Friday, October 30, 2020

The Albino Banshee

I'm going to tell you a scary story. It happens to be true, which makes it even scarier. 

In the early 60's, when I was in the 8th grade at St. Theresa's Elementary School. The nuns there were very scary, but I'll save my stories about them for another day. This is the story of the Albino banshee, who visited me one dark night.  

During recesses at school, a group of us formed the Ghost Hunters' Club. We would periodically go to old abandoned houses that were supposed to be haunted. We never actually went inside any of them, but would always make plans to go into them later . . . at night. 

It was around this time that we began hearing stories about the Albino Banshee. She was a terrifying witch who lived somewhere in Allentown. She had long white hair, pink eyes, sharpened teeth and very long fingernails. Her piercing shrieks could be heard at night in Allentown. Her keen, all by itself, could cause a heart attack. Word on the playground was that she had already killed several people. All she had to do was touch you with her long, thin fingernails. Not everyone believed this story, but I did.  One of the nuns admitted to me that it was true. 

At this time, I was still living with my parents, brother, sisters, a German Shepherd named Duke and several cats. Our house was a 300 year-old, stone farmhouse in Hellertown. Its three foot thick walls kept the house cool in summer and warm in winter . . . except on the third floor attic. That's where my brother and I slept at night.  

One night, after we had all turned in, I awoke to hear the third floor attic door creak open. Footsteps slowly came up the steps, accompanied by the sounds of rattling chains. I immediately assumed it was the Albino Banshee! I tried to scream, but couldn't open my mouth. Or eyes. Once whatever I heard had reached the top of the steps, I could hear it walk towards my brother. I wanted to defend him, but was paralyzed by fear. My brother was a goner. This thing did not stop with him. In a matter of moments, its steps came for me. It was suddenly very cold. I was unable to budge. Then I felt it. A banshee's fingernail traced itself right across one of my cheeks. But for some reason, I didn't die. 

Then the steps walked off and into the other room on the third floor. While still sweating with fear, I could hear that door open again. This time even more footsteps came up the steps. Although still too terrified to open my eyes, I could tell that lights were on. Just as suddenly, the lights went off and the footsteps went back down the steps. 

The next morning, when I woke up, I was happy to see my brother was still alive. I am still ashamed at my own cowardice in failing to defend him. I told him what had happened. He told me I was nutz. Then we went downstairs for breakfast. 

After sitting there for awhile, I told my mom, dad and sisters what had happened. I expected them to tell me I was nutz, too. Instead, they looked at each other, and my mom told me they had heard someone going up the steps to the third floor themselves. They decided to investigate, which explains the second set of footsteps I heard that night. Whatever had come up the steps had just vanished. 

To this day, I have no idea what really happened. But sometimes, in the dead of night, I could hear footsteps in the adjoining room that was supposed to be empty. 

I've witnessed ghosts at the law library at the courthouse during the days when you could stay after hours. I'd hear a newspaper rustling and would go to the next room and there'd be nothing. I could hear books being pulled out of shelves, but when I would check, nothing would be there. The custodians who worked at night had the same experiences, especially in Courtroom 1. 

I never felt afraid by these ghosts. But the Albino Banshee still scares the shite out of me. 

Feel free to tell your own scary stories in the comments

 Happy Halloween.

Innocent Mistakes Are Not Voter Fraud

Outside every NorCo Drop Box is a sign that warns that third party return of ballots is prohibited unless the person doing so is rendering assistance to a disabled or emergency absentee voter. This prohibition is there to prevent ballot harvesting, in which party apparatchiks collect ballots from numerous people and drop them off together. I've heard stories that this happened in a Lehigh County primary, but there's no hard proof. Unfortunately, many voters are innocently breaking the law, leading to cries of FRAUD by party bosses like NorCo GOP Chair Gloria Lee Snover.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a friend who told me she voted by MIB and dropped off her ballot at the courthouse. When I asked her why she did not stop and say Hi, she told me she gave her ballot to her next door neighbor because he was taking his and his wife's ballot to the courthouse. When I told her that's illegal, she was stunned. 

Just a few days ago, I saw a post by a Facebook friend who was delighted to report that her husband had just taken his and her ballot to the courthouse to drop them off. When I told her that was illegal, I was met with stony silence. No Likes. I've probably been unfriended and blocked. 

Now NorCo Republicans are snapping pictures and raising a stink when some citizen is dropping off the ballot for himself and one or two family members.  

This situation is similar to what happens during in-person voting. One spouse will sometimes drag the other behind the curtain to help explain the ballot. Technically, you are supposed to have them both sign about  18,000 forms. But as things get busy, poll workers like myself sometimes forget. In fact, sometimes it happens so fast it takes me unaware. Is this fraud? Of course not. Should a vote be invalidated because some husband dragged his wife behind the curtain to do who knows what? Of course not.

It's an innocent mistake, no different than a husband whose wife's ballot is on his "Honeydo" list. He has no idea that he just committed a capital offense.  

Lee Snover is rolling around on the floor, foaming at the mouth. But as Joe Biden might say, "Come on, man!"

This is what I call "harmless error." What's really bugging people like Snover and GOP State House candidate Scott Hough (my brother has his sign in his front yard) is they both know they are losing.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Biden Will Win NorCo With 54%

According to figures supplied by Northampton County, 84,913 voters have requested MIBs (mail-in ballots). It is expected that 80% (the county is already at 74.3%) will be returned by election day. That amounts to 67,930 votes. It is also known that about 70%, or 47,551, of these MIBs are coming from Democrats. I believe these will be votes for Biden. About 24%, or 16,303 votes, are coming from others. I'll assume that half of those, or 8,000, are Biden votes. This means Biden probably has 55,551 votes going into election day. Is this enough for Biden to win the county that Trump won by 5,461 votes on election day in 2016? Yes. 

In 2016, there was a voter turnout of 70%, or 146,381.  If turnout is 70% on November 3, that means there will be 159,120 voters. The winner needs to garner a plurality of these votes. The winner needs about 78,000 votes. So Biden needs about 22,449 voters on election day. 

Northampton County has about 102,000 registered Democrats. We know 47,551 have sent in MIBs. We know about 10,000 of the registered Democrats are inactive, meaning that there are really only about 92,000 active registered Democrats. Of that 92,000, about 44,000 declined to send in MIBs. If 70% of these Democrats show up on election day and vote Biden to mirror the 2016 turnout, that translates to an additional 30,800 votes. If my assumptions are basically right, he will get about 86,351 votes.  

This gives him a big win. 

Have I just given him my famous Kiss of Death? We shall see. 

My assumptions:

1) MIB return rate of 80% (67,930)

2) Democrats account for 70% of MIBs and vote Biden (47,551)

3) Half of Other MIBs vote for Biden (8,000)

4) November 3 turnout of 70%, (159,120)

5) 70% of active Dems who failed to send in MIBs will vote in person for Biden. (30,800)

Biden's Total - 55,551 MIBs plus 30,800 in-person = 86,351 votes.

This is 54% of the total. 


Three Local State Rep Candidates Tagged For Failure to File Expense Reports

Three LV candidates for State Representative have been tagged by the Department of State for failure to file pre-election campaign finance reports. They are the following:

Pa Legislative District 131 - Kevin Branco

Pa Legislative District 133 - Mike Schlossberg

Pa. Legislative District 138 - Tara Zrinski

All three are Democrats, and Schlossberg is an incumbent. 

On  Tara Zrinski's Facebook page, she claims to have sent her report on October 22, and has attached the postmark. The pre-election reports were due October 23. Reports mailed the day before the due date are considered sufficient, but that's no satisfaction to those who want to see who is funding a campaign. The election is just days away. 

Ironically, Zrinski claims to be the anti-corruption candidate. If she were really interested in being transparent, that report would have been filed so people could actually see it.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Zrinski Fails To File Pre-Election Finance Report

 


Tara Zrinski, who is running for State Representative, has been tagged by the Department of State for her failure to file her pre-election campaign finance report. This is a betrayal of the voters she wants to represent.  

Ironically, on her personal Facebook page, she claims her race is "barreling down the finish line to November 3rd with a clear message of anti-corruption." If she fails to let the people know who is funding her, as required by state law, she is herself corrupt. 

Grandpa Armstrong Asks You to Use Drop Off Boxes For MIBs

 

Lehigh County Exec Phil "Grandpa" Armstrong has three pieces of advice for you. 

First, if you have a mail-in ballot (MIB), it's a little too late now to rely on our overworked postal workers. He strongly recommends that you take your ballot to one of the drop off boxes (locations here). 

Second, if you want to help your local businesses, so so by wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing social distancing. Armstrong would hate to see these businesses shut down again just as they are finally getting back into the swing of things.

Third, if you see a first responder today, thank him or her.  

Early Voting Ends in Pa

 Early voting has now ended in Pennsylvania. Mail-in Ballots (MIBs), however, are still being returned. As of yesterday, here's how things stand.

Nationwide:  Over 71 million of 91 million ballots requested have been returned. This is 51.6% of the total number of votes cast in 2016.

Statewide: So far, 1,850,400 of 3,058,418 requested ballots have been returned. This is 30.2% of the total turnout in 2016. Democrats account for 68.9% of the votes. 

Northampton County: So far, 58,408 of 81,893 requested ballots have been returned. This is 40% of the total 2016 turnout. 

Lehigh County: So far, 41,294 of 87,641 requested ballots have been returned. This is 26% of the total 2016 turnout. 

Updated 3:15 PM: A statement just released by NorCo claims it has approved 84,913 applications, about 3,000 more than reported by Elections Project. 

If You Still Have a MIB, Return Ballot to Drop Box

If you have requested and received a mail-in ballot, but have yet to send it in, I'd suggest you use a drop box at this point. The USPS has just told a federal judge that the Constitution imposes no requirement that ballots be timely delivered, and it's right. So most elections experts recommend that you hand deliver you ballot or use the drop boxes made available. 

Northampton County Drop Box Locations:

1) Bethlehem City Hall's Plaza Entrance (10 E Church St, Bethlehem, pa. 18018) from 8 am until 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

2) Northampton County Government Center (669 Washington St, Easton, Pa. 18042) rotunda from 8:30 am until 8 pm, Monday thru Friday, and on Saturdays from 8 am until noon.

3) Northampton County's Human Services Building (2801 Emrick Blvd, Bethlehem, Pa. 18020) from 8:30 am until 7 pm, Monday through Friday.

4) Northampton County's 911 Center (100 Gracedale Avenue, Nazareth Pa 18064), from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

These locations correspond with the four county districts. Free parking is available at all four locations. Each drop box is monitored by surveillance cameras and will be emptied daily by Deputy Sheriffs who will be sworn in and will also complete daily forms to preserve the chain of custody. The ballots are delivered to the Registrar, who will secure them in a locked vault until election day, when canvassing can begin.

Lehigh County Drop Box Locations (thanks to LVCI):

• District#1
o North Whitehall Township Building
o 3256 Levans Road, Coplay, PA 18037
o 610-799-3411
o M-F 7:30AM- 4PM

• District #2
o Upper Macungie Township Building
o 8330 Schantz Road, Breinigsville, PA 18031
o 610-395-4892
o M-F 7:30AM- 4PM

• District #3
o Catasauqua Municipal Building
o 90 Bridge Street, Catasauqua, PA 18032
o 610-264-0571
o M-F 8AM- 4PM

• District #4
o County Government Center
o 17 South 7th Street, Allentown, PA 18101
o 610 782-3194
o 24/7 at the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office

• District #5
o Emmaus Borough Office
o 28 South 4th Street, Emmaus, PA 18049
o 610-965-9292
o M-F 8AM-3PM

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Can I Change My Mail-in Ballot?

Our Disinformer-in-Chief, Donald Trump, tweeted this morning that most states allow a voter to change his vote once it has been cast. That may be true in some states, but not in Pa.

NorCo Voting registrar Amy Cozze was asked whether a voter can change his mail-in ballot once it is mailed. Her answer: "Absolutely not, once the ballot has been turned in to the BOE [Board of Elections] it cannot be altered in any way or spoiled.
If you have received a mail-in ballot and have decided to vote in person, you can do that. But you must bring your ballot and the envelopes to your polling location.

Today is Last Day to Apply For Mail-in Ballot

Today is the last day you can apply for a mail-in ballot (MIB). Your application must be received by elections officials no later than 5 PM. To be on the safe side, you can apply in person at the county elections office or fill out and send an application online with this link.  

If you fail to make the cutoff for a MIB or dislike that method, you can vote at your precinct on election day. 

As of yesterday, over 87 million voters have requested MIBs nationwide, and 64 million (including 21 million early voters) have been returned. This is already 46.4% of the 2016 turnout. 

In Pennsylvania, over 3 million ballots have been requested, with 1.7 million returned. Nearly 70% of the ballots returned are from Democrats.

In Lehigh County, 36,567 of 86,160 requested ballots have been returned. In NorCo, 54,784 of 81,306 requested ballots have been returned.

Lehigh has rejected none of these ballots. NorCo has rejected just two. Statewide, 311 ballots have been rejected. Presumably, these rejections are the result of a voter's failure to properly endorse a voter's declaration. Counties have been directed to reject all naked ballots (ballots that the voter places inside a secrecy envelope), but are unable to make that determination until the envelopes are opened on election day. 

Zrinski Unhinged!

Tara Zrinski is a NorCo Council member who would like a State Representative in a fairly conservative district. If she were able to come across as level headed and motivated by common sense, she might succeed. She's acting instead like a lunatic. I've seen numerous angry flashes from her time on Council, especially when reminded she needs to use her mike. But even I was unprepared for this unhinged display outside the Bethlehem Post Office in August.

Below is my translation of her rant as she paced back and forth armed with a bullhorn, a Zrinski T-Shirt, jean shorts and a mass of dangling keys.

"[Unintelligible] is saving our election. He's saving our election ... he's saving our democracy and that is what is at stake... Make no mistake. ... That is on the line ... We know Republicans and Donald Trump [crouches for some reason] want to sabotage this election. We know that they are scared ... And why do they know that we know they are scared?  [stamps her foot] ...  We are coming. We are going to take their seats. Nowwww. [crouches again].And November 3. So you need to vote by mail, and if you do vote by mail, use the post office, use it early,and if you can, walk it in. ... Do you hear me? [shouting and pointing]  ...  Walk it in. In Northampton County, we will have ... a drop box ... in the rotunda ... of the courthouse ... it will be made available and you will not have to be screened or temperature checked before you go through ... Amy Cozze [Voter Registrar] has assured me that we will have 100,000 voter by mail ballots printed up and ready to go at the end of September. ... So we are ready to go ... How about you? ... Make your plan now to vote and get out there and help our [unintelligible] ... There are postcards to run, postcards to mail, ballots to get into the hands of people [this would be illegal from her], we need calls made ... we need to w-w-w-[voice gets shaky]-in. ... Why? Because our democracy IS At Stake [pointing]. So what are we gonna' do? [fist in air and one foot stomps] Vote! What are we gonna' do? [fist in air and other foot stomps]"

I certainly agree our democracy is at stake. In fact, I'm so concerned that for the first time in decades, I voted STRAIGHT Democrat. I voted for Wild over Scheller because Scheller refused to distance herself from Trump. I voted for Shapiro, whom I consider an opportunistic phony, because he stands against Trump. I voted for Kate Brennan as State Rep against Joe Emriick, which was easy for me because I know she'd be much better. But I refuse to vote cRaZytown, and that is Zrinski. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Updated: Trump to Bring Superspreader to LV

(Originally published 10/25 1:01 PM) Well, NorCo GOP boss Lee Snover's wish has finally been granted by Donald Trump's Presidential campaign. His next superspreader will be in Northampton County on Monday at 11 am. If you want tickets, and you're nutz, if you do, you must first release his campaign from any liability in the event you contract the disease he says is in the rear view mirror. 

Here's what his application for tickets warns:

"By registering for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. In attending the event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; the Republican National Committee; the host venue; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers from any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury."

Coronavirus deaths in the US, as of today, are now at 225,000

7:50 PM Update: Hanover Tp and Colonial Regional Police ask you to "[p]lease avoid the area as there will be a heavy police presence with periodic road closures along the Schoenersville and Airport Road corridors." There will be delaysd between 8 am and 2 pm. Executive Lamont McClure asks yo to wear a mask. "Our numbers are on the rise, and we don't need a superspreader event right now."

8:10 PM Update: Register to attend here and save two Republican lives. I got two tickets.

11:15 AM Update: Am covering this event from the safety of C-SPAN. The crowd is not observing CDC guidelines concerning social distance and, for the most part, is unmasked as Macho Man is playing in the background. President has arrived. and I now notice masks near him.

11:25 AM: "Thank you very much, Allentown." Still referring to Biden as "Sleepy Joe," Trump immediately attacks Biden's energy plan as a "death sentence" for Pa, arguing that Biden wants to shut down the country. 

11:28 AM: Trump claims that Gov. Tom Wolf tried to "shut us out," and complains the press won't cover "Biden scandal," as crowd shouts, "Lock him up!" "[Y]our governor made it almost impossible for us to find any site” ... “And I’ll remember it, Tom. I’m going to remember it, Tom. ‘Hello, Mr. President, this is Gov. Wolf, I need help, I need help.’ You know what? These people are bad.”

11:34 AM: Trump begins reciting poll results showing he is actually ahead in the polls.  He claims Rasmussen puts him ahead nationally, but you won't hear this from the news outlets because they are "fake" and "corrupt." 

11:35 AM: "We're watching you Governor, very closely."

11:42 AM: He begins playing clips of Biden praising a "rising China" as well as tapes of Biden saying, "no more fracking" and Harris saying "no more fracking on public land."

11:49 AM: He will protect the Second Amendment and guard our borders as crowd chants, "Build that wall!" He claims he built 400 miles. "Walls and wheels will never be obsolete. Promises to bring record job prosperity and "safe" vaccines. "Normal life, that's what we want." 

11:54 AM: He mocks Harris laugh, asking "Is there something wrong with her?". Repeatedly refers to Biden as "Sleepy Joe."  

11:56 AM: "We win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing!"

11:57 AM: "A choice between a Trump boom and a Biden lockdown."

11:59 AM: Complains a judge has refused to allow poll watchers, which is false. 

12:03 PM: "The only thing you can do in Pa. is protest. You can't go to church. ... But if you want to protest and burn the hell out of your city ... ."

12:06 PM: Claims there will be 100 million vaccines by year end, with priority to seniors.

12:11 PM: "I am saving the suburbs." He says suburban woman don't want "projects" next to them.

12:15 PM: "Joe Biden, as you know is a corrupt politician." Notes son Hunter was getting $183k per month, got $3.5 million from the wife of Moscow's Mayor, $1.5 million from China and was shooting for another $10 million. - (The only one of these allegations that is proven is that Hunter Biden was getting paid $183k per month to work at an energy company despite having no qualifications.) 

12:21 PM: Gives a shout out to congressional candidate Lisa Scheller and the "incredible Truckers for Trump."

12:31 PM: Reading off teleprompter, with occasional asides, as he attempts to wrap things up. Crowd chanting, "God bless Trump!"

12:35 PM: Predicts a "great red wave," noting the size of his rallies. "There's never been that before." Refers to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama." Calls press "the enemy of the people." 

Finishes at 12:40 with goofy YMCA dance,

NorCo Dedicates Its First Ever Forensic Center


Administrator Charles Dertinger,
with his ubiquitous bowtie

On Friday, Northampton County dedicated its first ever forensic center. At a price tag of $11 million, it was finished on time and under budget notwithstanding the pandemic. This is thanks to Administrator Charles Dertinger, who was a construction manager in the private sector. This might be another first for NorCo. Dertinger said the County only lost five days as a result of Governor Tom Wolf's construction shutdown. 

The ribbon cutting took place at a brief ceremony attended by numerous county officials, including President Judge Michael J Koury, Jr,, and Judges Stephen Baratta and Abe Kassis. Upper Nazareth Township Supervisors were also present. Coroner Zach Lysek, who has lobbied for a forensic center for decades, was thrilled by the new facility. 

For many years, Lysek operated out of a cramped office at Louise Moore Park, The new facility, located next to the 911 Center, includes the following features:

* Family reception and private meeting rooms.

* Two autopsy rooms with a viewing area for law enforcement and medical school students.

* Digital forensic lab.

* Offices for Coroner's staff.

* Five-bay garage with receiving and storage area. 

* Solar panels.

* Capacity for future expansion. 

* Secure lockers to preserve chain of custody for evidence and personal effects.

Following speeches and the obligatory ribbon cutting, the doors were thrown open for a tour. 

Having listened to Lysek explain a few times just what he and his staff do, I was a bit hesitant to walk in there. Lysek kept giving me a knowing smile, which made me wonder whether I'd be walking out. To make matters worse, I tripped on a step in the viewing room and went down as hard as an Eagles running back. After that, a forensic pathologist began following me. 


Someone suggested I lie down on the table you see above, but I passed.


For reasons that elude me, numerous people insisted on photographing me next to this sign. (Yes, I still cut my own hair.)


This is not just a storage room, but it's refrigerated as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

GOP Attacks At Biden Senility Backfire?

From Politico: "Much of the blame is being directed at [Brad] Parscale, who was ousted as campaign manager in July amid mounting questions over his stewardship of the reelection effort. Campaign aides say Parscale miscalculated by raising questions about Biden’s mental acuity, which hurt the president among seniors."

Blogger's Note: The latest Muhlenberg College poll shows Biden with a 59-39 edge among Pennsylvanians aged 65 or more. 

NorCo Dems Dominate MIBs

From Northampton County: As of October 20th, the  Northampton County Elections Office has approved 79,161 mail-in ballot applications for the General Election on November 3rd. Staff have mailed 78,424 ballots out to applicants and have already received 47,323 ballots back.

Mail-in and Absentee Applications as of 10/20
Total = 79,161
·                       Dem: 47,910
·                       Rep: 19,674
·                       Other: 11,577
Total Returned as of 10/20 = 47,323
·                       Returned Dem = 31,833
·                       Returned Rep =     9,874
·                       Returned Other =  5,616

The Elections Office reminds voters to carefully follow the instructions included with their ballot. Only use blue or black ink and the voter must sign and date the back of the return envelope before sending it in. “Naked” ballots—those which have not been enclosed in the inner secrecy envelope—will not be counted. Mail-in ballots may also be declared void if the ballot or secrecy envelope includes any text, marks or symbols “which reveals the identity of the elector, the elector’s political affiliation or the elector’s candidate preference.”

The return envelopes for mail-in ballots include postage. Voters do not need to add a stamp. Ballots may also be dropped off at the Elections Office at 669 Washington Street Easton, PA 18042 or deposited in one of the County’s four secure ballot drop-off boxes.

·        Rotunda of the Government Center – 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 8:00PM and Saturday from 8:00AM – 12:00PM

·        Human Services Building – 2801 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 7:00PM

·        Northampton County 911 Center – 100 Gracedale Ave. Nazareth, PA 18064
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 4:30PM

·        Bethlehem City Hall – 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018
o  Monday – Friday from 8:00AM – 4:00PM

Voters have until October 27 to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. Voters who have applied for a mail-in ballot, but have decided they would prefer to vote at the polls, must bring both their ballot and the return envelope with them. The Judge of Elections will spoil the ballot and allow them to cast their vote on the machine.

Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot, but do not have the ballot and the return envelope, will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot at the polls.

Voters may send an application for a mail-in ballot to the Election’s Office (https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CTYADMN/ELECTNS/Documents/Mail%20In%20Ballot%20Application.pdf) or apply on-line at: https://www.votespa.com

Blogger's Note: As of October 24, 57,415,468 MIBs have been returned to elections officials nationwide. This is 41.7% of the total votes cast in 2016. There are 86 MIBs requested. 

Pennsylvanians have returned 1,461,135 of 2,944,187 MIBs. This includes 31,242 of 84,139 MIBs in Lehigh County, and 52,827 of 80,219 MIBs in NorCo.

The 52,827 votes cast in NorCo is 36% of the voter turnout in 2016. In Lehigh, voters have already matched 19% of total voter turnout in 2016. The reason for the difference in returns between Lehigh and NorCo is that Lehigh's ballots went out about a week after NorCo.

Though requests for MIBs stop on Oct 27, you can continue to vote in person at your local elections office up until 8 pm on Election Day (Nov. 3). 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Australian Broadcasting Wants to Talk to You!

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. is coming to Northampton County to cover the Presidential election. They'll be at this Sunday's Trump flag rally and are interested in what voters on both sides think.  They are particularly interested in what first time voters think, as well as those who have changed their minds from the way they voted in 2016.

If either of these situations apply to you, please give Chloe Ross a call (202-329-7085) or email her at ross.chloe@abc.net.au  .


Trump and Biden Both Effective in Final Debate

President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden both delivered strong performances at last night's final debate, at Belmont University, in advance of the November 3 election. Trump was much more disciplined. Biden finally seemed relaxed enough to avoid stumbling over talking points and use his own words. Both candidates delivered effective blows. My guess is that most of you will give the win to whomever you supported. I'd give the win to Kristen Welker, who did an excellent job as moderator. I'd also say it was a win for America. We came away informed. 

At the first debate between President Donald Trump and VP Joe Biden, Trump's family refused to wear masks. Melania came in wearing one, but took it if as soon as she was seated. She and other Trumps refused masks when offered. It was a lot different at last night's final debate, in which guests were told masks were mandatory. Refusal to keep a mask on would mean the person would be ejected. So last night, the entire audience was finally masked, as it should have been the first time.

Trump was over-reaching on the supposed corruption. Biden was pretty clear when he said that "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source in my life." Moreover, Biden was speaking to the American people while Trump just addressed his base. 

"This guy is a dog whistle as big as a fog horn," Biden said of Trump's antics. 

I thought Trump showed no empathy when speaking of the pandemic, but Biden also blundered when he said he wants to phase out fossil fuels in a few short years.  

Biden has been portrayed as someone in the throes of dementia, but he was sharp and responsive. He occasionally stumbled over words, not because of mental deficiency, but because he has a stutter.

Trump was effective in pointing out that Biden has had 47 years to do the things he's wanted to do. He was idiotic when he likened himself to Abraham Lincoln.  

Both candidates appeared mostly Presidential. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

NorCo's Final Voter Registration Numbers For Presidential Election

 Northampton County's final voter registration statistics in advance of the upcoming Presidential election are as follows:

Total: 227,315, compared to 211,593 in 2016.

Democrats: 102,436, compared to 98,929 in 2016.

Republicans: 81,345, compared to 73,638 in 2016.

Other: 43,534, compared to 39,026 in 2016

What's Wrong With a Little Bid Rigging in Emmaus?

Not all that long ago, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski was sentenced to 15 years in prison as the ringleader in a political corruption case that included bid rigging for just about everything. You'd think that would be a broadside to local officials throughout the state, to say nothing of the Lehigh Valley. You'd think wrong. Believe it or not, it may still continue. And in Emmaus of all places, just a stone's throw from Allentown. Not only that, but with one of the principals who was tarnished in the Fed Ed case and who should know better. A lot better. Let me lay out the details. You can decide. 

Back in 2015, Emmaus Borough voted to purchase the Rodale building and two nearby properties for $2.95 million. For reasons I've yet to discern, they wanted to move police, borough hall, fire department and ambulance corps away from the downtown. Advising them on this deal was the Spillman Farmer architectural firm. They advised borough council that renovations would cost between $2.5 and $3.4 million, depending on whether the work was done in-house or contracted out.  Spillman's estimate was a tad off. When the quote came back at $11 million, Emmaus got cold feet on the relocation. 

Instead of centralizing, Emmaus instead decided to renovate the three buildings housing its Borough Hall (28 S 4th St), Police Station (400 Jubilee St) and Fire and Ambulance Station (100 N 6th St).Though you won't see it on its borough webpage, it recently issued a Request for Proposals and Qualifications (RFPQ) for an architectural firm. This was advertised in the East Penn Press, a weekly publication with under 5,000 subscribers. It appears in no daily publication of general circulation.  

Under Pennsylvania's Borough Code, it appears there's no need to bid a contract for professional services. But even when no RFP or RFPQ is legally required, if you decide to issue one, it has to be fair. If you rig it in favor of one bidder, you are defrauding other bidders who spent considerable time and money in making a bid. And here's the problem. It appears that the Emmaus RFPQ was rigged to favor Spillman.  

Spillman, you may recall, is the very same outfit identified as a participant in a corrupt deal for a new pool at Cedar Beach. The court found there was a quid pro quo that Spillman would get the pool contract in exchange for a $2,700 contribution. Spillman later reneged on the contribution, but Fed Ed in the meantime had "baked the cake."   

That cake was the RFPQ.  Fed Ed instructed city officials to make sure it went to Spillman. 

There are several red flags concerning Emmaus' RFPQ. 

First, it was advertised in a publication that would never be noticed by most potential bidders. 

Second, it is seeking bids only from entities that have done three police stations, three fire departments and four municipal building projects within the past five years. That seems designed to exclude participants. 

Third, it wants each bidder to submit its "SFA Hourly Rate Schedule." SFA is Spillman Farmer Architects. It's pretty obvious that Spillman prepared this RFPQ for Emmaus, and would be the only firm on earth to have an SFA Hourly Rate Schedule.

Fourth, Emmaus' Borough Manager ducked me when I called to say I had questions about this RFPQ, 

In Fed Ed's case, he wanted campaign contributions. But there could be other incentives. It does not always have to be cash in a brown paper bag. It could be Flyers tickets, nice meals, a vacation.

Emmaus has received bids from just three architectural firms, and one of them just happens to be Spillman Farmer. Borough Council will announce its decision on November 16. 

Blogger's Note: I heard from the Emmaus Borough Manager and will update this story on Moday. He tells me the SFA is a reference to a Standard Form Agreement. After some discussion, I agree that I should supplement this story and will do so Monday. (6:55 pm)

Zrinski Publishes Dishonest Ad

 

Eco-warrior Tara Zrinski, who is running for State Representative in a decidedly conservative district, has decided to do what she does best. Lie. 

She published an ad falsely claiming that she's been endorsed by the Hanover Tp Board of Supervisors. First, it would be illegal for any governing authority to endorse anyone for public office. Second, the Board has endorsed neither Zrinski nor her opponent, Ann Flood. Third, I am relatively certain that Hanover's three Republican supervisors would rather catch the 'rona. 

Zrinski's dishonesty is no surprise. 

On her Facebook page, Zrinski stated "white males can get away with anything, shrouded by privileged [sic] and protected by the entourage of patriarchy, the ultimate fraternity."

She scrubbed that copmment when I drew attention to it.

I'd like her to explain how the patriarchy allowed her, a female, to get away with perjury.

When she was in the middle of a custody dispute with her ex, she and her then boyfriend (I assume he was a white male) went on a mini-vacation to New England, and brought her two boys with her. She put them in a separate room so she could have some alone time with her beau. But she lied to the court, telling the judge that the rooms were really a suite with connecting doors.

When Judge Emil Giordano discovered her lie, he sanctioned her $2,750 for her "perjury." (See NorCo Docket 2007-9468, Court Order dated 12/16/08, Paragraph 14).

She holds herself out as an activist Democrat. The truth is she had no interest in local government until she decided to run for office herself. 

Between 2000 and 2008, she was listed as an Independent, and only voted in one municipal race in 2003. In 2008, she became a Democrat, but skipped voting completely in the municipal races of 2009, 2011 and 2013. When John Brown was elected Executive, she failed to vote at all. When Gracedale was on the chopping block, she cast no vote."

While Hanover Tp Supervisors Jeff Warren and Susan Lawless have every right to support endorse Zrinski, I very much doubt they were too happy to see their endorsement twisted as representing the entire board. That might explain why Zrinski's ad was later changed. But how many people were subjected to her lies? 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Boockvar: 56,000 Voter Registration Applications Submitted on Last Day

 Monday was the last day you could register to vote in the upcoming November 3 election. According to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, 56,000 people submitted online applications on this final day. 

My Brother The Republican

Last night, in a moment of weakness, I picked up a bowl of Pho from the Pho Bowl for a sick friend. On the way, I drove by my brother's house to say Hi. This is what I saw. 

Now I'm sick, too. He has a sign supporting Scott Hough for State Rep even though it's in another district. He has not one, but two, Trump signs, a trait that seems common among the Trump supporters. 

I called my brother. He's been off his meds a few weeks so he probably needs an intervention. After cursing him out for about an hour and telling him what an idiot he is, I asked why he needed two Trump signs. Isn't one enough?

"Well, I had just one Trump sign, but some kid wrote "Fuck Trump!" in chalk on my sidewalk, so I got another one."

- "That was no kid. It was me!"

My brother went on to tell me that he is actually the "Captain" of the West Bethlehem  Republicans, all three of them, and has been spending weekends knocking on doors and handing out flyers. 

- "In the middle of a pandemic, you're knocking on people's doors?"

"Why not?"

- "Because you might be giving them the 'rona, you moron! Do you at least wear a mask?"

"No, but I rarely wear underwear either."

So folks, if you see someone who looks a little like me pounding on your doors, call 911. 

Actually, my brother is not just more conservative than I am. He is also much quieter, nicer and a little smarter. But he lacks my good looks.  

I know people who have lost friends and have experienced family friction over this stuff. But my friends and my family will be my friends and family.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Biden Supporters Reported Interfering With Voters at Drop-Off Boxes

As I made my way into the Northampton County courthouse one day last week, I saw Sandy Werner, clad in Biden-Harris regalia, sitting outside.

"You're not approaching voters, are you?" I asked her.

"Bernie, I know better. I don't want to ruin this," was her reply. 

While I believe passive electioneering like Sandy was doing is constitutionally protected, no one should interact in any way with a voter who is in the process of dropping off his or her ballot. It is illegal to assist a voter unless that voter indicates on his or her declaration that assistance was requested. That mist be signed both by the voter and the person rendering assistance.

According to tea party member Joe Barna, a Biden supporter at the Emmaus Drop-box is approaching voters and asking if they need help making sure the ballot is filled out correctly. This is not electioneering but is interfering with the right of suffrage. 

NorCo Hammered With 2,000 Last-Minute Voter Registrations

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure reports that yesterday, the county's elections office was deluged with 2,000 last-minute voter registrations. He has no knowledge how they break down along party lines, but this is yet another indication that the November 3 Presidential will be a turnout, and not a persuasion, election. 

As of October 19, based on records maintained by the Department of State, there are now 9,016,163 registered voters in the Commonwealth, consisting of 4,207,190 Democrats (46.66%), 3,506,337 Republicans (38.88%) and 1,302,636 others (14.44%). 

In the last Presidential race, there were 8,748,726 registered voters, consisting of 4,125,889 Democrats (47.15%), 3,376,463 Republicans (38.59%) and 1,246,374 (14.25%) others.

It's still a Democrat plurality state, and Dems have increased their numbers, but Republicans have added more to their ranks. 

In 2016 in Lehigh County, there were 109,353 Democrats, 78,062 Republicans and 37,293 others, for a grand total of 224,708 voters.  Now there are 247,261 registered voters, consisting of 118,488 Democrats, 84,668 Republicans and 44,105 others. Lehigh Democrats have bucked the statewide trend, capturing 40.5% of the increase in voters to the Republicans' 29.3%. Lehigh County is becoming bluer. 

Northampton County, however, is becoming redder. In 2016, there were 98,929 Democrats, 73,638 Republicans and 39,026 others for a grand total of 211,593 registered voters. After four years of Donald Trump, there are now 225,649 registered voters, made up of 101,981 Democrats, 80,642 Republicans and 43,075 others. Republicans account for 49.7% of the increase in registration, while Democrats have only attracted 21.6%. 

Unless Democratic turnout is huge, Trump will win Northampton County again.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Hokie Joe and the 'Rona

Over the weekend, I had this exchange with Hokie Joe, one of my readers, concerning Covid-19. 

Hokie Joe: Hey Barney, where are they giving tests for Covid-19? Supposedly a rash is a symptom. I've had a rash the past few weeks. It itches like hell and isn't goiong away. It isn't venereal warts or even in that area. It's on my damn elbow. No other symptoms. Do you know where they are giving the test?

Yes, Coordinated Health at 3100 Emrick Blvd. Opens at 10 am Monday. It's by the Outback. I have a rash on my elbow myself, but in my case, it is a STD.  

Hokie Joe: Thanks. I'll keep you posted.

Hokie Joe: Wait, Who the hell were you with that you have venereal warts on your elbow? And how do you get them there?

I watch a lot of porn. 

Hokie Joe: JUST IN CASE, do they have any Herpes cream ... just in case. 

You'll have to ask Deputy Kunkel tomorrow when he gives you your test. Make sure that swab goes in your nose and not up your ass. 

27.7 Million Have Voted in US, 2.7 Million MIBs Requested in Pa

Last week, I told you that 15 million people have already voted and that 2.66 million Pennsylvanians are seeking mail-in ballots (MIBs). My source is the U.S. Elections Project, which is doing a daily track of the voting. In the span of just a few days, that number has nearly doubled. As coronavirus spikes, so do the votes. As of October 18, 27.7 million ballots have been returned. Nearly 82 million MIBs have been requested. 

In Pennsylvania, data is current through October 16. So far, 2,728,267 voters are seeking MIBs. Democrats have requested 1,755,939 (64.4%), while Republicans only account for 672,381 (24.6%) applications. According to this news source, 25% of the requested ballots have already been returned. A total of 683,136 Pennsylvanians have already voted. 

In what has to be good news for Democrats, 371,709 MIBs have been requested in Philly, with 41.9% of them already returned. Voters appear to be motivated in that Democratic stronghold,. notwithstanding weaknesses within the city party. 

In Allegheny (Pittsburgh), the news is even better. There have been 375,135 MIB requests, and 50.6% have been returned. 

In Lehigh County, 77,961 MIBs have been requested, with only 6.5% returned. This is because Lehigh only started sending ballots out a week ago. 

In adjoining Northampton County, 74,483 MIBs have been requested, and 48.5% have come back. 

This is a turnout election, not a persuasion election. Most people have made up their minds. Only 16 states report party registration data, so it is impossible to know for sure whether Democrats or Republicans are voting by mail.  Among the 16 states that do report party data, Democrats have a 2-1 edge. 

On election day, I expect to see a role reversal, with Republicans dominating at the precincts. This will undoubtedly give Trump an early lead in some areas, but I expect to see that reversed as MIBs are counted. 

Based on what I see with the early voting, it appears likely now that Trump will be defeated. He's burned too many bridges and has pissed off too many voters.    

Today Is Last Day You Can Register to Vote

If you want your voice heard in the Presidential election on November 3, today is the last day you can register to vote here in Pa. I've had this date posted on my left sidebar since the primary, but thought I'd give you one last reminder. I realize most people who read this blog are registered, but you may have family or friends who like to wait until the last minute. Now would be a good time to remind them that this is the last minute.

Voters must be U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old and must have resided within the state and the election district for 30 days prior to the election.  

College students can use their campus or home address, but may only be registered at one place at one time. 

In what has to be good news for procrastinators like myself, you can register online

Friday, October 16, 2020

NorCo Council Accepts "I Can't Breathe" Poster

 

At last night's meeting, NorCo Council voted 8-0 to accept an "I Can't Breathe Poster" gifted by Dean Young of the Easton Boys and Girls Club. Council member Peg Ferraro abstained, with the remaining Council members voting Yes. 

This poster first appeared at the courthouse on Wednesday, just down the hall from where people are early voting. It is close to the cafeteria, and would be routinely passed by jurors, defendants and police officers.

When reminded that the Home Rule Charter requires County Council to accept all gifts, Executive Lamont McClure removed the poster. He also indicated that the poster will not be remounted near any jurors until and unless the officer accused of killing him is convicted.

Council member Kerry Myers and Dean Young both indicated the poster is a starting point for uncomfortable conversations, but jurors are already having uncomfortable conversations. The poster would destroy the presumption of innocence to which all defendants, even police officers, are entitled. 

In other business, Executive McClure announced that the forensic center is finished. Administrator Charles Dertinger had indicated construction would be completed in the Fall. The facility was not only completed on time, but without the change orders that ordinarily accompany government projects. The building will be dedicated October 23 at 2 pm.

The county coffers appear to be doing well. The County has received a $1.7 million payment from the state as partial reimbursement for its voting machine purchase. The state is expected to reimburse the County 60% of the cost of a new system.

In addition, the County received another $250,000 of the maximum $2 million that Charlie Chrin agreed to pay for sales from the Chrin TIF in Palmer Tp. Former Council member Ron Angle negotiated this deal. Executive McClure indicated the County has received $738,000 thus far, and predicts the County will get close to the $2 million.   

St. Luke's has recently purchased the for-profit Easton Hospital, and is exempt from real estate taxes. But it has agreed to pay the County $289,000 in lieu of taxes over the next two years. 

Finally, the county is accepting a 77-acre tract from the Heindel family in Williams Tp. This is the site of the Hexenkopf Rock, where witches' covens, pow wow medicine and glowing rocks are said to mysteriously appear. It is the largest granite outcropping in Northampton County "The place is full of auras, and you'll love it," said Linda Heindel. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

15 Million Have Voted So Far, 2.6 Million MIBs Requested in Pa!

According to the U.S. Elections Project, 15 million people have voted so far in this year's Presidential contest. 

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, 2,664,882 voters have requested mail-in ballots. Democrats are choosing this option, having submitted 1,722,692 of these applications. There are 4,168,900 registered Democrats statewide as of October 7, so that's a whopping 41.3% who are voting by mail or by early voting at the courthouse. Of Pennsylvania's 3,451,514 Republicans, 652,516 (18.9%) have requested MIBs. 

In Northampton County, there have been 72,570 MIB requests thus far, with 29,923 returned.  Lehigh County has received 76,542 applications, and 1,408 have been returned. 


West Easton Boro Constable Arrested, Spends Night in LC Jail

Mezzacappa mug shot 
Last week, West Easton Boro Constable Tricia Mezzacappa was scheduled for trial on charges of false reports filed by the Pennsylvania State Police. In February 2019, she called state police to report that she had fired her own gun at a black neighbor whom she said had pointed his own gun at her. What really happened is that her neighbor's car exhaust bothered her. She characteristically went ballistic and began pounding on her neighbor's door. The neighbor's girlfriend was so terrified she called police. Then Tricia concocted the lie about her neighbor, assuming state police would believe her because she is, after all, white. Unfortunately for her, they didn't. They knew her weapon had not been fired and no neighbors had heard anything. There were no 911 calls and no spent rounds or shells. In addition, she had been drinking. So instead of seeing her neighbor charged, she was, with false reports. After 20 months of delay, she failed to appear for her trial. Her lawyer, distinguished defense lawyer John Waldron, told the Court he had instructed her to be there. Waldron has since filed a motion to withdraw as Mezzacappa's lawyer. President Judge Michael J Koury, Jr., also issued a bench warrant. After spending a night at Lehigh County's jail, she has learned the hard way that when a judge orders you to appear, you better be there.

West Easton blogger Matt Dees and I both wrote about her failure to appear and the bench warrant. This is how she responded, in CAPSLOCK:

 "TO THE LYING , RACE BAITING PATHOLOGICAL STALKERS OHARE AND SIDEKICK DEES WHO HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING ME AROUND FOR 10 YEARS AND INCESSENTLY [sic] LYING AND DEFAMING ME AND MY FAMILY...IF YOU SPENT 10% OF YOUR TIME WORRYING ABOUT YOUR OWN PATHETIC LONLEY [sic] SELVES , AND TRYING TO IMPROVE YOUR NON-EXISTENT LIVES, YOU WOULDN'T BE WORRYING ABOUT MINE! 10 PLUS YEARS AND COUNTING AND THE TWO OF YOU STILL CANT FIGURE OUT WHY THERE ISNT A SINGLE SOLITARY WOMAN ALIVE (DEAF OR BLIND) ON EARTH THAT WANTS ANYTHING TO DO WITH EITHER ONE OF YOU...TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR TO SEE WHAT THE PROBLEM IS, OR BET YET (IT WILL SHATTER) , GO BURY YOUR UGLY FACES IN A BLANKET AND CRY. YOU WERE PAID BY MY FAMILY TO HIT THE ROAD AND GET A LIFE, BUT YOU HAVE NONE! EVERYWHERE YOU GO THERE YOU ARE. !! PRIVATE CRIMINALS FILED TODAY AGAINST BOTH YOU ASSHOLES!!!!! LET THE FUN BEGIN!! ... WE'LL SEE WHO WINDS UP IN JAIL, AND ITS NOT GOING TO BE ME, SO STUFF IT BITCHES!"

Looks like she wound up in jail. She was picked up Tuesday night, at or near Lehigh Valley Mall. She spent the night as a guest of Lehigh County's five star jail, and was transported Wednesday morning to face Judge Paula Roscioli in Motions Court. 

I have no idea what half-assed explanation she gave. Judge Roscioli set bail at $1,000,conditioned on posting 10% cash.  In other words, $100. Mezzacappa, now a guest at Northampton County's Jail in Tower A, had to wait a few hours for her wallet and belongings before posting bail.

She received a well-deserved attitude adjustment. Her trial is now scheduled for November 30. 

Incidentally, according to the Pa. Crimes Code, "A person set at liberty by court order, with or without bail, upon condition that he will subsequently appear at a specified time and place, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, without lawful excuse, he ails to appear at that time and place."

The crime of false reports is only a third degree misdemeanor, just one step above a summary. She could now also be charged with failure to appear. This carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of $5,000. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NorCo's Handling of Employee Called "Comedy of Errors" By Outside Judge

Northampton County's Court of Common Pleas is what is known as a court of record.  Every word uttered is taken down by a stenographer, who usually uses both a machine and a recorder to get it right. Transcripts, once prepared, are then reviewed and approved by the courts. These stenographers are called court reporters, and Jean Genova has been one of the best. Unfortunately, in what Judge Emanuel Birtin called a "comedy of errors" by Northampton County, she was very nearly excluded from obtaining lifetime health benefits when she retires. The Judge even found, in an exhaustive 63-page opinion, that the County "stonewalled" her requests about her retirement package. What the County failed to realize is that court reporters become very familiar with good lawyers. Genova retained Steve Goudsouzian, one of the best. She's also a fighter herself, given that her late father was the one and only Charlie Spaziani, former District Attorney and counselor to none other than the Easton Assassin himself, heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. After a four-day trial in front of Judge Birtin, he's issued an order declaring she is entitled to lifetime health benefits when she retires. He's even pondering a sanction of attorney fees against the county for its bad faith in this matter. 

Judge Birtin is a Senior Judge from Montgomery County, and was brought in to handle this matter because the Northampton County bench is obviously conflicted. 

Attorney Brian Taylor did his best for the County, but you can't shine shit. 

Genova first started working for the County as a court reporter in 1981, at the young age of 21. In 1990, she left full-time employment with the county so she could raise her baby girl. For the next 18 years, she worked part-time with the county and also was an independent contractor for depositions and zoning hearings. She was happy and making more money than if she had continued as a full-time employee.

In the meantime, the courts were experiencing a shortage of court reporters, and even had to cancel some proceedings. Because Genova was known to be "very competent, efficient,professional and well-liked," the courts began tempting her to return.

She agreed to return, but only if she was extended the same lifetime health benefits as a retiree that she would be entitled to if she had never left. Then Court Administrator James Onembo told her he would see what he could do. He later told her "It's a go" after speaking to the County's Benefits Administrator. 
Genova and her husband met with the Benefits Administrator as well, and were assured she would be extended the same lifetime health benefits she would have had she remained with the County since 1981.   

All was well until Genova reached retirement age and began making inquiries. According to Judge Birwin, she was "stonewalled." He notes the "County did not respond to inquiries, gave inaccurate or conflicting direction and ignored prior actions." 

A perfect example of this is when Human Resources Director Elizabeth Kelly told Genova to get some documentation to back up her claim. She did. She sought and obtained a letter from the former Court Administrator.  Then she was told the documentation was insufficient. 

Kelly told Genova to take the matter up with the Retirement Board. But when she tried to do so, she was rebuffed. County Solicitor Melissa Rudas responded that since Genova was not yet retired, she could not go before the Retirement Board.

After this, someone from the County placed her matter on the agenda of the Retirement Board anyway. No one bothered to notify Genova or her attorney.  Then Executive Lamont McClure directed that the matter be taken off the agenda. 

Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron got mixed up in this morass as well. He actually told the court he was the "decision maker" on Genova's denial. But when he was deposed, he had yet to review her file. Even at trial, he said he had yet to look at her file. In fact, the only time he was present at the trial was when he testified.

The Court was miffed that, "during the whole trial, no one was present for the County other than their own Solicitor.  While Genova was fighting for the benefits she had earned, the County did not even have a representative at the trial."  It was even more miffed that, throughout the course of a four-day trial, the County offered no real justification for reneging on its agreement with Genova. She justifiably relied on the apparent authority of the Court Administrator and Benefits Administrator. And she has been forced to continue working because she is unwilling to accept anything less than what her contract requires.   

Executive Lamont McClure called the ruling "clearly erroneous and contrary to the weight of the admissible evidence and controlling statutory and case law." But he softened his tone by adding that "Ms. Genova had no idea that Jim Onembo [the Court Administrator] had absolutely no authority to grant her these benefits."

McClure went on to say these "special arrangements are very bad government. Since taking office we have not entertained any such arrangements and we will continue to resist them at every turn."

I agree, but that's no justification for rejecting a binding contract made before he got here. And it's abundantly clear that the County utterly failed in the way it handled the concerns of a loyal and long-time employee.  So clear that the County is now facing possible sanctions. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Democrats Should Drop Barrett Opposition

All Democrats are doing by raging against the nomination of Amy Barrett is demonstrating their own partisanship and making their calls for unity a lie. Barrett is certainly a strict constructionist, but is also considered "well qualified" by the ABA.  Of course it's "unfair" that she is going to be confirmed prior to the election, but that's politics. It's an ugly game. 

As for packing the court as a response, I would expand the court only if the Supreme Court felt it was necessary. 

My only caveat would be that she recuse herself from any case involving the Presidential election. 

Another Superspreader: Are These People Nutz?

On Monday, I told you about the superspreader recently hosted by NorCo GOP Chair Lee Snover in Lower Saucon Tp. Practically none of the true believers, many of whom were old farts like me, practiced social distancing or wore a mask. Neither did Snover or her husband, even though they both appear to be at-risk. This kind of irresponsible behavior mighty be part of the explanation for a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the Lehigh Valley. In NorCo, this includes 43 cases on October 4; 46 on October 7; and a whopping 83 positives on October 10. While an increase in testing and open schools are probably the biggest reasons fore the surge, these superspreader events are the result of selfish people who have little regard for their fellow man, Unfortunately, they can look to the bad example being set by the Pied Piper of Covid-19, Donald Trump.

Yesterday, he was the star at a rally in Sanford, Fl. As you can see in a picture from the event, his mankurts are squeezed next to each other and without masks, even though most already look like they're ready to go tets up. 

The Mongols turned prisoners into mankurts by exposing them in the hot sun and wrapping their heads in camel skin. This basically fried their brains. Those MAGA hats must be doing the same thing. 

7 am update: No less an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci himself has warned of the danger in these super spreader rallies. "“We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that. We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregant settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves.”

Election Reminders

The information below is on my left sidebar, but I am listing it here for those of you who use a smartphone to read this blog. It's pretty much everything you need to know.

10/19/20 - Last Day to Register

*Must be citizen, 18 and Pa. resident for 30 days before election.
* Can register online here.

10/27/20 - Last Day to Apply for Mail-in or Absentee Ballot
* Must be received in County office by 5 pm 10/27/20.
* Ballot Application must be returned to County by 11/3/20, 8 pm (S Ct has granted three-day extension to 11/6/20, 5 pm so long as ballot mailed by 11/3/20, 8 pm)
* Ballot request application available here.

General Election FAQs





Allentown's Firefighter of the Year and Other Commendations

Blogger's Note: Regular readers of this blog know I have immense respect for Allentown's firefighters, who put their lives on the line every day. Periodically, they are recognized by the city, and I wanted to share these commendations with you.  

From Allentown City: Allentown firefighter Jonathon Hammel is being honored as the 2020 Allentown Fire Fighter of the Year.  He was recognized this morning at the Allentown Fire Department’s annual memorial and awards service at Mack South Fire Station.

Hammel joined the Allentown Fire Department in 2010 after having served eight years with Allentown EMS.

 

According to Allentown Fire Chief Jim Wehr, Hammel has excelled as a member of the Technical Rescue Team.  “When he took over as the training officer for the Technical Rescue team, he made vast improvements to the team’s monthly training events and led the efforts to get all team members certified at the Pro board level in rope rescue.  He has taken upon himself to conduct numerous training evolutions for the members of his platoon ensuring that they have the latest knowledge in using and implementing new equipment and techniques.  Firefighter Hammel has proven himself as an effective advisor on technical rescue events to assure the best possible outcome.”

 

The Alfred W. Fischl Fire Service Award was presented to Firefighter Philip Lathrop for his consistent and dedicated work ethic throughout his career. This award is presented to a fire department individual who has served at least 20 years and has exemplified himself with consistent and dedicated work habits.

 

Lathrop began his career in 1997 as a reserve on the 1st platoon.  He served as a battalion chief driver and pipeman of trucks 1&2. He has been a member of the Scott and the Technical Rescue teams, where his mechanical knowledge is a great asset.  Lathrop willingly assists with training new firefighters about the city, apparatus, tools and even Fire Dept history and tradition.

 

During Fire Prevention Week, the department recognizes firefighters for their actions over the past 12 months.  In addition to Firefighter of the Year and the Alfred W. Fischl Award; Certificates of Heroism, Bravery and Merit, a Chief’s Award, Years of Service awards and Unit Citations are presented.

 

Mayor Ray O’Connell told those in attendance, “Without hesitation, you put on your gear and enter burning buildings to protect lives and property. Everyone else is running out!  You are running in! We are fortunate to have tremendously well-trained, talented and dedicated firefighters here in Allentown.”

 

The Chief’s Award, which goes to individuals who go above and beyond in fostering the department’s image through activities and events they attend and facilitate outside their normal working hours, was presented to Lieutenant Robert Xander.

 

Lieutenant Xander has been an integral part of the success of the Fire House Friday program with ensuring that the paperwork and snacks are ready for the community children that visit the fire station after school on Fridays. In addition, he has donated his time at the Syrian Arab American Cultural Association of Allentown often serving as the point of contact helping organize manpower to pack and distribute food boxes to families in Allentown.   

 

A 35-year service award was presented to Fire Marshal Michael Taylor. A 30-year service award was presented to Firefighter James F Wescoe Jr. Twenty-five-year service awards were presented to Assistant Chief Michael Barron, battalion chiefs Philip Atiyeh and Jeffrey Hess, Fire Marshal Michael Zellin, and firefighters Robert Brett and Christopher Mokris.  Twenty-year service awards were bestowed upon Captain Sean O’Neill, Lieutenant Michael Smith, and firefighters Leroy R Bachert Jr and Jody Mongilutz.  

 

Seven firefighters, lieutenants Paul Heckenberger III and Mark Trumbore and firefighters Jeremy Bellois, Theodore Dale, Kevin Jefferson, Adam Perreault and Daniel Werkheiser were cited for heroism for their role in February 2020 fire at 19 Sycamore Street. 

 

Firefighters arrived to find the structure fully involved. There were electrical wires down with heavy fire impinging multiple electric lines. The closest fire hydrant was directly in from of the fire building and flames had to be forced back for access to the hydrant. Holes on the second floor made movement very difficult.

 

Unit Citations were awarded to the seven, plus Assistant Chief Matthew Eharth; battalion chiefs Hess and William Held; captains John Christopher, Mark Kresge Sr and Bryce Thompsen; lieutenants Jack E Bryant Jr, Christopher Groller, Charles Haydt Jr, William Henry II, Peter Lenig, Jaime Miranda, Keith Pierce and Jeremy Warmkessel; fire marshals Taylor, Zellin and Jeffrey Tomczak; and firefighters Mokris, Mongilutz, Andrew Bausher, Steven CostaAustin Deutsch, Andrew Drake, William Gauntner, Nicholas Koedyker, Michael Kostick, Michael Matchette, Michael Milkovitz, Jonathon Steed, Jason Tatum, Paul Taus and Samuel Vassallo.  

 

Lieutenants Warmkessel and Vincent Kidd and firefighter Ronald W Conway Jr, Thomas King, Zachary Shepard and Todd Weisel were recognized for bravery and given unit citations in a July 2020 deadly three alarm fire in the 700 block of N. Fair Street.  The firefighters worked bravely on different floors to reach two victims from the fire, but tragically neither survived.

 

Shepard was also awarded a merit citation.

 

Unit citations were also bestowed upon assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Hess; captains O’Neill and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Haydt Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Pierce, David Arner and James W Saylor Jr; fire marshals Taylor and Tomczak; and firefighters Bachert Jr, Dale, Gauntner, Milkovitz, Mokris, Smith, Tatum, Wescoe Jr, Wadih Atiyeh, Trevor Beers, Sean Boland, Timothy Bruce, John BurkhartJake Bykerk, Ryder Clemmo, Henry Cochran, Paul Dannecker, Matthew Dunfee, Steven Foulke, Joseph Kemmerer, Chad Krause, Tyler Mastria, Christopher McAbee, James McGuire, Robert Petrusky, Anthony Rosanio, Eric Sommers, Brandon WentzMichael Wilbert and Christopher Williams.

 

Seventeen-year-old Amari Thornton, who suffered burns in the fire, rescued two of his younger sisters from the burning home and jumped from a second-floor window breaking both of his legs.  He has been honored with a Civilian Certificate of Commendation and a Civilian Meritorious Award.

 

Firefighters Shepard and Weisel were awarded certificates of heroism and unit citations for a July 30 three alarm fire in the 900 block of Washington Street.  The fire displaced more than 40 persons.  Three homes were damaged in the fire and three more sustained smoke and water damage.

 

Assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh, Hess and Christian Williams; Captain O’Neill; lieutenants Arner, Bryant Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Craig A McGinnis, Michael Pychinka III and William W Warren Jr; fire marshals Taylor and Michael Achey; and firefighters Atiyeh, Beers, Bruce, Burkhart, Conway Jr, Costa, Dale, Dannecker, Drake, Jefferson, King, Koedyker, Kostick, Mokris, Smith, Sommers, Tatum, Williams, Kevin Hodgskin, Jason Janis, Chad Long, Steven Munsch, Nicholas Murray and Roger Scheirer received unit citations.

 

Firefighters Steed and Chad Ege were awarded certificates of heroism and unit citations for their rescue of an occupant of a second-floor bedroom from a fire at 219 N Cloud Street last February.

 

Unit citations were award to Captain Kevin Baer, lieutenants Groller, Pierce and Pychinka III; Fire Marshal Tomczak; and firefighters Costa, Drake, Scheirer, Michael Evans, Dustin Grow, Nathan Krajcirik, Arthur Scott, James Soccodato and Dennis Walton.

 

Thirty-four firefighters received a unit citation for battling an October 2019 fire that destroyed ten row homes in the 700 block of Fountain Street.  They are: Retired Assistant Chief Christopher Kiskeravage; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Held; captains Baer, Kresge Sr and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Lenig, McGinnis, Trumbore, Warmkessel, Christopher Gerencher and Theodore Maguire, fire marshal Taylor and firefighters Backert Jr, Bellois, Beers, Conway Jr, Ege, Jefferson, Krause, Matchette, Mokris, Munsch, Perreault, Scheirer, Soccodato, Tatum, Rodney Bolton, Kevin Cannon, Robert Dobrick, David Fuica, Brennen Harding and Jeremy Nyemscek.

 

Forty-two firefighters were awarded unit citations for their attack on the June 2020 three alarm fire at Sacred Heart School.  They are: assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh and Hess; captains Kresge Sr and Thompsen; lieutenants Bryant Jr, Gerencher, Groller, Haydt Jr, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Kidd, Lenig, Pierce, Saylor Jr and Jason Custer; fire marshals Achey and Zellin; and firefighters Bausher, Bellois, Bolton, Brett, Dannecker, Deutsch, Dunfee, Foulke, Gauntner, Hammel, Hodgskin, Jefferson, Kemmerer, Milkovitz, Mokris, Munsch, Perreault, Soccodato, Tatum, Werkheiser, Williams, Adam Arndt and Mark Kennedy.

 

Forty-five members of the department were awarded unit citations for a September 2020 blaze that damaged three out of four homes in a row in the 400 block of Harrison Street.  In all, firefighters spent seven hours on the scene to contain and extinguish the blaze.  Unit citations went to assistant chiefs Barron and Eharth; battalion chiefs Atiyeh, Held and Williams; captains O’Neill and Thompsen; lieutenants Groller, Heckenberger III, Henry II, Kidd, Lenig; McGinnis, Pierce, Warren Jr and Jonas Gostonyi; fire marshals Achey and Taylor; and firefighters Beers, Bellois, Bruce, Clemmo, Cochran, Conway Jr, Costa, Deutsch, Dunfee, Hammel, Kemmerer, Kostick, Lathrop, Mastria, Matchette, Mokris, Shepard, Tatum, Vassallo, Wentz, James Alpha, Christopher Dutko, Devin Grow, Todd Heffner, Peter McAllister, Aaron Pychinka and Joseph Zimmerman Jr.

 

The department presented 23 certificates of appreciation to members of other fire departments for their assistance at the Harrison Street fire.

 

Members of the department’s Bomb Squad; Assistant Chief Eharth and firefighters Beers, Ege, McAllister and Lloyd W Evans II received certificates of merit for assisting with an investigation following a deadly fireworks explosion in Lower Milford Township, Lehigh County. 

 

The department also recognized citizens for helping-out the department in emergencies.

 

Nine-year-old Gabriel Eduardo Rodriguez was awarded a Civilian Certificate of Appreciation for calling 911 for a family member with a medical episode. Gabriel gave detailed information to the 911 operator and assisted AFD in locating the fall victim. He also took care of two other children in the home while AEMS and AFD assisted the patient.

 

Michael R Humes Jr received a certificate for assisting the department during a motor vehicle accident at 19th & Allen streets. Henry Wilt was recognized for extinguishing a microwave fire at Phoebe Home and Erik Monk and Roger Haas were honored for assisting in putting out a fire in the 1500 block of Sage Street both prior to the department’s arrival.

 

The department awarded certificates of merit to Lieutenant Pierce for acquiring PPE supplies during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and to Firefighter Matchette for his dedication and advancement of the Haz-Mat Team.

 

The following members of the department received Good Samaritan Awards for their selfless work at Syrian Arab American Charity Association during Covid-19: lieutenants Custer, Groller, Heckenberger III, Pierce and Xander; and firefighters Bachert Jr, Bruce, Gauntner, Hammel, Tatum and Peter Zondlo.     

 

Appreciation was also extended to those people and organizations who graciously donated hand sanitizer and PPE to the department, including Eight Oaks Distillery, War Dogs Distillery, Whitehall Pharmacy, Valley Discount Pharmacy, the Labor Council, Home Depot, Mallory Henry and Mask Force Sewing Committee.

 

Wegman’s, Weis Market, Coca-Cola, Josh Early Candies, King & Spry LLC, Front Line Appreciation Group, Retreat Behavioral Health and Suzann Young and Glenn Henritzy donated food, water and other beverages to the department.

 

The department also credited Horwith Quarry, where the dive unit trains; Edward Costa, who created an AFD photo collage; and the Syrian Arab American Charity Association for its assistance to the department and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.