Friday, June 28, 2019

PSP Charge West Easton Constable With False Statements

Mezzacappa in happier times
On June 18, West Easton Constable Tricia Mezzacappa was among those who visited a Bethlehem City Council to slam an ill-considered ordinance suppressing free speech. "Bernie O'Hare is a piece of shit," she declaimed. "He's a disgusting, gruesome creature." In that vein, I think it's time for me to be disgusting and gruesome and let you in on what she failed to say. She's been charged with making false statements to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).

The charges stem from an incident back in February, when she called PSP to complain about a neighbor. From what I've been able to gather, she told authorities she had been forced to fire her weapon. If you ever want police to arrive at your home quickly, say something like that. When troopers arrived, however, they discovered she had lied to them. Her pea-shooter was confiscated, presumably to conduct tests. Charges were filed in late May, and she failed to accept a summons until June 19, the day after her diatribe.

This is by no means the first time Mezzacappa has been taken to task for dishonesty. In 2014, Judge Michael Koury ordered her to pay $67,000 for defaming a "disgusting, gruesome creature."

Making false statements to the police is a third degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

She is represented by prominent Allentown Attorney John Waldron.

Her preliminary hearing is scheduled July 22, 9:30 AM, before Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter.

Updated Sunday, 6/30, 2:40 pm:
An online petition started by Linda Bank seeks Mezzacappa's removal from her elected office of Constable. It is virtually impossible to remove an elected official from office, but conviction of an infamous crime is one way to do it.

Will Pa Finally Allow Open Primaries?

Will Pennsylvania join 16 other states in finally allowing open primaries? The Senate voted Yes to this proposal by a 42-8 vote. Senator Lisa Boscola is quoted as having argued, “Frankly, our democracy doesn’t work if our citizens can’t participate.”

If this measure is adopted, it should stop extremist candidates from gaining traction in both parties. It will be a win for the center.

Moderators Lose Second Dem Debate

Kamala Harris in second grade
Wednesday night, in the first of two debates among Democrats vying for the presidency, I was deeply disappointed by their pandering and lack of inspiration. Last night, I was disappointed in the inability by moderators to control a second crop of candidates. They talked over and interrupted each other incessantly during the first hour. In the second hour, none of them could answer questions within the allotted time. All moderators had to do is cute the mikes, but they allowed it to continue. So I would call them the biggest losers.

Kamala Harris totally destroyed Joe Biden in a tense exchange concerning busing. She told him she does not consider him a racist, but then slammed him for not only working with segregationist, but working with them to prevent school busing. beating back tears, she told him his actions were "hurtful" to her.

"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me,” she said.

Instead of apologizing and saying that his views had changed, he still supported the argument that local government should make these decisions.

At that moment, he was toast.

As he argued school busing should be a local matter, Harris nailed him on the need for the federal government to step in on race issues. "That's where the federal government must step in. That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, that's why we need to poss the Equality Act and the ERA. There are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of others."

This hurt.

Harris was also the person to say something about the constant interruptions, most of which were coming from Kirsten Gillebrand.

"America does not want to witness a food fight," said Harris. "They want to know how we're going to put food on their table."

Harris also got a good shot at Trump over his views on climate change, saying he "embraces science fiction over science fact."

Finally, she called Donald Trump thegraeatest national security threat to tthe United States.

Bernie Sanders has promised to raise taxes on the middle class to help pay for free everything. Even though he called Trump a "phony," "pathological liar," and "racist," I doubt people will be inclined to vote for someone who promises to raise their taxes.

Without question, Harris won this debate, and rather impressively.

What's your take?


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Who Won Last Night's Presidential Debate?


Ancient China was once ruled by emperors who would establish dynasties lasting hundreds of years. Around 200 AD, the Han dynasty came crashing down after 500 years. A corrupt group of bureaucrats called the Ten Eunuchs controlled everything, including the emperor. They were the swamp. A brutal general named  Dong Zhuo vowed to drain the swamp, and he did. But he was a monster who raped, looted and killed innocent people with impunity. Heroes were needed, and they came  My impression of 10 Democratic hopefuls who debated last night is that the Ten Eunuchs want to replace America's Dong Zhuo.

There were too many with too little time to provide meaningful answers. Three of them, and even a moderator, occasionally pandered in Spanish. Bill DeBlasio bragged about his black son. They all claimed to support the working man, but most are the very elitists they condemn. Eunuchs. Cory Booker must have mentioned 1,000 times that he lives in a low-income minority neighborhood, prompting me to conclude he moved there just so he could brag about it. I was hoping Elizabeth Warren would impress. She failed. She blames corporations for everything, which is both short-sighted and wrong. Beto O'Rourke is a phony. Amy Klobuchar condescended when she spoke, with a smirk. Some people liked Julian Castro, but I thought he was just another eunuch. The candidate with the most appeal, at least to me, was Tulsi Gabbard.

What's your take?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Vandalism Prompts A’town to Close Park Restrooms

From Allentown: Effective Saturday, June 29, the City of Allentown Department of Parks & Recreation will be closing several park restroom facilities due to a heightened level of vandalism incidents over the past several weeks.

 

The damage assessment includes broken toilet fixtures; paper towel and soap dispensers ripped off walls; electrical outlets destroyed; trash cans emptied; locked doors pried open and graffiti sprayed throughout the facilities.

 

Restroom facilities at Canal, Jordan, Keck, Percy Ruhe, Roosevelt, and Trout Creek West parks will be locked to the public unless a permitted usage is scheduled.

 

To assist in addressing vandalism issues, park users who witness acts of vandalism in progress are encouraged to report them by calling the Allentown Police Department Non -Emergency number at 610-437-7751 or using the Allentown 311 Quick Reporter App. The Allentown 311 Quick Reporter App allows park users to submit the location, description and pictures of vandalism that has occurred. This information is key to assisting the city track trends and proactively address issues as needed.

Pa. GOP Chair Succumbs to Sexting Scandal

You've probably heard by now that Pa. GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio has resigned as state party boss over a sexting scandal that include sexually charged messages between him and a Philly City Council candidate, as well as the obligatory penis pic. After the candidate finished dead last, she dimed him.

I have little regard for either of these predators. One used his position; the other her looks. The reason he became state party boss boils down to two state committee members from NorCo. Glenn Geissinger and Peg Ferraro voted for him. Peg was always going to vote for him, but Geissinger switched. Here's what I wrote two years ago, when it happened

Geissinger Betrays NorCo GOP  (2/6/17)

Val DiGiorgio, a registered lobbyist for Comcast and French insurance company AXA, is the Pennsylvania Republican Party's new Fearless Leader, replacing outgoing chair Rob Gleason. He defeated respected Philadelphia attorney Lawrence Tabas in a close, 173-171 vote, on Saturday at Hershey. .

The money boys and power brokers liked DiGiorgio. Others preferred Tabas, who volunteered most of his time to the GOP.  Tabas always visited NorCo at different GOP functions, and represented the county party at no charge when AG Kane's Klowns executed what turned out to be a baseless search warrant on GOP finances

In late January, Northampton County's GOP met and voted to support Tabas. They had reasons to do so. Mary Barket, a member of the state committee, was recently widowed and needs a job. Tabas said he'd hire her. In addition, he wanted to install county GOP Chair Lee Snover in a leadership position within the state party ranks  Considering that Snover mobilized the party base and managed to turn NorCo red,  Snover is due for some recognition.

NorCo's representatives on the GOP state committee are Snover, Barket, Ron Angle, Peg Ferraro, Bob Kilbanks and Glenn Geissinger. All but Peg were expected to vote for Tabas,and all but Peg agreed to do so.

Peg Ferraro was asked to support DiGiorgio by Bob Asher, a long-time friend who always contributes to her campaigns. Everyone understood she would go her own way, but Snover expected to deliver the rest of the vote to Tabas. .

According to Snover, Geissinger promised he would vote for Tabas. Had he done so, the vote would be a 172-172 tie, and Gleason would have broken that tie with a vote for Tabas.

This was going to be a close vote, so Senator Pat Toomey dialed up the pressure for DiGiorgio. He promised two federal judgeships in undecided counties. Then, on Saturday, several State Senators came in and sat with committee members for the vote. Some committee people claim they were threatened with loss of employment unless they voted for DiGiorgio. .

In order to prevent this kind of retaliation, there was a push for a secret ballot, but that was shoved aside.

Before the vote, Geissinger played the room, visiting committee members from Luzerne and Lackawanna County. He appeared to be laying the groundwork for another congressional run. He ignored his own county.

With the exception of Blake Marles and Bob Daday, the Lehigh County delegation voted for the money man. This includes Glenn Eckhart, who went against the tea party he claims to support. .

When it was time for NorCo to vote, Snover and NorCo Republicans were betrayed by Geissinger.

"You heard the will of the people, you need to do what the people want," Snover reminded Geissinger.

"I know what I'm doing," snapped Geissinger. "I'm a legislator."

Geissinger's vote put DiGiorgio over the top. After leading the county to believe he would follow their wishes, he betrayed them. He voted a widow out of a job. He voted NorCo out of a position in real party leadership.

"What's the big deal?" he asked when it was all over.

As a NorCo Council member with a 54% attendance record last year, he should find out soon.

A "Who Dat" Report

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time bragging to you about my grandson Dat. It's shameless on my part. Still, you'd be surprised at the number of people who have followed him for years and always ask about him. So let me tell you. He no longer plays AAU or summer league because he graduated from Allentown Central Catholic. He does play basketball for DeSales, which he loves. He spent most of his first year there on the bench, watching more experienced players. I'm pretty sure he set one team record. He fouled out of one game in under two minutes. As the season came to an end, he was coming into his own. I imagine that will continue. Those of you who know him know he is both determined and dedicated. Nothing comes easy to him. But whether it is schoolwork or sports, he never gives up. I've learned a lot more from him than he has from me.

He lifts several days a week, as you can see. His real secret is push-ups. He is almost as ripped as me.

His team is going to France in August, where they will do a bike tour and play three games.

This concludes my "Who Dat" report.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

No Gift Cards For NorCo Employees

Elizabeth Kelly, Esq.
When John Brown was Norco Executive and Amy Trapp his HR Director, she started the practice of buying gift cards to give to county workers as incentives. This was condemned by then Controller Steve Barron during a performance audit in which Trapp was unable to account for some of the cards that she and her staff bought. Brown and Trapp are now gone, and NorCo's current HR Director has made clear that gift cards are no longer being purchased for employees.

With gift cards, there's no accountability. There's no assurance they are actually being used to reward worthy employees. The potential for fraud exists. Sooner or later, someone in Human Resources will use these gift cards as his or her personal piggy bank. 

There's even some evidence that rewarding employees with gift cards can backfire. According to one article in Forbes, they can actually demotivate workers who would prefer to see their hard work rewarded the way it should be - with a fair wage. Some will also feel that favorites are being rewarded.

Finally, gift cards are taxable income. The County derives its revenue with property taxes, yet was handing out cash equivalents to employees that it never reported.

Elizabeth Kelly, Norco's current HR Director, recently advised the Controller's office that she has no intention of purchasing gift cards.
"Although I initially agreed to draft a policy regarding the subject of gift cards, it now occurs to me that such a policy may not be needed, as the purchase of gift cards appears does not appear to be widespread; but rather, it was something done by the former Director of Human Resources for reasons perhaps best known to her. I have no intention of purchasing any gift cards to use as employee incentives or for any other purpose. If it is important that I make this commitment in writing, it may be more expeditious if I drafted a letter to the County Executive and other Directors to inform them that the purchase of gift cards is disfavored and I will not be purchasing any gift cards with any County funds."

Monday, June 24, 2019

Howling Dogs?

Complainers of Bethlehem is a disgusting Facebook group in which members moan about everything, from some dude who parks 3 centimeters over the striped line to people using the drive-thru lane at McDonalds. Naturally, I belong to it.

Yesterday, I saw this post.


Here's my response.

Nepotism, Bethlehem Style!

I was disappointed when Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez kicked off 2018 by appointing City Council member Eric Evans as Business Administrator. Though he has finance degrees, he has spent most of his adult career as a history teacher. I was disgusted that Evans, who I thought was an educator, would abandon his students in the middle of a school year.

Donchez kicked off 2019 buy appointing Evans wife Jodi as he City's new recreation director. She abandoned her students in the middle of a school year, too. At the time of this hire, Donchez insisted there was no nepotism involved. No siree! She just happened to be the most qualified applicant because she was a lifeguard. Why she was even more qualified than the Assistant Director, who quit in disgust after being passed over.

Everyone knows this, so why I am I talking about it now? Because there's even more nepotism.

Get this. The nephew of retiring Recreation Director Jane Persa has been hired to replace the Assistant Director, who was rightly disenchanted by what had happened.

This new hire must have been a lifeguard, too.

Initially, this fellow turned down the job. Then he decided to take it if the City would pay him what the departing Assistant Rec Director was getting at the time he quit. Amazingly, the City agreed.

Unfortunately, there's even more to this story. Someone had to be brought in to train the new Assistant Director. Guess who it is? Jane Persa, the dude's aunt and Director who already retired.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Allentown Dem Operative Ed DeGrace Charged With Harassment

Ed DisGrace
Allentown Democratic operative Ed "DisGrace" DeGrace has been charged with summary harassment over a punch he threw a few weeks ago. Amazingly, the victim is another Democrat.

Tom Osborne, who is as blue as they come, while sitting in his car with his grandson, told police that DisGrace popped him. They declined to fie charges because DeGrace denied anything had happened. The Lehigh County DA, however, approved a private complaint for summary harassment when several witnesses claimed that DeGrace had bragged about it.

The penalty for summary harassment is usually a small fine of up to $300.

Ed "Disgrace" DeGrace is a goon who used threats, intimidation and profanity to silence anyone who dares criticize Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski. He has the distinction of being the first anonymous troll I ever outed, way back in 2008. That has made no difference in his behavior. He's also the man behind a $8,000 illegal contribution to Fed Ed's first mayoral run in 2005. He chaired the PAC which donated this money, but has never filed a report indicating where he got his money.

He tried to intimidate me at a campaign rally for now Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty and during the summary trial of a teacher who convinced Allentown students to boycott class. On both occasions, he made a fool out of himself.

Despite his sordid reputation, Ce-Ce Gerlach was only too happy to use him in her Allentown City Council race, and even complimented him on Facebook.

His summary trial is scheduled for July 9, 2:30 pm, before Magisterial District Judge Ronald S Manescu.

I'll be there.

Cusick Bashes Harrisburg Over Refusal to Fund Voting Machines

John Cusick
John Cusick, who represents District Three on Northampton County Council, is a Republican. He nevertheless bashed Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled state legislature at last night's meeting of County Council over their reluctance to commit any funds to help counties purchase new voting machines. "The most critical thing we do is preserve our democracy," he argued. "Voting machines are part of that."

Last year, in response to a lawsuit, Pennsylvania's Department of State directed all 67 counties to select new voting systems that include a voter verifiable paper trail, making post-election audits more accurate. They must be in place before the 2020 primary. Though the statewide cost of his change is estimated at $125 million to $150 million, the state has yet to provide any of the funding. The federal government has provided a $342,000 grant to Northampton County.

In May, Northampton County Council approved the $2.9 million purchase of a new touchscreen voting system with a voter-verified paper trail. County officials expect to have it in place for November's election.

Governor Tom Wolf has proposed giving counties $15 million a year for the next five years to help them make this purchase. Republicans in the land of midnight payraises, however, claim this is Wolf's problem, not theirs.

"This was a crisis that the governor created, and he needs to resolve it," said Senate Majority leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) in an interview with WITF. "I feel bad for the counties, because he put a huge unfunded mandate on the counties, but that's his responsibility."

In order to stick it to Wolf, Republicans in Harrisburg are perfectly willing to stick it to counties.

"We've acted in good faith, it's time for the legislature to do the same," said the Williams Township algebra teacher.

Retired NorCo Deputy Seeks Elected Sheriff

Mike Mohn
Mike Mohn recently retired from Northampton County after 29 years of service. Last night, as a civilian, he asked County Council to consider changing the Home Rule Charter to require that the position of Sheriff be elected.

Mohn's a big guy, about 7'6." I also see him tossing heavy weights like tootsie rolls at my gym. So when he said, "Be nice to me," I better comply.

Actually, he was one of our best. In addition to his physical prowess, Mohn has a degree in criminal justice from Kutztown University. He is also a past President of the Pennsylvania Deputy Sheriffs' Ass'n. In the years I've known him, he's always been very passionate about his role.

Mohn had a handout for everyone, but his argument is simple. "The Sheriff of the County should be accountable to the people, not the County Executive," he said. He clarified that he was making no attack on Executive Lamont McClure, but believes the will of the people should trump the desire of any county executive.

He points out that 99% of the nation's Sheriffs are elected.All but two Sheriffs in Pennsylvania are elected.  He asked County Council to put the question to the voters in a referendum.

One county official told me he believes the voters would quickly agree.

The voters already decided when they adopted our Home Rule Charter in 1977. They want appointed row officers, including the Sheriff.

In many cases, a Home Rule Charter can be amended by referendum. But when it involves a change in the form of government, there must first be a government study commission. Changing an appointed Sheriff to elected is almost certainly a change in the form of government.

Our Supreme Court actually considered this issue in 2013. Lackawanna County, a home rule charter county, wanted to abolish the elected position of sheriff and replace it with an appointed sheriff. The state high court ruled that this is a change in the form of government and requires the election of a government study commission.

If changing an elected sheriff to an appointed position is a change in the form of government, it necessarily follows that the reverse is true.

Allentown: 10 People Shot, 7 Cops Added

As you may have heard, 10 people were shot and injured early Thursday outside the Deja Vu nightclub in Allentown. This is a sure indication that summer has arrived. Fortunately, no one was killed in what is being called the worst mass shooting in Queen City history. There will be those who will use this incident to clamor for more gun control despite knowing nothing about this shooting. State Representatives Pete Schweyer and his Bobbsy Twin, Mike Schlossberg, have already beat their chests and pointed to a need for more anti-violence programs. Do we really all need to learn it's wrong to shoot each other? Of course, everyone's hearts go out to the poor victims. Everyone except me. They refuse to cooperate and could end up being tomorrow's shooters.

No one has a magic wand he can wave to solve this problem. I do know this. The more cops there are, the less shootings. On the very morning of this shooting, Allentown swore in seven new police officers.

There are now 216 police officers.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

McClure: No Parking Spots For Former Judges

A few days ago, former Judge Leonard Zito learned what it means to be a former judge. His reserved. parking spot is gone! 

Northampton County currently has three former judges who work at private law firms, including Judge Zito All three still assist the courts by conducting settlement conferences in civil matters. But that's no reason to give them reserved parking spots.

When Judge Zito gave up his black robe, he also gave up his parking spot.

As I understand it, Executive Lamont McClure thinks it's bad policy to set aside premium parking spots for  former judges who might be at the courthouse once or twice a month.

I feel bad for Judge Zito because he was perhaps the hardest working judge Northampton County has ever seen and he is well respected. But McClure is right.

NorCo Council To Decide Demo Contract For Milides Bldg Tonight

Northampton County Council is poised tonight to approve a $72,500 deal for the demolition of the Milides Building, which is located across the street from the courthouse at 654 Wolf Avenue in Easton. If approved, a contract will be awarded to Paul Giroux, Inc., a firm located locally in Wind Gap. Once permits are in place, the building will be down in a month.

"It's no Martin Tower," said County Administrator Charles Dertinger

The Milides building was built by prominent Easton attorney Gus Milides. In addition to its convenient location, it includes a 40-space parking lot. In 2007, a divided NorCo Council voted to buy the building for $1.5 million, with Ann McHale ad Ron Angle voting No. McHale believed the price was too high while Angle said part of the property would have to be razed.

As it happens, Angle was correct. Both the former law office and its parking lot are slowly falling off a cliff. This is mostly because it was built on fill that had never been properly packed down. Stormwaters add to the erosion.

The plan is to demolish the building and place an underground tank beneath the parking lot to drain rainwater. After the property is shored up properly, a new parking lot for 104 vehicles is planned. This will include eight handicapped spaces, six of which will be van accessible.

This project has already been bid in its entirety twice, but without success. Dertinger said contractors have been reluctant to assume responsibility for shoring up the cliff because they are on the hook if there's a problem. So bids were sought from three local firms. Paul Giroux, Inc. was the lowest.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

First Amendment Still Applies in Bethlehem

I was quite intrigued by Bethlehem's proposed ordinance repealing the First Amendment. I considered going to last night's Council meeting, but was having dinner with my grandson and a friend to celebrate my 39th birthday. I did watch the video, which strangely stopped after only 13 minutes. It was enough. Mayor Bob Donchez requested Council for an indefinite postponement, and all seven members were only too happy to agree. So happy that they did so without hearing from the public, in violation of the State Sunshine Act.  But hey, if you're hellbent on ignoring the Constitution, what's a measly state law?

This was a terrible idea. Bethlehem government at one time did the bidding of steel execs, but now it's the artsy-fartsys (sp?) from Artsquest. It's OK to go to Musikfest and get tanked or high. But these artistes get very uncomfortable when groups assemble, not for the chicken dance, but to take aim at hot-button topics like abortion, immigrants or Donald Trump. So just as Bethlehem Steel lawyers used to write ordinances for the City, Artsquest had its own lawyer draft a proposal.

Until we start electing Artsquest leaders, I'd prefer to see the City do its own damn homework.

Although I was unable to see or hear the meeting, I was contacted by several people to tell me about one person who was there to exercise her First Amendment rights.

It was none other than the Wicked Witch of West Easton, Tricia Mezzacappa.

"Bernie O'Hare is a piece of shit," is what she reportedly told everyone during her five minutes.

I always wondered why I smell.

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 Dickson 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.
What?

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.

Bastard.

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.