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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, July 30, 2021

Amy "Karen" Zanelli Detests Three-on-Three Hoops

U.S. women just took away the gold in the first-ever offering of three-on-three basketball at the Tokyo Olympics. These games are much like the pickup games you see at the outdoor courts all over the Lehigh Valley. Players go for 21 points while loud music, usually hip hop, is blasted in the background. I love these games because they are more free-flowing, faster and tend to be fun. But I also know there;'s at least one person out there who apparently hates it. Her name is Amy (or is it Karen) Zanelli. She'd like to be a magisterial district judge.

I've already told you that she's lied about her previous employment in child protective services. She has portrayed herself as some sort of super caseworker. She even claimed she had to move here because she  had been targeted in Jersey. The reality is that she was fired, both in Jersey and in Northampton County.

I've also told you that last month, she was ejected from Fountain Hill pool. She insisted on talking over a pool manager who was admonishing teenagers who had been acting up. One of my readers referred to her as a "Karen" and I think he may very well be right.

I now am in possession of another incident report from the Fountain Hill police.  This one concerns a complaint she made in August 2019 about a group of boys playing pick-up basketball at Fountain Hill playground. Because they are minors, I will hold off on publishing the actual report. 

As is typical with these pickup games, these young men were playing basketball while blasting music, just like in the Olympics. Just like the  warm-ups before any high school or college basketball game. Yes, the lyrics can be vulgar although you really need to pay close attention to catch it.

Zanelli called police over this arguably vulgar music. In fact, according to the Latin juvenile involved, she ran up to him yelling, grabbed his speaker and shut it off, and additionally, threatened to toss it in the garbage. 

These young men were Latin, by the way. 

Police left the scene without charging anyone. 

It's pretty clear to me that Zanelli lacks the temperament to be a judge. This incident is another example. It also betrays that she is less tolerant or understanding  of other ethnicities than she pretends to be. .   

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Is Allentown All Inspiring?

Allentown is no longer the city without limits. It's now "all inspiring". The City apparently got its inspiration from a Pittsburgh consulting firm. Here's how the City explains it. 

Allentown’s brand theme line, “All Inspiring,” speaks of the city’s commitment to come together to create a place of big ideas, varied influences, and greater opportunities. The new logo mirrors the city’s waterways, personal approach, and welcoming nature. The bright, appealing color palette, graphic illustrations and iconography further define key strengths and attributes.


As Allentown Director of Community and Economic Development Leonard Lightner explained, “Allentown has accomplished one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the U.S. over the past decade. Our new brand showcases who we are today; a diverse and unified community, thriving entrepreneurs and artists, and residents and businesses committed to creating a better way of life. When you think about all we offer, Allentown truly is All Inspiring.” 

  • A better quality of life: A 21st century melting pot, Allentown offers affordable, distinctive urban living options, abundant parks and greenspaces, and a mix of walkable neighborhoods and cultural amenities. 
  • Fresh ideas. New opportunities: The city’s population is young, diverse and fast-growing, bringing a wave of entrepreneurial activity, an eclectic art scene, and unique shopping, dining, and cultural activities.
  • Perfectly positioned for success: Located halfway between NYC and Philadelphia, Allentown is a hotbed of business and career potential with innovative economic development strategies, a revitalized downtown corridor, and one of the strongest regional economies in the U.S.
  • A unified, inspiring community. In 2020, long-time residents, new families, and visionary dreamers collaborated on an ambitious, 10-year plan. Together, we are achieving goals, setting new ones, and creating a better Allentown for all. 

I happen to like Allentown myself. But I'd disagreee with any claim that it is unified. My view is that the City, like the entire Lehigh Valley, is very divided. One City Council meeting is asll you need to see those divisions.

Pennsylvania Has Only 16 Public Nursing Homes Left

Cumberland County has decided to sell its nursing home to a private provider in a 2-1 vote. Once that sale is complete, there will be only 16 publicly-owned nursing homes left in Pennsylvania. This latest sale is discouraging to Council member John Cusick, He worries that the state association of counties, known as CCAP, is increasingly hesitant to lobby state officials on issues affecting nursing homes like "the need to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and the proposed increase in the required nursing hours per resident by the state Department of Health." 

In Cumberland County, the sale was opposed by the Board's sole Democrat, Jean Foschi. The nursing home has been bleeding red ink for several years, but Foschi argued that Cumberland could use monies from the American Rescue Plan Act to keep the home afloat. 

Northampton County nursing home Gracedale has avoided red ink as a result of something called the IGT, or intergovernmental transfer.  Under this program, county-owned nursing homes pool monies, send it  in the state and get a matching federal grant, which then trickles back down to the counties. Gracedale has been receiving a substantial IGT since 2017

Gracedale is currently rated at two stars (below average) by Medicare, but Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King has told County Council that the ratings have been frozen as a result of the Covid pandemic It has received six infection control inspections over the past three  years with no citations. 

Staffing is an issue at Gracedale and other nursing homes in Pa. A state proposal that would mandate an increase in the time that staff must spend with residents each day has been condemned by the state's Health Care Association as "out of touch" and "unattainable."

As a member of County Council and as Executive, Lamont McClure has maintained that Northampton County has a "moral obligation" to support Gracedale. Voters overwhelmingly voted to keep the home a few years ago, when it was losing money. But if the IGT goes away and the county is required to recruit more staff, this moral obligation will become an increasing burden on taxpayers.  McClure has a moral obligation to them as well, which he often uses as an argument when employees seek higher wages. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Liz Cheney Explains Why Attempted Coup Investigation Needed

What did Donald Trump knmow and when did he know it? What did House Speaker Pelosi know and when did she know it? What did administration officials and top congressional leaders know about the attempted coup on January 6 and what role did they play in fomenting this nearly successful attack on our constitutional republic? Conservative Liz Cheney would like to know. Here's her opening statement to the committee charged with finding the answer:

Thank you very much, Chairman Thompson. Thank you to all of my colleagues on this committee, and thank you to each of the witnesses appearing before us today. It is because of you -- you held the line, you defended all of us, you defended the Capitol, and you defended the Constitution and our Republic, and every American owes you our undying gratitude. Every American, I hope, will be able to hear your testimony today and will watch the videos. The videos show the unbelievable violence and the inexcusable and intolerable cruelty that you all faced, and people need to know the truth.
    I want to begin by reflecting briefly on the investigation that we are launching today. Every one of us here on the dais voted for and would have preferred that these matters be investigated by an independent non-partisan commission, composed of five prominent Americans selected by each party, and modeled on the 9/11 Commission. Although such a commission was opposed by my own leadership in the House, it overwhelmingly passed with the support of 35 Republican members, it was defeated by Republicans in the Senate. And that leaves us where we are today. 
    We cannot leave the violence of January 6th -- and its causes -- uninvestigated. The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House -- every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward. If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system. We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come, and another January 6th every four years.
      I have been a conservative Republican since 1984 when I first voted for Ronald Reagan. I have disagreed sharply on policy and politics with almost every Democratic member of this committee. But, in the end, we are one nation under God. The Framers of our Constitution recognized the danger of the vicious factionalism of partisan politics -- and they knew that our daily arguments could become so fierce that we might lose track of our most important obligation -- to defend the rule of law and the freedom of all Americans. That is why our Framers compelled each of us to swear a solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. When a threat to our constitutional order arises, as it has here, we are obligated to rise above politics. This investigation must be non-partisan.
      While we begin today by taking the public testimony of these four heroic men, we must also realize that the task of this committee will require persistence. We must issue and enforce subpoenas promptly. We must get to objective truth. We must overcome the many efforts we are already seeing to cover up and obscure the facts.
        On January 6th and in the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were. One Republican, for example, said: "What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is unacceptable and un-American. Those participating in lawlessness and violence must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." No Member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct this investigation, or whitewash what happened that day. We must act with honor and duty, and in the interest of our nation.
          America is great because we preserve our democratic institutions at all costs. Until January 6th, we were proof positive for the world that a nation conceived in liberty could long endure. But now, January 6th threatens our most sacred legacy. The question for every one of us who serves in Congress, for every elected official across this great nation, indeed, for every American is this: Will we adhere to the rule of law? Will we respect the rulings of our courts? Will we preserve the peaceful transition of power? Or will we be so blinded by partisanship that we throw away the miracle of America? Do we hate our political adversaries more than we love our country and revere our Constitution? I pray that that is not the case. I pray that we all remember, our children are watching, as we carry out this solemn and sacred duty entrusted to us. Our children will know who stood for truth, and they will inherit the nation we hand to them -- a Republic, if we can keep it.
          Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.


          Independent Audit Shows Norco in Great Financial Shape

          RKL has finished its independent audit of Northampton County finances as of 12/31/2020. This report has yet to appear in the county's webpage, but shows a county in great financial shape. Here are siome highlights.

          Assets exceeded liabilities at the end of the year by $139.5 million. 

          There are $2.5 million in unrestricted net assets of $2.5 million as of December 31, 2020. 

          The county's total net position increased by $48.8 million. In addition, the governmental fund balance increased $14 million.

          Investments in capital assets increased $21.2 million as the County continues to replace or refurbish County bridges as well as construction of a new forensics center.

          OPEB liability and related accounts decreased $5 million due to differences in actuarial estimates in both benefits paid and expected investment earnings in 2020. 

          Pension liability and related accounts decreased $7 million due to differences in actuarial estimates in both claims paid and expected investment earnings in 2020. 

          Liability to P-3 contractor increased $5.6 million. 

          Total debt decreased $11 million (8.7%) during 2020. 

          At the close of 2020 the County’s governmental funds reported an ending fund balance of $131.1 million, an increase of $14 million. This is primarily due to the following activity in 2020: (1) Intergovernmental revenue increased $60.7 million due to federal and state Covid-19 pandemic relief funds. 

          (2) Hotel tax revenue decreased $1.2 million due to the Covid-19 pandemic government mandated shut down. 

          (3) Investment earnings decreased $2.2 million due to market uncertainties during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

          (4) Capital Projects fund balance decreased $14.9 million, mainly due to the capitalization of a new forensic center. 

          (5) Gracedale Nursing Home fund balance increased $10.4 million due to the timing of receipts of the InterGovernmental Transfer revenue and additional federal and state Covid-19 pandemic relief funds. 

          (6)  HealthChoices fund balance increased $8 million. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, members did not drop off the program, resulting in increased membership. Additionally, members were not using services during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

          (7) Open Space fund balance increased $1.8 due to a prior period adjustment 

          (8) Tax base growth generated approximately $681,842 in additional general fund real estate tax revenue. 

          (9) At the end of 2020, the unassigned fund balance, that which is available for spending at the government’s discretion in the general fund, was $54 million, or 39% of total general fund expenditures. 

          (10) $17.6 million of the unassigned fund balance represents funds designated as financial stabilization. (rainy day fund)

          Tuesday, July 27, 2021

          Should Health Insurers Link Coverage to Vaccines?

          I oppose making vaccines mandatory. But instead of offering cash incentives, those who refuse should pay the price. A nurse case manager in Salt Lake City has suggested that health insurance providers should link coverage to the vaccine. "If you choose not to be part of the solution, then you should be accountable for the consequences," she told The New York Times.  

          My Brother on Why Bethlehem Needs New Leaders

          Blogger's Note: Willie Reynolds is the latest in a long line of Democrats who've controlled Bethlehem for the past quarter-century. Republican John Kachmar thinks the Christmas City needs a housecleaning. My brother, who lives in Bethlehem, agrees. He's my polar opposite. I'm a Democrat, while he's a Republican. He makes a compelling case for Kachmar, a combat veteran of Vietnam and Lehigh County's former administrator.

          An Example of why we need new leadership in Bethlehem

          In January 2018, Bob Donchez, the current mayor of Bethlehem hired Eric Evans as Bethlehem’s business administrator. Mr. Evans at the time was an elected member of city council and a middle school teacher.  He resigned his teaching and elected position to assume his new duties. His current salary is $111,459*.

          In 2019 the Bethlehem Director of Recreation retired from her position with the city. 

          Jodi Evans, wife of Eric Evans, was selected from a field of about 100 candidates for the new job in April, 2019. Mr. Donchez went out his way to assure us that there was nothing unusual about her hiring. Out of 100 candidates, we were publicly assured that there was nothing wrong with the hiring process. Really?

          All we heard was silence from city council. Crickets.

           Mrs. Evans’ starting salary was $65000 as she resigned her position as a teacher to assume her new duties.

          The 2021 Bethlehem city budget shows that the Director of Recreation, Jodi Evans, went from a 2020 salary of $69000 to $77000* in 2021. That’s a $7000 increase in the middle of a pandemic when all the parks were forcibly closed! 
          In two years her salary has jumped from $65000 to $77000. In that same two years your city taxes have gone up even as you have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic. 

          This is the picture of nepotism and institutional corruption, and a perfect example of why we need new leadership in Bethlehem. 

          “In some States Mr. Evans would be charged with a crime before a Court of Law. If you engage in openly hiring your wife for a city job, what are you doing behind closed doors?” John Kachmar

                    Vote for John Kachmar for Mayor on November 2

          *Budget information available on the City of Bethlehem website

          NorCo's GOP Candidate Vlogs While Driving ... and Complaining About Another Driver

          Northampton County's GOP Executive candidate, Steve Lynch, likes to hold forth quite a bit with Facebook Live videos. Although he's blocked me, I get numerous reports on an almost daily basis of the outrageous lies and disinformation spewed by this demagogue. He's even willing to hint around at violence when things don't go his way in November. I'm posting the video you see above because it makes clear that, in addition to everything else I've noted, he is an idiot. 

          What you see is called a Facebok Live or a vlog, a technique used by people who prefer speaking to writing. Nothing wrong with that, but Lynch is vlogging while driving.  This is distracted driving. I believe these vlogs are contrary to current state law. More importantly, they endanger not only Lynch, but other drivers on the road. I realize he's all about freedom, but should be a bit more concerned about the safety of his fellow drivers and whomever might be unlucky enough to be in the car with him.

          What I find most amazing is that Lynch, who is himself engaged in distracted driving, spends a full two minutes complaining about another driver. My guess is that he was weaving or perhaps cut this driver off, but because he was distracted by Facebook, failed to realize it.  

          Monday, July 26, 2021

          Lynch's Plan B Hints at Violence When He Loses Exec Race

          Steve Lynch, the Republican nominee for Northampton County Exec, is dangerous. A reader asked him "when do we start to physically take our country back cause [sic] I gotta tell ya I'm getting tired of waiting. They have no clue the beast they are awakening in true conservative Americans." Lyunch responds, "I am focusing on winning through taking back local government and then permeating liberty throughout surrounding counties. If this fails, then we will have to have a Plan B." 

          I know many conservative Americans. They tend to take a dim view of sedition. 

          Morning Call Fails Its Readers Again

          On Friday, blogger Michael Molovinsky made some interesting observations about The Morning Call. This is the hedge fund owned daily that suppressed an important story about child abuse that was embarrassing to both Gerlach and Valley Youth House, the publicly funded nonprofit where Gerlach was employed. The paper knew she had flat out admitted to dropping off an underage runaway at a tent city, and refused to tell its readers. Even after it knew that she was under investigation by the Lehigh County District Attorney, it remained silent. Only after charges were filed did it finally run a story.Its editor offered some hollow excuses for its failure to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. To me, that itself was an admission of its failure. 

          Mark Pinsley, Lehigh County's Controller, was running for the State Senate before he was even sworn in as a South Whitehall Tp Comm'r. No sooner did he lose the Senate race to Pat Browne that he was off and running again. This time he was running for Controller. After he was elected, he played the patronage game to install Josh "Dox" Siegel as some sort of assistant. He did so despite Siegel's complete lack of  knowledge of accounting. 

          Together, both Pinsley and Siegel came up with the idiotic idea of increasing the sales tax in Lehigh County as well as a county earned income tax. That's right. These rocket scientists wanted ti impose two regressive taxes on the citizens who could least afford to pay them. This proposal thankfully went nowhere, although it did have support from back-room politicians like Alan Jennings. 

          Now Pinsley is running for the State  Senate again. He formally announced on Saturday, but anyone who takes even the slightest interest in local politics has known about this for several weeks. 

          So last week, The Morning Call gave Pinsely a bit of free advertising. It ran an opinion piece from Pinsley. It was Pinsley's second one in a month. The Morning Call  failed to warn its readers that Pinsley was going to be announcing his second state senate bid. 

          At the same time, the paper has still failed to explain why it took Valley Youth House so long to investigate and terminate Gerlaqch. It has failed to tell its readers that magisterial candidate Amy Zanelli is misrepresenting herself as some sort of super child abuse investigator when in fact she was fired ... twice.   It has failed to warn readers that the GOP candidate for NorCo County Exec is asn anti-vaxer who has hinted at violence when he loses the race. 

          Friday, July 23, 2021

          New Covid Surge Predicted

          As people get vaccinated, most of us seem to think the pandemic is over. Few of us wear masks indoors, even though at least half of the people there are unvaccinated. We think we're magically immune. It's time to rethink what's going on. A new surge appears to be in the works.  

          The Covid-19 Consortium Modeling Hub is made up of  researchers from Johns Hopkins and other major universities. It works in conjunction with the CDC to help track the pandemic. It also acts a bit like the National Weather Service, and creates forecast models. It is predicting a steady rise of both new Covid-19 cases and deaths throughout the summer and fall, peaking in October. This forecast assumes that 70%  of all eligible Americans are vaccinated and that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is 60% more contagious than the original virus. 

          In an interview with NPR, epidemiologist Justin Lessler stated that the one thing that will "stop the Delta variant in its tracks" is getting more people vaccinated. 

          This surge will be felt most strongly among those who are vaccine hesitant.   

          Gracedale is certainly better prepared now than it was when the pandemic first reared its ugly spiked head. Executive Lamont McClure reports that 93% of the residents have been vaccinated and he's shooting for 100%. He adds that inmates at the jail are very receptive to the vaccine. 

          Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy is an issue among the staff at the jail and the nursing home. 

          MDJ Candidate Andrew Tupone No Longer Employed by NorCo

          Andrew Tupone is the Republican candidate for Magisterial District Judge in Bethlehem Tp. He's running against incumbent Patricia Broscius.

          Both candidates were at one time county employees. Pat Broscius was a well respected Assistant District Attorney who devoted much of her career to prosecuting child abuse. She was also, at least in her younger days, a dedicated runner who logged five miles a day, no matter the weather. Tupone has been all over the place. He bounced from 911 to elections to assessment. He had a bit of a reputation for causing trouble wherever he went. 

          He used that tactic in this race. According to some who signed his nomination petition, he misrepresented that Broscius has decided against running for re-election. Then he unsuccessfully tried to bounce Broscius off the ballot with a spurious challenge that was rejected by Judge Craig Dally. 

          He better hope he wins because he's no longer employed by the county. Executive Lamont MvcClure confirmed this last night. He declined to state whether Tupone has been fired, stating that it is a personnel matter. 

          Thursday, July 22, 2021

          The Great American Rail Trail

          Although I kicked back a bit yesterday, I have been pushing myself pretty hard as I prepare for my Bikeventure along the 330 miles of trail between Pittsburgh and D.C.  The trip starts August 8. Curt's Cyclery, located in Nazareth, really souped up my Cannondale so that I travel 2 mph faster than on my other bikes.  So I've pretty much resolved to travel light and push hard. No reservations. When I'm tired, I stop. If there's no room at the Inn, I  have an emergency tent, thanks to Agent 99.  

          I've heard from and have met several people who've made the trip. One of them called it a "life-changing experience." That's fine so long as it's not life-ending. My biggest source of inspiration is someone I've never met.  I've only read about her and have followed her on her Instagram feed, called "recapturinglife_.Her name is Whitney. In June, she began her ride along the Great American Rail Trail. That's a 3,700-mile journey starting in Washington, D.C.,  and ending in Washington State.  

          I discovered Whitney on the Facebook group created by Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal enthusiasts. Whitney started her trip along the C&O Canal in DC. She made it through the C&O and Great Allegheny Passage and is currently in Ohio Amish country, where they all ride ebikes instead of carriages. She's riding solo, and as you can see from all her gear, she's camping. 

          She seems to have encountered lots of good people who've helped her and one bad person who stole her food while she was asleep in her tent (She was thankful the thief left her and her bike alone). 

          She's going through 12 states and over the Rockies. She will have to share the road with cars over half of her journey

          She is a badass for even trying. 

          When I see what she's doing, I have to laugh at my own trip, which is only 1/10th the distance she's doing. 

          Looks like I have a trip for next year. I better learn some basic bike mechanics. 

          Wednesday, July 21, 2021

          What is Covid Vaccine Rate in the LV?

           From ABC27

          Northampton County

          – Population that is fully vaccinated: 50.0% (152,780 fully vaccinated)
          — 0.8% lower vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
          – Population over 65 that is fully vaccinated: 81.5% (48,614 fully vaccinated)
          — 0.9% lower vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
          – Cumulative deaths per 100k: 235 (717 total deaths)
          — 8.3% more deaths per 100k residents than Pennsylvania
          – Cumulative cases per 100k: 11,767 (35,923 total cases)
          — 24.2% more cases per 100k residents than Pennsylvania

          Lehigh County

          – Population that is fully vaccinated: 54.4% (200,838 fully vaccinated)
          — 7.9% higher vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
          – Population over 65 that is fully vaccinated: 93.0% (58,764 fully vaccinated)
          — 13.1% higher vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
          – Cumulative deaths per 100k: 234 (863 total deaths)
          — 7.8% more deaths per 100k residents than Pennsylvania
          – Cumulative cases per 100k: 10,798 (39,880 total cases)
          — 13.9% more cases per 100k residents than Pennsylvania

          NorCo COs Want Hazard Pay, But Refuse Vaccine

          A few weeks ago, a gaggle of corrections officers, festooned with those ugly green AFSCME T-shirts, appeared before County Council. Perhaps they were green with envy. You see, some Gracedale staffers exposed to Covid residents receive hazard pay. Corrections officers do not. Neither do 911 dispatchers, human services workers or courthouse employees. A reader suggested yesterday that I should find out how many of these hazard-pay-seeking corrections officers actually bothered to get vaccinated. I made inquiries, certain the number would be high. After all, the county is handing out $1,000 to each and every guard who is willing to get a jab. Guess what? According to the county, only 23% of these courageous corrections officers have been inoculated. These brave bagpipers are afraid of a little needle. 

          I was very impressed at how these jailkeepers handled themselves during the pandemic. In addition to showing up and doing their job with no complaint, they actually saved lives. They stopped several attempted suicides. But when they demand hazard pay at a jail with exactly zero Covid cases, and refuse a vaccine in spite of a $1,000 cash incentive, they are being hypocrites.   

          That's just the way it is.

          Tuesday, July 20, 2021

          What's Going On at NorCo Jail?

          Several NorCo corrections officers appeared at a Council meeting a few weeks ago to seek hazard pay for their work because they are experiencing a manpower shortage (again) and overtime mandates  Though there's hazard pay available at Gracedale for staffers who come into direct contact with Covid residents, it's unlikely at the jail. Executive Lamont McClure pretty much ruled it out, though he told Council member Peg Ferraro that he's open to the idea of more frequent, albeit smaller, step increases. It's pretty difficult for me to tell you what's going on there because it is, after all, a jail. The County, however, released a statement on Monday with some salient details. 

          Total number of Covid-positive inmates from pandemic inception: 188

          Total number of Covid-positive corrections officers from pandemic inception: 65

          Current Covid-positive inmates or staff: 0

          Total number of Covid tests  administered at jail: 3,603

          Current jail census: 569

          Total number of vaccination clinics conducted at jail: 5

          Services available at jail: Employment pre-release program, family answers

          Inmates who were furloughed are being brought back.

          Monday, July 19, 2021

          Why Hasn't Amazon Unionized Already?

          If you work at an Amazon warehouse in Pa., you are twice as likely to be seriously injured than at any other warehouse (or should I call it fulfillment center?)  in the state. According to Governing, Amazon has averaged 7.2 serious "incidents" per 100 workers over the past three years. In other warehouses, it is only 3.9 incidents per 100 workers.  This statistic alone makes me question how Amazon has remained union-free for so long.   

          If you combine serious injuries in Pa., Delaware and  New Jersey, it's still pretty bad. Amazon had 4.9 serious injuries per 100 workers in the three states combined. By contrast, its rivals are safer:

          Walmart: 3.4 serious injuries per 100 workers

          UPS: 3.1 serious injuries per 100 workers.

          Fed-Ex: 2.3 serious injuries per 100 workers.

          Like Amazon, Walmart is also nonunion. UPS, which has noticeably fewer injuries than Amazon or Walmart, is unionized. FedEx, which has the lowest rate of all, is mostly nonunion and has spared no expense to stay that way.

          It's time to recognize that  warehouse work is dangerous. Coal mining is considered dangerous. But according to the BLS, serious injuries amount to 2.6 per 100 full-time workers. This makes Amazon and other warehouses far more dangerous. 

          Shouldn't these warehouse workers have union protection? 

          Friday, July 16, 2021

          Residents Complain About Conditions at Nazareth's Oliver Border House

          Nazareth's Oliver C Border House is a four story building with 75 1-BR apartments for persons who are over 62 yo or who are disabled. It's in a quiet corner of a quiet borough, just a stone's throw from Holy Family Church. There's a bus stop right outside the door. There's even a cemetery right across the street so that when the end comes, you don't have far to go. A group of tenants, however, is upset with conditions at the home, and took its complaints to Northampton County Council last night. But there's a problem. This home is operated by the Lehigh County Housing Authority, not the Northampton County Housing Authority or even Northampton County.

          Kathy Riffert was the first resident to take the podium. She started by thanking Council member Tara Zrinski, who visited and inspected the building a few weeks ago at the request of residents. She asked the county to consider regaining control of the home. 

          Riffert asked about Valley Housing Development Corp., which apparently runs the facility. She indicated this firm might manage 31 buildings, and asked where Northampton County's money is going. She indicated that when she first moved there, the tenants were mostly elderly. Now it is a "mixture of nursing home, mental hospital and a group home for mentally challenged people." She also observed that police "are here three or four times a week for frivolous tenant calls." 

          Joanne Messinger, who lives on Seip Street but visits the Border House regularly, followed Riffert. "The office is not worth the room they take up," she complained. She was concerned specifically by how the office is treating one of the tenants, who is barred from visiting any floor except the one on which she lives. "Something's got to be done about that place, it's gone downhill." 

          Tenant Trudy Davis was the next speaker. She and her late husband first moved there in October 2012.  She was once  proud to say where she lived. "Now, things have changed. There's no longer pride in the old dirty red building on the top of the hill. I heard that description many times while riding the bus back and forth to the Palmer Mall."  She listed numerous deficiencies, from red walls turned black by mold to cracked entry steps. The Border House, "once the 'Cadillac' of HUD buildings, is now a building in desperate need of repairs." 

          Resident Carol Kostolanci was the next to take the podium. Her complaint is that "management has opened the building to people who are not only a danger to themselves, but to every other tenant. They wander the halls in various states of undress, some are self abusive." She indicated they linger outside the apartments of other tenants or just lie on the floor.  She added that management locks its doors, closes its blinds and is unresponsive. 

          Barbara Tinker, an 82 yo resident, said she's seen several changes in management, and the present operators are the worst. She also complained about the habit of locking the door and pulling down the shades. "That gesture alone makes us feel inferior, almost as if we are the enemy. In many ways we are treated like lower class citizens."

          Batting clean-up was 91 yo Joyce Rice. "I'm the grandmother of the group," she joked. She said that when she first moved into the Border House in 2011, the office was wonderful. But she slammed the current management for the way it treats the first floor tenant who pretty much is banned from everywhere else in the building,  

          Executive Lamont McClure pretty much agreed with these complaints. "It's time to take our housing authority back, folks. It was a mistake to vote to give it to Lehigh County."

          McClure was a member of Council when it voted to cede control of the Border House to Lehigh County Housing Authority, and was the sole member to vote No. 

          While McClure claimed that Northampton and Lehigh County work well together, he said the bi-county arrangements have been a failure. He indicated he is currently working on a plan to regain control of the housing authority in Northampton County. "We're going to have a housing authority again in Northampton County." 

          He indicate that Valley Housing  should be invited to a Council Committee meeting to address resident concerns. But he cautioned that people with disabilities must be permitted to reside at Oliver Border House. 

          Council member Ron Heckman, who chairs the Human Services Committee, said he'd invite management to his next meeting. 

          The Four Horsemen of Basketball

          It was a pleasure to see these guys play at Catasauqua Park last night. From left to right, it’s Aiden Ellwood, Dat Lambert, Jay Vaughan and Zach Sabol. Dat, Jay and Zach played together for the Blue Chips AAU team in 8th grade. Aiden played with Dat and Jay at ACCHS for one year before going back to Northampton, where he excelled.

          These days, Aiden and Dat play together on DeSales men’s basketball team, Jay Vaughan is still the Barishnikov of basketball and now plays for Lafayette’s hoops’ squad. You can find Zach, a former Emmaus standout, under the boards at East Stroudsburg.

          It was wonderful to see them together in a team that Aiden put together himself.

          The Angel of Death, who mistakenly thinks he's a Hearts player, joined me in the stands.

          They lost. Unfortunately, it's my fault. I forced my grandson Dat to ride with me on Wednesday with a defective bike. The chain jammed and he went for a loop, losing the skin on one of his palms. That pretty much took him out of the picture as an offensive threat,.

          Thursday, July 15, 2021

          Though Incarcerated, Mezzacappa Refuses to Appear at Hearing to Review Her Sentence

          If you've been following the antics of West Easton Borough Constable Tricia Mezzacappa over the years, you know that she has a history of refusing to appear for hearings in both civil and criminal matters. She's even spent time in jail as a result of several bench warrants that had to be issued for her. But yesterday, she pulled off something new. She refused to appear at a scheduled hearing to review her sentence even though she's already in jail. Let me tell you the story. 

          By way of background, Mezzacappa was convicted of false reports to the Pennsylvania State Police after a jury trial in march. She attempting to frame a black neighbor with accosting her at gunpoint. She told troopers she had fired her own gun at him as he ran off. A jury determined beyond a reasonable doubt that she was lying. The case was prosecuted by Assistant DA Abigail Bellafatto, assisted by unpaid summer intern Richard Huntington Pepper. The trial judge was Stephen Baratta. Mezzacappa represented herself, although Judge Baratta appointed a standby counsel to assist her. 

          Mezzacappa had no prior record of significance. Judge Stephen Baratta sentenced her in April to 12 months probation with conditions that included no contact with the victims, a psychiatric evaluation, a drug and alcohol evaluation and the temporary surrender of all offensive weapons and firearms. 

          On the very day she was sentenced, she violated the terms of her probation. She left a note for the victim and told both the ADA and her probation officer that she had no intention of complying with Judge Baratta's sentence. 

          Mezzacappa was as a result picked up on yet another bench warrant and has been housed at Monroe County's correctional facility since that time. Judge Baratta directed that she be given a psychiatric evaluation and drug and alcohol evaluation before being released.

          The psychiatric evaluation was apparently conducted, but my understanding is that she refuses to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation.  Though she refuses to comply with Judge Baratta's own sentence, he agreed to review her case yesterday. 

          Instead of transporting prisoners from jails to courtrooms, court officials often have defendants participate by video. That's what was supposed to happen with Mezzacappa. But at the appointed hour, all the video feed showed was an empty chair in an empty room.

          A corrections officer eventually appeared, and informed the court that Mezzacappa refused to get dressed or leave her cell. 

          My views concerning Mezzacappa are colored from my numerous negative interactions with her. But it seems clear to me that she has no respect for the court and no intention of complying with any probationary sentence. While her continued incarceration is far from ideal for her own rehabilitation, it will at least keep the rest of us safe for the next few months.   

          Wednesday, July 14, 2021

          Ce-Ce Gerlach Wants $100,000 for Legal Defense

          Allentown City Council member Cecelia E (Ce-Ce) Gerlach is off in Florida, visiting family. But before leaving, she was sure to set up a GoFundMe page called "Help Ce Ce pay legal fees."  She's seeking $100,000. 

          Prominent criminal defense attorney Ettore "Ed" Angelo was quick to condemn Gerlach's prosecution for child endangerment and failure to report suspected child abuse as politically motivated. But interestingly, his name has yet to appear as her attorney on the docket sheet. This means he's waiting for that all-important witness, Mr. Green. I doubt very much that he charges $100,000 to represent someone at a preliminary hearing on misdemeanor charges. That hearing is currently scheduled for August 6  

          Methinks Gerlach is hoping to milk this for her own pocket. So far, she's raised $300. 

          According to Gerlach, she's never, ever, ever, ever, ever, not ever committed a single crime in her entire life. Never mind that she admitted to this one. Never mind that her own paperwork shows she knew she was dropping a minor off at a tent city.

          Gerlach complains that the prosecution "has been a very challenging time for me, but I remain committed to fighting for the people of Allentown." I would prefer that she be committed to fighting for the safety of a minor entrusted to her care, but that's me.  

          Tuesday, July 13, 2021

          NorCo Civil Division Resumes Accepting Passport Applications

          Northampton County's Civil Division is again accepting passport applications. But it's  by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 610-829-6457. Applications will be processed in the Prothonotary,. That;s a fancy word for the Clerk of the Civil Division. It's located on the Lower Level of the Courthouse at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042. Applicants who have not been vaccinated must wear a mask while at the Government Center.

          You might bump into me, so you should make sure your tetanus shots are up to date. 

          Information on fees and documents required for passport applications can be viewed at travel.state.gov

          The County of Northampton now offers applicants the option of getting their passport photo done at the courthouse for a $10.00 fee. Anyone who wants to use this service should arrive thirty minutes before their appointment and pay the fee at the Revenue Department.

          Passport applications had to be suspended in March 2020 because of the pandemic and office closures at the Department of State. 

          Zanelli Neglected Children in Jersey, But Wants to Be a Judge

          Amy Zanelli is running for Magisterial District Judge in West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill. She spoke with a fawning Josh Popichak in February about her work in child protective services. "My ability to see things others didn't led me to go into investigative work on a state level for the State of New Jersey," she told him. "I specialized in sex crimes and homicides and abuse and neglect for children ... ." She even went so far as to claim that she was forced to move here because she had been targeted in Jersey. 

          This, of course, is a bald-faced lie. Below you can see the opinion of an arbitrator who upheld her termination in 2012 She worked primarily as an intake worker in Somerset County's Department of Children and Families, not as a sex crimes or homicide detective. She was terminated because she refused to work or seek accommodations in a department that was short-staffed and trying to cope with the most vulnerable elements of our society - our children.

          In fact, her supervisors discovered that she had failed to document the cases she did have, and they had to be reassigned. 

          While refusing to work, Zanelli did find the time to drop off some Avon products for fellow caseworkers. 

          I reported this termination when Zanelli ran for Commissioner four years ago. The Morning Call had the same information I did, yet kept you in the dark. It repeated this failure with Ce-Ce Gerlach. . 

          Now she wants to be a magisterial district judge. 

          Amy Zanelli's Terminati... by BernieOHare

          Monday, July 12, 2021

          I Was Evicted!

          You may have heard there's a moratorium on evictions, but I've been tossed. Oh, I still have my apartment. I've been evicted from a community garden I rented from Northampton County at Louise Moore Park. 

          I picked it up in early Spring for $25 with very good intentions. I planted stuff and watered every day for about two weeks. But I began to neglect it. That's a no no.

          Apparently, the fine print in my lease requires me to maintain my plat. This admittedly is something I failed to do. Other gardeners complained. I tried to tell the parks dude that I love to eat weeds. I even tried to tell him it was hemp.  He was unmoved by my lies.

          So I'm out. I do apologize to the real gardeners who are doing amazing things there.   

          Will the Lehigh Valley Elect Its First Ever Black Judge?

          Maraleen Shields is running for Judge in Lehigh County. She's one of six candidates vying for three open seats. If elected, she'll be the first African American on the bench in the Lehigh Valley.  She's quite proud of her heritage, and rightly so. She's having a news conference today at which various officials are going to plug her and I presume use her race as a selling point. I have a better reason. She simply the best of six very good candidates. 

          She knows hardship. She lost her father when she was a seven year old girl. 

          She knows discrimination. Her high school was created as the result of court-ordered integration. 

          She excelled as a student. She graduated magnum cum laude from University of Pittsburgh. While she was there, she was a member of the Law Review, an honor bestowed upon a law school's top students. 

          She has had a brilliant career as a lawyer. She is a partner with Fitzpatick, Lentz and Bubba, one of the Lehigh Valley's most prestigious law firms.

          In America, a lawyer is a lawyer. In England, a lawyer can be a solicitor or a barrister. The barrister is the one who argues cases in court. Shields would qualify as a barrister, which strikes me as a skill one would like to see in a judge. In fact, she is a recipient of the Lynette Norton award, which recognizes female attorneys who excel in litigation and have served as mentors for women who practice law. 

          She is driven. Not only does she push herself in her legal career, but also in her personal fitness. 

          Someone with her intellect and life's experience deserves a seat on the bench.  

          Friday, July 09, 2021

          Gerlach's Whistleblower Speaks Out

          The Morning Call has attempted to explain why it refused to cover Ce-Ce Gerlach's alleged child endangerment (she dropped a minor off at a tent city) and failed to report suspected child abuse.  One of its many poor excuses is that it was unable to verify the facts with anyone, including community activist Jeani Haskins Garcia. If the paper tried to speak to her at all, it was a feeble attempt. Alfonso Todd, aka The Savage Entrepreneur, had no difficulty persuading her to appear on his podcast.  

          Garcia, whose son was a shooting victim of gang violence in 2012, is considered a community activist. But she considers herself a mother first and spoke at length about her son and the grief she felt when he was taken away from her. She formed Mother2Mother, a nonprofit to assist parents who lose their children to violence, drug overdoses or suicide. 

          She cares deeply about children and spoke about Grace Packer, a product of our dysfunctional state system. That child was preyed upon and murdered by the people who were supposed to be caring for her. 

          It is thanks to her Facebook post in April that fellow blogger James Whitney began to look into this story. 

          Here's part of what she told Alfonso Todd about the Ce-Ce Gerlach case:

          "[Gerlach] was an intake worker, an outreach worker, a street worker. She got a phone call at 7 o'clock at night from a runaway, and he asked for help.After doing his intake, Ce-Ce thought it was in his best interests to take him to an unsheltered encampment in Allentown, which we used to call tent city. ... She failed to do her job and let his child down, and in the process of him being in this encampment, he was subjected to sexual abuse. Nothing physical happened, but he was solicited for sex - a sexual act. 

          "It was brought to my attention by some of the unsheltered people I helped in the past ... . Ultimately, we ended up getting the young boy - the child - the help that he needed. Now that's escalated into [Ce-Ce] being charged with child endangerment and failure to report this incident because she's a mandated reporter. 

          "There's been a lot of stuff going on and I'm getting a lot of heat it for certain things. I'm standing here unapologetic. This will pass for Ce-Ce. This will pass for me. But this will not pass for the young man who was subjected to that.  ... If your kid runs away from home - some run away for good reasons, some run away from home just because they don't want to follow rules - and then you get a kid who reaches out to some organization and asks for help from Ce-Ce, and you get an intake worker who takes you to a tent city, an unsheltered encampment at night, in the dark, with adults who have mental health issues, drug addiction issues, alcohol, there's so much that goes down in those communities that I would never take a child. ... There are just some things our kids should not see. ... 

          Todd asked Garcia what needs to change:

          I think that people who say they have organizations representing the youth be held accountable to do so. I think the reporting needs to be more in-depth. ...  If you say you're doing something for the kids and you're getting these grants and you're getting money and you're out here publicizing that you work for the youth and you're here to protect the youth, then DO YOUR JOB! DO YOUR JOB! Integrity shows when nobody's looking, when the camera's not there, when the politics aren't involved ..."

          "I'm not going to sit back and not sound the alarm." 

          She's sounding the alarm for the kids of Allentown. She notes children attending schools in Allentown get about $5,000-6,000 per student, while neighboring school districts are raking in $16,000 per student. She noted that the William Allen graduation at J Brirney Crum had to be postponed three times because of the weather and was finally held in blistering heat. Meanwhile, neighboring school districts held their graduations at PPL Center. 

          She indicated people like Gerlach need to start taking accountability. "She's literally in the media saying, 'I did nothing wrong.' ... She's not saying she didn't do it. She definitely admitted she took him there. What she's saying is she did nothing wrong. And that scares me.  And that's why I can't have empathy at this point. 

          "We all make mistakes. I've made plenty of mistakes. Accountability starts when you say, ' I messed up. I messed up."

          "When it comes to a kid and the safety of a child, that's where I draw the line. I'm sorry. Call me what you want."

          "It took eight months for something to happen. It took my Facebook post to bring it to light again and I'm getting all the blame for it. 

          "I did my job. I reported her to Childline and I felt like the community needed to know." 

          Thursday, July 08, 2021

          I'm a Lousy Minimalist

          I pride myself on being a minimalist. I try to keep as few things as possible. Last Summer, I even lent my car to someone for a few months, and relied on my bike and LANTA to get to where I needed to be. But this philosophy goes right out the window when it comes to bicycles. I now own three of them. 

          My first love is a Jamis Tangier hybrid that I bought in 1999 for $429. Over the years, it has undergone many modifications.  I had the gears completely redone, added fenders and a heavy duty rack. I replaced the wheels and my tires are made of kevlar. It is slow, like its owner, but it's a tank. 

          My second bike is a Bianchi Cortina, yet another hybrid. While the Jamis tends to be clunky, the Italian bike is quite nimble and can turn on a dime. Though that bike is only a year old, it's slower than the Jamis. 

          My third bike is one I bought (used) yesterday. It's a hardtail, a Cannondale Trail 5. I never expected I'd ever buy a mountain bike, especially with those shock absorbers that seem to slow things down. But I've been passed by enough guys on them to start wondering. Moreover, my grandson flies on his Cannondale. I believe they are faster because they are extremely light and the tires are bigger. 

          I tried it out yesterday on the Ironton Trail.  My fastest time on that 12.7 mile ride has been exactly 1 hour on my Jamis. Yesterday, in my first ride on the Cannondale Trail 5, my time was 64 minutes. That's slower, but the ride was in 93 degree weather. It's definitely a faster ride. 

          I felt much more confident and comfortable on that bike, too. There was no rattling of the joints as I went over bumps. I added a fat man saddle and changed the handgrips, and am going to see about getting better tires. This is the bike I will likely use for my ride from Pittsburgh to DC in August. If I do, I will add lights and a rack. 

          NorCo Small Businesses Can Apply for Second Round Now

          Are you a Northampton County small business that failed to apply for a Covid relief grant from the County? If so, you can do so now. Northampton County Council has set aside $15 million in federal money awarded under the American Rescue Plan. 

          To qualify, you must (1) have a business located in Northampton County; (2) with fewer than 100 employees; and (3) did not receive a grant in the previous rounds of funding.

          So far,nearly 1,000 county small businesses have received grants of up to $15,000. 

          The money received can be used for rent, payroll or other operating expenses. 

          Executive Lamont McClure proposed this spending plan to Council, and they quickly agreed.  “Many of our small businesses are still feeling the economic fallout from the pandemic,” said McClure. “Small businesses are a critical economic driver in Northampton County, providing both jobs and services our residents need.”

          As with the previous rounds of grants, the program will be administered by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. I know that they spent hours working with nonmembers who can barely speak English.

          Tony Iannelli, who is the chief cheerleader for Lehigh Valley business, thanked McClure and Council, noting their program "has literally kept many businesses alive.” 

          Hey if it's business, it matters. 

          Applications are due by August 31, 2021. The maximum grant amount is $15,000 per business.

          The application form can be found on the DCED and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce websites:

          Wednesday, July 07, 2021

          MDJ Candidate Amy Zanelli Kicked Out of Fountain Hill Pool

          The first time I saw Amy Zanelli was at a Hanover Tp (Northampton County) Supervisors' meeting in 2015. Though Hanover Tp was once known as Chickentown, it imposed a backyard chicken ban in 2011. Zanelli, who had a chicken coop with four hens, wanted that policy changed. While the CDC has just issued a warning about a salmonella outbreak linked to backyard chickens, they are nevertheless increasingly popular in suburban and even urban environments. I found no fault with Zanelli's poultry pitch, but something else bothered me. At the time, she was employed by Northampton County Children and Youth. She flashed her badge at Supervisors, which was entirely inappropriate. It was a portent of things to come.

          Fast forward two years, and she's no longer a resident of Hanover Tp. She's no longer a Children and Youth caseworker. Now she's a realtor living in West Bethlehem, and is running for Lehigh County Comm'r. 

          I learned then and told you Zanelli had been employed as an intake worker in Somerset County, but was terminated in 2012 because she refused to return to work after receiving a number of leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She left the most vulnerable element of our society, our children, go without protection. Though she refused to work, she dropped in on her office one day to deliver Avon products to co-workers. 

          Zanelli appealed her termination and lost.

          She told me she was a victim of discrimination.

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

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

          Zanelli was quite upset with me for telling you she had been fired twice. She banned me from her Facebook page, which happens to me quite. She claimed my report was nothing but "false allegations" and "fake news." She noted The Morning Call declined to publish a story, as though that somehow makes her truthful.  

          Voters apparently believed her. They elected her. 

          According to Zanelli herself, she could remain a Lehigh County Commissioner for the next 30 years if she wanted. But after a May 1 Facebook post in which she supported looting as an appropriate response to slavery, she decided to bring her special brand of justice to the people of West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill. 

          On the campaign trail, Zanelli has held erself out as some sort of super child abuse investigator from Jersey.  She has told people this past will give her some sort of edge as a magisterial district judge. She told a fawning reporter that she was forced to move here because she was a target in Jersey. But guess what? She's a liar. My report about her was right. She really was fired. Twice.

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

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

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

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

          This is how Judge Koury assessed Zanelli's demeanor: "Mother testified at length during the parties' custody trial. ... Mother's demeanor varied from happy to openly hostile. ... Mother repeatedly referred to the custody trial as a 'circus.' ... Mother accused opposing counsel of  'play[ing] semantics and stated that her questioning was 'crap.'"

          She obviously lacks the temperament necessary to be a magisterial district judge. 

          But if you have any doubts, take a gander at this incident report from a week ago today, when Zanelli was kicked out of Fountain Hill Pool. She was ejected by the pool manager for repeatedly intervening as the manager was attempting to deal with some unruly teenagers.