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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, November 29, 2019

I, For One, Support the War on Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see her motion here

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

(Updated): No Challenge Expected in NorCo Election

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

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

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

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

Joe Biden Will Be a "Hands On" Prez

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Trump Coming to Hershey Center

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

DigDeep: 2 M Americans Have No Running Water

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

Judge Panella and the Champ


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

NorCo Council Approves Municipal Park Grants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of these grants are matched.


Friday, November 22, 2019

West Easton Constable Arraigned on False Report Charges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NorCo Council Names New Election Comm'n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheller Campaign Dismisses GOP Rivals

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Jerry Seyfried Re-Appointed to Retirement Board

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

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

Bad Optics at McClure Fundraiser

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

1) Municipal Vehicle Illegally Parked at McClure Fundraiser

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

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

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

2) Judge Morganelli Attends Partisan Fundraiser

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

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

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

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

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

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

He should have stayed away.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How Hillary Gets Dem Nod

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

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

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

This is where Hillary will work her mischief.

How Much Does a Recount Cost in a Local Race?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Paul Harvey's "If I Were the Devil"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Yovanovitch: Quiet Steel

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

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

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


My Mini-Vacation in Oneonta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This attitude was nonexistent in Oneonta.

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

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

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

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

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

Don't worry. I got better.

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Business Matters To Interview Lead FBI Agent in Fed Ed Takedown

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

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

Dauphin County to Defy State Order For New Voting Systems

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Upper Mount Bethel Tp's New Manager? Santa Claus

At an unusual Friday night meeting, Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisors voted 3-1 to appoint a new Township Manager. Believe it or not, it's Santa Claus!

Supervisors met on Friday night because Monday, their regularly scheduled meeting date, was Veterans' Day. Of course,the first thing they did was go into executive session, aka the back room, to discuss personnel matters. When they popped out about ten minutes later, Chairman John Bermingham announced, "There will be no action taken."

I assumed that meant no action would be taken. Silly me. I stuck around for about 15 minutes as they discussed a Christmas tree lighting ceremony by the fire company on December 4, where everyone will sing carols, eat cookies and maybe blow up some tannerite. Though Santa was sitting in the audience, I figured I got a bum steer and left.

Not long after I departed, they took official action they said they weren't, and appointed Santa as Township Manager and at a starting salary of $85,000 with all the usual benefits. Voting yes were Bermingham, David Due and Robert Teel. The grinch, aka Craig Anthony DeFranco, voted No.

Santa Claus, incidentally, is a fellow named Eddie Nelson. Every winter, he goes to Florida and plays Santa at the malls. He canceled his contract this year. Nelson is a former Supervisor, but has no experience as a manager ... or zoning officer ... or planner ... or finance guy. In fairness, he has worked from time to time as a crossing guard.

One of the persons Santa beat for this job is former NorCo Exec John Brown. Between Brown and a mall Santa, I'd take the mall Santa, too.

I think I'm on Santa's naughty list now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

We're Gonna' Need More Voting Machines

The municipal general election last week was, we all know, a disaster. Long lines existed at times. Many people think it takes too long to vote on the Express Vote XL. There were complaints about sensitivity. Council member Tara Zrinski even complained about bad election judges, and at my polling place. Without discounting any of these complaints, they pale in comparison to a much bigger one - the wrong results! As a result of a programming error, judicial candidate Abe Kassis was shown as having garnered practically no votes when the paper ballots show he actually won the race! Ironically, what saved this election is the Express Vote XL.

Since the voting machines have been impounded, it will be next month before Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S) can determine what went wrong, and even more importantly, why the "logic and accuracy" testing done each machine failed. This error affected both the computer printouts when the polls closed as well as the flash drives in each machine. Under these circumstances, how can we say that the know the paper ballots are accurate? This is a question I had last week. This concern is what led Council member Peg Ferraro to say she has "no confidence in the paper ballots."

As I thought about it, I realized the paper ballots are accurate. The reason is because every person who voted on the Express Vote XL had an opportunity to review his ballot. If the programming error extended to the ballots, votes for Kassis would have shown up as no vote or as a vote for someone else. If that happened, sooner or later, voters would notice and reject their ballot. With a second and third ballot, this mistake would continue. But that never happened. No voter has stepped forward to claim his choices failed to appear on the paper ballot. So I am confident in the accuracy of the paper ballot.

This is called redundancy. It's why The Express Vote XL, despite its inauspicious debut, was the correct choice.

Had we relied on paper, the scanner could read the selections incorrectly. It could fail completely. I prefer having two redundant systems, which is what The Express Vote XL provides. ES&S, which serves 3,000 of the nation's 10,000 voting jurisdictions, has a compelling business interest in finding and eliminating its error. It also needs to adjust machine sensitivity. Its business reputation demands nothing less. Other Pa. counties may shy away from this system because of our negative experience, but the system is working fine in New Jersey, Delaware and South Carolina.

Having said that, next year's election is a Presidential race, and turnout will be heavy. For that reason, I have three recommendations aimed at enabling people to vote quickly.

1) We're Gonna' Need More Voting Machines. - My experience is that that it took voters slightly longer to vote with the Express Vote XL than with the previous touchscreen. Some people insist it took a lot longer. If there are more voting machines in the county's 125 precincts, it necessarily follows that voting will be quicker. I would buy an additional 125 machines, and buy them now so we can take advantage of the 60% match being offered by the state. This assumes that ES&S finds and remedies its software problem.

2) Get Electronic Poll Books Already! - When you go to vote, you need to check in first. Once your name is located, which seemingly takes forever, you can sign it and then stand in another line to vote. Electronic poll books, known as e-poll books, can help a poll worker find you right away. What's more, if you are at the wrong precinct, it will tell workers instantly where you need to go. This is a big time saver, and was in place in about half of all voting jurisdictions in the 2016 Presidential race. It's been used in Lehigh County for the last three election cycles, and poll workers there tell me it's great because it saves you time.

Northampton County has been reluctant to order them because of the danger of cyberattack. This is why you would use an e-poll book that has been hardened against accidental or malicious tampering with a wireless private network that is thoroughly tested. Pennsylvania has certified e-poll books.

3) All Hands on Deck! - The County should seek volunteers from its workforce who are willing to spend their eight hours on election day assisting poll workers. If they are not registered voters or do not live within the county, they can still help manage lines. If they are registered voters they can take an oath and assist people signing in.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Thank a Veteran, not Trump


There are 939,000 veterans in Pennsylvania, and nearly 700,000 of them served while we were at war. About 57,000 are WWII vets.

I was in the Army Reserves during the Persian Gulf war. I volunteered to go over, but was rejected after a very nice going-away party. My Sergeant Major told me at the time that they were keeping me as a secret weapon, but I think I was too old. My absence from that conflagration explains why we won so quickly.

Though he never spent a second in the military, Authoritarian Donald Trump will be at NYC today to speak at the 100th Veterans' Day Parade. Just last week, a federal judge ordered him to pay $2 million to settle a civil lawsuit alleging that his family raised money for veterans' organizations, and then diverted it to his Presidential campaign.

But there's no quid pro quo!

Friday, November 08, 2019

Right After Complaining About Election Nightmare, NorCo Council Gets Schnookerd

On Election Day, Northampton County Voting Registrar Amy Hess worked for over 24 hours in a day that included court appearances, nonstop telephone calls and fielding numerous complaints about The ExpressVote XL voting system as well as the usual complaints that come with an election. So did her entire staff. On Thursday, they were preparing for the formal vote canvass scheduled to start tomorrow morning. When Northampton County Council convened at 6:30 pm, she was right across the hall with her staff, putting things together so an official count in a controversial race can be established. Executive Lamont McClure had ES&S Senior VP Adam Carbullido on hand, ready to discuss the shortcomings of his company's voting system. But instead of hearing from the manufacturer of the system that had gone awry, Council President Ron Heckman was "disappointed" that Hess was actually still working on the election instead of standing before the firing squad alongside McClure and Carbullido. "She should have known to be here," complained Heckman. So Hess had to be taken away from her duties so she could be dragged in front of Council and answer what really were stupid questions. Such was the way things went in a Council meeting that ending with a shakedown by two Bethlehem cops, one of them son of Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, looking to make a quick buck.

McClure and Carbullido pretty much repeated what they had said in their news conference the previous day. They both apologized. Neither knows precisely what caused the printouts to show Abe Kassis as having received no votes. But guess what? It is County Council that voted 8-1 to purchase these machines. No apologies from them. Council instead complained about everyone and everything else.

After dragging Hess before Council, Heckman asked her, after ten minutes of monologue, for suggestions on what can be done to "educate people on these machines." Say what? Whether a voter is 18 or 80, there should be no need for education or training, no matter what system is used. But Matt Dietz and Lori Vargo-Heffner actually agreed with Heckman that there should be "more training for the voters."

Heckman went on to suggest training sessions at senior centers, but is apparently totally oblivious that there was voter outreach at several senior centers as well as numerous other venues In fact, Northampton County did more outreach than any other county in the state.

Council member Bill McGee offered this brilliant insight: "We bought a car and the car doesn't work. We want our car back or something."

Carbullido was subjected to an attempted cross-examination by Council member Bob Werner, the sole No vote to the machines. Werner failed.

Council member Kevin Lott was the only effective critic. He made clear he has no confidence in ES&S. "You put this County in a very bad position. ... We thought we were buying a Cadillac, and it doesn't work."

Carbullido said he understood the frustration and would work hard to regain the county's trust.

After the voting machine blunder, Council went on the make another mistake.

Executive Lamont McClure wanted to condemn a property at 150 South Union Street forto Cou a parking lot. This property was just purchased in September by Sunblest Holdings, a LLC owned by Bethlehem cops Michael DiLuzio and Sam Elias. They paid $33,045.00. The County offered to buy it several times, and offered up to $50,000. They finally responded yesterday, demanding at least $85,000.

Northampton County owns an adjoining property, which has holes in the roof. For soe reason, Council member Matt Dietz argued Council should fix up its own property before demolishing it. Council member John Cusick objected to a condemnation without an appraisal, even though a condemnation would result in the appointment of a Board of View that could order an assessment.

Though Diluzio insisted that the property owner still lived there, his mail indicates an address in Wilson Borough. Executive McClure said DiLuzio was engaged in real estate speculation.

Heckman then expressed doubts about condemnation, even though he agrees parking is needed.

At this point, McClure go up and offered $85,000 for the property just purchased by these real estate speculators on September, ensuring them a capital gain of $52,000.

I did not hear a response from the shakedown artists, who now apparently think they can get even more money.

Hopefully, McClure will withdraw this offer.

Kevin Lott moved to table the condemnation, which passed. But that made no difference. Despite Roberts Rules, which prohibit the discussion of a matter after it is tabled, Council droned on for about ten more minutes.

The final matter considered was a grant application for the Coroner that must be filed by November 15. Heckman, who had just violated Council's own rules by discussing a tabled matter, objected to the resolution because it arrived late.

"We just ask for a certain level of respect," he said. If he wants others to follow Council's rules, so should he.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Morganelli's 75% Win And Other Election Tidbits

If the unofficial tally is accurate, John Morganelli captured 43,115 of the 57,680 votes cast on Tuesday, or 75% of the vote total. This is high praise for a dedicated public servant. John truly deserved to win.

On the day before the election, John made the following campaign stops:

πŸ“ Hellertown: 7:00pm-8:00pm - Dinner at The Crossroads. Great cheese-steaks. Met Manny Aguia, who caught the marlin on the wall in 1980. My old friend Ron Davco took this photo.
πŸ“ West Easton: 630pm - Attended municipal meeting
πŸ“ Bethlehem Twp: 5:30pm - Blue Grillhouse
πŸ“ Wilson Borough: 5:00pm - Wilson Deli for a freshly made hoagie to go for tomorrow!
πŸ“ Easton: 430pm - NorCo Courthouse, where I work, and thanked County employees.
πŸ“ Freemansburg: 4:00pm - Neighborhood walk
πŸ“ Stockertown & Tatamy: 3:00-3:30pm - Stockertown Municipal Building & the Post Office.
πŸ“ Forks Township: 2:30 pm - Forks Township PD
πŸ“ Upper Mt Bethel: 130pm - Lunch at Mt. Bethel Diner
πŸ“ Portland Borough: 1:00pm - O’Neills Place
πŸ“ Up/Lw Mt.Bethel Twp: 12:30pm - Comunale’s Italian Market
πŸ“ Bangor&E Bangor: 12:00pm - Miller’s Paint Store & E Bangor Police.
πŸ“ Pen Argyl: 1130am - Borough Municipal Building
πŸ“ Wind Gap: 11:00am - Gap Diner in Wind Gap.
πŸ“ 512 N: 10:00am-1030am - Whistle stops...
▪️Moore Twp ▪️ Chapman ▪️ Bushkill Twp.
πŸ“ Bath: 9:15am - T&C Restaurant, Wunderler’s & Aharts
πŸ“ Nazareth: 830am - Business District
πŸ“ Palmer Township: 7:00am - TicToc Family Restaurant

He went alone, no handler, and enjoyed himself. He won nearly every precinct in the county. I congratulated John yesterday, and he showed me pictures he took of Portland, which he loves. According to barista Bob Cartwright, it is the Cancun of the Lehigh Valley.

****

Who voted straight party? According to unofficial results, 10,639 Democrats and 7,917 Republicans voted straight party. What this means is that 68% of those who voted split their tickets. Starting next year, straight party voting will no longer be an option.

****

Kassis won in Bethlehem and Easton, and in Easton, he even topped John in a few precincts. This plus the unexpectedly high turnout;,edto his victory.

Vic Scomillio knew he needed to make a dent in Bethlehem, and planted himself at Precinct 14-1 on Election Day. He remained there the entire day, greeting voters. But when the vote was tallied, he only had 151 votes, only 41 more than Tom Carroll.

****

Terry Houck defeated Tom Carroll by 29,875 to 23,988. Although Carroll got the racist vote, he probably also received votes from Republicans who simply knew noting about him except his party.

McClure Apologizes For Election Day Disaster: "We Will Do Better"

In a news conference yesterday afternoon, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has apologized and accepted responsibility for some serious issues arising from the rollout of the Express Vote XL voting system used in Tuesday's election. He acknowledged that one of his many duties is to ensure public confidence in our voting system. "[W]e fell short of that mark," he admitted.

The problems started with judges up for retention with simple "Yes" or "No" votes along the right side of the ballot. Some of the machines were sensitive, especially with those questions. They issued court orders throughout the day, resulting in calls and text messages from the elections office to election judges, instructing election judges to inform voters that if they had any issues, they were to notify election workers. Constables even served election judges with a court order concerning these retention races.

In addition, turnout was 27.68%, which was unexpectedly high for a municipal race. In some districts with contested races, it was much higher. Voters would have to wait. In an instant gratification society, this means some people would start complaining. The scapegoat for this wait was not the turnout, but the new machines. These new machines do take longer to operate than a simple touchscreen. For most people, it takes only 30-60 seconds longer, but that was long enough to make people start blaming the machines. I have received some reports of paper jams and other problems, but can attest there were no such issues in my precinct or the one next to me. I did poll about 30 voters about their experience with the new machine. Some did have some minor complaints about the sensitivity, but all reported they were able to vote without incident. Most people dislike and distrust computers, but liked the paper back-up. "That's a lot better than the politicians doing their thing," said one.

Common pleas judges were worried about their retention races, but I was confident in the new system. This all came to a sudden end when the polls closed and I printed out reports for the two machines I was using. Both of my machines showed that Steve Salvesen, a long-time Hanover Township Supervisor who lives in my district and presumably voted for himself, received no votes. They also showed judicial candidate Abe Kassis had zero votes. I knew this had to be wrong.

On my way to the courthouse, I was wondering what the hell I had done wrong. Then I began receiving reports from other judges who were experiencing the same issue. Yesterday, Lamont McClure said it was a county-wide problem.

When we run reports, we also remove encrypted flash drives from the machines and return them to the courthouse. My assumption was that these flash drives would show the actual count. Yesterday, ES&S Exec VP Adam Carbullido said that the flash drives showed the same erroneous results as appeared on the printouts.

When Executive McClure was made aware that Democrat Abe Kassis was getting no votes in Easton's blue wards, he sought and obtained permission from the state to scan the paper ballots. That count continued throughout the night, in the presence of candidates and their attorneys. The tabulation was finished around 5:30 am.

"We cannot have any difficulties with this system," said McClure, who added he was very disappointed with ESandS, manufacturer of The Express Vote XL. But he blamed himself. "[T]his is one of my responsibilities," he said. "To the voters yesterday who had difficulty casting their ballots, I am sorry. We will do better. To the candidates, their families and supporters who were unnecessarily made anxious by this process, I am sorry."

A chastened Carbullido also apologized to Northampton County voters and officials, claiming his company is committed to ensuring it never occurs again. He has "a high degree of confidence" in the tabulation of the paper ballots. But amazingly, "we don't know the root cause of the issue."

"How can you have a high degree of confidence that the results are accurate when you don't know what the root cause of your problem is?" I asked. Carbullido responded the paper ballots tabulated accurately, and I am sure they did. But how does he know these individual paper ballots are actually what appeared on the screen? He later admitted the flash drives contained the same errors that led to the obviously erroneous printouts, so how can he or anyone be sure the paper ballots are actually what the voters cast?

Carbullido would later say that "logic and accuracy" testing was done before these machines were put in use. This is done to ensure software has been set up properly to accurately count the specific ballots for that election. Obviously, this testing was botched.

In addition to the failure to test this setup, elections officials also improperly excluded Morning Call reporter Riley Yates from the scanning of the paper ballots on Tuesday night. McClure apologized to Yates and said he might have made a different decision. He said at that time elections officials were dealing with a "three-alarm raging fire." But as Yates noted, there can be no public confidence in a vote that is counted behind closed doors.

The public is permitted to attend the canvassing of the vote.

At this point, it's unclear whether Republicans will challenge this and problems occurring in other counties. Legally, there is little chance of success because of a strong public interest in finality of elections and a legal presumption of validity. But even a losing effort would be politically beneficial to the GOP.

McClure has honorably blamed himself. So has Adam Carbullido. But there's one person who really is to blame for this entire mess and no one has mentioned him. It is Governor Tom Wolf who ordered all 67 counties to get new voting systems with a voter verifiable paper trail. It is Wolf who ordered they be in place by 2020. It is Wolf who vetoed a bill to reimburse the county for 60% of the cost. It is Wolf who suddenly did an about face and agreed to that bill, but only after most counties dug into their pockets to buy $3 million systems to replace others with a few years of life still left in them.

Updated  9:43 am:
Philly had sensitivity issues with ExpressVote XL. - At yesterday's news conference, ESandS Exec VP Adam Carbullido said he had heard of no complaints about the ExpressVote XL from other counties. WHYY is reporting, however, that there were problems in Philadelphia:
The complaints varied on the controversial machines. Across the city, some complained about the touch screen’s sensitivity, in which it changed their selections, while others found the font of the printed ballot too small to read. Some glitches put machines out of commission for a few hours.

Emma Tramble from West Philadelphia said the booth was so dark that she could hardly see the candidates she was selecting.

She added that people at her polling place had to wait a long time to vote, which she attributes to a combination of people getting used to the new machines and others not being familiar with the election itself.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

McClure Will Meet Press Concerning Express Vote XL

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, along with representatives of ExpressVote XL manufacturer ES&S, will meet with the press today, 1 pm, to discuss what went wrong in yesterday's election. This is a core county function, and this inexcusable failure is ultimately a burden McClure must bear. Instead of promoting voter confidence with a new system, it was undermined. I do not fault the system, but believe there was a programming error in the computer run. This should have been tested before being inflicted on the voter.

Morganelli, Houck, Kassis Win NorCo Races

Problems with the Express Vote XL computer printouts showed judicial candidate Abe Kassis with next to no votes last night. Fortunately, the paper ballots were scanned. We now know now he will soon be Judge Kassis.

John Morganelli was the huge vote getter last night, according to unofficial results posted online. He reeled in 43,115 votes in the race for judge. Abe Kassis came in second with 26,142. Vic Scomillio fell about 1,000 votes short. He received 25,137.

I thought the race between Abe and Vic would depend on turnout and it did. Democrats often stay home in municipal races, but not this time. There were 10,639 straight Democratic voters, compared to 7,917 Republicans.

In the DA's race, Northampton County voters made clear they preferred a professional prosecutor to a tea party activist who is, at the least, racially insensitive. Terry Houck pulled in 29,875 votes, while Carroll attracted just 23,988. It actually disgusts me to know that nearly 24,000 people would vote for that kind of person.

The disputed County Council races went as I expected. Democrats will maintain their 6-3 edge. Democrat Kerry Myers crushed James Fuller in the Easton District, while Republican Tom Giovani handily dispatched Democrat Dan Engle in the slate belt and northern tier. In the middle or Nazareth district, incumbent Republican John Cusick held onto his seat in a 7,922 to 6,728 win.

In the Hanover Township Supervisor's race, long-time incumbent Steve Salvesen lost out to Jeff Warren. Salvesen picked up 1,296 votes, while Warren collected 1,437 votes. Warren campaigned. Steve did not.

In Nazareth, voters have finally said No to four more years of Republican Larry Stoudt. Though Democrat Dave Mattei is hardly anyone's dream, he was never charged with using his office to request police to rat out the identity of a suspected state police informant concerning the poker machines at his club. Stoudt also managed to secure a state grant to rehab the American Legion bar in Nazareth, a complete misuse of the public purse.

Though it's fortunate that we have paper ballots the error with computer printouts last night is inexcusable. The whole point of voter verifiable paper ballots is to give the public confidence in our voting system, but that was completely undermined by printed results showing persons who actually won the race with 0 votes.

NorCo: Express Vote XL Printouts Showing False Results

In Hanover Tp, a long-time Republican incumbent in a Republican district failed to garner a single vote on not one, but two, different voting machines. The same thing has happened to a judicial candidate. According to county sources, these are false readings. They are the result of some malfunction in the way the ExpressVote XL is running its reports on races that include three candidates. Thus, whatever you are seeing on WFMZor elsewhere concerning any three-way races in Northampton County,  is inaccurate. I would expect the accurate results to be reflected in the flash drives provided to county offices. Northampton County has thus far (9:53 pm) failed to post any results.

Welcome to Northampton County, Florida!

In addition to the flash drive, there is a paper back-up.

At this point, the damage is done. The discrepancy between reports showing zero votes and a flash drive are enough to undermine public confidence in our voting.

Looks like that will have to be used a lot sooner than anyone guessed.

Updated 11:00 pm: - The ExpressVote XL is a hybrid voting system combining the convenience of a touch screen with a voter-verifiable paper trail. It is the choice of elections judges, the Elections Commission, the Lamont McClure administration and Northampton County Council. When objections were made by paper ballot purists, County Council delayed its vote to see how the system fared in Delaware. It worked very well, and Council made the right choice. I make this statement despite some malfunction in the printouts that certainly give the county a black eye..

York County, unlike Northampton, opted to use a paper ballot system. It was plagued by problems all day. "“We just didn’t realize it would be as challenging and time consuming to scan the ballots,” President Commissioner Susan Byrnes told York Daily News on Tuesday night.

Still no results in Northampton County, three hours after polls have closed.

Updated 11/6/19, 12:00 am. - Looks like we'll be waiting awhile to learn who won this election.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Make Your Last Minute Pitches Here!

I went to bed early last night so that I can be at the polls bright and early today at 6 am. As a result, I have no story. This is your opportunity to make last-minute pitches for candidates on the ballot today. Also, after you vote, how about dropping a line to let us know what it was like at your polling place? How were the new voting machines in Northampton County? How about the scanning in Lehigh? If you see something unusual or wrong, feel free to post it.  I will try to check the blog, but it will be hit and miss.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Why I Support Abe Kassis

Both Vic Scomillio and Abe Kassis are fine lawyers. I support Abe because his judicial temperament is slightly better, at least in my view. He was encouraged to do comparison pieces that would cast Scomillio in a bad light and refused. "It's not who I am," he told supporters. I deeply respect his personal integrity and desire to remain above the fray.

Like Abe, I will refrain from trashing Scomillio. Although a low turnout favors Vic, I believe Abe will win this race because the Democratic ticket is strong while Republicans are weighed down by Tom Carroll. 

NorCo Council Races on Tuesday

Northampton County Council is the legislative branch of Northampton County. It also holds the purse strings, and must approve a budget every year. Its nine part-time members are paid $9,500 per year. The President gets an extra $500. They receive no benefits, though they may participate in the pension plan.

Democrats currently enjoy a 6-3 majority. Will that change after Tuesday's election? When the dust settles on November 5, I expect Democrats will maintain their 6-3 edge.

District One: Also called the "Bethlehem" District, it consists of Bethlehem, Hanover Tp, Hellertown and Freemansburg. This district had been represented by painters' union agent Ken Kraft, but he abruptly resigned in October to take a job with Northampton County at the jail. The sole applicant to replace him was Kevin Lott, a Hellertown Borough Council member who was also a business agent for the carpenters' union. Lott was appointed to Council October 18, and is running unopposed on Tuesday. He is a Democrat. Though likable and folksy, Lott alienated Northampton County employees over his treatment of probation officers who left their union.

District Two: Also called the "Easton" District, this consists of  Easton, West Easton, Glendon, Tatamy Stockertown and Wilson Borough, as well as Forks and Palmer Townships. The party nominees in this race were chosen by party bosses, not the voters because the candidates elected in the primary withdrew. Democrats are backing former Easton Area School Board Prez Kerry Myers, while Republicans support  Monroe County Assistant Public Defender James Fuller.

Myers has run once before for Council, but fell short. He recently retired from Lafayette College, has been involved in youth sports his entire adult life and knows something about service and volunteerism. Fuller has made no effort I can discern in this race.

Myers is the clear choice.

District Three: This is the middle of Northampton County. It consists of Williams, Lower Saucon, Bethlehem, Lower Nazareth, East Allen and Allen Townships. It also contains Nazareth, North Catasauqua and Northampton Boroughs. It is represented by algebra teacher and Williams Tp resident John Cusick, who has 12 years of service combined. He is being challenged by Luke Verdes, who works for a consulting firm assisting nonprofits.

I will be voting for Cusick. I explained why last week. Cucick is very knowledgeable about county issues, is dedicated and tends to look at things with no preconceived notions. His institutional knowledge is priceless in a Council with next to none. I'd add he accepts no special interest money and refuses money from county vendors and political appointees. Others should follow this practice.

District Four: You can call this the Slate Belt or northern tier. It consists of the Slate Belt area as well as Bushkill Township, Upper Nazareth, Bath, Chapman, Moore Township, Lehigh Township and Walnutport.

Roseto Borough Council member Dan Engle, a fourth generation member of Boilermakers Local 28, is the Democratic nominee. The Republican candidate is Wind Gap resident and small business owner Tom Giovanni. The latter will win ... easily.

For one thing, whether it's the Slate Belt or northern tier, it's conservative. For another, Born and raised in Bangor, PA. Giovanni has solid roots in the area. He attended elementary school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and graduated from Pius X high school. Tom lived in the Nazareth Area School District in Bushkill Township for 31 years. This past year he moved to Wind Gap, PA. He has volunteered his time with the Greater Valley YMCA, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Nazareth Business Council and Nazareth Bath Chamber of Commerce.

Engle was personable when I spoke to him personally, but either he or someone in his camp is fairly thin-skinned. When he announced, I poked fun at his Facebook message: "I'm 6'1 and big dark and handsome .. if you like big." He did not take it so well. He later contacted me to deny he was upset, but Northampton County Council already has two union agents among its members. Three is too many.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Mercy & Justice

Northampton County's seal is modeled after The Great Seal of William Penn. Both contain two very important words, "mercy" and "justice," with the word "mercy" coming first. This seal was behind District Attorney John Morganelli on Wednesday when he announce he was dismissing charges filed against a mother who had tearfully left her 32-day old infant son in the care of a LANTA bus driver. Perhaps Morganelli was mindful of the county seal's admonition when he announced his decision. Perhaps not. But William Penn would have been proud of him.

Last weekend, a woman riding a LANTA bus got off in Bethlehem. On her way out the door, she left her baby with the bus driver and asked him to call the police because she was unable to care for him. She walked away in tears. The child was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital. Though his diaper was saturated with what babies do, he was otherwise unharmed. The hospital determined this baby was 32-days old.

By Monday, Bethlehem Police identified and located the mother, Ashley Leann Walters, 26, of Whitehall. She gave police several stories, some of which were later determined to be untrue. Police filed reckless endangerment charges at the lowest level possible. Walters, who had numerous outstanding warrants for minor offenses, was remanded to jail after being unable to post bond. Walters was carrying no drug paraphernalia.

When Morganelli became aware of this matter, he learned that Walters was abusive, uncooperative and combative. She was erratic, even with pretrial services. Morganelli asked for a mental health assessment, and Chris Broubalow of the county's mental health team recommended that Walters be committed for 72 hours.

So Walters has been committed and Mrganelli directed that the charges against her be dismissed. "“We have tough calls to make in the DA’s office," he said to a Fox News reporter who questioned whether he was being too lenient. "Is this the kind of case that's in the public interest to prosecute?" he asked.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DeLuzio agreed that it's better to see Walters in mental health treatment than sitting in a jail.

"I don't like to punish people who may be suffering from a mental illness," said Morganelli.

Mercy and justice were on display in Morganelli's decision, and in that order.

It's why he'll be sorely missed as District Attorney. It's why he'll be an excellent judge.