Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Daily Newspapers Slammed on Business Matters

Over the years, I've been invited to be a guest many times on Tony Iannelli's Business Matters program. I've also been disinvited just as often. Once a guest hears that I've been asked to come on, they advise program directors that they will refuse to participate if I'm there. That's happened on shows scheduled with Mike Fleck, disgraced Allentown Mayor "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and a few others. So I was surprised no one disinvited me to a program about our local news coverage, which is pretty much nonexistent. I'm even more surprised the show aired, as it did last night. Our local news purveyors did themselves no favors. 

Unlike the rest of them, I really hate to wear a suit and tie unless it's for a wedding, funeral or I'm a criminal defendant charged with a felony.  I'm with the Israelis when it comes to business attire. 

The dailies attempted to defend their failure to cover municipal meetings by stating their "metrics" tell them people are not reading those stories. They apparently think they exist to entertain rather than inform. "Your obligation is to give people not what they want, but what they need," was my response to Morning Call editor Mike Miorelli. "That's why you guys keep sinking further and further down. That's why every so many months, you let off more reporters. You're not thinking things through. You need to do your jobs. You need to tell people what's going on... ."

I provided an example. I received a news release from businessman Nat Hyman about his donation for an Allentown police substation. After confirming the story was accurate, I published it while simultaneously and very accurately observing that Hyman is possibly the worst Hearts player in the world. The Morning Call refused to publish the story at first because I had run it. Miorelli attempted to deny this but I have his words in black and white. 

This simply kills me. He views a puny blog as a competitor even though this one-man operation exists only to complement local news coverage, not compete with it. He talked about "winning" and getting beat, which is ridiculous. 

Nobody really gives a shit if you're first so long as you're actually doing your job and informing the public. The dailies are failing. The county governments are half billion dollar operations getting zero scrutiny, except from WFMZ and WLVR. 

Incredibly, Miorelli indicated his paper is shying away from stories like Coronavirus pandemic because people are tired of them. 

I guess stories about your favorite hamburger joint are preferable. 

DeSales Mens Basketball Team Rated #25 By D3 Hoops

On Monday, I was chided for failing to note that Kutztown University's D2 football squad is also playing in the NCAA tournament on its level. "Stick to basketball," I was told. In that vein, I am pleased  to inform you that the 6-0 DeSales Bulldogs are now rated by D3Hoops as the 25th top Mens Basketball Team in the nation. This weekly rating is based on voting by a panel of 25 coaches, sports information directors and media members across the country.

In pre-season polling, DeSales was nowhere to be found. Yeshiva is ranked #1, and is an amazing team to watch in action. 

DeSales MBB includes several standouts from LV high schools. These include point guard Matt Kachelreis (Emmaus - 37 assists), shooting guard Jordan Holmquist (Moravian Academy - 20 trays), shooting guard Ryan Boylan (Easton Area High School - 33 rebounds) and shooting guard Dat Lambert (Allentown Central Catholic - 79 points). 

In addition to all this local talent, the team relies heavily on Mason Barnes (Pottsville Area - 14 steals), Will Pollick (Kingsway Regional), Christian Guldin (Pennridge), Mike Bealer (Souderton - 11 trays), Elijah Eberly (Elizabethtown - 47 rebounds and 8 blocks), Keba Mitchell (Berks Catholic - 14 rebounds and one shattered backboard on a dunk) and Will Bowen (Lower Dauphin).

Timmy Edwards (Trinity), who led the team in scoring last year, is expected to rejoin the squad in December after recovering from an injury. 

They are coached by former Whitehall phenom Scott Coval, who is in his 29th year at the helm. His son Nick is following in his father's footsteps, but at Parkland, 

The team will be hosted by an always tough Wilkes on Wednesday night. 

I go to every game I can and wear a uniform under my street clothes. I have asked Coach Coval several times to put me in because I have about 70 years of eligibility.

"I don't know, Bernie. Can you shoot a 3?"

I can shoot a 4. 

Kutztown Football in D2 Final 8

On Monday, I told you that Muhlenberg College is inarguably one of the top D3 football programs in the country. It has advanced to the final eight in the NCAA D3 playoffs. I was taken to task by a reader who noted that the 11-1 Kutztown Bears, a D2 squad, "are by far the best team in the area." 

I never considered KU because it is outside of the Lehigh Valley. But that's my bad because so many local residents are alumni. 

Kutztown, like Muhlenberg, is also playing in this year's NCAA tournament, but on the D2 level. Both teams are in the final eight of their respective levels. Kutztown will be hosting Sherpherd University (W Va.) on Saturday at noon. 

The other six contenders are Valdosta State (Ga.), Bowie State (Md), Ferris State (Mi). Northwest Mo. State, Colorado School of Mines and Angelo State. 

The national championship will be played December 18.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

Pa Department of Health Continues to Misinform

Hours after being made Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was brutally honest. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” This inspired people instead of discouraging them. He would admit his mistakes along the way as well. After the successful evacuation of most of the British Army at Dunkirk, he warned, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” Churchill, unlike many of today's leaders, understood that honesty is the best policy in the face of any public crisis. In the case of a pandemic, it's also important to be accurate. Pennsylvania's Department of Health (DoH) has really failed on that count. 

Steve Thode, who has assumed the unenviable burden of monitoring its missives, points out the DoH's most recent misinformation. 


Thode observes, "DoH data personnel continue to demonstrate their inability to master 3rd grade arithmetic. On Tuesday, they reported 73.7% of Pennsylvanians 18+ were fully vaccinated. On Wednesday, that percentage shrank to 68.8%. How does someone become unvaccinated? No one at DoH seems the least bit curious."

Be Nice to School Bus Drivers

The Nazareth Times, a self-described hyper-local and digital publication on Facebook, invites all members to post on topics related to Nazareth. One of them, Rob Cruz, posted a lengthy essay about the difficulties he faces in his job. He's a school bus driver. You may have noticed we have a driver shortage, and Cruz' story, along with numerous comments from other drivers, help explain why.  You might think it's the money, but it appears to be more about respect.

According to Cruz, "My job is to transport your child from point A to point B safely. That is all. What do I mean when I say safely? Let me explain. Safely means I pre trip my bus to ensure it is running properly and that it hasn’t been tampered with. Safely means my eyes are constantly scanning all 7 mirrors, blind spots, and the road in front of me. I’m NOT a babysitter. I’m NOT a mediator. Im a BUS DRIVER."

Cruz and several bus drivers who added their own two cents not that kids this year might be a tad more unruly after sitting inside their house for a year. But it goes beyond that. Cruz adds that there are parents "hulking" at bus stops who yell, scream and curse at drivers. "[P]lease understand you have now added to the problem[.] [Y]ou may think you are just protecting your little baby but really you’ve just shown your children, AND the remaining children on the bus that you can speak and act however you want to WITHOUT major consequences."

I decided to call a friend who drives a school bus for special needs children. He confirmed everything Cruz said, although he noted that most of the students he drives are younger and well-behaved. 

My friend (I forgot to ask if I could use his name) indicated some parents might be upset at the school district and take it out on the driver. In most instances, parents are angry because they have to wait. 

In addition to parents, my friend is routinely flipped off and cursed at by other drivers who have while he helps to get a differently-abled student on the bus. 

School bus drivers deliver very precious cargo. I think we all could make more of an effort to be civil to them. 


Muhlenberg Football Makes NCAA D3 Final 8

After blanking Delaware Valley 14-0 during a defensive game in Doylestown on Saturday afternoon, the 11-1 Muhlenberg Mules are now among the final eight teams vying for the national D3 NCAA football championship on December 17.  

Saturday's contest, broadcast on Youtube, was a game in which both offenses struggled. DelVal came away with no points despite being in the red zone three times. What appears to have made the difference was an aggressive Muhlenberg defense that garnered nine sacks during the game. 

"Anytime you beat Delaware Valley, it's an accomplishment," said Muhlenberg coach Nate Milne. He also spoke about the GPAs of his athletes, something that is rarely heard on the D1 level. 

Muhlenberg, now inarguably one of the top eight D3 football squads in the nation, will face 4th-ranked University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio at noon on December 4. At 12-0, Mount Union is undefeated.

The remaining D3 football squads are University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Central College (Ia), North Central College (Ill), Rennselaer Polytech (NY), Mary Hardin-Baylor (Tx) and Linfield U (Ore). 

It was nice to see this team finally get noticed by The Morning Call, thanks to their excellent sports reporter, Keith Groller.

Friday, November 26, 2021

NorCo Council Poised to Give Itself and Exec an Overdue Payraise

In the last Exec race, the only Republican who ran for Exec was a personal trainer. Many argued that the low salary ($85,000) paid to someone who manages a $500 million operation is an impediment to top tier candidates.  Northampton County Council is finally poised to give itself, the Executive and the Controller an overdue pay increase. At its November 18 meeting, an ordinance summarized as "Salaries for Elected Officials" was introduced, with a vote set for December 2. It will raise the salaries of elected officials as follows: Council members will receive on annual salary of $10,000 (up from $9,500), effective January 1, 2024; the Executive will get $100,000 a year (up from $85,000), effective January 1, 2026; and the Controller will receive $80,000 a year (up from $75,000), effective January 1, 2024.

For County Council and the Executive, this would be its first wage increase since 2010. 

The Northampton County Home Rule Charter prevents Council from giving themselves raises. They can set salaries for the next term of an elected official, but not the current one. Here's what it says.

"The County Council shall have the power by ordinance to set the salary of each elected official. No ordinance shall increase or decrease the salary of an elected official during his term of office. No ordinance which increases or decreases the salary of an elected official shall take effect less than one (1) year after its date of enactment."

Arguably, they could give themselves a raise on December 2, to take effect next year.  But that would look sneaky.  

When Lehigh and Northampton County adopted Home Rule Charters in 1978, they set initial salaries for their execs and legislators. The full-time county execs were paid $30,000 (Lehigh) and $35,000 (Northampton) while part-time legislators were paid $2,500 (Lehigh) and $4,000 (Northampton).

If these 1978 salaries were adjusted just for cost of living, our local county officials would be bringing home a lot more bacon today. Northampton County Exec McClure would be paid $154,889.84. Northampton County Council members would receive $17,701.70 salaries instead of the current $9,500.

Local leaders may tell you they're here to serve, but a glance at their campaign expense reports makes you wonder just who is the master. Let's face it. Our current salary structure is designed to attract political hacks looking to advance themselves, or zillionaires who've lost touch with the common man. I've heard many very qualified private businessmen, state legislators, and others simply state they could not afford to live on the meager wages paid to local elected officials.

It's simple. If you want good people, you have to pay them. It makes no difference whether it is a CNA or a County Exec, 

The Ordinance, as drafted, sets salaries that are simply too low. This is out of fear of the political backlash that will no doubt ensue. But if acting in the best interests of the County, the salary should be adjusted. The Executive should be paid at least as much as one of the nine judges - $186,000 per year. Council members should be compensated at $17,701.70.  Moreover, the salary should be tied to the CPI index so that this issue never has to be visited again. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

10-1 Muhlenberg Advances in NCAA Football Tournament

Muhlenberg College's 10-1 football squad is currently ranked 15th in the country and is on the move to be #1. The Mules are playing in the NCAA Division 3 tournament, which includes 32 teams from all over the country. The team and has won its first game against Framignham State by a score of 45-0. It takes on Delaware Valley on Saturday at noon. If the Mules win, they advance to play either Mount Union or Johns Hopkins. The championship game will be played December 17.  

NCP Inmates Are Covid-19 Free

As of November 22,there are no Covid-19 cases among 641 inmates at Northampton County's jail. Three staffers, however, have tested positive and are currently in isolation. 

Since March 2020, NCP has conducted 5,745 tests for COVID-19 on inmates. All new inmates are tested when they come into the facility and must show a negative result before they are transferred to General Population; residents are tested on a random basis. PrimeCare Medical does daily temperature checks, movement of inmates is restricted within the facility and meals are served in the housing unit. In-person visitation is prohibited and no volunteers are permitted in the facility. Cloth masks are provided and inmates must wear them whenever they leave their cell. Any inmate participating in work release or work programs within NCP must be vaccinated.

NCP has held 25 vaccination clinics this year and vaccinated 467 inmates. Currently, 316 inmates in the facility are fully vaccinated. Shots for inmates and staff are administered by PrimeCare Medical. The vaccinations are not compulsory and are only provided to those who request them.

Of 206 Corrections Officers (COs), 97 have received the bonus for being fully vaccinated. One CO’s status is pending and he or she should receive his or her bonus in December. Nearly 50% of COs have been fully vaccinated.

NCP has held 25 vaccination clinics this year and vaccinated 467 inmates. Currently, 316 inmates in the facility are fully vaccinated. Shots for inmates and staff are administered by PrimeCare Medical. The vaccinations are not compulsory and are only provided to those who request them.

“The pandemic isn’t over yet and, with the holidays coming up, cases of COVID-19 are expected to rise,” says Lamont McClure. “I encourage everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated to practice social distancing, wear a facemask and to get tested and quarantine if they develop symptoms.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

NorCo Election Results Now Official

Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss! Lamont McClure has officially been re-elected as Northampton County Executive. During an occasionally raucous 2 1/2 hour meeting of the Elections Commission on Monday afternoon, results of the November 2 municipal race were certified. The meeting was attended by nearly 40 people. Most had something to say. 

Undated MIBs Not Counted

One significant difference in the vote tallies conducted in Northampton and Lehigh County concerned undated mail-in ballots (MIBs). Lehigh County chose to count them, while Northampton did not. In Lehigh County, their Board of Elections made the decision to count the undated MIBs. In Northampton County, the decision to exclude undated MIBs was apparently made by the county administration. This question should have been decided by the Elections Commission.  

In Lehigh County, there are about 260 undated MIBs, enough to swing the judicial race between Dave Ritter and Zac Cohen to the latter. This is because about 70% of returned MIBs are Democratic. Judge Edward Reibman has been asked to decide whether undated MIBs should count. His decision will almost certainly be appealed. 

In Northampton County, there are about 200 undated MIBs. If they were counted, they almost certainly would give Democrat Patti Bruno the 5th Council seat instead of John Brown. The unofficial tally placed her at just 42 votes behind him.

During the meeting, Dem party boss Matt Munsey urged the Elections Commission to count the undated ballots.  He argued a person could insert whatever date he wanted and the vote would still count so long as the ballot is received before 8 pm on election day. He said, and courts have held, that they should err on the side of voters over a technicality.

Agreeing with Munsey was Attorney Michael Vargo, speaking on behalf of candidate Patti Bruno. He noted that all the undated ballots were received in a timely manner, and the Commission's decision effectively disenfranchises about 200 voters. Republican Commission member Frank DeVito said this change should come from the legislature. Maude Hornick, another Republican Commission member, said that counting undated ballots would be unfair to in-person voters who leave the polling place and forget to cast their ballot. Unless they are caught before they are outside the door, it's too late for their vote to count. 

No formal challenge was filed concerning MIBs in Northampton County.

Last year, a divided Pa. Supreme Court honored undated MIBs received by election day. Justice Christine Donahue, writing the majority opinion, noted a well-settled principle of Pennsylvania election law that “[e]very rationalization within the realm of common sense should aim at saving the ballot rather than voiding it.”

Although Justice David Wecht went along with Donahue, he made clear that, "in future elections, I would treat the date and sign requirement as mandatory in both particulars, with the omission of either item sufficient without more to invalidate the ballot in question." His was the fifth vote needed for a majority.

Without Justice Wecht, it appears that Lehigh County's decision to allow undated MIBs is doomed.  

24-hour Drop Boxes Panned

Most of the remaining speakers were there to address 24-hour drop boxes. Most were opposed. Mary Woznik suggested it was "inappropriate" for McClure, a candidate, to meet with 24-hour drop box supporter Lehigh Valley Stand Up concerning this issue. Mel Morgan noted, "We already have 24 -hour drop boxes called the post office."  Failed Council candidate AnnaMarie Robertone, who finished 10th out of 10 candidates, said they open the door to fraud. She failed to explain exactly how that occurs. 

Drop boxes had supporters, too. Fred Kruninger (sp?) said disenfranchisement, and not voter fraud, is the real issue. He argued that drop boxes are a convenience to those working several jobs or who are less mobile. He was echoed by Dale Sourbeck, who added that drop boxes are needed because the mail is "not good." 

Sourbeck's comment prompted Commission member Maude Hornick to ask Sourbeck whether he got his ballot by mail. He did, and she snarked, "So it works one way and not the other." He indicated he applied for a MIB as soon as they were available.  

Margie DeRensis (sp?) noted that drop boxes are needed by those who apply for a MIB late in the process. Commission member Frank DeVito later said, "That's on you."

Ar the conclusion of all this input, the Elections Commission voted 4-0 to recommend that drop box hours be limited to between 7 am and 10 pm.  

Voting for this limitation were Democratic members Dr. Alan Brau and Gail W Preuninger as well as Republicans Maudenia Hornick and Frank L DeVito. Daniel Lopresti, a Democrat, was absent.

Political Signage at Polling Places

Although the wording in the meeting agenda was vague, the Elections Commission never had any intention of banning political signage from polling places. Registrar Amy Cozze explained that, on Election Eve, Easton Area School District unilaterally decided to remove all signs because candidates just leave them there. 

She asked the Commission to recommend that County Council adopt an ordinance requiring removal after an election This recommendation was approved by Elections Comm'rs Brau, DeVito, Hornick and Preuninger. 

Sore Loser Complaints

Failed Exec candidate Steve Lynch, accompanied by several of his acolytes, was there to complain about an unfair canvassing process even though there was bipartisan agreement among canvassers on counting and discounting questionable ballots. He also complained about the elections office retaining custody of MIBs, suggesting mischief was afoot.  "We were lied to," he charged at one point. He never addressed drop boxes or undated MIBs, which is what brought most people to the meeting.  

Authority of the Elections Commission

At one point during the meeting. Solicitor Richard Santee was asked precisely what authority the Elections Commission has. He noted that NorCo is a Home Rule Charter County in which procurement decisions are made by County Council and personnel decisions are made by the administration. He believes that the Elections Comm'n primarily engages in judicial functions. He did admit that the powers are a bit of a "grey area."

Elections Comm'rs Frank DeVito and Maude Hornick complain they are pretty much ignored. That's on them. Last year, they refused to approve epollbooks before the Presidential primary. This would have made an election impossible because the county was unable to obtain paper poll books. This refusal was a direct violation of their mandate to administer the conduct of elections.  Instead of administering an election, they were preventing it from taking place,.

Authority for our Home Rule Charter comes from the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law, 53 Pa.C.S. Section 2901 et seq. A home rule government may "exercise any powers and perform any function not denied by the Constitution of Pennsylvania, by statute or by its home rule charter.  All grants of municipal power to municipalities governed by a home rule charter ... shall be liberally construed in favor of the municipality." 53 Pa.C.S. Section 2961.

This enabling law imposes a limitation on the "registration of electors and the conduct of elections." Those matters "may not be contrary to or in limitation or enlargement of powers granted by statutes." Id. Section 2962(a)(5). Thus, a Home Rule Charter County is unable to allow same day registration or change election dates. It is unable to postpone an election simply because it dislikes epollbooks.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter establishes the Elections Commission to "administer the system of elections and the registration of voters under applicable law." HRC, Section 1007. (emphasis added.) That applicable law is both the Election Code and other provisions of the Home Rule Charter. They must be read in pari materia (together). The Elections Commission administers the conduct of elections and registration of voters. But this should be distinguished from the purchase of equipment or the hiring of employees, which has nothing to do with the actual conduct of an election.

The one requirement the Election Code expressly places on a Home Rule Charter County is the appointment of at least one minority party representative on the Elections Comm'n. Northampton County has two. 

The Election Code also gives the Elections Commission authority to make purchases and hire and fire employees. But these provisions have nothing to do with the actual conduct of elections or registration of voters. Thus, a Home Rule Charter County can perform these functions under other provisions established by law.

Article XIII of the HRC establishes a career service to ensure professionalism in county employment. If the Elections Comm'n were able to hire and fire at its own pleasure, this would create the very kind of cronyism the Home Rule Charter was intended to AVOID. Thus, the hiring and firing of employees, which is totally unrelated to the conduct of elections, is properly a function of the county's own hiring procedures.

Commissioner DeVito has now three times pointed out that, in the past, the Elections Comm'n has hired its own Registrar. He is correct, but the Elections Comm'n was simply ratifying a choice already made by the administration. Under the Charter, the administration hires and fires.  

Article II of the HRC gives County Council, and not the Elections Comm'n, authority over the purse strings. The purchase of a voting system or epollbooks is unrelated to the actual conduct of an election, and hence is the province of County Council.

To be sure, there are functions that are the sole province of the Elections Comm'n, such as investigations into voter fraud, acceptance of returns and drop boxes. The decision to count or discount undated MIBs should have been made by them. Purchases and personnel are beyond the scope of this part-time volunteer body selected by party chairs. But the actual conduct of an election is their province, not that of an Exec seeking re-election.

I believe the Elections Commission has the authority to approve the hours of operation of drop boxes or disapprove them altogether.

Monday, November 22, 2021

NorCo Elections Comm'n Meets at 3 PM Today

Northampton County's Elections Comm'n will meet at 3 pm today in the Council Chambers at the Courthouse. The meeting will be broadcast on the county's webpage. The Elections Comm'n will be asked to certify the returns of the November 2 election. It will vote on the need for 24-hour drop boxes. There also will be discussion on recommending action by County Council on the removal of political signs from polling locations. 

I'm unclear on precisely what is meant by recommending anything to County Council regarding political signage removal. 

First, while the Council controls the county's purse strings and should make all decisions concerning expenditures, it has no say concerning the actual conduct of an election. This is clear from both the Home Rule Charter and the Elections Code.  So this decision is entirely within the province of the Elections Comm'n, unless an expenditure of public funds is required. 

Second, political signage and any sort of active campaigning is barred inside the polling location. They are also prohibited for a 10' distance from the voting center. Any attempt to ban them absolutely would run afoul of the First Amendment. 

Casting of the Lots Conducted in NorCo on Friday.

There were numerous tie-elections in November 2's general election. This was mostly for election judges and inspectors of elections races. These ties were broken Friday by a casting of the lots. You can see Jenna Gerbino shaking what appears to be a cow bell containing the numbers. Candidates who were tied could draw a number if they were present. In their absence, the number was drawn by Jenna.  

The casting of the lots was done publicly and was broadcast live on Youtube

My sole issue with this process is that the meeting should have been run by the Registrar, not Ass't County Solicitor Rich Santee. I appreciate his dedication and legal acumen. But he's there for advice, not to run things. He also is making himself a witness, which would disqualify him if there were legal proceedings.  

Friday, November 19, 2021

Prediction - Kyle Rittenhouse Will Walk

I've been watching snippets of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, where the jury has now completed three days of deliberations. My prediction is that he will walk and be completely exonerated. Usually, the longer a jury is out, the more likely the defense will acquit. What's your take?  

Lamont McClure Needs an Economics Course

Lamont McClure is a gifted orator. He's been a successful county executive. But as an economist, he sucks.  Last night, in support of his proposed tax cut, he argued that putting more money in our pockets would reduce inflation. I hate to brake it to you, but increasing the amount of money people get is precisely what causes inflation.  

There are several ways to reduce inflation: higher interest rates; a reduced money supply; supply side policies; and tax increases. 

So if McClure is serious about fighting inflation, he should propose an immediate tax hike. 

Don't worry. I think he'd rather put money in your pocket. 

Gracedale Down to One Star Again

Early in Executive Lamont McClure's administration, Gracedale's rating was at three stars. That rating, prepared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMM), means that the home was "average." While this is hardly any reason to boast, it was a significant step up from the one-star (much below average) the home had in 2017 under former Executive John Brown. McClure vowed that he would seek to get that five-star (much above average) star. Instead, he's gone in the opposite direction. The most recent CMM rating at Gracedale is back to just one star.  Its staffing and quality of resident care are both at just one star as well. 

No one mentioned this drop at yesterday's monthly review of Gracedale by Northampton County Council. But it's clear that Council members are upset with the never-ending complaints, and they wasted little time letting it be known they are frustrated. . 

Council member John Cusick noted the home is poised to lose money this year, and stated that staffing is its biggest issue.

Cusick complained that Gracedale provides only 2.61 nursing hours per resident per day. "That's not just a number, that's people who are not getting enough care." McClure had earlier taken a shot at for-profit nursing homes, but Cusick observed that the care provided at those places actually exceed Gracedale. "Gracedale sits at the lowest nursing home hours per resident per day in the Lehigh Valley."

Cusick asked Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King if the home can continue to admit new residents, given the obvious poor quality of care. Stewart-King mentioned that the census at Gracedale right now is 487. This is well below the 688-bed capacity and about 100 fewer residents than in July.  

Stewart-King noted that other homes have allowed their census to drop so they can keep a higher nursing care to patient ratio. She hinted that Gracedale is following suit, something Executive McClure hinted at a few months ago. 

The problem with allowing census to drop is that revenue drops with it. 

Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner, who previously stated several times that she wanted to hear the good things about Gracedale, has begun questioning Gracedale's administration. She blasted a presentation made by Gracedale Administrators in October, which heaped praise on McClure while referring to Stewart-King and Director of Nursing Dawn Marie TuersFeldman as the "dynamic duo," complete with superhero outfit.

Vargo Heffner called the "dynamic duo" presentation "insulting to me." 

Vargo-Heffner told the dynamic duo that Council has voted for every position sought and every request made over the past four years. She said employees "are stressed and taxed and complaining all the time." She added that problem exists throughout the health care industry, but it's time for some "hard conversations" about what is needed to make Gracedale successful. "I get calls all the time from people about how they're spoken to, how they're stressed, about the overtime, we got $2 million going to nursing agencies. Should we be bringing some of that back in salaries?"  

Council member Kerry Myers put it succinctly: "Benefits don't pay bills."

He said Gracedale workers need more money.

McClure touted a contract extension with the RNs and social workers that will give them a step (4.5%) one year followed by two or 2.5% the second. 

This increase is actually below inflation. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Stockertown's Mayor Has Criminal Past

In 1998. Ken Zemencsik was accused of being part of a crime ring stealing stereo equipment from cars in Nazareth, Upper Nazareth, part of a quartet accused of stealing car stereo equipment by breaking into cars in Nazareth and Upper Naz. He was charged with a multitude of crimes in both counties for theft, conspiracy and receiving stolen goods. 

The cases against him lingered until 2003, when he entered a guilty plea to receiving stolen goods as a third degree misdemeanor instead of as a felony. 

Obviously, he was given a break. But just as obviously, he was denied ARD, a special program for first-time offenders.

Why I am I telling you about this? 

Because Zemencsik is Stockertown's Mayor. He was just re-elected with no opposition. 

In a Borough government, the Mayor is pretty much a poster boy. But he does have one power that should concern us all when he has a criminal past. A borough mayor runs the police department. 

I tried reaching out to Zemencsik a few times to get his side of the story, but he's ignored me. 

I can understand how someone can make mistakes in his youth and then own up to them and turn things around. But what bothers me is that Zemencsik has refused to own up to and explain his previous criminal behavior. 

"He's very busy," said a Stockertown Borough secretary. 

Blogger's Note: There are 17 boroughs in Northampton County. Most get little or no scrutiny. I decided to check each of them for criminal records in Northampton County. The other Mayors have no criminal records. In January, after Chairs are elected in the Townships, I will check each of them as well. 

Judge Morganelli Denies Injunction Sought By Pen Argyl Anti-Maskers

Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court has invalidated a statewide school masking mandate from the Department of Health (DoH) because it exceeded its authority.  The mandate will nevertheless remain in place until December 4, and it could stay in place even longer if the state Supreme Court reverses. Jordan and Alissa Zahler, parents of two children in the Penn Argyl Area School District, have also sued over the statewide masking order, insofar as it is being implemented against their children. They were seeking an injunction that would require the school district to grant their children (and anyone else) an exception to the mandate for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. They also maintain their children should be free to ride maskless in the school bus. After a hearing, Judge John Morganelli has denied their request for an injunction. 

The Zahlers had previously been denied a medical exception to the masking mandate because they provided no medical documentation. Rather than just put on a damn mask, they actually yanked their kids out of school for\virtual learning because we all know that is so much better. At the hearing before Judge Morganelli, they failed again to produce any actual medical evidence to support their claim for an exception, although their daughter did once get anxious at the grocery store. 

Injunctive relief requires proof of "immediate and irreparable harm" without one. But it certainly appears that whatever harm is being inflicted upon Zahlers' children is being done by their own parents. They pulled their kids out of school rather than wear a stupid mask, and now their son is failing math. 

Parents of the year, those two. 

These folks never made it to first base. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Commw Ct: Masks at School Can Come Off Dec 4

Last week, a five-judge Commonwealth Court panel concluded that Pennsylvania's Department of Health (DoH) had no authority to impose a statewide school-masking order. It ruled, therefore, that that the Order itself is illegal. But it remained in place. This is because the Commonwealth Court's decision was appealed to the state supreme court. An appeal often acts as a supersedeas, which is a fancy way of saying that the Court of First Guess's  ruling is on hold, pending a Decision from the Court of Final Error.  So despite the ruling, kids still had to wear masks at school. But late yesterday, the Commonwealth Court terminated the supersedeas (stay) effective December 4.  

The ruling both today and last week is from Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon. She was careful to note then and now that "we express herein no opinion regarding the science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender." But that's horseshit. Let me explain why.

You can get an automatic stay terminated if you can establish (1) you've got a winner on appeal; (2) a continuation of the masking order will cause irreparable injury; and (3) removal of the stay will  not harm the public interest. 

I can see Judge Fizzano Cannon concluding that she thinks state Republicans have a winner. After all, she did write the opinion in their favor. But what irreparable injury? Does she honestly think that a stupid mask is going to scar kids for life? Seriously. That's really a stretch. But where she really blows me away is her conclusion that removal of the mask mandate will not harm the public interest. It is impossible to reach that conclusion without an "opinion regarding the science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender."

Judge Fizzano Cannon must think we're stupid. I'd agree the DoH has established itself as stupid, but I am insulted by a judge who reason dishonestly.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

2021 Election Analysis: McClure Won the Townships and Boroughs

Everyone expected Executive Lamont McClure to win easily in the Democratic strongholds of Bethlehem and Easton. And he did. He won convincingly every precinct in both Bethlehem and Easton. But how did he do outside the blue bastions? Did he win the cities but lose everywhere else? A review of the voting data, now that canvassing is complete, reveals that McClure beat challenger Steve Lynch in both the Townships and Boroughs. 

Townships

McClure won in Allen Tp (769-633); Bethlehem Tp (3,463-2,465); Forks Tp (2,309-1,766); Hanover Tp (2,242-1,405); Lower Nazareth (1,113-937); Lower Saucon (1,858-1,728); Palmer Tp (3,296-2,311); and Upper Nazareth (997-785)

Lynch prevailed in Bushkill Tp (1,299-1,053), E Allen Tp (636-622), Lehigh Tp (1,652-1,308), L Mt Bethel Tp (476-384), Moore Tp (1,592-1,212), Plainfield Tp (1,012-749), Upper Mt Bethel Tp (1,080-697), Washington Tp (694-588), Williams (913-904). 

If you add it all up, McClure won the Townships with 23,564 votes to 21,384 for Lynch. In the 2020 Presidential, Biden won in Bethlehem Tp, Palmer Tp and Hanover Tp. McClure managed to add Allen Tp, Lower Nazareth Tp, Lower Saucon Tp and Upper Nazareth Tp to his side of the ledger. 

Boroughs

I've previously told you that McClure won Nazareth (764-568); Northampton (1,199-963); Bath (245-241); N Catty (357-172); Freemansburg (221-118); Hellertown (755-552); and Wilson Borough (627-356). 

The candidates tied in Glendon with 27 votes apiece. 

Lynch prevailed in W. Easton (101-90), Bangor (440-417), Chapman (31-12), Pen Argyl (403-306), Portland (91-45), Roseto (226-187), Stockertown (132-117), Tatamy (174-1300, Walnutport (211-201) and Wind Gap (265-247). 

Adding it all up, McClure won the boroughs with 5,947 votes to 5071 for Lynch. 

He won the blue vote, as we all expected. But he also won the purple vote in what I'd view as a rejection of extremism and vindication of moderation. 

McClure's message failed in the Slate Belt and northwestern tier. That's no surprise. According to one of my readers, one of Lehigh Tp'e Supervisors stated outside one of the polling places that he'd like to douse all Democrats with gasoline. 

No wonder we're promoting alternative energy. 


Lynch Wants God to Use His Supernatural Powers to Eliminate Media

I was highly critical of the daily newspapers during a taping of the BM (Business Matters, not bowel movement) show on Thursday. But I refrained from invoking the Almighty. He and I are not on the best of terms, anyway. He's blocked me on Facebook, too. But I wonder how the Omnipotent One will react to the entreaty he received yesterday from former NorCo Exec candidate Steve Lynch.

On Monday morning, hours before the sun rose, Lynch was doing what he does best - broadcasting a Facebook Live video while driving and guzzling coffee from a stainless steel thermos. He launched into public prayer to complain about Communists and illegals. Towards the end of his orison, he asks God for "an end to the media, that you would supernaturally intervene and eliminate the media and the way that they operate. Use your angels and whatever you have to deploy ... ."

In an avuncular mood, I warned the dailies to glance above now and then to ensure no bolt of lightning or angel is coming at them. I dodged a few bolts, but am a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete.

Pa DoH Has Totally Failed to Keep Public Informed About COVID-19

During the darkest days of the Battle of Britain, which went on for 57 consecutive nights and claimed 557 lives, the British remained resilient thanks to one man. The British Bulldog, Winston Churchill, inspired hope and confidence in his countrymen. He had a knack for delivering the most dreadful news and making people feel that much stronger and courageous in the face of the Nazi menace. He made a point, with very few exceptions, of being totally honest. People could count on what he said as being the truth. We are now dealing with something that, while far less sinister than umbrella bombs, is more deadly. COVID-19 has claimed 763,000 American lives. But the agencies charged with keeping us informed have failed miserably. The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DoH), in particular, is a disgrace. 

On Friday, the DoH issued a news release making this statement: "In licensed nursing and personal care homes, there have been a total of 79,904 resident cases of COVID-19 to date, and 17,453 cases among employees, for a total of 97,357 at 1,647 distinct facilities in all 67 counties. Out of total deaths reported to PA-NEDSS, 14,480 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities."

But today, it issued a news release that completely contradicts what it said on Friday. "The department has deployed a new algorithm for categorizing cases as residents or employees in licensed nursing and personal care homes. With the below breakdown, there is a one-time overall increase in cases of 17,810. In licensed nursing and personal care homes, there have been a total of 66,911 resident cases of COVID-19 to date, and 48,256 cases among employees, for a total of 115,167 at 1,663 distinct facilities in all 67 counties. Out of total deaths reported to PA-NEDSS, 14,941 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities."

How can it claim that, with the increase brought on by a new algorithm, there are now 66,911 resident cases of COVID-19 when that figure is actually much lower than the 79,904 resident cases reported on Friday? 

This is both confusing and sloppy and completely fails to keep the public informed about the current severity of this pandemic.  

 Numbers cruncher Steve Thode, who has followed the data from the onset, has this to say:

"That is a stunning increase in LTCF employee cases by 30,803 - almost tripling the number of LTCF employee cases; and, a reduction in LTCF resident cases by 12,993.

"Also, that's an increase (from Friday to today) of 461 deaths among LTCF residents!

"I have lost any level of confidence I may have ever had in DoH's COVID data reporting."

Oh yeah, they've decided to count reinfections as new cases. This is something the CDC told them to do eight months ago, and they're just getting to it now. 

If the pandemic were the Third Reich, we'd all be speaking German by now. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Prendeville Survives Scare in Hanover

At one time, Hanover Tp was an agrarian community dominated by Republicans. Over the years, it has morphed into a bedroom community for New Jersey transplants and has attracted many former Bethlehem City residents. As they've moved in, the Township has slowly been turning blue. Two of the Township's five Supervisors are Democrats. They nearly captured a majority on November 2's election. 

Now that canvassing is complete, it appears that incumbent GOP Supervisor Mike Prendeville has survived a serious challenge from Jean Versteeg. He has 1,895 votes to 1,807 for Versteeg. 

Prendeville is a dedicated Supervisor who involves himself in nearly every facet of his community. Affable and accountable, he is an integral part of the best-run township in Northampton County. He deserved re-election. But Versteeg was a good candidate who came close to knocking him off. I believe her interest in government was awakened by her involvement in Fair Districts Pa, which did stop the gerrymandering of Congressional seats in Pa. She thereafter spent one cycle as an election worker before deciding to run for office herself. 

Mike Prendeville survived the threat from Versteeg, but Democrats won most of the other races in this formerly Republican Township. 

Dem Exec Lamont McClure trounced Republican Steve Lynch, 2,242-1,405. And while two of five Republicans captured seats on County Council, all five Democratic Council candidates won in Hanover. 

Update at 1 pm: In the original version of this story, I neglected to include the vote counts in Hanover's 6th district. I apologize for my error. 

2021 Election Analysis: McClure Outperformed Biden in Boroughs

Northampton County's boroughs have historically been its blue-collar blue-voting bastions. They were home to those who worked in the rag mills and cement companies. They voted Democratic, but that's no longer true. In the 2020 Presidential, Trump captured the vote in Bangor, Bath, Chapman, East Bangor, Glendon, Nazareth, Northampton, N Catty, Pen Argyl, Portland, Roseto, Stockertown, Tatamy, Walnutport, West Easton and Wind Gap. Biden won only in Freemansburg, Hellertown and Wilson Borough. So you might expect Lamont McClure to be pummeled in this year's Exec race, especially with Biden tumbling in the polls. But now that the canvassing is complete, we know McClure outperformed Biden significantly.

McClure won Nazareth (764-568), the home of many Steve Lynch supporters. McClure beat Lynch in Lynch's backyard, taking Northampton 1,199-963. He pulled off a close win in Bath, 245-241, where Lynch had many of his strategy sessions. McClure also won in N Catty (357-172), Freemansburg (221-118), Hellertown (755-552), and Wilson Borough (627-356). 

The candidates tied in Glendon with 27 votes apiece. 

Lynch prevailed in W. Easton (101-90), Bangor (440-417), Chapman (31-12), Pen Argyl (403-306), Portland (91-45), Roseto (226-187), Stockertown (132-117), Tatamy (174-1300, Walnutport (211-201) and Wind Gap (265-247). 

McClure's strong showing in the boroughs can be regarded as a  vindication of his first four years in office. It can also be regarded as a stinging rebuke of the extremism that Lynch brought to the race. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Varsity on Business Matters

As many of you know, I'm a rabid basketball fan. I love high school best, but like college hoops as well. After a long drought last year, I've finally been able to attend a DeSales hoops game. I always wear a uniform under my street clothes in case Coach Coval needs me out there to put on a clinic.Two years ago, he told me he was thinking about it, so you never know. I do have about 1,000 years of eligibility left. I may be in the stands at local basketball games, but I am on the varsity squad at Business Matters. 

Yesterday, I taped a show for Tony Iannelli. I still have nightmares of the time Ron Angle and I were once chased out of the parking lot by a mob of geriatric Gracedale Goons. So I arrived early and slipped into the audience just to make sure there was no ambush.  

Just like in high school, the JV team is up first. The B team consisted of Dave Jaindl, Becky Bradley, JB Reilly and Nat Hyman. They are all real estate mavens, and three of them have millions in loose change falling out of their pockets. But like most pikers, they simply lack the talent of a starter like myself. They thought they were there to discuss residential development in the Lehigh Valley. What they failed to realize is that Business Matters is really just a local version of the Jerry Springer show. It only works when people turn their chairs over and start pretend fighting.  

After their show was over, it was time for the varsity. Though I am a bottom-feeding blogger, I was asked to participate in a discussion of the news industry, may it rest in peace. I had resolved before the show that I'd be nice. I feel for those guys. But The Morning Call made the mistake of sending its editor, Mike Miorelli. I had a few bones to pick with him over both his editorial decisions and some nastygrams he sent to others about me. 

My Irish was up. 

Before the show started, Tony noticed dark clouds in my face, and asked, "Are you going to be nice?"

"Don't worry, I'm just constipated."

About five minutes into the show, I knocked a few chairs over and lunged after Miorelli. WAEB's Dan Holzman tried to hold me back with some kind of wrestling move. Now Holzman can restrain Bobby Gunther Walsh when he starts blowin' oil, but I'm a highly-conditioned, well-trained athlete. I broke his hold rather easily and made my way to a retreating Miorelli.  At this point, vegan Bo Koldkock tried to intervene, but ran in terror when I threw a pepperoni stick at him. 

I had Miorelli in my claws when Iannelli promised me poached eggs if I let him go.

"With crushed avocado?

- Yes. 

"On sourdough toast?"

- Yes. 

I let Miorelli go. 

I doubt the show will ever air.  The tape has been seized as evidence. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

What's Your Political Type?

Pew Research Center has a political typology quiz. I took it and am considered a "stressed sideliner." 

Here's how a stressed sideliner is defined: "Stressed Sideliners hold a mix of conservative and liberal views and are the least politically engaged typology group. Generally disconnected from politics and the two major parties, they vote at lower rates than most other typology groups. About four-in-ten live in lower-income households, and they are the group most likely to describe their personal financial situation as only fair or poor.

"Stressed Sideliners are split evenly between the Republican Party and Democratic Party, while one-in-ten don’t lean toward either party. They lean liberal on economic issues and tilt conservative on some social issues."

While I don't have much use for either party and am among the genteel poor, I always vote and am pretty much a political wonk. 

You can take the quiz here

NorCo Elections Comm'n to Certify Results on Nov. 22

Now that canvassing is complete, the Elections Commission is expected to certify results on November 22 at a time to be determined. This will follow the November 19 casting of lots for races in which there were ties.  

Mandatory Statewide Masking at Schools Illegal, Sez Commonwealth Court.

A five-judge panel of Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court has invalidated a statewide school masking order by the Secretary of Health. Writing for four members of the Court, Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon is careful to observe that "we express herein no opinion regarding the science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender. She concludes, however that the Department of Health exceeded its authority. This is because Governor Tom Wolf's emergency disaster declaration has expired and was adopted without a statutory basis. You can read the Court's Opinion, along with Judge Michael Wojcik's dissent, here.

The Secretary of Health maintains she has this authority under Pennsylvania's Disease Control Law, but Judge Fizzano Cannon concludes this law confers no power "to create new rules and regulations out of whole cloth," even if that cloth is a facemask.

Governor Wolf has already appealed the Commonwealth Court's ruling. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

NorCo Canvassing Should Wrap Up Today

Northampton County elections officials continued canvassing (the official count) the election results from November 2. When I checked things out yesterday afternoon, I noticed cameras set up in County Council chambers so members of the public like myself could see what's going on.  

After the canvass is complete, the Elections Comm'n will convene to resolve any disputes and certify the results.

As soon as I know when and where the Commission is meeting, I'll let you all know. 

Exec Lamont McClure now has 38,477 votes to 29,984 fort challenger Steve Lynch,

On his usual circadian Facebook Live post, which he broadcast while driving along Route 22, Lynch questioned how McClure could have 38,477 votes when he only had 22,000 in 2017.

That could be because Lynch is a much shittier candidate. 

Also, 68,500 people voted on November 2, compared to 46,000 in 2017. 

You can't fix stupid. 

Thode: Pa (and LV) In Covid "Red Zone"

Steve Thode is this blog's COVID-19 numbers cruncher. He follows the data from the CDC and state Department of Health. He is reporting that, notwithstanding the vaccine and other protocols, Pennsylvania (and the Lehigh Valley) is still combating a high level of community transmission.  

According to the CDC here:

https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_community

PA has averaged more than 225 new COVID cases per 100K population the last 7 days. That's a higher rate than NY and DE; more than double the rate for MD; and, almost triple the rate for NJ (79).

Locally, Lehigh has reported 142 new cases per 100K population the last 7 days; NorCo has reported 190 new cases per 100K population.

Most Lower 48 states are in the "red zone" - high level of community transmission - like PA. Exceptions are in the Northeast (CT, MD and NJ) and all of the Deep South states which are in the "orange zone" - substantial level of community transmission. Only Hawaii is in the "yellow zone" - moderate transmission.

Not Many Warm Days Left

I'm a fair weather cyclist. I'm a member of a few Facebook pages in which there are night-time rides along the D&L at this time of the year. Those are hardy souls. I prefer the sun and heat. I really love commuting to work by bike. I only wish I had a better tolerance for cold weather. I vow every year to try riding in the cold, but am always defeated by the elements. Yesterday, however, was a great day for a bicycle commute.  Unfortunately, I'll be in a car today because I'll be leaving for a basketball game right after work. But I hope to squeeze a few more days in until the snowflakes fall. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

A Story of Missing Flash Drives

On election night, all three Republicans were ahead in Lehigh County's judges' race. Though Democrat Zach Cohen has narrowed Dave Ritter's lead, he's still behind by 74 votes. What hurt him most was a misplaced thumb drive of nearly 400 in-person votes from Lower Milford Tp. That drive was discovered on Friday during the official canvass.  Obviously, this discovery was beneficial to Republicans. 

In Northampton County, as I've previously told you, five election judges simply forgot to place their thumb drives in the appropriate envelope. Fortunately, that mistake was uncovered during the unofficial count, and the thumb drives were located with the returns of each precinct. These votes, along with mail-in ballots that only arrived on election day, helped Democrats.   

What the general public should know, especially Republicans, is that the finding of a misplaced thumb drive with 300 votes is by no means unusual, nor is it indicative of nefarious intent. These were exactly the kinds of small errors on the part of election officials which Mr. Trump and his followers pointed to as evidence of fraud, corruption and theft. It’s just the way the ball bounces in politics, and sometimes those miscounts or late-added votes are going to go your way, and sometimes not. 

No Democrats are claiming fraud in Lehigh County, even though the 300 votes found went against them. 

Republican Steve Lynch, however, is claiming fraud and corruption in Northampton County.. He and several of his myrmidons attended today's canvass. Technically, only the candidate or his representative has a right to be there. But Voter Registrar Amy Cozze had no problem with the audience. She even stopped to explain things to Lynch. She explained to him that check marks are acceptable. There's even case law on this point. But Lynch wanted Democratic ballots with check marks tossed. 

During the canvass, he claimed that NorCo elections officials had "found" two misplaced thumb drives just that day. He began complaining loudly of corruption and fraud. The sheep who followed Lynch bleated in agreement. 

At some point during the day, what started as observation turned into Lynch's usual minatory behavior. On Facebook, he is exhorting his disciples to descend en masse to the canvass 

Executive Lamont McClure is staying as far away from the canvass as he can so that no one can accuse him of election rigging. But one thing he should do is request the Sheriff to provide an escort to both Amy Cozze and Amy Hess (our top elections officials) when they leave the courthouse. 

Monday, November 08, 2021

Forget 20 Strong Men, Lynch Wants a Lawyer

Forget 20 strong men.  In his quotidian remarks on Facebook, former GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch is now looking for a lawyer.  "You have to be willing to go through the fire with me but we are going to bring justice to a corrupt administration here in Northampton County ... " At a speech before the LV Tea Party on Thursday night, he said he's investigating the 22,000 mail-in ballots that largely went against him. He called Exec Lamont McClure a "scumbag who is about as corrupt as they come. I will be going after him in whatever capacity necessary legally." He added that McClure had "slandered" him. He also complained about the USPS holding up his mailers. "I have to sue them as well."

Benjy Jacques, one of Lynch's four horsemen, and a horseman who actually received a $500 bonus, is claiming Lynch won the race. "LETS DEMAND A RECOUNT," he bellows, even though the first count (canvass) is still underway. 

Friday, November 05, 2021

McClure Discusses Gracedale Comp, Vaccine Mandate and Living Wage

Fresh off his re-election, Executive Lamont McClure dominated last night's 48-minute meeting of Northampton County Council. In a lengthy presentation, he argued that Gracedale employees are adequately compensated while lamenting the lack of a living wage requirement in a St. Luke's bond for the rehabilitation of Easton Hospital. He also discussed the Covid vaccine at the jail and Gracedale, 

Gracedale compensation. - McClure told Council that, though there's "a lot of talk about compensation being a barrier to us hiring, I don't think it is." He pointed out that salary plus benefits for lower end nursing staff is as follows:  CNAs - $28.74 per hour; LPNs - $34.14 per hour; and RNs - $41,70 per hour.  

He failed to state the stand-alone salary for these positions. 

While he conceded that the pay is lower than at area hospitals, McClure explained that's because the county is a non-profit that relies on Medicare and Medicaid for most of its funding. 

He also pointed out that the highest-paid workers in the county are at Gracedale. 

Living wage. - While arguing that the compensation at Gracedale is adequate, McClure lamented the lack of a living wage requirement in a St. Luke's bond designed to help fund construction work at Easton Hospital. McClure said he would reluctantly endorse the bond over concerns raised by Council members Kevin Lott and Bill McGee, both of who are or were trade union representatives. 

Lott and McGee had no concerns about the compensation at Gracedale. 

Vaccines at Gracedale. - A federal vaccine mandate for health care workers, including nursing homes,has finally been announced. It goes into effect on January 4. McClure indicated that nearly all residents have been vaccinated, along with 65%b of the staff. Henoted there are zero Covid cases at the nursing home, which suggests to him that vaccines work. 

Vaccines at the jail. - McClure indicated that 12 inmates currently have Covid. He noted that they are always tested when they first arrive, and positivity rate is only 0.08%. McClure reasons that inmates therefor must be contracting Covid after arrival. He noted that only 93 of 208 corrections officers have been vaccinated, This suggests that it is guards who are infecting inmates. 

McClure noted that the County is not covered by OSHA and thus has no obligation to impose a vaccine mandate on all workers. The "only place a mandate is in place is Gracedale."

He expressed reservations about a mandate on the entire workforce. 

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Thode: Covid Deaths Are Spiking

Steve Thode is our Covid numbers cruncher. He has a sobering report of recent Covid-19 deaths here in Pa.

Today [Wednesday], DoH reported an additional 181 new deaths from COVID. That brings the 7-day total to 514 new deaths, of which 19 were among LTCF residents and 495 were among non-LTCF [nursing home] residents.

That's the largest 7-day total number of new deaths since February 23, and, the largest 7-day number of new deaths among non-LTCF residents since February 5.

Stupefying.

Unfortunately, over the 7 past days, there have been 4 COVID deaths in NorCo and 1 in Lehigh. 

Now, 96% of those dying from COVID are non-LCTF. 

This is why I still mask up when I visit a store, even though one fellow yelled at me for doing so a week ago.  

It ain't virtue signalling. It's common sense. 

Why NorCo's Vote Tally Changed Between Midnight and 3 AM

In this post, I will explain why NorCo's election results changed between midnight and 3 am on Wednesday. Before doing so, I want to tell you a little story. 

Although I rarely use my full name, I am actually the third (some might say turd) in a series of Bernie O'Hares who have infested eastern Pa. for the past 150 years. We're worse than the spotted lanternfly. 

The first in my line was my grandfather, whom I adored. As a toddler, I often spent weeks at his home on Cherry Street in Shenandoah. He would give me pocket watches, which I always broke. He also gave me American flags. At the time, I had a  blind girlfriend who visited me every day. We'd parade around the block taking turns waving the flag. 

Today, it is adults who drape themselves with American and Steve Lynch flags. Too lazy to march around the block, they instead hook them up to gas guzzling trucks and roar through neighborhoods, trying to draw attention. I was a little later than most, but I eventually grew up by about age 60. They're still children. I've long understood how things like elections work. They're still baffled. 

My grandfather was a lawyer back in the day when law school and even college was unnecessary. He was admitted to practice in 1906. He was described as a "firm and unyielding advocate of the principles of the Democratic party." That was back when the Democratic party still had principles.

As a Democrat, he was clobbered when he ran for DA in Schuylkill County. In 1928, he nevertheless decided to run for Congress. He was friendly with Al Smith, a fellow member of the Irish-Catholic diaspora who was running for President. Nobody liked Catholics then, but FDR said they were OK Early returns indicated Smith and my grandfather were both winning. My grandfather even received a telegram from Smith, stating "See you in Washington."

When they woke up the following morning, both had lost. Instead of claiming election fraud, my grandfather simply sent Smith a telegram saying, "Will not be there." 

I was reminded of my grandfather's experience when I received a comment yesterday about the change in election results between midnight and about 3 am on Wednesday. At midnight, three Republicans were ahead in the County Council race. At around 3 am (after I had fallen asleep), only two Republicans were ahead. A reader claimed chicanery was afoot: "Funny how the totals on the county official site changed with supposedly all votes counted at midnight. The good old boys appear to be at it again. Wonder why people don't trust the so called system. System for who, or should I say what?"

This comment comes from a person who obviously has only recently started following elections. Until results have been certified, it is the norm to see vote totals change. Moreover, in close elections like the County Council race, winners can often change. 

I  spoke with the two Amys (Amy Cozze and Amy Hess) yesterday afternoon. They run NorCo's elections office. Their day started well before 7 am on Election Day and continued past 3 am on Wednesday.  When I saw them, at around 2 pm, they were both back to work.  So was their staff, who really should be commended as one of the best and most people-friendly in the county.  

I asked the Amys to explain why there were changes between midnight and 3 am. 

First, although MIBs (mail-in ballots) received through Monday had been processed, about 500 additional ballots came in by 8 pm on Monday, both by mail and drop box. Those ballots were counted  after the in-person votes, and resulted in changes.

Second, there are 159 polling places manned by pollworkers who only work twice a year. When they bring in their returns at the end of the night, they are supposed to put the flash drives from each voting machine in an envelope. These in turn are plugged into a computer set up to recognize the voting machines in each district. Unfortunately, five elections judges failed to include the flash drives for each of the voting machines used in their district. As a result, some votes were missed and the two Amys had to look through all the supplies returned by these five elections judges to locate the missing flash drives.  Thankfully, they found them all. When they tabulated these flash drives, that resulted in changes. 

The results in each of these districts, incidentally, will be audited and compared with the paper ballot results. 

An attorney from the NCRC was present for the vote tabulation and raised no concerns about how things were done. Moreover, the counting was videotaped. 

The two Amys stress that election results are unofficial until certified by the Elections Commission. In a race in which only 15 votes separate 5th and 6th place, it is entirely possible that the leadership will change.  It might benefit Democrats. It might benefit Republicans. It will represent the will of the people. This will be determined during the canvass, or official count. 

Both Amys pointed out three additional items that might change results.

First, they have segregated 150 MIBs that were not signed or dated when received, but which were subsequently cured by the voter. The Elections Commission will have the final say on those ballots. 

Second, there are 150 provisional ballots. They could be counted, partially counted or disallowed by the Elections Commission. 

Third, there are 477 MIBs that failed to scan. The Elections Commission will have to decide whether they should be counted, partially counted or disallowed.  

So no, there were no "good ol' boys." There were two Amys, a very hard-working elections office and people like you, both Democrat and Republican, working at the precincts. Everything was done openly and will continue to be done openly. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Lynch Vows "Phase 2"

In response to his election loss, fringe candidate Steve Lynch posted this comment on Facebook this morning: "The age of corruption will be coming to an end in Northampton County. They have no idea who they messed with! God's people are just beginning this march! I am invigorated to eviscerate the swamp creatures in our county and their evil deeds. Remember, God is at work! This administration and their minions miscalculated big time messing with me, my family, and We the People. Lions are now cirlcing and we have no care or concern to appease your desire to allow corruption to continue because you refuse to be informed of facts. Suit up Patriots... We are just getting started! Who's ready for phase 2?"

"We the People" just re-elected Lamont McClure according to unofficial election results showing a 32% turnout among registered voters, which is rare for a municipal race. "We the People" gave McClure 37,985 votes to 29,867 for Lynch. 

That's the way "We the People" works. 

The person who gets the most votes wins. 

Maybe he's gonna' march on the courthouse rotunda. Instead of "20 strong men," he's gonna' bring lions. He should consider sheep. 20 strong sheep.   

 

Heckman and Dems Retain Control in NorCo

Early this morning, I reported that Republicans had managed to gain control of NorCo Council by capturing three of the five seats up for grabs. But a tally of dropbox votes deposited before 8 pm, as well as the voting machines at a few precincts, show that Democrats have retained control. The winners of this contest, at least as of now, are Tara Zrinski (Dem - 33,367 votes); Lori Vargo-Heffner (Dem - 32,104 votes); John Goffredo (Rep. - 31,985 votes); Ron Heckman (Dem - 31,817 votes); and John Brown (Rep. - 31,759 votes). 

In the Exec race, Lamont McClure slightly increased his lead. He now has 37,985 votes to 29,867 cast for Steve Lynch. He has 56% of the votes cast in that race. 

Armstrong Now Leads in Lehigh

Lehigh County Exec Phil Armstrong appears to have eked out a victory in his re-election contest. With 100% of the voting complete, he now has 36,265 votes to 33,752 for Glenn Eckhart. 

Republicans Sweep Lehigh County Judge Race

The three Republicans running for Lehigh County judge have won. Tom Caffrey (33,716) was the lead vote getter, followed by Tom Capehart (31,563 votes) and Dave Ritter (31,219 votes). My favorite candidate, Maraleen Shields, finished fifth with 28,469 votes. 

Eckhart Ahead in Lehigh County Exec Race

Though Glenn Eckhart ran basically as a sacrificial lamb for the Republican party in Lehigh County's Exec race, he's poised to upset incumbent Phil Armstrong. With 99.4% of the precincts reporting, Eckhart has 33,001 votes while Armstrong has 32,848. They are separated by 153 votes. This is too closeto call, but as I warned in an earlier post, Armstrong took this race too lightly. 

Tuerk Wins Allentown Mayoral Race

In a race that really was decided in the primary,Matt Tuerk has defeated Tim Ramos in Allentown's Mayoral contest by a vote of 7,690 to 4,197. Although I did not write about this race, I listened to two debates and one radio interview of the candidates. Ramos struck me as very polished. Tuerk sounded more polished. 

Willie Reynolds Has Defeated John Kachmar in Bethlehem Mayoral Race

Democrat Willie Reynolds has prevailed over Republican John Kachmar in a rare Bethlehem Mayoral general election contest. In NorCo, Reynolds topped Kachmar 5,791 to 3,137. In Lehigh, with 99.4% of the precincts in, Reynolds tops Kachmar, by 2,311 to 1,550. 

Kachmar picked up some steam in the closing days of the campaign, but not enough. 

Upset in Palmer Tp

Supervisors Dave Colver and Robert "Smitty"Smith have been defeated in the Palmer Tp Supervisor race. Democrats Michael Brett and Joseph V Armato have pulled off an upset.  

Hutnik, McClure and Hawke Win Disputed NorCo MDJ Races

Democrats Susie Hutnik and Sandra McClure and Republican Hawke have won NorCo's disputed magisterial district judge races 

Susie Hutnik (5416 votes) defeated Marc Crisafulli (4,612) in the magisterial district that includes Palmer and Forks Tps. Sandra McClure (3,179 votes) defeated Andrew Tupone (2,546 votes) in Bethlehem Tp. Robert Hawke (4,837 votes) edged out Melissa Gogel (4,179) in the northwestern tier of the county. 

Hutnik and McClure are both attorney. Hawke is an incumbent magisterial district judge. 

McClure Wins Re-Election, But GOP Wins Three Seats on NorCo Council

With all 156 precincts reporting, it appears that Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has been re-elected. Republicans, however, have picked up three of the five at-large County Council seats up for grabs. This gives them a five-four majority. 

In the Exec race, McClure won with 37,404 votes, of which 18,025 came in by mail-in ballot (MIB). Lynch pulled down 29,628 votes, with only 3,254 coming in by MIB. McClure snagged 56% of the 67,103 votes cast in the Exec race. 

Voter turnout was 31.83%, much higher than the 23% turnout in the municipal race four years ago.

In the County Council race, incumbents Ron Heckman and Bill McGee fell short. Both are Democrats.  The top five finishers are Tara Zrinski (Dem - 32,837), John Goffredo (Rep - 31,719), Lori Vargo-Heffner (Dem - 31,589), John Brown - (Rep - 31,494) and Nicole Romanishan (Rep - 31,485). 

Northampton County will now have a divided government consisting of a Democratic Executive balanced by a Republican Council. 

The Democratic loss in County Council races is more a reflection of the national mood than a rejection of specific candidates. President Biden is unpopular in the latest polling. Few voters know much about county issues, so this vote appears to be a rejection of Biden's blunders as well as Democratic inability to come up with an infrastructure bill. 

Four years ago, the pendulum was swinging the other way. County voters were upset with then President Trump and his attempt to eliminate the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. 

While voters made clear they are upset with the way things are going nationally, their rejection of GOP standard bearer Steve Lynch reflects their disdain for a fringe candidate who alienated voters and bullied Northampton School Directors with a threat to bring "20 strong men" to remove them.   


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

NorCo MIBs Give McClure Commanding Lead, Dem County Council Candidates Also Ahead

Northampton County voters cast 21,631 votes by mail in advance of today's election. Those numbers are being tallied. They give incumbent Exec Lamont McClure a commanding lead over challenger Steve Lynch. All five Democratic County Council candidates have outpaced Republicans. Willie Reynolds leads John Kachmar in Bethlehem. Democrats Susie Hutnik, Melissa Godel and Sandra McClure are also outpacing Republican opponents in MDJ races.

In the Exec race, McClure has 18.025 mail-in votes, to 3,254 for Lynch. McClure has captured 83% of these votes, well beyond the 72% I had projected based on last year's Presidential. 

In the County Council races, all five Democrats are ahead, with ladies first. Tara Zrinski leads with 16,454 votes, followed by Lori Vargo-Heffner (15,934), Patti Bruno (15,463), Ron Heckman (15,786) and Bill McGee (15,308). The closest Republican, John Brown, has a scant 4,099 votes.

Ironically, the 4,099 votes cast for Brown in the Council race, is in excess of the 3,254 that Lynch received in the Exec race. 

In the Bethlehem Mayoral, Willie Reynolds has 2,713 MIBs to 501 for John Kachmar. 

You can follow the results, including the in-person votes on Northampton County's elections results webpage

No results are available from Lehigh County at this early hour. 

Update at 9:15 pm: So far, 23 precincts have reported election day results. Republicans are getting more election day votes than Democrats, but it appears tome that the lead is insurmountable. 


Any Problems at the Polls?

So far, I've heard one complaint. A reader reports that, when his wife voted at Farmersville Elementary, two GOP names lit up when she attempted to select a Democrat.  If you are experiencing problems anywhere, please report them here.  

Lynch Screws Up His One and Only Mailer

NorCo GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch, you might get one today. Or tomorrow. Lynch has been critical of Democratic opponent Lamont McClure's "shock and awe" campaign.  McClure has sent at least 10 mailers, has had an email message nearly every week, has posted Youtube videos, used social media and has been running TV ads. Lynch scoffed that his campaign would be more targeted and efficient.  He's managed to screw it up. His one and only mailer was intended to reach 23,859 homes. Looks like most of them will start hitting mailboxes today. Election Day. The rest will arrive after the election. 

This should be no surprise. This is the guy who claimed he would have a matching donor every week. That came to nothing. This is the guy who said he'd be filing quarterly expense reports. That never happened, either. One of his expense reports came late. His most recent finance filing was done in pencil, and includes an illegal anonymous donation. 

He's unable to run a campaign, yet thinks he should be entrusted with a half billion dollar budget, 

What's most maddening his mailer mix-up is his refusal to take responsibility. Instead, on Facebook, he's spinning yet another conspiracy theory. "Corruption runs deep and infects everything!" he complains.  He's suggesting that the USPS deliberately held his mailer. "I'll be dealing legally with the #USPS after the election along with mcclure and a few others. No one is getting away with anything!" 

I don't know whether he's going to send 20 strong men or start waving Lynch flags, which will be on sale for a dime a piece on Wednesday. 

The person who failed to get away with anything is Steve Lynch. 

He'll find that out tonight and no doubt will claim election fraud. 

Monday, November 01, 2021

Make Your Last Minute Pitches Here

This is an opportunity for you to make any last-minute pitch you want in any of the races being decided tomorrow here in the Lehigh Valley.  I don't care who you support or oppose.  

Lynch in a Nutshell

This ad is running on television, even Fox. In case you missed it, this is NorCo GOP Exec candidate Steve Lynch in a nutshell. 

GOP Fails in Attempt to Gag Lower Saucon Dems

Right-wing extremists love to complain about censorship and the suppression of their First Amendment rights. Ironically, these are the very same people who attempt to bully and intimidate others into silence.  Lower Saucon Township Council candidates Jason Banonis, Thomas Carocci and Jennifer Zavacky were in a Northampton County Courtroom on Friday in an attempt to muzzle their Democratic opponents about the $75,000 that Bethlehem's Landfill has dumped into the race in an attempt to assure a Republican victory on Tuesday. They failed. 

What's surprising, at least to me, is that they even tried. You see, Banonis and Carocci are supposed to be lawyers. Any first-year law student can tell you that judicial prior restraints on political speech are next to impossible. Judge Samuel P. Murray, is a one-sentence Order, denied the bone-headed attempt by Banonis, Carocci and Zavacky, to gag their Democratic opponents on Election Eve. 

Money is the root of all evil, but it sure helps in elections. Bethlehem Landfill wants to expand its operations so it can continue shoving New York's and New Jersey's garbage down our throats. 

The garbage must flow. 

In 2015, the Landfill dumped $150,000 as an "independent expenditure" in a partially successful attempt to elect pro-landfill candidates. It's at it again.  They want to elect the Republican team, which have all but eliminated any professional oversight at the landfill. 

The garbage must flow. 

Democrats George Gress, Victoria Opthof-Cordaro, and Tom Roney have pledged proper oversight to protect the public. 

The landfill's $75,000 independent expenditure is to help the Republicans,

Under Pennsylvania's campaign finance laws, corporate contributions are ordinarily illegal. But the usual ban on corporate contributions falls by the wayside when they are "independent expenditures."

The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizen's United prevents any restriction on independent political spending. After all, corporations are people, too.

The garbage must flow. 

As you might expect, the Democratic team did their best to alert the public that, once again, the Landfill was trying to buy an election. They criticized Republicans for "gladly accepting" the $75,000 from the Landfill. 

Technically, it's impossible to "gladly accept" an independent expenditure. That is money spent on behalf of a candidate, whether he likes it or not.  This is a wild guess on my part, but I'm pretty sure the Republicans liked it. Banonis told WLVR, "Clearly they [the Landfill] like what we are doing in Lower Saucon Township." And Banonis likes the money. 

The garbage must flow. 

One thing Banonis dislikes, in any form at all, is criticism. Banonis and Carocci may very well be less knowledgeable than first-year law students, but have nevertheless turned Lower Saucon Township meetings into mini-courtrooms, where they "cross-examine" citizens who dare exercise their right to speak. They've cut speaking time to three minutes as well.

Democratic candidate Victoria Opthof-Cordaro happens to be a lawyer herself. On Thursday night, she received an email advising her of a court hearing to muzzle her and her Democratic colleagues the very next day.  Unlike Banonis and Carocci, she was well aware that prior judicial restraints on free political speech are virtually impossible. 

Get this. Not only did Banonis et al (Team Bonehead) attempt to muzzle Democrats, they at first attempted to do so without even bothering to notify the other side in violation of this little thing called Due Process. They first attempted to obtain an Order on Thursday without giving notice or providing Democrats the right to be heard. As I understand third-hand ( I was not in motions court), Judge Jennifer Sletvold insisted that notice be provided so that both sides could be heard

Opthop-Cordaro told me that she and her team are running to bring a "friendly and welcoming environment " to Lower Saucon Tp Council.