Friday, April 29, 2022

Lehigh County DA Has a Warning For Ballot Harvesters

Don't do it or you'll be prosecuted. That's my summary of a warning Lehigh County DA Jim Martin issued to ballot harvesters yesterday.

Until recently, the only way would you could vote was in person, at your designated polling pl;ace, on election day. There were exceptions for voters who were ill or outside the precinct. They could vote by absentee ballot. That was pretty much it. 

This all changed in 2019. State lawmakers, who incidentally had a Republican majority, changed the Election Code to vastly expand voting opportunities. In addition to the traditional in-person vote, they permitted no-excuse mail-in ballots. They also provided for early voting at the elections office. They even authorized satellite offices, which the state supreme court interpreted to embrace unmanned drop boxes. 

These changes have made it easier to vote. It's too soon to say whether more people will actually vote, but that certainly seems to be the case so far. 

It's logical to conclude that, when you expand voting opportunities, you also increase the potential for mischief. So far, despite the claims of conspiracy theorists, there's been no evidence of widespread voting fraud. But there has been evidence of numerous instances of voters who are dropping off more than one ballot at drop boxes. While this is likely someone dropping off the votes of a family member, there is a potential for ballot harvesting. 

While the law permits mail-in ballots and provides for drop boxes, you may only drop off your own ballot. There is an exception if you have a disability. You can authorize someone in writing to drop off your ballot for you.. . 

At the request of Lehigh County's Elections Board, DA Martin assigned detectives to perform the laborious task of reviewing the video of the five drop box location to see if there was any evidence of people dropping off multiple ballots. 

There was. 

Martin's detectives watched the video of 4,026 voters who dropped off ballots, and determined that at least 288 (7.1%) deposited more than one ballot. Very few could be identified. 

Martin's investigation revealed that there were 14,833 mail-in ballots deposited in the mail, not drop boxes. There is no video surveillance at most mailboxes. 

In a report to Lehigh County's Elections Board in early April, DA  Martin concluded that there were multiple violations of the Election Code's proscription against dropping off ballots for other voters, even a spouse. He notes that the best way to prevent this from happening is to have an elections official at the drop box location to receive the vote. Frankly, I believe that was the intention of the law as written because it refers to these as satellite offices. I believe there's a presumption that an office is manned.

Martin declined to prosecute the few voters whom detectives could identify because it would be unfair and unjust. In most cases, only two ballots were dropped off, indicating a spouse or household member. Moreover, there was no surveillance of mail boxes, where it's logical to conclude that multiple ballots were mailed. He noted that Governor Wolf's wife dropped off his ballot, and she was never prosecuted. He also noted that detectives found no "smoking gun", i.e. a party apparatchik dropping off numerous ballots. 

But if you're thinking you can drop off someone else's ballot without facing the consequences, think again. 

In a news release issued yesterday, Martin stated he will assign detectives to monitor the video at drop boxes during the primary. If anyone drops off ore than one ballot, he warns that person could be prosecuted for violating the Election Code. This could result in jail time of two years and/or a $2500 fine. 

Martin is also recommending that elections officials have better warnings at drop boxes and that they reduce the hours of operation. 

Martin's position on drop boxes is supported by his counterpart in Northampton County, District Attorney Terry Houck. "If there is a complaint or suspicion of voter fraud, it must be investigated," he states. He adds, however, that proving that a violation occurred would be very difficult based solely on video.  "If there is evidence of criminal conduct, I will be all over it," he says, but warns against injecting politics into prosecutorial decisions.

The standard of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The District Attorney;s Office traditionally gets involved in allegations of criminality in elections when there is a referral from the elections board. In the past, Martin has prosecuted an election judge who altered ballots and Houck has prosecuted a candidate over nomination petitions.  

(Updated 6;36 am)

Steve Lynch For NorCo GOP Chair

Steve Lynch has blocked me from his Facebook page, but thanks to a friend, I was able to take a deep dive down his rabbit hole yesterday. As of 10 pm, he had already posted three Facebook live videos. All of them were shot while he's driving. But yesterday was a big day for him. You see, he was on his way to the a Northampton County Republican Committee meeting, where he's running to become Chair. And I sincerely hope he gets it. He's worked hard for it, and I think his position as party boss would have a big impact on county Republicans. 

Among the things I learned from him yesterday are the following: (1) the vaccine is a poison. (2) The federal government is spraying something in the sky, so there's no such thing as climate change. (3) Democrats believe in infanticide. "They believe in murdering children." (4) The pandemic was planned by the government so it can control us. It was a medical scam. The evidence is there and you're an idiot if you don't accept this as gospel. (5) Pa-7 Congressional candidate Kevin Dellicker is a liar. (6) Mail-in voting is unconstitutional, and he will fix the system as party chair. (7) The Democratic party is progressive Communists (8) Facebook is interfering with his live videos and making him sound like Robocop. (9)  The January 6 attempted coup at the capitol was staged, a "plansurrection." "You're a fool if you still want to hold on to your jaded view of what really took place. A desperate fool."

He's got quite a following. One of them is fired Gracedale employee Stacy Soldo, who would like to hang me by my balls for some reason. 

After spending most of the day listening to his videos, followed by a shower, my conclusion is that Lynch is just the man to lead county Republicans for the foreseeable future.   

Thursday, April 28, 2022

You Can Be a Hypermiler, Too!

Steve Thode has been the Lehigh Valley's COVID-19 analyst for this blog. He kept track of the data, and his only commentary related to the quality of the data being provided by the state. He did a far better job than I saw at any news source. That's no surprise. I intend no insult to reporters, but Steve is by training a numbers cruncher. He takes that same analytic approach to driving as well. 

For as long as they've existed, Americans have had a love affair with their cars. So yesterday, when I suggested that we should make an effort to stay out of them one day a week to reduce demand for fuel, I got a lot of negative feedback.  Steve, however, sent me his own tips on fuel economy, and I thougfht I'd share them with you.   

Now you are in my wheelhouse. More than one person besides my wife accuses me of being a "hypermiler" - someone who tries to squeeze as many miles out of a gallon of gas as possible. I drive a mid-sized hybrid SUV that weighs more than 5,000 pounds with two adult occupants. Overall, I'm getting about 36 MPG by following a few simple rules. You can check it out here:


Here are some tips for improving fuel economy:

1) Slow Down!

Judging from our many highway trips to visit family in Virginia, Harrisburg and Delaware, it would appear that most drivers in this region of the country are QAnon global warming deniers. Although the posted speed limits on limited-access highways are generally 55 MPH most places (some Interstates like I-78 are 65 MPH for some, but not all, stretches; the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike is posted at 70 MPH), drivers speeding at well over the posted limit are the rule rather than the exception. Driving at a high speed severely reduces fuel economy. Driving at a constant 55 MPH will yield an MPG 15-25% higher than driving 65 or 75. Sadly, in PA (thanks to our enlightened elected representatives) speeding tickets are seldom issued to a driver unless they are driving at more than 10 MPH over the posted limit - even in construction zones. That's why drivers on 22 can happily zip along at 65 MPH with no fear of a citation;

2) Combine Trips

Short trips are a real killer for mileage since it takes time for the engine to reach operating temperature. Make a list of errands you will run during a given week and combine as many you can into one or two trips. Also, run errands when traffic is likely to be lighter;

3) Don't Race From Stoplight to Stoplight

Zooming from stoplight (or stop sign) to the next reduces fuel economy and is harder on your brakes. If you are approaching a stoplight or stop sign, let up on the gas and coast until it is necessary to apply the brakes. In many cases, that red light will have turned green by the time you get to it;

4) Accelerate Appropriately

If you are merging onto a heavily traveled highway, of course you want to accelerate to the speed limit as soon as possible. However, when highway traffic is light, or on city streets, accelerate more gradually. If you can keep the engine from revving above 2,000 RPMs, your mileage will be much better;

5) Get Rid of Excess Weight

Not talking about going on a diet, although that will help a little. Empty unnecessary stuff from your trunk and back seats;

6) Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated

There is a sticker on the driver's door frame that indicates the correct tire pressure for your vehicle. Make sure your tires are inflated to that pressure. Underinflated tires reduce mileage and will cause premature wear of your tires;

7) Avoid Aggressive Driving

Don't be a dick. Weaving in and out of lanes to get a car or two ahead and tailgating lower fuel economy significantly. And, are the cause of many accidents. Chill out and you are much more likely to get to your destination in one piece. With better MPG!

Steve

Footnote:

You and I well remember the oil embargo of 1973-74 and the resulting long lines at gas stations. We also remember Congress passing the "Double-Nickel" law lowering the posted speed limit on all Interstates to 55 MPH. That went into effect in March 1974.

Here's my story. I arrived at my permanent duty station (Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson) shortly before Christmas 1973. After in-processing, I was told to report for training the Monday after Christmas. That gave me a week to spend with my parents in Las Cruces, NM, and without taking leave!

Davis-Monthan to my parents' house was about 280 miles - practically all of it on I-10. I had a small car at the time, but it also had a small gas tank (about 12 gallons). Driving at my customary 65-70 MPH, I got around 20-22 MPG.

That was a problem since I would not be able to make it all the way back to Tucson on a single tank of gas. And, I would be driving back on a Sunday when (due to the embargo) virtually all gas stations were closed. So, I purchased a 2.5 gallon gas can, and filled my car's tank and the gas can on the Saturday before I was leaving. I also made the painful decision to keep my speed at 55 MPH even though the "Double Nickel" was not yet the law.

Painful because that 280 mile stretch of I-10 is mainly straight, level and desolate. There are only five towns between Las Cruces and Tucson (Deming and Lordsburg, NM; and, Bowie, Willcox and Benson, AZ). It's a really boring drive at 65 or 70. Really, really boring at 55.

However, I soldiered on at 55 MPH the entire way. Much to my surprise, I arrived back at Davis-Monthan with almost a quarter of a tank of gas remaining. And, the 2.5 gallon gas can still full. I figure I got about 28 MPG.

I've never forgotten that trip, or, how much better my mileage was at 55 instead of 65 or 70. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How to Reduce Gas Prices

Pennsylvania already has the highest gas tax in the nation. This is regressive as it hits those with low incomes much harder than the more affluent. As bad as that has been, prices at the pump have skyrocketed since Biden assumed office. The Ukraine war has made things worse. Republican pundits finger Biden.  Democratic pundits blame Putin. I blame us. We're the ones who insist on driving everywhere, even if it's three feet away. I am amazed by the daily line of cars waiting on Rte 191 every morning, guzzling gas and spewing carbon while waiting for an injection of caffeine and fat. I listened politely a few months ago when one of these patrons, who works at the courthouse, complained. I think he blamed that on Biden, too. Wonder how he'd feel if he was spending his nights underground, like many Ukranians.  

Face it, we're a nation full of entitled, selfish people. Our so-called leaders, whom we incidentally elect, are clowns. I voted yesterday, but it was pretty much a blank ballot. Ironically, in Ukraine, the clown (a former comedian) has turned out to be a leader who shames everyone. 

Here's what I'd suggest. Americans should be asked to forego driving, except for essential business, one day a week. If you have to commute to get to work, fine. If you need to see a doctor, fine. If you want to attend church, fine. This would be strictly voluntary. We could easily reduce our reliance on foreign and even domestic oil by periodically walking, taking a bus, riding an ebike. 

Suggestions? 


If we reduce demand, prices will drop. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

UPDATED: Early Voting Has Begun

If you are leery of a mail-in ballot but have no desire to stand in a line at your precinct, there's a third option - early voting. It began in Northampton County on Monday. In Lehigh County, it starts May 2. I decided to try this option yesterday. You simply go to your elections office and tell them you want to vote. I was told that I'm either the fifth or sixth person to have voted so far. 

While I was there, Acting Registrar Amy Hess tried to get away, but I cornered her. She told me that the ballots just arrived from the printer on Thursday, thanks to several state lawsuits concerning redistricting that had to be resolved. Mail-in ballots are going out this week. This means you'll have very little time to fill them out and mail them in.

I've come to the conclusion that drop boxes are usually overkill. But given the delay in getting ballots from the printer, they are probably a good idea in this election. Drop box locations are as follows:

Northampton County: 

Rotunda of the Government Center – 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 8:00PM
When dropping off a ballot, voters can park for free in the loading-and-unloading zone on Washington Street in front of the courthouse or use the new parking lot at the intersection of Wolf Avenue and Washington Street.
 
Human Services Building – 2801 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 7:00PM
 
Northampton County 911 Center – 100 Gracedale Ave. Nazareth, PA 18064
o  Monday – Friday from 8:30AM – 8:00PM
 
Bethlehem City Hall – 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018

o  Monday – Friday from 8:00AM – 4:00PM 

Lehigh County: 

• District#1

Whitehall Township Municipal Building

  • 3219 MacArthur Road, Whitehall, PA 18052
  • 610-437-5524
  • M-F 8:00AM- 4:00PM

• District #2

Lehigh County Authority (LCA) Lobby

  • 1053 Spruce Road, Allentown, PA 18106
  • 610-398-2503
  • M-F 8:15AM- 4:45PM


• District #3

Fountain Hill Borough  Building

  • 941 Long Street, Fountain Hill, PA 18015
  • 610-867-0301
  • M-F 8:30AM- 4:30PM


• District #4
o County Government Center
o 17 South 7th Street, Allentown, PA 18101
o 610 782-3194
o 24/7 at the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office

• District #5

Macungie Borough Building

  • 21 Locust Street, Macungie, PA 18062
  • 610-966-2503
  • M-F 8AM-4PM

You can only drop off your own ballot. 

UPDATED 11 AM: In the original version of this story, I posted incorrect locations for Lehigh County drop boxes. I apologize for my error. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Tale of Two Housing Authorities

Last summer, several residents complained to Northampton County Council about conditions at the Oliver Border House in Nazareth. That's a four story building with 75 1-BR apartments for persons who are over 62 yo or who are disabled. It's in a quiet corner of a quiet borough, just a stone's throw from Holy Family Church. There's a bus stop right outside the door. There's even a cemetery right across the street so that when the end comes, you don't have far to go. But there's a problem. Northampton County does have a housing authority, but it is an independent agency. Moreover, the home was being managed by the Lehigh County Housing Authority (LCHA).   

In 2014, Northampton County Housing Authority (NCHA) ceded management of its senior housing program to its counterpart in Lehigh County as a result of federal cuts. Its unclear why these federal cuts had no impact on Lehigh's operation.  Northampton County Housing Authority would continue to exist, but Lehigh would run the show. 

In response to these complaints, Northampton County Council invited LCHA to respond to resident accusations of mismanagement. Executive Lamont McClure also stated that it was time to reassert control over its public housing. 

LCHA apparently considers itself above criticism. Executive Director Christina Feiertag did respond to Northampton County Council, but refused to appear in person. In a letter, she reminded everyone that NCHA was under severe financial pressure and had solicited proposals from other housing authorities. Lehigh was selected and resolved NCHA'a fiscal woes. She stated Lehigh is "passionate about its mission and is proud of what it has accomplished."

While claiming it is passionate, LCHA suddenly decided to end its agreement with Northampton, and before Northampton could restore own management. LCHA did so on August 2 with no warning or discussion with anyone in Northampton County. According to NCHA board member Becky Bartlett, this was an indication that the transition would be bumpy. She only received a copy of the termination letter on August 31, and this was after being forced to formally request a copy. 

NCHA was only able to start planning for the transition on September 27, but Lehigh has been uncooperative. Despite HUD's recommendation that someone from Lehigh should serve on the transition committee, Feirtag waited until November 15 to do so. She appointed a Clerk Typist II. 

Despite her so-called passion, Feirtag has refused to cooperate in any way with the transition. 

Frustrated, Bartlett has now resigned from NCHA. She adised NorCo Council of her decision last week. Executive Lamont McClure recommended Scott Parsons to replace her, and he was confirmed by County Council.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking and there soon will be no management at all at Oliver Border House.

So much for passion.    

Friday, April 22, 2022

Wanted: One NorCo Elections Registrar

In response to questions from Council member John Cusick, Executive Lamont McClure acknowledged  that Northampton County has thus far failed to find an elections registrar to fill the slot left vacant by Amy Cozze's resignation.  Chief Deputy Amy Hess has assumed the role of Acting Registrar until the county is able to find a suitable candidate. He added that Hess will administer the May primary.

McClure indicated that he's gone through several rounds of interviews, but wants to be "deliberate" about this appointment. He indicated he's interested in finding someone who has unimpeachable character and who has some tangential relation to elections. "We're finding that to be a bit of a challenge," he admitted. 

Of course, the ideal appointment would be Amy Hess, but she has no interest. 

Perhaps McClure should reconsider an employee who applied from inside the elections office. This person has an associates degree in computer science and several years of experience in the elections office. He also has managerial experience in the private sector. He's also completely nonpartisan.

NorCo Wraps Up Small Business Grant Program

Last night, Northampton County approved the final set of grants to small businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty Northampton County businesses (you can see them here) were awarded $715,370.25 in grants of up to $15,000. The vote was 8-0, with Council member Ron Heckman absent.

This round of grants marks the end of the small business grant program initiated by Northampton County with money received under both the CARES and American Rescue Plan Acts. Executive Lamont McClure advised Council that, "absent some sea change that I don't foresee," he will ask them to devote remaining federal funds of about $30 million to other projects. This includes a major investment in Gracedale, enhanced 911, and affordable housing projects. 

This small business grant program was administered by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, which kicked in $200,000 of its own funds. All told, the program benefited 1,943 Northampton County businesses with a total of $25,564,931.78. 

Some of these business owners appeared at recent Council meetings to express their appreciation in person.  They also sent emails and letters thanking the County, and McClure read some of them, They called it a "business lifesaver," and a "Godsend,"  Though rarely emotional, McClure was clearly moved by those letters and emails. 

McClure also ticked off how much money was received by businesses in each of the county's 37 municipalities. It went to businesses in blue, purple and red bastions.

McClure also expressed his deep appreciation to Tony Iannelli, the CEO at the Chamber. He credited the Chamber and its staff with making sure that businesses were able to apply. Only 45% of these grants went to Chamber businesses. 

"Lamont took my whole speech," cracked Iannelli. "It was Lamont's idea." He went on to say that the Chamber also provided small grants totaling $250,000 before Northampton County got involved.  

"You made a lot of people happy and saved a lot of families and businesses." 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

NorCo Council Oblivious to Low Wages Paid to Workforce

A few weeks ago, Court Administrator Jermaine Greene asked Northampton County Council to approve the creation of a few PT youth care workers at the Juvenile Justice Center in the hope he could get some help. But as he himself acknowledged, the real problem there is the low starting salary. 

Last night, County Council's Personnel Committee was asked to approve the elimination of some PT clerks and the creation of a clerk's position with a starting salary at a whopping $14.34 an hour. The full Council will vote on this proposal tonight. 

At a time when you can make more money flipping burgers, it's ridiculous to expect people to work for this pittance. 

County Council adopted a responsible contractor ordinance to ensure that the trades unions have good paying jobs. It insists on living wages at all projects built with county dollars. Its own Clerk is making over $100,000 a  year. In her state senate bid, Council member Tara Zrinski is calling for both a $15 minimum wage and no co-pay health insurance. 

What these politicians preach and what they practice are two different things.    

Executive Lamont McClure wants to spend $15 million at Gracedale to beef up the salaries there after repeatedly insisting that the low wages paid are not part of the problem. That money should be used to beef up the wages everywhere. 

Lincoln in Paradise

If there is such a thing as Paradise, Abraham Lincoln is no doubt one of its inhabitants. I can also say with certainty that, during his lifetime, the poet president paid a visit.

It was 1861, and Lincoln was on his way from Illinois to the nation's capitol for his inauguration. Along the way, there had been credible threats that rebel sympathizers would assassinate him in Baltimore. His train nevertheless made numerous stops in Pennsylvania at major cities like Philly and Harrisburg. He also stopped at places like Downingtown and Haverford College so that his train could take on water. 

One of these four-minute water stops was in Paradise. He may have received only a plurality of votes, but he was quite popular in the Keystone State. A throng of well-wishers was waiting. 

Lincoln came to the rear platform and told the crowd he was too unwell to give a speech, but thought he'd come out so the people could see him and he could see them. He said he "had the best of the bargain." 

The crowd laughed and called for his wife. She came out and Lincoln said that here was the "long and short of it. He's 6'4", she's 5'3".

In Philly, Lincoln spoke of the principle of liberty, embodied in the Declaration of Independence signed at the hall from which he spoke. "If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle - I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it." 

Lincoln constantly appealed to what he called the "better angels of our nature." In contrast, many of today's politicians play on our fears and prejudices. 

(Source: The Lincoln Trail in Pa, Bradley R Hoch)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

McClure Considering a NorCo Health Department

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure's State of the County address, delivered Monday at PBS-39, was hosted by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC) and the Workforce Board. You can view his short address at LVEDC's Facebook page. 

McClure first discussed his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has afflicted 79,000 people in NorCo over the past two years. The county, which has no health department, set up a drive-thru testing clinic in Bethlehem Tp. When vaccines became available, they were offered as well.  It also closed both nursing home and jail to visitors and volunteers. 

He complimented the staff at Gracedale and the jail for following state and CDC  guidelines. He glossed over the vaccine hesitancy at both places, which led to numerous terminations at the nursing home. He indicated that both facilities are slowly resuming visitations and treatment programs.

Along with COVID, McClure noted there's been a sure in drug overdoses. He said there's been a 4.54% increase in opioid deaths across the state over the past year, He indicated that much of this is the result of the introduction of fentanyl, which he claimed is 80-100 times more powerful than heroin. This is often mixed in with other drugs, which has led to a dramatic increase in overdose deaths, In the county, overdose deaths have increased from 33 in 2014 to 84 last year,

He noted that NorCo has received $11 million in a settlement of litigation against pharmaceutical companies.  That money will be earmarked to raise awareness of opioid addiction and increase services to those in recovery. This includes $300,000 in scholarship funds for newly sober individuals. 

McClure indicated the County is also considering the establishment of a health bureau. He noted that these departments do far more than battle COVID, There are other infectious diseases, like HIV and tuberculosis. They also educate the public on health issues like heart disease and diabetes. 

He indicated that a health department would serve rural communities just as much as it does the inner cities, He failed to state how. 

After introducing a possible health department, McClure note that the county provided $2.8 million to 63 first responder organizations over the past year to help them keep the public safe. This was part of the money the county received from the federal government. 

Despite the ravages of inflation, McClure insists that the county is attracting business. Over the past five years, $1.6 billion has been invested in 75 projects. This has led to 9,000 jobs created or retained. 

This business expansion has resulted in farmland disappearance, along with increased traffic and home prices.. McClure said that the county, combined with state and municipal contributions, has invested $51 million in open space projects since 1993. The county is on the cusp of preserving its 250th farm and is nearing 20,000 acres preserved. 

Since 2018, the county has purchased three new parks and has purchased land to link trails. 

McClure also discussed the importance of small businesses, which was hit hard by Governor Tom Wolf's lockdown. The county has this far provided $25 million in grants from federal relief funds to nearly 1,900 small business.

This year, the County plans to spend $15 million in federal relief funds at Gracedale, where there has been an employee drain thanks to low salaries. He indicated the biggest problem there is finding employees.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

McClure Delivers State of (Northampton) County

Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure delivered his annual State of the County address yesterday at PBS-TV39. It will be available on the county's YouTube channel sometime today. I will link to it when it becomes available, and give you my own take. The county, like the country, is in bad shape. What he's really addressing is the state of county government. 

Steve Lynch Running For GOP State Committee and County Chair

Failed NorCo Exec candidate Steve Lynch has blocked me from viewing his Facebook rants, but there are several people who keep me posted about his constant attention grabbing.  He's now running both for the GOP State Committee and county party chair. 

He's slamming current party boss Gloria "General Lee" Snover even more than I have. I guess it's her fault that his one and only campaign mailer arrived the day after the election. I thought he was suing the Post Office for his failure, but it appears that no lawyer is willing to take the case. 

Tonight he's conducting a "BIG" meeting at the Nazareth Diner to lay out his strategy to get elected to head the county GOP. 

All Democrats should send him some money to ensure his election as party boss. 

It will be the last time a Republican is elected in NorCo, even in a year that should be shitty for Democrats. 

I hate to break it to you "Patriots," but it is thanks to people like you that Democrats will also win the open US Senate seat and Governorship 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Welfare Checks With the Angel of Death

As I mentioned in my first post today, there are two people who always invite me to hook up with them on holidays. One is Ron Angle. He can be scary to some, but is a pussycat next to the person I visited on Easter. He's none other than the Angel of Death, Malakh ha-Mavet, aka Mar Mavet, aka Malach Ahzari, the most dreaded of all numinous beings.  

Malakh has refrained from reaping me solely because of my prowess as a Hearts player. I was supposed to have been put out of my misery five years ago, but he likes a good game of cards. So I'm on borrowed time. 

I actually accompanied Malakh on Sunday afternoon for a few of what he called welfare checks. As we tooled along in his Chevy Blazer, I wondered why someone with his seniority had to work on Easter Sunday. 

"No rest for the weary," he replied. With Covid and Ukraine, he's been real busy. I understand he's paid less than $15 an hour, too. I urged him to go on strike, or consider a transfer to being God's messenger. Something a little less stressful. But he won't hear of it.

Now he may be able to walk through walls and doors, but he was very civilized on Easter. He used the doorbell. 

"Can you play Hearts?" was the sole question he asked each person who answered. 

Unfortunately for the people we visited, no one could play Hearts. Now they have an eternity to learn. He did give an extension to a Spades player. 

When finished with his afternoon run, we returned to his home. Inasmuch as we had no third for Hearts, he insisted on building a great fire, and constantly reminded me I'll soon be able to enjoy that on a more permanent basis. That's when I suggested chess.

I let him win the first two games to pump his ego, then laid the hammer down in the third game, totally destroying him.  This should keep me alive a few more weeks. In fact, he was so happy he gave me a rocking chair. 

I now have two rocking chairs so I'll never be off my rocker.

Ron is Back!

Most people invite me to stay away. Far away. But there are two people who always invite me to visit with them on holidays. One of them is the great (just ask him) Ron Angle. I met him yesterday at Nazareth Diner. You may remember him as that dirty bastard who wanted to sell Gracedale. That's true. I was in on it with him. You may also consider him the guardian of taxpayer dollars. He was that, too. The reason I love Ron so much has nothing to do with politics. he and I are on opposite sides, though we both hate bad government. Ron has been a great friend to me despite our differences. He's the greatest storyteller I've had the honor to know. He is what the Irish call a seanchaĆ­. I can listen to him for hours. Some of his stories are even partially true. He really captures the humor of the slate belt better than anyone I've ever met. I've told Ron many times that I wanted to write up a collection of his stories, from his days as a repo man to his days on county council. He's led a very colorful life. This summer I plan to get it done. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Happy Easter !

 

Above you see Ukranian Easter eggs (pysanka) collected by Northampton County's Recorder of Deeds over the years. She was kind enough to show them to a few searchers earlier in the week. 

The Lehigh Valley is home to many Ukranians. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Zrinski's Hypocrisy

As I mentioned yesterday, Tara Zrinski is one of three Democrats seeking her party's nod in the race for a newly created state senate district. She ran for State Rep two years ago, and managed to lose to a candidate who failed to even mount a campaign. Now, fresh on the heels of a County Council victory, she's running again. She's running so often that she's become the Mark Pinsley of Northampton County. But I want you to know that she claims to support a $15 minimum wage. She calls herself a "working class champion." This should be news to many county workers. 

Her campaign website states, and in boldface so you can't miss it, that "Tara believes in a $15 minimum wage because no one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty."  Unless you work for Northampton County. Clerks in the Civil Division start at about $14 an hour. There are numerous other positions well below $15 an hour. The night watchman does not even make $13 an hour. Custodians, some of the hardest workers in the county, start at a miserly $11.18. Dietary aides at Gracedale are given a pittance of $13.38.

These folks rely on food stamps to get by, or have second jobs.  They work 40 hours a week and are living in poverty. Zrinski has spoken up for none of them. Instead, she has voted No to raises in the elections office and No to a retroactive payraise for probation officers.  

She can piously pronounce that she supports a $15 minimum wage, but in the one place where she can actually do something to effect change and improve the lives of the county workforce, she's been silent.

Actions speak louder than words.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Nick Miller for The Heart of the Lehigh Valley

 

Pa. State Senate District 14
As many of you know, there's a brand new state senate district in this year's state senate races. It's right in the heart of the Lehigh Valley, from Emmaus in the south to Lehigh Township in the north. It includes Allentown's east side and Fountain Hill, which are Democratic enclaves. It also includes the heavily Republican northwestern tier of Northampton County. Three Democrats (Nick Miller, Yamelisa Tavares and Tara Zrinski) and three Republicans (Dean Browning, Omy Maldanado and Cindy Miller) are seeking their party's nomination in this year's primary. This post is about Nick Miller and why I think he deserves the Democratic nod. 

According to Politico, voters are angry about the out-of-control inflation that has rocked this country. Combine that with supply chain disruptions and pandemic fatigue and you have a recipe for Democratic disaster in this year's elections.  

Democrats do have a voter registration edge in this newly created district. But Allentown Democrats are notorious for skipping off-year elections. Republicans, on the other hand, will crawl over broken glass to cast their ballot.  And in Lehigh Tp in particular, Democrats are regarded as alien life forms. At last year's county elections, one Supervisor was actually overheard telling a county Republican candidate that he'd like to pour gasoline on Democrats and light them up. 

Don't give him a ghost gun.

Given this climate, the only way a Democrat can win is by avoiding the extremes. Most people in the Lehigh Valley, whether they call themselves Democrat or Republican, are really centrists. But thanks to our closed primary system, we tend to select the worst examples of our parties. We can stop this in the heart of the Lehigh Valley by electing Nick Miller

I met Nick on a rainy Saturday morning at Bethlehem View Diner, where he took a few minutes out of his day to meet with me.  Unlike most politicians, he's quiet and somewhat soft spoken. I know he's the son of a retired judge and expected him to play that card with me immediately. He didn't. He's running on his own merit. 

He's a proud graduate of Allentown Central Catholic High School and Penn State University, where he majored in Finance. He lit up when speaking of his travels abroad, especially in North Africa, 

Upon graduation, he worked at IBM for four years before getting involved in real estate. 

He's been an Allentown School Director since 2019, where he's deeply concerned about how badly it's been shortchanged by the state. (The state is holding back $100 million a year). He notes that only 9 of the 30 buildings even have air conditioning, He noted a building deficiency there of nearly $500 million. 

He's done what he can, which includes climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise $25,000 for the weight rooms at Dieruff and William Allen. Yes, those plates are rusted and cracked. 

He's seen first hand that students from low-income families are the victims of an unfair educational system. So it's little wonder that he'd want to divert state dollars to where they are needed.

He likes this new state senate district because it's a "third opportunity to represent the Lehigh Valley and bring back state dollars."

Politically, he's a centrist. I believe a person with his common-sense views could win this race. Tara Zrinski and Yamelisa Tavares will appeal to the extremes. But they have no understanding of what the heart of the Lehigh Valley wants. Miller does. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Why I Support the Registration of Ghost Guns

What exactly is a ghost gun? It's a privately-made firearm, often assembled from kits sold online. There's no serial number, which makes them untraceable. Criminals have noticed. According to President Joe Biden, they are their "weapon of choice"  Yesterday, after neatly a year of consideration, ATF has decided to include ghost guns within their definition of firearm. What this means is that the same rules applying to other firearms will apply to ghost guns as well.  

There's little dispute that there's been an explosion of ghost guns in recent years. Philly police recovered 95 of them in 2019. One year later, the number of these privately made firearms increased to 250. As of September in 2021, the number for that year was 389. 

I see no reason why these guns should be treated any differently than any other firearm. So I completely agree with this regulation. I am aware that NRA will sue, but believe police should always be able to trace firearms used in criminal activity. I have a personal reason for thinking this is needed. 

Not quite a year ago, I received two letters. One was from the NorCo DA's office. The other was from the courts. 

The letter from the DA was a warning that someone had threatened to kill me. We just thought you should know, they said. Have a nice day. 

The letter from the courts was a copy of a letter a prison inmate had sent, warning that a fellow prisoner was going to assemble one of these ghost guns and use it to kill me. 

So yeah, I do think these should be traceable. 

But that's me. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

A Visit to The Kindness Garden


As most of you know, I'm as mean as cat shit. That's a prerequisite for a bottom-feeding blogger. But even someone as miserable as myself was touched by The Kindness Garden, located at mile 89.9 of the D&L Trail (about 2 miles below the Slatington Trailhead. I stopped there on Friday afternoon in the middle of a bike ride. Someone went to the trouble of painting several stones and writing thoughtful little messages on them. The Trailside Library, located here as well, had a tome written by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. 

I stole two of the stones.

I have a reputation to maintain.  The Bradbury book, incidentally, is horribly written.  

OK, I do plan on returning the book and bringing back two stones. 

By the way, the D&L Trail which traverses the Lehigh Valley from Easton to Allentown,and from Northampton to Slatington,, is without doubt the Lehigh Valley's best kept secret. You think you're in another country, especially along the magnificent stretch between Coplay and Slatington. If you've never been on the trail, give it a try this summer.  

Friday, April 08, 2022

NorCo Council Formally Seeks Pay Study, Review of Gracedale

Northampton County Council voted last night to seek a pay study for county employees and a review of the county's nursing home. The vote was 8-0. It was supported by all Council members present. Tara Zrinski was absent. 

In discussing the pay study, John Cusick indicated that salary comparisons do exist at the County Comm'r Ass'n, and those should be obtained. President Lori Vargo-Heffner added that a great deal of information is also available at the Bureau of Labor.. 

When it approved the budget, county council set aside $450,000 to fund a number of studies, but expects to spend only a fraction of that sum. 

McClure Proposes $15 Million at Gracedale

I wondered why there was no Gracedale report at last night's monthly Human Services meeting.  In view of all the bad news coming out of the facility, I was suspicious. My concerns were soon laid to rest when  Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure made his report to county council. He wants to spend $15 million to keep Gracedale nursing home county owned and operated. 

He noted that Gracedale's existence is threatened for two reasons. 

First, it seems likely that the amount of nursing care that must be provided to each resident on a daily basis is going to rise sharply. This is known as PPD. Currently, the state standard is that each resident at a nursing home be provided with 2.7 hours of nursing care daily.  Gracedale is currently struggling to get to 2.5 hours. The new standard is reportedly 4.1 hours per day. 

Second, Gracedale houses four residents to a room. But that's going to change so that nursing homes will be limited to no more than two residents per room.

Either of these changes will almost certainly be a death knell for Gracedale. McClure indicated he is lobbying state legislators to soften the blow at the largest county-owned nursing home in the state.

He noted that Gracedale was saved once before when the county had all but sold the home. When the county receives its second installment of $30 million in American Rescue Plan money, he wants to commit $15 million to Gracedale. Of this sum, $12 million will be devoted to nursing costs. Another $2 million will fuind an on-site daycare center. The final $1 million will be devoted to capital projects.

"If Gracedale can be saved, it will be saved, and we're going all in to do it."

County Council had no immediate questions. They control the purse strings, so they must buy in.  

Thursday, April 07, 2022

We Should Be More Involved in Ukraine Conflict

Under former President Trump, this nation selfishly pursued an "America First" policy that sewed the seeds for Putin's invasion of Ukraine. He fomented what former LV Congressman Charlie Dent decried as the "three-headed monster" of isolationism, nativism and protectionism. We turned our back on the rest of the world, alienating long-time allies, while courting autocrats. The Republican party has morphed into a modern equivalent of the Know Nothing party of the 1850s, led by Q-Anon demagogues. It is Trump, not Biden, who pledged to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without bothering to discuss it with the government in place. In fact, he actually ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, a move that Biden stopped after being sworn into office. He also wanted to pull out of NATO. His blunders only encouraged Putin to take advantage of what he thought was a weakened NATO. Ironically, his invasion had the opposite effect. But other than providing assistance, NATO has been leery to get more involved. We've shied away from a no fly zone and even rejected a swap of planes with Poland that would eventually beef up Ukraine's air force. Given the butchery in Bucha and elsewhere, we need to be more involved. 

The wanton murder of Ukranian noncombants should come as no surprise to anyone who has read about Russia;s antics in Syria and Chechnya. No one can effectively deny that there have been widespread war crimes by Russian troops. Yet there are those who say that, as disturbing as these murders have been, we just have no strategic interest in this conflict. I disagree, 

We all know that this conflict has sharply escalated the prices and possibly supplies of fossil fuel on a global level. More importantly, the war is going to disrupt global food supplies. We like to call ourselves the breadbasket of the world. But it is actually Russia and Ukraine who supply most of the globe's cereal crops and vegetable oil. So it's clear that the conflict could easily cause a collapse in the global economy. 

I have little doubt that NATO, including the US, will get involved militarily if Putin begins using chemical weapons or attacks military hardware heading from NATO country Poland to Ukraine. But if we allow this conflict to drag out, there will be a worldwide depression and more conflicts will erupt elsewhere. 

We all know the UN, as President Zelenskyy has observed is useless. Russia can simply veto any move it dislikes  What NATO should do is give Russia an ultimatum to enter into a ceasefire and negotiate an agreement or be subjected to both a no-fly zone and naval blockade.

Given what I've seen of Russia's military, I think Ukranians can take care of themselves on the ground. They have asked for help in the air. We need to make clear to Russia that we will do so unless they end the conflict. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

GIANT's Self Checkout Has Me Pegged

Because I like fresh fruit and produce, I am at GIANT food market nearly every day. But I've been profiled as a potential shoplifter. I've never seen a store cop spying on me. But the problem always occurs when I check out. I use the self checkout, and it has me pegged as a produce purloiner.

Here's what happens. I started using the self checkout during the pandemic. No problem. But for the past month or so, it prevents me from checking out. Instead of ringing up my order and letting me pay, I get a flashing message to tell me "help is on the way." 

A clerk has to come and clear me.  

At first, it only did this when I bought garlic. I figured it didn't like the smell. But now, no matter what I buy, I have to wait. 

"What's your problem?" the clerk asks.

"The machine says I need help."

Nearby shoppers begin smirking 

Yesterday, a clerk asked me how I was doing as I carefully approached the machine.

"How are you doing today?" she pleasantly asked.

"I'm not sure yet. I'll know soon."

Sure enough, the machine again told me I need help.

Incidentally, GIANT has a weird robot patrolling the store. It has a tendency to slam into me if I am near it. 

Time to start shopping at Aldi. It's cheaper.  

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Butcher of Bucha

I am shocked by the photos and video footage I've seen of the murders committed by fleeing Russian troops in Ukraine. They include a picture of at least one person shot in the back of the head with his hands tied behind his back. Another shows a civilian who was shot while riding a bicycle. One street in Bucha is strewn with corpses that Russian soldiers left there to rot.  There is also evidence of a mass grave. 

Earlier in the course of this invasion, I received and rejected numerous comments calling for the assassination of Vladimir Putin. I detest seeing anyone targeted without first being afforded due process of law. But I believe Joe Biden was absolutely correct when he stated quite clearly that the Butcher of Bucha  needs to be removed from office. The recent evidence demonstrates this really is necessary.  

Now Russia has dismissed the footage of mass murders as "fake news."  This denial was effectively debunked by this video from France 24. 

One month ago, former President Donald Trump stated Putin's invasion was "very savvy" and "genius."  No,he's a butcher who has become a pariah to most of the world. 

Monday, April 04, 2022

DA Jim Martin Acted Fairly in Offering ARD to Ce-Ce Gerlach

Remember Allentown City Council member Ce-Ce Gerlach? Last year, she was busily knocking on doors in a Quixotic Quest to become Mayor. Between Facebook live shots of a suicide aftermath and several "Fuck the police" rallies, she showed us exactly what kind of person she would be at Allentown's helm. A runaway teen came to her in her capacity as a Valley Youth House intake worker. Instead of actually assisting this child, Gerlach took it upon herself to dump him off at a tent city for the homeless. Fresh meat! This boy was sexually harassed (or worse) until his rescue.  Despite attempts by her fans to brush things under the rug and radio silence at The Morning Call, she was eventually charged with both child endangerment and failure to report. Gerlach denied any wrongdoing, claimed she was the victim of political persecution and set up a GoFundMe page seeking $100,000 for an attorney.   But when push came to shove, she waived her preliminary hearing and applied for ARD. Her so-called political persecutor agreed, dropped one of the charges and she's been approved by the court. That's pretty strange action for a politically motivated prosecution. 

The reality, of course, is that Lehigh County DA Jim Martin treated Gerlach fairly. She was prosecuted because she clearly broke the law, not for her political beliefs. Moreover, he treated her the same way that any nonpolitician would be treated. Like shit, That's how he rolls. There's still some question whether Valley Youth House also broke the law, but I'm certain that's being looked at as well. 

Some of my friends believe Gerlach should have been forced to resign as a condition of ARD. I disagree. If the people who vote her into office are stupid enough to repeat that mistake, then they will get the government they deserve.

Unapologetic, Gerlach has thrown herself into a number of state races. I hear she's pushing Tara Zrinskli, Josh Siegel and Enid Santiago. Candidates who use her should suffer the consequences.  


Friday, April 01, 2022

Allentown's Responsible Contractor Ordinance Is Dead

Allentown City Council, at a remarkably brief special meeting last night, voted unanimously to postpone "indefinitely" a poorly drafted ordinance that would require to maintain a registered apprenticeship program for city contracts. This bill had previously passed 4-3, buy was vetoed by Mayor Matt Tuerk because it was essentially a cut-and paste job. Had it become law, numerous city vendors would be unable to bid on future jobs.  

After the veto, Council member Ed Zucal came up with an amendment that would also allow contractors to bid if craftsmen and operators were graduates of a technical institute, had 320 hours of on-the job training or were students at a technical institute with at least six months of on-the-job training. 

Zucal's amendment was never considered because Council Member Josh "Doxer" Siegel asked council to postpone indefinitely any consideration of the responsible contractor ordinance. Council members were quick to agree.

As they made their way out the door, City Council Clerk Mike Hanlon advised Council members that the indefinite postponement means the bill is dead.

"It's dead for now," snapped Siegel.