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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What Did You Think of Trump's SOTU?

Because of basketball, I was unable to listen to Donald Trump's lengthy State of the Union address last night until it had already taken place. According to some of the snap polls, viewers tended to like it. He was Trump-Lite, not the fire breather who tweets nonsense at 3 am. I found his calls for unity hypocritical. If he was really interested in bringing people together, why has he been so divisive? 

Is the Slate Belt Rising?

Portland needs to clean
up this cat house.  
Slate Belt Rising is a program intended to revitalize four Slate Belt Boroughs - Bangor, Wind Gap, Pen Argyl, and Portland. It is the brainchild of CACLV Alan Jennings, and has been in existence for about a year. It offers home ownership counseling and education, weatherization programs and low income energy assistance. It also has the usual facade and sign programs. It's a six year program that kicked off in Bangor and is expected to extend to Portland this year.

Is it working? Have any of you in the slate belt noticed a difference?

At a news conference this morning in Bangor, local leaders will report on what has been accomplished.

This program is funded with grants from Waste Management ($50,000 per year), Merchants Bank of Bangor ($50,000 per year), ESSA Bank ($25,000 per year) and Lafayette Ambassador Bank ($5,000 in year two). These businesses receive tax credits in exchange for their contribution.

Northampton County provided $70,000 in year one and has made commitments of $112,500 for year two.

During the Executive campaign, Lamont McClure said he'd like to focus on community development in the slate belt.

Boys' Hoops: Allentown Central Catholic Tops Whitehall

A balanced offense and stingy defense combined to give Allentown Central Catholic their 16th victory of the season against a young Whitehall (5-13) team on Tuesday night at Rockne Hall. The final score was 60-45. The Zephyrs played hard all night long and actually won the 3rd quarter. But fortunately for the Vikings, not by enough.

Jay Vaughn and Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman tied as top scorers with 13 points each. Whitehall's top scorer, Ethan Parvel, had 10. Dylan McGinley had 9.

Central will travel to Emmaus on Friday.

Box Score

ACCHS - 60, Whitehall - 45

Whitehall - 12-36-36-45

Central Catholic - 20-39-47-60

Whitehall (45)

Ricky Melosky: 1 FG - 2
Kevin Virgo: 1 3FG, 2/2 FTs - 5
Ethan Parvel: 2 3FG, 2 FG - 10
Namirr Boatwright:  3 FG, 0/1 FTs - 6
Joe Herman: 1 3FG, 1 FG - 5
Dylan McGinley: 3 FG, 3/6 FTs - 9
Markes Cruz: 1 FG - 2
Tyler Holubowski: 2 FG, 1/3 FTs - 5.

Central Catholic (60)

Jay Vaughan: 3/6 3FG, 2/3 FG, 3 steals, 7 assists -13
Keeshawn Kellman: 4/10 FG, 5/8 FTs, 11 rebounds -13
Jordan McChristian: 1/3 3FG, 4/5 FGs, 2 assists,1 rebound,1 steal -11
Dat Lambert: 0/2 3FG, 3/5 FG, 4/5 FTs, 6 assists, 3 steals,1 rebound - 10
Nick Filchner: 2/2 3FG, 1/3 FG, 4 assists.- 8.
Sam Vaughan: 1/2 3FG, 1/2 FG, 1 steal - 5.

Blogger's Note: You can see scores from other local schools on my left sidebar.   

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fed Ed Must Be Serious About Going to Trial

The second full week of Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is now in full swing. I have yet to attend a single session, and was chastised for my absence by an anonymous reader. So let me explain why I've been so silent about something that matters a great deal to Allentown in particular, and good government in general.

I had planned to sit in on this trial several days every week. But about a week before it started, I was hit with the flu virus that's been going around. Because of my advanced age, I then developed walking pneumonia. Since only the good die young, I've made a complete recovery. But I'm now behind on my title work. As soon as I've caught up, I plan to sit in on as much of the trial as I can.

I wish I had been there on Monday to see FBI Special Agent Scott Curtis testify. He's something of a rock star in the Justice Department. He took down over 100 members of the Colombo crime family in New York, and flipped about a dozen of them. They led him to Tommy Shots Gioeli, a high-ranking mobster who was convicted of, among other things, conspiracy to commit murder.

Tommy will be released from federal prison in 2024.

After flipping New York gangsters, Curtis flipped quite a few people in Fed Ed's political corruption trial. In damning detail, Fed Ed has been placed at the center of his own crime family.

According to Opilo, Curtis' attention was first drawn to Fed because there were "news reports alleging that Mayor Pawlowski was involved in political corruption." There certainly had been no hint of corruption from The Morning Call. Editors there shut down reporters who tried to tell readers what was happening. So I believe, perhaps vainly and incorrectly, that this and Molovinsky's blog were what made them interested.

I personally am very impressed at the daily coverage being provided now by The Morning Call. They could have done that several years ago. I particularly like the video recaps provided by Emily Opilo.

Though I've been unable to attend, I've spoken to several who have sat in on parts of the trial.

From what I've been told, the jurors have been attentive when the prosecution is presenting evidence. But at least two jurors have nodded off during defense cross-examinations.

If true, it means Fed Ed is in trouble.

Another point from the wiretaps involve is the use of other "consultants" who are really lobbyists at a local level. They get close to the decision makers, but state law fails to even require that these rainmakers register. They can even be political consultants.

That is true, and it means we're all in trouble.

Moravian Victory Over Notre Dame ES Included Atiyeh 3-Point Buzzer Beater

Most of my stories about this year's basketball season have been about the East Penn Conference, and more specifically, Allentown Central Catholic High School. But there's lots of good basketball going in other leagues and at other schools. On Saturday, Moravian Academy's Roaring Lions were hosted by Notre Dame East Stroudsburg's Spartans. Moravian won by one point, 65-64, in just one of several thrilling games over the weekend.

The game includes a 3-point buzzer beater to end the third quarter by Moravian sophomore Abe Atiyeh. He was well beyond half court when he took his shot.

Moravian (12-5), gave Bangor a scare earlier this year. They lost the contest 80-69, but were up at the half.

Lehigh Valley Basketball Rankings' Toomey Anderson is perhaps the biggest promoter of high school basketball in the Lehigh Valley. He promotes the sport, and more importantly, the kids who play. This should be a highlight on his next Awesome Show. #alwayswatching.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A True Sports Hero

Chester High School football coach LaDontay Bell is one of many unsung heroes. He and his wife go out of their way to get players to practice. The Philadelphia Eagles honored him and his wife recently with tickets to Super Bowl LII. There are a lot of LaDontay Bells. One of them is William Allen High School basketball coach Doug Snyder. He also helps his kids get to and from practice, and more importantly, helps them to stay in school. He instills his student athletes with pride. Something they never had.

There are a lot of LaDontay Bells. My grandson has been fortunate to meet and learn from many of them.

Who Has Worse Drivers, Pa or Jersey?

One of my many shortcomings is an innate bias against New Jersey. Some of my best friends are from that state. There are even some mixed marriages between Pennsylvanians and the Jerseyites. But I oppose these. I'm thinking of the children. Transplants should be deported back to the Armpit State unless they take a loyalty oath to the Philadelphia Eagles or Pittsburgh Steelers while stamping on Jets' and Giants' Jerseys. It's time to Make Pennsylvania Great Again. #MPGA. Let's face it. People from Jersey are loud, obnoxious, and just plain ugly. They are also shitty drivers.

And I can prove it, too. At least the shitty driver part.

According to the rating agency relied on to determine car insurance premiums, New Jersey ranks #16 among shitty drivers in the US. They are so bad that the Urban Dictionary defines "Jersey jerks" as "crazy New Jersey drivers that have no respect for other vehicles driving on the same road. Cutting people off, running red lights, running stop signs, putting people and their families lives in jeopardy."

If they are so bad, why aren't they rated #1?

The answer to that is quite simple. A sad class of Pennsylvanians called "commuters" have to drive into that shithole daily. They make big money while missing out on life.

We in Pennsylvania are #33.

We would be rated the safest but are too close to Jersey.

So my bias against New Jersey is completely justified.

Amazingly, when I'm in Jersey, I hear them complain about drivers from Pennsylvania. Every now and then, one of them gets behind me and starts honking at me and generally being rude, until I stop texting and tell them to shove it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Updated: NorCo GPA Boss Wants $200/Hr to Check Work That's Been Checked

Former Exec John Brown and friends
share a good laugh.
Early this month, I told you that the Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) kicked off the new year with a Sunshine Act violation. Its board members took one look at NorCo Exec Lamont McClure and Council Prez Ken Kraft, who were sitting in the audience, and bolted for the back room. They never bothered to explain why they felt it was necessary to meet in secret. I think I now know at least some of the things going on with this shadow government. Basically, it was an instrument that former Executive John Brown used to do end-runs around County Council. A very willing instrument, too, especially since Chairman Shawn Langen thinks he's going to be paid.

I've filed two Right-to-Know requests with the GPA, seeking information that could be produced in 30 seconds. But Solicitor John Lushis, the designated Right-to-Know officer, is delaying his response for 30 days, hoping that we all lose interest.

In my correspondence with Lushis, he denies that a Sunshine Act violation occurred, stating that an executive session was "discussed well prior to the meeting and was not intended to slight anyone." If true, I'd owe Lushis and the entire GPA an apology. It's not. I reviewed the GPA minutes for well over a year. I saw no mention made anywhere of the need for an executive session. What I did see is a shadow government that appears to have lost sight of its role.

Stan Rugis wants peace ... and coffee
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. This is a public-private partnership, and is called a P3.

This P3 project, the brainchild of Lushis, is where the problem has started and mushroomed. This is what the minutes tell me.

First, from the February minutes, I learned from Lushis himself that then Executive John Brown had tapped him and the GPA to do the prison project, and that it would be a P3 project. This way Brown could avoid annoying questions from the people's elected representatives on Council. This also explains why Lushis was present last March when Brown gave a power point presentation to Upper Nazareth Supervisors in a private little get together.

How much is Lushis being paid? How much of his work was related to GPA and how much was an effort to avoid Council inquiries about the new jail?

Stay tuned.

Pick a good one, Joe!
Second, I learned that Sahl Communications and Kim Plyler are back, just like a bad penny. In case you've forgotten, this is the public relations firm that Brown hired and paid with taxpayer money to make him look good. The result was two lawsuits and shitty news releases full of spelling and grammatical errors. Based on her writing skills, I thought she was  promoting the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. But as it happens, she's now the spinmaster for the GPA.

According to the June minutes, Sahl was creating a package to market P3 to other counties and municipalities, which is way beyond the scope of the GPA. It is getting paid monthly. From the October 3 meeting. I know Sahl was also building a website with a link to a Facebook page.

I checked, and sure enough, a Facebook page does exist. Its opening picture, in typical Sahl fashion, includes the wrong Executive, wrong Public Works Director and wrong Solicitor. It is replete with pictures that look like they could have been taken by a fourth grader. They include a shot of former Public Works Director Stan Rugis giving a peace sign and one in which Senator Lisa Boscola aide Joe Kelly looks like he's picking his nose.

Very artistic.

This amazing Facebook page also contains what is supposed to be a link to the GPA website, but if you click on it, it tells you that there is no webpage. That's because Sahl installed the link incorrectly and never bothered to check its own damn work. The website is here, and probably has been seen by three people.

Remember, the Brown team are the rocket scientists that bought an $800 popcorn machine.

How much is Sahl being paid for its incompetence? Looks like I'll be filing another Right-to-Know request.

Third, at least one GPA board member is attempting to profit personally from his involvement. According to the January minutes, Chairman Shawn Langen will be getting paid $200 per hour to review the work that is already being reviewed by a third party engineer.

I doubt very much that Council knows what the hell is going on, but they will now.

As luck would have it, one of the Right-to-Know requests I filed asked about these kinds of arrangements.

Updated 3:20pm: Kim Plyler has contacted me to say that her contract with the GPA ended in December.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Trump's Leaked Infrastructure Plan Shifts Burden to States, Local Government

Imagine you're driving along Route 22 on your way to Bethlehem or Allentown. But when you get to the exit ramp, you're greeted by an unfamiliar sight - a toll booth. Under Donald Trump's much ballyhooed $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan, which was recently leaked, this could happen. As Governing explains, it's a plan in which the federal government will pay only 20% of the cost, with the rest of the money coming from state government, local government and private investment.

Most of the money is going to Trumperica, the rural states who voted for him.

The private investment comes in the form of a public-private partnership called P3 or PPP. Basically, it privatizes America. The Millions of Jobs Coalition criticizes the plan as one that "will rely heavily on selling off public roads to Wall Street billionaires and foreign corporations that would place new tolls on Americans and ignore the needs of everyday people."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Minnesota Fan: "I Will Never Come Back to Philly"

Philadelphia fans demonstrated again on Sunday why they have the reputation as the meanest, nastiest and drunkest sumbitches on the planet.

Minnesotans were shocked at the shabby treatment they received. Beer cans were tossed at them, Vikings' hats were decorated with urine and, of course, there was an occasional punch.

What the hell did they expect, Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion? Complimentary platters of Swedish meatballs? Questions about ice fishing?

Since the Superbowl is being played in Minnesota, they better call in the National Guard.

Dr. Paige Van Wirt Seeks Evans' Bethlehem City Council Seat

Lori Vargo Heffner (L) and Dr. Paige Van Wirt
at women's march in Bethlehem
Dr. Paige Van Wirt, who waged an unsuccessful write-in campaign for Bethlehem City Council in November, is seeking the vacancy created when Eric Evans resigns February 5 to become the City's Business Administrator. I have heard she may have the votes to be appointed, too. Some may feel that you should only appoint a person who has no intention of running for the seat because it otherwise gives that appointee an unfair advantage in an upcoming election. It does. But appointing a person who has no intention of ever actually running for the job can result in an appointee who ignores the people's will and is unresponsive.

Dr. Van Wirt is the most impressive person I've seen in local politics for some time. In addition to her education in planning and experience in an urban community, she has immersed herself in numerous local issues, even county issues. In fact, after the county council debate was over, she had some insight as a practicing physician on how the counties can handle the opioid crisis.

Bethlehem will be lucky to get her. I believe she would work well with Council members like Willie Reynolds, and they would work well with her.

Here's what Dr. Van Wirt said from her Facebook page:

Dear Friends,

As you may have read, Eric Evans will be resigning from city council to join the administration as of Feb. 5th. The vacant seat will be filled by appointment by city council. I am applying for the vacancy. I feel I am the best choice due to my expertise, recent candidacy and tremendous support (1700 votes) as a write-in candidate. I will be submitting my resume as well as letter of intent and answers to Council’s 10 questions for consideration. I am meeting with council members individually to discuss my candidacy. Nevertheless, it will also be vital for you to advocate for my appointment.

Although there are rumors that various individuals are under consideration, it is in Council's interest to appoint me. I have expertise and skills relevant to the position - urban planning, municipal finance, and physician/entrepreneur/small business owner. I would also be another woman on council and an independent voice outside of the usual political establishment. Appointing me would demonstrate to the community that council recognizes the strong preference the voters have already expressed for an ‘outside’ candidate. The most important criterion should be who would be the most qualified person to lead Bethlehem through service on the council; I feel that I am that person.

Selection of the candidate will take place at a public meeting on March 1, with March 5th as a back-up date. This will be a special meeting of the full council with a public vote by the 6 remaining council members. The selected applicant will be announced that night. We will also be given 5 minutes to speak, and if I understand correctly, the public is welcome to speak as well about their wishes for this spot. It will be important for as many people as possible to attend that meeting and advocate for your choice. In advance of that, you can email city council (email the clerk at cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov and ask that your email be distributed to council members) and write letters to the editor of the newspapers. Please alert your friends/networks to this situation and ask for their help as well. Deadline for applicants is Feb 9th, and letters of support would be valuable if received in the next 6 weeks.

Many of you worked hard during my write-in campaign to try and get me elected to city council; this presents an exciting opportunity to place me there now rather than after I run again in 2019. I thank you for your time, your energy and your ongoing support. I am ready to work hard for the citizens of Bethlehem.


Paige Van Wirt
Paige Elizabeth Van Wirt

CPT Collins Reinstated at NorCo Jail

CPT David Collins, Northampton County's first ever black captain at the jail, was suspended on July 13, with pay, and walked out of the jail. Reason? He's a whistleblower who was victimized for reporting, in good faith, instances of wrongdoing or waste. He was even grilled over his contacts with me, all of which were initiated by me and after his suspension.

I am pleased to report that CPT Collins has been reinstated and is coming back to work

Collins has been a forceful advocate for minorities at the jail. He also understands that, while many people in a county jail are convicted criminals,  they are still human beings and should be treated like human beings.

Executive Lamont McClure declined to discuss the matter, but Collins told me yesterday that he expects to be back at work soon.

His wife is very happy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Boys Hoops: ACCHS Relies on 3-Pointer to Beat Parkland 64-52

Allentown Central Catholic High School has recently lost two starters. Senior forward Kevin Kern went down with an ankle injury in practice a few weeks ago. Then on Monday night, explosive junior guard Chad Kratzer may have torn a ligament when he stepped on a loose basketball. Just as the Eagles have applied the next man up philosophy with its team, Central seems to be doing the same thing, with similar results.

Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman, coming in for Kern, scored 20 points a few nights ago. Jordan McChristian, coming in for Kratzer, can light up the scoreboard as well. But Tuesday night belonged to sophomore Nick Filchner. He put on a 3-point clinic in the first half against the Parkland Trojans at a crowded Rockne Hall. He was 7 for 7 from downtown.

Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish!

He rolled up an amazing 21 points as Central (15-2) managed to stop a surging Parkland (8-8) for the second time this season by a final score of 64-52.

Nick was scoreless in the second half, prompting me to tease him later that he laid off so other kids could score.

Maybe he did!

I also scolded Kratzer for sitting the game out because he still has one good leg.

In addition to Filchner's 3-point clinic, Jay Vaughan (14 points, 2 3FG) and Dat Lambert (16 points, 2 3FG) added four more from downtown. This gave Central 11 3-point shots for the night.

They are tough to beat when that happens.

McChristian scored eight points on four lay-ups in the second half.

Keeshawn Kellman finished with five, but his real strength was under the boards, grabbing at least 16 rebounds!

That's 16, damn it!

I'd love to tell you how Jake Bartholomew and Logan Rindock from Parkland did, but I neglected to photograph the scorekeeper's book and do not see the boxscores in the dailies. I apologize to any readers from Parkland. They played hard and I am sure they will qualify for playoffs. Parkland is always tough.

Central's next game is a Holy War on Friday night at Bethlehem Catholic. Both teams have clinched playoff spots. Both teams have only two losses apiece all season. But those records go out the window. They will be playing for pride.

Blogger's Note: Other scores from around the area are on my left sidebar. I write up these games if I see no reporter.The video is the opening seconds of the game, in which Dat Lambert scores a 3 on an assist from Keeshawn "the beast"Kellman.

After Three Days, Fed'l Gov't Back in Business

Last week, Congressional candidate John Morganelli made clear that, while he supported a stand-alone DACA law, he was opposed to closing down the government over the issue at this time. He's an adult. He understands that Authoritarian Donald Trump's boot of the dreamers only takes effect on March 5.There's still time to negotiate. But as Charlie Dent will tell Morganelli, the number of grown-ups in Congress is dropping every day. So as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, the government shutdown.

Though Trump breaks his word on just about everything and was totally irresponsible, all that was sought was a brief extension. No dreamers would be deported. So this is on the Democrats. True, the GOP controls the government, but not completely. Sixty votes are needed to end debate in the senate, and that's how a minority was able to stop the government from working.

After bringing the government to a halt over the failure to do something for young immigrants in danger of being deported, Democrats folded after three days.

Their actions were premature and childish.

In the past, I've been highly critical of the tea-party segment of the Republican party for being too willing to pick up heir marbles and go home unless they get their way. To my knowledge, this is the first time that Democrats have threatened to hold their breath until they die.

Of course, Donald Trump is taking credit. I personally think that Democrats realized that, right now, they look like asses.

A shutdown might be necessary if Congress fails to enact protections by March 5.

After the Senate voted to open for business today, the House followed suit quickly, and Congressman Charlie Dent was one of them.

In addition to funding government operations through February 8th, the legislation includes a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through fiscal year 2023, and relief from three taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act:
- Medical Device Tax (2 years);
- Health Insurance Tax (1 year);
- Excise tax on high-cost employer coverage (“Cadillac” tax) (2 years).

Federal employees — both military and civilian — who were furloughed during the three-day government shutdown will be retroactively paid.

"I am pleased that this bill provides critical funding for CHIP, which is good news for Pennsylvania’s children and parents, as well as its health providers," said Dent. "Additionally, this bill included a two-year delay in the implementation of the medical device tax, which would adversely impact companies in the 15th Congressional district. The medical device tax kills jobs, stifles innovation, and raises prices for patients. Although this two-year delay is important, I will continue to fight for a full repeal of this destructive tax.”

Dent warned that a continuing resolution is only a "temporary solution."

"As a body, Congress will not get off this treadmill of continuing resolutions until a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement is reached, and that agreement will not be reached until there is an agreement on DACA and border security. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as House and Senate leadership, to find a legislative solution for these issues."

Cedarbrook Maintains 5-Star Rating From Feds

Cedarbrook, Lehigh County's nursing home, has usually received a four-star rating from The Center for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS). But that started changing in July, not long after Good Shepherd took over as Administrator. The rating went from four to five stars, the highest a nursing home can achieve. Lehigh County has just issued a news release claiming that the nursing home has kept this rating in the 2017 third quarter ratings for nursing home facilities.

Lehigh County is also claiming that the nursing home has now achieved four out of five stars on both quality measures and registered nurse staffing.The CMC website fails to support Lehigh County's assertion, but cautions an update might be needed.

“I want to commend and recognize the hard work and commitment of the Cedarbrook staff," said Lehigh County Executive Philips Armstrong. "Their everyday efforts, from caring for residents and running the facility are the reason we’ve been rewarded with this distinction,”

“Quality measures and nurse staffing are important factors for people to consider when selecting a nursing home," said Cedarbrook Administrator Joseph Shadid, RN, MSN, MBA, NHA. "They indicate how well we meet the clinical needs of our patients and demonstrate how attentive and responsive our nursing staff is to our residents."

Shadid added that given Cedarbrook’s volume of residents and the significant number of occupants being treated for dementia, the new rating is extremely remarkable. A higher number of residents, including those with more severe conditions often means a more demanding environment for staff.

Cedarbrook currently has 670 beds across two campuses where 236 residents suffer from advanced dementia. Northampton County's Gracedale has about the same census.

Gracedale's rating had dropped from four starts to just one star last year after a resident attempted to commit suicide. It climbed back up to three stars in August, and the latest online rating still shows a three-star rating. Its rating on staffing is three stars (average) and its quality measures grade is just two stars (below average).

Before he was Executive, Lamont McClure was very disturbed by the nosedive, and has vowed to turn things around.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Eagles' Underdawgs Going to Superbowl!!

I told you in November that I was boycotting the Philadelphia Eagles this year. My decision had nothing to do with the National Anthem. I was staying away because I was a jinx. If I watched them or even listened to Merrill Reese on the radio, they'd lose. But when I stayed away and only paid attention to tweets, they tended to win. It killed me, but it paid off. The Eagles are going to the Superbowl for the first time since 2004.

Since Carson Wenz was injured, oddsmakers predicted the Eagles would lose to Atlanta and Minnesota. Instead of whining about it, the Eagles embraced their underdog status, which only made them look better to Philly fans. They know what it's like to be underdogs.

Guess what? The Eagles are underdogs for the third time in this year's playoffs, this time against the Patriots.


Nazareth Baker Seeks State House Seat

Nazareth may be a small town, but it has no shortage of bakeries. Just in Nazareth proper, there are three. Schubert's is where everyone goes for Moravian sugar cake. The Pie Shop (now on Main St)  has the best pasties in the Lehigh Valley. And then there's Cozze Cakes. It's a shop that specializes in elegant wedding and birthday cakes. Marie Antoinette would say, "Let them eat cake."  Owner Amy Cozze would say, "Let everyone eat cake," but she knows someone has to bake it. She wants to take her baking skills to Harrisburg, and is announcing today that she is a candidate for the State House.

She's running in the 137th Pa legislative district, which was gerrymandered to keep Democrat Rich Grucela out of office. It includes parts of Palmer Township and several slate belt communities.But it also includes Forks Tp, Upper Nazareth and Nazareth. It's designed precisely for someone like Joe Emrick. He is one of the few Lehigh Valley legislators who has refused to endorse any legislative attempt to slay the gerrymander.

What does a baker know about politics? Hopefully, nothing. Cozze is a University of Pittsburgh grad who majored in psychology and minored in business. After several years in the business sector, she opened up a business of her own in 2012. While 90% of startups fail, she has thrived in a community that obviously likes to eat. She understands small business.She'd like to be their advocate in Harrisburg. She'd also like to see positive changes related to healthcare, education and the environment.

Cozze has been a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber for the past five years, and a board member of the Nazareth Business Council for the last two years. Most recently, she was appointed as liaison for the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee.

She told The Morning Call that state legislators have "catered to the larger corporations and conglomerates and it’s put them out of touch with Main Street America. They don’t seem to have the interests of the middle class in mind any more.”

Why should someone like Joe Emrick care about the middle class? In 2016, he raised $108,000 in cash and in-kind contributions against a weak candidate. He doesn't have to bake cakes. But in case he hasn't noticed, a blue wave is rising in Pennsylvania. It started in last year's municipal races, and has been helped along by Authoritarian Donald Trump.

Cozze knows a good cake starts with good ingredients. So should a state legislature.

On a personal note, she is a wife, mother to two wonderful boys and a breast cancer survivor. She's also Lehigh Valley native.

For more information on where Amy Cozze stands on the issues for Pennsylvania’s 137th District or to support her race, please go to www.amycozzeforstaterep.com.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball Back on Track

Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman
with Dat Lambert
After two losses in a row, Allentown Central Catholic Boys Varsity Basketball is back on track after a convincing 72-55 victory over the East Stroudsburg North Timberwolves on Friday night at Rockne Hall  The Vikings' record now stands at 14-2. Despite winning the District XI title last year, that was then. The Timberwolves have struggled this season.

Central Catholic's slide began last Saturday, when they allowed themselves to be rattled by Dieruff. They always plays tough on their home turf. Then Vikings starting forward Kevin Kern suffered an injury to his foot, and the team began questioning themselves. They played without confidence against Northampton's Konkrete Kids on Thursday night, hesitating instead of shooting. It cost them the game.

On Friday, it looked as though the Vikings might face their third loss in a row. They were only up by one going into the half  despite the heroics of Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman. He scored 14 points in the first half alone, and I lost track of his rebounds. He also had several blocks, and after one of them, shook his head No.

He was in beast mode, and appears to have recovered completely from a back injury that had sidelined him a few weeks. Without him, Central would be in trouble.

Then, in the third quarter, Jay Vaughan exploded. Three from downtown. Swish!! Just the jump start everyone needed. Jay finished the night with 12, all from beyond the arc. More importantly, he had 8 assists and 2 steals.

Kellman added 3 field goals to his 14 points in the first, and finished as high scorer with 20. He thrilled the crowd when he dunked his final bucket.

Dat Lambert returned to his scoring ways. He finished the night with 14, including two 3s. He was 4/4 on the foul line, and his aggressive defense caused four turnovers by East Stroudsburg North.   

Nick Filchner scored 10, including two 3-point shots.

Chad Kratzer finished with 7, including 3 out of 4 from the foul line

Vinnie Lynch, a crowd favorite, scored 6, and delighted the crowd with an unexpected tray

So did Sammy "the iceman" Vaughan, Jay's brother.

Central shot ten from downtown for the night.

On the other side of the equation, ESN's Ameni Mills was high scorer with 20, followed by Isa Abu, who had 11.

Central will host surging Parkland on Tuesday night at Rockne Hall, then it's off to face Evil Empire Becahi on Friday night in a Holy War that will ripple throughout the EPC.

Central was stunned by Northampton on Thursday night. On Friday night, Northampton also upset Becahi by one point. Aiden Elwood has cemented the Konkrete Kids into a formidable team, and don't count Parkland, Whitehall or any of these teams out.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.