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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 19, 2018

Happy National Popcorn Day!

Is this "4baggerplus?"
One of my more astute readers has alerted me that today is National Popcorn Day! We could celebrate at the NorCo courthouse with Amy Trapp's $800 popcorn machine, but alas, it's been sold. According to Public Surplus, there were 22 bids for the county popper, which was finally awarded to "4baggerplus!" on January 16 for $560.

For some reason, Executive Lamont McClure failed to inform Council about this dramatic event at last night's Council meeting. Thank God for bloggers!

I understand that McClure has also issued an Executive Order declaring former HR Director Amy Trapp an Honorary Northampton County Kernel.

Musikfest Founder To Build Skyline West

Jeff Parks, along with Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority Exec Director Tony Hanna and former Mayors John Callahan and Don Cunningham, were the driving force behind what we know today as SteelStacks. It is a home to the arts, but one that has kept vivid reminders of our industrial past. The SteelStacks glow at night, not from molten steel, but with colored lights that serve as a backdrop to hundreds of concerts. It has become a community gathering place for everything from a Giant Peep dropping on New year's Eve to world cup soccer.

Parks is also the founder of the Lehigh Valley's most successful festival of the year - Musikfest. It attracted 1.1 million visitors from 43 states last year.

Now Park sis trying his hand at something new- development. He and the Benner family (Dennis, Garrett and Brandon) have formed Skyline West and are planning a 50 unit luxury apartment building to be located at 143 West Broad Street, one block from Main Street. The building is proposed to be erected on the eastern slope of a ridge between the Monocacy Valley and Pennsylvania route 378. Each of the luxury apartments will have balconies with views of the Monocacy Valley and South Mountain.

Amenities will include onsite parking, washer and dryer in each apartment, modern kitchens with gas stovetops, pet friendly environment with a pet washing area, fitness center, community room with outdoor deck, bicycle rack and a package receiving system.

“PennDOT created this hillside peninsula when the four-lane highway was constructed in the 1960’s”, Parks said in a news release. “Our goal is to attract residents who are accustomed to more contemporary amenities and will support the retail stores, restaurants, professionals and non-profits in the downtown.”

Neville Gardner, who chairs the Downtown Bethlehem Association, supports the project in part because it will add 50 to 100 people who can patronize the downtown daily. In addition, "it will add a very cool contemporary residential option to the downtown.” Mayor Bob Donchez added that it "will go a long way in fulfilling the goal of providing opportunities for folks to live, work, shop and dine in our downtowns.”

Now that he's a developer, Parks wants you to call him JP.

Their next project will be a 60-story combination office building and drug treatment center, decorated with pink flamingos, in Historic Bethlehem.

"That ought to set Haines off,"  said all three Benners.

Northampton County on Facebook

In an effort to be more transparent, Northampton County has finally established a Facebook page. Deputy Administrator Becky Bartett tells me she also plans to establish an official Twitter account as well as a Youtube channel.

Wanted: One Northampton County Controller

Hayden Phillips
After being confirmed as Director of Fiscal Affairs last night, NorCo Council Prez Ken Kraft began talking about Barron's replacement as Controller. But he had one problem, and John Cusick pointed it out.

"Have we received a letter from Mr. Barron?"

Barron had written out a resignation letter, but was so worried about being rejected as Director of Fiscal Affairs that he held onto it, and then forgot to hand it in once he was confirmed.

As people began laughing, Barron walked up and handed in his letter.

"Would you like to read it? I know a lot of people who would like to hear it," asked Kraft.

"No."

They read it anyway. Though Kraft was worried it might go on for several hours,it was mercifully brief. Then they voted to accept Barron's resignation.

Council has 30 days to appoint Barron's replacement for his remaining two years in office.

Kraft said that he's placed an ad in the newspapers, and Council will accept applications for the position through January 29. After that, the Personnel Committee will review the applications in an open meeting  Council will decide on Barron's replacement on February 15. 

Speaking for himself, Kraft stated that he'd like the next Controller to be someone who will agree to serve only for the next two years, not someone seeking the appointment to give him a "special leg up" in the next election.

"I'd like to have the people in the county vote for who they'd like to be the next Controller," he said.

Former Council member Hayden Phillips is interested in the job. While it's unlikely that a 6-3 Democratic Board would give the position to a conservative republican, he'd be an excellent Controller. Easton City Council member Peter Melan was reportedly interested, but it's unclear whether that is still the case.

NorCo Council Confirms McClure's Cabinet



I missed last night's Northampton County Council meeting because I was watching Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball lose its second game in a row to Northampton's Konkrete Kids. I was going to jump off the Northampton Coplay bridge when it was all over, but it's closed. So I went home and watched the video of the Council meeting. Though unhappy about the game, I am pleased to tell you that Lamont McClure's cabinet was confirmed last night with almost no muss or fuss.

Almost.

Charles Dertinger's nomination as Administrator was originally sent in at a salary of $93,626. McClure had intended to seek a higher salary, and corrected his error before the vote. But John Cusick, who supported Dertinger, was unwilling to support him at a higher salary. He said Dertinger should receive the same salary that was given to Cathy Allen, the former Administrator under John Brown. So he voted No.

That was the sole No vote from Council for any of these eight nominations.

But the votes were 8-0, not unanimous, because Bob Werner was under the weather and stayed home.

After the meeting, McClure issued a news release saying, “Tonight’s vote was historic for Northampton Count as, for the first time, our top two attorneys will be women. Five of our eight nominees confirmed tonight by Council are women, another first in Northampton County history. We believe, during home rule, this is the quickest formation of a Cabinet for a new administration and we’d like to thank Council for its overwhelming support of these nominees.”

McClure also provided a brief description of each cabinet official.

Department of Administration – Charles M. Dertinger. - Has a long record of community service, serving as a Northampton County Councilman at Large from 2006-2010. His committee appointments included Open Space, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Economic Development. Charles has been a liaison to 911 and a delegate to the Lehigh Valley Labor Council AFL CIO since 2000.

Fiscal Affairs – Stephen J. Barron, Jr., JC, CFE. - Has served as Controller of Northampton County since his first election to that position in 2007, providing fiscal oversight into the county’s $360 million budget. With his team of auditors, Steve estimates that he’s saved the county more than $12 million over the last ten years.

Solicitor – Melissa Pammer Rudas. - A graduate of Dickinson School of Law, Melissa has headed her own law office since 1999. She’s a member of the Pennsylvania Bar, and is admitted to practice at the Federal Court (Middle District of Pennsylvania) and the United States Supreme Court. Her public service includes serving on the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing board and the City of Bethlehem’s 275th Anniversary
Committee.

Human Resources – Elizabeth "Liz" Kelly. - An attorney, Kelly is a Senior Associate at King, Spry, Herman, Freund and Paul in Bethlehem, PA. She has served as a Director of Human Resources for the Allentown School District in the past and has experience in managing programs for healthcare, benefits, and employee education. Elizabeth has a wide background in labor, employment, unemployment, civil service, and federal laws.

Public Defender – Nuria DiLuzio. In private practice since 2001, focusing on Criminal Defense and Family Law. She’s a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the New Jersey Bar Association and is admitted to practice at the U.S. Federal Court (Middle District of Pennsylvania). She has served as both a full-time and part-time public defender.

Public Works – Michael Emili. - A civil engineer with Bethlehem City, Michael Emili has managed multiple public works projects, including bridge replacements. Michael has experience with watersheds, sewage pumping stations, and has certifications from OSHA, EIT and the American Concrete Institute.

Human Services – Sue Wandalowski, M.S. Ed. - Has worked at Kidspeace since 2000, and currently serves as their Permanency Program Manager. She has years of experience in foster care and adoption, overseeing caseworkers and managing offices devoted to social work.

Community and Economic Development – Tina Smith. - Founder and current president of the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen as well as a board member of the Nazareth Center for the Arts and the Nazareth Economic Development Commission. Tina is the current president of the Nazareth Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce and has years of experience in organizing events and festivals, both large and small.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

NorCo Council to Revisit $10 Million DaVinci Grant

In December, a lame duck Northampton County Council voted 5-4 to support a $10 million grant for the $130 million DaVinci Science Center in Easton. At the time of this vote, DaVinci's main attraction was a 500,000 gallon salt-water aquarium with sharks. But that's been scrapped because it might compete with a private aquarium being considered in Monroe County. So instead of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, DaVinci Exec Director Lin Erickson has proposed something that she thinks is way more cool - a "Nature Dome" that permits you to see the exact same things you'd see if you walked along the river. And a bug garden. And a 100' tall and XXL Vitruvian Man that looks just like Easton Mayor Sal Panto. There's even a little restaurant inside his head. Panto, who once promoted a High School Hall of Fame, is convinced this is way cooler than the fish tank. But Northampton County Council is having second thoughts about the wisdom of this $10 million grant.

"This is insane," is how Ken Kraft summed up the DaVinci Center when it was a mere aquarium. Imagine how he feels now that it's a bug garden.

At last night's Finance Committee, Council member John Cusick said he wants to revisit this grant. "What we voted for is not what's currently before us," he reasoned.

This $10 million grant comes from hotel taxes. It will take Northampton County several years to pay this sum, and other worthy projects will go unfunded. Erickson said she wants even more money from the county for this disaster. She's already attempted a private meeting with newly elected Council members, and wanted them to attend Tuesday's dog-and-pony show about this new design.

Cusick and Matt Dietz will be sponsoring legislation that reduces or eliminates the grant for this pipe dream. Cusick, Dietz and Kraft voted against this grant. Peg Ferraro and Bob Werner supported it. During the County Council debate, only Bill McGee supported the aquarium.

McClure Begins to Beef Up Agencies Protecting Children, Elderly

Matt Dietz and Tara Zrinski
On the day he was sworn in, Executive Lamont McClure said his top priority is the county's most vulnerable population - its very young and its very old. The state Department of Aging, had given Northampton County a failing grade in December for its handling of elder-abuse complaints. And Children, Youth and Family Director Kevin Dolan told Council in June that child abuse referrals had skyrocketed from 3,514 in 2014 to a projected 7,000 in 2017. Calling the increased referrals a "tsunami," Dolan said his staff are overwhelmed.

Both Dolan and Aging Administrator John Mehler were shot down when they asked for help. They were also pretty much muzzled during John Brown's tenure as Executive.

That is changing under Lamont McClure.

Yesterday, with Dolan and Mehler both present, he started the process of beefing up both departments. He asked Council to approve supervisory positions in both departments that Brown had rejected. 

Mehler and Dolan explained that new positions are either completely or 90% reimbursed by the state, so this costs the county nothing

Bob Werner attempted to downplay the failing grade Northampton County had received for failing to investigate elder abuse complaints promptly. He noted that eight counties have been reviewed and most have fared badly.

But McClure is having none of it. "There will be no excuses,' he said. "We must protect our elderly. We will not get another F."

NorCo's New #MeToo Government

Lori Vargo Heffner
Northampton County's new Council met for the first time yesterday. Since they were conducting confirmation hearings for Executive Lamont McClure's new cabinet, it was an excellent opportunity to observe McClure's new government in action. I'd call it a #MeToo government. Though the #MeToo movement initially arose as a reaction to rampant sexual harassment of women, it has morphed into a rallying cry that has empowered women. They've been empowered in Northampton County. Three of Council's nine members are now women. If McClure's cabinet is confirmed tomorrow, which seems highly likely, it will include five women. This includes some firsts. Melissa Rudas will be NorCo's first ever female Solicitor. Nuria DiLuzio will be the County's first ever female Public Defender.

Based on yesterday's hearings, it seems likely that all of McClure's choices will be confirmed unanimously. I've told you about McClure's nominees in a previous story.He named them within two days of being sworn into office,and had each of them appear at a news conference.

At yesterday's hearing, he introduced each nominee.

The most important of these is his Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger. The Administrator is usually designated as Acting County Executive when the Executive is absent. McClure said that since Dertinger know him so well, he'd have "the best sense of what I'd do." For his part, Dertinger said one of his goals is to ensure an excellent relationship between the Executive and Council.

Tina Smith, McClure's pick for Community and Economic Development, was lauded as a person with a proven track record of community and small business development.

Steve Barron, whose days as Controller appear to be over, will take over the helm at Fiscal Affairs. John Cusick and Matt Dietz, two of Council's three Republicans, said they'd support him. Cusick hopes that Barron can produce a revised Administrative Code and Airbnb legislation.Barron worked on both of these matters as Controller.

In response to a concern raised by Bob Werner, McClure said he would ban Barron from ever wearing a kilt.

McClure was especially proud of Attorney Elizabeth "Liz" Kelly, his pick for Human Relations. As recently as today, she was doing Human Resources at Allentown's beleaguered school district. MCClure said the County's former Human relations Director, Amy Trapp, had a "general disregard for the rules and regulations that benefit employees." He called Kelly the "right person at the right time to help create a stable work environment."

Bill McGee gave Kelly some good advice."Take care of the workers and they'll take care of you."

When he introduced his Human Services Director, Sue Wandalowski, McClure called her position the "most important one" in the county. This sentiment indicates the emphasis McClure wants to give to human services.

John Cusick asked Mike Emili, Mcclure's pick for Public Works, what areas in the county need attention. He wasted no time identifying bridges, Gracedale and the jail. "Good answer!" said Cusick.

No one messed with Missy Rudas, McClure's pick for Solicitor. While Missy is beautiful, she has a game face in which her eyes shoot poison arrows. I think she knows judo or something. McClure described her as someone who is "not laying down in a fight."

No one was willing to test that theory.

His final pick, Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio, proved her worth as an advocate in responding to questions about a possibleconflict involving her husband, who happens to be Bethlehem's Chief of Police. Since they are both administrators whowouldnever cross swords, there is no conflict.

Peg Ferraro was absent because she is still battling a severe case of bronchitis. But she almost always defers to the Executive on cabinet appointments. If this holds true tonight, all the nominees will be confirmed unanimously.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Updated: Morganelli to Trump: Adopt DACA as Stand Alone Act

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who is also running for the Democratic nomination to Pa.'s 15th Congressional District, is calling on President Donald Trump to support DACA legislation without conditions and as a stand-alone bill.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an immigration program adopted by President Barack Obama in 2012. He did so by executive order after the House refused to bring the matter up for a vote. It protects 800,000 "dreamers," who Morganelli described as "individuals who entered this country through no fault of their own. They were too young to make their own decisions."

To qualify for DACA protection, dreamers must be able to meet these minimum standards:

- Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
- Have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007
- Were under age 31 on June 15, 2012 (born on June 16, 1981 or after)
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
- Have completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
- Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety

Trump, who during his campaign had vowed to end DACA on "day one" of his presidency, ended it in September. But he suspended his Order for six months to "provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act." According to Department of Homeland Security Chief Kirstjen Nielson, Trump has no authority to grant any extension beyond March 5.

Morganelli, no friend to illegal immigration, distinguished dreamers from aliens who illegally enter this country to carry on a life of crime, not work. He said immigration resources should be focused on "removing dangerous foreign criminals," not dreamers.

He said Trump "is wrong in using these dreamers as hostages and human pawns in a chess match with the Democrats."

Morganelli, however, is opposed to forcing a government shutdown over this issue. He said that DACA supporters could find leverage in other ways.

Updated 8:25 pm: Below is John Morganelli's complete statement.

John Morganelli Supports DACA by BernieOHare on Scribd


Time to Scrap DaVinci Project

According to The Morning Call, the DaVinci Science Center is replacing its vaunted salt-water fishtank with an indoor bug garden. That should be enough to kill this $130 million disaster.  According to State Senator Pat Browne, DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson had already agreed to scrap the aquarium. Funny how she never mentioned that to Council when she got that $10 million grant.

The news account claims that DaVinci has raised $70 million so far, but it really only has pledges, not money in the bank. Northampton County Council's $10 million grant is predicated on the assumption that there would be a major draw. I'm sorry, but a bug garden and otters prancing around will fail to attract visitors.

This is as ridiculous as Easton Mayor Sal Panto's High School Hall of Fame.

Though NorCo Council has adopted an ordinance promising $10 million to this pipe dream, that ordinance can and should be repealed.

Gracedale Union Workers Reduce Sick Time, See COLA Rise

According to the contract for Gracedale's AFSCME union workers, they would be entitled to a 2.5% instead of a 2% COLA this year if successful at reducing sick time in 2017. On January 2, Human Resources certified to Executive Lamont McClure that AFSCME has met this metric, So he is asking Council to give their COLA an extra bump. In doing so, McClure is honoring a contract.

NorCo Council Poised to Confirm McClure Nominees

Today, Northampton County Council will conduct what you might call a confirmation hearing for eight members of Executive Lamont McClure's cabinet. (You can read about them here.) Tomorrow night, Council will vote on the nominations. Five yes votes are needed to conform a cabinet appointment.

In addition to confirming the appointments, Council must approve the salaries. They are as follows:

Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger - $93,626

County Solicitor, Melissa (Missy) Rudas. - $63,124 (part-time)

Fiscal Affairs, Steve Barron. - $93,626

Human Services, Sue Wandalowski. - $93,626

Human Resources, Elizabeth Kelly. - $101,832

Public Works, Michael Emili. - $93,626

Community and Economic Development, Tina Smith. - $85,393

Public Defender. Nuria DiLuzio. - $62,972 (part-time)

McClure has names Richard Johnson as Acting Sheriff. Contrary to the practice of several previous county executives, McClure is asking Council to approve this appointment as well as Johnson's $85,393 salary. Johnson is a LT in the Sheriff's Department.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Where Has Trump Succeeded?

As regular readers of this blog are well aware, I consider Authoritarian Donald Trump dangerous to our democracy and Constitution. He's a foul-mouthed racist, xenophobe and sexist who plays grade school bully on the international playground  He repeatedly belittles the free press, and like any good banana republic dictator, thinks he should be able to use the Justice Department to go after his political rivals. After one year in office, we are more divided than ever, thanks to his polarizing remarks. His biggest flaw is his complete inability to tell the truth, meaning he has no credibility here or abroad. 

After a year of childish tweetstorms, some of those who voted for him are embarrassed. But he still has supporters who attempt to justify every mistake he makes. Some of you are yourselves racist, sexist or hate Muslims. A larger number are just rabid partisans who are so caught up in their hatred of Democrats that they are simply incapable of recognizing that Trump has been a disaster. But a few of you who are neither partisans nor racists nor sexists nor modern Know-Nothings still support him.

Why?

Please don't tell me he tells it like it is. That's just what bigoted people are using as an excuse. I find that an unacceptable reason to support him.

Is it the economy?

The economy, while not great, is doing rather well. But in a MacLeans analysis, it appears to be mostly the result of policies set in place under Obama.

How about the stock market? While the stock market nearly doubled in Obama's first term, Trump can probably take credit for the bull market. His braggadocio has probably probably given investors a level of confidence they lacked with Obama.

What about tax reform? It's unpopular at the moment, but does benefit low-income taxpayers. Several businesses have announced  wage hikes and bonuses, so that's a positive. 

Is it because the alternatives to Trump are worse? I get that with Hillary. But in a nation of 300 million, I think others can do a better job.

Monday, January 15, 2018

DaVinci Attempts to Subvert Sunshine Act

Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act requires Northampton County Council to conduct its business at open meetings. But DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson, worried that a $10 million grant for an Easton aquarium might be in jeopardy, has tried twice now to engineer private discussions of the people's business with newly elected Council members.

Erickson was at NorCo Council's first meeting, although she failed to speak at courtesy of the floor. She instead arranged for a private meeting that was supposed to take place last Friday at noon  When Council Prez Ken Kraft caught wind of what was happening, he directed that the meeting be canceled. Had a quorum of Council attended this meeting, it would almost certainly violate the Sunshine Act.

Erickson scheduled another meeting for Tuesday as well. Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni has advised Council to stay away. 

 

After Sunshine Act Violation, NorCo GPA Should Comply with RTKL

Last week, I told you that Northampton County's General Purpose Authority violated the Sunshine Law by conducting an executive session without a public explanation why it was necessary to meet in the back room. Solicitor John Lushis has since that time done his best to roadblock a Right-to-Know request. He appears to be as poorly informed about the Right to Know Law as he is the Sunshine Act.

Last week, after the Sunshine Act violation, I filed a Right-to-Know request concerning the amount of money paid to Lushis and any plans for a jail at Gracedale. Though the RTKL specifically requires that the RTK officer and any policies be identified on its webpage, that has never happened. So I sent my request to Administrator Mark Hartney, asking him to refer my request to the appropriate person.

Lushis eventually responded, declaring that he is the RTK officer. He attached a policy that should be linked on the webpage but is not, and instructed me to follow it and resubmit my RTK request.
"Attached is Northampton County General Purpose Authority’s (NCGPA) Open Records Policy. Please kindly re-submit your request to me directly and I will respond accordingly."
As I explained to Lushis, and caselaw makes this clear, there is no need for me to resubmit my request. Hartney followed the law by forwarding my request to him. Lushis now needs to follow the law by responding. He ultimately agreed to do so, and it's a good thing he did because that is what the RTKL requires.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Boys' Hoops: ACCHS Stunned by Dieruff

After the game, some Central players pose with Huskie Justin
Rockmore, a great young man 
There are those who may take Dieruff HS Boys' Basketball team lightly, especially with a 5-6 record.That would be a mistake, as Allentown Central Catholic's learned to their chagrin on Saturday night. Their perfect season evaporated in a 40-37 loss to the Huskies. 
With the exception of a strong, 13-point effort by Jay Vaughan, the Vikings were unable to get going offensively. Dat Lambert and Nick Filchner had only 8 points, while Chad Kratzer had just 7. 

Dieruff's C.J. Richardson scored 22, and Will Melson added another 10.

This summer, Dieruff also handed Central Catholic one of its few losses in a real drubbing. 

When the Huskies come out to play, they can beat anyone. They face Becahi next while the Vikings will visit Northampton. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

HS Boys' Hoops: ACCHS Tops Allen, Climbs to 13-0

Though Dat's sisters are Easton High School grads,
they were allowed to play in Central's pep band. 

In a game marred by turnovers and missed free throws, Allentown Central Catholic High School Boys' Basketball improved its record to 13-0 last night with a 48-44 victory over the William Allen Canaries. The Vikes trailed until the 4th quarter in a low-scoring defensive struggle.

Junior Chad Kratzer led the scoring with 11, followed by Jay Vaughan (10), Jordan McChristian (9), Dat Lambert (8), Nick Filchner (5), Kevin Kern (4), and Keyshawn Kelman (3). Though unable to score, Lambert led the team in rebounds while Vaughn scored 8 of his 10 points in the second half.

A team that looked like it could do no wrong against Parkland on Tuesday looked like it could do nothing right just three days later. It had at least 12 turnovers in the first half.

The Vikings were just 8/15 from the free throw line, but the Canaries were worse, hitting only 4 of 18 free throws.

Allen's top scorer was Jasiah Lopez, with 15 Also scoring were Bless Jones (7), Bell Trizek (6), Averee Adderly (6), Roy Ortega (3), Isaiah Frizison (3), Romeo Wright (2), and Gordon Malick (2).

Central will visit Dieruff tonight.

You can see other scores from last night on my left sidebar.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Shithole President

In a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, Authoritarian Donald Trump objected to extending lawful immigration status to people from Africa, El Salvador and Haiti. His racist venom began with Haiti. "Why do we need more Haitians?" he complained."Take them out." As the discussion continued, the racist-in-chief bellowed, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He went on to say he'd like to see more people from Norway.

Make America White Again.

I particularly like the reaction of Mexico's former president, Vincente Fox. ""Donald Trump, your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world," he tweeted.

That about sums it up.

By the way, Norway's Aftenposten has reported that 66 percent of Norwegians have an “extremely unfavorable” impression of Trump. He actually beat Putin, who only has a 51% unfavorable rating.

Must be fake news.

Reynolds Discusses Plan to Make Bethlehem More Transparent, Responsive

Around this tie last year, Bethlehem City Council person Willie Reynolds unveiled an ambitious plan he called Bethlehem 2017. He's well aware that many of us view government, especially on higher levels, as unresponsive, unaccountable and inefficient. In his words, "They too often appear to represent the interests of a few at the expense of the many without giving much thought to the future of our environment, our cities, and our communities." Fast forward one year, and it's safe to say that citizens still feel the same way. But in fairness to Reynolds, he has spent much of this past year trying to bring government closer to the people.

How is he doing? Here's how Willie himself describes it.

1) Climate Action Plan – In February of 2017, City Council unanimously passed a Resolution creating a Climate Action Working Group that was tasked with working towards the creation of a Climate Action Plan for Bethlehem. Over a period of many months, citizens, city employees, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, representatives from community environmental organizations, and elected officials worked to create a two phase plan of municipal climate action. Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan will include, but not limited to, internal energy reduction goals for city operations, a citywide energy reduction initiative entitled Green Bethlehem, and the hiring of an outside consultant to help write a full climate plan that will serve as a guide for the future of environmental action in Bethlehem. - Some of you sneer at this proposal, but Bethlehemites take environmental issues much more seriously than other Lehigh Valley communities.

2) Open Bethlehem – In February of 2017, City Council unanimously passed a Resolution creating a Working Group that would be tasked with creating an Open Data program for the City of Bethlehem. Working with the Administration, citizens, representatives from local colleges and universities and businesses, city employees, and elected officials studied other cities’open data initiatives and the most effective ways for Bethlehem to implement their own open data initiative. In November of 2017, City Council unanimously passed an Open Data ordinance which created Bethlehem’s first ever Open Data program. The City Administration included funding in the 2018 budget for the open data program and a contract has recently been signed with OpenGov, a leader in the municipal Open Data movement that will allow Bethlehem to formally launch the first phase of their open data program in early 2018. - As Dr.Paige Van Wirt pointed out during her write-in campaign, Pittsburgh has an open data program called Open Book Pittsburgh. It includes links to City contracts, campaign finance reports and lobbyists. Something like that in Bethlehem goes a long way to making government transparent and responsive.

3) NorthSide 2027 – Bethlehem’s neighborhoods have always made our community what it is. NorthSide 2027, a unique partnership between the Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College, residents, and city government, is an initiative that calls for reinvestment and redevelopment in the city’s north side middle class neighborhoods. In 2017, Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Area School District, and Northampton County approved a LERTA (Local Economic Redevelopment Tax Abatement) zone to help spur reinvestment in the aforementioned neighborhoods. In October of 2017, NorthSide 2027 held its first community meeting which drew nearly 100 residents. The 2018 City of Bethlehem budget includes $100,000 for neighborhood planning that will include community meetings in 2018 that will help design a redevelopment strategy for these vital neighborhoods.- I personally think this residential LERTA is nonsense that might actually exacerbate the problem because absentee landlords can take advantage of it. Also, with Moravian College expanding its off-campus student housing, housing stock is sure to decline. Other toolsin the City arsenal are more effective. Neighborhood planning should come from the neighborhoods, not Darlene Heller.

4) Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting (F.A.I.R.) – In August, City Council’s Committee met to discuss the potential for a reporting initiative for the City’s economic development incentive programs. The Administration provided feedback on what information they currently track as it relates to incentive programs. A coordinated effort, initiated by Council with the Administration, resulted in an Ordinance to establish Article 349, entitled Economic Development Incentive Reporting and Evaluation, Creating the Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting Program, and was introduce at the December 19, 2017 City Council Meeting. The proposed Ordinance will be reviewed in the Community Development Committee on January 16, 2018.- Are developers keeping their promises?. That's what this Ordinance attempts to determine. This should prove quite educational.

5) Engage Bethlehem – In February of 2017, City Council passed a Resolution that created a Social Media Working Group to study the City’s social media current initiatives and how other cities are engaging their residents. The Working Group, consisting of city employees, citizens, and elected officials, met several times throughout 2017 to study strengths and weaknesses of city social media operations as well as necessary actions to improve Bethlehem’s social media presence. The Working Group also determined that a citywide survey was necessary and will be released in the first half of 2018 with the goal of setting community wide priorities for future social media engagement opportunities - Bethlehem should talk to Bethlehem Tp, whose use of reverse 911 and Nixle is doing more.informing people. It's saving lives.

Overall, Reynolds has accomplished a lot over the past year. He takes a lot of heat by those who perceive him as aloof and unresponsive. I personally think he is always motivated by what he thinks is best for the City. He's far from done.But these measures are certainly a step in the right direction.

Popcorn War!

It really drives Brown supporters nutz when I talk about the $800 NorCo popcorn machine. A few were ready to jump off the toll bridge and had to be lured to safety with Amy Trapp's gift cards. If I had a shred of decency left, I'd drop this matter. So I thought I'd update you on the auction.

Last time I checked in, retired Magisterial District Judge Jimmy Stocklas was the high bidder at a little over $100. But a bidding war has erupted. The current high bid is $455 from "4baggerplus."

Who is "4baggerplus?"  Based on the definition in Urban Dictionary, it's a person so ugly that you'd need four bags. One for his/her head, one for yours, one for the dog and a plastic bag with which to suffocate yourself after you finish the ride to Space Mountain.

Some bastards are claiming that I am "4baggerplus."

That's really hurtful. I'm rated a 10 by Hot or Not.  I was going to perform "I feel pretty" at the half-time show during tonight's Allen-Liberty game, but I'm taking a knee instead.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

NorCo's GPA and Lil' Bo Peep

Yesterday, I told you that the Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) started off the new year with a Sunshine Act violation. What the hell is the GPA? A lot of people are asking that question.

It was first established on May 6, 1999, pursuant to the Municipal Authority Act. It can do all sorts of things. This includes granting a $50,000 mortgage to a Luzerne County company called Beau's Peeps. Attorney David Lantz appears to be a principal.  I have no idea what Beau's Peeps does,or what relation this Kingston corporation has to Northampton County.

The GPA will be around until October 23, 2063. It may exercise any powers authorized by the Municipal Authority Act, but importantly, Northampton County retains the right to approve all actions.

Over the years, the GPA has acted as a conduit for the issuance of both taxable and tax exempt bonds to help finance public and private projects, mostly with hospitals and universities. It also administers the NorCo Loan and Development Fund and the Community Investment Partnership Program Revolving Loan Fund. In 2016, it became the lead agency involved in a plan to refurbish or replace 33 county-owned bridges at a cost of $38 million, with the work being done by Kriger Construction.

In 2016, the GPA had assets worth $3.18 million and liabilities of $359,000.

In its 2016 audit,
the GPA lists three loans.

One is an unsecured $50,000 loan to Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, which provides micro-financing to small businesses.

The second is a small loan to the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children, which was completely paid.

The one that has me scratching my head is that $50,000 mortgage to Kingston-based Beau's Peeps, LLC.

I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for a loan to a Kingston business, but can find no mention of Lil' Beau's Peeps in either the 2015 or 2016 minutes.

Maybe this was all decided in executive session.

Updated 2 pm: According to courthouse records, Beau's Peeps purchased 201 Roseto Avenue, Roseto, PA on 7/21/14. This is the home of Hope Uniform Co., which makes police and firefighter uniforms. So there is a Northampton County connection.


The 2016 audit,
indicates that the $50,000 loan is secured by a mortgage, but no mortgage was ever recorded.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

12-0 Vikings Torment Trojans With 12 Treys

(L to R: Chad Kratzer -15, Dat Lambert - 18, Jay Vaughan - 14)
"Your grandson spent the entire night on his back!"

That's what Tom Muller, a former Lehigh County politician who amazingly is still alive, told me not long ago when Allentown Central Catholic High School played Emmaus in boys basketball. Dat Lambert did get knocked around a bit in that game. Tom will be happy to hear that my grandson Dat spent very little time on his back last night, when the Parkland Trojans hosted the now 12-0 Vikings. This time, he was on his stomach.

Late in the game, he attempted a layup against Trojan defender Ian Dashukewich, a 6'9" junior. As Dat climbed this giant, Ian came down with a hand to block the ball, but hit Dat instead. Dat went down, face first, right on the floor. He just laid there for a few seconds, then got up, and sunk two free throws.

I think the floor cracked.

The Morning Call's Keith Groller has an excellent account. He noted that the Vikes had 104 treys going into the game, and added another 12 last night (Jay Vaughan - 4, Dat Lambert - 3, Chad Kratzer - 2, Nick Filchner - 2, Kevin Kern - 1).

Point guard Jay Vaughan is an excellent and explosive field general with an uncanny ability to find the player in the best position to take the shot. He had five assists, two steals and three rebounds. He is the team's catalyst.

Four Central players finished the night in double digits (Lambert - 18, Vaughan - 14, Kratzer - 15, Filchner - 10.)

Parkland's Jake Bartholomew had 12, including one from downtown.

Central has no time to rest on its laurels. It plays a very tough Allen on Friday night. The very next night, the Vikings will be playing at Dieruff. The Huskies clobbered Central over the summer.

NorCo GPA Starts New Year With Sunshine Act Violation

They're in the back room.
I've warned you before that Lehigh Valley's local government is dangerously close to what academics would call an urban growth regime. It's a system in which crony capitalists (mostly Republican) call the shots through their pay-to-play puppets in local government (mostly Democrat). It's a shadow government in which a consortium of select real estate developers, attorneys, engineers, consultants and other public vendors are the de facto rulers. Ordinary citizens have no real say. They just pay the bill. This system is what led to the federal indictment of Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. It is why Bethlehem City Council is increasingly viewed, fairly or unfairly, as unresponsive. And under former NorCo Executive John Brown, it began seeping into the county, too. Specifically, this infection appears to have spread into the General Purpose Authority (GPA)..

This unelected body of seven people met yesterday. Executive Lamont McClure, who has succeeded Brown, decided to drop in on them. So did Council Prez Ken Kraft.

"I'd like to go into executive session on a couple of matters," suggested GPA member Shawn Langen. And off they went into the back room, with no explanation. Was it personnel? Litigation? Labor contracts? The lease of real estate? No explanation was given, which by itself is a Sunshine Act violation. Their Solicitor, John Lushis, is paid a lot of money to know better. But he was perfectly content to keep not just the people, but their highest ranking county official, in the dark.

"Do you want staff to attend?" asked Mark Hartney, their clerk.

"No!" answered Lushis. "These are privileged."

Why?

Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act clearly states, "The reason for holding the executive session must be announced at the open meeting occurring immediately prior or subsequent to the executive session."

After being behind closed doors for nearly a half hour, the GPA came back and resumed the meeting with no explanation why they met privately.

It was clearly a dig at McClure and Kraft for daring to attend one of their meetings.

According to the state legislature, "[T]he right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process ... . [S]ecrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society."

This is a poor way for a public body to start the new year, and makes me winder what they are up to in the back room.

NorCo's $800 Popcorn Machine For Sale!!

On Monday, I reported to you that someone in Bangor is selling a popcorn machine. Then I defamed former Executive John Brown and former Administrator Cathy Alan by implying that they had stolen the machine and were selling it. Hey, I'm a bottom-feeding blogger. It's what I do. Well, you'll be happy to know that Northampton County's $800 beauty is still on the county campus. Deputies found it in Controller Steve Barron's office by following little kernels. He claimed he was auditing it, as pieces of popcorn fell out of his mouth.

Executive Lamont McClure has decided to sell it at public auction. You can see it listed at the Public Auction website, where it is described as a "Great Northern Black Commercial Quality Popcorn Popper Machine with Cart." It's being sold "as is." What's more, the successful bidder will have to load it up and haul it off himself.

Retired Magisterial District Judge Jimmy Stocklas wants it, and is the current high bidder at $100.

After unloading the popcorn machine, NorCo can sell a bunch of never-used biometric punch clocks.

By the way, whoever took that picture must have cataracts.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Updated: Pa.15th: Morganelli Stands Out In Crowded Field

John Morganelli
As long as Charlie Dent was in office, Pa.'s 15th Congressional District was safely in Republican hands. I am one of the many Democrats who consistently voted for him, and for good reason. He's a grown-up in a federal government full of children talking about who has the bigger button. Also, his views were usually consistent with the thinking of those he represented. Dent's departure from government is actually a great loss to democracy. To the extend that his decision was spurred along by political opportunists like Justin Simmons or NorCo GOP boss and Trump worshiper  "General" Lee Snover, they ought to be ashamed. But we Democrats should thank them. Unwittingly, they have managed to turn a safe seat  into one that is suddenly vulnerable in a race by the right kind of Democrat.

That Democrat is John Morganelli.

According to Ballotpedia, Morganelli is the seventh Democrat to enter the fray. He is well known in the Lehigh Valley and parts of Berks County through a distinguished and lengthy career as a hands-on prosecutor. The other Democrats (Chip Collica, Greg Edwards, Bill Leiner, Laura Quick, David Weidman and Susan Wild) are largely unknown. It's also unclear whether they are serious. Statements of organization have been filed by Collica, Edwards, Wild, Leiner, Quick, Morganelli, and Weidman. Thus far, only Edwards and Leiner report having raised any money.

Five Republicans (Dean Browning, Ryan MacKenzie, Marty Nothstein, Mike Pries and Scott Uehlinger) in the hunt, too. None is particularly well known, with the possible exception of Nothstein. I am unable tolocate any information for Mike Pries. Only MacKenzie and Justin Simmons, who withdrew as a candidate once his numerous absences as a state rep were exposed, report raising any money. .

Some Democrats say Morganelli is too conservative. They want someone more pure. This is the same stupid argument that was used against Charlie Dent, proving that Dems have their share of imbeciles, too.

In their minds, perfection is the enemy of the good.

I'll take the good.

Updated 10:30 am. In my original story, i was unable to locate links to most of the FEC filings.

Monday, January 08, 2018

John Morganelli to Run for Congress

From John Morganelli: “Today I filed  the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission which represents the first step in order to seek the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives for Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District. This district is currently represented by Republican Charlie Dent who announced he will not seek re-election. It is my intention  to circulate petitions in February in order to secure the 1000 required signatures to get on the ballot. 
 
“Over the next few months I will outline my views on the important issues facing our nation. I have respect for all the candidates who have so far announced their intentions to seek this office. I look forward to meeting them through the course of this campaign and to discuss the issues with them in a civil and respectful manner. You can learn more about me at my web site  www.johnmorganelli.com.”

NorCo's Former Deputy HR Director Escorted From Job

Michael Twining was a crime analyst for the City of Allentown when he was asked by Amy Trapp if he'd like to come work with her in Northampton County. The two had known each other when Trapp was Allentown's Human Resources Director. Twining had represented the nonunion workers. He spoke on Trapp's behalf at her confirmation hearing, and she was obviously grateful. She made him her Deputy Director in charge of the popcorn machine. But there was a catch. He would become an exempt employee who serves at the pleasure of the County Executive. He probably should have said No to Trapp.

A 2003 grad of DeSales, Twining had pent nearly five years in the U.S. Army as an M.P. He was hired as Allentown's 911 training coordinator. Then, in 2010, he became a crime analyst.

Because Twining had no real experience in human resources, Trapp spent thousands of county tax dollars to have him "trained" at places like ... Las Vegas ... and New Orleans.

Somewhere along the way, Twining decided it was time to jump the sinking S.S. Trapp. Cathy Alan reportedly found a landing spot for him with her friend Todd Weaver, who runs NorCo's Emergency Management operations.

I have no idea whether the job was ever posted and offered to the career service first, as it should be. but Twining somehow ended up as Bill Hillandbrand's replacement and would join the ranks of career service. This would mean that "just cause " is needed to terminate him.

Hillanbrand was the County's very capable Emergency Management Planning Manager. There's a ton of people who are actually in emergency management who would like that job. It certainly appears that Twining got this job because of his connections, not his abilities.

Twining could handle a 911 call, but had no PEMA (Pa. Emergency Management Agency) certificates.. Weaver hired a person he had to know was unqualified.

Maybe Twining was looking forward to more training trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans. Maybe ne thought he was safe in career service.

He wasn't.

On Friday, Twining was escorted away from Emergency management. He's been terminated.

Though he is career service, he must be in the job for six months before he is protected. Twining can of course apply for a job in the 911 field, where he is already qualified, but was pushing his luck here.

Where's That Damn $800 Popcorn Machine?

If there's one thing that former NorCo Exec John Brown supporters hate, it's when I talk about the $800 popcorn machine. So I think I'll do it again. As I reported to you last year, Brown allowed his Human Resources Director, Amy Trapp, to raid the health and wellness fund for an $800 popcorn machine. She had it installed in her office, whose employees gained 800 pounds in a month as the odor of popcorn wafted every afternoon throughout the entire third floor.

Former Magisterial District Judge Jimmy Stocklas has offered to buy this machine, but is it still there?

Controller Steve Barron says it is, but a Craigslist ad from someone in Bangor offers to sell a popcorn machine for $50.

Brown and his former Administrator, Cathy Alan, live in Bangor.

Uh oh.

I've demanded to see the machine, but Barron said I'm insane.

I resent that. I'm a very stable genius.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Boys' Hoops - ACCHS Now 11-0

Dat and former ACCHS star Muhammad-Ali
Abdur-Rahkman, now a Wolverine
Thanks to 11 trays, Allentown Central Catholic High School Boys Varsity Basketball are now 11-0. They defeated Pocono Mountain East tonight by a score of 69-54. Vikings will visit Parkland Tuesday night. The Panthers drop to 5-5.

Dat Lambert was top scorer with 20 points, including four from downtown.Jay Vaughan was right behind with 13, including three from beyond the arc as well as six assists.Chad Kratzer had 11, and was 4/4 in free throws. Keyshawn "the beast" Kelman continues to get healthy after being sidelined by a bad back. He scored 9 points despite limited minutes. Other scorers included Nick Filchner (6), Jordan McChristian (5), Kevin Kern (4) and Vinny Lynch (1).

The Panthers' lead scorer. Tashad Thomason, had 13.

You can see other scores on my left sidebar.

Tales of a Meals on Wheels Driver

Dale Sourbeck
When he was sworn in on Tuesday as Northampton County Executive, Lamont McClure made clear in a very brief address what bothers him most- children and elderly people who are at risk. He has good reason. Just two weeks before he assumed office, Pennsylvania's Department of Aging gave Northampton County a failing grade for its response to elder abuse complaints. One investigator was saddled with a caseload three times the state mandated limit.

Unfortunately, our elderly really are at risk,and that  point was brought home at last night's County Council meeting by Dale Sourbeck. He is a volunteer with Meals on Wheels, and delivers every day. In fact, he heps train new volunteer drivers.

In addition to providing 500,000 meals a year, Sourbeck said he can check in on people and make sure everything is OK. On four occasions over the past six years, he found his clients lying on the floor, unable to get up. On two occasions, these people had fallen and and just laid there the entire weekend, unattended. in one instance, a person was unconscious. In another, a woman had passed away.

In addition to finding people in physical distress, there have been instances in which clients have complained that relatives are stealing money. He has made referrals in those instances. 

As baby boomers reach retirement age, you might think meals and wheels is well-funded. But in 2017, there were 23 million fewer meals served than in 2005.

McClure Hits the Ground Running

Lamont McClure and his new cabinet
Lamont McClure was only sworn into office as NorCo Executive on Tuesday at 3:30 pm  But over the span of just two days, he has nominated most of his cabinet. In addition, he has already filled most of the Deputy positions. He announced these appointments, as promised, in his County Council report last night. And in a sign that he is going to be a very different Executive than his predecessor, McClure also announced these appointments in a very public news conference earlier in the day. Every one of his nominees was present, too.

"I want to applaud you for doing this rapidly," said Republican John Cusick, who until Tuesday was County Council President "Having sat through the previous two administrations and having watched them stumble to get these appointments going, I think you're off to a good start. Congratulations."

Earlier that day, McClure did more than just announce his new cabinet picks. He also introduced them from the courthouse rotunda. Calling them a "mix of experience and new blood," he was especially pleased to have appointed the County's first ever female Solicitor and Public Defender.. Two firsts.

Who are they?

Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger. - He's a former Elections Commission Chair as well as a former Council member who sparred regularly with Ron Angle and, from time to time, yours truly. In short, he's a proper bastard. You might consider this an insult, but that's exactly what a County Executive needs.

Dertinger and McClure have been close friends for years. Just as McClure took a 50% paycut to put himself under the microscope as County Executive, Dertinger may actually be giving up even more money. He's a construction manager on various NYC projects like Madison Square Garden renovation, United Nations modernization, World Trade Center, and most recently, Grand Central Station 

"Charles is bringing all of this public and private experience to help me run county government," said McClure.

Dertinger will also be acting Executive in McClure's absence. "Your government will be in good hands" McClure assured everyone.

Missy's daughter Francesa accompanied
her to the news conference. 
County Solicitor, Melissa (Missy) Rudas. -  Missy Rudas has never been a county employee, but her association with the Easton courthouse goes back to the '80s. As a college and law school student, she searched real estate titles to earn tuition money and developed a reputation then as a hard worker whose work was considered superior. Like her father, she graduated from Duke University. Like yours truly, she graduated from the best law school in Pennsylvania, Dickinson School of Law. She was cum laude, too.

McClure picked Rudas out of the private sector. "We're breaking a sclerotic bond with the same solicitors holding the same jobs over and over again." He described her as "highly intelligent" and a person with a "reputation as a tenacious advocate"  Though he wants to avoid the courtroom, McClure said those who sue the County will face her "and they'll know why I picked her."

Steve Barron
Fiscal Affairs, Steve Barron. -  Barron is currently NorCo's Controller and has been elected three times. "Steve Barron was there with us in the fight to save Gracedale," noted McClure. "Because he is a truth teller and so good with numbers, I believe he's saved us over $12 million with performance audits," he added. "No one knows the finances better than Steve Barron. There isn't anyone I trust more."

Barron, who has been the object of scorn for the past four years, seemed unsure what to do upon hearing this high praise.

The loquacious Controller was actually stunned into silence.

Hopefully, McClure praises Barron more often.

Sue Wandalowski
Human Services, Sue Wandalowski. - As recently as the day he was sworn in, McClure expressed concern for children who have been negatively impacted by the opioid crisis. So it's no surprise that his pick for Human Services Director would be someone who has worked with children. Wandalowski is a highly placed program manager at KidsPeace. That's a private charity founded in 1882 and dedicated to helping troubled children.

Wandalowski is highly educated. She graduated summa cum laude from St. Joseph's University. She then attended University of Pennsylvania for a MS Ed. psychological services. Again, she graduated summa cum laude. "I may have to rethink this," observed McClure. "Your grades are better than mine."

Elizabeth Kelly
Human Resources, Elizabeth Kelly. - As an attorney at the King, Spry law firm, Kelly became experienced working with public sector employers on employee matters. She has also served as Human Resources Director at Allentown School Distrtict in 2012-2013 and agin for the past year. She has experience with executive searches, management recruitment, onboarding, employee and labor relations with five unions and two supervisory groups. She has managed healthcare programs, has provided employee education about sexual harassment and other prohibited forms of discrimination. She is also trained in workers comp and employee comp claim management.

"We're going to have a different relationship with the employees of Northampton County," said McClure. "For too long, the employees have felt that their county government, specifically through Human Resources, was adversarial to them. That is not the kind of relationship I want my administration to have with our employees."

Michael Emili
Public Works. Michael Emili. - A  project engineer in Bethlehem for the past four years, Emili has a Bachelor's degree Civil and Environmental Engineering. At Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Emili earned a Master's degree in Civil Engineering. His gradepoint was a 3.83 GPA.

What prompted McClure to steal Emili from Bethlehem is the engineer's experience in bridge construction.He can perform bridge inspections and prepare bid packages.

Since Northampton County owns and maintains 119 bridges, McClure predicts that "[w]e'll be able to hit the ground running."

Tina Smith
Community and Economic Development, Tina Smith. - Smith is currently the President of the Nazareth Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce. It's a position she has held since 2007.

What impresses McClure about Smith is her work "to develop small businesses in the heart of our county."

She is also a founder of the successful Martin on Main Festival.

Public Defender. Nuria DiLuzio. - McClure described her as an experienced litigator and former public defender. He has already appointed her Acting Public Defender so that the courts will be covered.

Nuria DiLuzio
DiLuzio is married to Bethlehem Police Chief mark DiLuzio. Does this mean the office will have to disqualify itself from any case involving a defendant charged by Bethlehem police?

In a word, No.

DiLuzio has sought and obtained an advisory opinion from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. If she is defending someone in a matter in which her husband is a witness, there's an obvious conflict. But as McClure pointed out, "That's not going to happen. They're both administrators. Anybody who raises it either does not understand the law or is raising it for political purposes."

DA John Morganelli agrees with McClure, who suggested that anyone who thinks this might be a conflict should talk to President Judge Stephen Baratta.

Sheriff. - Though he believes the Administrative Code unlawfully hamstrings the executive, he intends to follow the process. This means the position will be advertised. Applications will be forwarded to him by the Solicitor,and McClure will rate his top three choices before forwarding them to the courts. The President Judge can add names to this list and will rate them as well. Then McClure will make his choice. "I have no candidates firmly in mind," he said.

Corrections.- Todd Buskirk, who retired two years ago, has agreed to return as warden until May on a part-time basis. "What he will do is provide us with three decades of warden experience," noted McClure. During that time, McClure will seek a warden as a career service employee. His function will be limited to the nuts and bolts of a prison operation, not policy.

When it comes to matters of policy like recidivism reduction, battling the opioid crisis or the surge of inmates who are mentally ill, that's where McClure will need a Director of Corrections.

He intends to have both Warden and Corrections Director in place by May.

He told Ron Heckman that, at that time, he will have a plan in place after discussing the matter with the courts.

"Nothing gets done without the courts," he said.

Director of Court Services. - In contrast to his predecessor, McClure believes the office exists to supervise the row offices. He pointed out that there was a real crisis in one of the row offices a few years ago, so he thinks the position must be filled. But for now, he'll do it.  He may also be considering the suggestion that these offices be placed under the Court Administrator.

Other positions. - In addition to his cabinet selections, McClure has appointed several deputies and assistant Solicitors. Upper Nazareth's Becky Bartlett, who taught at Northampton Community College, is a Deputy Administrator. Affable Scott Parsons, a former Council member, is now Deputy Director of Public Works. "He will be proactive in all the various phases of public works," said McClure. Mary Lou Kaboly, a benefits Administrator, will be a Deputy Director of Human Resources at Gracedale. Another deputy Director of Human Resources is Kathleen McNeill. Janet Jackson, Esq., has been named Deputy Public Defender. Michael Corriere, Esq., a former member of Council, will be the Deputy Solicitor. He has also stolen Tim Brennan from Controller Steve Barron. And in a bright move, he will hire top litigator Phil Lauer as an assistant Solicitor. He is keeping Dave Ceraul, who served as an assistant Solicitor under John Brown.

"You're government is here, it is working," he said. "I am here every day, I am working."

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Former Allentown Mayoral Candidate Josh Siegel Lands in LC

The story below came to me from Josh Siegel, one of the 100,000 Allentown residents who ran for Mayor last year. Though I never personally met Josh, I was quite impressed by his campaign and the way he handled himself during debates.

Siegel has been hired by Phillips Armstrong as Lehigh County's Public Information Officer.

Hozza Named Lehigh County's New Administrator

Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza has been named Lehigh County's new Administrator. In  news release announcing this appointment, Lehigh County Exec Phillips Armstrong describes him as a man with "a proven track record of versatile and strategic leadership, and a strong command of the issues and concerns of municipalities and townships throughout Lehigh County.”

This is actually quite a catch for Armstrong and Lehigh County. Hozza is without question one of the most capable public administrators in the Lehigh Valley, and one who has always been willing to laugh at himself.

Perhaps that's why Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski recruited someone to run against Hozza a few years ago. He felt threatened.

Hozza is a graduate of DeSales University with a B.A in Business Management and a minor in Marketing. He spent 23 years working in the private sector at the Nabisco Food Group and Alza Pharmaceuticals prior to entering Whitehall Township government, where he's been for 11 years.

Hozza's appointment must be confirmed by the Board of Commissioners. He should have no problem.

ACCHS Survives Late Scare From Nazareth to Remain Unbeaten

L to R: Chad Kratzer, Dat Lambert and
Jordan McChristian
Despite being outscored 20-9 in the final quarter, Allentown Central Catholic's Boys' Varsity Basketball squad defeated the Nazareth Blue Eagles last night by a single bucket, 54-52. The Vikings are now 10-0 and perched atop the Skyline Division of the EPC. The Blue Eagles, which have lost their last two games, fall to 6-4.

Before the game got underway, I was talking to the grandfather of one of the freshman team players."We're not very good this year," he confessed. But I disagree. Whatever its record, Nazareth is always tough. We found that out playing them over the summer. Plus, these are high school kids. You never know how they are going to play. As Coach Dennis Csenscits once told me, "They're never as good as you think or as bad as you think."

Last night, Central was great and terrible, all in the same game. In the first quarter, they jumped out to a 19-7 lead, thanks in large part to four shots from downtown, with two coming from Jay Vaughan and another two from Dat Lambert. But instead of giving up, Nazareth dug in while the Vikes coasted.

PSU-bound Jahan Dotson is one reason why Nazareth stayed in the game. Also, you have to credit Noah Briggs and tireless point guard, Maihan Ramin.

In the meantime, Central stopped playing as a team. With just 16 seconds left, Nazareth managed to tie the game and were in possession. The gym exploded.

When play resumed, the timekeeper forgot to start the clock. Fortunately, an eagle-eyed ref caught what was going on, stopped the game, and took two seconds off the clock. That still gave Nazareth 14 seconds to score and win the game. But instead, Central snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat.

As Nazareth began its penetration, Central guard Chad Kratzer tapped the ball away . He raced down the court with the steal.

Earlier this year, he would have tried to win the game by himself. Earlier that evening, that's what he would have done.But he gets smarter in every game. Instead of taking the shot, he slipped the ball to Nick Filchner, who was patiently waiting by the rim, undefended.

Nick scored and the game was over.

Sorry, but I neglected to photograph the scorebook, and have no idea who was high scorer. I do know that Central's Dat Lambert had 17, including four from beyond the arc. I found out after the game that he played with a stomach virus, a small detail that he kept from his coach until the game was over and he retched in the locker room.

I told him to get sick more often.

I want to thank a Nazareth mother was kind enough to give Dat a bottle of Gatorade for the bus trip home.

Blogger's Note: On my left sidebar, you can see how other high schools fared last night.

Updated 10:50 am: Box score is here.

Eric Evans Appointed as Bethlehem's New Business Administrator

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez yesterday announced that he is appointing Eric Evans as the City's Business Administrator. Evans, a teacher at East hills middle School,was just re-elected to City Council. He will be replacing Dave Brong, who is retiring.

Donchez lavished high praise on Brong. My own interactions with him have been positive. But it's no secret that some people in City government considered Brong a tyrant, a bully who pushed others around.

Evans received a Finance Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1991. He also has an MBA from the University of Scranton. But he'sa history teacher. He did work in the lending industry for eight years, but left that line of work in 1999.

Another oddity is that Evans will remain at East Hills Middle School a few more months. This is apparently so he can maximize his pension there.

When he comes to Bethlehem, he can start working on a new pension. That's good for him, but is this really in Bethlehem's best interests? And why is he leaving his job as a teacher? He is in the prime of his teaching career. Is it all about money?

Evans will easily be confirmed in this role. He's an insider and one of Council's own. And really, he's who Donchez wants,and a Mayor should be afforded deference in these matters.

With Evans resigning from Council, who will they name to succeed him?

The choice is obvious - Dr. Paige Van Wirt, who waged a powerful write-in campaign last year on the importance of things like transparency and ethics. She infuriated Council members. The best way to prove her wrong is appoint her.