Monday, April 30, 2018

New Americans Caucus Charging $10 For Lt Guv Debate

New Americans Caucus supposedly exists to welcome naturalized citizens into the Democratic Party, register them to vote, educate them on the importance of voting, and search for candidates at all levels of government. It scheduled a debate at Moravian College for the five Democrats running for Lt. Governor. Amazingly, it is charging $10 a head, even though many of these new Americans probably would have a difficult time attending even if there were no fee at all.

Now I would not mind a cover charge if the event were scheduled at a local business, but this is at a nonprofit.

This is completely tone deaf.

I refuse to provide any details.

Former Exec Uses NMM to Form Consulting Biz

IFormer NorCo Exec John Brown has returned from Florida and is announcing a new biz he's calling John Brown Leadership Solutions Llc. His leadership solutions in Northampton County are pretty much why he is no longer Exec. But let him explain his new company in his own words, shall we? He describes himself as a:
Transformative senior executive providing objective leadership expertise that complements vision and execution. Transmutes critical thinking about the organization’s problems and challenges into a dynamic strategic advantage. Systematically disrupts current paradigms to solve problems, reveal root causes and actualize innovative solutions to create outstanding results that transform public and private organizations.
According to papers filed with the Department of State, his corporate address is 515 West Hamilton Street, Suite 502, Allentown, PA 18101.

That just happens to be the address of Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus. That's the law firm that billed the County over $810,000 for its services on the General Purpose Authority over two years.

Maybe Brown and John Lushis will market P3 projects throughout the state.

Allentown Firefighters Endorse Morganelli


At this time last year, former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski had Allentown's firefighters so messed up that they were forced to use a pick-up truck to respond to fires. It's a badass truck, a GMC, but it's still just a pick-up truck. It has no water pumping capability or tank, though the bed of the truck is full of equipment that might slow down an inferno.

Jeremy Warmkessel, President of Fire Fighters Local 302, could have just kept his head down and ignore this problem, especially since the union contract is in effect until 2020. But as a  firefighter who saved the life of a three-year old boy while battling a blaze in 2012, he understands the importance of having the right kind of equipment. As he put it himself, "This is a safety issue."

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

"He is setting our department up for failure," said Warmkessel of Fed Ed.

While Fed Ed was endangering both firefighters and the public with equipment, Solicitor Susan Wild was battling them over staffing. When firefighters resisted a reduction in the minimum staffing on each shift, she took them to court. And as reported by The Morning Call, she lost.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Debra Todd, ruled in favor of firefighters and said the City had an obligation to negotiate if it wished to reduce staffing. She reasoned there was "an unambiguous and powerful link between shift staffing and firefighter health and safety." She added that "a minimum shift staffing mandate, given its direct and significant impact on firefighter health and safety, is simply not a managerial prerogative that should be insulated from the give-and-take of collective bargaining."

Instead of accepting the ruling, Wild criticized it, and argued it would have a negative impact on the City's budget.

Does this sound like someone who cares even a little bit about public safety?

Well guess what? The Executive Board of Allentown Local 302 of the International Association of Firefighters has unanimously voted to endorse Northampton County DA John Morganelli for Congress in the Democratic Primary Election. According to their letter, Morganelli was endorsed because of his "years of public service and his exceptional balance exhibited as district attorney."

"This endorsement made by the brave men and women who serve Allentown as firefighters means a great deal to me," said Morganelli. "My brother-in-law and cousin are retired Bethlehem firefighters, and I have always admired the courage and dedication exhibited by these public servants who put their lives on the line to save others."

Morganelli has also picked up the endorsement of Local # 22 - Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union, associated with the Pa. AFL-CIO.

Wild v. Baby Gianna

Gianna was just 17 months old when her family brought her to LV Hospital, vomiting and coughing. She underwent a chest x-ray, and doctors there concluded she had a respiratory infection even though what the X-ray really revealed was that she had an enlarged heart. When condition worsened, she returned to the hospital. She was sent home again. Her condition continued to deteriorate, prompting a third visit to LV Hospital. At this point, a second X-ray was taken, revealing she had an enlarged heart. She was flown by chopper to Children's Hospital in Philly, but the medical malpractice continued. During a cardiac procedure, she was given an overdose of a sedative, ten times stronger than it should have been. Eight days later, she was dead.

Susan Wild has proclaimed that she never runs from a fight but runs to a fight. But she ran to no fight for Gianna. She ran instead for Lehigh Valley Hospital, whom she represents, and filed a motion to transfer the case from Philly, which has delayed resolution of a case that now is nearly three years old. The Superior Court has just sent the case back to Philly.

Because of Susan Wild, Gianni's family has yet to see any closure. We already know Wild has no regard for lives of the unborn, but Gianni was 17 months old.

A recent Morning Call letter to the editor penned by Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg argues, "She's been fighting for us all her life, from the courtroom to the boardroom to the streets."

I'd say you should talk to Gianna, but she's dead.

Wild's career has been spent on the side of corporation, insurance companies, unresponsive hospitals and governments that take advantage of you.

"No Labels" Behind the Edwards and Wild Attacks

Rev. Greg Edwards
It started like a minuet, but is quickly becoming a donnybrook. I'm speaking, of course, about the Lehigh Valley's Democratic Congressional primary. The negativity started when Allentown Attorney Sue Wild broke her word to fellow candidate John Morganelli and blasted him with distortions and outright lies. She continued her attack in two recent emails dunning her supporters for money. "[O]ur biggest competition is a Democrat who supports Donald Trump," she lies about Morganelli. She also enlisted the assistance of Emily's List, which will air TV ads and five direct mail pieces tarnishing Morganelli. Now candidate Greg Edwards is getting smacked around, too. Lehigh Valley residents opened their mailboxes this weekend to see a glossy flyer from United Together, attacking Edwards because his wife and children have jobs at his church. And Wild, who started this, is getting her comeuppance on Facebook. 

Silly season is officially here.

Who is behind these attacks? Someone has already blamed Morganelli, of course. "Together United Inc is a Right wing Front group that put itself forward as a charity. It has direct ties to Tom Severson. In 2016 Severson used them to attack Phil Armstrong other opposition candidates."

This is utter nonsense.

First, neither Morganelli nor anyone associated with his campaign attacked Greg Edwards, whom John respects.  If John responds to Wild's rants, he'll take responsibility.

Second, Together United really is a legitimate charity, and has no involvement in politics. This mailer comes from United Together, which did not even exist until late 2017.

United Together is a Super PAC tied to a bi-partisan group called No Labels. It describes itself as "a movement for the tens of millions who are fed up with the dysfunction and will no longer put up with a government that does not represent the interests of most Americans." It calls for "a new politics of goals-focused problem solving to our government. … No Labels has never called for people to entirely shed their party affiliations. … As long as they are intellectually honest, we respect conservatives, liberals, and anyone in between who has a sincere desire to address the nation’s problems.”  The honorary No Labels Co-Chairs are Senators Susan Collins (R-Me) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). No Labels credits itself with the House Problem Solver Caucus, a bipartisan group of Congressmen.

The Chicago Sun Times has linked No Labels with United Together and other Super PACs through interviews with donors as well as review of finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. They show that No Labels financiers have helped start these PACs.

No Labels has its own PAC, and had $331,000 to spend on April 1. It raised no money locally, but did contribute $10,200 to Charlie Dent in 2017.

According to The Chicago Sun TimesNo Labels uses United Together and United for Progress to contribute to Democrats. Contributions to Republicans are funneled through Citizens for a Strong America.

This image is on the facebook page. 
United Together was registered with the Federal Elections Commission last year. Its treasurer is Bruce Goren. He is also the treasurer of United for Progress.

According to FEC recordsUnited Together had $826,000 to spend on April 1. Most of this money comes from three sources: Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf ($300,000); John Arnold, the King of Natural Gas, and his wife Laura ($400,000); and former Commissioner of Baseball Alan H Selig, known to most of us as Bud Selig ($125,000). 

Though Reinsdorf has contributed to numerous Republicans in Illinois, he also gave $50k to Rahm Emmanuel.

Prior to April 1, United Together spent about $20,000. Much of that went to campaign consulting firm SCR Strategies, based in Charlotte.

According to No Labels, "Our ranks include liberals, conservatives and everyone in between. But we believe true leaders must be willing to come to the center when that’s what it takes to push back on the extremes and push forward ideas that make the American people’s lives better."

So No Labels, through SuperPACs and regular PACs, is behind these attacks. John Morganelli told me he hates this kind of campaigning and would like to see changes in the Citizens United ruling.

Greg Edwards Feels the Bern



The Morning Call reports that LV Congressional candidate Greg Edwards has received Bernie Sanders' endorsement. Congrats to Rev. Edwards, who really does represent the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

Friday, April 27, 2018

NorCo Child Placement Stats

Kevin Dolan
Kevin Dolan is long-time Director of Northampton County's Children Youth and Family Division (CYF). He updated Council recently on a change of focus in child placement. Traditionally, it was thought that children who need to be placed would do best in foster care. But studies have determined that youngsters do better if they are placed with people they already know and even friends.

As of April 16, 269 children were placed outside their home. One hundred of these were with other relatives or family friends. Eight were in foster homes. The remaining 158 were with a vendor, which could include an outfit like KidsPeace. There were also two runaways.

NorCo was spending $19,442.09 per day to place these children.

Morganelli - Targeted by Emily's List For Wild



PoliticsPa is reporting that Emily’s List has decided to support Congressional candidate Sue Wild and target John Morganelli, starting next week. the campaign will consist of both direct mail and TV, starting next week. There will be five mail pieces aimed at women. The TV ads will air the final week of the campaign.

Republicans will be delighted.

John has begun airing his own TV ad, which you can see above.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Authorities Investigate Burning Body Found at Parkhurst Aptmts

DA John Morganelli and ADA Patricia Mulqueen (Violent Crimes Unit)
On Tuesday, April 24, around 2:30 am, Bethlehem police investigated what they thought might be a burning mannequin at the Parkhurst Apartments complex in Bethlehem. What they discovered was actually determined to be a male human being later identified as Tyrell Michael Holmes, age 18. Details of the homicide were released at a news conference conducted by District Attorney John Morganelli on Wednesday afternoon. This was also attended by Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, Coroner Zach Lysek, Assistant DA Patricia Mulqueen (Violent Crimes Unit) and Police Captain Anthony Leardi.

According to Coroner Zach Lysek, Holmes died from a combination of smoke inhalation, thermal injuries and multiple stab wounds. He has ruled the matter is a homicide. Holmes' family has been notified.

District Attorney Jophn Morganelli said that Holmes was set afire while he was still alive, as determined by the presence of smoke in his lungs. He believes Holmes was in "extreme pain and conscious" at the time of his death. He deduced that the combination of stabbing with the use of accelerants tells him this is a first degree murder. He added this may be a death penalty case because "torture is an aggravating circumstance."

Thanks to the Allentown Police Department, which supplied the services of a K-9 dig trained in the detection of fire accelerants, police believe that they used in the area on nearby grass, but further testing is needed.

"It is a very violent homicide," said Police Chief Mark DiLuzio. He asked anyone with information to call police at 610-865-7187. He even suggested that tipsters should call 911.

Investigators know that Holmes is from the Bethlehem area, but was not a resident of the apartment complex.

"We do not believe it is a random act," said Morganelli. "This is a more personal type of crime," he said, noting that stabbing tends to be personal. "This is a very egregious crime."

Morganelli believes this it is likely that the murder took place at or near the apartment complex.

Police declined to answer questions whether this homicide is drug or gang-related. He said they are looking at a "circle of individuals who had contact with the victim," but declined to say whether they are suspects.

"I'm hopeful and confident that this is a case that's solvable," he concluded.

This is the first homicide in Bethlehem this year.

Israel Big Winner of Congressional Debate at Brith Shalom

David Clark
Last night, most of the Lehigh Valley Congressional candidates, including a stand-in, participated before a standing-room only crowd of over 100 people in perhaps the most substantive debate to date in the quest for a successor to long-time Congressman Charlie Dent. This two-hour forum took place at Congregation Brith Shalom, located along Macada Road in Bethlehem. Participants fielded an hour of questions concerning tensions in the Middle East, followed by an hour that focused on various domestic issues. There was a clear winner in this debate - Israel. No matter who the Lehigh Valley sends to Congress, the Jewish state will have a friend.

Democrats Dave Clark, Rick Daugherty, Greg Edwards, John Morganelli and Susan Wild participated. Roger Ruggles was unable to attend because he was serving at an Easton City Council meeting. Republican Marty Nothstein, a Lehigh County Commissioner, was similarly waylaid by a meeting of his board. Pinch-hitting for him was Lehigh County's former GOP Chair, Wayne Woodman. A second Republican candidate, Dean Browning, was also unable to attend. He was at an NRA Dinner and they were handing out bazookas as door prizes. Hard to pass up.

Rick Daugherty
This forum also featured Libertarian Tim Silfies. He's a former Channel 69 reporter. As I told him, I will make an effort to find out more about him after the primary race.

Moderator Barry Goldin did an excellent job. He made clear at the onset that there would be no cheering, booing, jeering or "spitballs." But his admonition was likely unnecessary. The audience featured none of the raucous Wild and Edwards supporters who actually shouted John Morganelli down in one debate, and booed him in another.

Goldin also reminded the candidates that there are 10,000 Jews in the Lehigh Valley, and they vote. He added the event was also being covered by Hakol, the only Jewish newspaper in this area.

The Rise of Anti-Semitism. - Goldin’s first question focused on the increasing hostilities against Jews. He claimed a 60% increase in the United States, Britain and France, and said there's an 80% rise on college campuses, and it even includes professors. As a result, Jewish institutions like Brith Shalom must spend money on security that could be devoted to other needs. He asked candidates what they would do to arrest this development.

Greg Edwards
Wild said she is a former board member of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Federation, and is horrified when she reads these reports because she has two children who were raised as Jews. "Education is always the answer," she observed, adding that "hate crimes of all types must be treated very harshly and very quickly."

"I have not experienced these things," said Silfies. "The best thing I can do is listen."

He listened to Wayne Woodman, who said he experienced a lot of anti-Semitism growing up. He agreed that anti-Semitism is on the rise in a way that has not been seen since the '30s. "We're the canary in the coal mine," he warned, in what to me was one of the most memorable lines of the night. He suspects that identity politics is at least one of the root causes.

Calling this rise in hate crime a very serious problem, Morganelli said his office investigates quickly and does prosecute, pointing to an incident of racism at Saucon Valley School District in which an African American student was draped in a Confederate flag. "It really is a result of ignorance," concluded the DA. "We all of us are human beings. We want the same thing. ... We have lots of differences, but lots in common."

John Morganelli
Edwards called on schools to teach "true American history," and said those in power are "deeply afraid" to do so. He agreed that "implicit bias is trapped in all of us," and said we should "build solidarity across our differences."

Dougherty argued that "our main strength is our diversity," but also pointed out that fair housing laws enacted 50 years ago were originally opposed by realtors.

Clark used anti-Semitism as an excuse to tee off on Donald Trump, whom he would call "Bonehead Trump" as the night went along, as well as blame the Koch brothers and John Birch Society for many of the nation's woes. In previous debates, Clark could count on a Trump insult for laughter or cheering. But he was answered with silence last night.

The Iran Deal - Goldin’s second question focused on the Iran deal. He noted that Israel is a long-time US ally and might very well be our key Middle Eastern partner. But we entered into a deal with Iran that allows it to build ballistic missiles, increase its troop presence in Syria, send aid to Hezbollah and meddle in other Middle Eastern countries. Should we back out?

Wayne Woodman
Woodman would pull out. "You don't make deals with countries that want to destroy a key ally," he noted, in yet another of the more memorable lines of the evening. "This is not a deal, it's appeasement."

Morganelli agreed that "we need to be 1000% on the side of Israel." Noting that it is a parliamentary democracy, he said Israel is "the only ally we can count on in the Middle East." But he complained that the Trump administration has been making changes without consulting our key ally. He said whatever is done should be discussed with Israel first, and that a strategy should be developed moving forward.

Like Morganelli, Dougherty would renegotiate the Iran deal in conjunction with Israel.

Silfies supports staying in the Iran deal because it "keeps the peace for now." Edwards added that pulling out "will destabilize what little peace there is." He is "deathly afraid" that the Trump administration "will just make things chaotic." Wild echoed Edwards and Silfies. "I don't think we can back away from the Iran nuclear deal," she said.

Tim Silfies
Clark went off on a tangent and failed to answer the question. He said Israel is "practically a state of the US," and we should warn all countries that an "attack on Israel is an attack on us."

Is Israel is Attacked, Should US Intervene? - Only Silfies hesitated, saying it would depend  based on the circumstances. He also complained that Congress is never consulted as it should be.  "We just bombed Syria a couple of weeks ago without the permission of Congress. The other candidates supported a military response. Morganelli called Israel "our closest friend and ally. I would support military action in her defense."  Like Clark, Edwards said that "if Israel is attacked, America is attacked."

But Woodman, who has traveled to Israel, offered some context."Israelis attacked every day," he cautioned everyone, noting that missile strikes are a daily occurrence "Everyone who carries an Israeli passport in one hand has to be prepared to carry a rifle in the other."

Sue Wild
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. - All debate participants support moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but only two were incomplete agreement with Trump's decision to move the embassy there.

"Israel is a sovereign nation," observed Woodman. "We don't tell any other country where their capital should be." Dougherty agreed.

Morganelli summed up the views of other candidates. He supports the move, but only as part of the peace process. The way it was done, he said, was "sort of like sticking your finger in someone's eye."

Reconciling Rising Demand at Food Banks With Cuts to SNAP (food stamps) - There were lots of interesting, and varied answers to this problem.

Dougherty noted that the current farm bill, from which food assistance benefits comes, is proposing a 80% reduction. At the same time,"we waste a huge amount of food in this country."  He said that a few months ago, he spent the night at a Bethlehem homeless shelter,and it was filled to capacity with 75 people."We're going in the wrong direction," he observed. He also said he was surprised to have learned from an NPR broadcast the the two professions with the highest suicide rates are ranchers and dairy farmers.

Clark's view was less nuanced.he just blamed the GOP for massive cuts which go to the top five percent. He thinks this can all be solved with a graduated income tax.

Wild said it was "unfathomable" to her that anyone would go hungry.

"We are $21 trillion in debt. That is also unfathomable," retorted Silfies. "We can't be talking about spending more when we are bankrupt."

Woodman said that Nothstein is a "problem solver" who could reform a faulty system that has left us with 6 million unfilled jobs. He observed that after a 50-year war on poverty, 15% of the nation still lives in poverty.

'That $21 trillion debt is not a result of food stamps for poor people," said Morganelli. Noting that his father was an Italian immigrant had to work numerous jobs to feed his family, he knows what it is like to do without. But he blamed the problem on the unwillingness of people to work together.

Bill Clinton worked with Newt Gingrich," he observed."We've lost that in Washington. We should not be looking for a Democratic solution or a Republican solution, but the right solution."  he also would address the fraud that exists in defense contracts and with welfare. "They are taking funds away from the people who need them," he argued.

Edwards derided a federal proposal to cut SNAP. "Food insecurity is real," he cautioned, noting it affects 1 of every 8 people. "As we cut your SNAP benefits, we're going to give you a box of food," he sneered.

Food Pantries and Illegal (Undocumented) Immigrants. Will food pantries get in trouble for feeding people who are here illegally,and should those people be concerned about an arrest? - There was only one candidate who was competent to answer that question, and it was Morganelli. He is a prosecutor and enforces the law. He explained that he knows of no legal basis to support a prosecution against a food pantry that feeds noncitizens. He added that local police and immigration officials do not hang around at food banks hoping to catch someone 'because they're hungry." He explained that immigration officials do go after people like those who are in the MS-13 gang. They have been arrested in Northampton County after committing numerous violent crimes. "When they are done with their sentence, I don't want that person released back into the community," he said.

Since Unemployment Has Dropped, should We Reform Immigration Laws? -  Wild said she supports a clean DREAM Act, opposes a travel ban based on country of origin and worked to bring a family from Syria to the US. She called immigrants a net benefit to the country, but failed to say how she would reform the system.

Edwards said that the Gang of Eight had come up with comprehensive immigration reform, but it was killed in the House."Most of our members of Congress are bought and paid for," he said  He also failed to state how he would reform the system.

Clark said he would impose "clear" punishments on businesses that hire illegals.The law already provides for that, so he failed to answer the question.

I missed Woodman's answer for some reason.

Silfies, Dougherty and Morganelli had answers. Silfies thinks we should leave illegals alone so long as they are "peaceful."  Dougherty said he would fine them because they broke the law. But after they pay the fine, they should have a legal status of some sort.

Morganelli explained what first prompted him to go after illegals.In the '80s, the unemployment rate was much higher. Union workers going to job sites found that contractors were using illegals and paying them $4-5 an hour, and under the table. these people were using false IDs and were,in fact, taking jobs away from citizens. He prosecuted illegals and the businesses who hired them. He had earlier pointed out that some illegals also come here specifically to commit crime

But he explained that he supports DACA, an expansion of asylum and refugee status and does consider the United States a "very welcoming country."  He agreed that immigrants are a net benefit to this country.

Wayne Woodman is not going to like this because he's a bridesmaid and not the bride, but his performance was so good that Morganelli asked if he could use him, too.

In addition to Israel, I'd have to declare Brith Shalom a co-winner of this debate. Excellent questions from a moderator who managed to get the best out of the candidates. I particularly like that the candidates gave no opening statements. Instead, an introduction was read for each.

כל הכבוד.

Blogger's Note: As most of my readers know, I support John Morganelli. But I tried to be as honest and as fair as I can in this account. I photographed each candidate during the debate. I am a lousy photographer, but have no desire to use a candidate's picture to make him or her look bad. If you are a candidate and think think my pic of you is bad, drop me a line (BOHare5948@aol.com) and I will remove it. Except Wayne Woodman. I can only do so much, Wayne.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wild Camp Tried To Spin this Blog Into Attacking Edwards

Susan Wild
NorCo John Morganelli could try to minimize his conservative stances on some issues, at least until the primary is over. But he's freely admitted these positions, even when he was booed down at a debate in Allentown. Similarly, Pastor Greg Edwards could tone down the claim of educational apartheid here in the Lehigh Valley. But he has delivered pretty much the same message I've heard from him at other venues. Love 'em or hate 'em, they've both been honest. Sue Wild is another story. While pretending to be a true progressive, her campaign was maligning them. Her Communications Director, Grigsby Crawford, even tried to spin me into an attack on Edwards.

Yesterday, I told you that Wild broke a promise she made to John Morganelli, a fellow lawyer, that she would run a clean campaign. They shook on it either late last year or early this year, although Wild warned Morganelli that Edwards would attack him. She broke her word yesterday with an attack ad aimed at Morganelli. She distorted and misrepresented his positions. She admitted to me that she signed off on the hit piece, too.

A negative campaign is nothing new. But I was and remain shocked that someone I once respected would break her word. If she lied to John, it's safe to conclude that she's lying to you as well.

Now that she has broken her promise, I feel free to tell you that her campaign tried to spin me. Grigsby Crawford, her Communications Director, contacted me on March 12 about a story written by Toronto Star columnist Emma Teitel. In it, she complains that the leaders of the American Women’s March appeared together with Nation of Islam wing nut Louis Farrakhan, who gave a speech saying he "has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”

These #metoo advocates never took Farrakhan to task.

Crawford spun me, "The group endorsed Greg Edwards, Doctor of Divinity, and he has yet to denounce their deep ties to all this Louis Farrakhan hatred [see linked article]. With a large Jewish population in the valley, I think a post on this is timely and necessary. Thoughts?"

I refused to be spun. I think Edwards likely has no idea that the national leaders of this feminist group are chummy with an anti-Semite. Also, as I explained to Crawford, "If I wrote a piece about this, it would be quickly associated with John bc he and I are friends. Though he does not dictate what I write, there are those who think he does. So John would be attacked as anti-women."

Two days later, in an email entitled "yikes!", Crawford sent me a link to a story in a far-left political site called Crooks and Liars, taking him to task because he has spoken a few times to the local tea party, which is described as a "Trump-Loving Racist Hate Group." While this group is definitely very conservative, and some of its members are racists who are full of hate, the Lehigh Valley Tea party is no more racist or hate-filled than "Lehigh Valley For All" or any political group.

Crawford warned me that "team Edwards," as he called them, would be "going full bore on the race stuff." He added, "Edwards has raised a shit load of money off of it. That stuff gets the far left/social justice warrior crowd all tingly inside."

Instead, it is Sue Wild who is trying to profit from the "far left/social justice warrior crowd."

If you are a left leaning Democrat, you should know what Wild and her campaign really think of you.

Congregation Brith Shalom To Host Dem Congressional Forum Tonight

Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 Macada Road, Bethlehem, PA, will host a Congressional forum this evening. At least four of the Democrats will be there, along with libertarian Tim Silfies. It starts at 7 pm, and topics are supposed to include Middle East affairs, hunger in America, and voter suppression.

Reminder: LWV to Host Congressional Forum on May 2 at NCC


League of Women Voter VP Beverly Hernandez has asked me to post a new flyer concerning the Congressional candidates's forum. All Democrats and one Republican, Dean Browning, will attend. The other Republican in the Congressional race, Marty Nothstein, has said No. As I told you on April 13, Nothstein has called the League of Women Voters a "partisan, liberal organization allied with the interests of the Democratic party." He has accused this good government group of "meddling in Congressional politics" because of its involvement, as a Plaintiff, in an astonishingly successful effort to derail the partisan gerrymandering that is going on in the land of midnight payraises.

Republicans are currently the beneficiaries of a broken system in which legislators choose the voters, but that could change in a heartbeat. The Democratic Supreme Court already imposed its own map. If Democrats gain control in Harrisburg, as they might, they will start gerrymandering. The best solution for everyone is precisely what the League of Women Voters has advocated, an independent commission made up of nonpoliticians. I agree that it is impossible to remove politics completely, but this independent group would remove most of it.

After my story appeared, Morning Call columnist Bill White picked up on it, too. He claims Nothstein is:
• A candidate who is willing to throw one of our country's most-respected good-government organizations under the bus to justify his political decision to duck a debate.

• A candidate who is indulging in the same kind of fact-resistant rhetoric and reckless finger-pointing that we've seen far too much of in Washington.

• A candidate who has decided to engage in the politics of division at a time when we need people with the courage to reach across the aisle.

• A candidate who is passionately defending a congressional map that so many Pennsylvanians and others around the country found appalling.
According to Republican activist Ed White, NorCo GOP boss "General" Lee Snover had commanded the Republican Congressional candidates to boycott the debate. .

I really am starting to wonder whether Lee is actually a Democrat. She alienated Charlie Dent to the point where he decided against seeking re-election, even though no Democrat could ever beat him. She then began backing the worst possible replacement, opportunist Justin Simmons. She was so caught up about her love for the Donald and what is happening this year that she basically ignored Republicans seeking county office. Result? They lost control of both Council and the Executive.

Like a good little boy, Nothstein listened to Snover's brilliant advice. Dean Browning rejected her directive. He'd prefer to make his own mistakes rather than repeat hers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Three A-town Council Members Refuse to Thank FBI

Though Allentown is much better off now that Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has resigned, it is still far from out of the woods. Mayor Ray O'Connell has made progress restoring morale and made an outstanding Solicitor appointment with Tom Traud. But City Council is another story. 

At last week's meeting, Council was poised to adopt a resolution thanking the FBI for their work in weeding out corruption at City Hall. But Council President Roger MacLean had it reduced to a Proclamation.and then refused to sign it. Also refusing to sign were Courtney Robinson and Candida Affa.

These three amigos just happen to be the ones who voted 11 times to install Charlie Thiel, and not Ray O'Connell, as Mayor.

Knowing that they refused to thank the FBI should shed a little light on how they view political corruption.     

Susan Wild Breaks Promise to Wage Positive Race

Six Democrats are seeking the Democratic nomination to Pennsylvania's newly created 6th Congressional District. It had been a positive race. That changed yesterday when people opened their mailboxes to see a nasty flyer from insurance defense lawyer Susan Wild, attacking John Morganelli. She stood by John's side as he has announced several times that he supports the DREAM Act to protect the children of illegal immigrants. But she nevertheless falsely stated that he wants them all deported. She also misrepresented John's position on abortion (he is personally opposed, but has no intention of upsetting existing law) and dishonestly claims that John "routinely praises Donald Trump's extreme policies," including a Muslim ban. She's obviously behind, so she's distorting his record. That's to be expected. But she has done something far worse than go dark. She has broken her word to John.

Back in late December or early January, Wild asked to see Morganelli. They both discussed the race and commiserated with each other over how hard it is to raise money. Susan had another reason to see John. She wanted to know if he was going to wage a negative campaign. He told her that he'd run a clean campaign if she did. She told John several times that she was sure that candidate Greg Edwards would get nasty, but she wanted John to agree that, at least between the two of them, John would wage a positive campaign. John agreed and they shook on it. Before leaving, they shook on it again.

John kept his word and stayed positive. He even issued orders to his campaign manager, Rich Wilkins, to keep the gloves on. The only person he has attacked is Donald Trump.

He has no authority to tell me what to do, but I've really tried hard to avoid attacking the other candidates. I have actually defended Susan when some folks have tried to tie her to the corruption in Allentown, where she was Fed Ed's Solicitor. I am disappointed and saddened that Wild, a fellow attorney, has cheapened herself by breaking her word to John. It says a lot about her lack of character.

Greg Edwards, Roger Ruggles, Rick Daugherty and David Clark could all decide to go negative and I would just smile. They made no promise to run a clean campaign. Amazingly, they have all have been positive so far. The only one who has become negative is the one candidate who promised she would stay positive.

Does this mean that you should expect a torrent of attack mailers aimed at Wild? I doubt it. John is ahead and he is smart. He is the only Democratic candidate that people in the Lehigh Valley actually know, and they have a very positive view of him. His views might be too conservative for some Democrats, and they can vote for another Democrat because there is a smorgasbord of them running.

I will say this. When he was in private practice and again as DA, John has always stood for the little guy. He represented people who were victims of greedy bosses and businesses that stepped all over them. As a prosecutor, John has stood up for the victims of crime. He is the man who faces parents when their sons or daughters are killed. He has charged employers who pay slave wages to illegals, knowing they could never report what is happening. Susan Wild, who is attempting to brand herself as a "progressive," is a corporate defense lawyer who has spent her career on the side of insurance companies, corporations, and drug companies and against working people. She even defended those who have violated people's civil rights. So to those of you who think Wild cares about the little guy and is "progressive," think again. Her record tells a much different story.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Morganelli Scores Knockout in Congressional Race

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli has scored a knock out blow in his race for Congress. He has received the endorsement of none other than the Easton Assassin, Larry Holmes. Larry was the WBC heavyweight champ from 1978-1983, and the IBF Champ between 1983 and 1985. His left jab is considered one of the best  in boxing history. He is considered one of the top 10 heavyweight champions of all time. He holds the record for the longest individual heavyweight title streak in the post-war boxing history.

Larry said the following:

“John Morganelli kept his promise to the black community and hired Northampton County’s first and second African American Assistant District Attorneys in Northampton County history back in 1992. He has been a tough but fair DA who has also distributed needed funds to help educate young people about the dangers of drugs and gangs . My wife Diane and I consider John to be a personal friend of ours."

“ I am humbled to have the endorsement of Larry Holmes who is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time and who has contributed so much to his community," said Morganelli. "Larry never forgot where he came from and neither will I.”

Is Morganelli Pure Enough?

John Morganelli
Most people running for office establish Facebook pages for that purpose. In most cases, these candidates will permit anyone to post comments. After all, they are trying to create interest in their campaigns.They do attract supporters, but they also support what I call political trolls. These are people who already support other candidates. They only post on the candidate's page to flame him or her.

Unlike most candidates, Congressional candidate John Morganelli is using his personal Facebook page to promote his campaign. Like other candidates, he has attracted a few political trolls who are trying to shout him down,much as they did at the partisan NextGen debate a few weeks ago. These so-called liberals are only tolerant of those who agree with them. One of them, a Sue Wild supporter, came onto John Morganelli's Facebook page to attack him and claim he is not Democratic enough. Morganelli answered him, and I thought I'd share what he said in a forum where no one could shout him down.
I respect your opinion, but what is it based upon? Here are the facts:

. Started working for Democratic candidates at age 12. Was a member of Teenage Democrats and Young Democrats.

. Was a member of Executive Committee of Bethlehem Democratic City Committee.

. Chaired numerous Democratic campaigns in Northampton County over a period of 30 years as well chaired Democratic voter registration drives and county Democratic Dinners.

. Had numerous fundraisers at my home raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for people like Governor Wolf, Joe Sestak and local candidates.

. Personally contributed over a hundred thousand dollars to Democrats.

. Am a pro labor, pro public education, got an F from NRA , support Medicare for all, hired more women and minorities on my staff than any other DA, fought racial profiling , advocated to ban the box, initiated the county’s first mental health court , supported drug court,

I could go on and on. But yes, I am for secure borders.
I disagree with John's stance on illegal immigration. I oppose the death penalty. But John is a Democrat, and one who actually tolerates views that differ from his. So much so that he directed the dismissal of trespass charges brought against antiwar protesters demonstrating outside the Palmer Post Office.Free speech. He dismissed charges against a libertarian who was charged criminally for choosing to fly the American flag upside down. Free speech. He directed dismissal of littering charges brought against a Trump supporter who plastered West Easton with pro-Trump signs. Free speech. And yes, he is one of the few Democrats who has been willing to speak to the tea party. Free speech.

The First Amendment is first for a reason. Without it, our form of government crumbles. You should support whomever you want in Congress. But I am offended at the trolls who have shouted John down at debates and have even come on his own personal Facebook page to attack him. It is highly ironic that those who preach tolerance are so bad at practicing it. It is also disappointing, but far from surprising, that none of John's supposedly more liberal colleagues defended his right to speak as he was shouted down in the NextGen debate.

While ideologues allow the good to be the enemy of the perfect, it is important to remember that two very formidable candidates are running on the Republican side in a "toss up" district. The only Democrat who can beat either one of them is John Morganelli.

MacKenzie's Debate Dodge Draws Ire of Taxpayer

Ron Beitler
Pennsylvania's 134th legislative district is split between western Lehigh County and eastern Berks County. Incumbent Ryan MacKenzie was being groomed as Charlie Dent's successor in Congress and had announced his candidacy. But he had second thoughts when it finally dawned on him that no one outside his district knows who the Hell he is. Gerrymandering, which serves as an incumbent insurance policy for both parties, would keep his state house seat safe. He likes a system in which legislators decide who vote for them, instead of the other way around. He has run from a bipartisan attempt to reform this bad government. So it's no surprise that he would duck a debate, even though it was in front of a group that should embrace his conservative ideals.

Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association, which is hardly what I'd call a progressive or liberal group, hosted a debate that was supposed to be between Mackenzie and Republican opponent Ron Beitler, a Lower Macungie Commissioner. MacKenzie sent campaign flunkie Gary Birks to explain that MacKenzie was held up in Harrisburg. He claimed he was called into caucus that day at 4:45 pm. He read a brief statement and took off before anyone could ask a question.

Below is an email that CEPTA member Otto Slozer sent in response.

Ryan MacKenzie
As most of you know, CEPTA scheduled a debate between Ryan Mackenzie and Ron Beitler--candidates for the State House 134th District. Mr.Mackenzie told us intitally that it would be difficult for him to attend because this week was a legislative session in Harrisburg. We offered to keep the spot open for Mackenzie in case he could make it. Leading into the week before, we also offered Mackenzie the opportunity to send a proxy speaker. This he did not respond to and we did not know if the debate was going to happen or not. In fact, Mackenzie sent a man to deliver a short speech for him in which he hit us (CEPTA) for scheduling the debate on a day that Harrisburg had a legislative session.

WE (CEPTA) under stand the commitments of the legislature. However, history shows us that the "legislative session" need not be a problem. We note that when Doug Reichley was our state representative he almost always made our meetings when he was to be the speaker (including Legislative session days). Furthermore, we told Mackenzie that if he made it late we would still give him the time to speak. Mackenzie never told us his intentions leaving the organizer guessing as to what to expect.

FACTS DON'T LIE!

Check out the video of the event found on the LVC E-paper at www.lvcommentator.com Early in the event I took to the microphone to announce FACTS THAT WE JUST LEARNED THROUGH A HARRISBURG CONTACT. They were as follows; the LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDED JUST AFTER 4:30pm. The CAUCUS that Mackenzie's proxy speaker spoke of ended in 10 minutes and EVERYONE WAS GONE BY 5:00 PM. This left Mackenzie two and a half hours to make the trip to Emmaus.

Thursday, April 19th, Mackenzie was at the Berks County Patriots candidates event by 6pm. Thursday was also a "legislative session day" according to Mackenzie. Furthermore, Mackenzie spoke at the Berks event during the segment for those who have no opponent!

Mackenzie HAS AN OPPONENT NAMED RON BEITLER.

It appears that Ryan Mackenzie cannot be trusted to be an honest public servant. IT ALSO APPEARS THAT Mackenzie IS DUCKING ANY DEBATE WITH HIS ELECTION OPPONENT. Seeing Ron Beitler in action at the CEPTAevent and how competent Beitler is on many subjects it looks like Ryan Mackenzie is afraid to face his opponent.

Democrat Tom Applebach, Director of Veteran Affairs in Lehigh County, is also running for this seat.

Judge Zito Holds Tricia Mezzacappa in Contempt

Much like Karen Dolan has taken to calling herself K. Deirdre Dolan, Tricia Mezzacappa has recently started calling herself Tricia Phillips. In both cases, I suspect the new name is an attempt to fool potential employers. Perhaps Sheriffs, too. On Thursday, Judge Leonard Zito entered what I'll call a hybrid bench warrant for her. Let me fill you in.

Though I've avoided talking about her, Mezzacappa comments here rather frequently, usually with hateful comments aimed right at me. Over the years, I've attracted a few fans like her. In some cases, it's really hard to nail down the source of the hate. The list is long but distinguished, I like to tell people. But when I get a comment that bashes me, Ron Angle and John Morganelli, and all at the same time, that's her.

Mezzacappa and her long-time lawyer, Larry Otter, have had a falling out. She's made some serious accusations against him, but she does that to a lot of people.

Currently she's suing West Easton for a gazillion dollars, claiming the Borough refused to produce documents after being ordered to do so by the Commonwealth Court. That tiny municipality has asked her repeatedly to explain what they failed to produce, and has yet to understand her answer. Discovery requests were filed, and she ignored them. She was court ordered to respond, and refused to do so, choosing instead to appeal. Her appeal was quashed.

Attorney Steve Goudsouzian, representing West Easton, filed new discovery requests. He was ignored and so he filed for sanctions. Apparently, Mezzacappa failed to show up in court again (she claims that I steal her mail). So Judge Zito has directed Sheriffs to take her into custody, but only between 8 am and 3 pm. He specifically provides that she not be jailed overnight. Once they have her, a hearing can take place. He also provides that she can purge herself of contempt by providing the discovery requested by West Easton. But regardless whether she complies, she must pay all costs and fees incurred by West Easton. and within 30 days after receiving an invoice.

I guess she showed them.

In the deposition of another lawsuit she filed in federal court, she claims to have a license to carry.

Friday, April 20, 2018

McClure Labels GPA a "Rogue Authority," Calls Legal Bills an "Outrage"

Lamont McClure smiles when Peg Ferraro asks,
"Will you say, I do?"
Since January, I've been critical of the General Purpose Authority (GPA). This is a county agency originally established as a conduit for pass through loans by universities and hospitals. But when former Executive John Brown designated this authority to administer what really is a $38 million county bridge building project, the problems started.

It started the year with a Sunshine Act violation, ducking into executive session without bothering to explain why. Review of the minutes revealed that its Solicitor, John Lushis, was tapped by Brown to work on other P3 projects and provide "special legal services" without the knowledge of Council and in apparent violation of the County's own Administrative Code. The GPA also hired Brown's former publicity agent, Sahl Communications, to establish a web page and Facebook page that could have been created by a grade school student. It also voted to pay Chair Shawn Langen $200 per hour yo check the work being done by the third party engineer checking the bridge contractor.

I learned from Langen himself that the GPA and Lushis intended to market P3 projects to other municipalities.

In response to a Right-to-Know, I learned that Lushis' law firm, Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, billed the County $3,390 for six copyrights that were identified as the property of that firm, and not Northampton County or the GPA. I learned that Langen had submitted a bill for $11,950 to check the work being done by the checker. Finally, and most significantly, I discovered that Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus had billed and received  $813,000 in 2016 and 2017. Brown buried the expenditure in the jail budget

At their April 10 meeting, the GPA refused to recognize Charles Dertinger, the County's second highest ranking official, when he approached them with information they had just finished complaining they had not received. They also voted to hire a Philadelphia law firm for litigation with the County without bothering to seek proposals from anyone. They may have already paid this firm a $10,000 retainer.

During this meeting, they also voted to approve five invoices submitted by Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus, including a bill for $34,000 to respond to three Right-to-Knows (Two from me, one from The Morning Call). At that time, I still did not have a complete response to my requests.

I have it now, and it is a joke. I intend to appeal.

What does Executive Lamont McClure make of all this?

He answered that question last night, in his report to Council. He called the GPA a "rogue authority" and said that the John Lushis bills are an "outrage." While saying he'd like to avoid litigation, he made clear that GPA's role in the P3 project needs to be lessened.

Here's what he said.
"I believe that I was not clear enough when I made my last statement on this issue. I want the P3 project, specifically the P3 project with the 33 bridges in it, to be successful. I want to complete it, and when I highlight the difficulties with it, I want no one to assume that we are anything but completely committed to finishing the project. That isn't to say that we don't want our laws followed, including our 80% rule [80% of all county-financed construction must be with local labor]. We do. That isn't to say we won't stand on our rights in the contract. We will. But we want this to succeed. We will make the milestone payments when it's appropriate under the contract. The construction company will have its cash flow.

***

"We will get this done, but that isn't to say there aren't problems. One of the big problems is we have a rogue authority right now in the General Purpose Authority. And they really are in the way of us getting this project done in a timely fashion. Frankly, some of the things they've done, including bill you - you're paying - 800, almost $1 million in legal fees over the last two years - you're paying that. That's an outrage. We have a bill from [GPA Chair] Langen for $11,000. He's the Chair of the General Purpose Authority. He submitted a bill under the services agreement for checking the work of the third party engineer. Well, as you might imagine, I haven't paid it. These are some challenges that we have going forward.

"Now Ms. Ferraro, you're on the GPA. You were at that last meeting. You saw a bill and I think you voted to approve it, which I think was disappointing. Thirty-four thousand dollars to do a Right-to-Know request  We do Right-to-Know requests all the time around here, and we don't spend $34,000 on them, I was also very disappointed that the GPA voted to use public money to sue this County or to hire a special counsel to do that. That's very, very unfortunate.
Peg Ferraro asked McClure to sit down with the GPA like he did with the Gaming Board.. He said he would, and would be at the next meeting himself.

Gaming Board Goes Out a Winner

At this time two weeks ago, it looked as though Northampton County and its nine-person Gaming Board might end up in court. Recent changes in the Gaming Law provide that the Commonwealth Financing Authority, from the land of midnight payraises, will now decide how to dole out slots revenue that is generated locally. That change effectively ended the Board's existence, and County Council was set to adopt an ordinance pulling the plug at their April 19 meeting  But the Board was still sitting on $1,274,982.42 in uncommitted slots revenue that was never awarded. Should the County gobble up this money,or would it allow the Gaming Board to distribute the remaining funds.

Thanks to Executive Lamont McClure and Board Chair Jay Finnigan, the two entities came up with a solution that will warm the hearts of every municipality in Northampton County. All save Bethlehem.will be receiving a check for $31,440, to be used for human services, infrastructure improvements, facilities, emergency services, public health or public safety. Some money has also been set aside to cover administrative expenses.  Bethlehem is getting no grant because it will be receiving 20% of the slots revenue as well as an annual $250,000 over the next 20 years for an existing arts community that could only be The Banana Factory.

At a special meeting on April 17, the Gaming Board met for the last time to award these grants. Once those are complete, the Board will officially dissolve

"It was a solution that all parties were happy with, and we can move forward with that process," reported Executive Lamont McClure. He also complimented the Board. "The administration of these gaming grants has been extraordinarily difficult," he noted. The Gaming Law forced Board members to give priority to communities impacted by gambling and contiguous to the casino, but never explained how to determine impact. "They did as good a job they could do under very difficult circumstances because the way the law was written, it made the job very, very difficult."

McClure expressed his appreciation. "I want to thank all of the people who have served  honorably, given of their time, made no money on that authority through the years, including this most recent group of authority members. I thank them on behalf of Northampton County for their service."

Several Council members echoed McClure.

"They did a heckuva' job, and for no pay," observed Council President Ken Kraft. ."The work you've done will be far better than what we are likely to see out of the Commonwealth Financing Agency," added John Cusick.

On behalf of the Gaming Board, Jay Finnigan returned the compliment. "I want to thank the Executive for working with us and achieving an amicable solution," he said. "I believe it serves the need of the County Executive, County Council, as well as the various municipalities." He also thanked the County for letting him serve through three different administrations.

"It's been an honor," he said, adding he'd be willing to serve again.

And then he and McClure kissed.

OK. I made that part up.

Other members of this Board are Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Thomas Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Donna Louder (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth). Karen Collis is the Executive Director.

Angle's Property Being Condemned?

One of the items on last night's agenda was a condemnation ordinance. for the bridge project. One of the 33 bridges being restored to pristine condition abuts property owned by His Eminence, Ron Angle. The County needs a tiny sliver.

"Are we taking Angle's land?" asked John Cusick. "We might have nine sponsors!"

Angle has already loaded this bridge with tannerite that he picked up cheap from a state trooper. He has also constructed a moat around this tract, filled with spiky blowfish.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gracedale to Offer Tuition Assistance for Nursing Degrees, Increase Differential

Sue Wandalowski (L) and Mary Lou Kaboly
(R) discuss tuition assistance
Back in the late '80s, Gracedale Nursing Home offered a tuition assistance program for NorCo employees interested in nursing. The program was a success, so naturally, the County stopped it. Human Services Director Susan Wandalowski would like to restore this program, especially since there are 23 open LPN  and 33 open RN positions. She discussed these plans yesterday at a sparsely attended* Personnel Committee meeting.

This program will be offered in conjunction with Northampton Community College. The program will be available to Gracedale employees in good standing who have been employed at the nursing home for at least a year. The County will pay the tuition and buy the books needed, but the student must maintain a B average. The employee must also agree to remain with the County for two years after getting her degree.

The County will get a break on the tuition. The LPN course will cost $6,000, while the RN program is $12,000. The County expects to pay $60,000 for five RN and 10 LPN slots. That is only slightly more than the average RN salary of $55,448.00.

The program is only available to Gracedale employees, but Human Resources Director Elizabeth Kelly said after the meeting that tuition reimbursement programs are available to other county employees.   

In addition to this tuition assistance program, Human Resourced Director Kelly discussed a "Memorandum of Understanding" between AFSCME and the County concerning a $0.15 increase in shift differential  for nurse's aides and LPNs at Gracedale. This means that nursing staff working the middle and graveyard shifts will see an extra dollar per hour. 

Typically, Council is never informed of these administrative matters, so this transparency is refreshing.

John Cusick was critical of the $0.15 increase, but only because the contract with AFSCME is ending on December 31. He suggested that the increase could have been part of the new contract. But Kelly countered, "The problem is acute now." She said that the second shift (3-11pm) is the worst.

In addition to the tuition assistance and differential increase, Council also agreed with DA John Morganelli's request to reclassify three clerical positions to pay about $4,000 more for all three combined."[T]here is difficulty filling and retaining these positions," said Morganelli.     
____________________________________________________________
* (Bob Werner, John Cusick, Lori Vargo Heffner and Ron Heckman were there. Chairman Bill McGee arrived just as the meeting was ending, apologized and said he had been held up by traffic. Ken Kraft was in Washington, D.C., on business. Tara Zrinski and Matt Dietz were absent. Dietz, a pilot, called in after the meeting was over. Zrinski arrived at 5:20pm, just as the Finance Committee was ending  Peg Ferraro, who has no job and no excuse, was simply MIA). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Message For The Lady on the Treadmill at the Allentown Y

Believe it or not, I have a fan. I'm told that a nice lady who likes to use the treadmill at the Allentown Y actually likes this blog. So to you naysayers out there, I do have one admirer. It's a start.

She wants to know what I think of Charlie Dent's looming resignation. I'm heartbroken. Since I've known him,  I've considered him a voice for decency and common sense. The adult in a House filled by 434 children. He always got blasted by Democrats, but his centrist ideas and disdain for Trump's boorish behavior has earned him the enmity of right wing ideologues and Donald Trump bobbleheads.

It's almost as bad as blogging.

The rumor is that Dent will be a well-paid analyst for one of the networks. With mid-terms right around the corner, that makes sense.

As for me, I've had it, too.

Starting next week, I'll be a personal trainer at the Y.

Every NorCo Municipality To Receive Early $31K Christmas Present

Jay Finnigan
Though it's April, the cold weather and snow falling yesterday made everyone feel as though Christmas is just around he corner. For 37 Northampton County municipalities, it is. That's because Northampton County's Gaming Board decided yesterday, during a special meeting at Hanover Township's Municipal Building, to award grants of $31,440 to every Northampton County municipality, with the exception of Bethlehem. The Christmas City was omitted only because it already receives the lion's share of gaming revenue.

The nine-person Board includes Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Thomas Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Donna Louder (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth). Karen Collis is the Executive Director. Heintzelman, Kelly and Louder were unable to attend the special meeting, and Pennington participated by phone. The six Board members present unanimously agreed with Tony Pristash's motion to divest itself of all remaining funds. They also agreed unanimously with a second motion, made by Tom Nolan, to disband after the funds are disbursed. Chairman Jay Finnigan has been authorized to sign any documents necessary for the termination of an authority that has existed for eight years.

Two weeks ago, Northampton County Council introduced an ordinance calling on the Gaming Board to disband. Jay Finnigan was opposed. "If you just took the remaining funds and split it between each municipality evenly, the distribution would be approximately $31,000," he said in an email to other municipal officials. "This would also allow the authority to pay all its professional obligations, and then dissolve once we fulfilled our legal requirements."

Lamont McClure
McClure considered Finnigan's remarks and agreed to allow the Gaming Board to release the $1,274,982.42 in uncommitted slots revenue to the municipalities so long as the Board certifies that it can be dissolved once the grants are made. "This is a compromise that meets the Gaming Authority well more than half the way, and it should satisfy the concerns of all involved," he said. Now that the Gaming Board has done its part, McClure will ask Council on Thursday night to table the dissolution ordinance.

Instead of an ugly law suit and hard feelings, everyone wins. McClure looks good. The Gaming Board looks good. And 37 Northampton County municipalities will soon be $31,440 richer. That grant should fund Chapman's needs for the next 100 years.

The money granted may only be used for human services, infrastructure improvements, facilities, emergency services, public health or public safety.

Some money has also been set aside for administrative expenses.

When he was a member of County Council, it is McClure who drafted the ordinance establishing the Gaming Board. But the underlying state law was recently changed to address a successful challenge by a group of casinos who persuaded the Supreme Court that the slots taxing scheme violated the uniformity clause contained in the state constitution.

The state law changes made the Gaming Board irrelevant.

Before the changes to the Gaming Act, 1.2% of the slots revenue from Sands Casino was allocated as follows: (1) 20% to Bethlehem; (2) 30% to the County; and (3) 50% to the County for municipal grants within the County, with priority given to the Bethlehem and the municipalities contiguous to Bethlehem. This is the money that was disbursed by the Gaming Board.

Under the changes to the Gaming Act, 20% still goes to Bethlehem and 30% still goes to the County. But that final 50% will be distributed differently. Bethlehem will get $250,000 per year over the next 20 years for an existing arts and education center that has professional artist space and studios. (Can you say Banana Factory?). The remaining money will be deposited with the Commonwealth Financing Authority to be used exclusively for economic development projects, community improvement projects and other projects that are in the public interest. The CFA must give priority to municipalities contiguous to Bethlehem.

Wanted: Grant Applications From NorCo Municipalities and NonProfits

Norco Executive Lamont McClure is inviting county municipalities and nonprofits to apply for grants from a pot of around $400,000 in hotel tax revenue that should be available for distribution this year.  This money is collected from a hotel room rental tax of 4% on hotel guests, to be used for tourism and community development initiatives. Some of the money must go to the tourism bureau, which in turn helps fund Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.  But there still is about $400,000 left.

Historically, this money has been awarded to communities and nonprofits that seem to be connected to the right people. Many worthy nonprofits like the Celtic Classic have failed to apply. So it is nice to see Executive McClure make an effort to be more inclusive.

I think we can do better than the DaVinci Science Center's giant ant farm.

Eligible Projects are those that enhance tourism and/or promote community development within Northampton County. Applicants must either be a federally registered non-profit entity (501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4)) or a municipal entity located within Northampton County. In addition, events and activities must occur in Northampton County.

Funding Requests are currently being accepted for projects that will take place in Calendar Year 2019. All projects funded under this announcement must be completed within the 2019 Calendar Year. Grant award announcements are expected to be announced December 2018.

Interested organizations must submit a 2019 Hotel Tax Funding Request using the application form available by visiting the Community and Economic Development section of the Northampton County website: www.northamptoncounty.org. Applicants are required to register with the Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development's County Relationship Manager (CRM) and submit electronic applications through the web.

The application process is open now. The deadline is set for Friday, June 15, 2018 at 4:00 P.M. The Hotel Tax Grant is distributed at the discretion of County Council, advised by the County Executive who receives recommendations from the Hotel Tax Review Committee.

Program inquiries should be directed to:
Northampton County Department of Community & Economic Development
Tina Smith
610-829-6310
tsmith@northamptoncounty.org

Bath to Leave Colonial Regional Police Six Months Sooner Than Expected

At their April 10 meeting, Hanover Township Supervisors unanimously approved an agreement that will allow Bath Borough to leave the Colonial Regional Police Department six months sooner than was expected. Under its contract, Bath was required to continue using the services of Colonial Regional until January 1, 2019. But at Bath's request, its separation from the regional police department will be accelerated to July 1, 2018. Bath will still be required to pay Colonial Regional $242,714.88. It will also pay $92.26 per hour for contract services.

Colonial Regional will continue to provide police coverage for Hanover and Lower Nazareth Townships. The cost for police coverage will be based in an apportionment formula based assessed property valuation (30%), municipal population (30%) and the number of incidents (40%).

"This has been a long haul," said Chair John Diacogiannis.

In more pleasant news, outside auditor Todd Bushta has given the Township a clean bill of financial health again, a clean and unqualified opinion. "The Township is doing a fine job with the financial staff it has," said Bushta.

Highlights from the report reveal that the Township is debt free. There is also no deficit spending. It spends less than it takes in, and was sitting on over $5 million in unrestricted cash and investments at the end of last year. Manager Jay Finnigan has previously credited the 0.5 mill fire tax for enabling him to plan ahead.

The audit is now available on the Township website. In an effort to be more transparent, back-up documents to agenda items are also on the website.

As winter has ended, Public Works Director Vince Milite and his crew have started street sweeping. They plan to hit each street twice.

Supervisors will meet again on April 24, 7 pm, at the municipal building located at 3630 Jacksonville Road.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dent Resigns!

From LV Congressman Charlie Dent: "After discussions with my family and careful reflection, I have decided to leave Congress in the coming weeks. Serving the people of the 15th Congressional district has been a tremendous responsibility and the privilege of a lifetime, and I am honored by the trust that so many of my constituents placed in me to represent them in Washington. Actively engaging in the legislative and political process presents many challenges, and in so doing, I believe I have had a positive impact on people’s lives and made a difference in Congress.

"I am especially proud of the work I have done to give voice to the sensible center in our country that is often overlooked or ignored. It is my intention to continue to aggressively advocate for responsible governance and pragmatic solutions in the coming years."

I will have more about Charlie later. Dent's statement fails to state when his resignation will be effective, but it could trigger a special election.

According to The Washington Post,

"Pennsylvania election law requires the governor to issue a writ of election within 10 days of a vacancy, with an election to follow “not less than sixty days” later. Although the election could be held during 'the next ensuing primary or municipal election,' Pennsylvania’s primary will be held May 15 — before any special election could be called. It is not clear whether Wolf would schedule an election so soon before the November midterm election will bring a full-term replacement for Dent."

In a special election, party bosses would choose the nominees. But since it would be after the primary, they should go with the primary nomineees.