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Friday, February 28, 2020

Negron, Van Wirt Oppose Bill To Eliminate Wage Disparity in Bethlehem



As hard as this might be, I actually feel sorry for Bethlehem City Council member Bryan Callahan. He recently introduced an ordinance aimed at eliminating the wage disparity we all know exists between men and women. You'd think Olga Negron (Mayor Dumbass) and Paige Van Wirt (call me Doctor), two of Bethlehem's three female Council members, would jump all over this. They both no doubt have experienced the gender pay gap. They and Callahan are the three members of Council's Human Resources Committee. But amazingly, they voted on Tuesday to delay Callahan's bill. Not just that. They jumped all over Callahan, too. Negron told Callahan to "shut up" while Van Wirt insisted she be addressed as "Doctor." After the meeting, when she thought the mike was off, Van Wirt pointed at Callahan and threatened, "Don't bring up my business." Negron and Van Wirt might claim to be champions of women's rights, their actions tell a different story. They would rather hurt Callahan than help women. This is classic bad government. I expect this from Negron, but Van Wirt's behavior is very disappointing

Without question, wage disparity exists. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently summarized the data in a February 6 opinion upholding Philadelphia's Wage Equality Ordinance:
According to the 2015 census, women in Pennsylvania earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by similarly situated men. For women of color, the wage gap is even more profound. Black women earn 68 cents for every dollar paid to similarly situated men, and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar paid to similarly situated men. The gap begins for women as soon as they enter the workforce. In just the first year after college, fulltime working women earn, on average, just 82% of what their male peers earn. Overall, women under the age of 35 earn 88-91% of what their male peers earn. Rather than improve, as women gain experience in the work force the situation gets worse. Women aged 35 and over earn only 77-81% of what male peers earn.
Callahan's legislation addresses this gender pay gap by banning employers from asking job applicants to disclose their wage history. The law would become effective one year after enactment to give businesses time to become familiar with the change. After that, a boss who asks for a wage history could get hit with a fine of up to $1,000 in a private action. The City's Human Relations Commission lacks the resources to enforce this law, so it would be up to the victim. 

This proposed wage history ban is similar to the law recently upheld in Philly. In Pennsylvania, state agencies are banned from asking an applicant to reveal his or her job history. In Pittsburgh, city officials are barred from asking a job seeker to disclose prior salaries.

Throughout the country, there are 17 state-wide and 20 local salary history bans.

"And we're Bethlehem," responded VanWirt when Callahan attempted to point out that salary history bans are being implemented throughout the country.

During the hearing, Van Wirt noted that Callahan had called her and promised he would even support Olga Negron as Council President if they would only support this legislation. She told him then that she had unspecified "concerns."  She instructed Callahan that it was his job to reach out to the women on Council to come up with a workable ordinance.

"The time to do this was before this committee meeting," she declared.

In other words, behind closed doors in violation of the state Sunshine Act. The people's business, with very limited exceptions, should always be discussed openly.

"Miss Van Wirt," began Callahan.

"Dr. Van Wirt," snapped Van Wirt.

"Councilwoman Van Wirt," continued Callahan. "In here you're a Councilwoman."

"Councilwoman or Doctor will be fine, thank you."

She didn't spend six years in evil medical school to be called Miss, thank you very much.

Negron complained, perhaps rightly, that the onus for enforcement is on the job applicant. Van Wirt said an employment lawyer would cost $5,000.

That's just nutz.

Solicitor Jack Spirk said that perhaps the fine could be directed at attorney fees.

Neither Van Wirt nor Negron was willing to offer amendments to make the ordinance more workable. They both voted to postpone the matter and also made clear they are unwilling to offer future amendments.

A baffled Callahan pointed out they both had known about the hearing at least a month in advance.

"If you want to respect the women in the City, start with your two colleagues here," snapped Negron, referring to herself and VanWirt. Negron conveniently ignored a third female member of City Council, Grace Crampsie Smith, even though she was present and happens to support a wage history ban in some form.

"Please respect what we're trying to tell you and don't keep on talking down to us," continued Negron.

Callahan tried to respond, but Negron began waving her arms and shouted, "No you listen to me. ... You have to shut up, OK? respect us."

Bethlehem Gadfly has previously lauded Negron for "her willingness to work with others, her ability to change her mind — a trait not so noticeable in elected officials — her honesty, and her persistence."

Her antics at this meeting reveal the real Olga.

At some point toward the end of the meeting, Callahan wondered (perhaps not so innocently) whether Van Wirt's intransigence might be related to the fact that she has a business in Bethlehem. When she thought the meeting had ended, she stuck her finger at Callahan and threatened, "Don't bring up my business."

I thought it was a profession.

Doctor Van Wirt's behavior at this meeting was both unprofessional and hurts women. But she's a doctor.

(Blogger's Note: The County has no power to impose a wage history ban. I question whether a city government has this authority. )

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Wash Your Damn Hands Already


You can find out everything you want to know about Covid-19, the latest coronavirus, at the CDC website. Well, almost everything. I have no idea whether it comes from bats, armadillos or some secret Chinese bio lab. It obviously spreads pretty efficiently and is likely headed this way. It appears to be similar to the flu, except it is caused by a different virus.

This should be a public health, issue, not some political game. 

WLVR, Your Local Information News Source?

I enjoy listening to WHYY in Philly because it includes a variety of interesting news programs. The focus of most of these shows is national, but Radio Times delves into Philly and state issues. I often wished we had something similar here in the Lehigh Valley. It turns out we do. WLVR (93.1 FM) declares it is "your full-service NPR news and information station serving the Lehigh Valley!" I just discovered this station yesterday, and it carries many of the same programs I hear on WHYY. That's a good thing. But there is very little in the way of local coverage. I really think the community would benefit from a daily show like Radio Times.

AM talk radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh does sometimes feature local guests, but I think the community could use a lot more coverage. I would also like a show that encourages active participation.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mayor Wannabe Negron Claims She Has Spies

Bethlehem City Council person Olga Negron, who would like to be Bethlehem's next Mayor, has recently unfriended or blocked a number of people from her Facebook page, claiming she has "spies." She got rid of me when I first wrote about her husband, Judge Dumbass.

But she's right. One of her spies sent this my way.


"[L]eadership is part of my nature," she recently boasted. So is job bouncing. She is currently the "community liaison" for the HGSk personal injury law firm, whatever that may be. From 2003 to present, she has also worked as a neighborhood coordinator in Allentown (6 years), Exec Director at LV Hispanic Center (2 years), Exec Director at Levitt Pavilion (9 months), legislative assistant for Steve Samuelson (almost 2 years), sales manager at HOLA radio (11 months) and library technician (5 years).

Bloomberg: The Only Grown-Up in the Room

While Michael Bloomberg was no Cicero, his performance at last night's Democratic debate was a vast improvement over his debut. A technocrat who attempted vainly at times to laugh at himself, he also often appeared to be the only grown-up in the room. Bernie Sanders, who was attacked the most, was very strong in his responses and style. Elizabeth Warren delivered the most cheap shots, and at times, spoke for minutes without being shut down by very weak moderators. I am sick and tired of hearing Joe Biden say he's the guy who did this or did that, right before he sticks his foot in his mouth. I liked Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttegeig, but have to wonder why the hell Tom Steyer is still in the race.

Because he was vastly improved and very substantive, I'd give this debate to Bloomberg. Yews, Bernie did better in his answers, but he's had more practice. The clear loser of this debate? CBS.

What do you think? I am only interested in what other Democrats think. I already know what Trump supporters think.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Nevada Turnout Is Reassuring, If You Are a Dem

Conservative columnist Bernard Goldberg has written he'll refuse to vote in the Presidential race because he detests Donald Trump. "It's not his policies that annoy the heck out of me, It's he who annoys the heck out of me." He also refuses to vote for any of the numerous Democrats running. My fear is that many Democrats feel that way as well. Turnout in Iowa was hardly reassuring. In New Hampshire, 300,622 ballots were cast. That has been touted as a "record," but is actually well below the 542,000 turnout in 2016. The turnout in Nevada, however, suggests voters are energized. According to Vox, it should exceed the numbers in 2008 and 2016. That's one bright ray of sunshine in a fog of weak Democrats.

Gracedale Census Down, Costs Up

At last week's NorCo Human Services Committee meeting, a bean counter droned on forever about a new way the nursing home is being reimbursed, but glossed over two important details. He almost got away with it, too, but Council member John Cusick caught it.

First, census is down. The target is 670, and census is 628. The fewer residents there are, the less money the County is reimbursed.

Second, the nursing home spent $1 million more than it took in during December. Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King claimed the home is getting new furniture. Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski argued that employees cost money. That's true, except that the nursing home fired 12 people in December and only hired 3. Vacancies are an issue.

Stewart-King also boasted about the home's most recent survey, still unavailable online. She claimed the home had dropped from 11 deficiencies to 4. But under a privatized Administrator, the county went two years with zero.

"I'm proud of the team and everything they accomplished," said Stewart-King. In the meantime, the nursing home still maintains a two-star (below average) rating.

Maybe that has something to do with the census.

LC Exec To Deliver SOTC This Thursday

Lehigh County Exec Phil Armstrong will deliver his annual State of the County address this Thursday, 4 pm, at Coca Cola Park.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Did Judge Dantos Cross the Thin Blue Line?

On Friday, a Lehigh County jury acquitted an Allentown man who ended up on the wrong side of an altercation with four cops investigating reports of an armed man. It just so happens that in 2013, this very same Defendant was involved in a drug deal that went bad.  He was charged among other things, with being an ex-con in possession of a firearm. He's certainly no saint. A Facebook video certainly suggests police may have over-reacted, so I have no quarrel with the jury's verdict. They heard the evidence, not me.  I do ask whether Judge Maria Dantos crossed the line and acted ethically when she publicly berated these officers. I have to wonder whether she herself is biased.

After the verdict, and presumably after the jury had been excused, she accused officers of committing perjury, smirking on the stand, exchanging high-fives in a hallway and laughing at defense attorney Robert E Goldman, who just happens to file a lot of civil rights lawsuits.

She was the presiding judge. If she saw officers smirking on the stand, did she stop the proceedings, excuse the jury and admonish the guilty officers? If she saw them exchanging high-fives in the hallway, did she bring in the officers and warn them? If they were laughing at appropriately-named Goldman, wouldn't that be a basis for her to hold them in contempt? Why didn't she?

When Dantos first was elevated to the judicial heavens in 2007, she was a prosecutor married to a retired Allentown cop who has become Slatington's police chief. She was as pro-cop as Judge Dumbass claims to be then. But as her marriage soured, is it possible her attitude towards police soured as well? Especially Allentown police?

After her scathing remarks, which incidentally included accusations of perjury, can anyone expect her to be an unbiased and neutral judge?

Friday, February 21, 2020

Heckman Demands More Accessibility to Meeting Videos

At about this time last year, I was assured by Northampton County's IT department that all meetings would be uploaded to Youtube within a matter of months. In December, I was assured this would happen by February. But the county's IT vendor has been dragging its feet. Council President Ron Heckman has had enough, and voiced his displeasure at last night's meeting to Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron.

In order to watch a meeting video, you first have to be using a Windows system. It won't work on Apple systems. On Windows, you have to download a Microsoft program called Silverlight. But get this. Silverlight is incompatible with Microsoft Edge and Chrome. It does work with Internet Explorer. So to watch a meeting, you have to use two separate browsers.

Understandably, many members of the public refuse to jump through all these hoops, and several have complained to Heckman.

Barron began delivering a long-winded explanation of a problem that itself has existed for too long.

"Not everybody still has Commodore computers," complained Heckman. "It's not for you to explain how they (IT) can't do things. It's for them to explain how they're going to get the thing fixed so people can watch this stuff. I don't need the google-dee-doc about the whole Bill Gates discussion. Fix the thing so somebody can go on a computer and watch it. No more excuses."

Lamont McClure Loves Teladoc

At last night's meeting of Northampton County Council, Executive Lamont McClure once again discussed his favorite topic - Teladoc. While health care costs constantly increase, Teladoc actually saves the county money.

Teladoc is a mobile app that enables county employees to seek medical care through their phones, iPads and computers.

McClure reports that, in January, the County saved $66,176, its best month ever in the 21 months the County has been using it. "Forty-two percent of those using Teladoc would have gone either to the emergency room - have you got an emergency room bill lately? - or an urgent care," he said. "Think about that. If these trends continue, it will offset some of our healthcare increases."

In the 21 months the County has been using Teladoc, it has saved $857,186. The program cost the County $94,273, for a net savings of $762,912.

"This small change is making a big difference for us," he concluded.

McClure Claims Mandatory OT Down at Jail and 911

During his report at last night's Northampton County Council meeting, Executive Lamont McClure boasted that mandatory overtime at the jail and 911 center is significantly down.

When he took office, he was down 20 dispatchers and supervisors at the 911 center, making mandated overtime necessary.

"I am happy to tell you we are fully staffed at 911 now," he told Council. These positions were filled even though the county's dispatch operation consolidated with Bethlehem.

When he took office, there were about 184 corrections officers even though the county budgeted for 212. McClure has filled vacancies, and claims the jail is now only about three or four officers short of being fully staffed.

Corrections Director James Kostura has told McClure that some officers are now asking, "Where's my overtime?"

In a meeting last year with union officers Lew Donatelli and Russell Attanasio, they pointed to a prison study conducted by former Executive John Brown. According to that study, staffing at the jail should be 247. They suggested the County was purposely refusing to fill vacancies because mandated overtime was actually cheaper.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

WaPo Quiz: Which Democratic Presidential Hopeful Agrees With You Most?

In the latest of the debates for Democratic Presidential hopefuls, held last night in Nevada, Michael Bloomberg took a beating. I almost felt sorry for him. Bloomberg did come across as condescending at times when talking about his wealth. Joe Biden probably had his best night of all these debates. Amy Klobuchar continues to impress. I particularly liked when she referred to some of the zingers sent out to candidates about heart conditions, and then said Donald Trump has no heart at all. I also  sensed some real animosity between her and Pete Buttegeig. The BernieBros. continued to demonstrate they are assholes by heckling Biden over immigration during his closing. I did not care for Warren's attacks at everyone, and thought Buttegeig looked bad when he called out Klobuchar over her inability to name the President of Mexico, whose name escapes me.

So who should you support? Washington Post has a quiz of 20 questions, from which you can determine which of the Democrats are closest to your own views.  I took the quiz, and the two candidates closest to my views are Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg. The two candidates who diverge most are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

NorCo's Capital Projects Update

Public Works Director Mike Emili updated Northampton County Council yesterday on the status of several capital projects.

Forensic Center - A Notice To Proceed was issued 9/13. Exterior footings and foundation walls have all been poured. The building pad has been backfilled, brought up to grade and compacted. Underground plumbing, electrical utilities and interior footings are currently being installed. Structural Steel will begin erection in March. This project is still on track for substantial completion by September. Administrator Charles Dertinger said he had to cart in 15,000 tons of dirt for water retention. Hope he did not get his bowtie dirty.

Wolf Avenue Parking Lot (former Milides Building). - Work began in November. Most of the site grading has been done by Bean Contracting. Currently working on an underground water detention system, which will be connected to City sewer on Washington Street. Bank will be shored up. Will be putting in a retention wall after excavating ashes. Executive Lamont McClure previously said he wanted to finish this project before the snow fell. 

Crosswalk from Wolf Avenue Parking Lot - Michael Baker International has designed a plan that includes a rapid flashing beacon, a bumped out curve and push buttons for pedestrians. Emili predicted "drastic improvements" to a dangerous crossing. 

Roof replacement - lower section of new courthouse. Scheduled for Spring. Should take one month.

Cooling tower - courthouse annex. design work in progress. $250,000

Gracedale bathroom floors in tower. Just received DOH approval. Putting out to bid.

Gracedale nurse call system - being installed at main building. Cabling work has begun. Complete this summer.

Norbath Trail - Resurfacing between Jacksonville and Weaversville Rds in April or May.

Louise Moore Park- new maintenance facility being designed. It's a simple pole barn, but bids are too high.

Prison generator. - will arrive mid-April.

911 parking lot - taking a beating during construction of Forensic Center. Will be resurfaced after forensic center is done.

The GESA (guaranteed energy savings agreement) with McClure Co. (no relation to Executive Lamont McClure) was negotiated in 2011. This permitted capital upgrades to HVAC and other systems that generated energy savings, which in turn financed the cost of the upgrades. This Agreement included a 15 year maintenance agreement, and County is in year nine. It is being renegotiated to an "as needed basis." Savings at Gracedale are $827,000 over six years. Savings at the courthouse are $503,000 over six years.

County Bridges

Bridge 115 - Mill Street, Bath. Completed in December and open. Minor punch list items

Bridge 225 - Laurel Hill Rd, Lower Mt Bethel Tp. Engineering contract awarded to Carroll Engineering.

Bridge 8 - Kressman Rd, Williams Tp. - working with PEMA and FEMA to nail down scope of work. and get disaster relief reimbursement. An RFP has been issued for engineering services. Due back March 5.

Bridge 143, Glase Rd, Moore Tp, 3-arch masonry bridge. Being repaired. Stabilizedc and grouted all three arches. rebuilding stone walls so bridge retains some of its historic character. Installing arch liners. Nearing completion.

Closed Bridges.  Bridge 31 in Lower Mt Bethel is scheduled for 2029 and closed . Closed.
Meadows Bridge in Lower Saucon in scheduled for 2026.

Council membeer John Cusick suggested pressuring State Senators and State Reps. "Some people call it pork, we call it necessary transportation funding," said Cusick.

P3 Project - 33 bridges were part of the original agreement. The General Purpose Authority wants to remove 8, making 25 bridges in total. Currently, 4 bridges are in the in maintenance period, 8 are under construction, 7 in design phase, and 6 bridges given notice to proceed.

Amy Cozze Invites YOU to Try the ExpressVote XL

Despite its disastrous debut in last year's election, Northampton County officials are sticking with the ExpressVote XL voting system. As many as a third of these machines - a hybrid touch screen and paper ballot - were hypersensitive, which made it difficult for some voters to make selections. In addition, the system had been improperly programmed. Election Systems and Software, the manufacturer of this system, has assured the County these problems are now resolved and should pose no issues during the Presidential Primary on April 28.

Voter Registrar Amy Cozze, however, has already conducted several public demonstrations of the voting system in which voters can try out the system for themselves. The following ExpressVote XL demos are scheduled:

March 6: 9:00–11:00AM, Slate Belt Senior Center, 707 American Bangor Road, Bangor, PA 18013

March 6: 6:00–9:00PM, “First Fridays” Banana Factory, 25 W 3rd Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015

March 9: 10:00AM–1:00PM, Hellertown Library 409 Constitution Avenue, Hellertown, PA 18055

March 12: 10:00AM–12:00PM, Nazareth Senior Center, 15 South Wood Street, Nazareth, PA 18064

March 17: 10:00AM–2:00PM, Northampton Community College, 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem, PA 18020

March 25: 11:00AM–1:00PM, Easton Public Library, 515 Church Street, Easton, PA 18042

March 27: 5:00PM–8:00PM, Sigal Museum, 342 Northampton Street, Easton, PA 18042

March 30: 9:00AM–11:00AM, Nazareth Area High School, 501 E Center Street, Nazareth, PA 18064

April 2: 10:00AM–12:00PM, Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, 713 N 13th Street, Allentown, PA 18102

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

(Updated) Mayor Donchez: Judge Dumbass Allegations Are False

On Friday and again on Monday, I brought you Nick Englesson, Judge Dumbass, and Judge Dumbass, Mrs Dumbass and the Gadfly. These stories were about a Bethlehem police officer's traffic stop of a Puerto Rican male who told Magisterial District Judge Nick Englesson that he was profiled at the time he pleaded guilty to two minor charges filed against him. Englesson, who is something of a Latinphile, took it upon himself to lecture the arresting officer the next time he saw him. That didn't go over too well. Since that time, Englesson has penned several epistles essentially warning of future "civil unrest" and demanding that the officer be sanctioned for complaining to his superiors. He made sure to send copies of his missives to numerous people, and they were leaked to Gadfly, a Bethlehem blogger, who wrote numerous posts on the topic. At the same time, Englesson's wife, Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron, began stirring the pot with an appeal, in Spanish only, for Latinos to come before Bethlehem's very own Committee of Public Safety to complain about cops. Although she hopefully has no interest in beheading anyone like her French counterparts, she apparently thinks complaining about policía racista is a sure way to get herself elected Mayor.

It's too bad she was a no-show last night. Had she attended, she could have voted on the Packer Avenue proposal, which went in Lehigh's favor by a 3-2 vote. She also could have heard Mayor Bob Donchez' comments about her husband's complaint, which I'll share:
I consider it necessary and in the City’s best interest that this statement be made to address recent blog postings of letters of a highly personal and confidential nature.

In the letters, Magisterial District Judge Englesson made allegations of unprofessional and illegal conduct against a City police officer and Chief DiLuzio involving a traffic stop and a marijuana possession charge.

The allegations have been subjected to a thorough internal investigation. This included review of dash-camera and body-camera audio-video evidence of the actual events. The evidence shows that these allegations are false.

The Solicitor advises that Pennsylvania laws impose specific constraints which limit further public disclosure by the City at this time. Those constraints also apply to investigatory materials, evidence and any further review.

Therefore, for the foreseeable future, further comment on this matter will be very limited or declined..
Judge Dumbass should draft a third Letter to the Gringos. Instead of seven and eight pages, this one should be simple. "I am sorry."

Blogger's Note: Updated 8:14 am

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Slowly But Surely, NorCo Turning Red

I've always thought of Northampton County as a Democratic stronghold, and Lehigh County as more Republican. But over the past ten years, Lehigh has had a higher percentage of Democrats than Northampton. What's more, Northampton County is losing its blue edge.

Ten years ago, Democrats made up an even 50% of Northampton County's then 196,367 registered voters. But that percentage has been dropping, slowly but surely, in a steady decline. In 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected, Democrats accounted for just 46.9% of the then 211,402 registered voters. Though Trump's approval rating last November was 41%, there were fewer Democrats on election day. Democrats made up 45.8% of the 208,417 registered voters,

So in the past ten years, the Democratic edge in Northampton County has dropped 4.2%.

In Lehigh County, however, the numbers have swung more sharply.

In 2009, Democrats accounted for 50.2% of Lehigh's then 223,051 registered voters. The percentage actually increased to 55.2% in 2013. But last year (11/19) Democrats made up 48.3% of the county's 230,199 registered voters.

There have been too many swings in Lehigh County's percentages for me to draw any conclusions about what is going in there. But in Northampton County, we are slowly but surely turning red.

Voters there may detest Trump, but they appear to detest Democrats even more. I believe this is because the party has lost its appeal to its biggest base - the blue collars. Rightly or wrongly, the Democratic party is perceived as elitist and more interested in banning plastic straws than helping people.

Suspended Washington Tp Police Chief on Patrol in Roseto

Last week, Washington Tp's Supervisors voted unanimously to suspend Police Chief Scott E Miller. After spending eight hours in a sports bar, Miller was involved in an accident along Kesslersville in which he totaled his truck and did a great deal of damage to someone's property. He failed to report his accident to police, even though his truck had to be towed away. He also made no effort to contact the homeowner whose property was damaged. This suspension came after DA Terry Houck charged Miller with two summary offenses. There was insufficient evidence for a DUI. You might think that after being suspended without pay, Miller would lay low for awhile, hoping things blow over. But according to a poster at Facebook group Slate Belt Watch, Miller was spotted over the weekend, working as a police officer in Roseto.

Miller's employment as a part-time police officer in Roseto was confirmed yesterday by the Borough's Mayor, Joseph C. Angelini. He told me Council would be meeting soon to discuss the situation. Its next meeting is Match 2.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Judge Dumbass, Mrs Dumbass and the Gadfly

Judge Dumbass
On Friday, in a story called Nick Englesson, Dumbass, I first told you about Nick's attempt to magnify a routine traffic stop into a case of  racially profiling a Puerto Rican. I attributed this to his own hypersensitivity when it comes to all things Latin. He has always loved Latin culture, speaks Spanish fluently, and recently married Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron, who herself is Puerto Rican. He's in love. I now think there's a lot more to this story. Whatever motive Judge Dumbass might originally have had, Mrs. Dumbass would like to politicize it. You see, she'd like to be Mayor Dumbass. That's why Judge and Mrs. Dumbass have widely circulated numerous copies of his Epistles to the Gringos. It's why Gadfly, a hopefully unwitting Bethlehem blogger, has been attempting to whip up a public frenzy with six seven posts (so far) on this topic. It's why Mrs. Dumbass is now recruiting people, of course in Spanish only, to fill a Council meeting to complain about those policía racista.

Gadfly began these insinuations last week, with heavily redacted versions of various exchanges over a minor traffic stop. What happened is a matter of public record, so there's no reason to redact anything. Yet Gadfly, in what appears to be an attempt to protect both Judge and Mrs. Dumbass, deleted 38 lines of text from Nick Englesson's First Letter to the Gringos. According to Gadfly, they "do not directly bear on the dispute at hand." That's bullshit. They are directly relevant because they show (1) the connection between Judge Dumbass and his City Council member wife, a point Gadfly would apparently prefer you not know; and (2) a very public bias against Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio, whom Judge Dumbass calls both "petty and vindictive." This is in addition to his obvious Latin bias and admitted bias in favor of Bethlehem's constabulary. Here are links to the unredacted exchanges, which are floating around everywhere:

Police Chief DiLuzio's Complaint About Judge Dumbass

Affidavit of Probable Cause

Judge Dumbass' First Letter to the Gringos

Judge Dumbass' Second Letter to the Gringos

Gadfly, of course, is dutifully horrified. In numerous posts about this topic, he hints that Bethlehem police are guilty of racial profiling, police brutality and lying in an Affidavit of Probable Cause. He's certainly doing his part to stir the pot. He claims "Good conversation builds community" while doing his best to divide it.

In the meantime, Mrs. Dumbass, who would like to be Mayor Dumbass, is actively looking for complaints from others. Just as Donald Trump has benefited from the politics of division, so is she. Instead of illegal immigrants, her bogeymen are Bethlehem's policía racista. Right before blocking me from Facebook on Friday, she posted this:


Then she hopped on my blog to warn me, anonymously of course, "You just started a war and opened up a firestorm. The Ides of March are coming. March 3rd to be exact. If you spoke spanish, maybe you would have known that by now."

To be exact, Olga, the Ides of March is on March 15. Mrs. Dumbass probably never got that far at Austin Community College.

By the by, isn't it just a tad bit "racist" for Negron to use her City Council perch to solicit stories from the citizens of Bethlehem in Spanish only? I could tell her, in English, Spanish and even French, that a cop gave me a dirty look the other day. Or he may have had gas.

And why must replies go to her email address at a lawfirm that specializes in representing Plaintiffs? Does she get a commission?

In his First Letter to the Gringos, Judge Dumbass insists there's "a sturdy firewall between my duties as a judge, and her political activities." Well, that's obviously untrue.

We all know that if there were a real problem, there'd be no need to prod anyone.

There isn't, and frankly, an attempt to manufacture stories will almost certainly backfire.

Pennsylvania's Latin population is 1 million strong and growing, especially along the 222 Corridor. But in Bethlehem, a large Spanish-speaking population has existed for generations. Mexican-Americans and later, Puerto Ricans, were first attracted here by The Bethlehem Steel. Today, according to DataUSA, the 75,000 people who live in Bethlehem are 60.1% white, 28.5% Hispanic and 5.9% black or African American.  Two City Council members are Latin. City employees, including cops and other first responders, are Latin.

If the Latin community were being preyed upon by Bethlehem police, as Judge Dumbass, Gadfly  and Mrs. Dumbass would like you to think, this would be borne out by the data. But the opposite is the case. Of 2,146 criminal cases processed in Northampton County in 2018, 76% were against white Defendants. In Lehigh County, of 3,061 criminal cases prosecuted, 72% were against white people. (Source: Pa. Commission on Sentencing (2018)).

Here's what we do know.

- Matthew Ragusa, the officer accused of racial profiling and who Judge Dumbass wants disciplined, has been a Bethlehem cop since 2015.  He is experienced. Not long ago, he showed incredible restraint when arresting a woman named Stacie Coronado outside a social club, even though she punched him in the face and kicked him in the chest with high-heeled boots. He has a tough and dangerous job. Coronado would later plead guilty to simple assault.

- Judge Dumbass, in both of his Letter to the Gringos, has shown a clear pro-Latin bias. His warnings of "civil unrest" are improper from a judge and the product of an overactive imagination.

- Judge Dumbass has admitted a "special affinity for the Bethlehem Police Department"..."I have come to regard the Bethlehem Police Department as the finest around" ... "I do my best to counsel officers on how to present testimony, how to introduce evidence, and how to deal with objections from defense counsel ... "I have never embarrassed an officer in open court, and never turned in an officer for making a mistake." ... "I also am accommodating to officers when they are running late or have some other issue." How can Defendants, unless they are Latin, expect a fair shake from such a Dumbass? This is bias.

- Judge Dumbass admits to discussing Nuria DiLuzio's race for DA with her, and to have assured her she would be a "shoo-in." He simultaneously demeans her as "petty and vindictive" in a letter that made its way to numerous people, including each and every member of Bethlehem City Council. How can her clients, unless they are Latin, expect a fair shake from such a Dumbass? This is bias.

- Despite Judge Dumbass'  insistence on a "sturdy firewall" between what he and Mrs. Dumbass does, it's very clear she intends to manufacture claims against Bethlehem's policía racista, which she thinks will make her Mayor Dumbass.

I expect Judge Dumbass will soon be receiving inquiries, not from me, but the Judicial Conduct Board.

And Gadly, you were played.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Nick Englesson, Judge Dumbass

Judge Dumbass and bride Olga Negron
Nick Englesson is a Magisterial District Judge covering Freemansburg and part of Bethlehem. He's a well respected attorney and likable guy. He's also a dumbass. His handling of an incident involving Bethlehem police and a Puerto Rican male (I'll call him Cheech)  has pretty much rendered him useless in any criminal matter involving Bethlehem police. In addition to pissing them off, Nick has actually opened himself up to challenges of being pro-cop. This is classic dumbass. And it's all because he's in love. Let me tell you the story.

In September, some poor bastard (fortunately not me) was spotted by Bethlehem's finest as he rolled through a stop sign. We all know this is verboten. When Cheech was pulled over, he gave the same name as someone wanted by ICE. Police wanted to be sure they were different people. This fellow was truthful and ultimately released, but he was still charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana. Police had found two roaches while searching his vehicle.

When Cheech appeared for his preliminary hearing before Judge Dumbass in late October, the arresting cop was sick that day. Instead of just tossing the bullshit case, as he should have and the cop probably wanted, Judge Dumbass told Cheech he could get a continuance, seek ARD, waive into court or plead guilty to a third degree misdemeanor. Cheech opted to plead guilty because he was ineligible for ARD and admitted he was, after all, guilty.

While filling out his paperwork, Cheech said he thought he had been stopped because he's Hispanic.  If Bethlehem police were really profiling Hispanics, as Cheech seemed to think, they'd have no time to get anything done because they'd be pulling over most of the south side.  On its face, Cheech's claim is nonsense. But Judge Dumbass believed him. And why? Because he's in love. Nick has always prided himself on his love of all things Latin. He speaks Spanish fluently, and recently married Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron.

Next time Judge Dumbass saw the arresting officer, he pulled him aside and lectured him on the dangers of racial profiling and the harassment of American citizens.

The officers resented this lecture, complained to their Chief, and he in turn complained to President Judge Michael Koury, Jr. (through the Court Administrator).

Judge Koury asked for an explanation, and Judge Dumbass responded with an eight-page Letter to the Gringos. Bethlehem's Gadfly somehow got a copy and posted it on his blog. Although Gadfly took it upon himself to make a large number of completely unnecessary redactions, this lengthy missive is proof of one thing - Nick Englesson is a dumbass

First, Nick, in his letterhead, refers to himself as "Nicholas E Englesson, Esquire." As a matter of etiquette, the word "Esquire" is used when addressing an attorney. Thus, in a letter to Englesson, it would be appropriate to refer to him as "Esquire." But as a matter of etiquette, a lawyer should never use that word in referring to himself.

Dumbass.

Second. Nick's lengthy letter makes very clear that he believed a person who was, after all, admitting he was guilty.

Dumbass.

Third, mostly because he's in love with a Latina, Nick decided to lecture Bethlehem cops on racial profiling and immigration detainers, despite a dearth of evidence to back him up.

Dumbass.

Fourth, in his Letter to the Gringos, Nick actually goes out of his way to assert he is pro-cop. He said he has an "affinity" for police officers, admits ex parte conversations with them on how to prepare a case for court, and will reschedule cases if a cop is a no-show instead of dismissing the matter, as other judges do. Based on these statements, any defense lawyer could ask that Nick be disqualified from any case involving Bethlehem police.  He has just told the President Judge that he plays favorites.

Dumbass.

Nick once told me that, in his entire career as a prosecutor, only one person ever accused him of prosecutorial conduct. Me. It's true. I did it routinely. Nick is actually a great guy, but he's in love.

This makes him Judge Dumbass.

Esquire.

Updated 9:25 am: Judge Dumbass Wants Cops Disciplined for Daring to Criticize Him! - In his First Letter to the Gringos, Nicholas Englesson, ESQUIRE emphasized that he has never reported a cop to his superiors or embarrassed them in court. But in his Second Letter to the Gringos, that's exactly what Judge Dumbass does. Like his first epistle, this one is also pretty long. Seven pages. Gadfly has published it. In this missive, he once again discusses his "special affinity for the Bethlehem Police Department," and goes on to say "I have come to regard the Bethlehem Police Department as the finest around ... ."

Judge Dumbass is incensed that Bethlehem's police chief "would retaliate against a highly educated and presumably privileged white male, and duly elected member of the judiciary," and "can only imagine how he would treat a lowly, powerless Hispanic American." He insists that the Chief reassign the complaining officer to parts of the city outside his magisterial district, and goes on to warn of "unrest" among the City's Latino population.

Once again, he sent out numerous copies. In both of his Letters to the Gringos, Judge Dumbass has manifested bias in violation of Canon 2 of the Rules Governing the Standard of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges. His pro-cop statements are a basis for seeking his disqualification from any matter involving Bethlehem police, and his thin-skinned outrage at being criticized by the Chief  diminishes the prestige of his office.

Updated 4:00 pm: I have and will post unredacted copies of the Judge Dumbass Epistles. - Bethlehem Gadfly posted heavily redacted versions, and actually eliminated 38 lines of text from Nick Englesson's First Letter to the Gringos because, according to him, they "do not directly bear on the dispute at hand." That's bullshit. It is completely relevant, as you will see when I post the letter in its entirety on Monday. In it, Englesson discusses his relationship with Olga Negron, a point that the Gadfly, if he really were a gadfly, should have mentioned. Instead, he redacted it. He also ridiculously suggests that Chief DiLuzio is exacting revenge because Mrs. Dumbass backed Terry Houck for DA.

In the meantime, the NorCo Public Defender is ordering a court reporter at every hearing conducted in front of Esquire.

Washington Tp's Acting Police Chief Resigned in Easton After DUI Charges

Last night, Washington Tp's Board of Supervisors suspended Chief Scott Miller without pay so it could conduct its own investigation into a one-vehicle crash on January 6 that Miller failed to report to Slate Belt Regional Police. He had been at a sports bar for eight hours before sliding off Kesslersvelle Road and onto someone's property. It was actually the tow operator, not Miller, who contacted Slate Belt Regional Police. Though one officer detected the odor of alcohol and two officers noticed that Miller was "mush-mouthed," they failed to conduct any field sobriety tests or a portable breath test. Though their own police report indicated Miller had been driving too fast, no charges were filed. The DA had to step in, and now, the Board of Supervisors at a standing-room only meeting attended by about 50 people. But perhaps they should have thought a bit before naming a new acting chief.

This new acting Chief is SGT James Krome. He was employed by Plainfield Tp for about 12 years, but went to Easton City as part of the "rat pack" when Steve Mazzeo was named Chief by then Mayor Phil Mitman. Those who opposed Mitman paid a price. Former Chief Larry Palmer was reduced to Patrolman. Mazzeo's own cousin was demoted. But Krome did well and quickly became a detective.

His tenure in Easton came to an abrupt end in 2008, when he was charged with driving under the influence after being involved in an accident. He was on call at the time, but had a blood alcohol content of 0.16, twice the legal limit. An internal investigation was underway, and Krome decided his best play was to resign. By that time, Larry Palmer was back in charge of Easton police.

There is no evidence of the DUI charges in court records. My conclusion is that Krome was placed on ARD and the charges were expunged.

Krome was able to land in Washington Tp.

PolitcsPA on LV Congressional Finances

According to PoliticsPA, Lehigh Valley Congressperson Susan Wild raised $520,000 in the last quarter and is sitting on $1.06 million. Republican Lisa Scheller outpaced Wild with $550,000, though $300,000 was from a loan she gave herself. Her warchest stands at $430,000. Republican Dean Browning raised $55,000 and has $225,000. Republican Matt Connolly lent his campaign $5,000 and has about $4,260 cash on hand.

Wild's seat (technically, Pa.-7) has been targeted by the NRCC.

Congrats to Wm Allen, Becahi on EPC B-Ball Championship

Last night, William Allen High School defeated Liberty, 64-42, to win this year's EPC Boys' Basketball Championship. Bethlehem Catholic upended Nazareth, 34-28, to capture the Girls' crown.

Both games were played at PPL Arena in Allentown.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Updated: Are We Ready For This in the White House?


Pete Buttigieg is a well-spoken and thoughtful moderate seeking the Democratic nomination to be our next President. Black voters have an issue with him, pundits say, because of his record on police brutality as Mayor of South Bend. That's bullshit. The problem black voters have with him is he's openly gay.

This was learned in focus groups by his own campaign with black voters: "Being gay was a barrier for these voters, particularly for the men who seemed deeply uncomfortable even discussing it. ... [T]heir preference is for his sexuality not be front and center."

Frankly, blacks are not the only ones who are deeply uncomfortable. So am I. I really want to be tolerant of all kinds of sexual orientations, but when I see two guys kissing, I just want to puke. I suspect many white men my age agree. We'd love to see two women kissing, but not guys. I think this is our internal biology.

So while Buttigieg did well in Iowa and New Hampshire, I expect to see him destroyed in upcoming primaries. I really like the guy, but am unable to get past the pictures. I recognize this is intolerance and wish I were better, but I need more time to adjust.

Buttigieg was elected Mayor in South Bend, but when he ran for State Treasurer in Indiana, he was clobbered. He ran in 2010, a bad year for Democrats, but still lost by 25%. Only one Democrat fared more poorly than he in Indiana. My conclusion? Many people have the same problem with him that I have.

Would I vote for him over Trump? Absolutely. But I would rather vote for someone who will win.

Blogger's Note: Updated from original story at midnight.

Washington Tp Top Cop Suspended Without Pay

Scott Miller
I skipped last night's meeting of Washington Tp's Board of Supervisors. I wanted to be there. I was told a lot of people were coming to complain about Chief Scott Miller's one-car accident on January 6, in which he damaged someone's property, failed to notify police and even failed to inform the homeowner. I missed this meeting because DeSales Men's Basketball team was playing at exactly the same time. I have about 700 years of eligibility and was hoping to get in. Without me, the team lost. But never fear. In advance, I made arrangements with Secret Agent 8. He attended the meeting and can fill us all in on what happened. This is what I've been told.

It was standing room only with about 50 people packed into the meeting room. Among those in attendance were Dan Cotturo, the police chief who was forced out at Washington Township to make way for Miller, despite pending drunk driving charges in Ocean City Maryland. The audience also included the tow company operator who called Slate Belt Regional Police after Miller's accident.

Before anyone uttered a word, the Board of Supervisors went into executive session, which they can do when discussing personnel. When they returned, they voted to suspend Miller without pay, pending an investigation. That investigation will be conducted by Bethlehem Attorney John Harrison, who happens to be the lawyer who uncovered the streetlight scam in Bethlehem Tp.

It would have been very difficult to charge Miller with drunk driving. Though he was "mush-mouthed" and at least one Slate Belt Regional Police officer detected the odor of alcohol on his breath, police failed to conduct a field sobriety test because it was snowing and slippery. They also failed to conduct other tests like a HGN or VGN (horizontal gaze test). They failed to administer a portable breath test (PBT) or ask follow-up questions to determine if Miller was capable of driving safely. They failed to issue any summary citations, even though the accident report indicates Miller was driving too fast for conditions and there were indications he had been drinking. DA terry Houck said a PBT should have been administered.

His office charged Miller with failure to report an accident and driving too fast for conditions, both of which are summary offenses.

According to Agent 8, several individuals addressed Supervisors after they took action. Most condemned Miller.

My previous stories:

DA Files Summary Charges Washington Tp Police Chief For Failure To Notify Homeowner of Accident


Washington Tp Police Chief Rolls Truck ... and Leaves Scene

Washington Police Chief Who Hit Home Failed To Notify Owner

DA Opens Investigation Into Police Chief's Crash

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

You Can Apply For Mail-In Ballots NOW

I just applied online here. It took under five minutes. If you don't trust the machines or have no desire to stand in line, this is for you.

Senior Center to Open in Lower Nazareth

Northampton County will oopen a new Senior Center in Lower Nazareth on Friday, February 14, 2020 at 10:00AM at the municipal building located at 306 Butztown Road, Bethlehem, PA 18020.

Northampton County Senior Centers provide services to County residents ages sixty or older which include congregate meal plans, health and wellness programs, tax filing assistance, computers and internet access, activities, health checks and many other programs.

A demonstration of the ExpressVote XL Voting Machines will be available after the opening ceremony.

Updated: Anemic New Hampshire Turnout Should Worry Dems

At the New Hampshire debate on Friday night, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders boasted he would win because he'd drive turnout, especially among young voters. I wondered about that prediction because the turnout in Iowa was just 170,000, well below the 240,000 who voted in 2016. Turnout in New Hampshire may very well be anemic, too.

Amazingly, few news sources are reporting on turnout as I write this, but NPR radio is describing turnout as flat.  It reports young and new voter turnout is down as well. Apparently, they don't feel the burn.

If they want to defeat Trump, Democrats should be coming out of the woodwork. The reality is that the field is amazingly weak.

New Hampshire's Sec'y of State had predicted turnout would be 420,000, including 292,000 voters on the Dem side and 128,000 Republicans. In 2016, there was a record turnout of 542,000 votes.

According to an ABC report, turnout last night was at 283,000, presumably just in the Dem primary. The story claims this turnout surpasses the 2016 figures. ABC should re-check its math, Last time I checked, 283,000 is less than 290,000. An NPR story reports a 279,000 turnout and makes the same inaccurate claim.

Turnout is actually below 2016 levels.

Blogger's Note: Originally posted 12:00 am.

EPC Boys' Basketball - EPC 'Ship Between Liberty and William Allen

On Thursday night at PPL Center, the EPC Championship in boys' and girls' basketball will be decided in games at PPL Center in downtown Allentown, where the semifinals were played Monday and Tuesday nights.

On Monday, in boys' hoops, Liberty High School won its semifinal contest against Allentown Central Catholic, 60-53. Then in a game that went into overtime, William Allen edged Parkland, 66-61.

Last night, Becahi eliminated Freedom, 59-38, while Nazareth's Blue Eagles got by Stroudsburg, 44-38.

Tomorrow night, the Liberty and Allen boys teams will face off for the 'ship, while the girls' trophy will go to Bethlehem Catholic or Nazareth.

I was at Monday night's game. As much as I like college hoops, and I do, there is no replacement for the excitement and enthusiasm of high school basketball game. You can throw team records out the window. In high school, anything can and does happen. This is magnified when a game is played at PPL Center.

In addition to the gigantic jumbotron at the center of the arena, the place was packed with bands, cheerleaders, players from other high schools cheering on their friends, alumni, parents, teachers. My favorites were the ball boys, grade school kids festooned with lanyards and grey "ball boy" t-shirts. When a ball rolled out of bounds, one of them would dash for it and come back, dribbling a few times before passing it to the ref. Every time the whistle would blow, one or all of them would be out on the court, mopping it dry. At half time, I thought they were going to mop the entire arena while simultaneously pretending they were scoring themselves.

Liberty's band is always exceptional, and Mionday night was no exception. William Allen Chorale surprised me with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, far better than I've heard anywhere else in quite some time.  Parkland's brass, a combo of saxophones and trombones, were spectacular.

The games themselves were among the best I've seen this season. I was particularly impressed by William Allen PG Nate Ellis. He's just a sophomore and was not the high scorer, but he won a game in which the Canaries had to claw their way back. He did it with strong defense that frustrated the taller Trojans.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Upcoming ExpressVote XL Demos


 
 
February 20th from 9:00AM – 12:00 NoonSlate Belt Heritage Center 30 N 1st Street Bangor, PA

GOP Party Boss Lee Snover Endorsing XL Voting Machine



Northampton County's GOP Party Boss, Lee Snover, is openly critical of the ExpressVote XL voting machine used in November's election. She now wants paper ballots. Yet as the video above makes clear, Snover endorsed the XL when it was considered by the Elections Commission in March 2019.

Presidential Medal of Freedom and Limbaugh

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is currently the supreme civilian decoration awarded by the President in the United States. It is bestowed on those who make "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors". Recipients have included people like Mother Teresa and Shimon Peres. During his State of the Union Address, Donald Trump conferred this award on conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh, who is suffering from Stage Four lung cancer, merits our sympathy. But not our highest civilian award. According to Business Insider, here are some of his pearls of wisdom:
He argued that white people shouldn't be blamed for slavery. "It's preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they've done more to end it than any other race," he said in 2013, adding that "if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians."

He called the Georgetown Law student Susan Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" in 2012 when she argued before Congress for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The comments earned a direct rebuke from President Barack Obama, who said that "all decent folks can agree" that the remarks "don't have any place in the public discourse."

He was forced to resign from ESPN in 2003 after he said the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb got undeserved praise because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well."

He mocked the actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, in 2006. Commenting on a video Fox appeared in, Limbaugh said, "Either he didn't take his medication, or he's acting."

The Obamas were a favorite target. In 2008, Limbaugh infamously compared Barack Obama to a cartoon monkey, and he regularly commented on Michelle Obama's body, referring to her as "Moochelle Obama" and "Michelle, my butt."

In 1988 he called Amy Carter "the most unattractive presidential daughter in the history of the country," and in the early 1990s he called Chelsea Clinton the "White House dog."

He's repeatedly joked that Hillary Clinton castrates men and has a "testicle lockbox" and said in 2009 that she didn't become a US Marine because "they didn't have uniforms or boots big enough to fit that butt and those ankles."
In 2009, I posted some of his comments

Race

Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?

Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.

The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.

They oughta change Black History Month to Black Progress Month and start measuring it.

They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?

Take that bone out of your nose and call me back (to an African American female caller).


Women

We're not sexists, we're chauvinists — we're male chauvinist pigs, and we're happy to be because we think that's what men were destined to be. We think that's what women want.

John Edwards' Affair

It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk…

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wolf Budget Asks ALL Municipalities to Fund PSP Coverage

Governor Tom Wolf's latest budget proposal is again asking everyone to subsidize Pennsylvania State Police coverage of municipalities with no local department. This time, it's based on a formula that includes median household income, the existence of a local police force and the cost of state police coverage.

In Northampton County,  the lowest per person cost would be $2 in Bath, Chapman, Freemansburg, Walnutport, N. Catty, Hellertown, Wilkson Boro, Moore Tp, Northampton, Easton and Bethlehem.

$4 per person - Plainfield, Bangor, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap.

$5 per person - Bethlehem Tp, Hanover Tp, Lower Saucon Tp, Lehigh Tp, Bushkill Tp and Upper Nazareth Tp.

$6 per person - Lower Nazareth pays $6 per person.

$8 per person - Nazareth, East Bangor, Roseto, and Portland

$10 per person - Palmer and Forks

$16 per person - Upper Mt Bethel, Glendon and West Easton.

$20 per person - Allen and E Allen.

$21 per person - Tatamy, Stockertown, Washington Tp,

$41 per person - Williams and Lower Mt Bethel.

In Lehigh County, the breakdown is as follows:

$1 per person in Allentown

$2 per person  - Coopersburg, Macungie, Coplay, Slatington, Fountain Hill, Catty, Emmaus, Bethlehem, Whitehall

$5 per person - S. Whitehall, U Saucon, Salisbury and Alburtis.

$8 per person in Hanover (LC), Heidelberg and Washington (LC)

$20 per person in N Whitehall.

$23 per person in U Macungie

$77 per person in Lower Macungie, Upper Milford, Lynn, Lower Milford, Weisenberg and Lowhill

State Theatre: "Every Year's a Wild Ride!"

When Easton's State Theatre had its renaissance and began operations as a nonprofit in 1997, it was one of only two venues within the Lehigh Valley and had no trouble attracting headliners. Today, it s one of 26 venues, and is dwarfed by sites like PPL Center and Wind Creek. Yet it soldiers on, and is actually doing quite well. That's what Executive Director Shelley Brown and VP of Development Denise Smith told Northampton County Council on Thursday night. They provided a month-by-month chronology.

January is the middle of its show season. As the market has changed, the State Theatre has changed with it and is doing more more rentals for weddings and corporate events and private events. This has enabled it to double its visitors, many of whom are new.

February included three Broadway shows and fundraising events. Brown said the State is ideal for Broadway touring companies because it includes lots of space for equipment.
- 3 shows and fundraising events

March included a show by the Red Hot Chili Pipers, a rock-and-roll piper band. Liberty High School's Grenadiers are incorporated into this event.

In fact, 11,500 children under 18 visited the State last year.

In April, the State conducts its annual fundraiser to raise money for the Freddy awards, which has a budget of $400,000.

In May, the State held its 17th annual Freddy awards. Bangor Area High School won with a production of  Mamma Mia!  Brown said the Freddies creates a community where kids go to each other's shows and root for each other. I think that's great, but would add that athletes do this as well. Tonight, when four teams play in the EPC semifinals, there will be numerous athletes from other high schools on hand, just for the joy of the game. These kids all know and respect each other. 

Things slow down in June, but a new show season is announced. Plus West Virginia University awards scholarships. Seven students have received $95k  in scholarships, and this includes technical theatre.

As the Summer progressed, July was the time for projects that included upgrades to the kitchen and repairs to the rear egress to make it safe. It is also time for summer acting camp for 120 kids, which is sold out every year. This culminates with a final recital on the big stage.

In August, shows go on sale with the first week to members only. Last year's sale was the State's best first day since 2011. Then in September, there were improvements to the bar and concession area.

"Stage on stage" was tried in October. This is a new show in which the audience is actually on stage.   This is also the month in which Broadway shows perform technical rehearsals, getting ready for the Big Apple. There was also a fundraiser that pulled in $13,000

In December there were seven Broadway shows and a Christmas service.

Throughout the year, there were 100 shows and 85,000 guests for a staff of 14.

"Every year's a wild ride," said Brown.

Asked why she does not do films like 19th Street Theatre, Brown said she'd need about $300k for the equipment.

PPL Center to Host EPC Basketball Championships!

Starting tonight, Allentown's spacious PPL Center will be hosting the East Penn Conference Basketball Championships for both boys and girls. If you're an old fart or under 19 like me, you can get in for just $4. Even the higher price is just $7.

Tonight, it's the boys's semifinals.

At 6 pm, Allentown's Central Catholic Vikings (#3 seed, 20-3) will take on Bethlehem's Liberty High School (#2 seed, 19-4).  Though I bleed green and will be rooting for the Vikings, this one is too close to call. Both teams are exceptionally well coached with outstanding athletes like Nick Filchner (ACCHS), Liam Joyce (ACCHS) and Antonio Montgomery (Liberty).

I had the privilege of meeting sophomore Joyce last week when he, his Dad and brothers visited DeSales for a basketball game. A sophomore, Joyce exudes a quiet confidence that I'm sure is contagious.

At 7:30 pm, William Allen High School's Canaries (19-4, #1 seed) will attempt to fly through the Parkland Trojans (18-5, #5 seed).

The EPC boys' champ will be decided in a game at PPL Center on Thursday night at 8 pm.

Tuesday will be semifinal night for the girls.

At 6 pm, Nazareth's Blue Eagles (20-3, #2 seed) will face Stroudsburg (21-2, #3 seed) in a game starting at 6 pm. Then, at 7:30, Bethlehem Catholic's Golden Hawks (23-0, #1 seed) will take on the Freedom Patriots (20-3, #4 seed).

The EPC girls' champ will be decided in a game at PPL Center on Thursday night at 6 pm.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

LVCI - Morning Call Has Lost Two of Its Most Senior Reporters

Last week, I told you that The Morning Call staff is shrinking yet again. From what an editor there tells me, reporters who have eight or more years experience were offered buyouts. Pam Lehman, one of the paper's top crime reporters, left for a job in Lehigh County. I added that NorCo's courts' reporter was leaving as well.

Fellow blogger LVCI has more. He reports Riley Yates, who happens to be the senior reporter covering Northampton County Courts, is leaving.

From Yates' Twitter Feed: "Personal news: I’m leaving The Morning Call after 12 years. I’ve accepted a buyout, during what is the fourth round of staff cuts in my tenure. If you want to say goodbye, please call, message or stop by, because tomorrow is my last day."

LVCI also notes the departure of Nicole Radzievich, a fixture at Bethlehem City Council:

From Radzievich's Twitter Feed: "I can’t thank enough The Morning Call and all the wonderful journalists I have worked with there over the last 19 years. I’ll miss you all and will continue to follow your important work as a reader. -30-"

As I said before, this is bad news for democracy and great news for bad government.

I appreciate LVCI for bringing this to everyone's attention.

Friday, February 07, 2020

NorCo Council Approves E-Pollbooks After Paper Printer Calls It Quits

Amy Cozze answers Council concerns
Northampton County finally will be able to conduct a primary election on April 28. Elections require pollbooks, which are used to check in registered voters. But the company that has printed the county's paper pollbacks for the past 24 years is no longer able to print them, and recommended the County acquire electronic pollbooks (epollbooks). Despite the lack of any alternative, the Elections Commission rejected epollbooks last week. This threw the ability to conduct the April 28 primary into doubt. This uncertainty has now been eliminated. Following five hours of meetings on Thursday, County Council voted 7-2 to approve a $311,150 contract with Florida-based Tenex Software Solutions for 350 epollbooks. Voting Yes were Council President Ron Heckman and members Kevin Lott, Kerry Myers, Bill McGee, Peg Ferraro, Bill McGee, Lori Vargo-Heffner. Voting No were Council members John Cusick and Tom Giovanni.

"I think we could learn a lesson from Iowa." Maude Hornick
These pollbooks will arrive in about six weeks, leaving Voter Registrar Amy Cozze about three weeks to train her staff and pollworkers.

The electronic pollbooks chosen by the County are actually modified iPads, each of which contains a complete list of the registered voters for the entire county. They are the same pollbooks that have been used in Lehigh County for several years. They will be used without WiFi, although pollbooks within a precinct will be able to synchronize with each other through an encrypted blue tooth.

Electronic pollbooks make it easier for voters to check in. Paper pollbooks are far more cumbersome. They are only able to determine if someone is registered within a specific precinct. Poll workers often have to call the elections office to find the correct polling place for citizens who are unsure where to cast their ballot. In contrast to a paper poll book, an epollbook can immediately tell a voter where he should be voting.

Kerry Myers: "new kid on the block"
Despite these advantages, Northampton County avoided them because they are more expensive than paper pollbooks. Major changes in the Election Code make them more attractive. These changes expand the voter registration deadline and allow applications for no-excuse mail-in ballot up until a week before the election. While these changes are a great convenience for voters, they were the death knell to the county's paper printer. It would be impossible to print paper pollbooks that would identify all registered voters as well as those who had applied for a mail-in ballot. In stark contrast, an epollbook would include all this information. It would ensure that registered voters could vote. It would also flag those who already received a mail-in ballot.

When presented with a request to recommend epollbooks on January 23, the Elections Commission took a week to think about it. Then they said No during a meeting in which Chair Maude Hornick insisted, incorrectly, that paper poll books could still be used. In the meantime, the clock was ticking away. Executive Lamont McClure took the Elections Comm'n to task in an op-ed, called on them to meet again, and then asked County Council to approve the pollbooks anyway.

That's what happened last night, starting with Council's Finance Committee and then the full Council. The Elections Commission did meet again, but was presented with a fait accompli.

At the Council meeting, Maude Hornick likened epollbooks to "pouring gasoline on a fire." She still insisted the County could use paper pollbooks even though Voter Registrar Amy Cozze pointed out that option was impossible without violating state guidelines.

"I think we could learn a lesson from Iowa," snarked Hornick, referring to an improperly programmed app that Democrats failed to test. Donald Trump's campaign, as well as some of those in the Bernie Sanders' camp, have claimed the caucus was rigged, despite a dearth of evidence. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale called what happened there “the sloppiest train wreck in history. It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process.”

It would later be revealed that Trump supporters were jamming the hot line used to call in results.

Like the Trump supporters in Iowa, Hornick and several members of the GOP county party blasted epollbooks and Northampton County's XL. These Republicans even accused the County of attempting to suppress the vote.

That was enough for Council member Kerry Meyers, who refers to himself as "the new kid on the block."
"I'm sitting here listening to people complain about machines when people of my generation were beaten, whipped, jailed, hung for the right to vote. And I'm sitting here listening as the only other black face in here and I'm listening to people talk about stuff that's important, but is it relevant because you know what? We gotta' vote. We cannot not vote. And I'm reading in the newspaper if we don't do this we can't have anb election. That's bullshit. We have to have an election. ...

"We're making something that is very small a damn mountain. Why are we putting ourselves through this. ...

"While we're sitting here talking about voter suppression, you don't know a damn thing about what voter suppression is. Three years ago I went to vote. This is Pennsylvania. Do you believe someone asked me to show him my damn ID? How many of you people had to go through that? I did. It's ridiculous what we're talking about right now."
Not long after Myers spoke, County Council voted for the epollbooks. The Elections Commission then met and Hornick continued to complain about her preference for paper poll books and criticized the Voter Registrar for not having found a printer. Amy Cozze said only one printer in the state can produce paper pollbooks in accordance with state guidelines, and never returned her calls. But now that the county has ordered epollbooks, there's no need.

What People Said:

Sandra Pizzolato, Allen Tp Judge of Elections:
- "If the paper pollbooks are used, the inspectors will not only have to check in them, but they will have many additional sheets to check for the voter's name, significantly increasing the sign-in time. ... The epollbooks will show if someone voted by mail and will inform the worker that the person cannot vote on the machine. If the epollbooks are not used, the mail ballots cannot be counted until all the pages from all the paper pollbooks have been scanned to see if someone showed up at the polling place to vote besides sending in a ballot. There will not be a final count for the election for a long time."

Gayle Sanders - "Given the fiasco in the Fall with the new voting machines and the disaster of the Iowa caucuses, it's obvious to me that introducing yet more electronics at the polls is not the way to go.

Ethan Habriel: "Considering the fiasco we already had, somebody should have been fired. ... To go to an epollbook at this time is seriously out of the question."

Maude Hornick, Elections Comm'n Chair: "I believe making an election right is much more important than the speed in which there are results. ... I don't want to give our voters another piece of electronic equipment after the last disaster."

Lewis Shupe
: "If I had unfettered access to one of these ExpressVote DLs [sic], I could play tetris on it in about an hour."

Karen Frey, NorCo GOP Committee: "Act 77 just added more chaos to the voters for this presidential election. With the fraud, and I don't use this term lightly, I find this is suspect. ... The voters will perceive this as a voter suppression effort."

Gerry Pritchard, brother of Maude Hornick and GOP Chair Gloria Lee Snover:
- "What will the answer be if it don't work?"

Dr. Alan Brau, NorCo Elections Comm'n: - "We took a scientific approach, we communicated with each other, ... and there's really no bias, no motive, no anything, except to serve the voters of this County."

Executive Lamont McClure: -"Ms. Hornick's speech was full of opinion, but you're really not entitled to your own facts. ... [Ms. Hornick] happens to be the sister of the Republican Chair, which if it doesn't call out for a change to the Charter to eliminate party bosses from the selection process to the Elections Comm'n, I don't know what does."

Amy Cozze, Voting Registrar: - "This was not a toy we wanted for the office. Act 77 came down with five major changes that we've not seen before. ... We're the final line of defense. ... I'm asking for the tools for our office to carry out [the election]."

Ron Heckman, Council President: "This is about voting, which is a core county function. That is what we must do. ... "

John Cusick, Council: "The reason we're here is simple, because Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016, and fingers had to be pointed someplace."

Bill McGee, Council: "We need to give them the tools that they need and let them do their job."

Updated 11:42 am