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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Top Pa. Legislators Suddenly Receptive to Open Primaries, Redistricting Reform

Inside the capital
In a sign that entrenched Pa. incumbents are worried they may have gone just a tad too far in preserving their own job security, top legislative leaders are suddenly talking about reform. Believe it or not, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R. Jefferson) has said he will soon introduce to open primaries. And yesterday, a Senate Committee unanimously endorsed a bill that will overhaul the way that congressional and legislative districts are drawn.

Open Primaries. - Pa.'s primaries are currently closed. You have to be a Democrat to vote in a Democratic primary, and a Republican to vote in a Republican primary. Everyone else is shut out. Nine states, including Pa., have completely closed primaries.

The Inky has comments from the following legislative leaders:

Scarnati - “The extremes of the parties have taken over the primary process. ... I don’t know that I fit the new brand of conservatives, and I’m not so sure that some of the Democrats in the Senate Democrats fit the new brand of liberals.”

House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R. Indiana) - "I think giving independent voters that opportunity could help really reform the electoral process, get more people involved and hopefully get a more diverse set of opinions in the primary process, as opposed to only a select few choosing who gets to go on.”

Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D. Allegheny) (through spokesperson Brittany Crampsie) - "Senator Costa is a strong supporter of active, participatory democracy – and is in favor of all legislation that allows more citizens to vote, and increases turnout amongst already-registered voters.”

Slaying the Gerrymander - Yesterday, the Senate State Government Committee amended a bill to replace the current political system of gerrymandering state legislative and US Congressional districts with a more independent 11-member Commission. FairDistrictsPa supports this compromise to the bipartisan bill offered by State Senators Lisa Boscola (D. Northampton) and Mario Scavello (R. Monroe).

According to FairDistrictPa's Carol Kuniholm, "it has strong safeguards for transparency, prohibitions against use of electoral data, constraints on splitting counties and municipalities, and mechanisms requiring broad buy-in among the commissioners and for the final map. Further safeguards in the selection process and mapping criteria will be added in implementing legislation, to be drafted in conversation with advocates and legislators from both parties.

"When evaluated against processes in place across the country, we believe this bill, with appropriate implementing legislation, would create one of the most fair redistricting processes in the country."

You can read more details here.

If successful, this will almost certainly be the most significant contribution to good government in the state since the turn of the century. And most amazing of al, it is the handiwork of legislators from the Lehigh Valley and Monroe. In addition to Boscola and Scavello, State Rep. Steve Samuelson has played a major role in redistricting reform.

NorCo, DCNR Adding 90 Acres to Jacobsburg Park

NorCo Exec Lamont McClure and Secretary of the Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) Cindy Adams Dunn will celebrate the opening of a 90-acre parcel near Bushkill Tp's Jacobsburg Park today, 2:30 pm, at the Jacobsburg Environmental Center. Known as the Ballas tract, this parcel includes a fishing pond, one-mile loop trail, wetlands and a connection to the Bushkill Township PPL trail.

Since 2008, Northampton County has helped preserve nearly 3,000 acres of open space and natural areas. Open Space is estimated to provide a value of $201.7 million per year to the Lehigh Valley in the form of natural system services. An estimated $351 million is spent on outdoor recreation annually in Northampton County.

Bushkill Township is also an active participant in open space preservation. It has created a Township Recreation Center (87.38 acres) and the Bushkill Rail Trail, a 2-mile trail along a PPL right-of-way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

GPA Solicitor & Former Exec Talk P3 for Hotel Bethlehem Expansion

Last month, I told you that former NorCo Exec John Brown has started a new biz he calls John Brown Leadership Solutions LLC. His corporate address is 515 West Hamilton Street, Suite 502, Allentown, PA 18101. This also happens to be the address of Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus. That law firm has billed the County over $810,000 for its services on the General Purpose Authority (GPA) in 2016 and 2017. Brown had a special arrangement with Solicitor John Lushis for "special legal services" that basically made Lushis a stealth county lawyer. It was a conflict of interest for Lushis, and a violation of the procurement Code for Brown. I had joked at the time that Brown and Lushis might team up to market P3 projects throughout the state. It turns out that this is no joke. That's exactly what they've been doing.

Bruce Haines, a principal at Historic Hotel Bethlehem, recently received a coveted CRIZ designation for an expansion that includes a convention center. Earlier this year, he was approached by Brown. The former Exec suggested he might be able to help in some unspecified way. Haines heard nothing beyond that one conversation, but others have.

Brown, along with Lushis, recently met with a financier to try to arrange financing for the expansion. Get this. They suggest it be done as a P3 project, using the GPA.

As I've said before, the GPA needs to dump its Solicitor. I am also offended that Brown is attempting to benefit personally from things he set in motion as Executive.

Name Your Poison

Whether you are Christian, Jew or Muslim, you've heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their sin was not homosexuality, as many have since claimed. Rather they "were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me." The Divine retribution was fire and brimstone. Noah's flood was God's answer to a world that had become corrupt and full of violence. Based on the latest school shooting and overall decline in civility, I'd say we're in for one helluva' shit storm.

As much as I think common sense dictates a ban on assault-style rifles and other reforms, this is not about guns. It's about us. We've become an ugly people. I see it on my blog. When I first started in 2006, people were able to disagree cordially. But that's out the window. Some blame me because I allow anonymous comments, but have you looked at Facebook? People say all kinds of hateful things there, and their names are out there for anyone to read.

So what's it gonna' be? Nuclear holocaust? Climate change? Natural calamity?

I'm ruling out nukes or natural calamity, including climate change. We've already survived fire and brimstone, as well as a flood. We're like cockroaches. I'm going with pandemic. There's a new virus going round called the Nipah virus, which originated with bats. It's incurable and there's no vaccine. According to Science Alert, the fatality rate is 40-75%. An outbreak in South India has already killed 10 people.

Not to worry. India says it has everything under control.

Perhaps people need to be reminded that, as Gilgamesh says, "Only the gods live forever." The rest if us are just "breaths of air."

McClure Signs Responsible Contracting Ordinance

It's official. Northampton County Council Executive Lamont McClure has signed into law an ordinance that will require contractors performing county work valued at $250,000 or more to have the right stuff and the right people. Contractors who wish to do business with the county will be required to furnish a Responsibility Certificate to show that their employees have all the necessary licenses and registrations to complete the work and that the business is properly bonded. They must also use craft employees who have participated in a Class A Apprenticeship Program for a minimum of three years. The apprenticeship program must be registered with and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency. Training received in military service is also acceptable.

“This isn’t just a matter of using taxpayer dollars responsibly,” said McClure. “Regulations for construction are important for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.” Congressman Matt Cartwright prefers to call them "protections."

The ordinance goes into effect on June 20, 2018.

This ordinance was criticized by some conservatives as a gimmick to force contractors to use union labor. They should be reminded that Donald Trump himself signed an executive order last year to expand apprenticeships as is the case in Germany and Switzerland where classrooms are integrated with on-the-job training.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Case of the Missing Pepper Shakers

Easton is known for its many fine restaurants that cater to many tastes. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The best place for lunch in Easton is at the Courthouse Cafe, located smack dab inside the courthouse. The food is inexpensive but good, and the dining area is the brightest and most cheerful room in the building. Some people love the soups, but my personal favorite is the french fries, to which I've become addicted. You can catch me there most days. Several times. But sadly, the proprietors of this fine establishment have been subjected to something that should be nonexistent in the seat of our criminal justice system. Crime. This is the story of the missing pepper shakers.

What you see above is one of only two pepper shakers left. Originally, there had been numerous disposable salt and pepper shakers at every table. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the pepper shakers began disappearing. The salt shakers were ignored. More pepper shakers were purchased, but they began to vanish, too. Glass pepper shakers like the one you see were purchased, but those also started walking away.

Now when I get french fries, the first thing I do is load it up with hot pepper spices. Then I douse it with black pepper, too. I put pepper on everything. Sandwiches, soup, french fries, cereal, etc. So I began to notice the missing pepper shakers earlier than most.

I spoke to Donna and Joe, who run the Cafe. They confirmed what's been going on. Donna broke down as I interviewed her, and I recommended she visit the crime victim's advocate office.

There was only one thing to do. I have appointed myself Chief Pepper Shaker Investigator. CPSI to you. I also have named several Assistant Pepper Shaker Investigators. APSI to you. They're under cover. I am currently looking for tracking devices to install in several shakers. I have also interrogated several suspects, starting with me.

"Why do you like pepper so much?" I asked me.

"I've got rights, you know," I answered myself.

Left with little choice, I had to get rough with myself. I smacked me around a few times, but I wouldn't crack.

There are other suspects, too.

I waterboarded Steve Barron, but he liked it.

"Can you do that some more? I'm really getting in touch with myself," he pleaded.

You can often see me in a hallway, pretending to make small talk. I'm really looking for clues.

I was doing that last week with a Deputy Sheriff who really is one of my top suspects. A female courthouse employee approached me and asked, "Bernie, May I speak you you privately for a moment?"

"Of course!" I agreed, and moved down the hallway with her, so she could break this case wide open.

"Your zipper's open."

Bethlehem Tp Considers Library Expansion at Coolidge Building

Although there were no formal votes, it appears that Bethlehem Township Commissioners and the Bethlehem Area Public Library are close to an agreement that will make at least some library services available to township residents who are unable to travel to the main library. At their May 21 meeting, John Merhottein floated the idea of a new library location at the Coolidge building, the Township's former municipal center. Merhottein is the Commissioner-appointed trustee of the library, and reported that the library is willing to explore this option.

For years, Commissioners have complained about the annual contribution and have threatened to leave. This year, it is paying $17.55 a person ($416,462). Hanover Township, Fountain Hill and Bethlehem are also library members and pay the same per capita rate.

Merhottein stressed several times that decisions about what library services will be offered are still "fluid." He'd like to see a media center with laptops and a kids' area open for a few days every week. But nothing is set in stone. he also acknowledged that both the library and the township have limited resources.

John Gallagher called it a "wonderful idea," adding it is "fully worthy of our support." Malissa Davis agreed, and suggested possible uses could be as a tutoring site, a place for reading programs or simply a place to pick up books.

The only negativity came from Tom Nolan, who was a library board member for seven years. "It is not to be considered a satellite library," he said at one point, adding that he would oppose any help from the Community Center staff.

Randi Blauth, who has a degree in library science from Kutztown University, is the citizen appointee to the library board. She was also at the meeting and corroborated Merhottein.

In other business, Commissioners voted 4-0 (Mike Hudak was absent) to advertise bids for the next phase in the Housenick Park trail project. Assistant Public Works Director told Commissioners that the latest phase will add 0.4 miles of walking trails. There will also be a 16' high gazebo in the old orchard and a children's sensory garden. The Township has about $500,000 in state and county grant funds for this project.

Monday, May 21, 2018

NorCo Council May Investigate General Purpose Authority

As the governing body of Northampton County, Council has the express authority to conduct investigative hearings. It is very rare, and has only happened once since the Home Rule Charter went into effect in 1978. Council is poised to do so again with respect to the General Purpose Authority (GPA), which Executive Lamont McClure has called a "rogue" authority. Ron Heckman, who chairs the Finance Committee, said his he will start the process at his June meeting with invitations.

War is certainly brewing between Northampton County and its own creation, the General Purpose Authority (GPA). At their April 10 meeting, the GPA voted to hire Philadelphia law firm Conrad and O'Brien as "special counsel" for anticipated litigation against the County.

First established on May 6, 1999, pursuant to the Municipality Authorities Act, the GPA is a seven-person board appointed by the Executive and confirmed by County Council for staggered five-year terms. Though a creation of Northampton County government, it is considered an independent state agency.

Over the years, the GPA has operated under the radar. It traditionally acted as a conduit for both taxable and tax exempt bonds to help finance public and private projects, mostly with hospitals and universities. It also administers the NorCo Loan and Development Fund and the Community Investment Partnership Program Revolving Loan Fund.

The problems began in 2016, when the GPA became the lead agency in a public private partnership plan (P3) to refurbish or replace 33 county-owned bridges at a cost of $38 million, with the work being done by Kriger Construction. Kriger has completed repairs to one bridge thus far, with two more projected for completion by the end of June.

Prior to P3, the County's ability to repair or replace its 119 bridges was hampered by the Transportation Improvement Program, a statewide plan to improve infrastructure, broken down into 12-year and 4-year plans. The County would be lucky to see two bridges repaired over four years This is unsatisfactory because 99 of these bridges needed to be repaired or replaced. Twenty-two are rated "functionally obsolete." Twenty-seven are considered "structurally deficient." Three bridges were closed, and another 37 are weight-restricted.

Aware of the problem, former Executive John Stoffa floated bonds in 2009 and 2013 that would repair or replace 13 bridges. Former Executive John Brown embarked on a more ambitious P3 project that theoretically would make things easier for the County. Thirty-three bridges would be conveyed to the GPA, and the work would be done by Kriger Construction. All the County would have to do is write a check once milestones are reached.

Instead, it has been a headache.

The P3 was sold on the theory that it would create between 1,000-1,800 jobs. But where? According to the Administrative Code, 80% of them should be within a 10-mile radius of the Lehigh Valley. But John Lushis, a former Bethlehem Steel lawyer who now is the contentious solicitor at GPA, has said that the 80%-rule is unconstitutional 

Somewhere along the way, former Executive John Brown decided to use Lushis to research the applicability of P3 to the County jail. Lushis' bills for these services were passed through and approved by the GPA as "special legal services" and were ultimately paid by the County. As a result, his firm has billed and has been paid $813,000 for legal work over the past two years  These "special legal services" appear to run afoul of the Administrative Code

 The County was even billed to copyright agreements drawn up Lushis, with the designated owner as Lushis' law firm instead of the GPA or the county. GPA Chair Shawn Langen, has billed $11,950 for his own services last year  Lushis has submitted a bill this year for $34,000 for his response to three RTK requests (two from me, one from the Morning Call)

Most recently, the GPA canceled its May meeting, at which time the outside auditors financial statements were going to be reviewed. As a result, the County has been unable to release its own financial statements on May 1, as required by the Home Rule Charter.

Former Executive Brown failed to budget for the cost of easements that are needed for the bridgework. This made it necessary for current Executive Lamont McClure to look under the mattress and find the money. McClure noted that only eight of the 33 bridges selected for repair or replacement are actually "structurally deficient."

One of those eight bridges, the Meadows in Lower Saucon Township, was just closed. A recent inspection revealed it is too dangerous to drive. But the way the P3 is structured, the County is unable to do anything. The bridge is owned by the GPA, and was only slated for repairs.

Though the Home Rule Charter does  provide for investigatory hearings, it is probably something that should be done by a Committee of the Whole, as opposed to the Finance Committee. The Charter does provide for the issuance of subpoenas, but how far do they extend? According to the courts, only so far as they relate tp a proper legislative function. It is unclear to me whether subpoena powers extend beyond county employees. Also,since the GPA is an independent state agency, it is unclear whether its officials may be subpoenaed. For this reason, an ordinance is necessary to spell out the proper legislative function concerned.

Dumbass

On Friday, a high school student angry that a 16 year old girl had turned him down decided to vent his rage on everyone. He killed 10 people with a shotgun and revolver. Whether we have guns or not, we've become an ugly and insensitive people.

Former NorCo Council member Mat Benol proved this on Friday night. While they were still gathering up the dead bodies in Texas,  he and his daughter posed for prom pictures. She's holding an assault style rifle while he has the shotgun.

Although this is likely intended as humor, it's incredibly insensitive.

There's a reason why Benol is a former member of Council, but I wish he would run again so I could vote against him.

NorCo Selects Eckert Seamans as Labor Law Firm

On Thursday night, Northampton County Council approved seven contracts. All were vetted the day before at Council's Finance Committee. All were approved 8-0 with the exception of a contract for outside legal counsel in labor and employment matters. That three-year contract with the option for a one-year extension was awarded to Eckert Seamans (370 lawyers). The total to be spent over that time is estimated at $600,000. John Cusick was the sole No vote. He explained that he would prefer a more local firm.

This firm will replace the Flamm Walton Heimbach (nine lawyers), which has offices at three locations, including Allentown. Human Resources Director Elizabeth Kelly said she loves this firm, but that Eckert Seamans has more lawyers in the labor and employment field.

This contract was proposed by Executive Lamont McClure and was the result of competitive negotiation. Twenty-one firms accessed a Request-for-Proposals from the County, after which five firms submitted proposals.

One of my readers was upset that I failed to mention this contract award in my report on Friday. "In other unreported business, a campaign contributor to the County Executive was awarded a huge contract last night," he or she snarked. He or she later added, "OK we know you are a McClure supporter, but last year your blog mentioned that his campaign received a contribution from Ekert Seamans ($2,000?)."

It's true that the Eckert Seamans Government PAC did contribute $2,000 to Lamont McClure's Executive campaign last year. I suppose it's possible that McClure sold out for $2,000, but given what happened in Allentown, highly unlikely. If anything, McClure and then Controller Steve Barron were quite unhappy with Eckert Seamans because that was the law firm hired to facilitate the sale of Gracedale But he went with the firm anyway because it had the best proposal.

All of this makes me wonder who exactly it is that had this complaint. It could be someone genuinely interested in good government, but could also be one of the unsuccessful law firms. Whoever it is, he or she really seems to really dislike me.

Unfortunately, that list is rather long and getting longer.

Your Government in Action!

Blogger's Note: Below is a report from Dr. Stephen Thode, director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies at Lehigh University. Though he's in academia, he's a rare conservative. The story below certainly helps explain why.

Last year, the Veterans Administration announced that it would be issuing ID cards to honorably discharged veterans. The ID cards are known as VIC.

For years, many of us have been lobbying for such an ID card as many businesses offer discounts and other considerations to veterans (and not just on Veterans Day!). The need for the card arose from the "proof" many merchants required to determine whether one was a veteran. Commonly, they would ask for a copy of the Form DD-214 (Report of Separation from Active Duty). That document contains all sorts of personal information many veterans (including me) were not willing to share. So, many of us veterans would forgo the discounts and/or other considerations.

The Veterans ID Card contains no such personal information. A photo of mine is attached.

So, the ID program was launched last November and I immediately attempted to apply. I was informed that "due to overwhelming response" the VA was not able to process my application. But, I was advised to request a spot on the "waiting list" (which I did).

Two months later, I received an email saying the VA would now accept my application which I promptly filed. A mere 5 weeks later, the VA "approved" my application. Another 10 weeks passed before I received an email saying my ID card would be sent. 13 days later (last Monday), it arrived in the mail. That's a mere 6 months after I initially attempted to apply.

There are those of us who are skeptical of government. And most of us have good reason. As Americans, we generally detest monopolies. We love competition. Government has no competition so it can give the middle finger to any poor schmuck any time it wants, and that poor schmuck is told, "You'll take it. And, you'll like it."

Name the last low-level government bureaucrat you know who was fired for cause.

Friday, May 18, 2018

NorCo Wants Contractors to Have Apprentice Programs

Northampton County Council voted 7-1 at their May 17 meeting in favor of an ordinance that will require all contractors and subcontractors who perform any county works project valued at $250,000 or more to meet certain basic qualifications, including the establishment of a Class A apprenticeship program.

Matt Dietz was the sole No vote, and Peg Ferraro was absent.

Common in Europe, apprenticeships are becoming popular in the United States. They allow young people in the workforce to learn a trade and make a living wage without being shackled by student debt. Apprenticeships were even touted by Congressional candidate Marty Nothstein during he Republican debate. But Council member Matt Dietz argued that imposing a requirement of a Class A apprenticeship program was unfair and would give union contractors an unfair advantage. He pointed out that Ken Kraft and Bill McGee, who drafted the ordinance, are both union agents.

McGee told Dietz that some nonunion contractors have apprenticeship programs, too, but Dietz was still suspicious. Tara Zrinsky proposed amending the ordinance to require that contractors have either an apprentice program or "its equivalent," but that brought questions of what would be "equivalent." Her proposal failed 4-4, with Kraft, McGee, Lori Vargo Heffner and Ron Heckman voting No.

It was a tough night for Matt Dietz. He was the sole No vote on the Apprenticeship requirement and the sole Yes vote on a proposal to give voters have the final say if and when Northampton County decides to borrow money for a private venture like a baseball stadium, convention center or whatever project the DaVinci Science Center decides on next. For over a year, he has lobbied to give voters this veto power. Lehigh County's electorate approved this change in 2013. But there will be no referendum in Northampton County. Dietz was unable to persuade even one Council member to join him as a co-sponsor. Since the Home Rule Charter requires two sponsors to even introduce an ordinance, his plan failed. ng.

"I have a big problem with this," said Council President Ken Kraft at a Committee hearing the previous day. "We're a representative democracy," he argued, noting that the voters elect Council to make these decisions. Executive Lamont McClure said he understood what Dietz was trying to do and could never see himself voting to incur debt for a private entity. But he added that that option should exist in Council if a heavy hitter like the Yankees or the stock exchange wanted to relocate to the Lehigh Valley.

"I would hate to see that opportunity lost in a low turnout No referendum," he reasoned.

He added he would oppose any debt to bring the Mets here.

In other business, Council learned that Area Agency on Aging Director John Mehler is retiring after 43 years of service to Northampton County. His retirement will become effective on June 7. Zrinski observed that Mehler has been employed by the county longer than she has been alive.

In good news, Council learned from Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski that the state has signed off on 11 new positions for Children, Youth and families, effective July 1. Beefing up that staff has been a top priority for Executive McClure.

Finally, Council heard from drone hobbyist Gus DeArmas. He has enjoyed flying his drone at Louise Moore Park, where there are no power lines.But a park attendant recently informed him that drones are forbidden in the park. He noted that people can fly kites or throw balls in a park, and flying drones responsibly should be permitted.

Matt Dietz, a commercial pilot, began discussing the matter and also said that perhaps it should be permitted for people who receive certificates from the FAA. DeArmas suggested that certain areas could be set aside for drone take offs and landings. No one seemed to know what the park rules require, so Kraft appointed Dietz to head up a newly created drone committee to look into the question and come up with a proposal.

Michael V. Koury Unanimous Choice as NorCo PJ

Hon.Michael V. Koury, Jr. 
Northampton County's Court of Common Pleas has voted unanimously to elect Michael J. Koury, Jr. as President Judge. He will succeed Stephen Barratta, the current President Judge, on June 8.

Baratta will be a tough act to follow. During his tenure, Baratta streamlined court operations to increase efficiency, especially in criminal cases. He has been behind the creation of several problem solving courts that address the ultimate cause of criminal behavior. He supported an expansion of pretrial services designed to keep low-risk offenders out of jail. He also revamped custody cases, appointing prominent Harvard Law grad Lisa Tresslar as a full-time Master who sits down with the parties and serves more as a mediator to resolve disputes. This spares parents and their children the trauma of a courtroom. He has also been an advocate of higher pay for judicial employees.

If Barrata is so good, why is he being replaced? President Judges may only serve for five years in counties like Northampton, and are barred from serving two consecutive terms.

Baratta's successor, Michael Koury, is graduate of Notre Dame High School, Moravian College and Villanova University School of Law, where he served on Law Review because he was in the top 3% of his class.

He was on his way to a lucrative career in a prominent Wall Street firm, when tragedy stuck. His popular father, who served as a Magisterial District Judge in Wilson Borough for 20 years, unexpectedly passed away. He was an amazing man who also operated the cash register at Josie's Deli over the lunch hour. He was also a teacher and basketball coach at Allentown Central Catholic High School.

Koury decided to follow his father's footsteps on the bench and waged a successful write-in campaign to replace him.

Koury was first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2009. He lives in Easton with his wife Elaine and their three children.

His mother Josie is the owner and proprietor of Josie's Deli in the Easton circle

He is known for very scholarly legal opinions, and seems to really enjoy the give and take of argument court.

His father would be very proud.

Dennis Pearson Honored For Decades of Service to Allentown

Dennis after recent lecture at Trinity College
Dennis Pearson and I were both exposed to merciless ridicule a few years ago when Morning Call columnist Bill White included us in his modern-day ducking stool known as the Hall of Fame. I was so upset I tried jumping off a bridge. True, it was only three feet high, but it's the thought that counts. Dennis Pearson was equally depressed and has since implored White on several occasions to release him from his agony. Prick that he is, White refuses. It's a life sentence with no parole. Well, the so-called journalist might have to reconsider now. Pearson was honored earlier this week by Mayor Ray O'Connell and City Council with a Proclamation extolling Dennis for decades of service to the community. This is almost as good as a Presidential Pardon. White needs to come to his senses and withdraw his mean-spirited inclusion of Dennis in a club that is meant for real assholes like His Eminence, Ron Angle (bow heads, please) and yours truly. 

As some of you know, Dennis recently wed a very nice lady, and the lovebirds have left Allentown for the Lehighton area. But he was back for the award.

"I only received recognition for my service to the area after I moved from the City," complained Pearson.

"You noticed that!" responded Council Prez Roger MacLean.

Over the years, Pearson has applied numerous times for vacancies in Allentown and Lehigh County. He's also run unsuccessfully for several offices. He's always come up a little short. At times, he's complained about it, too.

He's a man ahead of his times. Shallow people have had a tough time grasping Pearson's sheer intellect.

Allentown and Lehigh County will miss him.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Pa.Mid-term Primary is Good News for GOP

Brad Todd is the founding partner of OnMessage, Inc., a Republican advertising and opinion firm. He and Washington Examiner reporter Salena Zito teamed up recently to write "The Great Revolt," an examination of the forces that led to Trump's election. They both were guests on WAMU's 1A yesterday. Todd had an interesting observation about yesterday's Pennsylvania primary. Those of you who consider it a progressive victory in the year of the woman better think again.

Yesterday, 51% of the voters were Democrats. That is actually the lowest Democratic participation of a Pa. mid-term primary in this century. Just four years ago, Democratic participation was 68%. In 2010, it was 55%. In 2006, it was 56%. In 2002, it was 70%. Yesterday, Republican participation was as close to equal as it has ever been.

"I think that sends a signal that Pennsylvania continues to move after the 2016 election," said Zito.

I agree. I also think the shrinking number of Democrats who voted are the more extreme within the party. And she only attracted a plurality (33%) of them. In western Pa., the election of Conor Lamb a few weeks ago was a display of progressive pragmatism over progressive purity. The defeat of John Morganelli in eastern Pa. signals a return to the litmus test.

This virtually ensures that Marty Nothstein, an Olympic gold medal winner, will win in November. Though groups like "Lehigh Valley For All" or "LV Fierce" are very energized, they are elitists, not populists. They have no empathy for and little understanding of blue collar families.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

LV Congressional: The Best Dem Lost

Yesterday was a long an disappointing day for me.it included a 13 hour stint at the polls, followed by a trip to Easton to hand deliver the results. After that, I dropped in on LV Congressional candidate John Morganelli's election night party. I was tired and had previously told him that I would skip it. But John is my friend, and I felt I should be there, win or lose, to share in his triumph or defeat. Unfortunately, it was the latter. The best Democrat lost, virtually ensuring a GOP victory in the Fall contest that will decide on the next Congressman from the Lehigh Valley.

Some of you like to say I'm the kiss of death. Though I backed Lamont McClure in the Exec race last year and he won, he told me last night that's only because he was wearing "Berniebane." He said it protected him from my evil powers. As I reflect on this, he may have a point  All three of the state rep.candidates I backed also went down the tubes.

Could it be me?

Nah.

Let me tell you why John lost. You can thank the people of California. You can thank the people of states like New Jersey and New York, which seeded SuperPacs with hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a vicious negative campaign, and one in which victor Susan Wild may have improperly coordinated with them.  Had John won, you could thank billionaires from Chicago and Texas.

The one group that practically had nothing to do with the funding of this race? The people of the Lehigh Valley.

As one well regarded and astute political consultant told me last night, "Federal races are now out of our hands."

To those of you who still believe in democracy, what's happening is making it impossible for local communities to decide for themselves who they want to represent them in Washington.

Susan Wild will learn this the hard way soon, when the GOP comes after her. But she need have no fear of a kiss of death from me. I'll never support her for anything after she lied to Morganelli and broke a promise to run a clean campaign.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

This Just In: Tornado Warning, Dark Skies Threaten Turnout

Skies have darkened. Heavy winds have knocked over a tree or two. Thunder rumbling. Rain cascading. And a mailman has just come in to vote.

A voter tells me she should get credit for two votes.

This Just In: Allentown Elects Pawlowski

Fed Ed is reportedly very humbled.

Early AM Turnout Unusually Low

The early going indicates it’s going to be a long, slow day. Campaign workers in Bethlehem, Whitehall, Palmer, Lower Nazareth and Easton have all reported that turnout is very low. Lower than even municipal races. Does this mean the blue wave has subsided? Are voters just getting a late start? Stay tuned.

Make Your Last Minute Pitches Here

Today, I drop my biased political rants to do something completely different. I will be working the polls, helping people to cast their vote freely and without fear of intimidation  It makes no difference to me how they vote, but it matters that they get a fair opportunity to do so. Every election, I see people for whom it is a real struggle just to walk into the building, but they take the time to vote.  I see WWII vets who can no longer see or hear very well, but they vote. Those people are an inspiration to me, and hopefully, to others.

While I'm away, I'll have very little opportunity to check in. But if you'd like to make a last-minute pitch for your candidate, please feel free to do so in the comments. Please refrain from vulgar remarks.

After 8 pm, it will be too late.

Is Wild Responsible For Offensive Tumblr Site?

On the right side of this story is a screen shot from  Susan Wild's cell phone that she herself sent to me yesterday. I forgot I had her number. In a  Facebook conversation, she injected herself. I took her to task for breaking her promise to John Morganelli that she would run a clean campaign. I added that she also broke her word that she would send him a list of candidate cell phone numbers so the candidates can call and concede to the winner tonight. She kept promising Morganelli she would send it, but he complained to me he never got it from her. She insisted she sent it. Knowing I am now skeptical of anything she says, she actually took a screen shot from her cellphone and forwarded it to me to prove that she did, in fact, send it. (It is on the right, but I have redacted the phone numbers).

She may very well have sent the promised list to John.But what blows me away is her disparaging address book reference for John. It is "To: MAGAnelli." (As in MakeAmericaGreatAgain-nelli)

There just happens to be a disgusting Internet site that goes by that very name (I won't link to it). It is dedicated to smearing John and distorting his positions.

Did Wild camp create it? She denies it. I think she's l-
   y-
       i-
           n-
               g.
                   Again.

This is the candidate who condemns "shady outside money" but met personally with two of the SuperPacs that are distorting Morganelli's record. "Women's Voices Women Vote" even sent mailers to voters telling them their names will be publicized if they fail to vote.  They refused to include a disclaimer, but one of my readers found an identical mailer sent in 2016. 

Think about that when you vote today.

John is unquestionably conservative for a Democrat. If you feel he is too conservative, I can respect that and would suggest you vote for Greg Edwards, the only real liberal running. He's smart and likable and asks the tough questions.

Let me tell you why the others should be ignored. Rick Dougherty is actually more conservative than John Morganelli. Roger Ruggles is only running to take votes away from Morganelli in Easton. Dave Clark is a wingnut whose answer to everything is a graduated income tax and the Koch Brothers.

Wild Never Stops Asking For Money

During his trial for political corruption, former Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski was called a "relentless fundraising machine." The apple does not fall far from the tree. His Solicitor, Susan Wild, is hounding people day and night  for money in her bid to succeed Charlie Dent in Congress. Even weekends.

He'd be so proud!

In these emails, Wild constantly claims she needs different sums by midnight or the sky will fall. Kinda' like Fed Ed.

I think  I received one fundraising email from John Morganelli, and one from Greg Edwards.

Here's some excerpts from her daily dunning. Think about what she's really all about when you vote today. .

5/14 " we’re still $889 short of what we need if we want to really get out the vote tomorrow."

5/14 "Bernie, we’re only $1,311 away from hitting our Get Out The Vote budget goal"

5/13 (Sunday) - "I know Taylor emailed yesterday. With only two days left until the primary, we have the most important effort of our campaign ahead of us right now. ... We’re only $2,007 away from hitting our goal by midnight on Monday. Can you help us out?"

5/12: (Saturday) - "Taylor emailed you earlier and we still need just 12 more donors who can give $100 TODAY to hit our goal. We cannot afford to lose this primary to a man ... ."

5/11 - "We only have a few hours left before our midnight Get Out The Vote weekend fundraising deadline, and we’re still $1,833 short of what we need."

5/10 - "we hope you got a chance to see Susan’s email yesterday. Momentum is on our side! Now, we need to build on it to launch our weekend Get Out The Vote operation and win on Tuesday! Please, pitch in today to help us raise $10,000 for our Get Out The Vote game plan >>"

5/9 - "Yesterday, our strategy session with Stephanie Schrock [Emily's List] and Ilyse Hogue [NARAL] showed that our campaign is on track to win this primary and flip our district blue in November! Momentum is on our side. That’s why shady outside groups are spending millions to support our opponent, a fake “Democrat” [The irony here is amazing. What about her shady outside groups?]

5/8 - "This is critical: this is a very close race and if we don’t turn out all of our voters, including absentee voters, our opponent, a Trump-supporting “Democrat,” will win this race. We need someone in Washington who will stand up to Trump and fight every day for working families, and Susan is that candidate."

5/7 - "We’re only $871 short. Can you help us raise that by midnight tonight?"

5/6 (Sunday) - "We know it’s the weekend, but this is important. Our team is launching a new, specialized mail program to get our message out as far and wide as possible. We’re launching this program one week out from primary day: this Tuesday. That means we need to raise another $2,000 by midnight tomorrow!"

5/5 (Saturday) "we need to raise another $2,000 by midnight tomorrow! ... Susan is running against a Trump-supporting “Democrat” who received a standing ovation at a Tea Party rally."

5/4 "This morning, we were $10,500 short of our goal. ... I’m running against a Trump supporting, anti-choice “Democrat” so the stakes are especially high."

5/4 marked "URGENT" "did you see Susan’s email? "

5/3 "Let’s stop this fake “Democrat” and win this race. Donate today"

5/1 "We just found out that Washington Republicans are dumping nearly $8 MILLION in advertisements in our area!

4/30 "we’re still about $900 short of our goal."

4/30 "If we don’t hit this goal, a Trump-supporting “Democrat” will win this race."

4/27 "The primary is just over two weeks away, and our biggest competition is a Democrat who supports Donald Trump."

4/26 "Can you chip in now to help us meet our $5,000 goal by midnight on Monday?"

Lehigh Valley Elections: Absentee Ballots Unusually Low

I do not have exact figures, but have been told that the number of absentee ballots received in Northampton and Lehigh County for today's election is unusually low. In Lehigh County, it might be the lowest level in 20 years.

The number of absentee ballots received in a primary election is usually lower than the general. But given the number of candidates seeking a seat in Congress (six Democrats, two Republicans), I thought there would be more.

Does a drop in absentee ballots indicate turnout will below?  It may mean nothing at all. It may mean people are disgusted by government and have tuned out. It may mean they are just disgusted with LV candidates.

McClure: Norco Hiring Pool to Be More Inclusive

Lamont McClure announced today that Nortampton County is taking steps to make employment in Northampton County government fairer and more inclusive. Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) for employees and job applicants already exist with respect to protections for race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, sex, age, non-job related disability and any other status protected by State, Federal or local law. McClure is adding protections for gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information. Reasonable accommodations will be made for qualified employees with physical and/or mental impairments, adhering to the tenets of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Office of Human Resources will expand recruitment efforts to attract an adequate number of candidates for open positions.

“It is in the interest of the County to attract the best candidates,” McClure said. “We need our policies to reflect our goals of being inclusive and welcoming.”

The McClure administration is also adding an appeal procedure to its Harassment Prevention Policy to ensure County employees feel protected when they file grievances.

The new policies take effect on June 1, 2018.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Updated: A Trick to Embarrass People Into Voting


On Saturday, a regular reader told me about a mailer that is going out to younger voters. This has also been confirmed by blogger LVCI. He said no mailer was sent to his neighbors who vote Republican. There was a post about it at Complainers of Bethlehem, too.

Here's how reader Ovem Lupo Commitere reacted:

Two of my adult children received very official looking mailings today: creepy, and also very deceptive. Supposedly from "Pennsylvania State Voter Program" with a return address in Harrisburg. Also, in contrasting red ink across the envelope, "IMPORTANT TAXPAYER INFORMATION ENCLOSED." Inside, a letter asking in all bold upper caps, "what if your friends, your neighbors, and your community knew whether you voted?" In the text, "this chart shows the names of people you know and their voting histories..." and goes on to show a chart with us and our neighbors names and addresses, and the supposed voting histories for Nov 2014, March 2016, and Nov 2016, and May 15 2018 (?).

So many things wrong that the gullible would fall for:
1. seems creepy to be reporting how our neighbors voted, and vice versa
2. PA primary was late April, not March, in 2016, so false info
3. comparing between the two mailings, they gave different voting "records" for each of them, so bogus BS
4. google the "PA State Voter Program", as someone might do, and official PA site comes up that the naive don't realize is NOT this, and google it with the address, and the zip code is crossed off in the search info as missing, and the PO box does not come up at all. Very deceptive, especially as most would only search the name
5. content is not "taxpayer information"
6. the pre-sorted postage is actually paid out of Indianapolis,IN, not Harrisburg, PA
7. NO where is there "paid for" info, to further the deception that this is somehow official to the naive
8. it was only mailed to the two female who were registered Dems.
9. also today another letter addressed to one of them comes from "Nextgen Pennsylania"
10. also today, a big flier mailed to the other one, for Susan Wild paid for by "WOMEN VOTE!", with postage paid out of Baltimore, MD

So, as you wrote:"The people of the Lehigh Valley have a decision to make. Do we want to send someone to Congress who will just be a flamethrower who lies and who falsely portrays..."

This letter is a form of voter intimidation, though it does not appear to be criminal. Who sent it? The Romans would ask, "Cui Bono?" Who benefits? The far left knows it is unable to win unless it can get younger people to the polls. This is a sneaky and dishonest way of achieving that goal.

from the 2016 flyer
Updated 1:54 pm: Before the 2016 election, a similar letter was sent to Ovem Lupo Commitere's household. That one claimed that the "Center for Voter Information" is "A project of Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund." As some of you know, Women Vote is the SuperPAC used by Emily's List. Emily's List supports Susan Wild and has spent a lot of money to elect her. Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue met with Wild and supporters at Nosh restaurant in Allentown last week. We now have an answer to the question, Cui Bono?

If you are offended by this tactic, register your resentment in the voting booth by voting for someone other than Susan Wild.

(Originally published at midnight)

Update #2, 5/15/18, 2 am: I have been contacted by the Wild camp, which contends that Women's Voices Women Vote and Women Vote are two separate SuperPACS, and Wild has no idea what either group is doing because that would be illegal. Sure. I'm sure nothing of that sort happened during the hugfest Wild had with Emily's List and NARAL klast week. 

Three State House Primaries in Lehigh Valley

I've given you a blow-by-blow account of the Congressional race herein the Lehigh Valley. But in the process, I've had little to say about contested primaries in the state house. There are three contested primaries this year, all of them involving Republicans.

Pennsylvania's House of Representatives is the lower house of the General Assembly. There are 203 members, including 11 members (6 Republicans and 5 Democrats) who represent different portions of the Lehigh Valley. The salary this year is $87,180, and it goes up automatically with an annual cost of living adjustment. They are also entitled to per diems. Though it is a full-time legislature, there is no proscription on outside employment. There are no term limits, and many House members just stay there in safe seats, thanks to gerrymandering. The Pa. Supreme Court has addressed and corrected gerrymandered Congressional districts, but not the territories drown up for state senators and state representatives.

Bev Plosa Bowser
131st Legislative District: Bev Plosa-Bowser v. Justin Simmons (inc.) - This District is split up among Lehigh, Northampton and Montgomery Counties. It is a conservative district made more so as a result of gerrymandering. It is basically southeast Lehigh County.

In my view, this race is a no-brainer. Plosa-Bowser, a retired Air Force Colonel with combat experience and a bronze star, also has two Master's degrees. She is the most qualified of any of the candidates running, including incumbents with no challenger. Simmons, in sharp contrast, has never served a day in the military. Of course, he still distorted her military record in a radio interview.

That's what I find most troubling about this guy. All his campaigns are ugly. It always devolves into personal attacks, mostly anonymous. In his last race, I had to shut down comments on my blog because they were just so venomous.

Hopefully, we've seen the last of Justin Simmons. He broke his promise to voters that he'd only serve three terms. He turned on the most noble person I know in government, Charlie Dent. He did this after taking Charlie's money. Then there's 500 missed votes.

He claims it's because he's cRaZy.

I agree.

Do I think Justin Simmons is evil? No. He's just immature and needs to grow up.

Democrat Andy Lee will face whomever Republicans elect as their nominee. He runs Braveheart Pub, the only British restaurant in the history of mankind that has ever been successful. Let's be honest. Who the hell wants to eat sheep shit, otherwise known as haggis? I swear all British food was invented as a dare. .

Ron Beitler
134th Legislative District: Ron Beitler v. Ryan MacKenzie (inc.)  - (This District has been divided between two counties to give Republicans an edge. Lehigh County: Lower Macungie: Salisbury wards 4, 5; South Whitehall districts 3, 4; Alburtis and Macungie. Berks County: Hereford, Longswamp, Richmond, Rockland and Topton.) - Lower Mac Comm'r Ron Beitler is one of my favorite elected officials. Through Lower Mac News, his own publication,  he keep residents well-informed about their community. I have learned that Ron intends to run for the state house seat currently occupied by Ryan MacKenzie.

Beitler, a graduate of Emmaus High School and Slippery Rock University, owns and operates Bar None, an event services planner.

“By now, it’s no secret that Harrisburg is a mess. What has been a well-kept secret is that the problems can be fixed by honesty, integrity, and common sense,” Beitler said.

He has promised to term limit himself to a total of eight years in office.

“If you can’t get the job done in that time, then you shouldn’t be there.” Beitler said.

He also has signed a pledge to reject a government pension stating, “service is a calling, not a career path - my small business is my career, and when I get the job done in Harrisburg I’ll come home to that.”

Beitler claims to have reduced spending, opposed debt, lowered tax bills and worked to block waste while serving in Lower Macungie. He said he will support a State Constitutional amendment limiting spending increases.

“Government needs to live within the same constraints that we do,” he said.

When Beitler made this announcement, incumbent Ryan MacKenzie had already announced that he was a candidate for Congress. Like Simmons, he's another opportunist. But he at least had the grace to wait for Congressman Charlie Dent to announce he was hanging it up. MacKenzie said he'd only be running for Congress,just like Simmons. The duo tried to out-Trump each other. Simmons dropped out when he was exposed for missing 500 votes. MacKenzie lasted a little longer, but he pulled out, too. He claimed it was because of redistricting. We all know it's because he'd never win.   

Figuring he had a comfortable lead, MacKenzie avoided any debates with Beitler. But when he dodged a debate hosted by Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association, he got caught pulling a fast one. He had told the group he was stuck in Harrisburg. They discovered he easily could have made the debate. They also learned that Mackenzie had attended and spoke at a candidate forum in Berks County for those with no opponent, and never clarified that Ron Beitler was also seeking his seat.

Though Beitler could easily have gone on the attack at this point, and justifiably so, he refused.

Though I consider this a tactical mistake, it may have been the right move.It appears that MacKenzie is concerned he might lose this race.he recently sent out a mailer attacking Beitler for raising taxes and even for some sort of playground fee. Both charges were labeled outright false or "without important context" in a Morning Call. analysis. Beitler voted No to a fee for home playgrounds. His work as a Lower Mac Commissioner actually reduced taxes for all but wealth and commercial landowners.

A thinking conservative, Beitler deserves a shot. MacKenzie had his. He has refused to sponsor legislation aimed at ending the gerrymander.

Democrat Tom Applebach is also running for this seat, unopposed.

183rd Legislative District: Cindy Miller v. Zach Mako (inc.) - This district is also carved out of both Lehigh and Northampton Counties, and includes South Whitehall districts 5, 6, 8; Washington; Whitehall districts 7, 10, 11; Slatington; Allen; Lehigh; Moore districts Beersville and Klecknersville; North Catasauqua; Northampton and Walnutport.

Two years ago, Zach Mako defeated Cindy Miller in the primary and Phillips Armstrong in the general to become the state representative to succeed Julie Harhart. Two years ago,  I considered him the least qualified of the candidates. He proved he has the intelligence of a box turtle at two debates. He was at a ribbon-cutting for one of the P3 bridges, and is still trying to find his way home. I bumped into him at the elections office last year, at which time he swore to me that he would sponsor the gerrymandering bill. He never did.

His opponent, Cindy Miller, is more intelligent than a box turtle, but is as mean as a snapping turtle. Being nasty is expected of bloggers, but not politicians.

Fortunately, a Democrat, Jason Ruff of Slatington, is also running.

Former Philly DA Lynne Abraham Endorses Morganelli

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, the only woman ever elected to that office, has endorsed DA John Morganelli for Congress in the 7th Congressional District. She was district attorney for 19 years.

“As a life long Democrat and advocate for women, I believe that John Morganelli is the best candidate," she said in announcing her endorsement. "First, John actually has a record of proven performance. Additionally, John has devoted his career to fighting for Democratic causes, including but not limited to advancing issues important to women. John increased female representation on the District Attorney’s staff from 5 percent to 50 percent on day one way back in 1992. He also created the Sexual Assault Unit and Domestic Violence Units to focus on crimes against women. In Congress he will fight for equal pay for women and to protect pregnant women in the workplace.”

Morganelli and Abraham served together as district attorney and developed a close friendship. 'I am honored to have Lynne’s support," said Morganelli. "Ms. Abraham was a pioneer in advancing women in the criminal justice system and a strong prosecutor who protected her community.“

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dent Delivers Farewell Address to Congress

Congressman Charlie Dent broke the rules on Thursday. Nobody minded. House members are barred from mentioning people seated in the gallery, but Dent did so to acknowledge his staff, past and present. He also expressed his appreciation to the people of the Lehigh Valley for allowing him to be an independent voice. Below are excerpts:

Increased polarization has led to Congress becoming more paralyzed and unable to perform our most basic and fundamental tasks. ... This political polarization has led to a disturbing trend where fringe elements of both the far right and far left are emboldened and empowered. While the bases of both political parties are well represented in Congress, the governing center has been under increased pressure.

Too many Republicans expect unquestioning, blind unquestioning loyalty and obedience to President Trump, no matter how absurd or destructive the comment or behavior. Constitutional separation of powers is almost an alien concept after relentlessly demanding Congress assert its Article I powers during the Obama years. On the other side, far too many Democrats offer unflinching resistance and opposition to President Trump, even if they agree with him on a given policy or position.

Separation of political parties has replaced separation of powers as a guiding, governing philosophy. This dynamic is simply not sustainable and has already had troubling consequences.

We've already seen a rise in the three-headed monster of isolationism, protectionism and nativism. These are not qualities of a great nation. In fact, they dishonor the sacrifices and service of the greatest generation, who delivered both victory in WWII and the far-sighted, outward-looking, post-War, rules-based order that has brought unprecedented freedom and prosperity to America and to its friends, allies and partners.

Furthermore, tradition democratic values, the rule of law, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary are under unprecedented attack throughout much of the world. It is incumbent on all of us to stand up and defend our way of life and our institutions.

In Congress, we need to re-establish a strong, bipartisan governing center that will help restore order and stability to Washington. ... [C]onsenus and compromise are not capitulation or surrender, but are instead essential to a functioning republic. ...

America has to honor its agreements if we ever hope to enter into new ones. ... We simply cannot walk away from American commitments, even ones we may have voted against or disagreed with, if we expect to continue to build new coalitions and enter into new agreements.

While I am leaving Congress, I am not retreating from the battlefield. I intend to continue aggressively advocating for people and policies of the sensible center. I hope to provide an even larger voice in favor of responsible governance and hope to foster a strong, center-right movement that embraces traditional conservative virtues of order, discipline, stability, measured statements and incremental change. Not the incendiary rhetoric, chaos and dysfunction that we have unfortunately grown accustomed to in recent years.

The people of the Lehigh Valley have a decision to make. Do we want to send someone to Congress who will just be a flamethrower who lies and who falsely portrays John Morganelli in Trump hats, as Wild has done? Or do we send an adult? My hope is that the sensible center will rise up for John Morganelli. If Democrats fail to do this, they insure a pro-Trump GOP victory in November.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Mother's Story About John Morganelli



This is the John Morganelli I have been privileged to know for nearly 40 years. He has a proven record of listening to those who are ignored everywhere else. He stands up for what's right. He represents the best ideals, not just of the Democratic party, but the people of the Lehigh Valley.

He inspires us to be better.

I can think of no better person to succeed Charlie Dent as our representative in Congress.

We make that choice, not outside money from California.

There are those who say Democrats have lost their way. It's true that the party is splintered. There are the NextGen millennials, who shout down anyone who disagrees with them. They think freedom is the right to smoke weed. There are the "Lehigh Valley For All" Birkenstocks, who really are only for ALL elitists. They are much more concerned about being politically correct than actually helping people, although they will watch documentaries and drive Hybrids.

Morganelli is far more radical. His has always been a fight against the economic tyranny of a growing new international dictatorship. Corporate CEOs, our new economic royalists, dig themselves in with the savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for medical care and old age.

One of Morganelli's fellow radicals once said,
These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike. ...

We do not see faith, hope and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a Nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.

Faith — in the soundness of democracy in the midst of dictatorships.

Hope — renewed because we know so well the progress we have made.

Charity — in the true spirit of that grand old word. For charity literally translated from the original means love, the love that understands, that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.
This radical was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Morganelli, like Roosevelt, understands that government exists to help people. That's the real litmus test of a Democrat. John gets an A.

131st: Bowser Blows Simmons Away

Bev Plosa-Bowser is a retired Air Force Colonel who served her country for 30 years after her appointment to the prestigious Air Force Academy in its first ever class to accept women. She's a combat veteran who earned a Bronze Star while serving in Iraq. She holds two Masters degrees in Public Administration and Political Management. After leaving the service, she opened a Bed and Breakfast and started a small real estate investment firm. If anyone is qualified to serve you in the state house, she certainly is.

She's running against Justin Simmons, an entrenched incumbent who thinks you're pretty stupid

Simmons has previously said he would term limit himself. He didn't. Then he was going to run for Lieutenant Governor, but didn't. Then he was going to run for Congress and drain the swamp. But he backed out right after his shitty attendance record (he missed 500 votes) was exposed. He wasn't going to seek re-election, but he is.

Amazingly, this opportunist who has never served his nation has the nerve to slam her for offering nothing but "political promises."

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Thanks to GPA, NorCo's 2017 Financial Statements Are Delayed

Problems between Northampton County and the General Purpose Authority (GPA) continue. As explained in a memo from Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron, the GPA's Financial Statements for 2017 are still unapproved. The auditor hoped to present her findings at a meeting on May 1, but it was canceled. What this means is that the County is unable to release its own Financial Statements by May 1, as required under the Home Rule Charter.

In addition to this problem, lower Mount Bethel officials are concerned that bridges are being converted from one-lane to two-lanes. This might be nice for truckers, but it is detrimental to the rural charm of this farming community.

Also, bridge designs are calling for the condemnation of one family's garage.

McClure Has Lunch With Retirees

Lamont McClure
About 200 Northampton County retirees descended upon Northampton Memorial Community Center at high noon yesterday for a delicious lunch of roasted chicken, pasta, sausage, salad, scalloped potatoes and carrots. Executive Lamont McClure was the featured speaker, and wasted no time telling retirees exactly what he thinks of them.

"You have forgotten more about County government than I will ever know," McClure asserted. He also asked them to send him any ideas they might have to make county government better.

McClure also announced that he has ended the practice, first started under former Executive Bill Brackbill, of deducting for medical. Whatever the deal is when an employee is hired is the deal that will be in place at retirement.

"Your benefits cannot be reduced," he said."That will never happen."

Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried
Retirees should notice a difference in their may checks.For some, it is as little as $6. But for a few, it is $300.

This semi-annual tradition is organized by former County Exec Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried. He told his captive audience that he had a dream that he had died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. As he peered inside, he saw Ron Heckman, who was being beaten and kicked by a very angry woman.

"What's up with that?"

"Ron is being punished for his sins," answered St. Peter.

Jerry looked again and saw me, draped all over a gorgeous woman.

"What's up with that?"

"She is being punished for her sins," answered St. Peter.

Bastard!

Rising Tide Loan Fund Recognized at LV Leadership Dinner

The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, a subsidiary of CACLV, provides microloans to small businesses who may have no appeal to traditional lenders, but who nevertheless are the backbone of the Lehigh Valley economy. Since it was founded in 2001, Rising Tide has provided $6 million to nearly 200 businesses. This in turn has led to the creation or retention of 700 jobs.

One of the small businesses receiving assistance is Frank Pintabone's Integrity Lawncare.

Pintabone, former president of Easton Area School Board, explained what the program meant to him during the Lehigh Valley Leadership Dinner,which was held at Artsquest last night.

Of the $6 million lent, only four percent have defaulted over the years. 

(Frank is wearing the green shirt, and Alan Jennings is to his right. I apologize but have no names for the other two gentlemen.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Bethlehem Tp Schedules May 16 Special Meeting For Housenick Park

Mike Hudak makes a point
Thanks to a 2005 bequest by Janet Housenick, Bethlehem Township became the owners of a sprawling 55-acre estate known today as Housenick Park. It includes the mansion built by Bethlehem's first Mayor, Archibald Johnston. Housenick also set aside $2 million to maintain the site, once described by former Executive John Stoffa as the Lehigh Valley's future Central Park. Commissioners adopted a Master Plan to develop the property in 2011, which converted the grounds into magnificent walking trails along with a parking lot for visitors. But the mansion itself is another story. Township officials are still mulling how it should be used. This problem came up at their May 7 meeting, and is going to necessitate a special meeting on May 16.

On the Friday before this meeting, Commissioners received a gentle nudge from Housenick Trustees Bill Leeson, Stephen Baratta and Tom Brady. Trustees offered to give the Township $1.3 million in $130,000 annual payments over the next four years to restore the exterior of the mansion. The catch is that the Township must be able to open the mansion's first floor to the public within four years. Also, their offer was withdrawn unless the Township agreed that night.

"We can't ask the taxpayers to fund this project when we have no idea what it's going to cost," said Michael Hudak. He noted previous cost estimates indicating it would take $3.5 million to restore the first floor alone. "The beat us up on the streetlights to thus day and we had that project vetted, he said, referring to an $800,000 streetlight contract that ultimately resulted in embezzlement charges and convictions against the vendors.

Commissioners never agreed to the proposal, so the offer is withdrawn. But Leeson said on behalf of the Trustees that he was willing to sit down with Township Solicitor Jim Broughal to hammer out a new agreement giving the Township additional time.

Though development of the grounds into walking trails has been relatively noncontroversial, the Board has to date been unable to decide what to do with the mansion, and is leery of getting involved in a restoration that ultimately could gobble up tax dollars. Malissa Davis called the offer a "hard pill to swallow when we don't know what to do inside."

Leeson asked Commissioners to look at things from his vantage point. "We don't want to commit that money only to see the building torn down," he reasoned. He added that Trustees would agree to pay half the cost of a professional consultant to advise Commissioners on the most desirable use of the mansion's interior.

Member of the public were as divided as the commissioners. Don Wright warned it will be a "money pit" while Barry Roth argued that the money needed could be donated. "The economy is on an upswing and people are looking for a place to dump money," he argued.

Commissioners said that a nonprofit corporation is being formed to accept tax deductible donations, and Tom Nolan reiterated that no township tax dollars would be spent.

At a special meeting on May 16, Solicitor Jim Broughal will report whether he has been able to negotiate a new agreement with the Trustees, giving them five years and half the cost of a consultant to advise on the best use of the mansion. At that time, Commissioners will also vote on a bid package for the exterior restoration of the mansion, with or without the Trustees' money.

Is Allentown Attracting Millennials?

Most weeknights, I'm either at a local government meeting or writing about it from my estate in downtown Nazareth. Though many beautiful women ask me out, I always say No. Blogging about local government trumps everything except basketball. But I caught a glimpse of the outside world a few weeks ago. I attended the NextGen Congressional debate at Fegley's brew pub in downtown Allentown. Walking down Hamilton, I saw people. Young people. Lots of them. I assumed this was just some fluke because I've read elsewhere that the City Without Limits is actually a City Without People after dusk. Only zombies, vampires and the occasional tumbleweed is seen on Hamilton Street. But this was no optical illusion. Allentown is growing, and it is attracting millennials.

This is a nationwide trend, according to Archinect: "These smaller cities have been attracting new growth in part due to investing in green spaces and parks, upswings in local tech hubs, and downtown redevelopment."

Brookings says this:
"Allentown, on the periphery of the New York metropolitan region, was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the Northeast during parts of the early 2000s, as migrants dispersed to areas just beyond the New York region. After seeing its growth plummet from 2007 to 2013, it has inched back with a noticeable growth increase in the past year."
This estimated population surge could be the result of 1,800 jobs in downtown Allentown since 2013.

I hope this is true, and is borne out by the actual 2020 census. Allentown could use a little good news.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Outside Interests Trying to Buy LV's Congressional Seat

Should the Lehigh Valley Congressional race be decided by the people who actually live here? Do you want people from California or Texas telling you how to vote? They are. If you look at the campaign finances of the five top candidates (three Democrats and two Republicans) who want to represent the Lehigh Valley in Congress, you have to wonder whether most will be representing you or interests outside of Pennsylvania. As troubling as SuperPACs are, candidates have shown no qualms about where they are getting money for their own campaign committees. According to the most up-to-date information collected by the Federal Elections Commission, all but one of the five Congressional candidates show an alarming tendency to go outside the state, to say nothing of the district.

Democrats

Rev. Greg Edwards has raised the most money - $357,571.78 - of the five top candidates. But only $43,116.86, or 12% of his total, actually comes from individual contributions in Pennsylvania. He received y more money from the West coast. He reports that $69,155.30 (19% of his total) in individual contributions are from California.

Of the $286,977.20 raised by insurance defense attorney Susan Wild, only $125,123.00 (44% of her total) comes in the form of individual contributions from the Keystone State. She has also lent herself $35,000.

District Attorney John Morganelli trails both Edwards and Wild in fundraising. His latest figures show him at $233,570.00. But $164.010 (70%) of this sum comes in the form of individual contributions here in Pa.

Republicans

Lehigh County Comm'r Marty Nothstein has raised $307,619.65, but only $107,608.19 ($35%) comes from individual contributions here in Pa. As disturbing as this is, Browning's finance is worse. Only $16,550 (8%) of his $208,550.00 total is from individual Pennsylvania donors.

Both Republicans have actually lent themselves huge sums. Nothstein has lent his campaign $145,000, and Browning has sunk $162,500 into his race.

Morganelli Leads Money Race in Pa

Of the five top Congressional candidates, Morganelli has the most money in the form of individual contributions from Pa.:

Morganelli - $164.010
Wild - $125,123
Nothstein - $107,608.19
Edwards - $43,116.86
Browning - $16,550

This is consistent with a recently reported Morning Call - Muhlenberg College poll, which shows that Morganelli, is the most well known of the five candidates and has both the highest positives and negatives. The outside money is an attempt to impose the will of  outsiders, both conservative and liberal, on a local decision that has national significance.