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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Pitched in Bethlehem Tp

Abbe Kruger wants marijuana dispensary
at Bethlehem Village Shoppes
A medical marijuana dispensary, to be located at Bethlehem Village Shoppes on Route 191, was pitched to Bethlehem Township Commissioners last night during what is known as a "conditional use" hearing. Attorney Stanley Margle, representing Hayden Gateway, elicited testimony from Abbe Kruger, a principal in that firm. Testimony will resume once engineers put the finishing touched on a site plan.

Kruger's firm is one of 300 that sought a permit from the state Department of Health for a medical marijuana dispensary. Her license was approved last year in Edwardsville, located in Luzerne County. Under the terms of her certificate, she can operate two additional dispensaries. In addition to the site in Bethlehem Township, she plans to open a third dispensary in Dixon City, located near Scranton. She added that there have been no issues at the Edwardsville venue.

Should Commissioners approve this application, it will be the fourth medical marijuana dispensary in the Lehigh Valley. Two are located in Allentown, with a third on Stefko Boulevard in Bethlehem.

Federal law still proscribes the possession and distribution of marijuana, although a 2013 memo from the Department of Justice indicates it will defer to the states unless minors are involved or a dispensary is a pretext for dealing in other drugs. Thirty-two states permit the sale of some form of marijuana.

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana is available to patients who have one of 21 serious medical conditions, from glaucoma to a terminal illness. A qualifying person must visit an approved medical practitioner, of which there are 18 in Northampton County and 40 in Lehigh County. If a physician is convinced that a patient qualifies, he issues a "certification," as opposed to a prescription, which is used to obtain a medical marijuana ID card. That must be presented at the dispensary.

According to the State Department of Health, chronic pain is cited as the reason for about half of the applicants. Those suffering from PTSD account for another 14%.

The marijuana itself comes in various forms, but not as a plant to be smoked. It could be a pill, tincture, cream, liquid, vape cartridge or oil. Prices can be as low as $10 or as high as $150. Kruger said most patients opt for a vape cartridge. State law prohibits dispensing any more than a 30-day supply. It is provided in a sealed container and bagged, along with a warning to use the product at home. The product itself is secured. Employees are provided with silent and audible alarms as well.

Kruger said that the dispensary, which incidentally is located next to a magisterial district judge's chambers, will include an approved pharmacist who has received training. In addition, there will be a minimum of three patient care advocates and a security person. There will also be security cameras trained on the inside and exterior of the dispensary. Tapes must be kept for two years, and must be made available on request to law enforcement personnel.

Based on her experience in Edwardsville, Kruger estimates that around 800 patients will visit the dispensary every week. It will closed Sundays with a 10AM-6PM schedule on weekdays, with the exception of one night a week, when it will close at 7 pm. It will close on Saturdays at 5 PM.

Deliveries will be as often as five or six days a week, from an unmarked van that must call when it is an hour away and five minutes away. The van parks in an enclosed garage.

Commissioner John Gallagher asked what would stop a patient from opening a package in the parking lot. Kruger responded that warnings are given to use the product at home, and likened someone who uses the product in his car to driving with an open container. Attorney Margle added that it's impossible to prevent someone intent on breaking the law from doing so. Board President Michael Hudak suggested that a person who purchases at a dispensary is no different than someone who visits a state store to purchase alcohol for consumption at home.

One person opposed the conditional use. Shirley Frey, who resides across the street from the dispensary on Christian Springs Road, asked Kruger if she lived next to the dispensary in Edwardsville. "I'm expected to live next to this," complained Frey, who went on to say that she's "never heard a good report" about marijuana dispensaries. "Drugs are a major problem," she noted, adding she has been victimized by five attempted break-ins at her home.

Township Solicitor Jim Broughal said the hearing will continue at a date to be determined. In 2017, Commissioners approved a medical marijuana dispensary in an industrial park, but plans fell through.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Bethlehem City Council Takes Aim at First Amendment

Bethlehem City Council does its best to muzzle people who dare petition their government for the redress of grievances, a right specifically granted by the First Amendment. It's little wonder that it is now poised to adopt a law that will in effect make it illegal for five or more people to get together to protest Trump, praise Trump or even sing Christmas carols. Unless they have papers. This is absolute nonsense. I'm speaking about a new ordinance (Art. 961) being considered on Tuesday that will require a "special event activity" permit whenever any group of five or more desire to use city property to do pretty much anything. Clearly, it is aimed at suppressing free speech, under the guise of public safety.

Bethlehem City Council only  wants to hear themselves. In case you doubt me, watch the video (1:43:00) of their June 4 meeting. They refused the common courtesy of allowing Bethlehem resident Steve Antalics to respond to a 12-minute diatribe from Council member Bryan Callahan. While Callahan was catching his breath, Council Prez Adam Waldron stopped Antalics. No member of Council would even make a motion to be fair and allow him to respond. This is because they are afraid of what he might say. 

You see, Ed Gallagher may call himself The Bethlehem Gadfly, and has a great blog, but the real bastard is Antalics. He bites. Gallagher is very gentile and talks about things like the meaning of the word "implore." Antalics, on the other hand, is the reason why ethically conflicted City Council  member Karen Dolan is former City Council member Karen Dolan.

She even changed her name to K. Dierdre Dolan after he was done with her.

So when a member of Council uses his unlimited time to take pot shots at someone, basic fairness dictates that the sullied resident should have a corresponding right to respond.

Instead, City Council is considering a new law that essentially prohibits the right of assembly and free speech, unless you're getting drunk or high at Musikfest.

Easton's Bond Rating Drops

From the moment DaVinci Science Center announced plans to expand in Easton, Mayor Sal Panto has been its biggest cheerleader. He pitched a giant fish tank and later, a goofy 100" tall Vitruvian Gumby at "informational" meetings and Northampton County Council. He committed $30 million of Easton's money, and even borrowed $6.5 million to acquire the Days Inn tract upon which DaVinci planned to build its giant ant farm. But the day after the primary election, Panto told City Council that the plug's been pulled.

The real reason for this is that Easton's credit rating has been downsized by StandardandPoors from Aplus to A. "The downgrade reflects our opinion of management's willingness to take on higher levels of risk for economic development combined with what we consider are weaker financial management practices and adequate liquidity," said S and P Global Ratings credit analyst Linda Yip. "We believe this demonstrated higher-risk appetite, reflected by the city's use of debt for uncertain economic development projects, introduces added credit risk. If liquidity deteriorates in any way as a result of the city's actions, the rating could be lowered further and by possibly more than one notch."

The report does state Easton is financially stable.

This downsize in credit rating was overshadowed by the DaVinci debacle.

In his report to City Council, Easton Finance Director Mark Lysynecky pointed out that Easton's $6.5 million bank note to MandT Bank, used to acquire Days Inn, was due in December. The City got a two-year extension, but it is taxpayers who are paying for this folly.

Lysynecky also discusses a $2.4 million "grant anticipation note." This is insane. It is extremely irresponsible to borrow the money for a grant you expect to receive.

The City will create a separate sewer transport fund, which will reduce its fund balance.

Finally, the City will seek proposals for the sale and development of the three-acre Days Inn tract. Panto is sure the City will get its money back. I am doubtful, especially since some of it is under water every few years.

There's always the High School Hall of Fame.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Bethlehem Zoning Appeals Have Spiked

Last year, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board entertained 34 appeals. This year, through June 12, the number is already 21. Why? Some of you may think there's more development, but there's another reason for this sudden increase. Last year, the City of Bethlehem had a zoning officer who actually worked with people and tried to come up with ways to make an appeal unnecessary. Not only did this make people more happy with the City, but property owners would be spared the $500 cost for an appeal.

This zoning officer was Suzanne Borzak, who developed a reputation for being tough but fair. She thought her job was to help people. Silly her. In January, she was forced out by Planning Director Darlene Heller and Department of Community and Economic Developer Alicia Karner.

Borzak's mortal sin was that she was competent and helpful.  Her replacement obviously knows that his immediate predecessor was pushed out, and is taking no chances.

His response to people with questions, I'm told, is "I'm too busy. Read the Ordinance."

Just the way Darlene Heller wants.

Hence the increase in zoning appeals.

In the meantime, Karner has actually instructed her staff to wait until the last minute before reviewing something so she can demand more people in her Department.   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Why Was NorCo-Bethlehem 911 Merger a Secret?

Firefighters dispatched to Montana
shown on "I am responding" program
Though the consolidation of Bethlehem and Northampton County's 911 service was officially announced on Monday, it actually occurred on March 26, over two months before public disclosure. This switch was a secret. Dispatchers and public safety personnel were instructed to keep it under wraps. There's even a rumor (unconfirmed) that a Bethlehem public safety employee with loose lips was terminated. Why? I thought the secrecy was good politics. In Northampton County's history, 911 has often been a hot button topic. It played a huge role in getting former Executive Bill Brackbill elected and, four years later, defeated. If everyone was told in advance about the merger date, every problem would be attributed to the new system without considering other possibilities. Also, there would be some who would complain for purely political reasons. But still, should a government keep secrets? I learned yesterday that the secrecy actually had nothing to do with politics. It had everything to do with public safety.

Let's say that the consolidation had a lot of problems. A criminal group with this knowledge would be emboldened. Even if things went off without a hitch, someone bent on criminal activity could test the new system by flooding with call.

Most criminals are pretty stupid, so the likelihood of this happening is rather low. But it is possible. Hence the secrecy.

Executive Lamont McClure reported on Monday that the consolidation occurred without any issues. He's basically correct. There have been no complaints from the public or first responders over the past two months. But according to dispatchers, there are some problems.

1) In response to a cardiac arrest call from East Allen Township, an ambulance was dispatched. Instead of going to the victim's home, the ambulance was sent to a cell tower. The heart attack victim died. This could be a problem with the new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). It could have been a mistake by the dispatcher, too. I doubt the ambulance was significantly delayed, but seconds count in an emergency.

2) One seemingly minor issue is the failure of the new CAD to give dispatchers an audible alert of an incoming call. "Tickets" have been written to correct this issue, but two months later, there's still no "dinger" or light. Seconds count in an emergency.

3) A group of kids had set a fire at an Easton park, and one of them may have been brandishing a firearm. When a firearm is involved, police should be notified to respond, but weren't. This may have been a CAD issue.

4) Firefighters responding to a call from South Delaware Drive was dispatched to Montana. You can see this on a program that EMS and firefighters use. It is called "I am responding." It interfaces with CAD and allows them to see where the call is and who is responding.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pa. Nursing Homes Get F From Watchdog Group

Families For Better Care, a national watchdog group that creates public awareness of nursing home conditions has released its latest report card. Pennsylvania not only gets a failing grade, but is ranked near the bottom of the barrel, at #46 overall.

Here are the key findings:

  • Pennsylvania’s tanking nursing home care continued for the third consecutive report card, plunging the state’s ranking 14 spots to No. 46 overall and recording Pennsylvania’s first failing grade in any report.
  • Dangerous conditions became more prevalent in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes as severe deficiencies swelled more than 80 percent since the last report card.
  • Ninety-five percent of Pennsylvania’s nursing homes were cited one or more deficiencies.
  • Pennsylvania’s nursing home residents continued to have a difficult time getting much needed help from caregivers as residents received fewer than 2 hours and 21 minutes of direct care per day.
  • Pennsylvania is the MId-Atlantic Region’s lowest ranked state and the region’s only state to fail in care overall.
I've written extensively about problems at Gracedale, but Cedarbrook is now slipping, too.It had been rated as a five-star (much above average) by The Center for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS), but that has now fallen to four stars.

A Department of Health inspection dated 1/31/19 resulted in eight citations directly related to resident care.

The most serious of these was a failure to provide and implement an infection prevention and control program (details in report).

Pennsylvania Schools Spend $15,798 Per Year On Each Student

Though the exact figure differs from school district to school district, Pennsylvanians spend a lot of money to educate their children. We are the 10th largest spender in the nation when it comes to education, according to a report in Governing.   

Here are some details.

* We spend $15,798 per pupil, with revenues that amount to $19,780 per pupil. 

* Most of the money spent is derived locally (54.9%) with the state (38.7%) and federal government (6.4%) contributing much smaller amounts. In most states, the state government contributes far more tto public education. 

* The lion's share of the money received is spent on instruction ($9,719). Only $679 goes to school administrators. 

* Pennsylvania has dramatically increased spending (13.2%) over the last three years 

Guest Post: Monkey Business and the DA's Race

Hi there!

I'm Jacko the Monkey.

I live in a closet at the Northampton County Courthouse. I'm about to come out of the closet

I'm used to eating bananas and throwing poop. Little did I suspect that I, an innocent and playful simian, would get dragged into the dirty world of Northampton County politics by a bottom-feeding blogger.

He got me drunk one night and has my story on tape. He's threatening to release it before November's election. He's apparently never heard the expression, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".

He has monkey brains.

You tea-party types need to talk him out of publishing his story, which he calls "gorilla warfare."

If he goes ahead anyway, I want you all to know that NorCo's GOP DA candidate, Tom Carroll, used me. I may toss poop nuggets, but I'm no racist.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Arms Are Ready to Fall Off

For the past 11 months, I've been exercising quite a bit. I've been doing it all wrong, too. I tried running, and got sciatica. Then I tried walking, and got sciatica. I'd walk around like Quasimodo, screaming about the bells. Then I discovered the arc trainer, which allows me to push hard without injury. Though my racing days are over, I have lost a ton or two. But I have now discovered that even that is wrong.

When I exercise, I spend about 90% of my time doing cardio, 9.99% stretching and working on my core and about 0.01% on upper body. But that's all wrong. According to some stupid study done by Harvard, middle-aged men who can do 40 or more push-ups are 30 times less likely to get a heart attack than those who can only do 10.
Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting. Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of sub-maximal treadmill tests.

Ok, so I tested myself yesterday. I'm an old fart, but I could always do pushups. On my first try, I did 21. I waited a little while and tried again. 11. Then I waited some more and said I really am stronger than this. 3.

About an hour later, my arms could barely pick up my cell phone as I got a message from an old-fart friend who decided to try it.

He did 41.


NorCo and Bethlehem Combine 911 Service

NorCo 911 Center at Gracedale campus
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Philosophers have debated this riddle inconclusively for hundreds of years. There is no mystery, however, concerning emergency calls. If someone calls 911, and no one is there to hear it, rest assured that there will be numerous complaints. It's happened before in Northampton County, when migration to a new emergency dispatch system was accompanied by loud criticisms, a lawsuit and an election in which several county officials lost their seats. So when Bethlehem City and Northampton County were forced by the state to consolidate emergency calls under the County's roof by July 1, there had to be concerns about problems that would ensue from implementation of a new CAD system (911's computer brain). There had to be worries about whether county dispatchers could handle the increased call volume from a city of 76,000. But guess what? NorCo Executive Lamont McClure and Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez have already flipped the switch. They announced at a June 10 news conference that county dispatchers have already been handling Bethlehem calls, and without incident, since March 26.

L to R: Executive Lamont McClure, Mayor Bob Donchez
and Bethlehem Emergency Management Dir. Bob Novatnack
No one in Bethlehem or Northampton County had any desire to change two emergency dispatch systems that work. Harrisburg felt otherwise. The state gave Bethlehem, Allentown and Lehigh and Northampton County a Hobson's choice - consolidate or lose state funding. The state did make $8.1 million available to ease the pain. Allentown opted to consolidate with Lehigh County, while Bethlehem went with Northampton. In addition to the city and county consolidation, both counties are connected to each other. If one goes down, the other can act as a back-up.

Northampton County's 911 dispatchers were already fielding 97,000 emergency calls a year, along with 296,000 non-emergency calls. Bethlehem was getting about 40,000 emergency and 50,000 nonemergency calls. In addition, Bethlehem operators could use 160 remote cameras to assist officers responding to crime or other emergencies in real time. Northampton County's 911 facility, located in Upper Nazareth at the Gracedale campus, is now dispatching all emergency and nonemergency calls. This includes the Lehigh County portion of Bethlehem. The city has retained 10 of its dispatchers to continue monitoring city cameras and work at a soon-to-be announced Bethlehem Service Center.

911 Dispatcher works from four computer screens and a tablet.
In order to handle the increased call volume, Northampton County Council approved 26 new 911 positions in 2017, including six supervisors and 20 dispatchers. NorCo Emergency Management Services Director Todd Weaver said these positions are being added to the current staff of 44 dispatchers.

Only one or two Bethlehem dispatchers went to Northampton County. Those not retained went to other counties. The starting salary for an emergency dispatcher in Northampton County is $17 per hour, while it is $18.88 per hour in Monroe and $21 per hour in Lehigh. Executive McClure said that the NorCo pension and generous medical benefits still make Northampton County an attractive choice.

Mayor Donchez called the consolidation "a great example of professionalism and cooperation. This is the way government should work."

Both the Mayor and the Executive stressed the importance of public safety. "This is one thing we must get right for the City of Bethlehem," said Executive McClure.

Though Northampton County budgeted $1.9 million for the consolidation, it has only spent $1.3 million. Its major expense was the acquisition of Bethlehem's CAD. According to dispatchers, there is one problem. The new CAD fails to deliver an audible alert, called a "dinger," that there's an incoming call.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gracedale Dinged Again by State Department of Health

Jennifer D. Stewart-King, Gracedale's Interim Administrator, told Northampton County Council on Thursday night that the nursing home's census is "down a bit." When asked why, her immediate response was "five months of negative press." To the extent this is true, it is the direct result of a negative health inspection from last December. This included 11 deficiencies directly related to resident care. In addition, there have been complaints from Gracedale nurses themselves about staffing shortages. The facility's overall Medicare rating has dropped to just two stars, or below average. This is published online, and is hardly an endorsement. Despite pledges to make improvements, a state inspection on April 25 found two deficiencies. Once again, they were directly related to resident care, and include the same kind of deficiencies noted in December.

According to the state Department of Health, a physician ordered compression socks for a resident with blood clots. Nursing staff was directed to apply them in the morning and take them off at night, but failed to follow these orders. This resident had a history of falls, and a physician ordered bilateral floor mats to be placed on the floor when the resident is in bed. Nursing staff failed to follow this directive.

Another resident with arthritis and Parkinson's was supposed to be bathed by nursing staff. When observed by state inspectors, he had facial hair and his fingernails were dirty. He said, "I like to be shaved but I don't have a razor."

Gracedale officials pledged to retrain the staff and audit periodically to ensure residents are receiving adequate care.

This is what they promised in December.

These deficiencies appear to be  minor. But if the nursing home hopes to improve its star rating, this is the wrong way to do it. .

Earlier this month, US Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey released a "secret list" of nursing homes that are either in or are candidates for the federal Special Focus Facility (SFF) program. These are homes that “substantially fail” to meet the required care standards and resident protections afforded by the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It includes 16 Pennsylvania homes, but none in Lehigh or Northampton County.

Guardian: Will Trump Win NorCo in 2020?

The Guardian, a British newspaper, has its eyes on Northampton County. In a recent story, it asks whether a County that voted twice for Obama and then flipped for Trump, will repeat its error. The story points out that, in 2016, many of those who voted Trump did so because of an avid dislike of Hillary. She's no longer part of the equation. But NorCo GOP boss Lee Snover thinks Trump will win "every issue the Democrats are running on and putting in the forefront is nonsense.”
Snover named the Green New Deal, the campaign for abortion rights, Medicare for All, free college tuition and the impeachment of Trump.

“I’m hoping that the Democrats overplay all these things,” said Snover. “They’re not real issues that hard-working Americans base their vote on.”
Is she really wanted to stop the nonsense, she'd take Trump's iPhone away.

McClure: LANTA to Expand Service to Slate Belt, Gracedale and West Easton

When he was Northampton County Council President, the late Wayne Grube complained often that Northampton County is short-changed in regional projects like the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, LANTA and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Executive Lamont McClure, who regarded Grube as a mentor during his early days on County Council, has some of the same beliefs. He expresses them regularly. It appears that LANTA, our regional bus operator, is listening.

At Thursday night's meeting of County Council, Executive McClure announced that LANTA is increasing its bus service with a stop at Gracedale and flex bus stop at the work release facility in West Easton. This will make it easier for work release inmates and nursing home workers to get to and from work.

In addition, LANTA plans to expand its flex bus stop service to the often-neglected Slate Belt.

These changes will become effective June 10, and can be seen here.

Executive McClure thanked LANTA Executive Director Owen O’Neil for these changes. McClure acknowledge that this expansion might be inefficient, "but it's a good public purpose." He added, "We get less than 40% of the benefit for 50% of the money."

Forensic Center: McClure reported that plans have been approved by Upper Nazareth Township and the center will be built within two years.

Milides Building and parking lot: No one responded to a request for proposals for demolition, paving and the geotech work. This geotech work is needed to keep the property from sliding down the cliff. Pursuant to the Administrative Code, the county is now seeking quotes for demolition. "It's going to be a more complicated project than we thought," said McClure.

Friday, June 07, 2019

So What Happened at NorCo Council?

I will be watching the videos over the weekend and will report to you on Monday.

Save Allentown State Hospital Movement Picking Up Steam

On online petition urging public officials to preserve Allentown State Hospital is gaining momentum. There are now over 5,600 signatures.

Here are some of the comments:

"This is more than a building. It has been part of the East Side of Allentown for decades. Too much of the city has been sacrificed for new developments. Restore and reuse. Keep the buildings from the past. Too many of us have memories, good and bad, and we would like to keep it as part of our history."

"I am signing this petition to prevent the demolition of the Allentown State Hospital. It is a beautiful building and can easily be use for another purpose. I would think it would cost less than $15MM to renovate it rather than knock it down."

"Embrace, don't erase your history!!!!"

"I believe in adaptive reuse of historic architecture. Communities are revitalized when there is new life given to these beautiful buildings. The detail and craftsmanship of these buildings brings such character to a neighborhood. It is criminal to tear them down with no regard to history."

"There are many amazing ways to save this impressive structure other than tearing it down. It would be an absolute shame to lose a historic campus like this, and would be disgusting of the city officials to let this happen. Look to the many successful rehabilitations at places like Buffalo State Hospital, Traverse City Hospital, etc. as there are viable and beneficial alternatives that would bring economic development and opportunity to the city. Shame on Allentown for proposing this idea."

"I am frustrated...as an architect, to lose such an important piece of architecture here in the Valley is a tragic loss. I get that old building have high costs associated with them - but perhaps a piece of this complex could be saved...the main building? And the rest of the site developed in a way that respects what was here before. It’s not impossible - just takes a visionary developer, which are sometimes hard to find...but to take the entire complex down would be a mistake when someone can find value in what’s already there..."

NDGP To Name Football Stadium in Honor of Anthony P Koury

I missed last night's NorCo Council meetings to attend Notre Dame Green Pond's commencement exercise for its Class of 2019. My story about graduation will appear in The Bethlehem Press. This story is about a Notre Dame fixture, Deacon Anthony P Koury.

On August 23, the football and soccer stadium will be named after him. As well it should be. After being a member of Allentown College's (now DeSales) first graduating class in 1969, Koury was hired by Notre Dame at an annual salary of $7,500. He stayed there for 43 years.

During his time with the Crusaders, Koury did it all. He was a gym and social studies teacher, traffic director and maintenance supervisor. He was also the school's athletic director. In that role, he was able to persuade Alberell Electric to contribute outdoor lighting for football games. He sweet-talked Young Volkswagon into building a scoreboard. He also lobbied for and finally succeeded in getting Notre Dame into a league. But the accomplishment of which he is proud is convincing the PIAA to allow small schools to join forces for a team sports. As a result, Notre Dame became the beneficiary of gifted football players from Moravian Academy. And Moravian Academy added some Notre Dame girls to its field hockey teams.

Koury is proud that, during his tenure as Athletic Director, he could rely on volunteers for everything, from the snack stand to the chain gang.

When Koury retired from Notre Dame in 2012, he organized a scholarship for students coming from Our Lady of Mount Lebanon. Koury was ordained a Deacon there in 1982.

He is also a tipstaff for his nephew, President Judge Michael Koury, Jr.   

Remember Trooper Joshua Miller

It was on this day ten years ago that Trooper Joshua Miller made the ultimate sacrifice. A PFA violator abducted his nine-year old son, at gunpoint, from the home of the boy's mother in Nazareth. A high speed chase ensued and the kidnapper was stopped in Tobyhanna.

Trooper Miller, accompanied by Trooper Robert Lombardo, approached the driver's side of the vehicle to distract the kidnapper. While he was occupied with them, the plan was to whisk the boy away from the other side. The PFA violator, who was armed, shot both Troopers while Tatamy police Cpl Fred Lahovski rescued the boy.

In the gunfight, both Trooper Miller and the kidnapper were killed. Trooper Lombardo was wounded but recovered.

Both troopers were awarded the Public Safety Medal of Valor at the White House.

For Miller, it was posthumous. The father of three, he was a few days shy of 35.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Hyman Denies Running For A-Town Mayor

Yesterday, Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky implied that Nat Hyman is running for Allentown Mayor this year, and as an Independent. He reached this conclusion on the basis of a phone poll that someone received. He never talked to Hyman. I did. He's not running this year. Hyman conducted a poll, but it was earlier this year. He might run down the road, but not now.

I have no desire to get into it with Molovinsky. I just want to share what Hyman himself told me, for the 19,543rd time. He's not running.

ASH Demo Advances in State Senate

Mike Schlossberg
He's moving fast. On Monday, State Senator Pat Browne introduced legislation that repeals one bad idea but substitutes another. Just two days later, his bill has sailed through the State Government Committee with a 10-0 vote. This has all the makings of yet another bipartisan blunder from the land of midnight payraises.

I speak, of course, of the state's sudden rush to bulldoze the buildings on the Allentown State Hospital campus. Never mind that this will cost taxpayers $15 million. Pay no attention to the state's own Historic Preservation Office, which suggested a combination of "adaptive reuse and redevelopment. Listen instead to Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg. He has no understanding of real estate but thinks demolition "will allow for somebody to basically have a blank slate."

OK, Mike, the bulldozers are on their way to your house so you can have a blank slate.

The one place a blank slate is really needed is in the State General Assembly.

Here are my issues with this bill:

Demolition Must Take Place Before Proposals Sought

Idiotically, the bill requires that demolition occur before proposals are even sought. Morning Call columnist Paul Mushick had written incorrectly that proposals would be sought with the buildings intact. He has corrected himself, but to remove any doubt, here's the precise language from the bill:
"Condition precedent to property disposition.--Prior to the competitive solicitation process under subsection (a) and notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Department of General Services is authorized and directed to demolish all buildings and structures located on the property, with the exception of a Commonwealth-owned air monitoring station ... ."
From a fiscal viewpoint, this makes no sense. Why do you spend $15 million to make $2 million? The only person who benefits is the buyer.

This is why I think the Bill should be renamed the "Fuck You Nat Hyman" Law. Browne wants to ensure that his own constituent and the only developer in Allentown other than J.B. Reilly, is screwed. That'll fix Hyman for suing and opening his mouth. How dare he exercise his First Amendment rights! Browne and Schlossberg will spend $15 million of your money to stick it to Nat Hyman.

Couldn't they think of better things to do with $15 million of your money?

A Committee With No Real Estate Knowledge

The second flaw in the Fuck You Nat Hyman Law is that it appoints Browne, Schlossberg and one of Allentown's rocket scientists to a committee to evaluate these proposals. This is complete bullshit. Neither Browne nor Schlossberg know a thing about real estate. They've already established their acumen by supporting the sale of the property to a Doylestown tax cheat with absolutely no public input. What changes now?  The way the bill is drafted, he can still submit a proposal.

My guess is they will still try to sell the property to the Doylestown Deadbeat unless Jenn Mann can come up with another client who smells a little less.

After all, this has nothing to do with the best interests of the public.This is all about lining pockets. Legally, of course.

If these jokers were truly interested in local input, they would never have agreed to sell the property to someone from Doylestown. 

Forget About Zoning 

A third flaw in the Fuck You Nat Hyman Law is that zoning, planning and other local laws to protect us are suspended during demolition. They may be suspended for the proposals, too, but that's unclear.

I support the notion of seeking proposals. Making demolition a condition precedent destroys the possibility of some creative suggestions.The Committee evaluating these proposals is made up of connected insiders who have already demonstrated they know nothing about real estate and have no regard for the public.

My guess is that Schlossberg and Browne have no interest in being re-elected.

Good Health Insurance Can Save Your Life

When Lamont McClure became NorCo Executive, he made vast improvements to the medical benefits packages available for County workers. He established plans with health savings accounts for employees who choose high deductibles, and even agreed to match the money He also instituted Tele-Doc, which has saved the county money while giving people with minor medical problems an opportunity to consult with a medical professional by phone or even via video. Though unable to hand out lots of money, he''s done what he can to make sure that those who work for the county get good medical care.

We all tend to take things like this for granted. So I want to share a story about a county worker who is very thankful she works here. Out of respect for her privacy, I decline to tell you who she is or where exactly she works. Suffice it to say she works for the county.

This woman worked in a local department, but it closed its doors. she had a job at Lehigh County, but it was only part-time. She then learned of a full-time opportunity here and was hired at a low-paying job, but one with a pension and good benefits.

Not long ago, she developed a cough. She thought at first it was a cold but it would not go away. she eventually went to a doctor. It turned out she has stage four lung cancer. To make matters worse, it has spread to her brain.

She is undergoing chemo-therapy and doing quite well. In fact she's at work every day and you'd never know she is ill. In fact, the tumors in her brain are shrinking.

She credits this to a magic pill she takes every day. I forget the name of the drug, but it costs $15,000 a month.

Thanks to the health plans that McClure put in place, she is completely covered.

Even more importantly, she is doing well.

I also knew a man who had a brain tumor but no health insurance.

He's dead.

Allentown to Take Delivery of Three New Fire Trucks Today.

Allentown firefighters were responding to fires with pick-up
Today, at 11:30 am, Allentown Fire Department will take possession of three new fire trucks. This will occur during what is known as a "push-in" ceremony at Mack South Fire Station, located at 1902 Lehigh Street.

A "push-in" ceremony goes back to the days when hand drawn fire engines, ladder wagons and hose carts had to be pushed back into the station by hand. Even horse drawn steam engines had to be pushed back by hand.

This is no longer necessary, but the purpose of the ceremony is to show unity among firefighters.

Public officials like State Senator Pat Browne and State Reps. Pete Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg will be on hand, hoping someone takes their picture.

The real heroes are the firefighters, who put their lives on the line every day. Allentown's firefighters, in particular, are exceptional public servants who were responding to fires with pick-up trucks when Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski was at Allentown's helm. Throughout this crisis, they continued to do their dangerous job.

Although I've been critical of Mayor Ray O'Connell's tax hike, he really went to bat for these guys. He deserves much of the credit for this acquisition. In addition to three new fire trucks, he added two firefighters.

You should never balance a budget by skimping on public safety.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Another Paper Ballot Problem in Montgomery County

Last week, I told you that a new paper ballot system in Montgomery County has been criticized by voters who cite long lines and privacy concerns, just as Northampton County's Amy Cozze and Charles Dertinger predicted. Now there's a new and a far more important problem. The results were inaccurate.

On election night, a library tax proposal in Hatboro passed by a scant 14 votes. It was actually a landslide, and passed 724-287. When the paper ballots were being scanned, a problem with the scanner recognized these ballots as write-in votes so they were not counted on election night.

This is just another indication that election judges, the election commission and Northampton County Council made the right call in going with Express Vote XL. In Delaware, which used this system on election day, there were no issues.

Browne and Schlossberg Still Want to Bulldoze ASH

Although Allentown businessman Nat Hyman's lawsuit against the state has stopped the demolition of Allentown State Hospital buildings, his victory may be short-lived. As reported by WFMZ-TV69, State Senator Pat Browne has proposed a bill (SB701) directing the Department of General Services to bulldoze buildings that the state itself has determined "may be viable for rehabilitation and reuse." After everything is razed, and at a projected $15 million cost to taxpayers, a special committee will sell the property after evaluating proposals. This committee will be made up of Browne, State Rep. Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg, someone designated by Allentown and General Services. The previous law selling the property to David Ali will be repealed, although nothing would prevent him from submitting a proposal.

Schlossberg amazingly justifies this waste of $15 million, arguing this "will allow for somebody to basically have a blank slate."

Like his brain.

Proposals should be sought for the 200-acre complex. That's how this should have been handled from the onset. But if Browne and Schlossberg were sincere, they would want separate proposals for both a "blank slate" and with the buildings intact. Demolishing everything at a cost of $15 million so you can sell it for $2 million makes no fiscal sense except to the ultimate developer.

This bill effectively prevents anyone who wants to save the existing buildings from submitting a proposal. Instead of being called SB 701, it should be entitled what it really is - "Fuck you, Nat Hyman."

At Norristown State Hospital, which still operates, the Department of General Services conducted a feasibility study on possible new uses for a portion of the campus not in use. Instead of a committee made up of political hacks, it hired a professional land planner to determine the best use of the property, which was determined to be a senior living center. This determination was made after public meetings and stakeholder engagement sessions.

Browne and Schlossberg are both ignoring the public they ostensibly serve. They have also deviated from what General Services did at Norristown. Why?

I suspect they have someone in mind. And it's not Hyman. Or the public.

Green Energy Urged in Both Bethlehem City and Township

Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden released an ambitious and expensive ($1.7 trillion) plan to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. He would pay for it by rolling back corporate tax cuts spearheaded by Republicans. He'd also rejoin the Paris Climate Accord his first day in office. In stark contrast to Biden, the Trump administration has done its best to dismantle every environmental protection enacted by his predecessors. Unless a huge Democratic majority is elected in both the Senate and the House, it's highly doubtful that Biden's plan will ever become reality. But there's hope. While our so-called national leaders scoff at the science behind man-made climate change, local governments are beginning to wake up.Even here in the Lehigh Valley.

Last month, Northampton County became the first in the state to adopt a clean energy financing tool enabling property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects. It's called C-PACE.

On Monday night, in Bethlehem Tp, Commissioner John Gallagher had two environmental proposals. He wants to establish an Environmental Advisory Council. He pointed out that the township would "get points" in the state mandate to reduce sedimentation if it establishes a Council. While other Commissioners want to review the proposal, no one spoke against it.

In addition, Gallagher asked Commissioners to adopt a policy to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles for the Township's non-emergency fleet. This consists of about 10 vehicles. The Township has no need for non-emergency vehicles at the moment, but Council President Michael Hudak promised to bring this up when the need arises.

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal comes from Bethlehem,which does have an Environmental Advisory Council. It is chaired by Lynn Rothman, and she urged Bethlehem City Council to take action on a solar ordinance her group proposed in late April. If enacted, it would require commercial projects equal to or greater than 10,000 square feet, or that contain 10 or more residential units, to be energized with solar panels if an assessment determines that it is feasible. This is similar to an ordinance enacted in Watertown, Ma.

Unlike a meaningless plastic straw ban, this proposal actually would reduce Bethlehem's carbon footprint. But at what cost? Would construction costs result in higher rents? At the end of the meeting, Council member Olga Negron went on a crying jag as she complained about her inability to find an affordable apartment on the south side. So Council needs to determine whether this proposal could exacerbate Bethlehem's affordable housing problem.

Moravian College's Class of 2019

From Moravian College:  Moravian College held commencement exercises on Saturday, May 11, 2019 on John Makuvek Field on the Main Street campus.  The ceremony concluded the 277th academic year at Moravian. Moravian College President Bryon L. Grigsby ’90 conferred degrees to 538 bachelor degree candidates and 96 graduate degree candidates.

Undergraduate degrees conferred:
  • Degree of Bachelor of Arts
  • Degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Degree of Bachelor of Music
  • Degree of Bachelor of Science
  • Degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Graduate degrees conferred:
  • Degree of Master of Business Administration
  • Degree of Master of Education
  • Degree of Master of Health Administration
  • Degree of Master of Science in Human Resource Management
  • Degree of Master of Science in Athletic Training
  • Degree of Master of Science in Nursing
  • Degree of Master of Arts in Teaching
Theological Seminary degrees conferred:
  • Degree of Master of Arts in Chaplaincy
  • Degree of Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling
  • Degree of Master of Arts in Theological Studies
  • Degree of Master of Divinity
To view the complete list of 2019 Moravian College graduates, please visit moravian.edu/commencement/list-of-graduates

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Bethlehem Tp Aims to Straighten a Crooked Intersection

At their June 3 meeting, all five Bethlehem Tp Commissioners gave Engineer Brian Dillman the green light to study how best to straighten the busy Freemansburg Ave-Farmersville Rd intersection. "There's been way too many deaths and accidents at that intersection," said Board President Michael Hudak.
"It's the worst intersection in the township," echoed Comm'r John Merhotten.

Currently, Farmersville Road intersects with Freemansburg Avenue at two different locations over 100' apart. A person traveling along Farmersville Road has to turn onto Freemansburg Avenue, drive a short distance and turn again.

Dillman, a professional engineer, told Comm'rs that the design phase will take 12-24 months, starting with a traffic count and analysis. After that is finished, he will have to conduct topographic and property surveys to determine the best way to straighten the intersection. It may involve the acquisition of privately owned property, which Dillman hopes can be done amicably.

Funding for the design alone is estimated at $110,000-120,000, but can be paid out of transportation impact fees imposed on developers.

Dillman told Comm'rs he intended to start this immediately because a state highway occupancy permit is needed. "When we walk out of here, I'm on the phone," he said.

Bethlehem Tp Homeowners Complain of Running Bamboo Infestation

John Bloshinski (L) and Mark Bogansky (R)
They came bearing bamboo. Mark Bogansky and John Bloshinski, who purchased a home on Driftwood Place two summers ago, vented at the June 3 meeting of Bethlehem Township Commissioners. Their complaint? Bamboo. Their property is being overrun by it, thanks to a neighbor who planted it on his property. Though Commissioners adopted an ordinance placing restrictions on this plant in 2015, this duo contended that township officials failed to take appropriate action when they first complained about this unwanted encroachment last year.   

According to the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, running bamboo is one of the fastest growing and most invasive plants in the world. It's hardy, too. A study by the Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research reports that running bamboo, which is actually a grass, survived the Hiroshima bomb.

In 2015, retired Page Six cartoonist Sean DeLonas told Commissioners that running bamboo planted by a neighbor had already broken through his fence "and will break my underground lines, pipes and my home's foundation in less than two years." In response to DeLonas, Commissioners adopted an ordinance holding property owners responsible for the spread of this plant onto other properties. It stops short of an outright ban, but those who plant running bamboo are held responsible if its destructive path takes aim at another person's property.

Throughout Pennsylvania, numerous communities have adopted similar bamboo ordinances in Allentown, Bethlehem, Forks Tp, Hanover Tp, Nazareth and Wilson Borough. Hellertown is pondering an ordinance as well.

A Cumberland County Court has declared running bamboo a "vegetative nuisance" The court reasoned that urban living includes certain responsibilities, including a responsibility to take precautions against invasive plants that encroach upon another person's property.

"I did the right thing," said Bogansky of a complaint he filed with Township officials last August. The neighbor responded by inserting 15' of aluminum siding along a property that extends 135'. The infestation continued.

"What we want is your help with this," asked Bogansky. President Michael Hudak, who was familiar with the situation, said the neighbor has been notified to abate the bamboo infestation within 20 days. 

Solicitor Jim Broughal added that if the neighbor fails to take remedial action, the Township could seek injunctive relief in court  But not until the homeowner is given the opportunity to take action.

Bogansky and Bloshinski will return to Commissioners next month, hopefully with good news.

He's Baaaack

Zrinski Paid For Vendor Stand at NorCo's First Ever Festival

Zrinski with old white man, NorCo Council Prez Ron Heckman
Over the weekend, I received this comment: "Yo BO, the underground grapevine has discovered that Your county council buddy Zorroinski was at it again. Last weekend the county had a festival at LM Park. She had her solar business tent up at a county festival that taxpayers paid for. What about those balls?" Although I have been highly critical of NorCo Council member Tara Zrinski, she did nothing wrong or inappropriate.

I'm quite sorry I missed NorCo's first ever County Festival, held in late May at Louise Moore Park. I had been notified, but misplaced my email until that evening. It was too late to inform you about it or go myself. In addition to musical acts, a number of vendors set up stands. One of them was NorCo Council member Tara Zrinski. She actually paid for the privilege and had to jump through the same hoops that applied to everyone else.

NorCo's Director of Community and Economic Development, Tina Smith, told me yesterday that Zrinski was required to pay for her stand just like every for-profit vendor. She also had to fill out an application. No favoritism.

Zrinski confirmed what Tina Smith told me in an email.
SunPulse Solar is the company for which I work. I paid for the opportunity like all other vendors and did not receive any preferential treatment. In fact, my stand was furthest away from the Food Vendors in the ancillary parking lot so I did not get the traffic that other vendors did. I filled out an application just like everyone else and heard about the opportunity through the signage and marketing for that event and contacted Fun-nominal Events.

There are many events in the LV in which I table for this company.

I hope this answers your query sufficiently.
Thank you,
I hope this clears up any notion that there was anything improper.

Monday, June 03, 2019

God Save the Queen ... From Donald Trump

As we awaken this morning to brush the cobwebs out of our eyes, the Boor-in-Chief will have already touched down for a state visit to England. According to the Guardian, one of Britain's most respected publications, this is a mistake:

"[T]here is more at stake here than pomp and circumstance. Mr Trump is a demagogue who represents a threat to peace, democracy and the climate of our planet. As elected leader of the UK’s closest ally, he can’t be ignored. But making him, his wife and four adult children the honoured guests of the Queen risks legitimising his destructive policies, his cronyism and his leanings towards autocracy."

Updated: Local Government TV!

The best way to find out what your local government is doing is by going to a meeting. If you're unable to do so, 11 Lehigh Valley governments have video or audio recordings of their meetings. These include the county and city governments  Even some smaller municipalities like Emmaus and West Easton post video. Links are below. I am also creating a separate link on my sidebar.

Allentown City Council

Bethlehem City Council

Easton City Council

Lower Macungie Commissioners

Lehigh County Commissioners

Northampton County Council

Allen Tp (audio only)

Emmaus Borough

Lower Saucon Tp (audio only)

West Easton Borough

Whitehall Township

Williams Township

I can and do criticize local governments all the time. But when they are willing to post video or audio recordings of their meetings, they are at least making some effort to be transparent.

If I have missed any local government, please let me know in the comments section.

Speaking of transparency, Northampton County's Chapman and Glendon still have no websites, which is completely inexcusable. In addition, East Bangor, Freemansburg, Roseto, Stockertown and Washington Tp still fail to upload meeting minutes.

Local governments that fail to post meeting minutes in Lehigh County are Coopersburg, Lower Milford Township, Slatington, S. Whitehall Tp., Washington Tp

Interestingly, Roseto Borough Council member Dan Engle and S Whitehall Tp Comm'r Mark Pinsley are running for county offices. They are both very ambitious, and in Pinsley's case, this is is second attempt to advance himself  with only two years under his belt in South Whitehall. Perhaps these two should strive for a bit more accountability to the people they were already elected to represent.

Updated 10:12 am: In my original report, I neglected to include Lower Macungie, which actually is aired on cable TV.

Friday, May 31, 2019

One of My Fans

From time to time, people who dislike my blogging let me know in unusual ways. I once received a package in the mail that had my face superimposed on all kinds of gay porn. I was once emailed a picture of Goebbel's corpse. Late last night I received this email. If this is supposed to be a threat, he needs to work at it a little harder.

This is from Jeffrey Houndsman (jeffrey.houndsman@gmail.com)
You know, "Bern", I have seen u roast innocent people over the years.  But, recently, I have resurfaced.
I just want to know, how does it feel? You fuck?
Yeah, I know you believed in what you have been doing.  But, Bernie, people make mistakes.  And, sometimes, those mistakes, include making powerful enemies.  You idiot.
You have helped destroy people who needed you.  You mother fucker.
Y Rick O represented you, I have no idea.  But, he is a good man.  One of the last.
I only regret that it took me so long to take a breath.  And, now, I see what a horrible mess it has all become.  I should have destroyed all of you back in 2002, when I had the means.
Do you know who I am yet?  You poor man.
Hehe.  I will watch out for your Bern.  Because it would seem that all the chess games are converging.  There is only one prize.  "Justice".
Whatever you do with this info, received from me, will not matter in the least, except to cement you loyalties to those who r watching.
Do u have any idea how easily these fucks can turn on u?  Dont b stupid.
Were u ever a "good man"?  Does he still exist within you?
Some of us make war when we see wrong.  We dont think.  We smile, we arm and we jump.
At the very least, Bern, you should have been backing us.
I am watching you.  What r u going to do?
You and your peers should b very wary of traps these days.  Word to the wise.
What r u going to do?

How Bethlehem Preserves Saucon Creek

.Bethlehem is a virtue signaler that wants the entire world to know  how environmentally conscious it is. It's already adopted a meaningless "climate action plan" and now is considering an equally useless plastic straw ban. But these hypocrites thought nothing of clear-cutting the riparian buffer along a huge section of Saucon Creek along land the city owns near its sewage treatment plant on Shimersville Road. They knocked down everything, including trees. The trout in these waters have no problem with the smell of shit, but are unable to survive in warmer water.that is inevitable as a result of the lack of shade. 

Had you or I done this, we'd be strung up.

Ironically, the Wildlands seeks grants to preserve these buffers. 

November's Election To Include Judicial Retention Elections

As many of you know, I serve as an appointed election judge in Northampton County. Though turnout was low in the municipal primary,  I was very impressed by those who voted. Many of them really make an effort to inform themselves before they cast a ballot, but they told me they had a difficult time doing so this year. Many of them no longer subscribe to a daily paper because they do a lousy job covering local government. They have stories about every time Donald Trump farts, but do a poor job telling people what is happening in their own back yard. Many appreciated the League of Women's Voter Guide, which we make available. I decided to do a voter guide of my own for November's election, and would appreciate your suggestions on what information I should seek from the candidates.

Here's what I'm thinking. For each candidate in a contested race, I will seek the following: 1) link to webpage, Facebook page and twitter account; 2) residence (not specific); 3) family; 4) educational background; 5) occupation(s); 6) criminal record; 7) judgments; and 8) responses to questions about a few issues relevant to the office being sought. I will also list the salary and benefits.

I will also prepare background information for the judicial retention races. Many complain that so little is known about judges seeking retention. I will try to inform you as best I can.

If there are local races you'd like to see covered, please list in a comment and explain why. For now, these races are a given.

Superior Court (two seats): Democrats Daniel D McCaffery and Amanda Green-Hawkins v. Republicans Christylee Peck and Megan McCarthy King

Superior Court Retention Election: Judges Anne Lazarus and Judith F Olson

Commonwealth Court Retention Election: Judges Kevin Brobson and Patricia McCullough

Northampton County Retention Election: Judges Kimberly J McFadden Michael J. Koury, Jr.and Craig A. Dally

NorCo District Attorney: Democrat Terry Houck v. Republican Tom Carroll

NorCo Controller: Democrat Tony Bassil v. Republican Hayden Phillips

NorCo Council District 2: Democrat Kerry Myers v. Republican Andrew Oliveira

NorCo Council District 3: Democrat Luke Verdes v. Republican John Cusick (inc.)

NorCo Council District 4: Democrat Dan Engle v. Republican Tom Giovanni.

Easton Mayor: Democrat Sal Panto (inc.) v. Republican Tim Reilly

Lehigh County District Attorney: Republican Jim Martin (inc.) v. Democrat Jim Moreno

Lehigh County County Controller: Republican Glenn Eckhart (inc.) v. Democrat Mark Pinsley

Lehigh County Comm'r at-large (four seats): Democrats Dan Hartzell (inc), Bob Elbich, Dave Harrington and Zakiya Smalls v. Republicans Brad Osborne (inc), Marty Nothstein (inc.), Antonio Pineda and Mathias Matt Green.

Allentown Mayor: Democrat Ray O'Connell (inc.) v. Republican Tim Ramos

Allentown City Council (three seats): Democrats Candida Affa (inc), Josh Siegel and Ce-Ce Gerlach v. Republican Joe Hoffman

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Rudiger Martinez: Baby Boomers Worst Generation in History of Mankind

NorCo employee employee Rudiger Lyle Martinez is back at work again. His latest suspension has something to do with clogged toilets, but he declines to say exactly what happened. He did tell me that we baby boomers are the worst generation in existence. "As you try to claw your way out of your graves, I will pour Scott's Turf Builder all over it to erase any evidence you ever existed."

Martinez has previously me that I'm a shitty blogger because no one has ever assassinated me.

I agree.

Now I suspect a large number of my readers are boomers. He says we all suck because we inherited the most secure and prosperous nation the world has ever seen, and all we have to show for it is Sean Hannity and Hillary.

He also complains that we spend all our money so we can live an extra six months.

He describes millennials as the grandchildren of our first wives.

Five NorCo Nursing Homes, Including Gracedale, Below State Staffing Standard

Under Pennsylvania law, each nursing home resident must receive 2.7 hours of general nursing care every day. This state protection is obviously designed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. But at five of Northampton County's 14 nursing home, this state regulation is being ignored. A review of the Medicare ratings reveals that staffing shortages exist at The Gardens at Easton, The Gardens for Memory Care at Easton, New Eastwood Healthcare and Rehab Center, Slate Belt Health and Rehab Center, Weston Rehab and Nursing Center and Gracedale. The only publicly owned nursing home is Gracedale.

Staffing shortages lead to resident mishaps. This should be remedied at Gracedale simply because it is the right thing to do. It should be added that failure to comply with state standards would be considered negligence per se in the event of litigation over a resident mishap.

Here's where Gracedale stacks up on staffing, according to Medicare.

Staffing rating
2 out of 5 stars
Below Average
Average number of residents per day661.7109.585.7
Total number of licensed nurse staff hours per resident per day1 hour and 19 minutes1 hour and 41 minutes1 hour and 33 minutes
RN hours per resident per day26 minutes49 minutes41 minutes
LPN/LVN hours per resident per day53 minutes51 minutes53 minutes
Nurse aide hours per resident per dayNurse aides are not considered “licensed nurse staff” and are not included in the calculation for “total number of licensed nurse staff hours per resident per day.”2 hours and 4 minutes2 hours and 10 minutes2 hours and 19 minutes
Physical therapist staff hours per resident per dayPhysical therapists (PTs) are licensed healthcare professionals who provide treatment to help residents gain or maintain physical function. PT staffing hours aren’t included in the overall staffing star rating calculation for nursing homes. This measure shows the average time physical therapists (PTs) spend providing care to residents throughout the nursing home. Not all nursing home residents require physical therapy.2 minutes6 minutes5 minutes

Gracedale is below both the state and national average.

Late last year, Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced plans to audit the state's nursing homes over staffing shortages. He said then adequate staffing levels directly impact the quality of care provided to 90,000 Pennsylvanians — more than the population of Lancaster and Johnstown combined — who live in nursing homes.

Gracedale officials are doing their best to hire more people. But let's be real. In a recovering economy, the pool of people willing to clean bedpans tends to shrink.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Local State Legislators Report $14,800 in Travel in Annual Ethics Form

Schlossberg putting in his face
A Pennsylvania legislator is paid $88,610 a year, and this is aside from the health benefits and per diems claimed for "expenses." But you know, it's really hard to get by on such a pittance. So many of our lawmakers have other sources of income. They also can accept gifts and trips, but those have to be reported in annual ethics forms. Last year, Pennsylvania's men and women in the land of midnight payraises report having received $83,000 in free trips. Guess what? Nearly $15k of that money was paid by third parties for our very own Lehigh Valley delegation.

You might think that State Senator Pat Browne or Lisa Boscola are the jet setters, but no. Neither accepted any gifts or trips. Browne did supplement his income through his CPA and law firm, and Boscola has some kind of investment portfolio. Both steered clear of firms willing to pay for travel.

The biggest recipient of paid trips was Ryan MacKenzie. By the way, in addition to his salary as a State Representative, he receives money from PNC Bank. He is also a trustee for with for-profit corporation F.A. Rohrbach, a concrete contractor.

He may be wary of Greeks bearing gifts, but accepted a $5,847.37 trip from the U.S.Japan Foundation and a $6,215 trip from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.

I wonder when he found time for his two-week run for Congress.

Of course, there's always Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg.  He took $1,040 for transportation, lodging and hospitality from State Innovation Exchange (Six), a self-described progressive nonprofit that apparently offers training to state legislators on how to be a liberal.

Not to be outdone, Pete Schweyer reports a gift of $1,703 from Sleep Inn and Suites, which he states is the difference between the advertised rate and one he negotiated.

Zach Mako reports no gifts or trips, but had to amend his report because he forgot to report that he is paid as a State Representative. Not too bright, that one. 

Steve Samuelson is claiming no gifts or all-expense paid trips. What about those adult diapers, Steve? We all have the videos. 

Marcia Hahn took no gifts or trips, but she should contact her State Rep. She's paying outrageous interest on her Sam's credit card.

Joe Emrick reports no outside income or gifts, but claims to be a trustee with Cornerstone Counseling Ministries, which provides Christian counseling. Based on his ugly campaign against Amy Cozze, he should enroll as a client.

Gary Day reports no outside income or gifts. He's from Germansville, and they pay each other there with pigs and chickens.

In addition to her income as a State Rep., Jeanne McNeill rakes in a nice rental income from six different homes. She has a real estate empire. She is also collecting three pensions and still has time for Mary Kay sales. .

Bob Freeman is an Adjunct Professor at Lehigh, and also collects rent from a property he owns in

Update 8:40 am: Jeanne McNeill tells me she has one summer home in Jersey.which was rented out six times last year.