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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, September 30, 2022

A Double Whammy

I usually stay off the Internet on weekends, but thought I'd fill you in on my latest experience with vaccines. Around this time last year, I got a pneumonia, flu and Covid vaccine all at one time. I had no reaction. Yesterday, I got the flu and the latest Covid booster at the same time. I slept 12 hours last night and followed that up with a three-hour nap today. I was able to do high intensity interval training yesterday, right after getting the shots. Today, I struggled while walking my neighbor's dog. I cancelled some of my exercises today, but can feel my body is finally returning to abnormal. 

I did not even feel the flu shot, but the Covid booster actually burned on its way in. I have no idea which vaccine me feel tired. 

I would suggest that if you want to get a vaccine, try to shoot for one on a Friday or Saturday so you can get plenty of rest. 

Doug Mastriano - Exhibit "A" On Need For Open Primaries

Josh Shapiro is going to win Pennsylvania's Gubernatorial race in a landslide. Moreover, this will almost certainly have a ripple effect on candidates in closer races, like John Fetterman and Susan Wild. He has proven himself to be both politically savvy and capable of raising the huge sums of money needed. But his victory will have nothing to do with his campaigning style. It will have everything to do with how bad the GOP nominee, Doug Mastriano, has been. 

CNN observes that Mastriano is doping everything he can to lose the race.  he has so far refused to run a single TV ad and refuses interviews with the press, choosing instead to surround himself with a bubble of security guards to protect him from the public he claims to want to represent. 

So how's he gonna' win?

Easy. His campaign announced that, like Jesus in the desert, Doug will be fasting his way into office over the next 40 days. 


Mastriano was able to win the primary because there were so many candidates that all he had to do was attract the MAGA fascists that have infected the GOP party.  

Hey Democrats, don't get all holier than thou on me.  Fetterman did the same thing in the Dem primary. All he needed was the far left to prevail in a race with several candidates. 

Doug Mastriano is Exhibit A on the need for open primaries. 

John Fetterman is Exhibit  B.  

NorCo Exec Lamont McClure to Present 2023 Proposed Budget on Monday

From Northampton County:  Lamont McClure will present the 2023 Northampton County Budget at 2:00 PM on Monday, October 3, 2022 in Council Chambers at the Government Center, 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042. The Budget Address will also be livestreamed on the County’s YouTube Channel and on Facebook.



The media is encouraged to attend.

Blogger's Addendum: After McClure proposes his budget, County Council has three options. First, it can reject his proposal. If this happens, then what McClure proposed will become the Budget automatically. Second, it can adopt his budget wholesale. I've never seen this happen. Third, County Council can propose Amendments and then adopt the budget as amended. Historically, this is the route County Council has always taken. 

Under the Home Rule Charter, McClure must propose a balanced budget, at least in the sense that anticipated funds available must be the same or greater than expenses. 

Council must act on the budget on or before December 16. 


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Scheller Shackled by China Ties, Links to Extremism and Abortion Rights

Scheller and the Lynch mob
Lisa Scheller is the GOP nominee for the Congressional seat currently held by Susan Wild. I like her. I have immense respect for her ability to overcome a heroin addiction, which is extremely difficult. She has been upfront and honest about it, too. I am grateful for her philanthropy at Lehigh County Community College, where she has given a hand up to many deserving students of limited means. As a Lehigh County Comm'r, she was tight-fisted with the people's money. But I'll be voting for Susan Wild for three reasons. 

Lisa's Ties to China. - Scheller owns  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. She's helping China build roads. We should have learned by now that our national security is imperiled when we do business with our adversaries, but Scheller is expanding it, and at the cost of American jobs. In Congress, would Scheller be representing the Lehigh Valley or her own business interests? I would prefer that we not have to ask that question. If you believe in our national security, it is a mistake to vote for Scheller.  If you want to sell out to China, then vote for her. 

Lisa's Confusing Abortion Views. - In a primary debate, Scheller said life begins at conception, described herself as pro-life and went so far as to declare she was "open" to making it a federal crime to perform an abortion once there's a detectable heartbeat. She declared she'd never agree to codify Roe v. Wade. On her website, this pro-lifer has watered down her abortion opposition to late-term abortions. while still proclaiming that she supports a "culture of life." She's twisted herself into a pretzel on this one. By trying to be all things to all people, she's become nothing to anyone. If you support the right to choose or a ban on abortion, I don't see how you can support Scheller. 

Lisa's Ties to Extremists. - Scheller is closely tied to two extremists. 

One of them is tea Party Chieftan Tom Carroll, who lost a race for NorCo DA after a former black assistant DA called him out for placing a toy "loudmouth" gorilla in her office as a joke. Carroll, who incidentally is one of the fake electors falsely certifying a Trump victory in 2020, accompanied her at numerous campaign events and refused to allow her challenger to address the local tea party this year. 

The other extremist is none other than failed NorCo Exec candidate Steve Lynch. He has lately morphed from a toxic male who challenged me to a duel into something of a drama queen. He posted several Facebook Lives after being banned from a Facebook page. And oh yeah, Nazareth police had to be called after he refused the owner's demand that he leave a private restaurant on Labor Day, where Republicans were having some kind of meeting. he was getting out of hand, instead of helping fellow Republicans get elected.  

Scheller employed Lynch as her personal trainer. She fired him as a field director in her 2020 campaign. She has maintained close ties with him and has socialized with him and other far-right elements within the GOP. 

This might be considered "inside baseball" by some, but Jeanie Morgano has noticed the connection, and has actually made her concerns known at Lehigh Valley Live.  

She has continued to embrace a narcissist who (1) was part of a mob that invaded the capitol on January 6; (2) threatened to storm a school board with 20 strong men and physically remove democratically elected school directors; and (3) is disrupting what's left of normal Republicans in Northampton County in the middle of an election cycle. 

Scheller could have distanced herself from Lynch and Carroll, but chooses to surround herself with the worst and most extreme Republicans. 

Maybe she's just being polite. I'd rather not take a chance.  I'm no Susan Wild fan, but am a fan of democracy so I'll be voting for her over those thugs. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Cheryl Johnson RIP

I am sorry to tell you that Cheryl Johnson, a long-time Northampton County employee, has passed away. She only recently retired after more than 30 years of county service. 

She headed the Assessment Office, where she supervised all the assessors. She also presented the county's case in assessment appeals. 

Whenever she saw me, the first word out of her mouth was always "No!" Then she'd help me. 

I bugged her a lot over the years with requests for information. The county lost a valuable person when she retired. She was extremely knowledgeable about real estate. But she was also very congenial and down-to-earth. I'm sorry I failed to say good-bye to her. 

John Fetterman: The Great Pretender

On Saturday, US Senate candidate John Fetterman was at Northampton Community College for a rally. Some say 200 were there. Others say hundreds, The Fetterman camp says 1,000. I know one person who was not there. Me. I met Fetterman long ago, during his first run for the US Senate. I liked him then, but he has morphed from working class liberal into a phony who affects a grunge look to disguise his wokeness and elitism. He's no Everyman, as he likes to pretend. Instead, his political views are aligned with the most extreme elements of the Democratic party.  I'll be voting for Dr. Oz. 

Originally, I planned on voting for neither of these candidates. But on Friday night, I had an opportunity to meet and listen to Mehmet Oz (his parents immigrated from Turkey) at a fundraiser hosted by Democrat Nat Hyman. 

Hyman stated that he first met Dr, Oz when his wife's mother was very ill and had been written off by local medicos. Dr. Oz performed a successful heart operation that extended the life of his mother-in-law by 15 years. So Oz is a bit more than a TV doctor who sells miracle drugs, as he's been caricatured in Fetterman ads. He's a bona fide heart surgeon who has saved lives, as opposed to a grown man like Fetterman, who has relied on his mommy and daddy to pay his bills until he became Lieutenant Governor. 

Oz in many ways is a manifestation of the American dream. His father started with nothing, but was able to attend a medical school in Turkey at a time when it was full of prominent Jewish physicians who fled Nazism. As a result, his father had a superior medical education. America was in need of medical talent, and at that time, Muslims were not considered the pariahs that Team Trump portrayed them to be. So Oz's parents became American immigrants, and he was born in Cleveland. 

Dr, Oz followed in his father's footsteps and became a prominent physician himself. He spent nearly all of his adult life in the medical profession and wellness business, and it is only recently that he decided to get involved in politics. 

I'm aware he's a carpetbagger. So was Hillary. That's not particularly troubling to me. What concerned me was whether Oz embraces the same extremist views as Donald Trump, the person who endorsed him in the primary.

He's far from an extremist and is actually more like the long line of moderates, both Democrat and Republican, who have represented Pennsylvania for many years.  

He explained his approach in a way that is completely nonideological. He noted people (and politicians) are very good at identifying problems, from inflation to immigration. Where politicians fall flat is that they completely fail to do anything about solving the problems they are so good at identifying. "Can you fix the problem?" is the question he believes is most on people's minds. That would be his focus, and without regard to ideology. 

Oz had a question himself for the independently-minded voters at Hyman's home. Between himself and Fetterman, "Who do you think is more radical?" Obviously, it's the pretender with the hoodies and shorts. He wants to end the filibuster (at least while Dems are in control). He would like to enact criminal justice reforms that, though embellished by the Oz campaign, do appear to be extreme. This could explain why the Philly FOP has endorsed Oz. Fetterman says we should invest more in public schools, but himself has a history of 67 property tax liens. 

Fetterman is far from an Everyman. His ideology is more like that of AOC. That's OK, but what drives me nuts is his attempt to pretend he's a working class tough guy. He's actually the son of rich Republicans. 

I'll be voting for a man who actually saved lives instead of the fake.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

It's Time To Say Bye to Lisa Boscola

Lisa Boscola is the incumbent State Senator for the re-drawn Pa. Senate 18th District. Her opponent is Bethlehem Tp Comm'r John Merhottein. I'll be voting for Merhottein. Let me explain why.

I got to know Mehottein when I covered Bethlehem Tp for a local weekly. I found he was always transparent and very responsive to concerns raised by residents. He was one of the Commissioners responsible for making sure that those all-important budget hearings were conducted openly and with painful attention to detail. As a result, his board has eliminated about half of the township's debt. Almost single-handedly, he managed to save the Bethlehem Area Public Library from the budget axe by having a satellite set up in the township. He's a Marine Corps combat veteran who served his country in  both Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He also coaches both basketball and baseball for his son's recreational leagues. 

Merhottein has always responded to my emails. I consider him a centrist. 

Boscola is currently finishing her fifth term as a State Senator. Prior to that, she was a State Representative for four years. She's been in Harrisburg for 24 years.. That's long enough for her to have accomplished whatever she set out to do. It's time for some fresh eyes on our state problems. 

In addition to being in Harrisburg for far too long, Boscola has a problem with alcohol. Those problems first surfaced in 2000, which should have sounded the death knell to her political career. But she survived, mostly because her opponents have been terrible. Reports of her continued use of alcohol have continued over the years. In fact, in 2014, she was ejected from a bar in Harrisburg after she allegedly struck another woman.  

As a recovering alcoholic myself, one of the first things I was told is to avoid the people. places and things that tempt me to drink. Boscola needs to avoid Harrisburg, for her health and ours. 

She was livid when she lost Fountain Hill and gained much of Slate Belt in the most recent redistricting. And I doubt the citizens of Upper Mont Bethel or Stockertown will be anxious to give her another term. 

Now you can slam me for being opposed to the re-election of an incumbent Democrat. But if truth be told, Boscola is pretty much a Republican. So much so that she spoke out against those who desired to save the Green Pond from development. She raises money as well as any country-club Republican, too. Her most recent campaign finance reports shows her sitting on a pile of over $400,000. 

I could write about her per diem abuse, but think I've made my point. 

We need a fresh voice in Harrisburg. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Local GOP Activist Margie Mandell Launches Webpage

Marge Mandell is a local GOP activist who drew the wrath of the Steve Lynch mob because she dared to support of Kevin Dellicker during the congressional primary.  She held her own, too. I have nothing in common with her ideologically, but I respect any person who stands up for herself. On top of that, she has authored two books aimed at younger audiences.  She is now also using her writing skills to host a conservative website she calls "Game of Politics.

Her first entry - Fetterman Rally: Diverse and Delusional - was her take on Saturday's rally for US Senate candidate John Fetterman. 

I like diversity here in Blogistan as well, so I appreciate her point of view. 

I was unable to attend Saturday's rally, but on Friday night was a guest at an equally crowded fundraiser for Dr. Mehmet Oz. He is John Fetterman's opponent in the race for US Senate. I disliked Oz going in, but came away impressed. 

I will give you my take on Oz and that race on Wednesday. 

NorCo's Father of Open Space Honored

Although he's about 150 years old, Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried has done a lot for the citizens of Northampton County. A steelworker who never spent a day in college, he's smarter and more knowledgeable than most Ph.D.s. He served as a member of Northampton County's Council. He has been its Executive, and left the county with a healthy surplus.  He has even worked as a cabinet officer. He was one of the first Council members named after Home Rule was adopted. He was instrumental in drafting the Administrative Code and Career Service Regulations. Simply put, he knows more about Northampton County government and its home rule form of government than anyone, with the possible exception of retired Clerk Frank Flisser. But what most people don't know about this blue collar machinist is that he is also Northampton County's "father of open space." Executive Lamont McClure made that pronouncement yesterday at a well-attended ceremony at Minsi Lake. Over 80 people traveled to the northern tip of the county, in beautiful Mount Bethel Tp, to honor Jerry by naming the Bear Swamp Park and Archery Complex in his honor. 

Superior Court PJ Jack Panella with Jerry 
Jerry has been an avid archer, hunter and fisherman his entire life. Like most outdoorsmen, he developed an appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife long before it was the woke thing to do. Like Mark Twain, who said "they aren't making any more of it," he understood the importance of preserving our land. He preserved the first farm in Northampton County. As Executive, he started an ambitious parks program that Executive McClure has enthusiastically embraced as well. 

Now it took me about 45 minutes to make the trip from Nazareth to Minsi Lake on a Sunday morning. Most of the many people there traveled longer distances than I. They included the President Judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Jack Panella. Judge Panella knows Jerry well because he served as his Solicitor. In addition to Judge Panella, yesterday's ceremony was attended by Judges Steve Baratta, Sam Murray and Jennifer Sletvold. Retired Judge Lenny Zito was there as well. 

Executive Lamont McClure served as master of ceremonies, but the person he wanted people to hear from was Parks Superintendent Bryan Cope, whom he said is a lot like Jerry. Cope has been tireless in his development of the Northampton County Parks system, especially at Minsi Lake. Cope described the 1,200-acre Minsi Lake greenway, which includes the 117-acre Minsi Lake. He noted there are plans to extend the trails throughout the area and eventually connect it with the Delaware River. He thanked Jerry for his "futuristic plans."

If you've never been to Minsi, it's worth a trip. It's located in Upper Mount Bethel Township, which has been relatively untouched by the explosion of development happening everywhere else. It is easily the most picturesque municipality in the county. It reminds me of what the rest of the county looked like 40 years ago.

While I was there, I did some walking around the lake, including an elevated wooden walkway that goes on for nearly a mile. It even included a bird blind where you can sit at near water level and watch birds without spooking them. 

In addition to a wide assortment of judges, yesterday's ceremony included a torrent of current and former elected officials from both parties. They included Council President Lori Vargo Heffner. "I just can't say enough about you," she told Jerry. 

"You don't go through life taking, you gotta' give something back," said Jerry.  He wasn't patting himself on the back, but was instead thanking all the people who have helped make Northampton County "just a little bit better of a place to live." 

He also thanked his wife Julie, who he said spent many uncomplaining years as his secretary, bookkeeper and sounding board.  He indicated her birthday is fast approaching, and that she's somewhere between 41 and 45. 

Yesterday's ceremony was attended by many people who served with Jerry: former Exec Glenn Reibman, former Council member Greg Zebrowski, former DA Don Corriere, First Ass't County Solicitor Mike Corriere, DA Terry Houck, First Deputy DA Richard Huntington Pepper, County Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni, Controller Bucky Szulborski, and Council members Ron Heckman and Kevin Lott. 

Baptismal site for Frank Flisser
This might be expected from fellow Democrats. But whatever his personal beliefs, Jerry took a nonpartisan view when it came to county government. He recognized people for themselves, not their party. So it was refreshing to see a number of prominent Republicans at yesterday's event as well. They included none other than the Northampton County Bulldog himself, Ron Angle. He was accompanied by his beautiful wife Sharon, who is one of the nicest persons I've ever met. Council member Tom Giovanni was kind enough to come, and so were former Council President Peg Ferraro and former Controller John Schimel. 

At a time when Democrats and Republicans are at each other's throats and there are rumblings of civil war, this was a reminder that we're all pretty much the same, no matter how hard partisans may try to divide us. 

Speaking of nonpartisan, former Council Clerk Frank Flisser and his wife Mary Beth were there as well. He was able to serve Council for decades without regard to party. Jerry often said that the best vote he ever made was to confirm Frank as Council Clerk in 1978.  It was Frank's birthday yesterday. I offered to baptize him in Minsi Lake. He told me to wait for him and he'd be along. 

I'm still waiting.  

Friday, September 23, 2022

Allentown's Failing School System

A former friend - the same wiseass who said the seeing-eye dog must be owned by my girlfriend - is himself something of a soft touch. He's befriended a Haitian family that includes a 5th grade student at an Allentown elementary school. I won't name the school because it might enable some people to determine this pupil's identity. His wife and daughters have decided to tutor this young scholar, and have been shocked by what they've learned. 

This product of Allentown schools is unable to add any numbers, including any number added with zero. The child is unable to read and is even unable to spell the word cat. Yet this student has passed every grade in Allentown. 

I have spoken to a teacher who student taught at this school, and she said things are terrible. This school has no money and the teachers there do not care. 

This child's life may already be ruined, thanks to a failing school system.    

McClure Vetoes Ordinance Seeking Proposals For Gracedale Study

Last week, by a 8-0 vote (Kevin Lott was absent), Northampton County Council enacted an ordinance seeking proposals to study operations at Gracedale. It previously approved a resolution to that effect, but Executive Lamont McClure refused to permit his purchasing department to prepare what is known as a Request for Proposals. Council was forced to act by Ordinance and include a specific provision requiring the administration to cooperate.  But there's no cooperation yet. McClure yesterday vetoed the ordinance. 

McClure explained his rejection in this statement:

"Gracedale’s rating on overall health quality from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently rose from one (1) star to (3) stars which included a four (4) star rating for the Health Inspection.

"In May 2022, County Council passed Resolution No. 70-2022 and Resolution No. 71-2022, collectively known as “Saving Gracedale Again.” These resolutions allocated $15 million in ARP funds for retention bonuses, staff recruitment bonuses, Agency nursing costs, making capital improvements to the facility as well as construction of an on-site daycare center. Before moving ahead with an expensive study, Council should allow some time to see how these incentives improve operations at Gracedale.

"Article 602 subsection (g)(2) of the Northampton County Home Rule Charter, authorizes and empowers the County Executive to veto any ordinance within ten (10) days of its adoption by the Northampton County Council. County Council approved this Ordinance on September 15, 2022."

‌Actually, Gracedale was already at two stars when its rating recently increased to three stars.  But McClure is right to note that a third party has determined that it has improved. Where it really has turned a corner is in its increase in nursing care for residents. I believe its dark days are over.

Having said that, there are starkly contrasting stories from some disgruntled and former employees and the administration. An operational assessment would put to rest, once and for all, which side is correct. 

McClure argues that County Council should give Gracedale some time before moving  ahead with an expensive study. But that's exactly what will happen anyway. County Council is merely seeking proposals at this point. If any are received and are too expensive, County Council can elect to let things go.  

Six voted are needed to override a veto that passed 8-0. McClure might persuade Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott to support his veto because they are his most loyal followers. But I think that's where it ends.  

Thursday, September 22, 2022

McClure Vetoes Pay Study Ordinance

As expected, NorCo Exec Lamont McClure has vetoed County Council's ordinance to seek bidders for a pay study. One of my readers has already suggested that he must be the owner of the seeing-eye dog I've been walking. I do agree that his steadfast refusal to get one is short-sighted. First, it permits salary compression and unfair wages to continue. Second, it really hurts morale. Here is McClure's veto message:

"Wage and Benefit studies can be extraordinarily expensive and don’t always provide usable action items. Such data should not be relied upon for long-term planning as it could have the unfortunate consequence of trigging [sic] a tax increase.

"Unlike private sector employees, the majority of County employees belong to a union and benefit from collective bargaining agreements which regulate salaries and improve working conditions. County employees enjoy union benefits including prescription drug plans, pensions and medical, dental, vision and life insurance.

"The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a nation-wide hiring crisis. History implies that this crisis will be temporary. To conduct a Wage and Benefit study during a crisis may result in skewed data.

"Article 602 subsection (g)(2) of the Northampton County Home Rule Charter, authorizes and empowers the County Executive to veto any ordinance within ten (10) days of its adoption by the Northampton County Council. County Council approved this Ordinance on September 15, 2022.'

Six votes are needed to override McClure. This ordinance passed with eight. He can probably get Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott to uphold his veto, but I think that's about it.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Seeing Eye Dog Helping Me Stay Fit

As most of you know, I am a highly-conditioned, well-trained athlete. Even loudmouth Steve Lynch backed off when I countered his attempt to bully me into silence with a boxing challenge with a 100-mile bike race. I've become so fast on the Ironton and Tatamy Trails that I've been ticketed a few times. Now I'm getting a little help in the fitness department from a very mellow seeing-eye dog named Mason.   

Yes, he really is a seeing-eye dog. No, this seeing-eye dog is not owned by my girlfriend, as one wiseass has suggested. His owner is actually a neighbor whose knees are bothering him.  He's been unable to exercise this magnificent English black lab. The dog gained weight quickly. I know what that's like. I volunteered to take him on daily walks. I like to mix up low and high intensity. We've been at it since early August. 

By the way, seeing-eye dogs are amazing. They are trained for two years before an owner is located.  This fellow even knows the difference between left and right, which confuses most humans. The only time I confuse him is when I walk backwards. That drives him nuts. 

If he's in his harness and working, leave him alone. But when he's with me, it's play time.  He loves other dogs and people, especially kids. 

When we first started, Mason struggled to get a mile in. The heat bothered him, too. But whenever he saw me, he wanted to go. Over the past six weeks, we kept it up, usually two walks a day. He now averages between four and five miles a day. He's also doing something new - running. If he hops on a mountain bike, I'm in trouble. 

He is something of a celebrity. Wherever I go, people know him. He signs autographs, but is very modest. 

Over the weekend, we visited Jacobsburg Park. In addition to walking five miles, he swam in the Bushkill Creek. It was his first real swim since he was two. He loved it so much he'd still be there if it were up to him. At one point, he stuck his head under water, came up with a stick, and dropped it at my feet. He had a blast diving into the creek to retrieve the stick.   

Mason was at the vet just before we started and weighed in at 140 lbs. Yesterday, Nazareth Veterinary Center weighed him at no charge, and he's trimming down. He's dropped to 128.6 lbs. 

More importantly, he's happier dog and full of energy again.  

So am I. 

Hearing For Suspected Border House Bandit Delayed

A preliminary hearing for the suspected Border House Bandit has been delayed. Jack Morris, 64, was chaged by Nazareth Police Officer Randall Pompei on August 31 with a rash of thefts from fellow seniors and the disabled at the Oliver Border House in Nazareth. Morris himself was a resident at this senior community. His preliminary hearing, in which the Commonwealth must prove a prima facia case against Morris, was sheduled for yesterday. That hearing, however, has been delayed. It has been rescheduled for October 13, 11:30 am, before Magisterial District Judge John Capobianco.

Morris is currently being housed, not at the Border House, but at Northampton County jail.  He's been unable to post the $75,000 bail set by the court. He faces 10 counts of burglary, a first degree felony punishable by 10-20 years in jail; 10 counts of trespassing, a third degree felony punishable by 3.5-7 years; 1 count of theft as a third degree felony; and 1 count of receiving stolen property as a third degree felony.

Morris is represented by Attorney Nicole Gagliardi of the Northampton County Pubnlic Defender's Office. If he remains in jail, it is likely his hearing will be conducted at the courthouse


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

UPDATED: NorCo Courts Does Advertise Vacancies

When Northampton County's Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1977, it expressly created a merit personnel system for all non-union workers. The idea was to incentivize employees with promotions and transfers based on merit instead of being pals with one or more department heads. Now there have been times when this system has been abused or just ignored. This is one reason why three-fourths of the workforce is union. But the ideal is to reward merit. There is one important county employer, however,  that never follows the Home Rule Charter. That was the courts. But that has changed under Court Administrator Jermaine Greene

Under the Home Rule Charter, vacant positions must be advertised in places where employees can see that there are openings. The goal is to hire from within when possible. But the courts ignored this requirement.   Instead of what you know, it's who you know. Instead of meritocracy, it was pure cronyism. 

The courts, as an independent branch of government, have the right to hire whomever they want. But if they are interested in filling slots with knowledgeable people, they really should voluntarily follow the Home Rule Charter.   

Court Administrator Jermaine Greene told County Council several weeks ago that judges rely on "word of mouth" to fill open spots. But that's only part of the story. He told me that the courts have recognized a need to "pivot" away from its formerly misguided way of hiring. They now advertise vacancies outside the office, maintain a list inside the office and advertise vacancies on the court's website. In areas where there's a critical need, like juvenile justice and court interpreters, they are using the Indeed job search engine. 

While I think they should list the specific vacancies on their website, the changes made by Greene are a stark contrast change away from the previous way that courts attracted people. 

Updated 7:55 am. A previous version of this story waqs posted without knowledge of the changesmade under Jermaine Greene.   

Monday, September 19, 2022

Biden's Not Running

In a 60 Minutes interview last night, President Joe Biden said he hasn't decided yet whether he's seeking re-election. This means he's not. The reason he has failed to speak out definitively is because, the second he announces that one term is enough, he becomes a lame duck.  

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Allentown State Hospital Fiasco

State officials who know much better than the rest of us decided some years ago to close most state hospitals, including Allentown State Hospital. Residents there would do better in community mental health programs, they said. You've seen the results  Severely mentally ill people wander the streets. Instead of being treated in a hospital, they now flood county jails and nursing homes. 

In the meantime, Allentown State Hospital's 200-acre campus sat empty and dormant while state officials considered how they could top their initial blunder of closing it down. They came up with a scheme so incredibly stupid that you have to wonder whether they themselves should be committed.

Our betters in Harrisburg wanted to spend $15 million to tear down the buildings so the tract be sold to a wheeler-dealer from Doylestown for pocket change. After this scheme was exposed here in Blogistan,  our state oligarchs decided to drop the Doylestown developer. But they went ahead and demolished the buildings anyway, with no developer waiting in the wings at all.

They made sure to brush away multiple attempts by Allentown developer Nat Hyman to save the state the expense of demolishing anything and paying cold, hard cash for the site. He was barred from the site and Browne changed the law when Hyman sued to stop the shenanigans. They also disregarded advice from the state's own Historical and Museum Commission. That state agency concluded that the main state hospital building not only retained its structural integrity, but should be listed with the National Register. 

They probably chuckled when 7,300 people signed on online petition asking that the state hospital be preserved. After all, why on earth should our elected officials ever listen to the people who put them in office? The unwashed masses clearly fail to understand how a representative democracy works. 

Eventually, in 2020, and without a redevelopment plan, the buildings all came tumbling down as though they'd been hit by a Putin cruise missile. The only one deemed worthy to stand was an air monitoring station that could measure the dust from all the pollution created. You can ignore everyone else, but not environmentalists. 

After turning a strategic site between Bethlehem and Allentown into an urban desert, our Harrisburg optimates waited nearly two years before bothering to solicit bids for redevelopment. These were promptly rejected as "nonresponsive" so State Senator Pat Browne could try again with a direct sale. 

On his way out the door, following a disgraceful primary loss, Senator Pat Browne's parting gift to J. B. Reilly is right up there with his previous present to Reilly, the Allentown NIZ.  That bill enabled Reilly to build and own a $Billion dollars of new real estate, paid for with diverted Pennsylvania state taxes.

Browne's proposed new law gives the 195 acre State Hospital property to Reilly for $5.5 mil, or just over $28K an acre. The bill, if passed by the general assembly, sells the property to Reilly with no competitive bidding from other developers. Browne's proposal has already been endorsed by the General Services Office, State Representative Mike Schlossberg and mostr of our so-called leaders. 

Browne's gift to Reilly is also the ultimate FU to state taxpayers.

Because the NIZ already allows land swaps, the taxpayers could end up paying for Reilly's new buildings. Such a swap should be prohibited on the former hospital grounds, as it would be an injustice for all taxpayers throughout Pennsylvania.

Other developers and the City of Allentown don't matter.

When asked, Hyman, one of those discarded developers, issued this response:

"I wanted to buy and redevelop the State Hospital site because I believe it is a once in a generation opportunity for Allentown. It is an opportunity to create a new town square for the east side and bolster the finances of the City through desperately needed real estate taxes. City Center is certainly the preeminent developer in Allentown and more than capable of doing a great job with this site. My issue however is with Pat Browne and Mike Schlossberg. Once again, they both are involved in back room dealings shrouded in secrecy and a lack of transparency. The voters have rightly dealt with Pat Browne and this directed sale is another example of his arrogance and his parting shot to the voters as he walks out the door. As far as Schlossberg, you may recall that when I offered $2.3m to buy the site with the buildings intact, he attacked me personally and said that the demolition was necessary to attract a much higher price for the site and a profit for the taxpayers. He claimed to know more about development than I do, despite all of the buildings that I have redeveloped in the City of Allentown. Well, he spent $15m in demolition costs and sold it for $5.5m. He lost the tax payers $10m. He must be held accountable for that.”

The deal seems in direct conflict to the General Service mission, of disposing property in the best interests of the public. With Browne's departure, Schlossberg apparently wants to position himself as the developer's best legislator.

In Allentown government, Mayor Matt Tuerk is actually on board with this absurdity. A man who supposedly had the inside track on economic development has been relegated to the third wheel of the Browne-Reilly bicycle. Councilperson Ce-Ce Gerlach expresses concern about gentrification. That is the least of Allentown's problems. State Rep wannabe Josh Siegel excuses this breach of fiduciary duty to the taxpayer with the hollow argument that at least the property will return to the tax rolls. But will it? Given the state's penchant for corporate handouts and the reality of the NIZ, that seems highly unlikely. State Rep Mike Schlossberg thinks you're either stupid or that you've forgotten his previous claim that demolishing the hospital grounds would make them more attractive. 

As bloggers during the Pawlowski regime, we were amazed by the former mayor's his audacity. However, seeing Browne and Schlossberg in action, we realize what an amateur Pawlowski really was.

Bloggers' Note: This is a collaborative effort by bloggers Michael Molovinsky and Bernie O'Hare. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

NorCo Is Short Three Court Reporters

If you've ever watched a court in action, you've certainly noticed the judges and lawyers. You've probably also noted someone who is taking down every word uttered.  These are court reporters, and they are just as indispensable in a county court as a judge. That's because county courts are courts of record. What is said inside the courtroom can often be the basis of an appeal, or an attorney might wish to impeach a witness with his or her own earlier testimony. If there's no court reporter, there's no court. Right now, Northampton County Court is down three court reporters. There should be 11 of them. Judge Jennifer Sletvold has no assigned reporter.  

The main reason for this is money. The starting salary for a court reporter in Northampton County is about $12,000 lower than it is in Lehigh  Court reporters at the top of their paygrade get $17,000 more in Lehigh than they do in Northampton. Until these ridiculously low salaries are adjusted, Court Administrator Jermaine Greene has proposed hiring three court reporting monitors who would monitor software that automatically transcribes what is being said. Court reporters are so stressed out over their workloads that even they have recommended this stopgap measure.  

This should be a no-brainer, but Executive Lamont McClure opposed the suggestion. Although he was out of town last night, he reportedly advised that he thought Greene should wait for this until next year's budget is adopted. County Council fortunately disagreed. At last night's meeting, they voted 8-0 (Council member Kevin Lott was absent) to approve three monitors. 

Lead court reporter Moira Evans, who has 34 years of experience, was there to back up Greene. So were all eight of the remaining court reporters. Evans told County Council they are working nights, weekends, holidays and even through vacations to transcribe testimony. 

Jermaine Greene was a bit frustrated. Just four weeks ago, Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski falsely accused him of poaching two Human Services workers and actually asked Council to force them to accept a lower wage as a penalty for their desire to advance their careers. After being initially told there was no problem with his request, Green was told he had to wait because he was subverting the budget process.

"You see the proverbial hoop. I'm jumping through the hoop again," he complained. "First, I'm poaching. Now I'm subverting." 

At last night's meeting, the McClure administration had a new reason to reject Greene's request. County Solicitor Missy Rudas told Council they needed the union to bless off on the salaries being proposed through a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) with the County. Council  Solicitor Chris Spadoni, however, said it was unnecessary to have one in place before the positions are approved.  
Council member Tara Zrinski suggested Greene might want to wait until there's a MOU, Greene declined, and for good reason. When he wanted to increase salaries for underpaid and short-staffed juvenile justice workers, he had to wait over four months for a meeting with the union.   

It appears that county unions, which exist to fight for competitive wages, are doing the opposite in Northampton County. 

County Council spent a good 40 minutes discussing this matter, mostly to puish aside roadblocks set up by Zrinski. Most of this was unnecessary. Council member John Cusick summed things up: "There's no more core function than a court reporter. I don't know why we're even debating this." 

Interestingly, after Greene was finished, the jail asked for another sergeant. Nobody in the administration suggested that the jail should wait until budget time. 

This double standard was not lost on Council. 

In other business that matters a great deal to county workers, Council did vote to get proposals for along-awaited pay study. They will be getting proposals for a performance review at Gracedale. And they endorsed pay increases to themselves, the Controller and Executive, starting at the next term of office.

I will fill you in with details on Monday.  

Thursday, September 15, 2022

NorCo Council To Consider Operational Study at Gracedale

Yesterday, I told you that Northampton County Council is poised to enact an ordinance seeking proposals for a pay study of the workforce? Are they underpaid, as most suggest? Are they overpaid, as some suggest? What is the fairest salary?  Despite opposition from within the Lamont McClure administration, I expect this to pass and survive a veto. 

In addition to seeking a pay study, Council will consider an ordinance calling for an operational study at Gracedale. The county-owned nursing home appears to have turned a corner. Residents have seen a dramatic increase in daily nursing care.  Reimbursements are increasing. But the census has been reduced and the home is relying on outside agencies to provide care. How long can this last? Though this study is also opposed by Executive Lamont McClure, a fresh set of eyes can result in recommendations beneficial to both the residents and the workforce.  

Finally, County Council will consider payraises for all elected officials, including themselves. These raises can only go into effect in the next term, so this is by no means automatic. Like county workers, I agree that all elected officials are underpaid. But since County Council is voting on a pay stuidy, why not include elected officials as well? That would be the most objective way to determine a fair salary, as opposed to pulling numbers out of the air.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

NorCo Council Introduces Long-Awaited Pay Study

In recent weeks, I've written about the high number of vacancies at numerous Northanpton County departments. At Gracedale, the shortage is so bad that nursing staff has to be imported from outside agencies.  There are also critical shortages in manpower at the juvenile justice center (run by the courts), the jail, 911, prosecutors and in Children, Youth and Families (CYF). I have argued for years, under at least three different administrations, that payscales are too low and it's too hard top move up. Executive Lamont McClure, however, insists things are going well. 

At the last County Council meeting, he said he wanted to have Human Resources Director Mary Lou Kaboly address Council on her recruiting efforts. 

He acknowledged "a bit of a shortfall" in 911 disptachers, but insists "We're filling those slots back up." To prove his point, he reported that 200 people accessed a skills assessment for a telecommunicator job. "This is indicative to me that perhaps a dam is breaking in terms of ability to hire."  But, and this is an important but, McClure failed to state how many of those 200 actually applied. 

Concerning the jail, McClure boasted that he's running two corrections officer classes simultaneously with another class starting in October. He predicts the county will soon be back to a full complement of prison guards. But, and this is an important but, McClure failed to state he has lowered the eligibility standards. 

After painting this rosy picture, McClure dismissed the argument that steps are set too low. "Clearly, that's not the case.

McClure might be the only person in the county who believes this. 

At their September 1 meeting, Northampton County Council introduced an ordinance for a long awaited pay study.  Interestingly, the proposed law requires administration officials to cooperate in getting it done. This matter is being sponsored by John Goffredo and Tom Giovanni.

Council also introduced ordinances to increase the salaries of all elected officials. Much as I support this raise,  Council should hold off on giving themselves an increase until the workforce is adequately compensated. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

NorCo Has 8 of 13 Caseworkers to Investigate Sexual Abuse of Children Allegations

 In recent weeks, I've written several stories about the vacancy rate at Northampton County's Children, Youth & Family Division of Human Services. I've been critical of Director Sue Wandalowski for her failed attempt to force two people who transferred out of that division to work at a lower wage. But I've told you that she has always told county workers they can bring their beefs to Council. This claim is being disputed by some people at Human Services. They claim she has actively encouraged them to stay away. Previously, I had understood them to say they were free to go to Council. I got it wrong. So which is it? I have no reason to doubt the veracity of Wandalowski or anyone in these departments, so my hope is that something is lost in translation.  

I was also told that Northampton County only has four child protective services investigators, when it should have 13. These are the folks who investigate allegations of sexual abuse. I asked Wandalowski whether this is true, and this is her reply:  

The Child Protective Services (CPS) Unit has 13 designated caseworkers.  Today there are 8 caseworkers in seats in the CPS unit and there are 2 additional caseworkers who were hired for CPS and are awaiting clearances to start. 
Additionally, there are 10 General Protective Services (GPS) caseworkers who are trained and are in the rotation of receiving CPS cases to investigate.  This protocol was implemented on August 31, 2022 to alleviate the strain on the CPS caseworkers. 
CPS Supervisors are also assisting with office tasks for their caseworkers and conduct initial visits as needed to ensure all regulatory timeframes are met.
As discussed on many occasions at County Council meetings, the state civil service system creates barriers for both recruiting and hiring caseworkers for CYF.  There are several particularly difficult challenges with civil service.  First, most of the general public is not aware of how to apply for jobs through the civil service website, despite our outreach efforts.  Second, the county is at the mercy of civil service to post vacancies and subsequently provide us a list of applicants for each vacancy, and there are almost always delays with both aspects of this.  Third, we often experience delays in civil service certifying caseworkers and supervisors as meeting the METs (minimum education and training requirements). 
We have submitted all the necessary paperwork to exit the civil service system so we can advertise and recruit more effectively and fill positions much quicker.  Vacancy rates from other counties decreased following their exit from civil service and we anticipate the same here in Northampton County.   

Monday, September 12, 2022

Mastriano Prayed For GOP Fascists to "Rise Up," "Seize the Power" Before January 6

Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania's Republican nominee for Governor, has proved he belongs in a jail cell, not the Governor's Mansion. A week prior to the attempted coup at the US Capitol, Mastriano participated in a Zoom call with "Christian" nationalists."I pray that… we’ll seize the power that we had given to us by the Constitution, and as well by You, providentially. I pray for the leaders also in the federal government, God, on the Sixth of January that they will rise up with boldness.”

This is precisely the kind of anti-democratic person who should be more comfortable in the Kremlin than our government. Up until Donald Trump, people like Mastriano were fringe characters. Now he represents the GOP in the race for the Commonwealth's highest office.

His anti-democratic "prayer" proves that Mastriano is also a liar. He has previously insisted he has no affiliation with "Christian" nationalists.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Anna Thomas: A Breath of Fresh Air in Pa-137

I was surprised when I met with state house candidate Anna Thomas over the weekend to learn that I had covered her, at a school board meeting, many moons ago. 

"You wrote about high school me!" she laughed. 

This told me two things. First, Anna's interest in government was kindled at an early age. Second, damn, I'm getting old.  

Thomas is running in the newly redistricted Pa-137. It now includes a slice of Bethlehem Township, where this Lehigh Valley native attended Bethlehem schools. 

Thomas told me her experience at that school board meeting, where she came to support a furloughed teacher, taught her just important local and state government can be. 

She's a graduate of Wellesley College, where she majored in chemistry. Most people whop go into politics have bullshit majors like political "science" or sociology, which frankly do a disservice to critical thinking. A person who majors in math or one of the hard sciences is far more likely to understand and practice analytical thinking.

In addition to her bachelor's degree, Thomas has just completed her master's degree in Public Administration at the University of Pennsylvania. 

I expected to hear her parrot the talking points used by most Democratic state house candidates. She surprised me,. For one thing, she's a devout Christian and joked that she's "probably the only person under 30 who still believes in God." For another, she prefers to be motivated by the issues that bother the people who live in her district. She detests blanket statements often used by politicians on both the left and right. "How do I best represent the people in my district?" is the question she asks herself. 

She calls her door knocking experience "primary market research." She said the moment s business stops doing that is the moment that business begins to die. She reasoned that the same should be true of politicians. 

Her primary market research has led her to conclude that these are some of the concerns expressed in her district: 1) People are concerned about "warehouse proliferation," to use the phrase first coined by Exec Lamont McClure, along with the associated increase in traffic and road damage; 2) Her constituents would like to see more done to help disabled children and adults; and 3)  Pa-137 residents would like to see government do more to make things easier for small business.

She acknowledged she's the underdog against a well-financed incumbent, "but that's a good thing."
I will be voting for her. 

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Emrick Wooing Mail-In Voters

Like it or not, no-excuse mail-in balloting is here to stay in Pennsylvania. Because of Donald Trump's disdain, most Republicans eschew this way of making their voices heard. They prefer voting in-person on election day.  So mail-in ballots are about 70% Democratic. So far, Republican candidates have campaigned as though the only election is the one taking place at the polls. They have failed to make any attempt to reach out to voters until the final two weeks before the election. By then, it's too late. Many Democrats and independents will have already voted by mail or by taking advantage of early voting. So those mailers and last-minute ads in the waning days of a campaign are a waste of money. One Republican, State Rep. Joe Emrick, has apparently caught on and is sending out mailers now. 

Emrick represents the newly configured Pa.-137th, which now is much more Democratic than it's been for the past 10 years. It's a toss-up district. 

In a purple county like Northampton, the only way a Republican can win is by peeling away some Democratic and independent voters. But these voters have to know who you are. You can knock on doors or send campaign mailers, but that does you no good if Democrats and Independents have already voted.  

Emrick, who has been a state rep for the past 12 years, has already sent out five mailers in his bid for re-election. It might seem like overkill, but this is exactly what he needs to do if he wants to peel away a few Democrats and Independents in the mail-in campaign.  Besides, he has money to burn. He was sitting on over $204,000 in the last reporting period. 

I have often voted for Republicans, but not Emrick. He fails my first and most important test. He lacks transparency. He refuses to return calls or respond to emails.  

His opponent in this year's election is Anna Thomas. I will tell you about her tomorrow. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

NorCo's CYF Director Directs Supervisors to Remain Silent

Yesterday, I took NorCo Exec Lamont McClure and Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski to task for attempting to downplay a 23% vacancy in CYF, the county agency charged with protecting abused and dependent children.  That's over twice what it was when McClure assumed office. 

All the data I've used for my criticism came from Wandalowski herself, not the people who work there. It is she who wanted to punish two CYF Supervisors for transferring to the probation office by asking Council to force them to work at a lower salary. It is she who stated that the department was down 38 people. It is she who clarified that the department is larger now than it was four years ago, and actually has more people. It is she who was talking out of both sides of her mouth. She was claiming a serious vacancy problem when she wanted to punish two workers who transferred out. Then she downplayed things when I pointed out that McClure had called a news conference to complain when CYF vacancies were much lower than they are now.  

Sue Wandalowski made these remarks during two different meetings of County Council. She also sent me an email that unfortunately went to spam, so Assistant Administrator Becky Bartlett actually posted Wandalowski's email to my blog. I do appreciate this kind of transparency, even though I am critical of the substance of what she said. 

I get comments all the time from employees who state they are directed against speaking to the press or "nosy" members of Council. They should instead refer inquiries to Ass't Administrator Becky Bartlett. They follow with claims of retaliation or vindictiveness by the administration. 

This is pretty much 100% horseshit. 

I have witnessed multiple Gracedale and other employees very vociferously complain about McClure or his department heads at rallies and public meetings. No retaliation is ever taken. 

I nevertheless asked Wandalowski what she tells staff about outside inquiries. She denies she ever stated that Council members are "nosy," but has told her staff to follow the "chain of command."  She adds that employees are free to address Council whenever they want at a public meeting. 

This is consistent with what I heard from a former caseworker. Wandalowski told this person that speaking to County Council would be unhelpful unless it was at a public meeting. Some might perceive this as a veiled threat, but I think Wandalowski means that the best way to get what you need for your department is at a public meeting.  

My own experience is that McClure has always been responsive to questions, and at all hours. Yes, some department heads will make me go through Becky Bartlett, but most just talk to me over minor matters.  

CYF's newest Administrator, Maria Torres, has no experience in the public sector. It apparently has not dawned on her yet that she has a special obligation to the public she serves, not just the person who gave her a job. She's been CYF Administrator for less than a year. She's been with the county for less than a year and a half. Prior to that, she was at Kidspeace. That just happens to be where Wandalowski worked, and for 17 years, before coming to the County.   

I find it a bit odd that Torres would be selected for this position over Human Services workers who may be more qualified and definitely have a better understanding of county government.

While Wandalowski appears to have the right approach to outside inquiries, CYF Director Maria Torres does not. She had a meeting yesterday with CYF Supervisors. She directed them to refuse to share information or stats with anyone. They were also told they have a "rat" who is leaking information to me. 

Torres should know that this "rat" is none other thasn her boss, Sue Wandalowski. Her failure to grasp this simple fact makes me wonder why she is a CYF Director at all, aside from being one of Wandalowski's former work colleagues. If Torres knew anything about Northampton County, which she clearly does not, she'd know that the more you try to keep something secret, the more likely it is that we all know about it in a matter of hours.   

And so I was tipped by someone who never shared anything with me before. 

Maria, you should be a little more focused on filling caseworker vacancies and a little less concerned about hiding things.  No wonder the vacancies grow, 

Bethlehem Firefighters Used 1,023 Sick Days Through July

Bethlehem City Council voted unanimously last night to beef up overtime for firefighters from $240k to $260k. Business Manager Eric Evans, who made the request, explained that the City's 102 smoke-jumpers have already burned through 1,023 sick days by the end of July. In 2019, they used only 651 sick days. In 2020, it was only 706. 

Is this a coincidence or is it a response to the City's refusal to fill two firefighter positions in last year's budget? 

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

NorCo CYF Has 23% Vacancy Rate

Two weeks ago, I took both NorCo Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski and Exec Lamont McClure for their unsuccessful attempt to enlist County Council in a scheme to punish two county workers for trying to improve their careers. They were employed at child protection services (called CYF) and wanted to transfer to become probation officers, and Court Administrator Jermaine Greene wanted them to start at a slightly higher salary than they were getting.  She complained that she had 38 vacancies in CYF, so these workers should suffer the "consequences" for leaving. In my view, that bullying attitude is precisely why there are 38 vacancies. That, and McClure's stubborn refusal to finally do a pay study.  When he was a candidate McClure called a news conference to complain about 13 vacancies at CYF under the "callous" John Brown administration. Now, with three times as many in that same department, it's time to reset wages. But guess what? Wandalowski, in an excellent impersonation of Officer Barbrady, is now claiming there's nothing to see here.  

After my story posted two weeks ago, Wandalowski sent me an email that, like most county emails under our great IT department, went smack dab right into my spam folder. I was completely unaware of it until I was actually called about it two weeks later. In fact, Ass't Director of Administration Becky Bartlett felt the message was important enough to post on my blog. I published it, but for those of you who missed it, this is what Sue Wandalowski had to say:

I wanted to provide you with some updated info about the CYF vacancies and historical info.

• In January 2018, there were 115 staff in seats in CYF, along with 13 vacancies.

• We have created 36 new positions since 2018, and we currently have 127 staff in seats in CYF, with 38 vacancies.

• After going six months with very few candidates on the civil service list, we saw a significant increase in applicants in July 2022. Of those applicants, 10 have accepted positions with CYF, 4 more offers are pending, and 2 interviews are scheduled for later this week.

• 2 of the individuals who accepted offers previously worked in Northampton County CYF and asked to return.

• So while we work diligently to fill every position in CYF, we have more folks working there now than in January 2018.

Wandalowski said something similar to County Council last week.  She told them that, in January 2018, there were 128 positions in CYF. Since 13 spots were unfilled, there was a 10.15% vacancy rate. 

Thirty-six additional positions have been created since her arrival, so there are now 164 positions in CYF.  Since 38 spots were unfilled, there was a 23.17% vacancy rate.

The vacancy rate is actually more than double what it was when McClure called a news conference.

What Wandalowski failed to say, and what I'd like to know, is how many of these vacancies are the caseworkers who actually go out into the field to investigate reports of child abuse. 

Wandalowski's apparent point is that she now has more people in desks than she did. in 2018, even though the vacancy rate is double what it was four years ago. So there's no need for alarm. So if that's so, why did she want to punish two employees for leaving.

She is speaking ouit of both sides of her mouth, 

The real problem at CYF is low pay, high stress and civil service lists. 

Unfortunately, the state civil service commission is underfunded and understaffed. The county began the process of opting out in 2019. 

High stress and burnout are real. I have spoken to a caseworker (now retired) who tells me the most difficult decision, and one that is haunting, is to separate families. This is why it's important to have these departments fully staffed so that caseloads are manageable.

Finally, and this is where McClure falls short, is the low pay. It is absurd to continue resisting a pay study, especially in such a demanding area. Last week, Council member Ron Heckman said there should be a separate pay classification for these workers.   

I have spoken to one caseworker who told me the hardest part of that job is separating children from their families, no matter how justified it might be. It's a decision that haunts her. 

Friday, September 02, 2022

What is Going On at NorCo's Human Services

Two weeks ago, NorCo Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski sought County Council's aid in trying to penalize two CYF  (Children, Youth and Family) staffers who were tapped to become probation officers. She wanted them to work at a reduced salary as a consequence for daring to better themselves. She also complained she had 38 vacancies in that department. Lamont McClure as an Exec candidate was quick to brand the John Brown administration as ""callous" for having 13 vacancies in CYF. 

County Council refused to be spun. 

Yesterday, Wandalowski spun a completely different picture.  Now the staffing shortage is just fine. 

I will tell you about this next week, along with some other disturbing details about that department.  I'll also fill you in on the latest from County Council. I'd write now, but I've run out of energy. 

President Joe Biden''s "Soul of the Nation" Speech

If you missed it, you can read his speech here. I agree completely. It is time that Trump and his cult followers be called what they are - a direct threat to the soul of this nation.   

Nazareth Police Nab Man Who Allegedly Preyed on Fellow Seniors and the Disabled

Nazareth Police have charged Jack R Morris, 64, with a rash of thefts from fellow seniors and the disabled at the Oliver Border House in Nazareth. Morris himself was a resident at this senior community. The arrest follows an extensive investigation by Officer Randall Pompei in response to numerous residents reporting thefts of valuables and cash. 

Morris faces the following charges: 10 counts of burglary, a first degree felony punishable by  20-20 years in jail; 10 counts of trespassing, a third degree felony punishable by 3.5-7 years; 1 count of theft as a third degree felony; and 1 count of receiving stolen property as a third degree felony. 

After his arrest, Morris was preliminarily arraigned Thursday before Magisterial District Judge John Capobianco. Bail was set at $75,000, and Morris was remanded to Northampton County jail.

A preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for September 20 at 1 pm, although that date will likely change once Morris retains counsel. 

Review of Pa Docket Sheets reveals that this is not Morris' first rodeo. He pleaded guilty to burglary in 2015,  and received jail time. 

It is unclear why, despite his criminal record, he was permitted to reside in a HUD-financed facility. 

Thursday, September 01, 2022

The Question is Not Whether Trump Faces Indictment; It's Whether Nat'l Security Is Compromised

On March 30, 2019, Chinese national Yujing Zhang was apprehended somewhere inside then President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago compund. She was carrying two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive and a thumb drive at the time of her arrest. That's hardly what I'd expect to see on a Trump fan or tourist. It is what I'd expect to see on a spy. As Politico reported way back in 2017, Trump's Florida White House was heaven for foreign adversaries who wanted to eavesdrop on the President and his inner circle. And this was reported long before it became known that Trump was keeping highly sensitive information there, like the kind that could get our agents killed. This is why the most important task right now is to determine what damage, if any, has been done to our national security. It's actually far more important than deciding whether to charge Trump. If a national security assessment reveals that our secrets were compromised, or that foreign assets were killed, that should inform any criminal assessment. 

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I consider Trump a danger to democracy. But I'm sick of him and the phony patriots who cling to his every word. The fact that he kept some of these records in a desk drawer of his own office, mixed with expired passports, indicates to me that he acted willfully. But even I doubt that Trump would intentionally compromise our national security. Absent very clear evidence that he did so, I doubt he will be charged for just being the pain in the ass that he's always been.

Another Scam Operation in NorCo

From Northampton County: "The Northampton County Sheriff’s Department has received reports about a male caller identifying himself as Sergeant Mike Weston in regards to a county resident being wanted for failing to appear for a court hearing. The caller than gives instructions on leaving a cashier check at a drop location.

"The public should be aware that this is a scam. The Sheriff’s Department does not call residents and solicit money in lieu of arrest.

"Please report any suspicious solicitations to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at 800-441-2555 or email them at scams@attorneygeneral.gov"