About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, July 31, 2020

Trump Floats Election Postponement

While three former U.S. Presidents helped lay civil rights icon John Lewis to rest on Thursday, the current one was playing on his phone again and suggested that November's election be delayed. He has so far failed to pick up any support from his own party for this latest exercise in fascism. In fact, at least one of his former supporters, conservative Steven G. Calabresi, hjas called this recent tweet "this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."

Calbresi has urged every Republican in Congress to make their opposition clear.
President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election. Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history. Anyone who says otherwise should never be elected to Congress again.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Updated: Thomas M Caffrey is Lehigh County's New Solicitor

From Lehigh County: Lehigh County, PA- The County of Lehigh would like to recognize Thomas M. Caffrey as the new County Solicitor.

On May 11th, County Executive Phillips M. Armstrong appointed Caffrey as the Acting Solicitor, and on June 10th the Board of Commissioners approved the appointment by a unanimous 9-0 vote.

Caffrey replaces former County Solicitor Sarah Murray, who was appointed Deputy Solicitor for the County in June. With this transition, he will be handling all duties pertaining to the role of County Solicitor and its delegations.

The County Solicitor is responsible for advising both the Board of Commissioners and the Administration. Under his direction, Caffrey will head Lehigh County’s Department of Law, which currently consists of two full-time attorneys, eight part-time attorneys, and two paralegals. The Department’s main focus is to handle County litigation and other legal concerns for Lehigh County.

Caffrey served Lehigh County for 32 years prior to being appointed County Solicitor. In 1987, he was appointed a full-time assistant solicitor in the Department of Law. In 1992, he was appointed the Lehigh County Juvenile Master. From 1998 through 2001, he served as a deputy district attorney in the District Attorney’s Office. And in 2001 he returned to the Department of Law as an assistant solicitor, in which role he has represented the County’s interests in significant litigation, including Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Lehigh County, Galarza v Lehigh County, and Fitzgerald v Lehigh County.

Caffrey graduated from ACCHS in 1979, PSU in 1983 (B.A., History) and Dickinson School of Law in 1986.

Blogger's Note: Originally published on 7/29 at 8:55 pm.

Allentown Police Dep't is Already Defunded!

Allentown's a mess. The inmates are running the asylum. Yesterday, I saw a procession of 13 witnesses blather on about nonexistent voter suppression of the Latinx community for five hours. I saw an Elections Board refer an elections judge for criminal investigation even though they had to know there was zero evidence she acted maliciously. They punted, and will let the DA or state AG tell the unpleasant truth rather than upset the mob. Later that night, I watched Allentown City Council wrestle themselves for about four hours with a goofy resolution aimed primarily at weakening its police department. As they discussed defunding the police, the mob periodically pounded on the windows. Allentown City Council punted, too. They will wait until August 12 before adopting a resolution of some sort. But there will be no defunding of the police department. It's already happened, according to Chief Glenn Granitz.

Josh Siegel and C-Ce Gerlach will claim systemic racism, and there very well might be, but they should look to themselves. 'the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our Stars but in ourselves." Ce-Ce Gerlach, for example, participated in a rally that screamed both "F--- the Police" and "F--- Daryl Hendricks," but last night denied she herself uttered those words. That's like Bill Clinton claiming he smoked marijuana but didn't inhale. Josh Siegel had to apologize for releasing Mayor Ray O'Connell's private phone number and doxing hiom at that same rally, but did so in an arrogant and vulgar tone. "I f---ed up," he said in a public meeting.

Siegel, of course, remained defiant. "I've been called a hypocrite in recent weeks, and frankly, it's a crock of crap. I'm not a hypocrite."

Really? I'm pretty sure a person who claims to be a champion of the working poor, but who wants to impose both an income tax and a regressive sales tax on them, is a hypocrite. But few love to hear the sins they commit.

Siegel wants to "reimagine" public safety "and look for ways we can spend our money better". He said cops should not be "the first freakin' call" when someone has a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

I see. Call a social worker? As Council President Daryl Hendricks pointed out, cops were doing their job during the 13 weeks that Lehigh County's Children and Youth caseworkers were in their cocoons*, "teleworking" from home, or more likely, their beach houses. He added that no social worker would have responded to the staggering drug addict who was puking outside of Sacred Heart.

Ed Zucal said defunding would be a "disaster."

Sadly, it's already happened. According to Chief Glenn Granitz, Allentown's police department has shrunk from a complement of 242 officers in 2003 to just 216 today, and in a city that's growing. He noted his officers are out there 24/7, 365 days a year. "I in no way, shape or form say that we are adequately staffed as it stands now."

Chief Granitz wants to study how best to implement community policing, and will be seeking money from City Council to hire a consultant.

Allentown's Fraternal Order of Police had something to say, too, directly to Siegel:

"In March 2019, you appeared at a regular monthly meeting of the Queen City [FOP]. You were seeking the FOP's endorsement of your campaign for City Council. While speaking at our meeting, you looked our members in the eye and detailed your vision and commitment to supporting the hardworking men and women of the Allentown Police Department. As a result if your words at our meeting, you received the endorsement of our members.

"Recently you have been regurgitating anti-police rhetoric and behave in a petulant manner that prioritizes politics over public safety and community service. You are attempting to drive a wedge between Allentown police and the citizens we proudly serve, and you will not succeed.

"Nothing disgusts our members more than a politician who betrays us when in front of camera or microphone.

"Upon consideration of your ignorant, blatantly uninformed and unnecessary comments and your failure to stand behind the men and women you claim to support, this lodge has rescinded its endorsement of your City Council candidacy. As such, you no longer have the privilege of claiming you are endorsed by the Queen City [FOP]."

*) The observation about caseworkers in their cocoons, teleworking from their homes and beach houses, is my own editorial aside. Hendricks made no such statement. I did. 

LC Elections Board Refers State's First Transsexual Elections Judge For Criminal Investigation

Erika Bickford, wearing skirt, blue blouse with Roman collar,
baseball cap decorated with flowers and lipstick
It's too late to contest the election results in which incumbent State Rep. Peter Schweyer barely beat back newcomer Enid Santiago's attempt to unseat him in the June 2 primary. He won by a scant 55 votes amidst loud complaints of rampant election fraud and voter suppression. Unfortunately for Santiago, she failed to complain where it mattered most  - in court. Absent a challenge, election results were officially certified on June 22. Gringo Peter Schweyer will continue to represent a state house district created specifically for Latinos, at least until November. Santiago can claim a victory of sorts as well. On Wednesday, Lehigh County's Election Board referred her complaints about election judge Erika Bickford to both Lehigh County DA Jim Martin and State AG Josh Shapiro. I'd agree there's a villain in this story, but it's not Bickford. It's a pandemic under which Voting Registrar Tim Benyo lost 40 polling places and half his pollworkers. In the midst of a shutdown, he was forced to hope replacements would watch training videos. Many, including Bickford, missed them. Given what Lehigh County faced, it's actually a miracle that the presidential primary went as well as it did. 

LC Voting Registrar Tim Benyo
is an avid cyclist. His team is
called "The Jim Thorpers."  
The Election Board heard more than five hours of testimony, starting at the unholy hour of 8 am. Whomever decided on that as a starting time should be taken out and shot. Seriously. It's a three person panel made up of Executive Phil Armstrong, Doris Glaesmann and Jane Irwin. They were advised by Attorney Emil Giordano, who pretty much ran the show.

And what a show it was! A parade of 13 witnesses was called by Philadelphia-area Attorney Steve Masters, who represented Santiago. His lawfirm is named JustLaws, "an innovative social impact law firm in Philadelphia combining traditional legal services with strategic consulting around political and community engagement." When speaking about Latinos, he made sure to use the word "Latinx." He was very politically correct and is certainly woke. But as a lawyer, he could have been better. You don't call Spanish witnesses without having arranged in advance for an independent interpreter. I've seen lawyers get beheaded for that kind of mistake. Fortunately for him, Armstrong was able to wrangle one. Masters also called witnesses like the GOP Vice Chair, who was just there to express opinions about how stupid Democrats are. We already knew that. I'm a Democrat myself.

Enid Santiago: "This is not over." 
Rather than summing up each witness, let me point out the problems noted:

* Bickford was Judge of Elections (JOE) at the government center. She has been an elections judge for nine years and testified she is the state's first ever transsexual elections judge. Registrar Tim Benyo noted she's "not the best election judge that we have and not the worst." Bickford readily conceded that she darkened some of the markings on ballots, and fed a few ballots into the scanners for seniors. She admitted there were Peter Schweyer pens at her polling place, but they were brought in by voters, not her. She acknowledged telling Santiago outside the immediate polling area that she supports Schweyer and considers him extended family. "His kids call me Aunt Erika." She made these statements as other voters walked by. "I altered no ballots," she insisted. "Had I altered ballots, [Enid] would not have won [my precinct] two to one. Benyo believes Bickford. "Her work isn't that great, but I never found her to be malicious," said the county's chief election clerk. "I don't think she thought she was doing anything wrong."

* The Fearless Fire polling place opened about 45 minutes late. JOE Sharon Smith said she was completely unaware of the training videos until the day prior to the election. Because of this lack of training, she experienced technical issues when trying to open the polls. Jose Rosado, who was volunteering there, said voters streamed out complaining "They don't know what they're doing; they're not ready; we weren't able to vote."

* Anthony Kyzer, JOE at LANTA Bus, said his precinct received the wrong provisional ballots. This was not noticed until around 5 pm. He said he received a total of nine provisional ballots, seven of them from Democrats. Once it was known he had the wrong provisional ballots, voters were told to use the write-in option. During the canvass, Benyo indicated those write-ins were counted.

* Several witnesses, including Santiago, testified that most Latinx have two surnames. This makes it difficult for pollworkers to find them in the epollbooks. Attorney Masters was quick to brand this a form of voter suppression aimed at Latinx voters. I disagree. Since this problem affects everyone with a hyphenated surname, regardless of ethnic persuasion, I believe it's a question of data entry. I have experienced this issue both as a JOE and as a title searcher. We get confused by hyphenated or double surnames.

* Tim Benyo, Lehigh County's Voting Registrar, said that as a result of the pandemic, the county lost 40 polling places. This resulted in some confusion among voters. In addition to losing polling places, about half of the election workers opted to sit out this election. This forced the county to scramble for new pollworkers. Since the county was in the red zone and county offices were closed, it was impossible to train them. Training videos were emailed, but many pollworkers never saw them.

* Benyo insisted there was no fraud evident in Bickford's district because the number of voters who signed in corresponded with the ballots cast.

* Benyo added that JOEs and other election officials are often elected, and not appointed. Even if an elected official is incompetent, he has no authority to replace that person.

After the hearing, Santiago claimed from home that the state AG had someone viewing the entire proceedings in a separate room.  "We are making history," she contended. "This is not over."

Of course not. She will now wage a write-in campaign and Allentown voters will face another three months of histrionics.

One example is her complete turnaround on Benyo. On election day, he was her "angel in disguise." Now, he's a devil. She is quoted in The Morning Call as saying "he failed the voters, he failed me, he failed the city and he failed the county."

Updated 8 am: Blogger Michael Molovinsky has weighed in as well. He warns that the Election Board's political decision to appease Santiago by throwing Bickford under the buss will backfire. "If Chief Election Clerk Tim Benyo thought he had a problem getting people to work the polls for the primary, wait until November."

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

AOC's Attack on Military Recruiting Misguided

Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to attach riders to military appropriations that would ban funding for recruitment at high schools or digital streaming platforms. Her reason is that the armed forces tends to target low-income students.  I hope they do.

What AOC completely misses is that the military is one of the most respected professions in this country, right up there with nurses.

Even a brief tour with the military opens up doors for college funding a veteran preferences.

For many low-income students, this is a way to climb out of poverty.

Not everyone can be a Lebron James. 

I find AOC to be intelligent, passionate and eloquent.  And often, she is way off the hook.

The Danger of Ballot Harvesting

I've been hearing ugly rumors in recent weeks that in a contested Lehigh Valley race (I won't say which county), a candidate was heavily involved in a practice called ballot harvesting. It was done in a way that would be hard for elections officials to notice. If these rumors are true, there was definitely election fraud as a result of mail-in voting on June 2.

Although I won't name the candidate or county involved, let me share what I know.

Three different people have told me that a candidate in a contested race was assisting voters in filling out their ballots, but failed to sign a certification of assistance. One of these persons tells me the candidate actually paid some voters $5 for their ballots. The candidate then mailed the completed ballots to the elections office.

This is ballot harvesting, is completely illegal, and next to impossible to prove.

But not completely impossible. If this candidate was completing the ballots for voters, a handwriting expert could probably find similarities in the handwriting on the ballots

Pennsylvania's Elections Code bans the practice of ballot harvesting. The only person who can return a completed ballot is the voter.There are exceptions for caregivers, who must sign the back of the ballot.

The elections office in Northampton County and Lehigh County have taken steps to ensure that no party boss or factotum can dump off numerous completed ballots.

But ballot harvesting can still occur. Candidates can have parties at which voters fill out their ballots, are paid, and the candidate then sends in the ballot. No one is any the wiser.

The only way this fraud is foiled is if one of the voters admits what happened, and that person would be admitting to a crime.

I love the no-excuse mail-in ballot option. It makes complete sense for older voters or those who are disabled. It makes sense during a pandemic. But the danger of ballot harvesting is very real, and may have already happened.

Radwan Jaroub, President of the Syrian American Ass'n in Allentown, believes the legislature should change the law to limit mail-in voting to the elderly and disabled. .   

Emil Giordano To Advise LC Election Board Today in Santiago Dispute

Many criminal defense lawyers believe that, if you have a good legal argument, you're best shot is with a Democratic judge. Of course, if you lose the motion, your client is toast. When you have nothing going for you at all, it's best to plead guilty in front of a Republican jurist. There are notable exceptions to this rule, but they tend to have more empathy for criminals. They tend to be fair-minded and level-headed. One of my favorites was Judge Emil Giordano. He could sentence someone to 1,000 years in the electric chair, and as deputies dragged the poor bastard away, he'd be thanking Giordano. Unfortunately, Judge Giordano left the bench to return to private practice. This is a great loss to Northampton County, especially to bottom-feeding bloggers like me. I'm running out of Republicans with whom I can seek sanctuary after pissing everyone off. But our loss is Lehigh County's gain. Today, at 8 am, Giordano will be acting as Solicitor to Lehigh County's Election Board when it hears state house candidate Enid Santiago's complaint concerning irregularities in her race against incumbent Peter Schweyer. 

As I told you yesterday, she's upset that an election judge at Lehigh County Gov't Center was darkening ballots. She has claimed both fraud and voter suppression. 

From what I've been able to gather, there was voter suppression. But it was coming from Enid Santiago. Inside the polling place, she was telling voters not to vote for Schweyer.  She was making such a scene inside that Lehigh County deputies asked her twice to leave the precinct, and she refused twice.  

She is going against a strong public interest in the finality of an election. A hearing on July 29 concerning an election on June 2 is ridiculous.

Updated 8:25 am: Santiago's hearing is being broadcast on her Facebook page

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Over 500 Applications Filed for NorCo Small Business Grants

According to Jessica O'Donnell at the Greater LehighValley Chamber of Commerce, over 500 small businesses have applied for grants from NorCo's  small business relief grant program. The maximum allowed is $15,000. The county set aside $4 million for this initiative. "We may need some more money," noted Executive Lamont McClure. 

Republicans Ask DA to Investigate Schweyer-Santiago Primary

Erika Lynn in hot seat
Say what you will about Everett Bickford, but no one can deny he's colorful. Years ago his alter ego was Apples The Clown. He also was a nondenominational wedding minister whose "Sapphire" package cost $100. In recent years, he or she often wears a dress and prefers to be called Erika. Occasionally, when the mood strikes him, he wears pants and becomes Everett again. Everett, or if you prefer, Erika, is also an election judge. During the June 2 primary, he was caught darkening some pale circles on the recent paper primary ballots. Bickford contended that he was only darkening those circles already inadequately filled in by voters. But some say he was darkening them for just one of the candidates, incumbent State Rep. Pete Schweyer. Enid Santiago, his opponent, lost the race by 55 votes and wants a new election. And now, the county Republican party wants Lehigh County DA Jim Martin to investigate.

I have known Everett (Erika) a long time. He was one of those who stood up for minority merchants on Hamilton Street in 2007 when LANTA summarily eliminated several stops that essentially ruined their businesses.

Republicans claim their sole motivation is to insure voter integrity, regardless of who the candidates are, or even to what party they belong. I suppose a cynic might wonder if they feel that Santiago would be a weaker opponent against their candidate come November, except that there is none.

No Republican is running in the race.

It is my impression that Election Chief Clerk Tim Benyo runs a tight office in Lehigh County. However, I suppose that the process can never suffer from too much scrutiny.

But be careful what you wish for. I've been hearing ugly rumors about this race. The parties spreading these stories are unwilling to speak on the record, so I am unwilling to repeat them. But they have nothing to do with Everett or Erika. If the rumors are true, this story will continue.

Blogger's Note: This story was a co-written by fellow blogger Michael Molovinsky.

Monday, July 27, 2020

And How Are All the Little Commissioners?

Northampton County is currently struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately 3.3 million Pennsylvanians are still unemployed, and this is the last week they will receive a $600 weekly stimulus. How our public schools re-open is very much an open question. A growing public awareness of social injustice has led to protests throughout the nation, not all of them peaceful. Employees have been stuck by Covid-19. Gracedale residents have died. In the face of all these serious problems, Northampton County Council is about to embark on one of its most feckless maneuvers yet.
Get this, it wants us to change the Home Rule Charter to give themselves a more exalted name. Instead of being called Council members, they now want to be called Commissioners.

The sponsors of this idiocy are Democrat Lori Vargo Heffner and Republican Peg Ferraro, proving that both parties are idiots.

Believe it or not, this issue came up five years ago, but was tabled at the request of then Council member Lamont McClure. Then Council member Scott Parsons called the proposal "frivolous." Given what's going on now, I'd say it's the ultimate proof these supposed legislators are completely out of touch with the people they are supposed to represent.

Come back to earth already!

Remember Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther series? He has just been interrupted in one of his duels with his little "yellow" friend Kato by the ringing of the telephone. It's the Police Commissioner.

"Good evening, Commissioner. How are you, how is madame and all the little Commissioners?"

Maybe we should start calling themselves Commissioners, but on one condition. They should always be referred to as little commissioners.

Little commissioners with immense egos.

Five years ago, 0 Council members need to be called Commissioners because - get this - "confusion sets in when members of County Council encounter the public." I agree completely. I know confusion sets in whenever i encounter them, but it has nothing to do with their titles.

The real reason why some County Council members want to piss away public money is because some of them feel like ugly step sisters when they go to conferences with real county commissioners who exercise both executive and legislative power.

They want to pretend they are more important than they really are.

If they want to improve their self esteem, I'm sure the courts have a list of psychiatrists they can consult. This is a complete waste of public resources. Any Council member who wants to be called Commissioner should resign, move to Lehigh County, and run for Commissioner there.

NorCo Opens Newest Covid-19 Testing Center Today!

Northampton County and Coordinated Health (now part of Lehigh Valley Health Network) opened a new COVID-19 drive-through testing site today. It is located at 3100 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020. It will be open Monday through Friday from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. Saturday hours will be available twice a month from 9:00AM – 12:00 Noon. The drive-through testing center is located in the parking area to the rear of the building and is separate from patient parking and routine patient care.

“Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment, testing and tracing are the key to limiting the transmission of the Coronavirus,” says Executive Lamont McClure. “I encourage everyone to continue washing their hands frequently, wearing a mask and getting tested if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19.”

A Physician’s order will not be required but, to be eligible for testing, individuals must report or display one or more CDC-recognized symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. The drive-through site will be open to everyone, but only residents of Northampton County will have the cost of testing covered by the County if they do not have health coverage. All testing will be through HNL Lab Medicine unless insurance requires an alternate laboratory. Participants should bring a photo ID and their insurance card, if they have one, with them to the testing site.

Becky Bartlett, Deputy Director of Administration, said it takes one to three days to get test results. "It depends on demand," she cautioned.

Who will do the contact tracing if a test comes back positive? According to Bartlett, it will be either Lehigh Valley Health Network or the state Department of Health.

Thode With Some Covid-19 Facts

Numbers cruncher Steve Thode presents some facts (remember them?) about the Covid-19 pandemic

For the past 7 days, Lehigh reported 142 new positives out of a total of 3,212 new tests.

That's a positivity rate of 4.42%.

For the past 7 days, NorCo reported 103 new positives out of a total of 2,821 new tests.

That's a positivity rate of 3.65%.

For the past 14 days, DoH has reported 214 total new deaths statewide; 145 in LTCFs (long-term care facilities), and 69 not in LTCFs.

The 14-day LTCF death rate has dropped 89.9% from its May 18 peak.

The 14-day non-LTCF death rate has dropped 88.6% from its May 18 peak.

The number of deaths reported the last 14 days is the lowest since early April.

Opinion: It appears to me that health professionals know a lot more about the SARS-CoV-2 than in January, and have become far more proficient in treating those among us who are ill. I by no means am suggesting we drop our guard, but believe we are in a good position.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Rediscovering Our Beauty Along the D&L Trail

Many people complain, and with a great deal of justification, about how ugly things have become in northeast Pa, especially here in the Lehigh Valley. Farmland diminishes every year, while warehouses are popping up everywhere. Truck traffic is projected to double, and Routes 22 and 78 are so bottlenecked that they no longer make sense for local travel. We're very much in danger of becoming just another NYC suburb, but we do have one thing going for us. The trails. If there's one bright spot to this pandemic, it's resulted in many local people becoming familiar with our inherent beauty for the first time. They might flip you off on the roads, but they smile on the trails. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, do yourself a favor and spend some time this summer and Fall walking, running, biking or e-biking along the gorgeous Delaware and Lehigh Trail. It's 165 miles long, with 36 of those miles right here in the Lehigh Valley.

I've always loved this trail between Easton and Allentown. But I was completely blown away when, earlier this year, I rode from Cementon (Coplay) to Slatington. It is by far the most beautiful trail I've ever ridden, It's flat, well-maintained and wide. Not long after you start, the sounds of traffic on busy highways are replaced by another symphony from the rushing waters of the Lehigh River, often accompanied by laughter from people rafting their way downstream. As you continue north toward Slatington and beyond, you are transplanted to what seems like a different place and time. I've been making periodic trips from Cementon north and back, with an ultimate goal of completing a century within one day. After Friday, I'm a bit closer to achieving that goal with a 70-mile round trip. I thought I'd share some pics to help you understand why I love it so much.

I'd recommend that you check the map if you're planning a long trip. It will advise you if there are obstructions. A friend of mine is making his own map, with pointers to all amenities in each area. But his map is a work in progress and he's asked me to keep it to myself for now. He may gift it to the Trail since he is a volunteer.

If you think you need to spend several thousand for a great bike, you're wrong. Let's start with my bike for long trips. It is nothing fancy. It's just a Jamis commuter, nothing like a Trek, Cannondale, Giant or Fuji. It's heavy, too, especially compared to racing bikes like one of my friends has. You can pick those up with one finger. Over the years, I souped up my Jamis with fenders (bad weather), decals everywhere, kevlar tires, a great crankset, rack and panniers, computer and lighting. It's a frickin' tank. You'll notice two bottles. One holds water and the other holds something even more valuable - coffee. In my bag in the back, I have several other bottles of water in a bed of ice, bandaids (used all three), neosporin, cliff bars (I ate one and fed one to the geese), vaseline and bike repair tools. I have no idea how to fix a bike, but people along the trails often stop and help, so it's a good idea to have a tube and pump on hand. Believe it or not, there are numerous stations along the way with bike tools and pumps, too!

This was the scene in Lehighton (19 miles), where I finally stopped to eat a cheese and egg sandwich purchased in Slatington (9 miles) at Diggity Dogs. While in Lehighton, I was assaulted by a gaggle of geese. They forced me to feed them one of my cliff bars. They are nowhere near as tasty as my sandwich, so I didn't mind.

Speaking of Diggity Dogs, he makes the best breakfast sandwiches I've ever eaten. He also sometimes have pierogies made by the "church ladies," kielbasi and halupki soup. A drive to Slatington just to eat breakfast would be worth the trip, but a bike ride is more fun.

This sign is along the trail just north of Jim Thorpe. I don't know why. If I were a black bear, I'd be offended. In all my years, I've never seen a black bear hiking, riding or jogging on the trail.  I did see one talking a sunbath on the railroads tracks  in Upper Mount Bethel a few years ago. Mosquitoes are far more deadly, but no sign warns of them.  And as the alien overlords often tell me during abductions, we humans are probably the most disgusting of the bunch. Let me give you an example. I cycled by some old coot and must have startled him. I was going no more than 10-12 mph, and was far to his left. As I went by, he jumped and simultaneously swung a rather big and thick walking stick at me. I know I am sometimes startled by cyclists going by me, so I understand this guy's reaction. Either that or he knows me. 

Aside from the unwitting assault, what nearly defeated me between Lehighton and Jim Thorpe was two very narrow wooden bridges over spillways from the canal and into the river. I probably should dismount and walk my bike across, but am too proud and arrogant. Invariably, the bridges dismount me themselves. I lost control and banged my knee, which was already cut up from a previous injury. Hence the bandaids and neosporin.

Another spot where I'd recommend caution is around the Glen Onoko section along the railroad. The gravel is loose there and I almost wiped out a few times. That's also where the grade becomes noticeable.

Unlike many other trails, the Delaware and Lehigh Trail is clearly marked, sometimes by half mile. This was my halfway point from MM 83 in Cementon. I just noticed White Haven is at MM 130, so my century ride, if I ever do it, might be only 94 miles. I'll have to plan an additional six miles. That should be no problem because there are other trails that hook up.   

This picture was taken from a bridge crossing the Lehigh River, about 1 1/2 miles north of Jim Thorpe. You can see little hints of Jim Thorpe.

On my way back, I stopped in Jim Thorpe to load up on water (drank 192 ounces of water yesterday), coffee and eat lunch at Bear Appetit. Don't worry, there is no Ursus Americanus on the menu. The food there is always delicious and the service fast. I had a summer salad, a bed of deep-green spinach with a generous sprinkling of blueberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges and crumbled bleu cheese. I'm convinced that combination, along with the water and coffee, enabled me to complete my ride. 

This is south of Bowmanstown, and is one of very few spots where you jump on a road. It adjoins a park, has a nice berm and is quite safe. Love the mountain in the background.

This area is quite beautiful, if we take the time to notice it.

Sunday Addendum, July 26: I'm embarrassed to say I was unaware that The Delaware and Lehigh Trail offers memberships, and for as little as $25.  You can also be a volunteer.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Can I Do a 70-Mile Bike Ride?

That's my goal today. I'll be getting up early and starting at the Delaware and Lehigh Trail in Cementon (MM 83). From there, it's north to Slatington, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe and MM 118 in the Lehigh Gorge State Park. I know the grade becomes noticeable past Jim Thorpe so I will try to minimize stops until I'm on the return trip. I will check in on the blog from time to time and try to update you in comments, but cell reception past Jim Thorpe is spotty. Barring a flat or getting eaten by a bear or another blogger, my goal is to get 70 miles in today.

I'm doing this ride on what I call my main bike, a Jamis Tangier, for which I just got a new wheel. It's heavier than my Bianchi, with fenders, kevlar tires, lights, two water bottle mounts and room in the back to store even more. But for some strange reason, it's faster, probably because I souped up the derailleurs and crankset.

If you never hear from me again, you'll know I failed. If I make it, I'll be bragging on Monday.

Greater LC Chamber Has Been Very Helpful With Small Business Grant Applications

On July 17, I told you that Northampton County is offering $4 million in grants (not loans) to small businesses (less than 100 employees) impacted by the pandemic. The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is marketing this program, but County Council will have final say in who gets up to $15,000.  When this was first discussed, Council President Ron Heckman had all kinds of "concerns," as he put it, about the Chamber. They appear to have been misplaced. I know of two small businesses who never would have been able to have applied but for the assistance if the Chamber.

One of these businesses is a nail salon that was forced to close during the pandemic. I've known the owner for 25 years. After all that time, I still have difficulty understanding her. She called a number on the application and was connected with Jessica O'Donnell, one of Tony Iannelli's many right hands. She promised to get her in touch with someone the next day and did.

Someone from the Chamber called and spent over an hour with a person whose command of English is challenged .

I also know of one other business receiving the same kind of help.

Neither was a Chamber member.

If you have a small business and were hurt by the pandemic, apply. Though the grants are probably all eaten up by now, I have a sneaking suspicion there will be a second round.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Delaware & Lehigh Trail Question: Is Trail Open Past Slatington?

During a ride last week, I noticed that the beautiful Delaware and Lehigh Trail was closed at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. I'm going to take a flyer and ask if anyone has been on in recent days north of Slatington. It was supposed to be closed until July 17, but open now with intermittent closing. Can anyone tell me if I can go through? If not, is Route 248 safe?

Two Wolves

A group of anti-maskers rallied in Harrisburg yesterday to complain about how Governor Tom Wolf's edicts have threatened their freedoms. I'd agree that his restrictions on bars and restaurants are driven more by fear than data, but objections to a mask requirement are a bit over the top. It's a slight inconvenience but the science clearly proves they are effective in stopping droplets. This is the main way Covid-19 is spread. Here's my question. If these anti-maskers are so concerned about  limitations on their personal freedom, why aren't they equally outraged at Trump's use of federal law enforcement in Portland, and his threat to do so in other cities. He's basically trampling the Bill of Rights.

I have no objection to the use of federal law enforcement to protect federal building and monuments. But the use of militarized Border Patrol agents to club and tear as protesters and yank them off streets and into unmarked vehicles blocks away from these federal assets is alarming.

In my mind, what matters is precisely where protesters are being yanked off streets. If it is within a block or two of the federal courthouse, it is completely understandable to protect federal assets. The lack of identification and militarization is absurd. Also, even if close to a federal asset, it is illegal to arrest someone without probable cause. 

I speak with some personal knowledge of what can happen. As a student at Georgetown University during the Nixon regime, I was arrested while on my way to class and ended up spending some time at a stadium before being released with no charges. I was nowhere near any of the demonstrations, which I have always tended to avoid. I have always hated mobs.

The man behind this now, of course, is Donald Trump. But his chief minion happens to be another Wolf (Chad Wolf). He heads Homeland Security without confirmation, in violation of the Constitution.

Are You a Registered Voter? Wanna' Vote by Mail?

If you want your voice heard in the upcoming November 3 Presidential election, you need to be a registered voter. The last day for registration is October 19.


Be a citizen of the United States for at least one month before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.
Be a resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which you want to register and vote for at least 30 days before the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.
Be at least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.

How to Register:

You can register at PennDot, your county voter registration office, by mail or online.

Voting By Mail:

If you wish to vote by mail, your application for a mail-in or absentee ballot must be received by the county elections office no later than 5 pm on 10/27/20.

It does not do you much good to have a ballot f you fail to fill it outr, Make sure you fill out your mail-in ballot and place it in the secrecy envelope provided and send it in.

Your completed ballot must be received by the county elections office by 8 pm on election day. Do not take it to your polling precinct. Either mail or hand in to the county elections office.

You can apply for a mail-in ballot here.

This information is also located on the left sidebar of this blog.

Remember, democracy is not a spectator sport.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Data Provide No Justification For Wolf's Latest Edict

Yesterday, I told you Bethlehem's Downtown Business Association is urging Governor Tom Wolf to reverse his edict imposing draconian restrictions on restaurants and bars. They have all signed onto an initiative agreeing to follow all federal, state, and local public health guidelines. They want Governor Wolf to reconsider, at least within the Lehigh Valley. The data in Northampton County supports these businesses.

Northampton County reported just eight new cases yesterday, Since July 7, the highest it's been is 24 cases on July 15.

More importantly, deaths have dropped considerably. On July 8, six new deaths were reported. Then, from July 9-15, there were zero deaths each day. On July 16, nine new deaths came out of nowhere. Since then, there have been no new deaths.

Let's assume there are 12,800,000 people living in PA (Pre-COVID), of which approximately 80,000 live in LTCFs. Let's also assume in NorCo there are 304,000 people with about 4,000 in LTCFs (not sure of the exact LTCF population in NorCo).

So, that's a population of 12,720,000 statewide not in LTCFs, and 300,000 in NorCo not in LTCFs.

So far, statewide, there have been a total of 2,012 deaths among people not living in LTCFs; in NorCo it's 42.

So far, then, statewide, 99.983% of the Non-LTCF population has not died from COVID-19.

And, in NorCo, 99.986% of the Non-LTCF population has not died from COVID-19.

So, we're shutting down bars, restricting restaurants to 25%, and demanding teleworking wherever possible among the Non-LTCF population (I assume LTCF residents aren't barhopping, going out to dinner or teleworking) when only between 0.014% to 0.017% of that population has died from COVID-19.

Never have so many given up so much for so few.

Steve Barron's Daughters: Irish Dance Stars

I've already told you, several times, that I am the Lehigh Valley Hearts Champion. It's why I know so many people. Just this past weekend, I annihilated the opposition in a lengthy tournament during which many people died. Some jealous people will no doubt comment that I'm lying and actually lose every game I play, but that's just sour grapes from players who imbibe too much Sangria. I probably should be on a river boat somewhere, but have recently discovered that I'm an agile and gifted pickleball player. Last week, I destroyed Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron in a three-game match. He's been working out hard and is a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete himself, but is no match for me. They had to cart him off the court. Last I heard, poor Steve is on a ventilator, with Coroner Zach Lysek is on standby. Steve may be in an induced coma at the moment, but his daughters Emma and Delaney are masters of Irish dance. After years of training, I think they might be even better than me.

Both of Steve's daughters are featured in the video above. I usually like to showcase basketball, but am really impressed by the athleticism and artistry of these young dancers. Steve should be proud of his daughters, who fortunately take after their mother.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Downtown Bethlehem Ass'n Urges Wolf to Reverse Restaurant Restrictions

On July 15, Governor Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine both signed orders targeting bars, restaurants and mandating telework where possible. They took effect on July 16, leaving these businesses little time to adjust. In essence, the latest edicts ban bar service; prohibit the sale of alcohol unless food is also ordered; and limit occupancy to 25%, including staff. Indoor gatherings of more than 25 people and outdoor get-togethers of more than 250 people are barred.

The Downtown Bethlehem Association’s Board of Directors has released the following statement Regarding Governor Tom Wolf’s merchant restrictions starting 12:01a.m., July 16th

The merchants of the DBA (Downtown Bethlehem Association) have complied with every mandate handed down since the beginning of COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania and are devastated by the recent restrictions hurting our employees, businesses and the economy at large.

We, restaurants specifically, committed to follow the safety standards provided by the PA Department of Health and the CDC (Center for Disease Control), and we did. We committed to ensuring the well-being of our employees and customers with our PPE usage and extra cleaning protocols, and we did.

We have signed the #VowoftheValley, a Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce initiative designed to provide clear recognition for the commitment made by businesses, large and small, to protect the health, safety and well-being of employees and customers. This means all federal, state, and local public health guidelines are vowed to be followed at any location with The Vow of The Valley designation.

Mandates with only hours notice create upheaval in our small businesses. We must be able to serve our customers or we will not be here to serve them in the future.

The Downtown Bethlehem Association Board of Directors urges a reversal in this mandate, at least in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, and for government officials to hold accountable those who are not compliant with mandated guidelines.

Allentown Needs Leaders, Not Demagogues

Like "visionary" Joshua Siegel, Hasshan (call me Dr.) Batts has a very high opinion of himself. On his website, simply called Hasshan Batts, this "life changer" humbly refers to himself as an "experienced life coach, mediator and trainer [who has] received national recognition for my contributions to the fields of peacemaking, behavioral healthcare, and social justice. My personal mission is to make a contribution to the betterment of society through compassion, education and collaboration." I see. I have to wonder how twice convicted drug felon Batts was "peacemaking" when he called on an unthinking mob to "f... the police." What compassion did he show when he had his goons repeating him in shouting "F... Daryl Hendricks"? A former Allentown Police officer who rose to the rank of Captain, Hendricks is currently President of Allentown City Council. He, along with Mayor Ray O'Connell, were both physically present and were just as interested as Batts and Siegel in finding out what happened. But unlike those demagogues, they were interested in being fair to everyone, including police officers.

Did Batts trash Hendricks because he is a retired cop? Or is it because Hendricks has refused to give Batts $1.2 million for his Promise Neighborhoods nonprofit? That's a pretty big ask for a City with a $7 million deficit.

Batts likes to portray himself as someone who was "empowered" by going out and getting an education. Actually, he didn't go anywhere. He was in the can when he got his education. He already had a master's degree and was working in human services and with children when he was picked up as a drug kingpin, in 2007, with five kilos of cocaine, 50 pounds of marijuana, six guns and $50,000 in cash. I have serious reservations about whether he belongs in the nonprofit in which he is involved now.

At this time last year, Batts got up in the face of an Allentown parking enforcement officer. "You obviously don't know who I am," he told the uniformed officer.

I know who he is.

A criminal.

No city, especially Allentown, is helped by demagogues like Batts and Siegel They will tell mobs what they want to hear while ignoring real problems like that $7 million deficit. Allentown needs someone who will tell people the truth, however unpleasant it might be, instead of lies. It needs someone who understands finances and who can turn things around.

That person is Allentown businessman Nat Hyman, who has made a career turning abandoned buildings into affordable housing, and with no government assistance.

As Mayor, Ray O'Connell was the best choice as someone to succeed disgraced Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. O'Connell is a decent and honorable man who understands people. He's even nice to me! I went nuts at his ridiculous tax hike, but he has been a cheerleader for the Queen City when it really needed one.

Going forward, Allentown needs someone outside the City's bizarre political hierarchy.

That person is Nat Hyman, who has always been regarded with suspicion by Allentown's apparatchiks.

It's no secret he disdains most members of City Council, and the feeling is mutual. That's actually a good thing. A divided government prevents both legislative and executive branches from overreaching. Daryl Hendricks, Julio Guridy and Ed Zucal have lots of institutional knowledge and would be assets.

But is Hyman running?

I talked to him Friday night, and he told me he's thinking about it. If he decides to run, he will announce after the Presidential election. I'll have more to say then.

He does not need to run. But Allentown needs him to run.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Josh Siegel Doxes Mayor Ray O'Connell at Police Protest

"Visionary" Josh Siegel
Several Allentown opportunists, from "visionary" Josh Siegel to "life coach" and twice convicted drug felon Dr. Hasshan Batts have been doing their best to stir the pot after a 23-second video appeared to show an Allentown police officer placing his knee on the neck of a vomiting and disoriented drunk who was stumbling his way to Sacred Heart (St. Luke's) Hospital for medical treatment on July 11. "Defund the police!" screamed an instant mob. "I can't breathe," they yelled as they pounded on the doors of the police department. Headline grabbers gave speeches making themselves, of course, the center of attention.  Allentown police would later produce a nine-minute video completely refuting the George Floyd chokehold comparisons being made. There was no brutality. Officers were actually trying to help this drunk as well as medical personnel who would be treating him. That made no difference to the mob or Mayoral wannabes Josh Siegel and Ce-Ce Gerlach, both of whom are members of City Council. They marched with them, chanting

"F... the Police

"F... the who? The Police!"

Quite eloquent. Vulgarities aside, Siegel also did something far more repulsive. During the initial protest on Saturday night, he provided Mayor O'Connell's personal phone number to protest leaders. They immediately bullhorned this personal information to everyone there. It made no difference that O'Connell was actually there that night. Siegel's actions are more akin to those of a snake than a visionary.

Am ethics complaint has been filed against Siegel. From what I have been able to gather, there are several witnesses to what Siegel did. This includes a few of those police officers that everyone wants to f... .

I contacted Mayor O'Connell, who confirmed he was deluged with calls for a few days after being doxed, although that has tapered off.

When he appeared at the initial protest, most of those who greeted him were former students and very civil. But there were also a few ugly people whose hats and bandanas made it impossible to determine identity.

"We know where you live!" shouted one. "We like flames."

Siegel also wants the names of the officers involved released. He apparently wants to dox them, too.

With visionaries like Josh Siegel on Allentown City Council, it is little wonder the City is going ti hell in a handbag. He is telling everyone he will be Allentown's next Mayor. Other names, like Julio Guridy and Ce-Ce Gerlach, have also been mentioned.

Is any adult interested? I'll have an answer to that question tomorrow.

Updated 10 am: Playing Politics with Public Safety

NorCo Workers Vacationing in Covid Hot Spots Might Get Another Vacation ... Unpaid

I received this anonymous comment on Friday: "Heard numerous caseworkers were walked out of the Human Service Building and told not to return for 14 days because they traveled out of state recently. Has McClure implemented this policy for county workers because this is news to me." I've asked Executive Lamont McClure about this, and he tells me that last Sunday, two employees at Human Services were told to stay home. This is because they recently visited or vacationed at one of 18 states identified by the Pa. Dep't of Health Covid-19 hotspots. The state recommends anyone visiting any of these hotspots to self-isolate for 14 days after return.

On Monday, two caseworkers who recently visited a Covid-19 hotspot were asked to leave, and did. To McClure's knowledge, none was "walked out."

Ironically, it is these very caseworkers who complained loudly at several Council meetings that the county was risking their lives when it made them leave their homes and return to work on May 18. Yet they are perfectly willing to risk the lives of everyone else.

"Many of our employees are taking vacations in what are designated as Covid-19 hotspots," McClure told County Council at their July 16 meeting. "If you go, you have to stay at home for 14 days when you come back. I just cannot roll infectious hand grenades into these [county] buildings."

If they can obtain a negative test and remain symptom free for five days, they can return.

Council member Kerry Myers asked whether employees were told in advance this could happen.

"No, they weren't," responded McClure, who added there will be a published policy. "I understand that it feels unfair, but it would be more unfair to the people they're working with if they come back from Myrtle Beach and get 20 people sick. I'll take the weight of that perceived feeling of unfairness."

The 18 states identified as Covid-19 hotspots are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Friday, July 17, 2020

DA Jim Martin: No Action Against Officers Assisting Drunk at Sacred Heart Hospital

Lehigh County DA Jim Martin has concluded his investigation into the conduct of police officers assisting a drunk who sought medical attention at Sacred Heart Hospital on July 11. Although a brief video shot by a passing motorists suggests an officer may have placed his knee on this person's neck, Martin has concluded that's not what happened at all. Instead, an officer did position his knee on the gentleman's head briefly while immobilizing him for his own safety as well as that of hospital staff.

In the wake of Martin's investogation, Allentown's Police Chief and Mayor have both released statements.

Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz, Jr. 

Earlier this afternoon Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin released a statement regarding the independent investigation conducted by his office into the incident, which occurred outside of St. Luke’s Hospital (Sacred Heart Campus) in the 400 Block of W. Chew Street on Saturday, July 11th, 2020.

I have reviewed the District Attorney’s decision. It was important to allow for an independent examination of this incident. Our internal review by the Office of Professional Standards, as well as our Use of Force review process has determined, along with the District Attorney’s independent findings, that there is no basis for any discipline of the officers involved.

Review of the video that is posted on our department website https://www.allentownpa.gov/Police shows that the officers pointed the individual in the direction of the emergency room entrance. The individual did not follow the verbal and visual instructions provided by the officers. The individual stumbled into the street, and based on a duty of care, officers took action to remove the individual from danger and provide him with medical assistance.

When the parties fell to the ground, the individual was not fully secured in handcuffs. I would like to reiterate that at no time did either officer place their knee on the neck of the individual in this incident. There was never a point when a chokehold was applied to this individual. This was corroborated by a review of the available video evidence as well as interviews conducted with eyewitnesses, including the medical professionals present at the time of the incident. As seen at the conclusion of the above listed surveillance video, officers and medical staff walked the individual into the hospital where he was treated and subsequently released.

The men and women of the Allentown Police Department remain committed to protecting the public and we take that responsibility seriously. I pledge to continue to work closely with community stakeholders and members of our department to ensure the safety and quality of life of the residents of the City of Allentown.

Allentown Mayor Ray O'Connell

“I thank District Attorney Martin and APD’s Office of Professional Standards and Use of Force Review team for their respective inquiries into the incident outside St. Luke’s Sacred Heart. Public safety is my top priority. That reaches its highest level when there is trust between the police department and the residents. As mayor of the city, I am committed to strengthening the relationship between the department and the community. I take my oath of office seriously. I remain committed to the protection of the public and to improving the lives of all our citizens.”

Led By Zrinski, NorCo Council Votes 6-3 Against Democracy

Northampton County Council member Tara Zrinski was elected to the public office she currently holds. She's also running for state representative, which is decided in a public election. But last night, she betrayed a fear of democracy. What's more, five members of County Council joined her. They voted to table a measure that would call on voters to approve a Home Rule Charter change prohibiting discrimination in county employment against someone on the basis of race, religion, age, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views or lawful activities. Council members John Cusick and Kerry Myers, who sponsored the resolution ,voted to let the public decide. They were joined by Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner. Zrinski persuaded Council members Kevin Lott, Bill McGee, Peg Ferraro, Tom Giovanni and Ron Heckman to table the matter.

The proposed Charter change would merely make the County Constitution consistent with existing policy and a recent Supreme Court ruling. Zrinski was fearful the measure would fail if the voters were to decide. "You putting it up for a referendum in an election and the possibility of it being No, could open a huge can of worms for people who are gay in our community," she said.

Amazingly, she distrusts the voter.

"I can't imagine people voting No or against this," responded Cusick. "I'll be voting for it when it's on the ballot ... . To me, it's incomprehensible that in 2021, when this is on the ballot, that people would not believe that these rights should be part of the Home Rule Charter of Northampton County."

Zrinski said that people in the gay community could be hurt, but Cusick disagreed. "I think we should put it up for a vote and stand up for them," he said. "I cannot imagine at this point in time that a majority of the people in this county are that bigoted that they would vote this down."

Noting that "Spring is a long time away," McGee said Council should table and get feedback from "stakeholders."

Kevin Lott noted that, even if it were voted down, the Supreme Court's ruling on discrimination would still take priority.

Kerry Myers told Zrinski people are "more willing to be respectful of their neighbor than you're willing to give them credit for."

Nothing Zrinski does surprises me. But I was shocked that five Council members joined her in asserting basically that they oppose democracy.

McClure's "Pandemic Protection Plan" Sails Thru Council

Executive Lamont McClure should be in a good mood today. If you work for the county, now might be a good time to hit him up for a raise. Last night, County Council voted 9-0 to approve what he calls his pandemic protection program. It's a three-pronged attack.

Expand Broadband Access

Northampton County Council approved $825,000 in grants for broadband access. $100,000 each will go to the school districts of Bethlehem, Easton, Bangor, Northampton and Nazareth. $50,000 each will go to the schools districts of Wilson, Saucon Valley and Pen Argyl. Northampton County Department of Human Services (DHS) will use $175,000 to purchase Wi-Fi annual vouchers and electronic equipment for underserved senior citizens and veterans within the county.

I believe each student is entitled to equal treatment and would have divided the grants in accord with the number of students in each district. I also wondered whether parochial and charter school students were being left out. Not so, said Kerry Myers , who at one time served on and presided over Easton Area School Board. He indicated the district will be required to assist all students who reside in the district.

I also had concerns about Northampton County students being served by Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua school districts. Executive Lamont McClure indicated they would be served as well.

McClure added that many seniors with limited incomes need internet access.

Drive-through testing site for COVID-19 at Lehigh Valley Hospital

Council approved $300,000 for a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for Northampton County residents displaying at least one symptom of the Coronavirus. Lamont McClure and Northampton County DCED organized a partnership with Lehigh Valley Hospital-Coordinated Health Allentown Hospital (LVH-CHA) to set up the site which will be located at 3100 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020. Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. The site will open in a few weeks.

A Physician’s order is not required but, to be eligible for testing, individuals must report or display one or more CDC-recognized symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. The drive-through testing site is open to everyone, but only residents of Northampton County are eligible to have the cost covered by the County if they do not have health coverage. All testing will be through HNL Lab Medicine unless insurance requires an alternate laboratory. Participants should bring a photo ID and their insurance card, if they have one, with them to the testing site.

The importance of increased testing is that it enables public health officials to trace an infected person's contacts and ask them to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Increased testing will yield an additional spike in cases, but in the long run, it reduces community spread.

Universal Testing at Northampton County Prison

Northampton County Council approved a resolution to allocate $200,000 in CARES Act funds for a proactive testing program for COVID-19 at the Northampton County Prison. On July 7, 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended universal testing for jails and prisons. The Department of Corrections will coordinate with Prime Care Medical to develop a plan to test inmates and staff.

McClure indicated he may want to perform antibody testing on corrections officers, which may indicate at least a few months of immunity.

Wolf's Latest Fear-Mongering Unsupported by LV Data

On July 15, Governor Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced new statewide restrictions aimed at nightclubs, bars, restaurants, gyms and both indoor and outdoor gatherings. At bars and restaurants, occupancy is limited to 25%, including staff. Nightclubs remain closed. Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people, while outdoors it's 250. Moreover, businesses are strongly encouraged to employ teleworking. WEolf said his order was made necessary by a recent spike ion Covid-19 cases, and local public radio station added yesterday that this spike is happening here in the Lehigh Valley as well. This is simply untrue.

Numbers cruncher Steve Thode has prepared a chart showing the new case rate in Lehigh and Northampton Counties between June 5 and July 14. Here's his analysis.

"When we went 'Yellow' on June 5, there had been 511 new cases the previous 14 days; when we went 'Green' on June 26, there had been 405 new cases the previous 14 days. As of today, there have been 381 new cases the past 14 days (with many more tests conducted). No "surge" in cases in the Lehigh Valley.

"How about deaths statewide?

"The 14-day death rate peaked on May 18 when a total of 2,047 deaths had been recorded the previous 14 days (an average of about 146 per day). As of today, there have been only 261 deaths recorded the past 14 days (an average of about 19 per day). That's a reduction of over 87%. And, only 74 deaths the past 14 days among Pennsylvanians not living in an LTCF. That's a reduction of almost 88%. LTCF deaths have dropped 87% since May 18."

Thode also notes that The PA DoH reported Thursday that there have been 142,176 COVID-19 tests with 5,517 positive cases the past 7 days. What they didn’t report is that that is a positivity rate of only 3.9%, well below the 10% positivity rate that indiocates a spread.

On June 26, when all PA counties went “Green” except Lebanon, the 7-day case postitivity rate was 4.2%. So, the positivity rate has gone down since then.

I'd like to know when ruling by spreading phony fear became a good thing. This just might be more deadly than COVID-19.

NorCo Small Business Grant Applications Now Available Online

If you are a small business located in Northampton County, chances are you've been hit hard by the pandemic. Northampton County is making grants of up to $15,000 available. Online applications are available here.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is marketing these grants, and outlines eligibility requirements here.

If you have a small business in Northampton County, apply quickly because the Chamber already received 64 applications in just one day. .

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Trail From Hell

This is Don before we hit the heavy stuff. I bit my way through. 
Most of my bike rides are solo affairs. That's understandable, too. Would you want to be seen with a bottom-feeding blogger? There are, however, people who are willing to ride with me. My friend Anne and her husband Don are two such kind-hearted souls. This is a couple who actually spends time on the trail offering minor repairs and water to passing cyclists. They're both veteran cyclists, both on and off road. So when they ask me to join them, I agree. My hope is that some of their goodness rubs off one me. But it appears that the opposite is happening. Let me tell you the story.

As most of you know, I love the Delaware and Lehigh Trail. I plan to ride from Cementon to White Haven and back before the end of this season. Anne and Don are part of a crew that make the trip from Sand Island (in Bethlehem) to Jim Thorpe every Fall, and I've already booked that trip. But I told them I was unsure how to get from Canal Park in Allentown to hook up with the DandL in Northampton. My grandson and I rode out of Canal Park for a bit, but were on the roads and some rather steep hills. Anne and Don told me there's actually a trail. It was a little rough, they warned me, but nothing like mountain biking. Best of all, only one mile of roads and no hills. So when they offered to show me the way yesterday, I readily agreed.

They lied. There was not one, but a few miles of roads with monster hills. And the trail? It was the trail from hell.

Rocks, tree roots, stones, hills, mud and all kinds of obstacles.

"I thought you said there were no hills?"

"We lied."

I should have brought a machete.

Occasionally, I'd see a few bones here and there.

"Nothing to worry about," they said.

After struggling for a few miles, I told them I had to use the roads. If that meant some trucker was going to cream me, it would be at at least less painful than being impaled on some giant vine of poison ivy.

And we hadn't hit the rough stuff yet. So we hopped on the roads and the ride was actually enjoyable. When we made it to Northampton, we stopped at a coffee shop. We're all addicted to caffeine.

To return, we rode through Northampton, hopped on the Nor-Bath trail, and took that to Jacksonville Road. We were on Route 512, Schoenersville Road and all kinds of busy roadways. They were much better than the trail from hell.

Anne and Don safely delivered me back to Sand Island, after which they rode home. I was going to continue my ride from there to Easton, but wanted a nice, wide and well-maintained trail. So I drove to Cementon and rode up a few miles past Slatington, where the trail has been temporarily closed for power line repairs.

When I returned home from 52 miles on the bike, I looked over the agenda for tonight's meeting of Northampton County Council. Lo and behold, the County is being asked to chip in $500,000 in open space money for improvements along the DandL trail in North Catasauqua and Northampton. DCNR will kick in $650,000 and North Catty will also contribute $166,000.

This will make it possible to widen and resurface 1.56 miles of what now is the trail from hell.

The sooner, the better.

Wolf Avenue Parking Lot is Open!

Next time you came to the courthouse, most likely as a criminal defendant, you should find it's easier to find a parking spot. A newly constructed parking lot at the intersection of Wolf Avenue and Washington Street near the Government Center is now open.

The Milides building at that site, which previously held the Elections office, was demolished in August 2019. It had been hit by lightning and was in poor repair. Construction on the lot began in November. This included excavating the area, rebuilding it with crushed stone and the installation of an underground storm-water retention system and a retaining wall. Lights and landscaping were added this spring and paving finished this month. Two charging stations, capable of charging four electric vehicles at a time, will be installed soon.

The project was delayed briefly by the Covid-19 shutdown, but I'm unaware of any change orders seeking extra money.

The lot has 104 spaces, a gain of fifty from the previous site. Seven ADA accessible spaces will give the public easier access to the Courthouse entrance.

The County of Northampton financed the $1 million dollar project. The charging stations were paid for with a grant from Driving PA Forward, an initiative of Governor Wolf’s Administration to increase air quality in Pennsylvania.

Northampton County thanks Bean Inc. Construction and Wind Gap Electric for all their work on this project.

Future projects in the area will include an improved Pedestrian Crossing Zone across Washington Street.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

NorCo Broadband Access Grant Should Help Children, Not Seniors

On Thursday night, Northampton County Council will be asked to spend $825k in CARES Act funds to improve broadband access at local school districts. Under the proposal, $100,000 will go to each to the school districts of Bethlehem, Easton, Bangor, Northampton and Nazareth. Wilson, Saucon Valley and Pen Argyl school districts, which are smaller, would get $50,000.

The resolution would also grant $175,000 to Northampton County Department of Human Services (DHS) to purchase WI-FI annual vouchers and electronic equipment for underserved senior citizens and veterans within the county.

I agree on the importance of broadband, especially for schools. But that should include parochial and charter schools. All students in all schools deserve equal treatment. They are being ignored improperly and perhaps illegally.

My other point concerns the $175,000 grant to the Human Services Department to help "underserved" seniors and veterans. Many of the seniors I know have no interest in the Internet. Those who do are usually capable of taking care of themselves. I question whether there's a need among veterans or seniors. On the other hand, I know many low-income families with no or limited Internet service. This deficit hurts the education of those children. A school's broadband access can be great, but that means nothing to a student who has no way of connecting from home.

Perhaps I have this all wrong, but it seems to me that WiFi vouchers for seniors and veterans are simply an attempt to curry favor with two large voting blocks.

My generation and the one after mine have pretty much screwed our youngest. Thanks to us, they've been shacked with a major deficit, climate change and a poorer standard of living than we enjoyed. Instead of kissing the asses of the most selfish generation I can remember (my own generation), the money should go to help provide and improve internet access to students in low-income homes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

NorCo To Establish Covid-19 Drive-Thru Testing Station

Northampton County is partnering with Lehigh Valley Hospital-Coordinated Health Allentown Hospital (LVH-CHA) to set up a COVID-19 drive-through testing site located at LVH-CHA at 3100 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020 (next to Outback Steakhouse). Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. The site is anticipated to open within a few weeks.

A Physician’s order will not be required but, to be eligible for testing, individuals must report or display one or more CDC-recognized symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. The drive-through site will be open to everyone, but only residents of Northampton County will have the cost of testing covered by the County if they do not have health coverage. All testing will be through HNL Lab Medicine unless insurance requires an alternate laboratory. Participants should bring a photo ID and their insurance card, if they have one, with them to the testing site.

Once I know the date this starts, I'll let you know.

The reason testing is important is because it is important to notify an infected persons's contacts. In the long run, this is what reduces spread.