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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Pseudonyms Does Mezzacappa Use?

Can you help out?  Tricia Mezzacappa is unable to post at The Express Times under her own name. Her account was suspended after she repeatedly wrote about how "perfect" it would be to put a few hollow point bullets through my skull. She's created a plethora of other names, and injects herself into numerous stories.

Matt Dees is rightfully upset at being defamed by Tricia Mezzacappa at Lehigh Valley Live's Stickergate story.. He and I have both flagged the offensive comment that she posted, posing as Sparticus.

I intend to subpoena the registration information for Sparticus, as well as the other names she has created. That way she can be called on to account for her lies, which are spewed as a form of harassment.

I'm aware that she uses Sparticus, tictactoe, Matteodefault, and blueberries. If you are aware of any others, please list them in a comment below.

Updated 10 AM: The Express Times has thankfully removed the defamatory comment posted by Sparticus.

Instead of Kazoos, Nazareth Has a Perp Parade

Nazareth's annual kazoo parade has been canceled on Independence Day. It would be a joke, like the kazoo. Nazareth is hardly independent. It's under the thumb of a police chief with a thick Brooklyn accent who makes Captain Queeg look normal. Though he's been slammed with civil rights suit after civil rights suit in his short tenure here, Borough Council is afraid of him. He has just served notice that free speech is barred in Nazareth, at least when he's the object. He made that clear on Friday with a staged perp parade for three people who haven't been convicted of anything.

When Nazareth Police Chief Thomas Trachta arrested Trevor Gehret and two others on Friday over Stickergate, he detained them until both papers arrived. Then he paraded them outside, up from the police station to District Judge John Capobianco's courtroom. They were shackled and handcuffed, so the dailies could snap pictures of these desperadoes doing what is called the perp walk. The Morning Call video shows Jeremy Peters getting at least one shove by a cop who wants him to move faster.

It was actually more of a parade, along the entire length of the bank building. It was done to publicly humiliate this trio and impress a powerful image of guilt in the mind of the public. People charged with littering were treated as though they had just attempted to assassinate the President.

It was also totally unnecessary. Trachta could have easily escorted them up the stairway from the police station into the courtroom.

Trachta must have thought this would help his poor image. His plan backfired. Online comments in both newspapers have expressed outrage at this abuse of police power. The Chief has been called a megalomaniac, egotistical maniac, Nazi, moron, transplanted clown, Barney Fife and out-of-control.

I love it when jerks prove me right by their own actions.

I met Gehret on Friday, after his arrest and near immediate release by District Judge John Capobianco. He filled me in on his ordeal.

Police ignore signs on utility poles, but prosecute 2" x 2"stickers
Gehret was first called into the police station on Thursday night. He admitted to making the stickers, but nothing else. In a statement room, Chief Trachta called the District Attorney's office for permission to file charges, which is fairly routine. But get this. He made the call by speakerphone, and Gehret could hear every word.

Trachta apparently wanted to charge me, too, with harassment. He called me a "public nuisance" who dared report how much he paid for his home ($370,000) and where he lives (Bushkill Tp). This is public information. If I were like Trachta, I would have published his street address and phone number, too. An Assistant DA on the other end of the line had to explain that there's this goofy thing called the First Amendment. It applies even in Nazareth. It protects me. It protects Gehret, too, as the Chief will soon discover.

Trachta then tried to turn Gehret into a snitch. If Gehret would meet with me and find out where I am getting my information, he'd consider letting him off.  He even wanted Gehret to dime other Nazareth police officers, though Gehret had no discussions with any of them about this matter.

Gehret refused.

Showing his vindictive side, Trachta told Gehret he's a "retard." Very professional.  He threatened to perp walk Gehret

He still refused.

On Friday, Trachta pulled the trigger. Once again, he summoned Gehret, along with Jeremy Peters and Daniel Logothetis. They refused to provide confessions, instead asking for a lawyer. For exercising their constitutional rights, they were cuffed and tossed into a cell.

Gehret got to sit in the statement room again, while Trachta called the DA's Office and the press, inviting them to come for the show. Then they all waited for the newspapers. Once he knew they were all there, Trachta went outside and had an extensive discussion with them. Then, instead of taking the three defendants up the stairwell, Trachta conducted his perp parade along the bank building, creating a traffic hazard for the drive thru crowd.

All he needed was a marching band.

And a kazoo.

Let's keep in mind the charges here. They are all summary offenses, except for criminal mischief. That's a third degree misdemeanor, and that's a stretch. These defendants presented no flight risk. There really was no basis for an arrest. But they're townies, second class citizens. They get treated like garbage.

As the trio made its way up the hill, I couldn't help but be reminded of another trio forced to do a perp walk over 2,000 years ago. The original perp walk. Jesus Christ and the two thieves were marched along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. Even Imperial Rome had the good sense to wait until there was a trial and conviction before this public humiliation.

Past American humiliations have included the stockade, dunking stool and the scarlet ‘A’ for adulterers. But those also followed a trial and conviction.

Fourteen years ago, the Second Circuit ruled that staged perp walks like the one Trachta conducted, violate a person's rights under the Fourth Amendment. They also shatter the presumption of innocence and constitute a form of punishment before there's even a finding of guilt.

Of course that was Trachta's intention.

I suspect that Gehret will soon be able to buy lots of stickers.

In the meantime, there was no police coverage at all in Nazareth on Saturday night.

Let the civil rights lawsuits begin.  I want to tell you why Chief Trachta really has a hot nut for Gehret. It's more than the stickers. Gehret knows a dirty little secret. He even went to Borough Council with it. Trachta wants to silence him. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

HAM Radio Operators Prepare For Emergencies

Ham operators set up six meter antenna at Louise Moore Park
In a day of cell phones and satellites, people no longer pay much attention to ham radios. But when Hurricane Sandy stuck in 2012, and most Lehigh Valley municipalities were without power or cell phone service, it is the lowly ham radio that kept people in touch. Northampton County Emergency Management relied on them to keep in touch with outlying townships. So did the American Red Cross, which had ham operators at each emergency shelter. In the last weekend of June, amateur radio operators conduct an annual field day to sharpen their abilities to communicate without power.

Contacts were monitored at three different stations
The Delaware Lehigh Amateur Radio Club, based in Bethlehem Township, conducted their annual field day at Louise Moore Park in Lower Nazareth. For 24 hours straight, club members manning three stations made as many contacts with other ham operators throughout the country. At the end of 24 hours, they had completed 1,300 contacts in all 50 states,according to Stephanie Koles (WX3K), the Field Day Chair and burger chef for 130 participants,

Bilger scraped his elbow helping to erect antenna
One of these participants was 90 year old Ray Bilger (W3TDF), who brought and helped erect a six-meter antenna. A WWII vet, Bilger worked for 43 years at the Reading Railroad. But he retained his love of radio, and became licensed in 1946, right after getting out of the service. He can still read and send Morse code at 30 words per minute.  

He explained why ham operators are still so crucial. "If you have a major eruption on the sun, it will take all the satellites out," he explained. "And without the satellites, you don't have cell phones, you don't have TVs, you don't have nothing."

Rick Saeger (K300)is a world class contacter who'd like to see more young people involved. "It's a great hobby," he said. "It's family friendly. we'd like to get more people involved because it's a great hobby." His daughter Sara (K3000),now 23, was licensed at age 8.

Saeger stated you could get started in this hobby for under $100.

Because this was a 24-hour operation, some operators like Ben Ramig (KB3CTX) camped on site.

Cigars International - More Than Just Cigars

Cigars International, located near Route 22, at 4078 Nazareth Pike, was packed on June 28 for much more than a one-day sale. Outside, a band played as customers feasted at an old-fashioned BBQ, along with free beer. Inside the massive store, customers huddled in a TV room to watch soccer. There is also a game room to play chess, and some even saddled up against a bar.

Staff members Time Kramer, Ryne Rozelle, Jim Kerebs and Drew Braun were busy, but smiling.

Like the members at some exclusive club, customers can sit in an easy share, enjoy a game and smoke a corona without being asked to leave.

Some customers also bought cigars for the "Cigars for Troops" program sponsored by the store.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three Males Arrested In Nazareth's Stickergate

After a week of nonstop investigation, Nazareth Police Chief Thomas Trachta has made an arrest in Stickergate. He paraded three males in front of the police station a few minutes ago, in shackles and handcuffs. Those three are accused of being the persons responsible for tiny 2" x 2" "FT Fire Tracthta" stickers that began popping up in Nazareth over the weekend.

Though these stickers have damaged nothing, and are protected free speech, Trachta is demanding 20 years in the electric chair.

Now all he needs to do is get those damn Freemason.

Tales of Trachta: The Freemason Conspiracy

Masons plot against Trachta
In my first installment of Tales of Trachta, "Shit Happens," someone anonymously posted this bizarre comment: "grow up Bernie and spend more time at the temple with your other than pure buddies". At first, I thought this was an anti-Semitic slur, though I happen to be Irish and a Druid. Then I remembered.

Numerous sources have told me that Nazareth Police Chief Thomas Trachta thinks the Freemasons, whose lodges meet in temples, are out to get him. So I suspect that comment comes from someone, possibly Trachta himself, who considers freemasonry an evil menace.

I had no idea I was a Freemason myself.

Are they out to get Trachta? I called around to a few Grand Masters, and they tell me it's all true. They've been plotting for years, and FT is part of their secret code. In fact, I'll bet that big dump that someone deposited on Trachta's porch was left by a Mason.

DeFranco, Snover Will Lead NorCo GOP, Despite Dirty Tricks

Craig DeFranco, Lee Snover and Ron Angle after election
Despite the usual dirty tricks from a group calling themselves Rats, the Northampton County GOP faithful have re-elected Craig DeFranco and Lee Snover to lead the County party. DeFranco was elected Chair in a close, 96-90, vote. Lee Snover prevailed in the Vice Chair race by 106-85. Because the Rats objected to the transparency of a reorganization at the courthouse, which included worries about my reporting, the election was held at the Chrin Community Center. That way the public could be excluded and Rats could open carry. But Chrin banned firearms, and two constables were on hand to ensure order was maintained. The election process was conducted by Vic Scomillio, the Northampton County Solicitor.

What were the dirty tricks I mention? What the Rats did was select voters in different precincts and elect them to committee positions, without bothering to tell them. After they were elected, they were approached, and most said they had no interest and gave proxies to Rats like Ronnie DelBacco.

Lee Snover got wind of what was happening when she contacted two of the newly elected committee members. They instructed DelBacco that they were withdrawing their proxies, but he refused to withdraw them. During the meeting, they both called in and advised they were withdrawing their proxies, but DelBacco still refused, and cast their votes for the Rat candidates.

Snover also asked Council member Hayden Phillips to nominate her. He refused, stating he would be neutral in the Vice Chair race and cast no vote. Then he voted, contrary to what he had told her. Snover confronted him, but he just brushed her off.

Snover delivered what was, by all accounts, a great speech (you can read it here) before the vote. Nobody who reads that speech would ever conclude she is a RINO. Pointing to Republican success in the last election cycle, she asks, "Why would you replace the winning team?" She also implored fellow Republicans to start "unifying and concentrating on winning as opposed to tearing each other down."

That won't happen with nuts like Mezzacappa and DelBacco, who are thought by many to be the co-authors of "David Jones" emails that launch vicious personal attacks at other Republicans. Mezzacappa told Ron Angle, who likes to carry an unlit cigar with him, to put it away. He told her to mind her own business.

The Rats, incidentally, are chaired by Tom Carroll, who thinks he can be elected judge after aligning himself with a group that called themselves "troublemakers" last night.

Though I was barred from the Chrin building for the evening's festivities, I met with the real Ron Angle Slate after the meeting for an impromptu get together at the Nazareth Diner. That's where I got most of my facts.
The real Ron Angle slate

Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Picks New Solicitors

Terry Faul
After nearly 15 years, Mickey Thompson is no longer the Solicitor to Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board. At their June 25 meeting, zoners replaced by a unanimous vote. Erich Shock was selected as Thompson's successor, with Terry Faul serving as Shock's assistant.

Thompson is the Chief Operating Officer at Pennsylvania Venture Capital, which is owned by controversial developer Abe Atiyeh. In the past several years, Thompson has been forced to recuse himself from matters involving Atiyeh or one of his competitors. In 2012, then DCED Director Joe Kelly publicly called on the Zoning Hearing Board to replace Thompson because his role as legal advisor might unfairly tarnish the Board. The Board resisted that move, though some members did feel it was time for a change.

Thompson is a 1999 graduate of the Syracuse University School of law, and had a near perfect record on court appeals of Board decisions.

He was absent from the June 25 meeting.

Shock, who was also absent, is a 1992 graduate of the George Mason University School of Law. He is a shareholder at Fitzpatrick, Lentz and Bubba and a former president of the Lehigh County Bar Association.

Shock's assistant, Terry Faul, was present and provided legal advise to the Board during their hearings. A partner in the King Spry firm, Faul is a 1976 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tales of Trachta: Shit Happens

Nazareth Borough Police Chief Thomas Trachta lives in a magnificent home in Bushkill Township. He and his wife paid $370,000 for the property nearly ten years ago, and currently own it free and clear. Good for him. He has hired PT Nazareth police officers to do masonry work for him but did have a dispute with one of the contractors a few years ago. During that controversy, he opened his door one bright and sunny morning to see a gigantic pile of shit on his front porch.

Trachta called Bushkill Township police, and they confirmed that it sure looked like shit to them.

"What do you want us to do?" they asked.

"I want you to investigate who dumped on my front porch!" Trachta demanded. He wanted them to remove the shit as evidence. "I want that shit analyzed!"

"See 'ya," said the Bushkill police, who then cleared the scene.

He's not the boss of them.

Trachta decided to take matters into his own hands, so to speak. He got a little plastic baggie, scooped up the shit, and took it with him to the Nazareth Police Department.

From there, he sent it to the Pennsylvania State Police, whose crime lab apparently includes a shit analysis division.

I'm fairly certain it's improper and possibly illegal for Trachta to use Nazareth police resources, which included a control number for the lab request, to investigate a crime in Bushkill Township. Thankfully, the PSP refused to conduct this shit analysis. They flushed the evidence, and told Trachta not to bother them with his shit unless it's a homicide.

This story, in a nutshell, tells you what kind of guy Trachta is. He appears to be vindictive and is perfectly willing to abuse official resources when it's in his own interest. Stay tuned for my next Tale of Trachta. This story involved poo poo. The next one will hone in on pee pee.

Is Bangor's Pool Properly Supervised?

This story comes from a reader, who asks me to protect his/her anonymity.

I do not wish to be identified for a variety of reasons, but this needs to be addressed. 

This is another mess coming from the Borough of Bangor which appears to have been and continues to be grossly mismanaged by the former mayor, John Brown, who proves his inexperience and incompetence on a regular basis and the equally inexperienced and incompetent Borough Council President, Cathy Allen who works for John Brown at the county.

I do not wish to read a future story of a child who drowned because the Borough of Bangor failed to provide qualified and responsible lifeguards. WFMZ should interview eyewitnesses who contradict the storyline reported by the television station.

Here is the online article:

Here are four comments from people who know:


Jacqui Cooper
I have never been so angry or disgusted reading a story in my life!!! Not a single life guard was in their stand when this happened and while my 10 year old daughter was swimming down towards her another lady (not a lifeguard) jumped in!!! They didn't come running to the deep end until the little girl was pulled out of the water!!! This story is soo far from the truth it isn't even funny!!! Maybe the mother should have been more careful yes but don't make those lifeguards the hero's not a single one was doing their job!!! All should be let go if you ask me!!! I've been going to this pool for years and this is by far the worst group of lifeguards they have EVER had and I said that since opening day! I can tell you that even if my daughter EVER wanted to go back it would not be until all life guards have been replaced!!!

Meghan Elizabeth Dougherty
The news will lie to make the borough look better since Bangor is going down the drain. They should have real lifeguards at the pool or they should just shut the pool down.

Kristine Frosten Stauffer
I just don't know how they can try and twist the story when there were so many of us there watching. I was there with my 2 1/2 year old in the pool and it is just like you said. Just glad to hear that the little girl is okay!!!

Jacqui Cooper
This is actually the second child in 3 days that has been pulled out of the water by someone NOT working there...

Gregory Faces New PFA Contempt Charge

Jim Gregory has been a police officer, Bethlehem City Council President, Mayoral candidate, union activist, casino gambler, 911 dispatcher, Human Services caseworker, and short-lived shock jock. He is also a state correctional system inmate, serving a 15-month sentence imposed by Judge Leonard Zito for repeated violations of Protection From Abuse Act Orders. With credit for good-time, I expected that he would be out by now. But not after learning that he's been cited again with contempt of PFA Orders. Judge Zito has scheduled a hearing for July 11.

Last September, when Gregory was sentenced, Judge Zito found him to be both arrogant and manipulative, and seemed especially appalled that the self-proclaimed Mensan would use inmates to send letters to his ex and even contact her after their release.

Gregory was repeatedly told that he is barred from any contact with either his ex, his sister and even his mother. But believe it or not, he has continued to write letter after letter to his ex. She has a shoe box full of them. She knows he's in violation, but is trying to ignore him.

A cocktail waitress at the Sands was also concerned about continued Gregory contacts from state prison, after he was warned to stay from her by state police. She declined to prosecute as well, fearing the bad publicity that would result and its possible impact on her success in beauty pageants.

But his sister filed charges. He continues to send letters to her and her mother, despite being told not to do so.

Gregory actually expected the PFAs to be withdrawn after the election. "The man pushing the complaints through others just lost the election," he informed the PFA Office. "My friend John Brown won. Great guy. Tell him I said Hello in January."

I don't know if the PFA passed on Gregory's regards, but I do know that he is operating under the delusion that he is some sort of political prisoner. In fact, he is a criminal who bullies and hurts women.

His wife (believe it or not, he's married) is divorcing him. His home was burglarized by someone who knew he was in jail and took the time, for some reason, to shred a portrait of his ex-girlfriend. His home is in foreclosure. He appears to be well on the way to serving additional time when he should have been out by now.

All he has to show for the past year is four write-in votes last November.

Former Albarell Business Site To Be a Residence

Annjanette Trinidad
Would you rather have a McDonald's or another residence next to your home? That was one of many questions considered on June 25 when Bethlehem zoners were asked to allow Michael Albarell to convert a commercial building behind the family home at 1358 Easton Avenue into another residence. Next door neighbors Christine and John Dewhurst, not only objected, but paraded an appraiser who actually claimed, as an expert, that it's always better to have a business next to you than a home.

Formed in 1937 on South Side Bethlehem's East Third Street, Albarell Electric has established itself as a leader in providing electrical services to the Lehigh Valley, with customers that extend from St. Luke's Riverside campus to TD Bank. The company now has three different locations. But for many years, it was housed in a building behind the residence where Michael Albarell grew up and where his mother and aunt resided.

Instead of running a business at the site, Albarell sought a "special exception" to allow him to deconvert the business into a residence. Under zoning laws, this must be allowed so long as the proposed use does not seriously infringe the health, safety and welfare of the community. Represented by Bethlehem Attorney Jim Holzinger, Albarell argued that a residence at that site would be more in character with the neighborhood. It would mean less traffic. No noxious fumes. No signage.

Not so, protested next door neighbor Christine Dewhurst, who repeatedly stated that "the City should take an interest in this property." She would prefer to see the building knocked down. But if it has to stay, she would prefer a commercial use. And a 12' high fence. Then she broke down in tears.

Dewhurst also introduced real estate appraiser William Stoerrle, who told zoners that a deconversion from commercial to residential would decrease Dewhurst's property value by at least ten per cent. He maintained that residential properties are enhanced by commercial uses next door because businesses take better care of their property.

"Are you suggesting that if i had a single family home next to a McDonald's, it would be worth more than one next to another single family home?" asked Attorney Holzinger.

- "Yes."

"Would a tattoo parlor have a positive impact on a property next door?"

- "Yes."

"A hot dog shop?"

Zoners unanimously granted Albarell's special exception request.

Right after Albarell, they entertained a similar request from Norman Roberts, who owns 10 W. Market Street. That property consists of two apartments, as well as a commercial use on the first floor. Roberts asked zoners to allow a special exception that would permit a "handsome" first floor apartment with a fireplace in the bed room, one he likes so much he plans to move there himself in a few years. At one time, a well known dress shop called "10 West" operated there.

This property is located in the Historic District. Bruce Haines, a principal at Hotel Bethlehem, is quite active in the Historic District. He told zoners that, while he would he would prefer to see just two apartments, "I applaud Mr. Roberts for eliminating one of the few remaining nonconforming commercial uses in the Historic District."

By a unanimous vote, zoners agreed to grant the special exception.

In a busy night, zoners also granted variances for sheds on properties owned by Kent and Victoria Aitchison at 2752 Walker Street, as well as for Daniel Gerlach at 3173 Center Street. Both sheds are located in front yards. In Gerlach's case, he told zoners that his back yard is so steep that he's unable to get his lawn tractor out for snow removal in the winter. For the Aitchisons, they actually have a property with two front yards.

Maxine Gillespie, who lives next to the Aithisons, told zoners, "I've never seen a shed in the front of a house. Ever."

The Aitchisons plan to mask the shed, which they called "very tasteful", with hemlock plants.

Finally, zoners gave permission to Annjanette Trinidad to operate a family daycare at 1353 Crestwood Road, for a maximum number of six children between ages 3 and 5. Trinidad, who has a degree in education, told the board she would provide a "stay at home feel plus quality education."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dozens of Tiny "Fire Trachta" Stickers Decorate Nazareth

As fast as police can take them down, that's how fast they are popping up. Tiny "FT (Fire Trachta)" stickers are springing up all over Nazareth, along with the dandelions. They're are so small, about 2" x 2", that I would never have noticed them unless I saw police officers taking them down yesterday. Chief Thomas Trachta, at whom the stickers are directed, has ordered cops to keep Nazareth sticker-free.

No sense of humor.

They're all over. Mailboxes, telephone poles, benches and even crime prevention signs. Police have removed a bunch, but I saw more when I went on an early evening walk

The FTs are someone's way of saying FU to Trachta.

Who's doing it?

I'm likely the chief suspect, or up there. I recently criticized Trachta as a lousy police chief unwilling to listen to anyone but himself. Martinets like he are why regionalized police forces like Colonial Regional look so good.

I do like the sly humor in the stickers, although I would have spelled it тяасдта. But alas, it's not me. These stickers are being posted anonymously. I sign my name. Also, although stickers are much smaller than signs, I don't like to see utility poles and road signs marred in any way. On park benches and water fountains, however, it's pretty harmless.

Trachta detests townies (people who live downtown), so he's probably scouring videos up and down Main Street to find his culprit.

Whoever you are, wave a few times!

I frankly think this clever idea, which does have the townies laughing, comes from one of his own. Most townies don't know that Trachta has a big civil service hearing today. A police officer who has lived here all his life and wants to work here, thinks Trachta has blackballed him. And he may be right. Not only did Trachta sink his police application here, but he even tried to get this cop fired from working as a police officer in another municipality.

Trachta has claimed that this person was involuntarily committed during his teen years.

But he's wrong. During his teen years when both his grandfather and father suddenly died, this officer did seek professional help, but was never given an involuntary commitment. I was unaware that grieving the loss of a father and grandfather disqualifies you as a cop. If anything, it should be an enhancer. I would want a police officer who knows what it is like to suffer an emotional trauma.I'll bet the Civil Service Commission does, too.

I called Chief Trachta for comment yesterday, but he never called back.

You see, I'm just a townie myself.

I've come to the realization that we don't need guys like Trachta to make us look like idiots. We do a great job of that all by ourselves, damn it!

I have begun my own research concerning this guy.You need to know about him.

I'll start tomorrow with Chief Trachta and his investigation of a pile of shit.

EPA Orders 30 LV Municipalities To Improve Stormwater Management

Thirty LV municipalities have been ordered by the U.S. EPA to improve their stormwater management plans to improve water quality in local streams as well as the Chesapeake Bay. Statewide, the order went to 85 municipalities in north central and northeastern Pa.

Lehigh County (11 municipalities)

Catasauqua Borough
Slatington Borough
Whitehall Township
Macungie Township
Upper Milford Township
Salisbury Township
South Whitehall Township
Emmaus Borough
Alburtis Borough
Weisenberg Township
Fountain Hill Borough

Northampton County (19 municipalities)

Lower Saucon Township
Lower Nazareth Township
Hanover Township
Allen Township
Northampton Borough
Walnutport Borough
Bangor Borough
Lower Mt. Bethel Township
Pen Argyl Borough
Freemansburg Borough
Williams Township
East Allen Township
Easton City
Bushkill Township
Plainfield Township
Hellertown Borough
Northampton County
Wind Gap Borough
Forks Township

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bangor School Board: The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 of the LV

Bob Cartwright
Most of you know that, as a rule, I don't do school boards. In fact, I don't even understand them. I've been forced to cover a few school board meetings in Bethlehem, and they don't even speak English. Not Spanish, either. It's bureaucratese, and I'm usually lost in thirty seconds. So the last place I want to be on a Summer night is at a school board meeting. But that's where I was last night. Until nearly midnight. And that's thanks to my pal, Ron Angle.

Angle promised me I'd be out of there in no time. So I came up. Little did I know that they were deciding on the frickin' budget for next year.

Thanks a lot, Ron.

I decided to stay and watch what is reputedly one of the most dysfunctional bodies in the Lehigh Valley. In fact, Bruce Cameron made that observation himself, and he's a Director. They were nutty, interrupted each other, argued and pontificated. But at the same time, they laughed at themselves, traded barbs with the peanut gallery and seemed to be a genial bunch in spite of themselves.  I liked them.

Mike Goffredo
Fortunately, one of my favorite people, Mark "the bastard" Thatcher attended the meeting and sat right behind me while Angle was in front.

Thatcher, you might recall, is the same guy who some months ago grabbed Toni Lynch's cell phone and tossed it into a loaded toilet at the Mount Bethel Diner. Angle tried saving it in a bowl of rice, but alas, it was too far gone.

The person whose cell phone was flushed is Toni Lynch, a School Director.

Thatcher and Angle were acting like the guys on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. As Directors gave speeches, Thatcher, Angle and Directors would pop off wisecracks.

Director Mike Goffredo: "No one here can speak on behalf of the auditor general!"

Thatcher: "I can"

Director Bob Cartwright: "What about the little guy that's eating Roman [sic] noodles?"

Thatcher: "Fuck the little guy."

Angle: "You don't eat the seed corn."

Thatcher: "You're eating something."

Toni Lynch
Eventually, after an exchange among Angle, Cartwright and Goffredo about who really shops at the Dollar Store, one parent had had enough. He told Directors that he really does not appreciate the rude comments he's hearing ... and then he looked right at me.

Then somebody's phone, probably Lynch's, went off with the ESPN jingle.

They did pass a budget last night, right before midnight in something of a miracle. They had rejected budgets that call for 1.74%, 2.7% , 1.74%  (again) and 2.2% tax hikes. They finally compromised at 1.89%, mostly because Cartwright said it reminded him of a Wal Mart number. It was a 5-3 vote supported by Cartwright, Cameron, Goffredo, Ken Brewer and Steve Bussenger.

All budgets called for spending the same $54 million. The only difference was how far they wanted to dip into the cash reserve. The 1.89% tax hike deficit spends $340,000 and will result in a 52.29 millage rate.

Before the first budget vote, Lynch pulled out a speech and began reading for about 20 minutes. He later pointed out that he's trained in jungle warfare and desert survival. He then said, "A drip of water at a time will kill you."

It certainly killed his cell phone.

I later learned that Lynch did serve his country,possibly in Vietnam, but shot himself in the foot while cleaning his rifle. He claims he has a Purple Heart.

Occasionally, I'd get fed up and leave for a breath of fresh air, especially since Angle said this would be a quickie. There was an attractive female police officer outside. I asked her if she did mouth to mouth and she tased me.

"Leave me alone, Thatcher! I've been warned about you," she said, as I pulled the wires out.

I walked back in to see the Board vote to send the King Spry legal bills over the last two years for review by the auditor general.

Goffredo was the sole No vote there. He claimed the bill for last year is really just $157,352, and things have been "blown out of proportion" by Ron Angle and Cartwright. He pointed out that Angle himself has told him that law firm squandered the $40,000 left in his father's estate until there was just a few dollars left.

Angle reported that is precisely why the bills should be reviewed for overcharges. He also pointed out that Goffredo is represent by King Spry.

Attorney Don Spry, who was present, had little to say. Angle began questioning him about his actions concerning a former teacher who was stealing boys' underwear, referring to a Grand Jury report in Dauphin County in which King Spry was criticized for not involving police sooner. Spry said he cannot discuss that matter because it involves personnel.

Slate Belt Y Proposes After Hours Program For bangor Schools

L to R: Dick Smith, Slate Belt Y Founder; Devon Whiteman, Jill A'Hearn and Frank Frey
Did you know that 40% of the children at Bangor Area School District are entitled to free lunches? Jill A'Hearn, speaking on behalf of the Slate Belt YMCA, has proposed an after hours program for children until their working parents can pick them up. It will be educational, but also will include physical activity and a snack. The cost is $11 per student per day, but no child will be turned away.

School Director Bob Cartwright was skeptical at their meeting last night until he realized that it includes an educational component.

Ron Angle, from the peanut gallery, piped up and told the Board, Thus is one of the most marvelous things I've heard in a long time." He added, "I would sponsor a child."

Frank Frey the CEO at the Greatervalley Y, told the Board there are similar programs in seven area school districts.

The Slate Belt Y, based in Pen Argyl, has raised $4.2 million of the $6 million it needs to complete construction.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bethlehem City Official May Have Interest in City Vendor

Bob Donchez
From Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez:

Last Tuesday (June 17, 2014), the City Controller (DiGiacinto) and City Solicitor (Leeson), brought to my attention that the City of Bethlehem had retained a private company called Barnsdale Associates to engage in the removal of debris from city property. I was further informed that Business Administrator David Brong is part owner of the company.

It is completely unacceptable to me as Mayor, for any department head to be involved with a private business that does work for the city.  In keeping with my pledge, to have a transparent government in Bethlehem and to assure that the private interests of City Department Heads are not in conflict with their duty of loyalty owed to the city, I am directing the City Solicitor to conduct a complete review and report back to me with all details on this matter. 

·         In the meantime, I have directed that no further work be given to Barnsdale Associates. 

I will comment further upon the receipt of the Solicitor’s report and at that time I will report on remedial measures and disciplinary action, if any, that will be taken. 

According to state corporation records, Barnsdale Associates is a fictitious named registered in 1987 by "Angelo Villani et al". I know from real estate searches that Barnsdale was the developer of several Bethlehem properties,and that Brong at least was a partner.

Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act states, "No public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest." The Act defines "conflict of interest" as the "[u]se by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated."

Section 1103(f) of the Ethics Act states, "No public official or public employee or his spouse or child or any business in which the person or his spouse or child is associated shall enter into any contract valued at $500 or more with the governmental body with which the public official or public employee is associated or any subcontract valued at $500 or more with any person who has been awarded a contract with the governmental body with which the public official or public employee is associated, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded. In such a case, the public official or public employee shall not have any supervisory or overall responsibility for the implementation or administration of the contract. Any contract or subcontract made in violation of this subsection shall be voidable by a court of competent jurisdiction if the suit is commenced within 90 days of the making of the contract or subcontract."

Updated 1:15 pm: Brong Unaware of City Involvement

Business Administrator David Brong has responded to a request to explain his involvement. He tells me that he is one of six owners in Barnsdale Associates, which was started by his father-in-law in the '80s.  He has no involvement in their day-to-day business, which consist at this time of the operation of an old quarry once owned by Bethlehem Steel. That is their sole remaining asset.

Brong reports that, unknown to him, someone in the City contacted Barnsdale earlier this month as a dumping site for clean fill. The City just received its first invoice, and that is how the problem was discovered. He denies any involvement in soliciting or procuring City business.

Mayor Donchez is double-checking Brong's statements with the department that entered into a relationship with Barnsdale. "I want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," noted Donchez, who said he found initial reports "very troubling."

John Tallarico, Chair off the Bethlehem Authority's Board, is also reputedly an owner in Barnsdale Associates. Tallarico and Brong are both related to former Mayor John Callahan.

NorCo: A Bad Audit and The Case of the Missing KnickKnacs

According to Northampton County's independent auditor, the County is in desperate financial straights. That's what Nancy Gunza, a CPA with CliftonLarsonAllen, told Council's Finance Committee on June 18. The unrestricted reserve at the end of last year was down to $11.1 million. In a county that spends $9-10 million per month, that's an uh oh.  .

It's also way below the six months reserve recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association as a "best practice."

This is no shocker. Acting Fiscal Affairs Director Doran Hamann has been warning that we are dipping into reserves at an unhealthy pace for several years. But he's been ignored by a Council with its head in the sand, unwilling to face reality, especially when a Council member and Controller claim all is well.

The Barron Budgets

Two years ago, when Hamann first started raising red flags, Barron derided what he called the "the Chicken Little theory of budgeting," Barron insisted that the fund balance would be fine no matter how gloomy a forecast is provided. "If you're going to raise taxes and do that, I wouldn't swallow it very well as a taxpayer," he advised.

Because there are few things Barron von Footinmouth won't swallow, Council was only all too happy to go along.

Barron predicted there would actually be an $8 million increase in the County's fund balance, in contrast to Hamann's more somber forecast that the balance would drop.

Fast forward a few months later, and it turned out that Barron had been dead wrong. Instead of the $8 million increased fund balance that Barron had promised, it decreased by $2.25 million.

Barron was only off by $10.2 million.

Then Executive John Stoffa told Council,

"If I were to die tonight, my words of wisdom to you would be don't ever accept numbers from anyone in this County other than Doran Hamann. When it comes to numbers, Doran is our most valuable player. There is no one in the County who understands our financial situation better, and it is unfortunate that our Controller made this erroneous prediction without understanding the difference between a cash system of accounting and modified accrual."

Stoffa, of course, was ignored, along with Hamann. That was evident by Council member Ken Kraft's reaction to an independent CPA's gloomy financial assessment last week. He repeatedly tried to claim that she had missed $25 million.

What happened to $25 million stabilization fund?

Kraft insisted that the $11.1 million figure quoted by Gunza is in addition to the County's $25 million stabilization, or rainy day, fund. In fact, he was sure that $25 million is there "to keep this ship going" in the event of a catastrophe.

It's not there.

"We have a $25 million stabilization fund that we're not allowed to touch," he argued.

"You had $25 million," responded the County's Fiscal Director, Doran Hamann. "I think the word is you 'had' 25." The MVP added that last year, "We spent $14 million in excess of our revenues," which brought the stabilization fund down from a healthy $25 million to an unhealthy $11.1 million. Hamann also warned Council last year, during budget hearings, that the County would need to dip heavily into reserves because it was spending more than it was taking in.

Gunza added that the total fund balance at the end of last year was just $28 million.

Still perplexed, Kraft asked Controller Steve Barron to name the $25 million rainy day fund. Barron stumbled for words, while Gunza and Hamann both explained a second time that it is called a stabilization fund.

To be fair, Northampton County is by no means unique. Gunza later told Council member Bob Werner that "quite a few" other municipalities are "struggling" with low fund balances.

McClure denied deficit prior to audit report

Council member Lamont McClure unsuccessfully ran for Executive last year on a no-tax pledge. Barron, who endorsed McClure several times, introduced him to AFSCME supporters and told people around the courthouse that he would be the next Director of Fiscal Affairs, replacing Hamann. Kraft was at McClure's announcement, too, though he claimed to be neutral.

According to McClure, everything's fine. We even have the money to bail out millionaire golf course developers whose businesses have tanked. We might need to stop spending money on treating inmates, though.

They don't vote.

A few weeks ago, Council member Hayden Phillips opposed open space projects that include a defunct golf course because "[w]e don't have the money. We shouldn't be spending it."

Council member Lamont McClure, however, denied a deficit even exists. "We are not deficit spending," he asservated.. "The money from the fund balance was over taxation."

"We won't be paying our expenses this year with this year's revenue," noted Phillips. "Isn't that the definition of deficit spending?"

According to McClure, the answer is No. But to the County's independent auditor, the answer seems to be Yes.

McClure would not know this because he was absent from the Finance Committee meeting in which the independent auditor revealed exactly what is going on. He missed it the last time she came, too. .

Barron and McClure try the old switcheroo. 

To anyone willing to look at County finances objectively, it's obvious that Controller Steve Barron and Lamont McClure have been more than willing to spend the rainy day fund. It's an old tactic that has been employed time and again by politicians who lack the political will to do what is right.

It's how you end up with a 70% tax hike, which happened in Lehigh County. It's how you end up with a 63% tax hike, which happened in Northampton County during the Glenn Reibman era.

It's also how you end up with 11 unions when workers start getting laid off.

Barron, McClure and Kraft all deny there's even a problem. While Kraft has demonstrated an ability to read union and vendor contracts in his years on Council, he has just betrayed a disturbing ignorance of County finances.

Well, there's no way you can sweep that audit under the rug. So what they have done instead is try very hard to switch the subject.

They now are really, really, really, really upset that someone has been stealing knickknacks from the new centralized human services building, and are demanding answers. It must be those damn nonunion custodial workers.

If any of you have ever worked for a big employer, you know that petty thefts occur. It's as inevitable as the rain. If you leave something on your desk or in an unlocked drawer, it might not be there the next day. The cleaning staff is always blamed, though I suspect that sometimes, people are just forgetful.

Instead of addressing a  $14 million in deficit spending, Controller Steve Barron has his magnifying glass out, and is hot on the trail of these thefts. He made three unsolicited reports to Council last week, hoping they forget about that nasty audit.

What makes this great for Barron, who likes to advise union agents on whether they are getting the best bang for their buck with proposed union contracts, is that he can blame a nonunion company for stealing. He's honed in on a privatized, $51,000 custodial contract with ServiceMaster, a nonunion outfit, for the new centralized human services building. "The AFSCME union that does the cleaning in the building didn't necessarily sign off on this," he warned. He also has raised privacy concerns, and wants a confidentially agreement signed.

Now ServiceMaster does criminal background checks on everyone who works at that building. The Sheriff's Department and DA's office were apprised that someone might have sticky fingers. I doubt the Sheriff is notified when someone steals knickknacs at Gracedale. I know it does not happen at the courthouse, where small thefts sometime occur.

An indignant Lamont McClure feigned shock, absolute shock, that Council was not told.

"This is the first time I'm hearing of this," he disingenuously stated.

"Were we made aware of this?" asked Bob Werner

Eventually, both Executive John Brown and Acting Sheriff Chris Ziegler had to explain that a few human services employees experienced some petty thefts.

I was unaware that County Council doubles as an Investigating Grand Jury.

Of course, it does not. McClure and Barron don't give a rat's ass about missing knickknacks, or they would have convened an Inquisition by now about the petty thefts at the courthouse alone.

The purpose here was to deflect attention away from a bad audit, and muddy up a privatized nonunion business.

The ole switcheroo.

NorCo GOP To Pick Leaders In Secret

DeFranco and Snover
Northampton County is a Democratic County. But Republicans are in the driver's seat. They control the Executive's office and currently have a 5-4 majority on County Council. Even most of the judges are Republican. So you might think this is the one county party that has its act together. They'll meet this week on June 26 to select the Chair and Vice Chair for the next four years. But ironically, the county party with the most victories also has the most in-fighting. When the cops get called to one of your meetings, you should know you've got a problem.

Personally, I think these party committees are little more than a relic of the patronage days. Even Ed Rendell, who has bucked his own party more than once, dismisses them. "They have no significance, no political power, no punch."

Why are Republicans winning? Because they vote. Even in a Democratic county like Northampton, people are disgusted by President Obama. They stay home.

In the meantime, it's fun to watch wannabes make idiots out of themselves in their quest for power. Tom Carroll, Tony Simao, Tricia Mezzacappa and Ronnie Del Bacco are among those appropriately calling themselves the RATs. Loser might be more appropriate. They have yet to win an election.

Historically, Republicans and Democrats both reorganize at the Courthouse. That's where Democrats picked Obamaphile Matt Munsey as their new boss two weeks ago. Though only committee members may vote, everyone is welcome. It's the people's building. Before all the layoffs at local newspapers, they usually dispatched someone for the show.

In a break from tradition, Republicans will reorganize somewhere else this year. Privately  Instead of using the courthouse, they will meet in the tea party's underground lair at the Chrin Community Center. The RATs complained about a public meeting. Some say they want to keep bottom feeders like me away. Others say that the gun nuts want to open carry. Whatever the reason, it's yet another amazing demonstration that the RATs are hellbent on destroying transparency and accountability.

Who are the contenders?

DeFranco and Snover

Roseto resident Craig DeFranco, the current Chair, is seeking re-election. He's a Villanova grad and former Plainfield Township Chief of Police. An accountant by education, he's currently the CFO at a public company offering Internet music and games.

DeFranco is joined by Lee Snover, who is also running for re-election as Vice Chair. She manages her family construction business in Northampton and chairs the busy Bethlehem Township Planning Comm'n. She's worked dozens of campaigns in decades of party involvement.

I don't know DeFranco. I do know Snover. Anyone who calls her a RINO is nutz. She is a hard core fiscal and social conservative. But she tolerates people with different views. Even me.

That's her mortal sin.

DeFranco and Snover argue that you don't change a winning team..

"We won the County Executive election (John Brown) and all five County Council at-large positions (Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Seth Vaughn, Hayden Phillips, and Mat Benol). Republican Judge Emil Giordano was overwhelming retained as Judge of our Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. On top of that, a majority of Northampton County voters – despite a Democrat party registration edge – voted to retain our Republican state-wide judges (Ronald Castille and Susan Peikes Gantman) and voted to elect Judge Vic Stabile to the PA Superior Court. The NCRC was recognized in a letter from Governor Corbett at our 2014 Lincoln Day Breakfast for our 2013 election wins."

Morey and Anderson
Anderson and Morey

DeFranco and Snover are being challenged by two RATs who represent the worst in local politics. Just this Spring, they engaged in a vicious state committee race that included a vicious website as well as negative mailers and robocalls against fellow Rs. All were done anonymously. If I had to describe them, I'd say they most closely approximate a circular firing squad.

These folks don't believe in transparency or accountability, which explains why they insisted that the election take place at Chrin. As explained by one of their acolytes, defamer Tricia Mezzacappa, "The Norco GOP will have its reorg meeting in a private place this year, to make sure that O'Hare cant get in."

The RAT candidates are Cynthia Anderson and Mike Morey, both of whom are coming off embarrassing losses to state committee. Anderson, a realtor who has bounced around from state to state, was Congressional candidate Matt Dietz' campaign manager. He lost, too, finishing dead last.

Morey claims to be an IT consultant.

In other words, he is unemployed.

No wonder they don't want me at their meeting.

RATs are going to committee person houses, telling them they have to support them or they have will make sure they have no future in the Republican party. One committee member complains, “It was like a Jimmy Hoffa visit."

I don't think the RATS got his vote.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Where Has LV Development Been Focused?

According to the annual "Subdivision and Building Acitivity" report released by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, the area's top ten municipalities for development in 2013 are as follws:

1. Allentown - 681 lots.

2. Lower Nazareth Township - 560 lots.

3. Upper Macungie Township. - 420 lots.

4. Upper Saucon Township - 406 lots.

5. Bethlehem Township - 352 lots.

6. Hanover Township. - 222 lots.

7. Lehigh Township - 204 lots.

8. Whitehall Township - 180 lots.

9. Bethlehem City - 105 lots in both counties.

10. Easton - 84 lots.

Charlie Dent To Host Job Fair at Kutztown U Tomorrow

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent will host a job fair at Kutztown University tomorrow (Saturday) between 10 am and 2 pm at the O'Pake Fieldhouse.

There wll be 62 employers (see them here) at this event.

But there are no openings for bottom-feeding bloggers.

Fleck Condemns Bar Johnston Slurs

I spoke to Mike Fleck yesterday. Actually, he called me. He told me he just got back from vacation, played no role in the vicious attacks aimed at Bar Johnston in the Dem chair race and called them completely unnecessary because Walt Felton already had the votes he needed to get elected.

Let me add that Felton was properly nominated by George Speros Maniatty. He was a duly elected committeeman. Though he finished second in his ward, the posts in Lehigh County go to the top two vote getters, male or female. They dropped the boy girl thing.

Finally, there is some question whether Walt Felton can serve as Chair and continue to be a Deputy. He is a union employee, but his contract is silent on political activity, so he would be bound by the provisions in place for what is called a "career service" employee.

Section 809 of the Home Rule Charter is the pertinent provision.

In the Pa. Code, it bans county workers from acting as "the county chairman or county leader of a political party."

So this seems pretty clear, right?


On the county web page, Section 809 bans county workers from acting as "the County chairman or County leader of a political party."

Note that the word County is capitalized and the use of the definite article. That seems to support the conclusion that the prohibition is limited to Northampton County, especially since Section 1201 later states that "the County" is the "County of Northampton."

I tend to think that the prohibition may be limited to just Northampton County, but that is the Solicitor Vic Scomillio's call.

Bradley Answers Lehigh Valley's Top Ten Planning Questions

Becky Bradley heads LVPC
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley has been on the job for nearly a year. On June 19, she provided Northampton County with an informative presentation about recent subdivision and building activity. But she also came armed with her top ten list of questions most frequently posed to planners.

1. Is the Lehigh Valley Really Growing? - Yes, at the rate of about one per cent each year. By 2040, there will be 873,000 people in the Lehigh Valley.

2. How old are we? - Pretty old. The largest segment of the population consists of people age 65 or older. But the next largest group, interestingly, is those under 20.

3. Are we diverse? - We're getting there. White people still make up 82% of the population. The next largest ethnic group is the Hispanic community.

4. Where are people working? - The jobs are in the health care and social assistance sectors. That makes sense because the two largest population groups are the very old and very young.

5. Do we have a lot of commuters? - Yes. According to Bradley, 186,499 people live and work in the Lehigh Valley. But another 103,667 leave every day for jobs outside the area. The Lehigh Valley does attract 88,764 nonresidents who work here.

6. Who is moving here? - The population comes mainly from New Jersey (6,812), with New York City a distant second (4,318).

7. Do families still live together? - Only 68% of the households in the Lehigh Valley are family households.

8. Has building stopped? - Yes. Between 2005 and 2011, there has been a 78% drop in building permits being issued for all types of construction.

9. How about new construction? - That's even worse. There has been an 86% decrease in new construction between 2008 and 2012.

10. Are new homes bigger? - Yes. new homes are double the size they were in 1960, and fewer people live in them.

Dunkmaster Dat

My grandson Dat is in heaven this summer. By day, he does football drills. By night, it's hoops. Last night was a rare night off, and he spent it working on his dunk. I'm looking for the trampoline he has hidden somewhere.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Independent Auditor: The Cupboard is Bare

This is no surprise to those of us who refuse to drink the Lamont McClure and Steve Barron kool-aid. But it shocked the hell out of Ken Kraft last night. Nancy Gunza, a CPA with CliftonLarsonAllen, the County's independent auditors, told Council's Finance Committee that the cupboard is bare. She explained that the unrestricted reserve at the end of last year was just $11.1 million. Since the County spends about $9-10 million per month, we're in very bad shape.

"That's a pretty low amount," explained Gunza, who added that the Government Finance Officers Association recommends a six month reserve.

Remember when Lamont McClure scoffed at the $60 million fund balance in 2011, even though the unrestricted amount was really much lower, down around $15 million? He called it a "slush fund."

Ron Angle, as a member of Council, fought hard to keep two months of cash on hand for emergencies, a $25 million stabilization fund. But with Angle out of office, the rats have eaten away at the wheels of cheese.

This can't be! roared Ken Kraft after Gunza's announcement. He tried to claim that the $11 million figure Gunza quoted is in addition to the $25 million stabilization fund the county keeps for a rainy day.

"You had $25 million," explained the County's Fiscal Director, Doran Hamann. "I think 'had' is the operative word." he added that last year, "We spent $14 million in excess of our revenues," which brought the stabilization fund down to an unhealthy $11.1 million.

McClure, who was absent yesterday, just two weeks ago claimed that there is no deficit at all in Northampton County. It appears that the financial people think otherwise.

People could look at the fund balance now, which is hovering at about $88 million, and claim there's no reason for concern. But it is at that amount because most of the taxes haves been paid, but the expenses have not. Most of the revenue the County will realize this year is in the till, but it will draw down as the year progresses and bills and salaries are paid.

What happens if the County needs $14 million to balance the books this year? The money just isn't there. That's very bad news at a time when seven of the County's 11 unions are operating without a contract.

Ken Kraft told The Express Times after the meeting that the County has more money than it is letting on. This is an independent audit, Ken. It is not a Lamont McClure or Steve Barron AFSCME special.

Earlier in the meeting, Barron had raised concerns about nonunion custodial workers at the centralized human services building. Maybe he should be a little more focused on finding the money he insisted was available when John Stoffa had suggested a tax hike.

Thanks to Barron and McClure, they cooked the books and used money in reserve to balance the budget. That's how you end up with mega tax increases like the ones imposed by Glenn Reibman, after he had played chef.

When Executive John Brown was inaugurated, he vowed he would fight to avoid a tax hike this year. I think he has no choice, unless he intends to lay off half the workforce. You can thank Barron and McClure.

Daddy's Place

Pita bread, fresh from the oven. 
Daddy's Place is one of many fine restaurants in Easton. I love to go there because it is casual, moderately priced (cheap) and serves great Lebanese food. They even bake their own pita bread, which coming out of the oven looks like a balloon.  Last night, I introduced to place to Sharon and Ron Angle. They'll be returning, and will be bringing their friends from the Slate Belt.

Why do I like Lebanese food? Because I'm Irish. We are not exactly known for our cuisine. Pretty much all food from the British isles, I'm convinced, is based on a dare. Why do you think we drink so much? Like any good Irishman who is unable to drink, I'll eat Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese or even the occasional ant before I stick another spoon into mutton.

Daddy's Place is a mix of great Lebanese food along with more American dishes. They also have a large variety of beers. I'm told it's over 700 different kinds, but I stay away from the booze.

Sharon and Ron each had one light summer beer. Ron had lamb kabobs, Sharon had shrimp and rice. I went with falafel. Not one of us was able to finish our meal. We topped everything off with Turkish coffee, so I'll be up until next Tuesday.

Other great places for Lebanese food are Forks Mediterranean Deli (great lentil soup) and Betty's Diner, in Wilson Borough. Betty serves mainly American food, but her falafel wraps are the best in the world. Josie's is a great place for a wrap, though except for the pita, her food is all American.

If you need to speak to Easton Mayor Sal Panto, you can often catch him at Daddy's Place for breakfast, along with many police officers who just got off the night shift.

Ron Angle, many of you know, is a great storyteller. I can listen to his tales for hours. Last night, he was telling stories about his dad. A few are below.

Fred Angle Stories

Fred Angle's tombstone
Ron Angle is an idiot. After his father Fred passed away, he told the newspapers that his relationship with his father was strictly business. He tells me that, too. That's nonsense. He loved his father, who in his prime was a big strapping railroad man who could walk with a tie on each shoulder. Fred loved Ron, too. Ron visited his father daily. At dinner with his beautiful wife Sharon last night, Ron told me a number of Fred Angle stories, each more funny than the last.


Lionel was Fred Angle's best friend, and a major league ball buster. He knew exactly what buttons to push to drive poor Fred over the edge. So naturally, Ron often would bring Lionel with him to see his dad. One day Fred got so worked up that he called the state police, then five minutes later, called back and told them not to come.

A trooper came anyway. Once a call is made, they're coming.

Ron and Lionel sat there like innocent schoolchildren, while Fred explained they were picking on him.

"Look if you call me here one more time, I'm not leaving alone," the trooper snarled.

Ron and Lionel then learned that Fred had called the day before because his housekeeper had locked herself in a room. Fred was getting too frisky. He thought the state police could order her out of her room.

The Housekeeper

Fred Angle went through housekeepers the way I go through toilet paper, mainly because he couldn't keep his hands to himself.  He even bought a van for one housekeeper's boyfriend so that he could work more and she'd have more time for him.

Unfortunately, his plan failed. A 300 lbs. fellow stopped outside the house one day, and said he was looking for directions to good fishing spots along the Delaware River. She hopped into the car with him, and was gone for three days.

The Cannon  

Ron has a friend who made a cannon. Not some big bang cannon, but an honest-to-goodness firing machine. i think the statute of limitations has expired, so let me tell you their crime. They liked filling the barrel with black powder, wadding it in with toilet paper and then setting it off with a cherry bomb as a fuse. It hurled a flame 40' long.

Well, from time to time, in the middle of the night, they'd set it off next to someone's house as a joke. They eventually stopped when they accidentally set someone's porch on fire, but before that, Ron decided to do it to his dad one night.

KABOOM, went the cannon, as a streak of flame shot out.

Inside Fred's house, you could see the bedroom light go on. Then the hall light. Then the kitchen light. Finally, the basement. In reverse order, the lights slowly went off and darkness returned.

KABOOM, went the cannon, as a streak of flame shot out.

Once again, the bedroom and all the other lights went on and off.

The next day, Fred told Ron that he was really angry. Why, asked Ron innocently.

Fred explained that he just got a new boiler and the blow back from it sounded just like a cannon. He was going to call the dealer to complain.

I hope it's under warranty, answered Ron.

The tombstone

Above you can see Fred's tombstone. That is no joke. He wanted dollar signs and dancing girls engraved on it. He also asked Ron for an epitaph that reads, "17 new cars, 37 women." Ron was unwilling to go that far.

He was a very colorful man, just like his son.

And it was no business relationship.

Mezzacappa Sues To Get Concealed Carry Permit

If any of you have been wondering why West Easton GOP Committee person-elect Tricia Mezzacappa likes to prance around with her gun in a holster, it's more than showing off. She has no choice. After her license to carry was revoked last year, and she apparently lost a court challenge, she filed a new application this year. But it's been denied. And of course, she has already sued.

On May 20, 2014, Acting Sheriff Chris Ziegler mailed her a notice (read it here) that her application had been DENIED for the following reason: "Not approved by the Northampton County Sheriff per Title 18 Pa. C. S. Sec. 6109(e)(1)(i)."

Translated, that means the Sheriff considers her "[a]n individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety."

In my words, she's batshit cRaZy.

Anyhoo, using Joshua Prince, an attorney who specializes in gun nuts, she has sued to demand that license. She wanted everything kept hush, hush under seal, but Judge Anthony Beltrami said No.

In her lawsuit, she's claiming denials of due process, state and federal equal protection and the state and federal right of gun nuts everywhere to blast bazookas and say, "That blowed up good. Real good."

She wants attorney fees, a gazillion dollars and an injunction, too.

This is an emergency, damn it!

After carefully considering Mezzacappa's complaint, Judge Beltrami has scheduled a hearing.

For December.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Walt Felton Bests Bar Johnston as Lehigh County Dem Boss

If you don't think Democrat Bar Johnston is an indefatigable campaign worker, talk to republican State Representative Justin Simmons. Though he's managed to win against weak candidates, the races have been much closer than they should have been because of her. She is a combination campaign consultant, cheerleader and has a deadly ground game. If you want to run for office, and have very little money to spend, you want her in your camp. But Lehigh County Democrats don't. She just might be too good. She was defeated last night in a race against affable Walt Felton, an 18' tall Northampton County Deputy Sheriff who also is running for state senate.

Here's what happened. Jude Denis, who likes to make a few bucks by acting as a political consultant for local Democrats, got up and nominated another paid political consultant whose name escapes me at the moment. She, in turn, nominated Jude. They both declined the nominations in favor of Walt, but not before completely trashing Bar as divisive, too willing to work with Republicans, etc.

What really bothered them, and Mike Fleck, is that Bar is a true believer. Instead of charging people like Susan Wild and Joyce Moore money that they can't pay, she organizes volunteers and real grass roots efforts.

We'll have none of that.

Former Allentown Mayor To Take Reins of Lehigh County GOP

Bill Heydt, who served as Allentown's Mayor from 1994-2002, will be the next Chair of the Lehigh County GOP. At a meeting last night, he was the only person nominated, so his election is assured next week when the party regulars meet. It will be by acclamation.

Heydt succeeds Wayne Woodman, a divisive party boss, who was absent from last night's meeting. Woodman refused to run candidates for city Council and mayor in Allentown, hoping to depress the turnout so that ultra-conservative Scott Ott would be elected Executive.

Ott has since resigned his seat as Commissioner and moved to Texas.

Heydt's election appears to mark the end of the so-called "Reform Team" in Lehigh County, which attacked mainstream Republicans like Dean Browning for voting with his conscience.

Hopefully, it will also mark the re-birth of democracy in Allentown. As Ron Beitler point out at his Lower Macungie Smarter Growth blog, "What better person to help identify and cultivate quality city candidates and bring right of center viewpoints and perspective into the urban conversation than the last Republican Mayor of Allentown?"

Main Street Sidewalk Repairs Slated For Spring

Bethlehem's Town Hall
In contrast to the rancor at some recent meetings of Bethlehem City Council, Council President J. Willie Reynolds was able to breeze through the agenda at their June 17 meeting. Nine appointments to the Historic Conservation Commission were approved unanimously. So were several requests to authorize grant applications for sidewalk repairs on Main Street and on the City's South Side.

As explained by Public Works Director Michael Alkhal, the City is seeking a $250,000 grant for a $500,000 sidewalk repair and streetscaping project along Main Street, between Market and Walnut Streets.

Council member Michael Recchiuti was concerned about the merchants along Main Street who will contribute $125,000 for these repairs. He asked, "Are they on board with this?" Alkhal answered that he will meet with them, but noted that the cost to them is now half what it as when this project was initially proposed last year. Alkhal added that the project would take 75 days to complete, and will start as soon in the spring as possible because merchants would prefer to see the work done early. He promised "minimal disruption" and said work would be limited to one property at a time.

Planning Director Darlene Heller said the $200,000 grant for the City's South Side will be spent mostly on sidewalk repairs along Fourth Street. She told Council that other sources of revenue include $100,000 from a previous grant, $200,000 from the Bethlehem Steel TIF project and $50,000 from Lehigh University.

The only controversial matter, the approval of a new Director of Recycling, has been postponed until July 1, with the administration's agreement.

Two citizens also addressed City Council.

Thomas Carroll, a former City Council and County Judge candidate, informed Council that several members of the public will participate in a reading of the declaration of independence at Payrow Plaza on July 4. The readers will include Judge Emil Giordano, Mayor Bob Donchez and Police Chief Mark DiLuzio.

Steve Antalics complimented the Mayor for using his own car, even though he is on cal 24/7, and told Council that he is "setting a very good example" that needs to be followed by other city workers. He noted that one City employee drives a city-owned vehicle back and forth to Bucks County daily, wasting thousands of dollars in public money. he said only two people, the Police and Fire Chief, should be permitted to drive city-owned vehicles home.

"We should start counting pennies," he reasoned.

Bethlehem Firefighter Honored For 37 years of Service

Paul Harvilla with Chief Robert Novatnack
Paul Harvilla was honored by Bethlehem City Council on June 17 for 37 years of dedicated service as a firefighter. In his career, he's been enveloped by fireballs caused by gas leaks and has suffered smoke inhalation while battling blazes. In a February fire, in which an Itaska Street woman woke up to find her home on fire, she made it to the roof, where Harvilla snapped his ankle while assisting in her rescue. A quiet man, the now retired firefighter just thanked everyone. He was given a standing ovation.

As he made his way out, Fire Chief Robert Novatnack caught up to him in the hallway. "I wish I had 100 more guys like him," the Chief said. "He came to work every day and did his job."

Harvilla, a 1972 graduate of Bethlehem Catholic High School as well as Northampton Community College, explained that firefighters today receive more certifications and training than they did when he first started. "Years ago, the City would teach you," he explained.