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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, December 13, 2019

ES&S: Problems With Express Vote XL Result of Human Error

Adam Carbullido, ES&S Senior VP
At a news conference yesterday and again during a presentation to  Northampton County Council later in the day, ES&S Senior VP Adam Carbullido fell on the sword and took responsibility for all the problems that occurred in the rollout of the Express Vote XL on Election Day. He blamed human error. Express Vote XLs were configured improperly at the factory, making as many as 30% of the 320 machines too sensitive. In addition, an untested ballot layout technique was used, creating false results in cross-filed races. Finally, ES&S failed to provide the correct guidance in the logic and accuracy testing done on the machines before they were sealed and put into circulation.

"I want to apologize to the administration, county officials, elections staff, elections administrators and most importantly, voters," said Carbullido. What happened on Election Day is "completely unacceptable."

While waiting for an impound order on the machines to be lifted, ES&S created an "all hands on deck" team and began running tests on machines at their home base in Omaha, using the same configuration and ballot layout used in Northampton County. When the Order was lifted, tests on the machines led to the conclusions reached.

The fix? All machines will be properly configured before the next election. The small boxes marked with an "x" will be eliminated. Tha ballot layput technique will never be used again. The logic and accuracy testing will be strengthened.

"These are human errors and we own that," said Carbullido. "These issues will never occur again," he promised.

Council member Tara Zrinski asked how the County could be sure that another human error would result in no additional problems. Carbullido explained that the work done by one person will be checked by another.

In addition to the improvements by ES&S, which will be done at its own expense, Executive Lamont McClure said he would be presenting a plan for next year'selection to deal with long lines and other voter inconveniences. McClure said he "couldn't be more sorry" about what happened, but reminded everyone that the election was still "accurate, fair and legal."

Elections Commission member Deb Hunter, who opposed the Express Vote XL, said the County needs to address the lack of a permanent director of elections as well as machine custodian. She also said poll workers need better training.

Sandy Werner, who is married to Council member Bob Werner and who has previously been critical of both ES&S and the Express Vote XL, was incredulous about the improper configuration. "If I buy a microwave for $150, I expect all the functions to work when I plug it in at home," she complained. "I don't expect a few of them to work."

"Who will win next year's election?" asked Ms. Werner.  "ES&S. $2.8 million and not much to show for it."

A Boy's Best Friend

On Monday, I told you about Suki, my grandson's dog. After she collapsed on Sunday and a trip to the emergency vet, we learned that her heart was simply too big and that she was dying of congestive heart failure. We were given medicine to make it easier for her to breathe, and had an appointment to see the vet today. But she won't be there. She passed away yesterday afternoon.

Suki was a Jackapoo, the Captain Danger of designer dogs. She was the sweetest dog I ever saw. I got her for Dat 13 years ago, and she adored him. I loved watching them play. If it was baseball, she'd shag the balls, even though they barely fit into her mouth. She got so used to going after baseballs that she once ran out into the field during a Lehigh U game and stole a baseball.

When Dat played football, she had to get in on that action, too. Dat would announce "Down," and she would assume the linebacker position. Then Dat, who actually was a very fast running back would call out signals and snap the ball to himself. Once he did that, no matter how fast he ran, she'd get him. She was never content until she pulled his pants down.

Unfortunately, she was a terrible basketball player. Couldn't dunk.

She was very mischievous. She loved to quarrel with skunks, and once took off on an adventure that had us looking for her for three days.

She was good for me, too. I would dog sit at times over the summer, and she inspired me to start exercising at least twice. In the summer of 2018, when I was 128 pounds heavier than I am now, it is she who coaxed me into walking again. She'd also give me a look of complete disgust as I struggled to keep up with her.

This past summer, it is she who struggled to keep up with me. I thought her age might be catching up to her. Then, when I received word from Dat that she collapsed one hot July day, I thought it must be the heat or that she just tripped. Then came a second report, and once again, I assumed it was the heat. When she collapsed a third time on Sunday, it was time to see the vet.

Though the medicine made it easier for her to breathe, her energy and passion for life seemed to be gone.

We had kept Dat in the dark because he was taking exams. But his mom visited him on campus yesterday, after he had taken his last exam, and brought Suki to see her pal. Suki was thrilled and was her old self. After filling Dat in on the situation, Suki and his mom returned home. As soon as she got back, Suki let go and is now gone.

It seems that she had kept herself alive just to see her best friend one last time.

I said good-bye to her at the vet. She was finally at peace.

Thanks to those of you who emailed and messaged me.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Express Vote XL Vendor to Explain What Went Wrong in Nov Election

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, along with representatives for the Express Vote XL voting system, have scheduled a news conference at 1 pm today to discuss arising significant issues during the rollout of this $2.9 million hybrid touch screen and paper ballot system. Some voters complained they had difficulties making choices in the retention race. More importantly, at the end of the night, when the polls closed, most of the printouts showed that Democratic judicial candidate Abe Kassis had zero votes. A scan of the paper ballots, conducted election night and into the early morning hours, showed that Kassis had actually won.

The Express Vote XL voting system is a product of Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), a wholly owned subsidiary of The McCarthy Group. It is the largest manufacturer of voting systems in the United States, including paper ballot systems like the one used in Lehigh County. ES&S Senior VP Adam Carbullido will be at the news conference, and both he and McClure will report their findings to County Council later that day.

How Did Northampton County Get The Express Vote XL?

You can blame failed Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, along with Governor Tom Wolf. In 2016, she filed a bizarre lawsuit demanding a recount and attacking the various systems used to count votes throughout the state. Judge Paul S. Diamond gutted most of the suit, noting that Stein had presented "no authority recognizing a right to have one’s vote verified through any procedure," let alone paper ballots. He also said Stein's fear of vote tampering in “borders on the irrational.”

Though her lawsuit was on life support, Governor Tom Wolf nevertheless settled. He commanded all 67 counties, in late 2018 unfunded mandate, to acquire voting systems that include voter-verifiable paper ballots. What's more, they had to be in place in time for the 2020 presidential election. No consideration was given to the logistics of such a demand or the financial burden it imposed on counties.

The Express Vote XL was the choice of the vast majority of about 30 election judges who viewed four different systems in Lehigh County. It was the choice of Northampton County's Election Commission, who recommended it to Northampton County Council by a 3-2 vote on March 6, following a contentious meeting pitting election judges against paper ballot purists.

Arguing in favor of The Express Vote XL was GOP Chair Lee Snover. "We're not a third world country," she assserted. "We have technology for a reason. I don't want anyone determining the intent of my vote except for me and the machine."

Before accepting this recommendation, Northampton County Council waited to see how the system performed in Delaware's primary. Council finally approved the purchase on May 16 after the system received a glowing recommendation from Delaware election officials.

Numerous election judges and poll workers spoke in support of the new system. They argued it would be familiar to voters and present none of the privacy concerns or multiple lines that would accompany paper ballots.

In addition to election judges, Elections Commissioner Maude Hornick said she supported ExpressVote XL because she wants no election official to decide how she intended to vote.

Trudy Fatzinger, Secretary of Pennsylvania Council for the Blind, reported that ExpressVote XL is handicapped-friendly. This was a selling point to Executive Lamont McClure, who observed that 25% of Pennsylvania's registered voters have some form of disability.

The sole dissenter was lameduck Robert Werner, who argued illogically that because an old touchscreen voting machine could be reversed engineered, it necessarily follows that the Express Vote XL would be vulnerable, too. This is what is known in logic class as a fallacy.

Why Did It Take So Long To Find Out What Went Wrong?

Immediately after the election, a court order impounded the voting system in anticipation of a possible challenge. So ES&S was unable to look at the system until November 26, the last day on which a challenge could be filed. The company was legally unable to look at the machines until late November.

Questions to Be Answered at News Conference

1) What did voters have issues using the touchscreen, and how is this being resolved?

2) Why did the printed returns contain incorrect vote totals, and how is this being resolved?

3) Why were these glaring errors missed in the "logic and accuracy" testing done on each machine prior to an election, and what steps are being taken to ensure that these kinds of mistakes are caught before an election?

4) What is the County doing to ensure the Presidential election runs as smoothly as is possible?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

HS Hoops: The ACCHS Chain Gang?

Coach Andy Weaver
Last night, Allentown Central Catholic Boys' Basketball team defeated the Nazareth Blue Eagles, in Nazareth, by a lop-sided 64-46 score. I want to tell you about the game, but before I do, I have to confess I really miss high school hoops and the contagious excitement during a game,

Most of the games I attend now are college games. Although the athleticism is much higher than at the high school level, there's no real enthusiasm until the final games of the season. You'd think a 30-second shot clock would spark everyone, but colleges level refs are much more likely to call fouls. This slows things down. Moreover, unless they are playing themselves, college students are unlikely to attend because they are preparing for their futures. This week, most colleges have no games at all. Instead, students are taking their finals. So last night was a perfect opportunity for me to watch Allentown Central Catholic Boys' Basketball team take on the Nazareth Blue Eagles in Nazareth. What a difference!

The price was great. Senior citizens, aka old farts, get in for free.But I still made it a point to talk to Coach Andy Weaver, who is the official ticket taker. He proudly showed me the gold medal he received when the Blue Eagle football team won a district championship. He was also operating with a brand, spankin' new wheelchair, thanks in large part to one of my readers.

When I arrived, the JV game was in its closing minutes. The Blue Eagles managed to win by six, but the score mattered little to me. What impressed me was the enthusiasm shown by players from both sides. The bleachers were full, too, with lots of roaring fans.

I felt a little guilty about being there without paying, so when three little brats came by to sell 50-50 tickets, I spent $5 to buy 6. So did a friend of mine who came all the way from the western portion of the Lehigh Valley just to watch the kids play. Like me, he's a senior citizen. Like me, he bought six tickets for $5. Unlike me, he's a terrible Hearts' player. But I go to his house because his wife is a superior cook and is nice to me.

Now whenever I go to a game, I usually buy 50-50 tickets. Not out of guilt but greed. I've never won. In fact, I'm pretty sure the fix is in. After all, this is Nazareth  Get this. My friend made the mistake of entrusting his six tickets to me, a disbarred lawyer, when he hit the can at halftime. That's when the number was called. This meant I had 12 tickets and was bound to win. I would just tell my friend, who is barely competent, that he lost. On top of this, the little juvenile delinquents who sold me my tickets assured me I was a winner.

I lost.

The winning number probably went to ex-Mayor Carl Strye, who is no longer on ARD for skimming gaming machines at the Vig and now intends to run for Mayor.

The ACCHS Chain Gang
I tried to have the little brats arrested but they conveniently disappeared.

No wonder people want a curfew in Nazareth.

Before the game got underway, the teams come out and warm up, doing drills and shaking hands as hip hop music echoes throughout the gym. The Blue Eagles looked very sleek. But I did a double and triple take when the Vikings ran into the gym.

They have new warm-up uniforms, and they all look like they just escaped from a state penitentiary. They are a frickin' chain gang.Well, they are from Allentown. Whoever decided on that as a warm-up uniform should be excommunicated. Seriously.

As for the game, all I can say is Central is back, baby. The team dominated in an away game against the very talented Blue Eagles.

You can never count Nazareth out. One regular told me that he witnessed a game, many moons ago, in which the Vikings had a 50-point lead ... and lost. But last night, no lead was squandered. After a close first quarter, 6'7" Senior Nick "the gentle giant" Filchner exploded in the second with 10 points, including two treys. At the end of the first half, Central was up, 34-20. The Vikings kept it up in the second, and finished the night with a lop-sided 64-46 victory.

Filchner finished the night with 21, and was 7-7 in free throws. Liam "the Irishman" Joyce  had 11, and was great under the boards. Other scorers included Andrew Csentsis (8), Thomas Tyson (8), Leroy Johnson (6), Christian Spugnardi (4), Aidan Burmeister (3), Brendan Reed (2) and Colby Faust.

The team scored 8 three-pointers, and was 14-22 on the line.

Nazareth's lead scorer was 6'10" Senior Zach Umar, who wants to major in Accounting. He scored 15, including two treys. Other scorers included Anthony Harris (6), Latif Elam (6), Ryan Kressge (6), Chris Bonser-Santos (4), Dan Novak (2), Andrew Stapert (2), Ben Houchin (2), Joseph Adames (2) andMatt Bugbee (1).

The team scored 5 treys, and was 6 for 9 in free throws.

The ACCHS Chain Gang will be hosted by Parkland Thursday night, while Nazareth visits Whitehall.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Voting Machine Lawsuit - State Must Answer Stein By Thursday

Jill Stein, the Green Party's 2016 Presidential candidate, in late November asked a federal court to ban the use of The Express Vote XL voting system, was used in November's election in Philadelphia and Northampton County. Cumberland County, which also bought this system, plans to roll it out next year. Judge Paul S Diamond has ordered the state to answer her latest demands by Thursday.

Stein, along with paper ballot purists, maintains the Express Vote XL fails to provide voter verifiable paper ballots and thus violates a settlement agreement with Pennsylvania. Under that deal, the state ordered all counties to have new voting systems with voter verifiable paper ballots in time for the 2020 election.

I never understood why the state settled Stein's frivolous suit. Judge Diamond, in a 2018 Order, had already dismissed most of her case. It was on life support.

Judge Diamond has already pointed out that there is "no authority recognizing a right to have one’s vote verified through any procedure," let alone paper ballots. He also observes that Stein's the fear of vote tampering in “borders on the irrational.”

This is hardly the language a judge uses if he finds an argument persuasive.

In addition, Stein has an extensive history of 20 frivolous election lawsuits in the federal system.

Is Trump Really Ahead in Pa?

Keystone Report, a Pennsylvania-based version of The Drudge Report, is touting a poll showing Donald Trump leads all Democratic hopefuls here in Pa, including Joe Biden. He's leads in Wisconsin and Michigan, too. This poll, the product of Firehouse Strategies and Optimus, has been picked up by numerous unquestioning news sources. But I have reservations.

Without question, this could be an accurate reflection of three battleground states. It is nevertheless important to note that Firehouse Strategies was founded in 2016 by GOP strategists.

The methodology used in this poll, conducted December 3-5, consists of interviews with 1,759 likely 2020 general election voters in Wisconsin (N = 610), Michigan (N = 551), and Pennsylvania (N = 598.) These were via live landline, live cellphone and peer to peer text message to web. The margin of error is reported as +/- 4.1% in Wis., ± 4.3% in Mich., and ± 4.3% in Pa.

A 538 analysis of 15 polls conducted by Firehouse-Optimus gives this GOP-leaning pollster a C/D rating and notes a Republican bias. But in fairness, an earlier poll in September showed Trump behind in the three battleground states.

Whether the poll is accurate or not, it's a pretty clear reflection of GOP strategy. The overall popular vote is meaningless. What matters are votes in the Electoral College, and that is why the battleground states are so important.

This explains why both Trump and VP Pence will be in Hershey today.

Monday, December 09, 2019

My Sunday

Sunday is the day I begin developing most of my stories for the coming week. I owe some people some calls, but they will have to wait. I spent most of the day at an animal hospital with a very sick dog suffering from congestive heart failure. She's been supplied with some medications to help delay the inevitable. She has been having trouble breathing and collapsed yesterday. The vet said she has both a murmur and arrhythmia.

This is why I am starting the week with only one story.

Ironically, I have a murmur and arrhythmia myself, and since my 40s. As most of you know, we bottom-feeding bloggers have no need for useless appendages like a heart. But unlike me, this dog is a sweetie. I hope she's around for a few more years.

A Jewish James Bond?

Hakol, "The Voice of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Community," is a monthly publication of the LV Jewish Federation. It's an excellent newspaper, and it enlightens me on issues troubling Lehigh Valley's Jewish community. I can safely say they are scared. And for good reason. In 2018, The Tree of Life Massacre in nearby Pittsburgh claimed the lives of 11 Jews and wounded another 7 who were simply participating in morning services. Whether it's aimed at Jews, Muslims or any other group, hate is unfortunately all too real. So much so that Jewish Federation is sponsoring a security app.

This app, called Bond, is a free service LV residents can load on their smart phones. It can connect you with a security agent in uncomfortable situations This agent can track you, stay online with you, notify a car to come get you or alert authorities.It even can activate a siren and alarms in dangerous situations, which might make an attacker hesitate.

The Bond founder is a The Bond founder/CEO is a former deputy chief in the IDF and the engineering team is based in Israel.

If you'd like to know more, check out www.ourbond.com.

It saddens me that something like this is necessary, but it probably is.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Party Chairs Unite to Seek Independent Analysis of November's Election

The Chairs of both Republican and Democratic Party, Lee Snover and Matt Munsey, appeared together at last night's Northampton County Council meeting to seek an "independent" study of what went wrong in November's election. "Wouldn't that help people have confidence going into 2020?" asked Munsey. Snover thinks so, and told Council it would "reassure Lehigh Valley citizens."

They had a name, too. Dr. Duncan Buell, a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The University of South Carolina. According to Snover, Dr. Buell could do his analysis without examining the county's voting machines, is willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement and would work for free.

Dr. Buell previously sent an email to County Council, but Snover stated he received no reply.

There is some question about just how "independent" Dr. Buell would be, given that he's involved in former Presidential pretender Jill Stein's lawsuit against the state, seeking a decertification of the Express Vote XL voting system used in Northampton County.

Though he failed to address the request of both party chairs, Executive Lamont McClure told Council that ES&S, manufacturer of the ExpressVote XL, will be on hand at the next Council meeting to explain what went wrong and how hey are making sure it never happens again.

NorCo Council Approves No-Tax-Hike Budget for 2020

Exec Lamont McClure (L) and Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron with 2020 Budget
Northampton County property owners will see no county tax hike next year. By an 8-1 vote, County Council voted last night to adopt his $445 million spending plan for 2020. The tax rate will remain 11.8 mills, where it's been for the past five years. A home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill next year for $885.

This is McClure's second budget as County Executive, and the second time he's held the line on taxes.

“A no tax increase budget for a second year in a row is an accomplishment Council can be proud of," McClure said in a news release issued immediately after the budget was adopted. "We’ve cut the budget nearly 6% without reducing vital services. We are investing $3 million to preserve farmland, environmentally sensitive land and investing in parks. In our fight against warehouse proliferation our administration has already invested $6 million. Finally, we are keeping our commitment to maintain Gracedale as a County-owned-and-operated facility and, once again, Gracedale will not require any money from the County’s general fund to operate.”

It may require no County contribution, but Gracedale is operating with a structural deficit, argued Council member John Cusick, the lone dissenter. He also objected to the inconsistent way the county manages hotel tax grants, but was strongly opposed to a 9.2% payhike for Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King.

Under the adopted budget, her wages will jump from $102,291 to $111,704. Cusick said this is "insulting" to other Gracedale workers who will see three per cent raises or less. He added that Gracedale's rating remains unchanged and its census may be dropping.

Executive McClure countered that Stewart-King is actually underpaid compared to Administrators at nearby nursing homes, who are paid salaries ranging from $132,000 to $175,000. "We don't want to lose her, argued Council member Bill McGee. Council member Kevin Lott added that Stewart-King "came up through the ranks." Finally, Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner noted that Stewart-King has brought about positive changes at Gracedale, including electronic health records, and is turning morale around. She agreed that Gracedale's rating remains unchanged, but that's because the county nursing home will accept anyone. "We will not turn people away," she said.

Budget Administrator Doran J Hamann
Joining Cusick in opposing this payraise were Council members Matt Dietz and Bob Werner, though they later voted for the budget.

McClure is spending 5.6% less than he did last year. Part of the reason for that is because the county is no longer paying a triple net lease for its human services building, located in Bethlehem Tp. It now owns it. In addition, thanks to a refunding of county bonds, the annual debt service has dropped.

Though spending has been reduced, McClure wants to spend $2.6 million of the county's reserve, or rainy day, fund. This is to help pay for new voting machines mandated by Governor Tom Wolf's Department of State. The state is expected to reimburse the county around 60% of the cost.

McClure added the budget fully funds a "disastrous public private partnership" for the repair or replacement of 27 bridges. The private contractor has missed several milestone markers and the Executive anticipates "much debate and discussion" next year over what appears o be a stalled project.

The budget also includes a 2.5% raise for its career service, or nonunion workers. Union workers are paid in accordance with separate contracts, and most bargaining units will see a 2% raise next year.

This is the last budget prepared by Budget Administrator Doran J Hamann. This Lehigh University MBA retired in November after 40 years of service to Northampton County. He was nevertheless at last night's meeting as well as the budget hearings preceding the final vote.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Gov Wolf's Edict Resulted in Election Problems in Six Pa. Counties

In 2016, former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who incidentally lives in Massachusetts, sued Pennsylvania in federal court over its "national disgrace" of an election system. Though the state's 67 counties were using a large variety of different systems, she nevertheless blasted them all as "vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology."  Rather than fight Stein's frivolous lawsuit, Governor Tom "Neville Chamberlain" Wolf appeased her.  He ordered all counties to replace existing systems with "new modern machines" that include a voter verifiable paper trail. Although he provided no money,  his edict declared these new systems had to be in place before the 2020 Presidential election. Dauphin County thumbed its nose at Wolf, but 46 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including Northampton County, used these new systems in November's just-held election. We all know Northampton County's experience was a disaster. But there were problems in five other counties as well. It appears that problems with new systems applied to paper ballots as well.

York County - York used the Dominion Image Cast Precinct (scanner) and Image Cast X ballot marking device. According to the state, York had the largest number of complaints throughout the state. Voters reported getting wrong-sized ballots and the county failed to provide enough scanners, which resulted in long lines. Some scanners would only read the first page of a two-page ballot. Voters began placing their ballots in a ballot box instead of using the scanner. In one township, the ballots were carried to the courthouse in a suitcase.  Results were not posted until two days after the election.

Carbon County - This County received its new system just a month before the election, the same paper ballot system used in York County.Voters used Sharpies with a two-sided ballot, leading to concerns that marks would bleed from one page to the next. On election night, the original count was 14,007 ballots. The next day, it was 24,334 votes. This is because the paper ballot scanners had a software glitch in which election results in some precincts were not added. Carbon County had to recount every vote by hand, and its official results were not reported until 17 days after the election.

Montgomery County - This County also used the Dominion system. Though I am unaware of any major issues in November's election, the Spring Primary was a disaster. Voters had to stand in three lines: check-in, filling out ballot and scanning. Poll workers began scanning ballots, compromising privacy. There were too few scanners.

Monroe County - Used the Clear Ballot paper ballot favored by some members of the Elections .
Commission. There were privacy concerns and scanner issues because paper ballots were incorrectly cut   

Lehigh County. - One candidate was accidentally left off the ballot. Poll workers had difficulty turning machines on and had to hand out provisional ballots. Voters also expressed privacy concerns. 

Whether it was Express Vote XL that Northampton County used or the paper ballots, there were problems using a new system to address a nonexistent problem.

To make matters worse, Jill Stein has sued again. Though her complaint now is just as frivolous as the original, I have to wonder how Governor Woolf will appease her this time.

NorCo Budget Hearing Still Not Online

On December 3, Northampton County Council conducted its final budget hearing for next year's spending plan. I attended part of the meeting but had to leave just as Council began an interesting discussion concerning a 9.2% payhike proposed for Gracedale's Administrator. I figured I could watch the video and report to you. But when I checked later that night, there was no video except for about a minute's worth of video before the meeting. 

Yesterday, I was assured the video was online and could be seen. This turned out to be untrue. 

When I ran into the same problem earlier this year (it was still Winter), I was told a new system would be in place very soon. The IT commander told about a month ago it would be in place in two weeks.  But I learned the IT department is now saying February.

This is rather strange from an administration that prides itself on transparency. Tiny communities like West Easton and Emmaus have no problems posting video. Bethlehem and Easton do it via Youtube. Yet the County is paying an arm and a leg for a touchy system that just failed to capture one of the most consequential meetings of the year

This is good news for Council members like Bob Werner and Tara Zrinski, who never use their mikes. It is good news for a government that wants to make it difficult for you to know what is going on, except for what it spoonfeeds you. It's bad news for citizens who want to see their government in action.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Police Seek Missing Autistic Male

From CRPD: The Colonial Regional Police need the public's assistance in locating a missing and endangered person.

Police are attempting to located a 21 year old black autistic male who resides on Susan Drive in the Pointe North section of Hanover Township.

The individual is 5'6' tall; 175 lbs.; short black hair; brown eyes, mustache; dark marks on forehead and may be wearing glasses.

Last seen wearing a blue puffy jacket, Eagles Jersey, black sweat pants, and an Eagles green and gray knit cap. He likes coffee and hanging out at Wawa. 
If seen/located, please contact the 911 Center (DIAL 911) immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this matter

McClure Wants Payraises For Some Administrators

Although the video failed, I know Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure asked County Council last night to approve payraises for three county administrators.
- Director of Fiscal Affairs Steve Barron. His salary will increase from $97,886 to $102,291.
- Director of Human Services Sue Wandalowski. Her salary will also increase from $97,886 to $102,291.
- Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King. Her pay is slated to jump from $102,291 to $111,704.

For their part, County Council voiced no objection to the raises proposed for Barron and Wandalowski. Barron, in particular, has saved the County several hundred thousand dollars in debt service. Moreover, he was the person who found a way to leverage the county's money with the state so that it could both purchase the Centralized Human Services Building while starting on a much-needed forensic center. Wandalowski has been spearheading an effort to cut the county off from state civil service so it can hire caseworkers much more quickly. 

County Council member John Cusick objected, however to the proposed pay increase for Gracedale's Administrator. He pointed out that Gracedale's rating has failed to increase and argued it is "insulting" to give her a 9.2% increase in comparison to what is being paid to the Gracedale workers. Cusick was countered with the argument that Stewart-King is actually woefully underpaid in comparison to the salaries of other nursing home administrators.

I will bring you the details of this discussion when and if the County Council video from last night surfaces.

NorCo's IT Department Fails in Yet Another Council Video

Last night, Northampton County Council  conducted its final budget hearing before deciding on next year's spending plan. In what is becoming a common place problem, the video failed.This has happened several ties over the last year. I've been told enhancements to the system would be in place soon.That was about six months ago. This IT provider is simply failing to service the county and its residents.

Evicted at DeSales!

My grandson is a sophomore at DeSales and lives on campus this year. He loves it there, but was evicted from his dorm yesterday. So was everyone else in the building. Did they all forget to pay their rent? No, what happened is that a student carrying a chair accidentally knocked into the fire sprinkler system. It works. It works so well that the entire building was flooded out and it will be a few days before students can return. In the meantime, the University is renting out hotel rooms. My grandson and many other students, however, are just doubling up with friends.

Probably female friends.

The reason I tell this story is to share my own experience with the fire sprinkler system at Northampton County's Recorder of Deeds.

Back in the day, long before computers were de riguer, the Recorder's Office was backed with books going all the way back to 1752, when Northampton County was carved out of Bucks County in some kind of power play against the Quakers. In addition to all those musty books, there were plenty of ash trays, and cigarette smoke wafted through the air. You can still smell the smoke in some of the books.

Protecting these treasures was a gigantic ball, hanging from the ceiling, ostensibly full of some kind of fire suppressant. Nobody thought the damn thing worked. 

One day, a searcher (now deceased) insisted the ball is inoperable and said he'd prove it. He lit yup an entire pack of matches and stuck it right under the sprinkler.

It went off. Boy did it go off. But instead of water,it shot out some kind of gas. Not the kind of gas that comes after lunch, but still pretty noxious. It was so bad that Ann Achatz, who then was only a clerk in that office, fainted. Tom Castellano, heartthrob of all the women there, picked Ann up in his arms and carried her off to safety.

To this day, she credits him with saving her life.

I stayed. I liked the smell.    

Nazareth To Consider Curfew Next Year

I missed last night's Nazareth Borough Council meeting after being assured there would be no action taken on a proposed curfew for minors. I had conflicts. I am nonetheless happy to report that Nazareth Borough Council, to its credit, took no official action on any measures at last night's meeting to stay in compliance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act I am even happier to report, based on several sources at the meeting, that Borough Council will delay its consideration of a curfew ordinance until January. This is smart. Two members are leaving at the end of the year. Their replacements, who waged campaigns and have spoken to residents, will have a better understanding how they feel.

I did speak to a Borough Council member yesterday. This person tells me that, while the minutes contain very few references to teen crime, this was the subject of several neighborhood block watch meetings.

I also spoke to a resident who supports the curfew, but thinks most teen crime is committed during the day. She states it is in the form of drug sales at Shafer Elementary's park, and learned that piece of information from her own son. I am told this go on in broad daylight, not under cover of darkness.

If she knows this, so do Nazareth police. But as one officer (from another department) told me yesterday, "It is one thing to know about drug sales It is another to prove it."

I remain leery, but am willing to listen to evidence showing there is a rational basis for this significant restriction on the freedom of assembly. My own observations, as a long-time resident, is that these concerns are overblown.

I never thought I would say this, but Nazareth Borough Council did the right thing last night.   

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Nazareth Borough Council's Meeting Tonight Violates Sunshine Act

Nazareth Borough Council was poised to vote Monday night on a large number of items. Though the borough website fails to list its most recent agenda, a no-tax-hike budget for next year would seem to be the entree. A curfew on minors (discussed here yesterday) is a side dish. But that meeting never occurred. Last night's meeting was postponed until tonight at 6 pm. According to the Borough website, "The December 2nd snowfall has caused Council President Daniel Chiavaroli to postpone the Monday, December 2nd Council Business Meeting. Instead, Council will conduct business on Tuesday evening, December 3, 2019 at 6:00 pm at Council Chambers." Tonight's meeting, if conducted, will violate Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act.

Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act was adopted to "insure the right of its citizens to have notice of and the right to attend all meetings of agencies at which any agency business is discussed or acted upon." Thus, all public meetings require public notice. Under state law, Nazareth Borough Council "shall give public notice of each special meeting or each rescheduled regular or special meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the time of the convening of the meeting specified in the notice."

"Public notice" is defined as
(i) Publication of notice of the place, date and time of a meeting in a newspaper of general circulation, as defined by 45 Pa.C.S. § 101 (relating to definitions), which is published and circulated in the political subdivision where the meeting will be held, or in a newspaper of general circulation which has a bona fide paid circulation in the political subdivision equal to or greater than any newspaper published in the political subdivision.
(ii) Posting a notice of the place, date and time of a meeting prominently at the principal office of the agency holding the meeting or at the public building in which the meeting is to be held.
(iii) Giving notice to parties under section 709(c) (relating to public notice).
In this case, Nazareth Borough Council did post a notice of the place, date and time of tonight's meeting at Borough Council chambers. But it failed to advertise the meeting. This renders tonight's meeting unlawful.

Under the Sunshine Act, a rescheduled or special meeting must be advertised at least 24 hours before it occurs. "An agency shall give public notice of each special meeting or each rescheduled regular or special meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the time of the convening of the meeting specified in the notice." There is no obligation to advertise if it is a recessed or reconvened meeting. But this is a meeting that has yet to occur. It is a rescheduled meeting. Hence, it must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance.

I have reviewed legal ads in both Express Times and Morning Call, and there is no advertised public notice of tonight's meeting. It is therefore unlawful.

As Joe Biden might say, "This is a big fuckin' deal!" The reason is because a budget could be adopted. A court, in its discretion, could declare all business transacted at tonight's meeting void. This would include both the curfew and the budget. It could even sanction Borough Council members.

So what should Borough Council do? They plan on honoring several borough luminaries, as well as he Nazareth football team. Neither of these items requires any official action. So they should meet as planned. But after bestowing their good wishes, the meeting needs to be rescheduled so it can be properly advertised.

If Borough Council expects minors to obey the law, it can set the right example by following the law itself. That would be far more meaningful than an ineffective curfew.

Updated 10:15 am: Nazareth to take no official action tonight! - I have been informed Nazareth officials will take no official action tonight. They will reschedule and advertise.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Nazareth Should Impose Curfew on Borough Council, Not Kids

Nazareth is at it again. After being buried for several years in civil rights litigation filed by cops and citizens alike, it is on the brink of doing something bound to inspire even more lawsuits and lawyer bills. Specifically, our borough betters are considering a curfew (read it here) aimed at kids.

According to police, this is the result of unspecified "incidents" during late evening and early morning. That's horseshit. A review if Borough Council minutes, going back to the beginning of the year, shows there's been no public hue and outcry over some dangerous teen menace.  Moreover, aside from trying to sell revolvers in some sweetheart deal and appointing supervisors and investigators, there are no warnings from the police. There was an increase in police activity during one month over the summer, which is to be expected. In short, this curfew is the solution to a nonexistent problem.

If such a curfew were adopted, there is no doubt in my mind it would be arbitrarily enforced against those whose parents have no connections as well as the borough's minority population. In the not-too-distant past, Borough police included an officer who openly admitted he hated black people.

In addition, it would violate a settlement agreement in a civil rights lawsuit under which the Borough agreed to respect the First Amendment rights of citizens, which presumably include this nonexistent teen menace.

Moreover, study after study has shown they are ineffective.

If Borough Council really wanted to eliminate crime, they should start with two members of Council who were placed on first offender programs for theft and corrupt activity. There's even a member whose name is "Crook!"

Council will be discussing this Tuesday night, 7 pm.

Friday, November 29, 2019

I, For One, Support the War on Thanksgiving

The Internet has been having a field day over Donald Trump's claim, made at a Florida rally, that "some people" want to change the name we use for Thanksgiving  Well, before you continue your mockery, one of those people is me. I want to do away with the holiday altogether, not just rename it. My reasons have nothing to do with politics. They have everything to do with my stomach.

I love to eat. The more unhealthy the food, the more I like it. But after losing a shit ton of weight, one of my biggest fears is that I'll put it all back on.  It's a realistic worry, too. My whole adult life, I've been a yo-yo on the scales. So when a holiday dedicated to eating everything in sight comes up, I struggle.

Many of you can get away with eating a little extra now and then. Not me. I can gain five pounds just smelling a good dessert. So it's always tough at this time of year. My problem is that, if I treat myself, I begin to binge. I might hide it at a social gathering, but will stop off somewhere on the way home and eat ten times more than the dessert I politely refused.

I attended a Thanksgiving dinner tonight, and made sure I ate plenty of turkey, about three times as much protein as I usually have. I also had some mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, two dinner rolls and two ounces of cheese. I declined dessert, but stopped at a WaWa on the way home for apple slices and peanut butter. I stayed under my calorie max (barely), and am far from hungry. But seeing and smelling all that food infused me with cravings that I am only getting over now.

As an alcoholic, I was able to stop drinking completely. Once you resign yourself to the fact that one drink is too many and a hundred is never enough, it gets easier by the day to pass up. But we need to eat to live. You can't just swear off food. . 

 I envy those of you who never gain weight and can eat what they want.

Fortunately, I was able to take my mind off food with three games of Hearts. I won all of them, and rather convincingly. I was so good my fellow players have suggested I conduct classes.

So I would replace Thanksgiving with National Hearts Day. No food. Just cards, coffee and sparkling water for me. If the others want to eat and drink, have at it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jill Stein Wants Fed'l Court To Ban Express Vote XL Voting System

Jill Stein, the Green Party's 2016 Presidential candidate, yesterday asked a federal court to ban the use of The Express Vote XL voting system. She claims this system fails to provide voter verifiable paper ballots and thus violates a settlement agreement with Pennsylvania. Under that deal, the state ordered all counties to have new voting systems with voter verifiable paper ballots in time for the 2020 election. Now that three counties have purchased The Express Vote XL and two have used them, Stein sues.

Th Express Vote XL was used in November's election in Philadelphia and Northampton County. Cumberland County, which also bought this system, plans to roll it out next year.

Stein claims that despite a certification on the federal level and two from the state, The Express Vote XL disenfranchises the voter because it uses barcodes, is difficult to see through a plastic screen, and isnot really a paper ballot. 

There is little doubt in my mind that Stein's claim is frivolous. She filed no motions when paper ballot purists unsuccessfully challenged the certification. She stood by as three counties spent millions of taxpayer dollars to comply with Governor Tom Wolf's ill-considered directive. She did nothing as two counties used them in November's election. Her delay in coming forward has certainly prejudiced counties who were acting with the best intentions.

On the merits, her argument about barcodes is sheer nonsense and has been repeatedly rejected. barcodes are used in banks, hospitals and every major business. They are used precisely because they are reliable.

This motion was obviously filed for political effect  and not from any sincere desire to improve our elections.

You can see her motion here

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

(Updated): No Challenge Expected in NorCo Election

Northampton County's November 5 election was an ugly affair, especially if you were any of the three judicial candidates running for one of two open positions. As bad as things were, defeated judicial candidate Vic Scomillio has decided against challenging the results. I believe he's the only candidate who had a legitimate argument, so his nonaction pretty much means that Northampton County's results will be certified.

Updated 11/26, 8 am:: In a much more detailed Morning Call story covering this issue, NorCo GOP party boss Lee Snover tells reporter Riley Yates that the county party had a complaint ready to go, along with 20 affidavits from people concerning specific problems with the ExpressVote XL. Lee Snover's sister,  Maude Hornick, is the sole returning Elections Commissioner. In the interest of ensuring the best possible elections we can have, I would hope the details of this complaint, and especially the affidavits, be shared with the Elections Commission. The exact identity of the affiants is unimportant, but what they say could prevent a repeat.

"No excuse" absentee voting, which will be permitted for the first time in Pa., should help reduce lines at the polling place.

(Originally published 11/25, 1:13 pm)

Joe Biden Will Be a "Hands On" Prez

Joe Biden has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth and say things that make no sense. Some of you think this is a sign he's just too damn old. The reality is that Joe Biden has always had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth and say things that make no sense. So in a debate, he looks bad. But one-on-one, as was recently the case with 60 minutes, he looked and sounded like a statesman. One who, unlike the current occupant of the White House, is willing to laugh at himself.

Hey, if he's good enough for Jennifer Aniston, he's good enough for me.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Trump Coming to Hershey Center

Donald Trump will woo Pennsylvania voters with a visit to Hershey's Giant Center on December 10, 7 pm. It will be his 4th visit to Pa in 2019. Trump won Pa in 2016 by a scant 44,000 votes

DigDeep: 2 M Americans Have No Running Water

DigDeep, a human rights nonprofit, has just released a report concluding that nearly 2 million Americans lack running water. As explained in MarketWatch, "Native Americans are 19 times more likely to lack indoor plumbing than their white counterparts, putting them in the worst spot of any group, and African-American and Latinx households lack indoor plumbing at almost twice the rate of white households ... ."

Judge Panella and the Champ

Superior Court President Judge Jack Panella, along with President Judge Emeritus Susan Gantman, appeared last week the Larry Homes show at Service Electric Cable TV. The topic was the interplay between the three branches of government, with detail about the judicial branch. This tension exists on a local, state and federal levels. It prevents any one branch from becoming dominant.

NorCo Council Approves Municipal Park Grants

At their Thursday night meeting, NorCo Council approved the following municipal park grants:

Bangor - $9,659 for playground equipment at Memorial Park.

Hellertown - $52,575 to replace wooden steps at Dimmick Park with concrete steps, and develop a naturalized swale.

N. Catasaqua - $7,500 for a trail plan for a trail network within the borough.

N. Catasauqua - $8,000 for shade structures at William J Albert Memorial Park. "A shade structure used to be a tree," remarked Council member John Cusick. Several trees had to be removed because of storm damage. These canopies are considered safer, and trees have maintenance costs.

Pen Argyl - $75,000 for concession stand improvements at Weona Park.

Wind Gap - $79,303 for a trail at Wind Gap Park.

Bushkill Stream Conservancy - $50,000 to stabilize Bushkill Creek between Tatamy and Palmer Tp.

Bushkill Tp - $38,635.51 for split rail fence and other improvements (canoe launch) at Albert Ponds Park.

Lower Nazareth Tp - $150,000 for walking trail and bathroom at Newburg Community Park.

Palmer Tp - $106,570 to upgrade a stoneparking lot at Riverview Park, rebuild walking trail and repair softball fields.

Plainfield Tp- $34,797.50 for a pavillion at Municipal Building Park.

All of these grants are matched.

Friday, November 22, 2019

West Easton Constable Arraigned on False Report Charges

West Easton Constable Tricia Mezzacappa was arraigned Thursday for filing false reports with the Pennsylvania State Police. Allentown Attorney John Waldron is representing her, and trial is scheduled for February 3, 2020.

The charges stem from a neighbor dispute in February, during which Mezzacappa claimed to have been accosted by a black gunman, whom she said placed a gun to her head. She told state troopers that she fired on this gunman when he fled. She said he ran into the home of the very neighbor with whom she was arguing moments before. After an extensive investigation involving four or five troopers and lab tests on her pistol, state police concluded Mezzacappa lied to them, and charged her. The charges were sent to county court by Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter in August.

The maximum penalty for a third degree misdemeanor is 6-12 months in jail, along with a $2,500 fine. Mezzacappa can apply for accelerated rehabilitative disposition, but this would depend on both the state police and the person she attempted to frame.

She was acquitted recently after being charged with disorderly conduct after an altercation with her neighbor the day before her preliminary hearing.

Earlier this week, she lost a $12,000 claim she filed against Erie Insurance.

Bethlehem Police Chief Issues Parking Ticket ... To Himself!

Yesterday, I reported on the strange goings on at Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure's fundraiser at Bethlehem's upscale Edge restaurant. While no UFOs were sighted, that's only NorCo Council member Tara Zrinski was elsewhere. Things were still pretty strange.

First, judge-in-waiting John Morganelli was there. He and McClure have been friends for years, so it's understandable John would want to support Lamont. It's still a violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics because it creates an appearance of impropriety completely undermining public confidence in our judicial system. In John's defense, he sought out and obtained an opinion from Judge Ed Reibman, concluding John can basically do whatever the hell he wants until he officially ascends to the judicial heavens. But as I explained to Morganelli yesterday, "Who you gonna' believe, a distinguished Lehigh County jurist or a disbarred lawyer?" The answer is clear.

My second problem concerns one of the guests, who parked his unmarked police car in a "no parking" are on Broad Street because he was too damn lazy to walk from the nearby parking garage. So this morning, I fired off an email to Chief Mark DiLuzio, asking him to dime the scoundrel who thinks he's above the law.

Turns out it was the Chief! Here's what he told me:
"Bernie that is my vehicle. I arrived at the event after it began and left before it was over. I drove from BPD HQ on Church Street to Broad Street and then home. You know my address.*

"You got me. I’m guilty to a parking violation. I will have my Deputy Chief issue me a City parking ticket and I will pay it. Feel free to follow-up with BPA to verify.

"When I learned of your blog article, I notified the Mayor and advised him how I was going to respond to this issue."
I want to take this opportunity to thank Chief DiLuzio for both responding and acknowledging that the law applies to him, too. His action in having a ticket issued to himself demonstrates his own personal integrity and sets a great example.  I wish a certain person in Washington would recognize the law applies to him, too.

*) Lol, I know the Chief's address because I was in his neighborhood when his wife ran for DA, trying to reach a next door neighbor. This person could confirm or deny the existence of a Trump sign on the DeLuzio property.

NorCo Council Names New Election Comm'n

Northampton County Council voted last night to appoint four new members to what should be a very busy Elections Commission next year. Council also re-appointed Maudenia Hornick who has served for the past two years.

The new appointees are Democrats Alan Brau, M.D., Daniel Lopresti, and Gail W Preuninger. The GOP newcomer is Frank L DeVito. He will join fellow Republican Hornick

Under the County's Home Rule Charter, the five-member Elections Commission is made up of members of the two political parties receiving the greatest number of votes in the most recent general election. Three members come from the majority party, and the remaining two come from the minority.

It is the party chairs who provide five recommendations each, from which the Executive makes his nominations. Members of the Elections Commission are unable to hold or seek public office or be officers of their party.

The appointments passed 8-0, with no discussion. A ninth Council member, Matt Dietz, was absent.

Though there was no controversy concerning the new Elections Commission, five citizens stepped forward to express their dissatisfaction over the failure of the Express Vote XL in the most recent election.

Deb Hunter is a member of the existing Elections Commission until the end of this year. She argued that ES&S, which sold the $2.9 million system to the county, violated its contract. "We should get our money back," she asserted. She also called on the County to hire an independent diagnostician to look over ES&S's shoulder when they examine the machines to determine what went wrong. She suggested Elections Office employees be trained in the "logic and accuracy" testing done on each machine. She wondered why Amy Hess, the Acting Registrar since January, is still just an Acting Director. Finally, she urged Council to hire a FT or PT machine custodian, a position that was eliminated in th 2019 Budget.

Hunter's comments were echoed by Gail Preuninger, who will become an Election Commissioner herself in January. Roger Dreisbach Williams said he is encouraging everyone in his community to vote by paper ballot, and urged the County to delay is election count until the Wednesday after the election for some reason. Lorraine Mineo urged the County to hire more poll workers.

Executive McClure, during his report, explained that Amy Hess has done an exceptional job assuming the role of Acting Registrar, but is unable to discuss what has happened publicly because it is a personnel matter.

"We are thinking about everything," he assured those who had suggestions. One decision has already been made. He wants to replace the current paper registration poll books with electronic poll books, which should make it much easier for voters to check in.

"We want to know what happened and what the fix is," he said of vendor ES&S. But he is confident that the election, flawed as it was, was still "legal, fair and accurate."

He indicated members of the Elections office will observe ES&S when it does its analysis. Hunter's suggestion that an independent diagnostician be hired is likely unworkable because the system is proprietary.

Insofar as Hunter's suggestion that Elections Office workers be involved in the "logic and accuracy" testing, they already are involved.

Scheller Campaign Dismisses GOP Rivals

Lisa Scheller is a former Lehigh County Commissioner, Silberline's CEO and a philanthropist. She'dliketobe the Lehigh Valley's next Representative in the U.S. Congress. But before she can square off against incumbent Susan Wild, she faces Republican opposition from perennial candidates Dean Browning and Matt Connolly.

Her campaign spokesperson, Dennis Roddy, disposes of Matt and Dean in three short sentences:

"Neither Matt Connolly nor Dean Browning display Republican values when it comes to taxes. Connolly failed to pay his taxes. Browning voted to raise taxes. As a result of these failings, voters in this region have grown accustomed to rejecting both Matt and Dean."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Jerry Seyfried Re-Appointed to Retirement Board

Jerry and his wife, Julie
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has re-appointed Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried as the retiree representative of the Retirement Board. This Board's basic role is managing the pension funds, but Seyfried successfully lobbied for restoration of at least some of the health benefits retirees currently enjoy. For years, he has also helped organize a semi-annual luncheon for the county's former workers.

Jerry is a former Executive, County Council member and cabinet official. He still carries a dog-eared copy of the Home Rule Charter. He is an excellent archer who spends much of his free time in the outdoors. He told me he'll skip his confirmation tonight because he's in a Hearts tournament at the casino.

Bad Optics at McClure Fundraiser

Last night, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure conduced his annual fundraiser at Bethlehem's swanky Edge Restaurant. Despite what they may tell you, few contributors write out $500 plus checks because they believe in good government. Unions, contractors, engineers and lawyers and county employees go to these things because they want something. It could be as simple as a paycheck or a major contract. Even when there is no quid pro quo, it is still a legalized form of bribery. Unfortunately, it's also an ugly necessity. Most public officials lack the personal resources to wage an effective campaign and have their message heard. Unless you want a government of oligarchs, you have to trust that candidates will do the right thing, which they usually do. Besides, after the election fiasco on November 5, McClure will almost certainly face opposition when he seeks re-election. He may even have a primary opponent. So it's understandable, as ugly as it is. But the bad optics of dunning county employees and vendors for money was made worse by two other things over which McClure has no control.

1) Municipal Vehicle Illegally Parked at McClure Fundraiser

Parked outside The Edge at an expired meter was the municipal vehicle you see above. It's not just any municipal vehicle, but hs been identified by my secret agent as a police car. He knows this because he happens to be a police officer himself. Is it a county or city car? My guess is Bethlehem City, and a top-ranking officer. It's too nice to belong to the County. The license plate number is MG0745L.

I understand it was cold and a little windy last night, but that's no excuse for acting as though you are above the law you should be enforcing. What's more, this public resource was being perverted for partisan political activity.  Actions like this lead to politicians like Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski.

It is my hope that Executive McClure and Mayor Bob Donchez both identify the person who was misusing this public resource and discipline that person.

2) Judge Morganelli Attends Partisan Fundraiser

After noting the illegally parked police car, my spy slipped into the fundraiser to see what was happening.  He was unaware that there was a fundraiser, but knew some sort of event was going on. He noticed several people ponied up at the bar. They included Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio and District Attorney John Morganelli.

Now it's no crime to stop at a bar and hoist a few. But Morganelli is more than the County's District Attoney. He is a judge-elect, and as such, should not have been within 10 miles of a political and partisan fundraiser

Morganelli did more than sit at the bar. He actually attended the event, though he made no contribution.

According to Morganelli, he is neither a judge nor a candidate. He tells me he has sought an ethics opinion, and that Judge Edward Reibman has written one under which Morganelli can continue to raise money and make contributions until he is sworn in.

That sounds nice, but is contrary to Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Ethics, which provides,
"Judges holding an office filled by public election between competing candidates, or a candidate for such office, may, only insofar as permitted by law, attend political gatherings, speak to such gatherings on their own behalf when they are a candidate for election or reelection, or speak on behalf of any judicial candidate for the same office, identify themselves as a member of a political party, and contribute to a political party or organization."
It also provides, "Judges should not engage in any other political activity except on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice."

The notion that Morganelli is free from the Canons simply because he is waiting to be sworn in is simply ridiculous. If a judge-elect is permitted to engage in partisan political activity, this undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

He should have stayed away.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How Hillary Gets Dem Nod

Here's Hillary Clinton's most recent statement on the subject of her running for President:
"I, as I say, never, never, never say never, and I will certainly tell you I am under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it, but as of this moment sitting here in this studio, that is absolutely not in my plans."
In other words, she wants to run.

Here's how it could happen. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden will each win in some primaries, but no one will have the 1,990 pledged delegates going into the Democratic convention in July. So the first ballot will fail to elect a candidate.

In the second ballot, superdelegates will be able to vote. These are party insiders who are pledge to no one. In addition, pledged delegates will be able to vote for whomever they want.

This is where Hillary will work her mischief.

How Much Does a Recount Cost in a Local Race?

In statewide races, recounts are mandatory if a candidate or ballot measure is defeated by less than 0.5% of all votes cast in a race. This statewide rule has no application to local races.

In local races, a recount of ballots is required if three qualified electors in that district file a petition alleging that fraud or error occurred in the tabulation of votes or the marking of election ballots. They have no obligation to specify the fraud or error, but must post $50 for each machine or ballot box to be examined.

Northampton County has 125 polling precincts. Most have two machines. So roughly, we're talking about $12,500. You get the money back if you win.

NorCo Snags $200k From DCNR For Wy-Hit-Tuk Park

Pennsylvania's DCNR on November 14 announced a $200,000 grant to Northampton County for improvements to Wy-Hit-Tuk Park, located along Route 611 in Williams Tp. This will include a comfort station, play equipment, ADA access, landscaping and signage.

"Wy-Hit-Tuk" means "River" in the Native American language of the Lenape, the aboriginal inhabitants of tthis County.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Paul Harvey's "If I Were the Devil"

At church on Sunday, one of my readers was blessed by the preacher with a rendition of Paul Harvey's "If I Were the Devil." His original broadcast of this essay was in 1964, but he updated it a few times, and below is an updated version:

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington ...’

"Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

Yovanovitch: Quiet Steel

On my Friday trip to Oneonta, I had the opportunity to listen to much of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony before the House impeachment committee. I heard the rest in my hotel room. She was both compelling and damning to authoritarians like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It is little wonder that the tweeter-in-chief trashed her as she testified. She is a rare force for honest government in the face of endemic corruption. She was costing them money.

In the end, this is what this is all about. Not politics, but money.

Propublica has teamed up with WNYC  to produce a podcast on the players involved

My Mini-Vacation in Oneonta

Have you ever encountered a retail employee who went way above and beyond what you'd expect? Such was my experience this past weekend. I was in Oneonto, NY, home of the SUNY Red Dragons. DeSales University's Mens' Basketball Team was participating in a four-team tournament. I could say I went to support my grandson and his team, but these little jaunts are mini-vacations to me. OK, but who the hell would want to vacation in Oneonta, you might ask? There's no beach, no nearby casino, no nothing. That's precisely the reason I loved it. It was quiet and relaxed.

The town itself (they call them towns in New York) was full of scenes reminding me of the Christmas classic "It's a wonderful life." As I drove through, I half-expected to see George Bailey or Clarence. In short, it's pretty and clean.

I was also amazed by the courtesy. Here in the Lehigh Valley, motorists flip each other off at the slightest provocation as road rage becomes the new normal. Traffic and big-ass trucks are everywhere, and it's getting to us. If I am waiting at a light posted "No Turn on Red," impatient drivers behind me will now start honking at me. This has never happened before. Drivers also routinely park in spots reserved for those with disabilities.

This rude behavior is by no means limited to how people act once they get behind the wheel. People who live in the Lehigh Valley tend to be self-absorbed little shits. That's the real reason our youth leave. They can't stand us, and who can blame them?

Let me give you an example. During the November 5 election, there were two precincts at my polling place. I asked people what street they lived on as they came in, so I could direct them to the right precinct and minimize their time in line. But even this seemingly inoffensive question was an affront to one voter. He snarled at me, and went on his way.

When the polling place became crowded, and I tried to limited  the number of people coming in, one woman just flat out ignored me, with a few asides that no one tells a woman from New Jersey what to do. . 

I see this when I go on walks. I completely understand why a woman would be reluctant to return a greeting, especially from someone with my stunning good looks. But about half the men I greet pretend they don't see or hear me.

This snobbery, of course, is more prevalent in swankier neighborhoods. I can walk through Easton's west ward at lunch time, and everyone will return my greeting. But as I trespass into more upscale areas, the attitude can sometimes be downright hostile.

"What are you doing here?" is how I was greeted last year by a woman who actually knows me when my walk took me into her neighborhood. No Hello. I felt I had done something wrong.

It's my home, but the Lehigh Valley is pretty much the most unfriendly place I know.

This attitude was nonexistent in Oneonta.

Get this. We all know what it's like to be stuck wanting to make a left turn when the traffic in the other lane is crowded. In Oneonta, people in the opposite lane will actually stop so you can turn. They return greetings when you say "Hi." And yes, shopkeepers actually try to be helpful.

During Friday night's basketball game, I suddenly noticed I could no longer see. One of the lens in the eyeglasses I recently purchased had fallen out, rendering me pretty much blind as a bat. Though I was able to find the lens, there is no way I could see well enough to get a screw back in.

After the game, I went to the Wal-Mart, looking for an eyeglass repair kit. A worker there not only found me the kit, but realizing my dilemma, he actually took the time to screw the lens back in my frame. He also refused to accept a dime. If you want to stop Amazon from taking over the retail industry, this is how.

In addition to Wal-Mart, I visited five local businesses (three eateries, one gym and one bookstore) during my stay. I found this same helpful attitude at them all.

Everyone there was just a little nicer than we are used to seeing. Briefly, it even infected me.

Don't worry. I got better.

There were only two downsides to this mini-vacation. First, it is bone-chilling cold. There are patches of snow on the ground, too. This failed to stop a soccer tournament coinciding with the basketball games. Second, I missed a Friday night card game (we play Hearts) at which I am the undisputed champion. This is against a collection of barely competent players. They claim they are the undisputed champions, too, but have no blog in which to spread lies.

DeSales Mens Basketball must like the cold. It won the two games it played there. The team unfortunately lost its home opener to a talented Muhlenberg team with a penchant for threes. DeSales can boast a 2-1 record going into next Saturday's game (away) against Rosemont.

Friday, November 15, 2019

NorCo Completes Vote Tally; Audit 100% Accurate, Results To Be Tabulated Today

Late this afternoon, Northampton County's canvass board completed its canvass, or official count, of the votes cast during November 5's election. The results will be tabulated by Acting Voting Registrar Amy Hess today. After this, there will be a five-day period in which a petition for a recount or recanvass, The results include some polling precincts that placed their ballot boxes in the wrong bag. It also includes absentee ballots and provisional ballots that were counted.

This process was conducted publicly. Representatives of parties and candidates were welcome, as well as reporters and any person who just wanted to see the laborious process of going through each precinct. I dropped in this afternoon, just as canvassers were counting the provisional ballots. I heard about 300 different pronunciations for Vic Scomillio and Abe Kassis,all from the same person.  At one point, Vic was Scosmellio and Abe was Crassus. He eventually started calling them Vic and Abe.

So far as I can determine, no challenges were filed to any of the individual ballots.

In addition to the canvass, the County conducted an audit of approximately 1,500 ballots from one precinct within each of the four county districts. Thankfully, my precinct escaped scrutiny. The precincts picked were Hellertown Borough 1, Wilson Borough 1, Nazareth Borough 2 and Moore Township Beersville. Voting machine vendor ES&S provided four DS200 precinct ballot scanners, and ballot cards from to be used to hand-feed the ES&S provided four DS200 precinct ballot scanners. ExpressVote XL ballot cards from Election Day were hand-fed into these scanners. The results were a 100% match from with the results on Election Night. In addition, a sample of ballots were scanned again, and the machine operator provided a results tape of the sample for a comparison to the human-readable names printed on the ballot cards. This was also a 100% match.

According to a county news release, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandates that each County audit a minimum of 2% of ballots after an election to verify election results. Northampton County voters cast 57,680 ballots on November 5th requiring an audit of a minimum of 1,200 ballots.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Business Matters To Interview Lead FBI Agent in Fed Ed Takedown

WFMZ-TV69's Business Matters, which features host Tony Iannelli, will be doing a one-on-one interview with retired FBI agent Scott Curtis. He's the G-man who spearheaded a federal investigation into Allentown and Reading corruption, leading to the downfall of both cities' Mayors. The show is being taped December 10, between noon and 1 pm, at The Banana Factory, 315 Columbia St, Bethlehem, Pa.

I will be very interested in what Curtis thinks about the current state of Lehigh Valley government and its players.

Dauphin County to Defy State Order For New Voting Systems

A 2016 lawsuit filed by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein called Pennsylvania's election system a "national disgrace" and the voting machines "vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology." Tom Wolf, the Neville Chamberlain of governors, settled the case by ordering all counties, in February 2018 and through the Department of State, to replace existing systems with "new modern machines" that include a voter verifiable paper trail. They must be in place before the 2020 Presidential election. According to Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, 46 of Pennsylvania;s 67 counties were ready to use these new systems in November's just-held election. Another six counties are taking steps to have them in place next year. But what about the rest? If you're in Dauphin County, the answer to the state in NUTS.

Dauphin County's Republican Board of Commissioners are defying the Department of State.

"There’s an old saying: ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” Commissioner Mike Pries told the Carlisle Sentinel. “Our machines work, they’re fundamentally sound, we trust our machines, you cannot hack our machines.”

Since the state plans to decertify all the older systems on December 31, Dauphin is playing a dangerous game.