Thursday, March 31, 2022

Bethlehem Mayor's Office Refusing Telephone Calls

In early January, Bethlehem City Council approved a contract with George Wacker's "Lehigh Valley With Love" to reach out to the public on social media with cute little messages on topics like Black History month in February and Women's History Month in March. More importantly, it s also a way for Mayor Reynolds and City Council members to promote themselves while simultaneously discussing topics that may or may not be useful. At the time, Mayor Reynolds and City Council members stressed the importance of communicating with the unwashed masses. But guess what? If you try to call the Mayor's office, it refuses to accept calls. Some communication.

I heard about this from Steve Antalics but refused to believe it because he's a cranky old bastard. There must be some mistake, I thought. So I called myself. I asked the City of Bethlehem Service Center to connect me with the Mayor's office. 

"Oh, the Mayor's office does not accept calls," a pleasant sounding lady told me. I can give you their email address if you'd like."

I declined and said farewell.

This is ridiculous and belies everything Reynolds said about communicating with the public he supposedly serves. Now look, I get that no Mayor should be expected to sit at his phone all day, waiting in vain for me to call. But that's why he has a staff that can field the calls and relay the ones that require his personal attention.   

I checked in Allentown, which is much larger than Bethlehem. The telephone number to the Mayor's office is listed. So is Easton's,although Mayor Panto is just as likely to be on some chat board under some sock puppet to answer questions.

So just send an email, you might say. What's the big deal? Well, let me clue you in, Willie. Just as a large segment of Bethlehem is unable to speak English, another segment is computer illiterate.  Especially old farts. Funny how your equity and inclusion officer missed that one.

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez had an open door. Mayor Willie Reynolds has an unlisted number for City Hall.  

NorCo Workers Are Frustrated

Yesterday, I was approached by a hard-working Northampton County employee who has always given her all. Over the years, she has always impressed me with her dedication. I've always encouraged her to apply for new jobs as they are posted, but she has never been successful. She wanted me to know she's retiring soon. I spoke briefly to her and one of her co-workers about her decision. It's one thing to hear $60,000 per year deputies complain about being unable to go outside and crack a few heads. It's quite another to see unappreciated workers who struggle at the bottom of the payscale and for who the county's career service system has been an abject failure. 

I asked this retiring worker to tell me, in one word, why she's leaving. I expected her to say "salary," but the word I got was "frustration."

I was told the place is never going to change.  

Low pay is certainly part of the problem, but her department has had chronic staffing issues during the entire time she';s worked for the county. The two are obviously related. She mentioned one worker who recently left because she's simply unable to support hers and three children on $14 per hour.  

In the over 20 years that one of these workers has been with the county, she's now making $19 an hour.  She has a Master's degree, which she incidentally earned on her own with no tuition assistance from the county. 

I was told that nobody has their backs.. If something goes wrong, county bosses are quick to find fault. But whether it is John Brown or Lamont McClure, nothing has been done to address low salaries and understaffing. 

Our career service system is designed to insure that job openings go to the most qualified. But according to the retiring worker, bosses still find a way of making sure that the person whom they want in a job is the person who gets it. I was told that, most of the time, the career service regs are just a formality for a decision that's already been made.

What about McClure? Has he helped? "Not a fan," said the retiring worker. "He's not a leader. He never listens," said another. She went on to say that a good leader takes the time to listen to his workers instead of just assuming he already knows everything.  

This has been McClure's chief weakness as Executive. He's accomplished many good things in office, and his response to the pandemic is probably the best I've seen by any public official. He's smart. Maybe too smart. He is so certain about everything that he refuses to listen to others who just might know better at times. That certainly includes the people who work for him, whether they are in his cabinet or emptying the garbage. 

Despite an outcry from his employees, he has refused to do a pay study because he - like Brown before him - is balancing his budget on the backs of the people. County Council has set aside money for a pay study, but they are part-timers. McClure should offer to help prepare the request for proposals.  

The employees have told him he's wrong in refusing to do a pay study. County Council has told him he's wrong. Court Admin.Jermaine Greene has said his shortage in the juvenile detention center is nearing the boiling point. It is time for McClure to listen. I understand that no one likes the boss.  I readily agree that it's hard to take someone making $60,000 per year seriously when he complains he's underpaid. I'm a tad more concerned about so many who are scraping bottom, below the $15 per hour minimum wage that liberals piously endorse.

In addition to restructuring the pay scale, there needs to be a review of the shortcomings in our merit personnel system. It is tragic to see good people leave because favorites are installed instead of those with merit.   

  

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Josh "Doxer" Siegel to Run For State House


In yet another disgusting display of hubris, Allentown City Council member Josh Siegel is now running forthe state house in the 22d district against Norberto Dominguez and Saeed Georges, a mental health case manager. 

Siegel, who refers to himself as a "visionary" and "life coach," was among those who marched against Allentown police who assisted a drunk who was puking and staggering in a public street outside a local hospital. A short video clip, taken out of context, made it appear that cops were pulling a George Floyd. A lengthier video, released just a few days later, made it clear that Allentown officers acted appropriately in dealing with someone who ingested seven bags of cocaine.  

In a demonstration on Hamilton Street, Siegel actually doxed Allentown Mayor Ray O'Connell, providing his personal cell number to protesters who were screaming "Fuck the Police." Mayor O'Connell was deluged with calls for several days. What;s worse, he was threatened when he arrived on scene.  

"We know where you live," shouted one of these freedom fighters. "We like flames." 

Segel also voted against hiring regular police officers and against a grant intended to benefit that department. He also supported fellow protester and council member Ce Ce Gerlach, who was charged with child endangerment after she took a homeless minor to a tent city instead of securing real shelter. 

East siders, you know what you need to do. 

Zrinski Faces Two Primary Opponents in State Senate Bid

Northampton County Council member Tara Zrinski faces two primary opponents in her bid for the Democratic nomination to the Pa. State Senate, 14th District. Yamelisa  Tavaresis running as a first-time candidate. She is currently an addictions counselor. The third Democratic candidate is Allentown School Director Nick Miller. Last I heard, he was climbing Mount Kiliminjaro to raise money for the weight rooms at Allen and Dieruff High Schools. 

I think I passed him.  

Republican candidates include former Lehigh County Comm'r Dean Browning, management consultant Omy Maldonado and Lehigh Tp Supervisor Cindy Miller. Cindy is a bit unpopular with some Republicans at the moment. In fact, she's been sued by an unsuccessful county council candidate. Arguments in that case will be heard next month. 

Boscola Will Be Challenged by Merhottein

Last week, I told you that long-time State Senator Lisa Boscola could be facing Bethlehem Tp Comm'r John Merhottein in her quest for re-election. Yesterday, Merhottein made it official and announced his candidacy. Below is the statement he released. 

Supported by his family, friends and neighbors, John Merhottein announced that he filed over 1,200 signatures in Harrisburg and is officially a candidate for the State Senate in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Merhottein, a Bethlehem Township Commissioner, U.S. Marine veteran and youth sports coach, is seeking the Republican nomination in the May Primary Election. The Senate district includes portions of Lehigh and Northampton counties.

 

“My decision to run for the State Senate was not taken lightly. However, as I spoke to residents across the district, it was clear that people are looking for a change and a new direction,” said Merhottein. “Throughout my career, I have prioritized service to country, our community, and local families. I see this as a continuation of my efforts to help make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

 

Merhottein is a longtime resident of Bethlehem Township in Northampton County who understands the opportunities and challenges our region faces. As a Bethlehem Township Commissioner, he is working to ensure township police have the tools and training they need to do their jobs and keep residents safe. Merhottein will be a strong leader in the State Senate, proactively fighting the crime and drug epidemic that threatens the future of far too many citizens.

 

“I support our police and first responders who bravely put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our communities,” Merhottein said. “I am tired of picking up the newspaper on a daily basis and seeing how crime and drugs are ravaging our communities.  Working with law enforcement and community leaders across the Lehigh Valley, I am prepared to continue my work because current trends prove public safety must never be taken for granted.”

 

Asked what issues his campaign would focus on, Merhottein stressed: fighting crime and drugs to protect families, giving parents more control of their children’s education, bringing fiscal discipline to Harrisburg to protect taxpayers, and supporting policies to help working families and seniors during these times of skyrocketing costs of gas, groceries, and other household needs.

 

“Too many people are hurting in today’s economy. At the same time, too many of the politicians in Harrisburg are part of the problem, not part of the solution,” said Merhottein. “I was raised in a working-class family, and I know that many families and seniors cannot afford to pay more at a time when inflation is at a 40 year high. Now more than ever, government needs a new direction to better serve taxpayers and families.”

 

Merhottein pointed to his own record as Commissioner as proof that he knows how to reduce debt and control spending, as well as find innovative ways to bring community members together to meet the challenges we face.  Through strong fiscal discipline and commonsense leadership, he is leading efforts to reduce township debt – cutting it by $6.7 million dollars or nearly in half in just 4 years.  Working in a bi-partisan manner, the board has worked to control taxes, including this year’s budget, during a time other communities across the region were seeing significant tax increases.

 

“As a Commissioner, I’ve made the tough decisions to reduce township debt and control spending because I know local residents already pay enough of their hard-earned money toward taxes,” Merhottein said. “I also understand that residents deserve quality services. That is why I worked with fellow commissioners to bring a satellite branch of the Bethlehem Public Library to our township. I am running for State Senate to bring my commonsense leadership and new ideas to Harrisburg to help local families and senior while protecting taxpayers.”

 

John proudly served our country in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield as a United States Marine, where he earned the National Defense Service Medal & Kuwait Liberation Medal.  John also was awarded the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Two Meritorious Masts, and the Good Conduct Medal during his service.

 

Upon returning from his service in Iraq, John went back to school and earned a certificate in computer programming during a time when this field was quickly changing. He has worked in the Information Technology field for more than 20 years as a Computer Programmer and EDI Analyst helping regional companies grow and better serve their customers and clients. John understands the importance of effective job training and re-training programs for local workers and as State Senator, he will support these important programs.

 

“Government doesn’t create jobs, but it can ensure our state is competitive when it comes to attracting employers and supporting the job-creating industries of tomorrow,” said Merhottein. “But right now, taxes on job creators in Pennsylvania continue to be among the highest in the nation and the regulatory structure is among the most burdensome. After the pandemic and the mandated shutdowns on many small businesses and restaurants, these employers and workers need help and as State Senator, I will work to get government out of the way so entrepreneurs and small businesses can do what they do best: create jobs and grow our economy.”

 

Echoing the views of many who live in the Lehigh Valley, Merhottein said he is also running because this job should be about, “Public service, not self-service.”  He pledged to lead by example on reform and never forget who he answers to: the hard working men and women who call the Lehigh Valley home.

 

“It is not surprising that so many citizens have lost confidence in our elected officials when they vote themselves pay raises and increase their own pensions while the people they represent struggle to make ends meet,” Merhottein said.  “I will lead on reform by maintaining an open and transparent office, so you know how your tax dollars are spent.  I will not take the costly per diems, and you can trust that I will never vote to increase my own pay.”

 

John and his wife, Michelle, are raising their son, John Joesph (JJ) in Bethlehem Township where he attends Notre Dame Elementary school in Bethlehem.  Merhottein is active in the community and volunteers his time coaching JJ’s baseball and basketball teams as part of the Freemansburg Bethlehem Township Athletic Association & Bethlehem Township Athletic Association.  

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

We are the Hollow Men

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

A war is raging in Ukraine. We've been confronted with a combination of rising prices and dipping stock values. Recent events demonstrate that the world is a scary place. Our Congress is in gridlock, unable to pass anything that's meaningful. We are led by a weak President who looks like he'd blow away in a gusty wind. Our former President is a blowhard supplying the wind. As a population, we are now just as divided as Congress. But yesterday, all the pundits and news outlets were focused on none of these things. They, and the population as a whole, were diverted by Will Smith's assault of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars. The story, and the ridiculous amount of attention we paid to it, demonstrates that we are the hollow men. 

While I love movies, I have absolutely no interest in these staged productions honoring our celebrities. It makes no difference whether it's the Oscars, Grammy awards or whatever. But too many of us do. So many of you probably saw Will Smith's open-handed bitch slap aimed at Chris Rock after the comedian told an off color joke about Will Smith's wife. Despite everything going on, this is what people chose to discuss. 

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats' feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar

I have no idea why so many of you are interested in these long and boring shows. That's several hours of your life you won't get back. I love movies, but like actors much better when I know as little about them as possible. They are hardly standard bearers for anything, even though most think they are.  Because we pay so much attention to them outside the box office, they become entitled. They're Super Kens and Karens. And we are the hollow men. 

Precisely because he's entitled, Will Smith thought it was perfectly OK for him to jump on stage and strike a comedian because his joke offended him. This now sets the ball rolling for other entitled people to disrupt events they dislike.  It could be a comedian on a stage. It could be a school directors setting a policy that some find objectionable. 

We've got too many Kens and Karens.

While we're obsessing over these assholes, we ignore the real problems. And out planet withers.  

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Monday, March 28, 2022

95 Small Businesses Get $1.13 Million in COVID Relief From Northampton County

Northampton County has been awarded approximately $60 million under the American Rescue Plan Act  The lion;'s share of that money has been used to assist small businesses suffering as a result of the pandemic. The maximum grant awarded is $15,000. Over 1,000 businesses have taken advantage of this windfall. On March 17, County Council awarded $1.13 million to another 95 small businesses. (You can see the businesses and amounts awarded here.) 

There's still a little over $300,000 available. Applications are available here

Though no member of County Council has voted against these grants, that's about to change. Council member John Cusick stated he would oppose any additional awards. "We have too many other needs," he said.

While it's certainly true that the county has many needs, especially at Gracedale, it was not given this money to spend on itself. Its first obligation should be to the public it serves, especially small business. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

NorCo GOP To Host Congressional Debate on April 1

The NorCo GOP will host a Lehigh Valley Congressional debate (Pa.. -7) on Friday, April 1, at Northampton Community College's Alumni Hall. Two candidates, Lisa Scheller and Kevin Dellicker, hope to secure the Republican nod to oppose incumbent Susan Wild 

Alumni Hall is located inside the buildings across from the main campus, located at 3835 Green Pond Rd in Bethlehem. 

The debate starts at 7 pm. Doors open at 6 pm.. 

According to the news release, this is an open press event. So I'll be there and fill you in if I survive 

Scheller is the President and Hair of Siberline, one of the world's largest aluminum paint pigment manufacturers. She is also a philanthropist who has given generously to Lehigh Community College. She has  also established a coffeehouse for recovering addicts and alcoholics. She ran against Wild two years ago, but came up short. 

Dellicker, a veteran with the Air National Guard, owns a technology company that helps schools upgrade internet access. Dellicker is critical of Scheller's business connections with China. 

Luzerne County Reported a Deputy Shortage, Too

Last week, deputy sheriffs presented a litany of complaints to Northampton County Council. Among them was the claim that the department is understaffed. Sheriff Rich Johnson admitted that 30 deputies and 2 lieutenants have left during his tenure. But he added that he's hired 26, and has promoted four lieutenants and five sergeants. He indicated that each deputy must attend a 19-week academy and pass a physical agility test. 

Luzerne County had the same problem last year. That Sheriff Department, which is slightly smaller than NorCo, saw 50 deputies leave since 2019.  

In Luzerne County, deputies were starting at $14.28 an hour in 2021. In NorCo, deputies start at about $24 per hour. 

John Merhottein Poised to Challenge Lisa Boscola For State Senate

John Merhottein, President of Bethlehem Tp's Board of Commissioners, is poised to challenge incumbent Lisa Boscola in this year's state senate races.  He has confirmed that he is seeking signatures to run in the Republican primary. Boscola is a Democrat. 

If he secures the GOP nod, it will be an uphill battle. Boscola has been elected five times to the state senate and twice to the House. Her key to success has been excellent constituent service. 

Merhottein is the sole Republican on Bethlehem Tp's Board. He has weathered an anti-Republican election. This year, however, looks bad for the Democrats. 

Merhottein, incidentally, is a Marine who served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He is an electronic data interchange specialist with Intelligent Audit. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Kerry Myers Bully Exhibition

Last week, Deputy Sheriff Brendan Hetherman vented before a NorCo Council committee with several job complaints. You can watch the video for yourself, located here.  I have spent the past week thinking about this meeting and discussing it with friends and family. Deputy sheriffs certainly have every right to bring their grievances to county council even though I have a different view than they express.  What has me really perturbed is how quickly it turned into a bullying session by Council member Kerry Myers. He clearly had his mind made up in advance that he was going to be on the attack, yet was confused about the protest that had him blowin' oil. In a comment he posted on this blog, he was under the incorrect impression that this was a BLM protest. Also, s he is wont to do, he managed to throw race into the mix. He's now become a darling to the Lynch mob, but I consider him a demagogue. .

I've decided to post a transcript of Deputy Hetherman's claim that someone was assaulted during that protest, but Sheriff Richard Johnson refused to allow deputies to respond. Incidentally, I was at that protest myself. There was no assault during the 15 minutes or so that I watched what was essentially a shouting match between Trumpers and anti-Trumpers.  Next, I am posting Sheriff Johnson's response to Hetherman's accusation. Hetherman has admitted to me that he was not physically present and witnessed no assault. The Sheriff, however was watching everything and there was no reason to respond because there was no violence or cry for help.  Finally, I am posting Myers and his attempt to bully both the Sheriff and Executive.  

Hetherman's claim 

"The most embarrassing moment of our department occurred after the 2020 election. There were multiple demonstrators outside the courthouse from opposing beliefs that started to become agitated. One of the protesters was punched by another. Easton police had an officer present to watch the crowd and when things started getting heated, the officer called for help. Calls went to the 911 Center from the protesters asking why our deputies were standing inside the rotunda and not helping. The 911 Center called our department and told us assistance was needed outside the courthouse. We had a group of deputies literally running outside to assist when an order to stand down came from Sheriff Johnson, who was standing inside the rotunda, watching the agitated demonstrators. 

"This was occurring at our front doors of the government center/courthouse. The Sheriff himself [was] on scene and refused to act to assist Easton PD and the general public." 

"That is a direct violation of our duties to act." 

Sheriff's Response

"The [Easton police officer] was not on the scene when my guys wanted to run out there. There was a young black man who was filming the crowd that was waving flags. The kid's allowed to do it. One of the demonstrators was screaming at him through a bullhorn, you know. That's not our place. We're not in the streets. That's Easton.  I informed Easton of this thing. There wasn't an officer standing by. I watched it. I was there in the lobby. I saw the whole thing. It was not out of hand. So now when my guys come up and say, 'Easton's looking for help,' and I'm there and I don't see Easton, then it's 'No, you're not running out there.' The optics of that is a neighborhood kid is filming demonstrators and now the Sheriff's Department, in uniform, is going to run out and surround that kid? I thought that would be overkill."

Kerry Myers bullying session 

Myers: "You're saying it was just some young black man out there with a flag ---

Johnson: "No, he didn't have a flag. He had a cellphone and was filming the flag wavers. I believe he was a neighborhood resident. 

Myers: "Is he a citizen of Northampton County?

Johnson: "I don't know, but I believe so if he was a resident."

Myers: "Well if he's a citizen or he's one of your officers, he's a resident of Northampton County.

Johnson: "Not all of my officers are residents.

Myers: "I'm not talking about your officers, I'm talking about that young man that you said had a video and your officers are saying it was an Easton police officer, so there's some mix up here. But still, the issue is this. As a man who put on a uniform and served my country for four years, the first thing they taught us was, Never leave a man standing. Never abandon your post and leave somebody alone. OK? I got a real problem with that. As a veteran. When someone is in a way and he's outnumbered and you've got some - whether it's Black Lives Matter or anti Black Lives Matter - somewhere along the line, someone needs to grow the hell up and get a pair of cahoonies [sic] and say, 'I'm not going to leave somebody laying there.' There's where I have a huge problem because, as a man who took the oath of office to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and everybody here, now I'm saying that as someone who served. We were always taught you never leave a man laying down, but yet, they're saying that someone was left out there and you were giving the order to stand down. is that what you correctly said? To stand down? Did you say stand down?

Johnson: "That was the order and [an Easton police officer] wasn't there, and I showed the [deputy union] that on tape. When they sit there and tell me there's an Easton police officer requesting help outside, and I can see the area and there isn't an Easton police car or police officer there, yeah, I'm going to tell them to stand down. I don't want to give any more attention to these demonstrators than they need. 

Myers: "What was the ratio to the man standing out there to the people protesting? 3 to 1? 5 to 1? 20 to 1? How many was it?

Johnson: "There was three young men and I think there was four women who were on the corner of Wolfe and towards the alley there, and the crowd was probably 40-50 people.

Myers: "And a couple of people filming. Did you think that their lives were in danger?      

Johnson: "Not at the time. Let's decide who's life we're talking about who's in danger. 

Myers: "There's a citizen out here. We all took an oath of office to defend the Constitution of Pennsylvania and United States of America, did we not? 

Johnson: "Yes, we did.

Myers: "So that means we protect every citizen of the United States and State of Pennsylvania, is that correct?

Johnson: "Correct.

Myers: "Correct. Now somebody can shake their head and tell me this doesn't happen, but it doesn't matter if it is Yes, No, one way or another. Me, a man, if I see somebody outnumbered 5 to 1, I think I should do the right thing and try to help that young man. Wouldn't you think so?

Johnson: "The young man was not in danger, in my opinion. You had 40 people that were waving flags and he was filming it, which bothered them. And one of them grabbed a bullhorn and started yelling 'Trump! Trump! Trump' in his face. This young man didn't back down from them, and yeah, I had eight people in the rotunda that could have went out in the event that things get lousy. I run out there. What does that look like? I now have eight deputies surrounding the young man. It looks like I'm arresting the young man, who's not doing anything wrong. He has the right to film in public as well as the demonstrators have  the right to wave flags in public. 

Myers: "You know what? You're 100% correct. Just like the KKK has a right to put a hood on and come after people like me. But you know what? In the same breath, everybody's allowed some protection.  Am I right or wrong?

Johnson: "Nobody got injured that day. Nobody was assaulted. 

Myers: "But whoever was out there was left alone because you gave an order to stand down. Did you think that might affect the people that work for you? Do you think maybe they were a little upset that you didn't protect anybody? 

Johnson: "Who's in charge of the department, me or them?

Myers: "OK. There you go. So it's about you being in charge of the department and there's an issue with morale at this point from some of your folks. But that's OK because you're in charge. We got a problem here that we can't do a lot about because the collective bargaining agreement tells us we can't do anything about it, but we can sure as hell talk about it. 

(Lamont McClure approaches podium as it becomes clear that Johnson is being bullied.)

Myers: "And Mr. McClure, if you're gonna' come up here and lecture me ... 

McClure: "No, I'm not going to lecture you. He's just ... he got your point. And it's my decision who the Sheriff is in Northampton County. 

Myers: "It sure is. 

McClure: "Yes, it is. 

Myers: "That is definitely your position and that is exactly how you do it and I wish that, in all good faith, everybody in your cabinet had a chance to come get reappointed because  right now, reading this [15 pages submitted by Deputy union] and looking at what's going on here, I may be the only one here, but - Whooo! - I have a hard time saying I wanna take orders from this guy because I think my life would be in danger. But you hired him. 

McClure: "That's an outrageous statement. No one's life is in danger. None of the management decisions that were questioned tonight put anyone's life in danger. That's an outrageous statement. 

Myers: "Stop. This is my meeting. You can walk away frustrated and mad as hell. I'm running this meeting. 

Blogger's Note: The days following the 2020 Presidential were tense.  These protesters were claiming the county is corrupt at a time when elections workers inside were still tallying the votes.  Had depurty sheriffs rushed outside to quell a nonexistent riot, it is entirely possible that some of the more radical supporters would have marched in and made their way to the elections office. What happened on January 6 could have happened here if Sheriff Kerry Myers were calling the shots.

On numerous occasions, Myers claimed to be a veteran who was taught that you don't leave someone when he's down. Nobody was down. No police officer was there. I happen to be a veteran myself. And general order number one is that you do not quit your post until you are properly relieved. Myers was advocating what would have been a court martial offense in the military.  Had  the deputies abandoned their posts as he suggests, the door to the elections office would be wide open. 

Finally, his KKK analogy demonstrates his racism. All he had to hear is that the person filming this event was black, and immediately, he wanted the entire Sheriff's department out there.Myers, like all of us, is a bigot.  

Zrinski Claims Nonexistent Sue Wild Endorsement

Tara Zrinski, a member of Northampton County Council, has been a biennial candidate. Almost as soon as her election to the county four years ago, she was on the state house campaign warpath. Although she claims to be an environmentalist, she littered the council with one meaningless resolution after another,from the Green New Deal to plastic straw bans. She injected herself into the Penneast Pipeline in Bethlehem Tp,and made several false statements about its location near a school and hospital. She lost her bid for the state house, but voters still re-elected her to county council. She was even the top vote getter. Once again, she's running for another office. This time it's state senate seat.  On her campaign website, she's claimed several endorsements, including U.S. Rep. Susan Wild. This, incidentally, was news to Wild.    

This is going to be a tough year for Democrats. Wild's reconfigured district is fairly evenly divided, and I could see her winning or losing by a small number of votes. One thing she afford to do is piss off Democrats. So she's Switzerland throughout the primary. 

Zrinski, who does very little thinking for someone claiming to be a college professor, posted an endorsement along with a quote that had never been cleared by Wild. 

I'm told by several reliable sources that Sue Wild asked Zrinski to remove the unauthorized endorsement.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Allentown's Pa-22 Gets 2d Latin Candidate

Pennsylvania House District 22, located in parts of Allentown's east side and center city, is no longer a home to the Pennsylvania Dutch. It is now dominated by the Latin community. But it has still retained a Dutchy as State Rep. Peter Schweyer, a former Allentown City Council member, has held the seat since 2015. A career politician, he certainly will seek re-election. 

While I'd love to see a Spanish-speaking Latin or Hispanic get elected, I've been terribly disappointed by Enid Santiago. She appears to have no real grasp of the issues, and was just as quick as Donald Trump to claim election fraud when she lost her last try. 

Fortunately, there's a second Latin candidate entering the fray. Norberto Dominguez will be announcing his candidacy on March 25, 5:30 pm, at the Arts Pocket Park. That's fitting. He''s one of the founders of the Guild of Creative Citizens,a nonprofit intended to bring artistic people together. 

According to a news release, his family is one of the first Dominican families to arrive in Allentown back in the 70s. 

His father was a steelworker and union man at Allentown’s Gulf Western for 38 years. His mom was a seamstress. Hehas said that the hard-working people in his district remind him of his parents.

Norberto considered running a few years ago, but was forced to withdraw when his nomination petition was challenged.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

NorCo Deputy Sheriffs Morale Problem - A Solution

After being egged on by Council member Kerry Myers, a gaggle of deputy sheriffs were at last week's Northampton County Council meeting to complain about the Sheriff, overtime and their inability to go out and arrest people. Myers undermined the authority of the Sheriff by declaring, with absolutely no basis, that he'd refuse to follow orders because it could put his life in danger. Though there's been no mass exodus or call offs, Myers insisted there was a morale problem, and it is all the Sheriff's fault.

At one time, when there were only four judges, the Sheriff's office was small. Now there are 10 active courtrooms, including a central criminal court, where security is needed. As the courtrooms have expanded, so have the number of deputies.  But those courtrooms are empty most hours of the day. Even during criminal court week, it is rare to see more than one or two trials. Some judges stick around, while others prefer to work from home. Courtrooms get very little use, and so do the deputies. 

So if you visit the courthouse on any given day, it's quite common to see seven or more deputies there to greet you. Another two or three are poised at the exit, even though that is for employees only. They have little to do, unless Vladimir Putin decides to invade. They begin to gossip and develop a negative attitude.  

We don't really need 60 deputies if there is some other way of providing security for the judges when they are at the courthouse.

Judges each get two tipstaffs who basically act as ushers and facilitators. My suggestion is to have one or two security officers for each judge who work only when judges are at the courthouse and are paid only when judges are at the courthouse. These security officers would be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the court   

With the appointment of security officers, whom I would  expect to be professionals, we could begin to reduce the number of deputies through attrition. They would not be needed at the courthouse, except for two or three at the entrance.  This would make them free to serve  civil process, execute warrants and perform their other roles with minimum opportunity for gossip. 

DA Terry Houck on Youth Crime - "It's Guns, It's Gangs and It's Drugs"

Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck appeared before County Council last week. His main reason was to updating County Council on the 35 forensic interviews conducted at Lehigh County's Child Advocacy Center over the past year. These settings spare young children the indignity of several interviews about unpleasant topics. While he was there, he was asked about the reasons for youth crime. 

"The issue is guns, it's gangs and it's drugs," declared Houck. He said they are all related, but the "guns that these people are carrying around now are ridiculous." 

He said police see kids as young as 13 carrying guns they need two hands to pick up. 

He said kids, from their teens to their late 20s, just fail to understand the "grave, grave nature of pointing a gun and shooting it.  They're not getting it."

Monday, March 21, 2022

NorCo Juvenile Justice Center Has 33 Vacancies Among Youth Care Workers

Northampton County's Juvenile Justice Center exists to rehabilitate children who've been found delinquent, teach them to change and then reunite them with their families.  It has been one of the most successfully run institutions in the state, as evidenced by the contracts it maintains with 19 different counties to treat delinquent youth. It has even been a moneymaker from which the county received $1.6 million per year. But like Gracedale, ir is experiencing a staffing crisis. "We are hemorrhaging at the Juvenile Justice Center," declared Court Administrator Jermaine Greene at two separate council committee hearings last week. And he knows the cause of this crisis - low salaries. 

The Juvenile Justice Center is budgeted to be staffed by 57 youth care workers. These are skilled positions requiring two years of college and a bachelor's degree for a supervisor. Their job is basically a combination of corrections officer and child psychologist. yet the $16.46 average salary has led to an exodus of workers who can flip burgers at Wendy's with far fewer headaches. According to Greene, there are currently 30 vacancies, which leaves a staff of just 24 people to supervise the children being housed, 24-7.  

In November, the County began offering a signing bonus to new caseworkers, but that's been insufficient to stem the exodus. 

These positions, incidentally, are union jobs. Employees are paid less than corrections officers even though their duties are similar. I have to wonder what the union was thinking when it negotiated these salaries and why the membership voted for it. In any event, the contract ends this year. In any event, Greene will have to ask the union to agree to higher wages.

County Council seemed supportive. After the meeting, Executive Lamont McClure said he believed this could be resolved. 

Although County Council is considering a pay study, Greene made clear that "I don't have the luxury of waiting for a pay study."  He said the County needs to act now."This facility is going to crumble if we don't act."

Enid Santiago Bribing Voters With Raffle Ticket to Concert

Enid Santiago is once again running for State Representative. She lost in the last cycle. Like Donald Trump, she was quick to accuse everyone of election fraud. But she thinks nothing of bribing voters. Over the weekend, she published a Facebook video in which she offers a raffle ticket for a Marc Anthony concert to anyone who signs her nomination petition.   This is bribery in political matters, which is a third degree felony.

Here's the law:

  (a)  Offenses defined.--A person is guilty of bribery, a
     felony of the third degree, if he offers, confers or agrees to
     confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept
     from another:
            (1)  any pecuniary benefit as consideration for the
        decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of
        discretion as a public servant, party official or voter by
        the recipient;
            (2)  any benefit as consideration for the decision, vote,
        recommendation or other exercise of official discretion by
        the recipient in a judicial, administrative or legislative
        proceeding; or
            (3)  any benefit as consideration for a violation of a
        known legal duty as public servant or party official.
        (b)  Defenses prohibited.--It is no defense to prosecution
     under this section that a person whom the actor sought to
     influence was not qualified to act in the desired way whether
     because he had not yet assumed office, had left office, or
     lacked jurisdiction, or for any other reason.
She succeeded in having an elections judge prosecuted in the last election. What she apparently fails to realize is that the law applies to her, too 

Karma. 

I understand some candidates have pizza parties at petition signing events, but there is no quid pro quo. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Lynch Supporters Assail McClure Over Deputies and Gracedale

I've seen lots of low moments over the years in the course of covering Northampton County Council. This was especially true when Ron Angle and Charles Dertinger were on board.  Although the verbal abuse that Kerry Myers unleashed on Sheriff Rich Johnson pales in comparison to evenings in which Council members nearly came to blows, his behavior on Wednesday night was nevertheless the worst I've seen on Council in many years. Myers called it a "good meeting," but it was a disgrace that actually detracted from whatever message deputy sheriffs were trying to send. But Myers should be happy to know that his abuse was music to the ears of failed Exec candidate Steve Lynch and his minions. They appeared in force at last night's County Council meeting to praise Gracedale workers whose refusal to get vaccinated has resulted in residents sitting for hours in their own excrement. They also lavished praise on deputies who wanted to break up a pro-Trump demonstration outside the courthouse and bash in a head or two. They were prevented from doing so by a wiser and more professional Sheriff. 

There were eight speakers. The first of these was Benjy Jacques, a rabid Lynch supporter. He is trying to profit off disgruntled deputy sheriffs by selling a T-shirt stating "We the People Stand With Northampton County Sheriff Deputies." $30 a pop. He was followed by Gracedale workers who seemed to think Gracedale should shut down instead of firing them over their refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine. This mandate came, not from McClure, but the federal government.Had Gracedale refused to comply, it would lose all reimbursement from the feds and would have to close down. These anti-vaxers claimed that all the county cared about was the money.  Without that federal money, there'd be no nursing home. Those residents would get no care at all.  

One fired LPN, Shawanda Munola, said she had no sympathy for pregnant nurses who were struggling to keep up. But she insisted she had the right to refuse a vaccination. "My body, my choice,"  she said. 

I have to wonder how many residents her body and her choice killed. 

Steve Lynch, showman that he is, made sure he was the final speaker. Now, in addition to the Elections Officer and County Exec, he is calling Sheriff Richard Johnson a liar.  He claimed his motives were apolitical,  and then took a shot at McClure for refusing to debate him. 

Steve Lynch can find a liar by looking in a mirror. I'm sure he has plenty of them.  

When it washis turn to speak, McClure refused to respondto the Lynch mob.

NorCo Council Considers Studies for Gracedale, Salaries and IT

Northampton County's Governance Committee, chaired by Lori Vargo-Heffner, met late Thursday afternoon to discuss a Gracedale operational assessment, a pay study and a review of county IT. Late last year, County Council set aside $450,000 to fund this work. "We're a kinder, gentler committee," said Vargo-Heffner, in a thinly disguised rebuke of Kerry "This is my committee" Myers  and his antics at another committee hearing the day before. 

Gracedale Operational Assessment. - County Council heard from Chase Cannon, the Exec Director of the Pa Coalition of Affiliated Healthcare and Living Communities. This represents all the nursing homes within the state.  He made some very interesting observations concerning the long-term viability of all nursing homes, not just Gracedale.

First, he noted a "huge funding gap" between the cost of care and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates. It's about $1.1 billion at Pa. nursing homes. He indicated that Governor Tom Wolf has made an effort to get some of that money, but it's fall short of what is needed. The industry is lobbying for a substantial increase in the reimbursement rate. 

Second, he indicated there needs to be a hard look at staffing. He noted that nursing homes are simply unable to compete with facilities offering $27,000 signing bonuses to nurses.  So he indicated that there should be other ways to attract staff.by improving the work environment. "What do your break rooms look like? Is there consideration given to breaks during the work shift? What sort of comradery and staff morale is there in the facility? How do you improve that?" He indicated that imporvements in the work environment can sometimes offset the smaller salaries. 

Cannon listed specific things like daycare and education, both of which are already being pushed at Gracedale. 

Third, Cannon indicated that, on the administrative side, there should be an examination of the bad debt ratio. Residents considered unqualified for Medicaid  and written off as bad debts are often actually qualified. 

Fourth, in response to questions by Council member John Cusick, Cannon indicated that the standard of care is moving to two beds per room instead of the four at Gracedale. "You probably should start moving in that direction now," he warned. 

Fifth, Cannon cautioned that hours of nursing care required for each resident on a daily basis, known as PPD, is going to be increased sharply. Currently, the state requirement is 2.7 hours of nursing care for each resident every day. That is expected to go up to 4.1. Gracedale is struggling to maintain a 2/45 PPD and has had to reduce its census. 

Based on Cannon's input, Council will begin preparing what is known as a request for proposals (RFP), giving nursing home consultants an opportunity to analyze how or if the home can be improved. Vargo-Heffner suggested an employee survey as well. 

She is asking Council members to some up with suggestions for an RFP by April 1, and Council will vote on it at their April 7 meeting. 

Pay Study. - The Governance Committee also considered seeking out someone with the expertise to study salaries. John Cusick indicated that whomever does this work should be asked to update the Hay study completed when John Stoffa was Exec. Cusick may be unaware of this, but that study only dealt with career service (nonunion) salaries. 

Cusick indicated that the study should include a comparison of the salaries paid in other third class counties for equivalent jobs, like corrections officer or deputy sheriff.  

IT Study - Tom Giovanni, who has some expertise in computerland, is spearhesding the RFP for IT. Council is mostly concerned about IT improvements within Council chambers.I believethe UIT reeview should be far more expansive and should consider the advisability of an internal IT department.  . 


Thursday, March 17, 2022

NorCo Deputy Sheriffs and Myers Slam Sheriff and McClure Admin

Last night, NorCo Deputy Sheriffs blasted the Lamont McClure administration at a council committee hearing.  Brendan Hetherman, President of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, gave a lengthy presentation of numerous grievances. Council member Kerry Myers allowed him to go well beyond the five minutes ordinarily afforded to a speaker during courtesy of the floor. Several deputies agreed that he was speaking for them all. Deputies have their own union, and their contract has expired. They are in the middle of negotiating a new deal. Sheriff Richard Johnson responded to many of the complaints, but was unable to address negotiations or personnel matters. County Council, with the glaring exception of Kerry Myers, was respectful to both Deputy Hetherman and the Sheriff. Myers was incensed at the Sheriff because he refused to allow deputies to quell a disturbance outside the courthouse between Trump supporters and opponents following the 2020 Presidential election. 

Myers said he wished that McClure's cabinet, which includes the Sheriff, had to come before Council for re-appointment. "I'd have a hard time taking orders from this guy [Sheriff Johnson]," said Myers. He went on to claim that Johnson should have sent deputies to aid a young black man who was filming Trump supporters outside the courthouse following the Presidential election. They were yelling "Trump! Trump! Trump!" in his face and waving those ubiquitous flags. They were armed with a loudspeaker, but nothing else.  

The chief complaint made by deputies is that, though they are uniformed and armed, they have no law enforcement powers. This is nothing new. They have been told this numerous times and by multiple authorities. The Pa Supreme Court has ruled they can only make arrests for disturbing the peace or a felony committed in their presence.John Morganelli, when he was DA, reached the same conclusion. So has the current DA, Terry Houck. Sheriff Richard Johnson and his predecessor, David Dalrymple, were fully aware that their law enforcement powers are very limited. But deputies are insulted when unable to start their own investigations and make their own arrests. 

Though it's ancient history, the protest outside the rotunda of the courthouse is a sore sport with them. A large number of deputies are usually congregated at the courthouse entrance to search visitors. They could see clearly that there was quite a bit of friction as a Presidential election hung in the balance. 

According to Deputy Hetherman, one protester was punched by another. He claimed Easton police had an officer present, and that officer sought their assistance. The Sheriff, however, refused to allow them to jump into the melee. 

Deputy Hetherman failed to state whether he personally witnessed anyone being struck or is just relying on what he was told second and third hand.    

Sheriff Johnson was there. He was in the rotunda and saw the mob. He saw no assault. He concluded that both the filmographer and flag-waving Trump supporters had the right to do what they were doing. He refused to allow deputies, who have little experience dealing with demonstrations, to intervene. 

I happened to be at a portion of that protest myself. What I witnessed was mostly a shouting match between Joe Welsh, a far left Democrat, and Tom Carroll, a far-right Republican. When I stepped inside the courthouse, several deputies complained that they were prevented from maintaining the peace. I saw no assault. Not even close. 

What I witnessed was raucous democracy. Armed deputies would have only exacerbated the frayed nerves of Trumpers insisting the election had been stolen. Sheriff Johnson, unlike most deputies, has had considerable experience as a police officer in New York. He made the right call. The proof that he was right is that the disturbance ended peacefully. 

Myers, upon hearing the irrelevant detail that the videographer was black, began making KKK analogies  He said Johnson should have sent deputies to protect someone who was never assaulted. He also insisted that Johnson should have listened to his less experienced deputies who were itching to play cop and possibly expose the county to liability.  

Myers went on to claim "I think my life would be in danger" if he followed Johnson's orders. 

"That's an outrageous statement," responded McClure. "No one's life is in danger.... None of the management decisions that were questioned tonight put anyone's life in danger. It's an outrageous statement."  

McClure attempted to continue his response but was shut down by Myers.

"Stop! This is my meeting. I'm in charge. You can walk away frustrated and mad as hell as you do. I'm running this meeting. And as long as I'm the Chairman, I'll conduct it any way I want."

McClure walked out.  

Myers said he was upset because deputy concerns are being unheard. I suspect, however, that he only became upset after learning that the person who was filming Trump supporters happened to be black. 

A few weeks ago, Myers was angry at County Council for tabling the appointment of  a Congresswoman Susan Wild staffer to the Elections Commission. They were concerned that this would create the appearance of a conflict of interest because Wild is seeking re-election. Myers was incensed because the nominee happened to be black, something that most Council members did not know. "If you want to go down that road, be my guest. But be prepared to take the heat for it," he threatened.

Myers, who incessantly plays the race card, appears to be a bigot. 

This little drama certainly served as entertainment for the numerous deputy sheriffs at last night;'s meeting. But it detracted from their message. 

Deputy Hetherman had complaints in addition to his belief that the Sheriff should ignore the state supreme court and allow them to prowl highways and byways, making arrests that will eventually be quashed. 

He  also claims there is a manpower shortage. Sheriff Johnson agrees that 30 deputies and two lieutenants have left during his tenure. He has hired 26 deputies, promoted four lieutenants and five sergeants. He said there are eight FT vacancies, but about 28 hopefuls will be taking the physical agility tests next week.. He added that he allowed three full-time deputies to go part-time so that he could still get coverage. 

According to Deputy Hetherman, these temporary manpower shortages have resulted in mandates. This is likely because deputies are being forced to transport state prisoners. According to Sheriff Johnson, the state is expected to resume its own transport soon. This will alleviate the burden on deputies.

Sheriff Johnson said he is current with concealed carry permits and credited two clerks for doing most of the work and keeping the county up to date. Hetherman complained that there should be more deputies instead of clerks. 

Deputy Hetherman also complained that McClure used the Sheriff's office as a "private police force" to deal with failed Exec candidate Steve Lynch. He said the county goes on "high alert" whenever  Lynch is at the courthouse and indicated there was no need to send them to school board meetings after Lynch threatened to remove school directors with 20 strong men,   

Hetherman also admitted he himself is a Lynch supporter and claimed he's been targeted for expressing his beliefs. 

God help us. 

Johnson noted his department is currently working on its fourth accreditation. 

There are supposed to be 56 approved deputy positions. 

Myers owes an apology to Sheriff Johnson. Nobody deserves that kind of abuse. McClure is often accused of being a bully. The only bully I saw was Myers. 

In addition to the concerns raised by deputies, Council was also informed of an alarming shortage of youth care workers at the Juvenile Justice Center by Court Administrator Jermaine Greene. He said they are underpaid and has no time to wait for a pay study that is always discussed but never performed.  I will fill you in ion what he has to say tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Kiosks Replacing Town Crier in Houston.

All Lehigh Valley Mayors and Execs have communications officers whose job is to inform the public. This has become especially important now that daily newspapers are declining and rarely attend (or even watch) most municipal meetings. In addition to news releases, there are always promises of Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter posts. Most of the time, those posts are unseen and unread. I do watch mu
nicipal meetings on Youtube. There's very little interaction with the public unless some hot-button issue arises. And then, it's never clear if the people speaking are just some vocal minority or really represent the views of the public at large.  Recently, Houston came up with an idea that permits local government to interact with the public - kiosks

Each kiosk will be a WiFi hotspot that works up to 75' away. That's something many members of the public will appreciate. There will be pockets of Internet access throughout the city. 

The kiosk also will provide information to the public. In NorCo, for example, information regarding COVID-19 testing sites could be posted. Information concerning job openings or taxes could be programmed. It could possibly be programmed to permit you to pay your tax bill. In the event of a severe weather emergency, the kiosk could send out warnings. It also could help with directions and points of interest. 

In addition to permitting a municipality to speak to you, it could also be programmed so that you could complete surveys or post suggestions for improvement. 

In Northampton County, these kiosks would be most helpful in underserved areas like Bangor or Bethlehem's south side.   

Since NorCo is getting $30 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, this is something it should consider. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Joe Biden Was Right to Call Putin a Killer

Before Putin invaded Ukraine, Joe Biden answered "I do" when asked if he thought Vladimir Putin is a killer. It appears that facts (bombing of hospitals and civilian targets)  have shown Biden's assessment is accurate. 

Does Your Small Biz Need Some Cash?

"Beware the Ides of March!" is pretty good advice for everyone, preferably before you're stabbed in the back on your way to the Forum. If you're a small business owner in Northampton County, you should pay attention to March 31 as well. That's when applications for small business grants are due. 

To qualify, a business must (1) be located in Northampton County and (2) have fewer than 100 employees.

The grants can be used for rent, payroll and other operating expenses. That's pretty much it. 

These grants are eligible to all businesses, even those which previously received 2020 CARES Act funding through the Northampton County COVID-19 Relief Small Business Grant program. 

The maximum grant amount is $15,000 per business. That may not sound like much, but it kept several smaller businesses from going under during the pandemic.

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

https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CMTYECDV/Pages/Apply-for-Funding.aspx

https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/norcogrants.html

Monday, March 14, 2022

Mr. Toad is On The Loose - Upper Mount Bethel's Institute Road Partially Closed

Northampton County has issued a news release to warn that a portion of Institute Road, located in Upper Mount Bethel Tp, will be closed to automobiles for the next month or so. Officially, the reason for this is to protect frogs, toads and lizards who cross at night without looking both ways. That's garbage, As anyone who's read Wind in the Willows knows, the real reason is to protect the public from the entirely menacing antics of Mr. Toad. He lives in retirement along Institute Rd. He's a good-natured fellow, but has a rather nasty habit of stealing motorcars and then smashing them beyond recognition. He's squandered fis family fortune paying off multiple claims. 

Mr Toad had been serving a 20-year sentence imposed by Judge Morganelli, who described Mr. Toad as an "incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian whom we see cowering in the dock before us." Judge Morganelli told Mr. Toad that if he ever saw him again, on any charge whatsoever, he would deal with him very harshly.

Despite being hauled off by the myrmidons of the law, Mr., Toad was furloughed during the pandemic because of a warts outbreak at the jail.  

So the closure of Institute Road, ostensibly as a crossing for amphibians and  other creatures  who live in the nearby swamps, is actually intended to keep Mr. Toad away from cars. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

We Need to Open Our State Primaries

When Moses spent 40 years wandering through the desert, Exodus tells us that 70 elders assisted him in ruling those sometimes fractious Israelites. They apparently had a nasty habit of worshipping golden calves. We're much more sophisticated. We just worship gold. This biblical story is what underlies the strangely named Committee of Seventy, a Philly-based good government organization. It's had success in preventing Philadelphia pols from golden calf worship with a reform of campaign finance spending, at least in the promised land of Philadelphia. Now it's aim is at our closed primaries. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are actually eight different kinds of primary elections 

1) Pennsylvania is one of just nine states who conduct closed primaries. Those are elections in which you must be a member of the political party in which candidates seek a party nomination. An Independent or Democrat, for example, is unable to vote in a Republican primary.

2) Six states conduct partially closed primaries in which parties are given the option of enfranchising unaffiliated voters, while still denying a vote to members of an opposing party.   

3) Another six states conduct partially open primaries. In these elections, voters may cross party lines, but are automatically registered with the party when voting.  

4) Nine states allow unaffiliated open primaries. In these elections, an unaffiliated voter can vote in a Democratic or Republican primary. Voters already registered with one party are denied the right to vote in another party's primary. 

5) There are 15 pure open primary states. In these elections, a voter can decide to vote in a Democratic or Republican primary, regardless of his own political affiliation,. 

6) Top Two primaries exist in California and Washington. All candidates running for an office are listed on the ballot, regardless of party. The top two vote getters face off in the general.  (In Alaska, it is a top four election). 

7) Lousiana has no primary. All candidates seeking an office are listed together, regardless of affiliation. If no one gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff is held six weeks later. 

8) Nebraska conducts nonpartisan primaries for the state legislature in which the party identity is actually removed from the candidate's name. The top two face off in the general. 

In 2019,  the Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill providing for unaffiliated open primaries. The Bill would allow the state's unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections as a Democrat or Republican. Voters already registered with a party would be restricted to that party. This bill died in the state house. 

If independents were allowed to vote primaries, this would enfranchise 1 million people.  Former LV Congressman Charlie Dent observes that our closed primary system "guarantees that fewer voters participate, elections are less competitive and, ultimately, political polarization is reinforced, contributing to legislative gridlock and hampering good governance."

Parties tend to nominate the extremes on the left and right even though most f us are in the middle. We need to change this.

Dent  and former State Rep TJ Rooney will be participating in  a breakfast discussion of this issue on March 21. If I can get up, I'll be there.  

If we had unaffiliated open primaries in this state, I and I suspect many others would register as what we truly are - independents. 


Thursday, March 10, 2022

Why I Refuse to Attend Steve Lynch's Latest Dog-and-Pony Show

Last year, before Steve Lynch his NorCo Exec campaign, I reached out to him. I warned him that we are o on opposite poles ideologically, but I wanted to give him an opportunity to talk about his race and the county. He was genial and agreed he would call me in a few days to chat. Instead, he blocked me  from his Facebook page. He later would block me from even his campaign page. The only reason I was able to inform you about some of his rants is that astonished readers would send them to me. Some of my readers now are telling me that Lynch called me out on Monday, daring me to attend a news conference he's scheduled for today. He also apparently taunted a reporter from Lehigh Valley Live.

I hate to break it to you, but that's hardly the way to pay attention. Last night, I was informed this news conference would be at Gracedale today at 1 pm, apparently to stand up for county employees and residents "who have been decimated by this corrupt McClure administration." 

I won't be there. 

There is no county institution that receives more scrutiny than Gracedale. It is subjected to oversight by an Administrator, the Executive, County Council, and Advisory Board, the state Department of Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. County Council holds monthly hearings on Gracedale. with the latest one being last week and reported on by this blog. 

We are all aware it is understaffed and has been for some time. We are well aware that the nursing care provided is below the state minimum, and that the home is actually reducing census so it can meet care standards with a reduced staff. We also all know that Gracedale also lost staff as a result of the vaccine mandate imposed by the feds. This will reduce the home';s ability to break even, so as I suggested last week, it is time to evaluate the long-term viability of the home. It is simply unable to compete with very high wages paid to nurses in the private sector.

If Lynch had something to say, he could address County Council during courtesy of the floor. There are four Republicans on Council, so there'd be no whitewashing of any problems. But he'd rather hold a dog-and-pony show on the Gracedale campus and accomplish nothing. 

Lynch has called McClure corrupt and has claimed the election was fraudulent. He was going to get a lawyer to sue everyone, even the post office. He's done nothing other than rant while driving.

Beverly Hernandez is herself a former Gracedale employee and is active in Republican party politics. She describes Lynch as "an angry man with a spirit of rebellion dominating him" who targets "anyone who stands in his march towards fame and power." She notes his use of "goons who surround him like a personal secret service ... ."

In short, he's a demagogue. 

Having said this, I'd be tempted to attend his presser except for one thing.  At his last news conference, which was also held at Gracedale, he refused to take questions. 

He wants to expose Gracedale but hates it when he himself is scrutinized. 

NorCo Elections Chief Resigns, Will Work For Senator Bob Casey

Northampton County's Election Chief, Amy Cozze, is resigning. Today is her last day. She has accepted an offer to work as the Lehigh Valley Regional Manager for US Senator Bob Casey. 

Cozze is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Business Administration.  In the private sector, she worked at Deerfoot Auto Parts, a successful family-owned auto recycling and service business located in Wind Gap. She also started and managed her own cake bakery in Nazareth.

 In 2018, Cozze mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the state house against incumbent Joe Emrick. After that loss, she complained she was without health insurance. Executive Lamont McClure offered her a job with the county administration. 

She threw herself into elections. She was instrumental in the selection of the Express Vote XL after , visiting precincts and speaking to voters. She organized a voter outreach program in which the new system was demonstrated at over 20 locations. Only Philadelphia could match this effort to inform the public. When County Council wanted to see how this system worked in Delaware, she spent the entire day at the Diamond State, visiting precincts and speaking to voters. When problems arose in Northampton County's first use of this system, Cozze is one of a handful of county workers who worked 35 hours straight to make sure the votes were counted properly. 

In 2020, she took over the Elections Office as Registrar. In addition to successfully lobbying for e-pollbooks, she began a thorough training job for elections judges and pollworkers. She prepared an extensive handbook for pollworkers at the precincts, answering most questions that could arise at the polls. Under her leadership, the office also expanded in size

She (and her office) essentially manage three elections every Spring and Fall.  First, there are the controversial Mail-in Ballots, which have been highly controversial. Second, there's the election day polls in the middle of a pandemic. Third, she's also administered early voting at the courthouse. 

Cozze did her job despite occasional attacks from members of the Elections Commission. She had to endure the abuse of sore loser Steve Lynch, who stated several times that she was dishonest and corrupt. Moreover, she and her office endured numerous epithets from unhappy Trump voters during and after the Presidential. In addition to rather ugly letters from some voters, she and her office endured threats. On one occasion, her office received an envelope with white powder. The office had to be swept for chemical contaminants. According to Executive Lamont McClure, that incident was turned over to the Sheriff's office for investigation. 

Cozze endured this abuse with aplomb, and her office was always the first or near the first in reporting returns to the state ion election night. It was common for her and her Deputy, Amy Hess, to work 30 hours straight to ensure that results were tabulated and reported promptly. 

She now joins in the exodus of elections workers throughout the country. According to a poll conducted in 2021, one of three elections workers feels unsafe. One of five has been threatened as a result of baseless accusations and wild conspiracy theories fomented by sore losers like Steve Lynch. 

In addition to the abuse from the outside, Cozze complained that the McClure administration did nothing to help her. She noted her office works out of five different rooms on four floors, to say nothing of the warehouse at the Gracedale campus.She also complained she was muzzled,unable to speak to County Council members or the press without approval. "Nobody was looking out for us," she laments. "I had no idea they had such disregard for human capital."

Cozze has been at odds with the McClure administration over a two-step increase she insists was promised to her. When she learned that it was denied, she sent a letter resigning her post just 10 days before the election. She rescinded her resignation after Council member Lori Vargo Heffner stepped in and promised she would get her a two-step raise in a budget amendment. 

McClure would actually go on to veto that raise, which was subsequently overridden by Council.  

Needless to say, Cozze was unhappy. 

For his part, Lamont McClure denied that he ever told her to lie to anyone or that he muzzled her. He did note that protocol does require that media inquiries go through the administration. He added that the county took the white powder incident very seriously. 

He praised the work Cozze did, but added that the county has been running elections for hundreds of years without Cozze and will continue to do so without her.  

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Rising Gas Prices Have Nothing to Do With Biden

Yesterday, in response to this blog (lol), President Joe Biden announced he was banning all oil imported from Russia. In the comments section, I was deluged with comments insisting that Biden has slowed oil and gas production. He killed the Keystone Pipeline, some say, even though Trump himself acknowledged that its completion would only have a minimal effect on prices at the pump.

While Biden has committed numerous blunders during his first year in office, he is by no means responsible for the rising gasoline prices at the pump.  Yesterday, a White House fact sheet and Biden himself responded to what are obviously partisan attempts to lay the blame at his doorstep.  

"U.S. oil and gas production is approaching record highs, while thousands of drilling permits on federal lands go unused. Federal policies are not limiting the production of oil and gas. To the contrary, the Biden Administration has been clear that in the short-term, supply must keep up with demand, at home and around the world while we make the shift to a secure clean energy future. We are one of the world’s largest producers with a strong domestic oil and gas industry. Natural gas production has never been higher, and crude oil production is expected to hit a new high next year. Oil and gas companies, and the finance firms that back them, should not use Putin’s war as an excuse for excess price increases or padding profits, and, as major energy company leaders have themselves said, they have the resources and incentives they need to further increase production in the United States."

Yo be sure, we could easily produce all the oil we need from our own reserves. Yet, we are a net importer of oil, with about seven per cent coming from Russia. Why have we imported oil when our own reserves could make us self-sufficient? Cost. The cost of extracting those reserves is more expensive than the imported oil. That;s the real reason why the Keystone Pipeline was dead before Biden assumed office. It's why the fracking industry had gone tets up. 

Now that the cost of importing oil is rising, it's clear some of those thousands of drilling permits will get used. This has nothing to do with Biden and everything to do with supply and demand, which is supposed to be a cherished principle of capitalists. 

At the same time, we really need to rethink the way we use energy. The way we use fossil fuel is poisoning our planet. I am also well aware that solar and wind energy are weather-dependent. Nuclear fission can be dangerous. 

As a matter of national security, we should be devoting a great deal of research into nuclear fusion as an energy source. Nuclear fusion is what powers the sun. In the plasma core, four hydrogen atoms fuse into one helium atom. In the process, a massive amount of energy is released.  

If we can harness this kind of energy, it would be clean and there'd be no danger of meltdowns or radioactive waste.  Thus far, the amount of energy needed to create fusion exceeds the energy produced. 

Britain and France have had breakthroughs in harnessing this form of energy. China appears to be closer than anyone. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Fed Ed, Allinson Convictions Upheld

 In a 27-page opinion issued late Friday, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal by former Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski from his 2018 corruption conviction. Pouring salt into the wound, the second highest court in this country also upheld the 15-year sentence imposed.  This is basically the end of the road for him. He can seek a review by the US Supreme Court, but those are very rarely granted.  

Here's what the Court concluded:

The Government’s case against Pawlowski was strong. Its evidence showed a man eager to influence and be influenced if it would help him fund his political campaigns. While we acknowledge the practical realities of public office, the jury was entitled to find that Pawlowski’s conduct—that is, his promises and efforts to perform specific official favors in exchange for donations—crossed into the criminal. We agree that his sentence was quite substantial. But seeing no error, we affirm. 

You can read the Opinion yourself below: 

Third Circuit Denies Fed Ed... by BernieOHare

In addition to  shooting down Pawlowski's appeal, the Court also denied a companion appeal by Scott Allinson, an attorney who was willing to hand out campaign cash in exchange for legal work from the City. You can read the Allinson Opinion here

Allinson will now have to return to federal prison to serve out his sentence. 



Monday, March 07, 2022

We Need to Sanction Russian Oil

 Republicans and Democrats are both pushing for a ban on oil imports from Russia. This will drive the cost of gas up at the pumps, but will deprive Putin of resources needed to kill Ukranians. I believe a human life matters more than a cheap gas price. 

NorCo Wants to Liquidate All Assets Linked to Russia

 Last Thursday, Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure informed County Council that, just as soon as Russian markets re-open, he has directed that all holdings linked to Russia in the county's pension funds must be liquidated. 

While I completely agree that pension funds linked to Russia should be sold, I am really bothered that McClure is making this call without the assent of the Retirement Board. He refused to grant a COLA to retirees until January of this year because he needed the Retirement Board to make that call. The Retirement Board should also be the body that dumps Russian stocks, if there are any. 

Lynch Running for NorCo GOP Chair

Steve Lynch is the former Northampton County Exec candidate who argued incorrectly that the COVID-19 vaccine alters your DNA. His kookiness drew national ridicule when he threatened to bring 20 strong men to a school board meeting to remove directors over a mask mandate. Now he's running to take over control of the NorCo GOP party. I certainly hope so. 

The current party chair is Gloria "General Lee" Snover. She was among those who were at least present during the January 6 attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol.  She incorrectly told WLVR that she had as much right to be inside Congress as then VP Mike Pence.  He was legally required to be there to accept the certification of President Biden's election. Last time I checked, she was neither VP or a member of Congress.  She then appeared on some right wing podcast being broadcast from somewhere in the deep South to proclaim she had a new litmus test for NorCo Republicans. They have to believe in the "deep state" nonsense and that there was widespread election fraud in the last Presidential. So Steve Lynch should be her kind of guy. 

I have no idea whether she wants to remain at the helm of her party or whether she's finally realized that her polarized views just turn people off. 

I know one Republican who is turned off by Lynch. Beverly Hernandez is a retired Gracedale employee who was a long-time member of the League of Women Voters. She was a John Brown supporter and I saw her at Steve Lynch''s Executive announcement on a frigid January afternoon in 2021.

His antics have apparently turned her off. On her Facebook page, she refers to him as someone who thinks "success comes with his presence alone." She states he received votes "not because he was the best choice nut he was the only conservative choice. I know quite a few who chose not to vote." 

He seems perfect to me. 

Friday, March 04, 2022

It's Time to Consider the Long-Term Viability of Gracedale

At yesterday's Human Services Committee meeting, Executive Lamont McClure reported on two matters that make the long-term viability of Gracedale, the county's nursing home, very questionable. 

First, he noted that the state Department of Health told a state senate committee yesterday that it intends to require that nursing homes provide a minimum of 4.1 hours of nursing care daily for each resident. This is referred to as PPD. Last year, McClure actually testified against increasing it. Though this is completely inconsistent with providing adequate care to the elderly, McClure was concerned that such an increase would result in no care at all. Gracedale would undoubtedly be forced to close.

Second, McClure reported that AFSCME, the bargaining unit representing LPNs and CNs, has just rejected an offer of a 2 step salary increase and 2.5% over three years  with no increase in health care costs. "I promise you money is not the issue at Gracedale," he insists. Council member Kerry Meyers agreed. "We're wearing what we got out," he said, in an inartful way of saying employees are burnt out/ 

I'd argue the reverse and that the increase offered is actually insulting and below the cost of inflation. Council member John Goffredo believes, like myself, that money is very much the issue. He noted that the hourly rate for an RN at Gracedale is about a third of what it is in the private sector. 

McClure has previously argued that public facilities like Gracedale rely on Medicaid for most of its revenue, and this provides the lowest reimbursement. In other words, Gracedale would need a county taxpayer contribution to stay afloat if salaries increased. 

Administrator Jennifer Stewart King told County Council that the census continues to drop. It was 468 in December and 454 in January. This is intentional. A lower census makes it more likely that the nursing home will meet the 2.7 hours of daily nursing care for each resident. But even with the reduction in resident numbers, Gracedale is still below that magic 2.7. It hovered between 2.45 and 2.6 in January.       

Stewart King herself sounded a bit stressed. "For two years, we were hailed as heroes, and now we're not," she complained. She added it's impossible to plan long-term because of constant policy changes. One federal standard change might prohibit four residents in a room, which would require changes at the nursing home. 

Cunty Council also discussed a salary, IT and Gracedale study. It appears to be unready to issue a Request for Proposals and Qualifications. 

Council members John Brown and Kevin Lott were absent from the meeting. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

How Long Will Zelensky Survive?

Ukranian officials state they've eliminated a Chechen hit squad intent on assassinating President Volodomyr Zelensky. Its hard to know whether this report is true or propaganda, but one thing is very clear. Those who've opposed Vladimir Putin have a funny way of ending up dead. No doubt Zelensky has heard this. His decision to remain in Kyiv has made him an international hero, but I have to wonder how long before he becomes a dead hero.