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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, July 31, 2023

GOP Infighting Is a County and Statewide Problem

On Friday, I told you that NorCo GOP party chair Glenn Geissinger has taken the highly unusual step of banning four elected state committee members (Debra Biro, Melanie Heilman, Steve Lynch and Richard Morea) from monthly county meetings because their outrageous behavior in June has sparked a criminal investigation. Geissinger's decision was authorized by counsel for the state GOP committee. I have since learned that NorCo is by no means alone. Party chairs in other counties are taking action against so called "patriots" who refuse to play by the rules. Will this hurt Republican candidates in this year's municipal races?  In even the best of times, candidates who rely on party infrastructure and finances are doomed to fail. But the infighting is certainly unhelpful. 

NorCo Infighting

In Northampton County, the GOP is made up of three factions. First, there are the Steve Lynch fascists, a cult of personality who must worship Lynch. Second, there are Lee Snover's MAGAs, who must adore Donald Trump. Finally, there's the Lehigh Valley Tea Party. They actually appear normal in comparison to the other two factions.   

Currently, the Lehigh Valley Tea Party has a tenuous grip on leadership in NorCo. This is driving both Lynch and Snover nuts. Both suffer from a bad case of sour grapes. 

Snover is a former chair. For several years, she was able to hold off the tea party during raucous meetings. In one instance, the meeting ended with a call to 9-1-1. After Trump's election, her MAGA antics alienated her among local elected officials. She attended the January 6 insurrection, just like Lynch. Party donations dropped as she became increasingly extreme. . 

Lynch was certain he was winning the race for party chair by a landslide. After all, he had spreadsheets. His loss to Army veteran Glenn Geissinger, who actually graduated from Moravian (accounting) and Lehigh (accounting, marketing) must have been a blow to Lynch's rather massive ego. It's hard to understand why Republicans would select am educated businessman who served in the 82d Airborne over a narcissist who loves posting pictures of himself, but there it is. 

After Geissinger's victory, the Lynch mob and Lee's lackeys united to raise havoc with Geissinger and local party leadership. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

At June's monthly meeting, the Lynch mob and Lee's lackeys unleashed a vicious and highly intrusive personal attack against two committee members. I'm unwilling to provide details, but it was bad enough that police are now involved and a criminal investigation is under way. 

In response to my story, a reader I'll call Dumbass claimed to have given an audio of the meeting to an investigating detective. This officer was very grateful. Dumbass is apparently unaware that it is a crime to surreptitiously record a private meeting. 

Statewide Infighting

Within hours of Friday's story, Second Amendment lawyer Joshua Prince was on Bobby Gunther Walsh's morning radio show. He was there to talk about what is happening statewide, but also discussed Northampton County.  

Prince is a failed candidate for Commonwealth Court. He was rejected in the primary. He failed to secure the endorsement of the state party and also received a "not recommended" rating from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He's a good lawyer, but his extreme views do cast a pall on his temperament. 

Is he another sufferer of sour grapes? 

As if to prove that he is injudicious, he's written a series of blogs (he's up to four installments) highly critical of the state and various county parties. On Gunther's radio show, he said he had a gentleman's agreement with state party chair Lawrence Tabas to raise any concerns he had privately, but was going public because he felt the agreement was violated.  

According to Prince, county committees are removing "conservative patriots" and replacing them with lifelong Democrats who are infiltrating the party. 

I think what's really going on is that these so-called patriots only recently became involved in politics and are just trying to bully their way into power. 

Speaking specifically about NorCo, Prince claimed that Glenn Geissinger "dislikes" four "patriots" so he filed a "false police report against them" and is using that as a pretext to preclude them from attending meetings. He then claims that Geissinger contacted me, "a liberal blogger, and gives him all the information relative to this ... ." 

That's inaccurate on several counts. I was first aware of this disgusting intrusion into the private lives of two committee members almost immediately after it happened because I spoke with the victims. I decided not to write about it then because the victims of this attack have been violated and writing about it would cause more pain. I then received an email from "Another Concerned Republican", chiding me for refusing to write a story. It included material whose distribution might very well be a crime. I forwarded that email to the District Attorney. He is in the best position to make that determination. 

Last Thursday, I heard a rumor that Geissinger had banned four state committee members from meetings because they are subjects of that investigation. In my view, when four elected state committee members are banned from participating in their county's meetings, that's a story. But I needed to verify.  I contacted Geissinger, and he confirmed that the rumor was accurate. He declined to go into detail or name them, but did say he was authorized to proscribe these members by the state committee's counsel. 

Prince stated that Geissinger's actions were unsanctioned, so I contacted Glenn again on Saturday. He reiterated that he had received authorization. Prince was obviously misinformed. 

Police were contacted by at least five people. Geisinger may have been one, or may have just responded to a police inquiry. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

NorCo GOP Chair Bans Four State Committee Members Under Criminal Investigation

Northampton County Republican Chair Glenn Geissinger has confirmed that he has banned four committee members from attending monthly meetings until a criminal investigation of their behavior has concluded. He declined to identify the members, but I have learned that the proscribed members are elected state committee members Debra Biro, Melanie Heilman, Steve Lynch and Richard Morea. 

This quartet is alleged to have disrupted a meeting in June with an extremely intrusive personal attack against two members. Lynch later gloated about it on his Facebook page. I decline to specify the nature of this ugly onslaught and refuse to publish any comments that attempt to go into the details. These two members have been damaged enough. 

Geissinger informed me that the state committee authorized him to disallow these state committee members until the criminal matter is resolved. 

None of these members attempted to crash last night's meeting. Local police were put on notice. 

Lynch, incidentally, is a failed candidate for Northampton County Exec. 

Is Zrinski Running For Controller or County Council?

Tara Zrinski was first elected to Northampton County Council in 2017.  In the middle of her first term, she decided to run for state representative and lost. She was re-elected to her Council seat in 2021. In 2022, she ran for state senate and lost. Now she's running again. This time, it's for Northampton County Controller.  This will be her fifth race for public office since 2017. 

It must be very confusing for her to keep all these races straight. In fact, she runs for so many offices that her Facebook page simply states. "Tara Zrinski - Political Candidate."

According to the county website, the Controller provides the county's internal audit function. Here's one little problem. Zrinski wouldn't know how to do an audit if it hit her in the face. She has no accounting background. Her educational background is in philosophy and theology. She sells solar panels. 

The county website provides that the Controller is "independent of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government." She has instead been a reliable rubber stamp for whatever Executive Lamont McClure wants to do. She failed to provide a check and balance on executive power as a Council member, and is woefully unprepared to do so in an office that should be looking for waste and fraud. 

What she's really looking for is a springboard from which she can collect a paycheck and get benefits while selling solar panels, teaching, getting paid as the Exec Director of a marijuana group and, of course, running for the next office that comes along. 

She sure has a lot of fundraisers, including a birthday bash every year. For $48, you can go to her party  on Saturday. She's been hyping it on her Facebook page. But she runs for so many offices she gets confused. In her original announcement, she announces, "We are kicking off this campaign with a rocking birthday bash fundraiser. I'm running for County Commissioner ... ." 

No, Tara, you're running for County Controller.  But I'm sure you'll be running for Council again in two years. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Lehigh and NorCo Team Up For Air Quality Study

PM monitor
Over a year ago, a divided Northampton County Council voted to spend $52,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to study air quality at numerous different points in the county. I was under the impression that this study was well under way, but it's apparently only getting started now. Lehigh County is participating as well. Next Wednesday, Executives Phil Armstrong, Lamont McClure, Dr. Breena Holland (LU) and Andrea Wittchen (iSpring) will hold an outdoor news conference to announce the launch of Lehigh Valley Breathes. 

Lehigh County has a detailed explanation of the project: 

"As warehouse development has expanded in the Valley, it has contributed to an increase in mobile sources of air pollution, particularly from freight-truck traffic. Currently, air quality information in the Valley comes from two monitoring sites located in Freemansburg and East Allentown that are used by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to make sure that the region complies with the federal Clean Air Act. While these sophisticated monitors are capable of measuring a variety of air pollutants that are used to determine the Air Quality Index (AQI), they do not tell us how air pollution is distributed throughout Lehigh Valley.

"The Lehigh Valley Breathes project will distribute and install 40 PurpleAir monitors throughout the valley to measure particulate pollution, which is commonly referred to as “PM2.5” and poses a serious health risk for humans and the environment. These small and inexpensive air monitors can be easily positioned in different locations, providing a highly-localized understanding of air quality that the state’s two centralized air monitors cannot."

"By increasing the locations where PM 2.5 pollution is measured, the data will provide a more accurate understanding of how PM 2.5 is impacting the health of citizens in different parts of the Valley. And because the data provided by the PurpleAir monitors are available 24/7 on an easily accessible and dedicated website, Lehigh Valley residents can check on the air quality in their own neighborhoods."

Over the past year, I've spent several hours looking for this dedicated website, to no avail. The project is only getting under way now because the monitors needed to be calibrated. 

The data collected over the next year could 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 fleets.

Support for this project was by no means unanimous in Northampton County.  Council members John Brown, Tom Giovanni and John Goffredo all voted No. 

Goffredo's rationale? "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.

"A lot of people depend on these jobs. As somebody who does depend on these jobs and has a lot of people work for me who do depend on those jobs, it's getting to a point where we're starting to feel like second class citizens just for driving a diesel truck."

I'll have more about this air quality study after the news conference. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ryan MacKenzie Announces Congressional Bid

State Representative Ryan MacKenzie, age 40, today announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for US Congress in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District. Republicans Kevin Dellicker and Maria Montero have previously announced that they are running as well.

Whoever wins this race will likely face incumbent Sue Wild in the Fall. She has made no formal announcement, but has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission. She was first elected in 2018. 

MacKenzie has introduced what he calls "his 4 Principles For America: Grow Our Economy, Defend Our Values, Secure Our Communities, and Restore Our Freedoms."

MacKenzie, who was first elected State Representative in 2012, but announced he has decided against seeking re-election. 

According to his statement, he is "a 9th generation resident of the Lehigh Valley. His ancestors and family members fought in the Revolutionary War and in both World Wars, helped build companies like Hercules Cement that supported families in our area for generations, and served in respected professions like nursing and teaching."  

He claims to be a known conservative "feared by the establishment as one of the most effective and proven reformers in government. Ryan didn't just talk - he got our values enacted into law." He claims to have led efforts that have saved $400 million per year at the Department of Labor and Industry.  

He is a graduate of Parkland High School and New York University, wherehe graduated with honors. He also has an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

Coming Soon! Gracedale DayCare for 30-50 Kids

Kids breaking in the daycare
Yesterday, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure announced the launch of a long-awaited  daycare at Gracedale Nursing Home, located on the first floor of the vacant Southeast Wing.

There will be no cost for the daycare services for the children of Gracedale, Emergency Operations Center, and Forensic Center employees, thanks to federal funding.

It will be operated by The Learning Locomotion.

There will be a separate drop-off for the children right by the Southeast wing. 

Jennifer Stewart
Total cost? $562,399, split among General Contractor – CMG of Easton, Inc.; Mechanical (HVAC) – JBM Mechanical; and Electrical – Billitier Electric.

This daycare was approved by a 7-2 vote of Northampton County Council in May 2022, with John Brown and John Goffredo voting No. McClure expressed his appreciation to County Council for appropriated $2 million of federal funds towards this venture.  

When the federal funds are gone, McClure stated that daycare users will likely be assessed a nominal fee. 

It is a pilot program that might be expanded in the future to include other county departments or discontinued. According to Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart, "We are being watched throughout the state" by other nursing homes considering this option. She indicated parents could stop and see their children on breaks and pointed out that employees who have to stay at the nursing home during snowstorms will know their children are safe. "A daycare plus a pension is a win-win situation for any working parent. 

Lamont McClure
Stewart, who started at Gracedale as a CNA and worked her way up, is a very unusual person. In addition to caring for the elderly, she is the mother of six adopted children,. She probably could use her own daycare. 

Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski estimates that the daycare will accommodate between 30-50 kids. It  which will operate between 6:30 am and 7 pm for children from 6 weeks to 12 years old.  Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart added there's room for expansion as well. 

County officials believe this will attract and retain staff, many of whom are parents. Stewart added that this will also be a benefit to both the children and the nursing home's residents.

According to McClure, nearly a third of all nursing jobs are unfilled in Pennsylvania. He added that 23% of Pennsylvania families are unable to find adequate daycare; 9% must take unpaid leave; and another 9% must reduce their hours of work. He stated this "materially impacts our ability to do the things that we need to do to care for the residents." He added that the daycare will enable the county to meet its "moral obligation" to care for 400 souls with nowhere else to go.  

God Punishes Me For Trying to Show Off

I've told you several thousand times that I'm a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete. I rode my bike to meet someone for lunch at Nazareth Diner. After that, I planned to ride to Gracedale and shame everyone else for driving there and ruining the planet. There's a few hills, but it's a short ride. It was a great opportunity to show off. 

When I left the Diner, I noticed the skies were getting dark and I could hear some rumbling. It will pass, I told myself. That lasted about a half mile and then it started. Not a faint light drizzle. Lightning was crackling all around me, the winds reduced my speed to about 1 mph and hail battered me. I was actually hoping someone would hit me so I could hijack their car. 

I arrived at Gracedale looking like a sewer rat, soaking wet, and my shoes squeaked wherever I walked. 

Nobody seemed to notice, probably because I always look like a sewer rat. 
I should have driven. 

Allentown Wants To Know How It Should Spend Your Money

Municipal budget hearings are a lot like root canal, except they are more painful. They're open to the public, but few people ever show up. Until yesterday, I've never seen a municipality reach out to the public and actually encourage their participation. Allentown Communications Czarina Genesis Ortega sent a news release with a schedule of committee meetings today and tomorrow in which department heads can discuss what they need. That's the norm. But in addition, the city plans to schedule public input meetings in which residents can provide their own insights. After all, it's your money.  

This is quite democratic, and a far cry from the usual special interests who hold their hands out every year. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Should NorCo Council Review Its Responsible Contractor Ordinance?

John Cusick

Is Northampton County's Responsible Contractor Ordinance irresponsible?  Some members of County Council appear to think so. Since its enactment, a pattern has emerged in which the county is getting very few bids on construction projects. This problem was on display at last week's July 20 County Council meeting. 

At issue was a proposed $340,000 contract with Wilmer R Schultz, Inc. a union general contractor located in Emmaus. The project was repairs to the courthouse steps as well as the retaining wall on 7th Street. According to Public Works Director Michael Emili, this proposal had gone out to bid at least twice. He received only one bid from Schultz, and after competitive negotiation with the sole bidder, he was able to knock down the price tag by $34,000,  

This dearth of bids for public works projects started to become a pattern after Council's adoption, in 2018, of a "responsible contractor ordinance." It requires all contractors who are bidding on county contracts valued at or over $250,000 to have in place a Class A apprenticeship program for each craft or trade employed. 

This ordinance was adopted despite claims that it would render nonunion companies ineligible to bid on future work. Their employees learn their craft through on-the-job training or a technical school instead of an apprenticeship that is more common in the trade unions.  None union contractors argued that the ordinance, if adopted, would limit the labor pool and favor unions. 

Then County Council member Bill McGee, a union agent who sponsored the ordinance, countered that this law would ensure that county work is done by skilled workers and ultimately save the county money. 

A federal lawsuit attacking this ordinance failed because, as Judge Edward Smith observed, there was a rational basis - worker safety - for requiring an apprenticeship program.   

Last October, the County received no bids at all for the plumbing of a bathroom replacement project at a county park. It was forced to seek out a union plumber located in Reading.   

Kevin Lott
Council member Kevin Lott, himself a former union agent, dismissed concerns about the $340,000 contract with Schultz.  "$340,000 on a commercial job is a small job," he said. "It's very busy in the LV right now."

Public Works Director Emili is unable to explain why the county is receiving so few bids. "I don't know what contributed to it in this particular case," he said. "It's a fairly substantial project. It was advertised for over 30 days. I know procurement does an excellent job of notifying contractors whenever these projects do get posted ... . "

Council member John Cusick agreed that these repairs are needed, but "[t]he lack of a competitive bid process is what troubles me, so I'll be voting No." Council member John Goffredo agreed with Cusick. "[W]e need to be looking for answers for why we're not getting competitive bids, and I think that looking at the Responsible Contractors Ordinance might be one of those avenues."

Cusick, Goffredo and Council member John Brown voted No to this contract. The other six Council members - Lori Vargo Heffner, Kerry Myers, Tom Giovanni, Ron Heckman, Kevin Lott and Tara Zrinski voted Yes. 

If $340,000 is a small amount for a public works project, as Lott asserted, perhaps the county should revise the Responsible Contractor Ordinance to restrict its application to larger contracts. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

NorCo Employee Health Center on Life Support, but Still Alive

Last week, Northampton County Council voted 5-4 to reject a $3.7 million contract with Integrity Health for a voluntary and exclusive employee health center that would charge no co-pays and is projected to save the county money. While this vote certainly puts this proposal on life support, it is still very much alive. 

In November, Northampton County voters will Council District members. 

In District 1, Democrat Kevin Lott, a Yes vote, is stepping down. Democrat Ken Kraft is running against Republican Bill Rowe. If Kraft is elected, which seems likely in a heavily Democratic district, he will vote for a health center. Republican Bill Rowe might support it as well. I have not discussed this issue with him. 

In District 2, Democrat turned Republican Kerry Myers, a No vote, is stepping down, He will be succeeded by Democrat Kelly Keegan, who has no opposition. She is a Yes vote. 

In District 3, Republican John Cusick, a Yes vote, is stepping down. He will be succeeded by either Democrat Jeffrey Warren, a Yes vote, or Casey Foreman, whose views are unknown. District 3 is more competitive than District 1, but leans Democratic.

In District 4, Tom Giovanni, a No vote, is running unopposed. 

After November's election, it is likely that the health center will pick up one vote. That will turn a 5-4 vote against into a 5-4 vote in favor.  

Bingo Players Vote 17-1 To Support Municipal Donation of Firearm to Retiring Police Officers

Periodically, I call bingo at a small community made up of old farts like me. It's actually quite dangerous,  I've barely escaped with my life a few times when I've made mistakes here and there. I try to stay on their good side. Last week, during the intermission of about 300 games, I got up and polled them informally on this question: Should a municipality give a retiring police officer in good standing his firearm as a keepsake? There was no debate. I just asked those who supported this donation to raise their hands, and then asked those who opposed this donation to raise their hands.  

By a 17-1 margin, with one abstention, these bingo players supported the donation. Afterwards, they made a few points. They noted that retired police officers have stopped crimes in progress. They observed that retired police officers are better trained than most in the proper use of handguns. Finally, they argued that this is the least a municipality could do for someone who risks his life every time he puts on a uniform.  

The one person who voted against this donation thinks he owns Hackett Park. 

Last week, Bethlehem City Council had a similar vote. Instead of a donation, they were considering a resolution that would sell retiring police officer's handgun to him for a few hundred dollars. This resolution was much closer. It was a 5-1 vote, and could easily have been a 4-2 vote. 

Hillary Kwiatek was the sole No vote. Her specious arguments against the sale were as follows. 

First, she argued that more children are dying from firearms than any other cause. That's certainly true, but there no causal connection between those unfortunate deaths and retired police officers. 

Her second argument is police officers have high suicide rates, and allowing them to keep firearms makes that possibility more likely. She failed to note whether suicide rates among retired police officers is high. Doctors and dentists have high suicide rates as well. Under her logic, they should have no access to drugs. 

The reason this could have been a 4-2 vote is because Council member Kiera Wilhelm said the only reason she voted No is because otherwise, the gun would be sold to some third party. If the City just destroyed the weapon, she'd support a ban on sales. 

Based on my bingo poll, I'd say that both Kwiatek and Wilhem are completely out if touch. What they also fail to realize is that their attitude insults the very people who keep them safe.  

Dorothy Zug Taylor, NorCo's First Female Council Member, Has Died

Dorothy ("Dottie") Zug Taylor, the first woman to serve on Northampton County Council, passed away on July 19. You can read her obituary here

She was first appointed to Council in 1984, and then was elected in 1987 as the top vote getter. She was an active Democrat who led Pennsylvania's delegation to the 1976 Democratic convention that nominated Jimmy Carter for President. 

She was a registered nurse as well as a self-taught software engineer who designed programs for The Bethlehem Globe Times. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

NorCo Counil Proposes Limiting DA to FourTerms

By a 6-3 vote, Northampton County Council voted last night to ask voters to consider whether future District Attorneys should be limited to four terms. The reason why County Council went to four terms is because professional prosecutors would then be more likely to be interested. 

The Council members opposed  to this referendum are Ron Heckman, Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott. 

This matter will be placed on the ballot next Spring. It is too late to do so now. 

(My original headline was incorrect.)

NorCo Council Nixes Employee Health Center in 5-4 Vote

Last night, by a 5-4 vote, Northampton County Council ended Executive Lamont McClure dream of a voluntary and exclusive health center for county employees. They voted down $3.7 million contract with Integrity Health over the next five years.  

The Council members opposed were Tom Giovanni, John Brown, John Goffredo, Kerry Myers and Lori Vargo Heffner. 

It was supported by Council members John Cusick, Ron Heckman, Kevin Lott and Tara Zrinski. 

Arguments in support. 

Ron Heckman: "I don't know if this is going to work ... I'm hoping this is an incentive and that it helps the employees."

John Cusick: "I'm willing to give this a shot ... ." To shut it down "is a little short sighted." He hopes it saves money. It is is not a new concept Beth Steel was doing it decades ago. 

Kevin Lott: The alternative to a health center is to cut benefits. "This is an option that has a track record," he noted, in obvious reference to successful health centers in New Jersey. Even if it does not save, "it will be a nice benefit for employees."

Tara Zrinski: This will incentivize employees to stay with the county. 

Arguments opposed

Tom Giovanni, the Quiet Man, said that he consulted an expert, his wife of 45 years. She's a nurse and told him that what people really need is preventative care.  "What we really have to do is educate people that you need to have a primary physician, you need to have preventative care, not white 'till you have something really critical. Hypertension, obesity, diabetes, smoking. That's all important things that could kill your health. ... I'm not going to support this. We need to teach people preventative care."

John Brown declined comment, but has spoken out against the proposed health center numerous times, stating the county should pursue other options, i.e. increasing co-pay and employee contributions. 

John Goffredo: has been doing everything he can to look at it positively. "Healthcare in America is systematically flawed. He believes this will actually lose money while creating more government. He said employees are looking for better wages, not a health center. 

Lori Vargo Heffner. Does not see enough detail or clarity. There are no real numbers. For one year, has received no comments from any employees seeking a health center,  She said it is "insulting to hear the way this company presents healthcare."

Kerry Meyers: Thinks the emplyee survey should have been updated. If they wanted this, they'd be here. 

Scott Parsons Selected NorCo Controller

Yesterday, I told you that Altynay Kanatbekoff was far and away the best choice to succeed Richard "Bucky" Szulborski. Most of you agreed. Council member Ron Heckman told her, ""We need super-qualified people like you in government." Then he nominated Scott Parsons, who spent most of his adult life working in a slate quarry.

One of my readers warned me this would happen. "Bernie I agree this is a no brainer, however never underestimate the stupidity of some elected members of council."

My mistake. 

Surprisingly, Tara Zrinski nominated Altynay Kanatbekoff, with a second from John Cusick Those are the only two votes she got. 

Scott Parsons, a former County Council member and retired Public Works employee, got the appointment in the second round of voting. Parsons got votes from John Cusick, Tara Zrinski, Tom Giovanni, Ron Heckman and Kevin Lott. 

Scott Parsons is certainly adequate to the task, but pales in comparison to Kanatbekoff.  

NorCo Council Finally Adopts Gift Ban

Last night, Northampton County Council voted unanimously to endorse a gift ban proposed by Executive Lamont McClure. Though the county's Home Rule Charter already contains a gift ban, the county's Administrative Code included so many exceptions as to render it meaningless. 

McClure's gift ban amends the Administrative Code to make it consistent with the Home Rule Charter. 

It follows the gift ban imposed earlier this year by Governor Josh Shapiro. 

Council member Ron Heckman said he was initially "taken aback" by the proposal. But after speaking to Council Solicitor, "I understand what [McClure's] doing and it makes sense.",

Heckman and Council member Kevin Lott sponsored the gift ban ordinance. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

NorCo Council Considers Contract For Voluntary Employee Health Center

Northampton County Council yesterday considered a $3,724,711 contract with Integrity Health for a voluntary and exclusive employee health center over the next five years. It's mostly a standard county contract, but also includes performance guarantees that Council members John Goffredo and Tom Giovanni suggested. 

"How do we know it's going to save money if we have so many unknowns?" asked Goffredo. Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron said that patient advocacy alone would result in huge savings, as well as a replacement for urgent care. "I'm confident it will save money. ... It will work." 

Goffredo said he really dislikes the idea of the county getting into the healthcare business. He said there are too many "I don't knows." If it passes, he hopes it works, but said it is silly to build a health center in an area that has so many of them. 

The health center will be available for anyone covered by Northampton County health plans, including the spouse and children. Retirees might be included in the future. 

Council member John Cusick applauded the administration for agreeing to put this matter out to bid, something he said should have been done from the beginning. He added this service is far from free. It is costing county taxpayers $3.7 million over five years. Barron agreed, but added that when employees use the health center, it will dramatically reduce the cost of services that would be provided on the outside.  Barron responded, "If the services we provide at the health center cost us $7 million, and in the same year it would cost is $15 million to provide those health services, but we get it cheaper through the health center and our employees don't have to pay anything, I want to run it through the health center."

Cusick said he would support the health center. "It is a benefit for the employees." He thanked Councilmember Tom Giovanni for the work he out into the review of the proposals. 

Northampton County currently spends $26,000 a year on average for each employee in health care costs.

Council member John Brown said he opposes the health center. "It is favorable to the employee, but it is not favorable to the taxpayer," he said. "There are other options that this administration has not pursued." Those other options would involve increasing co-pays or employee contributions to health care. Zrinski responded the employee health center would incentivize workers to stay. "We're investing in our employees and our futures."

Council member Ron Heckman, originally skeptical, has come around. He said the current health care system is "crazy. Yes, we have plenty of specialists, but good luck getting an appointment in the next few months." He said it would divert people from emergency rooms and urgent centers. 

Mark Caliguire of Integrity said the health center in concierge health care, but it saves money to the taxpayer. He noted that the county spends far more than $3.7 million for healthcare now. 

Northampton County Council will vote on the contract tonight. 

NorCo EMS Has Advice for Residents and Businesses Impacted by Flash Flood

From Northampton County:  Northampton County Emergency Management Services continues to work with municipal officials to gather accurate and detailed damage assessments following the severe flash flooding event that took place on Sunday, July 16, 2023.

As of today, Wednesday, July 19, ten total municipalities (public entities) have reported municipal damages:
  • Bangor Borough (infrastructure, roadways)
  • County of Northampton (bridges)
  • East Bangor Borough (roadways)
  • Forks Township (infrastructure, roadways)
  • Lower Mount Bethel Township (roadways)
  • Palmer Township
  • Plainfield Township (infrastructure, roadways)
  • Stockertown Borough (park, recreational trail)
  • Tatamy Borough (municipal park)
  • Washington Township (infrastructure, roadways)
 
Four municipalities have enacted Disaster Declarations due to damages sustained:
  • Bangor Borough (7/17)
  • Lower Mount Bethel Township (7/16)
  • Plainfield Township (7/18)
  • Washington Township (7/17)
 
Accumulative (countywide) damages are estimated to be $400,000 - $500,000, with multiple municipalities yet to report their estimated recovery and response costs. This estimated cost to date includes approximately $400,000 in damages to county bridges.
 
Northampton County Emergency Management Services is receiving reports of residential damages (Individual Assistance) from over 65 households across eight municipalities at this time:
  • Bangor Borough
  • Bushkill Township
  • Forks Township
  • Lower Mount Bethel Township
  • Portland Borough (business)
  • Stockertown Borough
  • Upper Mount Bethel Township
  • Washington Township
 
Residents and/or business owners affected by the flood events experienced on Sunday, July 16, are strongly encouraged to report damage to their local municipalities and also complete the damage questionnaire on the Northampton County Emergency Management Services website http://ncem-pa.org/ to start the countywide assessment process. This will ensure that the County sends detailed damage reports to both PEMA and FEMA to receive funding for those impacted. All assessments received by Northampton County Emergency Management Services have been or will be entered into the Commonwealth’s damage reporter system as the information is received.
 
A Crisis Clean-Up Hotline has also been established to connect those affected with information and possible assistance: 844-965-1386. The Crisis Clean-Up Hotline is not affiliated with any local, county, state, or federal agency.

NorCo Council Interviews Four Candidates For Vacant Controller Position

In alphabetical order, Northampton Copunty Council interviewed four candidates yesterday for the vacant Controller's office. Whomever is selected will hold the $65,000 office until the end of the year. In November, voters will decide between John Cusick and Tara Zrinski. 

Nurit Baron: According to her LinkedIn page, she's a graduate of  Douglass College, where she majored in English Literature and Computer Science with a concentration in economics. She's been employed as an English teacher (in Japan), corporate trainer, upgrade analyst and business analyst.

She's quite political. She managed campaigns for both Mark Pinsley and Tara Zrinski, both of whom are far to the left of most Democrats. She was the Sec'y and Treasurer of Lehigh Valley For All (who agree with us) and is the Treasurer of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women. 

She told Council member John Goffredo that she is ethical and honest, and would be neutral with respect to Zrinski and John Cusick, both of whom are candidates for Contrtoller. "I'm quite a neutral person, anyway, I'm not an extreme person. I don't believe in blue team, red team."

Her association with Zrinski and Pinsley says differently.  

When asked how she'd prepare a budget for her office, she said, "I would ask a lot of questions, especially of Mr. McClure and the Council ... ."

This answer tells me that, as accomplished as she is, she fails to understand that a Controller must be independent of both the Executive and Council. The Controller's Office is actually a separate branch of government under our Home Rule Charter. The last persons for whom she should have questions would be either the Executive or Council. 

Altynay Kanatbekoff: She's definitely the total package. According to her LinkedIn page, she has a bachelor's degree in accounting from KIMEP University (Kazakhstan) as well as a Master's degree from Columbia in International and Public Affairs. She is a certified fraud examiner, and  is currently working on getting her CIA and CPA licenses. 

She a vet. Not just any vet, but served with the 82d Airborne, which is highly regarded by anyone who ever served in a combat unit. Her husband still serves in active duty, which would make a four-year commitment difficult for her. That's why she decided against running.  

She and her husband have four daughters who are competitive swimmers. 

Get this. She's fluent in English, Russian, French, Kazakh and Kyrgyz.

She should be working for the state department, not Northampton County. In fact, she did, as a freelancer. She says she's out now, but I don't believe it for a minute. She's clearly a secret agent brought in to keep an eye on Steve Barron.   

Kanatbekoff is the only candidate who actually has experience in the private sector as a real financial analyst. When working for Seville Transactions, her job was to analyze high risk transactions to identify possible fraud. She also owned several businesses. 

This is what you want in a Controller. She's already employed by Northampton County as a financial auditor in the Controller's office. 

"Bucky was not just our colleague, he was a friend," she said of Bucky Szulborski, whose unfortunate death created the vacancy in the Controller's office. She obviously knows the office. 

"We need super-qualified people like you in government," said Council member Ron Heckman. He pointed out that she is risking her career service position. She agreed, but said she would be happy to stay after the election if the newly elected Controller wants her. "The county would be foolish if they didn't hire you back," said Heckman. 

She said she sees no need to hire a replacement for her. She has completed all her assignments. 

Scott Parsons:  He's a former member of County Council, where he served two terms. He also was employed by Public Works. He said he "could hit the job running." He said it would take other appointees three or four weeks just to figure out the phone system. He apparently was unaware of Kanatbekoff's application. 

Nadeem Qayyum: He's a former Democratic Controller candidate, where he was rejected by 60% of the Democrats who voted. He pointed to his education in law. He indicated he would be transparent and would ensure that county funds are managed efficiently. he said he would bring "a positive impact on the community."  

In response to a question from Zrinski, Qayyum said he would give up his position in the bar for five months. That should be easy because he has a law degree from Pakistan, but is not a lawyer in the US and is not a member of the bar. He likely misunderstood the question. I think his poor understanding of English is why. 

Council will decide on an appointment tonight. 

This should be a no-brainer. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

NorCo Council to Consider Contract For Voluntary Employee Health Center

NorCo Council's Finance Committee will today consider a proposed contract between the County and Integrity Health for an exclusive and voluntary health center that caters to the county workforce. 

Why do this? 

It's a great convenience to employees, even those who already have a primary care physician. But it should help the county reduce the cost of medical care as well. Since 2014, Northampton County has imposed no increases in the co-pays of county employees. But medical costs continue to rise in a county that is self-insured. This year's budget projects a $6.5 million increase. The total cost of medical care to county employees is estimated at nearly $30 million.

According to its website, Integrity Health offers "customized, patient-centered, cost-effective health programs built on the wisdom of coordinated care." It operates at six locations in New Jersey, with a seventh in Lycoming County. Its Chair is Doug Forrester, a former Republican candidate for the US Senate (2002) and Governor in New Jersey (2005). He founded Integrity after his daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury.  From X-Rays to chronic disease management to routine lab tests, it offers extensive primary care

I do not have the salient contractual details, including cost. That information will be disclosed when Council's Finance Committee considers this matter

UPDATED: Four NorCo Municipalities Declare Disaster After Sunday's Flash Floods

Four Northampton County municipalities (Bangor, Lower Mount Bethel Tp, Washington Tp and Plainfield Tp) have enacted disaster declarations as a result of Sunday's flash flooding.  According to county emergency management, 10 municipalities in total have reported damage.

Bangor Borough (infrastructure, roadways)
County of Northampton (bridges)
East Bangor Borough (roadways)
Forks Township (infrastructure, roadways)
Lower Mount Bethel Township (roadways)
Palmer Township
Plainfield Township (infrastructure, roadways)
Stockertown Borough (recreational trail/park)
Tatamy Borough (municipal park)
Washington Township (infrastructure, roadways)

Residents and some local businesses are also reporting damages. Emergency Management Services strongly encourages them to work with their municipal officials to determine the damages. "If you have experienced damages and are unable to make contact with your municipal officials, please contact Northampton County Emergency Management Services at 610-746-3194 x3228. This will ensure that the County sends detailed damage reports to both PEMA and FEMA to receive funding for those impacted."

A Crisis Clean-Up Hotline has also been established to connect those affected with information and possible assistance: 844-965-1386. The Crisis Clean-Up Hotline is not affiliated with any local, county, state, or federal agency."

There's a questionnaire for homeowners and residents damaged by the flooding LOCATED HERE.

UPDATED 11:04 AM

NorCo Controller Candidates to be Interviewed By County Council Today

Northampton County Council will interview candidates today for the Controller seat that became vacant after Richard "Bucky" Szulborski passed away. This will occur during a public meeting of Council's Personnel Committee. Council has until the end of July to decide on someone. Whoeveris appointed will serve until the end of the year, when an elected Controller takes over. That elected Controller will either be Tara Zrinski or John Cusick. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Bethlehem City Council Should Donate Sidearm to Retiring Cops

When Bethlehem police officers retire, many of them choose to purchase their sidearm. They obviously have sentimental value. Moreover, they are probably the weapon with which a retiring officer is most familiar and accurate. These sales have always been perfunctory until Hillary Kwiatek was elected to City Council. She has consistently voted No to allowing officers to buy these weapons. She claims it's a matter of conscience, but it's actually blatant virtue signaling. 

Here's suggestion for Bethlehem City Council. It's time to enact an ordinance that allows a retiring officer in good standing to leave with his firearm and the city's thanks.  

Gracedale Daycare Will Launch on July 25

According to a county news release, a daycare will formally launch on at Gracedale Nursing Home on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, at 2:00 p.m.

Designed by USA Architects, it will be located on the first floor of the vacant Southeast Wing.

There will be no cost for the daycare services for Gracedale, Emergency Operations Center, and Forensic Center employees.

It will be operated by The Learning Locomotion.

Total cost? $562,399, split among General Contractor – CMG of Easton, Inc.; Mechanical (HVAC) – JBM Mechanical; and Electrical – Billitier Electric.

This daycare was approved by a 7-2 vote of Northampton County Council in May 2022, with John Brown and John Goffredo voting No.

It is a pilot program that might be expanmded in the future for other county departments or discontinued.

Afghan Refugee Family Seeks Housing

Pam Varkony is a writer, speaker and woman's advocate who has travelled at least twice to Afghanistan. She has asked if anyone can help a family of refugees find housing. Here's what she has to say.

"The following is one of those "shot in the dark" inquiries...

"As you may know, I've been working with and writing about Afghans who escaped in August of '21. The Balkhi family was stranded in Uzbekistan for a year, finally making it to the US when the father was granted a scholarship by Lehigh U. which entitled him and the family to student visas. They arrived here with nothing. Lehigh provided housing. A group we affectionately call "Team Balkhi" formed around them for support...food, clothing, transportation.

"The father, Rohullah, graduated in May with his MBA. He has a job offer from Vitaulic effective as soon as his asylum claim is approved. The family's Lehigh housing ends Aug 30. They need a three bedroom apartment or house they can afford, nothing fancy. They would like to be in Nazareth or nearby. When Maria told me she met with you, the light went off... Bernie lives in Nazareth and he knows everyone."

"They are lovely people and the kids are very well behaved. If you have any thoughts or leads as to where this family might find housing, I'd be very grateful for the information.

Thank you...

Pam

Pam can be reached at Pam@PamelaVarkony.com.

Monday, July 17, 2023

A Very Close and Exciting Tour de France

I've spent most of my adult years with little interest in professional cycling. I've been to T-Town a few times to watch the racing, but have never really followed cycling as a sport. That changed in a big way last year, when for the first time, I watched the daily re-caps of the annual Tour de France. I was mesmerized by the rivalry between Slovenian Tadej Pogacar and Dane Jonas Vingegaard. Pogecar had won the grueling 21-stage, 2,200-mile event for two years straight. Could Vingegaard, who had been working in a fish factory, pull off an upset? He did, and what really drew me to him as a person was the absolute class and true sportsmanship he displayed during the race. In a descent following a mountain climb, Pogacar slid off the curvy road and took a tumble with 22 km to go. At this point Vingegaard could have just dropped him. Instead, he waited for his rival to catch him. I've never seen anything like that in any sport. For that reason, I've been a fan ever since. I think it's the greatest sporting event in the world. 

This year, once again, the real race is between Tadej and Vingegaard. After 16 days of racing, the Dane is clinging to a 10-second lead. Neither has won a stage, but their overall time is what gives them both an insurmountable lead. 

Along the course, fans crowd the roads as cyclists fly by. They run alongside, wave flags and generally cheer but give the athletes space. 

Some are irresponsible, pouring beer on or punching riders. 

They must be from Philly. 

The rider in the overall lead wears a yellow jersey. The rider who does best on the mountains wears a polka dot jersey. The fastest sprinter wears green.  The fastest rider under 26 wears white. This can change daily. 

The cyclists have a much-needed day of rest today. On Tuesday, the race resumes with its shortest stage, a 22 km time trial. 

Why I Decline To Host RFK, Jr. Comments

RFK, Jr., is an apple that fell pretty far from the tree. He relies on conspiracy theories as opposed to facts. Last week, he made this assertion: "COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” 

A 30-second search on Google reveals that he's full of shit. COVID-19 infected and killed without regard to religion, race or ethnicity. It is a very egalitarian virus, except when it comes to older people like me. It hates geriatrics, and for good reason! 

Except for this thread, I will decline comments promoting Kennedy or his kooky theories. He's promoting anti-Semitism and Sinophobia. We've had enough of that over the centuries, doncha' think? 

Fourth Insurance Company to Exit Florida

On Wednesday, I suggested you think twice about moving to Florida. I can understand a winter home there, but never understood why people would want to live in a climate that is unbearable most of the year. I pointed out that Farmers Insurance is leaving Florida. Some of you just denied anything is happening at all, and attacked me and CNN, although my source was USA Today. Others deemed it an attack on MAGAs because they are concentrated there. Climate change deniers came out in force as well. Without doubt, there are those who use this to score political points, but the only point I was making is that having a home located near a coastline is pretty much a bad idea. It makes no difference whether it is a red or a blue state. And now, AAA is joining Farmers as the fourth insurance company that will decline renewing auto and home insurance for some Floridians. 

How about sunny California? Insurance companies are leaving that state as well. AIG, Allstate and State Farm decline new customers because of the wildfires. 

I prefer a state with milder weather and four seasons. Like this state. In another 100 years or so, Easton might be a beachfront. 

Friday, July 14, 2023

Pew Analysis of 2022 Midterm Is Mostly Bad News For Democrats

As we all know, Republicans now control the US House. An analysis by Pew Research concludes that it is actually GOP turnout, and not vote switching, that made the difference. This increased turnout is likely the result of dissatisfaction with the direction in which this country was heading under Joe Biden and a Democratic House. At the same time, Democrats sat on their hands. They voted for Biden in 2020, but stayed home in 2022. It is not a huge difference, but was enough to turn the House red. 

My view is that this Democratic malaise will continue if Biden continues his campaign for President. 

Here's a few other finding: 

1) Voters under 30 continued to strongly support the Democratic Party, voting 68% to 31% for Democratic candidates.

2) Ideological polarization by party was nearly complete in 2022 (i.e., not many will split tickets)

3) Voting in person on Election Day increased sharply in 2022 compared with 2020. (This is a mistake by Republicans becaue they are failing to identify low propensity voters and get them to the polls early)

4) White voters without college degrees made up a majority (54%) of Republican voters in 2022, compared with 27% of Democratic voters. (This is indicative that Democrats are losing a key voting block, the working poor.)

5) Voters ages 50 and older were a larger share of the total in 2022 (64%) than in any of the past three elections.

6) Hispanic voters continued to support Democrats, but by a much smaller margin than in 2018.

7) Black voters continued to support Democrats by overwhelming margins. 93% voted Democratic.

8) The Republican advantage among White evangelical Protestants was somewhat larger in 2022 than in the past three elections. 86% votes Republican.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Who Helped Luis Campos After He Collapsed During a Run?

On Friday, I told you that Easton City Administrator Luis Campos collapsed while out on a run in his College Hill Neighborhood. I've since learned he's doing well. That's certainly due to his own physical condition, but also to the people who helped him.

Easton City Council person-elect Frank Pintabone made it a point to track these folks down and acknowledge them on Facebook:  

"Today, I want to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to four extraordinary individuals who deserve all our appreciation and thanks!

"In times of unexpected emergencies, it's truly heartwarming to witness the

remarkable acts of kindness and bravery displayed by the people in our community. Two incredible residents of Easton, Ginger [Consatntine] and Andrew [Brandon], went above and beyond when our City Administrator Luis Campos faced an unforeseen crisis. Without hesitation, they jumped into action, providing immediate assistance to Luis.

"But it doesn't end there. In just a matter of seconds, Officer Nimmons and Hinnis arrived at the scene, taking charge and ensuring the situation was under control.

"Their quick response and professionalism were crucial during this challenging time.

"I want to emphasize that it's because of these four amazing individuals that our story today has a happy ending! Their selflessness, courage, and dedication to helping others are truly inspirational.

"Please join me in giving a BIG shout-out to Ginger, Anthony, Officer Nimmons, and Officer Hinnis for their outstanding efforts and outstanding commitment to our community. Let's show them the appreciation they rightly deserve!"

Easton police officers are trained in CPR.

I don't know about social workers. 



Register of Wills Named NorCo's Associate Court Administrator

NorCo Deputy Court Administrator Janelle Crisafulli advises that Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans Court Gina Gibbs has been named Associate Court Administrator, starting August 7. She will succeed the well-respected Ruth Vega-Velez, who has retired. 

Gibbs immigrated to this country at age 19. She managed to earn an Associate's and Bachelor's Degree, while working full-time and supporting her children. 

She began her employment with the county in 2008 in the Solicitor's office as an "exempt" employee, meaning she was a political hire. Three years later, she was appointed Deputy Director of Elections. This enabled her to transition from an "exempt" employee to a career service position, where she would have some job protection.

Her appointment as Register of Wills was controversial. County administrators passed over a 13-year veteran and Deputy Register who also had applied for the job and had the recommendation of the outgoing Register of Wills.

Executive Lamont McClure, who played no role in Gibbs' appointment, told me he wishes her the best in her new role. 

Gibbs' appointment had to be cleared by the state administrative office of Pa. Courts as well as Court Administrator Jermaine Greene 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Think Twice About That Move to Florida

Farmer's Insurance is leaving the Sunshine State, making it the fourth major insurance company to exit in the wake of pay-outs as a result of extreme weather events. The average cost of a homeowner's policy is now $6,000, about four times the cost elsewhere. 

Ron Angle and the Bank Robber

Bob Cartwright used to brag that Portland is the Cancun of the Lehigh Valley. He'd tell me its water tastes like Perrier, and caution the rest of us are all downstream. I hear lots of stories about Portland and the Slate Belt from that region's seanchaĆ­, Ron Angle. He's a master storyteller, which leads me to believe there must be at least some Irish in him, despite his claims to the contrary. Cartwright claims Ron inherited this gift from his father Fred.

Ron is the best story teller I know. Some of them may even be true! I love the written word, but there's nothing like listening to a seanchaĆ­. Angle has loads of stories, featuring numerous topics. But he always returns to Portland, where he grew up, and the Slate Belt.

Here's one of his tales. Angle was once involved in a bank robbery, and wasn't the robber! In fact, he nearly foiled it.

Ron at one time worked for the Second Nat'l Bank of Pen Argyl. He started out as a teller, but became a repo man who excelled at collecting bad debts. His methods were often unconventional, and probably illegal, but they worked. They include a trip to Philly's deepest and darkest ghetto, where he once found himself surrounded by a group of angry blacks when they caught him trying to repossess a Caddy. The owner had removed the battery, and Angle was caught when he put in a new one.

He carried a gun, and I suppose he could have used it, but he would have died. That is probably the day he discovered that he has a much more powerful weapon - his tongue. He not only talked his way out of this jam, but left this gang on good terms.

The only person I know who was as good at getting into a pickle, and then talking his way out of it, was my Dad.

Bank officials were quick to promote Angle because he delivered, and he eventually found himself with a hot Mustang and in charge of security. This was in the early '70s, before cell phones, but Angle wanted a car phone. The bank refused to spend the money, a decision it would soon regret.

There had been a rash of bank robberies in the area, so Angle was visiting all the branches each day to see if all was well. This included what is now an eatery called Dat's What I'm Talking About.. It's in Plainfield Township, right beyond the fork separating Rte 191 and Sullivan Trail. Angle pulled in and could see people standing inside with their hands up in the air.

He pulled into the parking lot, and saw one car, a beat-up old junker, that looked out of place. He pulled into the other side of the parking lot, and waited for the robber to make his exit. His plan was to run the guy over and then shoot him.

But when the robber exited the branch, he was not alone. He had the branch manager with him as a hostage. And instead of going to the beat-up old car (which turned out to belong to a neighbor), the robber had the manager get in his own car.

As they left, Angle followed along Route 191, going right by state police cruisers with their emergency lights headed in the opposite direction, responding to the robbery. Eventually, the bank robber realized he was being followed, and picked up the speed, but Angle was in a Mustang. The guy eventually pulled into a parking lot and spun the car around and fingered to Angle to come over. Angle shook his head No, but the robber pointed a gun at the manager's head. So Angle pulled alongside, and the robber told him not to follow or the bank manager would be dead. He said he'd release the manager once he was sure he was free, and then took off.

Angle waited a few minutes and then took off, but this time was looking for the bank manager. He found him near the Belfast exit off Route 33. The robber had parked his car there and had now made his getaway.

Angle and the manager returned to the bank and explained what had happened to the police, whom Angle said were moving in slow motion. Instead of hopping onto Route 33, troopers were more interested in his date of birth and his addresses for the last 17 years.

The bank robber was long gone before the staties started looking for him.

But he continued to rob banks. On his 11th robbery, he screwed up. He had walked into the bank and they closed the door behind him. It was quitting time, but he thought they were onto him and freaked out and ran. Police caught up to him walking along Route 191, but they still did not have enough.

The FBI was able to piece it all together and eventually arrested the guy.

They actually made their arrest while he was coaching a baseball game in New Jersey.

The guy had a gambling problem and owed a lot of money to mob loan sharks. He was a retired Jersey State Trooper. In exchange for his cooperation, he got a five year sentence for 11 robberies.

There is an old link to the robber's arrest in The Daily Intelligencer from July 9, 1971, but I am unable to reproduce it here because it is copyrighted.

By the way, the day after the robbery, the bank got Angle a car phone.

Blogger's Note: I first wrote about this in 2016, but decided to repost it because Ron andhis wife Sharon passed by the aftermath of a bank robbery in Upper Mount Bethel yesterday, and he reminded me of his own experience. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Lower Saucon Tp To Hold Landfill Expansion Meeting During Noon Hour

If you want to do something legally, but want as little input from the public as possible, you schedule the required public meetings at times when most members of the public are unable to attend. That's precisely what Lower Saucon Tp has done. It has scheduled a meeting today to consider a new zoning map and text amendment because its first try was killed in court. The meeting is scheduled at 12:30 pm, a time that demonstrates a disdain for the people that Lower Saucon Tp Council should be serving. 

McClure's Gift Ban Ordinance Finally Introduced

After months of foot-dragging, Northampton County Council last week finally introduced the gift ban ordinance first proposed by Executive Lamont McClure in April. It only took them three months to get around to it. 

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter has a pretty clear prohibition on gifts, but the County's Administrative Code contains so many exceptions you can drive a Mack Truck through it.  What McClure has proposed is akin to Governor Josh Shapiro's gift ban. 

Ironically, the ordinance is sponsored by Council member Ron Heckman, who did nothing but complain about it. 

NorCo Council Gives $25,000 For St. Luke's D&L Racefest

Northampton County Council voted unanimously at its meeting last Thursday to help fund the St. Luke's D&L Racefest on November 12 with $25,000. This money comes from hotel tax revenue, which must be spent for tourism facilities as well as community development initiatives that enhance tourism. This grant was also endorsed enthusiastically by Executive Lamont McClure. He told me he plans to run the marathon and qualify for Boston. He runs nightly between pickleball matches. 

Racefest is actually a combination of four separate races: a marathon (26.2 mi) extending from Allentown to Easton; a marathon relay race made up of teams who run 5 different stages; a half-marathon between Bethlehem and Easton; and a half marathon walk between Bethlehem and Easton. 

Council member Tom Giovanni is leading the relay team consisting of himself, John Cusick, John Goffredo, Lori Vargo Heffner and anchor Ron Heckman. Council member Tara Zrinski refuses to participate, claiming it's a conflict. 

VIA sponsored this event for many years. It included a four or five stage relay and a 22-mile run that was called the Ironman.  The first time I ran it, I accidentally signed up for the Ironman,. Attorney Chris Spadoni ran with me for the first leg. Though I torment him relentlessly as County Council Solicitor, he is an excellent running coach. He kept me from running too fast. It is largely thanks to his pacing that I was able to finish 22-miles. After that, I participated a few more times over the years. It was a grueling race because it was in July, not November. One year, there was no water between Freemansburg and Easton. 

I'm glad to see the race taking place in November instead of July. It's a lot easier to run when in the Fall. I also like that the former 22-mile race has been converted into a marathon at which people can qualify for Boston. 

I've ridden this trail regularly this summer from the Easton end. Most of it is shaded. Running alongside a river keeps you cool and the D&L Trail cuts the wind. What I particularly dislike is the mile or so leading to the boat launch by Rte 33. The trail is like a railroad bed there, with gravel chunks that are too large. I won't run that stretch and even cycling alongside it is miserable. I'd prefer to go up Hope Road and get on the Palmer Bike Path. That's more hilly, but a few hills are actually good for long-distance runners. The surface is macadam and more forgiving than the huge lumps of gravel tossed along the trail to the boat launch. The D&L between the boat club in Bethlehem Township and Freemansburg is also prone to wash-outs. 

D&L gave a lengthy presentation to County Council last week, but I'll spare you the details. Events like these are obviously very good for tourism, hotels and local businesses. An added bonus is that the trail avoids roads. 

The registration fees are expensive. The marathon fee starts at $110 and goes up to $160 as more people enter.     

Monday, July 10, 2023

UPDATED: Dellicker Announces! Expect to See Three Republicans in Lehigh Valley's Congressional GOP Primary

Last week, I told you that Allentown Attorney Maria Montero has filed the paperwork to run for U.S. Congress (Pa.-7) as the GOP candidate. Over the weekend, I learned that State Rep. Ryan MacKenzie will be huddling with advisors this week as he ponders dipping his toes in the Potomac River. I also learned that Kevin Dellicker, who was defeated by Lisa Scheller in the last GOP Congressional race, has been booked as a guest by radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh on Wednesday to discuss his plans. He is reportedly backed by developer David Jaindl. 

If all three run, which seems increasingly likely, this should make it easier to elect Montero. She can be tagged as a carpetbagger, though she is from this area. She is the sole female. 

It should also make it easier for Susan Wild, who can keep her powder dry while Republicans are forced to spend.  

UPDATED 12:15 pm: Dellicker announces candidacy! - According to Lehigh Valley Archair, Kevin Dellicker has released a statement announcing his candidacy.

Dellicker's announcement:

"Today, I am announcing my candidacy for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 7th District.

"It's no secret that Washington is broken. While this level of dysfunction may boost TV ratings and fundraising, it hurts our families and communities. What Washington needs is less talking heads and more leaders who will roll up their sleeves and work to bring commonsense solutions that benefit our families and communities. My career as a small business owner, veteran, and military officer has given me the right experience, skillset, and leadership to represent our community and work toward real change and solutions.

"I’m not a professional politician. I’m not looking for a new career in Washington. I’m running to protect and expand the Republican majority, get the job done, and then return home to Germansville. I’m running because this is my home too. I was raised here and my wife Susan and I raised our boys here. We need a voice in Washington who is one of us and will represent all of us.

"I’m excited to connect with the remarkable individuals, families, and small businesses that make our region the great place that it is. I look forward to having real conversations on the issues that matter to us all: strong families, good jobs, and safe communities.”