Thursday, April 22, 2021

Updated: Convicted West Easton Constable Rejects Probation, Wants Jail Sentence Instead

Judge Stephen Baratta yesterday imposed a 12-month probationary sentence on West Easton Constable Tricia Mezzacappa for lying to Pennsylvania State Police in an attempt to frame a black neighbor with pointing a gun at her head. A jury found her guilty in March of false reports, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 12 months. Although I was at the sentencing, I'd have to say the account written by Ed Sieger for WFMZ is an excellent and neutral report. Unfortunately, Mezzacappa has decided she'd rather be in jail.

She just proved she's cuckoo for cocoa puffs.  

The Preliminaries

I was accosted by Mezzacappa yesterday as I made by way down the hallway and to the courtroom. The second she spotted me, she began shouting that I'm a "mother-fucking scumbag" and worse. I told her to watch her language and walked into Barattadom. 

Judge Baratta was going through a few continuances, which he reluctantly granted. He also approved a settlement agreement between the parties in  a divorce action. I was surprised that neither the Husband's lawyer, Husband nor Wife stood while addressing the Court. 

"Show some respect, people!" I wanted to shout. But that would be disrespectful. 

Then there was a brief pause in the action, with Judge Baratta saying, "I'll be back."  That was a perfect opportunity for me to take a bathroom break myself, something I've been doing increasingly as I wither from virile specimen of manhood into old fart. Unfortunately, Mezzacappa spotted me again and began yelling as I returned to the courtroom. 

"Careful, she might gouge your eyes out!" one lawyer warned me. "I think she's absolutely right. You really are a scumbag," added another.

I had no desire to be there. It was unpleasant. But Mezzacappa is a constable who was convicted of false reports in an attempt to frame a black man. It's part of a disturbing pattern of racism from her that I've chronicled over the past decade. I think there's a bit of implicit bias in all of us.  Her behavior, however, is that of an overt racist. These people should be exposed, especially when they hold law enforcement positions.. 

Judge Baratta Reviews Probation and Psychological Evaluations

After Judge Baratta returned to the bench, he summarized some of the information supplied to him, both from the Probation Office as well as a psychological evaluation performed by Dynamic Counseling's Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. 

Baratta noted that Mezzacappa is highly educated, with finance degrees from Fordham and Rider, as well as a nursing degree from Northampton Community College. But he noted her job history has demonstrated instability. She has held 25-30 jobs since 1992, and was fired or quit from most of them. She told probation officials that her employers were guilty of mismanagement, corruption and antagonistic behavior. 

The Judge went on to observe that Mezzacappa lost both of her parents to cancer. She had a good relationship with them. She is at odds with her sister, whom she said is "dead to her." She is currently involved in litigation with her sister in New Jersey over her mother's estate. 

The prognosis from Probation? "Highly guarded," reported the Judge.  

He then went on to discuss the psychological evaluation prepared by Dr. Johnson. That report details a long history of sexual abuse allegations, reports of harassment, a feeling of insecurity and claims of persecution. Dr. Johnson reports that Mezzacappa has very elevated post traumatic stress levels, even higher than those found in VA hospitals. She found these stress levels were "indicative of a person preparing for homicidal and suicidal behavior."

Dr. Johnson recommends therapy, possible medication and a mental health caseworker. 

How about commitment? 

DA Makes the Case for Jail

Assistant DA Abigail Bellafatto, assisted by summer intern Richard Huntington Pepper, made an impressive presentation for some jail time. She first called on Nicole Bealer, the mother of the black man whom Mezzacappa attempted to frame. "Her allegations could have cause a false arrest and the loss of his job," mom observed. 

Judge Baratta said her son was a persuasive witness who has spent years working for Union Pacific. 

Bellafatto agreed with Judge Baratta's assessment that guidelines call for only a probationary sentence. She nevertheless insisted the underlying facts justify jail time. Mezzacappa told troopers they "needed to get that black drug dealer out of the neighborhood." Mezzacappa uses what Bellafato calls "racial rhetoric," including the term "tar baby" during her psychological. Bellafato notes that Mezzacappa now believes she was mistaken about the victim, but "continues to search for a black man to blame for her own behavior." Bellafatto said jail would punish Mezzacappa's "racial motivation" and protect the community. 

Her argument moved Judge Baratta, who agreed "[Mezzacappa's] words suggest there may be a racial component to this." He called Mezzacappa a "defective person." He said he could send her to jail. "How is that going to solve the problem?" he asked. He noted there is no treatment at a county jail, and she would spend her time there "stewing about this." He suggested jail time "feeds into the illness." 

Mezzacappa Keeps it Short

Before imposing sentence, Judge Baratta allowed Mezzacappa to call her sole witness, a black man, who said he never saw her exhibit any racism in the 10 years he's known her. He also allowed Mezzacappa to speak for herself. 

She decided to keep it short because of the "gaslighting nature of this proceeding" and presence of "fake news" (yours truly) in the courtroom. 

She had no remorse.

She did claim "West Easton is a defective borough" in response to the Judge's observation about her.  

The Sentence

As he hinted all along, Judge Baratta imposed a sentence of 12 months supervised probation. This will include individual therapy, a case manager, psychological evaluation, drug and alcohol evaluation, a drug-free requirement, prohibition on firearms and throwing knives and a continued ban on contact with the victims. 

"I don't want to see you again," the Judge concluded. 

He's gonna' see her again. 

Mezzacappa reaction  (posted on this blog yesterday by Tricia Mezzacappa)

To all of the misinformed low life scum buckets who bother to read this blog (maybe 5)

I forfeited probation officially in writing

I am waiting to be re-sentanced

I will not tolerate false narratives, lies, gaslighting, abuse, violence, death threats, vandalism on my property and car, and continued political persecution dealt by a corrupt system of terrified mentally unstable nutbags , who foam at the mouth and misuse public resources every time I ask for public info.

17 page docket for an M3

Deprived of an attorney
Deadlocked the jury
Cooperated 100% WITH PSI

ONLY TO BE DEFAMED, GASLIGHTED AND MISREPRESENTED AGAIN, INCLUDING MY FRIEND AND WITNESS TODAY IN COURT , WHO WAS ALSO ABUSED BY A SICK JUDGE WHO NEEDS TO TURN IN HIS ROBE

I will sit there in jail and record every single act of abuse, date, time, name, etc, call the news outlets, and re-train inmates how to beat their criminal governments so they don't wind up deprived of rights, like me!

Mezzacappa Violates No Contact Provision of Probation

Part of Judge Baratta's probationary sentence yesterday requires Mezaacappa to make no attempt at contact with the victims. She asked for permission to speak with them, but Judge Baratta refused. Well that meant nothing to her. In direct violation of what the Judge told her and made a part of his sentence, Mezzacappa left this note on the windshield of victim's car.



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

What is Your Take on Floyd Verdict?

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty late yesterday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the asphyxiation death of George Floyd last May outside of a local convenience store. Video of Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck resulted in a huge public outcry by persons of all races and persuasions, including police officers. There were also violent demonstrations and looting, which led to a backlash.

I watched portions of the jury trial and listened to the closing arguments. This was a rare case in which numerous police officers, including Chauvin's own chief, testified against him. There was no thin blue line. I believe that is why he was convicted. There was no reasonable doubt. 

This case opened the festering wound of racism, both overt and implicit, still afflicting us. 

But the racism goes both ways. I know someone, a guidance counselor at a local high school, who complained that Chauvin was given a trial at all. I told her we all have a constitutional right to due process and a jury trial. I added there was no difference between her attitude and that of a KKK lynch mob. She ended our friendship when I told her that being black gives her no immunity from her own prejudices. 

People in my age group tend to be the worst of us, myself included. I am much better than I was in my youth, but still have a ways to go.  From watching my grandson grow up and his interactions with friends of all persuasions, I am very hopeful for our future. 

Most of us would agree that excessive police force, looting and violent demonstrations are all criminal acts.  Unfortunately, extremists in our midst drive us to one side or the other. 

On one extreme, we have Amy Zanelli. She's a judicial  in West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill, defended looting as an appropriate response to slavery. "Stop blaming people for looting in a country who’s [sic] greed was so boundless they captured, relocated, and enslaved entire generations," she wrote.

On the other extreme, there's firebrand conservative Tricia Mezacappa. She's scheduled to be sentenced today for lying to state troopers in an attempt to frame a black man. Upon hearing the Floyd verdict, she wrote this: "George Floyd was a violent criminal thug who deserved a bullet but killed himself by gulping down meth/ fentanyl." The Court will give her more compassion than she would to Floyd.

What's your take on the verdict? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Steve Lynch: Messenger of Misinformation

In addition to his role as the unopposed GOP nominee for NorCo Exec, Steve Lynch is the owner of  Keystone Alternative Medicine and Weight Loss. Though he has no medical degree, he claims to provide "the most advanced programs, latest and most effective treatments that are optimally customized for the enhancement and improvement of your health and wellness goals." It's little wonder this this huckster, who claims to have a handle on the latest treatments, would also portray himself as a Covid-19 expert. If you'd like to pay a visit to his clinic, get ready for a long drive. The only Keystone Alternative Medicine I can find is located in Oklahoma, and the "alternative medicine" dispensed is weed. This story is about is recent appearance at the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, where this so-called patriot dealt a Covid-19 hand completely full of misinformation. 

You can see Lynch's lie above. He refers the Covid-19 pandemic as "nonsense" and insists the math proves it. He noted that there are 2.6 million deaths peer year, on average, in the US.  He goes on to claim that last year, when we got nailed by the pandemic, the death rate actually dropped instead of increasing for the deaths caused by a novel coronavirus. He concludes that "treasonous" and "treacherous" communists are "cooking the books and changing the numbers around" to hurt patriots. 

The problem with Lynch's math is that it is a complete lie. 

The correct information,as provided by the CDC, is as follows:

1) In 2020, there were 3.3 million deaths in the US. That number could increase slightly as more data trickle in. 

2) In 2019, the year before the pandemic hit us, there were 2.8 million deaths in the US

3) Thus, there were 500,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, contrary to the misinformation spewed by Lynch. The death rate increased by 15.9% in the span of just one year. 

4) Covid-19 either caused or was a contributing factor in 375,000 deaths in the US during 2020. 

5) Following heart disease and cancer, Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020. 

Lynch is a huckster, but is no medical expert. He is hawking merchandise and selling memberships, but is no patriot. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Preparing For Next Pandemic

Shanin Specter, son of the former US Senator and himself a trial lawyer, has published an essay at Smerconish on beating the next (inevitable) pandemic. Here are his suggestions, with one or two of my own:

1) Pandemic preparedness should be our top national security priority. (Viruses kill more people than war and violence combined). 

2) FDA must be more flexible. (I personally think the FDA showed flexibility).

3) Political decisions must be made by elected officials. I believe that decisions made by Rachel Levine, who was elected by no one and is no epidemiologist, had a very negative impact on our economy, educational system and, in the end, our overall health. Her Orders should have first been approved by a bipartisan group of elected officials. 

4) Governors must share their power with legislatures. We are a nation that was formed precisely because we oppose one-man rule. While extreme emergency makes this necessary, this concentration of power in the hands of one man should be diluted as quickly as possible. Failure to do this resulted in abuse and favoritism in Pa. 

5) Politics must stop at the pandemic's edge. Trump, worried about his re-election, constantly downplayed the virus. Democrats overreacted, no doubt in a desire to see Trump defeated. Both sides lost and people still died. Now commonsense precautions like masks are derided as affronts to freedom.

6) Honest Communication is vitally important. This was completely botched by CDC and public health experts. Trump actually admits he downplayed what he knew was a serious crisis. This discovery undermined public confidence in his response. 

7) Complete transparency is vitally important. Both Wolf and Cuomo played games with the data concerning infections and deaths, especially at nursing homes. Wolf arbitrarily granted exemptions to businesses in which he or other highly placed officials once had an interest. He made decisions behind closed doors with a group that failed to include a single public health expert.  

We can do better next time, and make no mistake, there will be a next time. 

Covid-19 Vaccine: Inform Yourself, and Make Your Choice

According to Reuters, about half of the US population (including me) have received at least one of the three vaccines approved for emergency use. This is a personal choice, and I fully respect those who are concerned about side effects. Moreover, no vaccine is 100% effective. You can still contract Covid-19, and it's still unclear just how long immunity lasts  Both the Mayo Clinic and CDC have FAQs concerning the vaccine. It also dispels misinformation being spread by the uninformed. This unfortunately includes misinformation being spewed by NorCo GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch. Four years ago, he'd be dismissed as someone from the fringe. Now he's poised to be the Republican standard bearer. 

He has referred to this vaccine, which is voluntary, as "medical tyranny." He has falsely claimed it alters your DNA. He vilifies Dr. Anthony Fauci, who he calls Fraudi, as "corrupt to the core."

Bethlehem Mayor Donchez Hits Pause Button on 8.4% Water Rate Hike

Last year, and in the middle of a pandemic, Bethlehem imposed a five per cent tax increase.  Without flinching, the so-called Christmas City also shackled citizens with a new stormwater fee that could have waited a year or two. In addition to making the city more expensive, Bethlehem's elected representatives also voted to make it less safe. Five firefighter positions were cut from the budget. The only person who had the sense to say No to this nonsense was Council member Bryan Callahan. The rest of them, including Mayoral candidate Willie Reynolds, were quick to stick it to the ordinary Joes. No consideration was given to the very real likelihood that cities would be getting recovery money.  When that happened, schoolteacher-turned business Administrator Eric Evans gave Callahan a song-and-dance when the latter suggested that officials use that money to hire firefighters and return the tax hike. While the City drags its feet on what to do with its $33.1 million windfall from the feds, it was quick to announce on Friday that a 8.4% water hike is coming. This will be imposed on all customers using Bethlehem water. But finally, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez has hit the pause button. 

This rate hike can be paid, at least temporarily, through the monies the city receives from The American Rescue Plan. Hopefully, he recognizes that there are no money trees in the back yards of Bethlehem residents. 


Friday, April 16, 2021

Is the Lehigh Valley Just a Wrestling Powerhouse?

Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure last night lauded Northampton Area High School senior Jagger Condomitti. Om March 13, Jagger won the Class 3A PIAA state wrestling championship in the 165-lbs. weight class. It is his first state championship, and Northampton's 24th. 

Jagger's mom and grandfather were county employees, which undoubtedly explains how he learned to wrestle. 

"We're all very proud of him," said McClure. 

"Congratulations to a fellow Konkrete Kid," echoed Council member Ron Heckman. 

McClure added that some areas of the state have star basketball players. Others have elite football teams. But the Lehigh Valley is a "wrestling powerhouse." 

I'd say the Lehigh Valley produces outstanding athletes in pretty much all sports. You'll find them at numerous D1 schools. Allentown Central Catholic just won a state basketball championship. It did that before, when it was Michael Koury, Sr., father of our current President Judge. At that time, the PJ-in-training was the team mascot.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Early Voting Now Available at NorCo Courthouse

One of the biggest changes to Pennsylvania's election l;aw is early voting. Many people, including Executive Lamont McClure, voted that way in last year's Presidential election. This year's municipal primary, is set for May 18. But starting yesterday, you can vote early by appearing at the courthouse elections office and requesting a ballot. 

Early voting will continue, Monday thru Friday, between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, until May 11. 

Let's say you'd like to vote but never registered. You can kill two birds with one stone and do both. 

If you wish to register or vote early, you must have ID and fill out a request for a ballot. 

If you've applied to vote by mail, as I have, you are ineligible for early voting. 

If you'd prefer to vote at your precinct, and hope there's a bake sale, that option will be available on May 18. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Zanelli Embellished Her Social Work in Jersey

Amy Zanelli is running for Magisterial District Judge in West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill.  I told you yesterday that she was employed in Somerset County, NJ, as an intake workers on complaints of child abuse and neglect. But she was fired in 2012 for taking off too much and lost an appeal. She later got a job in Northampton County's Children and Youth Department, but failed to last through her probationary period. 

She never bothered mentioning these terminations when she spoke with a fawning Josh Popichak in February. What she did do is embellish her role as a social worker. 

"My ability to see things others didn't led me to go into investigative work on a state level for the State of New Jersey," she told him. "I specialized in sex crimes and homicides and abuse and neglect for children ... ." 

She made herself sound like she some sort of super detective. In reality, she was a caseworker

She also claimed she was forced to move here because she was a target in New Jersey. 

Alrighty then. 

Could LV's Vacant Churches Help Provide Affordable Housing?

Allentown Council person Daryl Hendricks has indicated several times that he's concerned about the large number of vacant churches in the Queen City. They often fall into disrepair and become fire hazards. Allentown's problem is by no means unique. Churches are being shuttered, not just in the Lehigh Valley, but across the country. According to ICMA, approximately 100,000 of the nation's 384,000 houses of worship will be closed within the next few years. Why not use them for low and moderate-income housing? 

Churches are closing because less than half of us consider ourselves church members. 

These have often served as sanctuaries for those who've fallen on hard times, with food banks and soup kitchens. Church basements have often been used as community centers. 

While each situation is different, I believe many churches can be repurposed to provide community centers, senior centers, gyms for urban youth and apartments for low and middle-income renters. Ideally, the repurpose would continue some of the functions previously provided by a church. 

Some Allentown activists have suggested tiny homes. I have often advocated their use, and not just fior the homeless. But that should be just one solution. Repurposing vacant churches could get them on tax rolls and provide decent homes.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Judicial Candidate Amy Zanelli Supports Looting, Lies About Being Fired

Amy Zanelli has said she could remain a Lehigh County Commissioner for the next 30 years if she wanted. But after a May 1 Facebook post in which she supported looting as an appropriate response to slavery, she's decided to bring her special brand of justice to the people of West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill. She's running for magisterial district judge, and with the blessing of LV4All. If you own a business there, now might be a good time to invest in security upgrades. If you decide to get the hell out of there, you can use her as your realtor. You see, even if she gets elected to this $93,338 a year job, she can still carry on side gigs like her realtor job. Of course, you can throw the antiquated notion of a detached and neutral jurist out the window. So long as she pretends to care about social issues, you can overlook little things like Zanelli's inability to hold a job. And we can all wink when she denies she was fired. After all, and as she'll tell you herself, she's beautiful. 

A beautiful liar.     

Zanelli likes to hold herself out as some sort of super child abuse investigator from Jersey.  She has even told people this past will give her some sort of edge as a magisterial district judge. It's certainly true she had been employed as an intake worker in Somerset County. But she was terminated in 2012 because she refused to return to work after receiving a number of leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Though she refused to work, she dropped in on her office one day to deliver Avon products to co-workers. 

Zanelli appealed her termination and lost.

She told me she was a victim of discrimination.

Zanelli also worked in Northampton County Children and Youth as a caseworker between March and October 2015. She was terminated there as well, and during her probationary period.

She told me this was because her hours had been expanded beyond the time she had agreed to give. 

I reported these terminations when Zanelli was running for Commissioner. She responded that my story was "false accusations and fake news. With that said, this would not be the first time in history that an intelligent, well-spoken, beautiful woman has intimidated a man who then feels the need to spread rumors and lies in an attempt to tear her down."  

I'm glad Zanelli has such a lofty opinion of herself. But guess what? Zanelli's own lawyer has admitted to these terminations, and in a setting where lying is a crime. 

Zanelli is currently involved in a rather protracted custody dispute with her ex-husband. She's already gone through several lawyers, and is currently is represented by David Harrington. He just happens to be both a fellow Lehigh County Commissioner and a member of LV4All's Exec Committee. 

I have no intention of discussing the custody action itself. Those are sad situations. What I do intend to discuss is her past employment. 

In her Pretrial Memorandum (filed 9/22/16 at 2014-3733), Zanelli's attorney makes the following admission: "Mother was employed long term in New Jersey as a social worker. The Mother was a union member. The Mother was terminated from her employment in 2012 and as a result of the termination the Mother filed a grievance. The Mother recently received an Order with supporting Opinion denying her claim."

In another Opinion and Order of the Court signed by President Judge Michael Koury, Jr. on 8/23/17,  he notes that Zanelli was employed after she separated from her husband, but was "terminated from the position." This refers to her job at Northampton County.  

So contrary to Zanelli's "fake news" assertions (where have I heard that before?), she was terminated twice as a social worker for children, both in Jersey and NorCo. 

She's dishonest, has a very inflated opinion of herself, and has actually defended looting. A person like her should never be allowed near the front lines of our justice system. 

Fortunately, retired Bethlehem police officer and criminal justice professor Van Scott is also running. He has something Amy Zanelli lacks - integrity.   

"Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially." - Socrates 

Osborne: Time For Trust in South Whitehall II

As a former commissioner pointed out in the BOC meeting last Wednesday, there is a lack of trust among the board members. I think actually the question of trust may be present in the community as well. Here are just some of the topics to consider:

  1. The Covid Caper . . . the $326,000 of Covid relief money that came to the township last fall was spent without any input, knowledge or vote of the board. $138,000 of that was spent for rent of the ROMA building, an expense already in the 2020 budget. After this became public, three members of the board authorized taking $115,000 from the underfunded Fiscal Stability Fund to give to qualified businesses. Why not give these businesses $138,000 from the Relief Fund instead of padding the township coffers?

  2. AWOL on Audits . . .although annual financial audits are required by Pennsylvania law, South Whitehall has not completed an audit in the last 10 years. Two commissioners asked in open session why the audits were not completed and got no answers. What is going on here?

  3. When for Wehr’s Dam? . . . a 2016 referendum approved borrowing up to $600,000 for the repair of Wehr’s Dam, but an engineering study is as far as the initiative has gone in 5 years. Last year, a recently-resigned commissioner wondered aloud how the township “can get out from under this obligation.” In other words, how can the township thwart the will of the people? Is this sentiment the reason little progress has been made?

  4. Comp Plan Canceled . . . the 2009 Comprehensive Plan called for the township to “assess the public’s view on farmland preservation and the use of taxpayer money to preserve more farms.” The vision in the plan also asked the township to “consider a municipal farmland preservation program through purchase of development rights.” Twelve years later, nothing . . . yes, absolutely nothing. Instead, the BOC reversed the tractor gears and adopted the Innovation Overlay District in 2014, a zoning revision that created the concentrated and controversial developments in the township today.

  5. Labor Negotiations Loused Up . . . Some members of the board were denied the right to provide input and guidance before contract negotiations started, as well as the right to attend negotiations for monitoring purposes. Long-term and loyal Public Works employees rejected the administration’s demands and the first labor strike in over 30 years resulted.

  6. Midnight Madness . . . And perhaps the most egregious of all offenses, South Whitehall has a now-sitting commissioner appointed without advertisement, without it being an agenda item, without public comment, occurring, at 11:45 pm, and as The Morning Call headline read on December 5, 2019 “Catcalling, lack of transparency, mistrust’: South Whitehall residents lash out at commissioners over appointment.” Hard to imagine anything worse?

Based on the above information, do you trust the current leadership of South Whitehall?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Grubb Joins Callahan Call to Roll Back Tax Hike, Reinstate Firefighters

 From Dana Grubb's Campaign: Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb supports Councilperson Bryan Callahan’s proposal to use part of the $33.7 million federal COVID relief funds to  reverse the impact of the 5% real estate tax increase imposed by the City of Bethlehem's 2021 budget. Grubb also feels that some of the COVID funding should be used to restore the four firefighter positions that were eliminated in that budget.

“I disagreed with the combination of tax increase, firefighter cuts, and the introduction of a stormwater tax during the pandemic, at a time when many residents are hurting financially,” says Grubb. "Some on City Council, like their constituents, were probably severely impacted by the pandemic, so I would think they would support their colleague's proposal, which is an avenue for healing."

Grubb feels that public meetings to solicit input from residents should be incorporated into the decision making process for the allocation of the COVID relief funding. 

"The pandemic compels us to be our best selves, to come together to help each other and listen to each other," Grubb notes. "The residents come first. City officials should be looking out for them: not adding to their burden, but easing it." He adds that the COVID funding provides city government an avenue to help alleviate some of the hardship that came to everyone as a result of the pandemic. 

Blogger's Note: Though municipalities await specific guidelines, the express language of the American Rescue Plan Act  provides that money being sent directly to municipalities can be used to replace lost revenue. That obviates the need for the 5% tax hike so callously imposed in Bethlehem last year. It also should enable restoration of the firefighters. 

Callahan was the sole member of Council who said No to a tax hike and elimination of four firefighters in the middle of a pandemic. When he suggested that it's now possible to roll back that tax hike and reinstate firefighters, his fellow Council members responded with stony silence.  If they actually cared about the citizens they pretend to represent, that might have been a good time for them to open their mouths. 

Osborne: Time for Trust in South Whitehall Tp

While an WFMZ headline read “South Whitehall Commissioners Start Hitting Gridlock” in describing the BOC meeting last Wednesday, many others saw it as the first time in the last 15 months that progress was made towards meaningful and consequential discussion in their township without a pre-determined outcome. You see, Matthew Mobilio, a reliable ally and vote for board president Tori Morgan and appointed Commissioner Joe Setton, resigned abruptly last week, setting up a 2-2 dynamic between the previously unrelenting majority and the opposing two highest vote-getters in the last election.

It all came to a head when the nomination of a Planning Commission candidate (who I cast no judgement on) was up for a vote. Without any significant background information, president Tori Morgan, who also serves on the Interview Committee along with the now absent Commissioner Matthew Mobilio, tried to push the nominee through as though she had her reliable allies on her side. But wait . . . good questions and discussion came up concerning the process involved in selecting this candidate, resulting in Morgan complaining at one point that this was the same, or similar, process used for years.

So why was her nomination for the Planning Commission questioned? Well, surprisingly, the answer came just a couple minutes later when a former commissioner colleague said “you don’t trust each other!” Bingo! This process, and others, that worked for a long time in the past for the board, the administration and the public is now questioned because of a lack of trust! This process historically was based on involvement of all board members from beginning to end, wide-ranging (but the same), questions posed to each of the applicants, and full disclosure of the candidates’ responses before a recommendation was made to the full board. Apparently, the process has been skewed to the point where it is unrecognizable to what was successful in the past, but for the unwary, easily passed off as the “same or similar”. But is even this point important? Should the vestiges of the past become “rule of law” and take precedence over the direction of the future? Is the status quo what the residents want, or did they express their wishes in the past election by voting in two commissioners who are pushing for transparency and change?

I think the former commissioner is right - that pesky little thing called “trust” has been lost over the last several years. I’ve written about the quite obvious lack of transparency and communication, but he actually voiced the natural consequence of conducting local government business this way. Credit to him.

How and why has trust been lost? I will address this tomorrow. But in the meantime, do you have any thoughts on this? Have you’ve seen things happen, or not happen, that make you question your own trust level in South Whitehall today?

Blogger's Note: Blogger Michael Molovinsky asserts that the way South Whitehall's BOC has handled Wehr's Dam has made him question his trust level.  

Bethlehem: Bob Donchez Donates $2,500 to Willie Reynolds' Mayoral Campaign

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez appears to have made his choice regarding his successor. There's been no official endorsement, at least. But in Hizzoner's latest campaign finance disclosure, filed last week,  Donchez  reports a $2,500 contribution to Willie on January 14. 

Donchez started off the year with a $107,000 warchest, but donated $6,650 to candidates in this year's races. His other contributions are as follows:

$2,500 to Lamont McClure on January 14. (NorCo Exec race)

$1,000 to Phil Armstrong on January 23 (LC Exec race).

$500 to Bill McGee on January 31 (NorCo Council)

$150 to Amy Zanelli on January 31 (MDJ race in West Bethlehem)

Heckman Formally Announces Candidacy for Re-Election to NorCo Council

From Ron Heckman: I am seeking re-election to Northampton County Council in the spring primary election on the Democratic ticket.

County government is a predominately service-based level of government. Council must do their job with professionalism and in an efficient and cost-effective manner while also doing their homework and asking tough questions.

My record has been one of providing the most effective county government possible for the least amount of taxpayer dollars. During my three terms as councilman, I never voted for a tax increase. I voted to eliminate the personal property tax and reduce the county’s real estate tax burden. I also wrote the county’s first Farmland Preservation Resolution as well as the Local Labor Ordinance.

As your County Councilman, I am determined to focus much of my energy on the needs of the Department of Human Services. We must ensure that the county’s nursing home, Gracedale, is properly maintained and supported. We also must ensure that services vital to our most vulnerable citizens are protected and delivered efficiently. During this Covid-19 pandemic, the county faced numerous challenges and council responded vigorously.

My background as the past president of county council and as a former Director of Northampton County’s largest Department (Human Services) has given me a strong understanding of the need to monitor public tax dollars in an effective manner. If re-elected, I will again put my experience to work for all the citizens of Northampton County.

Blogger's Note: I've already told you Ron Heckman has filed his nomination petition, so his announcement is a formality. You might have the impression I dislike Heckman because I often am critical of his musings, but I intend to vote for him. He and Republican John Cusick are the two members of Council most knowledgeable about the inside workings of the county. Heckman actually has an edge over Cusick because Ron also worked for eight years as the Director of Human Services. 

In addition to his knowledge, Heckman is one of the few Council members who understands that it is Council, and not the Executive, who is the governing body. Unfortunately, and this is with all levels of government, legislative bodies have been all-too-willing to abdicate their powers to an Executive. This is completely contrary to what the founding fathers wanted. 


Finally, I think Heckman comes closest of all Council members to demonstrating the qualities of "mercy" and "justice" inscribed on the county seal. 


Friday, April 09, 2021

The Ugly Mob Wants to Rule in Allentown

On January 6, seven busloads of phony patriots traveled from the Lehigh Valley to the nation's capitol to disrupt the Congress of the United States as they counted the electoral votes to declare Joe Biden the President of the United States. Spurred on by Donald Trump, a violent mob stormed Congress. Among those who accompanied this mob was NorCo's GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch. "It's goin' down!" he shouted, festooned in a bulletproof vest.  These thugs did patriotic things like erecting a gallows to hang the Vice President, looted offices and smeared shit along the walls. Most of us would agree this was an attempted coup or insurrection.  I'm sure that a progressive organization like LV4All would agree with this assessment. Yet this organization endorsed a slate of candidates who were part of an ugly mob doing very much the same thing in Allentown last summer. 

Based on a misinterpretation of a brief video clip of an Allentown police officer who was actually trying to help a staggering and puking drug addict, an angry mob erupted. For months, Allentown City Council had to conduct meetings while these goons banged on the doors and windows. Convicted felons like Hasshan Batts led them in chants of "Fuck the Police." Ce-Ce Gerlach, now a candidate for Mayor, marched with a mobs shouting this and other epithets. Justan Parker Fields, who has finally started using his real name, stirred the flames with his bullhorn.  As tensions grew, Batts began to suggest the mob would start breaking the law and wanted lawyers and bail funds set up. Ashley Swift was one of the ringleaders attempting to disrupt Allentown City Council.

Amazingly, L4All has endorsed these demagogues in Allentown. Ce-Ce Gerlach, Justan Parker Fields and Patrick Palmer are very much part of Allentown's problem, not a solution. 

Why Breena Holland Supports Dana Grubb for Bethlehem Mayor

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University. She earned her doctorate and master's degree at the University of Chicago. She and I have been on the opposite sides of many issues. She supports a plastic straw ban. I think it would be more meaningful to pay people who need work $15 an hour, funded from the county's open space fund, to sweep the stream banks for garbage. She opposed a parking deck on Bethlehem's south side. I thought it was needed. But she's also prescient. Back in 2012, it was Holland who gave a Town Hall lecture on the need for better public health. 

While we have our differences, we agree that Dana Grubb is the obvious choice for Bethlehem Mayor. 

Grubb's opponent in this race for the Democratic nomination is City Council person J. Willie Reynolds. I've already told you that at their LV4All presentations, Reynolds called Grubb a liar when he denied seeking endorsements from local elected officials. I've known Grubb for decades. He's never misled me on anything. Moreover, he told me earlier this year that he had decided against seeking endorsements from current local elected officials. But Willie's fellow Council person, Paige Van Wirt, had a breakfast meeting with Dana after which she may have told Willie that her endorsement was sought or Willie may have misunderstood her. I suspect it was the latter. 

One of Willie's supporters posted an anonymous comment on my blog stating Dana was "begging for endorsements from Van Wirt and Olga last year already, and he had Breena Holland and Barbara Diamond pushing Van Wirt to endorse him. Maybe he changed his tune about endorsements after they refused, but he did ask." This person added, "Breena and Diamond also tried to hijack the LV4ALL meeting and pushed the group to endorse Dana."

This led Breena Holland herself to respond, and here's what she says. 

"This is Breena Holland and you need to get your facts right. Feel free to ask PVW if I ever pushed her to endorse Dana. Additionally, Barbara Diamond was not at the LV4ALL meeting. That was me setting the record straight on WR, because people deserve to know the who they are voting for. A lot of LV4All people don't follow Bethlehem politics closely. Willie has consistently made bad decisions and endeavored to exercise absolute control over council, somewhat successfully for a long time. His newly proclaimed mature and kinder self is awfully convenient and I don't personally think he has earned the support of progressives. But putting that aside, he has no experience inside city hall or running anything but a classroom. We've had a school teacher running the city for 8 years, and if you want more of that kind of leadership, then you should vote for Willie. I want someone to run the city who has a demonstrated commitment to principle and integrity, who I believe is capable of figuring out how to make government function better, and who will do what is best for Bethlehem's South Side, which I think of as the area of our city that currently needs the most attention from city government. That person is not Willie Reynolds. Dana has more experience, more integrity, more ideas about how to actually get something done. He is honest, fair, and actually listens to people who disagree with him. Willie does not do these things unless he needs something from you. Willie speaks in feelgood generalizations and his explanation of how to get things done seems to involve a lot of convening others to do it. They are just not the answers I'm personally looking for. He may be well-intentioned, although I've personally suffered plenty of his vitriol, so I don't think he's well-intentioned about me. Freaking out because people are presenting facts about his own record demonstrates his incapacity. Calling Dana a liar over something that he couldn't actually know to be factually correct demonstrates his tendency to mischaracterize others and protect himself when challenged. He's done this for years. It's not new behavior, just wrapped up in a box that is all about vision and positivity--so long as you agree with him, of course."

Breena identifies herself. The Willie supporter chose to remain anonymous. 

Unfortunately, since both Breena and I agree about Dana, he's bound to lose. 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

No Surprises in LV4All Endorsements

Lehigh Valley For All holds itself out as a political organization that promotes "healthy discourse between everyone in the Lehigh Valley so we can get a fuller understanding of each other and our political system." That's a lie. The truth is that it is a left-leaning Democratic organization whose definition of  "everyone" is limited to those who share its "progressive" views. It has been completely intolerant of voices of moderation within the Democratic party. This is revealed by its latest round of endorsements in this year's municipal races. 

Most of these are good picks. Candidates like McClure or Armstrong have no far-left opponents, so they're safe. But the Allentown picks are disgusting. Transplant Ce-Ce Gerlach, whose only real skill is campaigning, was picked as Allentown Mayor over Ray O'Connell, Matt Tuerk and Julio Guridy? Ce-Ce gerlach actually voted against accepting a grant because it was going to the police department. And for City Council, it's Justan Parker Fields and Patrick Palmer. Fields just got around to using his actual name,while Palmer lists no job. But they are both accomplished demagogues.   

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY
COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Lamont McClure
COUNTY COUNCIL
Patti Bruno
Ron Heckman
Lori Vargo-Heffner
Bill McGee
Tara Zrinski
BETHLEHEM MAYOR
William Reynolds
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL
Grace Crampsie Smith
Hillary Kwiatek
Rachael Leon
Kiera Wilhelm
BETHLEHEM SCHOOL BOARD
Silagh White
Michael Faccinetto
BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP WARD 2 COMMISSIONER
Jan Beatty
EASTON CITY COUNCIL
Sandi Vulcano
MAGISTERIAL COURT 03-2-01
Will Carpenter
MAGISTERIAL COURT 03-2-10
Jordan Knisley
HANOVER TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR
Jean Versteeg

LEHIGH COUNTY
COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Phil Armstrong
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
DISTRICT 1- Luke Svage
DISTRICT 2- Mark Fedorov
DISTRICT 3- Zach Cole-Borghi
DISTRICT 4- Geoff Brace
DISTRICT 5- Omar Ray
COMMON PLEAS JUDGE
Zac Cohen
Maraleen Shields
Eman Jarrah
ALLENTOWN MAYOR
CeCe Gerlach
ALLENTOWN CITY COUNCIL
Patrick Palmer
Justan Fields
Cynthia Mota
Natalie Santos
ALLENTOWN SCHOOL BOARD
Latarsha Brown
EAST PENN SCHOOL BOARD
Bill Whitney
Naomi Winch
SOUTHERN LEHIGH SCHOOL BOARD
Kathie Parsons
MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT 31-1-01
Linda Vega
MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT 31-1-06
Amy Zanelli

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Steve Lynch - Too Dangerous for Northampton County

Reynolds Calls Grubb Liar in Endorsement Row

Willie Reynolds and Dana Grubb both seek the Dem nomination for Bethlehem Mayor. LV4All (who agree with them) hosted an endorsement meeting last night. Willie accused Dana of seeking endorsements from local elected officials. Dana responded he had not, and Willie called him a liar. 

Bethlehem politics is always ugly, but it usually manifests itself in whisper campaigns or anonymous comments. It never comes from candidates themselves. 

Willie's remark is both false and displays poor temperament.  He apparently disliked being held accountable for perpetual tax hikes, the elimination of four firefighters and the imposition of a new stormwater fee. 

All in the middle of a pandemic.

At this juncture, Reynolds' remark is unavailable on LV4All's Facebook page. 

NorCo Elections Office Answers Questions For May 18 Primary

While the Presidential election is what attracts the most voters, municipal primaries are what attract the most candidates. In Northampton County, there are 482. Whomever is elected will have more impact on your day-to-life than Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It is the local officials who decide whether your street gets plowed or that pothole gets filled. These are the "servants" who will nickle and dime you with annual tax hike (if you live in Bethlehem) or stormwater fees enacted with only minimal notice.

The elections office and NorCo spokesperson Becky Bartlett have come up with answers to frequently asked questions:

What will be on the ballot?
County-wide offices, candidates for municipal offices, state judges, magisterial judgeships, a County-wide Home Rule Charter amendment and four stateside ballot measures: Equal Rights Regardless of Race or Ethnicity Amendment, Emergency Declarations Amendment, Legislative Resolution to Extend or Terminate Emergency Declaration Amendment and Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Companies Eligible for Loans.
 
Who can vote in the Primary Election?
Registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates running on their party’s ticket. All registered voters can vote on the County-wide Home Rule Charter amendment, stateside ballot measures or referendum questions.

Can I vote by mail?
Yes. Act 77, which was passed in 2019, allows for no excuse mail-in voting. Applications for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot must be received by May 11th and are available in the Election’s Office or online at VotesPA.com or NorthamptonVotes.com

How do I know my application has been accepted or if my ballot has been received?
Citizens who sign up on VotesPA.com will receive emails about their application/ballot status. Voters who applied on paper can track the status of their ballot at VotesPA.com once the state makes that tool available.

Why did I get an email saying my application for a mail-in ballot has been declined?
It’s likely that a duplicate application was filed or the application lacked a signature or a verifiable ID. Contact the Elections Office for assistance at 610-829-6260 or elections@northamptoncounty.org 

When will ballots go out in the mail?
Ballots will start being mailed out in April. Voters can check the status of their ballot on-line at VotesPA.com

I’m worried about getting my mail-in ballot back to the Elections Office on time.
To be counted, ballots must be returned to the Election’s Office by 8:00PM on May 18th. The return envelope must be signed and dated and the ballot must enclosed in a sealed privacy envelope. We recommend voters return their ballot as soon as possible or at least get it in the mail by May 5th.

What kind of stamp should I use to mail my ballot back?
Return envelopes require a first-class stamp or postage if they are mailed back to the Elections Office.

Do I have to return my ballot by mail?
No. Ballots can be returned directly to the Election’s Office at the Government Center at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042 or at one of the secure ballot drop boxes stationed around the County. (Boxes will be installed when ballots become available.)

Can someone else deliver my ballot to the Elections Office?
No. PA State Law states that voters may only drop off their own ballot. If you come into the office, you may be asked for your ID. If you drop off someone else’s ballot because they are physically unable to do so, you will be asked for a signed “Certification of Designated Agent” form. A copy of the form can be downloaded at VotesPA.com

Can I vote using Ballot on Demand?
Yes, Ballot on Demand will be available in the Election Office at the Government Center when ballots become available until 4:30PM on May 11th. You need to bring an ID with you to the office.

I requested a mail-in ballot but now I want to vote in-person at the polls.
Voters who prefer to use the machines can bring their mail-in ballot and the return envelope to the polls. The Judge of Election will spoil the ballot and ask the voter to complete a “Declaration to Surrender Ballot” form before allowing them vote on the ExpressVote XL machine.

Will the polls be open on May 18th?
Yes. As of right now, the Election’s Office plans on staffing all 156 precincts with 315 voting machines.

Have the ExpressVote XL machines been tested?
 Yes. The machines will undergo testing before the Primary on May 18th. The machines performed very well for both elections in 2020.

Have any polling locations changed?

Easton 3rd Ward 3rd District has been moved to the Kirby Sports Center 700 W Pierce Street, Easton
 
Hanover Township District #1 has been moved to Brith Sholom at 1190 W. Macada Road.

Do I have to wear a mask at the polls? What about the poll workers?
All poll workers are required to wear masks. We strongly request that voters wear masks out of respect to the people who volunteer in our elections.

Who should voters call if they have problems or questions either before or on Election Day?
The Northampton County Elections Office: 610-829-6260 or elections@northamptoncounty.org 

Our democracy increases in strength the more we all participate. If you, or someone you know, has an interest in taking a more active role, please consider becoming a poll worker. Poll workers are paid for their training time and work on Election Day. https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CTYADMN/ELECTNS/Pages/PollWorkers.aspx

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

I Accept the Challange

 I've told you before that I'm doing the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail virtually. I started January 17. Any distance based exercise counts. This includes walking, running, cycling, canoeing, elliptical or arc trainer, rowing, etc.. 

One friend started earlier than me and has logged in 1,174.6 miles since November 8. 

I will beat him, of course. 

Another friend (a hotshot lawyer whose name I can't mention unless I pay him) started on March 20, and only has 109 miles in. I'm over 500 ahead of him. 

But get this. He has bet me a steak dinner he will beat me. The only thing he's got going for him is he's young. He's obviously unaware he has just challenged a highly-conditioned, well-trained endurance athlete. He should ask his father, with whom I raced. 

Of course it won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. That is why I have always failed where others have succeeded. To me, the greater the odds, the greater the challange. And as always, I accept the challange.  

Philanthropist Murat Guzel Donating Face Masks to First Responders

Murat Guzel came to this country from Turkey with next to nothing. Today, he is the owner of the very successful Natural Food Source, a Whitehall Tp. wholesaler to many chain groceries.  But when he first came to this country, he lived frugally and did what so many immigrants to this country do - worked his ass off. He prospered, but remembers what it was like to struggle. 

You may know him as a Democratic donor, although he contributed to Charlie Dent when he was in Congress. That's how I knew him. I saw his name on campaign finance reports from both counties. 

What I did not know is that Guzel is an philanthropist. He's heavily involved in the "She" program to empower young girls in underserved communities. He's arranged trips so they can visit colleges, Broadway shows. He does this with little or no fanfare. 

Unfortunately, Guzel was stricken with Covid-19 and hospitalized. Fortunately, he has recovered and wants to help the first responders who help all of us.  

Today, he will be distributing thousands of masks to them, including coveted N95 masks. 

Guzel, incidentally, makes a great cup of Turkish coffee. Maybe he switched to tea. I personally think think that concoction is the best way toward off any disease. Better than Vitamin D! 

Osborne: Intrigue in South Whitehall

Brad Osborne
I have no horse in this race, but this sounds strange to me . . .

Two media outlets reported on Friday, April 2 that South Whitehall Township Commissioner Matthew Mobilio resigned abruptly after just 15 months into his 4-year term. Supposedly, Matthew Mobilio was frustrated with what he called “unprecedented obstruction” of a “citizen-focused agenda.” But the bare truth is, Matthew Mobilio was in the majority of every 3-2 vote, so there is nothing he and Commissioners Morgan and Setton couldn’t accomplish together!

Despite this fact, board president Tori Morgan quickly came to his defense saying she will “support him in his future focus.” Really? His future focus, in his words, is to “dedicate my energies to ensuring those same individuals (“current, former and prospective commissioners”) will be denied election and/or re-election.”

As reported by the Morning Call, “In a statement responding to Mobilio’s resignation letter, (Commissioners) Wolk and Kelly said the notion that Mobilio’s agenda faced “unprecedented obstruction” is “misleading and ironic,” seeing as he is often part of the majority in those successful votes. Kelly and Wolk “often provided their differing, fact-based opinions, but have been constantly ridiculed and outnumbered 3-2.” Most notably, they wrote, “Differences of opinion are not a form of obstruction. They are essential for good government and fair representation of the change South Whitehall citizens voted for in 2019.”

Did Matthew Mobilio, the self-aggrandizing attorney who has gone on a high-profile offense in the media against the Lehigh County District Attorney and filed a federal lawsuit against local police departments, resign from an elected position because he was frustrated with discussions about South Whitehall’s withdrawal of financial support for porta-potties for youth sports and details about meeting minutes? Does this seem like a plausible reason? Would he quit after serving less than a third of his term just to help his friend get re-elected after she has served on the board for the last 13 years??

I suspect there is more to this than meets the eye. What do you think?

Blogger's Note: I thank Brad for his perspective. He and blogger Michael Molovinsky both hail from South Whitehall.  Molovinsky notes that Mad Matty Mobilio gave an "overly long resignation speech" in which he blamed everyone and everything but himself.