Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day: Remember the Young Dead Soldiers

We're a strange bunch. We look forward to Memorial Day as an extra day off from work, a time for picnics and the start of summer. Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted, "Enjoy the long weekend!" Before you bast away at her, she is far from alone. We say "Happy Memorial Day" to each other from the Jersey shore. Few of us take the time to think of, to say nothing of honoring, those who have offered their lives for a freedom we take for granted.

It's always been that way. Even during the Revolutionary War, which started with the Boston Massacre, there was little public regard for those who put themselves in harm's way and lost their lives.

“Good God, are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their Liberties?” asked Benedict Arnold, who ultimately sold out himself in bitterness as much as greed.

The very first American to give his life in the cause of liberty was Crispus Attucks. His father was an African-American slave. His mother was a Natick, who were called the "Praying Indians." Little is known about Crispus. But his and the lives of so many who made the ultimate sacrifice are summed up in the immortal words of Archibald MacLeish.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

First published Memorial Day, 2016

Friday, May 28, 2021

Updated: Hutnik Unofficially Wins Disputed Magisterial District Judge Nomination

After thorough canvassing and an audit of the entire district, Susie Hutnik has unofficially won the Democratic nomination for Magisterial District in Palmer and Forks Tp. She beat rival Lisa M Spitale by six votes. 

I explained the canvassing process in the post below and told you results would be audited today. That  was complete as of 11 am and there is no need for a tie breaker. 

The result in this race would be close enough to trigger an automatic recount if it were a statewide race. In a local race like this one, a group of voters could request a recount on the basis of fraud or error. This no doubt is why Administrator Charles Dertinger conducted an audit of the entire district. 

Barring a challenge by Spitale, Hutnik will face Wilson police officer Marc Crisafulli in November. 

Lead Now Favors Hutnik in Forks Palmer MDJ Race

The race for the Democratic nomination in the Forks and Palmer Tp magisterial district judge will be decided today. It's been an interesting battle between Attorneys Lisa Spitale and Susie Hutnik, both of whom are highly regarded and very much alike. 

On election night, Spitale was ahead of Hutnik by a scant two votes. 

Then the canvassing began.  That's a review, precinct by precinct, of the votes cast in each race. It involves checking the flash drive in each voting machine, a comparison of the votes ballots cast on the machine against who actually checked in on the electronic poll book, a review of the mail-in ballots cast, checking the provisional ballots and "remakes" of mail-in ballots rejected by the scanner. 

As of Wednesday, Hutnik had picked up two votes and the race was in a dead heat. As of Thursday night, Hutnik is ahead by six. But it's still too soon to pop open the champagne.

One of my readers complains we all should have known the winners on election night. "[T]his extended counting is not what has been the history of voting in the USA," he observes. "This only leads to a further eroding of faith in the system."

This reader is wrong. The election results tabulated on election night or the following day are unofficial and stay that way until the votes are canvassed and results are certified by the Elections Comm'n. It always takes a week or a little more to conclude this canvass.  

Remakes

As I've mentioned in a previous post, 516 of the 16,010 mail-in ballots received (3.2%) were rejected by the scanner. Unlike a Presidential contest, the ballot in a  municipal contest is much longer and this presents a problem when unfolded for scanning. A paper tear or poor unfolding sometimes renders the ballot unreadable, and that's when elections officials must complete "remakes." 

You could reject all 516 of the ballots rejected by the scanner, but that would disenfranchise the voter.

Provisionals 

In addition to the remakes, provisional ballots must be reviewed. Is the voter registered? Does he actually belong to the Democratic or Republican party?  Should it count in the precinct where the provisional was cast? 

These questions must be answered by canvassers before deciding to count or reject a provisional.

Pollworker Error

The canvass will also disclose pollworker error, especially now that the county is using electronic poll books. 

When the polls close, the elections judge removes a flash drive from the voting machine. This is encrypted and is taken from the precinct and handed to county officials to tabulate the results. In the Forks and Palmer Tp race, the elections judge in one of the Forks Tp districts turned in two flash drives corresponding to two voting machines in that precinct. One of the flash drives showed that no votes had been cast at all. When contacted, the elections judge told officials no one had used that machine. This information was incorrect. 

During the canvass, the electronic pollbook showed that 100 more voters had checked in to vote than  appeared in the results. Officials then checked the machine that supposedly was never used. The missing votes were there and were tabulated. The elections judge removed the flash drive before closing the polls. 

It's a long day. 

This is why you do a canvass. 

Without the electronic pollbooks advocated by Voter Registrar Amy Cozze and County Administrator Charles Dertinger, this error would never have been discovered.   

Dertinger has overseen the selection of three separate voting systems during his time as Elections Commissioner, County Council member and Administrator. He has been through close races like this one.

In an interview yesterday, Dertinger said that the entire district will be audited today. Both campaigns have been informed. If the final tally is a tie, Hutnik and Spitale will draw straws. 

Marc Crisafulli, a Wilson Borough police officer, has sewed up the Republican side.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Allentown's Majority Minority Community is Divided

According to Allentown's 2019 census figures, it's 52.5% Hispanic or Latino, 14.7% black and 2.9% Asian. It's definitely a majority of minorities. But they are divided. This fissure existed in the municipal primary because many Latnos refused to get behind black Mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach or black City Council candidate Justin Parker Fields. Things have gone from bad to worse, with the usual tired accusation of "Racist!" being tossed around by Comrade Fields. He labelled me a racist for daring  to point out that he gave Coplay police a fake name when he was stopped for driving with a suspended license. I was a racist for reporting that Mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach dumped a 16 yo runaway at a tent city.   Now, Allentown's Robespierre is claiming that Victor Martinez, the popular President and CEO of La Mega radio, is a bigot, too. 

Prepare the guillotine!

Victor Martinez, by the way, is the reason Julio Guridy very nearly became Allentown's Mayor. His car parades for Julio and Latin City Council candidates struck me as hokey, even borderline ridiculous. But then again, so did Trump's flag rallies. 

As ridiculous as these campaign styles might appear, they are effective. Malcolm Gladwell notes in The Tipping Point that a few people can, on their own, create a social epidemic. Hush Puppies became popular when a few kids started to wear them because no one else would. They created a social epidemic, in which a few could spread the Hush Puppies virus with the same geometric progression we've seen with Covid-19.

So it is with politics. A few connectors can spread the Trump virus or the Latino candidate virus. 

Victor Martinez was that connector for Julio Guridy and other Latin candidates in Allentown. How else do you explain how a 21 yo Kutztown University student who never made an appearance got elected? She was part of a social virus being spread quite effectively by Martinez.

Julio Guridy walked away with nearly twice the number of votes that everyone had predicted. His tally was far higher than had been predicted just a few weeks earlier in a  Muhlenberg survey. 

Not everyone was happy with Martinez. Bullhorn-toting demagogues like Enid Santiago and Justan Parker Fields wanted to be the center of attention themselves. Instead, Fields and Ce-Ce Gerlach tanked.  

So now Fields is suffering from sour-grape-itis. He's calling Martinez a racist over the radio host's on-air disparagement of a group of African American women who were on a recent flight Martinez made to Puerto Rico to surprise his wife. It was clear, at least to a racist like myself, that Martinez' humor was directed solely at the African American women in his plane. I do agree he could have avoided mentioning their race. He was criticizing people because they were obnoxious, not because they were black. 

Now Fields is trying to persuade sponsors to withdraw their support, while Martinez is threatening to wage a write-in campaign for City Council. 

Is there anyone Fields has not called a racist? 

This is just like the divisions we see among those of us who happen to be white.

I guess we're all human. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Palmer-Forks Magisterial Race Tied

As Northampton County elections officials continue their canvass of the May 18 municipal primary, it appears that one of the Democratic races is in a dead heat. This contest is for the Magisterial District Judge seat in Palmer and Forks Tp. Highly regarded Judge Jackie Taschner has decided to hang up her robe at the end of her term, and a field of four candidates has stepped into the fray. 

Republican Marc Chrisafulli, a Wilson Borough police officer, has captured the Republican nomination and will be on the ballot in the fall. The contest for  the Democratic nod, however, is for from certain. 

Yesterday, I told you that Susie Hutnik, an admired Assistant Public Defender, was trailing Lisa Spitale, an equally admired private attorney, by a scant two votes. Today, they are both tied at 1171. 

How did this happen? Lisa Spitale received six provisional ballots while Susie Hutnik only captured five. So you might think Lisa's lead would be increased by one vote. 

Here's what happened. There were 16,010 mail-in ballots, but 516 of them (3.2%) were rejected by the scanner. This could be for a variety of reasons, from a paper tear to some other defect that makes the ballot impossible to read. Elections officials remedy this problem with something known as a "remake." The defective ballot is hand-copied onto a new ballot and scanned. 

When the remakes were finished, Susie Hutnikl had made up her three-vote deficit and is now tied with Lisa Spitale.

How do you break the tie?

The candidates will cast lots. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

My Summer Adventure

Sometime in early August, I'll be gone a few days. I'm unsure if I'll be able to blog. I'll be on my summer adventure and some of you might be able to give me a few tips. In Australia, they'd call it a walkabout. I'm calling it a bikabout. 

The first leg of my journey will be a bicycle ride from here in Nazareth to Philly. I'll take the D and L trail to Bristol, then navigate the East Coast Greenway to Philly's 30th Street Station. It's about 90 miles. If I'm lucky, I'll do that in one day  If there are too many obstacles around Bristol, I'll take a train. Not sure the roads there are safe for cyclists unfamiliar with them. 

After a night in Philly, I'll ride Amtrak the next day to Pittsburgh. That's a 9.5 hour ride. If I have daylight, I'll get a few miles under my belt. I'll likely spend a night in or south of Pittsburgh.  

I'll be riding the Great Allegheny Passage, a 333-mile bike ride to D.C. I plan to complete this in three-four days. Maybe take an extra day if I see something I like.  

Once I hit DC, I'll take Amtrak back to Philly and ride home. 

That's the tentative plan. I might make the ride a bit shorter by skipping the ride to Philly. I might even drive to Pittsburgh and start there. The one constant is the ride from Pittsburgh to DC.

Then you can bury what's left of me. 

Some of you are avid cyclists and might be familiar with this ride. Any suggestions? 


Spitale Clings to Two Vote Lead in Palmer-Forks Magisterial Contest

I told you that Lehigh County received 395 provisional ballots in last week's municipal primary, of which 209 were fully or partially counted. It is likely, therefore, that Northampton County received a slightly smaller number. The tallies from these provisionals have yet to be loaded to the county website, but couls swing the Democratic nod in the race for Magisterial District Judge in Palmer and Forks Tps. Atty Lisa Spitale clings to a two-vote lead over Attorney Susie Hutnik. 

Ed Zucal Captures Spot on Both Sides of Allentown City Council Ballot

Allentown City Council member Ed Zucal can finally begin to breathe more easily as Lehigh County elections officials continue their canvass of last week's election.  He is now on both sides of the ballot. 

There were four spots for Allentown City Council. Ed finished fourth on the Democratic side with a 21-vote lead over Patrick Palmer. He gained ground when provisional votes were counted. 

Zucal will appear on the Republican ballot as well. He attracted 106 write-in votes, six more than he needed to get one of four Republican nominations. Daryl Hendricks just missed the GOP nod with 93 write-ins. 

It is now all but certain that the four Democratic nominees for City Council are Cynthia Mota (4,246),  Daryl Hendricks (2,874), Natalie Santos (2,856) and Ed Zucal (2,511).

The two Republican City Council candidates are Tom Houck and Ed Zucal. 

Interestingly, Ray O'Connell captured 120 write-in votes on the Republican side of the ledger. Had there been no candidate, Ray would be the Republican nominee. 


Monday, May 24, 2021

Why is Turnout So Low in Bethlehem's South Side?

During last year's Presidential election, turnout was very high at most precincts. It was 75.68% in Northampton County and 74.67% in Lehigh County. But not everywhere. Turnout was abysmally poor in South Side Bethlehem, especially in Latino districts 4 and 5. Turnout there was 49.47% and 50.48%, respectively. Unfortunately, and despite early voting and the existence of no-excuse mail-in ballots  (MIB), that trend continues in South Bethlehem. 

According to unofficial tally in Northampton County, turnout in last week's municipal primary was 20.52%. In Bethlehem, turnout was highest in north side Precinct 6 (39.65%). But it was disheartening on the South Side. In Districts 4 and 5, where there was both a Mayoral contest and a disputed Magisterial District Judge race, only 7.87% and 7.73% of the registered voters exercised their franchise. In District 3, it was just 3.41%. 

Overall, south side turnout was about half what it is on the north side.

Without doubt, the advent of MIBs have enabled more people to  vote. Northampton County's 20.52% last week is markedly higher than the municipal primaries in 2017 (14.45%) and 2013 (14.50%). But the paucity of south side voters is troubling to those of us who believe in small "d" democracy. My uninformed opinion has always been that people who need to work two or three jobs have enough trouble putting food on the table than worry about who represents them. As a result, nobody does. 

What's your take?

South side turnout: 1N - 12.51%, 1S - 9.18%, 2 - 9.51%, 3 -3.41%, 4 - 7.87%, 5 - 7.73%, 16 - 10.39%, 17 - 6.52%.   

Canvassing Yields No Lead Changes in Allentown Mayoral or City Council Races

Lehigh County elections officials are internet stars of sorts. They are filming their official canvass of the May 18 primary. You can tune in and catch the action here. I dropped in on Friday just as Voting Registrar Tim Benyo was finishing his tally of the provisional ballots. They've changed nothing in Allentown. 

Lehigh County received 395 provisional ballots. Of this total, 209 were fully or partially counted. 

Matt Tuerk still leads in the Mayoral contest by 122 votes over incumbent Ray O'Connell. 

The Democratic nominees in the City Council race are still Cynthia Mota (4,246), Daryl Hendricks (2,874), Natalie Santos (2,856) and Ed Zucal (2,511). 

Zucal's lead over Patrick Palmer is now 21 votes. 

Ten military ballots were sent countywide, and three have been returned. The remaining seven must be in by COB tomorrow.   

On the Republican side, Tom Houck was the sole candidate. But there are 451 write-ins, and it's possible that some of the Democratic City Council candidates will capture a Republican nomination if they get 100. 

Will Dana Grubb Voters Vote For Kachmar?

At a Bethlehem Mayoral debate between Dana Grubb and Willie Reynolds, Grubb vowed to support Willie if he emerged the victor. True to form, Dana will be supporting Willie in November But how many of his voters will follow. I can't envision any circumstances under which some of Dana's more ardent supporters would ever actually vote for Republican John Kachmar. But  they might sit on their hands ion that race. If Kachmar peels away a  sufficient number of Dana's voters, he wins. That's the math. 

In Lehigh County, Willie Reynolds garnered 1,271 votes. Kachmar (664) and Grubb (779) combined beat Willie. 

In Northampton County, Willie pulled in 2,692 votes compared to Kachmar (2,349) and Grubb (1,643). Combined, they beat Willie. 

Easton Man Running For NorCo Council as Independent

Five Democrats and five Republicans will square off in November for five seats on Northampton County Council. But there may soon be an 11th candidate. Emmanuel Jah-El, an Easton resident, is seeking signatures to get on the ballot as an independent. His webpage is located here

Jah-El did seek the Democratic nomination, but his nomination petition was rejected for failure to obtain the requisite number of signatures. 

Independent and third party nomination petitions must be filed with the elections office no later than August 2. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Lehigh County Elections Officials Should Complete Allentown Canvass Today

Canvassing is the official count, precinct by precinct, of the votes cast in an election. It is during this laborious process that write-ins are tabulated and provisional ballots are examined.  It is also sometimes discovered that vote totals in individual precincts are slightly off. 

Lehigh and Northampton County officials must conduct this canvass before they declare results are official. 

It is my understanding that the canvass in Allentown will be finished today. I am unsure whether those  results will appear on the county website or whether officials will wait until the entire county is finished. 

NorCo Council Approves $1 Million in Open Space Grants For 10 Municipalities

At their May 20 meeting, Northampton County Council voted 8-0  (Peg Ferraro was absent) to approve $1 million in 10 different municipalities for open space grants

Dimmick Park (Hellertown) - $212,000. The money, which must be matched, will be used for a new parking lot with ADA accessible parking spaces; interior accessible path connections and sidewalks; footbridge and a new full size basketball court with fence and native plant landscape buffer. The funds will also convert and widen a rock and asphalt lined stormwater channel into a green native plant swale with base layer enhancements to manage stormwater, reduce flooding and runoff. There will also be signage.

North Catasaqua Park - $13,609. This grant, which must be matched, will be used for native trees and plants throughout the park as well as the conversion of grass into a native pollinator garden. In addition, it will be used for amenities at Tot Lot playground.

Housenick Park (Bethlehem Tp) - $200,000. - This funding, which will be matched, is for ADA accessible paved walking paths and trail markers for passive outdoor recreation; completion of the 0.59 mile long Orange Trail; access to the native grassland meadow; and closing the loop within the park’s 2.49 mile trail network.

Highlands Preserve (Bushkill Tp) - $12,500. Design for passive recreation.

Pocket Parks (Easton) - $50,000. This funding, which must be matched, is for pocket parks in the West Ward.

Hahn’s Meadow Park, 4555 Hanoverville Road, Lower Nazareth Tp - $47,118.37 (must be matched) to expand and widen the existing crushed stone parking lot with paved ADA parking; and install a paved ADA accessible trail and wooden observation deck along the Monocacy Creek

Saucon Creek Greenway Corridor Plan (Hellertown) - $40,000 (must be matched) for a greenway study between Saucon Rail Trail and Saucon Creek

D and L Trailhead (N. Catasauqua) - $75,000 (matched by $277,058 on state grants) to create a greenway and path along Main Street to improve the appearance and access to the existing D&L Trailhead adjacent to the Borough maintenance garage and complex.

Wind Gap Park - $75,000 (with another $117,480 from Wind Gap) for a multi-use trail in the lower tier of the park

Bicentennial Park (E Allen Tp) - $75,000 (plus $360,000 in state grants) to convert 24-acres area of fallow agricultural fields into passive recreation.

Polk Valley Park (Lo Saucon Tp) - $96,000 (matched by the township) to repair and replace sections of existing pervious concrete trail surface of the 2-mile trail.

Little Bushkill Stream Restoration (Plainfield Tp) - $100,000 (added to $200,000 in state grants) - To restore the Little Bushkill Creek and its tributaries at four sites along the Plainfield Township Recreation Trail.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

My Election Day Stories

For the past decade or so, I worked as an election judge on elections day. I stopped because it's a very long day and  it's impossible to do that and update you with election day stories. I'm beginning to think I made a mistake. Below is a list of my election day stories. There are 19 of them. Feel free to add your perspective in the comments.

Julio Guridy Has Lead in Allentown Mayoral Race, But MIBs Need to Be Counted (Julio thought he had won last night and was miffed that his opponents had failed to concede)

The Latin Vote Has Finally Arrived in Allentown (Victor Martinez of La Mega radio has played a huge role)

Three Lehigh County Judge Races Will Be Decided in November

Joyce Moore Wins Dem Nod in Lehigh County District Five

Van Scott and Amy Zanelli Will Square Off in November for Disputed W Bethlehem, Fountain Hill Judgeship

Tori Morgan Gets the Boot in South Whitehall

Willie Reynolds Wins Resounding Victory in Bethlehem

Bryan Bounced in Bethlehem

NorCo Council Race: Everybody Wins!

Mail-in Ballots Have Made Sleepy Municipal Races More Interesting

Tuerk Unofficially Wins Allentown Mayoral Primary

Allentown City Council: Mota, Hendricks, Santos & Zucal

Magisterial District Judge Roy Manwaring Defeats Will Carpenter in North Bethlehem

Magisterial District Judge Pat Broscius to Face Andrew Tupone in Bethlehem Tp

Atty Lisa Spitale to Face Wilson Cop For Palmer Tp Magisterial Seat

Jordan Knisley Will Be South Bethlehem's Next Magisterial District Judge

MDJ Robert Hawke Has Challenger in Northern Tier

Matt Flower Loses Constable Bid in Moore Tp

Matt Dees Wins Coveted West Easton Constable Slot

Allentown Police Chief to Take Over Reins in West Reading

Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz is leaving the city police department to take over the reins in West Reading's smaller,and less stressful, department. Sources tell me Granitz, a city resident whose home is located close to William Allen High School, has been working day and night to make his city and his police department better. But he may have been working too hard at what is all-too-often a thankless job.

Gnanitz grew up in Allentown and is a graduate of Allentown Central Catholic High School.  Hehas been a police officer since 2001. He has degrees from St. Joseph's University and the University of Cincinnati. 

Ganitz has been Chief since September 2019, and is well-respected both inside and outside the department

My information comes from sources inside City Hall. I have not spoken to Chief Granitz personally. 

I wish him well in West Reading.  

Osborne: Sea Change in South Whitehall

You thought it was coming. You certainly hoped it was coming. But you weren’t sure. You could smell the fresh air and feel the gentle breeze. You could sense a slight tremor beneath your feet. But you still weren’t sure. You were told that two candidates for township commissioner and their supporters were a “small, vocal minority.” They were counted at “a couple dozen.” But when dawn came on Tuesday, and with it sunshine in a way you haven’t seen in quite a while, you knew something was different. Could it be??!

What is this?! The “couple dozen” became another “couple dozen.” And then another “couple dozen.” And then dozens of dozens. By the time the polls closed and every vote was counted, the wind was gusting, the tremor became an earthquake, and the tide came rolling in! Wow!

You see, Tori Morgan’s count of “a couple dozen” was actually a miscount. It discounted the legitimacy and professionalism of two of her board members. It didn’t account for the swelling concerns of the residents of South Whitehall. And it didn’t acknowledge the fact that the interest of the residents is paramount.

The real count:

  1. David Kennedy: 1,467 votes, 43.1%

  2. Monica Hodges: 1,329 votes, 39.1%

  3. Tori Morgan: 606 votes, 17.8%

Newcomers David Kennedy and Monica Hodges doubled up on Tori Morgan, and many dozens more. Their literature on Election Day emphasized they will prioritize the concerns of the residents they heard going door-to-door for several months:

  • Sensible Growth

  • Transparency

  • Fiscal Accountability

  • Protective Services

Often these are generic buzzwords provided by paid consultants. But in South Whitehall today, these are very meaningful and real topics. And I learned that neither David Kennedy nor Monica Hodges has paid consultants. So you know this is their true mission and commitment.

I reached out for comment on the election from the two candidates, and this is what they submitted as a joint statement:

We are humbled and grateful for the support of the citizens of South Whitehall. Thank you for placing your trust in us. We are looking forward to the general election and ultimately working hard to serve the citizens of South Whitehall with integrity, transparency, and honesty.”

Humble, gracious winners.

The tide did indeed come rolling in, and with it the possibility of a Sea Change in South Whitehall. Look for David Kennedy and Monica Hodges, as well as Tom Johns and Joe Setton on the November ballot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Matt Dees Wins Coveted West Easton Constable Slot

West Easton Borough Council member Matt Dees has won the Borough's highly coveted West Easton Constable race after a hard fought race against ... nobody. The current occupant of that office, Tricia Mezzacappa, is indisposed. 

Mezzacappa was picked up on a bench warrant after refusing to comply with probation conditions imposed by Judge Stephen Baratta. At a subsequent probation revocation hearing, Judge Baratta mused that he wants to release her, but she mist submit to a psychiatric evaluation first. "If anyone needs a psychiatric evaluation, it's you," Mezzacappa reportedly responded.

She also handed Judge Baratta a handwritten piece of paper stating she would abide by probation conditions if he ordered me to stay away from her. According to Mezzacappa, I am responsible for her mother's death as well as a lawsuit filed against her by her sisters.  

Mezzacappa is currently a guest at Monroe County's big house.  She was transferred there from Northampton  County's jail after she threatened  to sue everyone. She's already got into a fight there. She's fitting in. 

Dees is looking forward to his new challenge. "I've got balls the size of death stars," he assured me. He has also warned me to stay out of West Easton, and I will. 

Matt Flower Loses Constable Bid in Moore Tp

I've told you before about Matt Flower, who waged a battle for Constable in Moore To, both here and here. In addition to being a wife beater with a rather extensive record for petty crime, he participated in the January 6 insurrection at the nation'd capitol. There are even photos of him getting hauled up the wall. 

My chief concern is that Moore Tp, which is pretty much Trump country, would embrace this wingnut. Fortunately, he was defeated by Ronnie DelBacco. The unofficial tally shows DelBacco with 512 votes and Flower with 328. 

So now Flower can ride his horsie off and into the sunset. 

MDJ Robert Hawke Has Challenger in Northern Tier

Magisterial District Judge Robert A. Hawke, whose district includes Northampton and the conservative northwestern tier of Northampton County, has a race on his hands. Hawke is himself a former police officer and his challenger, Melissa Gogel, is a former Allentown police detective. 

Hawke prevailed over Gogel on the Republican side by a vote of 1710 to 1322. But Gogel captured the Democratic vote, 1307 to 1066.  

Jordan Knisley Will Be South Bethlehem's Next Magisterial District Judge

In what devolved into an ugly race, Jordan Knisley came out on top and will be South Bethlehem's next Magisterial District Judge. 

This campaign was marred by sign vandalism. Knisley was using signs that made her look like she was running for prom queen. But that's no excuse for poking holes in her eyes and face as was done by some unknown miscreant. 

In addition, an overzealous Knisley campaign worker engaged in a bit of voter intimidation on election day, insisting on accompanying a Spanish-speaking voter into the polling booth against her wishes. Knisley herself was mortified when informed what had happened. 

Knisley defeated Tony Rybak on the Democratic side, 296-146. She was unopposed on the Republican side because she successfully challenged Rybak's right to run as a Democrat. I suspected that might backfire against her, but she prevailed.   

Atty Lisa Spitale to Face Wilson Cop For Palmer Tp Magisterial Seat

There were four candidates to succeed popular Jackie Taschner as Magisterial District Judge in Palmer and Forks. Now there are just two.

Wilson police officer Marc Crisafulli has captured the Republican nod with 899 votes. But Forks Tp lawyer Lisa Spitale has won on the Democratic side with 1,141 votes. She just edged out Susie Hutnik by two votes, according to the unofficial tally. 

If nothing else, this race indicates that your vote really does matter.

Magisterial District Judge Pat Broscius to Face Andrew Tupone in Bethlehem Tp

Magisterial District Judge Pat Broscius, whose district covers Bethlehem Tp, cruised to victory in Bethlehem's municipal primary on the Democratic side. She outpaced Republic Andrew Tupone, 1448 to 391. But Tupone won the Republican nod, 851-652. 

The buzz around this race will increase Democratic turnout in Bethlehem Tp, where Executive Lamont McClure resides. 

Tupone, a disgruntled county employee who has bounced around at several departments, has just unwittingly helped McClure. 

Magisterial District Judge Roy Manwaring Defeats Will Carpenter in North Bethlehem

Magisterial District Judge Roy Manwaring will remain on the bench in North Bethlehem. Unofficial results from Tuesday's municipal primary reveal he edged out Democratic challenger  Will Carpenter by 22 votes to secure the Democratic nomination. Manwaring ran unopposed on the GOP side. 

Manwaring drew the ire of President Judge Michael Koury twicewin recent years for (1) assessing court costs against an innocent parking ticket Defendant and (2) permitting constables and police officers into his secretarial areas. 

Allentown City Council: Mota, Hendricks, Santos & Zucal

 

Now that mail-in ballots have been tallied, the unofficial winners on the Democratic side of the Allentown City Council race are Cynthia Mota (4,214), Daryl Hendricks (2,863), Natalie Santos (2,838) and Ed Zucal (2,497). All three incumbents have survived, although only a scant 18 votes separates Zucal from Palmer. Tallies could change once canvassing begins. 

On the Republican side, former police officer Tom Houck was the sole Republican candidate. There were also 446 write-ins, meaning one or more additionmal Republican candidates may emerge. 

Tuerk Unofficially Wins Allentown Mayoral Primary


Allentown's next Mayor will be Latin. It will be either Democrat Matt Tuerk or Republican Tim Ramos. Now that Lehigh County elections officials have tallied the mail-in ballots, Tuerk has emerged as the Democratic nominee (2,048), followed by Ray O'Connell (1,933), Julio Guridy (1,907) and Ce-Ce Gerlach (1,802).

Tuerk's 115-vote margin could be reversed once canvassing begins, but that is rare. 

Guridy certainly had the momentum, but only garnered 343 MIBs. 

Mail-in Ballots Have Made Sleepy Municipal Races More Interesting

Turnout in municipal races is historically quite low. In 2019, for example, a measly 11.25% of the registered voters showed up at Northampton County's municipal primary. This year, the turnout is 20.52%. This dramatic increase might be explained, in part, by a contested Bethlehem Mayoral primary. But it's also clear that the advent if no-excuse mail-in ballots (MIB) has increased participation and, in the end, has made our government more small "d" democratic.

In  Northampton County, 15,425 voters cast a MIB. More Democrats voted by MIB (11,258) than in person (11,215)  Republicans are still more leery.  Only 2,905 of 19,224 voters opted for this convenience.  Republican turnout was higher. The unofficial results show that 24.46% of Republicans voted, while a slightly less 22.89% of Democrats exercised their franchise. Still, Republicans have handicapped themselves by obstinately refusing to avail themselves of this convenient and secure way to vote. 

On Thursday, I'll update you on the magisterial races and the grand finale in Allentown. I need to get some sleep. 

What I know for now is that (1) Allentown voters appear to have rejected the more divisive candidates, like Gerlach and Justan Parker Fields; (2) The Latin vote has suddenly become real in Allentown; (3) Many of the Lehigh Valley For All picks were rejected: (4) There is going to be a contested Mayoral race in both Allentown and Bethlehem: and (5) the party of Lincoln has chosen a suspected domestic terrorist as its standard bearer in NorCo. 

NorCo Council Race: Everybody Wins!


Ladies first! That's how Northampton County Democrats viewed their choice of NorCo Council candidates. Five candidates ran for five seats, so everybody won. But the order (Tara Zrinski, Lori Vargo Heffner, Patti Bruno, Ron Heckman, Bill McGee) was a bit surprising. Heckman and McGee are incumbents, so I'd expect them to finish ahead of Bruno. I also thought Vargo-Heffner, who can b emean-spirited, would finish last.. 


Everyone's a winner among Republican, too. I've listened to Robertone, who impresses me as the most knowledgeable of the Republicans. She came in last.  

Bryan Bounced in Bethlehem

Bryan Callahan is the sole member of Bethlehem City Council to say No to a tax hike in the middle of a pandemic. He was also the only one to say No to the elimination of four firefighters and No to a stormwater fee. The voters rewarded him by rejecting him at the polls on Tuesday. He came in fifth of five candidates for four slots on City Council in both Lehigh and Northampton County. I guess Bethlehem citizens must like tax hikes. 

Willie Reynolds Wins Resounding Victory in Bethlehem

Willie Reynolds has defeated Dana Grubb to secure the Democratic nod for Mayor. With MIBs still waiting to be tallied in Lehigh County, his lead there is 782-531.  In Northampton County, where the mail-in ballots have been counted, Willie leads 2,692 to 1,643. It is mathematically impossible for Dana to win. 

Reynolds will go on the face John Kachmar, the Republican nominee, in the general election. 

Tori Morgan Gets the Boot in South Whitehall

Christina "Tori" Morgan, a Commissioner in South Whitehall Township since 2009, has been given the boot.  She finished a distant third of three candidates seeking two slots for the Republican nomination to Comm'r. Former Comm'r Brad Osborne has penned a series of stories about the problems in South Whitehall. He will have a  more detailed story about this race on Thursday. 



Joyce Moore Wins Dem Nod in Lehigh County District Five.

Joyce Moore has defeated Omar Ray, (1,877-1,136) for the Democratic nomination to District Five of Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners. This district covers the southern portion of Lehigh County. Moore is currently a Upper Milford Comm'r. What's interesting about this victory is that Lehigh Valley For All Some endorsed Ray.  

Moore will face incumbent Comm'r Jeffrey Dutt in November.  

Van Scott and Amy Zanelli Will Square Off in November for Disputed W Bethlehem, Fountain Hill Judgeship.

Amy Zanelli has won the Democratic nod to the Magisterial District Judgeship in West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill (1059-432) But Van Scott has won the Republican nomination (514-229). So these two candidates will face each other in the general election.   

Updated: Three Lehigh County Judge Races Will Be Decided in November

Blogger's Note: Originally published 1:20 am, and updated to reflect MIBs. 

Although mail-in ballots must still be tallied, it is clear that Lehigh County's three open judgeships are headed to the general election. 



On the Democratic side of the ledger, the top three candidates are  Maraleen Shields (12,381), Zachary Cohen (12,287) and Rashid Santiago (8,033). Pat Fuentes Mulqueen (7,930) trails Santaigo by 103 votes. . 




Republicans appear to have made their choices. Tom Caffrey (13,404) leads the pack, followed closely by Tom Capehart (13,137). Dave Ritter is a distant third (10,424)..

Mulqueen is in striking distance on the Democratic side once canvassing begins. 

The Latin Vote Has Finally Arrived in Allentown

Though a majority of Allentown's population is Latin or Hispanic, they have usually stayed home on election day. They have never flexed their muscles at the voting booth, where it matters most. That appears to be changing. The top two candidates in Allentown's Mayoral race are Dominican (Guridy) and Cuban (Tuerk). This Spanish influence has also extended to the City Council races. 


The leaders in this race are Cynthia Mota (2,788), Natalie Santos (1,891), Daryl Hendricks (1,637) and Erik Rodriguez (1,585). Three out of four are Spanish. Business owner Santo Napoli (1,503), incumbent Ed Zucal (1,494) and activist Patrick Palmer (1,485) are within striking distance. This  is because only a small number of an estimated 2,200 mail-in ballots have been counted. Black Lives Matter activist Justan Parker Fields (1,001) and businessman Tino Babayan (822) appear to be out of the hunt. 

Julio Guridy Has Lead in Allentown Mayoral Race, But MIBs Need to Be Counted

With 159 of 161 Lehigh County precincts partially tallied, Allentown City Council member Julio Guridy has the lead in the Mayoral race. 

He has 1,592 votes, which puts him ahead of Matt Tuerk (1,286), incumbent Ray O'Connell (1,167) and Ce-Ce Gerlach (1,152).

This race could still go to any of the four Democrats because only a small number of the estimated 2,200 Allentown mail-in ballots have been counted. Most of these have come from older voters. But obviously, Guridy is ion the driver's seat. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

McClure, Phillips Predict Wins in Exec Race

Lamont McClure and Phillips Armstrong are seeking the Democrat nomination to County Executive in Northampton and Lehigh County respectively. Both are incumbents. Neither has a Democratic  opponent. "I think I might win," cautiously predicted McClure, late this afternoon. "Me, too!" echoed Armstrong.   

I refuse to call it. Do they think I'm Fox News?  

How's Turnout? Any Problems?

If you are voting in person, please let us know how turnout is going. Let us know where you voted, the time, and whether you had to wait. If you've experienced any problems, either from the voting machines (Northampton), the scanners (Lehigh) or elections workers, please share your experience in the comments below. 

My take is that light turnout in Allentown is good news for Ray. Light turnout in Bethlehem is good news for Willie.  

Gerlach's Public Safety Nightmare

At a "public safety" news conference conducted by Allentown Mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach, she asked City Council member Josh Siegel to say a few words. He claimed that the City's residents want to "take money from the Allentown Police Department and invest it in mental health, housing, homelessness and education." 

In other words, defund the police. 

He said "police don't keep us safe," adding they need no "more money or training." He urged Allentonians to vote for Gerlach, as well as Patrick Palmer and Justan Parker Fields "so we can actually pass legislation to get things done." 

In other words, defund the police

Gerlach stated that Siegel's remarks "are what a Ce-Ce Gerlach administration would look like."  

In other words, defund the police.  

Gerlach failed to address her own public safety lapse in exposing a 16 year old boy to two nights of abuse at a tent city. 


Voting In Person? Some Tips

If you're voting in person, and are unclear about where to go, you can check on this online polling place tool

At the polling place, you have the right to wear T-shirts or sport buttons supporting your favorite candidate. This is known as passive electioneering. You (and everyone else) are banned from active electioneering inside the polling place and up to 10' away from the polling location. Now most parties and candidates have volunteers stand near the doors to smile and hand you flyers before your vote. They're trying to follow the law, but some may just be 7' or 8' away. Let it slide. If someone is talking politics inside the polling place, however, let the elections judge know immediately.  

This tendency to gab is normal, but illegal. It's why I shooed voters out of the room as soon as they voted. 

If you see a problem that needs to be fixed immediately, call 1-877-VOTESPA.

Voting By Mail? Has Your Mail-in Ballot Been Received?

I dropped off my mail-in ballot (MIB ) on May 4. If  you've voted by mail, and would like to know if elections officials have received your ballot, you can use this online tool to make sure it was received. 

If it shows that your ballot was never received, I'd suggest that you go to your precinct and cast a provisional ballot. If any election official tells attempts to deny you a provisional ballot, demand to speak to the elections office. Do not talk to the party hacks who linger at the polls. Demand that your elections judge makes that call for you. Believe me, you'll be able to vote. Your provisional ballot will count if your MIB was never received. 



Monday, May 17, 2021

Politics, Money and Power: All in the Family for the Harringtons

They are a perfect combination of politics, money and power. It's all in the family for the The Harringtons of the Lehigh Valley. They are certainly a part of the Lehigh's Valley ruling class. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. You could even say it's the American way. The goal of our founding documents was to rid ourselves of the nobility. We nevertheless still have an aristocracy who periodically impress their wills on their lessers. The Harringtons are intent on replacing our mostly moderate local leaders with woke extremists of dubious character. In the process of ruining our local government, there's money to be made. It's pretty clear that they've engaged in conflicts of interest in violation of the state Ethics Act. 

Who is Tom Harrington?

According to LinkedIn, Tom Harrington is a graduate of Miami University with a B.A. in political science and government. He also holds several certificates that people in the business world often use to pad their resumes. He holds no degrees beyond his B.A, 

After graduating, Harrington spent 34 years for the Boy Scouts, in locations as spread out as Dallas and Kansas. In late 2015, he was selected as President and CEO at Valley Youth House

This appointment was controversial. "You've hired a person who upheld discrimination against gay youth," noted Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. "And now that same person [Harrington] is going to be dealing with gay youth."

In fairness, Harrington stated at the time that he and others were trying to change Boy Scout policy from within. 

Last week, I told you Harrington's 2019 compensation was a whopping $335,036. This is according to the 2019 tax return filed by this nonprofit.  This is 1.18% of Valley Youth House's total revenue of $28 million. His compensation is approved by a Board of Governors, but these boards typically act as rubber stamps for whatever the director at a nonprofit wants.  His salary is excessive. 

In addition to his role at Valley Youth House, Harrington also chairs Allentown's homeless commission. 

He was appointed in July 2020 at the request of Council member Ce-Ce Gerlach. She failed to disclose that she worked at Valley Youth House and Harrington is her boss. 

His appointment comes right around the time that Gerlach, an intake worker at Valley Youth House, dropped a 16 yo runaway boy off at a tent city. He was thereafter abused for two nights until being rescued. Gerlach has admitted dropping this child off at a homeless enclave, but denied knowing his age. "[S]o if people want to beat me up over that, they can,” she told blogger James Whitney. 

That matter is currently under investigation by the Lehigh County District Attorney.   

What is Valley Youth House? 

First established in 1973 as a single shelter, Valley Youth House "was open day and night, ensuring that vulnerable, abused and homeless young people in the community had access to shelter and counseling." Today, it calls itself "the catalyst for youth to achieve their desired future through genuine relationships that support families, ensure safe places, and build community connections."

According to its audited financials, at least two-thirds of its $28 million in revenue comes from money received from the counties as well as state and federal grants. Lehigh County paid $2.2 million to Valley Youth House in 2018 and $2.4 million in 2019. 

At a zoom meeting of the homeless commission last week, Harrington suggested that Valley Youth House could manage a new homeless shelter under consideration at an unspecified location in Allentown. He used his position as Chair to solicit business for his nonprofit. 

Who is Kathy Harrington? 

Kathy Harrington, Tom's wife, is part of the blue wave that followed Donald Trump's election in 2016. She became the First Vice Chair of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee. She also formed a Democratic organization called Lehigh Valley For All, Initially, it may have been an inclusive organization, at least insofar as Democrats are concerned. That's no longer the case. 

At their most recent endorsement meeting, Lehigh Valley For All Some failed to invite incumbent Mayor Ray O'Connell or incumbent City Council members Ed Zucal and Daryl Hendricks, even though they are all proud Democrats. They failed to invite incumbent Democrat Bryan Callahan of Bethlehem, even though he was the sole member of their City Council to vote No to a tax hike in the middle of a pandemic. 

Numerous other Democrats were snubbed as well.  

Lehigh Valley For All Some would then endorse Ce-Ce Gerlach for Allentown Mayor over incumbent Ray O'Connell. Members were never informed that Gerlach is employed by Harrington;s husband. Members were never told that Harrington's husband is trying to squeeze Allentown into letting his outfit manage a new homeless shelter. Members were never told that Gerlach is herself under investigation for her role in dropping a child off at a tent city, after which he was abused. 

They would also go on to endorse Justan Parker Fields and Patrick Palmer for City Council over the snubbed Daryl Hendricks and Ed Zucal, both of whom are retired police officers. Palmer, who literally lives in his mother's basement, has dishonestly portrayed himself as a member of two city boards. Fields was never asked why he and a mob spent months pounding on the doors and windows of City Council meetings, disrupting them just as certainly as the insurrectionists did at the capitol. Fields was never asked to explain his use of a false name when stopped by Coplay police with his minor child in the car. He was never asked why he thought it was OK to drive his child with a suspended license.  

What's dangerous about this endorsement is that, if Fields and Palmer are elected, City Council will have a majority of members who think public safety can be guaranteed by social workers. Ironically, these social workers refused to leave their homes during the pandemic and were perfectly content to allow police officers do their jobs.  


Who is Dave Harrington?

Dave is the son of Kathy and Tom Harrington. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of Lehigh Valley For All Some. More importantly, he is a Lehigh County Commissioner.. He was elected in 2019. 

His mom (Kathy Harrington) contributed a small amount to David Harrington's campaign..

His Dad (Tom Harrington) was the treasurer for David's campaign committee. 

As already established, Valley Youth House pays Tom Harrington over $330k a year. 

As already established, Valley Youth House gets several million dollars a year from Lehigh County/ 

As Lehigh County Commissioner, David Harrington votes on the budget for Lehigh County. He voted in favor of this year's budget on October 28. It sets aside over two million for Valley Youth House. He failed to recuse himself even though his vote financially benefits his father. 

State Ethics Act 

According to the Pennsylvania Ethics Act, a conflict or conflict of interest exists when a public official uses the authority of her office or any confidential information received through that office for the private pecuniary benefit of herself, a member of her immediate family or a business with which she or a member of her immediate family is associated. A public officer also violates the public trust when he uses his influence as a public officer to advance the cause of that non-profit.  There are several potential violations here. 

1. Tom Harrington is a public officer as a member of the homeless commission, and violated the state Ethics Act when he promoted Valley Youth House as the manager of a new shelter. 

2. Ce-Ce Gerlach possibly violated the state ethics act when she promoted her boss as a member of the homeless commission without disclosing she works for him. 

3. Dave Harrington violated the state ethics act when he voted for a budget that includes several million dollars for his father's non-profit.

Why Bethlehem's Former Planning Chair Supports Dana Grubb For Mayor

Blogger's Note: Att'y Jim Fiorentino is Bethlehem's former Planning Chair. He and I grew up together in Hellertown, so unfortunately, he knows me all too well. He has nevertheless asked me to publish essay supporting Dana Grubb, which first appeared on Gadly's blog last week. 

In my 10 years on the Bethlehem Planning Commission (2006-2016), I witnessed Willie Reynolds as a Council person and Bob Donchez as a Council person and then Mayor rubber-stamp anything a developer wanted from the City. The fact that they took money and/or jobs for family members from developers once would have mattered to progressives who usually decry the cozy relationship between money and politicians. I wish I knew what happened to those people whom I supported for Council and who now support a person for Mayor who has no qualms over the selling of Bethlehem to the highest bidders.

I voted and supported Willie Reynolds for both Council and then the Mayor’s office in the 2013 primary when he ran against Bob Donchez. However, in 2015 when the Donchez administration decided to engage in back-room ordinance drafting with lawyers working for developers and Willie Reynolds as Council President rushed approval of the ordinance in a lame duck session, I realized that the choice in 2013 had been about differences of age rather than integrity, as both men were willing to do the bidding of their financial contributors.

I was the Chair of the Planning Commission in 2015 when, during the reading of the proposed Martin Tower re-zoning ordinance, I became concerned about the way in which the ordinance was worded. There were  many provisions in the proposed ordinance that were so unique in their details that it seemed as if it had been written with a specific purpose in mind. This was a problem as it gave the appearance that the ordinance was drafted to benefit a particular set of interests rather than for the purpose of using an even-handed approach to regulate all properties that fall within a general category of land use. Only thanks to a right to know request by a local blogger did we learn that my concerns were justified—the documents obtained by the blogger revealed that the developers’ attorneys and the lawyers in the City Solicitor’s Office were drafting the ordinance together and in secret.

2015 was a year in which the atmosphere regarding zoning changes was already heightened with suspicion. The Donchez Administration‘s willingness to draft an ordinance regulating the Market Street area produced public outcry because it  seemed designed only to benefit a stockbroker whose attorneys were major contributors  to the Mayor’s campaign. As a result, two new council members, Olga Negron and Michael Col√≥n, were slated to take office in January 2016, promising to deliver an ethics ordinance that would disrupt the practices between wealthy donors and public officials which were degrading citizens’ trust in local government.

It became clear that the two new candidates running for Council were not as likely to vote for the Martin Tower ordinance as those who had been defeated in the 2015 election. I advocated for the tabling of the Martin Tower ordinance so that the new City Council could weigh in on it. I believed that bringing this ordinance before the new Council was something that the citizens expected and deserved. Instead, Council President Reynolds rushed the ordinance through, while aggressively belittling anyone who even raised the question of political favoritism at play due to the campaign contributors made to him and others on Council by the Martin Tower developers. At the time, Reynolds proclaimed that a speedy vote on the ordinance was necessary so that the developers could demolish Martin Tower. Reynolds promised to fix the problems with the ordinance after the fact.

With six years behind us, Reynolds’ proclamations still look like nothing more than a made up excuse to benefit developers who gave him large campaign contributions. We all know how long it actually took for those developers to demolish the Martin Tower and we all know that even that amount of time was, apparently, insufficient time for Willie Reynolds to follow through on his promise of fixing the ordinance.

So it’s not surprising that just this month those developers are back for another bite of the apple as they are well aware that they will be able to get whatever they want from this administration and Councilman Reynolds. Indeed the current issue regarding the developer’s request for even more ordinance changes to allow them to evade the normal processes for project approval was tabled last week on a motion by an ally of Councilman Reynolds. How convenient that the delay allows him to avoid making another embarrassing vote that favors his campaign donors just before next week’s primary. Indeed, in the Mayoral debate on Thursday night Reynolds said he is opposed to the change. One is left to wonder why this change of heart couldn’t have been communicated to the public in his official capacity at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Reynolds has developed a skill for performative politics. There are plans and task forces and commissions for every problem, but never a solution in the form of an ordinance to benefit the people of Bethlehem. People say he has changed. People say he no longer takes money from developers. People say he is now in favor of the ethics ordinance that would limit campaign contributions.  Some people are buying this. I cannot. I prefer results and actions of conscience. He is in the middle of a term on City Council. I believe that the citizens of Bethlehem deserve to see action not promises before they turn over the most important job in the city to him. He should await seeking higher office until he’s learned to elevate the interests of the people of Bethlehem over those of the developers.

South Whitehall Tp: The Candidate Interviews

Thank you to Brad Osborne, former S Whitehall Tp Comm'r, for his Comm'r candidate interviews. On Elective Eve, here are links to all eight of them. 

1) Is South Whitehall Tp Headed in Right Direction?

2) Why No Audit For 10 Years

3) Civility in South Whitehall

4) How Should Vacancies Be Filled in S Whitehall

5) What Role Do South Whitehall Comm'rs Have in Union Talks?

6) When is a Development Waiver Appropriate

7) Should South Whitehall Preserve Farmland

8) Overlay Districts and Compact Growth?

Friday, May 14, 2021

May 18: Who I Like and Who Scares the Shite Out of Me

Lots of good people are running for municipal office. The purpose of this post is to identify those I like best and those I consider downright scary. 

Who I Like

Allentown Mayor - Ray O'Connell (Allentown's point guard in the basketball city of Pennsylvania) 

Allentown City Council - Daryl Hendricks, Ed Zucal, Tino Babayan, Santo Napoli (the remaining starters)

Lehigh County Judge - Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen, Maraleen  Shields, Eman Jarrah (In a field of some excellent candidates, these three stand out)

Lehigh County Exec - Phil "Grandpa" Armstrong (He is a YouTube sensation)

Lehigh County Comm'r - Geoff Brace, Antonio Pineda 

Bethlehem Mayor - Dana Grubb, John Kachmar

Bethlehem City Council - Bryan Callahan (the sole Council member to vote against a tax hike,to say NO to the elimination of four firefighters, and NO to a stormwater fee in the middle of a pandemic)

Northampton County Exec - Lamont McClure (his pandemic response got over $10 million to numerous struggling small businesses)

Northampton County Council - Ron Heckman (at times, a Voice of Reason in the County Council wilderness)

Magisterial District Judge (S Bethlehem) - Tony Rybak 

Magisterial District Judge (N Bethlehem) - Will Carpenter

Magisterial District Judge (W Bethlehem, Fountain Hill) - Van Scott (common sense)

Magisterial District Judge (Palmer, Forks) - Susie Hutnik 

Magisterial District Judge (Bethlehem Tp) - Pat Broscius

Hanover Tp Supervisor - Mike Prendeville  (best run township in the county) 

Palmer Tp Supervisor - Dave Colver and Robert Smitty Smith 

Who's Scary 

Northampton County Exec - Steve Lynch (anti-mask, anti-vaccine, vilifies Democrats, obsessed with national instead of county issues, visited by FBI over his role in Jan 6 pandemic)

Northampton County Council - Tara Zrinski, Kristin Lorah Soldridge,  (Zrinski civilly sanctioned for perjury, fear-mongered about PennEast pipeline until rebuked by Bethlehem Tp, promotes issues having nothing to do with county government. Refuses to use microphone). Lorah Soldridge is a Trump extremist)

 Allentown Mayor - Ce-Ce Gerlach (voted against needed police officers, voted No to a no-strings-attached grant for police, has alienated police officers and firefighters, dropped a 16 yo boy off at a tent city, filmed aftermath of a suicide before victim's family was notified)

Allentown City Council - Justan Parker Fields, Patrick Palmer. (Both are divisive. Neither is honest)

Allentown City Council - Cynthas Mota (repeatedly tried to have Council appoint convicted felon Hasshan Batts as Mayor, failed to disclose she works for him)

Magisterial District Judge (Bethlehem Tp) - Andrew Tupone (Filed a frivolous petition challenge, alienates fellow workers)

Magisterial District Judge (W Bethlehem, Fountain Hill) - Amy Zanelli (lied to the public about being fired at two child protection agencies, defended looting as "reparations")

Moore Tp Constable - Matt Flower (wife beater, lengthy criminal record, Jan 6 insurrectionist)

Easton School Director -Susan Hartranft-Bittinger (argumentative, full of herself, actually argued with a judge regarding a petition challenge) 

Feel free to make your own picks here, or to tel me I scare the shite out of you. 

South Whitehall Candidates Queried About Overlay Districts and Compact Growth

Blogger's Note: In his eighth and final question to South Whitehall Comm'r candidates, Brad Osborne asks about overlay districts and compact growth. An overlay district is a special zone placed over an existing zoning district. It is often used to encourage a specific kind of development. Compact growth is a principle under which new development is directed at existing development to minimize the need for new infrastructure or increased services. 

A Morning Call headline on August 20, 2017 reads “Flexible zoning in South Whitehall landed massive Kay Builders development.” This ushered in the controversial conversation of compact growth in the township. Many residents were caught by surprise. The developer credited South Whitehall’s forward-thinking and recently revamped zoning rules. South Whitehall planner Gregg Adams said, “I don’t think the township has ever seen anything like this on this scale.” But the enormous Ridge Farm development isn’t just big for South Whitehall. “It’s big for the entire region” observed Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley at the time. “That’s the type of scale of development you’d see in Las Vegas during the housing boom. It’s absolutely a big deal.”

Today’s Candidate Question: In 2014, the Board of Commissioners adopted the “Innovation Overlay District”, a zoning revision that is intended to promote areas deemed to have the potential for compact growth. Would you support the continuation of this zoning concept in the next Comprehensive Plan? Why or why not?

Christina “Tori” Morgan (R): No response.

Joe Setton (D): No response.

David Kennedy (R): A thorough review of the “Innovative Overlay District” as it affects SWT residents is important. I would not support the overlay district in its existing form. The next comprehensive plan must be forward thinking and consider at least 20 to 30 years into the future. I think we have learned a lesson with Ridge Farms and the impact that will have on our township residents. A development should not negatively impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

Monica Hodges (R): In 2014, the Board of Commissioners added Overlay Districts (TND’s) to the Zoning Map which included the Ridge Farm, Hills at Winchester (Regency), Spring View Apartments, and Park View Inn properties as an alternative to traditional zoning which would have been strictly residential. As a result, approximately 2000 dwellings are either being built or are being proposed in the most congested areas of the township. This zoning change allowed an unprecedented amount of dense development, as well as commercial development, to these properties.

In more remote areas of the township an overlay district could be greatly beneficial, but not in the most heavily congested areas of our township. We already have overlay districts in place, so there is no reason to add more in the next Comprehensive Plan, especially if they are placed in already congested areas. State law permits TNDs, but it does not require them. It would be better to change zoning to limit dense developments and maintain the beauty and character of our township.

Thomas J. Johns (D): I had the privilege of serving on the Board in 2014. Nevertheless, I could not support the continuation of this zoning concept in the next Comprehensive Plan. The Township has evolved since 2014, growth and development have been ongoing, some infrastructure improvements have been made. These factors must all be considered prior to my support.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Valley Youth House Nominates Itself For New Allentown Homeless Shelter

I told you yesterday that the President and CEO of Valley Youth House, Tom Harrington, had a compensation package of $335,036 in 2019. Harrington's wife Kathy is effectively the Queen of Lehigh Valley for All Some. She's also Vice Chair of Lehigh County's Democratic Party. Their son, David, is a Lehigh County Commissioner. Mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach is an emplyee at Valley Youth House who dumped a 16 yo boy off at a tent city. She is still on the payroll and has been endorsed by Lehigh Valley for All Some. According to an independent audit of this nonprofit's finances, 76-79% of its support comes from government contracts. So it must be nice to have son David in Lehigh County government and would even be nicer to have Ce-Ce Gerlach at the helm in Allentown.

In addition to his role at Valley Youth House, Tom Harrington is Chair of Allentown's latest commission to end homelessness. During a meeting yesterday, DCED Director Leonard Lightner reported that Allentown is looking at a few unnamed properties for a new homeless shelter.

Guess who volunteered to run it? Bingo! Harrington used his position on this homeless commission to snag yet another government contract. Lightner was reportedly noncommittal. 

Things will get easier for Harrington if Gerlach is elected. Maybe she'll even drive a few 16 yo boys there. 

Even in Uncontested Primary, Slate Belt Politics is Weird

Anthony DeFranco and John Bermingham, Jr. two of Upper Mount Bethel Tp's five Supervisors, are seeking re-election. Both are Republican. Both filed nomination petitions as Republicans. David Friedman and Stavros Barbounis have filed nomination petitions as Democrats. Ordinarily, I'd expect to see all four candidates on the ballot this November in a Slate Belt slugfest between two Democrats and two Republicans.  But things are never quite that simple in the quarry wonderland.

Bermingham, best known for hiring an unqualified shopping mall Santa Claus as Township Manager, wants DeFranco out of the picture. So he has sent Republican voters a letter urging them to write in Democrat Friedman, even including instructions. 

This may actually backfire on Bermingham. At a Tuesday night meeting of the Slate Belt Republican Associations, members voted unanimously to excommunicate him, even though he brought Movie night back to Upper Mount Bethel. 

What Berminham did is a tad bizarre. I could understand his refusal to support DeFranco, but to actively and openly encourage voters to choose someone from another party over the party's own pick is highly unusual.   

Bermingham Letter by BernieOHare

Moore Tp Constable Candidate Participated in Jan 6 Insurrection

Yesterday, I warned you about Moore Tp Constable candidate Matt Flower. He's a bulletproof vest-wearing, flag-waving "patriot" with a string of arrests in multiple counties going back to 2002. Everything from harassment to driving without as license. He's also been involved as Plaintiff or Defendant in nine Protection from Abuse Act matters. He admits he was "peacefully demonstrating" at the capitol on January 6, when domestic terrorists ransacked the halls of Congress. He denies participating in the violence and claims he's been "cleared" by the FBI. "I am not afraid of arrest, prison or rogue judges," he adds.

He faces no federal charges ... yet, but he's by no means been cleared. 

The evidence I have indicates he is far from a peaceful protester. Let's go over the following three pictures:


Above is a pic posted by Flower himself at the state capitol. Festooned with a bulletproof vest,  black tactical gloves and what appears to be a rifle, Flower is waving a tiny American  flag. This appears to be a peaceful protest. 


Next we have a picture of Flower at the nation's capitol on January 6, where metal police barriers were converted into ladders to enable domestic terrorists to climb the wall. Flower is hesitating. Perhaps his conscience bothers him. Perhaps he's wondering whether he's a bit too tubby to do any wall climbing. 


Where there's a will there's a way! The final pic shows Flower getting his fat ass pulled up the wall by a few fellow domestic terrorists.

What really bothers me more than anything about this guy is he's a woman beater.  During the 2014 incident in which he tackled and strangled his wife, she was pregnant. And this "patriot" knew it.