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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 31, 2014

Rumor: Pawlowski to Drop Guv' Bid Monday

Both The Express Times and I have  heard that Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski plans to drop his gubernatorial bid on Monday. 

He apparently will endorse Rob McCord , who is getting some major union support. 

It has been thought that Pawlowski's run was intended to get him a job in the next admin, most likely Secretary of Community and Economic Development. 

Bethlehem City Council Meeting Lasts Six Hours

After meeting for that long, you know nothing got done.

Bethlehem City Council interviewed 11 City Council candidates last night. They started with 14, but two died of old age as the night wore on. Another jumped in front of a bus after listening to a 10-minute long question from Karen Dolan.

The survivors are impeccably qualified. In fact, any one of them would be an excellent addition to Council. The appointee will take over for Bob Donchez, who had to leave City Council when he became Mayor.

I tried to photograph Solicitor Chris Spadoni nodding off, but the bastard was on to me. Every time I pointed the camera his way, he was glaring at me.

The reason this meeting lasted so long is because Karen Dolan had a cup of coffee.

Never let her have caffeine again.

Council will make their choice on Monday.

I will fill you in on the candidates tomorrow. Some of them have to work in a few hours. Dave "Lump" Sanders told me he opens his Deli at 6:30 am. I'll be rolling over at that time.

Apparently, his Deli contains a mysterious Table of Knowledge.

"That Table of Knowledge is not going to open itself, Bernie," candidate Ron Heckman told me.

He apparently has sat at the Table of Knowledge.

Just about everyone in Town Hall spoke reverently of this Table of Knowledge. I never heard of it before last night. This explains what I've been doing wrong.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Steel Museum Mismanagement Exposed by NorCo Grand Jury

A Northampton County Grand Jury has cast a glaring spotlight on a pattern of mismanagement, conflicts of interest and excessive salaries at the Steel Museum on Bethlehem's south side. It's a disgusting display of pigs at the trough, being fed in part by public tax dollars. They include former Steel execs who had a very soft landing after the Bethlehem giant went belly up. But they also include a who's who of local big shots like Lee Butz and Charles Marcon, who slopped at the trough like the biggest porker you'd ever see.

This Grand Jury investigation started in reaction to Express Times and Morning Call articles raising disturbing questions about the lack of progress at the National Museum of Industrial History, located at the site of the Bethlehem Steel Plant. Formed in 1997, this Museum was projected to attract up to three million visitors per year.

Seventeen years later, despite the infusion of $17-19 million in both public and private funds, it hasn't even opened.

CEO Stephen G. Donches, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s Vice President of Public Affairs, has received almost $2.5 million dollars in salary and benefits over the past 12 years. According to forensic auditors, it's double what should be paid to the CEO of a similarly sized non-profit organization.

$   135,000.00
$  17,629.00
$   152,629.00
$   180,000.00
 $  18,801.00
$   190,801.00
$   180,000.00
$  16,739.00
$   196,739.00
$   180,000.00
$  22,526.00
$   202,526.00
$   180,000.00
$  21,689.00
$   201,689.00
$   180,000.00
$  22,206.00
$   202,206.00
$   177,220.00
$  27,061.00
$   204,281.00
$   176,194.00
$  29,815.00
$   206,009.00
$   181,460.00
$  23,179.00
$   204,639.00
$   179,420.00
$  24,031.00
$   203,451.00

It did not stop with Donches. According to the Grand Jury, "The Museum was a resting place for soon to be unemployed officials of the Corporation who continued to benefit from high paying salaries, retirement benefits, and other benefits at the expense of the organization."

While paying his pals, Donches reportedly "exploited" potential donors with "overly optimistic and unrealistic expectations as well as public statements by Mr. Donches as to the near opening of the Museum despite Board direction that donors be cautioned as to the viability of the Museum."

Where did Donches get his money? About $9 million came from Priscilla Payne Hurd, and former Bethlehem Steel Boss Hank Barnette kicked in just under $1 million. The Museum also received $70,000 in federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services; a state RCAP grant of $1.4 million; and another $10,000 from the state DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development). All artifacts had been donated by the Smithsonian at no cost to the Museum.

With this money, Donches also took care of board members.

The most outrageous example of this is with Lee Butz, Chairman and largest shareholder at Alvin H. Butz, Inc., and regular campaign contributor to anyone in power.

Before becoming a Museum board director, the Butz company was doing work for the Museum, and had been paid $810,977.00.

After being placed on the Board, when Butz clearly had a conflict, his company was paid another $2 million for various constructions projects.

Interestingly, investigators are unable to find any discussions in the minutes of Board meetings concerning a contract awarded to Alvin H. Butz Incorporated prior to the actual signing of the contract on May 27, 2008. In fact, at a meeting just two days after this contract was supposedly signed, not a word was said during another meeting.

Other Board members benefited as well, although their transgressions are minor by comparison to Butz.

L. Charles Marcon, the Board Chair and another blueblood, thought nothing of bidding on construction work at the Museum.

The Museum has funds on deposit with what was then called KNBT Bank, and it just happened that Director Daniel G. Gambet was connected to that bank.

According to the Grand Jury, "[t]he Museum lacked transparency and the Board routinely granted lucrative salaries and retirement benefits which were out of line with similarly missioned and sized non-profit organizations."

Though the Grand Jury believes there is insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution, it has recommended that Donches resign or be fired. It also wants  the Board to review their own conflicts of interest, and the Jury is asking the state Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Section to determine whether to dissolve the museum. Finally, it is suggested that the Board consider suing Donches civilly.

You can read the Grand Jury Report in its entirety here.

Less Than 600,000 Used LVIA in 2013

Over the past year, less than 600,000 passengers "enplaned" or "deplaned" a commercial aircraft at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE). That's a 32% drop in the past two years. But the Airport's Executive Director, Charles Everett, even counts bus passengers, i.e. those who "enbussed" or "debussed" at the airport. If he persists in this thinking, his board ought to offer Trans-Bridge a sweetheart deal to relocate to ABE. That would really juice the numbers.

Incidentally, the United Bus to/from EWR 9Newark Liberty International Airport) is the fastest growing route out of ABE.

Has Northampton County Seen Its Last Democratic Exec?

Though Northampton County has 33,000 more Democrats than Republicans, it now has a Republican Executive, a Republican County Council and even a Republican judiciary. You'll have this when you become a bedroom community for new jersey and New York commuters. Republicans swept the at-large Council seats this year and four years ago. Despite a Democratic edge, some politicos expect Republicans to remain in control of Northampton County for years to come. That's because, while commuters may vote in presidential and Congressional contests, they simply do not come out in off year elections.

Easton and Bethlehem are Democratic strongholds, but their Mayoral and City Council races are almost always over in the primary. Thus, Democrats do not come out in the Fall, when contested County seats remain to be decided.

Democrats may even start losing District seats. Scott Parsons and Lamont McClure are in Republican territory. Bob Werner has to hope for a contested mayoral race in Easton. Ken Kraft should be the safest in Bethlehem, but his victory edge two years ago was much closer than registration data suggests.

The Cupboard is Bare!

Hanover Tp Public Works Director Vince Milite: The cupboard is bare
This can't be good. Local municipalities are beginning to run low on the road salt needed to combat winter storms. To make matters worse, the area's biggest salt supplier, International Salt, was temporarily closed after one of its workers was crushed by a 100' high pile of rock salt. This has stopped local deliveries.

Hanover Township Public Works Director Vince Milite told Supervisors at their January 28 meeting that their cupboard is bare. His road crew has just enough salt left for one pass if a snow storm hits any time soon.

Hanover ordered 500 tons from International Salt this year at a contract price of $59 per ton. But only 70 tons are left. Milite has ordered an additional 400 tons, and International Salt will honor the original price.

Milite and Township Manager Jay Finnigan must lock in prices for the following year in February. This forces them to estimate what the weather is going to like nearly a year in advance.

This year, they were off. They will spend nearly twice the $29,500 budgeted for road salt.

Hanover is by no means alone. Municipal officials in Freemansburg, Fountain Hill, East Allen Township , Bethlehem Township and Bethlehem City have all gone over budget.

"This year was definitely untrendable," noted Fremansburg Borough manager Judy Danko. "We haven't done this in a long time.

In Bethlehem, Public Works Director Michael Alkhal said the City has just gone over its $250,000 budget for road materials. "We have less than what we're comfortable with and what we like to keep on hand," he noted. Alkhal added that, like other municipalities, the City is waiting for new deliveries.

Over the past three years, Alkhal has experimented on different road materials to discover one that is kind to budget, equipment, roads and environment. This has even included the use of beet juice, or in the event of an emergency, using cinders prewetted with brine.

"We're OK, but if we get hit with multiple storms, we're in trouble," he concluded.

Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township are still under budget.

Cathy Hartranft, Hellertown's Borough Manager, said she had 50 tons left over from last year. This season, over 250 tons have been used. "We're going through it and the guys are tired," she observed. "We still have two months left."

Lower Saucon Township budgeted $125,000 for salt and other road materials this Winter. Township Manager Jack Cahalan has gone through 767 of the 1,150 tons ordered in 35 call-outs. The Township has just 100 tons of salt left, and is waiting for more.

"It's been a hard Winter," remarked Bethlehem Township Acting Manager Doug Bruce.

In Hanover, Finnigan and Milite suggested taking a few plow trucks to Alabama to make up the budget shortfall, but Supervisors worried they might start another Civil War.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obama's SOTU Pageant Praised and Panned

Don't know about you, but the President's annual State if the Union address is a real turn off for National Review's Kevin Williamson. He was just at a porn convention, so a SOTU might be a letdown in comparison:

"The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live."

He claims it's wore than the Oscars.

As you might have guessed, local Congressmen Charlie Dent and Matt Cartwright offer less entertaining, but more substantive opinions of President Barack Obama's address last night.

Cartwright praised the President for his Executive order increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 for federally contracted workers. "July will mark five years since the federal minimum wage was last raised, that’s why I support legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller that would raise the minimum wage of $10.10 by 2016. This policy would directly provide higher wages for close to 17 million workers by 2016," noted Cartwright.

But while agreeing with Obama about an increasing income equality, Dent complained that "the more the President talks about income inequality the more income inequality we seem to get. Unemployment remains high and the economic recovery remains unacceptably slow. Meanwhile, Washington has never been more divided."

Dent is unhappy with Obama's use of executive orders to accomplish what he can't do by legislation. "The President should not look for creative ways to subvert Congress to address these challenges," he noted. "He should reach out and work constructively with those of us who put forward solutions and are willing to work with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, to solve problems and advance our great nation."

What would Dent do?

"We can encourage domestic energy production to create jobs, reform and repeal provisions of the President's health care law that are destroying jobs, make the tax code simpler and fairer, and focus on improving the education of our children to make them better prepared for the 21st century job market."

A NBC News poll indicates that 68% of Americans think the country is stagnant or worse than it was when Obama first took office.

Muller Names Kim Makoul His Lehigh County Public Defender

Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller has nominated Kim Makoul, one of the County's Conflict Attorneys, for the new full-time Public Defender position.

Muller explains his decision in a memo to Commissioners:

"This selection follows a two-month search and screening effort, which I felt was in order since this is a new position. We ran ads and got the word out across the legal community and ended up with a number of candidates. Judy Johnston and I screened out any who were clearly unqualified and I had asked President Judge McGinley if she and the Judges handling criminal cases would determine which of the remaining candidates were fully qualified in their collective opinion to perform effectively in the position. That lead to my interviews with three finalists and I was most comfortable with Kim, who, as you may hear when you meet her, truly has criminal justice “in her blood”.

"Besides serving as one of our Conflict Attorneys, for the past 20 years Kim has been a managing partner with her husband in a law firm where she handles criminal defense and juvenile cases. Kim has also served as a Court-appointed counsel for juvenile cases in 1996 and 1997 and from 2006 to 2010 and spent seven years as an Assistant Public Defender for the County.

"In addition to a solid background, I believe Kim brings a strong level of enthusiasm to the position and a commitment to make our Public Defender’s office a standout in the Commonwealth. I am certain you will share my support for her."

Makoul graduated from Widener University School of Law in 1990, and practices law with her husband, Glenn Goodge.

This is a no-brainer.

Hanover Goes For Regional Recycling Grants

Ryan Ingham
At their January 28 meeting, Hanover Township Supervisors voted 4-0 to adopt a regional approach to recycling. They authorized Hough Associates to pursue a multi-municipal approach to the Township's annual recycling grant. This regional approach is expected to result in increased revenue.

Township Secretary Lori A. Stranzl told Supervisors that the annual DEP Recycling Performance Grant has dropped from $109,000 five years ago, to just $40,300 last year. Ryan Ingham, representing Hough, explained that his firm would turn that around. "We have a staff dedicated to doing this all year round," he explained.

Hough, which represents sixty municipalities throughout the state in multi-municipal groups, referred to what he calls the Lower Macungie Group as an example. That consists of Hellertown, and Bethlehem, South Whitehall and Lower Macungie Townships. South Whitehall's recycling award jumped from $57,000 to $81,000. Lower Macungie jumped from $55,000 to $126,000.

By working together, municipalities get a higher performance grant from the state.

In addition to preparing a multi-municipal grant application, Hough also increases the grant award by contacting haulers, processors and brokers to maximize all residential and commercial recycling data. Township staff can work on other matters.

Hough will be paid 1/3 of whatever additional revenue it can generate beyond the $40,300 paid to Hanover last year. If no additional revenues are received, Hough gets nothing.

In other business, Township Manager Jay Finnigan told Supervisors that he has been elected chair of both the County Tax Collection Committee as well as its Gaming Board.

"They see the same thing we do," noted Chairman John Diacogiannis. "What's that, a sucker?" wisecracked Supervisor John Nagle.

Supervisor Steve Salvesen, recuperating from a leg injury, was absent.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Thank You Might Have Been Nice

There's more to Northampton County government than the Executive and Council. There's also a dizzying array of authorities and boards, most of whose members volunteer. This includes the nine-member Gaming Board, which met last night.

To his credit, Executive John Brown attended. But he passed on an opportunity to address the Board or just introduce himself, even after the Chair specifically asked him if he had anything to say.

Most members, including the Republicans, don't know him.

Brown is new to the job. It will take some time to get his feet wet. But he should have thanked the Board members yesterday for their service. After working a full day, most of them drove to the courthouse in bitterly cold weather for a meeting that can sometimes be contentious. A simple acknowledgement would have gone a long way.

Brown also left as soon as the meeting was over.

This is meant, incidentally, as constructive criticism. Hopefully, Brown will do better with the next Board he meets.

Pawlowski to Solve Cold Weather Crisis

We all know that the cold weather has aggravated the homelessness crisis in Allentown. But don't you worry. Mayor Edwin Pawlowski has the situation well in hand. He plans to deliver one of his trademark State of the Cities address on Friday, where he'll tell everyone that the Renaissance is finally here. Really! He's not kidding this time. It's unclear whether he intends to use a power point.

How does this help the homeless? Simple. The hot air should be enough to heat the entire lehigh Valley for weeks.In fact, one Express Times reader is pushing King Edwin to give his speech today. .

Gaming Authority Accepting Grant Applications

Hanover Tp Manager Jay Finnigan Chairs Gaming Board
Though Pennsylvania has no money trees, it has the next best thing - casinos. Last year, the state's 12 casinos raked in $3 billion. At the top of this mountain of cash was none other than Bethlehem's Sands Casino resort. It had gross revenues of over $176 million, from table games alone. A big piece of this gambling pie funds local government, both in host fees and grants. Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Authority awards the grants, primarily to contiguous municipalities impacted by gambling. After a two-month break, the Board met on January 27.

At this meeting, the following officers were elected: Jay Finnigan - Chair; Joe Kelly - Vice Chair; John Dally - Secretary; and Tom Nolan - Treasurer. All votes were unanimous. In addition, members unanimously agreed to appoint Northampton County Economic Development Analyst Karen Collis as their Executor Director. She replaces Alicia Karner, who resigned to take over Bethlehem's Department of Community and Economic Development.

Karen Collis new Exec Director for gaming Board
Collis is currently seeking applications for gaming revenue grants. These requests are limited to municipalities contiguous to the Sands Casino, and must be in by March 3, 2014. Applicants are required to show they've been impacted by the casino. After deciding on these requests, the Board usually opens up the grant process to other municipalities.

According to Treasurer Tom Nolan, the Gaming Authority is currently sitting on $354,223.26 in "restricted" funds, i.e. set aside for grants in process. There is also $446,403.27 in uncommitted funds.

Freemansburg Mayor Gerald Yob, who also sits on the Gaming Board, complained that his borough had to borrow money to pay for two police cars because the grant process is split into quarterly payments. Finningan and Kelly both told Yob that his grant was based on anticipated revenue that has not yet arrived from the casino.

"You can't write a check if the money's not there," explained Finnigan.

Volunteer firefighter Kevin Kalman, who is associated with volunteer fire companies in both Freemansburg and Bethlehem, complained that the Board shows a "heavy slant toward the police departments," and a "less than proportionate representation of the fire companies." Mayor Yob disputed Kalman's contention, noting that it is more difficult for fire companies to show they've been impacted by the casino. He added that a grant was recently obtained for defibrillators, which were then distributed to fire companies.

Chairman Finnigan sided with Yob, adding that Hanover Township was able to get a vehicle for its volunteer firefighters through a gaming grant.

Volunteer fire companies must apply for these grants through the affected municipality, cautioned Vice Chair Joe Kelly.

As a final item of business, Solicitor Scott Allinson told the Board that the terms of office have expired for members Timm Tenges and Tom Nolan. But he explained that, under the Municipalities Planning Code, a board member whose term has expired may continue to serve until he is re-appointed or replaced.

Judge Dally: Mezzacappa Harassed Borough Clerk

Last Spring, West Easton's very own common shrew, Tricia Mezzacappa, decided to harass a borough clerk. This included threatening and abusive behavior, like constant kicking and banging at the doors to Borough Hall after being told to wait for a police escort. Mezzacappa also cyber-bullied this low-level worker. She'd break down in tears when her children would see Mezzacappa's online taunts and vicious name-calling. Justice has finally been done, thanks to Judge Craig Dally. Let me fill you in on the details.

At a June hearing before Judge Richard Yetter, Mezzacappa brought Jim Gregory as her cheerleader. That was before he was sent to state prison. The Clerk (I won't name her) testified about Mezzacappa's fantasies of putting a hollow point bullet through my skull. She also described a bizarre gun video made by Mezzacappa, containing words like "You better outrun my gun" and ending with a coffin and a picture of the West Easton web page.

"We're afraid of her," she said.

D'you think?

What seemed to bother this Clerk most is that her own children could see the hateful and hurtful things Mezzacappa has posted about her. That made no difference to Mezzacappa. Sensitivity is not her strong suit. Many of the taunts are still on her blog.

"I just would like it to stop," she told Judge Yetter. "It's relentless. I don't want to come to work now."

Judge Yetter imposed a $200 fine and told Mezzacappa he did not want to see her again.

The Clerk found another job in a Mezzacappa-free municipality.

So everyone lived happily ever after, right?

Wrong. Mezzacappa appealed her conviction. She then sought several continuances for "medical reasons" while appearing on Jim Gregory's short-lived radio show for at least one of them.

But her luck ran out yesterday.

Despite bringing in a Philadelphia lawyer who couldn't even get her first name right, the truth prevailed. Mezzacappa was convicted again, following a hearing before Judge Craig Dally.

Dally imposed a $300 fine, $100 more than Judge Yetter and the maximum permitted by law. She's got 60 days to pay it. She still hasn't paid off her first harassment conviction.

"I'm very relieved," the Clerk told me after it was all over. "Justice has been served."

Joe Kelly: Kids Matter More Than Politics

Joe Kelly
Bethlehem's former DCED Director, Joe Kelly, is now working for State Senator Lisa Boscola. He's counsel on one of her committees. On top of that, he serves on the Gaming Authority and Bethlehem's newly-formed CRIZ Board. The last thing he needs is more nights away during the week to sit on Bethlehem City Council. There's no doubt in my mind that Joe would be a great asset, but I told him several times that he should hold off until his kids are just a little older. Apparently, that's the decision he's made. Below you will see his letter to Council Prez J. Willie Reynolds:

I am writing to ask that you remove my name from consideration for the vacancy on City Council. Since submitting my application a month ago I have been weighing how a position on City Council will impact both my family life and professional life. Given the age of my twins and the commitments in my new job, I do not believe I will have the time necessary to commit to the position on City Council in the manner I believe such a position deserves.

Additionally, in speaking with several lawyers whom I respect, it was unclear whether I could remain on City Council and the CRIZ authority at the same time. Over the next four years, I think I can best serve the City by focusing with my fellow Authority members on a successful implementation of the CRIZ for the City.

Rest assured, it was not an easy decision and my request is offered with some reluctance. However, I do believe it is in my family's and my own best interest. I look forward to working with all of you in the future and if I can be of any assistance to you please do not hesitate to contact me.

Speaking from experience, I believe Joe made the right call. Every minutes he misses with his twins is a minute he'll never get back.

Bethlehem can wait.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Modern Pharisees

Pharisees were actually a reform movement in Judaism. They stood up for the little guy being oppressed by the aristocratic and priestly classes. But they are depicted as the bad guys in the New Testament.  We Gentiles got them mixed up with the Sadducees, the Old Testament equivalent of the Lehigh Valley Partnership. Today, both Pharisees and Sadducees are synonymous with hypocrisy. This story is about a group of modern day Pharisees, right here in the Lehigh Valley.

You've seen them, especially if you go to church. You might even be one of those phonies who makes ostentatious displays of religious ritual or fine theological points, without bothering to do any good works yourself. One recent Pharisee includes Vic Mazziotti's pastor, who was quick to condemn same sex benefits, but has been curiously silent about Allentown's recent homeless crisis. This Bishop-in-training is par for the course. Lehigh County Conference of Churches Exec Director Jack Felch is a Pharisee, too. So are some  officials in the Allentown Urban Growth Regime.

The recent homelessness crisis makes this clear.

Fegley and Teti
Diane Teti, who has advocated for the homeless for the past year, has probably accomplished more in that time than the numerous nonprofits and government agencies who proudly herald themselves as the safety net for our voiceless. She, along with Allentown Brew Works' Richard Fegley and Chris Cocca, have publicly shamed the Urban Growth Regime by casting a very public spotlight on one of local government's biggest failures. They have brought several homeless survivors to meetings, letting government officials and nonprofits get a good look at the people they'd prefer to brush under the rug.

As temperatures plunge, that's getting harder to do.

Although Fegley is passionate and sometimes gets emotional, Teti is fairly nonconfrontational. She just wants to help people, as you can see from video of a recent Commissioners' meeting. One of the people she brought has slipped through the cracks of the system, and is unable to examine his own file in Lehigh County's overly bureaucratic system of human services.

Some groups, like the Allentown Rescue Mission, have actually appreciated the attention. They do have rules, but Program Director Rob Romig explained them, and they are relatively innocuous. They helped 760 homeless men last year, and do not force them to go to chapel.

"We don't make you pray," he explained.

Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller is another person who has tried to help. Unlike Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, who skipped out on a City Council meeting dealing with homelessness, Muller was there, listened, and prevailed on the local Y to open their doors for homeless during this emergency.

Not bad for someone derided as a country club Republican.

Commissioner Scott Ott blamed the homeless, to some extent, for being unwilling to use places like Allentown Rescue Mission. You could call that heartless on his part, but it's no secret that many homeless are mentally ill and exercise poor judgment. So I think he was being realistic. After listening to homeless advocates last week, he went to Allentown's most desperate shelter, Safe Haven, along with fellow Commissioners Lisa Scheller and Vic Mazziotti.

Despite all these positive signs, some in the Urban Growth regime are angry.

Allentown's Managing Director, Francis Dougherty, tried to deny there's a problem at all in a memo circulated among City Council members. He derided Teti as a "competing interest group", insisted that homelessness is actually a County problem. He also objected to the scorn expressed at the City's Homeless Commission, whose committee heads meet every month and basically go round and round.

The hypocrisy does not stop with modern Pharisee Francis Dougherty.

The Lehigh County Conference of Churches has been shamed by this crisis into opening up a gym as a warming center, but only on code blue days. Their Executive Director, Dr. Jack Felch, wants everyone to send him money. He used the warming center as an excuse to seek donations. In addition, he just had to take some potshots at Teti's group, as noted by Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky. Like any good Pharisee, Felch praises himself while condemning others.
You have most likely seen press coverage concerning the plight of the homeless during this recent spell of dangerously cold weather. We have chosen not to participate in public debates about how "others" should solve this problem, particularly since the Conference has for the past decade been doing the heavy lifting when it comes to stabilizing the lives of "the least of these, my brothers and sisters" without the need for shining a media spotlight on that work. Instead of being divisive and derisive, we joined with partners who are problem solvers. Our initial plan is to open the Alliance Hall gym only when needed for emergency Code Blue weather conditions. Funding for this initiative is not guaranteed. Staffing details have not been determined.
One of Michael's readers, BB, sums it up quite nicely.
Wow. Where to start? Obviously this church commentary is riddled with sarcasm and passive aggressive jabs at caring activists. Who wrote this? From "plight of the homeless" "heavy lifting" referring to homeless people as "the least"? Choosing not to participate in public debates when cold temperatures dictate a life or death sentence is far less than honorable. Personally, I would be ashamed. Implying the media was involved for any reason other than to shine a spotlight on a dire situation is just plain asinine. This is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with our democracy in the year 2014. Caring citizens petition their government to help improve a situation, and they are stifled, insulted, and oppressed by the gatekeepers, people with the power to actually do something. Better yet, let's imply they are crackpots on the fringe, outsiders, not even part of our community. How is 'choosing not to participate in public debates' to solve a problem somehow a badge of glory? After ten-years of "heavy lifting" why don't you have more than an "initial plan" for a code blue? And why hasn't funding or staffing been addressed... yet? ~BB
I wrote to Felch. He's too important to write back, but one of his underlings, Ira Faro, tells me that Team Teti started it and even threatened them at a recent City Council meeting. I find that impossible to believe. Faro adds that he raised the money to build WDIY and writes grants for the homeless, so he apparently has some sort of diplomatic immunity.

Felch and Faro, quite clearly, are also Pharisees more worried about someone cutting into their turf than in solving a very real problem.

The denial and vilification does not stop with Dougherty, Felch and Faro. The Blog  Mentor has also jumped into the fray, attempting to dirty up Fegley and Teti.

Teti has a civil dispute over money that will be heard in February. The Blog Mentor has branded her a "civil scofflaw."

Even worse, he's calling Fegley a "violent offender ... who has been arrested for assault and violent physical harassment."

The problem is he's got the wrong Fegley. He has been defaming a homeless advocate on his blog, Facebook and in emails to Felch and Allentown City Council President Julio Guridy. 

He never bothered to check whether he had the right person.

Obviously, the Blog Mentor is a Pharisee, too.

Allentown's Urban Growth Regime always will deny a problem exists, alternatively shift the blame somewhere else and vilify those who point out the problem.

The good news here is that somehow, nobody has died from exposure in the Lehigh Valley. A homeless man in Philly was not so lucky on Thursday.

Bethlehem Township Swears In Two New Cops

L to R: Comm'n President Tom Nolan, Officer Kevin Lindsay, Officer Nicholas Durham and Chief Dan Pancoast
Two new police officers are now patrolling the streets of Bethlehem Township. Kevin Lindsay and Nicholas Durham were sworn in by Commission President Ton Nolan on January 24.

Lindsay, himself a Bethlehem resident, worked previously as a police officer in Catasauqua and Hellertown. "I just love the area," he said. Durham previously worked at Cedar Crest College and Northampton Community College, where he developed a rapport with Township police officers and decided to become one. "This was my second try and I made it," he noted.

The Township police department now has 34 officers, with one officer slot vacant.

These officers will spend their first 12 weeks paired up with more experienced officers, according to Chief Dan Pancoast. His own experience as a fledgling officer over 35 years ago, was much different. After being sworn in, he was directed to respond to a hit-and-run in Hampton Road. Unable to find it, he had to buy a map.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Notre Dame Continues Its March to 'Ship

After poking holes in Holy Family today, Notre Dame's 8th grade basketball continues its march to the the championship, just one game behind the juvenile delinquents at St. Anne's. I see a mighty battle brewing. Notre Dame lost the first encounter by two, but team Accountant Lou Hershman was in Texas. He's canceled all plans, has sharpened his pencils, and is ready to debate the score.

If they win the Diocesan championship, they play the Vatican.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Brown Names Eyer as New Chief Public Defender

In a memo to Northampton County Council's Personnel Committee, Executive John Brown has announced the appointment of Bob Eyer as Chief Public Defender.

A 1992 graduate of Dickinson law School, Eyer has served as an assistant District Attorney in Northampton County, becoming its chief violent crime prosecutor. He also served as Chief Judicial Law Clerk to Superior Court Judge Robert Freedberg.

Brown's first choice for the job, Bob Sletvold, was withdrawn earlier in the week because of the burdens that appointment could impose on the courts. Sletvold's wife is a judge, and would be unable to hear most criminal and juvenile matters.

Eyer, who maintains a private practice in the Easton areas with Attorney Goudsouzian, will be paid $57,20 for this part-time post.

His appointment must be confirmed by County Council.

That should be a cinch. Eyer is an excellent choice. A good lawyer and a good person. He is a marathoner, and is the only runner I know who would take smoke breaks in the muddle of a race.

Brown finally got one right.

Welcome to Northampton County, Inc.

At a time when local governments in Allentown and Lehigh County are discussing ways to house the homeless on code blue nights, Northampton County Executive John Brown delivered something of a mini-inaugural address at County Council last night. Instead of discussing the importance of actually helping people, he said his focus will be "to keep taxes as low as possible" but still delivering services in a "cost effective" way. "We do have to manage and control all costs," Brown said, more in the style of a corporate CEO as opposed to the leader of a County government.

He made these remarks after his first real victory before Council. He had to withdraw his controversial choice for Public Defender earlier in the week. Could get his picks for Human Services and DCED Director picks confirmed.

Both are questionable.?

Voice over artist Diane Donaher, Brown's DCED pick, has not worked in economic development in 13 years. Most of her jobs, short-lived ones at that, are in the non-profit sector. During confirmation hearings, she stated that she had worked on a KOZ, a specialized economic development tool, in Bethlehem. But Bethlehem has never had one. She also disparaged the office she will be heading, claiming they are all office types, unlike her.

Allison Frantz, the Human Services choice, was even worse. She acknowledged in confirmation hearings that she's never supervised more than eight people. But as pointed out by Council member Bob Werner, there are 992 Human Services employees, 827 of whom are full-time. In addition, she knows nothing about the County's controversial nursing home, Gracedale, and several other aspects of human services. She has no experience in negotiating union contracts. But Brown picked her because she repeatedly said his magic words - fiscal management. Never mind that her own record in Lehigh County is one of fiscal mismanagement.

Five votes were needed to confirm. There are five Republicans on Council, so this should have been a cinch. But newly elected Council member Glenn Geissinger is off somewhere in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while the rest of us are freezing, the lucky bastard. Now there's a problem. To make things worse, another newly elected Council member, Republican Mat Benol, advised that he had to leave early for a family emergency. A sure thing suddenly became questionable.

Council Prez Peg Ferraro handled this by making sure that Glenn was able to phone in from the Virgin Islands, which is legally permissible. She also stood the agenda on its head, moving these confirmations up in the agenda so Benol could vote and get the hell out of there before Steve DeSalva talked for three hours about generators.

The Frantz nomination passed along party lines, five to three. Council member Bob Werner's argument that this position is not one that should be "viewed as on-the-job training," was rejected.

Frantz will be paid $95, 921, with room to move up to $124,975.

Donaher was confirmed six to two, with only Council members Ken Kraft and Bob Werner dissenting. Noting that Donaher has not worked in economic development in a decade, Kraft complained that a "real powerhouse" is needed.

Kraft also complained about the $80,113 salary, which has room to grow to $114.039.

Council member Lamont McClure was absent, which is why only only eight votes were cast on these votes.

In the meantime, most of Brown's cabinet is still unfilled.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sletvold: NorCo Council Passes First Political Courage Test

Republicans have a 5-4 majority on Northampton County Council. So when Republican Executive John Brown nominated the Republican husband of a newly elected Republican judge as Public Defender, and one who helped get him elected, team players should be expected to confirm. Never mind that it would essentially make it impossible for Judge Sletvold to hear about 75% of criminal or juvenile matters. Never mind that some of the delay in finding a replacement judge could have some very serious consequences.

Ironically, two of the Republican Council members who bucked their own party, and who must have done so under extreme pressure, are two that I opposed last election cycle.

Once again, i prove that I'm an idiot.

One of them, Hayden Phillips, is a person I called an extremist during the campaign because some of his views are out there. I still feel that way, but have to commend his integrity in choosing good government over party allegiance.

The second Council member, Seth Vaughn, is a person I criticized because of his chronic absences on the LV Planning Commission. But he, like Phillips, chose to do what he thought was in the best interests of the County.

Cynics say these two care nothing about good government and were really just promoting Tom Carroll, a tea party lawyer who might be interested in the PD slot. But if i have heard that there is no way that Brown would select Carroll, I am sure they heard that, too.

I believe they acted in the best interest of the County.

Mat Benol, Glenn Beissinger and Peg Ferraro? Not so much. Benol and Geissinger are new to the game and can be expected to stick to their party. But Peg knew better. She basically told Morning Call columnist Bill White that the appointment was bad, but chose her party over doing the right thing.

Frantz, Donaher Treated Kindly By Personnel Committee

Northampton County Executive John Brown's picks for Human Services and Community and Economic Development, Allison Frantz and Diane Donaher, were treated kindly by the Personnel Committee yesterday. Council members Ken Kraft, Mat Benol, Scott Parsons, Bob Werner and Peg Ferraro were there. Werner and Kraft posed most of the questions.

Allison Frantz

Brown proposes to start Frantz at $95,921 per year. She speaks a strange language, and may have set a world record on using the word "intersection" about a gazillion times. She also used strange phrases like "maximizing the continuum", "decision trees" and "funding thread." But her lexicon also includes a phrase that must be music to a Republican's ear - "fiscal accountability." She insisted she would bring this and that is why she chose to work for John Brown instead of applying to be Director of Human Services in Lehigh County. "The fiscal component will be an equal partner with the program component," she told Council.

I guess they don't care about fiscal accountability in Lehigh County. She certainly doesn't, or she never would have mismanaged the HAO program.

The maximum number of employees she has ever supervised is eight. There are currently four people under her.

She has no experience in veterans affairs, none with nursing homes, and has only dealt with unions on a "low level."

Diane Donaher

Donaher, who will start at $83,718 per year, basically puffed herself. She's someone who "knows the players," including Alan Jennings, as though the two people from her office who are on his board do not. She mischaracterized the current office as one that goes nowhere. "What they need is some one to lead and get out there in the community," she stated, completely ignoring all the outside work done by that office right now.

She described working on the BethWorks project and then Ken Kraft told her he worked there, too, and never saw her.

She also claims to have worked on a KOZ in Bethlehem. That's interesting, because Bethlehem has never had a KOZ or a KOEZ.

Maybe she worked on one in the vineyards of Bucks County.

She then tried to take credit for BassPro's recent interest in Bethlehem, noting she had taken the company on a tour about 11 years ago.

I'm sure that cinched it.

Based on Frantz' record in Lehigh County and lack of qualifications, I would vote against her. And after hearing Donaher falsely claim to have worked on a KOZ in Bethlehem, I'd pass on her, too.

But they will both likely be confirmed.

And may God have mercy on our souls.

Campaign Finance Scofflaw Proposed For Elections Comm'n

Under Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, the Executive selects Elections Commission members from a pool of names submitted by party chairs. They are then confirmed by County Council. That's what happened at yesterday's Personnel Committee. Council reviewed  five names that Executive John Brown submitted for consideration, based upon what he received from the party chairs. Incredibly, one of the persons nominated, Democrat George Treisner, is the very man who just a few short months ago, attempted to deprive voters of their right to see who was funding one of the campaign. He stated that candidate had filed with the state, something the state itself denied. The last place he belongs is on a body dealing with our most fundamental right.

As most of my readers know, I like to review pre-election campaign finance reports. That's how we find out what special interests are backing  a candidate. But last November, I simply was unable to find one for Tom O'Donnell, one of the Democratic County Council candidates. 

I filed a written complaint, and received this response from the elections office:
In response to this matter I just spoke to Tom O’Donnell. I informed him that the Elections Office has received a complaint in writing in regards to him not following finance laws and spending over $250.00 Dollars on his campaign. He stated that his treasure George Treisner has filed all the appropriate paper work to the state. I then informed him that he is not a state candidate therefore it should not be filed with the state; he is a local candidate who must file on a local level. I also told him that he is going to have to file the finance reports to our office and also if he has a committee he must legally form that committee by filling out the Political Committee Registration Statement. He asked me to mail the papers to him and said that George Treisner is out of town and when he comes back, this will be taken care of.
Treisner, his treasurer, was also at that time the Elections Commission Chair. Out of town or not, I decided to track him down. When I got to him, Treisner also told me that he had filed O'Donnell's paperwork with the state.

I told Treisner I couldn't find it. In fact, there was no record he had even formed a committee. 

"Keep looking," Treisner told me, and hung up.

I did. I called the state, and asked them to look. There was no committee registered under O'Donnell's name. There was no online report. In fact, I was told that it would be impossible for O'Donnell to have filed online because he would need a state identification number, and they only would give that to him if he were a state candidate.

Treisner, Chairman of the Elections Commission, deprived voters of their right to see who was funding O'Donnell's campaign. It appears to me that he was being dishonest.

The next day, O'Donnell finally filed a report and paid a $100 fine for being late. Though he had campaign signs that say they were paid for by "Citizens to Elect Tom O'Donnell," he formed no committee and filed individually. Every single one of his campaign signs had the wrong disclaimer.

Since he filed individually, there was no campaign treasurer. That appears to be yet another lie.

O'Donnell was ultimately defeated at the polls. But the person who helped him evade campaign finance laws wants to be re-appointed to the Elections Commission. 

This is simply wrong. 

But both a party boss and the Executive have gone along with this utter nonsense.

"How on earth can you appoint someone to the Elections Commission who doesn't even know how to follow campaign finance laws?" I asked Council yesterday. "To me, that's ridiculous."

Joe Welsh, a prominent Easton Democrat, defended Treisner, claiming this little slip up in no way impugns his "great integrity." I think it does. 

I also think he's a sexist, having once referred to a Democratic Vice Chair as a "bitch." What's more, even if he has great integrity as Joe insists, a man who screws up campaign finance reports and actually confuses county and state offices, deserves no spot on an elections commission.

"If you don't know the election laws, maybe you shouldn't be on the committee," mused Personnel Chair Ken Kraft, who himself once chaired the Elections Commission and believes it improper for a commission member to be involved in partisan races.

Council actually listened to me and tabled Treisner's nomination so they could investigate my claims.

I left the meeting in shock.

Actually, I had to leave because my car had broken down and I was hitching a ride with my brother. But don't fret. I caught the rest of the meeting online.