable crime than any of them. Alburtis, for example, reported only 27 offenses, about 1/20 what was reported in Bath.

Motor Carrier Enforcement

Unlike most small departments, Colonial Regional actually does have a certified motor carrier officer. The other 24 officers have cited dozens of trucks for a variety of other moving violations that are not documented as motor carrier enforcement incidents. An example is when the Mayor reached out to Colonial about speeding dump trucks on Main St. Several trucks operators were cited for speeding. There a have also been dozens of weight violation citations.

Drug Task Force

The Northampton County Drug Task Force is a county run program. It is not funded in any way by Bath. So any drug task force time accounted in Bath or anywhere else in the county is paid for by the county. Between 2012-2016, Colonial seized $55,709 and a total of 7 vehicles. Colonial believes it has been very proactive in addressing the drug issues in the borough.

Ordinance Violations


Flynn's "informational" packet slammed Colonial for failing to issue tickets for parking and other ordinance violations. Reviewing only the parking tickets issued from 2010-2015, Colonial issued 916 parking tickets in Bath.

DARE Program
26 million kids nationwide in 75% of school districts across the country have a DARE program. The last page of the Informational Packet cited outdated studies that implied the current DARE program is ineffective. The Time Magazine study and others conducted in the late 90’s were correct in finding little to no benefit of the DARE program. In the early 2000s the entire program curriculum was re-evaluated and new techniques and methods were implemented to better suit the needs of school age children and adolescents. For understanding, Officer Kovach is teaching the new version of the DARE curriculum at George Wolf and Sacred Heart Elementary Schools. A more recent and relevant study, an independent randomized control sample evaluation of the D.A.R.E. Primary program was carried out in 2015/2016 using a sample of over 50 schools and 1500 young people. The evaluation was carried out by Nottingham Trent University's Professor Andromachi Tseloni and showed that the program had a significantly statistic effect on:
• Increasing knowledge surrounding drugs, alcohol and substance abuse
• Making safe and responsible choices
• Communication and listening
• Getting help from others
Colonial offers the DARE program is offered because the Northampton Area School District requests it. George Wolf and Sacred Heart Elementary are the two schools in Colonial's jurisdiction that continue to support and request the DARE program.

Bike Patrol

Bath’s main use of Bike Patrol is during special events like the Halloween Parade. Each year at least 3 bicycle officers patrol the route along with several other officers positioned through the downtown area both on foot and in vehicles.

Shop with a Cop


-The sole purpose of this annual event is to give under privileged kids a Christmas. The meals for the kids are donated by the restaurants and all the money that each kid gets to shop with is donated by the community. For the past 11 years Colonial has hosted this event and provided a fun filled day for over 100 kids from all over the Greater Bath-Nazareth area. Eighty percent are from Bath.

NorCo 2017 Budget Increase Percentage Among Top Three in State

Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, Northampton County has the third highest percentage budget increase this year, according to the Spring 2017 edition of Pennsylvania County News.

Though Mifflin and Indiana County had the highest percentage increases, but those are one-time occurrences due to accounting changes (Mifflin) and prison reform compliance (Indiana). I excluded them.

Of the remaining counties, Northampton's 9.79% increased budget is topped only by York (10.16%) and Beaver (13.01%).

Lehigh County's budget increased just 2.59%.

The state average was only 3.33%.  

Yes, NorCo Has a New Deputy Administrator

During his first year in office, Executive John Brown quickly decided to balance the budget on the backs of county employees while claiming they are the county's greatest asset. In addition to slashing health care benefits, he refused to fill vacancies. Eventually, there were 30 open correction officer positions at the jail, which meant mandatory overtime. Countywide, he had refused to fill 268 position in early 2015, or 12.5% of the workforce.

Many of them, 133.15 to be exact, were in Human Services. They included caseworkers for Children and Youth, Area Agency on Aging, Mental Health and at Gracedale. There were 16 vacancies in Children and Youth, the agency charged with protecting our children from neglect or abuse.

Brown was embarrassed into reducing most of those vacancies, but Children and Youth Director Kevin Dolan told Council just last week that he still has ten vacancies. His agency is currently besieged by a record number of referrals. Vacancies also continue to be a problem in the row offices.

But there's no shortage of staff in the Amy Trapp's Human Resources Department, where $800 popcorn machines are the norm and thousands of taxpayer dollars are blown on "gift cards" to boost morale among her favorites.

Brown has also recently hired a Deputy Director of Administration. Rose M Faryna, who hails from the Northampton area, was hired on May 30 at a salary of $49,146.86. Brown had no obligation to seek Council's approval. In fact, he never bothered to tell them at all about this new hire.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Judge Palmer Story

Last week, I told you three Judge Palmer stories. I received a fourth one today from a trial attorney who threatened to murder me if I dime him.

This lawyer was at one time an assistant District Attorney. He had worked out a deal with noted Allentown attorney Jerry Roth, who represented every hooker within a 50-mile radius and was called the "King of the Gypsies."  The deal was that the DA would dismiss prostitution charges against a young lady on condition that she leave the Lehigh Valley and never return. In those days, you could do that sort of thing.

This arrangement was placed on the record before Judge Palmer, and he had a few questions.

"Where are you going to go if I dismiss this case?"

"California?"

"How are you going to get there?"

"I'm going to fuck my way."

"Do you realize how far that is?"

NorCo Grand Jury to Investigate PSP Homicide



Five weeks ago, Pennsylvania State Police shot and killed Anthony Ardo at or near his mother's farm in Lower Mount Bethel Township. The previous day, she obtained a temporary Protection from Abuse Act Order against him. A drug addict, he had threatened to rob her. She testified that he gets "violent and abusive" when he is using. The next day, she called state police and described her son as suicidal. They found him with a fireworks mortar around his neck and opened fire after he attempted to light it.

Did Pennsylvania State Police have the right to use deadly force. They have the right to do so if they reasonably believe their lives or the lives of others are in jeopardy. But no such right exists if a man intends to use deadly force on himself.

Pursuant to state police policy, they are conducting an internal investigation, and it is nearing completion. But NorCo DA John Morganelli believes a more independent investigation is needed so that the public can be confident in the outcome. He cited a Pennsylvania DA Ass'n policy providing that a police shooting be investigated by another department and reviewed by the county DA.

So regardless what Pennsylvania State Police is doing, Morganelli will use the Northampton County grand jury to investigate the shooting, the investigation and the propriety of state policy policy that permits them to investigate themselves.

You can see his remarks above.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Would You Like a Free POW License Plate?

My story about the Wounded Warrior parking sign in Hanover Township has been quite a hit, both here and on Facebook. But it reminds me of a story concerning my Dad, who was wounded during WWII and was also a POW.

One day, my father received a visit from a fellow who was involved in one or another veterans' group. I was with him when the guy came. He wanted my Dad to sign up for a POW license plate. He'd never have to pay to register his car again.

My Dad declined.

"Why not?"

"I don't want the entire world to know I was stupid enough to get caught."

Fed Ed Case: US Atty's Office Should Indict Itself Next

During the primary season, about 8,000 Democrats decided to run for Allentown Mayor and enabled Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski to win with just four cent of the registered Democratic voters. Though seven people had already pleaded guilty to political corruption and had implicated Fed Ed, the United States Attorney's Office was strangely silent. Some say the office is in complete disarray, thanks to the revolving door in which prosecutors there seem to have no idea whether they are coming or going. Some say that they were licking their wounds after having their heads handed to them in a few high profile political corruption cases. Still others speculated that no indictment would be forthcoming because that might impact the election. A few even suggested that Fed Ed would never be charged.

We now that Federal prosecutors managed to find the most idiotic way to proceed in this matter. Publicly, they curled up in a ball and let Fed Ed march on to victory though they know he's a crook and that the vast majority of Allentown voters preferred someone else. But behind the scenes, they secured pay-to-pay guilty pleas from two more businessmen and kept the public in the dark. Heaven forbid that the public be told the truth. Their dishonest inaction impacted the primary election in a far more negative way than if they had just done their jobs and indicted when ready.

The Morning Call provided some of the details yesterday. The new charges are against Mark Neisser, a glorified salesman armed with a briefcase and cellphone who was employed by T and M Associates; and Patrick Regan, a glorified salesman who is also armed with a law degree and who works for TEN. Neisser has been charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery, while Regan has admitted to a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Both charging documents are based on information that is now years old and has been collecting dust.

Behind closed doors, an information was filed and sealed against Neisser on March 13. He entered his guilty plea on April 6. Earlier this month, the feds quietly unsealed the record with no notice to the public.

For Regan, an information was filed and sealed on May 11, just four days prior to the primary. It was unsealed after the election, on June 14, and he only entered his plea On June 20, with no notice to the public.

What I find especially troublesome, in both of these informations, is the lack of a direct link to Fed Ed.

Neissen is charged with bribing former Mayor Vaughn Spencer, who like Fed Ed is still walking around as though nothing has happened. But in his case, the information includes statements that Spencer made, like “I cleared [a specific engineering contract] for [defendant MARK NEISSER’s engineering firm]. So we need to get something from them,” and "I went out of my way for [defendant MARK NEISSER’s firm] . . . [T]hat project, they weren’t even, they were, they were already ruled out. . . . And I got them back in there and got them approved.”

There is none of that for Fed Ed. Instead we are told that he acted through intermediaries like Francis Dougherty and Miked Fleck, whose credibility can be easily attacked. There are no juicy quotes, indicating either a very weak case on these counts or a terrible job of drawing up the charging documents.

While Fed Ed was publicly proclaiming his innocence and asking, "What cloud?", the Feds were depriving you, the public, of the right to their honest services. Maybe they should charge themselves next.

Their disregard of the public is shameful and should be brought to the attention of the courts when the seek the next round of sentencing continuances.

Mark Neissen Information




Patrick Regan Information

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Hyman Challenged Garcia and Pez - A Theory

The Morning Call is reporting that Allentown Mayoral candidate Nat Hyman paid two law firms to challenge opponents Luiz Garcia and Christopher Pez in the primary. This was learned from reviewing Hyman's expense reports, so he has been transparent. Here's what I believe happened.

Hyman grew up in Allentown. His father was a doctor. Though considered a real estate maven, he actually made his money with Landau, an Allentown-based jeweler with 60 stores in the US and Canada. He could leave as Allentown sunk. He stayed. He continued to live in Allentown, too. That says something about his loyalty to the Queen City. Hyman could see that the City was moving in the wrong direction under Fed Ed, and decided to run for Mayor himself. He invested $25,000 of his own money, too. Here's how he explains his decision on his campaign page.
state maven, he actually made his money with Landau, an Allentown-based jeweler with
Nat decided he had to run for Mayor in order to try and pull Allentown out from under the cloud of scandal that its current Mayor has put it in.
Allentown should be enjoying its finest hour of economic opportunity instead of waiting for its Mayor to be indicted and the city to slip back to where it was before the NIZ (Neighborhood Improvement Zone) was established, missing our chance to grow and be one of the greatest cities in the nation.
You could dismiss all of this is pure ego. Or maybe, just maybe, this is the real guy who has been successful and wants to serve in a city that he obviously loves.

Now I support Ray O'Connell. Should Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawolwski be indicted, and should he resign, I will push hard for the former school administrator who understands that the City is only as healthy as its schools.

But Fed Ed has vowed to remain in office, even if indicted. He will have to be dragged out, kicking and screaming.

Several people have vowed to wage write-in campaigns or run as independents  Unfortunately, that just guarantees Fed Ed's victory in the general election, just as the plethora of primary candidates insured Fed Ed's success there.

Hyman, who never ran for office before, had no shortage of advisers. One of the originals was Lehigh County's former GOP Chair, Wayne Woodman. He was Scott Ott's mentor, and must have thought he could control Hyman the way he was puppet master for Ott.

He eventually found out he was wrong, as evidenced by his failure to contribute to Hyman. But in those early days, when he thought he was calling the shots, my guess is that Woodman urged Hyman to finance challenges to Garcia and Pez  

It was still a mistake, but one I can understand.

As the summer winds on, I'll have more to say about this race.  

NorCo CYF Director Dolan - Help!!!!

centralized human services building
Kevin Dolan, long-time Director of Northampton County's Children Youth and Family Division (CYF), updated Council about his department last week. His presentation could be summed up in one word - Help! Referrals have skyrocketed since 2014, when 23 of what he called "the Sandusky laws" went into effect. Those were adopted in reaction to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. They created whole new classes of mandated reporters, who must contact CYF when there are allegations of child abuse.

In 2014, Northampton County received 3,514 referrals of possible child abuse. They increased to 5,617 in 2015 and 6,061 in 2016. This year, we are on track to have over 7,500 referrals, more than twice the number in 2014.

Calling the increased referrals a "tsuanami," Dolan said his staff are overwhelmed. "There is no way with the staff we have that we can do this well." In addition to the increased referrals, he said his staff must also keep up with deadlines mandated by law.

In addition to increased referrals, Dolan said "it's gotten very violent out there. My staff get threatened a lot." Then they quit. He noted that there are 40 vacancies in Luzerne County, where 30-40 people are brought in at one time for interviews.

In addition to guarding against the classical symptoms of child abuse, Dolan said his agency is now also charged with guarding against children in foster care who may be overmedicated.

The saddest thing he sees is when a parent who has gone to the trouble to adopt returns the child. "Here's the suitcase. It didn't work out. Take him back."

This week, Northampton County's CYF is being reviewed by a team of 17 federal investigators. "Lucky us! We won the lottery!" They will be on site for four days, interviewing staff, parents, teachers, counselors, lawyers, judges and children.

Dolan also stated that human trafficking if children has become a problem. "These guys recruit for the dance cubs and for prostitution, and where they hang around are the residential facilities where adolescents are. This is how smart they are,and they figure out what schools [adolescents] are going to, and is there's a needy youth that they can talk into working for them, they do that." he claimed the FBI is "so overwhelmed that they're going to expand [a human trafficking] unit.

Seventy per cent of the caseload is drug or alcohol related.

This increased workload has taken its toll. Statewide, 37 administrators have left in the past 26 months.In his office, the turnover is 20%,and there are currently 10 caseworker vacancies. He currently has 65 caseworkers.

"We're going full tilt and we don't have any down time," he said. "'Something bad is gonna' happen,' a fellow CYF Director recently told him.

He said he and Allison Frantz will probably be asking for more case workers. "Don't go passing all these laws and then don't give us the money to do the job," he said.

Why I Like Hanover Tp So Much


Though most of you consider me a harsh critic of local government, I'll let you in on a little secret. Most of them are quite good, thanks to committed employees and elected officials who care deeply about their communities. Hanover Township is perhaps the best run of them all, and the picture you see above explains why. The choicest parking spot at the municipal building is reserved for wounded warriors.

I was there last night to cover a Supervisors' meeting that actually took place a week ago. I do that sort of thing, which explains why I'm far from the best reporter.

I was so blown away by this sign that I called Manager Jay Finnigan. He said it was just installed that day, along with another at the community center. Finnigan refused to take credit. He said they were seen in Colorado and he considered them "appropriate and deserving for those who served."

Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs Take Aim at ATVs (and I Take Aim at Online News)

After a rash of complaints about the noise and dust caused by all-terrain vehicles, Bethlehem Township Commissioners are on the brink of strictly regulating their use. A proposed ordinance, debated at Monday night’s meeting, would ban their use between dusk and dawn. They would also be required to stay at least 100 feet away from the property line of any adjacent owner.

Commissioner Tom Nolan said that the ordinance under consideration is similar to one already in place in Lower Saucon Township. He said “it’s time to place some regulations. The township is filling out. We don’t have much land.” President Mike Hudak agreed but made clear that “we’re not outlawing anything.”


(For the rest of the story, see The Bethlehem Press. This was an "overnighter" of Monday night's meetingof Bethlehem Tp Board of Commissioners. I am disappointed. Although it was apparently published in the morning, I missed it until last night, and it was buried. If I was unable to find it, I doubt Bethlehem Tp readers did.

This is poor presentation. There is no point to presenting readers with fresh meat daily if it is buried. Whatever daily story is being featured should be presented separately. Also, it is impossible to comment there. That destroys the interactivity on which I depend to make my stories better. If the Press papers want an online presence, they are going to have to do a lot more than I have seen.

As someone who has blogged 11 years, and who has made every mistake in the book, I can tell you there are four keys to having an effective online blog or news presence. First, be consistent. Try to present your readers with information at regular intervals. Second, if you are presenting something new to the readers, it should either be at the top or presented as a featured story. It should never be buried. Third, be interactive. I could understand requiring people to sign in or even moderating, but to be effective, this should be a two-way street. I learn as much from my readers as they learn from me, especially in this kind of story. Finally, use the opportunities the Internet provides. Post videos. Use scribd or other third party services to present documents.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Explosions Expert: Catastophic Failure of LNG Tank "Very Remote"

full containment LNG tank owned
by UGI in Steelton 
Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board listened to over four hours of testimony June 14 in connection with UGI's request for a 98' high, 78' wide liquefied natural gas facility in Bethlehem at 2470 Ringhoffer Road. It will be located on an 83.91 acre tract of former Bethlehem Steel land that is now part of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park. Testimony will continue on July 12.

To review, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is cryogenically cooled natural gas which is liquefied to reduce the volume for shipping and storage. LNG is primarily methane, but can contain up to 10% ethane and propane. It is stored at a temperature of negative 260 degrees Farenheit. The location along Ringhoffer Road was attractive to UGI for two reasons. First, it is located near a pipeline that will enable the company to deliver fuel after returning the methane to its gaseous state. Second, the facility would be located in a swale, affording some natural protection.

The tank will be filled by 10,000 gallon tankers, each of them weighing over 44,000 pounds, that would travel along Applebutter and Ringhoffer Road. About five or six deliveries will be made daily over the course of several months until the tank is full. After that, the only time the tank will be accessed is during extremely cold weather.

Allentown Attorney Tim Siegfried represents UGI, and has already presented at least five witnesses. Lower Saucon Township officials, who oppose the facility, are represented by prominent environmental attorney Charles Elliott.

Three witnesses were offered June 14.

Deputy Fire Chief Craig Baer explained what steps his department would take in the event of an emergency in general detail, though questions about Nixel or reverse 911 notification or door-to-door evacuations are unresolved. An emergency action plan is still in process. He did concede under questioning by Lower Saucon Council member Priscilla deLeon that "[i]f there's a catastrophic fracture [in the tower wall], there's nothing we can do to stop it."

Dr. Ryan Hart, a consultant who assists in the investigation and analyses of fires and explosions, said the likelihood of a major incident at this facility is "very remote." He noted that LNG is heavy and the vapor cloud is not something that will rise up in the sky. He said that instead, it would hug the ground.He also said that LNG is inflammable and needs to mix with air before it becomes explosive.

He told the Zoning Hearing Board that he's done no calculations at this point concerning how far an LNG clud would travel before it disperses or explodes.

Gregory Elko, a principal at Langan Engineering, testified that the proposed UGI is not near any dwellings in Bethlehem. The closest home is 662' away,and is vacant. He said the next two closest homes are 840'and 850' away.

He described the 83.91 acre UGI tract as 87% undisturbed and wooded. He also explained that a lengthy and winding driveway would be used to access the tower, and was necessary because if hills and wetlands.

He indicated that tankers would access the driveway from Route 412, Shimersville Road, Applebutter Road and then Ringhoffer Road. He acknowledged that Ringhoffer Road would have to be widened for the truck traffic.

Hart and Elko have yet to answer questions from Attorney Charles Elliott or the public. "Dr. Hart, I hope you enjoyed the hospitality of Bethlehem because we'd like to have you back," said Kevin Kelleher, who is providing legal advice to the Zoning hearing Board.

About 20 people attended the hearing, but Kellher took a very hard line on who may pose questions.He ruled that one woman, who lives in Springfield Township in Bucks County, lacks standing. He also denied standing to a woman who holds a mortgage to property in Steel City, claiming she would have to live there to be allowed to speak.

When testimony resumes on July 12, Charles Elliott will begin his cross-examination of both Hart and Elko.

NorCo Loses Power for 1,675,463rd Time Since January

The Northampton County Courthouse is increasingly becoming a third world country. I've lost track of the number of power outages in the past few months. There's no sign things will improve anytime soon. Though people might claim I'm exaggerating, and maybe I am, it seems that we lose power at least once every week.

Yesterday, with an hour left in the work day and just as I was putting the finishing touches to a lengthy title report, the power went out.

Now there was a thunderstorm raging at the time, so that's understandable. Power went down in lots of places. Palmer Tp lost power for five whole minutes. In Nazareth, it was six. But at the courthouse, the lights were still off when I left at 4:30 pm.

I heard that a tree went over on 191 around 5 pm, and as of 11:30 pm, traffic was still being diverted.

No sense of urgency.

At the courthouse, I had wasted an hour with my thumb up my ass. So did most of the courthouse workers. They couldn't do anything except gossip. No computers. No Voice IP. Even the $800 popcorn machine was out of service.  Most employees were afraid to walk out for fear that Amy Trapp would zip by in her hoverboard and nail 'em.

After leaving the courthouse, I dreaded going to a meeting in Bethlehem Township, where you usually need an aircraft carrier to get around after a heavy downpour. But the Township was OK.

After writing up my story about Bethlehem Township,I wanted to tell you about Kevin Dolan's appearance before Northampton County Council last week. He's the director of Northampton County's Children, Youth and Family Division. What he had to say is very troubling.

In order to tell his story, I wanted to watch the video of his appearance As difficult as this may be for some of you to believe, I like to quote people accurately. I almost always watch the video of a meeting before I write my story, even if I was there. But at midnight, Northampton County's website was down. Easton City was working fine, as were several Easton businesses. But not the county. Its subpar website is really only good for meeting videos, and now even that has failed.

So that's another story that needs to be told but has to wait.

The one good idea Donald Trump has had is his promise to do something about our infrastructure. That increasingly appears to be an empty promise.          

 

Where's My Bethlehem Township Story?

When I attend a meeting in Bethlehem Township, I try my best to have story up at midnight or soon thereafter to both inform you and be educated by you.  This is what I consider my first draft. Later in the week, after digesting your comments and correcting errors that you've pointed out, I re-write the story for The Bethlehem Press.

That small weekly has decided it would like to be a bit more spontaneous. So about once every month, I will overnight a meeting story and watch as my first draft is published there instead of here. My lucky number came up last night with Bethlehem Township. So you should see my story in The Bethlehem Press sometime today, hopefully this morning.  I will update this post with a link when it happens.

What happened? Did Township Commissioners decide to do something about all-terrain vehicles, which have terrorized some residents?  Was Breslin there? How's the Brodhead Road reconstruction project going? Is Mike Hudak against it or is he upset that trucks in the industrial park have ruined the road?  Did Commissioners agree to hire a part-time clerk? Was the public opposed? Are township employees and firefighters getting a discount at the community center?   Are they giving a discount to bloggers, too? Does anyone know why Coroner Zach Lysek came and asked everyone how they were feeling?

My story is written, and hopefully, you'll be able to see it soon.

Updated 8:47 pm - The story appears here.
 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Eat Chicken!


Eat chicken! Ron Angle now has four calves on his farm. The one above is getting a little kiss from his mother.


These twins are constantly at their mother. Despite her plea for help in cow language, I had no sympathy. That's what she gets for failing to take precautions.

.
And then there's Blizzard, a bull born during a January snowstorm.

Some people golf. Ron Angle likes to watch his cows and go to meetings.

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Plainfield


For the past few days, a 3/5 size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall has been in Plainfield Township Community Park. Today is the last day you can see it before this traveling memorial moves to its next destination in West Orange, NJ.

When I visited yesterday, I was struck by the number of people who were visiting, even though it was incorrectly listed as being at the Municipal Park. They were very quiet.

Along the wall were a number of makeshift memorials in memory of soldiers from this area who gave their life.Between 1965 and 1974,1.3 million people lost their lives in that war.

Here are some interesting statistics:

Youngest Vietnam KIA - 15 years old.
Oldest person on the Wall - 63 years old.
At least 5 men killed in Vietnam were 16 years old.
25,000 of those killed were 20 years old or younger.
More than 17,000 of those killed were married.
Veterans killed on their first day in Vietnam 997 (unconfirmed)
Veterans killed on their last day in Vietnam 1,448 (unconfirmed)
Number of Chaplains on the Wall - 16 (2 Medal Of Honor)
Number of Women on the Wall - 8 (7 Army, 1 USAF - 7,484 served)
There are 226 Native Americans on the Memorial.
There are 22 countries represented on the Memorial.
The most casualties for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 casualties.
The most casualties for a single month was May 1968, 2,415 casualties were incurred.
Three sets of fathers and sons were killed.

Steel Stacks Receives Rudy Bruner Award


Though both The Express Times and Morning Call have beat me to the punch on this one, I still want to note that SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus in Bethlehem is the recipient of this year's Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. That award means more than some plaque. It carries with it a $50,000 cash award to enhance the project.

Steel Stacks, as we in the Lehigh Valley all know, has replaced a rusting steel mill with a public plaza that includes Levitt Pavilion outdoor amphitheater, Bethlehem Visitor Center, ArtsQuest Center, PBS39 public broadcasting center, and Hoover-Mason Trestle Park. Nearly every day of the year, there's something to do there. If Bethlehem is the jewel of the Lehigh Valley, and I think it is, Steel Stacks is the jewel of Bethlehem. It represents everything that is right about urban living, something that even a hick like me can understand and appreciate.

Without visionary leaders like Jeff Parks, Mayors Don Cunningham and John Callahan, this never would have happened. But all three of them would tell you that it is another pioneer who turned their dream into reality.
Tony Hanna and his wife of  44 years.
That person is Tony Hanna. You usually only see his name in the papers when something has gone wrong. But behind the scenes, he is the man who made it happen. He put decades of planning skills to work, and even now, as Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority, he continues to add to the city's arts district. His vision is of "a public gift, a place that is helping to reinvent and redefine our city while embracing and celebrating its cherished industrial past." Jeff Parks has also called Steel Stacks "a permanent gift ... that will attract the creative workforce that we need to be successful in the future."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How Could Navy Destroyer Collide With Filipino Container Ship?

The USS Fitzgerald, a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, was in a collision over the weekend with a Filipino container ship. Seven sailors are dead.

“It won’t be just the navy that gets the lash here,” said John Kirby, a retired rear admiral. “Careers will be dashed. People will be punished. Short of battle at sea, navy warships are not supposed to hit anything – not the ground, not each other, and certainly not container ships in the middle of the night.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Brief History of My Life

Though you must often think otherwise, I actually do have some friends. One of them, on the occasion of my upcoming 39th birthday, has written a mostly accurate biography of my life. I thought I'd share it with you. I'd like to identify this raconteur, but he has threatened to pull monkeys out of my ass if I do.

Friends, I realize I'm a little early here, but I'd like you all to remember to wish Bernie O'Hare a very happy, and special birthday this weekend. On Sunday, June 18, Bernie will turn 666 years old, and I'm sure you all understand the significance of that milestone for one of his....I don't know...is species the right word? Hell, we'll go with that: species. Since most of us only know Bernie as our colorful local blogger, I thought I’d add some little known facts about his earlier life.

Born in the year 1351 A.D., in the wee village of Bally Focáil Leat, County Feisigh do Thoin Fein, Bernie was predeceased by his parents, a humble shepherd, and a prized Galway sheep. As an orphan, Bernie was initially raised by the local parish priest, a man known for his kind heart and remarkably poor judgment. When the inevitable exorcisms failed, Bernie was run out of the village, and eventually expelled from Ireland. As a result of this, he naturally chose to practice law.

Wanderlust took the (relatively) young O’Hare, and he travelled the world as an itinerant attorney, making stops in London in 1665, Vienna in 1679, and Sweden in 1710. Advances in both European weapons technology and pubic hygiene standards, however, eventually led Bernie to the New World, landing in Pennsylvania in 1763.

A proud veteran, Bernie served the military in the Revolutionary War (U.S.A), the Civil War (C.S.A), the Great Sioux War of 1876 (U.S.A., Lakota, and Shoshone), World Wars I, II, and III (he doesn’t like to talk about the latter), and the Korean Conflict (DPRK). As a soldier, Bernie was primarily responsible for shooting the wounded.

Pictures of Bernie are hard to come by, as he doesn’t really show up on film, but I’ve managed to locate some old woodcuts of Bernie in his youth. The first is of Bernie litigating in front of some villagers, the second of him at a window, accepting a fee from some grateful clients.

Happy Birthday, you Magnificent Bastard

Did This Blog Inspire Gun Violence in Alexandria?

I'm expecting a knock on my door any minute. You see, this blog is apparently responsible for the recent gun violence against Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others in Alexandria yesterday. Although some wackadoodle named James T. Hodgkinson is the person who pulled the trigger, it's because of pricks like me. That's what Jamie Kelton, who sometimes graces us with her presence, is saying on another blog. "[T]he level of vitriol posted [at Lehigh Valley Ramblings] against the President by those who do not identify themselves is exactly the kind that pushed this nut over the edge to engage in political assassination." Ironically, Jamie Kelton is actually a pseudonym for someone else.

The truth is that violence knows no ideology or religion. And thanks to Trump, civility has all but disappeared, even when people like Kelton use fake names to identify herself.

NorCo Council Approves Five Space Projects

Matt Dietz and his busy Open Space Committee spearheaded the following grants at Council's June 15 meeting:

1) $7,000 for the 2000 linear feet Catasauqua Creek Riparian Buffer Restoration Project at Wayne Grube Memorial Park. The remaining $145,200 will come from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Pa DCNR) and other municipalities.

2) $75,000 for the Oughoughton Creek Restoration Project in Lower Mount Bethel Tp. The remaining $225,000 will come from the Wildlands Conservancy, Martins-Jacoby Watershed Ass'n and Pa. Dep't of Environmental Protection.  This money will be used to restore 2.6 miles of a creek suffering from severe erosion, loss to agriculture, water quality degradation, severe flooding, downstream sedimentation issues and loss of fish and wildlife.

3) $200,000 to acquire Tekening Trail from Martins Creek LLC in Lower Mount Bethel. The remaining $600,000 will come from Lower Mount Bethel and DCNR. This will be a 4.5 mile trail system.

4) $90,300 for a conservation easement on 59.5 acres owned by Jay Deputy and Jon Walton. The remaining $101,700 comes from Upper Mount Bethel. This is swampland John Cusick and Mat Benol opposed this grant.    

5) $285,782.17 for upgrades to Monocacy Park in Bethlehem, including stabilization of a trail from Schoenersville Rd to Illicks's Mill, expansion of trails around the Memorial Pool, signage, benches and landscaping.  The remaining $286,000 comes from Bethlehem.

Morningstar to Float $34 MM GPA Bond for 48 Residences

Morningstar Senior Living, once known as Moravian  Hall Square, received permission from Northampton County Council last night to float a bond for as much as $34 million through the County's General Purpose Authority (GPA). The proceeds will be used to construct 48 independent living residences at its Upper Nazareth Township campus. These will be tax exempt, but the County shall in no way be liable for repayment in the event of default.

Ken Kraft was dubious. He questioned spending as much as $34 million for 48 residences. But his real concern was whether it would be built using local labor and at prevailing wages. Though he received that assurance, he was still unconvinced and was the sole Council member to vote No.        

Louise Moore Park to Get Public Water

Louise Moore is where county employees have their annual Easter egg hunt
When someone offers to do you a favor, expecting nothing in return, it's time to check your wallet. Sowhen  Easton Suburban Water Authority proposed, its own expense, to run an eight-inch water line along Country Club Road to provide water for Louise Moore Park, Peg Ferraro and Mat Benol were concerned. , along with two-inch laterals and even a pumping station.

Louise Moore Park is a 100-acre Northampton County owned park along Country Club Road in Lower Nazareth Township. It includes picnic pavilions, hiking trails, playground, tennis courts, a softball field, and community gardens. There's also a farmhouse and barn. It is serviced by well water and on-site septic. In addition to running a water line, Easton Suburban Water Authority also offered to provide two-inch laterals and even a pumping station.

Public Works Director Stan Rugis has said this will cost the water utility between $250,000-300,000.

Is this being done out of the goodness of its corporate heart? Or does the utility smell profits?

This area is precisely where a 645-unit apartment complex was pitched to Lower Nazareth Supervisors in 2014. It failed there and in subsequent appeals to Commonwealth Court.

Peg Ferraro told Council last night that her concerns were answered after speaking to a Supervisor and several residents. Matt Dietz spoke to Lower Nazareth Manager Timm Tenges,who told him that the water utility is simply making an upgrade.

This upgrade will come with fire hydrants,too.

So at their meeting last night, Northampton County Council voted 8-1 to grant an easement. The sole dissenter was Mat Benol.  

NorCo Council Tables Real Estate Assessor II Position

Late last year, Executive John Brown sought a temporary Assessor II position. It was easy to justify as a prelude to reassessment. But Council is having second thoughts about a request from Human Resources Director Amy Trapp to reclassify the position from temporary to permanent. In a 7-2 vote, they voted last night to table the request. The two dissenters were Seth Vaughn and Mat Benol, who generally vote for what Brown wants

Human Resources Director Amy Trapp told Council the day before that a permanent position is needed because the work this temp is doing is unfinished. In fact, this was supposed to be only a six-month job, but the assessor doing it is already working on her second six months.

Trapp also said there was no need to post the position internally because the only person who possesses the necessary qualifications is the temporary employee. She is in fact a former County employee who was previously employed as an Assessor III. Trapp may very well be correct when she asserts this is the only person who is qualified for this job, aside from other assessors. But what she was proposing would make a mockery of the County's Constitution, the Home Rule Charter.

The Charter requires open positions to be advertised internally so that people can bid on them. Under the Charter, this Assessor could be appointed provisionally (Section 804(e)) while the position is advertised Trapp instead just chose to ignore the Charter completely.

Another problem with this new position is that it is for an Assessor II. Why would a former Assessor III want to start over as an Assessor II?

Council's decision to table this new hire was without debate. Motions to table are never debated. But I suspect they are telling Trapp and the John Brown administration that they need to follow the Home Rule Charter. I also suspect that the explanation Trapp gave is inadequate.

Also, as someone who works with real estate myself,  I can say with some certainty that the County is insane if it expects to be able to do a reassessment with one new hire.

Upper Nazareth Stop Sign


You've got to have a sense of humor.

Gracedale Some Good News and Some Bad News

Earlier this week, I told you that ratings for Gracedale, the Northampton County-owned nursing home, have taken a nosedive. It has dropped from four stars in January to just one star as of today. To make matters worse, its going to stay there for some time.

This rating system is a product of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. One star, which means "much below average," is as bad as it gets for a nursing home.

Raymond Soto, Gracedale's Administrator, told Council he expects to see the nursing home to stay in the basement for some time, possibly until next year.

As disappointing as this poor rating is, there's some good news about Gracedale, too.

First, reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid are going up. The case-mix index (CMI) is at 0.91,and this is what determines how the nursing home gets paid. Both Soto and Human Services Director Allison Frantz explain that the negative rating has no impact, one way or the other, on reimbursements.

Second, Gracedale will be receiving a $2.2 million IGT, or intergovernmental transfer, from Uncle Sam at the end of June. NorCo Budget Administrator Doran Hamann, known for his fiscal conservatism, has told Council that he expects to see Gracedale break even or make a small profit again this year.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Testimony for 98' High LNG Tower Continues

Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board listened to over four hours of testimony last night in connection with UGI's request for a 98' high, 78' wide liquefied natural gas facility in Bethlehem at 2470 Ringhoffer Road. It will be located on an 83.91 acre tract of former Bethlehem Steel land that is now part of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park  The case will resume on July 12.

Allentown Attorney Tim Siegfried represents UGI, and has already presented at least five witnesses. Lower Saucon Township officials, who oppose the facility, are represented by prominent environmental attorney Charles Elliott.

I'll give you a run-down on the testimony tomorrow.

I can tell you that, if it were up to Zoning Hearing Board chair Gus Loupos, we'd all still be there. While everyone else was getting tired, he was still going full speed.

His secret?

Candy. He brought a bag of hard candy with him, and the sugar high did the trick.

Next time, I'm hiding it.

Will NorCo Ever Do a Salary Study?

Yesterday, after Northampton County's Personnel Committee voted to make a temporary Assessor II position permanent, in a sign of a looming re-assessment, Peg Ferraro asked Human Resource Director Amy Trapp whether the County is every going to do a pay study so that everyone is paid fairly.

Trapp had several answers. First, a salary study is "very, very expensive." Second, she does not want to give employees false hope of changes that may never occur, which she said would be bad for morale. Third, the County is waiting for a salary study completed by the County Comm'rs Ass'n of Pa (CCAP) every other year. Fourth, the County is participating in a study with Lehigh and other similarly-sized counties. Fifth, county policy requiring a salary study every two years is too frequent. Sixth, every year, she will be approaching a few positions where she knows that salaries are compressed. Seventh, she said that this is a financial decision that should be made by the Executive and Council.

Bottom line. There will be no salary study. Trapp will pick and choose the positions she claims to now are in need of increases. Which will just cause more disparity and depress morale.  

Bethlehem Leaders Claim To Work Together

Bethlehem City Council Prez Willie Reynolds has asked me to publish an op-ed that he and Mayor Bob Donchez have co-authored. I am happy to oblige. Though this story will also appear in both dailies, publishing it here gives me an opportunity to give my own perspective.

I do agree that Bethlehem leaders usually do find away to work together. But how hard is that in a one-party town? This is a real problem. Our urban centers are becoming increasingly Democratic while our suburban communities are moving to the right.

From the earliest days of the Moravians to the formidable industrial power of Bethlehem Steel to the contemporary era of revitalization, people have always wanted to move to Bethlehem to live, work, and raise a family. We have safe neighborhoods, strong schools, and opportunities for citizens of all ages, income levels, and backgrounds. The center of our City’s story has always been the idea that everyone in Bethlehem is part of a bigger community. It is a community that always finds a way to work together for a shared purpose.

The closing of Bethlehem Steel over twenty years ago has not prevented the continued vitality of our great City. Led by former Mayors Smith, Cunningham, and Callahan, our City persevered through difficult financial times to stabilize and regenerate itself into a diverse 21st century city of opportunity, vigor, economic and cultural promise. Many other cities facing comparable post-industrial challenges have not experienced the same levels of success and resiliency that have characterized Bethlehem over the past two decades.
A fundamental factor in the continuation of this revitalization has been the hard work of the City’s current elected leadership, department heads, employees, and citizens. During a time in our country’s history that finds many governments plagued by antagonistic competition between the executive and legislative branches of government, Bethlehem provides an example of what is possible when doing the right thing takes precedence over narrow self-interest. This type of cooperation has not always been the hallmark of our city government. Bethlehem has, in fact, seen its fair share of years where contentious acrimony overcomes commitments to the shared good. Thankfully, 2017 stands as a time of collaboration and teamwork among everyone involved in our City.

Our City Administration, with support from City Council, has made significant progress over the past four years in fortifying the City’s financial future while always making good on the promise to do more with less. Acting with a core commitment to the well-being of our community as a whole, the Administration has executed a number of pro-active financial measures, not designed to play to short term reactions, but rather to protect the long-term financial stability of the City while continuing to deliver the highest quality municipal services to our residents and surrounding communities. This progress throughout our City would not be possible without a shared determination by the Administration, City employees, and City Council to make the right, albeit not always easy, decisions.

Building on this collaborative foundation, the Mayor, City Council, and members of the Bethlehem community are currently working on several joint projects that will extend the progress we have made. With help from dedicated citizens and local environmental groups, our City has begun work on a Climate Action Plan that will put Bethlehem at the forefront of cities doing their part to battle climate change. North Side 2027, an initiative undertaken with cooperation from the Bethlehem Area School District and Moravian College, calls for increased investment in our north side residential neighborhoods. Social media and open data efforts currently underway will increase the efficiency and transparency of city government. Ideas emanating from several members of City Council have prompted constructive review of a variety of proposals that the City will consider to enhance openness and accountability within our governmental processes. As public officials elected to continue the progress inherent in the initiatives listed here, we sincerely encourage our fellow citizens of Bethlehem to join us in transforming these initiatives into policy.
At a time when many governmental bodies seem paralyzed by private ambition and divisiveness, Bethlehem should be proud that both its leaders and citizens have shown commitment to find ways to come together to move the City forward for both the present and the future. The sense of community and shared purpose manifested in that commitment is in fact, what makes our City so special; and why people want to call Bethlehem home.

Robert J. Donchez, Mayor of Bethlehem
J. William Reynolds, President of Bethlehem City Council

Is Water Offer to Louise Moore Park a Trojan Horse?

Louise Moore Park is a 100-acre Northampton County owned park along Country Club Road in Lower Nazareth Township. It includes picnic pavilions, hiking trails, playground, tennis courts, a softball field, and community gardens. There's also a farmhouse and barn. It is services by well water and on-site septic. So Peg Ferraro is wondering why Easton Suburban Water Authority is so anxious to provide, at its own expense, an eight-inch water line along Country Club Road, along with two-inch laterals and even a pumping station.

Northampton County Council is poised to grant an easement for this water line at its meeting tonight. Public Works Director Stan Rugis has said this will cost the water utility between $250,000-300,000.

Is this being done out of the goodness of its corporate heart? Or does the utility smell profits?

This area is precisely where a 645-unit apartment complex was pitched to Lower Nazareth Supervisors in 2014. It failed there and in subsequent appeals to Commonwealth Court.

This proposed easement should be tabled so that Lower Nazareth Township officials and residents have an opportunity to weigh in.

I see no reason why public water is so damn necessary for tennis courts and walking trails.

Coroner Zach Lysek MIA

Northampton County Coroner Zach Lyesek, known for asking everyone he meets how they're feeling, has been missing for several weeks. He was last seen in the company of Bethlehem Attorney Jim Broughal. The two were apparently headed to see Lysek's brand new 16-slice body scanner. Lysek had been telling everyone that Broughal looked a little pale.

"I treated him like the Viet Cong," said Broughal, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. "Coroner Cong."

Though asked to open a missing person investigation, DA John Morganelli refused. "Nobody liked the guy," said the prosecutor. "Every time he saw me he was checking my pulse."

Lysek is also known for sickening  the entire County Council with very graphic descriptions of what he does.

If you see him, pictured above, you are asked to do nothing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dent Expresses Concern Over Alexandria Shootng

Congressional Republicans practicing for a baseball game against Democrats were disrupted by a shooter who injured several people, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Congressman Charlie Dent has released this statement: "The news from Alexandria this morning is devastating. My thoughts and prayers are with my colleague Rep. Steve Scalise, the Congressional staffers, and police officers who were injured this morning. I am grateful for the courage of the Capitol Police and their quick actions this morning. Neither my staff nor I was at the practice, but we are continuing to monitor the situation.”

Boys' Basketball Summer League: ACCHS Squeaks By Bangor to Stay Undefeated

In what could be a prelude to District XI playoffs this coming basketball season, Allentown Central Catholics barely squeaked by Bangor last night at Cedar Beach park to remain undefeated going into next week's tournament.

In a game played on macadam so hot it could melt your sneakers, Jay Vaughan went down in the first half with a knee injury. Dat Lambert got into foul trouble, too. To add to his misery, he caught an accidental forearm to his throat the third time he got caught reaching. I was shouting, "Don't reach, young blood."  He smiled and then he went down when he and a baller collided. So he spent most if the first half on the bench, wondering whether his vocal cords would ever return. .

What kept the Vikings going against a Bangor team that just kept coming at them was inspired play by names you will hear a lot more when the season finally starts. Jordan McChristian. Keyshawn Kelman. Nick Filchner. Sammy Vaughan. Chad Kratzer. Jayden Walsh. Sean. These young men make the game exciting.

Kelman was no doubt the high scorer. He was everywhere. But he's in trouble. He loves to dunk. And with a little over a minute left and a very slim lead, he conned Chad into setting the ball up for a dunk. Against instructions. When Keyshawn went down for the dunk, the ball hit the rim and skyrocketed about 8,000', giving the ball back to Bangor.

At that point, Central's coaches skyrocketed about 9,000.'

After the game was over, and the coaches had finished speaking to their teams, Bangor's Bron Holland approached Central's Dennis Csencsits and the two exchanged pleasantries. I thought that sent a great message to the young players that both coaches mentor.

I have no stats to share. I keep those only during regular season.

I do have some good news for those of you who have been following Dat's career since he was a youngster. He's been invited to a few college prospects camps. Many kids I know have been to several, but this is the first time Dat received any invitations. Unfortunately, one of those camps is next week, and Dat will be unable to play in the tournament until Sunday, should Central still be in the hunt.

In an earlier game, I watched Becahi trounce Whitehall. Justin "JP" Paz, who incidentally is a high honors student, led the Golden Hawks. Caden Giordano had an outstanding game that included a beautiful three pointer from the outside corner.

Controller: Angle's Chrin Deal Has Produced $203k For Farmland Preservation

Ron Angle (right) with prominent Easton
barrister Gary Asteak
Back in 2010, Charlie Chrin wanted a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) for his 691-acre industrial park at the northern portion of Palmer Tp. That's a financing tool that would enable him to use the increase in property taxes to fund additional development. It must be approved by the local municipality, school district and county.

This TIF had already been approved by Palmer Tp and the Easton School Board. When it came to the county, the proposal had several powerful proponents. They included former State Rep Rich Grucela,  Easton Mayor Sal Panto and Dale Colver, Chair of  Palmer Tp's Board of Supervisors. It seemed like a slam dunk. But not to Ron Angle. He was bothered that the some of the best farm land in the county was going away. So he asked Council for permission to approach Chrin himself. They reluctantly agreed.

What Ron Angle knew, and the rest of council did not, is that Chrin considers himself at heart a farmer. He played on that, and got Chrin to agree to contribute 1.5% of the net sales price of all lots sold to the county until it had $2 million.

With that money, the county would be able to preserve nearly as much other farmland as it was giving up to Chrin.

So how much money has the county received?

Controller Steve Barron has just audited the 17 parcels involved. Three have been sold. Thus far, the County has received $204,000 from Chrin, and the money has been deposited in the Farmland Preservation Fund.

Fiscal Director Jim Hunter has agreed to keep annual tabs on these payments.

Ron Angle is no longer in office, but his deal has fattened county coffers bu $204,000.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trump Had Nothing to do with Pa Mine He Touts

Donald Trump and his myrmidons have wasted little time in taking credit fora coal man that opened recently in western Pa. He mentioned it in his speech withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. And again at a speech last week in Ohio. "Next week we're opening a big coal mine." And of course, he tweeted as well. "Congratulations! 'First New Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania' Breitbart, in a story entitled "Winning," quotes him as saying the opening is proof that he's keeping his campaign promise to produce jobs for miners.

Minors, too, if he can get those pesky child labor regulations reversed. That way little kids can go back to throwing lumps back into coal cars again. If they lose a few fingers like my grandfather did, well that's why they're born with 10.

But guess what? Do you want to know what Trump really had to do with the opening of the new Acosta mine in Somerset County?

Not a damn thing.

Construction on this mine actually began before the 2016 Presidential election. No federal funds or subsidies have been provided.In fact the sole source of public assistance is a $3 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

Also, the coal being mined is a far cry from the coal used to heat your home. It is metallurgical coal, used in the process of making steel and iron. Most of it will be shipped overseas instead of staying here and making America first.

Three Judge Palmer Stories

I'm sad to say I have no pictures of Clinton Bud Palmer, who was President Judge in Northampton County when I first started practicing. I tried my first case in front of him, representing a bar owner who made the mistake of selling booze to an undercover cop after hours. He then compounded his error by hiring me as his lawyer. Palmer let him off the hook. I think he felt sorry for the guy.

In those days, the judges always had lunch together in a little alcove right by Courtroom Number 1. They were served by the inmates, who at that time always had one or two chefs doing time. As good as the food looked and smelled, there is no way I would ever touch food that inmates knew was on its way to the guys who had sentenced them. But it was a different time.

During criminal court week, the President Judge would call out the cases to be heard that week on Monday. In those days, there might have been a hundred. I remember on one occasion, there was an older guy, dressed shabbily, sitting in the back with a paper bag. He looked inside from time to time.

This guy had been charged with some kind of petty offense. When his case was called, he got up and in a loud and booming voice, said "Guilty, your Honor."

Judge Palmer called him up to explain and he did. He told the judge it was getting cold outside and he needed a place to stay.

"How about 30 days?"

"Could you make it 60?"

"If you don't shut up, I'll give you probation."

I told that story to a local veteran lawyer today and he added a few of his own.

This lawyer once represented a very nice little old lady who was unable to stop shoplifting, and had been before Judge Palmer many times. She was always very sorry. She always promised it would be the last time.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with you. I understand you have a problem, but I have to protect society, too."

"I know, Judge, I know."

"Life in prison."

The woman swooned.

"Just kidding."

The third story involves a person I call a wickey flicker,a guy who has some kind of compulsion to expose himself to women. I used to represent one of those guys. His name was Balz.

This story involves another wickey flicker, who had been charged with indecent exposure. He was in the back of the courtroom, probably feeling a little embarrassed, during a call of the list.  

Judge Palmer called the case and the guy just sat there But Judge Palmer had previous experience with the guy and called the case again.

"You've been charged with indecent exposure.Stand up! On second thought, sit down!"            

Kristallnacht, Trump Style

Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, is how we commonly refer today to what were actually two nights of organized violence against the Jews in Germany, Austria and parts of the Sudenland. Instigated by Joseph Goebbels, these pogroms were carried out by storm troopers and Hitler Youth. Not that there's ever been a good time, but that was a particularly bad time to be a Jew in Europe.

These days, it's a particularly bad time to be any kind of Middle Easterner in the United States. Violence against Jews continues, as it has for centuries. But now there's a new twist. Middle Easterners of all persuasions are in for it. Now Muslim women riding a train in Oregon can be subjected to ridicule, and two men who dare defend them are stabbed to death. And over the weekends, there was a Kristallnacht, Trump style.

Chaldean Christians fled to this country to escape persecution in the Middle East, where their numbers in Iraq alone have dropped from 1.5 million in 2003 to just 300,000 today.

Many of them have relocated to Detroit, whose population of 121,000 Chaldean Christians is the largest in this country. They largely voted for Donald Trump, but certainly are having second thoughts now.

On Sunday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began rounding up Chaldean Christians in Detroit to send them back to Iraq. They picked up between 30-40, according to The Detroit Free Press. According to CNN, one family was rousted at the beach.

Many of them have committed minor crimes (marijuana possession, assault) that are now decades old According to The Minority Humanitarian Foundation, which was organized for victims of ISIS, most of them are here legally.

RT, which claims the number of arrestees might actually be as high as 80, reports they have been bused away to Ohio, and they will be deported from there to Iraq.

I'm sure ISIS will welcome them with open arms.

“This is a deliberate attack on the Chaldean Catholic Assyrian community of Detroit by the Administration. They waited until Sunday when our community would be going to church and gathering with their families and have rounded up to 40-60 community members,” said Chaldean Christian lawyer Wisam Naoum. "We've been working on this around the clock. From what we are seeing, most of the people that have been detained do, in fact, have a criminal record. However, some don't and are just refugees getting caught up in the sweep. The vast majority of them it appears have already served their time, many times decades ago and often involving non-violent crimes like marijuana possession. Some have final orders of deportation and others don't. The bulk have been sent to Ohio and we are waiting to learn more about final destinations."

Whether they wear swastikas or American flag patches, this is how authoritarian regimes operate. In both cases, the innocent suffer. The rest of us look on, completely ambivalent to the notion that it could be us tomorrow.