Monday, March 22, 2021

Osborne: South Whitehall Off to the Races!

Normally an “off-cycle” election is sleepy with minimal attention and consequences, but nothing could be further from that in South Whitehall this year. There are two commissioner positions in play, and boy, is that huge!

The addition of Diane Kelly and Michael Wolk to the Board of Commissioners just 15 months ago has added intrigue and potential change in direction in the fifth largest municipality in Lehigh County. For voters who have watched this board in action during this time, it is obvious the issues are less about party affiliation than it is about development, fiscal oversight and transparency. May 18 is sure to bring out more voters than normal as the candidates draw distinction among themselves and battle lines are drawn.

The Democrat ballot features Joe Setton, appointed in 2019 to fill a vacancy on the board, and Tom Johns, a former commissioner with close ties to the community. 

The Republican ballot, however, is contested and will be interesting.

Board President Christina “Tori” Morgan has served on the Board of Commissioners since 2008, the last 8 years as board president. She heads a now-familiar 3-2 majority of the board. She was a leading proponent of the controversial Ridge Farm development made possible by a creative “overlay district” approved in 2014. She is also a supporter of other large developments. Most recently,  she has overseen negotiations that resulted in the first labor strike in South Whitehall since the 1980’s. She undoubtedly will be a target for those voters who disapprove of her leadership on these and other issues. Other voters will see the positives she emphasizes and provide critical support in her re-election effort.

Her competition on the Republican ballot are newcomers Monica Hodges and David Kennedy. Hodges is the co-founder of the South Whitehall Concerned Citizens, which formed in 2017 as a forum for residents to express their views concerning Ridge Farms. This has since grown into a multi-issue outlet that addresses growth, preservation, township finances, and government transparency among other important topics. Kennedy has served on the Parkland School District board for 22 years and the South Whitehall Public Safety Commission for 25 years. He pledges to have developers comply with land development ordinances while also preserving farmland and green space.

I would like to provide the opportunity for the candidates to respond to 5-7 questions on this blog, but before doing so, thought it would be good to see what you think should be asked of the candidates. Each candidate will be asked the same questions.

Updated 9:24 am, to indicate S Whitehall is fifth, not third, largest municipality in Lehigh.  

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Third largest?

Allentown 121,803
Lower (no police) Towmship 33,169
Whitehall 28,780
Upper Mac 24,077
South Whitehall 21,079

Anonymous said...

Third largest municipality?

Allentown 621,803
Lower (no police) Township 33,169
Whitehall 28,780
Upper Mac 24,075
South Whitehall 21,079

Chris Casey said...

Brad, when it comes to land use, 15 years ago in Upper Mac I was told it was too expensive to fight Jaindl and the developers. What is the sense in South Whitehall? Is it ever too late to fight because of legal costs? I am respectfully asking your opinion as a former Commissioner and Township office holder. I am curious to what the candidates in SW think, and to what actions they think are available. Maybe they have an idea Upper Mac residents could use against Americold and Uline, who are aggressive in pursing their agendas.

Anonymous said...

How would you bring harmony and respect back to the board of commissioners meetings ? This is something that’s clearly lacking if you watch any of the meetings online. There is no respect by some for the fellow commissioners or citizens it is very obvious.

Anonymous said...

1. Would you support low income housing opportunities in SWT?
2. Would you support a referendum on raising EIT to purchase open space or development rights?
3. Would you support a storm water management assessment to fund projects to comply with state and federal mandates?


Anonymous said...

I have lived in South Whitehall for 37 years. My street has never been paved and it is one pot hole after another. We spend all kinds of money on parks but can’t fix the roads. What is your plan to fix the worn out roads in the neighborhoods?

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of questions for the commissioners.

1. Is it proper for commissioners to leave the parameters and guidelines for Union negotiations up to the township staff? Or should the commissioners get more involved?

2. Is it proper that no audits have been done for the past 10 years?

3. How should COVID relief money received from the federal, state and county governments be used in SWT?

Anonymous said...

1. Do you believe that the Board of Commissioners set the guidelines for union negotiations?

2. South Whitehall audits have not been filed with the state in ten years. Do you believe we should be submitting audits on a yearly basis?

3. Do you believe that vacancies on the Board of Commissioners should be advertised and interviews conducted in a public setting before an appointment is made? In 2019, now-Commissioner Setton was appointed near midnight at a meeting without any advertisement of his appointment ahead of time.

4. Should there be term limits for Commissioners in South Whitehall?

Anonymous said...

They should be asked a very simple question. "Is South Whitehall heading in the right direction? Why or Why not? What needs to change (if anything)?"

Anonymous said...

How about this for a question.... When and why should a waiver be granted to a developer who submits a plan which violates the SALDO codes?

Anonymous said...

Hello. It is my understanding that $650,000 was put into a new playground at Covered Bridge Park. And soon afterwards tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment was washed away during the most recent massive flood. My question is, why are we putting so much money into a park that is in a known flood zone?

Brad Osborne said...

Chris, I just wanted you to know I saw your post & will respond shortly. Thank you for your question & patience.

JoAnn Markowicz said...

I am very interested in hearing comments about a realtor being elected as a Board of Commissioner within a township that they are an active realtor or own their own realty company. Does anyone else think this creates a "conflict of interest"? And if you think this doesn't/can't happen, below is an article of just what happened back between 2009-2013 in Lower Macungie Township.

Potential major land development news. We have heard that an application is coming to develop the farmland across from the old Lower Macungie Elementary School property and the current middle school with apartments. The property extends from Spring Creek Rd to Millcreek Rd. Unfortunately, as we've posted many times before this was eventually going to happen. In 2010, a prior board of Commissioners voted to upzone this property from it's previous Suburban zoning to Urban. Because of that move there isn't much the current Board can do to stop it. And preservation is out of the question because the value of Urban zoned land is astronomical. Under the old zoning, a developer could only build single family homes. The previous board in 2010 led at the time by Commissioners Ron Eichenberg and Ryan Conrad, (both realtors) rezoned the property to allow for apartments which are apparently now coming. Once that decision was made, preservation became impossible even once the current Board of Commissioners began an ambitious effort to preserve remaining farmland that has resulted in nearly 500 acres preserved. Here was the motion and vote made in 2010: "Motion by Commissioner Ron Eichenberg, seconded by Commissioner Brown to approve Ordinance 2010-08. Roll Call Vote: Brown aye, Ryan Conrad aye, Ron Eichenberg aye, Pugliese aye, Roger Reis aye. Motion carried." The 2010 Board is the same group that rezoned 700 acres of farmland to warehouses off Spring Creek Rd. They also changed the zoning to allow for the new Grandview apartments on Rt. 100. A decision that brought criticism at the time since Commissioner Ron Eichenberg represented the property owners as their realtor. He recused himself from the vote, but he participated in lengthy discussions in support of the rezoning. That board from 2010 was the gift that keeps on giving... in the worse possible way. They are a lasting example of why people need to pay close attention to township elections. When voters fell asleep at the wheel, Commissioners with conflicting real estate interests took the helm from 2009-2013 and made a string of decisions that resulted in hundreds of acres of farmland being lost forever. Today, everyone of those previous commissioners were either defeated in re-election bids by candidates who opposed their decisions (Reis, Eichenberg were defeated by Ron W. Beitler and Brian Higgins in 2013), move out of the area (Ryan Conrad moved to Virginia) or left office on their own. (Brown who later had a change of heart and regretted these votes, and Joe Pugliese who also has expressed regret.) We will follow this very closely. It could be around 200 apartments.

David Burke said...

David Burke wrote-

What is the position of each potential new Board members on "overlay district zoning"? Are you in favor of at least reviewing the effects of these standards on density, and if necessary scaling them back or perhaps even eliminating them from our zoning standards. One of our current Democratic Board members said it well in his Humanity campaign platform "developers only concern is maximizing profitability on a piece of property leaving little regard for the quality of life of the neighbors”. That's what they do and our overlay standards allow them to do it.
Quite frankly, I am disappointed that the current Board has done nothing on this topic. As the Board voted on Conditional approval of Ridge Farms in the fall of 2019, one outgoing Commissioner said he voted yes because the law required it. He said, “Maybe I’m an idiot but I really left that first meeting thinking you were all going to scale back”. Another outgoing Commissioner said,“this development is just overdeveloped”. Another outgoing commissioner stated he had many concerns but was voting for approval because he feared a lawsuit which would be costly and which the township would ultimately lose. A forth commissioner lost in the primary election, most likely because he was identified as a Ridge Farms supporter.
It seems the old Board voted "against their will" for approval of our "first overlay development". Shouldn't we have learned something from that? Now we are faced with our second "overlay development"the Premier Luxury Apartment proposal
with a density of 17 dwellings per acre on an access challenged piece of property.
So I ask you quite simply- WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON OVERLAY STANDARDS? WILL YOU MAKE ACTION ON OVERLAY ZONING STANDARDS A PART OF YOUR CAMPAIGN AGENDA?

Anonymous said...

Christina Morgan was a Commissioner when....

An employee stole over $800,000 from taxpayers (Nancy Tonkin)

She tried to get Wehr's Dam removed, and failed after the referendum saved the dam (for now)

She voted to appoint Joe Setton who lost an election, badly, in a midnight vote ....Mark Pinsley resign and they appointed Setton with no public call for interest in the position.

A SWT police Officer killed an unarmed man in front of Dorney Park (Officer Jonathan Roselle)

A SWT police officer was fired for "raping" an intoxicated woman while on duty (Sgt Kyle Golden)

A Respected Township Manager quit (Jon Hammer)

She enabled the overlay zoning that helped her cronies with Jarus Corporation sell the property for Ridge Farms

She is trying to ban single use plastic bags and plastic straws in the middle of a pandemic when cloth or multiuse bags are banned from most establishments due to the COVID-19 virus

As a republican she campaigned for Joe Setton, a democrat...and pushed for his appointment to have a puppet

she refused to condemn Mad Matty Mobilio after he said anyone who supports Donald Trump should be hung for treason. (5,735 SWT residents voted for Trump in 2020)

She humiliated former SWT South Whitehall Matt Mulqueen by forcing him to run for re-election, and he lost in the primary, badly

She removed several long trusted members of the SWT Planning Commission with no reasoning but to install her chosen people, both of whom resigned from the same board (Steve Seyer, Donald Werley were removed, Vinny Quinn and Bryan Wealand were installed, then quit)

She hired a Township manager with no Township management experience and a background in human resources, who drives 120 miles round trip in a new vehicles everyday to her home near Philadelphia (at taxpayer expense)

#MorganHasGottaGoIn21

#VoteMorganOut

#SaveSouthWhitehall


Anonymous said...

South Whitehall choices in 2021


Republican
Tori Morgan - 13 years, over stayed her expiration date

Monica Hodges - New Blood, Fresh ideas

David Kennedy - Trusted on the Parkland School Board as a Director, Trusted on the SWT Public Safety Committee

Democrat
Joe Setton - Realtor in the back pocket of Developers

Tom Johns - Contractor and Developer


Choice is Kennedy and Hodges

Anonymous said...

Morgan also appoint Joe Zator as Solicitor for the Twonship, well known attorney for David Jaindl

Morgan fights to keep the most expensive engineer in the Lehigh Valley, The Pidcock Company, despite the Pidcock Company being the preferred Engineering firm for David Jaindl

Anonymous said...

5 Questions:

Do you support requiring senior management to live within 15 miles of South Whitehall Township?

Do you believe that the Police Cars should not have pitch black tinted windows that make them seem mean rather than friendly to the community

Would you support a process to expand the board of commissioners to 7 members?

Would you allow the Planning Commission to develop a Capital Improvement Plan with input from Public Works and Community Development to address the infrastructure needs of the community?

Would you fill with immediate effect the vacant positions on the Environmental Advisory Council? These vacancies are NEVER mentioned during meetings when other openings are mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Please ask Kennedy why he supported so many Parkland School District tax increases. I believe they were raised pretty much every year he has been on the school board, several times over the state limit (state approved it). I am leery of a "tax and spend" person as a SWT Commissioner.

Thank you for covering SWT issues.

Chris Peischl said...

Why have no audits been conducted for SWT finances? Especially since SWT had money embezzled while Morgan was on the board.
Is it true SWT can not receive certain grants because we have not had an audit?
The Water authority was dissolved to save money yet 16 months later water and sewer rates were raised. Clearly that wasn’t a cost saving measure but a coup to have all income controlled by the commissioners and then veiled in secrecy. Will you bring back the Water and Sewer authority and keep it separate from commissioners?
Why is Mobilio continually allowed to bully other commissioners during meetings and not held accountable for his actions? What will you do to rein him in and bring civility to the board?

Sherman T Potter said...

1. Would you allow public comment at the beginning of the commissioner meetings?

2. Would you enact a policy to have all financial statements paid for by tax dollars to be posted on the website meeting minutes / agendas?

3. Do you believe a fully director salary "Fire Commissioner" is necessary in SWT for baby sitting 3.5 fire departments?

4. For virtual meetings would you require ALL STAFF to be on camera? (why are they not on camera while getting paid)

5. Would you change solicitors and engineering firms to avoid the Jaindl conflict?

Anonymous said...

Why was David Torrey suddenly removed from the vacancy board, and replaced by Keisha Champagnie, without any public notice, advertisement, or mention of term expiration (there was NO mention of term expiration on the SWT website) and how would the new candidates have handled this?

And an add-on: “why do only two commissioners interview and appoint rather than the entire BOC as a body? How do the candidates feel about this?”

Anonymous said...

https://www.wfmz.com/news/insideyourtown/south-whitehall-commissioners-considering-dissolving-townships-board-of-authority/article_77094934-4817-55e3-b41e-f35b73f22d8d.html

The above article is yet another example of something important not listed as an agenda item. Should the Board of Authority have been disbanded and would the new commissioners bring the BoA back as an additional environmental and fiduciary safeguard?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben that’s a good question did Tori give that question.?

ROBERT HODGES said...

Full disclosure. my wife is Monica Hodges, and she is running for SWT Commissioner.

I recently received some information through a "Right to Know" (RTK) request about how the COVID grant money was spent by the township, and the info raises some questions. Perhaps they can be posted here for the commissioners to respond to, and for all candidates to give their opinions.

From the RTK information:
- $200,061.13 on Payment of PD furloughed shifts, unemployment expenses, sick pay above the allowable benefit, and shift changes
- $33,203 for PPE, disinfectant, car cleanings and signs saying "Parks Closed"
- $138,942 for rent at the Roma building while the administration building was being renovated
- $30,359 for laptop computers for remote working.

My questions:

1. The rent for Roma had already been budgeted in last year's budget, so why was it taken out of the COVID grant money? And where did that budgeted rent money go if it wasn't used for rent?

2. Is paying rent while you do a $9-$10 million dollar renovation to your admin building a proper use of emergency COVID relief money?

3. How many people received new computers? Reliable computers capable of doing anything you need them to do for remote work can be bought for $500-$600. Probably less if buying in bulk. So for $30,000 does this mean that 50-60 computers bought? Did we have that many people working remotely? Or did we buy the most expensive $2000 Apple laptops? And are these computers township property, or will the employees receiving them get to keep them?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It is a good question...have the incumbents - Morgan and Setton ...voted for any tax increases during their terms? What about sewer fees? Refuse fees? Water fees? Property taxes? Fire tax? Would love to see a list of taxes and fees they have approved in their time on the board!

Anonymous said...

How was this not listed on the agenda for the public to comment? Who made the decision to discuss this in a meeting with no prior notice? Isn’t there a law that requires the board to advertise the agenda topics? Morgan was President then....how would the current board and new candidates handle future Agenda advertising of all topics ?

Anonymous said...

would you be in favor of south whitehall becoming a home rule charter township, with a mayor and larger council....like whitehall?

ROB SCHAEFFER said...

HOW MUCH IS SOUTHWHITEHALL TOWNSHIP PAYING THE LEHGIH VALLEY PLANNING COMMISSION TO BE SUBJECT AREA EXPERTS?

DOES SOUTH WHITEHALL RELAIZE THEY HAVE NO EXPERTS IN TRANSPORTATION OR COMMUNITY PLANNING? BOTH DIRECTORS QUIT DUE TO THE WORKING CONDITIONS IN A PANDEMIC. HALF THE WORKFORCE THERE GOT COVID DUE TO NOT WORKING REMOTELY. THE EXPERTS ARE NOT AT THE LVPC. THE TOWN SHIP STAFF ARE BETTER SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS AS THEY KNOW THE AREA ABND RESIDENTS CONCERNS


RTK REQUESTS FOR FINANCIALS GO OUT MON DAYS MORNING TO BOTH THE LVPC AND THE SWT, TACPAYER MONIES USED AT THE LVPC SGOULD POROVIDE THIS SERVICE AS THE COUNTY PLANNING AGENCY NOT BILLING THE BILLS TO THE TOWNSHIP, Y DUZ THE COUNTY GIVE 700K A YEAR TO THE LVPC TO HAVE THEM BILL SWT FOR SERVCIES

ROB SCHAEFFER said...

MORGAN WAS PART OF TWO TAX INCREASES INCLUDING THE LARGEST IN SOUTH WHITEHALLIN HISOTORY

MORGAN INSTITIUTED A "FIRE TAX" TO PAY THE SALARIES OF A FIRE COMMISSIONER, OVER 130,000 A YEAR THAT SHOULD BE GOING TO VOLUNETEERS FIRE DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT, THE TAX WAS NOTFOR A PAID FOIREDEPARTMENT OR A SALARIES TO WATCH VOLUNTEERS FIRE DEPTS

MORGAN INITIATED A COVID 19 RELIEF PROGRAM WITH SO MUCH RED TAPE THE ONLY PEEPS MAKING MONEY IS THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FOR RUNNING THE JOKE OF A PROGRAM, AS]T SOUTH WHITEHALL EXPNESE

WHY DOESNT SWT JUST PUT THE NEW COVID RELIEF PALN MONET YSIES ALLL 2 MILLION DOLLARS BACK INTO BUISNESSSESZ ISNTEAD OF JUST GIVING 150000 TO THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Anonymous said...

JOE SETTON WASTH EONLY ONE TO VOTE FOR THE REXONING OF HILLVIEW DRIVE.... TORI LEFT HIM ALL LONE WHEN SHE VOTED LAST TO SAVE FACE AFTER SHE KNEWS THE VOTE WAS TO DENY WAS GOING TO WIN, SUCH A POLITICIAN ,





DRAIN THE SWAMP OF SOUTH WHITEHALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Morgan and her cronies screwed the fire Volunteer fire departments By bringing another person from Allentown in to take a pension and do nothing in our Township . Pretty soon we’re gonna be called the Allentown West retirement home.
Question would you advertise all job openings and positions ? #draintheSWTswamp #Morganhastogo

Anonymous said...

Do the candidates feel the virtual participation should continue and be incorporated as a permanent part of the township meetings after the meetings go back to in-person?

Roman Quinn said...

Why not all have all candidates for all volunteer positions be interviewed in public during a workshop meeting as need by the Board of Commissioners. To have two commissioners decide who will be appointed with no information on the other candidates being presented in public seems like cronyism.

Its cute that the Eton Road is one of the first roads to be plowed open during significant snow events. Morgan lives on Eton, and her neighbor is Mad Matty Mobilio.

And let's not talk about the police favoritism towards the ex-West point guy who flunked out of the academy having gotten there with the help of police stuff being swept under the rug.

If a meeting is virtual everyone should have cameras on and be engaged in the meeting, not drinking and texting each other about the public daring to ask questions


Republican Voter 2021 said...

Why are so many of the administrative staff ex-Allentown employees?


SWT employees who worked for the City of Allentown


Police Chief - Glen Dorney
Assistant Township Manager - Randal Cope
Public Works Superintendent - Herbert Bender
Storm Water and Utilities Administrator - Michael Elias
Code Enforcement Officer - Thomas Harper

That list right there is a million dollars worth of salary and benefits, double dipping into two public entity pension funds

Anonymous said...

Tori Morgan gave away over 16 waivers to Ridge Farms many safety related plus waivers to the massive warehouses on Crackersport Road .
Question: What would be your position on waivers and why ?

voter said...

The Crackersport Warehouses are a disgrace, take a drive on Crackersport and Eck, then head to get a front end alignment on your car.

the safety items are ridiculous, the sidewalk at the railroad drops off 8 feet

Moragn also gave in to Jaindl for the Hills at Winchester cash grab that jaindl stole from the Rutz Family, and wait to you see what he doesn with the Howells Properties at Chapmans and Bluebarn, that he also stole for $1 million, 1 million for 150 acres

Anonymous said...

Commisioner Morgan served the residents of South Whitehall for over 10 years she accomplished a lot ,some of them are listed below .
1. Spend 12 Million on Renovating a White Elephant Township Building.
2. Turned her back on the residents
3. Alienate the Volunteer Firefighters
4. Let the Public Works go on strike costing the taxpayers approximately $125K in contract labor
5. Raising Taxes ,Water ,Sewer and Refuse Fees
6. Morgan’s greatest accomplishment letting Developers run rickshaw over the Township

Question: If you’re elected commissioner what would you hope to accomplish in the first year?

concerned citizen in SWT said...

I will phrase this question two different ways:

a) question to candidates seeking re-election - How do you justify that during your time as a SWT Commissioner (Morgan since 2008) and (Setton since 2019) no required annual audits were submitted to the DCED since 2011 (in 2012 an employee embezzlement of $1 million was uncovered)? How was an audit NOT required especially after this discovery?


b) seeking election for the first time - How concerned are you about taking over a township that has not submit a required annual audit to the DCED since 2011 (in 2012 an employee embezzlement of $1 million was uncovered)?
How concerned are you about what you will find regarding the township's financials since the current BOC is non-transparent regarding this matter when questioned at BOC meetings or through RTK Request Forms?

Anonymous said...

Question 1 Why is Morgan and Setton jeopardizing the health of utility linemen by nailing nailing their campaign signs on poles near the parkland Restaurant along Walbert Avenue? Nails and the like from these illegally posted signs create a hazard to electrical PPE when they get torn by these nails. Just shows the inconsiderate lengths that these two non-caring about the working men people they are.

Please stop creating a hazard Morgan and Setton and post your signs appropriately

its a matter of life and death

https://stories.pplelectric.com/2017/12/02/please-dont-post-on-our-poles/

Why is setton posting signs anyway? he and tom johns are the only two democrats running for two seats, if you cant win a democratic primary that way without signs you have a major problem winning in the fall

Utility Line Workers Lives Matter said...

Tori Morgan and Joe Setton,

Thinking about promoting your yard sale, band concert, or campaign for township supervisor by posting signs on utility poles?

Please don’t.

Posting signs or posters on utility poles is unsafe and, in many cases, illegal. Our line workers can be injured if their climbing hooks strike a nail, tack or staple that has been hammered into a pole. The fasteners also could tear the rubber equipment our workers wear to protect against electrical shock.

Section 6905 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code makes it a summary offense to drive a nail or tack into a utility pole

Anonymous said...

Good to see known coward and virtual tough guy Mad Matty Mobilio resign.

Anonymous said...

Sometime the trash takes it self out. 1 piece of trash gone two to go.. May 18th can’t come soon enough..

Anonymous said...

I am sure Morgan will put Tom Johns or Keisha Champagnie in that seat....another puopet