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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkeys Away!

Fellow Blogger Untouched Takeaway posted this video clip on her Facebook page, and I had to steal it. It has to be one of the hilarious segments from the funniest TV series that I ever watched, WKRP in Cincinnati.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Makes You Thankful?

I do most of my writing at night, but as you can see, you've got slim pickins today. That's because I spent the night in darkness and cold. I had bought a space heater for my estate, and when I turned it on, I blew everything out. I had to wait until this morning for one of my servants to find and flip the circuit breaker.

My self-inflicted predicament was annoying, but nothing compared to last year, when Hurricane Sandy struck. Many of you who spent day after day in the cold. For the homeless, this is a daily routine.

So I am thankful for electricity. ... and an interesting world.

Brown's Transition Lacks Transparency

Northampton County Executive-elect John Brown is making the rounds, with a notebook in hand, asking some people what they think he should be doing over the next four years. Although I'm sure this is great for their egos, that's about all it us. In contrast to Bob Donchez' very transparent transition team, Brown is keeping everyone in the dark. That's a very bad sign.

Because he has failed to be transparent about his transition team, rumors are circulating. Nasty rumors. One is that car dealer Andy Daub is calling the shots. Another is that it's LV Congressman Charlie Dent. Yet another is that  the NIZ kid, J.B. Reilly, has started mining Northampton County. Worst of all are stories that the LV Partnership, our very own unelected aristocracy, is making its presences known.

I hope these rumors are untrue.  

I see no reason why Daub or Dent would want to get involved in internal County matters. Dent does not live here, and Daub's chief interest has always been pretty much limited to the preservation of the County's history. Neither has seemed to care much about the day-to-day affairs.

The possibility that J.B Reilly is involved worries me. His only interest in government is how much money it can make for him.

Finally, the people did not elect the LV Partnership. They elected Brown.

Like Donchez, Brown needs to be much more open about his transition.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy! The World's First 24-Hour Music Video

I'm no music buff, but I love kids' movies. I really wanted to see Despicable Me 2, but my 14 year-old grandson seems to have outgrown them. I can do the next best thing. I can see one of the songs from that movie, Pharrell Williams "Happy". It has just been published on the Internet as the world's first 2-hour music video.

The same song, over and over, for 24 hours.

And I love it.

Shot in LA neighnborhoods, it includes a host of 400 unknowns. You also get cameos from Steve Martin, Magic Johnson, Steve Carrell, Jamie Fox and Jimmy Kimmel.

You can't help watching it without felling ... well ... happy.

Above is a small clip.

Bob Donchez Makes Two Excellent Picks

I was unable to attend yesterday's Bob Donchez news conference, in which he announced two important appointments to his sanctum sanctorum - Northampton County's Alicia Karner as DCED Director, and Bethlehem Attorney Bill Leeson as City Solicitor. These are excellent picks, a sign of good judgment from the Bethlehem Mayor elect.

Alicia Karner

I know Alicia Karner best so let me start with her. As most of you know, I'm more than willing to mix it up with anyone, from Edwin Pawlowski to, most recently, Lehigh County Comm'r Vic Mazziotti. But Alicia scares the shit out of me. I admit it. She's always acted professionally, but knows exactly what is going on. She also happens to be a jock. She earned eleven varsity letters at Bangor High School and went on to play Division I field hockey before graduating from the UNC at Wilmington with a degree in Political Science.

Karner won election to Bangor Borough Council, served as its President, and then ended up working for State Senator Lisa Boscola. Along the way, she developed an interest in both community and economic development, As a member of the County's most impoverished community outside of the cities, she started serving on the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley board, eventually becoming its President. She also was selected by Executive John Stoffa to administer his economic development program in Northampton County. 

Alicia has been deeply involved in both downtown revitalization projects as well as other job creation projects. She helped usher in Charlie Chrin's Route 33 TIF, which is expected to eventually bring 5,500 jobs to this area. Presentations that she orchestrated even persuaded Ron Angle, a foe of economic development handouts, to support the project.  She even got me on Charlie Chrin's side, something I never thought would happen.

While doing all this, Karner also administered the County's Gaming Authority.

Her biggest achievement, though, and one of which she should be very proud, are her three children. On election night, the Karner family had its own annual election for Karner House President. There was even some dirty campaigning.

Alicia is a very good pick for Bethlehem as DCED Director. But her loss will be felt at Northampton County.

What Happens to Joe Kelly?

Bethlehem's current DCED Director, Joe Kelly, is out. Donchez has the right and really, the obligation, to put his own stamp on City government. As good a person as Joe is, Bob can't do that with incumbent Mayor John Callahan's right hand man. There would always be a question of loyalty.

As an attorney with an impressive resume, I believe Joe should have no problem landing on his feet.

One rumor floating around is that Willie Reynolds will try to install Joe on City Council as Donchez' replacement. This seems like an effort to undermine Donchez, not good government. Nor is it particularly good for Joe Kelly down the road. Reynolds has the votes to do this, I'm sure. But isn't it time to stop playing politics and start governing?

Bill Leeson

They say you can't fight City Hall, but I have fought several battles with the County. I did so when I challenged Northampton County's $111 million megabond under former Executive Glenn Reibman. I won the first battle, thanks in large part to the efforts of Easton Attorneys Charlie Smith and Brian Monahan. Along the way, we made law. We got a Commonwealth Court ruling in our favor on the Sunshine Act, with a ruling that a judge had improperly made arguments not advanced by the county. We also got an important Supreme Court ruling that bond proposals must be real, and be accompanied by realistic cost estimates.

We lost the second round, in which the fight was that public money was being used to fund private projects. I think we might have had a shot with the Supreme Court, but we just ran out of money.

Our opponent in this legal war was Bill Leeson.

He impressed the hell out of me. He would write an excellent and terse brief, but had an uncanny knack in oral argument of putting things in a slightly different way that would completely throw us off our game.

Throughout this battle, which became quite heated at times, Leeson always remained a gentleman. He always kept his word, except for that one time when he told me the Supreme Court had moved to Phillipsburg and I should just wait there for oral argument.

He knows municipal law inside out, and like his brother and father, will be an excellent City Solicitor. 

Class all the way.

What happens to Jack Spirk?

Like Joe Kelly, Jack has to go. He was a trusted confidante to Bethlehem mayor John Callahan, and knows that Donchez needs his own consigliere. Jack was an excellent Assistant DA, and I know this better than most because he kicked my ass several times. He loves teaching, and can continue that profession and can walk through numerous other doors. 

As is the case with Joe Kelly, a rumor floating around that Spirk will be installed as the next City Council Solicitor, replacing long time Solicitor Chris Spadoni. I don't understand why Council would replace a neutral and effective Solicitor with someone who is known as Callahan's right arm. I thought Callahan was term-limited.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is Barack Obama the Neville Chamberlain of the U.S.?

According to Slate, the Geneva accord is a "good deal" that "makes it impossible for the Iranians to make any further progress toward making a nuclear weapon in the next six months—and, if the talks break down after that, and the Iranians decide at that point to start building a nuclear arsenal, it will take them much longer to do so." Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu agrees, but calls it a great deal for Iran.

It's a sad commentary on our President, but I trust Netanyahu over a guy who couldn't even get his facts right over Obamacare. I tend to agree that it is a "historic mistake.," Obama looks to me like the Neville Chamberlain of the United States.

The Gangs of Bethlehem

The Callahan Clan
Bethlehem Mayor-Elect Bob Donchez will announce some of his major cabinet appointments at 11 am today. I'd be there except for two things. First, it's hard for me to get away in the middle of a work day. Second, I already know the members of his dream team. I found out Friday by hiding in a closet in John Morganelli's house as he, Donchez, and the Gang of Eight made the decision. Donchez and Morganelli, two gang members, play poker at Morganelli's house every other Friday night.

I'll tell you about the Dream Team below, but this little story is about the Gang of Eight.

Not one of them takes a shit without getting clearance from every other member.

Who is this Gang of Eight, you might ask? They are the leaders of the James Delgrosso faction of the Democratic party in Bethlehem. In 2003, they were at the losing end of a gang war for control of Bethlehem.

The ultimate victor, the Callahan Clan, is led by Mayor John Callahan.

It was a wild war disguised as a Mayoral race involving several other smaller gangs. The Flying Dutchmen, led by Ron Heckman, flew away when Ron discovered his candidacy violated the Hatch Act. The Hatchet Gang, led by Tony Ryback, gained some notoriety when he actually brought a hatchet to a debate. And who could forget the Goofball Gang, led by current state prison inmate Jim Gregory? In addition to scaling fences and chasing Rendell campaign buses, Gregory was eventually locked out of his own campaign offices after one union realized he is insane.

Every member of the Gang of Eight wears a St. Michael's medal.

Jim Delgrosso: "St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our protector. Against the snares. And the wickedness of the devil. John Callahan, too. Now son, who's that?

Donchez: "St. Michael."

Delgrosso: "Who is it?"

Donchez: "St. Michael."

Delgrosso: "And what did he do?"

Donchez: "He cast Satan out of Paradise. Callahan, too."

Delgrosso: "Good boy."

OK, OK, but who are they? I've already mentioned Donchez and Morganelli, who started their apprenticeship many years ago in the world of South Bethlehem politics. In those days, there really were bagmen, including Committeemen who would sell their support to the highest bidder. Bob emerged from that world as a boy scout, while Morganelli is District Attorney. State Senator Lisa Boscola, who emerged from that world as well, is the third member.

Then there's Leeson brothers Bill and Jay, two of the finest lawyers in the Lehigh Valley. Another excellent attorney, municipal attorney Jim Broughal, is part of this mix. As a Vietnam War vet, Broughal likes to keep a low profile.

Francis "Butch" Macri is another member of this inner circle. I don't know much about him except that his head is as big as a Sputnik, and has its own solar system.

Finally, there's the Pope. But he's ex officio.

These are the guys who decided on Donchez' dream team.

The Bob Donchez Dream Team

Though Bethlehem Mayor-elect Bob Donchez will make things official at 11 am, I'll let you know now what his Gang of Eight have already decided.

DCED Director. - Although Alicia Karner (Northampton County DCED) reportedly has the inside track, the job has actually been offered to J..B. "the NIZ kid" Reilly of Allentown NIZ fame. Instead of a salary, he gets a cut of whatever business he steals from surrounding municipalities.

Police Chief. -  That will go to Jim Gregory. Sure, he's in the can now, but is a political prisoner who is building bonds with the Bloods and the Crips. What could possibly go wrong?

Fire Commissioner. - Jim Schlener. He will also be appointed as Lehigh Valley Drug Taskforce liaison. He's planning on a kegger every Friday at Payrow Plaza.

Director of Parks. - Charlie Chrin. Hey, it's industrial parks, baby!

Planning Director. - Abe Atiyeh. Intimately familiar with both planning and zoning in several LV municipalities, Atiyeh has finally abandoned the idea of drug and alcohol rehabs. Instead, there will be LED billboards up and down Main Street, Broad Street, New Street, oh what the hell, every street.

Solicitor. You may have heard this is going to Bill Leeson, but I received word they want me. Sure, I'm disbarred, but Gregory claims Bethlehem can make its own rules.

Animal Control Officer. - Ron Angle. Angle wants to have stray dogs reclassified as coyotes so everyone can shoot them and collect a bounty. "Problem solved," he says. "Anybody wanna' buy some shit?"

Comm'r defends "Catholic" Vote Against Same Sex Benefits

The first time that Lehigh County Commissioner Vic Mazziotti voted against same sex benefits, it was supposedly because Pennsylvania law does not yet recognize same sex marriages. Not only does it increasingly appear that Mazziotti will be proven wrong on that point, but same sex benefits and same sex marriage are two different animals. I suspected then that what really prompted Mazziotti was intolerance.

That suspicion was confirmed the second time Mazziotti voted against same sex benefits. This time, he was supposedly prompted by his religious beliefs. "I'm a Catholic, and in the Catholic Church individual members of the church aren't permitted to determine what is appropriate and not appropriate. ... The church's position on same-sex marriage is clear. They do not support it. Were I to vote for this, I would be cooperating with behavior that my church does not condone. … No faithful Catholic could vote for this amendment." That's bullshit, too. Mazziotti was now hiding behind the black robes of his pastor to justify intolerance.

A bit thin skinned when he's criticized, Mazziotti has decided to let me have it at my Lehigh Valley Discource blog entry. He thinks I'm calling him names. I think he's intolerant and a bit hypocritical to discuss same sex benefits with his pastor without bothering to discuss other important issues like feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Under his thinking, admission at Cedarbrook should be denied to every gay resident. His logic would require that benefits be denied to any couple who has experienced infidelity. After all, that's a sin, too.

The Allentown Diocese has already staked out a position on this matter, and did so during the debate leading up to the Human Relations Commission in Bethlehem. It is only concerned about laws that directly affect religious institutions.

Here's part of our exchange:

Mazziotti: "Bernie: I discussed this issue with my pastor before I voted. My vote reflects the Catholic position. To say that it does not reflect the Catholic position is not the truth. Vic Mazziotti"

O'Hare: "The pope reflects the Catholic position, not you. While homosexuality is regarded as a sin [if practiced], the Church would never [back] a governmental decision that [doesn't treat] all of us the same. In fact, the church treats all of us the same. You are a sinner. Under your logic, you should be denying benefits to anyone who is in a state of sin. That's just sheer nonsense. What you are really promoting is intolerance, and are invoking religion to justify it."

Mazziotti: "Bernie: as I said, I talked to my pastor before I voted. What is your source for your comment that my vote did not represent the Catholic position? Did you ever consider doing some research before you started calling people names? Or would that be sheer nonsense too? Vic Mazziotti"

O'Hare: "Vic, I don't believe I called you any name. If you want me to do so, I can, but I did not. I pointed out that you never mentioned any religious dissent the first time you voted against this. I also add that someone so concerned about religion, as you now pretend to be, would be so willing to support a man [Scott Ott] who was more than willing to cut off funding for our impoverished elderly. Did you discuss that with your pastor? Therein lies your hypocrisy.

I said you are wrong, that your Pastor is wrong (if he really said what you claim he said) and your thinking is intolerant. Finally, it is logically inconsistent.

The source I am relying on is Pope Francis, as well as the New Testamant. Even the Catholic Conference of Bishops has begun to relax in response to Pope Francis. And if the New Testament teaches anything, it is that love trumps sin. You may hate the sin, but you love the sinner.

It is one thing to say that a person who engages in homosexual acts is committing a sin. I understand that. I also understand that a Catholic Church should not be forced into taking positions in its own workplace or at its schools that will allow that sin.

This secular proposal does nothing of the sort. The same sex benefits principle simply means we are all equal in the eyes of the law. Just as in the eyes of the Catholic Church, we are all equal.

Under your thinking, the County would have to look at whether the benefits plan in question violates your tender Catholic sensibilities. If a man cheats on his wife, then she must be denied benefits under your thinking. After all, that goes against the Catholic grain. It is a slippery slope, and you are riding it to logico ad absurdum.

So let me summarize. Your argument is anti-Catholic. It is intolerant. You are using your faith to hide your intolerance. Your thinking is contrary to the sentiments of the Pope and New Testament. For someone who prides himself on logical thinking, it is incredibly illogical.

How interesting that you would hide behind your pastor's black robes to justify intolerance. But you don't bother speaking to the Church when it comes to cutting off food to the needy.

This is not Catholic thinking. It is not Thomas More. I am disappointed in your thinking and in you as a person.

On top of everything else, you have now opened the doors to those who hate Catholics.

Well done.

Last time you spoke to me, you told me to go to Hell and that you did not want to talk to me anymore. So why are you even here?

Mazziotti: "You hate to deal with facts, don't you Bernie. Saying that I am hiding behind my pastor, and suggesting that I made it up, is typical Bernie low class behavior. So, let's see who is telling the truth. I suggest that we go see my pastor and you can ask him if the position I took reflects the position of the Catholic Church. If he tells you I am wrong, I will write a check to Meals on Wheels for $500. But, if he tells you I am right, you write a check to Meals on Wheels for $500. Deal? Put your money where you mouth is Bernie! Or are you all talk? Vic Mazziotti 

O'Hare: "I am not saying that you are hiding behind your pastor. That is objectively what you have done. The first time you voted against this measure, you hid behind the law, though it increasingly is apparent that you are wrong on that point. The second time you voted against this measure, you hid behind your religion and your pastor. In both votes, what really motivated you is obviously intolerance. The law and religion are just convenient excuses.

I do not deny that you spoke to your Pastor. I do question what he told you, or whether you made clear what you were asking him. In any event, he is not the elected representative of Lehigh county. You are. You used religion as a cover.

I do not dispute that you spoke to your Pastor, so why would I bet you on that point? I do dispute what you told him, and what he told you. I dispute this because you are wrong to claim that an across the board denial of same sex benefits by a public employer is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is actually your vote, which does not treat us all as children of God, that is contrary to Catholic thinking.

Did you ask your pastor whether you should deprive Meals on Wheels? Is the Allentown Diocese ready to actually do its job and feed the hungry? Or are you too busy ferreting out queers?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey Crosses Obama's Red Line

President Obama is growing increasingly irate at a Thanksgiving Turkey on the White House grounds, and has warned its noisy antics have crossed the red line. So he plans to convene a joint session of Congress to authorize a military strike. In the meantime, Russian Badass Vladimir Putin is claiming he would eat the turkey live, feathers and all.

Northampton County Graduates Its Second Citizens' Academy

Meet Northampton County's 2013 Citizens' Academy
A walk along the Nor-Bath trail. Tennis at Louise Moore Park. A drive over a bridge on your way to work. A call to 911. The Route 33 Interchange exit coming to Tatamy. A District Attorney's news conference about elder abuse. A call about an abused child.  Ensuring that ten gallons are really going into your gas tank. Gracedale. Mosquito control. Open Space. Though barely noticed, these are some of the many services provided by Northampton County government. Twenty-two Northampton County residents now understand what is often called the forgotten government. They were honored at a November 21 Council meeting as the second graduating class of the Northampton county Citizens' Academy.

Dr. Wandalyn Enix will volunteer for Prison Advisory Board
Executive John Stoffa, who called the academy a "terrific idea," credited Bethlehem resident Tom Miller for the I program. "This is the guy who started this problem," Stoffa joked. Miller graduated from Bethlehem's Citizens' Academy in 2009, and urged the County to start one, too.

This year's class went through 20 hours of lectures, listening to 37 speakers over the course of 10 weeks. Among those professors was Council President John Cusick. He said that, for years, the only thing he knew about the County was that it provides the voting machines and gave him a marriage license.

"I vote and I'm still married, so I figured the county must still be working," he quipped.

Graduates Mat Benol and Glenn Geissinger were just elected to Council
Things got off year to a bad start this year. Solicitor Dan Spengler was showing a centuries old patent deed embossed with William Penn's seal when suddenly, the lights went out, shrouding the entire class in darkness.

Was it one of the courthouse ghosts rumored to walk the halls nightly?  The ghost of a person hung at the courthouse during the 1880's?

"We started in the dark, but now we can see," quipped Moore Township's Matt Miles, regarded as the youngest graduate.

Matt Miles is the youngest graduate
This class also included Bethlehem's Dr. Wandalyn Enix, who just retired from Montclair State. She told Council that county government is full of "dedicated people," especially at the 911 Center. She mentioned that one 911 worker told her that he comes to work every day excited. "The way he said it, you could feel it," she remarked.  In addition to sharing some of the history she learned, Dr. Eniz expressed sympathy for the County as it deals with increasing cuts in human services grants from the state.

This year's graduating class also include Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol, who were elected by the voters on November 5 to a four-year term as County Council members.  Joan Dean, a former president of the Northampton County, is another grad.

But the most important student was Donna Terrio, who with her husband runs the courthouse cafeteria. She brought cake.
Exec John Stoffa credits Bethlehem's Tom Miller for recommending a Citizen's Academy to the County.
The graduates: Joe Baier; Mat Benol; Marie Daud; Joan Dean; Wandalyn Enix; Rodney Freyman; Sharon Garretson; Glenn Geissinger; Rosalind Graddy; Vincent Jairdullo; Louise Kelchner; Wendy Leap; Kristi Malaret; Jennifer Mickolay; Matt Miles; Carole O'Connell; James Picot; Bill Stankewicz; Donna Terrio; Penny Vantassel; Maximo Vasquez; and Jamie Yochum.

NorCo Turnout Analysis: The Dems Stayed Home

Now that the final count has been done in Northampton County, it is possible to examine the turnout data by party.

Total Turnout. - Only 38,977 of 198,793 registered voters, or 19.6%, cast a ballot on November 5.

Democratic Turnout. - Just 19,288 of 96,359 registered Democrats, or 20.01%  showed up.

Republic Turnout. - 16,674 of 66,749 registered Republicans, or 24.98%, were at the polls.

Executive candidate John Callahan received 17,532 votes, making it likely that 1,756 of the 19,288 voting Democrats cast their ballot for Brown or did not vote n that race.

Basketball Time!

It was a tough Fall for my grandson, Dat. Becahi might be Division Champs, but its 8th grade football team managed to lose all eight of its games. Badly. My grandson never played on a losing team before. I know he was frustrated, but he hung in there, as did the rest of the kids.

They have nowhere to go but up. When they played the Emmaus powerhouse, the Lil' Hawks actually outscored the Green Hornets in the second half.

They'll be better next year.

But it's hoops time, so Dat is smiling again. He's on three teams this year. He plays for Notre Dame's CYO, Craig Golden's 'Canes team and AAU. In fact, he's already been to a few tournaments.

He's learned everything he knows from Suki, a Jack-a-Poo (half poodle, half terrier) who prefers to think of herself as the Captain Danger of designer dogs. She has a mean crossover, but is unable to dribble with her left paw.

Her favorite sport is football.

Defensive corner.

Once the ball is snapped, she is coming at you and won't rest until you're down. Kids drop the ball and just run away when she's coming.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Struggling Deli Owner Granted Expansion, Longer Hours

Like many small businesses, Tomino's Deli is struggling. During his 14 years at 1037 Main Street, sub shop owner Bill Tomino has been required to close by 6 PM nightly while other places can set their own hours. He tried to supplement his income with late-night deliveries to Moravian students, but was thwarted by a cease-and-desist order. Since 2010, he's been operating at a loss. Forced to sell his Bethlehem Township home, he now lives by his Main Street property.

Things have been tough, but thanks to a 3 to 1 decision by the Zoning Hearing Board at their November 20 meeting, Tomino now has a fighting chance. He'll now be able to operate his deli shop from 10 am to 11 pm seven days a week. What's more, he will be allowed to double his shop size from its current 540 sq ft so that he can offer some hot food and even provide a few tables for patrons.

"How do you support a family out of a 540 sq ft shop making hoagies?" asked Attorney Joe Piperato,  representing Tomino.

According to Tomino, he compared his shop to three nearby restaurants in the largely residential neighborhood. They all can set their own hours. They all serve hot food. their customers can dine in. He likened his deli shop to a high school team trying to compete against the NFL. "If I can't compete, I won't exist," he told zoners.

But a small and very vocal army of neighbors opposed Tomino over the course of a 90-minute hearing.

Martha Popichak told zoners she owns a turn-of-the-century home with a fresh coat of paint. "This is not the kind of person you want operating a business across the street," she complained. Her husband Andrew predicted that property values would drop "while he blows smoke over the neighborhood from his deep fat fryers."

Tomino had previously told zoners that he would install exhaust fans for a grill and fryer, but they would be located between two of his own buildings

Grace Kelleher, who has lived in the area for 59 years, told zoners that Tomino has been a bad neighbor, and ticked off a litany of complaints. It took him four months to remove a broken tree limb after Hurricane Sandy caused electric wires to slap onto her roof shingles, breaking some of them. It also took him until June to replace the sign torn from his property during the hurricane. "I find it to be an eyesore," she testified, as Tomino shook his head.

Under cross examination, Kelleher conceded that her abutting property is actually a garage, not a residence.

But one neighbor, and one who has been a Tomino customer for the past four years, supported the expansion request. "Everybody deserves a shot," argued Joel Dellinger. "I prefer to just be able to walk to a restaurant in my neighborhood."

"Do you rent?" shouted out one of the homeowners opposed to Tomino, but an objection to that qestion was sustained while Dellinger told his inquisitor that it was none of her business.

Piperato told zoners that Tomino has a vested constitutional right to expand his business, quoting from a Supreme Court ruling that a zoning ordinance "which would allow the housing of a baby elephant cannot evict the animal when it has grown up, since it is generally known that a baby elephant eventually becomes a big elephant."

"I don't think it's going to become a big elephant," Piperato added.

After twenty minutes of deliberation, Tomino was granted both expanded space and expanded business hours. Only Zoning Hearing Board member Michael Santanasto voted to deny relief.

Moravian Hits Home Run With Bethlehem Zoners

If you lived next to a baseball field, wouldn't you want something protecting you from errant foul balls and line drives? That's what Moravian College officials thought, and for that reason they decided to erect a black vinyl coated chain link fence along their third base line. Bethlehem's Zoning Ordinance allows six foot fences, but they wanted one a little higher. Thirty feet higher, to be exact. So Moravian needed what is called a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board.

During a November 20 hearing, VP Mark Reed explained the college is concerned about safety, and told zoners that there are least five incidents every season in which an errant ball smashes through a window or dents a car. "We've been lucky so far," he observed. "There hasn't been a child involved.

Colleen Marsh, who lives next to the diamond on Center Street, told zoners she sustained $1,000 in damages over the last two years. This includes a line drive that beaned her car as she was driving. Moravian paid for the damage, but decided to be more proactive. "Maybe our baseball players are getting better," remarked Doug Plotts, the College's Facilities Director.

Moravian finished its 2013 baseball season with a 24-19 record.

But some residents would rather see a smashed window than a 36' high chain link fence.

Warren Wagner, who lives near the ball field, told zoners he can live with a smashed window. "No big deal. But I can't live with a 36' high fence."

Echoing Wagner, Center Street resident Kevin Craig told zoners that even prisons don't have 36' high fences, and worried that some child or teen would fall while climbing it. "If you break a window, that's fine; but if somebody falls off a fence that high, I don't think that would be good."

Though college officials were seeking permission to extend the fence down the entire third base line, they told neighbors they would approach it incrementally, building only as much as is needed to ensure safety. They also explained there would be a gateway through the fence at the third base dug out.

Wagner and Craig struck out with zoners. But Moravian hit a home run, and was granted relief in a unanimous vote by four members the Zoning Hearing Board. Linda Shay Gardner was absent.

In addition to Moravian College, Lehigh University was also successful in a zoning appeal. It wants to move its Small Business development center from South Mountain to the old St. Joseph's rectory at 416 E. 5th Street. But because the rectory was both an office and a residence, Lehigh needed and obtained what is called a use variance, which will permit the property to be used exclusively for office space.

Architect Julia Parker told zoners that the the center will employ five people full time, with part-time positions held by 8-10 students.  A nearby property, owned by Lehigh, will serve as their parking lot.

Ron Angle Runs Out of Bullshit

People want to know why I wasn't at Ron Angle's Upper Mount Bethel estate for the anti-shit protest outside his property yesterday. Even the Emperor himself called and asked me to come up and help him taunt them. But I was busy. Yesterday was Wednesday, and that's the day I spend evicting widows and orphans from Angle's properties. I admit I would have enjoyed making catcalls and mooning the shit haters. But humiliating old ladies and orphans is just too much fun.

I did catch the Channel 69 news account, and was shocked to learn that Angle has run out of bullshit. I thought he had an endless supply.

Ron plans to use biosolids, i.e. human shit, to fertilize his farmlands.

According to Penn State research, it's safe. All 50 states allow it. In fact, Angle tells me one of his friends stopped by for a shit sandwich on his way to work.

In any event, something like this is the perfect way for him to re-enter the political realm. If the protesters would have just waited a day, they could have caught him in his General Patton uniform, which was delivered by UPS later that day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Break Out the Birkenstocks!

Lehigh's very own Communist fiefdom - the ill-named "South Side Initiative" - is all lathered up about plans to sell the Bethlehem's "Maze Garden" to developer Dennis Benner.  I guess there's no other place on earth where things will grow.

So it's strap on those Birkenstocks time. Since last Friday, SSI folks have been drinking herbal tea, kool-aid and meeting at South Side coffee shops to focus their outrage at the Benner proposal to actually invest money in Bethlehem's South side. The nerve of that guy!  An email blast from SSI Comrade Kim Carrell-Smith sought "grassroots activists with a sense of outrage and willingness to oppose the power structure."

The sky is falling!

Power to the people, right on!

You may raise your fists in unison now.

The hell with anyone who actually wants to make a significant private sector investment on the South Side. Yup, John Pettegrew, Moglen, Morgan and the cast of usual suspects were mobilizing for a protest at last night's Bethlehem City Council meeting. Another email blast moans about the traffic and noise these developments would bring to the South Side, and how "disturbing" this would be to current residents.

For a window into SSI's commitment to the economic development of the South Side, here's a link to their web site's South Side "Development Overview." So devoted to the redevelopment of the South Side are the comrades at SSI, their web page has not been updated in nearly seven years!

But last night, Lehigh's borderline Bolsheviks used their iPhones to find Town Hall, instead of going to The Promenade for Thai.

Never mind that there are hundreds of locations to move the garden with minimal impact on Lehigh and the neighborhood, including a real community garden just proposed at the Leckonby Estate.

With the exception of Karen Dolan, City Council refused to buy into the bullshit and voted to sell a sliver of land that was only supposed to be a temporary garden.

Medical Marijuana, Anyone?

State Senators Daylin Leach, a Democrat, and Mike Folmer, a republican, have introduced a bill that will legalize the use of an oil from the marijuana plant for medicinal purposes. Instead of the reefer madness we've all come to know and love, this oil contains no THC. So what's the point? Apparently, it helps children suffering from epilepsy.

Although he has not had a seizure in several years, my grandson has had several of these experiences. For years, he was on a medication that is highly narcotic. This has to be better.

Governor tom Corbett would prefer to wait until the Food and Drug Administration weighs in, but that's like waiting for a glacier.

In a letter to Corbett, Leach explains what he means:
Garrett Brann is a 3-year old little boy who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, which is a form of epilepsy. He suffers up to 100 seizures per day. He takes a cocktail of very toxic and addictive drugs that have severe side effects. These drugs do not typically work very well and aren't working for Garrett.

What does work for children with Dravet's is Charlotte's Web, an oil derived from the cannabis plant. This oil is high in cannabinoids (CBDs) which help the children with epilepsy, but contain insufficient levels of THC to intoxicate anyone who uses it. In other words, Charlotte's Web cannot get someone "high". Charlotte's Web has dramatically reduced or eliminated the seizures in children who have had access to it, without side effects, without intoxication, and without addiction. With this medicine, Garrett has a chance at a normal life. Without it, he will die.
Isn't it time to lighten up? I mean, the worst drug in the world is alcohol and I can get that now at Wegmans.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Is Obama Done?

Internationally, President Obama has been played by Putin and has angered one of our strongest allies. Domestically, his vaunted Obamacare rollout has been a bust. Fast on the heels of a malfunctioning web page comes the news that the President has broken his "If you like your health plan, keep it" promise. Now it is beginning to appear that his "if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor" claim may very well be his next broken promise.

His approval rating is down to 42%, with 63% of Americans disgusted by the way he's handled the Affordable Care Act rollout.

Here's my question. Does Obama have any political clout left for immigration reform? Or an actual budget?

I believe he has made himself a lame duck already.

NorCo Deputy Sheriffs Save My Friend's Life

I have known Rich Schaedler all my life. He and I both grew up in Hellertown together, and got to know each other during pick-up ball games. We graduated from college together, and were even admitted to the bar at the same time in 1978. He still lives in Hellertown, ushers at St. Theresa's, and makes one of the meanest kiffles around. Although he did do a stint on the Saucon Valley School Board, he has mostly avoided the limelight. You don't see his name mentioned in any murder cases. He's a real estate lawyer, and one of the few I know who can actually still search a title. About the only time he gets excited is when he starts talking about the Mets, the Flyers or national politics.

We have our own "Hi Five" sign whenever we see each other, in which we both miss.

On Friday morning, while at the courthouse to present a motion, Rich was stricken by a massive heart attack.

His heart stopped, and he would be dead today were it not for alert Deputy Sheriffs who were trained to and did defibrillate him.  On his way to Easton Hospital, his heart stopped twice again. He was placed in an induced coma, and apparently came out of it successfully and somewhat miraculously. I stopped by to see him Monday late afternoon, but he was sound asleep. I then realized that just seeing me might kill him, so I left.

If you can think of it, please say a prayer for Rich. You probably have more clout than I do.

Rich practices law with Kevin Kelleher, a Princeton grad.

Many moons ago, there was an ornery old civil defense lawyer named Jackson Sigmon. A Nuremberg prosecutor after the war, he was almost as nasty as me. And a Republican in Bethlehem. But he loved Lehigh wrestling, and wanted to see them wrestle at Princeton.

"How do I get to Princeton?" he snarled to Kelleher.

"Study hard," was Kevin's reply.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Northampton Community College to Double Student Housing

Att'y Bill Murphy
When Northampton Community College starts its 2015 school year, it will have double the housing that's currently available. Bethlehem Township Commissioners, at their November 18 meeting, unanimously approved plans for an 87,000 sq ft, 2-story dorm building at the college campus along the northeast corner of Hecktown and Green Pond Roads. Nearly 800 students who currently commute have expressed a desire for student housing. Moreover, 1.4% of the student population are considered "international" students, and have no driver's licenses.

Easton Attorney Bill Murphy, representing the college, presented evidence that the amount of increased traffic from this expansion would be incidental. Engineer Michael Jeitner told Commissioners there would be 12-15 additional trips during peak hours. Commissioners were told that increased student housing would actually ease traffic to and from the campus by taking commuters off the road.

Northampton Community College is the only facility in the state that offers funeral service education, and one of few offering a dental hygiene program.

Stating he lives only a "stone's throw" from the college, Commissioner Tom Nolan stated there has never been an issue with residents at the college, and called the plan an asset, not just to the college, but to the Township as well.

Only resident Barry Roth expressed any concerns about the project, noting that the pedestrian crossings on Green Road Road, which will be used by students going from the dorm to the main campus, are inadequate. He noted students walk into the street without looking, and a nearby treeline makes it difficult for motorists to spot them. "Somebody's gonna' get hurt because they are not looking," he warned. He suggested a tunnel or an overhead walkway.

Jeitner responded that college officials are currently meeting with PennDOT to assess and address student and driver safety on Green Pond Road.

Construction on this project, estimated to cost between $17-18 million, is expected to start next March.

Att'y Blake Marles
In other business, Commissioners granted Attorney Blake Marles' request to waive a $475,000 traffic impact fee at St. Luke's Hospital Riverside medical Complex because of numerous improvements made by the hospital. They also agreed to a County request to consolidate two lots at Louise Moore park, one of which had been reserved as a life estate.

Commissioners also unanimously authorized Acting Township Manager Doug Bruce to inform Northampton County that they recommend a proposal to purchase the Leckonby Estate and Central Moravian Church parcels as a preserve, park and community garden. Those tracts are located next to Housenick Park, which is owned by the township. All of these parcels were once owned by Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first mayor. "It can only benefit our citizens," noted Commissioner Michael Hudak.

Finally, Commissioners considered a Red Cross proposal to use the community center as an emergency shelter during a natural catastrophe. Though all are in agreement, Hudak noted there is no back-up generator at the site. Solicitor Jim Broughal indicated he would discuss this problem with the Red Cross, and would also get feedback from officials at the community center.

Bethlehem Township Expects No Tax Hike in 2014

(Boy Scout Troop 317's Chris Duh, Ryan Hill, Andrew Morales, Alec Lutz, Joshua Lutz and Shawn Ryer, ages 11 and 12, ensured that Bethlehem Township Commissioners adhered to Roberts' Rules of Order at their November 18 meeting)

Though it won't be official until Commissioners adopt the 2014 Budget on December 16, it appears that Bethlehem Township taxpayers will dodge a tax hike next year. The sewer rates will remain the same, too. Finance Director Andrew Freda has unveiled a proposed budget for next year which keeps the tax millage rate steady at 5.99 mills. Under this spending plan, the annual tax bill for a home assessed at $85,000 will be about $509.

At their November 18 meeting, Commissioners unanimously agreed to advertise the budget, which will also be available for inspection at the Municipal Building.

The $17 million spending plan includes funds for two entry-level police officers who were selected out of a field of 400 applicants. It also includes a $683,000 payment on existing debt.

Bethlehem Township has gone without a tax hike since 2009.

NIZ Board Chair: Subsidies Only Belong to the Rich

Sy Traub
When a business holds its hand out for all kinds of subsidies, isn't it only fair for the public to ask for something in return? Something that benefits them? In economic development parlance, this is called a clawback. CACLV Executive Director Alana Jennings has proposed such a clawback in Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). He wants to see the tax incentives extended to developers in that special tax zone to also apply to employers who are willing to pay a living wage to people who really could use the money. But NIZ Board Chair Sy Traub huffs to The Morning Call that Jennings' proposal would manipulate the free market.


The very idea of the NIZ manipulates the free market. It extends tax incentives to developers like J.B. Reilly that are given to no one else. It puts them on an uneven footing with other local developers renting office space or hotels.

Reilly can use the state taxes generated by his project to both drive down rents below the "free market". He can both entice tenants and use those same taxes to pay for the construction of his buildings. If the market were truly free, National Penn would still be in Boyertown. Lehigh Valley Hospital would be building their new medical building somewhere else.

Let's face it. The NIZ already is a gigantic welfare project. But right now, school books are being taken away from Allentown first graders so that J.B. Reilly can build another in-house basketball court at his Saucon Valley estate. Sy Traub has no problem taking from the poor to give to the rich.

And Sy's an "honorous" man.

But let's not help the people who actually need it.

A Northampton County Mountain Man

Did you know there are still areas in Northampton County that are just as isolated and remote as when Lenni Lenape was the chief language spoken? I was in such an area last week, when I met a mountain man who lives in Danielsville. I barely survived to tell the tale.

A few weeks ago, I was hired by a Bethlehem lawyer over a dispute this mountain man is having with his new neighbors. After moving here from Jersey, they immediately proceeded to block off one of his roads. In doing so, they also made it impossible for him to get to some of his other land, at least by conventional means.

For reasons unknown to me, the mountain man went to court instead of just shoving the boulders away. 

My job was to look through the chains of title to see if there is some reference to these roads, which would create an implied easement. My problem was that this guy owns a gazillion acres with just as many roads, so I needed to see the one being blocked. The lawyer contacted his client so I'd be able to come up and look without getting shot. The mountain man agreed and up I came.

As a title searcher, I do myself no favors when I have to call someone and tell him I can't find his property, especially when he owns a gazillion acres. So I made sure to install a GPS into my iPhone so I wouldn't get lost and look like an idiot.

But after driving up and down several dirt roads and going through "Do Not Enter" signs, I was completely bewildered. What made matters worse were the ponds that came right up to the edges of these roads. I finally surrendered, and called the mountain man. He came out on a four-wheeler and led me back to his place through what looked to me like numerous deer trails.

Once I got out of my car, I was met by a dog that was about 18' tall, growling, and sizing me up for dinner. The mountain man barked some commands to the dog, who decided against eating me.

For the moment.

Then Fess Parker took me to the blocked road, but on his ATV. He sped off the moment I had one leg on. He had to stop periodically because I bounced out about three times. After showing me the blocked road, he just had to show me the lands he can no longer access by ordinary means. We flew over marshes and bogs. I fell out of his ATV again. 

After showing me a barn that he's been unable to finish, he was ready to go back. But I told him there was no frickin' way I was going to go through that marsh again, and said we should just use the goddamn road.

"But wouldn't that be trespassing?" the mountain man asked.

"Look, they're from Jersey. I doubt they even own a gun. But even if they start shooting, I'd still be safer than on that hellride."

He smiled at the thought of being shot at, and off we plowed through the blocked off road. We went through pretty quickly, with the 18' dog following us and barking away.

Nobody shot us.

Right by this guy's house is yet another gigantic, stream-fed pond, full of catfish and trout. While I waited for everything to stop circling, he reached into a bucket in which he had chunks of either deer meat or the last title searcher to run into his dog. He threw them into the pond. Up came catfish bigger than Moby Dick, chomping away on venison.

Now I have a Vietnamese friend who loves catfish. Actually, all fish. I took her up there yesterday. She and the mountain man hit it off. He pulled two giants out of the water, each of which weighed 15 pounds, and gave them to her. He even provided a big plastic tub to cart them in on the bouncy ride home.

She was so happy I thought she was going to cry.

She called me last night to say it's the first time she's had fresh catfish since coming to this country from Vietnam in '85. She claimed it was delicious.

The mountain man was very happy to hear this. "It's the water," he tells me. Or maybe the last title searcher to visit him.

Thode: LVIA Disappointing Airtravel

Dr. Steve Thode is the Lehigh University's Real Estate Studies, and as you might have guessed, gets around quite a bit. That puts him in a better position than most to gauge this area's air travel. As an academic, he's kicked things up a notch, looking at the FAA's own passenger stats. Here's what he says in an email to Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky and me.

I've attached the FAA passenger stats for US airports for CY 2011 and CY 2012. Note: FAA only counts enplanements, so multiply by two to get a rough estimate of total passenger traffic. Note, as well, the FAA does not count the United Bus like [LVIA Executive Director] Everett, [Airport Board Chair] Iannelli and the board have chosen to include in "their" numbers.

Even during the days when LVIA exceeded 1 million passengers (2000 and 2004), LVIA ranked around 114 nationally. In 2011, it dropped to 124 and to 141 in 2012.

Two things are worth noting. LVIA did recover from 9/11 - even though it meant the elimination of mainline service from many carriers (the rise of those 50-seat regional jets as a substitute). But, LVIA is not faring well in the consolidation going on in the industry. The Delta-Northwest merger resulted in reduced flights out of LVIA as did the United-Continental merger (no more DC flights, no more Cleveland flights, reduced service to Chicago). The Southwest/AirTran merger resulted in the elimination of AirTran service out of LVIA (Southwest sold all the AirTran Boeing 717s and flies only 737s). The USAirways-American merger (and associated financial challenges of both carriers) has eliminated the last "mainline" service at LVIA (USAirways to and from Charlotte), and may lead to the substitution of busses to PHL.

Simultaneously, United and USAirways have increased fares out of LVIA relative to PHL and Newark (not sure about Delta which doesn't have a big presence at either of those airports).

Business travel out of LVIA has always been fragile. The total traffic numbers in the early 2000s were inflated by the Doughty/Krauter regime by luring thinly-capitalized budget airlines to LVIA for leisure travel to Florida. Remember Southern Airlines? Hooters? DirectAir? All went belly-up - and often left LVIA holding the bag.

Ironically, the biggest impact may be Southwest's large and growing presence at PHL. That has forced USAirways to cut fares dramatically out of PHL which certainly hurts LVIA's ability to attract business travelers. But also, it hurts LVIA's leisure travel counts as Valley residents can now fly Southwest out of PHL to just about anywhere. Cheaply.

Someone like Dr. Thode would be ideal as a board member at the Lehigh and Northampton Airport Authority. This Board, which is too large, is composed of what seems to be far too many political appointees.

Spoken, where Larry Kauter went from LVIA, has about five times as many passengers as we have here. But it has a seven-member board as opposed to the 17-member board in Allentown.

Nine months ago, they hired Charles Everett as their new Executive Director, and Board Chair Tony Iannelli likened it to the "early stages of a beautiful marriage."

Other than selling everything that isn't nailed down, what are their plan to turn things around?

New restaurants.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Informative West Easton Web Page

Tiny boroughs like West Easton get scant coverage because daily newspapers simply lack the manpower to cover them. So it is nice to see resident Matt Dees take on the task himself at WestEastonPa.com. It appears the borough is close to hiring a chief for its newly formed police department, and has appointed Paul James to fill a a vacancy on borough council.

NorCo Eyes Preservation of Archibald Johnston Lands

Bethlehem's first Mayor, Archibald Johnston, was a man of contradictions. He was part of the Bethlehem Steel Company's management team who refused to negotiate with strikers who wanted Sundays off and 12 1/2 cents per hour. But during the Great Depression, he converted his Camel's Hump farm into a collective for farmers to share and barter different products. At the Steel, he was involved in making the machinery of war. But as Mayor, he was an active proponent of public health. His Steel Company is now the largest brownfield in the United States. But his lands along an important recharging point in the Monocacy Creek, served as a refuge, not just for him, but for native trout and even the Bald Eagle. In one of his last actions as Northampton County Executive, John Stoffa is trying to preserve this land, something he calls the central park of the Lehigh Valley.

Located along the south side of Route 22 near the Rte 191 Exit, and then extending south as far as the City of Bethlehem, Camel's Hump Farm is much smaller than it used to be. Much of the land has been developed. But what remains is still much like it was when Johnston lived there. Thanks to the generosity of Johnston granddaughter Janet Housenick, Bethlehem Township is the owner of a 55-acre passive use park, which includes the expansive colonial style mansion that Johnston built. Housenick even set aside $2 million to care for the lands.

That's not all, Before her death, Housenick gave the County what is now known as the 36-acre Archibald Johnston Conservation Area. Straddling Monocacy Creek, this land is adjacent to Housenick Park.

But other lands once owned by Johnston are being eyed by developers. Central Moravian Church owns 26 acres along the west side of Route 191 and east side of Housenick Park. The Leckonby Estate owns another 18 acres, located along Santee Mill Road in Bethlehem, on the south side of Housnick Park. Both sites are ideal for "luxury" apartments for yuppies who want to pretend they are at one with nature while they commute daily to NYC. The land on Route 191 is just right for another Scheetz gas station, or yet another strip mall.

Though the Moravian Church and Leckonby have both been pressured, they've resisted temptation so far and have entered into agreements with the County to sell to the Natural Lands Trust. The Central Moravian Church has signed a letter of intent with the County to sell its land for $367,500 from the County's open space fund, with a matching grant from DCNR. Settlement is planned next April. There is an agreement to sell the Leckonby tract for $290,000 in open space funds, with a matching DCNR grant.

This will enable the preservation of a cold water limestone stream with wild trout. The surrounding lands will help preserve that watershed and minimize storm water runoff downstream, like the run off that ruined Musikfest in Bethlehem two years ago. It is possible to link up to paths along the Monocacy leading south to the D and L trail, and north to the Nor-Bath Trail. It would present a seamless park and preserve system, with the Johnston Mansion as a focal point for education, history and community events.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this open space project is its potential for community gardens, in which residents will be able to grow and harvest crops.

But will it happen?

It's not completely environmentally sensitive land. It's not completely a farm. It's not completely a park. It's what they call a "tweener," something with aspects of each. The Open Space Advisory Board gave its blessing to this project at a meeting at Northampton Community College yesterday afternoon,  but that's the easy part.

I believe this has a better chance if Council does its due diligence as quickly as it can. If this goes into next year, and Council member Hayden Phillips has a vote, he is likely to conclude that the U.N. is secretly planning to use the site as a launching pad for its black helicopters.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Michael Donovan: The Loser Who Won

In Allentown, independent Michael Donovan ran against Edwin Pawlowski, a well-funded two-term incumbent who had captured both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Donovan spent much of his Summer in the Ukraine, where I don't think he picked up many votes. But it appears that Pawlowski's decisions concerning the water lease, the NIZ and trash-to-cash are beginning to catch up with him.

Pawlowski scored a resounding 62% victory, which might sound good statewide. But he won it against an underfunded independent with no money.

Pawkowski raised $142,578.26 to Donovan's $13,140. Thus, Kind Edwin spent $24 per vote to Donovan's $3.

In 2005, Bill Heydt took 38%, the same percentage as Dionovan, with 6539 votes. He raised approximately $73,000, and spent $11 per vote.

In 2009, Republican Tony Phillips's percentage was just 26% with 2873 votes. He raised approximately $53,000, and spent $18 per vote.

It's safe to say that the luster is gone from King Edwin's crown.

Donovan's run also created a buzz in Allentown, and probably helped elect Tom Muller as Lehigh County Executive.

"Lehigh Valley Discourse" Will Analyze Local Races Tonight

Express Times editor Jim Flagg and yours truly will be Alan Jenning's guests tonight at his radio show, Lehigh Valley Discourse. The show airs 6 PM on WDIY-FM 88.1.

Last time I was there, I cost the station a few sponsors. And that was before I even got there.

They must have forgotten.

We'll be discussing last week's election. Who really won? Who really lost?

If you have any insights or points you want made, post them below as a comment.

LVIA Passenger Count Down 40% From Peak Years

While the Lehigh and Northampton Airport authority contemplates the sale of Braden Airpark to pay off a judgment incurred as a result of their own mismanagement, they appear to be ignoring the recurring revenue that would result from attracting more passengers at the main airport. You know, the one on Airport Road.

Dr. Steve Thode has prepared the above chart, which depicts LVIA passenger counts over the past several years. He tells me traffic is off more than 17% from last year (the worst year in 25 years), and off more than 30% from 2011. 2013 total year traffic is likely to come in around 600,000 passengers - a drop of more than 40% since its peak in the early 2000s.

Year-over-year traffic has now declined for 19 consecutive months. This is coincident, by the way, with the arrival of AvPORTS (now departed) and Charles Everett (still Exec Director).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gregory Steamroller Gets 4 Write-Ins in Bethlehem Mayoral Race

Though he's currently a guest at the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill, Jim Gregory managed to pick up four write-in votes last week in his quest to become Bethlehem's next mayor. I checked the tally yesterday as elections officials continue the official count.

In addition to buying T-shirts, Gregory also dropped $3,000 for a radio show that was suspended after he was incarcerated for violating a Protection From Abuse Act Order, on the air. So he spent $750 a vote in his race against Mayor-elect Bob Donchez, who was running unopposed in the November election.

That's more money than Callahan!

Another write-in candidate who hasn't been arrested yet, Todd Dietrich, pulled in 41 votes. Willie Reynolds, whom Donchez defeated in the primary, picked up 27.

The rest of the write-ins went to an assorted variety of people, including one vote each for DCED Director Joe Kelly, City Council candidate Chris Morales, Lehigh professor Steve Thode, and Express Times editor Nick Falsone.

There was also one vote cast for Ronald Reagan, Ron Paul, stunt bike rider Jeremy Van Schoonhoven and mobster Bugsy Siegel.

My favorite was the one vote cast for "none of the above". That should be an option in every election, but nobody would ever get elected.

Do We Need a Constitutional Convention?

Clockwise: John  Diacogiannis, Mark Tanczos, Glenn Walbert, Steve Salvesen and Jack Nagle
That's what Hanover Township Supervisor Steve Salvesen thinks. In his own words, he's followed recent happenings in Washington "with a mixture of anger and frustration." He is convinced that President Obama has acted in "utter disregard" of both the Constitution and states' rights. So he asked other Supervisors to join him in calling on the state for a Constitutional Convention. But he'll have to do it on his own. At their November 12 meeting, there was little enthusiasm for the idea. "Our job is to make sure the roads are patched," argued Supervisor Jack Nagle.

Before the meeting, Salvesen sent a letter to fellow Supervisors, suggesting amendments to the Constitution that include term limits; election of U.S. Senators by the state legislatures instead of by popular vote; limits on spending and taxation; state power to veto a federal statute; and voter ID.

Mark Tanczos told Salvesen that, before signing on to the proposal, he'd want to know what residents think.

Chairman John N. Diacogiannis was a little more blunt. "I'm not convinced this is a Township-related business," he reasoned. "It's the people's business."

"What business are we in?" retorted Salvesen.

Glenn Walbert was also skeptical, telling Salvesen that "[i]t's not appropriate for our Board to take an action of that kind."

"If that's the Board's desire, I'll go solo," answered the 30-year Supervisor.

Hanover Supervisors Eye 7th No-Tax Hike Budget

For the seventh year in a row, Hanover Township Supervisors are eyeing a no-tax increase budget. Despite the need to pay for another police officer and a growing contribution to the Bethlehem Public Library, Hanover Township Manager John "Jay" Finnigan cobbled together a 2014 Budget that holds the line. It maintains the current 3.9 mill tax rate and 0.5 mill fire tax, even though real estate tax revenues are predicted to drop by as much as $500,000 next year.

At their October 12 meeting, Supervisors agreed to advertise the proposed budget, which will also be posted on the Township's web page. A final vote is scheduled for December 17.

There will be no increases in the sewer rate. In fact, Finnigan reports it may even drop in some areas of the Township in which Traditions of America have completed improvements.

In other business, Supervisors unanimously granted conditional use approval for a dental practice at 3739 Bath Bike. Supervisor Glenn Walbert explained these conditions to Dr. Rami Salloum, the owner, telling him that direct access from Route 512 is prohibited and there must be landscaping to shield headlights.

Dr. Salloum indicated he understood, and then Finnigan wisecracked, "You may only use Crest toothpaste."

Ron Beitler Calls Own Party Boss For Cheap Shot

This morning, Lehigh County GOP Chairman Wayne Woodman sent a lengthy missive to the party faithful, which was designed to rebuild confidence after Scott Ott's loss in the Executive race. He also thanked some of the volunteers who helped in their recent races. But along the way, he managed to piss off a newly elected Lower Commissioner.

Here's what Woodman wrote about that race.
In Lower Macungie Township, two gentlemen who had previously been registered as Democrats, changed their registration to Republican because they knew they could not win running as Democrats in the township. They both secured victories on Election Night. We are certainly looking to draw individuals to the Republican Party, but we want them to come because they agree with our rationale and principles, not because they view it as a way to win a municipal election.
in effect, Woodman is calling these dudes RINOs, or Republicans of convenience.

One of these Republicans, Ron Beitler, is unhappy at the slur. He sent his own lengthy missive to Woodman, with copies to numerous others.

Chairman Woodman,

This morning seeing your email in writing I felt your words came off a little more harsh than I expected regarding Brian Higgins and myself based on our conversation last night. Problem is, as I see it my character was called out publicly. Because of that I feel a response is warranted. An entire paragraph of your email was devoted to insinuating Brian Higgins and I mis-represented ourselves to "win an election".

I can assure you and other esteemed members of the committee that "Strategy" played no part in decision making about my political identity. My party affiliation over the last 15 years has been a personal decision. I came to it organically over time. On the national level I believe President Obama’s ACA circumvents the 10th amendment and related federalism principles. Philosophically I am a staunch supporter of states rights and bottom up Government. I have written about and spoke to these concerns in public for years. While it was my take on ACA that solidified my conversion to the Republican party around 2008 the change was the culmination of a much lengthier realization that began around 2005 after graduating from College.

While in College the the early 2000's yes, I was a Democrat but even than I associated with the Blue Dog coalition identifying as a fiscally Conservative Democrat. In summary, I can assure you I wasn't thinking about the Lower Macungie Township Commissioner race in 2008-09 and certainly not when coming to grips with my personal political identity more than a decade ago.

Also I wanted to bring to the attention of the Committee what I see as a flaw in your reasoning. Specifically that I changed registration "because I viewed it as a way to win a municipal election." Here is a fact. In 2011 a fairly weak candidate who put in very little work Bob Sharpe (D) lost to Doug Brown (R) by a very slim margin here in LMT.

This is germane to this conversation because when I said (as I have consistently for over a year) that I could have won as a Democrat in Lower Macungie I believe it. I know my township inside and out right down to the individual neighborhoods and voting precincts. No one knows this township better than me and no one was going to out-work me in this campaign. I would have been competitive either party.

This is important because were I in the business of misrepresenting myself to voters I would have [run] as a Democrat.

Why? Because one school of though is it would have been the path of least resistance. Obviously I predicted "party switcher" would be used against me. And of course it was ad nauseam. Both by all 3 of our opponents and the LC Republican party in a well funded campaign based on that premise. Because I chose not to mis-represent myself and run as a Republican since those are the values that line up with my own I set myself up for criticism. I did this knowingly.

Lastly, no single candidate in the entire Lehigh Valley wrote publicly more about the issues surrounding their particular race than I have. As I said to you last night, I challenge anyone to find an issue where I am ideologically apart from the Republican party. www.ronbeitler.com

This is my single response. In short, I’m uninterested in engaging in a debate about this. I've copied those in the party whose contact information I have. I felt compelled to respond since in my eyes the email came off as an attack on my character. I would be remiss if I didn't defend myself.

I believe that when campaigns are over, it's then time to govern effectively. And that's what I plan to do. I look forward to joining what will now be on average one of the youngest Republican controlled municipal boards in the Lehigh Valley. I think that is reason to be excited about Lower Macungie.

I felt the paragraph about Brian and I was unnecessary, counter productive and distracting. Moving on I look forward to doing what is right for the residents of Lower Macungie Township who elected me in both the primary and general.

I am never shy about talking about any issue. I welcome any emails with any concerns about anything I've written about on my blog over the last two years.

Ron Beitler

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who Will Get Bob Donchez' Council Seat?

Willie Reynolds probably has the votes to install whomever he wants to fill Bob Donchez' seat on City Council.. My guess it will be someone in his mold, progressive and young. ... And inexperienced. Here are some of the names being tossed around. There may be more.

1) Ron Heckman. - My guess is that Ron, who is deliberative and amiable and well-versed in local government, will be viewed as too old (and too independent).

2) Basilio Bonilla.- If you want someone who will miss half your meetings and can barely put two sentences together, Basilio's your man, as long as he's there to say Yes when needed.

3) Christen Borso. - She's just thrilled to have finished 9th out of 10 candidates for County Council and thinks she's a force. On her Facebook page, she warns, "Vote Purple is no where near finished and there will be some surprises right around the corner!" She has no chance.

4) Adrian Shanker. - This LGBT activist has all the right connections, and worked hard for Willie. I think he gets it if he asks for it. Anyone who votes against him runs the risk of being called a homophobe.

5) Chris Morales. - He's young enough, and nearly won in November's race. But he belongs to the wrong party.

His Name Was 171952

Monsignor Dooley shares pictures of Holocaust survivors

That number was intended to dehumanize 17 year old Severin Fayerman. It was tattooed onto his left arm on his first day at Auschwitz. He had committed the crime of being a Jew, a capital offense in Nazi Germany. He now considers it a badge of honor. Fayerman is one of the lucky few who survived not just Auschitz, but other German concentration camps in which Hitler's Final Solution was being imposed with ruthless efficiency. Rescued by American GIs, Fayerman eventually made his way to America where, armed with $20, he became the founder of Baldwin Hardware.

A small and gentle man whose quick smile belies the horrors he witnessed, Fayerman mesmerized Bethlehem Catholic High School students with his story at their Veterans' Day breakfast. But before he spoke, students heard from Monsignor Joe Dooley, who was one of those liberating GIs, though with a different group of Jews.

Upon reaching the ghostly survivors at a death camp, one asked for a cigarette. Just one puff killed him. No more cigarettes were offered.

"Wir wussten nicht," shouted German villagers, claiming they did not know. "How could they not know, with the smell of the bodies?" asked Monsignor Dooley, who said you could smell it a mile away.

Soldiers made sure the villagers knew. They loaded each corpse onto a stretcher, and paraded them through town, with villagers lined up and forced to witness what the Supermen had done.

Severn Fayerman's plea: Let this never happen again
Fayerman told students how he avoided becoming one of those corpses. For a little extra food, he taught English to his barracks warden. But what really saved his life was his apprenticeship with his grandfather as a blacksmith. That's where he learned how to make tools, and Siemens Electronics needed good toolmakers, whether they were Jewish or not.

Though still a prisoner, Fayerman worked inside a factory near Berlin, until it was bombed by the British. From there, he was taken to another camp, which was firebombed by Americans. In yet another camp, Fayerman watched as American planes came by to strafe the guards while leaving prisoners untouched. From there, he and other Jews were marched to a quarry, where Germans with machine guns encircled them from above until darkness descended. With the daylight, the Germans were gone.

Fayerman intercepted Americans on their way to the North Sea to stop German D-bombs. As a displaced person, he was able to relocate to the United States and found a company whose hardware is in the White House and Governor's Mansion.

"This is the only place in the world where this could be possible," Fayerman said of the United States. He currently resides in Reading, and has written a book about his life called, "A Survivor's Story."

"When I came to this country, all I wanted to do was forget," explains the Holocaust survivor. "I speak because I feel it is my duty to pass on to new generations that this should never happen again.”

Fayerman was born in Poland, which before Hitler was home to over 3 million Jews. There are 20,000 left today.
Michele Koch and Gail Ziegler, with the VA, received $1,000 raised by Becahi students

Marine vet Frank Scott with son Sterling and wife Valerie 

Bringing in the Bacon For ArtsQuest

Bacontopia at Musikfest Cafe to support the arts
That was the idea behind Bacontopia, a celebration of bacon at Musikfest Café. Tony and Kristina Page, proprietors of Rooster St Provisions, served up a variety of bacon dishes, from Sweet and Spicy Roasted Bacon to Bacon Lollipops. Before going into the bacon biz, Tony was Executive Chef at Emeril's.

The idea was to bring in the bacon to help support hundreds of free programs offered to at-risk children by ArtsQuest, including P's and Q's every Saturday morning and free Summer family movies at the Levitt lawn.

Tony and Kristina Page are proprietors of Rooster St Provisions

Geeting Picks Bethlehem Resident as Easton's Next Mayor

Fast on the heels of claiming that "John Callahan’s County Executive Loss is All Eric Nagy’s Fault," self-appointed political expert Jonathan Geeting has announced the Lehigh Valley's newest Democratic leaders. He picks Gretchen Longenbach as Easton's future Mayor, apparently ignorant that she actually lives in Bethlehem. ... And just might be a Republican.

Geeting identifies himself as a "public policy expert."

He sure is no expert on facts.