Thursday, June 15, 2017
Bethlehem Leaders Claim To Work Together
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