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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, December 30, 2022

Long Branch School District Lauds Employee Health Center

Dr. Michael Salvatore
Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure has vetoed the attempted murder of an exclusive, voluntary, employee-only, health center for county workers and their families. McClure has proposed a health center for two reasons. First, he thinks county workers will like and use it. Second, it will help s County to combat out-of-control health care costs, They've risen from $11.3 million in 2017 to a projected $23 million next year. Council member John Brown  County Council members who support trhis ordinance would apparently rather see the solution that Brown imposed when he was Exec, - an increase in co-pays and employee contributions. Integrity Health, whom McClure would like to employ, operates at eight different locations.  I've suggested several times that County Council should reach out to some of these end users. I can report that one of them, Long Branch School District, is quite pleased.

Dr. Michael Salvatore is outgoing Superintendent at Long Branch. He's been tapped to become senior VP at Kean University. His school district was confronted with rising costs as well, but felt it was unfair to place them on the shoulders of his teachers and staff. Here's what Dr. Salvatore says about the employee-only health center:

"What I loved about this model ... is that [all staff] had the same concierge-type service as everybody else. No waiting lines, no co-pays, we did a fabulous job that first year. Care coordination was the difference maker. Having the staff from the partnership health center communicate with medical professionals to avoid unnecessary appointments and procedures, our staff benefited tremendously and we has major savings from that.  The following year we collected enough information that we started to add more to our medical services because what we realized was, educators are people who take care of other people; sometimes, they leave themselves behind. We want to make sure that they had the care that they deserved. We started to offer a wide array of medical services, including chiropractic, physical therapy, x-ray technicians on site, we even had acupuncture and free yoga sessions. Our goal od fiscal sustainability was accomplished, but more importantly, we were taking care of our people."     

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Bethlehem Threatens to Seize Private Property For Affordable Housing

Blogger's Intro: This is a story told by Lucy Lennon. She describes herself as a Realtor, but is a lot more than that. She ran the Dancing Fish in South Bethlehem, where she introduced sushi long before it became popular. Her experience turned her into a vocal advocate for small business owners in Bethlehem. She's an animal lover. She might own several dogs at any given time. She's a Republican who can and does get involved in local races. She took John Brown by the hand and walked him up and down city streets when he first ran for Northampton County Exec, and he nearly won the city.  Her latest problem involves an attempt to help the Lutheran Church gather the funds to consolidate into one church. Here's her story. 

First off-let me apologize for the length of this post…it’s a doozy…

I am writing this for many reasons, for the protection of my clients, and for my own safety and peace of mind.

Let me begin.

I am a Realtor, who proudly calls Bethlehem my home-both professionally and residentially . I am quite outspoken in my love and appreciation of the city, it’s employees, small business community, schools and residents. I’ve always felt that City Hall was a great resource for me ( and others ) to guide us through permits, zoning and development. And now, more than ever, it’s all changed. Now The Mayor and The Economic Development Department have become actual obstacles in my ability to make a living and my clients ability to choose whom they do business with. Ethically not what I would expect from my elected city officials.

As you may know, I have 3 churches and 1 parking lot listed for sale. The parking lot [1.3 acres] being a large piece of property in the city that the city has had an eye on for over 20 years. These churches are facing a financial crisis and in order to continue with their service to God, the community and their ministry, they have made a decision to sell their properties and merge to a new location.

The City has approached the churches through the members themselves, myself, and various methods. I personally was told to inform any other interested parties that the city was interested in the property and if another interested party had ongoing/projected projects-to remember that they would have to deal with the city. I was also informed, personally, that if their offer was not accepted they could always take the property through eminent domain ( the mayor said this with a chuckle, shared with a member of ED )

I showed the property to both developers and other non profits. 2 developers, who were very interested and wanted to submit an offer told me in no uncertain terms that they were told to back away, from the city. An additional developer’s realtor insinuated the same. In the end 3 offers were submitted. The “winning” offer was hands down better for my clients-in terms, timing, lack of contingencies and pricing. The churches, with their attorney’s blessing, voted unanimously to reject the city’s offer and accept an offer from another non profit.

Fast forward…

The churches have now received notice that The Bethlehem Parking Authority will be filing to take the property by eminent domain.

This would in essence potentially create a delay, if not a cancellation of the contract to sell to their buyer. And cause a financial catastrophe for the churches’ future.

Here are my questions…

When did it become ok for the Mayor and his administration to dictate who buys or sells property in the city of Bethlehem?

Is the city of Bethlehem now in the real estate business?

When did the threat of eminent domain become a weapon?

You may ask why I am bringing this to light…

I now fear my clients may be bullied into bankruptcy or financial and spiritual ruin.

I worry that my other clients may now experience difficulties in City Hall.

And me personally?, I’m not quite sure what they can do, but so far I’ve seen vindictive and unprofessional behavior and it can only make one wonder….

As I understand it, the Mayor lobbied the Church to let the City have the property so it could build a homeless shelter. This had some appeal to some of the voting members, but they unanimously decided to seek bids on all properties. It later became apparent that, instead of a homeless shelter, the Mayor wanted the property for an affordable housing project. 

It's unclear to me whether a Parking Authority may condemn private property for affordable housing. Under Kelo v. New London, the answer would probably be Yes. But the Supreme Court has changed and might be more interested in preserving private property rights now than it was in 2005. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

McClure: NorCo Future Must Be Green

An op-ed from NorCo Exec Lamont McClure, published in The Morning Call, touts the importance of our affordable housing and open space. Here is an excerpt.

"Our extensive parks and trail system has always been appreciated, but the pandemic showed us that these areas aren’t just a nice place to take a stroll on a Sunday afternoon, they’re a crucial resource to promote public fitness and, during lockdowns, necessary to keep our sanity intact. And they’re a reminder that good things don’t simply happen; they require planning. Governments do not have the luxury of just living in the present; one eye must always be on the future to build the infrastructure necessary to fulfill the needs of future generations.

"In 2022, some of Northampton County’s major challenges included the traffic and air pollution that comes from a building boom in large-scale distribution centers, and a shortage of affordable housing. To address the issue of warehouse proliferation, the county has been aggressive in protecting farmland, open space and environmentally sensitive land. We preserved 941 acres of farmland in 2022 and plan on continuing these programs in 2023 and beyond. But this approach won’t solve the problem of ill-conceived and ill-sited distribution centers. That’s why, in 2022, the county invested $75,000 to develop a Freight-Based Land Use Management Guide. This document provides drafts of model ordinances municipalities can use to prevent unsupportable freight development from being constructed in their communities.

"Housing is a thorny issue, as it is governed by the laws of supply and demand and constructed by private developers. However, we can’t ignore the fact that it is in the community’s interest for the people who work in Northampton County to be able to live in Northampton County. This year our Department of Community and Economic Development participated in two projects — planning for the development of five affordable townhouses at the site of the old Glendon Hotel and contributing $1 million in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley to buy 11 acres in Forks Township. Habitat for Humanity plans to build 50 affordable housing units on the property in coming years.

"The future of Northampton County is green. Green for the color of our environment and green for the color of our economy. It’s important that Northampton County works for everyone — farmers, factory workers, construction laborers, educators, health care professionals and outdoor enthusiasts. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” We look forward to working with our partners in 2023 in continuing the work of building a brighter future."

Blogger's Note:  It's always a good idea to quote Lincoln, except for anything he said about predicting the future. If he was any good at it, he might have finished his second term. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Who's Really Behind the Attacks on Our Power Grids?

Though he now claims he wants peace, Putin's actions tell a different story, This includes a Christmas Eve attack on a Kherson shopping district that left 8 people dead and 58 injured. It also includes nonstop missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure. I have to wonder about the increasing number of attacks aimed at our own power grids 

On Christmas Day, four power stations were vandalized in Washington State, leaving 14,000 people without power. Authorities claim these attacks were coordinatedEarlier, shootings at two electrical substations in North Carolina left 40,000 without power for several days. There have also been "intrusions" in South Carolina, Hawaii, Oregon and Florida. Politico reports these power grid onslaughts are at their highest level since 2012. 

These are just the physical attacks. In March, Texas utilities and energy producers went on high alert in March after detecting probes by Russian hackers looking for weak spots in digital systems. Ukrainians have been enduring a winter without electricity and water, thanks to Russian attacks. What we fail to realize is that our own power grid is vulnerable, too. The United States has yet to implement GAO recommendations to enhance the security of our energy grids. This is inexcusable and could end up costing lives. 

Authorities believe anti-government extremists may be behind some of these attacks, noting online forums that actually encourage these attacks. That's certainly possible, I also believe it's certainly possible that some of these attacks are really coming from Russia and China. The extremists who actually pull the triggers are just their useful idiots. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Ken Kraft To Run For Office He Abandoned For Himself

As I feared, former Northampton County Council member Ken Kraft, who resigned to take an exempt (political) appointment with the county under Executive Lamont McClure, has announced that he's running to represent District One again.  His candidacy is insulting. He already quit Council in the middle of his term to take a political appointment at the jail. Now that he has five years in, he can collect a pension and go back to being a rubber stamp for McClure. 

Kraft told WFMZ-TV69 that he wants "to do what is best for NorCo (Northampton County) and not a party," but that's complete horseshit. Ken Kraft is interested in Ken Kraft. He's already abandoned office once midstream just to pad his pension. Why on earth would we want someone who put his own financial interest over his duty to his district? Moreover, as a former trade union agent and Dem appointee to the Elections Commission, he's as partisan as it gets. If you get past that, how can someone who worked as a McClure political hire be considered a true check and balance on the Executive? I think McClure is a good Exec, but ham-handed power plays like this actually hurt him more than they help. Finally, Kraft has no filter. He has a tendency to be abrasive and put his foot in his mouth. 

Over two thousand years ago, Marcus Cato spoke against the revolving door of the same tired faces constantly stepping in and out of public office. "You appear to think either the office is not worth much or else that there are not many worthy people to fill it," he admonished Romans.

District One is not Rome, but consists of Bethlehem, Hellertown, Williams and Lower Saucon Tp. It certainly includes people who are far more worthy than Kraft, but he's banking that no one takes him on.  The biggest issue in that district right now is the expansion of the Bethlehem landfill. Where has Kraft been? Nowhere. 

McClure Needs to Do More For Closed Space.

I have complimented Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure for doing his best to add acre after acre to our open space with the acquisition of parklands. The County has also added trails and prerserved farms. But what about closed space? McClure's  done nothing about that. We have plenty of parks, but no dungeons or pickleball courts. That's where a dominatrix known only as "Mistress Krave" enters the picture.

Clad in black latex and accompanied by two slaves in stilettos and reflective masks, Krave was at a Fort Lauderdale's City Commissioner meeting last week to demand a BDSM dungeon for the doms and subs in Broward County. 

“I look forward to spanking each and every one of you at the new esteemed dungeon,” concluded Mistress Krave.

As surprising as this might be to you, there's a dungeon shortage in Broward County. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Palmer Park Mall Loses Power on Busiest Shopping Day of Year

Merchants at Palmer Park Mall might see a bleaker Christmas than expected. On the busiest shopping day of the year, the Mall has been forced to close as a result of a power outage. Shoppers and merchants have both been evacuated. No word on when it reopens. The Mall's Facebook page has not been updated since December 18. Call before you go. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Zelenskyy: "Ukraine is Alive and Kicking"

Last night, we heard from the leader of the free world. It's not Joe Biden. It's not Donald Trump. It's Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The former comedian has become a statesman while our so-called leaders are the real clowns. 

In a rousing speech before the United States Congress, Zelenskyy had this response to 300 days of attacks from an autocrat aimed at toppling democracy: "Ukraine is alive and kicking!" Fighting back tears at times, he gave the United States a flag signed by soldiers fighting in besieged Bakhmut, where he had been just 24 hours earlier. He repeatedly thanked the United States, which has been generous. Below is a transcript of his remarks. 

He was festooned in his ubiquitous military green sweatshirt and cargo pants, the same clothing he's worn for the past 300 days as he's dodged Putin hit squads and bombs. Some idiots think he should have worn a tuxedo. His country is at war. When Winston Churchill appeared before Congress, he wore his air-raid outfit. 

Far-right (and some left-wing) lunatics have attacked the leader of the free world. Beyond his attire, they even accuse him of money laundering with no evidence. The only criminal conduct I see came from former President Donald Trump, who blackmailed Zelenskyy by holding up military aid unless he agreed to smear then candidate Joe Biden. Some of them think being that calling for 20 strong men to remove elderly school directors, or that smearing walls at the capitol with shit, is what makes them tough. No, standing up to constant bombardments of missiles fired by a bully from from hundreds of miles away is tough. Enduring the lack of heat in one of the world's coldest countries is tough. Prancing around armed and in military gear at a flag rally is not tough. If you want to know what tough is, look to Ukraine. If you want 20 strong men, look to Ukraine.    

Zelenskyy speech: 

Dear members of the Congress, representatives of both parties who also visited Kyiv, esteemed congressmen and senators from both parties who will visit Ukraine, I am sure in the future, dear representatives of diaspora – present in this chamber and spread throughout the country – dear journalists, it’s a great honor for me to be at the US Congress and speak to you and all Americans.

Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.

And it gives me good reason to share with you our first, first joint victory. We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world.

We have no fear, nor should anyone in the world have it. Ukraine gained this victory, and it gives us courage, which inspires the entire world.

Americans gained this victory and that’s why you have succeeded in uniting the global community to protect freedom and international law.

Europeans gained this victory, and that’s why Europe is now stronger and more independent than ever. The Russian tyranny has lost control over us.

And it will never influence our minds again. Yet, we have to do whatever it takes to ensure that Congress of the global south also gains such victory.

I know one more, I think, very important thing. The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin, in their minds.

Yet, the battle continues, and we have to defeat the Kremlin on the battlefield, yes. These battles not only for the territory for this or in other part of Europe. The battle is not only for life, freedom, and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer.

This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren. It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans, for all.

This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored hoping that the ocean or something else will provide a protection. From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America and from Africa to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues.

Our two nations are allies in this battle. And next year will be a turning point. I know it. The point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom, the freedom of people who stand for their values.

Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, yesterday before coming here to Washington, DC, I was at the front line in our Bakhmut, in our stronghold in the east of Ukraine in the Donbas.

The Russian military and machiners have been taking Bakhmut nonstop since May. They have been attaking it day and night, but Bakhmut stands.

Last year, last year, 70,000 people lived there in Bakhmut, in this city, and now only a few civilians stay. Every inch of that land is soaked in blood. Roaring guns sound every hour. Trenches in the Donbas changed hands several times a day in fierce combat, and even hand-fighting. But the Ukrainian Donbas stands.

Russians, Russians use everything, everything they have against Bakhmut and other of our beautiful cities. The occupiers have a significant advantage in artillery. They have an advantage in ammunition. They have much more missiles and planes than we ever had. And it’s true, but our defense forces stand.

And we, and we all are proud of them. The Russians’ tactic is primitive. They burn down and destroy everything they see. They sent thugs to the front lines, they sent convicts to the war. They threw everything against us, similar to the other tyranny, which is in the Battle of the Bulge. 

Threw everything it had against the free world, just like the brave American soldiers, which held their lines and fought back Hitler’s forces during the Christmas of 1944, brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same to Putin’s forces this Christmas. [This is when my father was captured bring the Battle of the Bulge]. 

Ukraine, Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender. So, so, here the front line, the tyranny which has no lack of cruelty against the lives of free people, and your support is crucial not just to stand in such fight, but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield.

We have artillery, yes. Thank you. we have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really. To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold, that it holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed.

It’s true. Just like the Battle of Saratoga, the fight for Bakhmut will change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom. If your patriots stop the Russian terror against our cities, it will let Ukrainian patriots work to the full to defend our freedom.

When Russia, when Russia cannot reach our cities by its artillery, it tries to destroy them with missile attacks. More than that, Russia found an ally in this, in this genocidal policy: Iran. Iranian deadly drones sent to Russia in hundreds and hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other. It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it.

I believe, I believe there should be no taboos between us in our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.

Financial assistance is also critically important and I would like to thank you, thank you very much. Thank you for both financial packages you have already provided us with and the ones you may be willing to decide on. Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.

Russia, Russia could stop its aggression, really, if it wanted to, but you can speed up our victory. I know it. And it will prove to any potential aggressor that no one can succeed in breaking national borders, no one committing atrocities and reigning over people against their will, it would be naive to wait for steps towards peace from Russia, which enjoys being a terrorist state.

Russians are still poisoned by the Kremlin. The restoration of international legal order is our joint task. We need peace, yes. Ukraine has already offered proposals which I just discussed with President Biden, our peace formula, 10 points which should and must be implemented for our joint security, guaranteed for decades ahead and the summit which can be held.

I’m glad to share that President Biden supported our peace initiative today. Each of you, ladies and gentlemen, can assist in the implementation to ensure that Americans’ leadership remains solid, bicameral and bipartisan. Thank you.

You can strengthen sanctions to make Russia feel how ruinous its aggression truly is. It is in your power, really, to help us bring to justice everyone who started this unprovoked and criminal war. Let’s do it.

Let terrorists – let the terrorist state be held responsible for its terror and aggression and compensate all losses done by this war. Let the world see that the United States are here.

Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be – there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure. But we do not complain. We do not judge and compare whose life is easier. Your well-being is the product of your national security, the result of your struggle for independence and your many victories. We, Ukrainians, will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.

We’ll celebrate Christmas, celebrate Christmas and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian – if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. only victory.

We already built strong Ukraine with strong people, strong army, strong institutions together with you. We developed strong security guarantees for our country and for entire Europe and the world together with you and also together with you, we’ll put in place everyone who will defy freedom. Putin. This will be the basis to protect democracy in Europe and the world over.

Now, on this special Christmas time, I want to thank you. All of you. I thank every American family, which cherishes the warmth of its home and wishes the same warmth to other people. I thank President Biden and both parties, at the Senate and the House, for your invaluable assistance. I thank your cities and your citizens who supported Ukraine this year, who hosted our Ukrainians, our people, who waved our national flags, who acted to help us, thank, thank you all, from everyone who is now at the front line from everyone who is evading victory.

Standing here today, I recall the words of the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which I think so good for this moment: “The American people, in their righteous might, will win through – to absolute victory.” The Ukrainian people will win too. Absolutely.

I know that everything depends on us, on the Ukrainian armed forces, yet so much depends on the world. So much in the world depends on you.

When I was in Bakhmut yesterday, our heroes gave me the flag, the battle flag, the flag of those who defend Ukraine, Europe and the world at the cost of their lives. They ask me to bring this flag to you, to the US Congress to members of the House of Representatives and senators whose decisions can save millions of people. So, let this decisions be taken. Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen. This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united – Ukraine, America and the entire free world.

NorCo Adds 41 Acres of Parkland

Photo by Sherry Acevedo
On Monday, Northampton County added another 41 acres to its parks portfolio. It's located in Allen Tp and is called The Bodnarczuk Preserve in honor of the Ukranian damily that once farmed the land and operated a nearby grocerystore. The propery was valued at $900,000, but $675,000 of the purchase price was donated by the Mauser drothers, maternial grandsons of the Bodnarczuks.

With this acquisition, Northampton County now owns 2,262 acres of parklands. This is no accident. Executive Lamont McClure has focused more on purchasing land than developing it. Better to get it now because they aren't making any more of it. That's 41 acres that will never become a warehouse. 

This tract includess mature woodlands, rolling terrain, vegetated riparian areas, geologic formations, grass pathways, small pond, agricultural fields, steep slopes, and the Hokendauqua Creek.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

January 6 Committee Executive Summary

For the third time, the US House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol conducted its final hearing yesterday. Since the Committee will exoire at year's end, I doubt there will be any more final hearings. The full report will be released Wednesday, and a 154-page executive "summary" of the committee's findings has been released. It'ss o long that CBS news has published a summary of the summary. It has also made criminal referrals against Trump and two lawyers who assisted him.

Trump should soon be able to sell NFTs of himself in prison garb. 

Peter Melan Running For Easton Mayor

Easton City Council member Pete Melan, who has served for two terms, has announced his candidacy for Mayor. He believes the Mayor, who is the Executive branch, should have no vote on City Council. 

Battle of the Bulge: Language Error May Have Saved Lives

December 16, 1944: The Battle of the Bulge begins. December 19, 1944: My father and Kurt Vonnegut, two intelligence scouts in the 106th Infantry Division, are captured by advancing Germans. Looking through a phrase book, my father screams, "Nein Scheissen," thinking he's asking them not to shoot him. He's actually saying, "Don't shit." That little mistake may have saved their lives.

(First Published 2007). 

Monday, December 19, 2022

AntiSemitic Event at Christkindlmarkt

 From the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley: On Sunday evening, we were notified of an unfortunate event at Christkindlmarkt, a holiday market in Bethlehem organized by ArtsQuest. At least four people were seen wearing T-shirts that read, “It’s Okay to be White. Less than 1% of White US Households Owned Slaves but Every Slave Ship & Auction was Owned by Jews.” These same people were heard telling patrons that “Jews were responsible” for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as slavery, and that Jews “own and run everything.” According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the “It’s Okay To Be White” slogan became popular with white supremacists several years ago, and it is upsetting to see people wearing these shirts and making these hateful comments in our community.

Within an hour of being notified of the event, Robby Wax, President of JFLV, spoke with Vicki Doule’, the Chair of the Board of Directors for ArtsQuest, as well as Kassie Hilgert, President & CEO of ArtsQuest. Both Vicki and Kassie expressed their disappointment that patrons wore T-shirts with a hateful message and made these statements at an event designed to celebrate the peace and tranquility of the Christmas holiday. Kassie also spoke with Aaron Gorodzinsky, JFLV’s Director of Campaign & Security Planning, to convey her support for the Jewish community and ArtsQuest’s clear position against antisemitism. As a result of this occurrence, ArtsQuest is reviewing its policies to prepare for any similar circumstances that may arise in the future. ArtsQuest also issued a statement on social media on Sunday night condemning antisemitism.

Despite this incident, we should be mindful of the wonderful support we have received and are continuing to receive from the non-Jewish community across the Lehigh Valley in response to increasing antisemitism. For example, the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton each signed proclamations this week against antisemitism. We will receive the Easton proclamation on Tuesday at the community menorah lighting ceremony. The Allentown and Bethlehem proclamations are pictured below. In addition, Bethlehem Mayor William Reynolds will join several interfaith leaders on Monday night to help light a Menorah, and our entire community is invited to join as we celebrate Hanukkah. You can find additional information about the event here.

Events like this one are alarming, but we are prepared to respond to antisemitism wherever it arises. We began our “Shine A Light” campaign specifically for this purpose, and we appreciate your support as we continue to partner with organizations and leaders within and outside our community on this important mission.

Frank Pintabone Seeks Easton City Council Berth

Every Thanksgiving over the past 10 years, Frank Pintabone has pooled money from himself and a number of local businessmen to purchase turkeys. He then loads them in his pickup tuck and hands them out on a first come, first served basis. He starts in Easton and finishes in Allentown. They go very quickly, especially in Allentown. When I found out about this a few years ago, I asked Frank if I could run a story. He declined because it might make hungry but proud people less willing to accept needed help. I understand, but I'll mention it now because this is precisely the kind of person we need to see in public office. He's running for Easton City Council, and his election should be a no-brainer. 

Because I'm suffering from a mild case of leprosy, I was unable to attend Frank's announcement on Friday.  He sent me a copy of his statement, which is below. 

Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining me today. I am humbled and honored to stand here amongst some of Easton’s greatest past and present community leaders

When I was 19 years old, Mr. Boyer's mom, Josephine Boyer, assisted me in being appointed to the executive board of the Boys and Girls Club of Easton. Over the years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving on many other boards, including the the Easton Area School Board, the operating committee of the Career Institute of Technology, the executive board of the Easton Neighborhood Center, the Northampton County General Purpose Authority, and currently the Easton Planning Commission, all positions that I have served in with honor and commitment.

I am a 4th generation Eastonian, with my son and granddaughter (who is here with me) making up the 5th and 6th generations of my family in the city of Easton. I’ve been a lifelong resident of the Easton’s south side. I am a local business owner and investor right here in this city. Easton has been good to me.

And that is why I have invited you all here today, to announce my candidacy for Easton City Council.

As good as Easton has been to me, I imagine Easton becoming even better than it is today.

As your councilman, I will push for a trolley system, an inclusive transportation system that connects the South Side, Down Town, West Ward, and College Hill neighborhoods together…

I will push for a crackdown on absentee landlords in Easton, resulting in decreased blight, crime, and cleaner neighborhoods.

I will also push for a full service grocery store in the West Ward.

I will be a voice for taxpayers in Easton. I applaud Mayor Panto and City Council for once again holding the line on property taxes, however, I will work diligently to not only hold the line, but to lower property taxes in the city.

When I served on the Easton Area School Board, I made similar promises.

I promised more public speaking time for community members, so that they can have their voices heard by the district.

I promised to move meetings into different areas of the community so that there could be participation across the entire district.

I promised to build brand new school buildings for the students of southside and the west ward.

I promised that all of these things would happen. And they did.

Shirley Chisholm once said “service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth”. I look forward to continuing to serve the city of Easton.

I am from the neighborhood, and I am for the neighborhood, and I want to be your next Easton city councilman at large.

Thank you and vote Pintabone in the 2023 primary.

Brian Panella To Run For NorCo Judge

The apple has fallen close to the tree.  Brian Panella, son of Pennsylvania Superior Court President Judge Jack Panella, has announced his candidacy for the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.  There's an opening in the bench because Judge Stephen Baratta is stepping down at the end of the year. 

Panella, who resides in Bethlehem Township, was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley. He's a graduate of Notre Dame Green Pond and DeSales University, where he majored in Marketing and ran Varsity Cross Country and Track.. He's a 2016 grad of Widener University Law School, where he served as a Vice Governor with the American Bar Association and was President of the Student Bar. He is engaged, and is expected to tie the knot in July. 

After his graduation from law school, Panella became associated with Goudsouzian & Associates, one of the Lehigh Valley's top law firms.  He served as a Conflicts Counsel and Custody Master in Northampton County for four years, where he gained experience representing indigent and incarcerated parents and in shielding children from abuse and neglect. He has also served as a Solicitor in numerous local boroughs and townships. In West Easton, he played an integral role in the creation of a police department.  

In January, Panella was unanimously selected by Bethlehem City Council to serve as its Solicitor. 

Panella is certainly a youthful candidate, but takes an old school approach to serving his community. These days, most of those seeking public office consider their community service as nothing more than working a phone bank for a political party. Panella has instead involved himself in service organizations like the Palmer Kiwanas and Easton Lions Club. He has also volunteered his services as Solicitor to the Northampton County Retirees' Association.  

His entire career as a lawyer has been one of community service. He has done it on a family level. He has done it on a community level. This makes him uniquely qualified for the bench. 

The knock on Panella is his relatively young age. But what's important is maturity, not chronological age. Some of the seasoned veterans on Northampton County's bench right now refuse to speak to each other, acting more like middle schoolers than impartial jurists.  

Friday, December 16, 2022

Zelenskyy: "We are fighting for the whole world"

Netflix is broadcasting a conversation between retired late-night TV talk host Dave Letterman and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They met in Kyiv, 300' below ground, and spoke over the noise of subway trains roaring through underground tunnels. 

Ukraine's ordinary citizens face a very harsh winter. They deal with nightly bombings, the inevitable blackouts and massive civilian casualties. "If you're not God, and you do this, then who are you?" Zelenskyy asked of the Russians at one point. His country is facing a new Russian offensive in January or February.  Ukrainians remain defiant because they fight for their own self-determination and for democracy. Here's what Zelenskyy had to say near the end of their talk:

"The US is the main supporter of Ukraine. And without their support, it would be very difficult for us. I mean, very difficult. ... And we are following [the US news] because we are worried about this fact, and we hear different messages from everywhere. If the climate changes, in Congress, it might have a significant impact on the support of Ukraine. And  here lies the crucial point ... . We are fighting for the whole world, for democracy, for freedom in the whole world. We know what we are fighting for. The most important thing is for US society to be aware of that, too, so they don't stray from the path of helping Ukraine. So that they know we're fighting for them as well.  

Donald Trump to Sell His Own Pokemon Cards

Pokemon, move over! Confidence man Donald Trump is taking some time from his busy schedule with federal prosecutors to announce that he's selling his own trading cards. Just $99 a pop! He modestly claims he's "better than Lincoln, better than Washington." Most ex-Presidents write books, but as I can attest, most of his base lacks basic reading skills. 

Who's Running For Judge?

For reasons that mystify me, NorCo Judge Steve Baratta will be descending from the judicial heavens at year's end to resume his place among us mere mortals. I thought he was an excellent judge, and he proved it by ruling against me a few times. But enough about that. The question now is who will replace him? What do you hear?  I'll tell you what I hear on Monday. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

McClure Vetoes Employee Health Center Killer

On Friday, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure vetoed a narrowly adopted ordinance that essentially kills an exclusive health center proposed for county workers and their families.  The ordinance was adopted December 1 by a 5-4 vote. Council President Lori Vargo Heffner, a Democrat, joined all four Republicans to vote for this ordinance. It was opposed by Council members Kevin Lott and Tara Zrinski, Council members Ron Heckman and Kerry Myers abstained.  

It's pretty clear that County Council does not feel it has enough information at this point to support an exclusive health center. But the ordinance adopted contained misstatements of fact and imposed insurmountable burdens. 

The health center proposed would be voluntary and offer same-day appointments as well as a wide variety of medical services that are simply unavailable at other primary care facilities. It would save between $1.44 million and $1.76 million in healthcare costs paid by the county. 

Though he apparently fails to realize it, County Council member John Brown actually made the case for a health center. He started off by acknowledging, as a former Exec, the challenge that rising health costs pose. He noted that, in 2017, the County spent $11.3 million for employee health care. He noted that the total cost in 2023 is projected at $32 million. Brown's solution to rising medical costs was to reduce what was available, which nearly caused a revolt by workers. "Without doing something, and we must do something, we're on track in the next two or three  years to spend $40 million a year for health care costs. ... For $100 million that we collect in taxes, $40 million of that will go to healthcare. So we need to do something."  In 2017, healthcare costs averaged $16,000 per employee. In 2023, he projected it would be $24,000. 

After saying that the county must do something, he voted for an ordinance that does nothing. 

Without saying so, it appears that the County Council members who supported this ordinance would rather see an increase in co-pays and employee contributions to healthcare than a health center that caters to the worker and his family.  When he was Executive, that's exactly what John Brown did and that's exactly what the then Republican County Council supported. McClure and the Democrats who see through this mischief are trying to help both the employee and taxpayer by reducing healthcare costs without penalizing employees.   

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Nuclear Fusion Is a Gamechanger!

Back in March, in a post about energy, I advocated for more research into nuclear fusion as an energy source. Fossil fuel use is poisoning our planet. Solar and wind energy are weather-dependent. Nuclear fission can be dangerous. But nuclear fusion is both safe, environmentally friendly and could be limitless and cheap. One of my readers disagreed. "Fusion is never going to be commercially viable. I wish this was wrong but ask any physicist who is not looking for the latest investment cash and they will tell you the truth."  Well, I am pleased to report there's been a major fusion energy breakthrough. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have finally succeeded in producing a nuclear fusion reaction that creates more energy than it consumes. While they acknowledge they are decades away from, making this a commerical reality, it is no longer just a pipedream. 

Nuclear fusion is what powers the sun. It's what we see when we look at the stars.  In the plasma coreof these celestial bodies, four hydrogen atoms fuse into one helium atom. In the process, a massive amount of energy is released.  

This could be just the game changer we need.  

Tom Giovanni To Seek Re-Election in District 4

Tom Giovanni, who represents both the Slate Belt and the entire northwestern tier of Northampton County, has advised me in a one-sentence message that he plans to seek re-election to County Council next year.  This is good news if you believe in good government. My sole regret is that, as a resident of District 3, I'm unable to vote for him.  

I've rarely mentioned him over the past four years because he only rarely speaks. He shares that quality with my brother, who is another damn Republican. When he does, people listen. I'm unable to shut up and share my views constantly, whether you like them or not. As a result, no one listens.  

I knew Giovani long before he was on County Council. I used to walk by his shop in Nazareth every day. It was called Hi-Tech Laser Systems. I once walked n to see if he could laser the hair off my back.

"We're not that kind of laser business," he politely responded. His business was more into information technology.

Born and raised in Bangor, PA. Tom attended elementary school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and graduated from Pius X high school. Tom lived in the Nazareth Area School District in Bushkill Township for 31 years. He now lives in Wind Gap, PA. 

Tom founded Hi Tech Laser Systems in 1990. In December 2012, he sold the business to East Coast Network Services and continues to help the company grow as one of its employees. Throughout his career Giovanni has earned a number of IT certifications (Microsoft Networking, Hewlett Packard Certified Printer Technician, Microsoft Windows Server Sales, Cisco Authorized Sales Partner, etc.). Tom has volunteered time in the community as he has served on many Boards in the Lehigh Valley with organizations, such as: Greater Valley YMCA, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Nazareth Business Council and Nazareth Bath Chamber of Commerce. Tom enjoys spending time with his wife, three children and two grandchildren as they attend community, church and social events.

What I like about Tom already is that he is someone who has spent a lot of time volunteering in different service organizations before running for office. This used to be commonplace among candidates for public office. Now the only volunteering most candidates do is at the phone banks of their party organization.

As a member of County Council, he has never spoken out of anger or interrupted anyone. He set his ego aside and has been more than willing to work with Democrats on many issues. There are some differences, and he will vote in accordance with his conservative conviction, but let's face it. Most county issues are nonpartisan. 

His decision to seek re-election is good news for Northampton County. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Allentown To Spend $1.5 Million For Modern Fagins

Last week, Allentown City Council voted to throw $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding at an unproven "credible messenger" program supposedly designed to deter city youth from engaging in gun violence. Aside from the mistake of using a one-time federal grant to fund this program, there's no credible evidence this program actually helps deter youth crime. What's worse, it will be administered Promise Neighborhood, a supposed nonprofit administered by ex-con Hasshan "Fuck the Police!" Batts. City Council basically just flushed $1.5 million it will never see again right down the toilet. 

This credible messenger program is based on the idea of pairing formerly bad kids who have done through the criminal justice system and managed to turn their lives around. Now that they're wonderful. they get paired up with at-risk youth and act as mentors. The people who came up with this idea apparently never read Oliver Twist and are blissfully unaware that many formerly bad kids become bad adults like Fagin.

"Fagin will make something of you, though, or you'll be the first he ever had that turned out unprofitable."

The nonprofits who benefit from these programs will tell you they are 98% effective at reducing recidivism, which is obvious horseshit. The only credible and independent evidence I can find about these programs appeared in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story. Milwaukee has had a credible messenger program since 2021. Of 65 teens enrolled, 15 of them have already re-offended, with four having done so twice. This is very much an unproven program. A better use could have been made of that one-time grant. 

Blogger Michael Molovinsky suggests that money could have been used to pay or a few more cops. While I'd agree that more police officers are the best way to reduce gun violence, I believe it would be a mistake to use one-time revenue to pay for recurring expenses. A better use of the money would be the purchase of police, firefighting or EMS equipment. Northampton County gave $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds in public safety grants to its municipalities.  

Monday, December 12, 2022

A Letter To the US Pardon Attorney Regarding Fed Ed

Ms. Elizabeth G. Oyer
United States Department of Justice
Office of the Pardon Attorney
145 N St., NE
Room 5E.508
Washington DC 20530

Re: Edwin Pawlowski; Case No. c292926

Dear Ms. Oyer:

I am a life-long resident of the Lehigh Valley, which includes Allentown. Since 2006, I have published a small, local blog entitled Lehigh Valley Ramblings. I focus primarily on local government. Since 2007, I have published numerous stories highly critical of former Mayor Edwin Pawlowski. Many of these focused on his callous subjugation of the best interests of the people of Allentown to his own political interests. I noted that potential city vendors would be told that Pawlowski would consider their business requests at his next fundraiser. He took advantage of his office to garner campaign contributions to promote himself politically. He also benefited personally by refusing to pay for restaurant meals and other services, calling them campaign contributions. He used the auspices of his office to build what his wife called a "mancave" without getting the required permits. His corruption prosecution was entirely necessary to establish the principle that no one is above the law. In his trial, he actually admitted to lying to federal agents. His ultimate conviction went a long way to restoring public confidence in our judicial system, at least on a local level. But the 180-mont sentence imposed, while within the sentencing guidelines, was unduly severe. There is significant disparity between the sentence imposed on Pawlowski, compared to other sentenced bribery Defendants. He apparently has an underlying health condition to be considered. Moreover, there are other equitable factors in his favor. Though I believe that I was his harshest critic, I urge you to consider a reduction in the 15 year sentence. 

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the average sentence for a bribery conviction varied from 26 months in FY 2017 to 23 months in FY 2021. The 15-year sentence imposed here is nearly 8 times more than usually imposed. It is three times the 60-month sanction imposed on Mike Fleck, who was Pawlowski's campaign manager and chief co-conspirator. Fleck has already been released and was spotted at a summer music festival where alcohol flows freely. Fleck never testified in Pawlowski's trial, most likely because prosecutors correctly concluded he is unworthy of belief. Thus, the extent of Fleck's cooperation was minimal. 

In a related public corruption case, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer was sentenced to 8 years after insisting on a jury trial. His case, like that of Pawlowski, involved the illegal solicitation of campaign contributions. That kind of sentence would be more appropriate here. 

Pawlowski suffers several underlying health conditions: hypertensive heart disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); dyspnea (shortness of breath); sleep apnea; and has only one lung as a result of a pulmonectomy. Prison undoubtedly exacerbates these misfortunes. Moreover, the public is forced to pay for his treatment. It makes more sense for him to pay for his own medical expenses through gainful employment.  

Though convicted of offenses involving deceit, Pawlowski has a strong commitment to communities of faith and has participated in numerous church-led efforts to help people in need. 

Pawlowski was convicted in Pennsylvania, a state founded by William Penn. The motto on Penn's seal "mercy and justice" is applicable here. Justice has been done. It's time for mercy. 

Americans Say No to Both Biden and Trump. Who Is Out There?

 A CNBC poll reveals what I think most of us already know. We'd prefer someone other than Donald Trump or Joe Biden in the next Presidential race. When just 20% of those polled think Biden is actually helping reduce inflation, it's time for him to step aside. As for Trump, even Republicans are starting to catch on to his con.

Who can unite the MAGAs with more traditional conservatives? Right now, it looks like their best bet is Governor Ron DeSantis. But does he appeal to the center? I've seen no evidence he even tries. 

As for Democrats, the field is large but undistinguished. We have a California Governor who dined at a swanky restaurant while putting others on lockdown; a VP unable to keep staff longer than five minutes; a Transportation Secretary maligned by supply chain issues; Bernie Sanders who makes second cousin Larry David look like a sweetheart; and numerous second tier candidates. Of them all, the one I like most is NJ Governor Phil Murphy, who has a reputation for working with both sides. 

We need someone who unites people, not divides them. Both Trump and Biden have failed. DeSantis will lose his appeal outside the GOP. 

Friday, December 09, 2022

NorCo Council Fails To Override Veto of Hydropower Cut For Student Loans

Dave Collins
When it adopted the 2023 Budget last week, Northampton County Council removed $647,000 from a loan agreement with New England Hydropower intended for hydropower generation along the D and L Canal at Easton's Hugh Moore Park. This money would instead be used to fund repayment of student loans by county employees as well as affordable housing. The vote was 5-4, with President Lori Vargo Heffner joining Republicans. As promised, Executive Lamont McClure vetoed this change to his proposed budget, At its final meeting of the year, conducted last night, Northampton County Council failed to override that veto. Thus the student loan program proposed by Council member John Cusick appears to be dead, at least for now.

In his veto message. McClure noted we've already committed this sum to New England and decried the lack of a substantive plan for student loan repayment. He said it would be "administratively unworkable" and would "pit employees with college degrees against those who do not have them." He added that the funds set aside "do not begin to scratch the surface of the need, and concluded that it was an "unserious proposal." 

While I believe the Council members who supported this program were sincere, I'd have to agree that a student loan repayment plan for county workers would be quite complicated. One county worker asked me whether this plan would include student loans taken out by an employee for a child. I frankly do not know because there is no plan.

In other business, County Council agreed to a $144,000 contract with Design Nine, Inc. to do a feasibility study of broadband throughout the County. 

County Council needed six votes to override McClure's veto. It got only five, and thus failed to override the veto.   

Council Members Lori Vargo Heffner, Tom Giovanni, John Brown, John Cusick and John Goffredo all voted Yes. Council members Tara Zrinski, Kevin Lott, Ron Heckman and Kerry Myers voted No. Yes, Vargo Heffner sided with Republicans. Yes, County Republicans suddenly like student loan repayments. "Cross out hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things."  

In other business, County Council voted unanimously (9-0) for a $144,000 contract with Design Nine, Inc. to study Broadband service throughout the county. Community and Economic Development Director Tian Smith said the study would be a "county wide assessment" of "where we need to fill holes and gaps." This certainly includes more rural sections but she observed there are also some problems in inner cities. 

McClure advised Council that Director of Public Safety Ken Kraft is retiring, and will be replaced by Dave Collins. Let  me tell you a bit about Collins, one of my favorite people. 

I got to know him years ago, and respect him as a straight shooter. "I wear the white shirt with double bars," he told me several years ago, when the County under a previous administration tapped him to testify against another jail employee. He warned  he would tell the truth if called. He was never called. 

He says what means and means what he says.

He's an Easton boy. He graduated from Easton High School, where he played basketball. Though he's a big man who looks like an NFL offensive lineman, he wanted to study and teach the fine arts to children and enrolled at Kutztown University. Life got in the way. His college dreams took a back seat to raising a family, and one of which he's very proud. He has four daughters, is a grandfather and worships at Shiloh Baptist Church.

The man who wanted to teach fine arts maintained his interest in local youth. He was a program director at St. Anthony's Youth Center. He managed some programs at the Easton Area School District while working at jobs to support his family.

President Judge Robert Freedberg saw something he liked in well-spoken Collins, and recommended him for a job with Northampton County at the Juvenile Justice Center. He started working for the County in 2002  In 2009, he transferred to the jail. By 2011, he was a Lieutenant. Just two years later, in 2013, he was promoted to Captain.