About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 12, 2018

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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Climate first ? We are so lost.

Anonymous said...

Reynolds is an asshole. However, he does truly care about Bethlehem. He will likely be the next Mayor and will greatly out shine the lackluster asleep at the wheel current office holder.

First and best move after he is elected is to replace the DCED.

Anonymous said...

This guy only cares about himself and no one else. He doesn't take a sh-t without thinking about if it will cost him a vote.

Anonymous said...

Willie is a good guy and these efforts are meaningful. That said the street in front of my house is still in bad shape as it has been for at least the last ten years. Let's also not forget the basics.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like his campaign for mayor has begun.

Anonymous said...

@7:54,
Yes. This will be an orchestrated maneuver. Build up Willie's image for the next 3 years, and then the Demo sheeple will do their thing at the polls.

Anonymous said...

He is still as immature as he was 4 years ago. Not Mayoral material. Negron 2021!

Anonymous said...

What a dreamer. He seems to be campaigning already. Most of these proposals he is putting forth, will never fly without increasing the workforce, and subsequently raising taxes. Bethlehem does not need another spendthrift who has grandiose visions paid for by the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

7:54 u r so right. He will try to put out a "new announcement" every couple months for the next 3 years. We have to have someone better than this guy to run our city.

Anonymous said...

He has done a nice job as 1 of 7 Councilman but he is not a leader! A leader does what is right, not asking if he has there support before he proposes something.

Anonymous said...

Reynolds is all about himself. He will screw over his friends to make himself look better. He also is the type of politician who needs a poll to determine his position on an issue. He is becoming Donchez Jr.
And Olga would make a horrible Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Reynolds has done a lot for the city. He is without question the most active councilmember. He puts himself out there and some people misinterpret that as self-serving. But he really does love Bethlehem and his people. Someone with those motivations is exactly the kind of advocate Bethlehem needs on Council. People who really know what is going on in the city see him as the driving force behind Bethlehem's metamorphosis. It's easy to criticize the guy as an anonymous poster on a blog, but that just shows how little people know about how much of a change agent he has been.

Anonymous said...

Vote Grubb