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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fed Ed Case - Here Comes the Judge (Updated)

Late last week, Judge Juan R. Sánchez issued a number of one-line orders, scheduling new sentencing dates for five of the lucky 13 ensnared by a federal investigation into political corruption in Allentown. The main target of this investigation, former Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, has a date with Judge Sánchez on Wednesday, June 27, 11 am, at the Edward N. Cahn U.S. Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Attorney Scott Allinson will be sentenced two days later on June 29 at 10 am, also in Allentown. I doubt Allinson will receive a heavy sentence. He's losing his law license. But I have two words of advice for Fed Ed. Rubber underwear.

What about the rest of the defendants?

Patrick Regan of The Efficiency Network has already been sentenced to two years probation, including six months of house arrest.

Consultant Jim Hickey, Northampton County's erstwhile Administrator, has been sentenced to 18 months. He gave a $500 bribe (campaign contribution) for a record that was already public and subject to Right-to-Know. He'll be spending a little over a day in the can for each dollar. To put this in context, Pawlowski had hoped that Jack Rosen, a major Democratic donor, would raise $1 million for his Senate race. Rosen was never prosecuted even though he was the beneficiary of a no-bid cyber-security contract that the City never needed. But Rosen has money. Hickey does not. Hickey is waiting to report while feds weld a Hannibal Lector mask for his mouth. That's what caused most of his problems.

Former Assistant City Solicitor Dale Wiles, who is redeeming himself by selling L-Arginine pills for those among us suffering from erectile dysfunction, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 14, 2 pm.

Four more defendants will be sentenced in early October.

- Mary Ellen Koval, Allentown's erstwhile Controller, faces the music on Tuesday, October 2 at 2 pm.

- Mark Neisser will be sentenced Wednesday, October 3, at 10 am.

- Miked Fleck, back in Easton, has a rendezvous with his destiny on Wednesday, October 3, at 2 pm.

- Matthew McTish, October 4, at 10 am.

I suspect the remaining three defendants will be sentenced at that time as well. They include entrepreneur Ramzi Haddad, meatball gourmand and former city finance director Garret Strathearn, and former managing director Francis Dougherty.

Blogger's Note: He will deny this, but as you may have guessed, Jim Hickey and I are friends It did not start out that way. He was the NorCo Director of Administration when I was part of a group that challenged a $110 million bond. We won, too, but it was a phyrric victory because the County ultimately responded with a $111 million bond. During the course of the litigation, we were arch enemies. Things got nasty, too. But after it was all over, Hickey stopped trying to kill me, although he threw me off the courthouse roof now and then for shits and giggles.

During his days at the county, I recall an incident in which a Deputy Sheriff who kept failing the sergeant's exam furtively slipped him a $500 bribe. Hickey reported the matter. A decision was made not to prosecute the guy, who came from a culture in which this sort of thing happened. But he was fired. If Jim were dirty, he would have kept the $500.

During the years I've known Jim, he has always been honest with me, even when it was to his detriment. But he has a colorful way of putting things, and that is what did him in. I personally believe he never bribed anyone, and in fact had given the $500 contribution before asking for a document that was subject to right-to-know. But Jim has always liked to sound like a badass. So I think a jury would have convicted him. He had a good attorney, but the feds knew this and had filed a motion to disqualify him.  So I understand his plea.

4 pm Update: In the original version of this story, I neglected for some reason to include the sentencing date of Matthew McTish.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Roseanne Barr on Planet of the Apes

Rarely have I seen a top celebrity climb or fall so swiftly as happened to Roseann Barr in the past year Her popular blue-collar sitcom had just been renewed for a second season, which I suppose is the Hollywood equivalent of a triumph. But as she rode her chariot on Twitter, John Goodman should have been whispering "Memento Mori" into her ear. In the space of just one day, she threw it all away. Her show's been canceled and her career lies in ruins.

She did this to herself. Late Monday, she tweeted this about Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who happens to be black: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

Now she's a comedienne and initially claimed she had been joking. It could just be failed humor. But I doubt it. Living here in the Lehigh Valley, I cannot begin to tell you the number of times that my white friends, political and apolitical, have referred to prominent black people that way. The higher the status, the more simian the reference. Michele Obama, in particular, was routinely subjected to this kind of treatment. Dehumanizing black people has been standard practice since they were first brought over here on slave ships.

She quickly came to her senses and has spent almost the entire day apologizing on Twitter. As recently as midnight, she tweeted, "Don't feel sorry for me, guys!!-I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people,and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet. I will be on Joe Rogan's podcast friday."

She apologized to most everyone. I think it's sincere. There's a difference between being politically incorrect and a racist. Barr's comment was racist. She recognizes that and asks that you stop defending her.

You're really defending your own bigotry.

Bangor, Easton Send Two Students to Military Academies

Bangor, PA – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright announced  that Bangor Area High School senior Amelia Natalia O’Brien, has been accepted to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. Rep. Cartwright proudly nominated Amelia to attend the academy where she will begin her service career.

Amelia is the daughter of Patrick Jr. and Magdalena O’Brien. Throughout her high school career, Amelia has demonstrated tremendous leadership in her scholastic and extracurricular endeavors, serving as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, student government class secretary, and captain of the swim, cross country, and track teams. As a result of her outstanding leadership, Amelia received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Outstanding Leadership from the West Point Society of the Lehigh Valley.

“Each year, I have the distinct honor of nominating students from the 17th Congressional District to our nation’s military academies,” said Rep. Cartwright. “To be nominated, students must not only excel academically, but also exhibit a passion for service and leadership. Amelia is a well-rounded, bright young woman and a role model for her peers; I am so proud of her hard work, perseverance, and acceptance into the academy.”

A nomination does not guarantee that the student will be accepted.

In order to attend one of the military academies, students must receive a nomination from their Member of Congress. Students may apply to the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S.Coast Guard Academy is the one service academy that declines to rely on congressional nominations

Accepted students will receive a full scholarship and upon graduation, must complete the military service requirement for each school. Congressmen typically make five nominations per year, and usually rely on the recommendation of a committee of district citizens.

Rep. Cartwright added, “Throughout our nation’s history, U.S. Service Academies have played an important role in preparing young people for service to our country. As a Pennsylvanian, I am proud of our patriotic young men and women who are willing to step forward and answer the call of duty. It is an honor to play a role in preparing our next generation of leaders.”

O'Brien will be joined at West Point by Easton Area High School 2017 graduate announced Matthew Horace, a 2017 graduate of Easton Area High School. He was nominated by Rep. Cartwright last year, but first spent a year at the United States Military Academy Prep School at West Point.

Matthew is the son of Matthew and Dawn Horace. During his high school career, Matthew achieved high honors and was captain of the lacrosse team, a member of the Eastern PA Conference Student Athlete Character, and Sportsmanship Council.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Allentown City Summer Jobs

From Allentown: The City of Allentown still has some great summer employment opportunities available!

Seasonal positions are vacant in the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Recycling, Building Maintenance, Streets, and Traffic Planning & Control bureaus.

The Department of Parks & Recreation is seeking to hire employees for various seasonal positions at swimming pools, parks and playgrounds. Pay rates vary from $7.75 to $12.00 per hour based upon position.

The Aquatics Department has a variety of jobs available starting with cashiers at our pools and concession stands. These positions consist of daily selling of admissions and food products and are a great employment opportunity for those who enjoy interaction with the public and offering great customer service.

Lifeguarding jobs are available at the four City pools and spray parks. If you enjoy the outdoors and being around water, this is the job for you. No previous training or job experience is required. In house training and American Red Cross Lifeguard certification is available to prepare you for this rewarding job opportunity.

Summer playground program instructor positions are available for individuals interested in working directly with city youth. The summer playground program instructor is responsible for directing and leading games, arts and crafts, field trips and annual Romper Day preparations at a given playground site. The position is a great opportunity for individuals looking at a career or a background in the education field.

Parks seasonal laborer positions provide individuals with hands-on landscaping experience through a wide variety of tasks, including grass cutting and painting. Crews also build playgrounds and perform required plumbing. All are necessary components in maintaining the jewel of the Queen City, which is our vast, beautiful park system. No previous experience is needed. Parks seasonal laborers are a Monday through Friday position that allows successful candidates to enjoy summer weekends off.

Recreation Field Ranger positions are available for evenings and weekends throughout the summer season. Field Rangers interact with the general public to ensure positive rental experiences, assist with events and programs, address issues and concerns as well as enforcing park rules.

The following positions in the Department of Public Works pay $10.00 per hour:

The Bureau of Recycling & Solid Waste has summer labor positions available to those 18 and older. This position involves a wide variety of tasks related to trash, recycling and the cleanliness of the City; including but not limited to working at the yard waste site and/or recycling drop-off center; graffiti abatement; and collecting recyclable materials.

Seasonal laborers in the Bureau of Building Maintenance assist with maintaining archived city records. This position will also assist staff in replenishing inventories in our various stock rooms. Prior work experience is not required. Building Maintenance seasonal laborers are a Monday through Friday position.

The Bureau of Streets seasonal laborer positions provide individuals with hands-on experience through a wide variety of tasks involved in the cleanliness and repair of city roadways. Summer laborers also assist with the maintenance of various manholes, inlets and safety grates located throughout the city. Streets seasonal laborers are also a Monday through Friday position.

The Bureau of Traffic Planning and Control is looking for an Intern. This position will assist with items such as signal file management, traffic and pedestrian counts and thermoplastic/line painting pavement marking. The prospective intern should possess a keen interest in public works projects and a desire to pursue career pathways in the public sector.

Persons interested in applying for any seasonal position with the City of Allentown are urged to visit www.allentownpa.gov/Human-Resources/Employment-Openings.

New Accounting Rule Could Damage NorCo Bond Rating

Earlier this month, Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) canceled a meeting at which its outside auditor was expected to present the Financial Statements. Board Chair Shawn Langen, who appears to make a lot of GPA decisions unilaterally, took it upon himself to make this call. As a result, Northampton County is now late in releasing its own financial statements. It is important to note that there are no hints of any kind of financial irregularity. Moreover, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron has told me that this tardiness should have no negative consequences. So why is he upset? It's because of a new accounting rule hoing into effect on June 15.  It is now going to require municipalities to provide details about private debt that never existed before. NorCo's P3 agreement involving the GPA and private contractor Kriger Construction could reduce the county's credit rating. The same is true of municipalities that take out bank loans or lines of credit.

The new rule is called GASB 88. It goes into effect June 15. As explained in Governing, "The new rule requires governments to include in their annual reports a statement called GASB 88 that will include not just the amount of money borrowed directly from banks but any unused lines of credit, any public assets pledged as collateral and any terms laid out in the lending agreement that could trigger early payment or financial penalties."

Private debt has become a very popular alternative to bond issues for municipalities and schools. Generally, it is cheaper and a lot less cumbersome. An added plus, according to economist Ramonma Dagostino, is that every million in municipal debt to private banks results in 30 additional private sector jobs.  It's no surprise, therefore, that direct municipal loans from banks nearly doubled after the Great Recession, from $225 billion in 2009 to $425 billion in 2014 

There are also dangers. Almost all loans provide that a missed payment is a default, triggering an acceleration clause that will require immediate repayment in full. Most of the loan agreements provide that any missed payment to any lender will trigger an acceleration clause. Some even contain language defining a default as a downgrade in credit status.

GASB 88 makes no attempt to ban this private debt, but does requires more transparency. Lease rental debt is excluded, but the $38 million debt to Kriger must be identified. In addition, the county must note the provisions that could trigger additional penalties or a default. This financing scheme could end up hurting the County's bond rating.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day: Remember the Young Dead Soldiers

We're a strange bunch. We look forward to Memorial Day as an extra day off from work, a time for picnics and the start of summer. We say "Happy Memorial Day" to each other from the Jersey shore Few of us take the time to think of, to say nothing of honoring, those who have offered their lives for a freedom we take for granted.

It's always been that way. Even during the Revolutionary War, which started with the Boston Massacre, there was little public regard for those who put themselves in harm's way and lost their lives.

“Good God, are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their Liberties?” asked Benedict Arnold, who ultimately sold out in bitterness as much as greed.

The very first American to give his life in the cause of liberty was Crispus Attucks. His father was an African-American slave. His mother was a Natick, who were called the "Praying Indians." Little is known about Crispus. But his and the lives of so many who made the ultimate sacrifice are summed up in the immortal words of Archibald MacLeish.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

First published Memorial Day, 2016

Friday, May 25, 2018

What Is It About Bethlehem?

I recently had a conversation with a journalist who is writing a book about counties that voted for Obama and Trump. Obviously, he's quite interested in Northampton County. That's a topic for some other day. What is the topic is something he told me that I wanted to share. In the course of his travels throughout this region, he's noticed that cities like Wilkes-Barre look terrible. From the buildings to the people walking the streets, there's a real sense of malaise. He's noticed that, outside the circle and moving west, Easton looks pretty bad. The same is true in Allentown, outside of its Neighborhood Improvement Zone. But Bethlehem looks pretty good. Even in its rougher sections, he noticed that homes are well maintained and that there are businesses every few blocks. Why? What does Bethlehem have that Easton and Allentown lack. I'll tell you what I and a few other people think. In the comments, you can tell me what you think or if you even agree with this journalist's observation.

I believe Bethlehem is fortunate and is somewhat better than the other two cities in the Lehigh Valley because it had better leadership. When the steel mill went tets up and the City's tax base evaporated, Mayor Don Cunningham gave City residents hope and almost immediately began to bring in other businesses. Mayor John Callahan continued this rebirth with the Sands Casino. I also credit city leaders for listening to three pioneers: Jeff Parks, who had this ridiculous notion that encouraging the arts would lead to economic development; Tony Hanna, who spearheaded the redevelopment of Bethlehem's south side; and Alan Jennings, whose programs were very successful in the City.

Mayor Donchez said that business leaders also played a role, and said that the City pays attention to the little things  It has a strong Zoning Hearing Board that denied variances for conversions when Allentown was handing out variances like candy back in the '80s. Earlier this week, it denied a variance for an electronic billboard on the Hill-to-Hill bridge. He also believes city officials really try to listen to the public and to each other.

Tony Hanna told me that, in the early '60s, Bethlehem established its first central historic district. The result is that some of the City's most valuable homes border the Main Street shopping district. It is one of the most picturesque Main Streets in the county. In Easton, you have to go to College Hill. In Allentown, you have to go to the west end.

Tony also credited the late Gordie Mowrer, known as The Main Street Mayor. Mowrer rebelled against “urban renewal” going on everywhere else. It was premised on tearing down buildings and replacing them with something more “modern.” Historic downtown Bethlehem, with its specialty shops along Main Street, would have been bulldozed for big department stores. Mowrer reversed that trend. “There’s only one thing Bethlehem has to sell, and that is its history,” he said.

One other point. Bethlehem tends to be realistic about itself. In Easton and Allentown, mayors have traditionally been treated like gods,with a little help from the local newspapers. Bethlehem has never had this kind of reverence for its top officials. It instead has Complainers of Bethlehem

Boys' Hoops: Summer League at Cedar Beach Finally Here

This is my favorite time of year. School years are ending. The sun stays out longer every day. And Allentown Boys Summer League is finally in full swing at Cedar Beach Park. Just about every local high school participates. It's a great opportunity for younger players to showcase their skills. Coaches are more relaxed and willing to experiment. Games are played on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a running clock. If it rains, they play indoors. Otherwise, it's outside. Street ball, with four games every hour, starting at 6 pm. Games will continue until the end of July. Along the way, the Atown Throwdown will be played. I missed the earlier games this week, but finally got a chance to watch teams play tonight.

My grandson Dat is a graduating senior (I hope) and was studying for two finals, as were the rest of the departing seniors. So they were unable to watch Allentown Central Catholic (ACCHS) take on cross-town rival Allen. They missed a helluva' game. Allen is known for its tall and athletic players, while the Vikings combine fierce defense and an amazing ability to hit from downtown. But this year, Chad "X-Factor) Kratzer has added a new wrinkle, an ability to drive inside.

Allen jumped to an early lead, but thanks to aggressive defense, ACCHS soon turned things around and seemed to have the game in hand. Nick Filchner and Kratzer were both scoring at will, and Sammy Vaughan picked up right where his brother left off as the team's field general. But the Canaries made adjustments,and with just two minutes left in the second half, had a on-point lead and were tearing down the court with the ball.

But not for long. a Viking managed to knock the ball loose and both he and a Canary (I'm sorry but I never got his name) both dove right onto the macadam in a battle for possession. The Central appeared to have it when the Allen player swung his arm and appeared to punch the Central dude, though he was really going for the ball. By this time another Allen player dove onto the pile as well, and the Viking took a swing, too.

The refs were on top of this nearly immediately, although it may heave taken a second or two to separate the players.

Imagine that's your son on the ground and it looks as though he's getting pounded by two Allen players. What would you do?

As hard as it might be, the best thing to do is let the officials sort it out. That's why they're there. But the player's Dad, a former basketball standout who is himself about 18' tall, started yelling and ran onto the court. A Central player actually pushed him off. But it was too late. At this point, Allen and Central fans were upset and began yelling at each other. Fortunately, they were mostly old farts.

In case you are wondering, I declined to join in the festivities.

I was too busy laughing.

Both Allen and Central fans said some ugly things to each other, which I'm sure embarrassed both coaches. The Dad was really just concerned about his son's well being, and I'll give him credit for refusing to participate in some of the ugliness, which did not come from any of the parents on either team.

In any event, Central was hit with a foul and a double technical.

ACCHS Coach Dennis Csensits did the sensible thing and threw in the towel rather than witness what could have turned into a donnybrook. Both coaches made sure their players shook hands.

After the game, I watched as fighting Viking picked pieces of macadam out of his elbow. Then I saw his dad.

"You're 0-1," I said.

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 Bushkill Park System

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.