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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, April 28, 2023

Senate GOP Strikes Down Smog Rules For Diesel Trucks

One of the main reasons why Executive Lamont McClure opposes tax breaks for warehouses is because the resulting truck traffic leads both to gridlock and air pollution. But U.S. Senate thinks a little air pollution from big rigs is no cause for concern. They voted 50-49 (with Joe Manchin joining Republicans) to rescind rules that limit how much smog (nitrogen oxide) can be emitted by diesel trucks. The trucking industry persuaded Senators that these new limits would simply cost too much to implement. Money trumped the health of people suffering from respiratory illness. 

Last year, Council Democrats and Republican John Cusick voted to fund the installation of air monitors throughout the county. These monitors determine where truck traffic, particularly diesel, have a detrimental impact on air quality. The data collected could then be used by municipalities to amend zoning and planning ordinances to make air quality part of a required traffic impact study for proposed warehouses, leading to a possible reduction in size of of truck numbers.

Council member John Goffredo, joined by Tom Giovanni and John Brown, voted against thee monitors. John Goffredo made the same argument that Senate Republicans made, perhaps even better. "I understand the big, hot topic is warehousing and truck traffic," said Goffredo. "If you're not somebody who relies on that - if you're not a truck driver or operator and you don't work in those warehouses - these might seem like inconveniences to a lot of people."

The League of Conservation Voters counters, "“Pollution from heavy-duty vehicles harms everyone but is especially hazardous to low-wealth communities and communities of color who live closest to major highways, freight hubs and high-traffic areas.”

Both points of view have merit. Limits on emissions will make things more expensive when we are still getting a handle on inflation. But I'd hope that human lives would matter a lot more. 

Housekeeping: Why You See Ads

Many years ago, this blog did run ads through Adsense. I liked doing so because I had nothing to do with the selection of advertisers and could retain my independence. It worked great for a few months, but my account was suspended for illegal activity. Monitors thought I was clicking on my own ads, and my appeals and denials fell on deaf ears. I could have solicited advertisers, but felt that would compromise my ability to say what I want. So I opted to write without ads. 

The Google Gods, after about a decade, have lifted my suspension. So I have connected once again to some limited ads. I find them to be no more annoying than they are at most sites.

Two of my readers have questioned why they are seeing ads. This is why. 

I am unable to tell you how much money is generated, but it likely will be very limited, perhaps enough to pay for Internet connection each month. 

Beth Dems to Debate on Sunday

Democratic candidates for Bethlehem City Council Candidate will debate Sunday, April 30, 1 pm, at the United Steelworkers Union Hall (53 E. Lehigh St, Bethlehem). Three seats are up. Incumbent Michael Colon is running, along with fellow Democrats Colleen Laird, Ricky Butler, former Council member Bryan Callahan and campaign consultant Celeste Dee. I will make every effort to be there and report to you. . 

Two Republicans - Devin Brunges and Tom Ginther - are unopposed on their side of the aisle. I've already featured Brunges once on this blog and only connected with Ginther together. His name sounded familiar to me, and I now know why. We went to grade school together until the 4th grade, when he switched to public school. The nuns beat the shit out of everyone, but he got it worse than most because he's a leftie. 

Houck Crushes Baratta in Straw Poll

Northampton County Democrats conducted their annual "pulse of the primary" earlier this week at Seven Sirens Brewing. It is a mock election limited to people who pay for admission, so it is by no means representative of the party as whole. But the results do indicate who the worker bees favor. 

The big winner was District Attorney Terry Houck.  He pulled in 30 votes to just 3 for Steve Baratta. The 3 who voted for Baratta were obviously drunk.  Baratta and his Republican handler, Ray Lahould, have attempted to steal Democratic votes by claiming that Houck is actually a Republican because he is attempting to end the race in May by asking Republicans to write him in. It appears that the Democratic committee members who work these campaigns know better. 

Other big winners include Tara Zrinski, who garnered 22 votes to just 6 for Nadeem Qayyum. 

In Easton, Panto pummeled Peter Melan. And the City Council winners were Kenny Brown, Frank Pintabone and Dave O'Connell.

I do not have the Bethlehem results. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Geissinger: Republicans Not Promoting Houck Write-in

At yesterday's news conference concerning Kerry Myers' decision to turn into a Republican so he could get them to write him, county party chair Glenn Geissinger specifically denied that the Republican party is backing Democratic DA Terry Houck.

Houck has been the subject of attacks for "siding with the Republican Party."  Challenger Steve Baratta slams Houck's "Republican agenda," which essentially consists of prosecuting criminals. I thought Democratic DAs did that, too. 

Houck is seeking Republican votes because he'd like to end the race in May. I'm told Democratic County Council candidate Ken Kraft is also waging a write-in campaign among Republicans. Don't tell Baratta. 

NorCo Council Prez Kerry Myers Switches Sides and Seeks GOP Write-In Nomination

Northampton County Council President Kerry Myers was a Democrat until 3 pm yesterday afternoon. That's when he switched sides to become a Republican. About 15 minutes later, at a news conference conducted inside the courthouse rotunda, GOP Chair Glenn Geissinger welcomed Myers into the fold and asked fellow Republicans to write Myers in as the Republican candidate for Easton District (Easton, West Easton, Glendon, Stockertown, Tatamy, Forks and Palmer). Also present at this news conference were Republican Council members John Brown, Tom Giovanni and John Goffredo as well as judicial candidate Nancy Aaroe, who seems to have forgotten that she is seeking the nomination of both Republicans and Democrats. You can see a Facebook Live of this presser, thanks to Margie Mandell. 

Unfortunately, the acoustics inside the courthouse rotunda are terrible. It is hard to decipher exactly what people are saying. 

Standing in front of Northampton County's Liberty Bell, Geissinger kicked things off  by stating that when the Republican party was founded 170 years ago, its party platform complained "[t]hat the present Democratic Administration has far exceeded our worst apprehensions." He then went on to say this is true of the current Democratic administration in Northampton County. He complained about Executive Lamont McClure's refusal to order a performance audit at Gracedale or a pay study for the workforce, and argued that the only way to get these things done is with a "strong governing body."

Myers' Fatally Defective Nomination Petition

Geissinger glossed over Myers' fatally defective nomination petition, "The voters need to have a choice and Mr. McClure needs to know that his political maneuvering will stop and are stopped by the people of this county."

I'd have sympathy for Myers if he actually had the support of 250 registered Democrats who live in his district.  But Myers was too lazy to go out and get the support he needed. That's nobody's fault but his. 

Myers, a lifelong Democrat, had filed a nomination petition seeking ballot access in the primary election. It was challenged by Forks Tp Democrats Ed Keegan, husband of Myers' primary opponent Kelly Keegan, as well as Laurie Jackson. They were represented by Bucks County election lawyer Larry Otter. At a hearing before Senior Judge Ed Reibman, Otter established that many of those who had signed Myers's petition lived outside the district, were registered to other parties or weren't registered at all. 

Myers was simply forced to concede his signatures were invalid. He explained at one point that he was circulating in [Shiloh Baptist] church on a Sunday morning and "had five petitions going at one time." By his own admission, Myers was using a church for political purposes. God probably took a dim view of this tactic. 

Myers admitted his nomination petition was fatally defective, but apparently thinks we all should have looked the other way. "If this is the game they want to play, I'm all in," he groused. 

Myers Blames McClure For His Failure

Myers had the same opportunity as all other Council candidates to get the requisite 250 signatures at numerous events aside from dropping off six nomination petitions at Shiloh Church and hoping for the best. There were numerous signing parties being hosted by Democrats at which he failed to appear. But  Myers chose to blame McClure for his troubles. "It seems like I was not playing well in the sandbox," he said. He was pushed out for refusing to be a rubber stamp. 

What Makes Myers Think 250 Republicans Will Support Him? 

Republican Council members John Brown, Tom Giovanni and John Goffredo voted No to Kerry Myers in January, when he ran for County Council President.  They preferred Council member John Cusick, who abstained from voting at all after he was nominated.  It took the votes of all five Democratic Council members, including Myers, for him to get the presidency. Republican Council members know what Myers is like. 

On Council, he has been a bully with a penchant for foul language. He slammed fellow Council members who tabled  the nomination of an elections commissioner when it was discovered that she works for a candidate seeking re-election. That's an obvious conflict, but Myers was incensed and wanted her appointed anyway because she is black. "If you want to go down that road, be my guest," he barked at Council members.  "But be prepared to take the heat for it."  

Council later appointed a black elections commissioner who had no conflict. 

During a meeting last year, Myers betrayed his overbearing style when he went into full bully mode on Sheriff Rich Johnston. Myers actually stated that, if he were a Deputy Sheriff, he'd refuse to take orders from Johnston.  

Myers: "I may be the only one here, but - Whooo! - I have a hard time saying I wanna take orders from this guy because I think my life would be in danger. But you hired him. 

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

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

Myers never apologized for his disgusting remarks about the Sheriff, who has more personal integrity than most people I know. He is precisely where he needs to be. 

Myers likes to brag that he was elected with 72% of the vote. He fails to realize that he was elected in a statewide blue wave, He seems to have forgotten that he failed to make it out of the primary in a previous try for County Council ... and in a previous school board race. He forgets that when he left Easton's School Board, it was running at a deficit and he was threatening layoffs unless unions made concessions. He is a polarizing figure who makes McClure look like Mr. Rogers. 

Late last year, he brought his braggadocio to a meeting at Easton Area School District

"I don't need a microphone. You can turn that damn thing off. I am Kerry Myers. Most of you know me, some of you don't. I am the current President of the Varsity E. I'm also the Vice President of Northampton County Council. I'm a former school board member, past President and VP of this organization. I vowed I never come back in this building when I left in 2011. That didn't work." He later added, "I am a 1972 alum. I was the Captain of the basketball team that only finished third in the state. I have my connections. ... ."

He's rather full of himself. 

As if all this were  not enough, we learned in February that he was using his Twitter account to engage in racy dialogue with bots he thought were MILFS. This demonstrates both creepiness and stupidity.  He claimed he was hacked, using the Sal Panto defense, even though there were numerous tweets on that account that only could have come from him. 

Republicans know all this about Myers. He is a self-serving politician who is using them to get what he wants. If he was unable to get 250 signatures from Democrats, what makes him think Republicans will want to write him in? 

Other Sources:

Morning Call

Lehigh Valley News

Mayor-For-Life Panto Pounds Peter in Xenophobic Mailer

Sal Panto is currently finishing an unprecedented 6th term as Easton's Mayor. No one has served that long since the position was first established in 1887. Four years ago, he said his sixth would be his last term. That was then. I learned long ago that Panto has great reverence for honesty ... so long as it applies to someone other than him. Now his seventh term is his last one, and he really means it this time. Honest! 

As you may have guessed, I have no respect for Panto as a person. I consider him both egotistical and a liar who surrounds himself with people who tell him only what he wants to hear. Despite this, he has been a good Mayor. He ran on a "clean and safe" platform and has followed through. True, his High School Hall of Fame and 100' tall Vitruvian man were ideas right out of a cuckoo box, but finances are stable. Whether it's because of him or in spite of him, Easton has improved under his watch. So he really is Mayor for Life. 

His opponent, Peter Melan, has an uphill battle against a popular Mayor in a city that keeps looking better and better. On top of that, Peter is hardly what I'd call a dynamic speaker. At the Shiloh Chapel, he insisted on reading prepared notes instead of speaking from his heart. 

So this should be an easy victory for Panto. I suspect, however, that a recent mailer attacking Melan might cost him a few votes.  One side of the mailer has Melan dangling from puppet strings with a WARNING to Democrats to vote NO because Peter is supposedly a Republican who only switched sides to run against Panto. 

This is false. Peter has been a Democrat since 2014.  That's long before he decided to give it a go against Sal. 

The flipside of the mailer contains a similar WARNING to Democrats. This one contains a strange picture of Melan that attempts to make him look like the Sheik of Lebanon. It tugs at our xenophobic heart strings, hoping to bring out the worst in us.

That's probably a bad move in a diverse community like Easton. which includes Our Lady of Lebanon and numerous successful Lebanese businesses. Moreover, if you look at the actual picture instead of the image as cropped by political consultant Tom Severson, you can see that it's just Peter and his son, playing in Winter weather. 

A bigoted mailer like this might work in Severson's slate belt community or Lehigh Township, but it has just pissed people off in Easton. 

Peter is by no means blameless here. He has sent out four mailers, and in one of them, claims to be the "real Democrat."    So did he deserve a shot across the bow? Yes. But Panto has pretty much hurt himself far more than he hurt Peter by both being dishonest and attempting to demean Peter because of his ethnic heritage.   

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Lehigh Valley County?

Would Lehigh Valley residents benefit from a merger of Lehigh and Northampton County? John Marquette, one of my more thoughtful readers, posed this question last week. Here's his comment:

"The bigger picture to me is why our two counties could not be consolidated. Picking a name that references neither county (I suggest Lenape) might be the easiest part of the equation. The two counties together have a population of 687,508 as of 2020. Allegheny County (containing Pittsburgh) was just over 1.2 million. Philadelphia city and county have a few hundred thousand more at 1.6 million. There’s strength in unity.

"This kind of also goes back to the struggles facing the users of the Hellertown Area Library who are residents of Lower Saucon. Both Hellertown borough and Lower Saucon are in Northampton County, with Upper Saucon etc. In Lehigh County. The overhead expended for the Hellertown and Upper Saucon systems, their different library districts (county-driven), etc…could be reduced to multiple county branches with all back-office work in the cloud, with savings put back toward public service and additional resources for the community.

"Will I see a single county, a single library system, planning commission, court system, etc., in my lifetime? Doubtful. Would consolidation give us more strength and political clout statewide? Well, Archibald Johnston thought so in the 1910s and we have a unified Bethlehem because of his work."

Without question, Pennsylvania has among the highest number of fragmented governments in the state. We have 67 separate counties and each of those is a hodgepodge of mostly small boroughs and townships. Northampton County alone has 37 separate municipalities. 

With this degree of fragmentation, it is virtually impossible to provide oversight. That's how corruption starts. 

Of course I'd support a merger of these smaller governments and a combination of the two counties.  It would be more efficient, less corrupt and we would definitely have more clout with the state.

Will it happen?

Not in John's lifetime. Certainly not in mine. We are too parochial. 

Short-Term Rahab Unit Now Open at Gracedale

In a news release issued yesterday, Northampton County officials announced that its short-term rehab is now open with no waiting list. Its rooms include televisions, and an occupational/speech/physical therapy gym is located directly on the unit. Gracedale accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurances, Department of Veterans Affairs coverage, workers' compensation, and automobile accident claims. Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King has said that the 37 units present a "homelike environment." 

At the nursing home, the average census in February was 408. Stewart-King told County Council earlier this month that the facility is weaning away from agency nurses.

Hiring has increased at the nursing home as well. 

Council member John Cusick observed that in a neighboring county, one nurse was paid $300,000 last year, and was able to retire with a $180,000 pension. Stewart-King responded that she must approve all overtime requests and avoids that situation. 

The home has started its own training program for certified nurse's aides (CNA) and has trained 24 so far. A second class is being conducted this month because of the interest. 

Call-offs are dwindling. 

Medicaid has increased its daily rate for residents form $220 to $260. 

Cusick also questioned a $1.5 million county contribution into Gracedale from the unaudited 4th quarter financials. Fiscal Director Steve Barron explained that the contribution was for budgeted capital improvements and not to make up any shortfall. He added that Gracedale's fund balance right now is around $19 million, the largest he's ever seen. "From a financial standpoint, the nursing hope is in the best shape since I've been here, and that's over 15  years," said Barron. About $9 million of this, however, is American Rescue Plan Act money. 

Insofar as a daycare is concerned, construction bids are due May 15. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Joe Biden Makes It Official - He's Running

Good Morning Lehigh Valley! New Radio Show Hosted by Brad Osborne

Good Morning - Good Morning Lehigh Valley Promo by BernieOHare on Scribd

Brad Osborne is a man of many talents. He's been a Lehigh County Comm'r and is once again serving on South Whitehall's Board. He has been an occasional contributor to this blog. If you check out his Facebook page, you'll see he is also an avid ornithologist. His photography of birds in flight can be breathtaking. But that's not all. Starting May 30, he plans to host a weekly radio show on WGPA called "Good Morning Lehigh Valley." 

Locally, we have a morning talk show on WAEB 790, hosted by Bobby Gunther Walsh. Although he can be funny and asks sharp questions at times, his audience appears to be limited to aging right-wingers. But frankly, that's what gives talk radio its appeal. I love listening to sports radio at 94.1 for precisely that reason. The commentary might be biased and less informed, but it's an honest and accurate reflection of  what listeners actually think.  

WDIY had a weekly show entitled, smugly enough, "Lehigh Valley Discourse." That program was hosted by elitists like Alan Jennings. He claims to champion the unwashed masses, but refused to allow them to phone in and provide any perspective that might contradict his.

That show has supposedly "evolved," but not in a good way. 

When WLVR launched, I emailed with a suggestion that they host a weekly call-in show to give voice to real people on specific issues.  I never heard back. 

This is unfortunate. WHYY in Philly hosts a daily one-hour show that focuses primarily on local issues. People are encouraged to call in and it makes for lively radio. That station also hosts regular call-in shows with New Jersey's Governor. 

Spanish radio does an excellent job of informing the Hispanic community in Allentown although I never understand more than two out of 10 words. 

Brad's show has potential if he takes calls and has good guests.  I know he'll do his research.  A program like his should really be a daily thing. Local officials would probably be very receptive to the idea of answering questions from the people they are supposed to represent, and I am disappointed that local broadcasters refuse to snatch this low hanging fruit, which would be good for them and for democracy. 

NorCo Controller Candidate Qayuum Disguises Phone Bank as Official NorCo Call

Yesterday, while reviewing my massive portfolio with my broker, I was rudely interrupted by a call from 610-759-7895. That's a Nazareth exchange, but my caller ID said "Northampton County Controller." Was I behind on hotel tax payments again? I stopped speaking to my broker and took the call. The person on the other end was not the Controller or anyone from the Controller's office. It was instead someone who would very much like to be Controller - Nadeem Qayuum. 

He seemed a bit surprised that I answered and was even more surprised when I questioned why he was calling as the Controller when he is only a candidate. This is actually borderline criminal. He explained that he is calling as a candidate, but I told him his caller ID was deceptive and totally inappropriate. At that point we got disconnected. I tried several times to call the number again, but the phone just rang. 

I'm unsure whether he understands that it's improper for a private individual to disguise his phone banking as official county business. I did notify the County, and hopefully they will have more success than I did. I will admit that if Zrinski had done this, I'd be all over her. But that's only because she knows better. ... I think. 

About an hour later, I saw Nadeem on Rte 248, planting a sign. He looked very happy. I just drove by. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Looking Like a Biden Trump Redux

In a supposed democratic republic populated by 340 million, I am totally astonished that it increasingly looks like the 2024 Presidential is going to be a Trump-Biden rematch. Trump is Captain Chaos while Biden is 80 years old. Can't we do better than this? I am unable in good conscience to vote for either of these guys. 

Gavin Holihan. Lehigh County DA Jim Martin's Successor?

I've been so heavily focused on Northampton County DA's race between Terry Houck and Steve Baratta. that I've ignored another important DA's contest in Lehigh County. Fortunately, there's only one candidate. Barring an unlikely write-in, Gavin Holihan will be Lehigh County's next chief prosecuting attorney. 

In many ways, this really bothers me. I'm sure that, once I tell you about Holihan, most of you think he'll be great. But I hate to see Jim Martin step down.  He has been in office since January 1998, and is the longest serving District Attorney in Lehigh County history. Yes, even longer than George Joseph. Longer than Bill Platt, whose withering gaze still scares the shit out of me.

Martin's counterpart in Northampton County during much of this time has been John Morganelli, They had different styles. John was deceptively tough. Nothing pleased him more than mixing it up in the courtroom. Martin could come at you like a bull. I swear I saw steam coming out of his nostrils at a Lehigh Comm'rs meeting many moons ago. Despite his gruff exterior, he's been the wonk, the driving force behind just about every technological advance in Lehigh Valley crime fighting over the past 25 years. It is Jim Martin who established the Regional Crime Center, which uses data from police incident reports and even prison logs to track down criminals and detect trends. It's solved several murder cases. He also helped establish a forensic center at DeSales University to expedite matters that simply take too long at state police labs. I hope to sit down with Jim at some point before he leaves office, hopefully when he's in a good mood. 

Who is Gavin Holihan? He's originally from Piermont, NY, and must have driven through the Lehigh Valley during his days as an undergrad at Franklin & Marshall. He went to Fordham Law, and after he graduated, was hired as an Assistant DA by then Lehigh County DA Bob Steinberg. He fell in love with the Lehigh Valley and stayed. He gained experience under Hank Perkin as an assistant LC Solicitor and then went into private practice with prominent defense attorney John Waldron. From there, he started his own practice in downtown Allentown. 

You may remember him as the lawyer who gained an acquittal for a police officer who shot an unarmed man at Dorney Park. But even as a criminal defense lawyer, Holihan drew attention to the "ugliness of sex trafficking" ... . [T]he damage it does affects the entire community. Illegal drug use and violence often accompany trafficking. The broken lives of the victims and their families cause a devasting ripple effect across generations. This is not just occurring in exotic locations. It is happening is Fogelsville, Hanover Township, Lehighton, Reading, and every local community."

As District Attorney, he'll be able to do something about it. 

It's a good thing he's running unopposed. He had to text me his largely unfinished campaign webpage after our conversation. "I'm not very much political and never have been," he confessed. "My career has been in a courtroom and my skeletons are on the record, not in a closet." 

Opioid Crisis. - With respect to the opioid crisis and the dangers of fentanyl, Holihan made clear that he plans to pursue charges against drug dealers, not co-users, who sell the poison killing people. These overdoses claimed 82 Northampton and 140 Lehigh County lives last year. But these are difficult cases. How do you prove that a heroin addict who might use 40 bags in one day died from the one bag that contained fentanyl? How do you prove that it was fentanyl, and not some other drug, that caused the death? What do you do if the drug report comes back and says multiple toxicity, asked Holihan. How do you prove that the dealer knew that the drug he sold contained fentanyl? Given the months it takes to get a toxicology report, how do you know anything other than that there was an overdose? Assuming you have answers to all these questions, the next obstacle is a two-year statute of limitations.

Holihan acknowledged these hurdles, but said police have learned from experience to recognize fentanyl. If a person has overdosed on just one pill or one needle, they start thinking fentanyl.

He mentioned that Lehigh County, like Northampton, has a blue guardian program. Those are programs in which a recovering overdose victim receives a visits from a police officer and a recovery specialist with the hope that a person who nearly died just might be receptive to treatment.

He added that Jim Martin (I told you he's a wonk) is considering expanding this program so that co-users receive visits as well. 

Problem solving courts. - Like Northampton, Lehigh County does have a post-conviction drug court. These are problem-solving courts that target defendants who are alcoholic or addicted. They take a multidisciplinary approach to help someone break his dependency through mentoring, with sanctions and assistance in finding jobs and housing. Holihan said he'd certainly consider a pre-conviction approach if possible. 

Lehigh County has no mental health court, but does have a MISA (mental illness substance abuse) program. There's no judicial oversight and outcomes vary from case to case. It also has a veteran mentoring program that assists veterans seeking to adjust to civilian life. 

Death Penalty. - As an Assistant DA, Holihan sent two people to death row. They're still there. He called it a "waste of resources, except for killing people, and it doesn't do that." He argued there's no evidence that it has any deterrent effect and, like NorCo DA candidate Steve Baratta, he notes that states who impose the death penalty tend to have the highest number of murders. He added that its application is overwhelmingly racist. According to Holihan, a black man who kills a white woman is seven times more likely to receive a death sentence than a white man who kills a black man.

I asked him about the Ballard case, which involved a defendant who was released on parole after a homicide, and within two months, killed four more people. he was sentenced to death by a jury. "I will not, under any circumstances, put a moratorium to that," said DA Terry Houck at a recent candidates' night. But Holihan countered that Ballard could get four consecutive life sentences. "Other that vindictiveness or spite, I don't see the purpose [the death penalty] serves." 

Possession of Small Amount of Marijuana. - Both Terry Houck and Steve Baratta have pretty much the same view on this crime. Houck diverts these cases and Baratta has said he'd do the same thing. But Holihan will prosecute. He stated that he has discretion to decide against seeking a death penalty, but has no discretion in deciding which laws he will enforce. 

Diversity. Holihan argued that most prosecutors are white males. He argued, like Terry Houck, that there are very few persons of color in the local bar. 

Holihan is running as a Republican.  

McClure's Proposed Gift Ban Details

I told you last week that Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has proposed a proposed gift ban ordinance for consideration by County Council. Two members of Council must agree to sponsor this before before it can be introduced. All nine should do so. 

Although Northampton County's Home Rule Charter does contain a gift ban, the subsequently adopted Administrative Code actually contradicts it. Under these circumstances, it would be impossible to enforce violations. 

The ordinance proposed by McClure is based on Governor Josh Shapiro's gift ban.  It is less restrictive than Bethlehem's, under which a public official or employee is unable to accept so much as a cup of coffee. But it bans elected officials from accepting tickets to recreational events like ArtsQuest concerts or IronPigs games. I doubt this amenity actually sways anyone to vote a certain way, but it is a form of soft corruption. It is also terrible optics. When a public official is feted like this, people notice. 

Northampton County Proposed Gift Ban by BernieOHare on Scribd

Friday, April 21, 2023

Mastriano: Will He or Won't He?

Failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has reportedly reached a decision on whether he intends to challenge US Senator Bob Casey next year.  He claims polls show him "walking away with it."  

I hope he runs. If he does, it guarantees that Pennsylvania remains blue. 

Politically Inspired Lawsuit Against NorCo DA and Colonial Regional Police Dismissed

In my recap of the candidates' night in Easton, I decided the fairest way to tell you about the DA's race was to let the candidates do it themselves. Without any editorial observations, I posted videos of what Steve Baratta and Terry Houck had to say. For doing so, I was attacked by the Baratta camp. One of their numerous complaints was my failure to tell you more about the Sikh temple in Nazareth, which I've written about here and here.  

The Sikh Temple controversy involves two factions fighting for control of that church. It is essentially a civil matter. In fact a civil suit seeking a declaratory judgment was filed by one faction in 2014. It was  dismissed by then Judge Baratta in 2015 because the faction that brought the suit had failed to do anything.

As a judge, Baratta dismissed the suit between two Sikh factions. As a candidate for DA, he's pandering to one side. During the debate in Nazareth, he even told the Sikhs in the audience that Houck "doesn't care because you guys don't look like him ... ."  

Houck had met both factions twice and refused to act because he correctly concluded the matter is civil. It had nothing to do with the way Sikhs look. One could just as easily conclude that then Judge Baratta dismissed their lawsuit because they don't look like him. 

The fighting has continued. Police have been called over 20 times and have responded every time, although Baratta has incorrectly claimed at a protest and in statements that they refuse to do anything.  There were a few times when harassment charges were filed and two incidents are under criminal investigation.  When someone complains that he doesn't like the way someone else is looking at him, that's no basis for police action. Maybe Mommy or Daddy, but not the cops. 

In February, a new declaratory judgment was filed by one faction against the other by Attorney John Alexander Short, an associate who interestingly works directly under Ray Lahoud at Lahoud's law firm. Lahoud is a big Baratta backer, as evidenced by his Facebook page. That matter is pending. 

One of the attacks launched at me involve the Sikh temple dispute. 

"The police still maintain possession of the monetary collections circulated at the religious event they were called to months ago. Why hasn't Terry returned the religious donations seized by police that day? Those donations are not evidence of any crime and should be returned to the organization immediately. When will you report on the lawsuits filed against the police and Houck by the Sikhs?"

Actually, I was unaware that Baratta backer Ray Lahoud actually had used his law firm to sue, not just another faction of Sikhs, but District Attorney Terry Houck and  Colonial Regional Police Department as well. I was unaware because this lawsuit, if it can be called a lawsuit, was actually filed in criminal court. I suspect that nobody, outside of Lahoud's law firm and the DA's office, would have known about this action. 

Among the numerous visits police made to the Sikh Temple was one occasion in which the two factions were arguing over the $1500 take in that week's collection box. Both sides agreed to turn it over to police until the civil dispute over control is resolved. 

In an effort to embarrass District Attorney Houck. Lahoud's associate then filed a motion in criminal court, naming Houck and the police as defendants. He claims his Sikh factrion has been aggrieved by a "search and seizure" and want that money. 

In a hearing on Wednesday, in which County Solicitor Melissa Rudas represented the DA and Attorney Ron Corkery represented police, body cam footage showed clearly that no one was aggrieved and there was no search and seizure. There was instead a consensual handover of the money until the civil dispute is resolved. 

President Judge Michael J. Koury, Jr., dismissed the petition. 

So I've now reported on this politically inspired litigation. 

Sikh Temple Property Return Order 4-19-23 by BernieOHare on Scribd

UPDATED: McClure: MaiI-in Ballots (MIBs) On Their Way

In his report to Northampton County Council last night, Executive Lamont McClure advised that mail-in ballots are in the mail for those who've requested them. In an earlier version of this story, I incorrectly said they were applications. They are the actual ballots.

Updated 1:30 pm

Lehigh Valley Planning Comm'n Votes To Sign Lease at Allentown Waterfront

Executive Lamont McClure informed Northampton County Council last night that by one vote, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) has voted to execute a lease for its "very cool" new location at the Allentown Waterfront. All members of Northampton County'sdelegation voted No, while all members of Lehigh County's delegation voted Yes. 

 McClure suggested that LVPC should at least try to negotiate its way out of a triple net lease, but he was rebuffed.  

NorCo Council Overrides Veto of Pektor Tax Break in Upper Mount Bethel

By 6-3, Northampton County Council voted last night to override Executive Lamont McClure's veto of a special kind of tax break, known as a LERTA, for developer Lou Pektor in Upper Mount Bethel Tp (UMBT). Proponents of this tax break predict it will lead to manufacturing jobs. Opponents argue it would actually lead to warehouses. McClure vetoed this special tax break because it actually does incentivize warehouses. Voting to override the veto were Republicans John Goffredo, Tom Giovanni and John Brown as well as Democrats  Kerry Myers, Lori Vargo-Heffner and Ron Heckman.  These are the same Council members who voted the grant this tax break two weeks ago. This tax break was then opposed by Republican John Cusick and Democrats Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott. Last night, this triumvirate supported McClure's veto. 

For those of who who just aren't up tp date on all the tax gimmicks out there, LERTA is an acronym for Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance.

Property owners inside a LERTA zone may apply for a tax break for improvements that increase assessment, upon which all real estate taxes are based. They will continue paying full taxes on the current assessment, but the increase in assessment resulting from improvements like a new manufacturing facility or warehouse can be phased in gradually over a period of ten years.

Two weeks ago, McClure suggested that Council table the matter to give him and Pektor time to develop a LERTA that would be limited to manufacturing.  For his part, Pektor stood up and agreed with McClure's suggestion, which would have satisfied everyone. 

Amazingly, they were both ignored. County Council voted instead to incentive whatever is built at this site, including warehouses. Plainfield Tp Supervisor Don Moore suggested that Council had snatched "defeat from the jaws of victory." He argued that the building sizes proposed would be warehouses. 

This was disputed by Pektor himself. "A lot of people have been taking liberties and making misstatements," he said. He specifically accused Council member Tara Zrinski of "taking liberties to make some serious misstatements, both on TV and in this room, about our projects and activity." Council President Kerry Myers stopped Pektor from getting personal, but he went on to specifically denying any intention of building 185' tall buildings or hi-cube warehouses. He denied traffic would flow through Wind Gap, buit would instead be going to Route 80. He said the site already has enough water for warehouses, but he's continuing to source water precisely because he wants manufacturing.

McClure asked Council to sustain the veto because he and Pektor have started a dialogue "to codify what is manufacturing. ... We need more time. These are complicated issues. What is manufacturing? How is manufacturing defined? What is a warehouse? ... These are not simple questions to answer in just a few short hours." He said that limiting the LERTA to manufacturing would be "a huge step forward in our fight against warehouse proliferation. Give us more time to do that."


Without discussion, the veto was overridden. The LERTA remains in place. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

NorCo Exec Lamont McClure Proposes Gift Ban Ordinance

In recent weeks, I noticed that a County Council member was getting preferential treatment from ArtsQuest, a recipient of county funds. No matter how innocent the parties involved might be, it's very bad optics. We've seen that recently with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. We all hate to see public officials use their office to get personal favors.  It undermines trust and confidence. This should be common sense, but if you're like me and lack that quality, there's the Northampton County's Home Rule Charter.  It prohibits anyone who works for the county from accepting anything of value, on terms more favorable than those granted to the public, from any person dealing with the county. That should be the end of it. But guess what? This clear prohibition is contradicted by the Administrative Code. It contains ridiculous exceptions that include tickets to ball games and shows.  Executive Lamont McClure has picked up on this discrepancy. Yesterday, he proposed a gift ban ordinance that is more or less in line with one imposed by Governor Josh Shapiro.  It will require two County Council sponsors. 

McClure noted that the Administrative Code's gift ban has so many loopholes "you could drive a truck through it." 

County Council took no action yesterday, but will introduce this ordinance in two weeks if there are two sponsors. I'd hope that all nine would want this enacted.

It's in the best interests of the County. 

Easton Mayor: Peter Melan or Sal Panto?

Incumbent Mayor Sal Panto and outgoing Council member are the two candidates for Mayor. Both are Democrats. Peter read a prepared statement, but was stopped before he could read all of it. Panto was extemporaneous and used no notes. Panto has been a good Mayor, but he really needs to give someone else a chance. 

Peter Melan's statement: 

Good evening, everyone. My name is peter Melan, and I am running for mayor of Easton pa. I currently serve on city council as an at large representative since being elected in 2015. I formerly chaired public safety and now chair the administration committee.

In my term on council, I have brought a wealth of knowledge to our city. One of my initiatives was to integrate a public notification system called Nixle which has now been retired and replaced with what I believe to be nothing since I am not aware of anyone receiving communications from our city officials unless it’s on Facebook or Instagram.

I have also offered a different way to think as a government official. I wouldn’t’ have thought a master’s degree in public administration meant something but to me, it helped me understand local government and how it functions. My degree also brought a deeper knowledge into budgeting, transparency, and the ability to resolve conflicts with other representatives. Unfortunately, some of us are unable to set aside our differences and we are forced to behave inappropriately when confronted with difficult questions or awkward encounters.

But I’d like to focus on my platform and outline some of my priorities in front of you today. As you may know, our downtown thrives with restaurants, retail stores, and new housing. Our neighborhoods want the same thing. As I walk around the neighborhood, I hear residents ask why the south side can’t have a food festival or why can’t we have nicer facilities for children who participate in youth sports. Just the other day I saw a post on social media about why all the attention was given to an athletic facility and now that the ice maker broke, there is no money to fix it. A commercial ice maker I found cost less than $3k yet a call for action to my opponent and his administration asking for help was left unanswered.

One of my other priorities is to really engage in neighborhood equality. I’ve been hearing all this talk about increasing affordable housing and that the city has increased its supply with a recently launched project on West Lincoln Street. What’s sad about this project is that I had a resident reach out to me with a letter showing her rent increased from $340 to $1,618. I have a copy of the letter here if anyone wants to see it with the tenant’s name redacted for privacy purposes. Speaking words of affordable housing are empty without action. Neighborhood equality with an emphasis on increasing affordable housing requires a concerted effort from all of us, and not just a bunch of suits who throw the words around for political points with constituents.

We also need to focus on promoting economic development in all areas of the city. I remember sitting here and listening to everyone offer suggestions on how to keep a bank located on the south side. A bank is vital to our residents but what about educating residents on how to use mobile banking or classes on personal financing at the neighborhood center? It is important to come up with creative approaches to the incoming challenges in a future where people in suits who are in faraway offices make decisions that cause negative impacts on our great city.

As mayor, I will be able to change the status quo and change the static thinking that is leaving us unprepared for the challenges ahead. The time for change is now. Thank you for your time this evening.

Sal Panto (this is my summary of what he had to say): 

When he first ran for Mayor, he had one pledge, and that was to make Easton clean and safe. He's kep that promise. Last year alone, he added 11 police officers to Easton's police department.

Those 11 additional police officers cost $2 million, but as a result of solid fiscal management, he's made those hires without increasing taxes. In fact, there's been no tax hike for 16 years, and the City's financial rating has actually improved from junk bond status to AA. 

The biggest issue facing the City right now is an affordable housing crisis, which actually is a national problem. The City has just added 55 units to its housing stock and he believes it can do more if it gets a Choice Neighborhood grant, which will be awarded in 2025.  

Panto was asked if he could do something about the speeding on Lafayette Street, where cars roar by at 60 mph and there is no police presence. Panto responded that local police are handicapped because they are unable to use radar. He also noted that he's unable to change the speed limit because Lafayette Street is regulated by PennDOT. He noted PennDOT wants to move cars, not people. "They don't care about people." He promised to do what he can to increase the police presence on that street.

He also was asked about marketing the City for local business. He said that businesses should market themselves and that the City is marketed through a publicly funded nonprofit. He suggested that business owners clean their windows and do their best to make storefronts look attractive.   

He finally stated he seeks no endorsements at election time.  

Both candidates were asked about park benches, which became a running joke throughout the evening. 

NorCo Elections Office FAQ

 From Northampton County: The Northampton County Elections Office is providing a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Municipal Primary Election on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.

What will be on the ballot?
  • You can view the Municipal Primary ballot for the May 16th Municipal Primary at:
Who can vote in the Municipal Primary Election?
  • Only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates running on their party’s ticket in the Primary Election.
How can I check to see if I’m registered to vote?
  • You can check your registration status at www.vote.pa.gov. The deadline to register to vote in the Municipal Primary Election is May 1, 2023.
Where do I vote in person?
Can I vote by mail?
How do I know if my application has been accepted or my ballot has been received?
Why did I get an email saying my application for a mail-in ballot has been declined?
  • There are various reasons this may have happened (i.e., duplicate application, lack of verifiable ID, no party affiliation, etc.). Also, local groups send out unsolicited voter registration and mail-in ballot applications, confusing some voters into applying more than once. If you are concerned about any of these issues or have any questions, please contact the Elections Office at 610-829-6260 or elections@norcopa.gov, and someone will assist you.
When will mail-in ballots begin to be sent out?
I’m worried about getting my mail-in ballot back to the Elections Office on time.
  • To be counted, ballots must be returned to the Election’s Office by 8:00PM on May 16th. We recommend voters return their ballot as soon as possible or at least get it in the mail by Tuesday, May 9th. Secure ballot drop-off boxes will be available until 8:00PM on May 16th.
What can I do to ensure my mail-in ballot is accepted?
  • Mail-in ballots will be accepted if:
  • The ballot is enclosed in a sealed secrecy envelope
  • The return envelope is signed and dated
  • There are no identifying marks or symbols on the secrecy envelope
  • The ballot is returned to the Election’s Office by 8:00PM on May 16th
What kind of stamp should I use to mail my ballot back?
  • Postage on the return envelopes is pre-paid. Voters do not need to add a stamp.
How can I return my mail-in ballot?
  • Ballots can be returned by mail; no postage stamp is required. They can be returned directly to the Election’s Office at the Government Center at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042, or at one of the secure ballot drop boxes stationed around the County. Drop boxes will be available starting Wednesday, April 19, 2023. All ballots must be returned to the Election’s Office by 8:00PM on May 16th.
Where are the secure ballot drop-off boxes located in Northampton County?
Northampton County Courthouse:
  • 669 Washington St., Easton, PA 18042 – Monday-Friday from 8:30am-8:00pm
Northampton County Human Services Building:
  • 2801 Emrick Blvd., Bethlehem, PA 18020 – Monday-Friday from 8:30am-7:00pm
Northampton County 911 Center:
  • 100 Gracedale Ave., Nazareth, PA 18064 – Monday-Friday from 8:30am-8:00pm
Bethlehem City Hall:
  • 10 E. Church St., Bethlehem, PA 18018 – Monday-Friday from 8:00am-4:00pm*
  • *Drop box will be available until 8:00 pm on Election Night (May 16, 2023)
Can someone else deliver my ballot to the Elections Office?
  • No. PA State Law states that voters must only drop off their own ballot. If you come into the office, you may be asked for your ID. If you drop off someone else’s ballot because they are physically unable to do so, you will be asked for a signed “Certification of Designated Agent” form. A copy of the form can be downloaded at Authorize Designated Agent Form (pa.gov).
Can I vote using Ballot on Demand?
Yes, Ballot on Demand will be available in the Election Office at the Government Center (669 Washington Street Easton, PA 18042):
  • Monday, April 17 – Friday, April 21 (8:30 am – 4:30 pm)
  • Monday, April 24 - Monday, May 8 (8:30 am - 6:00 pm)
  • Saturday, April 29 & Saturday, May 6 (from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm)
  • The last day will be Tuesday, May 9 (8:30 am - 5:00 pm)
  • You must registered to vote in Northampton County by May 1, 2023
  • You must bring an ID with you to the Election Office
I requested a mail-in ballot, but now I want to vote in person at the polls.
  • Voters who prefer to use the machines must bring their mail-in ballots and the return envelope to the polls. The Judge of Election will spoil the ballot and ask the voter to complete a “Declaration to Surrender Ballot” form before allowing them to vote on the ExpressVote XL machine. If you do not bring your mail-ballot and return envelope to the polls you will only be allowed to vote by Provisional ballot.
What time are the polls open on May 16th?
  • Between the hours of 7:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M. on May 16th. If you’re in line by 8 p.m., stay in line, you will be allowed to cast your vote.
Have the ExpressVote XL machines been tested?
  • Yes. The machines undergo testing before the Municipal Primary Election. In addition to testing, the machines also received upgrades to the new ES&S Voting System to ensure expanded security.
Have any polling locations changed for this election?
  • Bethlehem 14-3 – St. Anne School, 375 Hickory St., Bethlehem, PA 18017
  • Hellertown Borough 3rd Ward – Hellertown Historical Society (Tavern Room), 150 W. Walnut Street, Hellertown 18055
  • Lower Saucon Township 1 – Saucon Valley District Administration Bldg. (Door 18), 2097 Polk Valley Road, Hellertown 18055
  • Portland Borough – Portland Hook & Ladder Co. #1, 392 Delaware Ave., Portland, PA 18351
Do I have to wear a mask at the polls? What about the poll workers?
  • Facemasks are optional.
Who should voters call if they have problems or questions either before or on Election Day?
Our democracy increases in strength the more we all participate. If you, or someone you know, has an interest in taking a more active role, please consider becoming a poll worker. Poll workers are paid for their training time and work on Election Day: https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CTYADMN/ELECTNS/Pages/PollWorkers.aspx

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The NorCo DA Candidates in 15 Minutes

Last night, at Easton's Shiloh Chapel, challenger Steve Baratta and incumbent Terry Houck argued why they deserve election. Since neither pitch is terribly long, I'll let the candidates speak for themselves. 

Steve Baratta in Seven Minutes

Terry Houck in Eight Minutes

Easton City Council Candidates Speak at Shiloh Chapel

Last night, a pod of politicos docked at Shiloh Chapel on Easton's south side for a candidates' night hosted by the South Side Civic Association. The room is adorned with a large sign saying "No Perfect People Allowed." With the exception of myself, that was largely the case. It was certainly true of the 12 candidates there to make five-minute pitches. It was also true of the event organizers. That's why no Republicans were there. Neither Controller candidate John Cusick nor judicial candidate Nancy Aaroe were at this forum. They are just as imperfect as the Democratic candidates, but received no invitation. Was this a slight? No. Democratic candidates received no invitations either. Like the shad who swim up the Delaware this time of year, they just knew.  This event could have been better publicized. Including candidates and organizers, I counted only 34 people. That was disappointing. From my own event in Nazareth a few weeks ago, I know people are hungry for democracy.  And although I'll admit I get the most reactions when I write about national issues, local government is the one that has the biggest impact on our daily lives. It is where one person truly can make a difference. 

Today's story is limited to the five candidates seeking three seats on Easton City Council candidates. I'll have separate posts about the Easton Mayoral, DA, and County Controller races, 

Kurt Carlson:  A College Hill resident, Kurt was a Fulbright fellow who claims to have developed the "most comprehensive affordable housing plan the Lehigh Valley has ever seen." He states he hears "a lot of rhetoric about who does and does not belong" when what Easton really needs are people "who are deep into the data. That's where I come in." He stated he brings a "perspective." "I think outside the box." 

He certainly has impressive credentials and talks about things like "arterial development" and "Main Street 2.0," so he's obviously fluent in bureaucratese in addition to French and an assortment of foreign languages. 

What he fails to bring is any sense of humility  

Ken Brown: I'm more used to seeing "downtown Kenny Brown" on the basketball court, where he was a referee at my grandson's high school basketball games.  He is currently VP of Easton City Council and Director of NorCo's Court Services. But he grew up in the throes of poverty, first in Philly and then in Easton public housing. Ken's brother Carl went down a different path, committing numerous armed robberies and even a prison escape. Eventually, he was killed by Easton police, who informed young Ken that "we killed your n----r brother." 

Ken would later work at the Police Athletic League with the very officers who had killed his brother (in self-defense). One day, the officer who made the racist remark about Ken's brother apologized, and Ken forgave him. 

There's a lot of quiet wisdom in this man, who acknowledged "we could always do better."

That's how he's lived his life.  

People throw around words like "affordable housing" and homelessness all the time. Ken, who came up hard, knows what it's like. "We're all one paycheck away." 

He describes Easton as "one city, one community and we ought to be proud of it."

Easton is lucky to have a civic leader like Brown, and he will win easily. 

Frank Pintabone: A 4th generation Eastonian, Pintabone is the quintessence of its south side. Since he was 19, he's been involved in community service. Whether it is a "Stop the Violence" march or Thanksgiving turkeys, he's been doing it for years. He believes the best way to build Easton is by "strengthening our neighborhoods." To that end, he'd like to revive the Easton Trolley (it's actually a bus) that would transport people to all four corners of the city. Noting the hilly terrain, he explained that many people find it difficult to walk. He'd also like to bring a full service grocer to the West Ward and crack down on absentee landlords. As he explains on his website and repeated last night, he's "from the neighborhood and for the neighborhood." 

Pintabone, who knows everyone in the city, is a ball of energy who understands the city's problems better than just about anyone. He excelled as Easton School Board President. It was in disarray when he arrived. When he left, a deficit had been wiped out, teachers were brought back and schools for the neighborhoods were being built. 

Lance Wheeler: Wheeler, a lifelong resident of the West Ward and its fiercest advocate, pledged he'd give up is $9,300 salary if elected. "When there's shots fired, I'm there," he said, without mentioning that he's a constable. He talked about racism in Easton, noting that as a kid, he was unable to use the pool at Eddyside. He and Mayor Sal Panto got into a nasty exchange over Lance's use of a park for a pumpkin patch, the sale of Christmas trees and a Superbowl party. He also made strange statements that black kids don't do heroin or fentanyl and don't think they can swim. He was clearly off his game and his unusually unpleasant demeanor turned people off.  

"I'm not here to win a vote," he said during his rather bizarre speech. If that was his goal, he succeeded. 

Crystal Rose: Like Pintabone, she's a 4th generation Eastonian. Her campaign page spells out her priorities of affordable housing, creating home ownership opportunities and giving everyone a voice at the table. She spoke about fighting blight, absentee landlords. She said that "fixing the small things will have a big impact." 

I know she's responsive. She provided a detailed response to a question I had about her race. 

She's a banker who has served on the City's Civil Service Board, Grow-a-Row and has participated in fundraisers for Third Street Alliance. 

She was quite impressive.

Ken Greene: A retired educator, Greene states Easton can "move from good to great" by building up the community. He claims to have visited 2,500 homes and has learned that residents want a community that is "clean, safe and accessible. 

What I dislike about Greene is that he is attempting to buy his seat, just like he bought a home on center square.  He might be able to dine at Ocean and Maxim 22, and live at the Grand Eastonian Hotel for two years, but I doubt he has a clue what really bothers ordinary city residents, no matter how many homes he visits or TV ads he buys.  

He did try to tone it down a bit last night, wearing jeans instead of dress pants. But to him, this is just a little hobby.  To the other candidates, this is their life.

Maybe he should try polo. 

Dave O'Connell: Two-term Council member Dave O'Connell does have a Facebook page, but his entries there are rare. No webpage. He said his campaign consists of "just walking and knocking on doors." That's probably the most effective way to campaign in Easton if you can survive the hills. He's pushing 80, but I'm told he's been everywhere.  Of all the city council candidates who spoke last night, I found him to be the most sincere. He was also humble. He never talked about his own accomplishments and only called himself "part of a team that has made Easton a more desirable place to live, to work and to visit." He described Easton as safe, stable, financially secure and well-managed. He touted the strides Easton has made to secure affordable housing at Black Diamond and Shiloh. Questioned about Lafayette College's expansion, he noted (almost apologetically) that he was the sole Council member to vote No. Then he credited Lafayette for its recent efforts to reach out to the community. 

My picks? If I lived in Easton, I'd go with Pintabone, Brown and O'Connell. If I had a 4th vote, I'd cast it for Rose. Carlson is a little too full of himself, Greene is trying to buy his office and Lance needs a nap. 

Bethlehem City Council Candidate Colleen Laird Has No Conflict With Bethlehem Food Co-Op

Yesterday, in a story about the sleepy Bethlehem City Council race, I expressed some concern About Colleen Laird's ties to the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. The last thing Bethlehem needs is another Karen Dolan. But I had my facts wrong. Laird is no longer affiliated with the food cooperative. She sent me an explanation, and I owe it to her and you to post what she says:

While I am proud of the work I did as a co-founder and board member for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, and am still a supportive member who will enthusiastically shop at the store, I have moved on to other community leadership roles once I reached my term limit on the board, such as the William Penn PTO, Northside Alive, and the city's Environmental Justice Committee. I do not have any involvement in Co-Op finances, seeking funding, or decision making beyond the fact that, like the other 1300 co-op members, I can elect board members or vote on cooperative ballot initiatives at the annual meeting. In addition to the fact that I am not presently in a leadership position with the Co-Op (nor do I plan to return during any time on my city council tenure), I am an ethical and honest person, seeking a term on council to continue to serve my community as a whole. I hope that in time, I can earn your trust in this regard.

As for the person who states I was not one of the founding members of the food co-op, perhaps they are thrown off by the fact that my name is different now than it was then — My last name was Marsh during my tenure on the Bethlehem Food Co-Op board.

I will be speaking to Laird very soon, and will let you know what she sayd about her vision for Bethlehem