Friday, March 30, 2018

Ray O'Connell Gets Mayoral Appointment on 12th Ballot

After three days of interviews, followed by 12 suspenseful ballots, former City Council President Ray O'Connell received the four votes he needed to be appointed Allentown's 43rd Mayor last night before a large and sometimes very vocal audience at City Hall. Julio Guridy, Ed Zucal and Daryl Hendricks consistently voted for O'Connell in all 12 ballots. Roger MacLean, Candida Affa and Courtney Robinson just as consistently voted for Allentown School Board President Charlie Thiel. The wildcard was Cynthia Mota.  She voted 11 times in a row for Dr. Hasheem Batts, a candidate whose past criminal record might make him ineligible. Having made her point,she finally switched her vote to Ray. After getting the appointment, O'Connell immediately came from the back of the room to shake hands with Dr. Batts. He also shook hands with every Council member, including those who voted against him.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I watched the candidate interviews online. But nothing beats being there in person. City Council had previously decided to deny Batts an interview because of his criminal record, but reversed course last night. Most of the audience was pro-Batts. They carried signs until Council President Roger MacLean ordered them removed. They also burst into applause when ever anyone slammed white people.

The white male vilified

Over the years, I've seen  Allentown's problems blamed on minorities rather frequently. But last night, the white man was cast as the villain. 

Erin Keller, a candidate who herself is white, called Allentown's current government "boys in the hood. White guys are making money; everyone else is floundering."

That resulted in applause from the pro-Batts crowd, and MacLean had to remind the audience that no applause would be permitted. So they started snapping their fingers whenever someone suggested that Allentown suffers from systemic prejudice.

This theme continued when citizens were allowed to give one-minute speeches. Ashley Strange complained that every Mayor in Allentown's history has been white and male.

Batts and hope

Dr. Batts himself gave an eloquent speech. He "came up from Hell," starting at age 11. That's when he saw his first murder. That's when he saw his grandmother die. That's when he was arrested for the first time.

"I had been treated like garbage for most of my young life, and as a result, began to treat the world around me as garbage," he said. "Hopelessness and despair were my every day reality."

At age 15, he and a friend were arrested for stealing socks. Because they wised off to the cops,they were given "the treatment," which consisted of being placed handcuffed in a cell with sexual predators. "That night changed my life," he asserted. He said he was a "black boy in a world that does not value me," but made his situation worse by selling drugs.

He did turn his life around. He knows "the pain of poverty and the power of education." He wants "to heal the City he once damaged. I love Allentown."

As Mayor, he said the first thing he would do is sit down with all the key stakeholders to re-establish trust. But he believes "the City works best when you are white and a male." (Fingers begin snapping).

He also reminded everyone of the 2015 tragedy in which Johnesha Monae Perry, a 19 year old girl, hurled herself and her baby off the Hamilton Street bridge. She survived. Her 20-month old son died. "I lost hope," she later explained. She was herself a victim of sexual abuse, a foster child and her health insurance had lapsed.

He said the next Mayor should be a person who thinks about the Johneshas as well as the homeless.

Mann Mob Gets Nasty 

Though the Mann mob had three votes lined up for Thiel, they just couldn't get a fourth. Courtney Robinson misrepresented himself as following the solicitor opinions. "[W]e are just coming out of a situation in which rules that an elected official didn't like were ignored." He complained that Council was making the same mistake as Fed Ed by ignoring an opinion from the Solicitor.

Fed Ed committed crimes. City Council voted to ignore a bad and politically inspired legal opinion submitted by someone who was never confirmed as Solicitor. It is a misinterpretation of the "revolving door" rule in the Home Rule Charter, which is designed to prevent Council members from giving themselves high-paying cabinet positions when they leave office.It has no application to appointments to elected office. Courtney Robinson, who answers to Jennifer Mann and not the people, wanted to keep O'Connell and MacLean out of contention.

As it became more apparent that O'Connell had four votes, things got ugly. In addition to the increasingly histrionic attacks on O'Connell here, one city resident named James Whitney got up and complained that people have lost faith in the City. He attacked Rick Orloski, the prominent Allentown attorney who said that the pretend solicitor's opinion is wrong. He pointed out that Orloski contributed to Ray's campaign.

After it was all over, I saw Whitney chumming it up with Robinson.     

Candida Affa pretended that she had spent many "sleepless nights" wrestling wih a decision she had made all along.

Mota and hope 

Mota was very moved by Dr. Batts' message. "We need to give people hope," she argued. She said Council has voted to ban the box and allow people with criminal records to apply for city jobs and is employing a "double standard" by refusing to look past Batts' criminal record. "Look at all the people,"she said, referring to the audience. "Please don't give up," she implored them. "This City is yours."

In what appeared to be a symbolic message, she voted for Batts 11 times before relenting and voting for Ray O'Connell. She could have sent this to the courts had she wanted. He was sweating it out in the back of the room.

O'Connell immediately takes oath

After shaking hands with Batts, Ray wasted no time taking the oath. I think he took it about four or five times. I stole the picture you see from Ed White. I was unable to get one of my own. The president of some Syrian group had a nice shot, but he wanted to charge me.

"Damn Syrians," I groused. He laughed and said, "Damn white males."

For his part, O'Connell said everyone will be heard. "No one will be shut out," he said.

Angle Named Trustee to Northampton Community College

Over the past two years, Bangor School Board has reached out twice to appoint Ron Angle, Emperor of the Slate Belt, to vacant positions. The voters were always 5-4. Magisterial District Judge Sherwood Grigg  actually subjected Ron to a 45-minute oath the first time he was appointed. 

The directors who voted against Ron must have been pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Though Ron has spent decades of his life building up a reputation as a flamethrower, he has over time mellowed.They learned that he actually is a consensus builder whose financial acumen has saved the school district money.

On Monday night, the school board voted to appoint him as their trustee to Northampton Community College over the next six years. Usually, that role is assigned to a school director. What's most amazing to me is that the vote was unanimous. Directors who voted against him initially now recognize that he really does care about schools.

I spoke to Ron afterward, and though he'll never admit it, I think he was really touched by this honor. It was also very smart move by the school board.

I'll leave you with a point of etiquette. An Upper Mount Bethel reader who saw Ron at the recent meeting concerning Tannerite genuflected as he walked past her. Ron tells me that a slight bow is sufficient.             

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Why Are Butz Elementary Parents Avoiding the Real Problem?

Butz Elementary is a school located along Bushkill Center Road in Bushkill Tp. I used to live in that area, and it's where I voted. A group of parents want the polling place moved to a nearby fire hall. They are concerned about the increased incidence of school violence. Korry Franke told the Elections Commission last week that there had already been 17 school shootings (this includes accidental discharges) this year. The request, which also included a petition signed by 1,800 residents, appeared reasonable enough. No precedent would be set by moving one polling place to a fire hall that agreed to accept them and might actually be an improvement.  Unfortunately, Elections Chair George Treisner went medieval on them. And in Facebook exchanges, NorCo Council Prez Ken Kraft told one parent it was a "made up problem.". The person taking the heat for this boorish behavior is Executive Lamont McClure. And that's probably fair. The buck does stop with him.

On Monday night, Franke and other Bushkill Township parents asked the school district to close the school on primary day "to Band-Aid what the County has failed to permanently fix. Make no mistake; our fight to protect the kids has only just begun."

Franke has also slammed McClure for declining to support legislation introduced by State Senator Mario Scavello and State Rep. Marcia Hahn that would force already overburdened elections officials to "make every effort to avoid selecting schoolhouses as polling places." The bill includes no language that reimburse counties for the exorbitant lease prices that will certainly be demanded by private facilities. What County Exec in his right mind would support that kind of ridiculous legislation?

What might pass is a bill that would require schools to close on election day. Elections officials statewide plan to rally in support of this legislation in the next few months. Franke has told me he would support this bill.

But even this measure only solves the school safety problem on election days. What about the other 363 days a year?

What are Bushkill parents doing to keep their children safe on those days? I would think that someone who thinks voters are dangerous would want to do something about assault-style rifles so prevalent in these mass shootings. Or would be at the forefront of those calling for tighter background checks.

"Bernie, that has never been our issue to fight," Franke told me.

Why not?

Why are these parents only afraid about what could happen on election day, when it is least likely?

Won't moving the polls just be a Band-Aid?

I think these parents have every right to be concerned about the safety of their children. But if they are concerned about election day mass shootings, they must think about the other school days, too.

Ray O'Connell: Allentown's Point Guard

I've been watching the Allentown Mayoral interviews online. The process began Tuesday night. I was very impressed by Nat Hyman. He has prospered as an entrepreneur in an economically depressed city, which says something about him. He also explained what it's like to deal with ruthless big city developers. "I can tell you those people eat their young," he stressed. But he was speaking to politicians. They eat their young, too, as Hyman is beginning to discover. He won't get a vote, but I hope he stays interested. He was easily the strongest candidate that night.

Last night, it was Ray O'Connell's turn. He explained his long career at Allentown Schools, which extended from 1972 to 2007.  He talked about his eight years on City Council, with his last three as President. He summed things up with this sentence: "Serving the people of Allentown has been my life's work,"

His first priority as Mayor would be to restore "trust and confidence in city government." He also discussed the symbiotic relationship between the school district and the city, which he would address through neighborhood development. "A thriving city is made up of good neighborhoods," he said. He would develop after school programs at the schools and develop programs to keep the kids busy in the summer.

He would push a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program to persuade the city's tax exempt nonprofits to assist the city with cash or services. He noted Erie receives $2.8 million per year this way.

Calling city workers "the lifeline of the city, " O'Connell would expand the merit system so that employees receive raises based on merit, not whether they agree with him. He noted interestingly that Allentown is conducting a pay study right now. He would add a community day for workers and their families to let them know they are appreciated.

He praised the NIZ as a "wonderful boon for the the city. ... That's the core, a wonderful core." But he said much more economic and community development is needed in all the city's neighborhoods.

Courtney Robinson tried to make an issue out of Dan McCarthy's opinion that a former City Council member is ineligible to serve in another elected role for a year after he leaves office. McCarthy has been appointed Solicitor but was never confirmed.  Robinson requested this opinion so he could pave the way for Charlie Thiel, as his master Jenn Mann has commanded. But O'Connell submitted another opinion from Attorney Rick Orloski. He concludes a City Council member has a constitutional right to seek appointment to elected office.

Robinson brayed about how this opinion has torn the City apart. The only ones who seem to be concerned by an obviously political hot job are the Mann Mob. They're upset that it failed.

"That's past," said O'Connell. "That was yesterday. This is today. I look people in the eye. We will move on."

Daryl Hendricks noted that the Police Chief slot has been a "revolving door." O'Connell ruled out the usual "national search" reply and said he believes in "growing your own."  He said he might look outside the department, but there is a lot of talent right here in the Lehigh Valley. 

Will he run for the job? "I can't give you an answer right now,."he said, noting he is 68 years young. He did acknowledge that he has a competitive spirit that he developed in his youth as a point guard who dealt with bigger players. .

I can think of no person better suited to make the transition from floor general of a basketball court to Allentown's point guard.

But if Jay Vaughan applies, I'm with him.

It's Coming!


Allentown Summer League Basketball will be here before you know it. Above is the man who makes it all happen. Some know him as The World's Most Interesting Man. Others as Glen Klein. He makes the summer league possible for hundreds of kids throughout the Lehigh Valley, and is the czar of an annual tournament that draws reams from as far away as France.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Allentown's Iconic Post Office Seeks New Home

Allentown post office
Allentown's 99-year old post office, built around the same time as the PPL building, is looking or a new home. It wants to go from its current location on Hamilton Street to a smaller site (about 5,000 sq ft) within a mile. This new location is undetermined at this point.The relocation was the topic of a public hearing before Allentown City Council. Julio Guridy told officials that any new site should be within walking distance for many downtown residents. A member of the public said that the Hamilton Street location offers window service, which is unavailable at the larger post office along Airport Road.Preservationists also raised concerns. Though the Post Office has pledged to keep the inside murals intact, they noted there were other items of historical interest.

The place was packed for this hearing, but I suspect most there were waiting for the Mayoral interviews.

State Trooper Caused Upper Mount Bethel Explosions



Sunday night, March 18. Ron Angle, Emperor of the Slate Belt, had just retired for the evening. He was drifting off to sleep, counting dollar bills in his head. Suddenly, a loud explosion shook the very ground beneath him and dumped him out of bed. He immediately sprang into DEFCON 1, releasing his hounds and activating his search lights while he descended into his underground lair. As the explosions continued, he began to worry that the "No Sludge" faction of the Township (about 95%) had finally hired a SEAL team to terminate him with extreme prejudice. Explosions continued, rattling his windows and knocking a portrait of him to the ground. But then, as suddenly as they began, they stopped.

It was no attack. It was no earthquake. Nor did I cause this by tripping and falling to the ground. The culprits responsible? Slate Belt residents. The explosions broke some windows and were heard as far away as Hackettstown.

Now if you live in Bethlehem or Allentown, you might occasionally buy sparklers and light them up at night. More adventurous souls will buy firecrackers and set them off on July 4.

But in the Slate Belt, where even the women are men, they would just laugh at you. They like to see things blowed up. Blowed up real good.

There are now about 30 different versions of what happened. First it was a gun range in Portland, then it was a gun range in Upper Mount Bethel, even though the Township has no gun range. Let me give you the skinny.

There's a bunch of guys in the Slate Belt who have a love affair with Tannerite. That's a binary explosive that comes in two packages. One is ammonium nitrate. The other is aluminum powder. By themselves, they are perfectly safe. But if you mix the two and then shoot at the mixture, it blows up.It blows up real good.

While most Slate Belt residents watch NASCAR on Sunday afternoons, these guys blow things up. Usually it's one or two pounds. On March 20, it was 30 pounds that went KABOOM!

The chief suspect, believe it or not, was a blind kid. He may not see what he's shooting, but he can hear it. He's out there all the time, blowing things up. But he was crossed off the list because he had a pretty good alibi. He was at Disney World.

So who was it?

Angry residents poured into Upper Mount Bethel's meeting room on Monday night, looking for answers.  Chair John Bermingham would only say it was under investigation. But Supervisors knew. The bomber admitted what had happened the next day to Rick Fisher, the Township Manager.

"It will never happen again," he promised.

If you were amazed that a blind kid likes to blow things up,you'll be even more amazed to learn the culprit is actually a Pennsylvania State Trooper. He's stationed at Troop M in Belfast, and lives on a 77-acre tract in the township, very close to the Delaware River.

Before naming this Trooper, I have reached out to him, and am waiting for his call.

Township officials are exploring a violation of the Township's noise ordinance. But without a decibel meter, that's impossible to prove.

What we're really talking about here are some possible crimes. It is a felony to risk a catastrophe via exploding devices. It is also a felony to intentionally cause an explosion that damages the property of other people. Shattering windows would qualify. This also resulted in a large volume of 911 calls.

Ironically, Pennsylvania State Police has told a local newspaper that it has "no information" concerning the explosions. Figures. One of their own is the person responsible for them.

This is precisely why DA John Morganelli has previously said that the state police should never investigate themselves.

Morganelli Announces Summit to Curb College Drinking

Northampton County is home to four different colleges. There's Lehigh University and its nemesis, Lafayette. There's Northampton Community College. Finally, there's Moravian College, which has no rival. These schools all have one thing in common. Me. I, a bottom-feeding blogger, have actually spoken at each of these fine institutions as a guest lecturer, imparting pearls of wisdom to eager young minds. At least I think I was a lecturer. It's either that or I'm a case study in aberrant behavior. Aside from me, these schools have something else in common. Booze. As real as the opioid crisis is in other segments of society, alcohol abuse is perhaps the biggest problem facing college students. Yesterday, NorCo DA John Morganelli announced that all four of these colleges will meet with him in May to see if they can arrive at a unified approach to this problem.

Morganelli admitted at the onset that it's "naive to think we're going to stop college kids from drinking." But get this. Alcohol is a killer. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking by college-age students (18-24) leads to 1,825 deaths, 696,000 assaults and 97,000 sexual assaults every year. It keeps prosecutors busy, but that misses the point. "We're here to save kids' lives," he stressed.

Also attending this summit will be representatives of Northampton County's very busy Drug and Alcohol Division.

Morganelli noted that drinking rates are highest in fraternities and sororities, followed by students who live on campus as well as those who play sports. It is least prevalent among students who commute and still live with their parents. The binge drinking is usually at its worse during the first few weeks of school.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Should Schools Be Closed on Election Day?

A group of about 50 Bushkill Township parents and children was subjected to an embarrassing and completely unnecessary tirade from NorCo Elections Chair George Treisner on Thursday. Instead of dwelling on his intemperate behavior, I'd like to focus on what has spurred these parents to action, and how best to respond to them.

They are concerned about their children's safety, and are far from alone. Just a few weeks ago, in a contentious special Congressional election, elementary schools remained open, like the parents in Bushkill Tp, parents at Cleveland Steward Elementary School were upset. But instead of lashing out at the county, as Bushkill Tp parents have done, they blamed the school superintendent for refusing to close school for the day.

"You’re the superintendent, you cancel school when it’s snowing, cancel school for a threat. This is like opening a doorway for an unnecessary situation,” one man said.

Under the state Election Code, preference must be given to public buildings as polling places:

"In selecting polling places, the county board of elections shall, wherever possible and practicable, select schoolhouses, municipal buildings or rooms, or other public buildings for that purpose. Any board of public education or school directors, or county or the municipal authorities shall, upon request of the county board, make arrangements for the use of school property, or of county or municipal property for polling places. In selecting polling places, the county board of elections shall make every effort to select polling places that provide all electors with an environment that is free from intimidation and violence."

Bushkill Tp parents have prevailed on State Senator Mario Scavello and State Rep.Marcia Hahn to propose a change in this law. Thus would now require to require elections officials to "make every effort to avoid selecting schoolhouses as polling places."

As of they don't have enough to do.

This legislation places an unfair burden on elections officials and if enacted, will place county officials at the mercy of private owners who will overcharge for the use of facilities that are inadequate and actually suppress the vote.

Bushkill parents love this legislation, but it's highly unlikely to go very far. Nor should it.

But change may be coming. Sometime this summer, elections registrars statewide are supposed to rally in Harrisburg. They will be asking that state law be changed to require that schools be closed on election day. I have researched this issue, and as of 2008, only five states - Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island, and West Virginia — require schools to close on election day. he v

At Bushkill, parents are fortunate that that the volunteer fire company is willing to open its doors. But statewide, schools are the best solution.

Monday, March 26, 2018

LV Basketball - The Prophet

Mohammad with Dat lambert
at a game last year. 
Basketball season is over for us in the Lehigh Valley. Despite valiant efforts from several local high schools, we came up short in the state tournament. But we have someone known is basketball circles as The Prophet. He has led the Michigan Wolverines into the Final Four of March Madness. A few short years ago, he was the floor general for the Allentown Central Catholic High School Vikings.

I first met Mohammad and his dad, Dawud, during youth football, believe it or not.When kids are younger, they play everything.

Dawud, currently the basketball coach at Lehigh County Community College, also coached my grandson in AAU ball. He put together a team that also included Central's Jay Vaughan, Sammy Vaughan and Kevin Kern. It included Emmaus' Zach Sabol, Easton's Trevor Storm, Parkland's Jake Bartholomew and Logan Rindock, Becahi's Ryan Young and Whitehall's Mikey Esquilin. Unlike most AAU coaches, who rely on run 'n gun and teach kids to be selfish, Dawud taught fundamentals. Every single kid he coached turned into excellent ballers. He also came to a lot of the summer games and would tell players like Dat what they are doing wrong and how to fix it.

Dawud is a natural mentor. His son claims that everything he knows about basketball, he learned from his father. I believe him.

Mohammad is named, not after The Prophet, but Mohammad Ali.
"It's a tribute to Ali. It's a tribute to my son. It's a tribute to me and what I feel is important. He wasn't a perfect man by any means -- none of us are. But his genuine concern for others and who he was stood up here (raising his hand above his head) at a time when people would not dare to say what he was saying.

"As a child growing up in the late '60s and early '70s, Muhammad Ali was among other African-American sports figures I admired, but he was my favorite. I was the child of a single parent, a mother, and there were very few examples of African-American men who were strong and tough. He was that man. I was enamored with him."
Mohammad is an Allentown kid who excelled. He was able to overcome adversity and succeed at Central. He was told he wasn't good
enough to play in a top division I school. He has scored over 1,000 points at Michigan.

I hope The Prophet is a symbol of things to come for Allentown youth. As their circumstances improve, so will Allentown.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Who Should Be on Ray O'Connell's Dream Team?

Is Allentown Finally Ready For a Ray of Sunshine? You might recall I asked you that question a few weeks ago. I told you then that he had four votes, although you never really know until that vote is cast. At the last minute, someone could switch and vote for Council President Roger MacLean, School Board Prez Charlie Thiel or prominent businessman Nat Hyman. But MacLean, who was as pensive as Hamlet about this appointment, finally said No. Thiel has been damaged, probably fatally, by news that Allentown schools are $28 million in the red. Hyman, who did file, is no politician and has no support on Council. O'Connell's appointment seems more inevitable now than it did a few weeks ago, when I first wrote about it. Clearly, there's a lot of dead wood that need to be cleared out. A spokesperson who uses a false name.  Or special assistant (Ismael Arcelay) whose main claim to fame is that he, like Fed Ed, is a religious hypocrite. From his years on Council, O'Connell knows better than most who to dump and who to keep. But who should he put on his team?

Your suggestions are very welcome in the comments. Below are some people I'd like to see.

Managing Director. - Nat Hyman. This is a very smart guy who, like most of his contemporaries, could have easily left Allentown. He stayed. And thrived. He is energetic and innovative. It would take him a few months to understand the nuances of city government, but he'd have a pretty good teacher.

Community and Economic Development. - Rev. Dave Jones. This former Lehigh County Comm'r is actually an in-City Allentown kid with a pretty good handle on economic development from three terms in county government. He runs a local nonprofit called "My Brother's Keeper," which is all about empowering and mentoring  the City's youth. This ties in rather nicely with O'Connell's goal to strengthen neighborhoods and schools.

Director of Public Safety. - Scott Curtis. He's the hard-charging FBI agent who took down Fed Ed. After a few years of wiretaps, it's safe to say he knows how the city is run. With him on board, Allentown firefighters might finally get the equipment they badly need.

Solicitor. - Allentown needs to break away from a pattern of hiring political operative as Solicitor in favor of people who actually know and practice municipal law.  All arrangements with the Norris, McLaughlin law firm should end.

Friday, March 23, 2018

NorCo Elections Chair Treisner Bullies Butz Elementary Parents




Two days a year, I am an election judge (glorified poll worker) at a local elementary school. At least once and sometimes on both of those days, the school is closed for "in-service" training. Anthropologists at National Geographic have determined that closing the school is the best way to attract an elusive and increasingly rare species - the voter.

They're easy to scare off. If they see a parking lot full of cars, they drive away. If they see a gauntlet of candidates with flyers, they'll do a 180. They don't like rainy, windy or cold weather. But if it's quiet enough, and the weather is nice, you can lure a few of them with a bake sale. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Schools are their ideal habitat. Their numbers are diminishing and they are certainly an endangered species, right up there with the Giant Panda and Tasmanian Devil. But just as the honeybee pollinates the food we eat, the voter pollinates our government with leaders.

Because there are so few voters left, it's only natural that people are afraid of them. It's happened at my polling station, so we strictly limit how they access the building.

In Bushkill Township, where Butz Elementary School is located, a lot of people are afraid. Almost 1,800 moms and dads have signed petitions asking the NorCo Elections Commission to move this voter habitat to a nearby fire hall. That fire hall has in turn agreed to welcome this endangered species with open arms.

Voters are mostly harmless Though they sometimes attack each other, there are no documented cases of a voter attacking a child. But parents are concerned that some angry voter could walk into a school on election day and start firing. It's unlikely, but there it is. We have become an increasingly violent society. As Butz Elementary dad Korry Frank pointed out, there have been 17 school shootings so far this year, which is 17 too many. These parents want these changes because they care about their children. And the changes being sought are reasonable.

They first made their case to Executive Lamont McClure and NorCo Council. McClure told these parents he agreed with them, but the only body that could change the polling place was the Elections Commission.

Yesterday, about 50 of these moms and dads, some carrying signs and others carrying kids, appeared before the Elections Commission. This is a five-member body (two Republicans and three Democrats) that governs county elections. It would be up to them to change the polling station to the fire hall. Four out of five showed for their first meeting of the year. Republican Mary Diggs was absent, but Republican Maudeania Hornik was present. So were Democrats George Treisner, Deb Hunter and Kathy Fox.

Treisner, an experienced Elections Commissioner, ran the show. He is himself a former educator, electrical contractor, financial advisor and tax consultant. And to start, he was very cordial.

He and the other Commissioners heard detailed and eloquent presentations from Paul Soporowski, Crystal Mulada and Korry Franke. What prompted them to action was the November 2017 election day shootout involving a state trooper that led to a lock down at area schools. Because an election was going on at Butz Elementary, a lockdown was impossible there. "Will you stand for the past, or will you stand for the kids?" asked Franke.

A retired principal said his main concern was that kids would be run over by an older driver.

Ronald Short, President of the Bushkill Tp Volunteer Fire Co., said his board had voted unanimously to allow voting to take place at their social hall. He said the fire trucks and ambulances are secured away from the social hall, and there is plenty of parking.

Hornik questioned whether using the fire hall as a polling place might present safety concerns as well. But Mulada assured her that the firetrucks and ambulances have separate access and parking.

Treisner said that, as a former educator himself, he thought that an election at a school could provide "a lesson in civics" to the students. "It's not in our purview for us as an Elections Commission to vote on this tonight," he continued, even though that's precisely why they were there.

Hunter, a teacher whose son was taught at Butz Elementary, suggested moving the primary election to the fire hall for the primary, and then returning to the school for additional elections with the understanding that the school would schedule "in service" days for future elections. She said she was unwilling to move elections to the fire hall permanently because the county would have no recourse if, down the line, the fire hall decided to discontinue its arrangement. She said the Elections Code includes a preference for public buildings for that reason. Hunter said she would support moving a polling place to a private entity only if it was for a minimum of ten years.

Mulada and another woman began debating the proposal with Hunter, while the fire chief stood behind them.

"Enough!" Treisner suddenly exclaimed. He said the two ladies debating Hunter had spoken long enough and the fire chief standing behind them would get five minutes, but after that, they were moving on.

Hunter's motion ultimately failed. Only Kathy Fox supported it.

Hornik had another, more popular motion. She suggested holding the primary at Butz, and then making the move to Butz. The room erupted in applause as she made her argument. But no one would second her.

"I don't have a second so we can't vote on it," said Treisner.

"That is unacceptable," shouted someone in the audience. "Somebody second it."

"It is acceptable," shouted an angry Treisner. "According to Roberts Rules of Order. When the hell have you been appointed parliamentarian?"

As Hunter tried to calm him, Treisner grew increasingly irate.

"We're in a meeting and we're allowed to conduct our business without interference," he bellowed. "There is no more public comment." He then threatened to "clear the room."

Dr. Jekyll had suddenly turned into Mr.Hyde.

At this point the parents and their kids got up and filed out of the room.

Instead of a lesson in civics, everyone got a lesson in bad government.

Amazingly, the board then elected him as Chair by a 2-1 vote, with Deb Hunter voting No. Unfortunately, Treisner has given Bushkill parents every reason to believe their government has no regard for them. He has had a distinguished career, and I suspect his erratic behavior may be the result of health issues.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Crowded Dem Field in Pa. 7th Is Itself a Message

The DCCC is notorious for screwing up Congressional races here in the Lehigh Valley. I've seen it happen several times, but they continue. They attempted to pressure Rev. Greg Edwards out of the race. To his credit, he called foul. They may have been more successful with David Weidman, a disabled combat vet. He made a tearful exit from the race over the weekend. He declined to name who pressured him. But even with Weidman's departure, six Democrats and just two Republicans have filed nomination petitions. That alone should tell you that this seat is going to go Democratic. The Cook Political Report now lists the district, which was solidly Republican with centrist Charlie Dent, as "likely Democratic."

The large number of Democrats running bodes well for Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. He's a tough, law-and-order Democrat who has come under fire for meeting with and speaking to the tea party, instead of snubbing them, as most Democrats do. As DA, he represented everyone, not just those who vote for him. He has that same attitude in the Congressional race.

His conservative views on issues like the death penalty and immigration will get him in trouble with people looking for a Nancy Pelosi clone. Just as Republican wack jobs like NorCo GOP party boss General Lee Snover liked to claim that Charlie Dent wasn't Republican enough, there are idiots on the left making the same kind of complaint about Morganelli.

Dent and Morganelli are unlike the extremes within their parties. They are centrists. Like most of us.

Given Morganelli's wide and positive name recognition, he is going to stand out in a field of six Democrats. Let's face it. Most people have never heard of Greg Edwards, David Clark, Susan Ellis Wild, Roger Ruggles or Rick Dougherty. Everyone knows Morganelli. As the sole woman running, Susan Wild will get a lot of support, and she should. As the most liberal of the candidates and sole minority member, Rev. Edwards will get a lot of votes, and he should. But John is going to get more.

I have no idea why Daugherty, who stood at the podium with Fed Ed and cheered him on as he resigned, is even running. I imagine it is pure ego. But he will only help Morganelli.

The same can be said of Republican-turned-Democrat Roger Ruggles, a Lafayette professor who rarely crawls down from his ivory tower long enough to learn what really is going on in Easton. He's running to draw votes away from Morganelli, probably at the request of Dem party boss Matt Munsey or Easton Mayor Sal Panto. What escapes them is that no one really knows the Professor, while Morganelli is very popular among Easton voters. Like Daugherty, Ruggles will only help Morganelli.

It's a much more lonely race among Republicans. Lehigh County Comm'r Marty Nothstein and former Lehigh County Comm'r Dean Browning are the only two candidates. Browning, a numbers guy, must know the only way he could have won this race was with multiple candidates. But one-by-one,they've pulled out. Opportunist Justin Simmons imploded. MacKenzie realized he'd lose to Morganelli.

This is going to be between Morganelli and Nothstein.

Susan Ellis Wild Snags Three LGBT Endorsements

Three LGBT community leaders in the 7th congressional district have endorsed Susan Wild for Congress. They are Adrian Shanker, a Democratic State Committee Member for Northampton County and Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; as well as the Lehigh Valley's two LGBT-elected officials, Allentown City Council Woman Candida Affa and Lehigh County Commissioner Amy Zanelli.

“In this era of increased hatred and violence that we’ve seen since Donald Trump took office, it’s imperative that the 7th Congressional District is represented by a candidate who believes that LGBT people deserve equal treatment under the law. I am fully confident that Susan Wild will be that representative." said Shanker, "I’ve known Susan for more than a decade, and she is an intelligent, proven leader who will approach policy making from a fair-minded perspective. Susan believes in LGBT equality and will fight for fairness at every turn. I look forward to having her as my representative in Congress.”

Boscola: Why Women Should Vote For John Morganelli

State Senator Lisa Boscola endorsed Northampton County DA John Morganelli for Congress yesterday. That's no surprise. They've been friends for years. What is surprising is why. John has been painted as anti-woman by the Nancy Pelosi types, but Boscola draws a more accurate picture.

"District Attorney John Morganelli has a progressive record when it comes to empowering women. He increased the number of female prosecutors from less than 5% on his first day in office to over 50%. He appointed the first woman ever to serve as First Deputy DA, and he created the county's first Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Units to address crimes against women. John Morganelli has taken on the tough fights in law enforcement his entire career. As a congressman, John will fight for affordable health care, equal pay for women, new laws to protect pregnant women in the work place and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children and the mentally ill."

As Morganelli himself observes, Senator Boscola is the most prominent and highest-ranking female elected official in the LV. Her support matters.

A-Town Mayoral Applications Due Friday

Allentown's Interim Mayoral applications are due on Friday. What I know so far is that there are about a dozen, and one of them was scrawled out in pencil. Though the applicant must be a Democrat, at least one is not registered to vote at all. Thus far, no application has come from MacLean, Hyman or O'Connell. I'm told that Betsy Morris Levin is an applicant, although I have not confirmed this with her.

I expect to see a surge of applicants on Friday.

Fed Ed, Allinson, Granted Extensions For Post-Trial Motions


Judge Juan R. Sánchez has given former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and Scott Allinson, a former partner at Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, a little extra time for post trial motions after both were recently found guilty of political corruption. They have until April 6 to file.

Philadelphia Attorney Jack McMahon said in his motion that he'll be on vacation and out of the country until April 7. but he himself asked for a new filing date of April 6, so an attorney in his firm will likely handle this for him.

There was no opposition to these extension requests.

In the meantime, Fed Ed has started a snowball fight on his Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Allentown's Charlie Thiel Faction

Charlie Thiel and Allentown's former Mayor, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, have a lot in common. Both are transplants to the Lehigh Valley. Fed Ed hails from Chicago, while Thiel is originally from the Philly area. Both of them went to bible colleges. Fed Ed graduated from Moody's while Thiel attended Valley Forge Christian College. They both engaged in pay-to-play. Fed Ed set up a number of  political action committees he used to extort money from people. He, along with State Reps. Peter "the Gringo" Schweyer and Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg set up the now defunct Citizens for a Better Allentown to help re-elect Thiel to the school board. He and Fed Ed also shared the same friends, Miked Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz. During breaks from preaching the Prosperity Gospel, Thiel and Fleck were drinking buddies. So it's little wonder that Thiel wants to follow Fed Ed's footsteps and pick up where Fed Ed left off as Mayor.

On his Facebook page, Thiel delivers this sermonette: "The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends."

So has Thiel become like Fleck, a drinking buddy, Ruchlewicz and Fed Ed? Call him Fed Ed Lite or Pawlowski 2.0. But there are too many similarities between these two to ignore.

He even has a bunch of kool-aid followers, just like Fed Ed.

"Praying that God's will be done," says one cheerleader.

Amazingly, he does have support on City Council. Candida Affa, who hosted the kickoff for Citizens for a Better Allentown at her bar, will vote for him. So will Courtney Robinson. He does everything lobbyist Jenn Mann tells him to do and is the person who asked Dan McCarthy to manufacture a flawed legal opinion about the eligibility of other candidates. A third vote for Thiel will come from Roger MacLean, unless he decides he wants the job himself.

There won't be a fourth. Nor should there be.

Allentown Should Draft FBI Agent as Next Top Cop

Unless you've been on the Planet Kratom, you probably know by now that Allentown is looking for a new Mayor. Its former occupant, Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, will soon be leaving on an extended vacation at a minimum-security facility, courtesy of Uncle Sam. But it was only reported today that Allentown's current police chief, Glen Dorney, is resigning to take a more lucrative and less demanding job at South Whitehall. Their chief left for an even more lucrative hospital gig. Dorney is leaving after about three seconds on the job, and his two immediate predecessor had very short tenures as well. They can recite all their commendations for this and that, but the truth is that they all left Allentown in the lurch. They were in it for themselves, not the City. Fortunately, Allentown's next Mayor is in a very good position to change things and install a real crime fighter who will immediately boost the morale of the police force and city.

Who is this person? Scott Curtis. He is the FBI Special Agent whose name appeared on the federal documents back in 2015. He was FedEd's nemesis.

Curtis is a hard-charging mob buster who is reported to have virtually destroyed the Colombo crime family in NYC. Over a decade, he participated in the arrest of over 100 mobsters. Even more interestingly, he flipped about a dozen of them.

He repeated that practice here. He flipped Sam Ruchlewicz, Mike Fleck and Francis Dougherty. His investigation of Allentown's political corruption is the most extensive of its kind in the Lehigh Valley.

Curtis reaches mandatory retirement age in April. I can think of no one better suited as Allentown's top crime dog. What I think means nothing, but I understand that several City Council members feel that way, too.He's their #1 draft pick.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Allentown Mayor: Bennett Says No.

Statement from Siobhan “Sam” Bennett: "There has been speculation on whether or not I would submit my name for the position of interim Allentown Mayor. After the 2017 mayoral primary, I “burned my red jacket” and said it would be the last time I would be a candidate for public office. Rather, I said I would focus on non-profit and civic ways to continue assisting our city. I am a woman of my word, and I am not putting my name forward. Instead, I am urging City Council to focus on the most important task at hand, which is to restore Allentown City Hall’s positive reputation among voters and the citizens of our nation.

"After Ed Pawlowski’s resignation I contacted City Council members to gain insight into the direction they planned in appointing the interim mayor. Although I am extremely grateful for the hard work of the council members in such a difficult time in our city’s history, I respectfully disagree with the direction they are taking of picking anyone from the list of former candidates to serve as interim mayor.

"There is nothing more important than restoring confidence in City Hall and providing strong executive leadership to all the departments to get the city back on track. I stand with others who support the selection of someone with no special interests, political history or intention of being mayor long term. Allentown needs someone in the coming months with proven administrative ability and impeccable reputation who can make sound decisions without worrying about political considerations; someone with a business or non-profit background who will work with and be accountable to City Council to clean up the mess in city hall.

"This approach will make possible a fair mayoral race in the next municipal election, and also will give the next duly-elected mayor the best possible chance for success. What Allentown needs now and in the coming months is stability and reputation management, not more political business as usual.

"Although I will not be a candidate nor hold public office again, I will continue to work in on-profit ways for the best interests of the city we love. As CEO of the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society I am committed to the success of the inaugural Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration (PennMArt) this Memorial Day Weekend at the historic Allentown Fairgrounds. Our goal is to honor veterans and celebrate Allentown’s and our Commonwealth’s great historical past and exciting future.

"Together with the right interim leadership we can hand over to the new mayor we elect in 2019 a city in which we can all be proud."

NorCo Responds to Concerns Over West Easton Work Release Faciliity

Matt Dees
Matt Dees is a West Easton Borough Council member. He also publishes an informative blog about one of Northampton County's smallest, yet most colorful, communities. In addition to being the home base of Tricia Mezzacappa, who recently started calling herself Tricia Phillips, it is also the location of a work release facility that is leased from Abe Atiyeh.

About a month ago, Dees had some beefs about the work release center.What bothered him most were the residents who leave the facility and fail to return. In addition, "[r]esidents of West Easton had complained of trash, the milling of facility residents outside the gate, cars suspected of being owned by facility residents parked on West Easton streets in violation of our ordinance, incidents of verbal abuse by visitors to the facility and other problems that had been on the rise for past few years."

Dees was before Council again on March 15 "to thank County Executive McClure for his quick response and direct involvement in seeking remedies."

Here are some of the changes McClure made "to a situation that had been festering for the last couple of years."   

- A direct contact number to work release administrators has been provided so that residents in the immediate area can call and have someone respond immediately to a problem caused by a facility resident or visitor.
- Facility residents will be used to police the gate area for litter.
- The procedure of picking up or dropping off facility residents has been changed to conform to the ordinance and minimize any inconvenience to area residents.
-The Mayor will be informed when a resident fails to return and he can decide whether the community should be notified.

Dees and most of  the borough council also attended a facility tour, and found that the guards were "professional and courteous."  After seeing the place from the inside, Dees had to wonder why anyone would fail to return.

"If my naval service had afforded me some of what I saw in the facility's barracks-like setting I might have done a full 20 years, rather than only five." 

NorCo Plans Improvements at Minsi Lake

Northampton County Council on March 15 approved the release of $500,000 from the Open Space Initiative and Act 13 Marcellus Shale Legacy Funds as matching dollars for future grants from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and other organizations.

Minsi Lake is one of only two public lakes in Northampton County. It was built by the
PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) in 1970 for public recreation. It consists of a 117-
acre lake maintained by PFCB, and 194 acres of surrounding parkland which was leased by the
County in 1991.

The land is located in Upper Mount Bethel Township, immediately south of the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area.

According to the county's open space coordinator, Bryan Cope, improvements to the site will include a fishing pier, kayak launches, Accessible trails. kayak launches, a walking trail around the lake, fishing piers, picnic benches, grills, improved parking lots, a pedestrian bridge across the spillway, restrooms and in-lake fish habitats.

The lake was drained in the spring of 2017. Over 5,000 pounds of fish were relocated as dam improvements should be completed by the fall of 2019 with a new spillway which can better withstand a maximum flood event.

Lake Minsi’s east shore is still open to the public for hiking, birdwatching and other recreational activities.

Cope said that the lake site also includes the Bear Swamp Archery Range, and that he hopes to conduct a feasibility study for improvements there. 

Former Corrections Officer to Head Jail

County Executive Lamont McClure has nominated James C. Kostura for the position of Director of Corrections. Mr. Kostura has served as the Deputy Warden of Community Corrections since 2013. He began his career with the County as a Corrections Officer at the Northampton Jail in 1993, working his way up to Shift Lieutenant then Security Operations Administrator.

I can think of at least three former Corrections Directors who started out as guards. I know very little about Kosura, which is probably a good thing. I  saw no evidence that he has financial difficulties.   

According to a news release that accompanied the appointment, Kostura served in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserves for twenty-years as an Active Duty SEAL officer providing training in anti-terrorism techniques and defensive tactics. I checked and the Navy does allow reservists to become SEALs so long as they go through active duty training.

I am unaware what rank Kostura attained in the Navy, or what his educational is.

Kostura’s nomination has been sent to the Northampton County Council. They will likely receive a vote on his appointment in April.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Good Samaritan

Vince Milite is Public Works Director at Hanover Tp. I want to share this Facebook post from him today. It's proof that there still are good people out there.

Every now and then you hear a story of a very small child wandering the streets with just a diaper and a shirt, no pants, socks, or shoes. Well on this 40 degree day, Tricia Milite and myself saved one today on Center Street, Bethlehem. Thank you, City of Bethlehem Police Department and the rest of the good Samaritans who brought out clothes for this lost and wandering child. As it turns out there is a lot more to the story, but now she is safe. ... Wandering the streets at least half hour. Child was put into protective custody. ... [T]his baby was spotted on linden street several blocks away, and no one reported her. The person who spotted her did not have a cell phone and ran home to get a phone. Meanwhile she was just wandering around. Why did no one else care enough to get involved. Again we are not special in any way, we were doing what I thought anyone one would do. It's just a shame everyone else looked away.

Boys' Hoops: Allentown Central Ends Magical Season

"Listen to this ...."



''It's wonderful, isn't it?"

So began my second road trip of the week to watch high school basketball  On Tuesday night, I drove a prominent local attorney through the coal regions to Hazelton, where he grew up. I received quite a history lesson along the way about mining disasters, cannibalism, the Molly Maguires and all kinds of massacres.

On Friday night, Reading High School was the destination of the quarter-final match up between Allentown Central Catholic Boys' Basketball and #1-ranked Bonner-Prendergatz. I'll have more about the game, but this second road trip, in which I served as chauffeur again, is noteworthy. This time around, the lesson was music appreciation.

We were leaving early because we were meeting up with a contingent of parents and fans at the Peanut Bar. On our way there through Friday afternoon traffic, my companion asked me to name my top composer, who is Beethoven.

"Beethoven? He's a plagiarist, you know. His 'Ode to Joy' is a clear copy of Mozart's Misericordias Domini K.222. Here, let me play it."

He dug it out and it is pretty much identical. He also told me that Mozart composed over 600 works, while Beethoven had fewer than 100.

"Rightyo," I said. "Why don't you sue him?"

"Statute of limitations," he answered.

Meat may be a sin on Lenten Fridays, but Corona Lite is fine. Because I retired from drinking long ago, I figured Jesus wouldn't mind if had a hamburger at Peanut Bar. The others set pretty good examples and avoided meat. One of the moms is even trying to cure me of my tendency to be mean and heartless when I write.

"Choose Christ!" she tells me.

Neither Mozart nor Beethoven was at the game. In a rarity for high school basketball, there was no music at all. I've always wondered what the kids would do if they came out on the court to the tune of Julie Andrews' "I feel pretty." I've never been able to convince PA operators to play it.

No sense of humor.

One woman, a friend of one of the moms who herself was quite a basketball player, asked me to point out my grandson as the team warmed up.

"He doesn't look like you at all."

"What do you mean, how do you think he got so handsome?"

"Not from you."

"Look at his muscular frame, where do you think he got that?"

"Not from you."

"You know what? You should choose Christ."

Vinnie Lynch
As for the game itself, The Morning Call's Keith Groller has a very touching account. The person I want to credit, something I was unable to do during the season, is Coach Dennis Csensits. He did a great job in taking a team that The Express Times did not even include in its initial top ten, all the way to the quarter finals. He believed in his team when they sometimes questioned themselves. In Central's pre-game prayer, everyone is reminded that the gym is a classroom where good sportsmanship is taught. He instilled that philosophy in his players. Yes, they were very physical and aggressive. But if an opponent went down, it was often a Central player who helped him to his feet. Though some parents had problems buying into the Coach's philosophy of limited playing time, almost all of them came around during the season.

If I were to single out a player who best exemplifies the spirit of this rare and remarkable team, it would be "Spicy" Vinnie Lynch.

Now Vinnie is a football player, not a basketball player. He might be the strongest boy at Central and can even bench press me. But last year, he was not getting a lot of playing time, so he went to see the coach. The coach told him his primary role on the team is to serve as a tough defender against whom the starters could practice. He might get some playing time, but not a lot.

A lot of players would hang it up after that. Not Vinnie. He decided to be part of the team and cheer everyone on, whether he was playing or not. His mom came to every game and was one of the team's biggest cheerleaders. We hear lots about the other players. But guys like Vinnie were the heart and soul of this team.

In Central's first state playoff game, Coach Csensits sent Vinnie in as the clock was winding down. Jay Vaughan fed him the ball, and Vinnie passed it right back to him. So Jay danced across the floor and back and passed it to him again. Vinnie passed it to Keeshawn "the beast" Kellman. Instead of scoring, Keeshawn passed the ball back to Vinnie, who in turn fed it to Jay. This happened about six times until Vinnie finally took a shot ... and scored.

Everyone erupted.

"I was teasing my fans," Vinnie explained after the game.

I will miss these guys.

On Saturday morning, I received a telephone call from my lawyer friend.

"Listen to this ..."

More Mozart.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Two LV Basketball Teams Still Stand in Chip Quest


Just a few days ago, seven District XI basketball teams were still standing in their quest for the chip of their respective divisions.  Now there are only two.

Boys' Basketball:

2A: Moravian Academy, which surprised many people this in outstanding play,was defeated by the #2-ranked Constitution Generals (#2) on Saturday, 83-73. The four remaining teams left are Constitution, Holy Cross (Dunmore), Sewickley Academy and Sacred Heart (Coraopolis).

4A: Bethlehem Catholic (#3) dominated Berks Catholic Friday night, 62-37. On Monday, the Golden Hawks face #1-ranked Imhotep Charter at Reading High School in the final four.

5AAllentown Central Catholic High School was eliminated by #1-ranked Bonner-Prendergast on Friday night. I will have a separate story about that game. The Vikings finish the season ranked by MaxPreps as #5.

In the final four, Bonner will go up against Abington Heights (#4) at Freedom High School on Monday night, 7 pm. In the western part of the state, Milton Hershey (#6) will face Mars (#3).

Girls' Basketball:

5A: Southern Lehigh (#8) continues its march for a state title with a victory over Harrisburg (#2) on Saturday, 42-36. On Monday night, they will play Archbishop Wood in the final four, while Archbishop Carroll will take on Mars.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mattressgate

Lamont McClure addresses bedsores
at Gracedale 
Gracedale Nursing Home, which is owned by Northampton County, has been struggling with its Medicare rating for quality measures, which reflects the quality of care afforded to residents. It had dipped to one star, the lowest rating. It currently is at two stars, which is still considered below average. Every month, at the Human Services Committee, Gracedale Administrator Raymond Soto updates Council on measures being taken to improve resident care. But for the past two months, there's been an increase in the number of pressure ulcers, which are also called bedsores. Lori Vargo Heffner wanted to know why. Although no one can really be sure, this increase may be related to the $500,000 purchase of new mattresses. That took place under former Executive John Brown. Former Administrator Cathy Allen made the purchase, ignoring policies that had been put in place for testing.

Soto indicated that a number of factors can lead to bed sores, including failure to move residents and a diet that contains insufficient protein. But nursing staff is above the state average Heffner kept prodding Soto about other possible reasons until  Executive Lamont McClure provided his own explanation.

"I'm horrified by this," he said, noting that pressure ulcers have increased two months in a row. He agreed that there are several possible reasons. While "correlation is not causation," McClure believes the introduction of new mattresses last December may be one of those reasons. "We're going to get to the bottom of it," he promised. "We're all over it."

McClure added that another problem that has resulted from these new mattresses is that residents are falling out of bed. The mattresses are often improperly inflated by residents and they form domes, causing some of them to roll out of bed and onto the floor.

Cathy Allen, who had no nursing home experience, executed a half million dollar contract to purchase these mattresses.

Sherry Ficocelli
Soto explained that at the end of last year, he was told there would be new furniture. He said the mattresses were an afterthought. Cathy Allen told him she was going to get a "good deal" on new mattresses."There wasn't much input from any of us," he admitted  Soto said there is a policy that new equipment receive a 30-day trial in different areas. "We did not follow policy," he confessed. He said the trial was in one resident's room, and it involved Cathy Allen and the erstwhile Director of Nursing.

After the new mattresses were installed, he began receiving complaints. He spent the night at the facility after a snowstorm and tried one of the 309 new mattresses."It was like a rock," he complained. 

The company that resold the mattresses is checking each mattress and may retain staff on determining the pressure.

Materials Manager Sherry Ficocelli said that Cathy Allen never consulted with her concerning the new mattresses

"It sounds like they were knock offs from Dan's Mattress City," joked Ron Heckman.

Ficocelli said that Allen had overstepped her abilities."We were kind of told to keep out of it," she declared. "We didn't go through the proper trials ... . I was told not to, and keep my mouth shut."

"Say what?" said Heffner. "I don't think we heard what you just said."

"You did. I was told to keep my mouth shut," responded Ficocelli. She indicated it was Allen who muzzled her.

McClure said it is his hope that there are, in fact, several factors. He's also hopeful that better training will solve the problem.

There have been no serious injuries as a result of the falls.

"Keep us updated on Mattressgate," said Lori Vargo Heffner.

Next NorCo Controller Will Get a $10,000 Payraise

Tara Zrinski wants those plastic
eggs recycled. 
When the next Northampton County Controller is sworn into office in January 2020, he or she will be paid $10,000 more than the $65,000 annual salary that Bucky Szulborski receives now. Last night, at a meeting packed with Easton Area High School students who must be serving some sort of detention, a divided County Council approved the raise by a 6-2-1 vote. Voting for the increase were John Cusick, Matt Dietz, Peg Ferraro, Ken Kraft, Bob Werner and Tara Zrinski. Voting No were Lori Vargo Heffner and Ron Heckman. Bill McGee abstained.

Cusick's original proposal included raises for the next Executive ($85,000 to $95,000) and Council ($9,500 to $10,500), too. But at a committee meeting, Ken Kraft said it would make more sense to propose a Charter amendment so that voters could weigh in and wither approve or reject the raise. He also said raises should be tied to the Consumer Price Index so that the salaries go up automatically and never have to be revisited.

"It's a political football," he said. "No matter what you do, it's a no-win situation."

Kraft had suggested that the matter be tabled tonight, but Cusick amended his original payraise proposal so that it applies only to the Controller. The current $65,000 salary is too low to attract a good candidate. "When we went out for the position, we had three people respond," he observed.

Heckman said he was voting No "as a matter of conscience." He failed to explain what ethical principle made this demand, unless political expediency has suddenly grown a backbone. Vargo Heffner voted No and explained more honestly that she has only been in office a few months and doesn't want people to get the impression that the first thing she's doing is giving elected officials a raise. McGee had said he thought the voters should decide.

Less controversial was a Home Rule Charter Amendment, also proposed by John Cusick, that will change the current Charter to read that the "Controller shall devote fulltimeto the office ... ." Cusick explained that the Charter change would allow the Controller to pursue part-time activities like refereeing football or teaching, so long as here is no interference with the full-time position. This measure passed unanimously and the voters will decide.

Council also voted unanimously to approve a number of new positions. The most important of these is a new pretrial services officer who will interview criminal defendants before bail is set and make recommendations to the Magisterial District Judge. Currently, 28 defendants charged with low level offenses are sitting in NorCo's jail, at $106 a day, because they are unable to post bail. This has already cost the county $91,000.

In other business, Council voted unanimously to approve a tax incentive known as a LERTA to help improve blighted property in Upper Mount Bethel Township. Under a LERTA, a property owner will continue paying taxes, but any improvements made to the property are gradually phased in over a period of ten years.

Former State Rep. Rich Grucela spoke in support of the LERTA. "It will really help us in the slate belt to provide some jobs," he said.

Council also considered two matters related to the PennEast pipeline. They voted unanimously to support the a request that the Delaware Rover Basin Commission exercise its jurisdiction over the pipeline to prevent a degradation of water quality inthe Delaware Basin. But Peg Farraro voted No to a resolution seeking a new hearing on federal approval of the pipeline. Ken Kraft and Bill McGee, both of whom are trade union agents, abstained.

They also voted unanimously to give deputy sheriffs $800 for the annual Easter Egg hunt at Louise Moore Park on March 24 at noon. Before voting Yes, Tara Zrinski wanted to make sure that he plastic eggs were either biodegradable or recycled. Fortunately, they are. 

Council also voted unanimously to approve Lamont McClure's appointments and re-appointments to several boards.

Children, Youth and Families Advisory Board: Angela Scott Ferencin (Bethlehem), Susan Grassi (Easton) and Frank Pologruto (Bethlehem).

Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board: Janette Zuk (Easton)

Housing Authority: Christopher Gulotta (Easton)

Industrial Development Authority: Thomas O'Donnell (Nazareth)

LANTA: Cordelia Miller (Bethlehem) and Kevin Lynn (Bethlehem)

LVPC: Malissa Davis (Bethlehem Tp), John Diacogiannis (Hanover Tp) and Kevin Lott (Hellertown)

Mental Health Advisory Board: Frank Pologruto (Bethlehem)

Revenue Appeals Board: Thomas Carocci (Bethlehem)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

7 District XI Basketball Teams Qualify For State Quarter-Finals


The ranks have thinned. Only seven District XI basketball teams - three boys' and four girls' - have made it to the final eight in their quest for the chip of their respective divisions.

Boys' Basketball:

2A: Moravian Academy, which jumped from #21 to #17 in state rankings, dominated Northwest (Shickshinny) (#41) on Wednesday night, 74-46. It will face Philadelphia's Constitution Generals (#2) on Saturday, .

3A: Notre Dame Green Pond (#27) was eliminated by Bishop McDevitt (#15) Wednesday night, 77-51.
.
4A: Bethlehem Catholic (#3) clobbered Conwell-Egan (#29) Tuesday night, 97-66. On Friday, the Golden Hawks will take on Berks Catholic (#4) in its first competitive game for its division.

5A: Though Allentown Central Catholic High School defeated Dallas High School 61-57, on Tuesday night, they won the game in double overtime. It was against a team that at that time was only ranked #21. So the Vikings' state rankings have dropped from #7 to #10  On Friday, they set sail to Reading High School to take on the #1-ranked Friars of Bonner-Prendergast. .

6A: Pocono Mtn West (#48), the only District XI team still standing, in 6A, was disqualified last night by the Hazleton Area Cougars, 69-50.  .

Girls' Basketball:

2A: Mahanoy Area (#1) will play West Catholic (Philadelphia) (#7) on Friday night, Freedom High School, 6 pm.

Minersville (#3) will play Penns Manor (Clymer) (#10) Friday night at Bald eagle Area HS in Wingate.

3A: North Schuylkill (#1) was eliminated by Imhotep Charter (#9) last night, 65-58.

4A: Allentown Central Catholic (#14) lost a heart-breaker to #1-tanked Lancaster Catholic on Wednesday night, 32-3. .

Bethlehem Catholic (#2) was upset by Bonner-Prendergast (#16) on Wednesday night.  .

5A: Southern Lehigh (#8) trounced Lampeter-Strasburg (#14) Wednesday night, 45-29, and will face Harrisburg (#2) on Saturday.

6A: Easton (#14) was eliminated by Souderton (#2) Tuesday night, 55-41

Freedom (#15) fell to Abington (#10) Tuesday night, 63-55.

William Allen (#32) defeated Central Dauphin (#13) Tuesday night, 42-39, and will play Central Bucks South on Friday night.

Kraft: Let Voters Decide Payraises For Elected Officials

Northampton County Council member John Cusick and Matt Dietz have proposed a payraise for elected officials. If passed, the Executive's salary will increase from $85,000 to $95,000, the Controller's salary will rise from $65,000 to $75,000, and Council members will be paid $10,500 instead of $9,500. The Council President will continue to receive an extra $500. These wage hikes would go into effect the next term. That's because Council members have no authority to give themselves a raise. A public hearing is scheduled today. Council President Ken Kraft as suggested a more permanent solution = letting the people decide.

"It's a political football," he said. "No matter what you do, it's a no-win situation."

He added that if Council approved a payraise for the Exec, there's a good chance that it would be vetoed by the Exec. That's because he would be setting himself up for political attacks should he seek re-election.

What Kraft is suggesting is a Home Rule Charter change under which the people, and not Council, will decide whether a raise is warranted. In addition, he wants the salary tied to the consumer price index so this never is an issue again.

NorCo Court Admin Proposes Way to Reduce Jail Census

Nina Reynard and Jermaine Greene
One way to handle an influx of extra inmates is to build a new jail. That's what former NorCo Exec John Brown wanted to do. It's one of the reasons why he is the former Executive. Had he consulted with President Judge Stephen Baratta and Court Administrator J.Jermaine Greene, he might have learned there's another way. It's simply to reduce the jail population by releasing people who pose no risk to anyone.

Greene unveiled this plan to County Council yesterday. Accompanied by Pretrial Services Director Nina Reynard, he's asking for a new pretrial services officer who will be paid an annual $47,857 salary. This officer will help evaluate persons who are arrested, but before they are placed in custody  The pretrial officer will perform a risk assessment before the Magisterial District Judge sets bail at 7 am.

Greene provided an example brought to his attention by Reynard. A person with no criminal record was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia because he had a roach. He was unable to post $2,500 bail. He sat in jail for 38 days, even though the maximum sentence is just 30 days. He was released immediately when reynard and Greene discovered what had happened.

After that incident, Greene and Reynard began reviewing the bail set by Magisterial District Judges for low level offenders. At this moment, 28 people are incarcerated on minor charges like retail theft because they are unable to post monetary bail

It costs $106 per day to house an inmate, and Reynard told Council that housing these 28 low level offenders has cost the county $91,000. In nearly half of these cases, defendants are being held even though there are existing detainers, which are requests from other jurisdictions to release the person being held into their custody. 

Administrator Charles Dertinger also pointed to defendants with minor crimes who are hospitalized. Once a Defendant is in the county's custody, Medicaid is dropped and the county is liable for the entire bill. In addition, Dertinger noted that the county had to pay $7,700 in deputy over time.

In addition to costing the county money, Greene and Reynard pointed out that pretrial detention is unfair to the defendants. Greene said they lose families, homes, jobs and get behind on child support. Reyynard added that there's a stigma to being incarcerated. 

"We need to do better," said Greene. "Ninety percent of these people will net be returned to custody," added Reynard. "We are pre-emptively punishing these people."

Greene pointed out that Magisterial District judges still have judicial discretion to set bail as they see fit."We  does work is cojust want to give them another tool to let them know this is a problem we're seeing," he explained.

It appears that Magisterial District Judges Nancy Matos Gonzalez and Robert Hawke tend to be the hammers in Northampton County.

Greene added that this new system will mean that pretrial officers have to work weekends, and he will have to negotiate this matter with the unions.

Monetary bail will still be an option for defendants charged with more serious offenses. But interestingly, Reynard said that studies show that monetizing bail fails to make defendants more likely to appear. She said that what does work are reminders at meetings with pretrial officers.