Tuesday, March 31, 2020

NorCo Courthouse To Remain Closed Until At Least April 6

NorCo Exec Lamont McClure has extended the closure of the Northampton County Courthouse to the public until at least April 6.

“All County offices remain open to serve our residents but, in the interest of mitigating the spread of this virus, the Courthouse will be closed to the public except for emergency actions,” he said. “The Courthouse will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Emergency actions include:

· Anyone who needs to post bail. This includes a bondsman or a third party surety.

· Any person and their legal representative(s) having business before the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County. (For questions as to whether you are required to appear, call Court Administration at 610-829-6700).

· Any person needing to make an application for a ‘Protection from Abuse’ order.

· Any person and/or their legal representative who believes, in good faith, that a statute of limitations pertaining to them may expire within the month.

Has Covid-19 Come to NorCo's Jail?

Northampton County reported late yesterday afternoon that an employee at the jail has exhibited "a symptom" consistent with coronovirus. This staffer, e female corrections officer, has been sent home pending the outcome of a test for Covid-19. The area of the jail in which she worked has been placed in quarantine. Although it's unclear precisely that means at the county jail, a state quarantine imposed Monday on its entire inmate population of 44,600 means they will be restricted to their cells except for video and phone calls.

A prison administrator informs me that "hundreds and hundreds" of hand sanitizer are made available to corrections officers, and they are also provided masks if requested. Their temperatures are also monitored.

On Friday, a staffer at Allegheny County jail tested positive for Covid-19.

At this juncture, there are no reported cases of Covid-19 at Gracedale, the county's nursing home. An isolation unit has been prepared for residents who show symptoms.

In related news, the county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been partially activated to assist in the potential creation of alternative care facilities or field hospitals if such a measure is necessary.

Monday, March 30, 2020

When Pa. Citizens Need State Gov't the Most, Wolf Lays Off 2,500

As a result of Governor Tom Wolf's business shutdowns and Shelter-in-Place orders, the state has experienced a record number of unemployment claims and requests for other benefits like food assistance. So what does he do? He lays off 2,500 state workers, many of who are there to fill in the gaps in departments that are overloaded. Brilliant.

Wolf's Questionable Waivers

Last week, SpotlightPA revealed that businesses tied to Governor Tom Wolf and a top Pa. State Senator quickly closed their doors after reporters began asking questions. One of these businesses, Wolf Home Products, was placed in a "blind trust" by Wolf after he was elected, but it appears his cousin and a business associate manage it. The other business is a candy shop owned by by powerful State Senator Joe Scarnati, a Republican. It appears to me that waives depend mostly on connections. I say this because the Wolf administration has thus far refused to be transparent about what businesses have been granted waivers. We know 4,000 have been granted, but his secretive Department of Community and Economic Development has refused to identify them. In fact, these hacks from the land of midnight payraises don't even bother to provide any guidelines. This has prompted Leb Town to request that Wolf "instruct the Department of Community and Economic Development to immediately release the internal rubric or other guidance being used to evaluate waiver requests and the full list of companies that have been granted waivers."

If you have a business and would like a waiver, you can complete this form with the DCED and wait for Hell to freeze over. It would be smarter to complete the form AND ask your local State Rep. AND State Senator to grease the skids for you.

How One Gym Was Able to Stay Open

Let's say you own a gym. Well, when Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close their doors, that meant you. It mattered not whether the services you provide go a long way to improving the physical health, including immune system, of your customers. No consideration was given to precautions that could be taken to ensure a social distance between patrons and avoid any contagion. Most gyms closed their doors, but Allentown's Matryx Performance sought and obtained a waiver. Here's what this gym is doing:

- All surfaces and highly frequented areas will be regularly cleaned and sanitized
- All athletes will be required to remove their shoes (as always) and wash their hands before beginning training
- Training session sign-ups will be limited so that there are no more than 10 athletes in the main training area or wrestling room at a time
- Athletes will be required to wipe down and sanitize each piece of equipment after use
- All athletes will be guided through their training sessions to maintain proper social distancing
- We will not be providing any physical adjustments to athletes
- Please sign up using our online scheduler in our bio

Other gyms could easily follow suit, and simply require customers to schedule ahead.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Gracedale Staffer Has Covid-19

A Gracedale Nursing Home staffer has tested positive for Covid-19. At this time, no Gracedale resident has tested positive for COVID-19.

Gracedale is working with the PA Department of Health and following all recommended protocols. An isolation ward has been prepared should any of the residents begin to show signs of the virus.

Residents and all employees at the nursing home are regularly monitored for signs and symptoms of Covid-19. All staff and residents have their temperatures checked multiple times a day and every resident has their vital signs, including oxygen saturation, measured at least once a day.

Gracedale was closed to volunteers and visitors on March 11th.

SpotlightPA: Wolf Granted Waiver to His Former Company

Tom Wolf, who ran as the reform candidate, is obviously a hypocrite. Check this in Spotlight PA.

Coronavirus Officials: Data Do Not Support Worst-Case Scenarios

As public health officials gain more knowledge about coronavirus, they are beginning to realize the data do not support some of the worst-caase scenarios presented by Chicken Littles. Moreover, they have rejected some assertions made by media outlets and some elected officials.

DR. DEBORAH BRIX: I'm sure you have seen the recent report out of the U.K. about them adjusting completely their needs. This is really quite important. If you remember, that was the report that says there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the United States. They've adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment.

I'm going to say something that is a little bit complicated but do it in a way we can understand it together. In the model, either you have to have a large group of people who a-asymptomatic, who never presented for any test to have the kind of numbers predicted. To get to 60 million people infected, you have to have a large group of a-symptomatics. We have not seen an attack rate over 1 in 1,000. So either we are measuring the iceberg and underneath it, are a large group of people. So we are working hard to get the antibody test and figure out who these people are and do they exist. Or we have the transmission completely wrong.

So these are the things we are looking at, because the predictions of the model don't match the reality on the ground in China, South Korea or Italy. We are five times the size of Italy. If we were Italy and did all those divisions, Italy should have close to 400,000 deaths. They are not close to achieving that.

It's our job collectively to assure the American people, it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen. You can see the cases are concentrated in highly urban areas and there are other parts of the states that have lots of ventilators and other parts of New York state that don't have any infected. We can meet the needs by being responsive.

There is no model right now -- no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that. We are adapting to the reality on the ground and looking at the models of how they can inform but learning from South Korea and Italy and from Spain and I know you will look up my numbers.

Earlier this week, I contended we are overreacting to this virus and that we should rely on science and logic, not mass hysteria. Certainly, people should be vigilant. This is not the flu. But it is not the bubonic plague, either. Shutting down the entire economy is an over-reaction.

Nazareth Police Officer Charged With DUI

Nazareth police officer Randall Pompei, 38, has been charged by Emmaus police with driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.16 or higher. The charges, filed March 24, are the result of a vehicle stop on St. Patrick's Day.

Pompei has been a full-time police officer in Nazareth since 2016 and may also be employed part-time in Palmer Tp. He has also worked for Nazareth Ambulance Corps.

From what I have been told by other officers, Pompei was uncooperative and arrogant when stopped. That may just be an indication he was intoxicated.

Most people, even police officers, are permitted to apply for ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition) for a first offense DUI.

I have no respect for Pompei's anti-union attitude and believe he was hired precisely because he's a union buster. But I do believe he's entitled to the same break that should be afforded to anyone. If this were a second offense, he'd have to be cut loose. Let me share this story about Pompei from 2015, when he was still part-time:

"In the winter months of 2015 Officer Pompei and two Officers from the Upper Nazareth Township Police Department were summoned to a residence off of Liberty St. for a report of a male sleeping in his vehicle. Upon Officers making contact with the male, Officers were advised that the male was homeless and had nowhere to go. Officer Pompei and the Officers from the UNTPD quickly jumped into action to help the male in any way they could. It was a very cold evening and the Officers were concerned for the male’s safety. Officers made numerous phone calls and gave a relentless effort in contacting multiple Shelters in an attempt to find the male a place to go before finally finding shelter for the male at the Allentown Rescue Mission. Upon doing so and after speaking with the male it was discovered that the male had little to no gas in his vehicle and had not eaten for some time. Officer Pompei and the two Officers from the UNTPD escorted the male to 7-11 in Upper Nazareth Township and filled his tank with gas and purchased approximately $50.00 in food and beverages. One of the Officers from the UNTPD also purchased the male a $20.00 gift card from the Giant Food Store in Lower Nazareth to be utilized at a later date. On this day all three Officers showed a generous act of kindness to this man in need, and showed what our fine Officers In the Nazareth area are all about."

A guy like that deserves a break.

Donald Trump vs Jesus Christowitz on Easter PPV



He's also going to rename Good Friday. It will be Great Friday.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

PFA Offices Report No Spike in Domestic Violence ... Yet

Throughout the past week, Governor Tom Wolf has issued a number of directives aimed at combating the Covid-19 virus. They have also shut down Pennsylvania's economy. On March 16, he directed all nonessential businesses to close throughout the state. Then, on March 19, he issued an executive order closing all but life-saving businesses. He's issued a "stay at home" order that now includes both Northampton and Lehigh County. These edicts mean most of us are at home, day and night. Has this resulted in a sudden spike in domestic violence complaints? Not yet. But according to Turning Point Executive Director Lori Szywensky, it's only a matter of time.

Northampton County's Protection from Abuse office said business is "steady," but a little lighter than it was before the courthouse closed to the public. Lehigh County Court Administrator Kerry Turtzo agreed the number of complaints coming in are the same as they were before Wolf's orders. "There hasn't been a sudden spike," he said.

Lori Szywensky, Turning Point's Executive Director, however, warns that it's coming. She acknowledged her office is actually getting less calls than they were before the shutdowns. But she suggested that many victims are afraid or unable to call when stuck in the home with their abusers.

She said she and other domestic violence victim advocates have looked into what happened in China, South Korea and Italy. She indicated complaints initially drop off, and then there's a sudden surge.

She's ready, and her office is fully staffed.

My Corona

NorCo Council Should Consider Zoom For Its April 2 Meeting



West Easton Borough Council President Matt Dees, one of few elected officials who maintains a blog, is leaning heavily towards trying the online platform Zoom for the next borough council meeting on April 13. By that time, Governor Tom Wolf's "stay at home" order will have expired. But Northampton County's next Council meeting is scheduled on April 2, while Wolf's order is still in effect. That meeting can still take place if it takes place on Zoom. Moreover, the public can even participate, something that's impossible during a meeting broadcast on Youtube.

My first experience with Zoom came during an online class earlier this week. I was invited to speak to a journalism class, apparently as an example of what can go wrong. The class instructor is almost as dumb as I, yet was able to pull it off quite easily.

Dees checked with the PSAB (Pennsylvania Ass'n of Boroughs) and was advised that, while meetings at a public building are always preferable, an electronic meeting that permits the public to participate complies with the state Sunshine Act. It is recommended that the meeting be recorded as well.

Zoom does both.

West Easton is going to experiment with Zoom first, but NorCo lacks that luxury.

Council President Ron Heckman is considering this option for the next meeting. The link to the meeting could be posted on the county website and at the meeting room for anyone who decides to come.

The cost is free for a meeting that lasts 40 minutes. A Council meeting would probably be best at $15 per month. The recording is an mp4, which can then be uploaded to Youtube.

Update (11:05 am): Matt Dees reports that the state legislature is moving swiftly to expressly authorize online public meetings. The House has passed a bill. The Senate must follow suit and the Governor must sign on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Updated: Governor Wolf Issues "Stay-at-Home" Order in NorCo and Lehigh

From Northampton County: Governor Tom Wolf issued a Stay-at-Home order for Northampton County which begins March 25, 2020 at 8:00 PM. To protect the public health and to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus or COVID-19, all residents are urged to stay in their homes and only go out for essential life sustaining services. The order will be in effect until April 6, 2020. It does not apply to businesses or projects that have received waivers.

All County offices remain open although certain facilities, such as the Courthouse, Gracedale and the Northampton County Prison, are closed to the public. The Courthouse is open for people who need emergency services such as Protection-from-Abuse orders and other court required actions.

Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following allowable individual activities and allowable essential travel:

Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home
Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing
To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business
To care for a family member or pet in another household
Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities
Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons
Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services
Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction
Travel required by law enforcement or court order
Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth
Anyone performing life-sustaining travel does not need paperwork to prove the reason for travel.

The following operations are exempt:

Life-sustaining business activities
Health care or medical services providers
Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks
Access to child care services for employees of life-sustaining businesses that remain open as follows: child care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning waiver process; group and family child care operating in a residence; and part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the March 19, 2020 business closure Orders
News media
Law enforcement
The federal government
Religious institutions

Individuals experiencing homelessness are not subject to this order but are strongly urged to find shelter and government agencies are urged to take steps needed to provide shelter for those individuals.

International students, foster youth, and any other students who would otherwise experience displacement or homelessness as a result of campus closures are exempt and may remain in campus housing.

At this time, law enforcement will be focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order and informing the public of social distancing practices rather than enforcement. To report a noncompliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number or the nearest Pennsylvania State Police station. Please do not call 911 or the Department of Community and Economic Development to file reports. Law enforcement officers should refer to Business Closure Order Enforcement Guidance available online.

Bethlehem Closes City Hall

From Bethlehem: Based on Governor Wolf’s “Stay at Home” order issued for Northampton and Lehigh Counties, Bethlehem City Hall will be closed to the public effective 4:30 pm today, Wednesday, March 25, 2020 until further notice.

City Hall will remain operational but closed to the public. City employees will be available to assist residents via phone and email. Until further notice, residents should access information and conduct business by using the City’s website (www.bethlehem-pa.gov).

Bethlehem residents concerned with businesses operating in violation of the shutdown, are requested to call the Bethlehem Service Center at 610-865-7000. Do not call 911 for this issue.

Please monitor the City’s website www.bethlehem-pa.gov and social media for additional information including closures of City facilities, postponement of public meetings and updates on COVID-19.

Allentown City Hall

Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell closed City Hall to the public this afternoon after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a “Stay at Home” order for Lehigh and Northampton counties effective at 8:00 p.m.

The closings are in effect until April 6.

More than 800-persons have died in the United States from COVID-19, nearly 200 of them in New York City.

(Updated 5:37 pm)

NorCo Experiences 3d Covid-19 Death

According to the latest Pa. DOH update, Northampton County has experienced its third Covid-19 death. The number of cases has reached 44. Lehigh County has no deaths and 38 cases

Coronavirus - Option "B"

Covid-19 v. 1918 "Spanish" Flu Pandemic


One of my readers loves to research. For reasons I'd rather not know, he has the death records spanning the last Pandemic of 1918. It's been called the Spanish Flu, although it may actually have started here in the good old USA. My reader also has the obituary data from the Easton Express covering this pandemic between October 1918 and March 1919. During that time period, there were an average of nine obits a day. That's roughly 810 deaths in Northampton County. On October 14, there were 93 obits reported by The Express in just one day! This was during a time when there was no medical infrastructure, no anti-viral drugs and no understanding that the flu is caused by a virus. The fatality rate of that pandemic may have been as high as 10%, according to Vox, although no one is really sure.

As of noon yesterday, there were seven deaths total in the entire state from Covid-19. We survived the Spanish Flu. We can make it through this pandemic, too.

Covid-19 and NorCo Operations

COUNTY COUNCIL: The next meeting on April 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm is still scheduled at Council's Chambers, Third Floor, Northampton County Courthouse. Virtual options are being urged.

COUNTY EXECUTIVE: You can reach him online here.

COUNTY COURTS: Currently operating under a judicial emergency under which all courts, including Magisterial District Judges, are closed to the public except for "essential" judicial functions like the protection of victims of domestic violence. Courthouse personnel are still working, though some are doing so remotely for social distancing reasons.

COUNTY TAXES: You can pay online, and the two per cent discount period has been extended from March 31 until May 31. The bast rate applies from June 1 to August 31, 2020. After that, there's a 10% penalty. Dog licenses and fishing licenses may be obtained online. (Statewide Opening Day of trout season will take place on April 18.)

COUNTY COURTHOUSE: Temporarily closed to the public with plans to re-open on April 1. Emergency judicial matters can call ahead to Court Administration at 610-829-6700. Voter registration can occur online. Applications for mail-in ballots can also be requested online. The Presidential Primary scheduled for April 28 may be delayed until June 2.

OTHER COMMITTEES, COMMISSIONS and BOARDS: No meetings scheduled.

JAIL: Closed to visitors, volunteers and tours. The jail's inmate population is being reduced.

GRACEDALE: Closed to visitors and volunteers. Employees have temperature checked before being admitted. Tablets are provided for residents who desire to speak with family. Exceptions to "no visitor" policy are made for compassionate reasons. Gracedale is accepting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) like surgical masks and gowns. Please contact the Gracedale Volunteer Coordinator first at 610-829-3686 to see if your donation can be accepted.

SENIOR CENTERS: Closed pursuant to Governor Tom Wolf's directive. Referrals for Meals on Wheels will be made for seniors who require that service.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: received a shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from PEMA to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The shipment including face shields, N-95 and surgical masks and gloves. These items have been distributed to the twelve EMS organizations in the county as well as to municipal police and those fire departments which respond to EMS calls.

COUNTY PARKS: Open, subject to social distancing.

RECYCLING EVENTS: All events scheduled through April have been canceled.

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY FESTIVAL: Rescheduled for October 10, Louise Moore Park.

MUNICIPAL COOPERATION: County officials are working closely with local, state and federal officials.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bethlehem Reports Six Covid-19 Cases, Including LANTA Bus Driver

From Bethlehem City: Bethlehem currently has a total of six cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). A bus driver for LANTA is among the individuals who recently tested positive for COVID-19. The bus driver worked on March 20, 2020 and drove several trips between Easton and Bethlehem during his or her shift.

The Bethlehem Health Department is working with LANTA to notify employees who may have had close contact with this individual. All close contacts will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. If you feel that you may have had close contact with this individual, please self-monitor for symptoms. If you begin to exhibit symptoms, contact your health care provider to determine if you should be tested.

Since the start of this outbreak, LANTA has enhanced cleaning procedures to disinfect commonly touched surfaces on its buses and vans, such as seat handles, hand rails, etc.

Bethlehem Joins Allentown and NorCo in Extending Property Tax Deadline

Joining Allentown and Northampton County, Bethlehem has announced it will extend tax deadlines.

The deadline for paying Earned Income Tax and Business Privilege Tax has been extended to July 15, 2020 because of the hardship caused to many residents by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 City of Bethlehem’s Real Estate taxes paid or postmarked before May 11, 2020 will be eligible for the 2% discount. In addition, the due date for full payment of the City Real Estate Tax will be extended from May 29, 2020 to August 10, 2020.

Last week, City Council approved Mayor Donchez’s request for an emergency disaster declaration that authorizes taking emergency management measures, to reduce the severity of the pandemic and to protect the health, safety and welfare of affected residents.

Aegrescit Medendo - The Covid-19 Cure is Worse Than the Disease

Several state governors, including our own Chicken Little, have paralyzed their state's economies. It's for our own good, they say. Some communities are being ordered to shelter-in-place. That's for our own good, too. Media outlets bray away at the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases, totally oblivious to the reality that this sudden increase is almost certainly because more testing is available now than there was even a week ago. The nation sits paralyzed in their living rooms, guarding stashes of toilet paper and bottled water, waiting for the end. But we are over-reacting and have created a dangerous precedent for anyone who actually cares about individual liberty or our economy. Let me explain why.

Covid-19 is a brand new virus. It only reared its ugly head in December. So little is known about it. The mortality rate - 10 times that of the common flu - is based on known cases. But what about those who had it and never knew it? For all that you or I know, we could have had this disease. It is illogical and, dare I say, unscientific, to draw conclusions based on insufficient information.

Iceland has been doing extensive testing, proportionately more than any other country. As of March 21, the results of 5,571 tests yielded just 48 positive results (0.86%), meaning the prevalence of the virus is modest. Nearly half of those infected had no symptoms. This is corroborated by a smaller study of 565 Japanese, in which about 31% of those who had Covid-19 never knew it. So what the science tells us, and I agree we should give science priority over histrionics, is that this virus only infects a small segment of the population, and a large proportion of those who get it never get sick.

Without question, some people become seriously ill. A few die. It has to be taken seriously. But we are over-reacting and this matter has become sensationalized. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been spearheading the national response to this pandemic, told CNN he likes to be accused of over-reacting because that means he's doing it right. But he's failed to consider the medical maxim aegrescit medendo, i.e. the cure just might be worse than the disease.

Bret Stephens, a columnist for The New York Times, put it best: "Sooner or later, people will figure out that it is not sustainable to keep tens of millions of people in lockdown; or use population-wide edicts rather than measures designed to protect the most vulnerable; or expect the federal government to keep a $21 trillion economy afloat; or throw millions of people out of work and ask them to subsist on a $1,200 check."

Can we all return to earth already?

Pa. Presidential Primary May Be Delayed Until June 2

On Thursday, at the request of Northampton County Voting Registrar Amy Cozze, County Council unanimously approved a motion to delay the Presidential Primary currently scheduled for April 28. Their request might very well be granted.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Governor Tom Wolf and legislative have reached a deal to delay the election until June 2. Assuming that rank-and-file legislators agree, the delay should be approved this week.

Seven states have already delayed the presidential primary.

This delay means you have amply time to request an application to vote online. You can file an application for a mail-in ballot up to a week before the election. You can either request an application with your county office or file online.

Once you receive a ballot, you have until 8 pm on election day to return it to the county elections office. It must be received by 8 pm or your vote will not be counted.

If you seek a mail-in or even an absentee ballot, and then decide you'd rather vote at your precinct, you will be unable to do so. This rule is in place to prevent people from double-voting.

If you distrust the voting machines, vote by mail.

If you are concerned about Covid-19, vote by mail.

McClure Plans to Re-Open NorCo Courthouse on April Fools' Day

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure abruptly closed the courthouse last Thursday because people from other counties were using the courthouse to obtain marriage licenses and passports. Yesterday, he released a statement saying he "hopes" to re-open the courthouse on April Fools' Day.

That's appropriate for me.

He notes the courthouse remains open to the following members of the public:

- Any person (including lawyers) with business before the Courts. If you have any questions about an appearance, you should call Court Administration at 610-829-6700.

- Any person seeking a ‘Protection from Abuse’ order will continue to be admitted. If you call ahead at 610-829-6700, a court officer will come to the door and admit you. If it's after hours, a police officer will help you arrange an immediate hearing before a magisterial district judge.

- Any person (including lawyers) who believes, in good faith, that a statute of limitations pertaining to them may expire within the month of March, may be admitted to the building.

- Anyone who needs to post bail, including a bondsman or third party surety.

Allentown and NorCo to Extend Discount Period on Real Estate Tax Bill

Allentown and Northampton County have provided property tax relief to property owners as a result of the financial hardship that has followed Governor Tom Wolf's edicts that essentially prevent most of us from earning money.

In Northampton County, the 2% discount period for Northampton County 2020 Real Estate Taxes has been extended from March 31st to May 31st. Residents will be charged the base rate from June 1, to August 31, 2020. Beginning on September 1, 2020, a 10% penalty will be imposed.

The Northampton County courthouse is currently closed to the public, but payments may be sent in via mail or paid on-line.

In Allentown, the discount period for early payment of 2020 City Real Estate Taxes has been extended from April 5 until May 5, 2020. All 2020 City Real Estate Tax paid or postmarked on or before May 5, 2020, is eligible for a 2% discount.

Allentown is also extending the April 5 filing deadline for 2019 Business Privilege Tax until July 15, 2020. The city will not apply any interest or penalty to any 2019 Business Privilege Taxes paid or postmarked on or before July 15, 2020.

Gracedale Seeks Gloves, Gowns and Masks

Gracedale Nursing Home is accepting donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes gloves, gowns and masks (N95 and surgical) to protect the residents and the staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Please contact the Gracedale Volunteer Coordinator first at 610-829-3686 to see if your donation meets guidelines and can be accepted.

All donations can be dropped off in the lobby at Gracedale Nursing Home at 2 Gracedale Avenue, Nazareth, PA 18064.

Monday, March 23, 2020

NorCo DA: Law Enforcement Prepared and Ready

FROM NORTHAMPTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY TERENCE HOUCK:– Northampton County District Attorney Terence Houck announced today that Municipal Police and Pennsylvania State Police have entered into a cooperative agreement to ensure proper police coverage amid the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

D.A Houck announced the implementation of a Mutual Aid Agreement which provides countywide jurisdiction and enforcement powers to Municipal Police Departments while the emergency conditions of this pandemic continue.

On March 23, 2020, every Municipal Police Department in Northampton County, at the request of the Office of the District Attorney, signed a written Mutual Aid Agreement which grants countywide jurisdiction to each department, should the COVID-19 virus affect the number of officers available for the individual department’s allocation of police services. It also permits enforcement of all laws beyond the individual department’s municipality.

The Pennsylvania State Police also joined this effort by signing the agreement, pledging to assist any local departments who have coverage issues due to this pandemic. “I’d like to thank PSP for their continued assistance to our local law enforcement,” Houck said.

“I would like to commend the effort of our law enforcement agencies in their willingness to come together so quickly to ensure our communities remain safe by receiving continued services and protection through this trying time. This Agreement ensures law enforcement protection to all areas of Northampton County notwithstanding the volatile nature of this disease. Law enforcement stand prepared and ready,” District Attorney Houck said.

Hokie Joe and Social Distancing

I was on the phone with Hokie Joe yesterday and could hear some banging in the background.

"What's that noise?"

"It's my wife. Health officials say we have to practice social distancing, so I locked her out."

The Virus Crisis: The Sun Will Return

"THESE are the times that try men's souls," Thomas Paine might say, as he once did when a new-born America stood at the brink of destruction by the most powerful force in the world. "'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country," he added, making me wonder if there was a run on toilet paper then as there is now. Americans then faced the British Army and Hessian mercenaries, which undoubtedly precipitated numerous runs to the outhouse. Our enemy is Covid-19.

Last week, I was upset when Governor Tom Wolf demanded the closure of all non-essential businesses, which threw numerous people out of a job. I grew worried when my gym closed, figuring I'd put on 100 pounds in no time. I was aggravated even more when the county closed its doors to the public, making it impossible for me to research real estate titles. The icing on the cake came Thursday, when Wolf released a real edict that shut down virtually the entire state economy.

Since the gym has closed, I've discovered a few things. I've found that I can exercise using my bodyweight instead of using machines that can hurt me. I've learned that I can run around three miles and alternate running with walking. I've found I've been able to manage my gluttonous appetite, although I still intend to binge once lent is over. I've had time to talk with a lot of friends. Most of all, I've forgotten how nice it is to be outside.

On Friday, I went for a long walk. It was raining and miserable when I began, but before long, the sun began to shine and the temperature climbed. Everyone was out. Parents went on walks with their kids and dogs, who seemed to be the happiest of all. People would smile and say Hi as we crossed paths. "Stay safe," some would say.

From time to time, the sun would dart behind dark clouds, but it always returned.

This walk made me realize that, as bleak as things might seem at the moment, the sun will return. Just as Covid-19 had a beginning, it will have an ending.

Weather forecasters are predicting a lot of rain this weekend, but the sun will follow.

"I see no cause for fear," said Paine, even though the British were nipping at his heels. "I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it."

What followed was George Washington's stunning victory at Trenton, and against all odds.

If we could achieve that success, we will beat this virus. I and many others are upset at the loss of work a lot more than I am fearful of this pandemic. But as Paine reminds me, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

Pa. Supreme Court Upholds Wolf's Exec Order Closing Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has denied an application for extraordinary relief filed by several groups opposed to Governor Tom Wolf's March 19 executive order that all non-life-sustaining businesses must close their doors. His Order was issued Thursday.

It's a 4-3 decision. Justices David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty filed a concurring and dissenting statement.

The PER CURIAM Order is as follows:

"AND NOW, this 22nd day of March, 2020, upon review of Petitioners' Emergency Ex Parte Application for Extraordinary Relief Pursuant to the Court's King's Bench Jurisdiction, which challenges the statutory authority for, and the constitutionality of, the Governor's Order of March 19, 2020 ("Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Regarding the Closure of All Businesses That Are Not Life Sustaining"), and the Governor's response to that Application, we order as follows:

"With respect to those Petitioners alleging that the Governor's March 19 Order infringes on this Court's exclusive authority to regulate the practice of law, or otherwise interferes with this Court 's orders declaring a statewide judicial emergency, see, e.g., In Re: General Statewide Judicial Emergency, 531 & 532 Judicial Administration Docket (Pa. Mar. 18, 2020) (order temporarily closing courts to the public), the Application is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Although the Governor's March 19 Order provides that businesses performing "Legal Services" must cease physical operations, he subsequently added the following proviso: 'Except as required to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a president judge per the Pennsylvania Supreme Court 's order of March 18, 2020, or similar federal court directive, and lawyers may access their offices to effectuate such functions and directives.' See https://www.scribd.com/document/452553026/UPDATED-5-45pm-March-21-2020-Industry-Operation-Guidance, underhyperlink 'See a list of life-sustaining businesses' at https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForBusinesses. Accordingly, in regard to these Petitioners, we find no controversy remains.

"In all other respects, the Application is DENIED.

"The Application For Leave Of The City Of Philadelphia To File Amicus Brief is GRANTED."

"Justice Wecht files a Concurring and Dissenting Statement joined by Justices Donohue and Dougherty."

With the exception of Governor Wolf's executive order relating to the practice of law, the Court articulates no reason for its denial.

Justice Wecht is "troubled by the uncertainty that has followed the Governor’s orders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as it concerns the critical work of attorneys ... ." He nevertheless agrees with the Order with the exception the closure of licensed firearms dealers, which he believes is unconstitutional.

"Quite simply, if firearm dealers are not able to conduct any business in-person at their licensed premises, then no transfers of firearms can be completed. This amounts to an absolute and indefinite prohibition upon the acquisition of firearms by the citizens of this Commonwealth—a result in clear tension with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution."

Attorney Joshua Prince, representing gun interests, called the decision a "major blow to constitutional rights of Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth. Enforcement of Governor Wolf's Order begins today at 8 am.

Justice Wecht has quarantined himself and his family after one his children returned from studying abroad and tested presumptively positive for Covid-19.

(Originally published 3/22/20 at 7:26 pm)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Updated: Wolf Revises Shutdown List, Delays Enforcement, Lawsuits Filed

Governor Tom Wolf precipitated a lot of panic buying on Monday with his first supposed shutdown order. Though I told you than that there actually was no order, most media outlets just reported it as an order. Chaos ensued. Toilet paper disappeared. That was not enough for Wolf. On Thursday, he finally came down with a real order. This one shuts down most of Pennsylvania, with the exception of life-saving businesses. He also produced a lengthy list of what is and is not life saving. Chaos ensued again, with more panic buying and even less toilet paper. Now he's been sued, so he's revised his list of what can and can't remain open.

In addition, he has announced that "[d]ue to the high volume of waiver requests, we are delaying enforcement of our order that non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19."

If anything is non-life-sustaining, it's Tom Wolf.

With his histrionics, he's done more harm to Pennsylvania than Covid-19 ever could. Here's his updated, but still confusing, list.

Two lawsuits have been filed in the Pa. Supreme Court, invoking that Court's King's Bench powers for extraordinary relief. One of them, filed by gun rights advocate Joshua Prince, makes some compelling arguments.

First, Governor Wolf has declared a disaster emergency, but there is no "disaster." Disaster is defined in the law to include “[a] man-made disaster, natural disaster, or war-caused disaster.” Under this definition, the only kind of disaster this could be is a "natural disaster," defined as "“[a]ny hurricane, tornado, storm, flood, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, earthquake, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, drought, fire, explosion or other catastrophe which results in substantial damage to property, hardship, suffering or possible loss of life.” The statute appears to be designed to address weather-related events, not an unexpected disease.

Second, let''s assume that Covid-19 is a "natural disaster." If so, Governor Wolf has the authority to "[s]uspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives and combustibles." But nothing in the Emergency Services Management Code gives him the ability to shutter nearly all business. Wolf appears to have exceeded his statutory authority.

Third, Wolf's actions deprive almost everyone of their liberty and property, without due process of law.

Fourth, Prince argues that Wolf's order infringes on gun rights protected by the federal and state constitutions.

Fifth, Prince argues that, under the state constitution, only the Supreme Court has the authority to regulate the practice of law.

The Commonwealth has responded to Prince's suit, but I do not have its argument.

Wolf's histrionics has done more harm to Pennsylvania than Covid-19 ever could. As Justice Brandeis once observed, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Here's Wolf's updated, but still confusing, list.



(Originally published 9:41 pm).

(Updated again at 11:19 am)

Updated: NorCo Courts Want Domestic Violence Victims to Know They Are Open


On Thursday morning, and with no advance warning, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure locked the courthouse to entry by any and all visitors. I stood by the rotunda and watched as the County's archivist, a county employee, was nearly denied entry by a deputy sheriff protecting the people's building instead of the people. I can only imagine what effect this attitude has on the female victims of domestic, who are already distraught. Northampton County's courts want people who are experiencing emergencies to know they remain open.

Posters like the one features here have been posted at all entrances to the building. In addition, Court Administrator Jermaine Greene has asked me to inform those in need of emergency relief to call his office at 610-829-6700, and a court officer will come to the door and admit you. If it's after hours, a police officer will help you arrange an immediate hearing before a magisterial district judge.

I guess you could call this curbside judicial service.

But no fries.

(Updated from 2:01 pm)

McClure: "A Wave is Coming For Us"

Last night, Northampton County Council voted unanimously to approve Executive Lamont McClure's emergency declaration concerning the Covid-19 virus. This gives him the authority to move employees to Gracedale if needed and seek more surgical masks and gown. "A wave is coming for us," he said with respect to the pandemic that has claimed one life in the County.

McClure said the County is low on personal protective equipment for first responders, and EMC Director Todd Weaver is scrambling to get supplies from CDC from the national strategic stockpile. At Gracedale, McClure said the County would exhaust its supply in a week if residents become ill.

The Exec added that "it's only a matter of time before we have positives at Gracedale." Twelve beds will be available for isolation on Friday, with another 12 to be available very soon. If necessary, Gracedale can have as many as 48 isolation units.

According to Nursing Director Dawn Marie TuersFeldman, temperatures are taken of every employee when the nursing home is entered. Vital signs of each resident are taken daily, and temperatures are taken twice a day.

He indicated that much of the county staff is working from home, including nearly 200 employees at Human Services. If employees get ill at Gracedale, it might be necessary to require employees in other departments to assume those roles. "If someone needs to be fed at Gracedale, they're going," said McClure of other county employees.

McClure said he had a plan that was working until Wednesday, when other counties began sending people to the courthouse for passports and marriage license. He responded by closing the courthouse to outside visitors on Thursday. "I needed to pump the brakes," he said.

He vowed to re-open the courthouse as soon as he can, but people who visit might be restricted to county residents. They might also have their temperatures checked.

NorCo Council Wants April 28 Primary Pushed Back

While Northampton County Voting Registrar Amy Cozze was demonstrating the voting machines and epoll books to County Council last night, she urged them to ask the Governor to push back the April 28 primary. She explained that, in addition to being inundated with applications for mail-in ballots, the Governor's shutdown order means she has no printer for provisional ballots. In addition, Lehigh University has closed, and is unable to host one of the precincts used. She provided a copy of a letter that York County Commissioners have already sent to the Governor.

Council member John Cusick added that the County Commissioners' Association of Pa has also resolved to request Wolf to delay the election.

Council voted unanimously (9-0) to ask Wolf to delay the primary.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Governor Wolf Shuts Down State, Except for "Life Sustaining" Businesses

On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf ostensibly ordered the closure of all but "essential" businesses in the state. But as I pointed out, it was no order at all. But it was enough to scare the hell out of everyone, who emptied stores in a panic-buying binge.

Wolf has taken things one step further. He has now issued an Executive Order under which all non-life sustaining bsuinesses must shut down by 8 pm today. Enforcement actions begin on Saturday.

What is and is not a life-sustaining business? You can see a list below. "Yes" means life-sustaining.

20200319 Life Sustaining Bu... by PennLive on Scribd



Wolf has now shut down construction made possible by a mild winter and the entire real estate industry. His order remains in effect until he lifts it.

If you are in a non life sustaining business, you can work from home "so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are followed in such operations.”

“Life sustaining businesses may remain open, but they must follow, at a minimum, the social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control to protect workers and patrons.”

With No Advance Notice, Northampton County Courthouse Closes Doors to Public

With no advance notice, Northampton County Courthouse has closed its doors to the public. There is nothing on the County's Facebook page or website to indicate this has happened. A courthouse operator states the courthouse has closed its doors to the public. I have asked Executive Lamont McClure what is happening, and will pass this information along when received.

What this means is that it will be impossible for people who need "essential" judicial functions to make their desires known. It will be impossible to convey real estate, record mortgages or probate estates.

Executive Lamont McClure claims he has had to press "pause" because other counties are sending people here.

Statement from County Executive Lamont McClure:

“The Northampton County Courthouse is temporarily closed to visitors. Northampton County had a plan to serve its residents with respect to the core functions that are performed here. Specifically, Northampton County aggressively implemented a strategy of telecommuting and reducing the workforce to essential employees so that Northampton County residents could have safe access during this time of social distancing to Revenue (The in-person payment of property taxes), Prothonotary (The filing of lawsuits. Applying for passports), Wills (Marriage licenses, Probating Wills, Child Custody), Deeds (Recording of Deeds, Searching Titles), and the Criminal Division (The payment of fees, fines costs and restitution to victims of crime). While we respect the right of every county not to offer core services to their residents during the National Emergency caused by the spread of Covid-19, we have received multiple reports that counties that are not open for the public’s business were/are suggesting that people who need to apply for passports and marriage licenses come to Northampton County to do so. While we had a sound plan, considering the dictates of social distancing, for serving the residents of Northampton County, it became apparent that we would not be able to safely serve the citizens of Northampton County as well as the citizens of other counties as well. Therefore, we will press pause, assess our plan, and re-open to the citizens of Northampton County as soon as we believe we can do so safely.”

“This evening’s County Council scheduled for 6:30 PM and held at the Courthouse is open to the public. It is your right to attend, however, County Council strongly advises you to watch the livestreamed meeting on YouTube to maintain social distancing.”

County Council Meetings may be viewed on YouTube at the following channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYbPLqdMR1dkl9R95Rlq8rw


This, of course, is nonsense. If Bucks County is sending people to the courthouse for passports or marriage licenses, you can simply tell them those services are for county residents only. The action taken by McClure means people who need to file summons or appeals by today are unable to do so. No bank is going to cut a check for the sale of a home or loan if unable to get a title searched or a bringdown performed. A woman who is beaten silly by her husband will have no recourse from the courts.

What's really happening here is that government is being unresponsive to the very people it is supposed to serve.

Covid19: Suspend All Collection Actions

While I am dubious whether closing "nonessential" business will combat Covid-19, I am certain it is hurting a lot of people. Governor Tom Wolf issued his supposed order, which actually is not mandatory, without any regard for the people he was hurting. If he really cared, he could simultaneously suspend all collection action actions because people are going to start missing credit card, rent and mortgage payments.  Wolf does have that power, and should exercise it.

State lawmakers are currently drafting a measure to limit evictions, but this fails to go far enough.

Applications For Mail-in Ballots Skyrocket

As of yesterday, Northampton County's elections office has received 5,700 applications for either an absentee or mail-in ballot, according to Chief Registrar Amy Cozze. This is well in excess of the 2,000 that the office had just two weeks ago.

Statewide, over 113,000 applications have been submitted, about three times the number of applications received at this point in the last Presidential race

This sharp increase is obviously a combination of recent changes in state law, along with concerns about Covid-19.

Pennsylvania's primary is scheduled for April 28, but Governor Tom Wolf admitted on Monday that it could be delayed.

In the meantime, election judges are receiving enhanced training on the ExpressVote XL voting system that had, to say the least, an inauspicious debut in November.

The machines have been recalibrated to avoid some of the sensitivity issues that occurred in November. In addition, ES&S has installed a light next to the paper ballot so voters can examine their choices before casting their ballots. The font size is at least 14, larger than the font on this blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Pa Supreme Court Closes Courts to Public, Excepting "Essential Functions"

From Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts – In an effort to further restrict potential COVID-19 exposure within the courts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today announced that all Pennsylvania courts – including trial and intermediate appellate courts – are closed to the public for non-essential functions through at least April 3, 2020.

The statewide court closure also includes magisterial district courts, Philadelphia Municipal Court, and Pittsburgh Municipal Court, Arraignment Division.

In addition, the Court has suspended all time calculations and deadlines relevant to court cases or other judicial business through April 3, 2020. The Court has also authorized and encouraged the use of advanced communication technology to conduct emergency court proceedings.​

In the Courts of Common Pleas, the Order outlines essential functions as:
Emergency bail review and habeas corpus hearings;
Gagnon 1 hearings;
Bench warrant hearings pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 150;
Juvenile delinquency detention;
Juvenile emergency shelter and detention hearings;
Temporary protection from abuse hearings;
Emergency petitions for child custody;
Emergency petitions for guardianship;
Civil mental health reviews (50 P.S. §302)
Any pleadings or motions relating to public health concerns and involving immediate and irreparable harm; and
Any other function deemed by a president judge to be essential consistent with constitutional requirements.

In addition, court calendars, scheduling notices, subpoenas or other court orders compelling appearance by any attorney, litigant or other participant in non-essential cases are continued or postponed until further order.

Except for ongoing trials, jury and non-jury trials (both criminal and civil) are suspended and jurors do not need to report for duty on or before April 3, 2020.

Should NorCo Bring IT In-House?

This year, Northampton County is paying Vision Technologies, a Maryland-based firm, $4,899,000, for information technology. This is under the terms of a contract that could cost taxpayers $33.7 million over the next 13 years. Is it time for Northampton County to consider bringing this operation in-house?

During the dawn of the computer age in the '80s, there were few coders who knew anything about data security, website design, social media and never-ending software solutions. It made sense to outsource this government infrastructure. But times have changed. Most colleges now offer a wide variety of IT degrees.

Vision Technologies, which handles IT in Northampton County, took over a year to complete the simple task of making meeting videos available on Youtube. The county's computers often inexplicably shut down, and the internet speed is painfully slow. This nonlocal firm has hardly distinguished itself . And to be frank, the biggest data security threat to a county government is not some Russian hacker, but the actual service provider. 

On the other hand, it still makes sense to have a relation with an outfit that has its finger on the pulse of the latest advances in digital technology.

That's why I like the approach taken in Lehigh County. Its total budget for Information Technology this year is $4,443,916. Most of the work is done in-house by county employees, but this budget also includes a $450,000 payment to Computer Aid for IT management. It's a hybrid solution in which county employees manage sensitive data with a manager available for troubleshooting and developing trends. Best of all, it's nearly $500,000 cheaper than what NorCo pays.

Although Northampton County officials are spending  most of their time dealing with Covid-a9 at this moment, it should consider an in-house department when it prepares next year's budget.

Both Lehigh and NorCo Courts Declare Judicial Emergency

President Judges Michael Koury Jr. (Northampton) and Edward Reibman (Lehigh) have both declared judicial emergencies under which most proceedings have been put on hold. The Courts will continue to hear emergencies, or what they term "essential judicial services." The reason for these Orders is to minimize the spread of Covid-19.

Both courts will remain open.

Although Lehigh County's Courthouse remains open, the government center at 7th and Hamilton is closed to the public. Northampton County government remains very much open. In fact, I walked in on a cabinet member today who was discussing efforts being made to provide tents, sanitation and gathering places for the homeless. Bethlehem and Allentown City governments are also open. Easton has closed its doors to the public it ostensibly serves.



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Can I Maintain My Weight Now That Gym Has Closed?

As some of you know, I've been a yo-yo most of my adult life. If I can exercise, I tend to eat healthy and can lose weight and keep it off. But if get injured or sick, I gain it back in a hurry and then lose the motivation to exercise. When I started my most recent quest for fitness in July 2018, I relied mostly on walking as exercise. But after a few months, I heard a big pop in my hip one day while walking. I was in quite a bit of pain and thought my exercise would soon be replaced by binge eating. What saved me was the gym. I found I could do cardio on a machine called the Arc Trainer without any impact. In fact, my injury felt better when I tried it. After a few weeks, I began lifting weights as well. I was able to lose 128 pounds over 1/12 years. Though I have sometimes succumbed to unhealthy foods, the exercise helps me keep my focus on eating healthy. So when Governor Wolf recommended that people stop using a gym, I ignored him. Unfortunately, now I have no choice because my gym has closed in compliance with an "order" that may not even exist.

I understand the dangers posed by Covid-19. I also understand what happens if I am unable to exercise. Ironically, the gym has been as empty as I've seen it. Those of us who continued going had no problem staying 6' away from each other. Truth be told, most people stay more than 6' from me.

I loaded my bike into the car, figuring I would get it tuned up and try riding again like I did a few years ago. But I question whether the bike shop I frequent will be open.

So for the time being, my cardio will be a combination of brisk walking and a little bit of running. For strength, I can rely on some exercises learned in the army.

If any of you have suggestions on what I can do to stay fit and maintain my weight, I'm all ears.

Where is Governor Wolf's Executive Order

Governor Tom Wolf has done it again. In 2018, to settle a frivolous lawsuit brought by failed Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, he imposed an unfunded mandate on all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties to purchase brand new voting systems with voter verifiable paper trails. Now it's worse - an unfunded mandate on the working poor. With absolutely no consideration to the hardship he is causing, he yesterday commanded all "nonessential" businesses to shutter their doors for the next two weeks. He never bothers to define exactly what makes a business "nonessential." He does make clear that his "order," which really is no order at all, applies to restaurants, nail and hair salons, gyms, community centers and the mall. Some of these people will be able to collect unemployment. Many more will suffer. Servers and nail techs who rely heavily on tips, will see no income at all. But this is for their own good, says Wolf.

I'm sure they'd appreciate a paid holiday, but what Wolf has done is going to hurt the very people who can least afford the sacrifice.

I searched high and low for Wolf's Executive Order and see nothing. I believe there is none. During his news conference, he actually admitted he had no intention of enforcing his edict. But that's small consolation to many people who will see no income. Wolf discussed unemployment and loans, completely oblivious to the reality that many people in this gig economy rely heavily on tips for most of their income. In some cases, they are independent contractors, very much a part of the working poor that caters to the middle class.

I heard some government workers express joy at being shut down because they know they will be getting a paid vacation. But for many people who work hard for what little they earn, this means rents will be late and there will be a little less food in the fridge. In some cases, a lot less food.

Although Wolf has made clear he considers waitresses and hairdressers nonessential, he really has failed to define precisely what he means by a nonessential business. How about a warehouse? Law office? Landscaper?

In a news release, he claims to have offered guidance on what constitutes a nonessential businesses, but that is simply untrue. This supposed guidance lists examples, but provides no definition.

Wolf is a millionaire who drives a Jeep to pretend he is an everyman. But he's really an elitist with no clue what harm he has just done to many hard-working people who break no laws and just struggle to get by.

Now there are those who say these closures are necessary in the war against the cornavirus. The countries that have experienced the best outcomes did nothing like this, but instead relied on quarantines. But let's assume the public health warriors are right. Before closing a place down, a good Governor would take care of those who are negatively impacted. He would also explain more clearly what exactly needs to close. But Wolf has proven repeatedly that he's a bad Governor.

I tried calling in to a townhall conducted by Congressman Susan Wild last night to ask about these nonessential businesses. She had Sate Rep. Peter Schweyer there and perhaps he could explain (1) whether there is an Executive Order; (2) whether it contains a definition of nonessential businesses; and (3) whether the state intends to reimburse the people it has hurt.

The screener was unfortunately unable to hear me, so my questions went unanswered.

If any of you have a link to an Exec Order from Wolf, please post it. It certainly is within his power to do so, but I do not think he has actually entered an order.

Monday, March 16, 2020

NorCo Gov't Will Remain Open, Emergency Declared

Northampton County government will remain open, at least for now. Executive Lamont McClure, however, has declared an emergency. This will enable the county to seek funding for extra resources.

NorCo Declaration of Emergency by BernieOHare on Scribd

Biden Holds His Own With Sanders

Though USA Today called it absurd, I liked the one-on-one Bernie v. Biden showdown. Biden seemed relaxed and on point, and was perhaps the best I've seen him. He certainly looked and sounded Presidential. I believe Sanders hurt himself with his incessant attacks at Biden, and was perhaps the worst I've seen him. I thought Biden should skip this debate. I was wrong.

Covid-19 and TP



Regular readers of this blog know I'm full of shit. Perhaps I need more exlax, but I sure as hell don't need more TP. One roll lasts me three weeks, unless I'm on a bean binge. Now people do stock up on milk and bread before snowstorms. Although that kind of panic buying makes a little sense in the event people are unable to get around for a few days, the bizarre toilet paper rush I've seen at area supermarkets is just plain cRaZy.

Psychologists have weighed in with all kinds of shitty explanations for our recent fascination with toilet paper. My explanation, and I am a Doctor (of Law), is that Covid-19 has people scared shitless.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Trump to Declare Covid-19 National Emergency

Numerous news sources (I'll link Bloomberg) report that Donald Trump has scheduled a news conference at 3 pm today to declare a national emergency regarding the Covid-19 Crisis. This will allow state and local government too seek funding for expenses related to the fight against the virus.

In addition, he has agreed to organize a video conference with world leaders on Monday to coordinate an international response to the pandemic.

Government Should Never Close Doors During Emergency

Our fearless leaders in Harrisburg, Washington and even Easton have decided to shutter their doors from the dirty masses. Our betters are afraid that if they have to deal with us, they might get infected by our cooties. While I understand the reasoning behind closing some schools, a decision to close government offices during a national emergency sends exactly the wrong message. Our elected leaders forget they exist to serve the public. They are unable to do that if they are not there. They will continue to be paid, while those of us working in a gig economy get nothing, 

March Madness and Those Maccabees

Regular readers of this blog know I love to watch basketball. DeSales' men missed the NCAA tournament for D3 basketball, but provided a great season of very exciting games. After the season was over, I watched some exciting District 11 high school games, but ended up ensnared by the damn Maccabees. No, not those badass Jewish warriors, but the badass Jewish basketball players who play for Yeshiva University (29-1).

For D1 basketball, games are broadcast on network TV, with great announcers and fancy camera angles. Though D3 basketball can be just as exciting, there is less public interest. You can still watch most of the games online, with aspiring broadcasters providing play-by-play. So on the first day of the NCAA tournament, I was tuned in to watch our League Champions, Stevens University. I went online a little early, and that's how I stumbled onto Yeshiva.

They were destroying Worcester Polyech at an empty Johns Hopkins basketball court.  I was amused to see that most (if not all) of the players sported yarmulkas, which I believe are more correctly described as kippot. That was only part of the story. I was enlightened to the rest in a great recap written by Chuck Culpepper for the Washington Post.

This game was played in an empty basketball court because earlier that week, a student tested positive for Covid-19. The hotel the team had reserved refused to let them stay there. The game was delayed about 1 1/2 hours to determine if Worcester Polytech should even play.

Worcester got a green light, but now the pressure was on Yeshiva. Not to win, but to finish before sundown. You see, this is a team of Orthodox Jews, and Sabbath would start at 6:04 pm.

Well, the Maccabees easily prevailed, but they now had another problem. They were set to face Penn State-Harrisburg the very next night at 8:45 pm. This would be after sundown, but they would be unable to do any preparation during the Sabbath.

"The ancient texts, as it happens, don’t seem to allow Shabbat exceptions for March Madness," wryly observed Culpepper.

I was tuned in and watched the Maccabees stick it to PSU-Harrisburg, 102-83. It might not have been like the miracle with the menorah staying lit for eight days, but it was still exciting.

Yeshiva was set to play #3 Randolph-Macon today at 2 pm, but we'll never know whether they could defeat the Yellow Jackets. The NCAA has ended March Madness, at least on the basketball courts.

Update (8:35 am) - Basketball owes much of its popularity to the Jews, believe it or not!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Covid-19 Hits NorCo

One Northampton County resident is now believed to have Covid-19, according to the latest update from the Pa. Department of Health. Statewide, 21 people are presumed or confirmed as having this virus, while 196 people are under investigation. Executive Lamont McClure recommends that we "continue good hygiene practices, and that we, as much as possible, limit interactions with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and people with compromised immune systems."

I'm an old fart, but people already stay away from me. Actually, people should frequently check in on those who are elderly or who have compromised immune systems. A phone call or text is one way to do this without exposing this person or yourself.

Pa. DOH To Brief Elected Officials About Covid-19 on Friday

Thomas McGroarty, a public health preparedness coordinator with Pennsylvania's Department of Health, will brief elected officials and health care professionals about COVID-19 on Friday, 2 pm, at Northampton County's EMS Center on Gracedale's campus. Executive Lamont McClure noted this state department will lead any response to an outbreak in the Lehigh Valley.

Pa.'s First Covid-19 Fatality Was Harness Racing Trainer From Wind Gap

Carmine Fusco, Pennsylania's and Northampton County's first Covid-19 fatality, was a harness trainer from Wind Gap. According to Harness Link, he is one of several family members who has been infected, and his sister passed away soon before he did. But some details of this account are disputed by his sister.

He was a friend of Judge Anthony Beltrami, an enthusiast of harness racing.

Fusco's unfortunate death, combined with a spike in confirmed cases, has some people concerned. It should be noted that this sudden increase might be explained as the result of more testing being available. 

A Different Donald Trump



On Tuesday, Donald Trump incorrectly tweeted that the flu is more deadly than Covid-19. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci rebutted this claim yesterday. "It is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. I think this is something people can get their arms around." Trump has falsely asserted that "[a]nyone who wants a test [for coronavirus] gets a test." Dr. Fauci set the record straight yesterday, admitting there had been "missteps" and that hopefully a large number of test kits will be available next week. Trump's campaign asserted that he'd continue to hold rallies instead of "hiding" like Joe Biden, but Dr. Fauci warned against large crowds. Trump's myrmidons declared incorrectly that Covid-19 has been "contained," but the WHO has just called it a pandemic. He's been the Officer Barbrady of this global crisis, but has finally reflected a different and somewhat chastened tone in his address to the nation last night.

In addition to announcing some draconian measures aimed at stopping the spread of this disease, he called on the nation to "put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify as one nation and one family.”

I hope he means it.

Perhaps he heard the words of Arcangel Michael:
"You might run on, for a long time
Run on, ducking and dodging
Run on, children, for a long time
Let me tell you God Almighty gonna' cut you down."
While it's understandable that all kinds of rumors and misinformation occur during a sudden crisis, it's inexcusable that much of it has come from the President of the United States. Hopefully, he finally got religion.

Embattled Police Chief Out in Washington Tp

Scott Miller is no longer Washington Township's Police Chief. His employment ended there yesterday. Supervisors approved a settlement agreement last night under which he has been paid $15,000 (3 months pay) to go away. "This Agreement lets us put this unfortunate matter behind us and focus on making this Township the best it can be," states the Resolution.

Miller was involved in a one-vehicle crash on January 6 at Michael Drosnock's home along Kessersville Rd in Plainfield Township. Prior to this accident, he had been at a sports bar for eight hours. Though he was "mush-mouthed" and one officer could smell alcohol, he was never tested or charged. Once DA Terry Houck was made familiar with the circumstances, Miller was charged with two road violations.

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

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

Washington Tp Top Cop Suspended Without Pay

Suspended Washington Tp Police Chief on Patrol in Roseto (After this story published, he was suspended there, too.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Should Biden Skip Debates?

I hope, but seriously doubt, that Bernie Sanders is ready to concede the Democratic Presidential nomination to Joe Biden. As I write this story, Biden has won three of the six states that conducted elections on Tuesday, with his biggest victory in battleground state Michigan. His appeal as a uniter who brings people together, as opposed to our Divider-in-Chief. But he's always been gaffe-prone. He has also proved to be an underwhelming debator, while Sanders is very strong. I see no reason why Biden should continue to participate in these circuses. Why give Bernie any ammo? For that matter, I'd skip any debates with Trump as well. Agree or disagree?

Philly Bar Ass'n Likens Ice Courthouse Arrest to Police State

Philadelphia's Bar Association, the nation's oldest, has released a statement opposing ICE arrests inside a courthouse.

“Such actions are hauntingly reminiscent of those of a police state, calling to mind the actions of a secret or state police. Actions such as these are a clear violation of basic human rights. This is not the America created by the Framers of the Constitution.

“We call upon law enforcement agencies, local governments, and court administration to prevent the access of ICE agents into courthouses, and to act to protect the rights of individuals lawfully within those facilities from harassment or arrest by ICE agents, whether uniformed or not.”

This behavior is repugnant to many lawyers because it's completely contrary to an ancient common-law privilege from arrest while at a courthouse, or going to or returning from a courthouse. This privilege is called eundo et redeundo. No less an authority than the United States Supreme Court has ruled that "witnesses, suitors, and their attorneys, while in attendance in connection with the conduct of one suit are immune from service of process in another.”

Though the common law has been abolished, courts have the inherent power to protect those summoned to appear before them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Please Vote By Mail on April 28

Pennsylvania's Presidential Primary is April 28. I have no way of knowing whether Covid-19 will still be a problem at that time. To be safe, I recommend that you all apply for a mail-in ballot. You can apply online here. This way you can vote without risking your health.

Note: This is my suggestion. I have heard officials in other jurisdictions encourage voters to exercise this option, but have not discussed it with NorCo officials.

Negron Decides Against Running For Bethlehem Mayor

Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron has decided against running for Mayor, reports Gadfly. He has posted what purports to be a message he received from her. She refers to herself in the third person, just like he does.

Gadfly:

Councilwoman Negron WILL NOT RUN for MAYOR! Not now, not EVER! ☺

Councilwoman Olga Negrón

Lately, Gadfly has twisted himself into a pretzel with about 7,000 posts while trying to explain why Negron and Paige (call me Doctor) Van Wirt are so opposed to a wage equality ordinance. They even refuse to submit amendments. Gee, I thought they were progressive. By the by, Gadfly still has failed to mention that Negron told Bryan Callahan to "shut up."

Monday, March 09, 2020

CDC Has Useful Information About Covid-19

CDC has revamped its website to include highly useful information concerning Covid-19. In addition to situation updated, it provides advice for the following: Travelers, Households, Pregnant Women & Children, People Who are Sick, Caregivers, Schools, Businesses, Healthcare Professionals, Health Departments and Laboratories.

Please check this resource regularly and be skeptical about what you read,.

The Mini-Judges v. The President Judge

PJ Michael J Koury, Jr.
If you ever wondered why so many people run for magisterial district judge, it's a pretty good gig. The salary is $93,338 this year, and it goes up every year with a cost-of living adjustment.  There's also a great benefits and pension package. You can even work another job. The only down side is that, from time-to-time, you pull a week of night duty. But that's not too bad. Cops must still let our mini-judges sleep between 11 pm and 7 am, unless there's a murder or some other horrific crime. Moreover, the County supplies our front-line jurists with free internet and a fax machine so they can arraign defendants from the comfort of their own home. But it appears that a majority of them now believe that since they are addressed as "Your Honor" and wear black robes, they must be hot stuff. So hot that they can ignore the President Judge. They just found out differently. Let me tell you the story.

Sometime last year, the press complained to President Judge Michael Koury Jr that it was having difficulty getting access to records on nights and weekends. Because the state constitution requires that all courts must be open, Judge Koury contracted with an answering service to field calls from members of the press or public. A telephone operator would note the name of the person seeking access, the records requested and fax number and email address. This information would in turn be relayed to the mini-judge, who could then respond. Each magisterial district judge was requested to provide his or her cell phone number, which would be provided to the answering service.

Magistrates responded, not with their cell numbers, but a refusal letter from Northampton County's Magisterial District Judges' Ass'n.  Alan Mege, President of this exclusive club, argued the press could wait for regular business hours. He added there's no reason to give the press "differential and preferential treatment."

This letter was not enough. In addition, three magisterial district judges complained to a court administrator.

Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner was at least professionally defiant: "With all due respect, I will not provide you with this information. I cannot imagine that the President Judge can require me to provide personal contact information to an unknown entity over which I have no control."

It's a frickin' answering service, Jackie, not me.  If that were the case, you'd have a point.

Magisterial District Judge Doug Schlegel, who has spent most of his time in office on sick leave, also said No. "1. My cell phone is a private number.  2. I don't want to be bothered when on Night Duty (which is tough enough) by the press. 3. The press can access during office hours."

Doug, how the hell would you know how tough night duty is when you're always calling off sick?

Magisterial District Judge Rick Yetter gets the prize as biggest idiot in his response. He treats the request to supply his cell phone number as a motion from some poor litigant and enters a sarcastic court order. "Denied. I will not be woken up by the press during hours I can be sleeping. I was the  MDJ Assoc. President when our association and myself [sic] worked diligently with law enforcement, central booking, and then [sic] President Judge Baratta to firm up this night time [sic] schedule. You do not have my permission to share my cell phone number."

Instead of sharing his cell phone, Yetter should have been asked to lend his car. That went on a badass demolition derby on Superbowl Sunday.

Here's a point that apparently has eluded our corps of mini-judges. The President Judge is the boss, not them. It's his job to supervise the little fiefdoms run by our squires to ensure they comply with the statewide Rules of Criminal Procedure, statutes and little things like the Pennsylvania Constitution.

So guess what has happened?

President Judge Koury last week entered an Administrative Order providing as follows:

1) The night duty judge is going to be handed a cell phone to be used exclusively for calls related to night duty. When his time is up, he has to make sure the next judge up gets it.

2) Any member of the public (not just the press) can call a judge on night duty to request records that happen to be in his possession, and they must be supplied within three hours.

In addition, he has advised that "[a]ny defiance of the order will result in an immediate referral to the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board and/or the Pennsylvania Supreme Court."

At one time, President Judge Koury was himself a Magisterial District Judge. There was no free Internet, no fax machine and no arraignments from the comfort of your home. Police could contact him at any time, even between 11 pm and 7 am. On one day, he was required to leave home and report to his office 14 times over 24 hours.

The mini-judges picked a fight with the wrong person.