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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Embattled Fed Ed Still Wants to Take Over ASD

Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski was at the Allentown City Democratic Committee meeting on Monday night. He was trying to figure out how City Dems could support a school candidate like Mark Smith. He's a Democrat, but only captured the Republican party nomination in the primary. State rules bar a Democratic committee from endorsing a candidate who is not a Democratic nominee. They decided to include an attachment to their endorsement materials noting that Mark Smith is a Democrat.

Fed Ed also spoke strongly against Bob Smith, the current president of the Allentown school board. Bob Smith is a Republican who captured both his party and the Democratic nomination. He talked the party out of endorsing Bob Smith. He claimed that Bob Smith is "not in the right mind."

In 2010, Bob Smith was seriously injured when he tried to thwart a suicide attempt by a patient from the roof of Mount Trexler Manor. He wrapped both arms around this mentally ill woman, but she hurled herself off the roof anyway, taking Bob with her. He suffered two broken arms and various contusions, but no brain injury.

The real reason Pawlowski wants Bob Smith off the Board is because Bob went public when Pawlowski recently attempted to bully the school district into picking up the entire tab for school crossing guards.

Pawlowski, who is up to his eyeballs in a federal investigation into his pay-to-play practices, is now publicly maligning a selfless man who suffered serious injuries in saving someone's life.

And he claims to be a Christian.

Updated: School Board Candidates on Allentown School Student WalkOut

Photo of walkout on Monday, courtesy of Lou Shupe
The Pied Piper of Allentown's schools, Michael Frassetto, has vowed to lure children out of their classrooms every day this week. Instead of attracting them with a magic flute, he's been using Nathan (Nate Whips) Markham's stretch limo. But it's unclear whether this walkout will extend into a third day. Frassetto's Facebook page, which was exploding with all kinds of videos and exhortations on Monday, was mysteriously quiet on Tuesday. So was Whips. He's busy with a new girlfriend who apparently is willing to overlook his rather extensive criminal history. That's nice. We know how Whips and Frassetto feel. But what about the people who are actually running for the position of school director.

Scott Armstrong and Bob Smith are both vocal opponents of the walkout. Scott, who has never shied away from controversy, spoke forcefully against the walkout last week in an essay published by Michael Molovisnky.

Last week, Smith took also exception to a walkout in which students would leave their classrooms to rendezvous at a statue of MLK.
Dr. King would never support students walking out of school, he protested and marched so all students would be able to go to any school they wanted. Dr. King wanted students to go to school not walk out. Shame on adults for organizing this walkout. I ask every Allentown student not to walk out but to help make changes by staying in school, working with teachers and the board together.
On Tuesday, Smith also disputed Frassetto's numbers. He said 400 participated on Monday, but that dropped to just 123 on Tuesday. On Monday when students tried to leave the protest, they were told they would be arrested, according to a source at the scene.* That might explain why the numbers dropped so dramatically.

Bob Smith condemned the "hypocrisy of this history teacher [Frassetto], whose 15 minutes of fame is almost up. ... I still would meet with any student, any time, on any issue they have or want to discuss with their parents or not, but not with anybody with this United Youth group.

Frassetto heads up the United Youth Party.

Charlie Thiel echoes Bob Smith and Armstrong. "I oppose the walkout," he made clear. "The outcomes of this walkout do not improve the education of our students."

It was a little harder to pin down Mark Smith, who posted a long and rambling commentary that essentially said nothing. After a rather testy exchange (reproduced it in its entirety here), Mark Smith finally stated, "I am not for the walk out. I feel it is counterproductive on several levels. There are better ways to address this problem. I do however, believe that there are people in our community that think this is the only way they will be heard. And, EVERYONE deserves to be heard."

Audrey Mathison refused to condemn the walkout, and appears to support it.
I believe that the walkout is a symptom of the distrust of the school district felt by some in the community. And I believe that the best way to deal with distrust is to talk openly about it. I would like to see the district sponsor some small group community discussions where individuals will feel welcome to speak freely. Maybe an evening discussion could be sponsored in elementary buildings for the neighborhood’s convenience.

And I would like to see the organizers of the walkout promote such discussions.
So Mathison actually would invite Nate Whips and Frassetto to share their expertise.

Elizabeth Martinez failed to respond. Ce-Ce Gerlach, the so-called people's candidate, ignored repeated requests for a statement expressing her actual position.

So there you have it. Four candidates are opposed to the walkout. One candidate appears to support it. Two candidates never bothered to weigh in on this issue.

Addendum (11:21 am): When kids were threatened with arrest for leaving the protest, that threat came from the organizers, not police. They actively misled students even after being assured no arrest would be made.

Updated 5:15 pm - Mathison opposes walkout. - Audrey Mathison has just emailed me to claim, "Evidently—though I read what I wrote several times—I accidentally gave you the wrong idea. It was never my intention to make you think that I support the walkout or condone truancy. And I certainly do not condone adults who advocate cutting class. I hope this clarifies things."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pied Piper Dismisses Concern That Allentown Walkout Hurts Marginal Students

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the Grimm fairy tale about a savior who led all the children out of the village with his magical flute and drowned them after he was stiffed for similar services regarding the town's rat population. Charter School teacher Michael Frassetto is Allentown's Pied Piper. He has lured Allentown students away from their classroom with promises that they can't get in trouble; ridiculous demands for a voting student board member (illegal); and impossible $10 an hour summer jobs from a struggling school district that can't afford textbooks. He also wants Superintendent Russ Mayo fired.

Until yesterday, I was blissfully unaware that this student walkout at the Allentown School District would last a week, perhaps even longer. That vow was made United Youth Party's Frassetto, on a Facebook video."It does not work if you do it just one day," he explained. "We're going to do it all week long." That presents a lot of questions that I had hoped to avoid asking. So I asked them to Falsetto, who uses Nate Whip's black limo instead of a flute to lure the children away.

Nathan Markham, alias Nate Whips
First, what is Unity Youth Party's funding source? Since three different charter schools have allowed their students to help this Falsetto in permitting students to engage in truancy, are they also backing him financially? Who's paying for the Chinese food and McDoanld's double cheeseburgers? Is Charter school advocate Abe Atiyeh behind this, just as he was one of the players behind Fed Ed's attempt to pack the school board? How about Allentown?

Second, why is Falsetto using a convicted criminal like Nathan Markham, who calls himself Nate Whips, as one of his organizers? This fellow has page after page of arrests. As recently as February, he was charged with corrupting the morals of a minor after he was caught drinking with a 17 year-old girl. He had her drive for him because his own license is suspended. I wonder how many 17 year-old girls he picked up in his limo on Monday?

Nate Whips, who ironically is a car salesman, was charged with carjacking last November when he jumped into a stranger's car in an effort to elude police.

Third, and most importantly to me, won't a week of unexcused absences hurt and possibly ruin the academic career of students who are struggling in courses like calculus, algebra, chemistry and physics? Getting a class on how to conduct a demonstration peacefully is no help to a student trying to determine how many moles are in 50 gallons of water.

Last night, I had an exchange with Falsetto. He denies marginal students will suffer, and instead claims they will be empowered. He defended  Markham, saying he has turned his life around. He denies getting any help from Charter schools or Abe Atiyeh, but did admit to getting funding in the past from Allentown.

The exchange is below.

I believe the notion of a walk out for an entire week can be very destructive to the academic career of many marginal students. If you care about these kids, you really should end this exercise. If unwilling to do that, you should only ask for volunteers from A and B students.

Frassetto: We will never segregate students from ANB students to CD and F students. The ones we want to reach the most are the ones that need the most help. We will continue to do this work because it is the just work. It is the first time in our city's history where over 1000 students gathered together today so they can be heard and so that they can make a statement and tell the leadership of the Allentown school District that they must listen to the students from now on.

That's not segregation. Any educator knows that some children have greater needs than others. Over the course of a week, you are probably going to cause several kids to flunk out. This is sad to hear. Also, If you care about the children, why are you exposing them to criminals like Nate Whip (Nathan Markham)? Do you honestly think that helps them, or that he helps your cause by telling easily recognized lies? Finally, what is your finding source? It appears that students from four different charter schools were on hand to help today. Who is giving you the dough for the grenades you've been throwing? Abe Atiyeh? Isn't your group the beneficiary of City grants? Is the City of Allentown funding this indirectly?

Frassetto: No one will flunk out? 5 days? 5 days of exercising their first amendment right to peaceably assemble - if schools suspend them or flunk them - that's Joe we all know they don't care for any of the students and our population.

Nate turned his life around and is supporting kids and the community -

We are the United Youth - we got our own funding from our previous events

Can you donate to this common cause of students working together to improve their own education and life?

1) I believe the ACLU has already made clear that the First Amendment does not give the children any right to skip class. So that argument is bullshit.
2) No one will flunk out? That's quite a different prediction than saying no one will get arrested. You are hurting the kids who need to be in school and who need the help a classroom provides, not some march down the street to listen to someone rant on. There are students who will flunk out if they take a week off. I guess your answer is You Don't Care. Is this because the ASD refused to hire you? You are hurting marginal students. As a teacher, you know this. They need someone who cares for them and who will go to any extent to protect them and look out for them
3) Nate turned his life around? Are you kidding me? Did you see his rap sheet? As recently as November? You are exposing children to that kid of adult? What does that say about your own judgment?
4) I know you get funding from events like Stellar, but did Abe Atiyeh give you money? Did Allentown give you money? Are you even registered as a nonprofit or charitable organization?

Frassetto: Bottom line is that he cares and supports the odd so they don't have to go through what he went through

He is supporting the kids more than you right now.

No funding from atiyeh ... But good idea

Actually, wanting marginal children to receive a decent education is supporting the children. A man who tells outright lies is not supporting the children. Nor are you. Unfortunately, you are a demagogue who is using these poor kids as pawns. and don't care that some will flunk out.

It is nice to know Abe Atiyeh has not sponsored this sad exercise. But you do get funding from Allentown, don't you?

Frassetto: ? Damn man you just don't know me - for you to judge me like that and you never met me or know anything about me tells me a lot about the type of judge mental guy you are.

I am very serious, sir. You are consorting with known criminals and using four charter schools to convince marginal students to walk out of their classes for a week. It makes no difference to you that some of these children will flunk out and may just drop out, like 40% of the student body. You are, I believe, city supported. Your web page appears to be promoted by the City. I have seen your indoctrination classes. You do appear to be a demagogue with a personal agenda. It certainly is not the children, as evidenced by your refusal to recognize that every child is different.

Frassetto: They won't... They will feel empowered

Personal agenda???? Now I know you don't know me... Go ask the 1000 students I taught in the last 6 years - ask them to get to know me

Every child is different... Sir ? We only have time for positive energy when doing positive work like this - but thank you for your concerns

I have heard you are a good teacher and therefore have not challenged you on that basis. I also understand the need to make a statement. But I question how good a teacher you really are if you allow marginal students to participate in this walkout. You have to know this will hurt them. I also believe you have an anti-Mayo agenda that is clearly personal. Did he refuse to hire you? You did not answer my question about funding from the City of Allentown. Do you get funded by Allentown?

Frassetto: No he refused to have a meeting with students... The first time I encountered him was three weeks ago at werts cafe

The city gave us funding in the past but I don't think anymore.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fed Ed Investigation Rumors

Here are a few tidbits I've heard in recent days. These are still in the rumor stage, but i'll share them anyway. First, another guilty plea should be filed soon, this time involving an engineer with ties to contracts in both Reading and Allentown. Second, feds plan to start a prosecution against Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer before his term is up. Finally, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is trying to line up a job for his wife. Maybe Mike Schlossberg can help her get one at Billy's Diner, but she'll have to get a ServSafe certification.

Student Walkout Helps Scott Armstrong's School Board Candidacy

As only he can, Allentown School Director Scott Armstrong has spoken out strongly against the student walkout planned for today. On Michael Molovinsky's blog, he called it a "lesson in anger and hate" put on by "an adult charlatan protest leader." He's one of the very few who has been willing to dip his toes into the pool, as most candidates have steered clear of the issue. I believe the backlash over this walkout might just get him re-elected.

Armstrong, a Republican in a heavily Democratic School District, is seeking one of five seats available on the Board. The other candidates include Ce-Ce Gerlach, Bob Smith, Charlie Thiel, Audrey Mathison, Elizabeth Martinez and Mark Smith. Gerlach, Thiel and Bob Smith won nominations in both primaries. Martinez and Mathison also won the Democratic primary, while Armstrong and Mark Smith won the Republican primary.

Ce Ce Gerlach, though a hard-core Democrat, has distanced herself from Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski and his wealthy friends. She has chosen instead to run a real grass roots campaign and should win easily. Bob Smith, the current school board president, is quite popular in Allentown and should eke out a victory as well.

Thiel, Mathison and Martinez are nothing more than Pawlowski puppets, but the money spigot has been turned off, thanks to the federal investigation.

Ordinarily, I'd say that Armstrong's brash style would work hard against him. But so far as I can tell, he is the only school director willing to stand up to the mob, which may very well be instigated by charter school proponents as well as by a few misguided demagogues. I think people will appreciate that, and perhaps enough to re-elect Armstrong.

By the way, this job pays nothing. I have no idea why anyone would want it.

NorCo Controller Race: Barron v. The Colonel

Steve Barron
This year's Northampton County Controller race pits two-term incumbent Steve Barron, a Democrat, against Hayden "The Colonel" Phillips. He's a Republican who was just elected to Northampton County Council two years ago. Ron Angle was the Republican nominee as a result of a write-in campaign in the primary, but he pulled out of the race for personal reasons. Fortunately for the Republican party, Hayden Phillips had just retired and became suddenly available. He was unanimously selected by The GOP Executive Committee to succeed Angle. In fact, Angle nominated him.

As explained on the County webpage, "The Controller is elected and is independent of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The Controllers Office conducts financial and performance audits of agencies receiving, disbursing or authorizing the disbursement of County funds, as well as the records of contracted service providers. Office activities and accomplishments are summarized in the Controller's Annual Report to County Council."

It is a full-time position with a salary established by ordinance at $65,000. Some Council members think it's time to return the position to part-time status because it's hard to find accountants willing to work full time for just $65,000.

Hayden Phillips
Barron should have no difficulty persuading voters he's independent. He was a thorn in the side of Democratic Executive John Stoffa and has been even more annoying to Republican Executive John Brown. So much so that Brown briefly disabled Barron's ability to send mass emails to county workers, and even briefly removed a fraud abuse hotline. To be fair, one of Barron's emails had referred to Brown disparagingly as "Dear Leader."

Barron has had frayed relations with NorCo Council as well. In 2010, he was censured after participating in a pro-union rally outside of the T-Mobile Call Center, and threatened repercussions when company officials refused to meet with him. He also got into hot water when he was caught teaching two classes at Northampton community College in the middle of the work day.

On the other hand, he was a staunch opponent of Gracedale's sale, and sued Brown over using county tax dollars to hire a public relations consultant. In my view, he has matured on the job, and it is beyond dispute that his audits have saved the County millions of dollars.

On his campaign web page, Barron has hammered at Phillips for proposing a two-mill tax hike last year. He also calls Phillips a "rubber stamp" for Brown.

That's untrue. Of all the Republicans on Council, Phillips has been the most willing to challenge Brown and issues like consultants and borrowing $20 million to balance the budget. But that's why he needs to stay where he is. His Capital Improvements Committee has been making great strides in getting runaway maintenance costs under control. He has also been a check on the Executive. If elected to Controller, the remaining Republicans will undoubtedly select someone more malleable.

For that reason, I'll be supporting Barron.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

RIP, Evan Murray

It is always a tragedy when a young person dies. I just want to take a brief moment to honor 16 year-old Evan Murray, a three-sport athlete at Warren Hills Regional High School. He died during a football game at the high school on Friday night. He was their starting QB, ans also played basketball and baseball. It's at this point unclear whether his death is the result of an injury suffered in that game. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his family.

Opinions Online, 9/26/15

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.


Whoever decided on the timing for the light at the intersection of 412 and Commerce Center Blvd. is either a moron, never visited the site, or both. It is green for WAY too long for the traffic turning onto 412, leading to even more gridlock on 412.

While I'm on a Penndot rant, 78 could use a third lane between 309 and the state line in each direction, but it will never happen. The least they could do would be a third lane going east approaching Rt. 33 starting at 412. If I had a dollar for every time I was stuck in the left lane behind a truck doing 35mph passing one doing 33mph going up that hill, I'd have enough money to move out of this area.


Watching MS Franz talk to the Northampton County Council during the Personnel Committee meeting address Council about upgrading clerks from a one title to a two title really upsets me. When I worked for the county I had to take a test to be promoted. Why are some workers given upgrades without never having to test for positions w here others in the county struggle hard to pass a test in order to better themselves? Why isn't council questioning this tactic? Just another John Brown way of getting things done. Ms. Franz is taking people that passed a test for Clerk One and letting them skip the test for Clerk Two because she knows the clerks could never pass the test to being with. I hate the politics of it all


I'm not a Charlie Dent fan by any means, but at least he is not completely against women and women's health. On Friday he was one of just three Republicans in the house to vote against the funding freeze for Planned Parenthood. Now if we could just get him the stay completely out of women's health and agree a woman has a right to make her own choices about her body. Sadly this is what a "moderate" Republican looks like today.



So now that it's been decided that Brown's minions will keep their raises through the end of the year (at least), can someone tell me how many other county employees/ unions are still fighting for their fair share? I know the Court-Appointed Professionals are still fighting for a fair contract, and the county keeps pushing back arbitration. How many unions are there in Northampton County? And wouldn't the unions be stronger if they were united?!


Well done by the LV death row newspapers by telling everyone that horrific construction would be starting on Route 22 between Fullerton and 145 on this past Monday. They haven't done crap all week and my commute has been greatly improved because people seem to be avoiding it.


Allentown Student Walkout: Have been following this story from afar, but have done some digging on the players "coaching" these students. The research isn't pretty.

Frassetto - Was let go by RCCS at the end of last year and is an embarrassment to his current employer (MACS). Believe I read he was let go by ASD, but I can't confirm this. If so, it could explain his beef against the district. Posted videos on his facebook of leading the kids in a rehearsal of protest chants. When one of the student protesters was asked by reporter if they were protesting against the ASD administration they replied "I guess". Sounds like that question wasn't on the prepared script. Impressionable kids are just lemmings in this situation.

Nate Whips - Nit Whit is more like it. Poses as a reputable young entrepreneur in the Allentown area when in fact his real name is Nathan Markham who has an extensive arrest record dating back more than 10 years and includes car jacking, drugs and violence. Posted several unintelligible facebook videos supporting the students "You know what I'm saying". No Mr. Whip's we don't.

EM3 - Frassetto also thanks EM3 for their support. This is Lo-ammi del Villar who was arrested last week for threatening to slit his co-workers throat.

Nice leadership team!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Campaign Donations are Down

Reports are coming in that candidates are having a tough time getting donations this election cycle. Anyone wonder why?

Get Well, Bob Cartwright!

Ron Angle and Bob Cartwright
Most of you probably never heard of Bob Cartwright. He's one of the Slate Belt's many colorful characters. He is Portland's former Police Chief and claims that its water is the Perrière of the Lehigh Valley. He is both Zoning Officer and Township Manager in Upper Mount Bethel, which he calls the Cancun pf the Lehigh Valley. He's also one of those unpaid school directors, which in my opinion is by itself a basis for having him committed. It's not just any school board. It's Bangor, and that means he serves with Ron Angle. That's a second reason to have him committed, especially since he voted for Ron. On top of everything else I've just listed, Bob spends every weekend in Delaware, where he has a very successful bagel and coffee shop that serves U.S. Senators and Supreme Court justices. Unfortunately, Bob suffered a stroke a few weeks ago.

The stroke occurred in Delaware, right as he was closing his bagel shop after a busy weekend. He was hospitalized in Delaware, after which he was sent to his home there to recuperate. From what Ron Angle tells me, he still insisted in participating in Monday night's school board meeting by phone.

Despite his brash demeanor, Bob is a very private guy. He lost his wife several years ago, and has spent all of his spare time taking care of his two daughters. Last Christmas, I met him at Ron's house. He was so proud of the mug they gave him, upon which both of his little girls wrote about how much he means to them.

He's really concerned about the food security of kids in the Slate Belt. "We have some kids in this district whose only real meal is the free lunch they get at school," he told me last year. He added that over 400 families participate in the Portland's food bank. Portland's population itself is not much larger. "I'm a die-hard conservative," he added, "but at some point, you gotta' open your eyes."

I hope Bob makes a full recovery. His daughters need him, and so do a lot of families whose food security is under threat.

Bangor School Board Could Use a Bit More Transparency

Last week, I reported to you that State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale had ripped the school board to shreds for paying former Superintendent Pat Mulroy for "consulting" services that were never performed. Amazingly, instead of being concerned about the audit itself, School Board President Michael Goffredo seemed more concerned about how I got it. He emailed fellow Board members on Sunday night to ask who leaked the report.

The first and most obvious suspect would be Ron Angle. But he did not get the report until Thursday, and only found out about it when I called him. Another likely suspect, Bob Cartwright, is recuperating from a stoke in Delaware. What Goffredo fails to realize is that I have developed numerous contacts over the years.

In his email, Goffredo reminded everyone that there is a nondisclosure agreement with Mulroy, while simultaneously telling them that my blog was merely a "rehash of old news, fully reported at the time in 2012, with the only effect that of casting dispersions [sic] on past and present Boards." He complains of the "social media circus" this blog caused.

In 2012, The Express Times did fully report that Mulroy would stay on as a consultant, but the understanding was that she would actually be performing work in exchange for the $142,000 that ultimately was paid to her. There was no indication that she was being paid off, and that this was her hush money.

The "dispersions," as Goffredo characterizes them, were created by a Board that just couldn't be honest with the public.

I obtained Goffredo's email by filing a RTK and even that email was scrubbed to remove all personal email addresses. School officials told me that emails sent to Board members, at their school board email accounts, are likely just hanging there, never to be read.

That's some transparency.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Without Saying A Word, Pope Francis Delivers a Message

Though Pope Francis is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress today, the biggest message he has delivered thus far has come without a word. It's a tiny Fiat that seemed lost amidst all the lumbering SUVs that surrounded him as he made his way to a lunch with the homeless.

He has previously warned against the "cult of money" that can enslave people.

Are High School Student Walkouts a Good Thing?

Word that high school students in Allentown plan on ditching classes next week unless certain demands are met has me asking one question - do high school students have the maturity to make these decisions? Is this really an educational experience or an excuse to goof off?

I question whether the teacher (Michael Frassetto) leading this movement himself has the emotional maturity to make this decision. On his Facebook page, he claims, "It's all love." What's so loving about trying to get a school superintendent fired? If "It's all love," why did he post a video containing the repeating lyrics "I don't give a fuck?"

A fellow named "Josh" posted this comment on Lehigh Valley Live:
The current budget for ASD for the 2015-16 school year is $269 million dollars. School enrollment is roughly 17,500 students, give or take. They also hired 30 more teachers for the school year. ASD is the fourth largest school district in PA.

Mr. Frassetto went to Parkland. Parkland has 9,176 students in it's school district. It's operating budget for 2015-16 is $152.2 million dollars.



If you took the entire allowed budget for both districts and applied it per student you would find roughly a $2,000 dollar difference between the two. Parkland spending $2,000 more per student than ASD. Mr. Frassetto went to Parkland, and should know the answer to this: does $2,000 of a difference make up for the gigantic performance gap between the two districts? Does the superintendent foster all the blame for the poor performance? Why would having a student on council make a difference?

The difference doesn't lie with money, it doesn't lie with the budget. Allentown the city has real, tangible problems they need to improve before these students stand a chance. Poverty. Broken homes. Single mothers. Absent dads. Crime. Drugs and the society that breeds. All of that, is embracing these kids, whenever they leave the safety of the school zone; yet nothing is being said about it. No marches. No walk outs. No protests.

If Mr. Frassetto truly wants to "help the students", and he seems sincere, then "help" them at the family and community level. The schools aren't broken; everything else is.
What do you think? Does this empower and educate high school students? Or is it just another holiday in a school district that already has a 40% droop out rate?

How Does State Budget Impasse Impact Allentown's NIZ?

What impact does the state budget impasse have on Allentown's NIZ? A reader asked this question yesterday. As near as I can determine, the answer is none. So while a local daycare in Easton and other nonprofits are being denied state funds, the NIZ is doing fine. Since its inception, the state subsidy to NIZ developer City Center Investment Corp. is $54.4 million.

In 2014, the state collected $55.5 million from businesses inside the NIZ. Another $2.3 million in local taxes were collected. This sum was then distributed to ANIZDA (NIZ Board), where Sy Traub. The ANIZDA web page contains no financials except for those interested in buying bonds. But persons knowledgeable about the NIZ inform me that the state and local tax subsidies are distributed once a year, around June. This would have taken place before the state budget impasse.

How Do Tax Sales Work?

Agent 99 has a report concerning the upset tax sale in Northampton County, which just occurred on Tuesday. I thought I'd share the story with you, but to do so, I need to explain tax sales. 

Most county governments conduct annual tax sales against property owners who have fallen behind on their real estate taxes. This can only happen if the property owner has allowed two years or more to elapse without paying his taxes. If the owner makes payment arrangements or has a hardship that excuses his nonpayment that year, the matter is removed from the sale list.

The first of these tax sales, as I've already mentioned, is what is known as the Upset Sale. The properties are sold to the highest bidder after the overdue taxes are deducted. But in addition to getting the property, the successful buyer gets all of its headaches. If there are three mortgages and twenty municipal liens, the winning bid just bought them, too 

That's why most properties aren't sold at the upset sale. After that, though, comes the real sale, which is called the Judicial Tax Sale. It is called that because a court order is obtained, authorizing the Tax Claim Bureau to sell the property free and clear of all liens, excepting the underlying taxes  All lien creditors who wish to protect their interest are notified. A property worth $1,000,001 with a $1 million mortgage will be sold free and clear of that mortgage.

I know several people who make a good living by buying and selling properties at tax sales. But I try to discourage friends who think they can get rich that way. Too many things can go wrong. Courts are very quick to invalidate sales if a property owner raises a legitimate issue about service, posting or advertisements. Also, a bank or other lien creditor who gets no notice will succeed if the sale is challenged. 

Agent 99 is a fellow title searcher and one of my spies. She was at Tuesday's upset sale, looking to see if there were any bargains. She saw none of those, but did encounter a property owner who got up and demanded a stay of the sale of her property. Her argument was that she would be able to pay her tax bill once she wins a lawsuit she has filed. 

I won't mention her name because I have no desire to embarrass her. As she droned on, one of the bidders told her, "Lady, nobody's gonna' buy your property because you got a mortgage." She shut up and nobody bid on her property. The room applauded her and she left. 

I hope she makes payment arrangements before the judicial sale. 

In most cases, people who lose their property at tax sale abandon them long before that fateful day. But there are people who sometimes lose their property because they get forgetful as they age. This actually happened to an aging attorney I know. He managed to convince himself that he had sought and obtained a stay, but nothing was filed. He lost his home, despite having a decent pension which he could have used to pay his bill. 

Before taking someone's home away at a judicial tax sale, it might be helpful to have a social worker visit the homeowner to serve notice of the sale and make a report, not just about service, but the condition of the property owner. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fraud Charges Against Mezzacappa Dismissed on Technicality

On the eve of her trial, Northampton County Judge Craig Dally has dismissed fraud charges against West Easton Borough Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa. She had been facing charges of defrauding a secured creditor because she refused to turn her car over after a levy, hid it, and vowed she would go to jail before surrendering it. But according to the Court, the levy was defective because the underlying writ had expired.

The writ of execution in this case was first issued on July 30, 2014, after which it was served on five banks. Mezzacappa herself ducked service, refused to answer the door for Sheriffs and even refused to schedule an appointment for a levy when a Deputy Sheriff approached her at the courthouse. She also began hiding her car, but it was spotted by Deputies, and a levy occurred in December. I purchased the property in January, and she was charged when she persisted in her refusal to surrender the vehicle. Sheriffs ultimately caught her in possession of the car, and it was turned over to me.

In the civil case against Mezzacappa, she never filed any objections to the levy on the basis that the underlying writ of execution had expired, so she has waved that argument. But in the criminal case, defense attorney Jim Connell argued for dismissal.

Ordinarily, a writ of execution expires unless it is served within 90 days. But Eric Rothrock, a Real Estate Deputy for the Sheriff's Department, testified that the practice in that office is that once it is served upon a Defendant or a bank, as happened here, the writ continues in effect until the judgment is satisfied. Though the Court agreed that the writ continues in effect as to those banks, it needed to be reissued for Mezzacappa.

The Court agreed that there was ample evidence that Mezzacappa intentionally concealed the property, but the writ was no longer valid.

I appreciate the efforts of the Deputy Sheriffs and District Attorney's Office in ensuring that the court's orders are followed. But I also respect Judge Dally's ruling. This ends the criminal case against her, but has no effect on what has happened civilly because she waived any right to complain about the writ.

Morning Call Gets Mulroy Story Wrong

Last week, I was the first to tell you that a state auditor general's report has taken the Bangor Area School Board to task for paying former Superintendent Pat Mulroy $142,000 for "consulting" services that were never performed. The Morning Call is the last local news outlet to chime in on that story. Despite having several other news sources to review, it still managed to get its facts wrong. This is hardly the "fair" and "thorough" news coverage for which the Morning Call's Bill White takes credit.

According to the story, "Then-school board member Ron Angle questioned Mulroy's leadership during a public meeting and urged the board to make a change." That's untrue. Angle was not a member of the Board at the time. He did question her leadership, but did so as a private citizen. Had this story been "thorough," that mistake would have been avoided.

The story, as written, is also unfair. It creates the false impression in the mind of readers that Angle was on the Board when the deal was made to dump Mulroy. Ron gets into enough trouble on his own and needs no help from The Morning Call.

Now I don't mind when a news outlet picks up on a story that first appears here and fails to credit me. To me, the reward is seeing the story. But I do mind when the paper waxes on about what a good job it does, and then manages to mangle a story handed to it on a silver platter.

I might call it "hogwash." It certainly appears as though "the paper has been asleep at the switch or [is] deliberately turning a blind eye."

Will there be a clarification? I won't hold my breath.

Updated 10:15 am: To its credit, The Morning Call has changed its story to indicate that Angle was a former school board member at the time that he complained about Mulroy.

Feds Investigating Pay-to-Play AND Pay-to-PLA

Although the federal investigation into Allentown and Reading certainly encompasses pay-to-play, it also extends into pay-to-PLA.. Here in the Lehigh Valley, Project Labor Agreements are fairly common for municipal projects. But they are far more controversial in Berks County, where the Republican Commissioners passed a measure last year to ban them.

Before his sudden departure on a midnight train to Georgia, Miked Fleck was one of the area's biggest advocates of PLAs. In Easton, where he was a member of City Council, he promoted legislation requiring them for any municipal project over $250,000. His companion, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, has boasted that "I led the charge to have every major project in Allentown done using a PLA. They contribute to the local economy and give back so much to the community. Using a PLA really is an easy choice for any community that cares about local business and local jobs.”

In addition to these arguments in support of PLAs, they tend to make construction sites safer. The chief argument against them is that they drive up construction costs.

At this time last year, Fleck and Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer were pushing an ordinance that would require a project labor agreement for all city projects costing over $5 million. Unions, which donated $18,950 to Spenser in 2014, with more to come this year, wanted in on a $150 million renovation of the sewage treatment plant, the $330 million BioNitrogen fertilizer plant and other projects like the former Reading Outlets, owned by developer Alan Shuman. Fleck, who incidentally was working for the trades unions, organized a jobs rally to pressure Reading's City Council, which is less of a rubber stamp than the one in Allentown.

Developer Alan Shuman, who was opposed to being forced into a PLA, spoke forcefully against it at Reading City Council meetings.

He would see his $14 million reconstruction of The Reading Outlet Center go up in smoke. The property was torched on October 18, 2014. The feds have declared it an arson, and are offering an $85,000 reward for information that will lead them to the culprit. Interestingly, most of this reward money has been pledged by the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Keystone Chapter. That group is strongly opposed to project labor agreements. Obviously, their reward and the federal involvement are indications that trades unions are under suspicion.

"We don't do that sort of thing anymore," one union official told me. There's certainly no need for it in The Lehigh Valley, and it's extremely difficult to get an arson conviction. But let's be realistic. Just a few months ago, former Ironworkers union boss Joe Dougherty was convicted in Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, of racketeering, arson and extortion.

Would the feds move Miked Fleck out of town because he dimed the Penguin? Not likely. But if he did something that really pissed off the unions, like implicate them in an arson after taking all their money and even screwing union leaders out of a Sky Box at the PPL Arena, well that's different. The criminal charges filed against LV Building Trades Prez Jim Reilley for an assault on Fleck's brother-in-law is an indication that unions are angry about something.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lineup Changes in Bethlehem Tp Comm'r Race

Malissa Davis
There's been a change in the line-up in this year's at-large Bethlehem Township Commissioner race. Democrat Jack Glagola managed to win his party's nomination with 92 write-in votes. But he was forced to pull out of the race for personal reasons, and has been replaced on the ballot by Malissa Davis, who attends nearly every meeting. "I am passionate about local government," she explains. "Traffic, storm water, parks, recreation and the 'sense of living' in a place are all influenced most by decisions made at the local level."

Davis will be facing incumbent Marty Zawarski, a Republican, in November's election.

Phil Barnard, another incumbent Republican, is facing a challenge by Democrat Kim Jenkins in Ward 3. Tom Nolan managed to capture both the Democrat and Republican nomination in Ward 1 despite having two Republican opponents in the primary. Absent a write-in campaign, his re-election is assured.

Davis has been using the bully pulpit during Courtesy of the Floor to explain her position on various issues. At the September 21 meeting, she registered her concerns about the PennEast Pipeline, which is currently configured to go right through the Township. She indicated that she worked in the industry. Though she acknowledged that the risk of an incident is "very remote," it "could be catastrophic." She alluded to a case in which a gas tanker exploded and 20 people died. "It can happen to the best and smartest people in the world because they are people." She asked Township officials to keep the pipeline away from populated areas.

Earlier this year, the Township hired a consultant for a pipeline study, and just two weeks ago, directed the engineers to spell out in more detail how to minimize the impact.

Ben Hedrick questioned Commissioners about a report that there will be a tax hike next year. Tom Nolan called it a "false rumor," noting that Commissioners have yet to see a budget.

By a 3-1 vote, Commissioners called in streetscape deferrals that had been granted to CVS Drugstore and St. Luke's Hospital along Freemansburg Avenue. These include sidewalks, landscaping, lights, and fences that will promote walkability. Marty Zawarski voted against this measure because he opposes the fences. CVS and St. Luke's will have one year in which to complete these enhancements.

In other business, Commissioners voted 4-0 to send Canine Hugo and his partner, Officer Bryan Tollinger, for K-9 certification training at a cost of $4,250. The police department reported a prostitution sting resulting in several arrests. During August, Township police were dispatched to 80 accidents involving 155 vehicles and nine injuries. The department issues 198 traffic citations, 260 written warnings and 24 parking tickets. There were 34 felony and misdemeanor arrests, seven summary citations and four DUIs.

Manager Melissa Shafer reminded everyone of Bethlehem Township Community Day, which will be held at the Community Center on Saturday, October 3rd from Noon until 5:00pm. Over 20 businesses are participating. There will be hayrides, indoor pool fun, a moon bounce, a pumpkin patch and live entertainment.

Michael Hudak was absent from the meeting.

Will Kathleen Kane Step Down Now?

In a per curiam order, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has temporarily suspended Attorney General Kathleen Kane's law license. Since the Pennsylvania Constitution expressly requires that the Attorney General must be a licensed attorney, logic would dictate that she step down. Instead, she's doubled down. Not only has she vowed to complete her term, but did so from the Attorney General website, using public resources to discuss her criminal prosecution.  She just doesn't seem to be getting it.

Look, she's entitled to a presumption of innocence in the criminal case, and will certainly have her day in court. That's her constitutional right. But under that same constitution, she is now unqualified for the position she holds.

If she bitterly holds on, she can still be removed. Option One: The House can impeach her, followed by a conviction in the Senate. Option Two The Senate can exercise its never-exercised direct removal power, which requires a 2/3 majority and the assent of the Governor. Option Three. Any of the Commonwealth's 67 District Attorneys can bring an action in quo warranto.

She's playing with fire. Since she no longer is a practicing attorney, I can see defense attorneys filing motions to quash anything she files as legal nullities. I could even see a defense attorney arguing that, since no qualified person holds the office of AG, any prosecution from that office has to be dismissed.

Instead of being concerned about the effective administration of criminal justice, Kane is misusing the resources of her office to deflect attention away from her own wrongdoing by pointing the finger at others who may have exchanged - Gasp! - naughty emails. While denying anyone who files RTKs the right to see these horrible emails, she wants Justice J. Michael Eakin electrocuted because someone sent him inappropriate messages at his personal email account. Never mind that he sent none himself, and there's no evidence he actually saw the offensive Internet crap that almost everyone receives.

Have you no sense of decency, Kathleen Kane, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?

A poll on my left sidebar asks whether Kane should resign. I'll share the results on Friday.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I've Become So Popular, Except on Bangor School Board

Everywhere I go these days, I see "I like Bernie" bumper stickers.According to Rich Fegley, over 100 artists and musicians have endorsed me, too, including Will Ferrell. So I got that going for me.

I always thought that bottom-feeding bloggers like myself were generally regarded somewhere between an ISIS terrorist and a used car salesman. But I must have my fans.

Apparently, they're not so happy with me in Bangor or Roseto or wherever the hell School Board President Michael Goffredo lives. He's blowin' oil over my report concerning a state audit that took the Board to task for paying a former Superintendent $142,000 for "consulting" services she never performed.

They paid her off.

That was something I thought the public should know, and it only took The Express Times about four days to pick up on it.

Instead of focusing on the findings in the audit, which included a breach of the Board's fiduciary duty to the public, Goffredo wants to know who the bastard is who leaked it to me. He also apparently had some choice words about me, so I've asked for a copy of his email.

Zoning: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Chrysanthemums

Gus Elias amidst the chrysanthemums
It's the zoning case that just won't go away. Nearly two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to get involved in the proposed business expansion of Elias Market, located on Linden Street in Bethlehem. That should have ended a case that spawned multiple zoning hearing board decisions, a lost transcript that required more hearings and numerous court reviews along the way. Despite losing at every step, an increasingly small group of neighbors calling itself the Bethlehem Homeowners Association, has continued the fight with a litany of complaints to the City. That in turn has resulted in several enforcement actions, all of which have been dismissed. The most recent rejection, which followed a special meeting on September 16, ended with a visit from six police officers. Yong Hao, one of the few remaining Elias opponents, lost his composure and began pointing at affable Chairman Gus Loupos. Another opponent, Al Bernotas, is facing three counts of harassment for following an Elias delivery truck in April.

"It just needs to stop," noted Elias' next door neighbor, Kathy Capuano.In an email before last week's hearing, Bethlehem Homeowners claimed that Elias intends to purchase her property so he "can spread this malignancy further." This was news to Capuano. She denied that her property is for sale or that she has been approached.

Her grandfather, John Jamon, originally purchased what is now known as Elias Market in 1929. It was part of an 18 acre orchard that sold apples, cherries, peaches, plums, and pears that were locally grown. His market, called Jamon Orchards, was sold to the Pichel family after his death in 1978, and Kathy Capuano worked there. In 2006, the Elias family took title, minus the orchard. Many of the homes surrounding the market were originally part of that orchard.

Capuano was one of a large group of neighbors who now support Elias Market. "We go outside and enjoy our yard," she said in an interview after the hearing. "There's no extra noise. I can't believe selling flowers on macadam bothers anyone." Anna Stofko, a Northampton County retiree, spoke after the hearing of Elias' generosity to her church. "He is always giving us fruit and vegetables," she said.

At his business on the Friday after the hearing, Gus Elias was pushing a wheelbarrow full of chrysanthemums while simultaneously haggling with a Chinese restaurant owner over the price of a box full of cucumbers. Elias wanted $22, but the restauranteuer only wanted to pay $13. "Look at these!", Elias said as he opened the box. "These are the Ferraris of cucumbers!" They both swore that each was putting the other out of business, but then shook hands at a price of $18.

Elias, who started his business in Bethlehem with just two people, now has 35 employees. In a world of chain markets, this is a rare family business that flourishes by offering quality produce at low prices. "This business is going to my children," he explained. "I want my neighbors to be happy, too."

Years ago, while the zoning case was winding its way through the courts, Elias had an open house for neighbors who were upset over his expansion, which essentially consisted of improvements to what was then an unsafe loading dock. He had hoagies and drinks for everyone, and wanted to hear their concerns. But few people came. Undaunted, Elias has continued to do what he can to appease neighbors. He is spending $100,000, above and beyond what is required by the Zoning Hearing Board, for improvements to make everyone happy. "I don't like to have enemies," he said.

One of the improvements he is making is a $55,000 trash compactor to prevent garbage from flying out of a dumpster. "I'm trying to do the right thing for everyone."

Elias was cited by Zoning Officer Suzanne Borzak for selling flowers on the paved area of the business next to Linden Street.

"Selling flowers on the paved area?" scoffed Capuano, who noted that her own grandfather sold pumpkins there as long ago as 1979.

"I'm so sick of this situation," she added, complaining about the way "grown adults treated the board members and zoning officer."

"They shut us down," complained Bernotas. Solicitor Terry Faul had ruled that they lacked standing in an enforcement matter, which Bernotas called "muzzling." He stated that the City put on a weak case that would have been much stronger had opponents been allowed to participate. Bernotas had offered to share his evidence with Assistant City Solicitor Matt Deschler, but after several canceled meetings, Bernotas was told there would be no meeting. According to Bernotas, Deschler was directed not to meet with him.

"Enforcement is so lax in this town you can put a battleship through it," complained Bernotas. He went on to explain that Elias is just his "whipping boy," and that his real venom is directed at The Zoning Hearing Board. In emails to Mayor Bob Donchez and City Council, he has referred to the Board as a "newly formed Gestapo unit" intent on muzzling City residents. He slammed board members, who are paid $25 a month for a night of hearings that can easily go on for five hours, for their occupations.

"Somebody's getting money under the table to be as stupid as they're being," he charges, with no corroborating evidence.

Unlike a city council or the planning commission, a zoning hearing board is a quasi judicial body with a court reporter in which sworn testimony is taken in support of or against a zoning appeal. Those who desire to speak must demonstrate standing, which generally applies to the property owner and those within a certain radius of the property. In a zoning enforcement decision brought by the City, it is unclear whether anyone beyond the City itself and the property owner have standing, a point that Bernotas concedes.

While claiming that his ire is directed mainly at the Zoning Hearing Board, Benotas continued his complaints about the Elias expansion. To prove his contention that the business is involved in wholesale distribution,, he followed an Elias truck from Bethlehem to Allentown in April, stopping where the truck stopped and taking pictures. A spooked driver called Elias, and a private criminal complaint charging three counts of harassment against Bernotas is scheduled for November. He disputes allegations that he directed profanities at the driver, and vowed he will continue following the trucks because "my name is Al Bernotas."

Will Bethlehem appeal the dismissal of the latest zoning enforcement notice? "We're having a meeting to discuss the Zoning Hearing Board decision," announced Darlene Heller. who heads the City's Planning and Zoning Departments.

NCC Open House Proves Why It is Among the Best

With campuses located in Monroe County Bethlehem Township and on Bethlehem's South side, Northampton Community College is considered among the best in the country. It proved that at a recent open house at the Fowler Center, which is impossible to complete in just one day. Tobor the Robot, EMT demos, the Fab Lab and cooking classes are just some of the school's practical productions. In addition, there's a reading room for area children, filled to the brim with books.

EMT Training. - One of the school's offerings is a 200-hour EMT course that provide certifications for people to work in ambulances or at hospitals. Many people who take this course also go on to become R.N.s or physicians, including Dr. Rebecca Pequeno, who runs the Emergency Room at St.Luke's Anderson campus. Pictured above are instructors Mari Beth Esordi (left) along with Irene Mast and John Evans. Mast also teaches an eight hour heart saver class, which has provided CPR instruction to approximately 5,000 members of the public. "I think everyone should learn CPR to save a life," she said.

Cooking with Mary Grube. - People might need those CPR classes after eating all the different samplings dished out by Return to Elegance's Mary Grube. In addition to her cooking show on WFMZ-TV69, Mary is teaching nine different classes at the college this fall, from Dinner for One to Champagne Tasting. Her class, which offered champagne and tapas samples, was packed. "I love cooking," she said and that's good to know because her work product quickly disappeared. "I don't think you should fight food," she lectured, and nobody did. They just ate it.

Children's Literacy. - The Cops 'n Kids Reading Room, tucked away on the fourth floor, seems like no big deal. But is is. That's how Beverly Bradley, a retired teacher, has been able to distribute 683,736 books to Bethlehem children. For free. Children can bring books or take a "5-pack" every Wednesday. On Saturdays, different programs are offered to the children. For example, in early October, the Wildlands will be there to show kids how to make a planetarium out of toilet paper.

"I've got to see that one," said a dubious Bradley.

Bradley grew up in a large family on the South Side with next to nothing, and relies on donations to ensure that no child goes without at any of her events. She spoke of one occasion in which her brother, Tommy Donchez was cooking hot dogs. A father who was worried whether he'd have enough money to feed his four kids, asked how much.

"Five for nothing!" was Tommy's reply. The father started to tear up.

Donchez' group also helps select the children for the tree-lighting ceremony every year with the Mayor. This year they will come from Holy Infancy and Miller Heights. Every child will get his ir her very own back pack, a box lunch and a ride on a Trans-Bridge bus. Five children are designated as Mayor's Assistants and help him to turn on the lights.

Last year, the mother of one of the children selected began to worry as he prayed every night, "Please God, make sure I don;t get sick." She asked her son why he was so worried and he explained. "Mom, the Mayor has picked me to turn on the lights of the City. If I'm sick, the City will be in the dark."

In the end, it's about the kids, not the books, explained Bradley.

Bev Bradley and Bethlehem Attorney Barb Hollenbach, who volunteers her time, offered to read Winnie the Pooh's Blustery Day. But it was time to play a little blackjack, something they don't teach kids.

Faites Vos Jeux. It's common to see college kids break out a deck of cards to play hearts or even poker between classes. But you won't find any gambling courses at Moravian College or Lehigh University. Not only does Northampton Community College offer instruction on gaming, but they bring in the casino tables as well for Blackjack, Roulette, Craps and every table game you'll find at The sands. Above, Anna Stofko tries her hand at spinning the Roulette wheel.

According to Deborah Driscole, who helps administer this program, students are offered a ten-week course in which they are trained and certified in two different table games. There are 15 students per class, which runs through about eight cycles per year. Students who become certified can go on to audition at The Sands and other casinos. Once they are hired, the casino will send some students back for additional training on other table games. Over the past five years, approximately 1,500 students have successfully completed this program. Ninety per cent of them are hired by a casino.

James Kandle, a Blackjack instructor, provides pointers to a would-be dealer.

Cocktail, anyone? - Most people who visit a casino enjoy a cocktail or two while they're gambling. Northampton Community College offers several programs for that, too. In mixology classes, students learn how to make a gin and tonic that even James Bond would approve. Students can  pick up ServSafe food handling and RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program) certifications The school also offers instruction in how different wines complement different meals. Above, students Katarina Delnero, Taleya Folks and Isabbel Dacosta prepare mocktails for open house visitors.

Fab Lab - The brainchild of Dr, Paul Pierpoint, the Fab Lab is a place where anyone, from mad scientist to artisan, can test his ideas. It offers 3-D printers like the one above, along with laser engraving, woodworking, guitar building, metalwork, electronics and a sound studio..

In addition to being an open lab for the public, there are now 20 instructors who teach nearly 60 courses. Above you can see several guitars in their early stages as they are built by students in one of the many unusual courses offered. Students can select an acoustic or electric guitar, or even a ukulele.

Unless someone at the Fab Lab comes up with a time machine, this report has to stop here. There was simply no time to view many of the other programs, including the dental lab, nursing school and medical assistant training. Also, this open house was limited to the Fowler Building on the South Side campus.

Bethlehem's South Side is increasingly being equated with The Sands and Steelstacks. But this open house is proof that Northampton Community College has helped the city and its residents make the transition from an industrial-based economy to a what former mayor John Callahan liked to call a "knowledge-based economy.”

Is Pornography an Evil in Our Society?

Cupid's Treasure, a Stefko Boulevard sex shop, has been receiving unwanted attention from a group intent on forcing the business to close. The King's Men, a Catholic pro-life group promoting "masculine spirituality," has been picketing the adult book store. Founder Mark Houck credits his group with shutting down 12 sexually oriented businesses.

"We've had patrons come to us and thank us for doing this," said Houck. "They are grateful." Calling pornography an "evil in our society," Houck was particularly upset that a sexually-oriented business is located across the street from Valley Farm Market, where it can be seen by children. "This brings sexual deviance to the community," he insisted.

The King's Men was sued by Adult World, another sexually-oriented business in the Quakertown area, following a similar protest in which it was alleged that protesters sprinkled holy water and buried miraculous medals on the property. A federal court dismissed the lawsuit.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sheriff Dalrymple Completes Training in Colorado

Northampton County Sheriff David J. Dalrymple has completed a national executive development program at the National Sheriffs’ Institute (NSI). It was held in Aurora, Colorado, between August 31 and September 4, 2015. The NSI is the only national executive development program designed for sheriffs. This no-cost program is co-sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA).

Dalrymple joined 26 other sheriffs from across the country for training on contemporary challenges facing America’s sheriffs today. In light of those challenges, the sheriffs explored the role of the local sheriff in providing effective leadership for the public good in such areas as public safety, criminal justice system policy, community relations, and organization effectiveness and efficiency.

Hilary Burgess, NSA Manager of Training, said, “Sheriff Dalrymple is a leader with vision for the Northampton County Sheriff’s Department. It is an honor to have Sheriff Dalrymple join the more than 2,500 graduates of the NSI since 1973.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Opinions Online, September 19, 2015

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.


Allentown is just plan bad news. Its pretty rare when I truely buy in to the whole "conspiricy" mindset but in this case its painfully obvious that corruption has become the theme there. From the police being allowed to operate with impunity to mayor being as corrupt as they come this city has officially seen the worst of the worst. Even the city council seems to be in the corprate pocket by not wanting to kick these bad officials t the curb. I rarely believe that a group has zero redeeming values but here is the exception to that rule. Its time for a house cleaning so to speak. Everyone in the city needs to be fired and the goverment needs to be reconstructed from the ground up.


Whoever decided on the timing for the light at the intersection of 412 and Commerce Center Blvd. is either a moron, never visited the site, or both. It is green for WAY too long for the traffic turning onto 412, leading to even more gridlock on 412.

While I'm on a Penndot rant, 78 could use a third lane between 309 and the state line in each direction, but it will never happen. The least they could do would be a third lane going east approaching Rt. 33 starting at 412. If I had a dollar for every time I was stuck in the left lane behind a truck doing 35mph passing one doing 33mph going up that hill, I'd have enough money to move out of this area.


Watching MS Franz talk to the Northampton County Council during the Personnel Committee meeting address Council about upgrading clerks from a one title to a two title really upsets me. When I worked for the county I had to take a test to be promoted. Why are some workers given upgrades without never having to test for positions w here others in the county struggle hard to pass a test in order to better themselves? Why isn't council questioning this tactic? Just another John Brown way of getting things done. Ms. Franz is taking people that passed a test for Clerk One and letting them skip the test for Clerk Two because she knows the clerks could never pass the test to being with. I hate the politics of it all


I'm not a Charlie Dent fan by any means, but at least he is not completely against women and women's health. On Friday he was one of just three Republicans in the house to vote against the funding freeze for Planned Parenthood. Now if we could just get him the stay completely out of women's health and agree a woman has a right to make her own choices about her body. Sadly this is what a "moderate" Republican looks like today.



So now that it's been decided that Brown's minions will keep their raises through the end of the year (at least), can someone tell me how many other county employees/ unions are still fighting for their fair share? I know the Court-Appointed Professionals are still fighting for a fair contract, and the county keeps pushing back arbitration. How many unions are there in Northampton County? And wouldn't the unions be stronger if they were united?!


Bernie, Drove past Allentown's Recycling Center and saw a 3 tier digital billboard. So gross. Can you look into that digital contract. It went from one person to another and yet another.


We are still waiting for the write up on how much revenue the digital billboards generated for the City in the first year. This deal did not sit well with some on council. Maybe a transfer if funds were part of the agreement of sale. Given the fact that the Morning call became exclusive agent, I suspect hat story will be filed in the archives. Maybe the digital billboards will be on the Christmas lights tour consider lights in the Parkway will not happen this year.


From Jeffrey Anthony on Facebook: I just had a chat with the City Solicitor about Chicago Eddy Pawlowski banning from the Facebook "Allentown: City Without Limits" page anyone who dares to ask a question about the current pay-to-play fiasco. If you've been banned simply for speaking out, maybe give her a call to turn up the heat on Hizzoner a bit...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fed Ed Should Resign, Sez Poll

If Internet polls were accurate, Ron Paul would be President today. They are too easily manipulated. With that caveat, a poll conducted on this blog indicates that it's time for Fed Ed to go.This unscientific poll includes 221 participants, and a whopping 94% of them answered Yes to a question asking whether Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski should resign.

In an Express Times poll conducted in August, before the Haddad information, 73% of the participants called for a resignation. But in a Morning Call poll at the same time, 64.9% of those who voted thought Pawlowski should stay.

"Why did this poll lose 448 yes votes since yesterday or the day before?" asked one Morning Call reader. No answer.

Despite State Budget Impasse, NorCo Continues Providing Human Services

Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter
Pennsylvania's state budget impasse, which is nearing the 101-day record set in 2009, has already sparked a lawsuit by a consortium of private human services agencies that are being denied operational funds. But in Northampton County, these nonprofit providers are being paid, and on time. Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter reports that the County has spent $17 million to make sure that non-profits and other human services providers continue to meet with the nearly 18,000 County residents who have a need. "I think we're OK until the end of the year," he predicted. "We have not nor do we anticipate eliminating any of the services."

Hunter, who made these remarks at County Council meetings on September 16 and 17, credited Budget Administrator Doran J. Hamann for foreseeing and building a budget around this possibility. He and Executive John Brown warned Council they will have to spend between $5-7 million more through October.

No Smoking Ordinance Goes Up in Smoke

Though the County will be spending more of its own money for human services, none will be spent for "No Smoking" signs. That's because Council narrowly defeated a Seth Vaughn ordinance that would ban smoking on all County property, except for designated areas at Gracedale and at county parks. It would ban increasingly popular electronic cigarettes, and even remove designated smoking areas.

This ordinance was tabled in July, but Vaughn succeeded in getting the matter re-considered after walking into the courthouse through a cloud of smoke in a designated smoking area outside.

Hayden Phillips called the proposal "an infringement on our personal freedoms," and both he and Ken Kraft referred to the "nanny state" regulating people's lives. Admitting to being "fully torn," non-smoker Glenn Geissinger said he had difficulty "continuing to regulate something that's legal."

Denying any intent to take away anyone's rights, Seth Vaughn's argument was quite simple. "Smoking kills people," he declared. In response to concerns raised by Scott Parsons and Bob Werner about the lack of a penalty, Vaughn called the ordinance a "culture change" that would be followed without the need for sanctions.

Lamont McClure was persuaded by a tobacco sign he recently saw at a gas station, warning him that second hand smoke kills people. Peg Ferraro argued that measures like these will reduce health care costs.

After everyone had weighed in, Vaughn's measure was supported by McClure, Ferraro and Mat Benol. It was opposed by Parsons, Werner, Kraft and Phillips.

Glenn Geissinger simply voted "present," which in this instance was the equivalent of a No vote. That effectively sent Vaughn's measure up in smoke.

Lamont McClure
Health Care Coverage Problems Discussed

Council, particularly Lamont McClure, was also concerned about the increasing number of employee complaints that health care coverage is being denied for medications and procedures ordered by physicians, from Nexium to mammograms. "It's one thing to ask people to pay more, but also to see the quality of care diminished?" he asked. "That's mean." McClure questioned whether these reductions are coming from the Brown administration, but Executive John Brown and Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen strongly denied that they are behind any of the reductions that have come from the County's third-party health administrator, Capital Blue Cross.

Seth Vaughn, who works in the nursing field, called it a "systemic problem." He added that "[i]nsurance companies are finding new and creative ways" to reduce costs. "I think it's terrible. The Affordable Care Act is the main driver to this." Scott Parsons blamed the "health care industry as a whole."

Allen told Council that employees with health care coverage problems should contact her and she will work to resolve the matter, in some cases seeking exceptions. Brown echoed Allen."We encourage employees to come forward and make us aware."

"Illegal" payraise

Council also had a lengthy discussion about payraises that Executive John Brown gave to 14 employees in 2014 without Council approval. Council Solicitor Phil Lauer had ruled they were illegal for that reason, but County Solicitor Ryan Durkin argued that the Executive provided these raises in accordance with an employee policy manual.

Whether legal or illegal, one thing nearly everyone seemed to agree on is that the employees who benefited from these raises may now rely on that extra income. Sensing that there was an "opportunity to de-escalate," Lamont McClure suggested leaving the raises intact until the end of the year, and then reviewing them as part of the budget process.

McClure's measure passed 8-1, with only Hayden Phillips dissenting.