Friday, February 26, 2021

Lynch Identifies NorCo GOP Council Candidates

NorCo GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch identified five GOP Council candidates. Team Lynch consists of the following:

Annamarie Robertone. - A paramedic and public health professional who appears to be well-qualified, but she will be tarnished by her association with Lynch. 

John Goffredo. -  A well-respected Slate Belt name. Goffredo appears to be incensed by Governor Wolf's lockdown. So was I, but this has nothing to do with county government. 

Kristin Lorah Soldridge. -  Another patriot who never spent a day in the military. Watching this video should tell you all you need to know. 

Nicole Romanishan. - Treasurer of the Point Phillips Rod and Gun Club and lifetime NRA member who wants to "protect our right to carry." She's posted about illegal immigration and has raised doubt whether President Biden is really in charge on her County Council Facebook page. None of this has anything to do with county government. 

Scott Hough. - A perennial candidate who's always running and always losing.  

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Is South Whitehall Tp Violating Sunshine Act?

The Question:

Did South Whitehall Township violate the Open Meetings Law (commonly known as the Sunshine Act) in the last Board of Commissioners’ meeting?

The Introduction:

First, let me say that virtual government meetings are difficult to conduct and manage.  As a matter of fact, pre-Covid, many municipalities didn’t even allow call-in commissioner or councilperson participation or voting, so there was little experience to draw from when this became necessary.  As a result, there are certainly technological and training difficulties in this new environment that may prevent a smooth meeting experience for our elected officials and the public.  But . . . the law is the law, and extra effort must be exercised to ensure the public is allowed the opportunity to participate in the affairs that affect their lives and livelihoods.

The What:

On February 17, 2021, the South Whitehall Board of Commissioners held a regularly scheduled meeting with over 100 virtual attendees, many of whom came with something to say about the Public Works work stoppage.  During the course of the meeting, someone in the administration changed the sign-in names of most of the attendees to “anonymous”.  The reason behind this may have been because some individuals signed in with pseudonyms with derogatory references to the township manager.  Simultaneously, the “Chat” function where residents indicate their desire to speak was shut off, again possibly because of comments entered into the system.  As a result, public comment was blocked on this, or any, issue from over 100 attendees.  A reasonable, responsible and legal response to a problem?

The Law:

From the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records: 

The Sunshine Act gives the public the right to comment on issues “that are or may be before the board.”  Agencies are permitted to establish rules to oversee public comment by, for example, limiting time for each commenter.  But there is no allowance to discourage or prevent comment altogether, or the citizens’ right to hear those comments.

The Conclusion:

Did South Whitehall Township by their actions to protect a township official and/or the Board of Commissioners from direct questions or comments violate the Open Meetings Law?  I think they might have.  And I hope the board moves quickly to adopt and communicate Rules for Remote Participation & Etiquette, as both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Hearing Board have already done.

Lamont McClure - Manchurian Candidate

NorCo Exec candidate Steve Lynch claims to be all about transparency, but has blocked me from his Facebook page. He's even blocked me from his candidate page. That's too bad, but fortunately for me,  friends are supplying me snippets of Lynch lines. I'm learning, too. And as I always suspected, I now know that Executive Lamont McClure is a slave to Communist China. He might even himself be a Chinese communist with a very clever disguise   

Yesterday, Lynch instructed a woman that "our country has been hijacked by communists who control these politicians from countries like China. Our elected officials don't serve us. They serve their masters and they happen to be interests that want America dismantled from within!" 

I know, I know, you're gonna' tell me Lynch is coo-coo for cocoa puffs. Well, let me clue you in, bippy. 

I stopped up to see McClure the other day and he was reading Sun Tzu's Art of War. I also heard him talking on the phone the other day in a foreign language. He told me it was Gaelic, but I'm pretty sure it was Mandarin. 

Also, notice how red his face is. Obviously, comrade Lamont is a sleeper agent who will turn the county over as soon as he gets the word from Bejing. 

I commend Lynch for spotting this before it's too late.

Thank God we have patriots like Steve, who've never served a day in the military and only rarely vote in municipal races.  

May God (or Donald Trump) bless him. 

This news is actually a relief. Up until now, I thought McClure was a Satan worshiping blood drinker. That's County Council. It's why they never meet in person anymore. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

What NorCo Council Dem Candidates Say about Themselves

Last week, LV4All hosted a nearly four-hour long candidate's night. It's been posted on YouTube. The following are snippets of what NorCo Council candidates said about themselves.

Patti Bruno: "Trumpism is alive and well, not just in Northampton County, but the entire Lehigh Valley. ... They're going against moderation. 

Tara Zrinski: "I want to tell people what we've actually accomplished. ... [W]e've been able to give small businesses -  almost 800 small businesses - $10.8 of relief. We've also given $16 million to non-profit communities, front-line workers and emergency management. These are huge and this is what Northampton County Council can do with a great Executive."

Bill McGee: "Think about one thing. If we didn't win three years ago, where would the county be today in John Brown's hands?"

Lori Vargo-Heffner: "We were able to increase morale [at Gracedale] and increase their ratings because they were a two-star facility. ... We take care of the unsexy things in government." 

Ron Heckman: "We have candidates coming against us who are extreme - there's just no other way of putting it. ... It is imperative that we protect Gracedale ... County government is the safety net for the most vulnerable citizens of the County." 

Welcome to Brad Osborne, Who Will Cover S Whitehall Tp

Blogger's Note: Not long ago, I posted a blog asking for people who might be interested in covering different political contests or municipalities. A few of you have expressed interest, and I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome former Lehigh County and South Whitehall Township Commissioner Brad Osborne. He is a Republican, and this should make this blog a bit more balanced. His focus will be South Whitehall Township Unraveled. Here's his Intro:

Brad Osborne has lived in the Lehigh Valley most of his life and has resided in South Whitehall for the past 34 years. During this time, he has served on both the South Whitehall Board of Commissioners and the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners.

Brad will be sharing information on important topics in his township not widely reported by the local media. His motivation is to promote respectful discussion as the residents and businesses consider these topics and the platforms of the candidates who seek the two Board of Commissioner positions in play in the upcoming 2021 election. This is no doubt a defining time for the township. Who we select to represent us will determine our future.

Stay tuned!


Political Consultant Seeks Open Seat on NorCo Council

Four of the five at-large seats on Northampton County Council are held by Democrats Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo-Heffner, Bill McGee and Tara Zrinski. All four are seeking re-election. Republican Peg Ferraro, who holds the fifth seat, is retiring from government service once her term is over. Lifetime Easton resident and Democratic political consultant Patti Bruno has decided she'd like to run for public office herself. 

A graduate of Notre Dame Green Pond, Bruno earned her undergrad degree at Temple University. She went on to earn two Master's degrees at American Public University in both Homeland Security (2016) and Public Policy (2018). She currently is a doctoral candidate. 

She was employed for two years as a Presidential Management Fellow with the Department of Homeland Security under both the Obama and Trump administrations.  

She is known in the Lehigh Valley as a campaign manager for Amy Cozze (state rep), Terry Houck (DA), Abe Kassis (judge) and Kevin Branco (state rep). 

In a telephone conversation yesterday, she told me she's a consensus builder. I believe her. Her partner is a registered Republican. I made a critical remark about her yesterday because I had her confused with someone else, and apologize for my error. 

She reached out to me, which is basically the opposite of what most NorCo politicians do.

I look forward to hearing her views as the campaign progresses.   

In her free time, Bruno is a football and baseball fan. She went to the right high school for both. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Farmer's Daughter Running For NorCo Council

An honest-to-goodness farmer's daughter is running for one of five Northampton County Council at-large seats this year. Kristin Lorah Soldridge, a lifelong county resident who was raised on the Lorah farm in Lehigh Tp, has announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination. 

Soldridge, who refers to herself as a "genuine outsider," said she was inspired to run by the "recent excitement of the Presidential  campaign." She notes the current "lopsided one-party control of every facet of government in Northampton County, and states she "wants to promote more open, plain-talk conversation between elected official and citizens."

She notes she is married, has two "beautiful children" and attends Bethany Wesleyan Church in Cherryville.

She previously served on the Lehigh Township Zoning board and has been a soccer coach in the community.

I am unaware of her educational background. 

She notes she would bring representation to the western end of the county, although incumbent Bill McGee is from the western end. 

She also states she has seen the "trials and tribulations" her family has faced as a result of "excessive local government restrictions." She fails to mention what these are. Perhaps she refers to state and federal regulations. I call them protections. Those who take issue with these protections need only look at their absence has done to ordinary citizens in Texas. 

In addition to this announcement, I watched Northampton County Council hopefuls speak before LVAll (who agree with them) last week.  Their strategy is to paint the GOP candidates as Trump extremists. They may be off about Goffredo and Robertone, but I suspect that Soldridge falls in that category. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

LV4All Ejects Judge Koury's Retired Secretary From Petition Drive

Frances "Tottie" Ferencin is certainly very well known to anyone living in Fountain Hill. She's a proud Democrat whose husband was that Borough's Mayor. Her son is a police officer there. She herself was an an excellent secretary to now President Judge Michael Koury. Her sister is former NorcCo Council President Ann McHale. Ferencin, believe it or not, was ejected from a petition drive being hosted by Lehigh Valley For All at the Steelworkers' Hall this weekend. Her offense? She's working for the wrong candidate. 

Ferencin is a volunteer with Van Scott's campaign for magisterial district judge. She was at the Steelworkers' Hall to help gather signatures for his nomination petition. 

Scott himself is a Democrat. Last year, during the "Defund the Police" movement, he switched to the Republican party for a few months. Because he's both a former corrections officer and a retired Bethlehem City cop, this is understandable. He did return to his Democratic roots. But to the partisans in the LV4All (who agree with them) movement, his sin is unforgivable. In addition to trying to prevent him from gathering signatures at all, Republicans who wanted to sign his petition were incorrectly told by Kathy Harrington that there were no Republican petitions. I have her misleading text messages to several voters.

While Scott was deterred from circulating his petition among Republicans, other magisterial district judge candidates were permitted to do so. 

Eventually, Scott decided to leave, but Ferencin wanted to soldier on even though she was treated badly. 

"Somebody, get her out of here!" screamed one of the partisans. Ferencin figured she better go. While she was assembling her material, Kathy Harrington hollered, "Are you still here?"

The reason for this hostility is Scott's opponent, Amy "Defund the Police" Zannelli. I'll have more about her soon. And LV4All (who agree with them). 

NorCo Court Admin: Manwaring Must Bar Constables and Cops From Secretarial Areas

I've written before about a recent Controller's audit of Magisterial District Judge Roy Manwaring. The report, which you can read in its entirety here, flagged Manwaring for allowing constables and police officers to use the secretarial area. This is a violation of a 2012 internal control memo from the Court Administrator indicating that no one, other than magisterial district court employees, should be permitted in an area giving them access to cash and financial records.  Judge Manwaring, however, that he would refuse this recommendation because it "would create an additional burden on myself and my staff." Well, it looks like he's going to have to bear the load. 

During a meeting of Northampton County Council last week, Court Administrator Jermaine Greene said he and Presidenty Judge Michael Koury, Jr., "agree with the Controller. It is going to be taken care of in a timely manner." 


Friday, February 19, 2021

NorCo Council Briefed on Benefits of Regional Crime Center

Lori Vargo-Heffner
Among the items considered by NorCo Council during last year's budget hearings was a $100,000 request from District Attorney Terry Houck to help fund the Lehigh County Regional Crime Center. (It's also called the RIIC - Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center). Over the course of two hearings, Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner did her best to defund the DA. Specifically, she wanted to reduce the allotment from $100,000 to $50,000. In the end, she was the sole vote against Houck. Last night, DA  Houck asked RIIC Director Julia Kocis to explain precisely what the RIIC does. In addition, Nazareth Police Chief Randall Miller explained how it helps his department. 

Kocis explained that the RIIC, which began operations in 2013, has about 1,500 users among all the police departments in both counties, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police and several federal agencies. Basically, it collects the data generated by all local police departments, the counties, jails, state police, mug shots, state warrants, social media and even the dark web. Officers, with the assistance of analysts, can use this treasure trove of data to identify trends and solve crimes. 

The RIIC employs four analysts, two detectives, an administrative assistant and Kocis. It has received over $5 million in grants from government and private sources to develop software. Its annual budget is $1.3 million. Operational costs like personnel are largely funded by Lehigh County. 

Northampton County's contribution is just $100,000. 

York County participates in the RIIC, but its use is currently limited to identification of drug overdoses. 

Kocis said she'd welcome participation from other counties. 

DA Terry Houck explained that use of the RIIC is what led his office to the Allentown drug dealer who dealt a Christmas Day death to a former Pen Argyl wrestler.     

Though larger police departments might use the RIIC more heavily, Nazareth Police Chief Randall Miller explained that the RIIC is a great benefit to smaller departments like his as well. 

Bu using the RIIC, his department recently discovered that two Latin Kings are living in a Nazareth apartment complex. The RIIC has given him leads in a recent rare borough shooting.And it weeded out a possible child predator. 

Miller explained that his department received complaints that a crossing guard was making inappropriate contacts with children. This guard had no criminal record for child molestation. But thanks to the RIIC, his department discovered  that the guard had been under investigation in two other local police departments for sexual abuse of children. He indicated the only reason these departments filed no charges was because the statute of limitations had run. Without the RIIC, his department would never have known  about these previous investigations.  This "could have put Nazareth in a very bad situation," he noted. 

So if Lori Vargo-Heffner wants to know whether the $100,000 is money well spent, perhaps she should speak to the parents of those Nazareth children. 

Instead, Vargo-Heffner wants a specific breakdown on the RIIC's annual budget.  

UV Air Purifiers Throughout NorCo

I angered a few Lamont McClure detractors yesterday when I pointed out that, thanks to an UV air purification system connected the the HVAC system, the Northampton County Courthouse and Centralized Human Services Buildings are two of the safest buildings in the county.  McClure advised County Council last night that these UV air purification systems are also in place at the CAD building, Juvenile Justice Center and Domestic Relations. He added that this will also be installed at the Archives building. He indicated the county awaits a different kind of lamp that would work at Gracedale.

NorCo Rental and Utility Assistance During Pandemic

NorCo Human Services Deputy Director Robin Barbosa advised County Council Wednesday that there have been 503 applications for rental assistance. Applications are located here, and $1.7 million in rental payments have been paid directly to the landlords. The three agencies running this program are the Third Street Alliance, New Bethany Ministries and Easton Area Neighborhood Center.

In additional to rental assistance, $62,000 has been paid to help 51 applicant with utility bills.  

LC Exec to Deliver State of the County on Feb 25

On Thursday, February 25th, at 4:00PM, Lehigh County Executive Phillips M. Armstrong will deliver his 2021 State of the County Address to the public. Due to COVID-19 regulations and safety procedures, the address will be broadcasted virtually on all county media outlets. The broadcast is also set to premiere simultaneously on the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation Facebook page.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cusick Complains About Mandates at Gracedale

John Cusick
At a Northampton County Council committee meeting yesterday, Council member John Cusick complained about the use of mandated overtime at Gracedale.He said that after the last meeting, in which Council was told things were going "swell," he was contacted by several employees who begged to differ. "If they're reaching out to me, that tells you something." he observed, an apparent reference to his previous support for the sale of the nursing home. 

Cusick said failure to fill vacant positions raises "serious morale concerns. ... [W}e need to do a better job." One staffer has told him, "It's not a money issue, it's a quality of life issue." 

Executivre Lamont McClure responded that Gracedale now has a 3 star rating for staffing at Gracedale and that the County is doing everything it can to increase staffing, including tuition reimbursement. He added the state DOH is at Gracedaqle at least once a week on complaints of short staffing. "these complaints are always unsubstantiated" he noted. 

While he agreed that mandating "has always been controversial," he indicated there is little choice when 30-40% of staff uses family leave on any given day. 

He also noted that Gracedale has about 650 workers for about 530 residents. 

NorCo Courthouse Might Be Safest Building in the County

At this time of year, I'm used to sitting next to people who cough and sneeze as they battle winter colds and flu. Not this year. Before getting inside the courthouse, everyone must undergo a temperature check. Everyone must mask and social distancing is mandatory. Inside, there are various phone soap machines with which you can disinfect cellphones, car keys and pens. While there have been some Covid-19 infections, they've been remarkably few. I've seen no one with as much as a common cold. On top of all these measures, I recently discovered that, at the courthouse, Executive Lamont McClure has had air purification systems installed throughout the building. 

These systems were installed by Operations and Maintenance into existing HVAC systems.

These purifiers implement high-intensity ultraviolet (UV) light to neutralize and reduce concentrations of airborne bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. This in turn reduces the risk of infection to anyone within the building.

These systems have also been installed in the Human Services building. 

Unfortunately, the jail and Gracedale use different systems for air circulation. 

While I'm sure Covid-19 transmission can still occur in a building where the public is welcome, I am once again very impressed by the lengths to which McClure has gone to keep employees safe. I was impressed by the flashing crosswalk, and this measure shows a real commitment to the worker. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Can You Beat Me on Appalachian Trail?

Most of you have probably hiked at least some of the Appalachian Trail. A few of you have probably done the entire trek. On January 17, I started the Appalachian Trail Virtual Challenge. I'm too cheap to pay $40 for a finisher's medal, but am tracking my mileage along the 1968-mile course. 

Here's the way it works. Any exercise that is distance-based, whether it's cycling or even rowing, counts. At this time of the year, I'm mostly on the arc trainer. It's a superior cardio exercise. But it burns calories more than it burns miles. So I've kicked things up a bit with the indoor bike and some walking and running. So far, I've burned 251 miles. My goal is to finish by the end of the year. 

I have a buddy who started two months before me, and he's 40% done. Once I can bike outdoors, I hope to catch up. 

16-32 Year Sentence Imposed for 2017 Murder of Bethlehem Woman

On February 8, 2017, a man who was leaving his Bethlehem home for work noticed something unfamiliar on the sidewalk near the northeast corner of Sioux and Sassafras Streets. Because it was 2 am, it was difficult to make things out. As he drew closer, he realized it was a person lying on that sidewalk. That person was later identified as Teayahe Glover, a 19 year old woman living in the area. She had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including one to her face.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Glover was killed in retaliation for cooperating with police in a shooting that had occurred just six days earlier.

Glover was lured out of her home, after which she was ambushed and shot.

Xavier Snyder, 20, and Kasheem Aiken, 37, were both charged. Snyder pleaded to third degree murder in 2019 and testified in the 2020 trial against Aiken. He was acquitted.

On Monday, Judge Anthony Beltrami imposed a 16-32 year sentence on Xavier.

NorCo, LANTA Team Offer Seniors Free Rides To and From Vaccine Appointments

Northampton County and LANTA have teamed up to offer senior citizens free rides to and from vaccine appointments. Seniors are persons who are at least 65years old. Bus service along fixed routes are already free to those with a LANtaBus Senior Citizen ID Card.

LANtaVan already offers a door-to-door, shared ride (or paratransit) service, available to riders in Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

LANTA Executive Director Owen O'Neil explained in a February 16 news conference that the transit company is simply using a service already in place. He noted that 8,800 seniors are already signed up for the shared ride for other services. They pay a reduced fare, but rides to and from vaccine appointments will be free.

Seniors who would like to register for this shared ride service can do so may do so by calling LANTA at 1-888-253-8333, Monday through Sunday from 8:00AM – 4:30PM. O'Neil explained that no system is yet in place for online registration.

PennDOT is picking up 85% of the cost of this service, with the remainder coming from Northampton County's Area Agency on Aging. 

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure explained that that he has no control over the small number of vaccine doses that have thus far been distributed to Pennsylvania, but wants to do everything he can to remove obstacles between people and their vaccine.

O'Neil predicted that Lehigh County will likely wish to participate in this program as well.  

He added that everyone using LANTA services must be masked. 

.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Bryan Callahan Decides Against Bethlehem Mayor, Will Seek Re-Election to City Council

From Bryan Callahan: - There has been much speculation about my running for Mayor of Bethlehem.  Over the last year I’ve met with many residents, homeowners, business owners and union leaders who have encouraged me to run for Mayor. However, the time for me to run for Mayor is not right.

As many of you know, I lost my beautiful wife Lucia to cancer 14 years ago. Our kids were 12 and 9 at the time, so my first and foremost obligation is to my two kids.  I am a fulltime veteran educator in the Bethlehem Area School District at Northeast Middle School. I love teaching the students of our City and I believe I’ve made a real difference in the lives of many of them.  I have also owned and operated a very successful small business for the past 12 years and just opened a new brick and mortar business, Callahan's Driving School and Testing Center with my brother John. This new business requires a significant amount of my time to ensure its success.  While being Mayor of our great City would have been the honor of a lifetime, it is a fulltime commitment and thus I will not be placing my name on the ballot for the Mayor of Bethlehem.

 

I will be running for re-election for my third term on City Council. As many of you know, I have a great love and am very passionate about our City. I am a Nitschmann Lion and Liberty Hurricane until the day I die. There is this perception and idea by a few people in our city that everything that has happened, all the good that has happened in our city over the last 20 years, was just inevitable. They think the rebirth and renaissance our City has been through over the last 20 years would have just happened by itself...that is simply NOT true! There are small towns and cities littered and scattered throughout the Northeast and Midwest of the United States that are examples of what happens when you don’t have progressive forward thinking leadership willing to keep pushing for better.

 

I am proud of my service on Council.  As a member and a Chair of the Finance Committee I have fought to keep taxes in check and by refinancing some high interest debt the Standard and Poor’s bond rating for the City of Bethlehem rose 4 times from a BBB Stable rating to a A+ Stable rating in just 5 years.

 

In my first two terms I introduced, proposed and passed the Wage Equality Ordinance that prevents the perpetuation of gender-based wage inequality, the No Gifts Ban that prohibits City Council Members from accepting gifts from those trying to influence public policy, along with improvements to the Rose Garden and Municipal Golf Course and more funding for ADA Ramps.  

 

I also supported and voted for the Ethics Training Ordinance for City Council Members, the Community Engagement Initiative, the North Side 2027 initiative to help revitalize neighborhoods, the Open Data Group that improves openness and transparency in government, supported ordinances to ensure City contracts pay a fair wage to its employees, two new fire engines to support our fire fighters, body cameras and new Motorola radios for our police, a new EMS vehicle and funding for the Climate Action Plan.

 

In the next month I will be bringing forward a new ordinance that gives local businesses, especially minority, female and veteran owned businesses an advantage when bidding on local jobs. 

 

My record of supporting critical smart economic development and fighting hard to hold the line on taxes (I voted 6 out of 7 times against tax increases) will continue.  I will also fight to make certain we fund our public safety resources at the level needed to keep our neighborhoods safe and our property values up.  Growing our tax base, keeping our neighborhoods safe and holding the line on taxes are critical so that Bethlehem remains affordable and the best City in Pennsylvania to live, work and play!

 

I look forward to the campaign and sharing my vision for Bethlehem. 

 

Another Slate Belt Resident Seeks Spot on NorCo Council

A second slate belt resident is running for Northampton County Council. John P Goffredo, 33, of Washington Township, a businessman in Nu Cor Management, has announced his candidacy. He is a Republican. 

His decision to run follows a "a tumultuous year" that completely disregarded the "hallmarks of American life: freedom, liberty, and the right to work. Mandatory lockdowns, indiscriminate and illogical regulations have hurt county residents in an unimaginable way." 

He adds that his generation is unrepresented on County Council. . 

He's a lifelong resident of the the Slate Belt. John who attended attended elementary school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and graduated from Pius X High School. 

Unlike many politicians whose volunteerism consists of working on political campaigns, Goffredo spends free time working on community organizations like the Columbia Fire Co. in Roseto;  Bangor Jr. Wrestling Club; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish;  and as a founding board member of the Lehigh Valley Wrestlers in Business Network. 

John is married and has three children. 

Will Carpenter Seeks Manwaring's Job as MDJ

Will Carpenter
Magisterial District Judge Roy A Manwaring has caught the attention of this blog several times, and not in a good way. But whether he retains his post as a mini-judge on Bethlehem's north side is a decision for you, not me. He now has an opponent, Will Carpenter. 

In 2018, Manwaring presided when a Bethlehem couple disputed an overtime parking ticket. Their meter malfunctioned and they were unable top use their credit card. This malfunction was actually confirmed by a Parking Authority officer. Manwaring, described by the couple as both angry and condescending, demanded they explain why they used no coins. They didn't have any. Though he had no choice but to acquit the accused, he nevertheless ordered the couple to pay court costs of $57.25. Moreover, he insisted they do so before leaving his mini-courtroom.  This glitch was no fault of the taxpayer, he illogically reasoned. 

Unfortunately for Manwaring, President Judge Michael Koury got wind that court costs had been imposed on an innocent Defendant. He directed Manwaring to refund the money, which is demanded by both statute and this little thing called the Constitution. 

Manwaring complied, but I have since heard that he has complained several times about being rebuked, stating to people he thinks are his friends that the President Judge is wrong. 

In addition to thinking he knows more than the President Judge, Manwaring also thinks his understanding of financial controls is superior to the Controller. In a recent audit, he was tagged for allowing constables to access the secretarial area  in violation of a directive from the Court Administrator. The reason for this sound policy is to deter access to cash and financial records. Manwaring refused to comply, noting that he can answer to the voters. 

He's going to have to answer. Longtime Bethlehem resident Will R. Carpenter, a Democrat, is seeking a nomination for Manwaring's seat. Carpenter has lived in the District, located in Bethlehem’s Northside, for over 20 years.  

A graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics, Carpenter spent his career working in real-estate and development, negotiating contracts and working with people from all walks of life. In his announcement, he said he "will bring good common sense, consistent, impartial reading of the law while offering dignity and respect to all who enter the courtroom." “My approach would be to apply the law evenly, to honor and respect both our law enforcement professionals and our community members,” he says. 

Will lives with his wife and two daughters, both proud Liberty graduates.

Carpenter was unsuccessful in a 2019 bid for City Council.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Paramedic, Public Health Professional Seeks Seat on NorCo Council

Northampton County Council includes five at-large positions. All are up for election this year. Incumbent Democrats Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo-Heffner, Bill McGee and Tara Zrinski are all expected to seek re-election. Incumbent Republican Peg Ferraro, however, is retiring from a lifetime of politics at the end of her term this year.

Annmaie T Robertone would like one of those five seats.

A resident of Pen Argyl, Robertone is a graduate of Pius X High School. She has both a B.S. and Master's in Public Health from East Stroudsburg University.

A certified paramedic, she is President of the Roseto Ladies Chapter of UNICO; member of The Blue and White Scholastic Foundation; Founding Member of Medic 9 Paramedic Unit; and first female President of Liberty Ambulance. She continues to be active in EMS as an EMT and CPR Instructor.

In her campaign announcement, Robertone indicates she has retired from her professional career. Review of her LinkedIn page, however, indicates she has had numerous contacts with hospitals and medcical practitioners over the years. In a time in which we are still reeling from a pandemic, Robertone's resume speaks for itself.

She indicates her campaign will focus on fiscal conservatism; government transparency; inclusion of public input on all matters; and an insistence that Gracedale remain county run.

Robertone is a Republican.

James Whitney Selling Susan Wild's Chair

Over the weekend, Allentown activist James Whitney invited me to join a buy and sell Facebook group in Allentown. I do happen to be in the market for high-voltage fencing to surround my underground lair, so I decided to join. Lo and behold, I found this listing from Whitney himself:

Whitney: Susan Wild's successful congressional campaign rented out our storefront as their headquarters. When Susan Wild won, she was so elated that she completely forgot to come get her ugly chair. Multiple attempts to return her ugly chair to her failed, so its rightfully mine to sell now. I can't remember if this ugly chair belonged to Susan herself, or her dad. I think it was her dad's chair. So if you have a daughter you might want to sit in this chair and daydream about all the things your little girl might accomplish one day. And with this very ugly, but very lucky chair, there's no telling what she'll accomplish. I'm not saying she'll be President one day, but if she doesn't at least get elected as a State Rep, I'll give you your money back. Oh also I think famous comedian Abbi Jacobson from the hit show "Broad City" on Comedy Central might have sat in this chair when she visited for a rally. So if your daughter doesn't have political ambitions, but seems like she might have a decent sense of humor, you may still want to consider this chair. All offers will be considered. All proceeds will go to supporting Allentown restaurants.

Whitney's offering resulted in numerous comments. Some are amusing. Others are a bit nasty. One is from Wild herself: "Lol. In defense of my dad, it wasn’t his chair. He had bad taste, but not THAT bad! It was old hotel furniture that was donated, I think. Sorry we never picked it up! I didn’t realize. Hope you get your price!"

Last time I checked in, Whitney was trying to sell it to Allentown mayoral candidate Matt Tuerk.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Ray O'Connell Kicks Off Mayoral Bid With $8.40

Brother, can you spare a dime? In stark contrast to the money-making operation that disgraced former Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski ran, current Mayor Ray O'Connell declined to use his incumbency to raise money. His year end report for 2019 shows he had just $8.40 in his campaign warchest. Shit, even I have more money. 

Ce-Ce "Me-Me" Gerlach, however, has spent 2020 funding herself while attempting to defund the police. She raised $32,448, which tells me she decided to run for Mayor long ago. She has spent $15,500 and not on the homeless. She had $23,948 to start the new year. 

Matt Tuerk comes from the world of economic development, and it shows in his year-end report. He raised $36,473, and tells me he now has $60k. What bothers me is that many of his contributors are part of the Jenn Mann mob. In addition, I see big donations from architects, "consultants" and, of course lawyers. These folks will all want something. But the money will help him gain something he lacks - name recognition. 

Now There Are Three Lawyers Who Wish to Succeed Judge Jackie Taschner

Leo Jackson
The race to succeed Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner is getting crowded. I previously told you about the candidacies of Attorneys Susie Hutnick and Lisa Spitale. Now a third lawyer, Leo P Jackson, has entered the fray.

Jackson is a native of Scranton, home of the famous Texas Weiner and white pizza. He is a graduate of  Loyola College (1992) and Weidner University School of Law (1995). While in law school, he interned with the Baltimore City Public Defender’s Office, Dauphin County (PA) District Attorney’s Office and the Honorable Judge Sebastian D. Natale of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas.

Jackson currently practices law with his sister, Janet Jackson. She is the Chief Assistant Public Defender in Northampton County. His emphasis is workers' compensation.  

He lives in Forks Tp with his wife, Laurie, and two children. His son is attending Easton Area High School and his daughter just graduated. 

Jackson has been an active member of his community. He is a former member of the board of the Northampton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now Center for Animal Health & Welfare). He has also coached youth softball and baseball in the Forks Township recreation league.

As a judge, he says he would focus on "protecting our community while focusing on social justice and fairness and treating all with dignity and respect.”

Thursday, February 11, 2021

DUI Defendant Attempts Suicide in Magistrate's Court

A woman upset at the prospect of being sent to jail decided to take matters into her own hands in a magisterial district judge's courtroom this morning. Sonsorrae Barrett, age 59, was before Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke for a preliminary hearing on charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence. What she took into her hands was either a steak or a paring knife, which she had stashed into her bra. She plunged this knife into her sternum, twice, when Magisterial District Judge increased her bail from $25,000 (10%) to $75,000 (10%). 

Barrett has been charged by Lehigh Tp police after an October 27 one-car accident along Lehigh Drive. Tow passengers who were in the car with her were injured. 

She was in court to waive her preliminary hearing, which essentially is an admission that there is sufficient evidence to send the matter to court. Pretrial services recommended an increase in bail because she had violated bail conditions by testing positive for alcohol. 

Barrett was rendered emergency treatment by officers, constables and Judge Hawke. She was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where she is expected to recover from her injuries.

Court sources inform that Barrett may at this point be committed for a mental health evaluation. 

District Attorney Terry Houck is also investigating whether Barrett should be charged with bringing a weapon into the courtroom.  

Suspected Domestic Terrorist to Run For NorCo Exec

Perhaps it's appropriate that his surname is Lynch because he accompanied a mob that was intent, at least in part, in lynching Vice President Mike Pence in the January 6 capitol insurrection. Steve Lynch refers to himself on Facebook as "[a] Patriot Who Loves, God, Country and Truth! I Am Here To Help WAKE UP AMERICA!" He intends to start by waking up Northampton County. He plans to announce his candidacy for County Executive on Friday at Noon, and is looking for a huge crowd. He attended the unsuccessful coup and has even posted video of himself marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. By his own admission, he has been visited by the FBI. So it's safe to say a suspected domestic terrorist is running to be the big dog in our little pond.

He certainly fits the mold of what party boss Lee Snover wants from Republicans. She was at the failed coup herself. She told WLVR's Brad Klein, "[W]e want a new Republican party. We’re never going back to the old Republican party. Never. We want a new party, a Patriot party. We want the Republican party to come our way or a new party. We don’t want any spineless Republicans. We want only Trump Republicans."

Her wish has been granted. 

Lynch, who was the field director of Lisa Scheller's failed Congressional campaign, was the first person spotlighted in a local blog featuring far right extremists. In the days leading up to the insurrection that resulted in former President Trump's impeachment, Lynch linked to a QAnon meme suggesting Trump was preparing to punish his enemies. "They will all die," it boasts. Lynch himself added that he was "praying" that "criminals like Killary and the like receive devastating justice." 

Just yesterday, Lynch was stunned to learn that a local black woman is afraid of him. He wonders why. Oh, I don't know. Perhaps it's because he uses the same red, white and blue lion insignia as the white nationalist VDare.   

I'm unsure exactly what he brings to county government. I have looked at this voting record all the way back to 2008. He failed to vote in the Executive's race in 2017, 2013 or 2009. He's voted in less than half of the elections since registering in 2008. He's only voted three times in 12 years in a municipal race. 

He claims to be a personal trainer, but by his own admission, failed to get past the physical in an application to the Reading police department. 

A county executive must be a person who pays close attention to the money. But like a majority of the people arrested in the capitol insurrection, Lynch's tale is one of financial woe. There are currently two open judgments filed against him:

Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC v. Stephen F Lynch, 2018-J-3169, filed 8/23/18, for $1,950.81.

Capital One Bank USA NA v, Stephen F Lynch, 2013-J-6193, filed 6/21/13, for $5,627.83.

He has also faced two foreclosure actions on his Northampton County home. One of them went to execution until he managed to catch up.

I've never seen him at a meeting and doubt he is remotely familiar with the many details of county government, from Gracedale to the Forensic Center to 911. 

But he's a "Trump Republican," and that makes him good enough for Lee Snover.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Senate Impeachment Trial: January 6 Video Montage

Hopuse Manager Jamie Raskin (D. Md.) presented a powerful case for Donald Trump's conviction yesterdaay, in the form of a video montage. If you watch nothing else, watrch this.

McClure Meets With LV Justice Institute Concerning Reduction of Jail Population

NorCo Exec Lamont McClure met with members of the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute yesterday to discuss measures to reduce the population and contain the spread of Covid-19. Currently, there are no cases at the jail among either inmates or staff. One inmate is in quarantine. 

Attempts to reduce the jail's population is a coordinated effort involving the courts, DA, Public Defender and Corrections. This started in April. First, candidates for bail reductions on pending charges or probation violation detainers are identified. Second, non-violent offenders identified are furloughed for a certain period of time. They are required to check in regularly with Corrections officers. When the furlough ends, individuals must return to NCP and serve the balance of time they were supposed to be confined. Currently, thirty non-violent inmates are out on extended furlough.

F*&k the Police? Think Again

Over the summer, convicted felon Hasshan (call me Doctor) Batts gleefully led an Allentown mob with chants of "Fuck the Police." A short video clip appeared to show a police officer kneeling on the neck of a drunk and addict staggering and puking outside of St. Luke's Hospital. Rather than wait until the facts were known, pretend social justice warriors were all-too-willing to assume the worst. Opportunists like City Council member Joshua Siegel was happy to dox Mayor Ray O'Connell, leading to multiple harassing calls and threats to burn his home down. Justan Parker, who himself was facing charges for giving false identification to police and led mobs that pounded on the doors and windows of City Council, is now running for that positions. Siegel and Ce-Ce Gerlach, another City Council member, both voted against federal grants to the Allentown police. And now Ce-Ce Gerlach, who has alienated both police and firefighters, is running for Mayor. So what are Allentown police doing? Beating heads? Kneeling on necks? No, as the attached photo reveals, they are saving lives.  

These are the public servants Gerlach wants to defund.    

Former Community College Staffer Pleads to Child Porn Possession

From Northampton County DA's Office: Tuesday, the former Assistant Head of the Arts Department at Northampton Community College (NCC) pled guilty to Sexual Abuse of Children - Possession of Child Pornography. 

Alan West, 63, of Allentown, was charged with Possession of Child Pornography and Obscene and other Sexual Material and Performances after a student reported seeing child pornography on West’s work computer on campus. 

Officers from the Bethlehem Township Police Department were advised from the Public Safety Director at NCC on Feb. 5, 2020 that two female students visited West that Monday, Feb. 3, and observed what appeared to be a young child with her genitals exposed on West’s computer, and that West was feverishly clicking to close the open windows and applications. 

College officials and investigators from the Bethlehem Township Police Department met after the two students initially reported the incident to other NCC staff members. Police learned Human Resources intended to suspend West immediately. College officials agreed to turn over any computers, network folders, West’s email, and West’s Microsoft Cloud Account contents to police. 

In addition, the two students took police to the “lab office” in Communications Hall and identified the computer West was using. West was actively on the computer at this time and was asked to step outside to speak with police. West inquired to police what was going on, and police advised him of the child pornography allegation. Police then asked West if he looks at child pornography on his computer. West’s face turned bright red and while nodding his head yes, he answered “no…yes…no I’m not into child porn.” Police asked what “no, yes, no” meant and West maintained he is not into child pornography. 

Police further inquired if West looked at pornography on his computer and he advised yes, and that he commonly visits pornhub.com. He stated he never looks at pornography on external media or via email. He said if there was any child pornography on his computer it was because an internet ad popped up with it on. 

Later that day, police received a call from NCC’s Public Safety Director who said West admitted to him that police would find child pornography on the computer. 

An arrest warrant was served on June 24, 2020, where an arraignment was conducted and bail was set at $10,000 unsecured. Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for May 5 at 9 a.m.

Blogger's Note: West is currently a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Does Magisterial District Judge Candidate Colon Pass the Residence Test?

I have previously told you about two candidates seeking the magisterial district judge seat currently held by Nancy Matos Gonzalez.  She's retiring, and Tony Rybak and Jordan Knisley have both announced they'd like to succeed her. Both are long-time South side residents. Both are assistant public defenders. I recently learned there's a third candidate, Chrstian Colon. 

According to his campaign webpage, he just passed the bar exam in October after graduating from from Pitt Law in May. He is running as a bilingual Puerto Rican who "worked for years as a blue collar worker." 

I received a number of anonymous negative comments about his qualifications, basically challenging his residency. I asked him to respond on Facebook by linking to them. He deleted the link and messaged me to say he refuses to respond to anonymous comments. 

Is that because they are anonymous or because they are true? 

These comments, posted on my Jordan Knisley blog, raise serious questions about his qualifications as a resident of the district. 

Under Pennsylvania law, a magisterial district judge must be a citizen of the Commonwealth, at least 21 yrs old and must have resided within his district for at least one year prior to his election or appointment. Colon may fail to pass the residency test. 

Here's what some of the comments, which obviously come from either the Rybak or Knisley camp, say:  

"Did you hear about this kid Christian Colon who is running for this seat? He just graduated from Pitt law school in May, passed the bar in December. He grew up on the South Side, but his parents moved to Bethlehem Township a few years ago. He was living with them until a few weeks ago when he decided to run for this seat. Kind of an interesting path to take to become an MDJ."

"Christian Colon STILL lives in the Township. Take a drive past his parents' fancy, very un-Southside home on Long Drive and you'll see his fancy, very un-Southside white BMW parked out front all day and night, save for when he's traipsing around the Southside pretending that he lives there. If he's going to say "From the Southside - For the Southside" then shouldn't he be registered to vote in that district? Well, he's not. He's not even registered to vote in Northampton County. As of 10:00am, he is registered to vote in Allegheny County, with a residential address of 1821 Wylie Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Even his PA Bar Registration, which he's only had since December 31st - listed his parents Long Drive address in the Township - until yesterday. Now, it lists his address as 1349 Lynn Avenue, which is an old fire station, located in Englesson's district. This kid has zero chance of ever being elected and he needs to stop wasting his and everyone else's time with this ridiculous campaign. Oh, and #DontListenToOlga"

"You are correct concerning the residency requirement. The earliest he could have hatched this harebrained idea is December 31st when he passed the bar exam, thus fulfilling one of the requirements to hold said office. We know that he lived in the Township then because (among a mountain of other evidence) that is the address that he registered with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Obviously, this is well beyond the one year cutoff date. Statutorily, he is 100% NOT qualified to be elected."

Colon can circulate a petition, but it looks like he's going to be challenged. 

Homicide Charges Filed in Christmas Day Death of Former Pen Argyl Wrestler

Mikey Racciato
Blogger's Note: One of the most persuasive arguments for involvement in high school sports is that student athletes learn to use their time efficiently and tend to avoid drugs. Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Last week, I told you about a former student athlete charged with a grizzly murder at Parkhurst apartments in 2018.  Below is the sad story of homicide charges filed in the Christmas Day death of Pewn Argyl's Michael Lorenzo “Mikey” Racciato, 26.

From Mikey's obituary:

"Mikey was a 2013 graduate of Pen Argyl High School and a 2017 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

"While at Pen Argyl High School, Mikey excelled in both football and wrestling. In football he was a two way starter, helping the Green Knights win a Colonial League Championship in 2011 and District XI AA Championships, in 2011 and 2012. In his senior year he rushed for over 1400 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

"In wrestling, Mikey’s high school career ended with a record of 186-8, he was a 4 time District XI AA Champion, a 3 time Southeast Regional Champion, AA, and a 3 time PIAA, AA, Champion, placing all four years. In 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler Award at the PIAA Tournament. He was selected to wrestle in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic in 2013.

"Following high school, Mikey went on to Wrestle at Pitt. He was a 2 time ACC finalist, finishing first in his sophomore season. He also was a 2 time qualifier for the NCAA Wrestling Tournament."

From Northampton County DA Terry Houck:

Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck announced today a Macungie man is charged in the Christmas Day death of 26-year-old Michael Racciato.

Christopher Ferrante, 41, is charged with Drug Delivery Resulting in Death, two counts of Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance, Criminal Use of Communication Facility, and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance.

On Dec. 25, 2020, Colonial Regional Police responded to an unresponsive male inside his vehicle at the Towne Place Hotel parking lot in Lower Nazareth Township. The male, identified as Michael Racciato, was pronounced dead at the scene at 3800 Easton Nazareth Highway by the Northampton County Coroner’s Office. The cause of death was acute intoxication due to combined effects of fentanyl toxicity and the manner of death was determined accidental.

Michael “Mikey” Racciato, of Pen Argyl, was well-known in the Slate Belt for his wrestling career. He was a three-time PIAA State Champion for Pen Argyl and furthered his career at the University of Pittsburg, where he became the 2015 ACC Champion and was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

At the scene, police collected Racciato’s cell phone in addition to a syringe believed to be used by Racciato. Police obtained a search warrant and sent the cell phone to Petzold Lehigh County Digital Forensics Center for analysis.

Through investigation, police learned from Philip Racciato that his son had purchased drugs from Ferrante and contacted him with his cell phone. When police obtained data from Racciato’s cell phone, text messages from Dec. 24 showed conversations between Racciato and Ferrante detailing two drug transactions.

Police learned Racciato was transported from the Walmart located on Route 248 to St. Luke’s Anderson campus via ambulance for a possible drug overdose on Dec. 24. Police obtained video surveillance from the hospital campus where Racciato was being treated. Video showed Racciato, after being discharged, being picked up by a silver-colored Nissan Rogue SUV outside the emergency room on Dec. 24 just before 9:30 p.m.

Police also obtained video from the Walmart, which shows on Dec. 24 at 9:40 p.m., the same vehicle dropping Racciato off at his vehicle in the parking lot. Racciato was observed exiting the vehicle from the back seat. Shortly after, both vehicles left the parking lot.

On Jan. 6, police interviewed Ferrante in reference to this investigation. Ferrante said he was a heroin and fentanyl user and knew Racciato for five or six months. He further stated he last saw Racciato on Dec. 24 when he picked him up from the hospital and drove him to pick up his car at Walmart. Ferrante said he’d regularly supply Racciato with heroin to support his own habit, and that he purchased fentanyl in Allentown and the bags were always double bagged and stamped with “CHP” and “Pikachu”. Ferrante confirmed to police he texted Racciato on Dec. 24 and met with him earlier in the day to sell him between 3-5 bags of fentanyl.

Racciato overdosed when he ingested the fentanyl he purchased from Ferrante. While in the hospital, Racciato texted Ferrante and asked him to pick him up. Ferrante transported Racciato back to Walmart to get his car and again sold Racciato 3-5 bags of fentanyl. Ferrante told police he provided Racciato with a needle and said he always did.

“Drug overdose deaths are always tragic,” said Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck. “Families and communities are torn apart as we continue to search for answers as to how we can combat this unfortunate trend. This arrest is a small step in that fight and I want it to be known we will investigate drug overdose deaths for links to the drug supplier in every case where a young man or woman dies. There will be consequences for these drug deliveries resulting in death beyond sale and distribution charges. As these cases arise, homicide charges will be filed as it will serve as an important message that the victim’s death will not be in vain.”

The defendant was arrested [Monday] and taken before Magisterial District Magistrate John C. Capobianco. Bail was set at $250, 000, straight. He was remanded to the Northampton County Prison.

As in every criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Thode: Covid Deaths (Finally) Dropping

Numbers cruncher Steve Thode has a hopeful report concerning the Covid-19 data.

Over the past three days, the number of new 7-Day COVID cases for Lehigh/NorCo combined has varied between 1,574 and 1,643. We haven't seen numbers that low since early November.

Meanwhile, the state issued its latest death report. Here's how things look as of February 5:

Since the first of the year, a total of 6,261 COVID deaths have been reported. The death rate in January was the highest of any month of the pandemic. In recent days, the number of reported new deaths has begun to decline. Deaths are still heavily concentrated among the elderly as seen by this chart:

COVID has killed 332 Pennsylvanians over the age of 100. Meanwhile, COVID has killed only 416 Pennsylvanians under the age of 50. And, more Pennsylvanians between the ages of 95 and 99 have died (1,651) from COVID than the number of Pennsylvanians under the age of 60 (1,416).

Geoff Brace Seeks Re-Election in Lehigh County

Geoff Brace, who incidentally is the Lehigh Valley's first ever blogger, is seeking re-election to his seat on Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners. He represents District Four, which consists of portions of both center city and the west end. 

I have very high regard for Geoff, who has attempted to approach governing in a nonpartisan manner. Although he's a card-carrying member of the Jenn Mann Mob (Schlossberg, Schweyer, Thiel, Tuerk, Robinson), he has managed to maintain his personal integrity. 

Here's part of his announcement: 

“The year 2020 was an earthquake that shook our nation,” said Brace. “In a dramatic way, it exposed the inequities and injustices we need to acknowledge and face.” 

Throughout 2020, Brace introduced legislation to deliver aid to small businesses and community groups throughout Lehigh County slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, millions of dollars of relief found their way into the hands of people directly affected by the largest public health crisis in more than a century.  Additionally, Brace led efforts to advance criminal justice reform in Lehigh County by redirecting nearly $500,000 to bolster youth violence prevention efforts, re-entry services, homelessness prevention programs and make more resources available to the public defender's office.  This was all done without raising property taxes or laying off any county employees during an economic crisis. 

“The year 2021 is the year we begin to rebuild our communities, stronger than they ever were before,” Brace remarked. “We need to do so equitably. We need to do it responsibly. We need to do it with an eye on what Lehigh County will be in in the year 2121, a century from today. None of us will be here then, but the decisions we make now can build a legacy that our grandchildren and great-great grandchildren will enjoy.”

First elected in 2013, Brace is currently in his second term.  He was unanimously elected Chair of the Board of Commissioners at the January 4, 2021 reorganization meeting.  In 2020, he was Chair of the Development & Planning Committee and Vice Chair of the Governance Committee.  In 2018, he served as Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners.  When taking office in 2014, Brace was one of two Democrats on a Republican-dominated board.  Since then, he has worked tirelessly to build a stronger progressive majority, grounded in common sense, independent of special interests and focused on serving the best interests of Lehigh County. 

Since taking office, Brace’s legislative efforts have included efforts to protect Lehigh County’s environment through a sustainable energy investment program for businesses and clean water through the Lehigh County Conservation District.  He has focused on strengthening the safety net that provides for seniors at Cedarbrook nursing home, human services for children and youth, mental health, intellectual disabilities and the homeless.  He worked with other Commissioners to eliminate pay-to-play politics and supports campaign fiancĂ© reform which ends the influence of big campaign dollars and special interests. 

“I am eager to tackle the challenges we face and hope the voters of District 4 will be too,” Brace added.  “I look forward to fulfilling the mission of rebuilding 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. By focusing on a strong economic recovery, strong democracy and safe environment, we can achieve this mission in Lehigh County.”

Brace lives in Center City Allentown with his wife Sara, who is the Administrative Director at the Volunteers of America Children’s Center and their son Isaac, who attends the Allentown School District.  His brother Doug is also a Center City resident.  His parents, Dale and Maria, live on Allentown’s West End. 

In the community, Geoff has been active as a volunteer on the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board, Old Allentown Preservation Association, Board of Governors at St. Luke’s Hospital Allentown, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce (Downtown Allentown Business Alliance).  He is an ordained Deacon at the Zion Liberty Bell UCC in Allentown where he was instrumental in starting a homeless breakfast ministry.

Brace is currently Legislative Assistant to State Representative Mike Schlossberg, where he oversees legislation, policy and communication for the 132nd legislative district. Geoff has developed extensive experience in community and economic development, having worked for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, Kutztown Community Partnership, Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the West Chester Business Improvement District. He uses these experiences to benefit Lehigh County and promote vibrant communities.

Zane Rice Charges Dishonest, Corruption and Poor Administration in Palmer Tp

Zane Rice
Political newcomer Zane Rice hopes to unseat incumbents Dale Colver (24 years) or Robert Smith (18 years) in this year's Palmer Tp Supervisors' race. He charges them with dishonesty, corruption and poor administration. He is a Democrat. 

Rice,a security guard with Allied Universal Security Services, is a graduate of Duquesne University (Political Science and History) and George Washington  University (Master's degree in Public Policy). His mother's family, the Sottosanti's, have lived on the same land in Palmer Township for over a century. His father's family is from Bangor. He grew up in Palmer.  

He's running to address the "poor administration of the Township as well as its "dishonesty and outright corruption." As an example of what he considers corruption, he cites the use of eminent domain against residents.  "I take personal issue with the abuses of power and spending the current board is undertaking, and I hope to change that and convince people in Palmer to become more involved."  

He might start with himself. According to township regulars, Rice has only ever attended one meeting. 

I contacted Colver, who is a bit puzzled at being called a crook. He told me he does no work for the township for which he is paid. Dave Colver, incidentally, was the unpaid construction manager for the Miracle League baseball diamond. I have seen him there multiple times as a volunteer.  

In 2016, I listed Colver as one of the top five people I'd want to see running my municipality.  

I like to see a young person take interest. But if I were Zane, I'd be a little more careful about baselessly smearing someone. 

Most Gracedale Residents Vaccinated for Covid-19

Jennifer Stewart King
Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart King advised Northampton County Council on Thursday that most residents have received at least the first of two Covid-19 vaccines. She indicated 270 residents have received their first vaccine, while 170 now have both. The average daily census at the facility was 535 in December. 

A news release after the meeting indicated that 369 Gracedale personnel (this includes staff from outside agencies) have been vaccinated at least once. 

There currently are approximately 230 vacancies at the facility, but the census is also about 150 lower than it has been in the past. 

Stewart King notes this is because one tower has been closed completely as a Covid-19 precaution, while the census at another is used strictly as for "transition" residents, i.e those in isolation 

There were 18 new hires in December. 

Stewart King thanked her staff for rising to the challenge presented by last Sunday's snowstorm, which dumped 33" on the nursing home. She indicated that some of her staff stayed from Sunday until Wednesday evening.   

Drug or Alcohol Problem? Call 610-829-HELP

Beth Miller, Administrator of NorCo's Drug and Alcohol program, told County Council's virtual meeting on Thursday night that most people are unaware they exist. For that reason, the County program is being advertised at a billboard on Rte 22. People who think they or a loved one needs help can call 610-829-HELP for a free evaluation. 

Drug and Alcohol has received a $452,027 grant to help those suffering from opioid addiction. This money can be used to provide housing assistance, including emergency utility bills. 

A separate grant (Police Assisting in Recovery) enables police to refer persons who are sufferibng from addiction. Miller said police are "very enthusiastic" about the program. Police cab even bring a drug and alcohol counselor to the home of an overdose survivor to discuss treatment options. 

Friday, February 05, 2021

Annual Campaign Finance Reports Trickle In

 Annual campaign finance reports were due on Monday, but the NorCo courthouse was closed. It was closed Tuesday, too, as a result of the snowstorm. So reports from Northampton County candidates were not due until Wednesday. Though a few people like Easton City Council candidate and Easton Mayor Sal Panto are late, most of the reports are in. Below are the warchests reported by possible candidates:

Northampton County

Lamont McClure - $164,551.07 (with a $4,587.78 debt to himself)

John Brown - $145.98 (with a $6,500 debt to himself)

Glenn Geissinger - $17,765.12

Tom Giovanni - $3,177.62

Ron Heckman - $1,629.67 (with a $6,200 debt to himself)

Terry Houck - $4,009.91 (with a $94,100 debt to himself)

Kevin Lott - $10,221.94

Bill McGee - $10,611.16

John Morganelli - $119,667.51

Kerry Myers - $601.29

Lori Vargo-Heffner - $3,155.00

Tara Zrinski - $8,041.66 

Bethlehem

Bryan Callahan - $19,461.36

Michael Colon - $28.59

Grace Crampsie Smith - $2,993.54

Bob Donchez - $107,486.44

Eric Evans - $2,108.01

Dana Grubb - $2,772.05

Willie Reynolds - $21,303.01

Adam Waldron - $0

Homicide Charges Filed In Burning Body Found Three Years Ago at Parkhurst Aptmts

Alkiohn Dunkins
On April 24, 2018 at about 2:30 am, Bethlehem police responded to what they thought might be a burning mannequin at the Parkhurst Apartments complex in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, it was actually a human being later identified as Tyrell Michael Holmes, age 18. Coroner Zach Lysek concluded that  Holmes died from a combination of smoke inhalation, thermal injuries and multiple stab wounds. Nearly three years have passed. Yesterday, police charged the mastermind of a three-person conspiracy to kill Holmes. 

District Attorney Terry Houck, flanked by Chief Deputy DA Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen and Bethlehem Police Detective SGT Blake Kuntz, announced homicide and related charges against Alkiohn Dunkins, age 22. Dunkins is already incarcerated at Lehigh County jail, and without bail. 

Dunkins' co-conspirators, Yzire Jenkins Rowe, 22, and Miles Harper, 21, were already charged with the homicide and related offenses in September. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case against them. They have also been charged by Lehigh County prosecutors as members of a corrupt organization called Money Rules Everything (MRE).This gang, which originated in the Marvine and Pembroke housing developments, engaged in a crime spree of shootings and robbery. 

L to R: Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen, Terry Houck
and Det SGT Blake Kuntz
Holmes was alive when set ablaze. An autopsy revealed the presence of smoke in his lungs, according to Det SGT Blake's Affidavit of Probable Cause. It adds that that Holmes "could be heard screaming at a high pitch," and witnesses could see movement while he was engulfed in flames. 

Holmes actually lived on East Raspberry Street with two members of the trio accused of killing him. In the days leading up to his murder, he told family members that he was scared for his life. MRE suspected he was stealing from the gang. Moreover, Holmes had botched a robbery attempt, and this resulted in threats to Dunkins.  

In the hours before his death, Holmes told a friend he believed people were trying to kill him. He texted this message: "Alkiohn Dunkins, Yzire Jenkins-Rowe and Zahmire Welcome. Save those names. If something  happens to me know those 3."

Something happened. 

Witnesses who lived near Dunkins' apartment could hear "brutal pounding" as well as a "loud shriek and a loud crash on the floor" about an hour prior to the murder. 

The identity of the witnesses who assisted police is being kept confidential for their own protection.  

Surveillance cameras in the vicinity of E Raspberry Street reveal that, minutes before the murder, a person resembling Yzire Jenkins-Rowe could be seen entering a Nissan Maxima and parking it on the sidewalk and in front of the apartment building for approximately six minutes. After that, video shows the vehicle travel west along E Raspberry Street to Long Street and then north along Long Street toward E North Street.  This is part of the route from the E Raspberry Street apartment to Parkhurst Apartments. 

The Nissan Maxima returned to the E Raspberry Street apartment minutes after the murder. 

Hours before the murder, Dunkins had told his co-conspirators it was time to address Holmes' transgressions. He directed them to leave their cell phones behind so that police would be unable to track their movements. Dunkins confronted Holmes outside Parkhurst apartments. At this time he was stabbed. Dunkins directed his co-conspirators to douse Holmes with gasoline and set him afire. Co-conspirator Miles Harper did so, using gasoline from a can the trio kept to fuel their dirt bikes.    

In announcing the charges against Dunkins yesterday, DA Terry Houck noted that this was a homicide involving torture. He intends to seek the death penalty. 

If there is any bright spot to this story, it's that MRE is now effectively out of business. 

Dunkins had a promising life in front of him. He was a gifted defensive back at Freedom High School. He went on to Moravian College where, as a Freshman, he played in 10 games and started in seven. His major was business. 

Prosecutors believe he's now out of business.