Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Bethlehem's Budget Director's Fraudulent Scheme

On Friday, I told you a highly ranking Bethlehem City official was recently fired after discovery of financial irregularities. I declined to name the person, preferring to wait until a criminal investigation was complete. WFMZ-TV69 and The Morning Call subsequently followed up with their own stories, naming the person in question. 

He's Mark Sivak, who happens to be Bethlehem's Budget Director. He's been employed by Bethlehem for the past 15 years. Prior to that, he worked for the City of Allentown and in the private sector as an accountant. He's a 2000 graduate of King's College, where he majored in accounting. I considered him one of Bethlehem's best employees and was shocked to learn what had happened.  

So far as I know, his embezzlement scheme was two-pronged. 

The first aspect of it involves an abuse of the City's Paypal account, which it uses as a petty cash fund to make purchases. I am informed by a forensic auditor that it's inadvisable for municipal government to use Paypal for small purchases because the records fail to show instantaneously the way they would with a credit card, making abuse more difficult to track. 

The second aspect involves cell phones and other electronic devices issued to city employees. They periodically are eligible for upgrades. Sivak was allegedly getting the upgrades and selling them. 

Sivak's theft was caught by City Controller George Yasso, an independently elected official. He maintains a hotline for tips by both employees and City residents at 610-865-7266. 

I am unsure how long Sivak had been dipping into the cookie jar or how much money is involved. Those details will emerge when charges are filed. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Something's Amiss in Bethlehem City Government

A high-ranking Bethlehem City official was escorted out of City Hall a few days ago and has yet to return. My understanding is that, after several financial irregularities were uncovered by the City Controller, this person was fired. Police are investigating. Until this person is charged, I decline to name him or her.  

Thursday, May 26, 2022

2A Supporters Weigh In on Mass Shootings

For years, Congress has been gridlocked when it comes to any legislative solution to gun violence. Even  bipartisan proposals like universal background checks have gone nowhere. So yesterday, I asked second amendment supporters what they would do to stop mass shootings. Some of them just want to blame Democrats for everything, but I did get some decent suggestions. Here's a summary.

1) Bring God (and morality) back into places like schools. - I'm unaware of any recent data indicating that mass shootings are less frequent at Catholic schools. I am aware that, in 2006, there was a mass shooting inside an Amish schoolhouse. 

2) Constitutional carry should be permitted everywhere, including at schools. These are "soft targets" precisely because guns are prohibited. - I believe most people who do carry spend very little time on the range, and are just as likely to shoot themselves or an innocent person as any active shooter. I doubt many parents would be happy if armed people were routinely permitted inside a school.   

3) Background checks with an emphasis on mental health, including an examination of social media. 

4) "How do we stop these shootings? As a society, we stop dancing around the conversation and start demanding more, rather than, less of parents." -  It's certainly true that many children are brought up in single parent households. Even when both parents are around, they often have little time for their children. Some may be assholes, but I suggest that many more are working two or three jobs with little or no benefits. I agree that, if parents are absent, it's important to have role models for children as they grow up. I believe we could do more in that area. 

5) The raising of a minimum age to purchase assault style rifles. - I agree.

6) Increased penalties for those in possession of illegal firearms." - That already is the law for many crimes.

7) Mandatory sentencing for those who commit crimes with firearms.

8) No plea bargaining for these offenses.

9)  Firearms training for anyone seeking a concealed carry permit. 

10) "would a new nation-wide tip line (like 911) specifically dedicated to preventing mass shootings help? I don't know, but I'd like to see it discussed." - This is the first I heard this idea, and I think it's good. Some people will abuse it to get people they dislike in trouble, but persons making unfounded reports could be fined.

11) Armed resource officers at every school. 

12) Establish a mental health system . 

I appreciate the feedback, and believe that 2a enthusiasts did have some reasonable suggestions. Too Bad they aren't in Congress. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Question For Second Amendment Enthusiasts: How Do We Stop These Mass Shootings?

After the tragedy in Texas yesterday, in which a lone gunman killed 19 children at an elementary school, it's really time to stop the partisan bickering and make some changes. Trying to implement gun control on any level is a nonstarter. There's too much opposition. But for the past few years, we've gridlocked over any suggestions. It's very clear to me that we really need to step up our oversight of firearms in the possession of mentally ill people who express violent thoughts. I'd suggest some sort of temporary seizure based on complaints of threatening behavior.   

Last night, readers were weighing in on a post on another topic, so I thought I'd set this space aside to hear suggestions from second amendment enthusiasts. 

Jungle Monkeys

Racism is still very much alive and well here in the Lehigh Valley.  I'm sure most of you are aware of the outcry after a recent incident between Catasauqua bar owners and an Uber driver. The driver was called a "ni--er lover" when he refused to drive them because of a racially charged comment. Is that an isolated incident? I'd like to think so, but am disheartened to learn that a locally elected official uses language that is just as bigoted. Amy Richard, President of  Stockertown Borough Council, has called no one a "ni--er." She prefers the term "jungle monkeys."  

I learned of her racist behavior because Stockertown's police Chief, who is under fire in the borough, has shared their text exchanges. What I've seen is appalling.

Back in June 2020, in response to multiple protests over the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, she fired off a text to the police chief, stating 'WE ARE NOT DEFUNDING OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT." 

He was a bit confused and did not know what she meant.  She responded, "No ...just watching the stupid jungle monkeys on TV demanding that everybody defund police departments....dumb assess!!!" 

Then, in July, a Stockertown resident complained to the chief about fireworks bothering her dog. Richard, who has no business telling a police officer what to do, nevertheless instructed the Chief to let it go.

"She won't get any sympathy from me. Sorry about her dogs...It's the 4th of July.... This life is about give and take.. If I have to put up with gay pride month and black history month... deal with it. Thise probably aren't good comparisons."

Do you think? 

I spoke with Richard yesterday. She said she had two things to say to me. First, she believes the Chief is incredibly stupid for sharing texts with me because she has an equal amount of dirt on him. Second, she said I should know that emails and texts can be altered. 

That's precisely why I wanted to talk to her. I point blank asked her whether she sent a text message referring to protesters as "jungle monkeys."  

She said she was not in a courtroom and refused to answer my question. 

I also spoke to the Chief. He told me he's unaware that he made any racially offensive comments, but that if he did, he'd be willing to accept responsibility.  

There's nothing subtle about Richard's racism.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Is Lisa Scheller the Lehigh Valley's Manchurian Candidate?

"Would You Be Doing Business With Germany During WWII?"

That was a question that conservative WAEB radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh posed to Steve "1 of 20" Lynch during his radio show yesterday morning.  Real patriots, unlike those who prance around at flag rallies with designer camoflauge and AR-15s, understand that doing business with the enemy is unAmerican. GOP Congressional candidate Lisa Scheller is the 100% owner of Silberline Manufacturing. And guess what?  She's doing business with China, our biggest enemy. She does more than trade with this human rights abuser. Her company actually operates two manufacturing facilities there, with a third one on the way. This is why no one who actually cares about this country should elect her to Congress. It's fair to say that she'll be representing President Xi Jinping, but not the American people. 

This was the knock against her during the primary, but she ran a very carefully choreographed campaign with very limited public exposure. Her money won the day against a noble effort by Kevin Dellicker to warn everyone that the Lehigh Valley had its very own Manchurian candidate. 

On election night, Scheller had a watch party, which is the norm. But unlike anyone I can remember (except for Doug Mastriano), her event was private. The press was denied access. Gunther, on his radio show, told his listeners about this, and mentioned that "chucklehead" Steve Lynch actually pulled a reporter away. 

Chucklehead was tuned in, and started blowin' oil right after Gunther made his remark. He pulled over immediately and began ranting at Facebook. He called Gunther as liar several times and then did one of his Facebook Lives. He stopped short of calling Gunther a demon or subhuman, as he did with me about a week or so ago. There was no challenge to a duel, as there was with me. But he was really pissed because, as he insisted, he was not even there.

Lynch quickly changed his tune when Gunther agreed to bring Chucklehead on his show yesterday to clear the air.  Lynch deleted his ugly rant and tried to pretend he was going to be mature. 

Now I have no knowledge whether Lynch actually pulled anyone away, but I do know this. He was there. He said so himself during one of his several thousand Facebook Lives he cuts daily while driving,

I expected to hear Lynch address the actual accusation when he was on the air. He never did. He instead embarked on a feeble defense of Scheller's business ties to China. 

He pointed out that her company is 100% American owned. No shit.She owns it. And as Gunther pointed out, so what? That is what the radio host called "semantics." It fails to address the fact that this Scheller-owned company has some fairly deep roots in the soil of our largest adversary. 

Lynch claims he was unable to get a word in edgewise because of Gunther's constant interruptions. That's untrue. On several occasions, Gunther actually asked him to make his case.   

"Have at it!" Gunther started. "Go ahead," he said later. Gunther asked what he had wrong. Lynch then went on to discuss a previous interview, failing to address the reason for his appearance.  

"If she's running, she's going to be a Congress person for us," asked Gunther. "How is she not conflicted?"

"China is our number one enemy. They are eating our lunch economically and they're using that against us militarily." 

The Daily Beast has noted an alarming trend of former U.S officials who are lobbying for China, both Democratic and Republican. But if elected, Scheller will be a member of Congress who owns a company with as many as three manufacturing sites in our biggest adversary. This country has learned how to welcome companies willing to play by its rules, while slamming the door shut on businesses that ask too many questions about the 80,000 Uyghurs who have been relocated and forced to work at many foreign factories.

Lynch had numerous opportunities to explain why Scheller's business ties to China is not a conflict, he completely failed. 

In  the end Lynch proved two things. First, Scheller in Congress is a conflict of interest. Second, Lynch really is a chucklehead.  

Monday, May 23, 2022

Lynch Takeover of NorCo GOP a Win For Hate and Fear

The unofficial tally of voting at the May 17 shows a Steve Lynch takeover of Northampton County's GOP.  I suspect it may also be a win for the politics of fear and hatred. 

The Lynch mob captured four of seven state committee seats. He himself was the lead vote getter with 12,512 votes. That's nearly 2,000 more votes than the second highest candidate. He's well on his way to becoming county chair as well. Numerous of his myrmidons were elected to the county committee.

Republican turnout was 35.35% for last week's election. That's a substantial turnout in a GOP primary. It's an indication that a large percentage of Republicans are unfortunately sold on a message of hate and fear. 

Lynch, who has never served a day in the military, likes to call himself a "patriot." Though soundly defeated in the Exec race, he continues to pretend he speaks for "We the people." Hed plays on fear and hate, and this weekend alone, provided several examples. 

On his Facebook page, he posted a comment from a fellow Republican criticizing him, and then gave the green light to an acolyte who asked for permission  to troll her. 

He also implied that Democrats are communists, adding, "You don't negotiate with Communists you destroy them." He's critical of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, not just for her far-left views, but her engagement to a white guy. 

And of course, he's already calling a monkeypox outbreak a hoax. 

Instead of responding to my previous criticisms with reason, he challenged me to a boxing match and called on his armed thugs to "blast" me (I assume figuratively). They actually did terrorize a GOP state committee candidate who dared to support Kevin Dellicker instead of Lisa Scheller for Congress. 

"The American experiment of democracy is in danger like it hasn't been in my lifetime," observed President Joe Biden on Friday. "Hate and fear are getting too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America." 

That's Steve Lynch. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

NorCo Council Passes McClure's $15.5 Million Gracedale Plan

During a lengthy, four-hour long meeting last night, Northampton County Council adopted Executive Lamont McClure's $15.5 million plan to recruit and retain staff at Gracedale with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

His plan calls for the following: $2.5 million for nursing agencies to supply manpower until more staff is hired; $2 million to build an on-site Daycare for Gracedale staff at no cost to them; $10 million for bonuses paid to keep and recruit staff over a two-year window; and $1 million for capital projects. 

The only part of the plan to pass unanimously was the $1 million set aside for capital projects at Gracedale.

The $10 million for recruiting and retention bonuses was amended at the request of Council member John Goffredo to exclude Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King as well as the Nursing Director and her top deputy. This bonus is a $2,500 annual payment over four years to all staff. The only Council member opposed was John Brown. 

The most controversial aspect of the plan is $2 million for an on-site Daycare. At the request of Council member John Cusick, this was amended to include workers at 911 and forensic center, if possible. Council was advised that this daycare is a pilot program, and might ultimately be expanded to include the entire county. 

The only Council members opposed to the daycare were John Brown and John Goffredo. 

On Monday, I will go in the more detail with the pros and cons made by Council members. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

NorCo Council Ponders McClure's $15.5 Million Plan at Gracedale

On May 5, Northampton County Council tabled Executive Lamont McClure's $15.5 million plan to turn things around at Gracedale. Although all Council members generally supported the idea of investing in the county's embattled nursing home, they wanted more detail. They got it last night. 

The $15.5 million is part of about $30 million that NorCo will receive this month from the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted by Congress in response to the pandemic.

McClure's original plan called for the following: $2.5 million for nursing agencies to supply manpower; $2 million to build an on-site Daycare for Gracedale staff at no cost to them; $5 million for bonuses paid to keep and recruit staff over a two-year window; $1 million for capital projects; and $5 million to replace revenue lost as a result of the reduced census.

Bonuses - $5 million

In response to Council's concerns, McClure dropped his proposal to set aside $5 million to replace lost revenue. He has instead added that money to extend the bonuses proposed to keep and recruit staff for four-years instead of two years. Every person hired or working at Gracedale, from Housekeeping to Administrator, will be entitled to a $2,500 annual bonus paid annually over four years. 

"If you're a CNA [certified nurse's aid] within the sound of my voice, it would be a really good time to come to Gracedale," he said, and repeated it several times. 

With the exception of member John Brown, County Council was generally supportive. Council member John Cusick initially suggested that the bonuses be limited to those workers who work directly with residents. But he was swayed by McClure's argument that all workers are "absolutely critical." He was the Council member to move the bonuses for consideration by the board tonight. 

Brown complained that, despite multiple requests, the administration has failed to provide him with a breakdown of the workers employed at Gracedale. he observed that the county has offered similar incentives in the past, to no avail. He said the county "was throwing money at something, and then you're going to make it up as you go along, but I don't see that as functionally being a plan."

Brown's dig brought McClure to his feet. He turned the tables on Brown, and the two sparred. 

"What's your plan? What would you do with the $10,000," he asked. "We're all ears."

- "I would have to have more information to be able to take a look at that."     

"What information would you need, Mr.Brown?  You had my job for four years. What information would you need, sir? I understand you're opposed to the efficient and long-term success of Gracedale, but you said we don't have a plan. What's yours?

- "No I did not say that I'm opposed to the long-term and efficient plan, again, I don't have enough detail to move this forward. ... I don't even know how many full-time employees we currently have. And what is the long-term impact? And if you do provide this and you're able to begin ro sustain some recruitment or retention overall, what does that do to Gracedale's budget and how are you going to make up the revenue then to maintain this going forward once this goes away? ... ." 

"Well clearly we would not be able to offer $10,000 bonuses forever. This is an emergency measure to deal with an emergency. We need to be able to hire, we need to be able to get people in the door. There is a very good plan top get people in the door. There is a marketing plan. And the best piece of that marketing plan is this $10,000. 

McClure went on to say that "questioning the plan to death" will only further endanger the home. "Not allowing us to do this is setting us up to fail."

-"The reality of this, Mr. McClure is that the home is failing, has been failing for an extended period of time.  ... You're not addressing the management issues that I feel are part of the problem. ... ." Brown added that Gracedale employees are the ones telling him that management is the real issue.

"My suspicion is there'll  never be enough detail for you," continued McClure. 

Unfortunately, just as things were getting good and I thought Steve Lynch might pop in with boxing gloves and challenge everyone to a duel, Council President Lori Vargo Heffner gave them both a time out.  "I don't think anyone up here needs or wants the antagonism." 

Speak for yourself, Heffner!  

"Why the rush?" she asked McClure. He likened Gracedale to a tanker (hopefully not The Titanic) ) that needs a lot of time to turn around. "If we don't start now, we won't turn it around."  

Tara Zrinski said these bonuses will be a Godsend, not just to Gracedale staffers, but to "vulnerable people" who have nowhere else to go. 

"Tara hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned," added Kerry Myers. But he said that as soon as he leaves, he'll be getting calls from other county workers asking, "What about us?" 

McClure later explained that he hopes the hiring and retention bonuses will yield 54-60 nursing staff, and at that point Gracedale will be able to provide the required 2.7 hours of daily nursing care per resident. 

Capital Projects - $1 million

Council members Lori Varho Heffner and Ron Heckman both noted this money is needed for converting four-resident rooms to two-resident rooms. This is currently under consideration by the federal government. "I think we're going to end up needing more money," noted Heckman. Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King said that the majority of rooms at Gracedale (about 300) are for four residents. 

Council member John Goffredo said that the bonus money is a "no-brainer," but he has reservations about how much money is needed to change the occupancy of 300 rooms. 

McClure then stated that, if the room occupancy is reduced, the county will have to decide whether the home can even continue.  If it does, the county will probably need to borrow. 

Council will vote on this tonight. 

Nursing agency staffing - $2.5 million 

Because of staffing shortages, Gracedale brings in outside nursing agencies to provide staff.  The hourly rate paid for agency nurses is much higher than what is paid to workers.

Council member John Cusick had a problem with using these agencies. "If we were paying substitute teachers more than we pay our regular teachers, I would probably quit and become a substitute. We're almost incentivizing it by paying it. This is one I'm gonna' be a No on."   

McClure said he feels the way Cusick does, "but I can't get to the numbers I need without it." Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King noted that the higher salary is paid to the agency, not the nurse. She indicates she's been able to recruit few agency nurses who are looking for homes. 

Daycare - $2 million 

McClure presented detailed plans to Council. "If it's done right, I think it could be great, said Council member John Goffredo. "Some of the staff would like it tomorrow," said Jennifer-Stewart King.  The daycare could be operational by year's end. 

It will start out for Gracedale workers only, but it could be extended to others. The total cost of construction might be as low as $200,000. It will be located next to the chapel,and there will be interaction between residents and children. 

Lori Vargo Heffner indicated she'd like to wait until June 2 to take action on the plan.

"This is the single biggest piece of the recruiting puzzle,: said McClure.  

Heckman said his concern is that this will be a continuing cost. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Scheller Bans WFMZ From Private Election Watch Party

Taking a page out of the Doug Mastriano playbook, LV Congressional candidate Lisa Scheller banned the press from an election watch party as votes were being tabulated.  WAEB's Bobby Gunther Walsh made this observation during his morning broadcast, adding that "chucklehead" Steve Lynch pulled a reporter away. 

This in turn drove newly elected Republican State committeeman Steve Lynch, who denied he was even there. Lynch called Walsh a "bold-faced liar" and demanded that Walsh allow him on his show for a "productive conversation."  

I'm surprised he didn't challenge Walsh to a duel. 

Regardless whether "chucklehead" Lynch pulled anyone away, the fact remains that Scheller shut out the press from what is almost always an open event. Was Xi Jinping there? Was she afraid she might be questioned about her business ties to China and its blatant denial of human rights. 

That's the story, not the chucklehead. Thanks for making us all aware, Steve. You're already doing a great job for your party.   

Unofficial Results Show Scheller and Miller Ahead

The unofficial results in both Lehigh and Northampton County are complete.  

Kevin Dellicker beat Lisa Scheller in the Congressional race in Lehigh, 15,758 to 15,223. But Scheller won NorCo, 14,684 to 12,146. Overall, Scheller is ahead with 29,907 votes to 27,904 for Dellicker. 

In the race for Pa. Senate 14, Nick Miller beat Tara Zrinski in Lehigh, 7,572 to 3,483. But Zrinski won NorCo, 5,220 to 1,209. Overall, Miller is ahead, 8781 to 8703. 

These leads could change during the official canvass.   

They're Still Countin'

It's a wrap. Pennsylvania's midterm primary election is now history. Here's what I know. 

Governor: According to WFMZ-TV69, Republican Doug Mastiano will face Democrat Josh Shapiro in the Fall for Governor This has to be the worst candidate Republicans could have nominated. Because there were nine candidates, an extremist like Mastriano could win with just 45% of the vote. And he did. Josh Shapiro, who is more moderate, will win this race in November. Republicans have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. 

Lt. Governor: Democrat Austin Davis will face Republican Carrie Delrosso in November. Former NorCo Exec John Brown ran on the Republican side. Though he only snagged 5% of the vote, he won in Northampton and Lehigh County. 

US Senate: Democrat John Fetterman will face either Trump-backed Mehmet Oz or hedge fund manager Dave McCormick.  McCormick was only slightly ahead as of midnight. The Republican nominee will be able to tie Fetterman to Wolf's record as Governor. 

US Congress: In Lehigh County, Kevin Dellicker is slightly ahead of Lisa Scheller. In Northampton, Scheller has the lead. WFMZ has Scheller with a slight lead with about 150 precincts to go. 

Pa. Senate District 14 -  In this newly created Senate district, it's a tale of two counties. 

On the Democratic side, Tara Zrinski is way ahead of Nick Miller in Northampton, but Nick Miller is way ahead in Lehigh. WFMZ has Miller ahead, and that should hold because I suspect the uncounted Lehigh precincts will go to him. 

On the Republican side, Dean Browning is comfortably ahead of both Cindy Miller and Omy Maldonado. 

Pa. Senate District 15 - I didn't see this one coming. Long time Senator Pat Browne is on his way to being unseated by anti-masker Jarrett Coleman on the GOP side. Browne is the Appropriations Chair. 
The winner of this race will face Democrat Mark Pinsley in November.

State House Races:  Josh Siegel is comfortably ahead of Saeed Georges in Pa-22 (East Side Allentown), and will face Republican Bob Smith in November. Pete Schweyer has once again defeated Enid Sanmtiago in what is now Pa-134. He will face Republican Brent Labenberg in November. Ryan MacKenzie has defeated Gary Day in Pa-187.

NorCo State Committee: Steve Lynch was the top vote getter with 11,368 votes No one came close to his total. I expected and predicted this would happen. He only had to appeal to a plurality of voters on the far right. This is great news for Democrats. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Where to See Unofficial Election Results

I know lots of people tune into WFMZ-TV69, which has great election coverage. But the best way to find out who's ahead is by looking at the unofficial elections results at each county. Northampton County began posting results as soon as the polls closed at 8 pm, and had 60 of 154 precincts tabulated by 10:30 pm. Lehigh County is in similar shape. 

I will check in at midnight and give you a report on the local races. 

Election Day: Make Last Minute Picks, Any Problems at Polls?

On Election Day, I invite readers to make their last-minute picks for their favorite candidates. Who knows? You might sway one voter.

In addition to making picks, I 'd appreciate any comments about your experience at the polls. Where did you vote? What time? What was turnout like? Did you notice any problems? I took advantage of early voting so I have no reason to go to any polls, but weather permitting, might cycle by a few. 

The greeters who hand you palm cards outside the doors are party or candidate volunteers. They are permitted to campaign so long as they are 10' away from the polling place. I know it's annoying to be accosted as you vote, but these people are volunteers who put in a long day. 

You are allowed to wear whatever you want and you can say whatever you want UNTIL you step inside the polling place. Once inside, no active electioneering is permitted.. So while you can wear a T-shirt for your candidate, you have to stop talking about politics inside the polling place. 

No police officers are permitted within 100' of a polling place unless they are there to vote or are called  by elections officials. You may see a uniformed person, but that's a constable. He's expressly permitted to be there 

If you are told you are not registered and know you are, ask to vote by provisional ballot. You ALWAYS have the right to vote by provisional ballot, even if an elections judge tells you otherwise. 

If you received a mail-in ballot but decided you want to vote in person, be sure to bring your mail-in ballot with you. It will be voided and you can vote in person.If you've lost your ballot or never received it, you can still insist on voting provisionally. During the official canvass, elections officials will determine whether you already voted by mail-in ballot. If not, your provisional ballot will count. 

As for my own recommendations in the Dem primary, I have none. I feel particularly unenthusiastic about the choices.  

If I lived in Allentown, I'd certainly be picking Nick Miller in the state senate race and Saeed Georges in the State House. But then again, Allentown voters have repeatedly voted for Ed Pawlowski. 

In the GOP primary, I think Lisa Scheller will clobber Kevin Dellicker in the LV Congressional race. He started out strong and had lots of grass roots support, as evidenced by the number of people who signed his nomination petition. But he failed to capitalize on a good start. He strikes me as more conservative than Scheller, but the tea party hates him and actually refused to allow him to speak at one of their meetings. 

This is good news for Democrats. In a bad year, for Democrats nationally, incuimbent Susan Wild will be able to slam Scheller for her business ties to China. I can see the ad now. "Haven't we learned it's a mistake to do business with our enemies? Scheller will be doing it from the Halls of Congress. Will she represent you or Xi Jinping?"  

Since there are several openings for state committee, I expect Steve Lynch to have enough support from party extremists to snag a slot. This is good news for Dems. I'm sure the Lynch mob will put their foot in their mouths several times, as they've already done. 


Monday, May 16, 2022

Lynch Conducts Partisan Political Rally at Gracedale

Over the years, Gracedale's large campus has often been the venue for "informational" meetings peculiar to that nursing home.  Back in 2010, I complained here about one such rally. Though it was supposed to be about efforts to stop the sale, the real purpose of this shindig was to engage in blatant partisan political activity on county-owned property. Every Democrat running for office was asked to speak. And at the campus exits, trade union members passed out political leaflets to people as they left. They were perverting public resources to get people elected. This could be construed as a Hatch Act violation, since the home is federally funded. 

Failed NorCo Exec candidate Steve Lynch has had several of these "informational" meetings himself. One of them, which decried the staffing shortage while positing no solutions, was right before the election he lost. Another was a few months later. 

Yesterday, Lynch dropped the pretense of "information." He instead conducted a blatantly partisan political rally on the Gracedale campus without seeking permission from anyone. He hosted several Republican candidates, from Lt. Gov. candidate James Earl Jones to himself, of course.

In addition to perverting public resources for politics, he was making it impossible for many of the 406 people who consider Gracedale their home to enjoy the well-kept grounds. That area is used for residents to walk or move around in their wheelchair. It is their back yard. 

His partisan political message was shoved down their throats, whether they like it or not.  

Lynch and his minions are also anti-vaxers and anti-maskers. While the likelihood of spreading an infection outdoors is remote, several residents did attend this rally and live in an home in which nearly 100 people were killed by COVID-19/    

I support core political speech, even messages with which I disagree. But we need to limit the partisan politics at a county nursing home. Northampton County has numerous parks as well as the courthouse. Those areas are more suited to political speech. 

It's time that Northampton County Council consider an ordinance that limits partisan political activity  on county-owned property to parks and outside the courthouse. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Election Day Tips

Blogger's Note: Although approximately 20,000 voters have applied for mail-in ballots, a large number of voters will vote in person. Here are some tips from NorCo Acting Voter Registrar Amy Hess:  

Casting a ballot at the polls
 
On May 17, 2022, Northampton County’s 154 precincts will be fully staffed for voters who prefer to cast their ballot on the ES&S ExpressVote XL machine. It is recommended that voters wear comfortable shoes and bring a chair if standing is difficult. Facemasks are recommended, but not required.
 
Polls will be open from 7:00AM – 8:00PM. Voters will check in at the registration table on an E-poll book by giving their name. The E-poll book will indicate if the voter is eligible to vote and if they are at the correct polling place. If so, they will sign in on the touchpad.
 
In this Primary Election, registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates running on their party’s ticket. All registered voters in East Allen Township can vote on the referendum question.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot and have turned it in are not eligible to vote at the polls.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot, but have decided they’d rather cast their vote on the machine must give the ballot and the return envelope to the Judge of Elections. After spoiling the ballot, the Judge will have the voter sign a form. Only then will they be permitted to vote on the ExpressVote XL.
 
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot, but do not have their ballot or the return envelope with them will be given a provisional ballot. The Elections Board will verify that the voter did not vote by mail before the provisional ballot can be counted.
 
An instructional video for voting on the ES&S ExpressVote XL is available online at NorthamptonVotes.com
 
 
Casting a mail-in ballot
 
The Elections Office reminds voters to carefully follow the instructions included with their ballot. “Naked” ballots—those which have not been enclosed in the inner secrecy envelope—will not be counted. The voter should use black or blue ink and must sign and date the back of the return envelope. Mail-in ballots will be declared void if there are any identifying marks on the ballot or secrecy envelope.
 
If submitted by mail, the ballot must be received by 8:00PM on May 17thPostmarks will not be considered. All return envelopes include postage, voters do not need to add a stamp.
 
On Election Day, mail-in ballots can be returned directly to the Elections Office located on the Lower Level of the Government Center at 669 Washington Street, Easton by 8:00PM, or at one of the County’s four secure ballot drop-off boxes. The drop-off boxes have different closing times on Election Day. PA State Law states that voters must only drop off their own ballot. If you come into the Elections Office, you may be asked for your ID. If you drop off someone else’s ballot you must have a “Certification of Designated Agent” form on file at the Elections Office. A copy of the form can be downloaded at www.vote.pa.gov
 
Secure Ballot Drop-off Boxes
 
·        Bethlehem City Hall Rotunda– 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018- City Hall is closed on Election Day but the ballot drop-off box will be available in the Rotunda from 7:00AM -  8:00PM
 
·        Northampton County 911 Center – 100 Gracedale Ave. Nazareth, PA 18064 – open from 8:30AM - 8:00PM
 
·        Human Services Building – 2801 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem, PA 18020 – open from 8:30AM - 7:00 PM
 
·        Rotunda of the Government Center – 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042 – open from 8:30AM - 8:00PM

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pack the Court? How About Eliminating Lifetime Appointments Instead?

I support a woman's right to end a pregnancy, at least in the early stages.  This is part of the right to privacy enshrined in the Due Process Clause. No such right is explicitly expressed in the Bill of Rights, but I believe the founders very much intended that government should interfere as little as possible with our freedom. The Declaration of Independence, which should be read together with the Constitution and Bill of Rights, indicates that the "unalienable" rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are "self evident." There is no need to expressly state that this includes an abortion in the early stages of a pregnancy. Pro-lifers believe life begins at conception. I respect that opinion, but absent proof, I see no reason to change the common law practice of allowing a woman to choose to end a pregnancy before she is visibly pregnant.  

This is basically what the Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade.  I'll concede that the opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun is long on history but short on analysis. He completely misses the "self-evident" and "unalienable" rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  While this 1073 decision is a precedent, I agree with Justice Amy Coney Barrett' assertion, made during her confirmation hearings, that it is no super precedent.  In fact, the ruling was revised in Planned Parenthood v. Casey

While I support a woman's right to choose, I was disgusted that some clerk in the Supreme Court leaked a draft opinion to the media that might be reversing this decision. This is no less an assault on our government than the January 6 attempted coup. 

I have since read news accounts that Democrats in Congress might try to pack the Court ... again. 

This is stupid. 

Let's say Democrats succeed in packing the court with more justices who are willing to do their bidding. This will only last as long as they remain in power, which seems to coming to an end. Then Republicans could pack the court with even more justices who are loyal to them. Before you know it,the Supreme Court will be just as large as Congress and just as political. 

Instead  of packing the courts, no judge or justice should ever be appointed for life. Nothing in the Constitution requires that federal judges can sit on a bench forever.  Federal judges should be appointed to serve one and only one term for a designated number of years . This will prevent the ruling party, be they Democrats or Republicans, from selecting judges that fit their agendas.    

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Party Extremes Will Hurt Both Parties in Pa.'s Guv and Senate Races

The two biggest races in Pennsylvania this year are for the U.S, Senate and Governor. Both are open as Senator Pat Toomey and Governor Tom Wolf head for the exit. Because of the extremes in each party, Republicans will almost certainly lose the Governor's seat while Dems appear to be doomed in the Senate race. 

In the Governor race, nine Republicans seek their party's nomination while Josh Shapiro runs solo on the Dem side.  Given the large number of GOP candidates, it's very easy for someone to win with the plurality of Republicans who've gone off the reservation with conspiracy theories and Q-Anon nonsense.  There is such a candidate, State Senator Doug Mastriano.  

This is what Governing says about Mastriano: 

"Leading the pack is Doug Mastriano, a first-term state senator who rose to prominence by attacking COVID-19 safety protocols and unflaggingly standing behind Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. He attended the Jan. 6 rally outside the Capitol, although claims he left the crowd before the riots began. Since then, he’s stuck to the Trump line, accused members of his own party of participating in a cover-up and demanded that Tioga, York and Philadelphia counties turn over their election equipment and voting records to him."

Mastriano will appeal to the tea party contingent and get his party's nomination while much better candidates like former US Att'y Bill McSwain and Dave White will be derided and dismissed as RINOs. 

Never mind that these more moderate candidates might appeal to Democrats like myself. 

While Republicans are in a circular firing squad, AG Josh Shapiro can keep his powder dry for the general election. He will be able to paint Mastiano as an extremist because that's exactly what he is.

In the US Senate race, it's unclear to me whether Trump's endorsement of  Mehmet Oz means he will beat Dave McCormick, a West Point and former hedge funds manager who amazingly defends China's record on human rights.  These both appear to be weak candidates in a general election. Demorats are poised, however, to ensure that a Republican wins.  

That's because the Democratic front runner is John Fetterman, who is way ahead of Conor Lamb in both polling and money. Fetterman may look like a steelworker, but is as woke as you get. His views are alien to most Pennsylvanians, and Republicans will have a field day with him in the general. 

Republicans will pick the worst possible candidate for Governor and Democrats will return the favor in the US Senate race. 

This is why independents should be allowed to vote in primaries. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Whitney on Siegel's State House Race

Blogger's Note: Two candidates, Joshua Siegel and Saeed Georges, are seeking the Democratic nomination for State House in District 22. This covers much of Allentown's east side. James Whitney, who has penned several Allentown-related stories for this blog, fills you in on Siegel.  I'll be doing that myself later this week. 

According to multiple sources familiar with Joshua Siegel's campaign for State Rep, Mr. Siegel is poised to issue an apology to the Allentown Police Department. Community leader Tino Babayan, who’s spoken directly to Siegel, says that Siegel indicated that he’s ready to apologize. He believes Siegel is looking for the right time and place to make his apology and that he will not consider an endorsement until he does.

Joshua Siegel has a long history of advocating for the defunding of police and has repeatedly voted not to hire more officers. He most recently made the case in an August ‘21 op-ed published in the Morning Call. Siegel co-wrote that article with councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach who at the time had been arrested and indicted for child endangerment, but hadn’t yet entered the first-offender program she’s currently enrolled in. 


Siegel's anti-police actions have at times been more direct and bordered on dangerous. During a 2020 protest in front of the Allentown Police Department, protesters were demanding the identities of two police officers. Josh Siegel didn’t have the names of the officers, but displayed a willingness to dox public officials, when he gave the protesters Mayor Ray McConnell’s personal phone number. Siegel’s dissemination of private information came at a time in which ambush style attacks against police officers were on the rise, a trend that hasn’t slowed down. Ambush attacks of police officers were up 103% in 2021 according to data collected by the National Fraternal Order of Police. On July 11th 2020, the same day that Josh Siegel was protesting the Allentown police and doxing public officials, two police officers were shot and killed in McAllen, Texas. 


Their names were Edelmiro Garza and Ismael Chavez. They died as heroes, at the hands of a coward. 


Siegel’s attacks against police took a turn for the bizarre on August 5th 2020 when he told a veteran police officer that he should “at least try” to understand the term “fuck the police” as a cultural reference before condemning the phrase. In April 2021 Siegel appeared in a satirical video in which he manically joked about dedicating a mural to police brutality in downtown Allentown. In the same video Josh Siegel joked about struggling downtown Allentown businesses, saying “sometimes you know, you gotta fail once or twice, before you fail that third time. It’s like they always say, the seventh time is the charm.” It’s unclear if Mr. Siegel will be offering an apology to the small business community who has been rocked by a worldwide pandemic, a national labor shortage, and supply chain issues. 


If Siegel does issue an apology to the APD, and the past is prologue, there’s reason to believe his apology may not be an enduring one, or represent any meaningful change. After doxing Mayor O’Connell, Joshua apologized to his fellow City Council members , saying "I am not a hypocrite. ... I respect you as my colleagues. I respect you as professionals who I will work with. ...I want to be your friend.” Three days later, in an online meeting, Joshua again disparaged his colleagues, saying some members of council “clearly don't either have a conscience or frankly don't care and they're fine with continuing to have police officers put their knees on the necks of Allentown citizens. They're fine with continuing to maintain an institution of policing that at its very core is designed to oppress people of poverty and people of color and keep them silenced and on the streets and keep them from speaking their minds.”

Monday, May 09, 2022

John Stoffa Remembered By Friends and Family

Former Northampton County Executive John Stoffa lost a long battle with Parkinson's Friends last week. Friends and family paid tribute to him on Friday night in what at times was more like a comedy show than a viewing. Stoffa would have been pleased. 

Mount Bethel Church Pastor Dan Chistenson served more as a master of ceremonies than as a preacher. A former prison board member, he said Ron Angle is the person who sent him to jail and Stoffa kept him there.  

Stoffa was a farm boy from Jim Thorpe who came up hard. He put himself through school after serving in the Army. He boarded with the Gallagher family, whose daughter was attending a different college. When John was at school, Barbara was home. When Barbara was at school, John was boarding. They did eventually meet. It was love at first sight for John. Anyone who has seen or knows Barbara could understand that. For Barbara, it probably took longer. A lot longer.  

John worked in Northampton County's Human Services, where he headed up Children and Youth.  Back in those days, Human Services was scattered at numerous places around the county. I got to know him in the stairwells. Whenever he was at the courthouse, he eschewed the elevator for the steps. I remember seeing a 96' foot man with a carrot red top bounding up the steps at the speed of light. He'd always smile and would say Hi as he knocked me on my ass. 

When Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried became Executive, he tapped Stoffa to take over what was then a scandal-ridden department. In four short years, Human Services in Northampton County became a model for the rest of the state.  John then moved over to Lehigh County to head their Human Services. 

After he retired, he was at the forefront of an open space referendum in Northampton County. I was opposed for reasons that make no difference now. I ran a dirty, negative campaign, which comes natural for me. Anonymous fliers. Automated robocalls. I still remember making prank calling John while he was out baling hay or doing whatever the hell farmers do. I tried my best to muddy him up, but failed. The bastard beat me about 65/35.

We actually became friends. He's the most honest man I've ever seen, in or out of government. 

When he decided to run for Executive, I supported him. Then he made the goofiest campaign pledge you'll ever hear made by an office seeker.  He promised to raise taxes. That's right. He told voters that if they elected him, he'd raise their taxes a half mill for an open space program that would fund farmland preservation, the purchase of environmentally sensitive land and municipal parks. 

"They elected me anyway," he later liked to quip.

They elected him a second time, too, with no opposition from Republicans in the general election. Now John was not just a Democrat, but a liberal Democrat. He believed in things like voter day registration and lowering the voting age to 16. His favorite President was LBJ. But as Executive, he cared very little about party affiliation. He appointed Republicans like Vic Mazziotti to his cabinet. This drove Democrats nuts. His strongest ally on County Council was conservative Ron Angle.

One was a social services do-gooder. The other was a wheeler dealer who made millions robbing investing in banks and real estate. Both were farmers at heart who detested bad government.

At John's viewing, Ron said that Stoffa always wanted him to call when feeding his cows so John could listen to them.

"You know, you kinda' sound like them," Angle would tell Stoffa.

This unlikely duo understood that party affiliation means very little in local government. No neglected or abused child insists on a Republican or Democratic caseworker.   

Vic Mazziotti was John's Director of Fiscal Affairs. He went on to become an outspoken Lehigh County Comm'r, but said that working for John was the "highest honor " he ever had in government service.

He noted that John refused to accept anything from anyone. In fact, in his bid for re-election, he funded his campaign out of his own pocket.   

Vic said that, after a tour of Just Born candy factory, all were provided a bag of candies. Stoffa refused to accept his. 

He also mentioned that, after meeting with a shady vendor, he told Stoffa that "you need to count your fingers" after shaking hands with that person. Then Vic winced. Stoffa was already minus two fingers as a result of a farming injury he suffered as a boy. Stoffa laughed. 

Son Jeff said he and dad spent one evening carefully littering the county with campaign signs in one of the primaries. The next morning, he noticed that every single sign they had planted was gone. Angry, Jeff started yanking out the opponent's signs. His father stopped him. "We don't do that sort of thing," Stoffa admonished. Jeff had to put them all back. 

This is a man who, until he had a hip replacement, refused to take a parking spot in the county garage. He could be seen trudging up the 7th Street hill, with briefcase and deerstalker hat, every morning. 

Lamont McClure, the current County Executive, was the first person at John Stoffa's viewing. He said John's legacy can be found in every park, in the centralized human services building that the county was eventually able to buy on favorable terms and in the West Easton work release facility that really makes a jail expansion totally unnecessary. "His legacy is real, we can see it, it's tangible."

McClure noted that when he was on County Council, Stoffa often glared at him because McClure had a tendency to throw monkey wrenches into Stoffa's plans. Now that he's the Executive, "I know why." McClure stated that Stoffa had been very generous with his time and support since leaving office.

Vicky Bastidas, Director of Camel's Hump Farm, credited Stoffa for the county's contribution toward the purchase of Camel's Hump Farm, adjoining Housenick Park. Instead of a 420-unit development proposed at that site, the land is now used as a nature education center and community garden.

John had a knack for sending very strange packages and letters. I'd occasionally get one from him, adorned with all kinds of stickers. It might contain a news clipping, book or a brief, handwritten note. He did this to members of his family, too.  One of his nephews said he'd get strange boxes every Christmas with an assortment of oddities. He'd have no idea what most were until something would break down and he'd immediately realize that this coil or that string was exactly what he needed. 

"I know a little bit about everything, and that often does me more harm than good," Stoffa once told me as he commented on plantings around the courthouse that he was sure would be dead in a few months. He was right. 

He was generous with his time and his ear, but not the county purse. I remember often seeing him run around the courthouse, turning off lights in bathrooms.      

Like every county executive, he was cheap. "You know, the hardest word in the English language is No."  He said it often. 

This was a farm boy who saved everything and even had Angle give him the string from his feed bags. 

He even found a use for a deer that dropped dead in front of his house. He called Jerry Seyfried. "Could you use a deer?" he asked. Jerry loves venison and came right over. He and Jeff Stoffa were having a tough time loading a seven-point buck onto Jerry's truck. Stoffa abandoned his walker and next thing you know, he was behind the wheel of a front-end loader. 

"Oh no you don't" said Jerry. "That's a brand new truck!" Jerry and Jeff somehow found the strength to load the deer.

Incidentally, Stoffa called the Game Warden and paid a $10 fee for each of the seven points.

Diogenes was known for walking around Athens with a lantern in a vain search for an honest man. 

He never met Stoffa. 

Jeff Stoffa, one of John's sons, started the hilarity with this eulogy:

Being John Stoffa’s son meant that you were also his partner-in-crime for every whim, project, and hobby he came up with.

When I was 8 years old, he woke me up on a Saturday morning and said, “Jeffrey!  Get up!  We’re going to buy some albino peacocks from some Amish people!”

Now being only 8 years old, I did not know what albino or Amish meant.  I was very focused on my new metal lunch pail that I just got with Sonny and Cher on it.  “Well,” I thought.  “I don’t know anything about these Amish people but I’m sure that they must be Sonny and Cher fans like me, so I’ll bring it.

Dad and I ventured out in our station wagon to a very exotic place I had never heard of called Lancaster and ended up at a scary stone house in the middle of nowhere that was very dark inside.  The Amish man and my father placed me at the end of a very long table with two long benches where 12 Amish children sat, with a mother standing at the sink washing dishes.  No one spoke to me.  No one spoke English.  They all spoke Pennsylvania Dutch.  These were not Mennonites; these were old school 1970s Amish BEFORE they were doing reality shows.

“NOW DON’T GO ANYWHERE!  I” LL BE BACK!”  my father said.  Don’t go anywhere?  Where would I go?

I stared back at these kids, in my 1970s Garanimals blue red green orange white and black striped shirt, clutching my lunch pail, trying my hardest to cover Cher’s midriff with my tiny little hand thinking, Where am I and where is my father?

Eventually Dad came back with the Amish man and announced that the peacocks were in the car and we could go.  That’s when it occurred to me that we had not arrived with any kind of peacock transport.  The peacocks would be traveling with us inside the station wagon in the backseat all tied up.

Dad said we could stop at McDonald’s.  That was a treat.    As we got our food, Dad said, “Now, we have to sit at that table by the window so we can watch the car in case the peacocks escape.” 

“OK. Wait what.  Uh.  Escape?  Is this something we should be worried about?”  Well, I don’t like that Amish man’s ropes.  I should have brought some from home. I have better ropes.

We ate, got in the car - And sure enough the peacocks got loose inside the car on the way home after McDonald’s.  So if you ever wondered what it was like to be John Stoffa’s son, picture yourself driving down Rt. 22 in a Pinto Station Wagon while being attacked by albino peacocks – your Sonny and Cher lunch pail your only defense.

 Later that year, my father announced I was getting a pet.  “Really?  What kind?”  “A steer,” he said. “What’s a steer?”   “Well, its like a cow but more fun. “ OH OK.  Days later my steer arrived; my mother named him Sir Loin.  He was cute.  I asked my father, “What can I do with it?   Can I ride it?”  No.  Can I play with it?” No.  “Well then, what do we do with it?  “We castrate it.”  CASTRATE?  That’s another new word!   And thus, I acquired a skill that has actually proven valuable later in life. Whenever I am at a party or corporate event and someone says, “Let’s go around the room and mention something that no one knows about us, I always say, “I can castrate a steer.”  That usually shuts down the exercise, especially in Miami.

Having a steer wasn’t as fun as my dad made it out to be.  Sir Loin just ate and got bigger and bigger.  Eventually, he was up to 1200 pounds.  Our farm was located right next to my elementary school so I could see Sir Loin from my classroom attached to his stake, eating all day.

One day, I looked out the window at school and Sir Loin wasn’t there.  Then I heard some small children screaming in terror on the playground.  Teachers were running down the halls.  Then suddenly, who lumbers past my school window but Sir Loin.  How embarrassing.  “That’s Jeff Stoffa’s cow?” some kid yelled.  What? Mine?  I’ve never seen that thing before in my life.  But everyone knew that Sir Loin was mine, so the principal called my mother who called my father who came and rescued Asa Packer School from the attack of Sir Loin.  So if you ever wondered what it was like to have John Stoffa as a dad, you can also picture yourself as an 8 year old watching your dad in a three piece suit leading your steer back home by the chain while apologizing to all the teachers. 

“JEFFREY Get up!  We are going to plant sunflowers!!!!”…………………………….”why ?”  Well, when they bloom we will cut the stalks about put them on a table by the road with a sign that says “honor system: and people will put five cents in a cigar box.  ………” Why are we doing this, have you lost your job?”

There are countless stories like this.  When it came to my father’s projects, it was best to just go with the flow and remain as still as possible.  This is also good advice for a bear attack.

My father liked John Philip Sousa

Peanuts

Hot dogs

His model A Ford,

WWII and Holocaust history

Big Band music

Marching band music

Playing his trumpet

His favorite move star was Jeanne Simmons

His favorite president was LBJ

He loved Penn State his alma mater

Parades

Funerals

Viewings

Obituaries

To his siblings he was Jack, to people from his hometown he was “Zeke” or “Yonko.”

He had no middle name.

Volleyball

Basketball

Gossiping

He loved Northampton County.

His favorite city was Easton

His favorite greeting was “Do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?”

Reading the Morning Call

Reading the Express Times

Vacations – his favorite:   when my parents went to the USSR in 1976 in a special culture exchange and he smuggled Hershey’s chocolate in and gave it to little kids in Red Square when the Soviet Tour Guides weren’t looking.

He loved Mountain Dew

My father was truly a kind and good man with  many incredible qualities.  He was a much better man than I will ever be.

My father was loving and affectionate.  When I was a very small child before my brother was born and I would get into bed with my parents, I wouldn’t get in the middle, I would always get in on the edge inside my father’s arms.

He was humble.  I recall my mother spending months bugging my father to get his portrait done as the new County Executive.  He had no interest.  He wasn’t vain at all. It wasn’t until she reminded him that someone gets paid for that painting and he was standing in the way of someone’s livelihood; then he did it.

 He was funny, in a dry way.  Whenever my brother Greg and I had new friends over for dinner, he’d say, “You’d better eat your peas or else Mrs. Stoffa will [holds up his hand missing two fingers]…….”   “John!  Stop that!  They’re going to think you’re serious!”    “I am serious.  Eat your peas or else.”

My father was honest.  When he was running for county exec either the first or second time, I can’t remember.  We had spent all day putting lawn signs out.  Just he and I.  The next morning, we woke up to find that everyone of our signs had disappeared.  This hardly phased my father.  I was pissed. I immediately jumped in my car and went out in broad daylight pulling out all the signs of his opponent.  Exactly the same number that we had missing.  When I returned, my father was very angry with me.  “Jeffrey, I don’t do things like that.  Besides, you don’t know who did that. Maybe it wasn’t my opponent”  He made me go out and put all the signs back.  I told him that with his talent for administration and my ruthless thirst for vengeance, we could have reached the White House. 

My father was understanding.  During the worst of the Trump years when everyone was at each others throats, Dad enjoyed just asking Trump supporters why they like Trump without judging or criticizing. He just listened and tried to understand their point of view.

My father was frugal.  He would waste nothing.  I was the opposite so every night he’d go through the garbage looking for things I threw away that someone could use which often included clothes.  It was not unusual to see him working on the farm in his 60s wearing some wild 80s outfit of mine I had bought at the Lehigh Valley Mall with wild velour colorful lapels.  He looked like an aging member of Duran Duran.  “This is a perfectly good sweatshirt.  I don’t know why you threw it away.”

But what I think I most admired about my father is how he treated people.

My father surrounded himself with a menagerie of odd people and I’m not just talking about Bernie O Hare and Ron Angle. 

For instance, we had a man name Rudy who Dad let rent out a barn stall for his pony.  Rudy must have been 85, he had no wife, kids, no family.   All he had was his pony which was so old it couldn’t walk much.  He’d come every day and just sit with his pony and keep him company.  My mother and I never knew anything about Rudy because we couldn’t understand him when he spoke; I assume he had mental disabilities.  He was part of our farm for years.  But Dad talked to him all the time; Dad could understand what he was saying.

Then there was Sally Beier, a schizophrenic who dad counseled early in his career that he got close to.  She’d call the house every week for decades until she died.  “IS YOUR FATHER THERE??>?? I NEED TO TALK TO HIM!”

Dad would take me to Hogar Crea on the weekends when I was very young.  Usually because something structural in the building had to be looked at but he always introduced me to the recovering addicts and explained to my why they were there.  Like Princess Diana taking Prince William to homeless shelters, Dad wanted me to see that not everyone worked for Bethlehem Steel and lived in a split level.

Then there was my favorite, Jake the Grinder, or as he said his name CHAKE THE GRINTER.  When dad planted field corn, this guy would grind it up.  My parents would be at the Governor’s ball in Harrisburg and Jake would come to the door and say,

“Its me its Jake the grinder.

‘Yes, Jake, I remember you.

Vhere’s your pa?”

“He’s in Harrisburg at the Govern/….He’s in Harrisburg.”

Vell, I come to grind the corn so I can come next week but I don’t know should I come on Monday or Wednesday cause of Tuesday cause Tuesday is the Forf of CHOO LIE

My father treated Sally Beier and Rudy and Jake the Grinder and the guys at Hogar Crea no differently than he treated the governor.  He looked for the goodness and kindness in people and never noticed peoples accents, their socioeconomic background, their education, what color or religion they were, or who they slept with.  He judged everyone by merit.  I have never met anyone that remotely resembled my father and I don’t think I ever will.

My father didn’t like everybody.  But if he didn’t like you, it was because of something you said, or did.  Not because of something you were.  He was an example to us all.

I want to end with an anonymous poem….

The memory of my father is wrapped up in white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.

Just as a magician takes rabbits out of his hat, he drew love from his body.

And the rivers of his hands, overflowed with good deeds. 

Friday, May 06, 2022

NorCo Council Tables McClure's $15.5 Million Spending Plan at Gracedale

Northampton County Council President Lori Vargo Heffner joined all four Republicans in voting last night to table Executive Lamont McClure's $15.5 million spending plan at Gracedale. The county-owned nursing home is currently plagued by numerous job vacancies and has had to reduce its census so that it can still provide nursing care to residents. Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King told Council that census was down to 406 as of yesterday. There are also about 400 vacancies, although Stewart-King advised that about 100 of these positions will never be filled. McClure's plan was designed to retain and recruit staff, but members of Council had reservations about different aspects of the blueprint. 

The $15.5 million is part of about $30 million that NorCo will receive this month from the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted by Congress in response to the pandemic. 

McClure's plan called for the following: $2.5 million for nursing agencies to supply manpower; $2 million to build an on-site Daycare for Gracedale staff at no cost to them;  $5 million for bonuses paid to keep and recruit staff over a two-year window;  $1 million for capital projects; and $5 million to replace revenue lost as a result of the reduced census. 

"We need to pay those retention bonuses now," argued McClure. "Do you really want people to work there or not? ... If you want to get a For Sale sign, tell me. But that's not what I want to do." 

Although there was consensus that Council needs to do something, Republican members hasd numerous reservations about McClure's outline. 

Council member John Brown questioned the daycare without more research into the "long-term impact." 

Brown also questioned the recruiting and retention bonuses. Under McClure's plan, every Gracedale worker retained or recruited will get $2500 after 12 months and another $2500 after 24 months. Brown implied these bonuses are too low. He said these bonuses amount to a $1.20 per hour raise. That's not significant," he remarked. 

He dismissed McClure's plan as a "short-term band-aid" and said the county was simply "throwing money" at a problem. He said that management issues are the "real plague" at the home. 

He supports spending $15.5 million on Gracedale, but "this is not a plan." 

Council member John Goffredo had reservations about the daycare. He noted that the county would have to continue funding it after federal funds dry up. I don't see that as a way to save a facility that is short 400 workers." 

Copuncil member John Cusick said he'd agree with the bonuses if that was the only feature of McClure's plan because of the immediate need in staffing." 

Cusick and Council member Tom Giovanni were perturbed at sinking $5 million into Gracedale to replace lost revenue, especially when the county has failed to produce financial statements for the last two quarters. 

Cusick also observed this could be an exercise in futility. The state and federal governments are poised to mandate an increase in the minimum amount of nursing care that must be provided to residents. The county is unable to meet the current state minimum.  The federal government is expected to mandate that no more than two residents may share a room, but Gracedale is set up for four. 

Eventually, there was a motion to table. Democrat Lori Vargo Heffner was persuaded by the arguments made by Republicans. 

McClure will either have to make revisions or persuade one Council member to change his or her mind. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Actually, Lisa Scheller Has Five Problems

Before getting started, let me state I have always found Republican Congressional candidate Lisa Scheller to be responsive and fair-minded. She was very effective as a Lehigh County Comm'r, and her scholarships at LCCC are a Godsend for disadvantaged students. But yesterday, I warned that her ties to right-wing extremists Steve Lynch, Tom Carroll and the very cliquish Tea Party would be problems for her should she win the primary. I neglected to mention two other problems that, in my view, could condemn her candidacy in a slightly Democratic congressional district. 

The first of these is her business ties to China. Her opponent, Kevin Dellicker, has hammered her about this repeatedly. His campaign has even created the Ask Lisa Scheller website specifically about her business ties to our biggest competitor. 

Scheller is the owner of Silberline Manufacturing, which produces aluminum pigments. This company derives much of its revenue from two manufacturing sites in China. A third plant might be on the way. She also has a partnership with a Chinese Company controlled by that country''s communist party. 

In Congress, would Scheller be representing the Lehigh Valley or her own business interests? That's a fair question, and is one I am sure Susan Wild will ask in the general election if Scheller wins in the primary.  

The second problem, and this is an issue for both Republicans, is the Supreme Court. We've all heard, correctly or incorrectly, that the Supreme Court is poised to reverse decades of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade.  

This is music to the ears of pro-lifers, but it will enrage the Democratic base and even some Republicans. 

The GOP is currently poised to win big in the mid-terms, but it will snatch a defeat out of the jaws of victory with a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Recent polling by Politico and Fox news indicate widespread support for keeping the ruling in place. 

Instead of winning an election based on rising food and gas prices, Republicans could lose it for restricting a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

One Strong Woman Beat 20 Strong Men

Last week, the Lynch mob were feeling pretty good about themselves. Steve Lynch was able to bellow at State Committee candidate Margie Mandell because she dared to support Kevin Dellicker instead of Lisa Scheller for Congress. Lynch called on his minions to obliterate and blast me. Claiming that I am a child of Satan, he challenged me to a duel. And his cult took it upon themselves to try to scare Mandell with a few terroristic threats. Toxic masculinity is back, said Lynch. 

Their ploy backfired. Mandell refused to be cowed into silence, even by thugs who like to stand in the back of Republican meeting rooms with guns at their hips. Lynch tried to cut a video calling Mandell a liar, but took it down 15 minutes after it published. Lynch mob member Benjamin Jacques has deleted his terroristic threat post as well as his Facebook live videos. Matthew Walter has deleted the video he shot complaining about RINOs. 

Looks like one strong woman beats 20 strong men. 

But these are a far cry from real men.   

Incidentally, Satan has disavowed paternity and is demanding a test. 

Lisa Scheller Has Three Problems

Scheller with Lynch and two of his 
cult members
Lisa Scheller and Kevin Dellicker are the two Republicans seeking their party's nomination in the Lehigh Valley Congressional race against incumbent Susan Wild.  I'd say Lisa should win the primary because (1) she has prior experience in political campaigns; (2) she is loaded and can easily anyone; and (3) she did an excellent job in a Republican-sponsored debate between this duo. But she has three problems. A Steve Lynch problem. A Tom Carroll problem. A Tea Party problem. 

Lisa's Lynch Problem - According to Lynch, they met several years ago when he was her personal trainer. He became her field director two years ago and he's supporting her again. That's understandable.  But instead of just promoting Scheller, Lynch is bashing anyone and everyone who supports Dellicker. He has called Dellicker a liar and has mocked him for his size. His cult followers - the Lynch mob - have belittled his service to the nation in the military. 

As one of my readers asks, "[H]ow does someone like Scheller get tied up with a clown like Lynch? She comes across as a genuine good person. They seem like an unlikely pair. She has a really good shot to unseat Wild, but if she keeps ties to this clown Lynch she's going blow it."

Should she prevail in the primary, there is no doubt in my mind that Wild will be hitting Scheller over the head with Lynch at every opportunity. I am sure her campaign team has his cRaZy videos and will tie her to his extremism, from his threat to bring 20 strong men in to physically remove school directors to his isolationist views on Ukraine, where he seems to be hoping Putin prevails.

Lisa's Tom Carroll problem. - Scheller was closely tied to far-right Republican activist Tom Carroll two years ago, and seems to be involved again.  He denies he's an overt racist, but a black assistant DA who was victimized by a gorilla doll placed in her office by Carroll has a different view. Carroll was forced to resign his position in the Northampton County DA''s office. When he ran for the job, Terry Houck hammered him for his racism and Carroll was soundly defeated. 

Instead of distancing herself from Carroll, Scheller has embraced him.

Should she prevail in the primary, Wild will certainly add Carroll to the nails in Scheller's political coffin.    

Lisa's Tea Party Problem. - The local tea party might bray about term limits, but changed their by-laws so that Tom Carroll can essentially be their supreme leader for life. They may claim to be pro-life but support Scheller despite her somewhat pro-choice views on abortion. At the same time, they kicked pro-life Dellicker out.  Their support makes no sense, and it will hurt Scheller in the general election. 

Moderate voters have a healthy disdain for extremist groups, whether they are on the right or the left. 

This should be a Republican year. But I actually think Scheller has given Wild enough nails to seal Lisa's coffin.