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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are Labor Unions on the Rise?

These days, only 11% of the US workforce belongs to a labor union. That's down from 20% in 1983. But a Gallup poll released yesterday reveals that 61% of Americans now view unions favorably. That's the highest it's been since 2003. The all-time high was 75% in 1953 and 1957.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, said yesterday that it's difficult to work with the Trump administration because they are either racists or Wall Streeters.

Authoritarian Donald Trump is reportedly considering restrictions similar to what exists in Wisconsin, which that will prevent federal workers from organizing. But auto union worker in the Midwest helped elect him.  

Toomey Town Hall at PBS

US Senator Pat Toomey will conduct a televised town hall at the Steelstacks PBS Studios at 7 pm. This is open to ticketed members of the public only.

I'll be covering this for The Bethlehem Press. I received a telephone call from someone in Toomey's office yesterday, asking if I'd be there for the weekly newspaper or my blog. Since I was actually assigned to cover this, I answered I'd be there for the newspaper. But since Toomey's office said he'd answer questions from the media at the end, I thought I'd give you the opportunity to suggest questions. Then, when my story publishes, I'll link to it here.

Post your questions in the comments below. Let's try to be civil.

My chief question is why someone needs a ticket to see his US Senator.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Justin Simmons is Gonna' Need a Bigger Boat




LV Congressman Charlie Dent was listed as one of Justin Simmons' top contributors in his always contentious races for the state house.But that was then. Simmons is now planning to take on Dent. If he's serious, he's just signed a death warrant for his political future.

"I for one can no longer stand by as Congressman Dent continues to be a representative to K Street in Washington D.C.," says Simmons on his Facebook page. "I want to be a representative for all the citizens in the 15th congressional district."

Simmons is hoping to surf his way into Congress on a wave of resentment from Trump backers and the tea party.

What he fails to realize is that there are sharks in 'dem 'dar waters.

One of the biggest and nastiest of these great whites is none other than Charlie Dent.

Nice guy. Hardest campaigner I've ever seen, and one who goes for the jugular.

I once asked him why he runs such tough campaigns, and the usually loquacious Congressman answered me pretty completely in one sentence. "There are only two ways to run - hard or unopposed."

Let's look at some of his victims.

Charles "Don't call me" Charlie Dertinger. - Never heard of him? He was a Northampton County Councilman who made the mistake of taking on Dent. When that race was over, so was Dertinger's political career. Ron Angle easily defeated him. Twice.

Sam Bennett. - Dent raised questions about Bennett's excessive salary at Properties of Merit, putting her on the defensive. Every mistake she made, and she made plenty, was highlighted. When she tried to run for Mayor, she was already defined as a nut and there was nothing she could do to shed that image.

John Callahan.- John was a fairly popular Mayor in Bethlehem, but Dent portrayed him as a spendthrift. Dent portrayed a Callahan push for a 1% hike in sales tax as a sleazy move. Callahan was so badly damaged after that race that he was unable to win an Exec race against a political unknown from Bangor.

The only reason Rick Daugherty was never destroyed like the others is that Rick waved the white flag early. He never ran a serious race.

Simmons has run against weak candidates, but the elections have always been far closer than they should be. Now he is reportedly challenging one of the few grown-ups left in Congress.

Charlie probably could be beaten in a GOP primary with the right candidate. That candidate would have to be from the western part of the district.

Justin, you're gonna' need a bigger boat.

John Brown's Spotty Voting Record

John Stoffa never missed elections; John Brown
never bothered.   
Northampton County Executive John Brown likes to portray himself as Captain Corporate America, a man who devoted his business career to saving failed businesses. He gave all that up for us. But as I explained to you on Friday, the truth is much different. Thanks to a deposition of John Brown himself, taken in 2014, I can tell you that he saved no corporations. He mostly worked in what I would call lower or middle management. He did manage to get fired twice, and actually spent a year in customer service at Majestic Athletic Wear, where the only job requirement is a high school diploma. At the last place he worked, he was laid off in 2008 when the Great Recession hit. He went into the public sector because he needed a job. He had no interest in politics or government, and that is borne out by his very spotty voting record.

In his 2014 deposition, he was asked about his entry into politics.

Q. How did you get involved in politics?
     A. Decided to run for mayor and that was my introduction to politics.
Q. Had you been actively involved in politics previously?
     A. No.
Q. Are you a registered Republican?
     A. Yes.
Q. When did you register as a Republican?
     A. I don't know specifically.
Q. Approximately?
     A. Within the last 10, 15 years.
Q. Prior to that time were you registered?
     A. I believe I was registered independent.

From his deposition, we know that Brown graduated from high school in 1979 and from college in 1983. He should have registered to vote sometime in that period. But Northampton County's voting records show that he waited until October 3, 1995, before doing so. That's 12 years after his college graduation.

Brown said he registered as a Republican 10-15 years ago, and prior to that, was an Independent. The elections records show that he registered 22 years ago, and was always a Republican.

After registering to vote in 1995, he failed to show up at the polls and vote in the municipal races that year. Nor did he vote in the 1996 elections in which incumbent Bill Clinton was re-elected. He also skipped the 1997 municipal race in which Robert Janus was elected Mayor of Bangor. Two years later, Janus was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty in a drug sting in which he was accused of selling cocaine from a bathroom in the Sportsman's Bar and tipping off dealers.

A former Bangor Mayor, Duane Miller, said that "the townspeople abdicated their responsibility" in that election, and Brown was certainly one of them.

After being registered to vote in 1995, Brown cast his first vote in the 1999 municipal primary. But he failed to follow through and vote in the general election that year.

He also skipped the municipal elections completely in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

He only began voting regularly in 2009, when he himself decided to run for Mayor in Bangor.

He needed a job.

The conduct of elections is a county responsibility. He now administers an office he routinely ignored when he was in the private sector.

Prior executives have always taken this responsibility very seriously. One of Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried's proudest moments was when he and his lovely wife were honored for voting for 50 years straight. Glenn Reibman and John Stoffa have both received this honor. When he was Executive, John Stoffa often conducted ceremonies to honor 50-year voters.

Democracy, after all, is no spectator sport.

While I was at it, I checked the voting records of Lamont McClure and the candidates for County Council. All but one are impeccable. Bill McGee, for example, has voted in every election without fail since he first registered in Northampton County in 1996.

One Council candidate, solar panel salesperson and author Tara Zrnski, has a spotty voting record.  She registered to vote in 2000, but has only voted 11 times. She skipped the municipal elections in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. That's right. She never cast a vote in the races in which John Brown was elected over John Callahan.

It is difficult for either Brown or Zrnski to claim they care about county issues when they've missed most of the elections.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Doctor To Heal Bethlehem City Council


Bethlehem's City Council races are no longer uncontested. Incumbent Council members Adam Waldron, Bryan Callahan, Olga Negron and Eric Evans all ran unopposed in the Spring primary for four-year at-large terms. Each is a Democrat and will be on the ballot in November. Negron, who lives on the City's south side, was the top vote getter with 1,850 votes.    

Paige Elizabeth Van Wirt, a physician with a practice in Allentown, has decided to stage a write-in campaign.  Dr. Van Wirt also has a Master's degree in Urban Planning . She is probably the most qualified candidate running for anything in the Lehigh Valley.

She resides in Bethlehem's historic neighborhood on the north side.

She was concerned when Bethlehem City Council rejected a comprehensive ethics reform ordinance authored by Negron and Michael Colon in favor of a weaker version. In letter to The Morning Call, she slammed Bryan Callahan's "outrageous request" for the names of those who assisted Negron and Colon.

Things like that do have a chilling effect on those who want to participate in their own government.

It wasn't me, Bryan! Honest!

In a Facebook message, Dr. Van Wirt states "there is an urgent need to change the way Bethlehem City Council listens to, and responds to, the Citizens of Bethlehem."

Despite her impeccable qualifications, she must know that a write-in campaign is virtually impossible, as it will be for Ray O'Connell in Allentown.

But it might give her visibility for a race in two years.

I know very little about Dr. Wirt, but hope to sit down and get more details.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Do You Remember When Republicans Were Republicans?

Dent discusses business climate
Although it seems like an eternity, Republicans were Republicans until last year, when Authoritarian Donald Trump preyed on the nation's fears and prejudices to divide us like we've never been divided before and win an election. Nowhere is that division more apparent than in the party of Abraham Lincoln our one and only Poet President. It is he who declared, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," during his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858. Our house is divided against itself, and the chief demolition expert is Donald Trump.

Last week, I stopped at a fundraiser being hosted by US Senator Pat Toomey for Republican John Brown. A gaggle of protesters were across the street from the swanky Blue Grille. I thought it would be Tuesdays with Toomey, a group of Democrats who are after Toomey to hold a town hall. Instead, it was Republicans.

Tom Campione, Chair of the LV Tea Party explains.
We, the Lehigh Valley Tea Party were there to remind Toomey that we expect him to support the agenda that we voted for, Repeal ObamaCare, Cosponsor National Reciprocity, Tax Reform, etc. Toomey waited until 1 hour before the polls closed on election day, to express support for Trump. Then he wonders why no one is countering the daily demonstrations that his friends on the Left are running in front of his office. He wonders, "where is my conservative base?" Well, we wonder, "where is our conservative Senator?"
What bothers him more than anything is that Toomey, a very conservative Senator who actually drafted the Repeal legislation for Obamacare, took his time before deciding to endorse Trump.

Congressman Charlie Dent, who dared to oppose Trump's election and his poorly conceived health insurance bill, is in far worse shape than Toomey. He's persona non grata to the Northampton County GOP, and was even snubbed at their Lincoln Day breakfast.

Except for his nationalism, Trump reverses his own policies about as frequently as the wind changes.This has nothing to do with ideology or issues.

It's instead about loyalty.

If you are loyal to Trump, you could open up an abortion clinic and you'd be fine. But if you oppose Trump on anything, it makes no difference how conservative you are.

Which brings me to Dent, one of the few grown-ups in Congress.

I saw him last week when the Grocery Manufacturing Association stopped at Freshpet for a tour and a discussion of the food and beverage industry.

Dent laid out a blue print of what he'd like to see to improve the business climate.    

Dent said that the 35% American corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world, should be dropped to around 20%. He said Congress in its tax reform will be trying to bring that rate down while "clearing out some of the regulatory underbrush" that makes it difficult for Billy Cyr's FreshPets to expand.

"It takes forever and a day to build new capacity," said Dent, noting the problem exists with bridge repairs, too.Though Pennsylvania's bridges are among the worst in the nation, any repairs require lengthy ten-step environmental reviews.

"Time is money," he observed..

Finally, Dent stressed a need for high-tech jobs. "If we don't have people with the skill sets here, the jobs might go to where the skill sets are,and that might not be America," he warned.

Dent stated that tax reform and infrastructure are closely related. We have to pay for infrastructure somehow," said Dent, adding that there's "no better way to do it than tax reform."

He was measured and knowledgeable

And very Republican.

Friday, August 25, 2017

NorCo Exec Brown Fired Twice, Laid Off, in Business Career

John Brown
When John Brown ran for office four years ago, all we knew about his past employment was that he came from the private sector and called himself a "consultant." When asked, he either dodged the question or gave cryptic replies. I now know why. In his business career, John Brown has been fired twice. He was also laid off in 2008. Right after that is when he became a "consultant." He was able to campaign door-to-door in Bethlehem because, for all practical purposes, he was jobless.

How do I know all this?  From John Brown himself. No, he didn't call me up and say, "Bernie, your readers are going to love this!" I know this from reading his deposition, under oath, on October 24, 2014. That was taken after he was sued for violating the due process rights of Jill Mancini, an Assistant Solicitor

He lost the case, both in front of a jury and then on appeal to the Third Circuit.

Brown graduated in 1979 from Bangor High School, and then from Notre Dame University in 1983 with a B.S.degree in microbiology. Not business.Not economics. Later, he did take courses at Moravian, Lehigh and Lafayette with an eye to obtaining an M.BA.. But he never competed his coursework.

His first job after graduation, amazingly, was not in the sciences. He went to work for municipal bond broker J.J. Kenny in NYC. After five years, he was canned. His explanation?" "Basically I wasn't able to -- the time required for the job I couldn't do while I was commuting."

From bond trader, he sunk to the customer service department at Majestic Athletic, then located in the Slate Belt, where he stayed a year.

My grandson's mother worked in customer service at Majestic Athletic for two years.

Maybe she should be Northampton County Executive.

Brown left Majestic Athletic voluntarily in 1989, and went to work for  Columbia Chemical Co., which basically provides the surface finishing for your dining room table. He lasted at this job for eight years, the longest period at any job he'd had. This time, he was in sales and even became a regional sales manager. But in 1997, he was fired again. His explanation? "Essentially I disagreed -- looking for movement within the company that couldn't be done, so they felt it was best if I moved on."

After being fired a second time, Brown found work at Chr. Hansen Co, a Danish bioscience company that develops natural solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. He became a sales manager and a VP in pharmaceuticals. He worked out of worked in Mahwah, NJ. He lasted five years and quit in 2003. Explanation? "They were changing -- I left them."

From Chr. Hansen, Brown went to work for International Specialty Products, which manufactures specialty chemicals and is now owned by Ashland. He worked out of Wayne, NJ. He was let go in 2008, perhaps a victim of the Great Recession. They "downsized the department and I was laid off."

So of necessity, Brown became a consultant known as "John Brown and Associates," working out of his house. He never incorporated. He was unable to explain or identify any of the so-called associates in John Brown and Associates.

Brown claims he made a living, but I doubt it, especially during the Great Recession. So my guess is that a man who had been apolitical his entire life and who rarely voted,  suddenly turned to government for a livelihood.

After two years as Executive, Brown set his sites on higher office - state auditor general.

On his campaign website, he claimed to have "spent most of his career working in the private sector turning around unprofitable businesses by making them more effective, efficient and successful."  He told the GOP faithful that his background was in the private sector, flipping businesses that were failing financially.

As you now know, these statements are untrue. Brown's portrayal of himself as a savior of troubled businesses is simply false. He was a salesman, a bond trader and worked for a rag mill in customer service, a job that any high school grad can do. .

After misrepresenting himself to the entire state of Pennsylvania, Brown thinks you're stupid enough to re-elect him. And he may be right. After all, Northampton County voters went for Trump, and he's a serial liar.

But I'm hoping he's wrong, and gets fired for the third time. This time by the voters.

Easton High Grad Appointed to West Point

U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright has announced that Easton Area High School graduate Matthew Horace has been accepted to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point.

Matthew is the son of Matthew and Dawn Horace. While attending Easton Area High, Matthew held leadership roles on his high school and club lacrosse teams and participated in the Spanish Honor Society and the Eastern PA Conference Student Athlete Character and Sportsmanship Council. He was also a volunteer for community activities hosted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NOBLE) and 100 Black Men of Northern Jersey.

“Nominating students for the Unites States Academies is among the most gratifying responsibilities for a Member of Congress,” said Rep. Cartwright. “These students exhibit commendable academic achievement and perseverance to earn these nominations. Matthew is a talented and qualified young man; I commend him for his dedication and perseverance, and congratulate him on his acceptance into the Military Academy Prep School.”  

In order to attend one of the military academies, students must receive a nomination from their Member of Congress. Students may apply to the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy. If the incoming freshman class has been filled, students demonstrating significant promise and ability will be admitted to a prep school for additional military and academic training prior to consideration for admission to the academy the following year. Prep school students will receive a full scholarship as well as a stipend as active members of the military.
 
Rep. Cartwright added, “Throughout our nation’s history, U.S. Service Academies have played an important role in preparing young people for service to our country. As a Pennsylvanian, I am proud of our patriotic young men and women who are willing to step forward and answer the call of duty. It is an honor to play a role in preparing our next generation of leaders.”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

DaVinci Science Center Wants NorCo to Pay $15 Million For Easton Aquarium


Allentown's DaVinci Science Center would like to relocate to Easton. This is thanks in no small part to a $30 million pledge by Easton Mayor Sal Panto towards a $130 million aquarium. Last night, at the first of four town halls concerning this project at Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem, Executive Director Lin Erickson revealed that she'd like Northampton County to help pay for the Easton location with hotel taxes. She failed to say how much she wants, but former Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin said the ask is $15 million.

About 30 people* attended this inaugural town hall. Three more are scheduled this and next week in Bath, Easton and Bangor.**

Easton Mayor Sal Panto, aka
tom18017, aka roverfan73
Last night's town hall was billed as one in which comments, questions and suggestions were being sought. Erickson said she was interested in what others think. But those would have to come during "break out" sessions following initial presentations by her, Easton Mayor Sal Panto and a San Francisco architectural firm that just arrived that day.

Many of the 30 people who attended last night are already involved in the project in some way, like Northampton County Councilperson Peg Ferraro and Discover Lehigh Valley's Mike Stershic. Bethlehem school superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy was there, along with several teachers. Representatives of the Wildlands, which has a contractual relationship with Northampton County and is apparently interested in partnering with DaVinci in some way, were on hand. So were numerous reporters. But not many actual Bethlehem residents. Aside from Ferraro, no one from Northampton County Council was there. Nor was anyone from Bethlehem City Council. Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez was also absent.

Though Erickson and Panto were slotted to speak for a combined 25 minutes, Mayor Panto by himself went on for 40 minutes.

"This is a community project," started Panto. "It is not my project. It is not Easton's project." He said that what attracts him is not the aquarium (there will apparently be both a freshwater tank and a saltwater tank with sharks and, for same reason, jellyfish). What draws him is the Science Center's commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

On four occasions, he called critics of the plans "naysayers." He said Easton gets $1.5 million per year from 400,000 visitors to Crayola. The aquarium will draw 600,000, he claimed, and the entertainment tax on admission fees will pay debt service on a $30 million loan.

"You think I don't know it's in a flood plain?" he scoffed at one criticism, noting that City Hall itself is in a flood plain.

He never got around to saying what he'd do in the event of a flood. Maybe he'd have his rubber stamps on City Council adopt an ordinance prohibiting floods. I don't know.

He also argued the Science Center would be great for schools because there could be field trips. He added that, one or two days a year, the Science Center will open its doors to the poor.

Calling Easton a "European design town," he then talked about his legacy. He said he doesn't think about it much, "but when I'm gone, I hope you feel better."

I know I will.

Then, for some reason, he briefly mentioned solar panels.

Erickson said she knows there are going to be parking issues, but "we like the urban environment." She hopes to partner with the Wildlands which she said will take people out in boats to teach them about the river. She also mentioned kayaking and bike trips between Bethlehem and Easton.

There's no need for an aquarium to do that.

In her presentation, she completely glossed over the fact that, this far, she has still failed to raise the $1.2 million needed to determine whether this project is even feasible. But DaVinci went ahead and hired an architect to design the site. That firm, as I told you on Monday, is San Francisco's EHDD.

EHDD's Duncan Ballash said he's excited and then he and an associate detailed several of their past projects. I heard no mention of Easton's deeply rooted colonial history. In fact, they know nothing about it or the Lehigh Valley. Their focus was a 4-D immersion theatre where you could feel water being sprayed into your face.

Without an unbiased feasibility report, this is nothing more than a pipe dream and a waste of Northampton County tax dollars.

A glorified fish tank.

In the past, Northampton County did fund the Steelstacks project. But that was only for $1 million, and over a period of several years. There was a feasibility study and lots of cash on hand already.

Northampton County receives about $2.5 million in hotel taxes every year. This is based on a 4% room rental fee at county hotels. But Discover Lehigh Valley, the regional tourism agency, gets 68.75% of that tax ($1.7 million) pursuant to state law. Another 18.75 percent ($468,000) goes for tourism and community development. The rest ($332,000) can only be spent on developing facilities or marketing campaigns that will boost tourism. If all of this money is forked over to DaVinci, it will take the County 45 years to honor this commitment.

What's even more amazing is that the County will be paying public money to take a property that generates tax revenue off the rolls.
____________________
* The Express Times reports 50 people were there. I do a count at every meeting I cover, but it's possible I counted wrong and that Kurt Bresswein counted right.
** The three remaining town halls will be today at George Wolf Elementary School in Bath; Tuesday, August 29, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bangor; and Thursday, August 31, at Paxinosa Elementary School in Easton. All meetings start at 7 pm.

Trump Supporters Rally Outside Brown Fundraiser

Last night, Northampton County Executive John Brown held a fundraiser at the posh Blue Grille, located along Easton Avenue in Bethlehem Township. Since US Senator Pat Toomey was hosting it, I thought this event might catch the attention of some activists. It did, but it was pretty much the reverse of what I expected.

Instead of  seeing the Tuesday with Toomey, the activists who lined up across the street were Trump supporters. They were waving American and Trump flags. Some carried "Repeal Obamacare" signs, while others held signs saying,"Defend the 2d Amendment."

During the ten minutes or so that I was there, I noticed several cars beep their horns in support of this group. I also saw one woman roll her car window down and shout, "Dump Trump!" The group was friendly and many of them greeted me, even though they know I consider Trump a dangerous demagogue.

Why were they rallying outside the fundraiser for a Republican Executive who supported Trump and unilaterally slashed health benefits for county employees before he realized that he had violated several union contracts in the process? Why were they rallying outside a fundraiser hosted by a US Senator who supported the repeal of Obamacare?.

NorCo GOP chair Lee Snover said she was unable to make this event, but said the rally was basically a reminder.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

John Brown Charging NorCo Residents $200 to See Their own Senator

Rightly or wrongly, US Senator Pat Toomey has been criticized for failing to meet with his own constituents. Facebook group "Tuesdays with Toomey" camps outside Toomey's regional offices office every week. Well, Northampton County Executive knows what it takes to see Toomey. Brown's opponent in the Executive race, Lamont McClure, explains below

Dear Friends,

We have all wondered what it takes to actually get to talk to Senator Pat Toomey. Today, my opponent John Brown shows us it takes a private fundraiser and $200.

Throughout this campaign we have been talking about the Corrupt, Crony Filled and Callous ways my opponent has chosen to lead Northampton County. So today we are dedicating a page on our website to display all of the ways John Brown is Corrupt, Crony Filled and Callous.

The page can be found here:

Corrupt, Crony Filled and Callous

While there, be sure to click on the link to see how Lamont plans to Protect, Preserve and Prosper going forward if elected County Executive.

We also still need donations to make sure we have enough money to compete all the way through November 7th. You can donate online by clicking HERE or mail a check to the address below:

Citizens for McClure
4110 Scherman Blvd.
Bethlehem, PA 18020
Please understand that we are not permitted to accept any corporate contributions.


Thank you in advance for your generous support!  Share this link with your friends and family members when explaining why we need to Elect Lamont McClure County Executive!

Sincerely,

Lamont G. McClure
Democrat for Northampton County Executive
www.lamontmcclure.com

A Tour of Freshpet

Charlie Dent and Freshpet talk me down after I threaten to jump into a vat of chunky chicken. 
Yesterday morning, I attended what I thought was going to be a roundtable discussion by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which was held at Freshpet Kitchens in Hanover Tp. But before that happened, Freshpet was giving tours of its manufacturing facility, and I was one of those who tagged along. Freshpet makes dog and cat food, so you'd think that there's no need to take special precautions. You'd think wrong. It was like walking into an operating room. I won't need a shower for another 30 years.

Here's how it went down. The first thing I had to do was drop the camera because one of my pictures might give a corporate competitor a leg up. Same thing with the cellphone. I had to empty my pockets because I might drop loose change into a manufacturing vat and make a wish. I had to leave all but one of my pens behind, and that pen could have no top because I might drop that into Freshpet's Chunky Chicken.

I had to don a white labcoat (it took some time to find one that fits), hairnet, protective glasses and steel-tipped rubbers. I don't know about you, but I've never been good at putting on rubber boots. Tour conductor Steve Baas had to help me or I'd still be there. Then, before we walked into the plant, we had to stick our arms into this special tube that washed and disinfected us. We also had to walk through some soapy solution to clean the rubber boots we had just put on.

Inside, it was very high tech as various machines did most of the work. Cooking the food, sprinkling in the right veggie and spice mix, and then filling up bags in a vacuum to minimize pathogens.

This was no steel mill. Employees in lab coats and hairnets monitored computer displays while machines did most of the work

Samples of every food manufactured are then kept for 24 weeks, which is the shelf life of the food. If a dog or cat calls in with a complaint, the lab (not Labrador) will be able to run tests.

We then went into the lab, run by Drew Styring. Before any product leaves the plant, he and his team run a battery of tests that take 48 hours. Fat. Protein. Packaging and integrity. There is also a fully functional microlab that tests for yeast, mold and pathogens. Tests are also done on an hourly basis as products like Deli Fresh® Grain Free Chicken with Cranberries and Spinach go through the cooker.

My stomach was rumbling because it actually smelled really good.

"May I have a sample?"

"No."

In addition to plant workers, every person in HR and even the accountants are trained on quality control and safety.

Cross training.

Something Northampton County has never achieved.

Drew told me there has never been a recall. He said a state once claimed that something was wrong, but when he ran his tests and showed them, the state admitted it had goofed.

Then it was back inside the plant. But before that, we washed our hands again for the 10,000th time and walked through soapy water.

We finished the tour with the raw food a it comes in. No it is not soylent green. The chicken product I saw was compressed into squares. The food is all locally supplied.

Congressman Charlie Dent, who also went on this tour, was amazed. "I don't think I ever saw so much hygiene," he said.

He's never visited my estate. Besides, Authoritarian Donald Trump claims Washington is a swamp

(Blogger's Note: I'm still writing a detailed account abut the roundtable discussion, but that's for The Bethlehem Press. It is an interesting exchange about the sometimes conflicting interests iof business and government). 

Grocery Industry, By the Numbers

6.5% - Percentage of American household budget spent on food.

30% - Percentage of Russian household budget spent on food.

5.9% - Percentage of US jobs in grocery manufacturing industry

$59,100 - average wages and benefits of grocery manufacturing job

11 million - jobs in grocery manufacturing industry

$1.1 trillion - what grocery manufacturing industry adds to the nation's GDP

Sun Inn Gets Clearance For Distillery in Hanover Tp

According to the historic Sun Inn's webpage, alcohol was a staple of Colonial-era America. It hopes to replicate that time with Christmas City Spirits. Unanimously, Hanover Township Supervisors voted last night to allow Christmas City Spirits to operate a distillery at 167 N Commerce Way. These beverages will supply a tavern whose guest list at one time boasted George Washington, Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Ethan Allen, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Laurens, Richard Lee and Marquis de Lafayette.

It will be a distillery only. There will be no tasting room or retail sales. As explained by Attorney Mike Santanasto, you'll find those at the Sun Inn.

He and fellow distiller Brett Biggs, both of whom are Bethlehem Catholic grads, still need approvals from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the federal Tax and Trade Bureau. But once that happens, Christmas City Spirits will be in business.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Did You Like the Eclipse?

Unlike The Donald, during today's solar eclipse, I avoided looking directly at the sun. I was excited to watch the event with courthouse workers, but was taking no chances. My eyesight is shitty enough as it is.

When I get up in the morning, it takes me about 10 or 15 minutes before I can really read this computer.

I mentioned this to my eye doctor when he checked me out recently, and he said the same thing happens to him. "What do you expect at your age?" he asked.

While standing outside with courthouse workers, one of them was kind enough to let me borrow her eclipse glasses, and I took a quick look. .

It was amazing! I also did notice it cool down and get a little darker. Nothing like being in the path of totality, but still very nice.

Tonight, my eyes feel like someone stuck a hot poker in them. It's not the eclipse. It's allergies, which make my eyes burn.

That never happened when I was younger, either.

Yesterday, I expressed by doubts about the Easton aquarium proposed by the DaVinci Science Center.  I am disturbed to read a comment from someone that this nonprofit was charging $7.99 for $2 eclipse glasses. I don't know if this accusation is true, but if it is, that demonstrates pretty clearly what officials there really think of the public.  

German Grocer Coming to the Lehigh Valley


German discount grocer Lidl (pronounced like needle) is coming to the Lehigh Valley. It has plans for both Whitehall Township and Wilson Borough. And as Bethlehem Township Commissioners learned during their August 21 meeting, a 36,000 sq ft store has been proposed at Freemansburg Square. That's directly across the street from the recently constructed Shoprite Supermarket, but Lidl engineer Mike Jeitner stated that the company's strategy is to "entrench ourselves in corridors that already have traffic." he hopes to have all approvals in place so that construction can begin next year.

Lidl has humble beginnings. It was first established in 1973, at Ludwigshafen, with three employees. Today, there are over 10,000 stores in Europe. This expansion has spread to The United States. Although the stores here are chiefly located in Virginia and the Carolinas, Business Insider reports that it plans to open as many as 600 stores in the U.S.

Jeitner describes Lidl as a "specialty store. It will be something that definitely appeals to the American customer." Its chief competitor is Aldi, another discount grocer that is coincidentally also a German company. Like Aldi, Lidl is known for low prices and much smaller stores than at most supermarkets.

In other business, Commissioners tabled a $1.3 million contract for the exterior renovation of the Archibald Johnston mansion at Housenick Park. Bracy Contracting was the sole bidder, and its price is nearly twice the $675,000-750,000. This may be because many items were added during the bidding process, like alterations to the elevator shaft and removal of lead-based paint. But rejecting the bid would certainly delay the project and might actually add to the cost.

Work on this mansion has been paid from grants and a $2 million trust fund established by Janet Housenick, Archibald Johnston's granddaughter. Trustees Bill Leeson, Steve Baratta and Tim Brady advised Commissioners in writing that they want to see the exterior stabilization project started by September. "We reserve the right to review and change the annual contribution amounts if the exterior stabilization project is not commenced in earnest and on a continuous basis before September."

Trustee Bill Leeson, who is also Bethlehem's City Solicitor, was in the audience. He made no comments, and left after Commissioners decided to table their decision.

Commissioner Pat Breslin was absent, meaning that a decision on re-bidding this project would have to be made by four Commissioners. They opted to wait two weeks instead.

In an effort to be more transparent and enable the public to see the same documents they are reviewing, Commissioners approved a $21,600 expenditure to Entertainment Services Group so that several screens can be set up in the meeting room. "It's about time!" said Howard Kutzler. Malissa Davis added she was pleased to see this enhancement after sitting fir five years in the audience,often with little idea what was being discussed.

Finally, Commissioner heard a brief presentation from T and M's Greg Duncan. He was hired as the Township's stormwater engineer a year ago. He was He was charged with analyzing the existing system, creating a Stormwater Improvement Plan, developing a Stormwater Operation and Maintenance Plan and identifying funding mechanisms to pay for the work.

Duncan appears be nearing the completion ofhis analysis,and will be reporting monthly.

Monday, August 21, 2017

DaVinci To Pitch $130MM Aquarium to Public

DaVinci Science Center is taking its case to the public. The Allentown-based science museum will pitch its plans for a proposed $130 million aquarium, to be located in Easton, at four town halls over the next two weeks. These forums, all of them located in Northampton County, have been designed so that the public can learn more about the project, and offer feedback.

The town halls are scheduled as follows:

Wednesday, August 23, 7 pm, at Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem;
Thursday, August 24, 7 pm, at George Wolf Elementary School in Bath;
Tuesday, August 29, 7 pm, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bangor; and
Thursday, August 31, 7 pm, at Paxinosa Elementary School in Easton.

Three of the locations for these so-called town halls are schools where a large number of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches (Paxinosa - 72%, Northeast Middle School - 72.5%, and George Wolf Elementary - 23%). George Wolf Elementary is located in Bath, which claims it is so broke it is unable to afford a police department. In Bangor, 15.7% of the population is below the poverty level.

According to Da Vinci Executive Director Lin Erickson, its proposed Science City will bring education, tourism and economic development to Northampton County.

Easton Has Committed $30 million 

It has chosen the Easton Days Inn, located near the junction of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. That will be demolished and replaced with a 170,000 sq ft facility that includes a science center, a 500,000 gallon aquarium with large view panes, an Aquarium Restaurant and event center with seating for 500, an immersion theater, a creativity studio or "Fab lab," classrooms and offices.

One drawback of this site is its limited parking. Another, as Erickson herself noted, is that it is located in the flood plain. From time to time, it is itself an aquarium.

Its accessibility to Routes 22 and 78, as well as its proximity to New Jersey, are positive factor. But the biggest would have to be funding was also a major factor. "Mayor Panto stepped up with a commitment unlike any of the other cities," acknowledged Erickson.

Easton has agreed to contribute up to $30 million of the projected $130 million cost. Its population as of 2016 is 26,978, so that comes out to $1,112 per Easton resident. Nearly a third of its population is below the poverty level. Only half of its homes are owner-occupied. But  the City has an A-plus credit rating.

Previously, Mayor Sal Panto had hoped to enhance tourism with a national high school hall of fame. But that idea went nowhere.

Northampton County has committed $50,000

What about Northampton County?

Northampton County has contributed $50,000 in hotel taxes to help fund a $1.2 million feasibility study.

In February, Northampton County Council said No to a request for an additional $50,000. "When Jeffrey Parks came here, and wanted money for [Artsquest], he had all this stuff done already," noted Ken Kraft, who represents the Bethlehem district on Council. "I think it's really premature to throw money at a pipe dream. ... You keep coming back to the trough and I say No." Council President John Cusick shared Ken Kraft's concerns. "The taxpayers need to hold onto their wallets," he warned.

By June, Erickson reported that two-thirds of the $1.2 million funding needed for a feasibility study had been committed.

At the same time, DaVinci representatives have been quietly meeting individually with Council members.

They now want $5 million in hotel taxes.

DaVinci Hires Architect Despite Lack of Feasibility Study

Though no feasibility study has been done, DaVinci has also selected an architect  - San Francisco's EHDD. In a letter to Council members, she declines to name this firm. And then she names EHDD in a glossy brochure.

She fails to explain how an architect can be hired before it is known whether the project is even feasible.

Based on a comparison with the Chattanooga Aquarium, Erickson has previously projected that Easton's Da Vinci Center will draw 600,000 visitors annually. It will create $45 million in economic development, provide jobs for 200 people and generate $7 million in local tax revenue.

Chattanooga (528,000) is much larger than Easton (27,000), but Erickson noted that the population within a 50-mile radius of the Lehigh Valley is 7.1 million, seven times that of a 50-mile radius around the Tennessee site.

In its 20-year history, the Chattanooga Aquarium has attracted 18 million visitors, and hotel taxes in that area have increased 500%.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Romney: Authoritarian Donald Trump Needs to Apologize

From Mitt Romney's Facebook page: I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.

The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president's words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces--made up and sustained by men and women of all races--could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?

In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis--who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat--and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

How Do You Feel About Confederate Statues?

I deleted a number of comments in yesterday's post about Authoritarian Donald Trump's attempt to create a false equivalency between KKK and neo-Nazis on the one hand, and liberal counter protesters on the other. Most of them were arguments about whether we really need to tear Confederate statues. Some people feel they have historical significance. Others may have ancestors who fought for the south in the Civil War. They complain that it's unfair to judge these men by today's standards, and ask where it ends. Should we tear down the Washington monument because he owned slaves? Should we destroy statues in honor of Ulysses S Grant, who once stopped a train to eject every Jew who was on board?

Here's how I feel. I think these are primarily local, not national, decisions. People who live in New Orleans or Charlottesville understand their communities better than I and are entitled to deference. Also, it matters when a Confederate memorial was built. The sculptures in New Orleans and Charlottesville existed long before the Civil Rights movement, while the monuments in Baltimore were built right after WWII, during a time of racial unrest.  

I'd prefer to see statues to Christopher Columbus destroyed. He was a monster who practiced genocide and was so brutal to native Americans that Spanish locked him in chains.

I'd prefer to see Allentown, which is named after a Tory who would have hung George Washington if he could, renamed.

But these are primarily local decisions. I don't consider Allentown residents to be secret British spies, and understand that most Italians honor Christopher Columbus because they share a common heritage.

Brown Has Some Good Financial News for NorCo and Gracedale

John Brown
Although he usually passes when given the opportunity to speak, Northampton County Executive John Brown gave a brief report to Council at their August 17 meeting. He had good news and even better news.

First, he advised Council that the annual payment the County must set aside for worker's compensation claims has been decreased sharply, from $9 million to just $6 million. This means an additional $3 million will go into the general fund next year.

Second, he predicted that Gracedale should finish this year in the black, making it the second year in a row that the county's nursing home has actually made money. He cautioned that nothing is certain at this point and added that the money earned this year should be a little less than last year, when the facility closed the books with about $800,000.

In addition to Brown's good news, Gracedale Administrator Raymond Soto reported that Gracedale's Medicare rating is now two stars, thanks to an increase to two stars in its rating for "quality measures," which is resident care. This rating means the nursing home is "below average" as opposed to "much below average."

Raymond Soto, Premier's Administrator at Gracedale, had predicted to Council last month that the overall rating would stay at one star until next year.

This quality measures rating has increased as administrators have begun phasing in a new protocol that reduces the use of psychotropic drugs, which are often criticized as chemical restraints.

Dean Browning
In other business, Council welcomed former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, who told them a story about Juan Francisco López-Sánchez. He had been deported from the United States five times, but kept returning. He had seven felony convictions. He had just been released from prison in San Francisco, which refused to honor a request (called a detainer) by federal authorities to continue holding him.

After his release, Sánchez fired a stolen gun three times in the vicinity of Pier 14, a popular tourist destination. One of these bullets hit Kate Steinlein the back, puncturing her aorta. She died two hours later.

Kate's Law is a bill that increase the penalties for illegal aliens who commit crimes in this country after having been deported.

This bill has passed in the House with bipartisan support. Locally, both Congressman Charlie Dent and Matt Cartwright supported this measure.

Another bill, the "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act," has also passed the House with the support of both local Congressmen. This measure takes aim at what are known as sanctuary cities. First, it requires an annual list of all jurisdictions that refuse to assist federal authorities with the removal of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. Second, it removes any legal liability imposed on local jails that honor federal detainers. Third, it provides a private right of action against municipalities that refuse to follow federal immigration law.

Both of these bills are now in the Senate. Browning asked Council to adopt a resolution affirming support for these measures.

Hayden Phillips has agreed to sponsor this resolution.

Browning is still in Easton, by the way. Formerly an intellectual, he joined the tea party and has regressed. He now can only turn right and is stuck in the Easton Circle. Hopefully, Hayden Phillips will pull him out of there before he turns into a Democrat.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

USA Today: Feds Have 87% Conviction Rate in Local Political Corruption Cases

USA Today has a fascinating story on the federal investigation of political corruption. Though the story's focus is a federal investigation of political corruption in Tallahassee, it makes several observations that are directly relevant to the Fed Ed prosecution.

First, despite claims that the FBI's main focus is elsewhere, "Public corruption is the FBI’s chief criminal investigative priority and is something it does very well."

Second, when it comes to public corruption, its conviction rate is 87%.
"From 1996 to 2015, U.S. Attorney offices charged 5,411 local officials with public corruption crimes, earning 4,699 convictions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation in Tallahassee is one of roughly 5,000 the FBI launched from roughly 2012 to 2016 concerning allegations of public corruption, election crimes or government fraud."
Third, "Local governments are more vulnerable to corruption ... because there are fewer eyes watching. Payments typically don’t need to go through the same approval process required at the state and federal level."

Fourth, local pols are cheap dates. "Bribes can take the form of 'street currency' — dinners and sports tickets. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, prosecutors said all it took for Mayor Ed Pawlowski to dole out a city contract was a steak dinner, campaign contributions and tickets to a Philadelphia Eagles playoff game."

NorCo Sheriffs Have A Rich History


In Pennsylvania, where elected sheriffs are the rule, the guy who wins the election is usually one of the biggest tavern owners. Northampton County is one of the very few counties in which the Sheriff is appointed. Having seen them both, my view is that appointed Sheriffs tend to be far more professional, if only because the courts are given a voice in the selection process.But I'd prefer to see the appointments run for a staggered term of five or ten years to minimize the politics.

Northampton County has quite an interesting history when it comes to the Sheriff's office. As I've told you before, Deputy Sheriff Nathan Ogden was the first American law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty, back in 1771.

Sheriff Dave Dalrymple has managed to put together a complete list of the 71 individuals who have been Northampton County Sheriff since 1752.

Marmaduke McMichael was a Lieutenant during the War of 1812. We even have a Samuel Adams. But instead of brewing beer, he made steel and then became a gentleman farmer.

Trump and Charlottesville: Reaction of Local Exec Candidates

How do our County Executive candidates, in both Lehigh and Northampton County, feel about Donald Trump's assertion that there are "very fine people, on both sides," in connection with the tragedy in Charlottesville. I have responses from three of the four candidates:

Phillips Armstrong, Lehigh County Exec Candidate: "I condemn the violence and racism that was on display in Charlottesville this past weekend, and I say unequivocally that Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are always in the wrong. I don't believe it takes more than a minute to see that. I believe it is time to move beyond the divisions and supremacist groups in this country and to move forward as one team - Americans."

Brad Osborne, Lehigh County Exec Candidate: ""President Trump's condemnation of white supremacy and racial bigotry made this past weekend is the correct moral response to the events that took place in Charlottesville. There is no room to equivocate from this condemnation.

I also believe that the diversity of Lehigh County residents is one of our greatest strengths, and I look forward to working with leaders of all races and backgrounds as county executive."

Lamont McClure, NorCo Exec candidate: "The Nazis and White Nationalists are solely responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. Any other point of view, is an attempt to normalize the odious, outdated, discredited and repugnant beliefs they spew. If I'm elected County Executive, our people can be confident that all people, no matter their sex, religion, race, ethnicity or national origin, will be treated by their county government with the dignity and respect that they are due by virtue of their Humanity."

John Brown, NorCo Exec candidate: No response.

Fire Marshal Doubts Arson in Warehouse Blaze

Bethlehem Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Craig Baer has issued a statement downplaying the possibility of arson in the August 10 blaze at a Bethlehem warehouse being built at 3419 Commerce Center Boulevard. The property is owned by Majestic Realty, and is located next to a Walmart distribution center. No one was injured.

Baer has determined that the fire originated while the final roof surface was being installed. This involves the use of a highly flammable adhesive. "The vapors from this adhesive were likely ignited by one of multiple ignition sources on the roof," said Baer. "There is no evidence available at this time to indicate that this fire was intentionally set."

Baer cautions that his investigation is active and ongoing, and that a final fire cause is still pending. Any person who feels they may have valid information regarding this fire can contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 610-865-7143.

Bethlehem Response To Charlottesville? Holding Hands, Prayer


Over the weekend, as the 34th Musikfest came to an end, Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio had just one word to describe it - "Great!" Over the 10-day festival, over 1.2 million people visited the Christmas City. Only 36 people were arrested, mostly for public drunkenness. But 309 miles away in Charlottesville, Va., a  "Unite the Right"  rally ended in tragedy. Three people are dead. Dozens more are injured. A President first said "both sides" are to blame, then blamed white supremacists and the KKK, and finally returned to saying that "both sides" are responsible.

How did Bethlehem respond?

By holding hands. By praying.

That's what happened Tuesday afternoon at a 5 pm rally called by civil rights champion Esther Lee, who is also President of Bethlehem's NAACP. Nearly 60 people attended. They included clergymen, Bethlehem City officials and the Sierra Club's Don Miles.

"We here in Bethlehem condemn acts of hatred and are deeply saddened by the loss of life," said Mayor Bob Donchez. "We need to show those who divide us that we will not be divided. ... Tonight we are one with Charlottesville and its citizens."

Police Chief Mark DiLuzio stated we have devolved into a nation of "name callers." He said his father is probably "rolling over in his grave at the sight of American citizens giving a Nazi salute."n His father a WWII vet,is one of the 43,000 allied soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach because he did not want Nazism to come to the United States. "Well, Dad, it isn't coming here," asserted Chief DiLuzio. He said people throughout the nation are rising up to say, "We will not stand for or agree with your hatred and prejudice."

Speaking for the Sierra Club, Don Miles read a statement stating that the white supremacists are not patriots, but "vile and unacceptable racists preaching hatred and division that stands in opposition to the values of equality and justice." He added that "those who spew white supremacy feel empowered now when they see allies in the corridors of power."

Rev. Anthony Pompa, Dean and Rector of Cathedral Church of the Nativity,  said that, in the end, "it's all about love. If it's not about love, it's not about God."

Cordelia Miller, Bethlehem NAACP Vice President, said her family came to this country in the bottom of slave ships,"chained together like animals. Someone wants to tell me to go back to the good old days. What good old days?" Holding the American flag in her hand, she said, "This flags stands for something, or it should."

Esther Lee noted that Trump is the people's representative, and was puzzled that he did not immediately condemn the racism."I am very concerned about what he has not said," she observed.

Text of Mayor Donchez' remarks:

Our nation has had a long and difficult history dealing with white supremacy, racism, bigotry, and intolerance. Our founding fathers declared “that all men are created equal,” and it took much conflict and bloodshed over almost 250 years to live up to that. And yet, have we? Once again, we are gathered together to condemn the shocking violence in Charlottesville and the vile ideology behind it.

This kind of thinking and behavior have no place in America or anywhere in the world. We in Bethlehem condemn acts of hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries suffered in Charlottesville. We stand with Mayor Signer and everyone in his city with hope and prayers for a return to a more peaceful time. We also stand together here in Bethlehem, supporting all our brothers and sisters in this show of unity and strength as a community.

We need to show those who would divide us that we will not be divided, we will stand here together as a sign of unity not division. The hatred that comes with racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and intolerance, will not be condoned or supported here in Bethlehem or anywhere else for that matter. We are one. Our anger and abhorrence against those who would hate us, must be converted to something more positive – to hope, to faith and to love. To quote Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Tonight, we show solidarity, not only for Charlottesville victims, but also for Bethlehem and for the Lehigh Valley. Tonight, we are one with Charlottesville and its citizens. Tonight, we need to lock arms across the many lines and boundaries of difference and commit ourselves to unity. Tonight, we must be tolerant of all that makes up our city, our region and our country – Black and White, Latino and Asian, rural and urban, poor and rich, gay and straight, male, female and transgender. Tonight, across the entire spectrum of all that is America we need to achieve social and economic justice and equality for all.

The politics of division and hate must end and they must end now.

To quote John F. Kennedy, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their, neutrality.” This is indeed, a time of great moral crisis, and we can no longer say, it doesn’t affect me - because it does. Thank you.

Portions of Esther Lee's remarks:

I was appalled as the President of these United States Donald Trump had great difficulty in condemning the acts of the KKK and white supremacists. I watched as he skirted the issue.

It is so hard to believe that the  President of these United States had to be shamed into delivering his condemnation ... .

***

We know that hate is alive in this area as there are signs daily in individuals who enjoy sharing their racist views by carrying the Confederate flag or wearing the sign of hate.".

(Blogger's Note: This story was delayed a day so it could appear in The Bethlehem Press first.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Judge Sanchez Schedules Fed Ed's Trial For January

United States District Judge Juan R. Sánchez has granted a government motion for a January 16 trial in the federal political corruption prosecution of Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. The trial will take place in Allentown.

In a scheduling order on Monday, Judge Sánchez ordered the government to provide all discovery to which Fed Ed and his fellow Defendants are entitled, on or before September 15. Pretrial motions are due on or before November 9, and if a hearing is needed, that will occur on November 28. The judge has also scheduled a final pretrial conference on January 4. That is typically when plea agreements are reached.

In his final paragraph, Judge Sánchez warns, "No requests for a continuance shall be granted."

Trump: "Very Fine People, on Both Sides"



These storm troopers arrived in the dead of night, carrying torches. The next day it was weapons and armor. But this was not Hitler's SS. These were American citizens, saluting each other with "Heil Trump!" and decrying Jews. "They were very fine people, on both sides," said Authoritarian Donald Trump.

"These people want violence,and the right is just meeting market demand," said a white supremacist at the end of this clip.

Why Bethlehem's Proposed LERTA is a Bad Idea

You can read why in today's Bethlehem Press.

Bethlehem Police Chief on Charlottesville




Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said his father, a WWII vet, would be rolling over in his grave at the sight of American citizens,in Charlottesville, giving each other the Nazi salute. He made these remarks at a rally yesterday at Payrow Plaza, attended by nearly 60 people. My full story will appear in The Bethlehem Press today.

Bethlehem Police Chief Has One Word for Musifest - Great!

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio told Bethlehem City Council last night that if he had to sum up Musikfest with just one word, that word would be "Great!"

Of the 1.2 million who attended this year's Musikfest, Bethlehem police made just 36 arrests. This is well below the 49 arrest average over the past 13 years. It amounts to 0.0036% per 1 million people.

Of those arrested, only 12 were Bethlehem residents.

The biggest crime, as you may have guessed, was public drunkenness. Thirteen people had a bit too much to drink. But there were only two underage drinkers.

Chief DiLuzio noted that his officer provide a visible uniformed police presence throughout Musikfest. They are on foot,on bikes and on horseback.In fact, the mounted troop has become one of the festival's biggest attractions. He also thanked the departments of other communities, who provide K-9 and other kinds of assistance.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump Tweets Train Running Into CNN Reporter


Just three days after Heather Heyer was run down and killed by a neo Nazi, Authoritarian Donald Trump tweeted an image of a "Trump train" running down a CNN reporter. For those of you who wonder why I think he's bad for this country this is why. This totally insensitive gesture demonstrates scary views about the rights to a free press and gives yet another wink-and-nod to the KKK and other white supremacist hate groups.  

Fed Ed's Graffiti Artist

I debated whether to write anything at all about Allentown Fed Ed's newest cheerleader, especially since he appears to be an attention-seeker. But I decided to fill you in. His name is John-Luke Laube. After some of his more recent publicity stunts, he might want to change that to John-Luke Labotomy. He's the fellow who was charged recently with disorderly conduct and malicious mischief after deciding to paint mostly pro Fed Ed messages on the windows of several businesses. These include The Morning Call, PPL Center, Miller Symphony Hall, Billy's Diner and Starbucks. His crime, if you can call it a crime, was caught on video by Naomi Winch.

Most of us first became aware of John-Luke Labotomy late last week, when he popped up on Facebook to proclaim that "Ed Pawlowski is Innocent." He promised to prove it, too, on Friday night at 7 pm. But that never happened.

His argument essentially is that because "Allentown is on the rise," it necessarily follows that Fed Ed is innocent. This, of course, is an illogical argument. But it's a favorite among Mayors. Criticism of Mayor Sal Panto's use of false names to praise himself on social media has been equated with criticism of Easton. In Nazareth, where a Mayor was skimming from the poker machines, the wagons circled and the Mayor suddenly became Mr. Nazareth.

Though the argument was bad, I was impressed by John-Luke Labotomy's Clickable Click website. It definitely is eye-catching, and he is succinct while sounding sincere. But I was troubled by some things. He lists locations in Paris, New York and Kentucky. He lists a Paris address that is actually a four-story apartment building. He actually just registered his webpage from his home in Emmaus in June of this year. So his claim of multiple locations is a bit far-fetched.

He may have traveled in his young life, but actually lives with his parents in Emmaus.

The next thing that bothers me about John-Luke Labotomy is his LinkedIn profile claim that he's a product of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In truth, he has no degree. He claims to have a "certification" for entrepreneurship, but all that's involved there is a four-week course lasting one or two hours per week. His real education appears to be a stint at Lehigh County Community College. He also claims to be certified as a "Platinum Multimedia Artist" by Lehigh Career Technical Institute, but I was unable to find anything like that on their website.

John-Luke has denied that he is working for Fed Ed in any way, either personally or through his various names. Fed Ed has been even more clear. "Mr. Laube is in no way shape or form employed by me or my campaign," says a Mayor indicted for, among other things, lying to the FBI.

Their claim is flatly contradicted by Yoseph Basrawi, who at one time worked with John-Luke.

Basrawi claims that last week, he ran into John-Luke at the Starbucks in Allentown. John Luke claimed he is working on Fed Ed's campaign, and even demonstrated that he has administration privileges on Fed Ed's Facebook page.

Yesterday, I repeatedly asked John-Luke to explain this relationship, telling him I had information there was one. He declined. John-Luke has played fast and loose with the truth about nearly everything. Fed Ed is himself accused of making false statements to the FBI. So there is little doubt in my mind that John-Luke is working Fed Ed's campaign, either as a volunteer or for money.

What John-Luke is doing is marketing himself and trying to appear attractive to local businesses.

I suspect he picked a lousy way to achieve that goal.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ron Angle's Cows -1, Suki - 0

This dog can jump out of a Ranger, and fortunately,
can jump back in. 
From time to time, my grandson and his mother go away for a weekend at the beach or for some basketball camp. When that happens, I usually watch their dog Suki. She's what is called a Jack-a-Poo, half Jack Russell Terrier and half Toy Poodle. As someone once explained to me, they are the Captain Danger of Designer Dogs. Sweet, but highly energetic and mischievous. Last night, she finally met her match - a herd of angry cows.

Ron Angle invited me to his farm for a delicious Sunday night dinner of prime rib, baked potatoes and sweet corn. When I told him I was dog sitting, he told me to bring her, too. So that is how Suki paid her first visit ever to a farm.

Dat's mother treats Suki as though she is a foo foo dog. She ties bows in her fur and dresses her in sweaters. But she is all dog. She likes being with me, not just because I spoil her and feed her the same crap I eat, but because I take her on lots of walks and, in wooded areas, will let her chase rabbits, squirrels and groundhogs.

Suki thought she could chase these calves. 
Dat's mother always instructs me not to let her off the leash, especially after an incident with a skunk a few years ago. I always promise. I always break my promise.

A night on the farm was a real treat for her. She was in hunting mode the entire time, chasing down cats, squirrels and rabbits. But the real excitement started when Ron went to water his cows. Suki wanted to come, and jumped into the Ranger with us.

Ron's herd includes four calves. As we got closer to them, Suki got excited and jumped out to chase the calves.

Big mistake.

The cows decided to chase her, but they weren't playing. They are a lot faster than they look. And they were pissed. Suki was pretty much fenced in, so she was running the way Dat used to run when he played football - for her life. She was faster than them, and has so many juke moves she could return kicks for the Eagles. But the cows were faster than Ron's Ranger, which was bogged down by the mud. When she'd get close, they'd tear after her. Eventually, Suki spotted a gap between the cows and the Ranger and jumped. She missed the first time because I dropped her, and the cows continued to give chase. Ron was able to pull her when she tried a second time. Angry cows bounced against the Ranger as they continued to look for her. They actually were smelling the ground for signs of her for some time after we had already left.

Suki will start driving Ranger next time. 
After witnessing this, I think it's safe to say that a herd of cows can handle a coyote.

After this close call, Ron's Ranger passed by a creek. Suki jumped right in.

She needed to cool off.

Eventually, she was full of mud, the bow in her fur was gone and she chased all of Ron's cats into a barn. Then she went after a rabbit.

She was having a blast.

She usually likes women better than men, but after Ron scooped her up, she periodically would walk up and start licking him. Well, he is the Northampton County Bulldog.

As the evening ended, Suki did not want to get in my car. But she fell asleep the moment she got in

Oh, and she had prime rib.

Daily Stormer Loves Trump's Charlottesville Remarks

Donald Trump summed up the weekend violence in Charlottesville by saying, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country.” Many of his critics pounced on his failure to condemn specifically the white supremacists as a wink and a nod to some of his most strident supporters. I was prepared to discount that, but as reported in The Washington Post, the white supremacists loved his tepid condemnation.

“No condemnation at all,” the Daily Stormer wrote. “When asked to condemn, [Trump] just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Just as he coyly refused to condemn David Duke on the campaign trail, he now refuses to condemn the white supremacist movement. He leaves it to others to explain.

No explanation necessary.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Easton's Failed LERTA Program

The use of tax incentives for economic or community development has been controversial for as long as they've existed. Advocates will tell you they are investments in the community while opponents deride the government for picking winners and losers in what should be capitalistic society. But most agree that a LERTA is the most innocuous. It allows a property owner to gradually phase in a property tax increase that results from improvements like a new porch, addition or a home built on vacant land. Aside from all the philosophical arguments, does this tax incentive work? Based on what has happened in Easton, the answer is a firm No.

Easton enacted its own LERTA ordinance on April 25, 2012. It applies to any industrial, commercial or residential property inside a designated zone. The School District and Northampton County Council also approved this tax incentive. Of all three local government bodies, only John Cusick voted No.

Under Easton's ordinance, applications for LERTA participation are supposed to be available until the end of this year, when the ordinance expires. But that application appears nowhere on the Easton City website. The LERTA program is explained, and readers are directed to the "Forms and Documents" section for more details. But that has been removed from the webpage. In another portion of the City website containing "Forms and Documents," there are no LERTA application forms.

This lapse certainly lends credence to the argument that these incentives are tax favoritism for certain individuals in the know, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Northampton County's assessment office administers Easton's LERTA program. Information obtained pursuant to a Right-to-Know request for the county records of Easton's LERTA reveals the following:

1. The Easton LERTA district comprises 859 properties of all kinds, from residential to commercial and industrial. While this is quite large, it is only about 1/10th the size of the 8,156 properties for which a LERTA is being sought in Bethlehem.

2. In the five years that Easton's LERTA has been in effect, only 72 properties have enrolled in the program, with 56 in progress and 16 under construction. This is a fairly low number.

3. Only 46 residential properties have taken advantage of the LERTA. Even fewer, just 26, are commercial.

4. Twenty-one of these properties are completely exempt from all real estate taxes because they are in the Keystone Opportunity Zone, another tax incentive program in which virtually all taxes, except federal income taxes, are exempt. This includes the Simon Mill (19 parcels), old City Hall (1 parcel) and Governor Wolf Building (1 parcel).          

Given the lack of participation over five years, it is undeniable that Easton's LERTA program is a bust. On Monday, I'll explain why Bethlehem should reconsider its own LERTA in light of Easton's failure. It could actually make the blight there worse.