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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

John Brown's Secret Plan for a New Jail

On the campaign trail, I doubt that Northampton County Executive John Brown is saying much about a new jail. He was going to run on that issue until someone poited out that is a surefire way to ensure his defeat at the polls. So mum's the word. But don't kid yourself. He's looking. And if you are a NorCo resident, it might be in your neighborhood.

You'll learn the details once he's re-elected.

This is unacceptable to Bethlehem Attorney Lamont McClure, who is running for Executive.
I am opposed to the building of a new jail with an anticipated price tag to the taxpayers in excess of $120,000,000.00. We have also learned, although, we cannot verify this as the Brown Administration is pursuing its plan in secret, that one of the proposed sites is county property at Gracedale. This location is unacceptable to me. My opposition does not flow simply from the outsized costs or the terrible site selection alone. Specifically, we do not need a new prison. We have plenty of capacity to meet the need of local incarceration at this time. To my knowledge no one in the criminal justice system is clamoring for a new jail. I served on Council for nearly a decade. After the West Easton facility came on line, the Director of Corrections Mr. Myers retired. After his last Council meeting, I walked out of the courthouse with him. I asked him that now that we have the West Easton facility would we need a to build a new jail. His answer was "not in our life times."
Northampton County's jail was first built in 1871 for $200,000. It's been expanded a few times since then, with the most recent addition coming in 2006 at a $22.8 million cost. But in the old jail in particular, things are a mess. Corrections Director Dan Keen called it a "beast" during a presentation last September. County Administrators vowed to be back no later than the end of November to update everyone after identifying funding sources. They never did come back, but Executive John Brown has begun the process of selecting a new jail.

He's done so without involving the courts or District Attorney..

Where will it be? How much will it cost taxpayers? Do we really need a new jail? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Where will it be? - At a recent Council meeting, Brown told Peg Ferraro that the cost of a "high rise" solution in Easton is too exorbitant, and that he's already visited a dozen different locations. He needs a tract of between 40-60 acres. The most logical choice is Gracedale in Upper Nazareth, where the County already owns plenty of land. There would be no need buy, and the infrastructure should be a snap. But the public opposition would be intense, especially to owners of the Eagles' Landing development. Zoning might be an insurmountable hurdle.

Brown has also considered some of the Bethlehem Steel lands in South Bethlehem. Rumors abound that he's also considering Wayne Grube Park, Louis Moore Park (which is suddenly getting water) and Upper Mount Bethel Township. I believe Abe Atiyeh would be interested in selling his facility in West Easton.

No matter where he decides to build, there will be opposition.

How much will it cost? - According to a jail study commissioned by John Stoffa in 2008, the cost of a new jail at a new location would be $130-136 million. Build a seven story monstrosity that Eastonians would be sure to love would cost $128-$132 million.

What does this mean to taxpayers? Glenn Reibman's $111 million bond issue in 2001 resulted in two consecutive years of tax increases of 64%, along with layoffs. Reibman had hoped it would be revenue neutral because $29 million went to economic development. A new prison would just cost you money, most likely a 70-80% tax hike.

As Ron Angle asked back in 2008, "The reality here is, who the hell wants a new prison?"

Do we really need a new jail? - Back in 2008, at the time of the last prison study, it was projected that we'd need 1,300 beds by 2015. There were only 732 inmates when Keen made his presentation to Council last year. And that number is dropping as courts look to alternatives to incarceration. We now have problem solving courts, not warehouses.

So far as I know, Brown has failed to meet with the courts to discuss the trends. He even failed to meet with the judges over e-filing in the Civil Division, and just attempted to ram it through.

Brown's Executive Order. -  Brown has signed an Executive Order authorizing Corrections Director Dan Keen to enter into the planning process for a new detention center with DLR Group for the sum of $72,000 over the next three months. His deal with DLR is a "sole source," or no-bid, contract. This way he can avoid the competitive bidding that would otherwise be required under the county's Administrative Code.

Brown said competitive bidding in this instance "is just a waste of time and energy."

Bethlehem Tp Considers Fire Tax, Tax Break For Volunteers

Bethlehem Tp Volunteer Fire Co. Engine 1712
Bethlehem Township's volunteer firefighters may soon receive a tax credit for their service under a new law recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Under this law, municipalities now have the option of establishing and setting the amount for a tax credit for earned income or property taxes for first responders. But to participate in the program, the individual must be an active volunteer, reside in the Township and meet certain certification requirements. Also, the tax credit is limited to 20 percent of tax liability.

This exemption was proposed by Tom Nolan in August, but Mike Hudak and Howard Kutzler said they'd like to review the matter.

At the Township's September 18 meeting, Manager Melissa Shafer said the tax would impact 33 volunteers at Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Company, and a similar number at Nancy Run. She estimated that the Township would lose revenue of about $17,500 if he exemption came from earned income tax. She and Finance Director Andrew Freda had previously said that it would be easier to administer this exemption if it only came from earned income tax.

Howard Kutzler called the exemption a "wonderful tool to support our volunteers."

Commissioners directed that a specific proposal be created at the fire relations committee meeting in October, with the plan of enacting an ordinance in time to take effect next year.

While on the topic of firefighters, Tom Nolan proposed that the Township enact a fire tax similar to a tax already in place in eight other Northampton County municipalities.

President Mike Hudak, who said he proposed a fire tax himself several years ago, has grown leery of the notion. He warned about setting aside money to buy equipment that is unneeded. he said fore trucks are sold to other municipalities who have no problem obtaining the necessary certifications. He added that Bethlehem City drives "shiny fire trucks" from the '60s, "and they love 'em."

Finance Director Andrew Freda told Hudak that he spoke with the state about this idea and it was recommended as a "common practice" and as a good way to plan ahead. Hudak said that he'd want the fire tax to include the Township's entire annual obligation to volunteer firefighters. Freda said that was a good idea and would enable him to streamline that contribute to 80-90% of what volunteer firefighters get now.

Chief Ron Ford told Hudak and other Commissioners that firefighters don't dictate what equipment the Township must purchase, and explained some of the difficulties faced in obtaining insurance.

Nolan cautioned that a fire tax would not mean, by itself, a tax hike. He said a 0.50 mill fore tax could mean a reduction in the general millage rate.

Roadwork in Bethlehem Township

According to Bethlehem Township Manager Melissa Shafer's monthly report, several road and bridge projects are under way.

Willow Park Road Bridge Replacement – Willow Park Road has been shut down, with a detour approved between August 14 and October 13, 2017.

Middletown Road Bridge Replacement – the township awaits construction details. Work could start this or next year.

Easton Avenue Repaving (Butztown Road to Farmersville Road south) - ADA curb ramp work is to begin immediately. Paving will be night work only with a completion date of August 2018. Traffic disruption should be at a minimum.

Easton Avenue Repaving (Hope Road east into Palmer Township) - ADA curb ramp work is to begin immediately. Paving will be night work only with a completion date of August 2018. Traffic disruption should be at a minimum.

Brodhead Road Construction In progress, with a one-way detour has been flipped to the other lane. Township Commissioners approved a $49,000 change order at their September 18 meeting, with $4,000 for a UGI line that needed to be moved and $45,000 for additional millwork between Township Line Road and Commerce Boulevard. The vote for the change order was 3-1, with Mike Hudak dissenting.  Hudak is opposed to any township funds spent on Brodhead Road because he feels the cost should be borne by the companies whose trucks have torn up the road.

Correction, 2:50 pm: I incorrectly reported that Howard Kutzler had voted No to Brodhead Road, and apologize to him and my readers for this factual error.

St.Luke's Anderson Campus To Double in Size

At their September 18 meeting, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve an expansion at St. Luke's Anderson 500-acre campus that will allow the hospital to double its capacity. "Tower Two," a four-story hospital building nearly identical to the main site, is what St. Luke's VP Ray Miolam calls "the next chapter" in the development of the Anderson campus. He anticipates the project will be complete in 2 1/2 years, with construction starting next Spring.

To minimize stormwaters, St.Luke's has agreed to "bank" its parking. The proposed paving has been approved, but will only be used when it is needed. In addition, St. Luke's has agreed to place a gateway monument sign at the intersection of Routes 33 and 78, stating "Welcome to Bethlehem Township, Home of St. Luke's."

Though President Hudak voted for the project, he warned Miolam and St. Luke's engineer Scott Pasterski that water flowing downhill from the hospital campus along Hope Road is causing problems. "And now we're adding another building with a sea of blacktop," complained Hudak.

Pasterski told Hudak that the basin at the bottom of Hope Road is "well under capacity," but Hudak told the engineer that millions and millions of gallons of water flow into an "unimproved swale."

Howard Kutzler noted that what was approved there is within the letter of the law. But resident Wat=yne Kresge, who personally experienced stormwater problems at this home on Chetwin Terrace,noted that the plans for his property were within the letter of the law, too, but he still experienced flooding after heavy rains.

"Very often things look good on paper, but in reality they don't work," cautioned Kresge.

Both Pasterski and Miolam agreed to look at the problem during the next rainstorm.

"We're not looking to flood out anyone's home," said Miolam.

In other business, Commissioners rejected 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 estimate. This may be because many items were added during the bidding process, like alterations to the elevator shaft and removal of lead-based paint.

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."

This bid was tabled in August because Commissioner Pat Breslin was absent. He was absent again on September 18, so Commissioners voted without him.

It will cost the Township $4,000 to rebid the project.

Wayne Kresge complained that renovations at the mansion will eventually start costing the Township money. "We have a habit of spending money in this Township," he said, noting the cost of the Brodhead Road reconstruction and repairs at the community center. He said even the carports built for police cruisers have failed in their purpose of keeping snow off.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Link to Molovinsky's Blog Was Removed Because of the Hate

Sometime ago, Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky decided that he would not only moderate his comments, but would also require readers to identify themselves. He did so out of fear. He's afraid of a troll who harasses him. He also rarely interacts with his readers, even when they post ridiculous comments about the IQs of Somalis being substandard.

It's his blog and he can do what he wants.

But I don't have to link to it.

When John Morganelli decided to run for state AG in 2016, I supported him. In every post I wrote about the race, I included this disclaimer: "I support John Morganelli for AG and have made a small contribution."

I thought my readers should know about my bias. I was trying to be honest and above board. At that time, I thought Molovinsky and I were friendly. He certainly called me enough.

So in March 2016, in a post about Morganelli's AG race, I was upset when Molovinsky, someone who I thought was my friend, slammed me for failing to do more. He never made clear exactly what that was

I was embarrassed and hurt that someone I had thought of as a friend would attack me in this way. If he had a question about what I was doing, he could have included it in his daily telephone calls. Instead, he ripped into me.

He lost a friend that day.

But not the link.

That came later.

He is now telling his readers that the reason the link was removed is because of his unfounded Morganelli criticism. "In Bernie's world loyalty is the main theme, in mine it is truthfulness." He accuses me of misrepresenting why the link was removed. He even calls it a "hostile" misrepresentation.

I made no misrepresentation.

The blowup over Morganelli occurred on March 21, 2016.

My link to Molovinsky's blog remained until May of this year. When I did remove it, Molovinsky himself almost immediately noted it on his Facebook page.

The removal of the link to his blog had nothing to do with Morganelli. It was removed for precisely the reason I said it was. I was disgusted by the racist and xenophobic remarks from his readers, and his outright refusal to do anything about it.

The link removal came 14 months after the Morganelli dispute.

So when it comes to misrepresenting things, Molovinsky is playing fast and loose with the truth.

And he's been pretty damn hostile about it.

Updated 10:20 am: Molovinsky attempts to justify his lie. - Having been caught in a lie, Molovinsky states he would prefer it had I let his lie stand. I'll bet. He now claims that the reason I removed the link to his blog is because it was repeatedly attacking me.

I wish he'd make up his mind.

His repeated personal attacks certainly played a role in my decision in concluding his is a hate blog.

After Donald Ttrump's election, Molovinsky's blog devolved into a cesspool of hatred that attacked women, blacks and Islam. Molovinsky led the charge in the attacks aimed at women, while his myrmidons are responsible for his other slurs. At first, I took them all to task. Then I decided to just delete my link to the hate blog.

My decision had nothing to do with Morganelli. Molovinsly's assertions that it did are lies that he now seems to admit.

Sen. Boscola To Host Roundtable on School Tax Reform

For the past several years, a group of mostly conservative thinkers has advocated patriotic-sounding Property Tax Independence Act, In a bid to make themselves sound like the Founding Fathers, they call their bills HB 76 and SB 76. Their logo also is surrounded by 13 stars. I guess that's in honor of the 13 original states or something. Basically, their plan is to phase out property taxes over two years and then play their fifes and drums and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

No question about it, property taxes are unpopular. They are particularly unfair to seniors on fixed incomes.

But SB76 and HB76 are just tax shifting proposals. According to The Wharton School economist Robert Inman, the property tax is probably the fairest of all the taxes imposed by local government. His basic argument is that all taxes are bad. But as we all know, they are a necessary evil. He explored which taxes do the least harm. Believe it or not, it's the property tax.

According to Inman, the fairest way for a City to tax is by moving from a mobile to an immobile tax base. Commuter taxes, wage taxes and gross receipts taxes just drive business and jobs away. Lowering the wage tax will result in more job, more income and encourage people to live where they work by investing in real estate.  He would increase real estate taxes, but homeowners who live in their homes would be afforded a partial exemption.

All of this was in a 2009 Task Force recommendation that was never implemented.

Pa State Rep. Will Not Stop Car for Protesters

Aaron Bernstine is a State Representative from the western part of the state, representing a gerrymandered district that consists of portions of three different counties. He's a "conservative" who just voted to close a state budget gap by borrowing $1 billion.  Of course, he is part of the Donald Trump personality cult. He also describes himself as a "Christian," a word perverted by people who proudly proclaim to be all about Jebus while hating anyone who is different. Bernstine stands for the important Christian principle of vehicular homicide, otherwise known as murder, if done to run down a protester.

As many of you will recall, Heather Heyer was mowed down by a pro-Trump white supremacist on August 11 in Charlottesville.  Though the grass has yet to grow on her grave, this is what "Christian" Bernstine tweeted about protesters who blocked traffic in St. Louis last week:

"If anyone EVER tries to stop my car on a highway with negative intentions... I will not stop under any conditions."

When taken to task, he doubled down with this:

"Feel free to call my office and let me know if you think it is ok to refuse to stop if thugs try to stop me or my family on a highway."

And this:

"Difference between me and these snowflakes is that I won't be assaulted in name of "free speech"

And even this:

"Wrong.... I'm saying when thugs try to stop cars and threaten drivers trying to go to work."

These offensive have actually trumped Trump, at least within the last week. although Trump has everyone beat over the long haul.

The Pennsylvania Democratic party has asked Bernstine to apologize, like that's gonna' happen. Bernstine's Republican leaders will no doubt get him his own engraved hood, along with a year's supply of tiki torches.

They may also advance a legislative proposal that already exists in six other states to shield drivers who negligently hit protesters who obstruct traffic. This has been criticized by the ACLU as a "hit and kill" bill, but defended as a way to protect drivers from liability when a protester darts into traffic.

Hyman: "If We Do Not Have Safety, We Do Not Have a City"

When Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski recently posted a Labor Day montage that included city workers, he omitted firefighters. Of course, that's something he's been doing for years in his annual budgets.

I told you in April that the department's operating budget has shrunk from $455,098 in 2008 to just $156,896 in 2017, a drop of 65.52%. No provision has been made for repair or maintenance supplies. The equipment on hand has decreased from $108,638 in 2008 to just $23,396 this year. Only $35,000 is allotted to train 122 firefighters. A scant $3,500 is set aside to purchase chemicals that are often more important than water in extinguishing a fire.

"He is setting our department up for failure," said firefighter Jeremy Warmkessel, a hero who once gave up his own breathing mask so that a little boy could breathe in a building being consumed by fire.

He does not care about politics. He cares about lives.

Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell has previously called the situation an "embarrassment to the City."

What about Mayoral candidate Nat Hyman ?

He met with firefighters recently to get a jumpstart on a positive dialogue and relationship with them, something that's currently absent with Fed Ed.

Hyman said there will be three non-negotiable items in the city budget - fire, police and EMS. "If we do not have safety, we simply do not have a city," said Hyman. "Safety is the foundation for everything we want to do in this city."

Hyman said that the first thing he will do as Mayor is "sit down with all of the stakeholders from the firefighters, push the reset button and start a fresh new relationship. While I cannot promise you that I will always tell you what you want to hear or agree with everything you want, I can promise that I will always listen and do what is in the best interest of Allentown. I have absolutely no other agenda."

He addressed the fact that there are fewer firefighters today than 12 years ago and called that "obscene, particularly when you consider that they have double the call volume from 12 years ago!" He likewise said that the fact that they do not have a functional ladder truck while Bethlehem has three is unconscionable."It is not a function of if there will be a tragedy but rather when and the likelihood of loss of life is very real."

Hyman assures firefighters that if he is Mayor, they will have a friend in city hall as he views his number one job as Mayor is to "ensure that every citizen is safe and that we do everything we can to get every firefighter and police officer home safely at night."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Was It Something I Said?

Bernie O'Hare is a class A Asshole POS!
Karen J. Garlock-Szatkowski Politics really sucks!!
5 hrs
Donna Baran At least the tabloids have a grain of truth in their stories, his blog not so much.
3 hrs

Special Thank You From a Democrat to Justin Simmons and Gloria "Lee" Snover

This is who General Lee Snover has picked
to replace Charlie Dent in Congress.  
Hello Comrades!

I interrupt my weekly reading of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals for a special Thank You to Congressman wannabe Justin Simmons and his good buddy, NorCo GOP Chair Gloria "General" Lee Snover. Thanks to their combined efforts on our behalf, Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District will finally be returning to us for the first time since 1999. That's right, folks, the 15th is going blue. We would never have done it without the help of Justin Simmons and Lee Snover.

Thanks to Simmons and Snover, there's a new purity test for Republicans. You either support Trump or you don't.

Pre-Trump, there were all kinds of litmus tests. One group believed you had to be pro-life and opposed to all forms of abortion, even if that meant the mother would go tets up. For the NRA wing, it was the right to carry rocket launchers wherever and whenever the hell they wanted. Another faction believed that the rich should either pay no taxes at all or pay lower taxes than you. Most favored deporting anyone whose name ends in a vowel. And though some of their best friends are black, some party members could never warp their heads around the idea of a black president, even though he was only half black. They never learned to just love the white half.

Now things are much simpler. You either support Authoritarian Donald Trump or you don't. If you support Donald Trump, you could open an abortion clinic tomorrow and General Lee Snover would kiss you. But if you subscribe to all kinds of Republican theories but detest Donald Trump, you're no good.

Every year, the county Republican parties host a Lincoln Day's breakfast in honor of the man who said we should act with malice towards none and charity for all. Traditionally, Democrats were invited because we all are, after all, Americans.

But General Lee stopped that practice. It was Republicans only. And not just any Republican. Charlie Dent, the most powerful and popular Republican in the Lehigh Valley, was snubbed.

Under General Lee's strict rules, Lincoln himself would have been cast aside.

A party that once met in ballrooms now meets in a phone booth, if you can find one.

The persons left include extremists like flamethrower Tricia Mezzacappa, who actually penned a letter to the editor supporting mass murderer Rockne Newell.

But that's OK because she supports Donald Trump.

She got a major award.

It was not enough to just snub Dent. General Lee Snover, the Republican party chair, actually took to the stage at a Trump cult rally that was only open to about 200 people with tickets, and bashed Charlie Dent, accusing the centrist Republican of being part of the establishment elite.

That's because Dent, who has principles and morals, stood up to Trump, who has neither.

Another person lacking principles and morals is Justin Simmons. Last year, he took campaign money from Dent. He sought and received an endorsement. Dent even put him in touch with some of his own contributors. And Simmons asked Dent what they could do to get Trump off the ballot.

But now with Trump elected and Charlie Dent being subjected to daily attacks by General Lee and others who should be ashamed of themselves, Justin Simmons sensed an opportunity. So this summer, he made trips to the swamp in Washington (that he pretends to detest) to line up support for his own Congressional bid.

Now he is suddenly pro-Trump and is challenging Dent.

General Lee loves him because he is on the Trump train. Never mind his shitty attendance record, his missed votes in the House.

Simmons and Lee are both busily bashing any Republican who gets in their way, including South Whitehall's Ryan MacKenzie.

But it does not stop there.

When Charlie Dent announced his retirement from public life, he asked Lehigh County GOP Chair Jessica Banotai and Exec Director Trevor Waldron for their help in putting the event together. As they prepared, someone in the Simmons camp posted a very ugly and vulgar personal attack (since deleted) aimed at Banotai in PoliticsPA. It shook her up. Banotai and Waldron fired off a number of unflattering text messages about Simmons in reaction to this attack. Simmons, who had no problem with General Lee Snover's bias against Charlie Dent, is now demanding the heads of Banotai and Waldron for their bias against him.

Thanks to General Lee and Simmons, Lehigh Valley Republicans are eating their own.

The result is that next November, conservative Democrat John Morganell will be elected to represent the 15th Congressional District in Congress.

It would never have happened without you, Lee and Justin. Even your pal Vladimir Putin would be impressed.


Anonymous Comments and Justin Simmons

Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky is trashing me again, this time over my treatment of anonymous commenters. He claims I am fine with people so long as they agree with me, but otherwise call them anonymous cowards. He also attacks me for answering every pro Justin Simmons comment as though it comes from Simmons himself. Molovinsky also takes a few personal shots to which I decline to respond, but I will discuss my comment policy.

This is an interactive blog. It is not just me, but you. I rely upon and am educated by my readers through the dialectical method. I don't have one editor. I have 5,000 of them. As fellow blogger LVCI recently learned, it can be exhausting to respond to the diverse points of view.

As an opinionated person, I make things worse. I have made enemies over the years. I have also attracted a fairly large number of trolls. They sometimes try to hijack blog threads.

I will delete off-topic comments. I'm fine with a tip about a late-breaking story, but am insulted when someone rudely interrupts a discussion about a topic that I researched for several hours and then wrote as a story.

I also hate cut-and paste jobs because the person who wrote the original story deserves better treatment. But if you just post a link, it might go into my spam folder.

I will immediately delete any comment from one person who agreed in court to stay off this blog. Molovinsky knows who this person is, and he is the reason why Molvinsky has removed the anonymous option and sometimes moderates.

I will also delete any comment from another person who once threatened to kill Barack Obama when he was re-elected as the President of the United States. Molovinsky hosts the hate that still comes from this person as well as others who make ridiculous arguments about the IQs of Somalis being inferior and other such nonsense. That's just hate. Molovinsky has complained that I removed my link to his blog. This is why.

I generally will allow personal attacks aimed at elected officials, provided they are not vulgar. I tend to be more protective of appointed public officials, and will not allow snarky remarks about family members. They are civilians unless they make themselves part of the story.

I am of course fine with anonymous comments that agree with me. I am also fine with anonymous comments that disagree with me. But if the commenters get personal, I have no compunction about telling them they are cowards. If I call someone an anonymous coward for simply disagreeing with me, I am wrong. I deal with numerous comments every day, and sometimes I make mistakes. Molovinsky provided no examples of this happening, but I am sure there are likely some instances in which I do cross the line, mostly in defense of officials I like. I only mean to call someone an anonymous coward if he hides behind anonymity to attack someone personally.

Unlike Molovinsky, I write numerous articles about local races. Over the years, I have noticed that two types of races tend to attract ugly comments. The first is magisterial contests, believe it or not. The second is any race involving Justin Simmons.

In the last election cycle, in which Justin Simmons ran for re-election as State Rep and broke a pledge to serve only three terms, I published 13 stories. Almost from the beginning, the comments were very ugly, and would go on for as long as 11 days after my story originally published. At this point, the only persons reading the comments would be the candidates themselves and me. I would eventually get tired of it and close comments off completely. Even then, team Simmons would jump onto another thread and continue the flaming.

Now that Simmons is running for Congress, I am getting ugly pro-Simmons comments again. Instead of shutting down the discussion, I've opted to address all the slimy pro-Simmons comments as though they are coming from Justin himself. This has minimized the filth coming from him or his supporters.

I sometimes delete a comment accidentally. Also, there are times when a comment goes into my spam folder. I may think it is published, but blogger has incorrectly identified it as spam. I often fail to discover this for days.

My decisions regarding comments are unappealable. I will in fact delete comments complaining about my comments policy. I would rather discuss the issues, but you can always email me if I have made a mistake. BOhare5948@aol.com .

I will host no comments here because this is my blog. I set my own comments policy. Not Michael Molovinsky. Not anyone else.

LVEDC to Host Forum For LehCo & NorCo Exec Candidates

From Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.: All four candidates for County Executive in both Lehigh and Northampton counties will be participating in an upcoming forum hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
The candidate forum will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Coca-Cola Park (club level), and will be moderated by Chris Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
This is the only candidate forum currently scheduled that will include all four candidates: John Brown (R) and Lamont McClure (D) in Northampton County, and Phillips Armstrong (D) and Brad Osborne (R) in Lehigh County.
“As LVEDC’s two largest investors, Lehigh and Northampton counties are critical partners in our regional partnership for advancing economic development in the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President & CEO. “We’re happy to provide these candidates with a platform to express their visions and ideas about regionalism, job creation, and economic growth.”
The forum will not be a traditional debate, but rather a sharing of thoughts and ideas as they relate to jobs and economic development in the region. The questions will come from stakeholders in economic growth and job creation in the Lehigh Valley.
Registration is required and space is limited. Visit this site to register. Sponsorship opportunities are also available, and all inquiries can be directed to Michael Keller, LVEDC Director of Marketing, at mkeller@lehighvalley.org or 610-266-2217.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Will Justin Simmons Now Have to Support the Dreamers?

In a recent interview on a conservative Internet station from North Georgia calling itself FYNTV, Republican Congressional candidate Justin Simmons said that if he had the last vote in the House, it would be against the dreamers, 800,000 people who entered the country illegally as children. He'd get rid of them all. Otherwise, he would be "encouraging people to break the law. And then it's just going to continue that cycle and then we're going to get into a debate with liberals about compassion and it's never going to end."

Well guess what? Donald Trump and Democratic leaders had dinner last night, and the dreamers were the first course. They've apparently reached a deal that protects the dreamers from the clutches of political opportunists like Simmons, even without forcing Dems to concede on a border wall.

It seems to me that unless Justin changes his tune, he's being disloyal to his President. Isn't that why he ran against Charlie Dent in the first place?

Huge Crowd Sez Goodbye to Dan McNeill

One of the things I like to do is give an accurate figure of how many people are at an event. But there is no way I can tell you for sure how many people attended the three-hour viewing for State Rep. Dan McNeill last night in Whitehall Township at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church. All I can say is that it was a big crowd for a big man who really cared about the less fortunate.

I stood in line for 1 1/2 hours and heard several stories about how Danny, long before he was a State Rep, would reach out and help people in need. Usually, it involved him diving into his own pocket. Many of you knew him longer and better than I, but for some reason, he and I instantly clicked.

He was the first public official in Pa. to really draw attention to our heroin epidemic.

Dan's passing was a shock to everyone, including Dan's wife, Jeanne. But I think she really appreciated those of you who came and offered condolences.

While waiting in line, I snapped this photo of a picture from his football-playing days at Dieruff High School. He looked badass even then. But that was a cover.

One of Dan's political foes, David Molony, stood in line to pay his respects.

I don't know if this is true, but Governor Tom Wolf is rumored to have been among those who offered Jeanne their condolences.

There will be a second viewing today at 10 am, with funeral services at 11 am.

It's supposed to rain today, and according to Irish legend, that means Danny has already passed through the gates of heaven.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Simmons Sez No to DACA

In a telling interview on FYNTV, Republican Congressional candidate Justin Simmons admits he was talking to potential donors in Washington D.C., as early as this summer. He also said that if he had the last vote in the House, it would be against DACA. That's a bill that would protect 800,000 people who entered the country illegally as children. They could get a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and would be eligible for a work permit. He said it would be "encouraging people to break the law. And then it's just going to continue that cycle and then we're going to get into a debate with liberals about compassion and it's never going to end."

Nice guy.

Allentown Pastor Seeks Dem Nomination in 15th

On Thursday night, US Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) stunned the local district by announcing his decision against seeking re-election next year. "[W]e need to give a stronger voice to the center at the moment," he said. "The sensible center is being left behind in too many cases." Two Lehigh Valley Republicans - Justin Simmons and Ryan MacKenzie - have already announced their intention to seek the GOP nomination. Bill Leiner announced as a Democrat so long ago that everyone has forgotten about him. Now you can add another Democrat to the mix in what is promising to be a hotly disputed race.

He's Greg Edwards, a colorful and sometimes controversial preacher at Allentown's Resurrected Life Church. Edwards claimed to respect Dent's statesmanship "in a time when civility in Washington has become increasingly rare.” But his candidacy is bound to take people out of their comfort zone.

According to his campaign announcement, "This moment does not call for moderation or incrementalism, but for revolutionary ideals rooted in true progress: single-payer health care, livable wages, strong public education, affordable college, good jobs, and a commitment to rebuilding the American dream."

He also jabs at Authoritarian Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans over Obamacare. “Since January 20, the drama of the politics of division and unchecked power run amok, has played out daily on our TV screens. This President and the Republicans in Congress are more interested in: taking healthcare away from millions of Americans to give unnecessary tax breaks to the 1% at the expense of our hardworking middle class; giving more to those who have sent our jobs overseas than in saving good jobs here; rewarding those who have so much while hurting families working hard just to get by.”

I first became acquainted with Edwards in 2014, when he was part of a federally funded task force concluding that the cause of wealth disparity is racism. "In fact, denying that racism exists is the new racism," charged the task force report.

Dent was the token centrist participating in that otherwise one-sided forum. He gently reminded that audience that wealth disparity is the necessary result of a free market economy. "We've always had it," he noted. He also cautioned against changing that approach to one in which power is concentrated. Under other systems, "You will see less prosperity and a heckuva' lot more cronyism," he warned, in an obvious reference to totalitarian regimes.

I also heard Edwards deliver the keynote speech at a Bethlehem Elks luncheon in 2016.

"We've got 18,000 children, a graduation rate of about 60%, and only 19% of that 60% go on to college. Almost 90% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Eighty or 90% of our children are determined to be "at risk" in terms of poverty. Ninety per cent of the children are children of color and really, if I wasn't a preacher I'd cuss right here, but really, nobody cares.

"There seems to be a lack of outrage. We have churches everywhere. We have nonprofits everywhere. But there really seems to be a lack of consciousness on how important and how valuable our children's futures are when it comes to education.

"I firmly believe that one of our greatest civil liberties is public education."

But he claimed that we suffer from what he calls "educational apartheid."

"If our children cannot read by third grade, you know what happens academically. From Kindergarten to third grade, children are learning to read. After third grade, they are reading to learn. California already begins to forecast how many prisons they build by the reading scores of third graders.

"In my social context, in Allentown, nearly 70% of our third graders are not at third grade reading levels. So now, Ray Ray and Pookie can't read. Then what happens is our children go into middle school. What happens in middle school, those transition years? They go through puberty. Some of y'all remember that, right? You survived it, they'll survive it, too. But their bodies begin to change. Their voices begin to deepen. But at the end of the day, they're our babies, our children. But they are placed in the hands of people who have some level of cultural dissonance and don't understand that just because a child is different doesn't mean he's deficient.

"Now because our children have struggled - can't read - they begin to see some behavioral issues. They no longer become cute. Now they're in crisis and they begin to be labeled. But the state gives every school district extra funding for special education, which is therefore why our children end up in special education.

"We are funding what I call educational apartheid in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"It is not required for a child to go to kindergarten. So you can have a 7 year old show up for school, never having been around children his or her age which means they have not been socialized to the learning environment. If we cannot socialize to the learning environment, your behavior begins to be different. But because our teachers in large part don't look like our students, there is empirical categorizing and there is the evolution of a slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, slow change."

"Our children think they are dumb. I have never encountered a child who can not learn. I've encountered a whole lot of folk who can't teach, but I have never encountered a young person who is not creative, who does not have some level of artistry residing in him, who does not want to be listened to or heard. But I have run into some incompetent people who call themselves teachers."

Edwards is a great and inspiring speaker, and precisely the wrong kind of person to represent Pennsylvania's moderate 15th Congressional District. The Democrat who wins this race will be a person who speaks Charlie Dent's language and who appeals to the "sensible center."

That person is John Morganelli. In January, long before Charlie Dent's "sensible center" remarks, Morganelli penned an op-ed that asked, "Where has the sensible middle gone?
"There was a time in American politics when those who were able to straddle the "moderate middle ground" were the most successful. Today just the opposite is true. The most successful are those who, in their respective parties, adhere rigidly and strictly to the party ideology. Until that changes, it will be difficult to govern with any type of consensus and America will be evenly divided as we have seen in recent elections."
Someone like Morganelli can pick up where Charlie left off.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can NorCo Council Term Limit the Exec?

Last Thursday, Northampton County Council introduced a proposal that will ask voters to decide on term limits for the County Executive. If voters agree, the Executive would be limited to two terms of office. Council members are currently limited to three terms in office.

One of my readers asks me if this is wise or even legal.

I'm not the person to ask if something is wise. I know term limits are popular. My own feelings are conflicted. I often think that state and federal legislators should be term limited. But when it comes to municipal office, elected officials usually improve with experience. The best run townships usually have people who have been in office several terms. My view is that an Executive becomes more powerfulthe longer heis in office, so I'd agree o term limits, but it should be three terms like Council members.

Is this legal? I'm a disbarred lawyer, but I can tell you that the Supreme Court has ruled that any change to a Home Rule government that changes the form of government must be preceded by a home rule charter study commission.

This proposal makes no change to the form of government, so no home rule charter study commission is needed. I believe the proposal is legal.

Truthiness and the Trump Cult

Comedian Stephen Colbert first came up with the word "truthiness." He said you won't find this word in dictionaries or reference books, but they're elitist are elitist. "I don't trust books. They are all fact, no heart. ... We are divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart. Truth comes from the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up! Now somebody's gonna' say I did look it up and it's wrong. Well, Mister, that's because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did, and my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

Last week, I told you that some of my Facebook friends practice this truthiness. One of them posted a false story that mosques had closed their doors to Harvey refugees, when the opposite was the truth. But to someone who is religiously intolerant, her gut is telling her something else.

She knows the truthiness.

Yesterday, she posted what she knows is a photoshopped picture of Donald Trump rescuing pussy cats from flood waters. Her justification? "Since the libs have been telling lies I thought they deserved it." Later, she adds, "it captured the spirit of this much maligned man."

She knows the truthiness.

This person happens to be a member of the Northampton County GOP Exec Committee.

Out of respect for her privacy, I decline to identify her. But I am getting tired of this nonsense from the Northampton County GOP.

Toomey Town Hall Ejectee Faces No Criminal Charges

On August 31, Senator Pat Toomey conducted a televised town hall at the PBS studios in Bethlehem. I covered this event for The Bethlehem Press. I was there when Simon Radecki, one of the 54 participants, got yanked when he asked Senator Toomey whether he had heard the news that Tommey's daughter Brigid had just been kidnapped. Radecki was trying to make a point about immigration, but his question was idiotic.

No sooner had the words left his mouth that the long arm of the law reached out and grabbed him. That's the last I saw of Simon Radecki. Numerous news sources, including The Morning Call, indicated that Radecki would be charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting. Some more sloppy news sources reported that Radecki had been arrested.

It was "one of the scariest things that I have ever been a part of,” said PBS CEO Tim Fallon.

Tim obviously doesn't get around much.

There's more to life than Big Bird.

After reporting on the criminal charges, more newspapers began to question whether Radecki's free speech rights had been violated. This started in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with the ACLU offering to represent Radecki. Some law professor melodramatically bellowed, "[T]here's no such thing as a wrong question.”

Of course there is. "Would you like me to rip your tongue out and shove it down your throat?" is certainly a wrong question.

I'd send that professor to summer school.

Morning Call columnist Bill White took things to the next level. He wrote that Radecki had been "charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting." He concluded his blog entry by saying that "[t]he charges should be dropped."

Let's be clear here. No one was arrested following Radecki's question. No one has been charged. There are no charges to drop.

There probably would be charges, but as it happens, the officer who collared Radecki went on vacation.

All news accounts that imply otherwise are flat out wrong,

What's more, DA John Morganelli got wind of this matter, and has asked that all details be forwarded to him for review.

Morganelli is a free speech purist, an unusual trait in a district attorney. In 2004, he dismissed trespassing charges filed against peace activists who were distributing anti-war flyers on a public sidewalk outside the Palmer post office. Three years later, he dismissed criminal charges filed against a Washington Township man who was flying the American flag in an upside down position. In 2012, he refused to prosecute a troll over online comments about a judge. That year, he also dismissed attempted robbery charges against "Nature Dave," a bank protester who held a sign inside a bank, warning customers they were being robbed. He did allow one terroristic threat charge to stand. Just last year, he dismissed littering charges against Trump supporter Tricia Mezacappa when she plastered West Easton with Trump signs on election eve.

Given Morganelli's track record, it's highly unlikely that he will authorize a prosecution here.

The best way to assure that people that people you agree with are heard is to ensure that those you disagree with are heard, too.

Monday, September 11, 2017

O'Connell Write-In Ensures a Fed Ed Victory

For the fourth time, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is the Democratic nominee for Allentown Mayor. Though he was under the storm clouds of a federal investigation into political corruption, four percent of the City's Democrats chose him. That was all he needed, thanks to a winner-take-all system of elections and a plethora of candidates who ran for the nomination. I was deeply disappointed to see Ray O'Connell, a man I deeply admire and one who understands Allentown, deprived of the nomination.  This process is about to repeat itself in the general election, even though Fed Ed is now under indictment on 54 counts of corruption charges.

Recent history may repeat itself because, once again, there are numerous candidates. This will enable Fed Ed to win with a plurality of the votes. Though he refused to raise the flag on Syrian Independence Day, he has suddenly become their best friend.  He also has made it a point to reach out to small churches on the east and south side that he previously ignored and will ignore again, once elected.

Nat Hyman is the Republican nominee. He is youthful, energetic, has a terrific sense of humor and is smart. His father was a well-respected physician, and he himself stayed in the Queen City and made it his business headquarters when everyone else was leaving for the 'burbs. The reason he decided to run for Mayor is because he felt he had no choice. Despite Fed Ed's protests that all is well, the City has some serious problems. The redevelopment has slowed. Morale among City workers is terrible. Fed Ed has allowed the Cedar Beach pool contract to get completely out of hand. He is still playing favorites,as evidenced by his removal of basketball rims at the behest of his campaign supporters.

But Hyman has two problems.

The first is that Allentown has become a one-party town. Though there is no Democratic or Republican way if filling a pothole or fixing a pool, Fed Ed has made sure that Democrats have a stranglehold on Allentown. He has viciously attacked Republicans seeking office. Ask Lou Hershman. The seeds of political corruption are still there

Hyman's second big problem is Ray O'Connell, who finished right behind Fed Ed in the Democratic primary.

If the race were just between Ray and Nat, I'd want Ray to win. He may be a bit older than Nat, but is just as energetic, smart and humorous. A former educator, he has great ideas about neighborhood schools. He is the biggest cheerleader that Allen and Dieruff students have,and they need cheerleaders badly. Ray also has experience in government, both on a city and school district level.

But the race is not between Nat and Ray, two men of honor.. This is a race between Nat and disgraced Fed Ed, with two independents thrown in for good measure. Ray has been deprived of a spot on the ballot, so he's waging a Quixotic write-in campaign, hoping that Allentown voters will take the time to type in his name.

Based on what I've seen of Allentown voters, I think Ray is spinning his wheels.

If all of his former opponents backed him, this might work. If the Democratic party opened his mouth and condemned Fed Ed, this might work. But that has not happened.

What's most likely is that, come election day, Ray will have taken away just enough votes from Nat Hyman to ensure a Fed Ed victory. Two men of integrity  will be brushed aside by a Chicago transplant who conducted electronic sweeps of his office,used burner phones and directed campaign donors like Ramzi Haddad to delete incriminating text messages.

There is still a scenario under which O'Connell can become Mayor. Assuming that Fed Ed is elected, he will be forced to resign when he pleads guilty. Under this scenario, Ray would be appointed Mayor, and would have the job until the next election in two years. But what if there is a trial that lasts several months? What good will that do the City?
Unlike some others, I had no problem with the crowded primary field. I also have no problem with a person who gets on the ballot as an indie or third-party candidate. Write-in campaigns are fine, too, but should be waged to win, not lose.

I really wish Ray would reconsider. What's best for Allentown is removing Fed Ed. If that means holding your nose and voting for a Republican, you can dump him in four years.      

Dent Will Advocate For "Sensible Center"

On Sunday, US Congressman Charlie Dent (R - Pa.15) hosted what was supposed to be a "formal announcement" concerning his intentions next year at the swanky Renaissance Hotel in downtown Allentown. But that story leaked out on Thursday. Dent revealed his intentions to a few of his Congressional colleagues, and they spilled the beans. "They're wonderful friends, but they have big mouths," Dent joked.

"I just wanted to say thank you to everybody in this room," said Dent, who apologized for interrupting one of the biggest sports weekends of the year. .

Instead of a sad announcement, the atmosphere was festive as many of Dent's long-time supporters began to trickle in. So did most of his current and former staffers in an homage to their boss. This included Evil Genius Shawn Millan, Charlie's long-time campaign maven. His very name strikes fear in the hearts of Democrats. And Republicans. Shawn reluctantly gave up an afternoon of burning ants with his magnifying glass. While waiting for Charlie, Shawn and I instead began prank-calling Fed Ed.

Some wanted to watch the Eagles while waiting for Charlie. I warned this would only jinx the Birds. I can listen to them on the radio. I can watch them in person  But they lose every game I watch on TV.

The TV stayed off.

The Eagles won.

Looking more relaxed and cheerful than has in a long time, Charlie eventually arrived with his wife, Pam, as well as his son and daughter. He almost forgot to mention his mother-in-law, but recovered nicely.  

He was among friends and needed no introduction. But he's a Republican, and that's how they are. State Senator Pat Browne had the honor.

"I've been so proud of him," said Browne. "I gotta' tell you. Over the last term - several terms - what he's done to stand up for governance and good public service - being a man who stood up nationally for those principles - is something we all should be proud of."

Browne is hopeful that whomever follows Charlie will also follow in his footsteps.

Charlie said that when he leaves office, he will continue to be a voice for what he calls the "sensible center."  He is currently considering his options, but told his supporters not to cry for him.

"There's no crying in baseball ... or in politics," he joked.

He made no reference to the specific attacks lobbed by Congressional candidate Justin Simmons or NorCo GOP Chair Lee Snover. Both have attacked Dent for refusing to blindly follow President Donald Trump. But Dent did speak in general terms.

"The country's in a pretty tough spot right now  It's in a very difficult spot. I think there's a trend locally, which I won't get into, we are where we are. But I do believe that this country is a center right country, it's a center right country, and I do think we need to give a stronger voice to the center at the moment. The sensible center is being left behind in too many cases. I tend to bring that voice outside of Congress as well as inside.  

"The most basic fundamental tasks of governing in Washington - and I think Pat will tell you in Harrisburg - are becoming far too difficult. It shouldn't be this difficult. This is something we're going to have to correct, sooner or later. It will correct.

"Also, this country is going through a very difficult political realignment right now. The political ground is shifting underneath all of our feet. Nobody is quite sure how this will sort itself out. It will take a couple of [election] cycles.

"We go through these political realignments every so often. They affect both parties, and I think both parties are in a pretty tough spot. ...

"Perhaps the most troubling thing I see in this country right now is this growing trend towards nativism, isolationism, protectionism and at times, nihilism. These are not attributes of a great nation. I do believe they will be corrected at some point, but we'll deal with it.

"By the way, those attributes - not good attributes - affect both political parties. It's not specific to one party.

"That's the bad news.  The good news is, as Churchill said, Americans will always do the right thing, but not 'till they exhaust every other possible alternative."