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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, October 20, 2017

Brown Skipped NorCo Council For Parade

Northampton County Executive John Brown knew that Nazareth area residents were coming to Northampton County Council on Thursday night. They are concerned about a jail at Gracedale. But when they arrived, Brown was missing.

I have since learned that he skipped Council to bask in the Bangor Halloween parade. You can see the video here

NorCo Voters to Decide on a Government Study Comm'n

Is Northampton County government working? Could it be improved. This time next year, you'll be able to answer that question yourself. After a contentious hearing, a divided Northampton County Council voted last night to ask voters whether its time for a government study commission. Voting in favor of this measure were Council President John Cusick, Hayden Phillips, Matt Dietz, Mat Benol, Seth Vaughn and Bob Werner. Voting No were Glenn Geissinger, Peg Ferraro and Ken Kraft. 

The ordinance, which was sponsored by Phillips and Werner, originally called for voters to decide in next Spring's primary. But it was delayed at Geissinger's suggestion until the general election next November, when more independents would be likely to vote. 

If approved by voters, a nine-person government study commission will study Northampton County's existing form of government. It could recommend a return to the three-Commissioner form of government that exists in most counties. Or it could suggest retaining the Home Rule Charter government with some changes, or no changes at all. 

The commission, which would consist of nine citizens, will have 18 months to finish its job. 

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter has been in existence since 1978. Phillips explained that whenever he talks to people, he walks away with a laundry list of proposed changes.Over the years, numerous amendments have been adopted. In addition, parts of the Charter, like the recall provisions for elected officials, have been declared unconstitutional. Other portions of the Charter are ambiguous. Some positions established, like the Director of Court Services, are considered political plums that an Executive can hand out to supporters. Should the Sheriff be elected? Should the Controller be appointed? Many think that high-ranking officials should be required to live in the county. Some argue for term limits.It is unclear whether the Voting Registrar reports to the Executive or the Elections Commission. He believes that a government study "will make it better than what we have right now." Instead of "piecemeal changes," he said a government study "will look at the whole picture."

But Peg Ferraro was disturbed that "just anyone could run for this" with no qualifications. "We all ran for the office we're in, and we're running the county budget without a requirement," retorted Matt Dietz. She also said a substantial budget would be needed, but Cusick said Council would be able to control over how much is spent. 

"I think this is a complete waste of time, waste of money," said Kraft. "The problems that you're citing are in the Administrative Code, not the Home Rule Charter." 

The problems cited by Phillips are in the Home Rule Charter..

When Cusick and Dietz attempted to answer Kraft, he cut them off. "I'm not asking you," he said to hem both. "I think you're just grandstanding, you're trying to deflect on whatever other nonsense is going on,"  Kraft charged Phillips. "It's an election year. It's a lame duck Council. Put this off until next year, and if you're here, vote for it."
"I can't believe you're saying I'm doing this to grandstand," responded Phillips.

"You are."

"I'm not."

Kraft also objected that "just anybody could tell us how to run the government. No background. No knowledge."

"That's democracy,"Cusick reminded Kraft. 

Geissinger also objected to nine individuals "with who knows what background" demanding a $500,000 budget. 

Cusick noted that an attempt to do a government study 12 years ago failed in a 5-4 vote."It's been 12 years since then, and we owe it to ourselves to ask this question - is it working?"

He added he'd like to study whether there should be an appointed administrator and a Council. He noted that most townships have appointed managers. 

He claimed that the argument that just anybody can run without qualification is ridiculous. That's democracy," he said, repeating a point he made earlier. "If you're a citizen who is registered to vote, and you live in the community, well, that's your right unless you're running for an office that requires a specific qualification, like a judge or district attorney."

Kraft attempted to table the matter, but his motion failed.    

After the measure passed, Ferraro expressed her wish that knowledgeable people like Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried and Frank Flisser, the Council's former Clerk, would consider serving on a government study.  

Brown Delayed Six Magisterial Leases Introduced Last Night

Yesterday, I told you that Magisterial District Judges (our minor judiciary) are increasingly concerned about security in their small courtrooms. They stand on the front lines of our justice system, but often have no way of keeping Defendants separated from their accusers. Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez, in particular, wanted a new courtroom that at least provided a separate entrance for her and her staff.

She's going to get one. Last night, Northampton County Council seems anxious to approve six leases for magisterial district judges throughout the County. The ordinances were introduced last night, and will be voted on in two weeks. Precise terms are in yesterday's story.

Those leases were held by Executive John Brown for eight weeks before being submitted to Council. He told the courts that he wanted to negotiate them himself, even though he knows nothing about the security needs of a court.  The courts finally had to insist that the matters be put on Council's agenda.

Erratum 12 40 pm: In my original version of this story, I reported that the leases had been approved. They were introduced last night, but will not be approved for two weeks. I apologize for my error. 

Brown MIA For #NoJailatGracedale

Kelly Schreier 
Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee are Nazareth area residents who moved there because they want a safe community in which to raise their children. When they heard that Northampton County was secretly considering a new jail at the Gracedale campus, they mobilized. Two Republican moms started an online petition at Change.org, formed the Facebook group #NoJailatGracedale and then cascaded into a NorCo Council meeting. A dozen residents told Council that "the cloak is off" when Council members pretended they had no idea what is going on. They forced County Executive John Brown, who likes to play his cards close to his vest, to finally rule out a jail at Gracedale. Then on Sunday, in a public meeting at Tuskes Park, they coaxed Brown to pledge there would be no new jail, not just at Gracedale, but on any county-owned park land. They warned him they'd be at Council's meeting again last night.

They came.

Brown was MIA.

Brown is at nearly every Council meeting, so this was a bit odd.

Nazareth area resident Christine Woodmansee provided more petitions to Council. Her husband Ryan said they came two weeks ago to get answers.

"We didn't have many," admitted Council President John Cusick.

"That was apparent," responded Woodmansee. He said that he reviewd the presentation that Corrections Director Dan Keen gave in September 2016, and said it was "disheartening" to see the innuendo about building at Gracedale. "Before, a lot of people weren't paying attention," he admitted. But that's changed. "We'll be here at every meeting. If I can't see a meeting, I'll be watching on the web." He also admonished Council for failing to pay closer attention on something so sensitive as a jail next to a residential community.

Attorney Kelly Schreier echoed Woodmansee's remarks about the September 2016 meeting, when Council knew much more than it knows now. "Some of the comments are quite disheartening," she said. She was appalled at the suggestion that the county hire a lawyer to go up against Upper Nazareth. She also ridiculed Keen; suggestions that the community would benefit from 1,000 people using local restaurants. "One thousand cars going up and down a two-lane street just to visit the Dunkin' Donuts?" she scoffed. "I'm strongly opposed to that."

She was also bothered that Council seemed to know less about the jail two weeks ago than they did last year, when Keen gave his presentation.

The previous day, Brown had presented what he called an executive summary (it was actually a graph) of seven different options for the jail. The graph fails to indicate the sites considered, other than West Easton and the current jail location. My impression is that Brown now favors remaining in place.

But how serious is he? While Brown was speaking to Council yesterday, the State House had just voted to adopt the Administrative Code (HB 118) for next year. That and the Fiscal Code are dark holes where unpopular legislation is hidden. It's where the NIZ was buried a few years ago.

The legislation passed yesterday allows is for an alternative bidding process to be used to either rehab an old jail or build a new one. (Article XXIV-B).

The legislation concerning jail facilities only applies to third class counties with a population between 280,000 and 298,000 as of the 2010 census. That means it can only apply to Northampton or Erie County.

This legislation was reported out of committee and voted on the same day. I doubt that most legislators read it. I am informed that State Rep. Joe Emrick, who opposes a jail at Gracedale, voted No precisely because he thought this could be used for a jail at Gracedale. (I have not confirmed this with Emrick).

A similar bill was adopted by the Pa. Senate on July 27 by a 37-13 vote. State Senator Lisa Boscola voted for it. I am told she is the person who actually proposed this legislation, and at Brown's request, but this is unconfirmed.

"It just seems that comes at a pretty convenient time for something like this," said resident James Cunningham.

Cusick knew nothing about this new law, but Ken Kraft did. "It is basically a law that allows for the P3 to build a jail in a greenfield or an existing jail," he explained. "It was put into the state senate in July and passed by the urging of the county executive, and it came out of committee yesterday on the house floor and it passed. It applies to counties that have exactly the amount of people that we have. The only other county it applies to is Erie. ... So now you can use a P3 to build a prison, which is a public private partnership where they come and build it, similar to our bridge deal."

Cunningham responded that it sounds like a "custom fit for Northampton County, especially applying to a jail over 100 years old."

Peg Ferraro was unable to attend the Tuskes Park gathering on Sunday because of a prior commitment. But she said last night that she has long opposed the use of Gracedale as a jail, gun range or anything other than the cornfields that are there now. "I will fight to the end to make sure no jail is up at Gracedale," she vowed.

Cusick told Eagles Landing resident Julian Kryemadhi that a full report from prison architect DLR will be available by Monday, and Bob Werner called it a "very general statement." Hayden Phillips said the terminology used is unfamiliar to him, so everyone is waiting for a full report.

"It seems like we did have a change of heart," said Kryemadhi, and he thanked those who attended a citizen meeting at Tuskes Park on Sunday. He added that, based on a savings of $6 million per year, the County should be able to self-finance any renovations.

Updated: NC GOP Party Boss Lee Snover's Message For #NoJailatGracedale

Updated 2:15 pm  Since this story first published , I was informed there are two Lee Snovers. There is Gloria Lee Snover, who chairs the NorCo GOP. There is also Lee Snover, who claims to be from the mountains. 

I have always believed that Lee Snover and Gloria Lee Snover were one and the same person. Some people establish several Facebook accounts. John Brown,for example, has three of them. I have followed both Gloria Lee and Lee on Facebook for some time and have found that the opinions expressed by both are nearly identical I also note that, in the past, Lee Snover has not answered a question asking whether he or she is the NorCo GOP Chair. It never dawned on me that they might be two separate people

After publishing this story, Michael Snover (Gloria Lee's husband) posted an angry comment claiming that Gloria Lee and Lee are two different people. He ought to know. He demanded I take down my story. I called Gloria Lee Snover, who did not answer me. I also called Michael, who explained that Lee Snover is actually a male named Layton Snover  My information from Intelius is that a Lee Snover from Bath works at the Pritchard Company, which is where Gloria Lee Snover is employed at her parents'company. 

Though I am persuaded that my post below is erroneous, I decline to take it down. I believe the proper way to deal with this is to allow my error to stand, in all its glory, and simply admit that I erred, which I did. 

I apologize to Gloria Lee Snover, Lee Snover, Layton Snover, Michael Snover and all the Snovers of the universe for my error. I am entitled to my own opinions, but not my own facts. I believed Gloria Lee and Lee were one and the same person, and had reason to think that was the case. But I was wrong, and believe the best way to correct my mistake is by clearly noting my error in the story below.   

Lee Snover, whom I now call General Lee Snover, is the Chair of the Northampton County Republican party. She has a message for Nazareth area residents opposed to a jail at Gracedale.

"I think this fear of building near grace dale is illogical. The current prison is near schools, etc. we’ve had very few escapes. Nimby reins in ignorant minds. Think of the extra commerce this could bring to Nazareth. I live very close and it doesn’t bother me to consider this. Especially if the land is otherwise paid for.

"That said we could invest far less money in working with repeat offenders and drop the number of inmates considerably. Especially with regards to prostitution and drugs. We do not do nearly enough to help these folks upon ending their sentences to get to the route problems."

She claims to live "very close to Gracedale," but that is complete horseshit. She lives in a secluded area of Bethlehem Township, about seven miles away.

She calls  #NoJailatGracedale NIMBYs and "ignorant minds." Of course they are NIMBYs. We are all NIMBYs when it comes to certain things. None of us would want a venomous snake pit in our back yard. None of us would want to live next to a rapist, murderer or child molester. It is perfectly reasonable for any residential community to oppose a jail and all it brings to the area.

I am astonished that General Lee would insult #NoJailatGracedale in this fashion. Her job is to get Republicans elected, not Democrats. But she appears to be doing the latter.

Bethlehem Township Releases 2018 Budget With No Tax Hike

Bethlehem Township's Proposed 2018 is now available online. I'll have a more detailed analysis on Monday. But for most of you, the important question is whether it includes a tax hike. There is no tax hike.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Nothstein Announces Congressional Bid

"Work hard, dream big." That's what Marty Nothstein learned growing up in what he calls a blue collar family here in the Lehigh Valley. A 1996 Olympic champion, known as the Blade during his cycling days, has just announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination to Congress in the 15th Congressional District.

“America is the land of limitless opportunity, he says on his webpage. "However, too often, Washington fails us because career politicians are only looking out for themselves and their friends. Instead of tax reform and health care reform, we get gridlock and cronyism.”

“That has to stop.”

Nothstein is currently in his second year as a Lehigh County Commissioner.

His campaign announcement is on video form here.

The Perils of Being a Magisterial District Judge

Yesterday, Northampton County Council's Finance Committee was reviewing six leases for magisterial district judges. Glenn Geissinger said they were pretty much standard leases and wanted to consider them together. When Council president John Cusick pointed out to him that there were people who wanted to speak, he seemed a little put out, complaining that he was "trying to save a little time." He was apparently unaware that the three people who came were themselves Magisterial District Judges. They included Judges Alicia Zito, Nancy Matos Gonzalez and Dan Corpora.And they had a message.

Magisterial District Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez, who has presided in South Bethlehem for the past 26 years, spoke for them. 

"Our court functions without any security personnel unless by chance a police officer happens to be there or a constable comes in for a hearing. ... There are some significant security lapses that really need to be addressed. We're without some holding cells. We have prisoners being transported into areas that are right past the general public. We have crime victims that have to share a waiting area with the accused. It may be a gang-related matter. It may be a sex crime victim.

"Some of the offices at this point are antiquated in design, and it is the desire at this point to come up to date with industry standards.   

Matos Gonzalez said her new lease will help protect the people in her courtroom, her staff and law enforcement.

Under the new leases negotiated, it is up to the landlord to design the court facility to the satisfaction of the courts.

One important feature, according to Gonzalez, is a separate entrance for her and her staff.

Within the past two weeks, her staff encountered a verbally aggressive and mentally disturbed male who wanted the judge to drive him to a consulate so he could return to his home country.

President Judge Steve Baratta said that these leases are part of a long-term process. He said that the courts are looking for secure facilities, and that Judge Matos Gonzalez definitely needed a new courtroom.

At this point, there is no plan to spend money on security measures. But he acknowledges that there are "difficult people" who give hem reason to feel insecure.

Salient lease terms are as follows:

Judge Zito - $4,810.63 per month for 269 Blue Valley Drive, Bangor, owned by United Hoisting Company, Inc. (10 years)
Judge Grifo - $4,290 per month for 400 Northampton Street, Easton, owned by 400 Northampton LP (10 years)
Judge Corpora - $3,500 per month for Suites 700C and D, St. John St and Philadelphia Pike, owned by NIDI Group, t/a Plaza at Crossroads (10 years)
Judge Taschner - $3,699 per month for 3 Weller Court, owned by Palmer Tp.(6 years)
Judge Matos Ginzalez - $5,338 per month for 322 E 3rd St, Bethlehem, owned by Polk Street Dvlpmnt Ass'ts, LP (12 years) (Lou Pektor)
Judge Yetter - $2,999 per month for 1710 Butler St, Easton,owned by James Garofalo.(1 year)

Brown Opposes Domestic Relations Reorg That Saves $9,000

Judge Paula Roscioli is the Administrative Judge of Domestic Relations. That's where $41 million in child support was collected last year. She thinks that's where most county residents come into contact with our judicial system. She was before Northampton County Council yesterday with a minor reorganization request in an office she calls a "well oiled machine." That's a first in her seven years overseeing Domestic Relations. It's a request that will actually save the county $9,000 a year. Amazingly, Executive John Brown was opposed.

Judge Roscioli was the leadoff hitter. She explained that, over the years, "there's been a lot of changes in the way we do business." In order to collect child support, Domestic Relations can seize bank accounts, personal injury settlements, IRA accounts and other liquid assets. But along with these opportunities, there is a significant responsibility to make sure it is done correctly, and the people who work in Domestic Relations must have the right training. To accomplish this, she has proposed the elimination of several file clerk positions and some minor upgrades in others. This will save $9,000. "To me, it's a no-brainer," said Judge Roscioli. "I'm not really sure why this is an issue."

Mat Benol worried that this reorganization might have a "snowball" effect throughout the county. Judge Roscioli said the upgrades would only make these positions more consistent with similar jobs throughout the county. 

As Judge Roscioli spoke, HR was standing in the well, and she provided a breakdown of the nine positions. Two of them are career service supervisors. The remaining seven are union positions, and three of them are in a union that is currently in contract negotiation. 

Brown claimed that there would be a ripple effect. "The first thing we hear in collective bargaining is, 'Well, they got it.'" He said that allowing this reorganization would be "sending the wrong message."

"It just seems like we're always in union negotiation," said Peg Ferraro. "If we use that as a reason not to revamp a department that actually does need revamping, it seems we could always be using that argument."

Mat Benol blamed the unions. "It's the unions that seem to be the hurdle here," he said. "The unions are hurting the people that they're there to protect."

President Judge Stephen Baratta was the closer.

He started with a slider

"This is not a raise," he told Council. "These three employees are being reclassified. Their job descriptions are changing. They're having more responsibility. ... It doesn't impact anything about his negotiations. It doesn't throw his salary schedule out of whack in any sense.

Strike one.

Then he went with the high heat, claiming that these employees were performing a "core function of a separate branch of government." He said it was a "fundamental job of the court to run its operation free and clear of the Executive or any other branch of government."

Strike two.

He finished with a knuckleball. He admitted that two years ago, he proposed a raise for his staff that ended up being a raise for everyone because Council was "compassionate"  and "it was the right thing to do."

Strike three.

Council President John Cusick, who admitted that he is a numbers person himself, said that "[S]ometimes we forget about what's really going on here. These are the people who collect child support for people who desperately need it. So it's important that we have qualified people in those positions who are compensated and know what they're doing. I'll just leave it at that."

Even Benol did an about face.

Council will vote on this proposal tonight.

Judges Roscioli and Baratta are usually behind the bench and have to be fair and impartial. I think they clearly enjoyed the rare opportunity to be advocates. Different styles, too. Roscioli was matter-of-fact and succinct. Baratta was more passionate and discursive.   

Brown: New Jail Belongs at Courthouse Campus

Northampton County Executive John Brown has attempted to spin a possible jail at Gracedale as "fake news" or politically inspired. In doing so, he ignores a presentation that his own Corrections Director gave to Council last September. At that time, Gracedale was presented as the best option. He ignores his own remarks to Council in June, in which he ruled out a jail at the current Easton site and said he wanted to build on a greenfield. He ignores remarks by his own prison advisory board chair in July, in which Gracedale was cited as a "great location for a new jail."

Brown discovered at a Council meeting two weeks ago that opposition to a jail is very real and has nothing to do with Lamont McClure's campaign for Executive. It has everything to do with Nazareth area residents, most of whom happen to be Republicans. Though Council feigned ignorance, Ryan Woodmansee tartly told them to knock it off. "The cloak is off,"  he said. Taken by surprise, Brown talked in circles instead of just plainly answering their concerns. The best thing he could have said is that there would be no jail at Gracedale. But he refused to say that, just as he refused to say it earlier in the week during his budget address.

These residents are mobilized, have started on online petition, formed Facebook group #NoJailatGracedale,  and conducted a refreshing Q and A on Sunday with both Executive and Council candidates.

In the meantime, Brown has belatedly realized that his intransigence could cost him this election. So late last week, on Facebook, he made this announcement: "Unequivocally, as long as I am County Executive there will never be a jail built at Gracedale!"

Today, at Council's Finance Committee, he said that the $78,000 study (one he could have obtained at no charge from the Department of Corrections) should be in his hands on Friday or Monday. But he had a one-page summary containing seven options considered by DLR.  (These are listed below) and the savings that could be realized from the $115 per day per bed it currently costs the county to house prisoners.  He said the option recommended (#7) is to build a new jail on campus

"Right now, it's pointing to remaining here in Easton on this campus, doing a new facility on this footprint."

Brown was unable to explain the options in any great detail, and said that would come with the full report. He indicated on Sunday that the savings in incarceration costs could be $6 million per year.

One of the criteria considered is community support. Amazingly, the worst rating for community support is "fair." Obviously,community support for a jail at Gracedale is abysmal. I question how this study determined community support. I doubt there were any surveys.

I also question whether the sudden push to build in place is the result of engineering work or a desire to get re-elected. 

Seven Options

1) Keep West Easton and build 768 bed facility at a new undisclosed site. - $86.42 per day per bed.
2) Keep West Easton and build 768 bed facility at a new undisclosed site. - $88.78 per day per bed.. 
3) Work release downtown and build 768 bed facility at a new undisclosed site. - $88.78 per day per bed.. 
4) Acquire West Easton for both work release and detention with 912 beds - $81.89 per day per bed
5) Consolidate detention and work release with 960 beds at a new site - $78.98 per day per bed
6) Split detention of 912 beds keeping some downtown and some in a 512-bed facility at West Easton - $95.31 per day per bed.
7) Build a new detention center downtown and acquire West  Easton for 912 beds total at a cost of $80.37 per bed per day.  

Marquette: Allentown Arts Museum and SOTA Must Stop Gender Discrimination.

Blogger's Note: Allentown Art Museum is expected to announce changes in its mission at a "big reveal" today. John Marquette, a former docent there, has a "big reveal" of his own. If you belong to the penis club, your options are limited. Here's John's story. 

Imagine for a moment that you’re the director of a highly-respected cultural institution in Pennsylvania. It’s in the heart of a rapidly changing city, with new businesses and apartment buildings rising to the left and right. You recognize that it’s important to continue to stay relevant to the new arrivals and you do outreach to the newcomers even as you encourage your long-time financial supporters to keep visiting and bringing their checkbooks. An affiliated organization, whose members volunteer their time and who also contribute generously, meets in your conference rooms, hosts events, and shares your postal address. They even use your accounting firm!

There’s only one problem with these public-minded folks. They don’t allow a specific minority to be members. Still, they do contribute a lot of money and you can’t afford to hire people to replace the volunteer work they do. So you just keep the matter of discrimination on the down low, right?

What if it were not a minority that was being discriminated against, but an entire gender? If you are the Allentown Art Museum and the Society of the Arts is your affiliated organization, which only allows women as members, discrimination is overlooked, even tolerated.

On October 10, an Allentown Art Museum Facebook post shared news and information about a fundraising event held by the Society of the Arts. The Society, usually referred to as “SOTA”, is a major contributor to the work of the museum, providing it with funding and many of its volunteers, including its docents.

I was fortunate enough to be a docent for the museum for a few years, but was unable to join SOTA for two reasons. First, I have obligations which preclude me from offering the time that membership requires. More important to this article, however, is that SOTA membership is exclusive to women. SOTA provides the lion’s share of volunteers to the museum, especially in roles such as docents. Docents provide guided tours of the museum’s permanent and special collections, and are, for most visitors to the museum, its public face.

Since I ended my volunteering with the museum as one of the few “community docents” at the end of last year, all of those docent faces are female. The museum’s website gives no indication that it seeks community volunteers, showing seekers the word "SOTA" in search results.

SOTA’s website, on the other hand, offers a wide range of interesting and challenging volunteer opportunities in all areas of the museum’s operations. SOTA volunteers can offer tours, work in the development and curatorial areas, plan and staff museum events, and more. Again, SOTA members become the face of the museum.

Sadly for the Lehigh Valley, the faces SOTA offers to museum visitors are exclusively female. While the museum includes in its current employment post a non-discrimination disclaimer (“The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is an equal opportunity, equal access employer, fully committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace.”), this group is neither diverse nor inclusive.

There are other avenues to volunteering with the museum. The Allentown Art Museum Auxiliary, founded in 1946 with membership open to women and men alike, has placed its member-volunteers in the museum shop, and more recently has extended its reach into the development and curatorial departments. While these positions are important to the daily operation of the museum, they do not rise to the level that many men in the Lehigh Valley are precluded by their gender from filling.

SOTA was founded about 20 years after the auxiliary. In its more than 50 years of service to the museum, it has contributed more than just its members’ time and effort. Funds raised by SOTA have made many years of free Sunday admissions possible for Valley residents. Other funds are directed to acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection. At least two SOTA members sit on the museum’s board of trustees. These talented, hard-working women have contributed to cultural environment of the Lehigh Valley. For all of their work, creativity, intelligence, and funding, I am and will remain grateful.

At the same time I praise SOTA for their dedication, I glance - sometimes repeatedly - at the calendar to remind myself that it is 2017. In my years volunteering as a community docent and visiting other museums around the United States, none staff and train their volunteers from an organization with membership restricted by gender. In fact, when I described the Allentown Art Museum’s practice to working docents, I got reactions ranging from the raise of an eyebrow to more obvious expressions of shock that blatant discrimination was still occurring in public museums.

There is a remedy: SOTA could decide at its next board meeting to open its membership to persons without regard to gender. At the same time, SOTA appears from its Facebook description to its common mailing address and accounting firm with the Allentown Art Museum to be an operating arm of the the museum itself. If that is the case, then it is possible that agreeing to accept Federal, state, and other funding entails signing a statement of non-discrimination. If it is the practice of the Museum to have any volunteer provided by a gender-restricted organization or operating area, it is engaged in discrimination.

While I was a community docent, I was encouraged by SOTA members and SOTA leadership to bring more men into the program. What they were asking me, on one hand, was to help diversify the docent group and provide a wider range of perspectives consistent with the museum's high standards. On the other hand, it felt as if they were asking me to provide a separate-but-equal opportunity for men I could encourage to enroll in the training. The candidates I referred never heard back from the museum nor did their possible further contacts with SOTA convince them to begin the training process.

I believe that the Allentown Art Museum has a collection which is remarkable for a city its size. The traveling exhibitions it brings to the area and the shows it curates locally enrich all of us in the Lehigh Valley. I was personally enriched by my work with SOTA and with museum visitors, and came to see the works in the museum through new eyes. Unfortunately, I can no longer continue to contribute my time or many of my charitable dollars to an organization which does not offer the same opportunity to volunteer candidates as it does to people with checkbooks. I encourage SOTA and the Allentown Art Museum to end its gender-restricted practices and seek the best volunteers the region has to offer.

About John Marquette: Marquette is the author of “In Arch’s Footsteps”, a guide to Housenick Park, as well as many Wikipedia articles and a 2014 op-ed in the Morning Call on the management of the National Museum of Industrial History. He lives in Bethlehem.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

William Tecumseh Sherman on Ulysses S. Grant

I’m reading Ron Chernow’s latest biography, which is simply called “Grant.” His “Hamilton” inspired a musical. His “Washington” won him a Pulitzer. But “Grant” is a book I’m unable to put down.

Grant was sometimes called "the butcher" because his style of fighting resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. But as Chernow observes, Grant was repelled by the sight of blood. He even refused to eat meat unless it was well done.

Any biography about Grant would invariably include the irascible William Tecumseh Sherman as one of its characters.  He is my favorite general, and Grant and he were very close.

Most of  you know about Grant’s drinking. His life outside the military was a string of failures, mostly the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Few of you know that Sherman suffered something of a nervous breakdown early in the Civil War, and was nearly cashiered.

Grant was short and stocky. Sherman was tall and lean. Grant was by nature quiet and reserved. Sherman was irrepressible. These opposites had one thing in common - they both knew what it felt like to be demeaned. So they stood by each other.

Here’s how Sherman described his friendship with Grant.

“He stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now, sir, we stand by each other always.”

Trump Cuts Force 30% Spike in Individual Obamacare Premiums in Pa

The Affordable Care Act was never very affordable, and will be less so here in Pa. next year. The Pittsburgh Tribune reports that rates will go up an average of 30%. This is the result of Donald Trump's decision to stop payments for benefits provided to low-income policy holders. Insurance companies will collect this money by increasing the premiums of everyone with individual plans, as opposed to employer-provided health insurance.

This will impact about 85,000 small businesses and self-employed Pennsylvanians, and I suspect most of them voted for Trump.   

The Colonel Gets the Blogger Vote

Five Republicans and five Democrats are seeking five Northampton County Council seats this November. West Easton's Mat Dees and I are both Democrats. We are also fellow bloggers. I'd say that we are probably both centrists who lean a little to the left. But this November we will be voting for someone who once described himself to Lamont McClure as a "proud" tea party member. The Colonel. He's also known as Hayden Phillips.

Indisputably, he is Council's most conservative member. He is also Council's most accountable member. He is also Council's most accessible member. He has frequently displayed a rare quality to see in any politician - a conscience. He is Council's hardest working member. He attended 77 of 80 Council and committee meetings in 2016, giving him a 96% record. And he really is a Colonel. He retired at that rank from the USMC.

Matt Dees was shocked to return home today and find a note from Phillips as he went door-to-door in West Easton. He is impressed that a County Councilman "would bother with our little borough." As Dees explained, Phillips already had his vote.

But people like to be asked.

Bahá’í Faith To Celebrate Founder's Birthday This and Next Sunday

Members of the Bahá’í Faith in the Lehigh Valley are preparing to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, on October 22, 2017. There will be a special commemoration at the Northampton Country Club in Bethlehem Township on Sunday, October 22 at 1:30 p.m. and a public interfaith devotional service at The Tomkins Center chapel at Cedar Crest College in Allentown on Sunday, October 29 at 4:00 p.m., which will feature performances by the Lehigh Valley Youth Chorus. Both events are free and open to the public.

Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), born in Iran, was a spiritual teacher, announced in 1863 that He was the bearer of a new revelation from God. Bahá’ís believe that all the world's religions share the same source and purpose, and that Bahá’u’lláh is the latest in a series of divine messengers that started with Abraham and included Jesus and Muhammad. They believe all ofmankind is one family.

“Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of the oneness of humanity is an antidote to the racial prejudice and materialism that are corroding American society,” explained Bridget George, a resident of Bath and long-time member of the Bahá’í Faith. “Now more than ever we need positive models of social change that can bring people together rather than divide them. This is what we are celebrating in the weeks and months leading up to the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth in October.”

To learn more or attend an upcoming event go to www.bahailv.org.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bethlehem Tp Residents: Where's That Budget?

Ben Hedrick
Bethlehem Township Manager Melissa Shafer prides herself on government transparency.  Shehas introduced a host of social media applications to the Township's senescent population, from Facebook to Snapchat. For some time, she has been posting the agenda of public meetings online, along with all supporting documents.

The tool I like best is Nixle. This provides notifications via text or email or both of traffic problems, road closures, snow emergencies and public safety concerns. It was activated during a recent standoff on Oakland Road, which resulted in the apprehension of a heavily armed Bushkill Township man accused of shooting and killing his cousin. Residents were warned to stay away from the area or shelter in place. They were also informed when the suspect was eventually in custody.   

On a lighter note, Shafer also plays the female lead in a Youtube video. Council President Mike Hudak and CPL Shaun Powell toss her into the back of a cruiser to show what can happen to people who drive without a license.

I'm waiting for a taser demonstration on Pat Breslin to see if he is still alive.

As hard as Shafer is trying, even she makes mistakes. And at last night's Commissioners' meeting, resident Ben Hedrick called her out. He was so angry that flames were shooting off the top of his head, as you can see in the photograph.

He wanted to know how on earth the Township can conduct budget hearings, starting on Monday, when the budget itself is still unavailable.

Shafer told Hedrick that the budget is still being prepared and will be online by the end of the week.

Hedrick also wanted to know why the budget hearings are not listed on the township calendar. "That's not right," he complained. "We have to do better than this."

Shafer apologized and said that the budget hearings will be listed on the township calendar today. She indicated they are listed on the Township newsletter, and I have listed them below.

Hedrick and his lovely wife attend lots of meetings, both on the county and township level. He is a good government advocate, and I decided to console him after the meeting.

"You don't have the budget yet?"

"No, and how can people attend budget hearings when they don't know what's in the budget?"

"Gee, Shafer gave me the budget last week."

Flames began shooting from the top of his head again.

In other business, Commissioners approved a series of change orders to renovations oft the community center, adding about $100,000 to the $1.8 million price tag. Assistant Manager Doug Bruce went through each of them in exhaustive detail, explaining that they were the result of unforeseen conditions.

Thanks to State Senator Lisa Boscola, Manager Melissa Shafer has been able to persuade Penn East Pipeline to meet with residents who are going to be be as close as 200' to the latest version of the compressed gas pipeline. That meeting will occur at the Hope Ridge Condominium.

President Mike Hudak apologized for being a little off his game because he had just returned from overseas.

"Oh , were you in Russia?" I asked Hudak. "How is Putin?"

Hudak explained he was in Japan, learning martial arts moves. Fortunately, he chose not to try any of them on me.

Tom Nolan was absent.

Budget Hearing Schedule:

Monday, October 23rd 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Monday, October 30th 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Saturday, November 11th 9:00am - 12:00pm
Monday, November 20th 7:00pm (First Public Reading)
Monday, December 18th 7:00pm (Budget Adoption)

Brown's Trapp Problem

Amy Trapp is Northampton County's current Director of Human Resources. I'll be the first to admit that when she came here, I was quite impressed. She told me that she would be in all the departments and everyone would know her by name. She said she viewed her role as being an employee advocate. She agreed on the need for a pay study, and said one would be implemented gradually. She also said it was ridiculous to test people on skills having nothing to do with jobs being sought. I was completely conned by her, so it's hard for me to slam Executive John Brown for failing to see through the veneer. But by now, he must know that she is toxic. She has made so many enemies in her short tenure here that it's bound to hurt him in November.

$800 popcorn machines. Trips to Vegas and New Orleans. Lunches at the courthouse on the taxpayer dime. The creation of her own fiefdom with people she imported from corruption-plagued Allentown. Attempts to force everyone to use biometric punch clocks without consensus. The "entitled spoiled brat government employees remark," posted on this blog on an account owned by her husband. And lets not forget those $10 and $15 gift cards she purchased with employee money. She's unable to explain what happened to some of them. 

Brown has both kept her and has in fact praised her. Now she's violating the Northampton County's Home Rule Charter's creation of a career service for its nonunion employees. This is designed to attract and retain the best qualified individuals through a fair and open competitive selection process. Vacant positions must be advertised and filled from within, if possible, through impartial standards.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I hear from employees is that cronyism is becoming rampant. People are selected for jobs based on who they know instead of on merit. This has gone on for years, and under previous Executives. If you've ever wondered why 75% of the County workforce is unionized, this is why.

But currently, the biggest offender is Human Resources  - the one department that should be ensuring that all others operate fairly. If you've ever wondered why 75% of the County workforce is unionized, this is why.

HR Director Amy Trapp has routinely passed over county workers who have applied for positions in her department to bring in people from the outside or who caught her eye, and then has spent county tax dollars to train these people because they were unqualified when selected. When she selects people from the inside, she tips them off about the vacancy and tells them to apply.

The most recent example involves a female corrections officer who Trapp wants in her department. This officer has told several of her co-workers that Trapp has approached her and told her to apply for the vacancy. Giving this person a leg up is completely contrary to the open and competitive process envisioned by the Home Rule Charter.

It gets better. Earlier this year, this officer applied for a lieutenant's position. She thought the fix was in then, and told some black officers that they she'd be writing them up if they wore cornrow hair styles or weaves. I'm unaware whether the grooming policy prohibits these styles, but if it does, this appears to be discriminatory.

Someone must have complained, so this corrections officer was passed over for Lieutenant.

But Trapp now wants this person in Human Resources. Instead of merit selection, the system has devolved into blatant cronyism.

And I was scheduled for corn rows on Thursday.

Brown apparently thinks he'll win the election without the support of the workforce. 

Naval Academy Accepts Beca Grad

Bethlehem, PA – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright announced that Bethlehem Catholic High School student, John Zemanek, has been accepted to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. Rep. Cartwright nominated John earlier this year.

John is a graduate of Bethlehem Catholic High School and the son of Kenneth and Elizabeth Zemanek. While attending Bethlehem Catholic High, John was a member of the marching band, a jazz band trumpet section leader, a Hawk Ambassador, and a member of the cross country and track & field teams. He is also an Eagle Scout and a volunteer for the Neighborhood Association.

“It is my privilege and honor to nominate our best and brightest students to our nation’s distinguished institutions of military service and higher learning,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Their service to our country will be a source of pride for our communities and a character-shaping experience for these future military officers. John will surely become a successful leader representing our country with integrity. I congratulate John on his acceptance into the academy and wish him the very best.”

In order to attend one of the military academies, students must receive a nomination from their Member of Congress. Students may apply to the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy. Accepted students will receive a full scholarship, and upon graduation, they must complete the military service obligation requirement for each school.

Rep. Cartwright added, “Throughout our nation’s history, U.S. Service Academies have played an important role in preparing young people for service to our country. As a Pennsylvanian, I am proud of our patriotic young men and women who are willing to step forward and answer the call of duty. It is an honor to play a role in preparing our next generation of leaders.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

#NoJailatGracedale - 1, John Brown - 0

Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee
You've probably heard that one person can never take on the government and win. Two can. Jenna Hausman and Christine Woodmansee are residents of Eagles Landing, and moved there because they want a safe community in which to raise their children. They live in nice homes that they hope to see go up in value over the years. But when they heard that Northampton County is again secretly considering a new jail at the Gracedale campus, they proved that democracy is no spectator sport. Two Republican moms started on online petition at Change.org, a site usually reserved for liberal issues. They formed the Facebook group #NoJailatGracedale and then cascaded into a County Council meeting, where a dozen residents told Council that "the cloak is off" when Council members pretended they had no idea what is going on. They forced a County Executive who likes to play his cards close to his vest to finally rule out a jail at Gracedale. And yesterday, while kids played soccer and fall baseball at Tuskes Park, about 90 Nazareth area residents forced that County Executive to rule out a new jail, not just at Gracedale, but on any county-owned park land.

The Eagles have Landed. #NoJailatGracedale - 1, County Executive John Brown - 0.

It was a rare yet refreshing display of democracy. Perhaps not as big a deal as the Magna Carta, but it'll do. In addition to all the Nazareth area residents, politicians galore where there. I saw Nazareth officials, Upper Nazareth officials and State Rep. Joe Emrick.

NorCo Exec John Brown, aware that his unwillingness to provide straight answers to straight questions could cost him an election, tried to assure everyone that he's their man and has been completely upfront. His challenger, Lamont McClure, slammed Brown over his penchant for secrecy.

Brown did himself no favors.

Fake News

He was rambling, unresponsive and consistently went over the time allotted to him. "I don't play word games," he said at one point, but that's precisely what he did. You can see it for yourself both here and here. Though there is overwhelming evidence that he fully intended to build a new jail on a greenfield and at Gracedale, he dismissed it as fake news.

"[T]his whole issue about putting a jail at Gracedale is completely fictitious and has been promulgated by - uh - you're caught up in political gamesmanship. That's all it is, quite honestly. ... By inflaming something like this, my opponent does not have much of a record to stand on, so if you don't have your own record, you attack someone else."

Lamont McClure, however, had an effective retort.

"How do we know this isn't made up news, an alternative fact? How do we know that? We know that because we have prison advisory board meeting minute notes. And in those prison advisory meeting notes, the Chairman of the advisory board said Gracedale would be the best location of a prison. And what else do we know? We know that Mr. Brown, our current County Executive, gave his budget message a week or two ago and was asked whether he'd rule out the county property at Gracedale for a prison. He would not. A few days later, at the County Council meeting, he was asked to rule it out. He would not."


Challenged on his lack of transparency, Brown insisted, "The whole thing about lack of transparency is nonsense. I am a transparent person. No one came and asked me about this ... ."

"I did," interrupted Julian Kryemadhi.

His comment asking Brown for an update on Facebook was deleted.

His $72,000 study for a master plan, which was awarded to architectural form DLR as a no-bid contract, is by itself a demonstration of a lack of transparency. Hayden Phillips pointed out that he's tried several times to adopt ordinances that would give Council more power to review these contracts, but has been rebuffed repeatedly. When he was on Council, Lamont McClure joined Phillips in attempting to give Council more oversight over county contracts, but Brown vetoed their ordinance.

McClure also provided a disturbing example of Brown's lack of transparency. "He [Brown] once had a press conference where he posted armed guards at the door of the press conference so certain people couldn't come to the press conference," noted McClure. "One of the people specifically identified was a sitting member of county council." Under the Home Rule Charter, Council is considered the governing body, but Brown excluded a member with armed guards. "That is the definition of the lack of transparency," said McClure.

Brown Admits He Could Have Sought Free Study

In response to questions from a woman in the audience, Brown admitted that he will spend $72,000 in taxpayer funds for a report he could have received at no cost from the National Institute of Corrections. "If the study could be done for free by a government agency, why did you give the contract to a private company and pay $72,000?" she asked.

"Those are the decisions you get to make as County Executive, quite honestly," Brown answered. "It wasn't answering the question I needed to have answered in an expedited fashion." Brown acknowledged he never even contacted the National Institute of Corrections.

DLR Report

Brown claimed that the DLR report is coming soon. He spoke to them on Friday and said that DLR will give the County a way to save $6 million per year in spending at the jail, and without moving to a greenfield. He promised to make that report available as soon as he gets it.

No Jail at Gracedale Pledge

Brown initially refused to pledge there would be no jail at Gracedale. "I can't stand here and pledge ... . It's ridiculous to make those pledges because you don't know. I could get back in office and change my mind and flip on it." But as the meeting wore on, Brown reversed course in response to questions from Julain Kryemadhi. "A pledge is - fine - I'll sign that. That's not an issue."

Brown Gets Support

Though the audience was largely suspicious or downright critical of Brown, he got support from Nazareth resident Mary Barket, who described him in glowing terms. What she failed to disclose is that Brown paid her at least $4,000 last year to work on his failed campaign for state auditor general. Whether she is working his Exec race is unknown, but I'll know soon when Brown files his second Friday pre-election report.

What about Council candidates?

In addition to the Executive race, five County Council seats are up in the next election. As you might have guessed, the candidates who came to Tuskes Park are all opposed to building a new jail at Gracedale or anywhere else, for that matter. These included Republicans Hayden Phillips (incumbent) and Ron Angle. They also included Democrats Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo Heffner, Bill McGee and Tara Zrinski.

Republican Peg Ferraro had a prior commitment in Walnutport, but sent a note indicating she opposes any kind of jail at Gracedale. Republicans Glenn Geissinger and Seth Vaughn, both of whom are seeking election, failed to appear. Also missing was Democratic Council candidate Pete Melan.

Fundraiser for Puerto Rico on Nov 5

TIME: 2:00 PM TO 6:00 PM

Puerto Rican leaders in the Lehigh Valley are uniting forces to support Puerto Rico with a FREE concert! Concilio-Philadelphia, the financial conduit, of allmoney raised, has agreed that 100% of the funds collected by Unidos Pa’ PR will be allocated for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Funds.

Hispanic Center of the LV will also have a booth on-site to collect items for families relocating to the Lehigh Valley. Please bring non-perishable food and clothing donations for them (coats, scarfs, gloves, bed sheets, towels, etc.).

Checks Payable to: Concilio-Unidos PA’ PR

Mail check to: HGSK Law Firm, 1349 Lynn Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18015

El​ ​Concilio​ ​is a 501 C3 organization, 100% of your donation is a tax deductible donation.

Contact info: samuel@soldbyjustino.com, luiz.garcia@gmail.com or onegron@hgsklawyers.com

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why I Am Boycotting the NFL

I love football. High school is my favorite, but I like all levels. But I am watching no NFL games this year. Especially the Eagles. But this boycott has nothing to do with outrage of phony patriots incensed that black men refuse to stand for a national anthem that endorses slavery. My boycott is for other reasons.

First, I watch no television. So I can only see a game if I am there in person. I can afford a few high school games, but not the pros.

Second, I'm a jinx. I love listening to Merrill Reese do the play-by-play.But it finally hit me last hear that when I listen in, the Eagles lose. So I have stopped and the Eagles are winning.

Brown Finally Sez No to Jail at Gracedale

A year ago, when the discussion about a jail at Gracedale was in earnest, Executive John Brown said nothing. He never corrected his Administrator when she said that she had been at a meeting concerning Gracedale and that "some of the people we need to be in our corner will be in our corner." Of course, he was busy at the time, running for statewide office.

Earlier this year, he admitted that he had visited a dozen different sites, including Gracedale, as a new site for a jail. He also told Council that the new jail would never be built in Easton, even after Peg Ferraro told him she opposed a jail at Gracedale.

He represented a $78,000 contract with an architect as a study of jail programming. But the billing shows it as a "master plan" for a new detention center. He awarded this contract even though the National Institute of Corrections would perform an objective study at no cost to the taxpayer.

Last week, when confronted by Nazareth area residents, he still refused to rule out a jail at Gracedale in a long, rambling speech.

Last night, Brown attended the Chairman's Dinner for the county GOP. He was undoubtedly told that his refusal to take a stand may very well cost him the election. So he has finally released a statement on his Facebook campaign page, denying that he has any intention ever of building a jail at Gracedale.
[Lamont] McClure is using "FEAR FACTOR" to incite fear in our seniors, children and families by spreading rumors @ a new jail at Gracedale! Absurd!!
For the past 4 years, I have worked tirelessly to return Gracedale to profitability and guarantee our seniors will always have a safe place to call home.
Unequivocally, as long as I am County Executive there will never be a jail built at Gracedale!
I hate to break this to you, John, but it is you who has incited fear. The concern about a jail at Gracedale is no rumor, and was your creation. You are responsible for the discussions that started over a year ago. Because you lack transparency, you refused to address these concerns..

What you are saying now should have been said a year ago. At this point, you've lost the trust of some people who otherwise might have voted for you. This is not McClure's doing. This is your doing.

Snover Snubs County Council Candidates at GOP Dinner

Last night, at Historic Hotel Bethlehem, the Northampton County GOP hosted its annual Chairman's Dinner. That Chair, incidentally is "General" Lee Snover. Her hard work and organizational skills helped put Donald Trump over the top in Northampton County last year. That's a remarkable feat in a blue County. But success may have gone to her head. She apparently has forgotten that the chief responsibility of a county chair is to recruit and elect Republicans within her own county. She's so focused on next year's congressional mid-terms that it seems to have slipped her mind that five County Council seats are up for grabs in November. She snubbed the Council candidates who came to her dinner.

The dinner started off, of course, with an invocation. Because these are Republicans intent on impressing each other with their Godliness, the prayer went on for quite some time. It's no easy thing to make America great again, you know. In any event, the prayer was so damn long that the Democratic spies in the audience ran out and onto Main Street, throwing themselves into oncoming traffic.

After the ambulances cleared, Snover began bashing Congressman Charlie Dent as usual. He's a heretic, while pussy grabber Trump is everyone's hero.

Snover did let Executive John Brown deliver his "pitch," if you can call it that. He was both lengthy and boring. He pretends he is some kind of corporate savior when the truth is that he was fired at two jobs and laid off at a third. Before long, it was Republicans who began hurling themselves in front of speeding cars and horse carriages on Main Street.

After that, Snover promoted some national races next year because she apparently considers herself a major player now. Some US Senate hopeful parroted a few Trumpisms. She also wanted Justin Simmons to talk about his Congressional race next year, but Simmons' mom refuses to let him out on weeknights. So Tom Carroll got up and drained the swamp for him.

Northampton County Council candidates up for election this year were selectively snubbed.

She allowed Glenn Geissinger to speak, knowing he will never contradict Executive John Brown. But Hayden Phillips was completely disrespected. Geissinger mentioned that Ron Angle and Peg Ferraro were running, but never said a word about his fellow Council member Phillips, who was sitting there. Nor did Snover do anything to make up for this oversight, leading me to believe this snub was intentional.

Last Thursday, Phillips made clear he opposes a jail at Gracedale. So did Peg Ferraro. And Ron Angle has said he opposes a jail at Gracedale, too.

None of these three candidates was asked to speak, either, though their elections are a month away and they were there.

Candidate Seth Vaughn, who never shows up anywhere, was MIA at this dinner. He has said he will be easily re-elected so I guess there's no need for him to campaign.

Reminder: No Jail at Gracedale Group to Meet Sunday

Werner Opposes Jail at Gracedale

Northampton County Council member Bob Werner represents all the citizens of Northampton County, but is elected by those living in the Easton area. So he could support a jail at Gracedale and lose no sleep over it at election time. But he told me earlier this week that he is opposed to relocated the jail there, would vote against it and had given me permission to say so.

Werner joins a growing list of Council members who are No votes. They include Peg Ferraro and Hayden Phillips.   

I have also heard from a zoning expert familiar with Upper Nazareth Township's zoning ordinance, and this person tells me that any attempt by Northampton County to build a jail at Gracedale would be dead on arrival and that I'm an idiot for even entertaining the notion that the County could argue that it must be permitted because the ordinance is exclusionary. He said there are at least five different areas where a jail would be permitted.   

Stuffed Animals for CRPD

From Agent 69 - On Tuesday, October 10, 2017 Hanover Township Supervisor Michael Prendeville presented the Colonial Regional Police Department with 200+ stuffed animals. Mr. Prendeville personally acquired the stuffed animals from a local company after doing a ride-a-long with Sergeant Michael Enstrom.

Why would cops want stuffed animals? Officers giver them to children who are involved in motor vehicle accidents or witness domestic disputes.

Accepting the animals on behalf of the CRPD was Officer Chris Templeton and Sergeant Michael Enstrom (pictured). Supervisor Chairman John Diacogiannis applauded and acknowledged Mr. Prendeville for his kind donation.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

NorCo Council Candidate Forum Nov 1

Dent: ExIm Bank Needs a Kickstart

Many of you have probably never heard of The ExIm Bank. There are no drive-thrus and you certainly won't see any branches here. But it's the key to our ability to compete on the worldwide stage. ExIm is short for the Export Import Bank  Amazingly, the very people who want to "Make America Great Again" are trying to kill this financial institution Fortunately, Congressman Charlie Dent is trying to rescue this lender before it goes the way of the do do. He and Ohio Congressman Frank Lucas have introduced legislation that will reinvigorate this international economic development tool.

As explained in Foreign Policy, an export import bank is a policy tool used by most countries to facilitate exports. China, for example, is expanding its use of export credits. In America, the use of an export import bank helps level the playing field against foreign competition. But the Koch Brothers and other free market theorists smell heresy, and have embarked on a campaign to end this lender. Scott Garrett, who was nominated by Donald Trump to run this bank, has been one of its fiercest critics.

According to Dent, the Export-Import Bank is unable to provide financing for many investment deals. Its Board of Directors lacks a quorum to move forward with economic investment deals greater than $10 million dollars. Dent estimates that $30 billion in pending deals is in limbo.

"Our bill streamlines the Bank’s loan approval process, eliminating artificial barriers created by political gridlock and putting our country’s businesses back on a level global playing field," explains Lucas. "The bank is a critical lifeline for many manufacturers, large and small, in maintaining their competitiveness in international markets and it is past time that its doors are open” added Dent.

Standing Room Only at Lower Nazareth Meeting on Police Coverage

Yesterday, I was at the first of what should be four budget hearings to review Executive John Brown's spending plan for next year. As a result, I missed the latest attempt to destroy Colonial Regional Police Department at a Lower Nazareth Supervisors' meeting at the elementary school on Newburg Road. Departing Supervisor Eric Nagle wants to replace one of this area's top law enforcement agencies with the Keystone Cops.

Though I missed out on all the fun, Agent 77 was there. He is more succinct than I.

I was at this meeting, and it was standing room only. Mr. Nagle from the very start was belligerent and disrespectful to many speakers as they all praised the CRPD. Every. Single. Person. who spoke was in favor of retaining the CRPD. Mr. Nagle clearly has no interest in listening to his constituents and is pursuing something personal. What that is however I do not know.