Sunday, January 31, 2021

Nazareth Police Seek Information in Rare Saturday Night Shooting

Naseer Gray

Nazareth Police are seeking information concerning a rare Saturday night shooting. At approximately 7 pm, police were called to the 100 block of South Cedar Street, and found Naseer Gray, age 26, with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was transported to St. Luke's Hospital and is currently in intensive care, although his condition is stable.

Anyone who has information concerning this shooting is being asked to call Det. SGT Pompei at 610-759-9575. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can call the anonymous tip line at 610-759-3216. 

Gray, incidentally, has a criminal history for theft and drugs. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Susie Hutnik to Seek Judge Taschner's Vacant Seat

Susie Hutnik
I cannot begin to tell you how much I respect Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner. Before she ascended into the judicial heavens (lower ring), she was a front-line prosecutor in the Northampton County DA's office. I spoke to her once about a man who had been accused of beating his wife. There was a group picketing outside the courthouse, demanding that he be hung, drawn and quartered. I asked her what she intended to do. "I'm a prosecutor, not a persecutor," was her laconic reply. She followed the law, not a lynch mob. 

She brought that attitude with her when she became a Magisterial District Judge in Palmer Tp. Tough, but fair. I was really sorry to learn recently that she intends to retire. She will be sorely missed.  

Fortunately for us, there's an excellent candidate waiting in the wings to succeed her. Susie Hutnik. 

Hutnik is a lifelong resident of the Easton area. She's a graduate of Easton Area High School, after which she earned a B.A. at Syracuse and her law degree at Seton Hall. After serving a clerkship for Judge Jim Hogan, she began her career in private practice. This made her familiar with landlord and tenant disputes and the types of civil matters considered by a magisterial district judge. 

For the past 23 years, she's been a full-time public defender. She has represented hundreds of criminal defendants, including those facing the death penalty.  In addition, she is a recipient of the bar association's pro bono award for her work in representing people of limited financial means. 

I can personally attest to her work ethic over the years. She cares about the people she represents. She has even garnered the respect of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and the County Judges. In fact, Richard Pepper, First Assistant District Attorney for Northampton County remarks: “As a veteran litigator, appearing regularly before our magistrate judges and our trial judges, Susan Hutnik understands our Courts and the cases that come before our Judges. I am confident and the voters can trust that Susan will serve them with the highest standards of integrity and competency.”

Even though Pepper said it, it's true. He's occasionally right. 

She's married to Bob Patterson, and together they are raising two amazing boys. Perhaps I should call them young men.  She has faithfully chronicled their antics on Facebook over the years, and one of my guilty pleasures has been watching them grow up. 

She's a great lawyer, a great mom and will be a great judge.  

Van Scott, a Former CO and Cop, Seeks Judge Maura's Vacant Seat

We were all saddened by the unexpected death of Magisterial District Judge Wayne Maura in November. Amy Zanelli, who has yet to complete one term as a Lehigh County Commissioner, was quick to announce her candidacy for the open seat. Fortunately, there's another option. This one is an Army veteran, a former corrections officer and a former Bethlehem City police officer. His name is Van Scott. 

A life-long resident of Bethlehem, Scott has a degree in criminology from DeSales and a Master's from St. Joe's. 

As a Bethlehem cop, Scott rose through the ranks to become a Detective Sergeant. He served as a school resource officer at both Liberty High  School and at East Hills Middle School. He was also the drug elimination officer at the Bethlehem Housing Authority. 

Scott currently teaches at both DeSales and the Career Institute of Technology. He also volunteers at Northeast Ministries, Bethlehem Boys and Girls Club, Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity, Pennsylvania State Police Troop M Cadet Camp, City of Bethlehem Junior Police Academy and the City of Bethlehem Citizens Academy.

Scott vowed to bring a principle that is often missing from courtrooms manned by opportunistic politicians and lawyers - common sense. 

Scott, a Democrat, will cross-file. 


Allentown's Warming Station Expanded

For those of us living from gig to gig, or paycheck to paycheck, the prospect of homelessness is very real. At this time of the year, when temperatures plummet and winds soar, it's also very dangerous. So Allentown's Warming Station, run by the local YMCA, is quite literally a life saver. 

This year, the Warming Station has been expanded inside of a small gym so that social distancing can be practiced. There is still room for 70 beds. 

In addition to the Warming Station, the Y offers meals to its guests from Tuesdays through Friday. 

The Station will be open this year until April 30. 


Funds for this project come from several sponsors.  They include City Center Investment Corp.'s J.B. Reilly. His NIZ project might be controversial, but his willingness to help provide shelter to those with no means should be lauded. His corporation has committed $50,000 over five years to this station as part of its "Building Community" initiative. Instead of patting himself on the back, as he really has every right to do, Reilly thanked the Greater LV YMCA for its commitment to the least among us. 

Reilly, incidentally, is an avid basketball fan. He can often be spotted in the stands at local high schools. I'm sure it breaks his heart to see a beautiful basketball gym taken out of use. But this is for the best of reasons. 

By the way, we all could be J.B. Reilly. The Y has a Warming Station’s Amazon Wish List at gvymca.org/community.

I think I'll set up one of those for me as I  write from my underground lair. 

Blogger's Note: The photos were supplied by the Y, but come courtesy of City Center Investment Corp. LLC. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Updated: Ass't Public Defender to Seek Magistrate's Spot in South Bethlehem

Attorney and Assistant Public Defender Jordan A. Knisley has announced her candidacy for Magisterial District Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez' seat in South Bethlehem. Judge Gonzalez has previously announced she's stepping down. Another Assistant Public Defender, Tony Rybak,is also running. 

Born and raised in Southside Bethlehem, Knisley attended Fountain Hill Elementary School, Broughal Middle School and Liberty High School. She graduated from the University of Delaware in 2012 and obtained her law degree Villanova University School of Law in 2015. After graduation she returned to Bethlehem and continues to live on the Southside.

While in law school, Jordan worked as a certified legal intern for the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office, preparing legal briefs, conducting hearings and interviewing crime victims. Upon earning her law degree, she served as a judicial law clerk in Northampton County for the Honorable Emil Giordano for two years. During her tenure as a judicial law clerk, she assisted the judge with trial duties in numerous complex civil trials and multiple felony jury trials, including a capital homicide. In this role, Jordan helped write numerous judicial opinions. 

In July 2017, Jordan joined the part-time staff of the Northampton County Public Defenders’ Office. She is also the Managing Attorney of Northampton County’s Recovery Court, a program which redirects non‐violent offenders from incarceration to treatment and education. Participants in the program are required to abstain from substance use and to be accountable for their behavior while fulfilling their legal obligations. 

In addition to these  responsibilities, Jordan has been an Associate at the Law Offices of Harold J.J. DeWalt, Jr. in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, since August, 2017. In her private practice Jordan represents criminal defendants, custody and divorce litigants, plaintiffs and defendants in contract and landlord-tenant disputes, and victims of personal injury accidents, such as motor vehicle collisions and slips and falls. 

Knisley believes her Southside Bethlehem roots, her broad legal knowledge and experience and her dedication to equal justice for all, are what make her the logical choice as Judge Gonzalez' successor. 

(Blogger's Note: Updated 6:45 pm to include a photo.) 

Looking For a Covid-19 Vaccine?

Just yesterday, I complained about the spotty information out there concerning a Covid-19 vaccine. A Facebook page, Lehigh Valley COVID Vaccine Info, is attempting to fill the void with information on different places. 

Bill McGee to Seek Re-Election to NorCo Council

Northampton County Council member Bill McGee is the first of Council's four at-large Democrats to formally announce he's seeking re-election. Elected in 2016, he's finishing his first term and is Council's Vice President.

There are five at-large seats on Northampton County Council, meaning these officials are elected country-wide. One seat is held by Republican Peg Ferraro, who is in her last year as an elected official. The remaining four seats are held by McGee and fellow Democrats Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo-Heffner and Tara Zrinski. 

It is believed all four of the incumbent Democrats will seek re-election. Ron Heckman informally announced on Facebook yesterday, and Zrinski has asked her Facebook friends for suggestions on a campaign logo. Vargo-Heffner has said nothing yet, but it is clear that she wanted to become President to raise her visibility. 

McGee is the business manager for the asbestos union. He introduced a responsible contractor ordinance in his first term, and it withstood a legal challenge in federal court. 

He's made a few mistakes, such as when he attempted to punish a group of career service probation officers by trying to deny them a payhike after they decertified a union. But there have been no tax hikes during his tenure, and I expect to see all incumbents benefit from the CARES Act grants to small businesses, even though no county money was involved.  

Though Northampton County is increasingly becoming Republican, I expect McGee to win if only because he is willing to spend the money it takes. That was his recipe for success in the last race.     

Is There a Bluebird in Your Heart?

Northampton County Parks & Recreation and Friends of Minsi Lake are seeking volunteers to help monitor nesting boxes along the Bluebird Trail in the Minsi Lake Greenway. 

As a Bluebird Nest Box Monitors will visit nesting boxes once a week between March and August, complete a brief survey form at each one and remove unwanted occupants like paper wasps and mouse nests. I don't know this job requires you to sit on any eggs. 

If there's a bluebird in your heart, contact Jim Wilson, Recreation Specialist at jwilson@northamptoncounty.org or by phone at 610.829.6404. Please leave your name and contact info.

"There's a bluebird in my heart
that wants to get out but I'm too tough
I say: 'Stay in there
I'm not going to let anyone see.'" - Charles Bukowski



Mezzacappa to Give Up Constable Job

In a major blow to law and order devotees everywhere, Constable (and criminal defendant) Tricia Mezzacappa has decided against seeking re-election to a post she won in an overwhelming landslide of 11 write-in votes four years ago.  Although no judge would hire her to serve papers, she did keep herself busy threatening to arrest residents. 

Here's how she, in CAPS LOCK, explains her decision: 

"PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: TO ALL WEST EASTON RESIDENTS , I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO SEEK RE-ELECTION AS BOROUGH CONSTABLE. EVEN THOUGH I CONTINUE TO BELIEVE OUR VERY SMALL BOROUGH IS BEST SERVED BY ELECTED CONSTABLES TO HANDLE THE MANY CIVIL DISPUTES AND ISSUES, I HAVE BEEN RELENTLESSLY AND HARMFULLY EMBATTLED, BATTERED (VIOLENTLY AND VERBALLY...YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) , AND ADDITIONALLY........., DEFAMED, LIBELED, SLANDERED , STALKED AND RIDICULED BY THE TWO MOST DISGUSTING BOROUGH COUNCIL LEADERS WEST EASTON HAS EVER ELECTED. (DEPAUL AND DEES) THEY WOULD RATHER BANKRUPT THE CITIZENS WITH ITS (NOW DEFUNDED) POLICE DEPARTMENT , THAN ACCEPT FREE SERVICES FROM ME. I ALSO OFFERED TO APPOINT OTHER DEPUTY CONSTABLES TO SERVE , SO THE BOROUGH COULD SAVE MONEY AND STOP PAYING ITS ENGINEER TO ANSWER CIVIL COMPLAINTS, BUT ONCE AGAIN IT FELL ON DEAF EARS. WE NEED TO VOTE OUT BOTH OF THESE CLOWNS WHEN THEY ARE SURE TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION. NEITHER ONE CARES ABOUT ANY CITIZEN, BUT ARE ELECTED FOR THEIR OWN SELF DEALING, SELF AGGRANDIZING , NARCISSISTIC AND INCOMPETENT REPRESENTATION. THEY BELONG IN JAIL."

Maybe she should write her memoirs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

In Search of Covid-19 Vaccine

While Pennsylvania has done a remarkable job of shutting down businesses and enforcing its closures, it has pretty much sucked in every other response it has made to the pandemic. The state has made no coordinated effort to vaccinate the right people. It instead is relying on local hospitals and drug stores. As a result, people who should not be vaccinated at this point are getting their injections and bragging about them. People who should be vaccinated are unable to even get an appointment. I know because I happen to be one of them.  

I would think that Governor Wolf would spend at least as much effort in making sure people are vaccinated as he did in enforcing his lockdowns. 

LWV to Host Workshop for Local Candidates

On February 16, those who plan to run for local office can begin circulating nomination petitions. There's very little time to do so. They must be returned to the elections office no later than March 9, even though both Winter and a pandemic still rage. What's more, candidates are required to complete something known as a Statement of Financial Interests. This must be included with the nomination petition, but must also be filed with the Clerk of the municipality in which office is sought. This technicality has been the death knell to many local candidates over the years. That's why those among you who are interested in running for office would benefit immensely from the League of Women Voter's "Running for Local Office" Workshop on Saturday, January 30, 2021 between 8:30 AM-12:30 PM

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In years past, these events always required political hopefuls to haul ass out of bed at an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning, only to get lost at the community collegfe. But inone small consolation provided by Covid-19, this year's workshop will be virtual. It will be conducted on Zoom.

TYhe only downside to this event is that LWV is charging $45. That's chump change to many politicians, but it also is as deterrent to people with very limited finances. This workship should be free, with a donation requested.

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You can register here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

McClure Enters Exec Race With $164,000 Cash On Hand

 

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, who is seeking re-election, is entering the campaign with a formidable campaign warchest. According to his latest campaign finance report, he enters the contest with $164,551.00. I am unaware of any Executive candidate who has entered an election cycle with that amount of money on hand. 

I'd agree completely with those who say money is evil. Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil. You're unable to win a contest for most offices for most offices without it. 

This report, filed early, is in itself a message to anyone considering a challenge, whether in the primary or general election.

McClure has the means to inform the public why they should retain him. He also has the means to expose the weaknesses in any would-be challenger.   

The Tweeter Who Would Be LC Exec

For many years, I had a very high opinion of Dean Browning. He was a level-headed conservative. It is he who suggested that Chair and Vice Cair of Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners should be from both parties. He has been portrayed as a profile in courage when, as a Lehigh County Commissioner, he bucked his party to vote for a 16% tax hike. After that unpopular vote, he lost his seat. Since then, he's lost two Congressional bids, a race for Lehigh County Exec and an attempt to reclaim his seat as a Comm'r. And something has snapped inside of him. A man who has always been careful by nature has thrown caution to the wind in what increasingly appears to be a quixotic quest for public office. Now he appears to live on Twitter, where he tweets about once every five minutes. He's rumored to be interested in running (again) for Lehigh County Executive against Phil Grandpa" Armstrong. What he fails to realize is that he's been his own worst enemy. His tweets have done him in. 

Back in November, he tweeted that he is a "black gay guy" in some twitter tiff over the relative merits of Trump and Obama. He later claimed that he was quoting some black gay guy, but it sure looks like he got caught using a sock puppet to buttress an argument he was making under his own name. This does raise questions about his honesty. 

As bad as that his, his tweet about Stacey Abrams, who lost a close race for Georgia Governor in 2018, is far more disturbing. Abrams is black and appears to be overweight. So in December, Dean tweets this: 

Stacey Abrams will be at the Waffle House today.

She’s not registering people to vote.

Just eating some waffles.

My own take is that Browning was making a racist Aunt Jermima comparison. Maybe not, but he was certainly poking at her weight. 

Now he's in some sort of twitter storm with none other than actor and comedian Seth Rogen. After incorrectly claiming Rogen resides in Canada ( he lives here and is a US Citizen), he just devolved into petty name-calling with someone all-too-willing to roll around in the gutter. 

Dean thinks he can insult his way into Lehigh County's top spot. 

That trick worked once. I doubt it will work again. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

This Year's Election Dates

 First day to circulate and file nomination petitions … ..............................................February 16 

Last day to circulate and file nomination petitions ...................................................March 9 

First day to circulate and file nomination papers.......................................................March 10 

Last day to file objections to nomination petitions…………………………………March 16 

Last day for withdrawal by candidates who filed nomination petitions....................March 24 

Last day to REGISTER before the primary...............................................................May 3 

Last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot.........................................May 11 

Last day for County Board of Elections to receive voted mail-in and civilian absentee ballots (must be received by 8:00 P.M.) .....................................................May 18 

MUNICIPAL PRIMARY ..........................................................................................May 18 

First day to REGISTER after primary .......................................................................May 19 

Last day for County Board of Elections to receive voted military and overseas absentee ballots (submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 P.M. on May 17).......................................................................May 25 

Last day to circulate and file nomination papers.......................................................August 2 

Last day to file objections to nomination papers……………………………………August 9 

Last day for withdrawal by candidates nominated by nomination papers.................August 9

Last day for withdrawal by candidates nominated at the primary .............................August 9 

Last day to REGISTER before the November election.............................................October 18 

Last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot.........................................October 26 

Last day for County Boards of Elections to receive voted mail-in and civilian absentee ballots (must be received by 8:00 P.M.) .....................................................November 2 

MUNICIPAL ELECTION......................................................................................November 2 

First day to REGISTER after November election .....................................................November 3 

Last day for County Board of Elections to receive voted military and overseas absentee ballots (submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 P.M. on November 1) .............................November 9

Would You Like to Do Some Blogging?

This year's municipal races will attract far fewer attention (and votes) than the Presidential election we just endured. But it is arguably far more important. What your local elected officials do in office has much more of an impact on your daily lives than whatever Congress and the President do. Are the roads being maintained? Do 911 dispatchers answer your emergency calls? Are police or firefighters around when you need them? Are you being taxed to death? Is anyone out there doing any thing about warehouse proliferation or the increased truck traffic?  These issues matter. Yet turnout in municipal races drop dramatically after a Presidential race.  The result is elected officials, often bad, who have received insufficient scrutiny. Compounding that problem is a local press that no longer has the manpower to pay attention to local races. 

In my blog coverage, I usually focus only on a few races where I have an adequate  understanding of the issues and candidates. These would primarily be in Northampton County, Bethlehem and Allentown.  That leaves numerous races uncovered. Also, I write from my own perspective on things. Though I always try to be factually accurate, I am biased. It would be refreshing to both my readers and myself to see stories, especially about upcoming elections, from others. 

If you have such an interest, please email me at BOHare5948@aol.com. 

I want persons who can provide their identity and who can blog about specific races or communities with honesty and clarity. I'm especially interested in those who find my views insufferable.  

I am aware we have a few local bloggers besides myself who certainly have their own perspective. At a time when local news is becoming extinct, we need more.  

Friday, January 22, 2021

Easton State's Theatre Muddling Through Pandemic

Easton State Theatre's Shelly Brown was at Northampton County Council last night to thank them and numerous other public and private sponsors who have helped them stay afloat since the pandemic first hit. The facility has been closed since March. Brown is hopeful that shows can resume in June. She explained the theatre is essentially a "road house" for touring artists, who generally need months to prepare. She indicated it was necessary to furlough staff members, which for her was a first. 

Council also heard from Easton resident Linda Smith, who lives near the jail on South 6th Street. She complained she received no notice when the county recently demolished two vacant homes for a parking lot near the jail. She expressed concern that the county is looking to expand. 

Executive Lamont McClure responded that the jail is at half capacity and there are no plans to expand. He explained that no notifications are needed when no zoning changes are sought , but apologized and vowed to do a better job communicating with the jail's neighbors.

In his report, McClure noted that the county just acquired the land for its 20th park, and now has 3.451 acres in parks and open space. He indicated his focus is on parks acquisition, as opposed to develop. He reasons this is the best way the county can combat warehouse proliferation. 

In other good news, he noted the county just received $9.1 million from the federal government to help struggling homeowners and tenants. In addition, it is distributing tablets to senior centers for 90-day loans. 

In bad news, he noted there are now 477 Covid-related deaths in Northampton County. a"Our worst days are ahead of us," he predicts. His estimation is based on the 20.3% positivity rate at the county's testing center, compared to 3% when it first opened. 

Hopefully, McClure is wrong. According to numbers cruncher Steve Thode,the 7-Day New COVID Case Rate in the Lehigh Valley has dropped to its lowest level since December 3. Moreover, after a slow sart, the number of people receiving vaccines is steadily increasing.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Fear-Mongering From the Left

One of the things I most despised about Donald Trump was his fear-mongering. Now his opponents are doing it, too. Unspecified fears of a supposed bloody revolution turned the nation's capital, democracy's front door, into a war zone for Joe Biden's inauguration as President yesterday. Though I'm unaware of any plans by the bugaloos to invade Northampton County Courthouse, the seat of county government is on full alert all week. In addition to conducting administrative searches of everyone who enters, barriers have been mounted along the Washington Street side, where the handicapped and old farts usually park. This strikes me as overkill, but I have no issue with temporary measures designed to assure everyone's safety. What I do have a problem with is dehumanizing people whose views might differ from mine, even if those views are repugnant. 

Bill Leiner is a former Lehigh County Comm'r who's also a far-left partisan Democrast. He apparently considers himself the King of Coplay. He sent out this "safety tip" to his subjects yesterday:

You have been seeing in the major and local news outlets the terms "Insurrection and Sedition."

Insurrection is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government."

Sedition is defined, by the same source, as "conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state."

An example of Insurrection are the events that occurred at our nation's capital 1/6/21. An example of sedition is the rally that occurred just prior to the Insurrection that immediately followed the rally.

This behavior is not confined to Washington DC.

If you are aware of anyone engaging in sedition toward insurrection please contact your police, mayor, and county district attorney's office.

It is important that we all support our democracy, and stamp out authoritarianism, and fascism.

First, the elements of federal crimes like those Leiner describes are contained in the United States Code, not Merriam-Webster. Second, he is fear-mongering. He is attempting to scare people into ratting out neighbors and friends who have no intention of doing anything. At a time when President Biden is calling for unity, he is sowing seeds of distrust and division. 

Fear-mongering comes from both sides, the right and the left. It needs to stop. 

Dana Grubb to Run For Bethlehem Mayor

Dana Grubb, a lifelong Bethlehem resident and former City administrator, is running for Mayor. He will announce his candidacy on Wednesday, January 27, 11 AM, at the Steel Ice Center, 320 East First Street on the South Side. All persons at the event must be masked; social distancing will be required.

I first met Dana about 20 years ago. For reasons I'm unable to explain, he liked me. So he's obviously a poor judge of character.

If you've ever attended a City Council meeting, you've probably seen him. He's something of a regular speaker. Like many who sit in the peanut gallery with him, he usually makes more sense than the persons behind the dais. He cares about the City deeply.

Grubb served as the city’s Grants Administrator and Deputy Director of Community Development. He was canned by Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan after a shoving match with another staffer. Because of that, he is routinely smeared on this blog. My own impression is that he is one of the most calm and tolerant persons I've ever encountered.

Dana still works quite hard as an events photographer at Wind Creek and for The Bethlehem Press, where I sometimes freelance. From numerous conversation I've had with him over the years, I believe he's motivated by what he thinks is best for Bethlehem, not himself. This would be the capstone to his career, not a springboard for something else.

At his announcement, he is expected to "lay out the key tenets of his candidacy and reveal some of the principles by which he intends to govern."

I hope so. I know for a fact that he thinks it was ridiculous to raise taxes in the middle of a pandemic. As bad as that is, he thinks it was even more absurd to dump four firefighters.

Willie Reynolds, who sits on City Council, has announced. Bryan Callahan is being cagy. Joe Kelly is supposedly considering a bid, but he's too lazy. Nancy Matos-Gonzales might give it a go, according to some comments I received here. If she does, she must step down as a mini-judge before she announces.

Sadly, no Republican is running. Bethlehem, though Democratic, has been known to vote several Republicans into office as mayor. This is a missed opportunity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

NoCo Courthouse Takes Precautions Against Rebellion

Although I'm unaware of any plan to storm NorCo Courthouse by the boogaloos, everyone who enters the building is being searched all week, including employees. I've also noticed that parking has been banned along S 7th Street. 

I understand it's better to be safe than sorry, but a police state threatens democracy a lot more than Donald Trump. 

These unannounced security measures are temporary. My only concern is that temporary deprivations of freedom have a nasty habit of becoming permanent. 

Trump's Last Full Day Includes Stinging Rebuke from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Tuesday was Donald Trump's last full day as President of the United States. On that day, his average approval rating stood at 38.5%. Among past presidents going back to Harry Truman, only Jimmy Carter left office in less regard. According to Gallup, a majority of Americans think he will be remembered as a "poor" or "below average" president. While it's far too early to make that kind of assessment, what floored me is the stinging rebuke Trump received yesterday (you can see it above) from one of his top lieutenants, delivered from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has always been blunt, laid Trump out about the violence at the Capital last week. "The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. They tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like. But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night."

Democrats will say this reprimand is too little, too late. Trump's supporters are already accusing McConnell of treason. 

Personally, I am grateful for his remarks. As he himself observes, "Our marching orders for the American people are clear. We're to have a robust discussion and seek common ground. We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can, and check and balance one another respectfully where we must. And through all of this, we must always keep in mind that we're all Americans, we all love this country and we're all in this together."

McConnell's conciliatory remarks starkly differ from those he made when Barack Obama was in office. My hope is that he means it. 

President Joe Biden takes office today facing numerous crises. Now is a good time to come together and ignore the extremists, whether they are Lauren Bobert on the right or AOC on the left. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Jaywalking While Black

From Governing " Studies in a number of states have shown that when a pedestrian does get a ticket for crossing in the wrong place, it is disproportionately likely to be a person of color. This is not a small disproportion. A study in 2019 in New York City found that Blacks and Hispanics had been getting 90 percent of the tickets for "illegal or unsafe" crossing, even though they comprised just a bare majority of the city's population. Earlier research in Florida reported that minorities in Jacksonville received three times as many pedestrian tickets as white people did."

This is just more evidence of the subtle bias that exists against persons of color. 

Only 13 Black Republicans in State Legislatures

Pennsylvania's General Assembly consists of 253 members, including 50 senators and 203 state representatives. Of that number, 25 are black. Pennsylvania's population is about 12% black, meaning that blacks are slightly underrepresented in the state legislature. Interestingly, all 25 black legislators are Democrats. Nationwide, only 13 black state legislators are Republican. 

Thode: 75% of Pa.'s LTCF Residents Have Contracted Covid-19

I want to take a moment to thank Steve Thode, who has been tracking the pandemic numbers, bad and good, since the inception of this public health crisis. Here's his latest observation. 

"As of today, there have been 10,022 deaths among residents of Long-Term Care Facilities in PA. And, there have been almost 60,000 positive cases among LTCF [long term care facility] residents.

"Based on an estimated Pre-COVID LTCF resident population of 80,000, that means almost 3 in 4 LTCF residents has tested positive, and, more than 1 in 6 LTCF residents who have tested positive have died."

Monday, January 18, 2021

Pardon Me?

The President's authority to grant pardons is specifically set forth in the U.S. Constitution as follows: "[H]e shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." It has been construed broadly, applying even to cases in which no charges have been filed. The most notable example, of course, is President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Whether a President may pardon himself for his own crimes is unclear. Also, the pardon power, by its own language, has no application to state offences. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has made a mockery of even this admittedly broad power.  He has granted far fewer pardons (94) than Barack Obama (1,927) before him. But Trump has used his power to reward political allies, including corrupt politicians. He has ignored Department of Justice policy, opening the door to influence peddlers who are collecting large fees. 

In one instance, a Rudy Giuliani associate is alleged to have demanded a $2 million fee for securing a pardon, although Giuliani has denied this claim. 

On Wednesday, Trump is expected to release his final list of pardons. It could extend to Steve Bannon, who is among those who promoted the often debunked notion that Trump lost the Presidential election as a result of voter fraud. It could also include Rudy Giuliani, his children and himself.  

So much for draining the swamp. 


Grandpa Armstrong at Lehigh Valley Zoo

Nationally and statewide, we've been going to hell in a handbag in recent days. At such a depressing time, it was nice to see Lehigh County Exec Phil "Grandpa" Armstrong's latest update. In the aftermath of an assault on our democracy incited by no less a figure than President Donald Trump himself, Armstrong took a trip to the Lehigh Valley Zoo. He introduced us to two giraffes who live at the zoo. 

Right now, they're inside because of the cold weather. You can visit them from Wednesday thru Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. Grandpa also suggested people might want to roam the 2,000-acre preserve as well. 

It will also be open today for MLK Day. 

Armstrong vows to return with more Lehigh County attractions. 

Here in NorCo, the closest thing we have to a zoo is the courthouse. There are no giraffes, but many unusual species visit. These include an endangered species known as the bottom-feeding blogger (L. imo blogger-pascens)

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Friday, January 15, 2021

81% of Gracedale's Residents Vaccinated

According to NorCo Executive Lamont McClure, 81% of Gracedale's residents have now been vaccinated for Covid-19. Unfortunately, and despite a $750 cash incentive, only 42% of the nursing home workforce has been inoculated. The vaccine only has emergency use authorization, and county lawyers have advised that no one should be forced to immunize.

Below is the CDC guidance on the benefits of a vaccine:

All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Learn more about the different COVID-19 vaccines.

All COVID-19 vaccines that are in development are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized or approved only if they make it substantially less likely you’ll get COVID-19. Learn more about how federal partners are ensuring COVID-19 vaccines work.

Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

As most of you know, I'm a miserable bastard. Mean as cat shit. When I walk into a room, people walk out. As well they should. I had a momentary lapse of kindness yesterday. Now I am paying a price. 

I was on my way to the bank to deposit money I didn't deserve. I spotted an man, flat on his back, in the parking lot at Patient First. He was flopping like a fish out of water with a cane next to him, and appeared to have trouble getting up. 

"Are you OK?" I shouted, half expecting he would tell me to mind my own business. His reply, however, was unintelligible. 

I pulled into the parking lot, got out and approached. This fellow was able to speak English, but barely. Turned out he had fallen and was unable to get up. He had been with his nephew at Patient First but his nephew had to leave because he was late for work. 

I helped this guy to his feet. After all, I'm a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete. 

But not as much as I thought. Just as I got this guy up, he began twisting. This in turn caused me to pull my lower back. The old fart went down again and this time I went down with him. 

I got back on my feet and, fortunately, was able to enlist help from a visitor at Patient First to get this guy on his feet. We walked him a few feet to some concrete wall, where he said he'd wait for a cab. He asked me to call. 

I called the cab company, which wondered how they'd get this guy into a cab. I had no idea. I told them I'd call them back when done at the bank. 

I did my banking and returned to Patient First. The elderly guy was gone. I called the cab company. They did not have him. My guess is that someone from his family must have come for him. 

As for me, I could barely walk the rest of the day. I was being punished for acting out of character. But I just insulted a few readers and am starting to feel better. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Trump Impeachment Most BiPartisan in US History

Ten Republican members of the House voted to impeach Donald Trump yesterday. Given that there are 211 Republicans, that's less than 5%. But it is still the most bipartisan impeachment of a U.S. President in history. 

Trump Unequivocally Condemns Mob Violence and Vandalism in His Movement

It's an excellent speech, delivered about a week later than it should have been. Better late than never. I hope it deters any violence in the protests planned this weekend and next week. Hopefully, it means the next few days will be peaceful.

NorCo GOP Needs to Remove Snover

Not long ago, NorCo GOP boss Gloria Lee Snover left Facebook for Parler, where death threats are treated like jokes.  So much so that Apple and Google both refused to permit downloads of the app. As a result, Parler has gone dark. That might be permanent, too. 

Snover attended last week's attempted coup at the capitol. I have no idea whether she participated in storming past the barriers, or whether she was among those smearing her feces on the walls or taking down the American flag to replace it with one of Trump. I doubt she'd do that, but the crowd she was with did.  I do know that in a radio interview with WLVR, she attempted to minimize what had happened (it includes the murder of a police officer) while adding she had as much right to be inside the halls of Congress as VP Mike Pence. 

Before Parler went dark, I was following her. She's not just angry about Trump. She's also angry that outfits like Twitter and Facebook no longer tolerate incitements to violence. "maybe satellites need to come down," she suggests. She also hates most of the Republicans in her own party for failing to ray at his aqltar like she does.

Until her party denounces and removes her, I see no reason why anyone should support a Northampton County Republican. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Absurdity of Metal Detectors Aimed at Congress Members

In reaction to the atrocities that occurred exactly one week ago, when a rabble breached both houses of Congress, it makes sense that security would be ramped up. But one of the most idiotic responses has been metal detectors aimed at members of the House of Representatives themselves.  

I doubt this has anything to do with security. How do metal detectors for House members prevent Proud Boys from storming the capitol? This is understandable for the public, but not House members. There is little doubt in my mind that this is really is intended as a partisan slap across the faces of a few GOP Congress members who insist on carrying guns everywhere like a blankie. I personally think that's silly, but have no issue with those who want their blankie. This kind of partisan slap is the kind of thing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does, and is completely contrary to Joe Biden's desire to bring us together.  

One change that does make sense is the mask requirement. House members who fail to don a mask when entering the floor are subject to a $500 fine. During last week's lockdown, House members who refuse to wear masks were sharing confined space with those who do.  Three House members have since tested positive for Covid-19. 

Mini-Manwaring Thumbs Nose at Controller

Roy Manwaring is a Magisterial District Judge in Bethlehem. I wrote about two years ago. after he improperly assessed court costs against a Defendant he had just found "not guilty" of overtime parking.  Guess he never heard of the presumption of innocence.  He actually refused to let his prey escape from his mini-courtroom until those costs were paid. Unfortunately for the mini-judge,  the big one found out. President Judge Michael Koury ordered Manwaring to return the money and he did. He even apologized. So he's not a complete asshole. But Mini-Manwaring is regressing. This time, instead of arguing with innocent Defendants, he's fighting with the Northampton County Controller's office. Let me fill you in. 

Northampton County's Controller's Office, currently headed by Tony Bassil, is pretty busy. It audits every department in the county that handles money. This includes mini-judges. After all, they (and the people who work for them) can steal, too. They handle a lot of cash payments. I've never seen even a hint of dishonesty in all those offices, but if there was, an audit would eventually catch it. 

In addition to ruling out theft, these audits take a look at ongoing practices that might invite fraud.  In auditese, these are called "internal controls." 

Late last year, the Controller's office audited Mini-Manwaring. Staff Auditor Stacy Duke discovered that constables had key access into the secretarial area, which could give them unsupervised access to cash, financial records. She added this weakness existed in a previous auidit, and violates an internal control memo issued by Deputy Court Administrator on November 11, 2012. That memo bans constables, police officers and members of the public from the secretarial area. This is to deter access to cash records, cash and financial records. 

You might think Mini-Manwaring would be thankful for this observation. Nope. He disagerees. He thinks constables "constables should have 'key access' to the secretarial area."

"I believe this issue rests within the sound discretion of the Magisterial District Judge who was elected to manage and run the court," he continues. I see. He's the plaintiff and judge in his own casuse. Maybe you won't be elected next time. People get queasy about a combination of arrogance and financial foolhardiness. Manwaring is thumbinmg his nose at the Controller and even the Deputy Court Administrator. Whether he likes it ornot, he is required to follow directives from the Court Administrator. But a judge who assesses costs against innocent people obviously has liilte regard for trivial details.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Would You Vote to Impeach Trump?

Below is the text of the Congressional resolution to impeach Donald Trump, which will be introduced Wednesday. It's unlikely the Senate will be able to act on it before Joe Biden is sworn in as President. Although Trump's conduct leading up to the attempted Congressional coup last week clearly demonstrates he is unfit for office, won't this matter be moot by the time it reaches the Senate? Doesn't it make more sense for the House to do all it can now to ensure that what happened last week never happens again? Shouldn't we first ensure the capitol is safe when Joe Biden is inaugurated? If Trump broke the law, as I believe he did, shouldn't Congress allow federal prosecutors to conduct a thorough investigation and file the correct charges? Sure, he can pardon himself, but I doubt that will hold because he is unable to be a judge in his own case. What do you think and why?

Impeachment Resolution by BernieOHare

Monday, January 11, 2021

Jimmy the Badass

Dent: Instead of Chaos, GOP Should Represent Decency and Freedom

Congressman Charlie Dent is one of Trump's numerous casualties and is especially reviled by the more extreme elements within his own party. But in my view, he is perhaps the most effective leader I've ever covered. He warned us all about Trump and was ignored. Now, in an op-ed published in The Financial Times, he reminds Republicans that now is the time to reach across the aisle for the good of the nation.  

"Mr Trump cost the GOP the White House, the House of Representatives and now the Senate. Democrats control the levers of power by the slimmest of majorities. This represents an opportunity for the Republican party to not just block ill-considered Democratic policies but to engage in good faith bipartisan negotiations to reach agreements on cyber security, infrastructure, China and more. Incremental progress can be made in a closely-divided Congress."

"It is time to begin again if only to honour Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes. These Republican leaders left a legacy of decency and a commitment to the advancement of freedom. Let’s not squander that inheritance. The US needs a healthy GOP more than ever. Time to get to work."

Democrats in the House might wish to impeach Trump again, and perhaps they should. But I'm more interested in seeing this nation restore its good name abroad while working with Republicans to make needed changes to our tax system, healthcare and improve our decaying infrastucture. 

I'm also very concerned that Biden's inauguration is secure and that the Republicans who wish to hang Pence or trample ore disrupt our communications satellites, as GOP Chair Lee Snover has suggested on Parler, are kept at bay. 

Syrian Immigrant Seeks Seat on Allentown City Council

Allentown businessman Tino Babayan is a Syrian immigrant who has prospered in the Queen City. I've spoken to him at a few City Council meetings. I'm delighted to report he's decided to run for City Council. His daughter Jaylin explains, "[M]y dad's been someone for YEARS volunteering in the community and someone who has always been a helping hand for whoever needed it......he’s someone who will literally give you his own shirt off his back and be there for you every step of the way."

I know that in addition to his business interests, he has been active in youth sports. He has previously supported an increase in police foot patrols and rehabilitating vacant properties to provide affordable housing.

His Facebook page is here.  


Friday, January 08, 2021

Moments Before Insurrection, Trump Family Celebrating

DC Metro Seeks Your Help Identifying Insurrectionists

 Although Capital Police practically ushered in the insurrectionists at the Capital yesterday, DC Metro has been active. On Wednesday night, they arrested and processed 736 individuals for curfew violations, riot-related burglary, and other riot-related events. Of these, 26 were juveniles. More importantly, they are seeking the public's help in identifying persons of interest who engaged in the failed coup attempt. You can see some of the persons they are looking for here.

If you see someone you know, you can contact DC Metro at (202) 727-9099 or text your tip to the Department's TEXT TIP LINE at 50411. There's a reward of up to $1,000 for infdormation leading to the arrest of those involve.

Here's someone I recognize:


His words incited the very mob violence he now hypocritically condemns ...  after the damage is done.  

According to the Northampton County GOP Facebook page, several buses of Lehigh Valley residents descended on the capital on Wednesday. You may recognize someone. Party boss Lee Snover was there, and claimed she had as much right to be on the floors of Congress as VP Mike Pence. If she went past the barriers, she should be prosecuted.  

Covid-19 Vaccinations Under Way at Gracedale

Jennifer Stewart-King
Executive Lamont McClure told Northampton County Council at their January 7 meeting that vaccinations have begun at Gracedale. Thus far 144, of about 650 employees have been inoculated. McClure said he's concerned that only 22% of those who are eligible have participated. The County is paying $750 to every Gracedale worker who agrees to the injection. 

McClure added that the vaccine is being offered to residents, too. So far, 145 of about 530 residents have been vaccinated. There has been very little resistance from those who live at the home. 

Hazard pay for Gracedale workers terminated on December 31, and Council agreed to extend it. Thirty per cent will be paid to employees at Tower 10, where Covid-19 residents are located. Remaining employees will get 20% if they work extra shifts. 

Council member John Cusick said he supports hazard pay, but argued it should be time-limited. "Making this open-ended will put us in a bad spot," he observed. He suggested that hazard pay should expire on June 1. 

Council member Tara Zrinski asked whether the union was consulted, and Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King responded that this is a "management prerogative" and no consultation is needed. She added that there is $4 million in CARES Act  money available for "infection control," and this is how the hazard pay is funded. 

By a vote of 8-0, Council approved the hazard pay extension.

Council member Peg Ferraro was absent and participated in no votes. 

In other business, Council voted 8-0 to approve the appointment of Kathleen Wedge as Director of Human Resources, and at a salary of $96,094. 

Finally, Council voted 8-0 to approve a two-year contract extension with corrections officers. They will receive 2 1/2% in Year 1 and a step (about 5%) in Year 2. 

There is no separate source of funding for corrections officers or Juvenile Justice workers. 

    

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Trump's Assault on Democracy

 

Photo Credit : Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Regular readers of this blog know I'm no fan of Lehigh Valley Congress member Susan Wild. But I'm outraged to see how my elected Representative was treated by a mob incited by Donald Trump to mount a coup against our elected representatives in Congress yesterday, This is nothing short of sedition, and those involved must be prosecuted. 

One of them could include NorCo GOP Chair Gloria Lee Snover. In a chilling telephone interview, she told WLVR's Brad Klein, "Don't listen to the fake news, the fake media. ... The violence was small. It was isolated. ... Was it two people, I heard?"

Klein: "No, I think it's clear from the pictures that there are hundreds of protesters inside the capital building."

Snover: "Okay. I own as much of the capital building as VP Mike Pence does.

Klein: "Although probably storming the doors and forcing ...."

Snover: "Yeah, storming, but I'm just saying we have a right to be in the building." 

No, Lee, you don't have the right to barge onto the Senate or House floor and interfere with the people's business. And the Vice President, who presides over the Senate, has a duty to be there when called. 

Snover went on to say, "We want a new Republican party. We're never going back to the old Republican party. Never. We want a new party, a patriot party, out with the old Republicans." 

She added she refuses to accept the election results. "Donald Trump did not concede and will never concede. And we didn't lose. We won. "

In contrast to Snover, NorCo Exec Lamont McClure condemned the sedition. 

"The United States of America is the greatest experiment in self-government in human history. Nothing the domestic enemies of the nation did today changes that. Please join me in imploring all of our fellow citizens who are not domestic enemies of America to use these deplorable acts as impetus to recommit to those most magnificent of promises made in Philadelphia in 1787."

“ 'We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.' ”

Willie Reynolds Running for Bethlehem Mayor

Blogger's Note: Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donhez is finishing his second term as Mayor this year. He is term-limited and is unable to seek a third term in office.I am aware of several candidates who have expressed interest, but the first to announce is Bethlehem City Council member J. William "Willie" Reynolds. Below is his campaign's announcement.

BETHLEHEM, PA - City Councilman J. William Reynolds will kick off his campaign to be the next Mayor of Bethlehem at 4 PM on Wednesday January 6th with an announcement and speech on his vision for the future of the city. The announcement and follow-up question and answer session can be viewed on Facebook Live (www.facebook.com/jwilliamreynoldsbethlehem). The videos will be available after the announcement at www.jwilliamreynolds.org. 

“Bethlehem has always been a wonderful place to live but it is time for us to become something more. We need a clear vision for the future of our city that builds on our strengths and reimagines what our community can be. ” Reynolds said. 

During his time on City Council, Councilman Reynolds has - 

● Supported economic development and job creating initiatives that have led to Bethlehem’s strongest public and private financial position in decades. 

● Proposed and led the creation of Bethlehem’s first climate action plan. 

● Proposed and created Northside 2027 – a unique partnership and revitalization strategy for our neighborhoods involving citizens, small businesses, the Bethlehem Area School District, and Moravian College. 

● Created Bethlehem’s first open data effort to improve governmental transparency and access to public data in an effort to spur innovation and entrepreneurship. At his announcement, Reynolds will lay out his vision for the future of Bethlehem including attracting further increased private economic investment, prioritizing neighborhood revitalization and sustainability, implementation of the city’s climate action plan, and building a fair and equitable city. 

For more information on his campaign, please visit www.jwilliamreynolds.org

Lehigh County Solicitor Running For Judge

 

Blogger's Note: Another outstanding judicial candidate has sent an announcement prepared by his campaign,, which you can read below.

Tom Caffrey, the Lehigh County Solicitor, is seeking to fill one of the three judicial vacancies in Lehigh County. 

Caffrey, 59, was born and raised in Allentown’s working-class First Ward. After graduating from Allentown Central Catholic High School, the Pennsylvania State University, and the Dickinson School of Law, Caffrey started his legal career as an assistant solicitor in the Lehigh County Department of Law. 

In 1991, Caffrey was appointed to serve as the full-time Lehigh County Juvenile Master. He conducted delinquency hearings related to criminal conduct by juveniles and dependency hearings related to issues of parental neglect and child abuse, and earned a reputation for being tough but fair. Caffrey not only gained valuable judicial experience, but also significant insight into the underlying issues—poverty, parental neglect, drug abuse, and mental illness—that often lead to ongoing involvement in the criminal justice system. 

In 1998, Caffrey was appointed to serve as a prosecutor in the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office. He prosecuted defendants charged with felony criminal offenses such as burglary, aggravated assault, and robbery, and tried many of these cases to verdict. 

From 2001 through 2004, Caffrey headed the Children and Youth Services Legal Unit. Caffrey returned to the Department of Law in 2004, and litigated the County’s most significant federal civil rights cases, often representing the County’s corrections officers and law enforcement personnel. 

In May 2020, Caffrey was elevated to serve as the Lehigh County Solicitor. He now heads the Department of Law, which consists of ten attorneys, two paralegals, and the Right-to-Know Officer, and advises County officials on the wide array of legal matters impacting County government and its residents. 

Caffrey has also proudly worked in several capacities for the City of Allentown. He is currently the solicitor to the Police and Fire Civil Service Board, and in the past served as special solicitor to the Police Pension Board in disability pension matters and special solicitor to City Council in police officer termination cases. He also represented the City’s police officers in federal civil rights litigation. 

In his private practice, Caffrey has handled a wide variety of legal matters while working for local law firms and operating his own law practice, including family law, employment, criminal defense, land use and zoning, real estate, and wills and estates, and has significant civil litigation 2 experience. He currently serves as the solicitor to the zoning hearing boards in Moore, Lehigh and Plainfield Townships and Hellertown Borough. 

When asked why he is seeking a seat on the Lehigh County bench, Caffrey said, “I have dedicated my career to serving the people of Lehigh County, and I believe that I am well qualified to serve as a common pleas judge. I have valuable experience as a judicial official and more than 34 years of experience in both civil and criminal law. I have the academic ability and experience to handle complex legal matters, but also the common sense required to understand and deal with the wide variety of issues and problems that come before a common pleas judge on a daily basis. I will work hard, maintain an open mind, and treat all those who come before me fairly and with respect.” 

Caffrey has worked as an adjunct professor of sociology/criminal justice for Moravian College and served as a guest lecturer on federal civil rights and juvenile justice issues. Caffrey is married to Bobbi Jo Caffrey, who works as an optician for Dr. Binae Karpo. They live in Whitehall and are members of the Immaculate Conception Church in Allentown. Caffrey has three adult daughters, Kate, Kristen, and Lauren Angela, and an adult step-son, Scott. 

Caffrey has served as a volunteer at the Lehigh Valley Hospital and is a member of the Whitehall Area Rotary Club. 

Caffrey, a Republican, will cross file to appear on both parties’ ballots.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Lehigh County Comm'rs Take BiPartisan Approach

Geoff Brace
Like Northampton, Lehigh County's governing body, called the Board of Commissioners, reorganized on Monday. They elected Geoff Brace as Chair and Marc Grammes as Vice Chair. They manged to do two things in their brief reorganization that eluded Northampton.  

First, Lehigh took a bipartisan approach, electing a Democrat (Brace) and Republican (Grammes) as their leaders. Here's how Brace explains it: "For six of the 7 years I've served on the Board, I've served in the minority party, sometimes being treated as such. This will not be my approach in serving you. The work we have is too important. The people we serve are counting on us." He added that he'd like to see us rebuild "our region in a way that reflects our shared values, where Liberty and Justice for All are more than the concluding part of the pledge we say at the beginning of our meetings."

John Cusick, an experienced and knowledgeable Council member, was overlooked in favor of someone who has alienated both the courts and District Attorney. This is solely because he belongs to the wrong party. 

Second, Brace abstained from voting for himself, and was clear to note his abstention both before and after the vote. In contrast, Lori Vargo-Heffner was eager to vote for herself in what is at least a technical violation of the state Ethics Act. In 2016, when John Cusick attempted to vote for himself as Council President, then Solicitor Phil Lauer advised he should abstain or waive the extra pay. Cusick opted to waive the rather modest $500 extra paid to a Council President.   The state ethics commission has in the past ordered a borough council member who voted for himself as President to make a $500 payment to the borough even though his violation was unintentional. 

There is one area in which Northampton County seems better. Both meetings were virtual. Believe it or not, Northampton appears to have worked out most of the bugs to their zoom meetings. Lehigh still has work to do. 

Long-time Prosecutor Seeks Lehigh County Judgeship

Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen
There are three judicial vacancies to be filled this year in Lehigh County. Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen, a long-time and well-respected prosecutor with two decades of experience in both Northampton and Lehigh County, has announced her candidacy for one of these openings. 

“As a full-time Assistant District Attorney for the last 16 years – including nine years as Chief of Violent Crimes – I have worked hard to provide victims of crime and their families with a strong voice to ensure they receive the justice they deserve,” she said. “I will be a tough, but fair, judge who follows the law to protect Lehigh County residents while ensuring everyone who comes before me will be heard and treated with dignity and respect.” 

Mulqueen met her husband, Matthew, while attending DeSales University. Because her husband was in the military, she had to take college courses in Georgia, South Korea, New York and Hawaii. After obtaining her undergrad degree, she earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1998, and she was admitted to practice law that year in Arizona. 

Though she's a prosecutor now, she initially worked as a public defender. 

Mulqueen, her husband and their three children retuirned to the Lehigh Valley in 2004. She was initially hired as a prosecutor by Lehigh County DA Jim Martin, but former Northampton County DA John Morganelli stole her 13 years ago. She has stared down murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers and violent criminals in qa career in which she has been an advocate primarily for doing the right thing, 

Though she's a Republican, she's no blue blood. She's youngest of ten children, family is especially important to Patricia. Her father worked as a dishwasher, caretaker and cook to provide for his family. He eventually became a chef. 

He impressed fiscal restraint and a work ethic on his daughter. “I understand that county taxpayers want a court that is mindful of their hard-earned tax dollars, especially during the pandemic when many are struggling. I am committed to running an efficient and effective courtroom that helps control costs and avoids frustrating delays,”

My only complaint about Pat Mulqueen, and one that I've voiced to her several times, is that I wished she lived here. Lehigh County is fortunate to have such an outstanding person. 

Prendeville Seeks Re-Election in Hanover Tp (NC)

Mike Prendeville, Vice Chair of the Hanover Township-Northampton County Board of Supervisors is seeking a second term. "I have fought to keep the high level of services and the great quality of life we enjoy in Hanover, while successfully working to oppose any tax increases. In addition through prudent fiscal management we have kept Hanover debt free. This is a record few communities can equal.”, said Prendeville.

Prendeville was employed with D&B, Inc. (Dun & Bradstreet) for 27+ years and UBM Global Trade for 5 years. 

His wife Dawn is an RN at Good Shepard Rehabilitation Hospital. They have three children, a daughter and two sons. Emily is a senior at Moravian College’s nursing program. Alexander is an accountant at St. Lukes Hospital. Michael is a senior at Bethlehem Catholic High School and a volunteer for the Hanover Township Ambulance Corps.

Prendeville's key goals if re-elected are to advocate for responsible development that does not add more commercial trucks to Hanover’s already clogged roads; provide strong support for the Colonial Regional Police’s Commercial Truck Enforcement Unit; and continue providing superior public safety to the residents and business community.

In addition to his business experience, Prendeville has a BA in Business Management, Washington College, an MBA in Business Management from DeSales University and has a Certification in National Incident Management System (FEMA-NIMS) - ICS-100, IS-700.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

NorCo Council Elects Lori Vargo-Heffner as President

Lori Vargo-Heffner
By an 8-1 margin, Northampton County Council voted for Lori-Vargo-Heffner as Council President during a 12-minute meeting yesterday afternoon.  Council member John Cuisick cast his vote for Peg Ferraro, but she said it would be "impossible" for her to serve. 

Kevin Lott nominated Vargo-Heffner "with pleasure and honor," and Kerry Myers seconded. 

Vargo-Heffner voted for herself. This technically violates the state Ethics Act because a Council President is paid more than other Council members and thus she had a financial interest. It is likely a de minimis violation because the increased salary is small.  

Council voted unanimously for Bill McGee as Council VP and for Chris Spadoni as Council Solicitor. 

Cusick suggested it's time for Council to return to in-person meetings, noting that county employees must report every day. 

PoliticsPA: NorCo is Pa.'s Bellwether County

PoliticsPa has declared Northampton County as the state's bellwether County. It is the only county in the state to pick the winner in both the presidential race as well as three state row offices up for grabs. 

At one time NorCo was a reliably blue county. But as I noted yesterday, new GOP registrations since 2016 outpace Democratic gains by a 3 to 1 margin.  

Monday, January 04, 2021

NorCo Council Expected to Elect Vargo-Heffner Prez

Though the Council Clerk has more important things to do than post the actual time, Northampton County Council will reorganize today at 4:30 pm to select its leaders for 2021. When he was elected last year, Council President Ron Heckman said he would step down this year. Council VP Lori Vargo-Heffner is  telling people it's "my turn." Vargo-Heffner apparently thinks that a year as Council President will raise her visibility and result in her re-election this year. I agree that it will increase her name recognition. But if her first three years on Council are any indication, it will be in a bad way. Not only will she hurt herself, she will also damage other Democrats (Tara Zrinski and Bill McGee) presumably seeking re-election in an at-large race for five seats.  If Council elects her, as I believe they will, they will kick off 2021 with a mistake, both politically and in governing, 

The Political Background

This year should be bad for Democrats in county races. Though Northampton has historically been a blue county, that dominance is reversing. In 2016, Trump won the county by 5,464 votes. At that time, there were 98,929 Democrats, 73,638 Republicans and 39,026 others for a grand total of 211,593 registered voters. Though Trump lost the county by a scant 1,233 votes in November, the erosion of the Democratic party continues. As of December 28, there were 102,227 Democrats, 81,432 Republicans and 43,691 others. Democrats have increased their numbers by 3 per cent, while Republicans have increased strength by 9.5 percent. A blue county has become purple. 

What's worse for county Democrats is that their strength is concentrated in the urban centers of the county. My analysis of what were then still unofficial results demonstrates that Biden was popular in Bethlehem, Easton and in the more urban townships and boroughs. In the more rural areas, Trump hammered Biden.  

This is bad news for county candidates in an at-large election. Turnout will be much lower in this year's municipal races than they are in Presidential contests. It is possible that the advent of no-excuse mail-in ballots and early voting could spark an increase in turnout, but that seems unlikely in Bethlehem and Easton. In those cities, the election will for all practical purposes be over in the primary. There is no Mayoral race in Easton, and it is doubtful that a Republican will run in the race to succeed Mayor Bob Donchez. This depressed turnout in the urban core and give Republicans an edge throughout the rest of the county. 

To make matters worse, Republicans are angry. I still see Trump signs and flags everywhere. Less than half think Biden won the race. In countywide races, you can expect to see Democrats pay the price. 

A Democratic Council President who understands the tenuous grasp her party has on control might overcome these headwinds. Lori Vargo-Heffner has demonstrated, however, that she is ignorant of both politics and, more importantly, governing. 

Heffner's Mistakes

In a county council whose members have hardly distinguished themselves in meeting attendance, Vargo-Heffner has been a workhorse. That's half the battle. But only half. Everywhere else, she's been a failure. Basically, she's just too mean.

Here is an incomplete list of examples:

1) In her first year on Council, she sabotaged the nomination of an Allentown Diocesan school official to appointment as an unpaid volunteer to the Drug and Alcohol Board. Heffner hinted that Dr. Brooke Tesche, now the Chancellor of Education with the Diocese of Allentown, might use her role to recruit students to a new Catholic high school for children who are drug or alcohol dependent. She even hinted that Dr. Tesche might be lining her pockets. 

That's ridiculous. 

We all know Catholic schools only recruit athletes. Heffner raised enough of a stink that Dr. Tesche's nomination was killed.

2) Perhaps you think that Heffner was concerned about the separation of church and state. Nope. Heffner was the biggest cheerleader on Council for a $20,000 church steeple grant, described by congregants at a public hearing as a "beacon of hope and faith." You can't get much more religious than that. Heffner, who was on the selection committee, tried all kinds of arguments. She tried arguing that hotel taxes aren't really public funds. She even argued that denying this grant would be discrimination. Fortunately, the grant was tabled.

3) She's awfully picayune. Get this. She actually objected to the minutes of a General Purpose Authority meeting because the references to her failed to hyphenate her last names.

4) When Court Administrator Jermaine Greene sought Council's approval for a Juvenile Justice Center Director of Treatment, she mounted all kinds of roadblocks. She imperiously told a black man who brought a physician and a psychologist that she did not like his tone. Judge Stephen Baratta eventually put her complaints to bed, but she never apologized for her unprofessional behavior.

5)When a negative survey about Gracedale (based on an inspection before Lamont McClure became Executive) was released, Heffner attempted to downplay it. McClure was "very disappointed," and Council members reacted with appropriate outrage. Not Heffner. "Comparatively, it was good," she said. "Let's not just focus on the deficiencies."

6) She's the driving force behind an expensive referendum this Spring, in which you the voter will be called upon to change the names of Council members to Commissioners. This is just pure ego. Voters should say No to the nonsensical name change as well as Vargo-Heffner.

7) She attempted to defund DA Terry Houck's request for funding at the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center. "I'm not telling you how to fight crime," she snarked to Houck. "I'm not trying to be bat girl." But by defunding his request to a level he deemed unsafe, she was telling him not to bother fighting crime at all.

8) Most recently, she received a Covid-19 vaccine. Though she's far from the front lines and is no first responder, she plastered pictures of herself all over Facebook, virtue signaling.  This is a slap across the face of real first responders, many of whom happen to be county employees.

Unlike most Council members, she has failed to learn from her mistakes. She keeps making them and blocks people like myself, when I point them out. Now she will ensure that the entire Council makes mistakes, which will hurt Democrats seeking re-election. 

The smartest thing Democrats could do right now is use their 6-3 majority to elect John Cusick as Council President. Cusick is a Republican but takes a fairly bipartisan approach to governing. He is clearly the most fit person to lead Council. If they are interested in both good government and good politics, he is their best bet.  

If You Want to Avoid Covid, Move Into a Nursing Home

Believe it or not, seniors who live in nursing homes are now more likely to survive a bout with Covid-19 than those of us at home. Here's the latest from numbers cruncher Steve Thode:


There were 4,865 new deaths reported between December and December 31 (the report was a day early due to the New Year's Day holiday). That's more than 30% of all deaths since the pandemic began. Deaths continue to be overwhelmingly among the elderly as there were as many new deaths among those over the age of 105 as there were among those under the age of 30. Pennsylvanians in their 80s accounted for more than a third of all new deaths.


Those over age 60 accounted for 94.8% of the new deaths between December 5 and December 31 (4,612 new deaths out of 4,865 total new deaths). That percentage continues to increase. Meanwhile, the percentage of new deaths among those under the age of 60 continues to decline (only 253 out of 4,865 new deaths, or, 5.2%).

The number of new deaths among the elderly not in Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) was substantially greater than the number of new deaths among the elderly who were in LTCFs. There were a total of 1,972 LTCF resident deaths between December 5 and December 31. Even if every one of those LTCF deaths was among residents over the age of 60 (the state does not break down LTCF deaths by age), they would account for less than 43% of all new deaths among Pennsylvanians over the age of 60.