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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Three Bethlehem Firefighters Injured in South Side Blaze

Four families lost their home when what turned out to be a three-alarm blaze broke out on May 26 at 1613 East Eighth Street on Bethlehem's South Side.

Fire Chief Robert Novatnack reports that three firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze in hot weather.
[A]s three members of the Bethlehem Fire department conducted aggressive interior firefighting, rapidly changing fire conditions forced our three firefighters to use emergency measures to evacuate the building as conditions deteriorated. Incidents like this happen fast on the fire ground, and on his day our firefighters relied on their training and instincts to remove themselves from imminent danger. Two of the firefighters were back at work the same day, while the firefighter with the leg injury is still recuperating.
Chief Novatnack adds that fire officials will continue investigating this incident as it happened and make any recommended changes needed to protect firefighters and the public. Mayor Bob Donchez stated “that the mission of the Bethlehem Fire Department is, first and foremost, to protect the lives of the residents within the City of Bethlehem, and the lives of our firefighters”.

Spotted in the Slate Belt!

His Eminence was at the 5-Points Gas Station in Upper Mount Bethel last night, drag racing against teenagers in this beauty.

Pa. Making Serious Bid as Most Corrupt State

Late last year, the Center For Public Integrity gave Pennsylvania an "F" in the integrity department, noting a "lack of legislative or executive accountability and the absence of effective ethics entities, as well as weak laws and lackluster oversight of lobbying, political finance, and elections."

Obama and Fattah
I know you can't go lower than an "F", but the first five months of this year show that Pennsylvania is off to a promising start at overdue recognition as the most corrupt state in the Union. Move over, Michigan! Here's what's going on right now.

US Congressman Chaka Fattah - On trial for racketeering. US Senator Bob Casey testifies he was pressured to get ambassadorship for lobbyist who provided cash and gifts to Fattah. This trial should last at least eight weeks, and the Dem Convention in Philly should make for some interesting stories. (Source: Inky)

Attorney General Kathleen Kane. - Trial on obstruction and Pa. Docket Sheets).
Kane has very own mug shot
perjury charges scheduled in Montgomery County on August 8, 2016. She has filed motion to quash based on selective and vindictive prosecution. She will be crashing an burning just as the presidential race heats up.  (Source

Former State Treasurer Rob McCord - After his guilty plea to extortion, Judge John E. Jones III has scheduled a status conference on 10/12/16 in Harrisburg. His taped phone calls will drive the nails into Democratic coffins just in time for the election(Source: PACER)

Former Democratic political consultant Michael Fleck - After a guilty plea to bribery scheme in Reading and Allentown, his sentencing is scheduled for 7/25/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 10 AM (Source: PACER)

Former Allentown Controller Mary Ellen Koval - After guilty plea to bribery scheme, sentencing scheduled for 7/26/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 10 AM. (Source: PACER)

Fed Ed
Former Allentown Finance Director Garrett Strathearn - After guilty plea to bid rigging, sentencing scheduled for 7/27/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 10 AM (Source: PACER)

Former Allentown Assistant Solicitor Dale Wiles - After guilty plea to bid rigging, sentencing scheduled for 9/8/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 9 AM. (Source: PACER)

Allentown and reading pay-to-play entrepreneur Ramzi Haddad - Sentencing scheduled for 7/28/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 10 AM. (Source: PACER)

Allentown and Reading Pay-to-Play Engineer Matthew McTish - Sentencing scheduled for 8/2/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 2 PM. (Source: PACER)

Former Reading City Council President Francis Acosta - Sentenced by Judge Juan R. Sánchez to two years in prison over $1,800 bribe. (Source: Reading Eagle)

Former Mayoral Assistant Eron Lloyd - After guilty plea to bribery, sentencing scheduled for 9/8/16 in Philadelphia before Judge Juan R. Sánchez, 2 PM.(Source: PACER)

Look! A Republcan!
Former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer - Unindicted, but featured prominently in federal charging documents as Public Official No. 1 (Source: PACER)

Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski. - Unindicted, but featured prominently in federal charging documents as Public Official No. 3 (Source: PACER)

Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye - Charges with skimming $8,000 from the Vigilance Hose, he is scheduled for arraignment on 6/23/16. (Source: Pa Docket Sheets)

Ex Seven Fields Mayor Edward Bayne- sentenced to seven years in federal prison after child porn conviction (Source: WKBN27)

Former Rendell Chief of Staff John Estey- Pre-sentence conference with Judge John E. Jones III on 8/29/16 in Harrisburg. (Source: PACER)

Darth Voter
State Senator Larry Farnese - Charged with diverting campaign funds, he has an Initial Appearance on 6/10/16 in Philadelphia. (Source: PACER)

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed. - Bound over to face 144 charges of political corruption.

Former Philly Traffic Court Judge Michael J Sullivan. - Gets ten months for tax fraud. (Source: Inky)

Philadelphia State Rep.Vanessa Brown - Though she admitted her guilt to political corruption in Grand Jury Testimony concerning an undercover sting of State Reps in Philly, she is now claiming charges racially motivated and entrapment. (Source: Inky) Five other elected officials, including State Representatives and a traffic court judge, pleaded guilty or "no contest" last year.Brown's trial is currentyl scheduled for 7/18/16. (Source: Pa Docket Sheets)

Former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joseph O'Neill - pleads guilty to lying to FBI about case-fixing for Democratic fundraiser. (Source: Intelligencer)

Berks County Magisterial District Judge Timothy Dougherty. - Charged with stealing $113,000 from court, fire department. (Source: Intelligencer) The Court of Judicial Discipline has entered an interim suspension in the only action that has been filed against a judge this year. ... So far.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin fined $50,000 by Court of Judicial Discipline despite resignation over lewd emails. (Source: Morning Call)

State Rep. Michael "Darth Voter" Schlossberg admits ghost voting in critical budget vote. (Source: NBC10).

Allentown School Director Ce-Ce Gerlach accepts scholarship funded in part by NIZ developer City Center, then votes in a closed session against pursuing an appeal on the the tax exempt status of the NIZ arena, thus accomplishing a violation of both the Sunshine Act and Ethics Act simultaneously. (Source: Gerlach's Facebook Page, Morning Call)

Ce-Ce's NIZ Degree

On Friday, I told you that, for Allentown School Director Ce-Ce Gerlach, it's all about Me-Me. While holding herself out publicly as a vocal critic of Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement  Zone (NIZ), she's managed to get a DeSales scholarship. It's funded, at least in part, by NIZ developer City Center Investment Corp (J.B. Reilly). Coincidence? I think not. Sell-out is the operative term. I have since learned that there's more to the story. Gerlach engaged in a conflict of interest last week in violation of the state Ethics Act. What is more, she participated in a Sunshine Act violation.

Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski would be very proud.

Before I get into that, let me tell you a little about her scholarship to DeSales University. It is part of the ACCESS program, designed for people who are already in the workforce. Classes are held only one night per work, with the rest of the course work being done online. NIZ developer City Center Investment Corporation (J.B. Reilly) is footing part of the bill with table crumbs from at least $54 million in state taxes that has gone into its coffers. In fact, Me-Me is probably a lot cheaper than community organizer Alan Jennings, who relies on contributions from City Center for CACLV.

Alan admits he's a prostitute, but he's more expensive and has an ulterior motive. He's actually interested in the poor instead of himself.

There's another big difference, too. Unlike Me-Me, Jennings has no conflict of interest.

Under our state Ethics Act, a public official like Gerlach has a conflict of interest when she votes in a matter in which she has a private pecuniary interest.

This brings us to Allentown School District's lawsuit against the NIZ Board, challenging the tax exempt status of properties owned by the NIZ, but under which City Center [J.B. Reilly] runs a risk of being held liable if loans are not repaid. According to a Morning Call story by Matt Assad, the Allentown School Board had a back-room meeting last week in which it decided against appealing Judge Doug Reichley's opinion dismissing the lawsuit. School Board Solicitor John Freund, whose law firm represents the NIZ Authority, is obviously unable to file a suit on behalf of the school district. He is conflicted, so an outside gunslinger was hired. But amazingly, he conveniently advised the Board that it's time to fold and forget about an appeal in the very matter in which he is conflicted.

Having suddenly developed amnesia about his own conflict of interest, it's no surprise that Me-Me participated in the back room discussion and was all for dropping the appeal instead of recusing herself in a matter in which she has a pecuniary interest.

It gets better. This meeting in the back room is a Sunshine Act violation. A vote on ending the case needs to be made in an open meeting, not behind closed doors. A school board can certainly discuss litigation out of the public eye, but the votes need to be public.

So she got a scholarship. What's the big deal?

Ask State Senator Larry Farnese. He's just been indicted for offering scholarships to a political rival's daughter.

The feds call this bribery.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day: Remember the Young Dead Soldiers

We're a strange bunch. We look forward to Memorial Day as an extra day off from work, a time for picnics and the start of summer. We say "Happy Memorial Day" to each other from the Jersey shore Few of us take the time to think of, to say nothing of honoring, those who have offered their lives for a freedom we take for granted.

It's always been that way. Even during the Revolutionary War, which started with the Boston Massacre, there was little public regard for those who put themselves in harm's way and lost their lives.

“Good God, are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their Liberties?” asked Benedict Arnold, who ultimately sold out in bitterness as much as greed.

The very first American to give his life in the cause of liberty was Crispus Attucks. His father was an African-American slave. His mother was a Natick, who were called the "Praying Indians." Little is known about Crispus. But his and the lives of so many who made the ultimate sacrifice are summed up in the immortal words of Archibald MacLeish.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Opinions Online, 5/28/16

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 sometimes highlight comments from throughout the week and re-publish them here. Please keep your comments brief, if possible.

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Feds Issue New Target Letters in Fed Ed case: Bernie do have a list of everyone who received fed letters today

Blogger's Reply: New Target Letters in the Fed Ed cases were sent a week ago, and I believe some went to union bosses, but I have no details.

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Are LANTA bus drivers safe? : The facts that LANTA drivers have to maneuver a large vehicle and keep to a schedule aren't justification for them to completely ignore right of way rules on the road and cut into traffic whenever they feel like it. I see this daily. They just pull into traffic no matter who or what is coming, forcing the other party to slam on the brakes.

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Lehigh County Vendors: The Lehigh County Commissioners need to ask questions about how Muller and Gang arrived at Stevens and Lee and Concord Finance to help shepherd through a bond.

Stevens and Lee is involved with many Lehigh County organizations and parts of the county government. It seems Blake Marles is always at a meeting representing some developer or some developer or business interest.

Mike Setley from Concord Finance got into some trouble in Reading. The city's water authority is also in the bond business and also uses Concord Finance. Turns out that Setley was also the solicitor to the authority at the same time and ended up being a big issue during a forensic audit of the authority.

The County has to ask itself - to whom does a big bond benefit? Don't assume it is the County.

Blogger's Reply: Concord Public Finance has been involved in several swaptions as well as the Bethlehem Tp streetlight scam. That firm is known for pay-to-play. But Blake Marles is perhaps one of the finest lawyers I know.

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Fred Windish continues to advocate Donald Trump: Now that many unbound delegates have said they'll vote for Trump, enough to make him nominee. it's time for ALL Republicans in Congress to support their candidate and work to WIN for a change. Shouldn't that be the goal?

On the Democratic side, seems to me, Hillary needs to drop out. I rarely read any comments listing reasons to support her over Trump. Beyond the usual "Trump is bad," or "It's time for a woman president," there isn't much.

Time for Hillary to court Sanders as VP?

Fred Windish

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Transparency in local government: Why don't the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission or the Lehigh County Conservation District post their budgets and audits? The Conservation District has no posted minutes since January. The Planning Commission does not post any minutes from their committees.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ce-Ce Gerlach, Sell-Out

I first grew suspicious of political activist and Allentown School Board member Ce-Ce Gerlach last Fall. Allentown students, even middle school students, were being encouraged to cut classes by the Queen City's very own pied piper, Michael Frassetto. I asked her, as someone whom I had been told was a leader, to speak out. She never did. Nor did she bother to respond to several messages from me

She failed my basic test. She is neither accountable nor transparent.

But she's been very useful for NIZ advocates like J.B. Reilly. On television shows concerning the NIZ, she has often been propped up as an anti-NIZ voice, mostly because her arguments are easily defused. She's been a useful idiot. More informed NIZ opponents like Dr. Steve Thode or Michael Molovinsky are usually passed over.

She now has her reward. On her Facebook page, there's this: "I have been accepted into Desales University to earn my degree in Management & Leadership. Thank you City Center (never thought I'd say that...lol) and Trexler Trust for this opportunity."

Lots of people are oohing and ahhing, many of them the very same people who have spoken out against Fed Ed.

But like him, she is also a prostitute. Crony capitalists J.B. Reilly and the Trexler Trust will pay her college bill at DeSales. She will claim to be a voice of the people, so long as those people are Democrats. But she is now officially a sell-out, a servant of the urban growth regime

Gee, I wonder how anxious she will be now to pursue an appeal in the Allentown School District challenge to the NIZ.

While they crony capitalists play her, she will play the crowd and likely will present herself next year as a candidate for Allentown City Council

Atiyeh HQs Moving to Bethlehem

By a 4-0 vote at their May 25 meeting, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board has approved a special exception under which colorful entrepreneur Abe Atiyeh will relocate his corporate offices from a windowless basement at Whitehall Manor to the former greenhouse at Moose and Bug Florist, located at 2349 Linden Street. He sought a special exception because he was merely substituting one commercial use (retail) for another (offices).

Attorney Mickey Thompson, the Zoning Hearing Board's former Solicitor, presented the case. "What we would like to do is nothing," was his simple argument. He plans on making no changes at the site, except for removal the greenhouse glass and building a one-story office for Atiyeh's numerous corporate operations. Though he has formed over 80 corporations,  most of the work is done by a handful of between five and ten people, including Thompson. In addition to being in-house counsel, Thompson is also Chief Operating Officer at Pennsylvania Venture Capital, Inc., the umbrella under which Atiyeh operates several well-regarded nursing facilities, substance abuse rehabs and a billboard business.

This marks the third time Atiyeh has sought relief at this location.

In 2012, zoners panned a plan to convert the nursery into a 47-bed drug and alcohol treatment center. Atiyeh only succeeded in bringing a small army of protesters. But late last year, the Board approved a use variance for eight single family attached dwellings on two three-story buildings.

Approval of offices will require Atiyeh to abandon his plans for residential use. He will also be barred from storing construction vehicles at the site.

Nazareth Mayor To Be Arraigned June 23

Nazareth Mayor Carl Strye, who has waived his preliminary hearing on charges of skimming $8,000 from gambling operations at the Vigilance Hose, is scheduled for arraignment on June 23.There is no doubt that he is going to apply for ARD, a special program for first-time. His resignation as Mayor should be required, especially since he has shown no remorse. He's in Indiana right now on what is at least his fifth trip since the beginning of the year.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ZHB Rejects Lehigh's 15-Unit Apartment Building Plan on Southside

302 W Packer Ave
Lehigh University suffered a setback on May 25 when Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board voted 4-0, following a lengthy hearing, to deny dimensional variances needed to create housing for professors, staff and grad students at 302 W. Packer Street, located at the southwest intersection of packer and Montclair Avenues. Bill Fitzpatrick acted as Chair because Gus Loupos was unavailable. But Lehigh has threatened to come back with a bigger, five-story, building that needs no variances at all.

Lehigh purchased 302 W Packer Avenue, a 2 1/2-story single-family home, on December 21, 2015, for $152,000. Though assessment records rate the property as a C+, Lehigh Director of Real Estate Services Erin Kintzer gives it a failing grade. She described it as "uninhabitable," and told zoners she would raze everything except for the stone wall along the perimeter. In place of the single family home, the University planned to build a tasteful, three-story brick building, containing 15 single bedroom apartments, with five on each floor.

Kintzer was unsure what the monthly rental rates would be, saying that would depend on construction costs.

Since each apartment could include two people, this would add as many as 30 people to the neighborhood.

"You're pretty dramatically increasing the density," observed Fitzpatrick.

Each apartment, estimated at about 600 sq ft, would have its own living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and living room. Kintzer, the sole witness presented by Lehigh University Attorney Catherine Durso, explained that the apartments would be made available to.professors, staff and grad students.

Unlike many other colleges, Lehigh has no housing for professors or staff.  

Kintzer added that the University would consider renting to the general public if unable to generate interest among professors, staff and grad students. She estimated that grad students could live there from two to seven years, while the staff and professors would spend from one to five years at the apartment building..

She ran into difficulty when she discussed parking. There would only be six on-site parking places. Remaining tenants would be required to purchase a permit to park in one of the University lots. Not only does this cost $400 per year, but the closest lot is 370' away.

This puzzled Linda Shay Gardner, who asked about a tenant on the third floor, who would have to walk 370' to a parking lot, and then possible another 1000' to find a spot in the lot.

Linda Shay Gardner was far from alone. About 15 people in the neighborhood, and several of them argued that the temptation will be too great for tenants to simply park along Packer Street.

"Parking has always been a nightmare," said Jane Gaughran. She added that forcing women to walk 370'  alone, in the dark, is asking for trouble. She indicated that one of her friends, a Lehigh professor, was accosted while walking to her Montclair Street home from the labs.

Craig Evans noted that there were four requests to "grossly ignore" the zoning ordinance, and that the only appropriate answer is No. "This will congest an already taxed neighborhood," he insisted.

Evans wife, Anne, noted the irony in the arguments for a public parking garage at Third and New Streets, where it was claimed that Lehigh staff were unable to walk for than 200'.

"I don't think it's our job as neighbors to support Lehigh's investments," she said.

Krintzer had earlier stated that Lehigh regarded this as an investment property and would seek no tax exemption.

Fritz United Methodist Church
Reverend Barbara Lee, a Lehigh alumna, is Pastor at Fritz Memorial United Methodist Church, located directly across the street from the planned apartment building. While she likes the idea of housing faculty and staff close to campus,. "I'm really disappointed that the church wasn't considered."

Noting that the apartment building will bring an additional 30 cars to her front door. Rev. Lee stated that "we really struggle as an urban church to get our folks in and out of church.".

She indicated that right now, traffic on Packer Avenue is a "nightmare" when parents come to pick up elementary school students who participate in a daily homework club with Lehigh volunteers.

Lehigh student Bailey Falk told zoners that tenants might be walking more than 370' because the closest parking lot is often full during the day. She indicated that the $400 annual cost of parking permits is too expensive for many students, who will instead park on the street. She added that several years ago, Lehigh offered professors a place to live on campus. Only one took on-campus housing.

Attorney Durso argued that there is a "definite need" for this kind of housing, and there is no real difference between a one and three minute walk.

Zoners only deliberated about five minutes before voting 4-0 to deny the zoning appeal.

During the hearing, Kintzer admitted she was taking a risk when she bought the property, and said she would sell it at a slight loss if her variances were denied. But after it was over, she and Attorney Durso began to discuss building a five-story apartment building at the same location, with no need for dimensional variances.

Bethlehem Zoners Delay Decision on Offices in Historic District

Bethlehem's Zoning hearing Board was scheduled to make a decision at the beginning of their May 25 meeting on Morning Star Partners' plans to locate a financial services business at the northwest intersection of West Market and North New Streets. This unique property, which consists of both a home and two retail businesses, is known both as 2 West Market and 511 North New Streets. It is located in the heart of the City's historic district. But because Chairman Gus Loupos was unavailable, the decision will instead come at a special meeting scheduled for June 2 at 6 pm. in Town Hall.

The majestic home, known as the Schadt house, is a single-family residence built in the 1840s. The green buildings, first built in the 1820s, are retail establishments and once included the manufacturer of brass instruments for the Moravian Church.

Morning Star Partners are represented by zoning attorney Bill Preston.

Bill Fitzpatrick, the Vice Chair, has recused himself based on a potential conflict.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DePasquale: One of Every Five Child Abuse Calls Goes Unanswered

Earlier this month, I published a story calling child abuse America's hidden epidemic.It's going to stay that way. According to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, over 42,000 calls to the state hotline for reporting suspected child abuse (1-800-932-0313), went unanswered last year. According to an ABC27 report, that's roughly one out of every five calls. The reasons cited were lack of staffing in Human Services and lack of funding from the state legislature.

DePasquale states that, in addition to missing over 44,000 calls, the state Department of Human Services failed to track or monitor nearly one-third of the calls received. Supervisors monitored only seven calls in 2015 (0.005%).

In the land of midnight payraises, the state legislature is busy trying to figure out ways to soak more money from the working poor with online gambling. Governor Wolf is promoting six-pack sales at WaWa, turning Pennsy into Jersey.

And 20% of the calls reporting child abuse are being ignored.

Deal Me Out of iGaming, Sez NorCo DA



According to Online Poker Report, Pennsylvania is ready to deal online gambling into the mix of money-grabbing schemes to generate revenue without a tax hike. The Morning Call.reports that a majority of state Republicans support onling gambling. But not yesterday. Online gambling folded in the state House, 107-81. But the cards were shuffled and dealt again. A motion to reconsider was adopted by an even larger majority of the very legislators who had just said No.

Only in Harrisburg.

The gimmick under which this is being pitched is that the money raised will go to distressed pension funds and the law will actually regulate iGaming. People already gamble online, claim iGaming advocates. “What we are providing in this bill is consumer protection," says State Rep. Pete Dunbar.

Payne's bill would allow iGaming, but it would be restricted to those who already have gaming licenses. A casino or a racetrack would have to pay $5 million for each iGaming license, and 14% of the gross would go to the state. Casinos with a license could install slots and online gambling at airport terminals and off-track betting parlors.

The only casino owner who opposes a gambling expansion is the Sands Casino's Sheldon Adelson. He's formed a group called Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, His group accuses State Rep. Payne of putting Pennsylvania's kids at risk by supporting online gambling predators who target children and hook them with Disney-looking cartoon characters.

What do you think? Morganelli argues this makes it too easy for people who are predisposed.



Northampton County DA John Morganelli's remarks: In June of 2015, our State Senator Lisa Boscola warned that the idea of expanding gambling in Pennsylvania including, on-line gaming, was gaining traction due to structural deficits in the Pennsylvania budget. Senator Boscola was absolutely right when she raised a red flag pointing out some of the dangers that come with the expansion of gaming.

On November 19, 2015, the media reported that a state house committee had voted out of committee legislation that would represent the biggest expansion of legal gambling in Pennsylvania since the casino era was ushered in. By an 18 to 8 vote, the Gaming Oversight Committee approved a bill that, if enacted, would:
• Legalize and regulate Internet gambling run exclusively through the state’s 12 licensed casinos;
• Create a new type of mini casino in Pennsylvania by permitting up to 250 slot machines at off track betting parlors run by the state’s six racetracks;
• Allow casino operators that reached agreement with airport authorities to install slots at the state’s six airports designated as capable of handling regular international flights, including Harrisburg.
• Allow casinos to sell alcohol around the clock.
The aforesaid vote pushed forward the debate that could very well lead to Pennsylvania joining the ranks of states that have legally sanctioned gambling on all forms of personal electronic devices including computers, tablets and smart phones.

The arrival of casinos in Pennsylvania sparked controversy throughout the state with proponents arguing that gaming, and specifically casinos, would increase revenue and employment in the state. Now, however, Pennsylvania leaders are no longer satisfied that the current industry is sufficient. Pennsylvania is now looking to legalize on-line gambling, a practise that, in my opinion, could harm our society instead of helping it. Although I recognize that on-line gambling and the expansion of gaming in general can be used as a means to raise state revenue, I am very concerned about the negative impact of such an expansion. Seven states currently have legal on-line gambling: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Minnesota and Michigan. New Jersey, which legalized remote gaming in 2013 after being vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in both 2011 and 2012, has actually seen revenue fall dramatically short of its previous projection. However, the real concern is the social impact that this would have — namely the increase in addictions and crime.

There are many types of gambling addictions, but the most common and all-encompassing is a problematic addiction. It is defined as an addiction that causes “disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational.” In January of 2007, Professor Mark Griffith wrote an article published by the British Medical Association titled “Gambling Addiction and a Treatment Within NHS.” Griffith goes on in depth to discuss the dangers of on-line gaming specifically, saying that it is potentially “one of the biggest challenges concerning the social impact of gambling.” According to Professor Griffith, 10% of the UK population has an on-line gambling addiction, while 3-5% of city residents are addicted. It is the remote nature of this type of gaming that makes it such a threat to public health. The accessibility it offers allows people to gamble wherever and whenever, including at work and school. For addicts, the temptation is sitting right there, in their phone, their computer, at their desk. With this accessibility comes a lack of monitoring, where the vulnerable, such as children, problem gamblers, addictive types and the mentally impaired can use the site without any supervision. The demo modes of these casinos, where users can have a free trial to experiment with the site, are typically made to let the user win, in order to lure them into actual gambling. Once they are betting users, the game automatically is flipped to have the house in its favor. This availability, although not proven to be any more addictive then in-house gambling, allows people to engage in this behavior and therefore promotes it to a broader user base than normal. At the present time, and with brick and mortar casinos, individuals have to at least get up out of their chair, navigate their way to a casino and then navigate back home. The privacy and seclusion that on-line gaming offers is dangerous, as people can sit in the comfort of their homes and gamble for hours on end. In a traditional casino, dealers and staff are there to oversee the amount of time spent at tables and to discourage problematic conduct. Not so with on-line gaming.

Another issue with on-line gaming is the lack of fiscal awareness. Gaming sites deal exclusively with electronic cash which “may serve to distance a gambler from how much money he or she is spending.” (Griffith) Furthermore, the advent of e-cash systems allows gamblers to access money with a click of a button, never having to leave the game and leading to the idea that virtual cash is less valuable then actual cash.

Further, gambling drives people to become involved in unhealthy behavior, not just at the tables, but in society as well. Take a case directly out of Northampton County of Commonwealth v. Greg Hogan. The president of his class at Lehigh University, Hogan was sucked into the world of on-line gambling. His father found out, and installed protective software on his computer. However, some off shore gambling sites worked their way around the software, luring Hogan back and causing him to fall into thousands of dollars’ worth of debt. He felt so desperate that he turned to crime on December 9, 2005, Hogan robbed a bank. His on-line poker addiction drove him to become someone else, someone that not even his closest friends or family recognized. Gambling turned him into a criminal. The same thing happened to a nun working at Iona College in New York. She embezzled over $850,000.00 dollars from her school to fund her gambling addiction.

But the danger does not stop there. A study funded by the American Gambling Association titled “Suicide in Gambling: An Analysis of Suicide Rates in US Counties and Metropolitan Areas” showed that the suicide rates in major gambling areas are higher than those of towns that do not allow gambling. “Gambling or some factor closely associated with gambling is linked to elevated suicide levels. The findings raised the possibility that the recent expansion of legalized gambling and the consequent increase in gambling may be accompanied by an increase in US suicides (Phillips et al., 1997, 378)”

Bankruptcy is also an issue at play. People gamble away their salaries, their savings, their lives. In Mississippi, a study found that gaming was responsible for a 24% increase in bankruptcy filings, not just in the state itself, but in neighboring states as well. The people who cannot fight their addiction lose everything resulting in an increase likelihood of hunger, homelessness, and the inability to provide themselves with necessary care. Obviously the on-line gambling has not been the sole contributor; the brick and mortar casinos themselves take part of the blame. But by introducing the second method of gambling, we are letting lose a second lion in the pasture.

Additionally, there are many crimes that are exclusive to on-line gambling. There are fake gaming sites, lottery scams, and even “winner” scams. Criminals have begun to use the Internet as a way to broaden their base of victims, as it allows them to send out mass messages in a short amount of time, maximizing their efforts. A fraud scheme from Canada stole $5 million dollars from US citizens sending out emails telling them that they won the lottery. And with the constant improvement in hacking techniques, it has become alarmingly easy for people to steal credit card numbers and personal identities. Additionally, the backroom Internet betting parlors make it much more difficult for prosecutors to find the participants, and for the government to regulate the gaming. These parlors use the anonymity and dark corners of the Internet to hide from the law, enabling far more illegal activities than a traditional casino. It is this secrecy and privacy that makes on-line gambling the perfect place for money laundering. Former Attorney General Eric Holder said the following:
“The Internet gambling operations are, in essence, the functional equivalent of wholly unregulated offshore banks with the bettor account serving as bank accounts for account holders who are, in the virtual world, virtually anonymous. For these reasons, Internet gambling operations are vulnerable to be used not only for money laundering but also for criminal activities ranging from terrorists financing to tax evasion.”
Essentially, there is no way to track the money that is being traded on-line, due to fact that virtual cash leaves no paper trail; it is nearly impossible to find where and when the money is turned over into real liquid. This sort of gambling is perfect for laundering, as high volumes of money are being transferred constantly. Many criminals have begun to use on-line casinos as methods of payment for illegal activities, disguising payments as winnings.

It is my hope that Pennsylvania legislative leaders scrap any idea of the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania. In my view it will clearly lead to an increase in crime, poverty among those who can least afford it, addictions and social instability. This message is not one that should be interpreted as anti-gambling or anti-casino. I supported the construction of the Sands Casino in Northampton County and I have personally patronized it. This is not about brick and mortar casinos but clearly about the expansion of on-line gambling and the other aspects of this legislation that, in my opinion, can only result in a negative impact upon many of our citizens throughout the state.

For the aforesaid reasons, I will ask the Executive Branch of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association to take a formal position against this proposed legislation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

West Easton Appoints Council Vet To Replace Louis Niko

West Easton Borough Council has appointed Paul James to replace Louis Niko, who resigned earlier this month. James has previously served West Easton as a member of Council and as Chair of the Zoning hearing Board.

Tricia Mezzacappa, a constable who had threatened to seek Niko's seat, instead asked Council to appoint her as what I would call some sort of Code Enforcement or Parking Enforcement Officer, claiming she could issue parking tickets.

Blogger's Note: My source for this story is Matt Dees. I skipped the meeting. His story is located here.

Bill White Tried to Poison Me!



I've already bragged 47 times about receiving this year's Keystone Press award for Investigative Journalism in the smallest category of newspapers. The Bethlehem Press, at which I freelance, actually received 21 awards this year, and won what is called the sweepstakes in their division for the third year in a row.

My conclusion is that I probably inspire a lot of people.

On Saturday night, we were all in Harrisburg for the awards ceremony.

Each sweepstakes winner played a video about the winning newspaper. The video for The Beaver Times was hilarious, but is probably under lock and key.

I saw The Morning Call's Bill White while I was there. He won an award, too, for his columns.

"They'll let anybody in here," I wisecracked.

He threatened to object to me getting an award for anything, but found a more devilish way to get me.

As only a few of you know, I have developed a severe dairy allergy, as in I go into anaphylactic shock if I eat anything with butter, milk or cheese. This was noted on my meal card. But when I took a bite out of my salad, I immediately noticed it was laced with cheese and spit it out.

The rest of the night, I kept feeling itches, but they were either psychosomatic or fleas. I was OK.

I went back with the salad and the servers told me it was my own damn fault because I should have seen the cheese surprise, and they were sure they had placed a cheese free salad at my table. While I was trying to con them into a free meal (I failed), I swear I saw White laughing at me.

Hanover Tp's 5th Annual Armed Forces Day

Over 200 on hand for 5th annual Armed Forces Day Program

Over 200 people defied threatening skies on May 21 to attend Hanover Township's 5th annual Armed Forces Day at Armed Services Park, located on Route 512. The ceremony and the park itself, are dedicated to the men and women who are serving and have served in all branches of the military. Residents and dignitaries gathered underneath the flags of each branch of service, along with the Stars and Stripes, to reflect on the sacrifices made by those in uniform.

For some, it is the ultimate sacrifice. A life lost in some arid desert. A snake infested jungle. A bloody beach. "We leave you our deaths," those silent soldiers say. "Give them their meaning."

Warriors' Watch Riders pay their respects. 
The Brass and Woodwind Ensembles of the American Legion Band of Bethlehem and Nitschmann Middle School played several musical selections in honor of those in the Armed Service. And out of nowhere, the Warriors Watch Riders roared into the ceremony, armed with American flags. They stood throughout the entire ceremony.

American Legion Band Brass Ensemble
State Senator Mario Scavello, Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano and Marta Boulos Gabriel, as a representative for U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, all attended this simple ceremony, along with recently retired Supervisor Glenn Walbert.

Township Manger Jay Finnigan served as Master of Ceremonies, while Vince Milite and his Public Works crew managed to keep the rain away. Colonial Regional Police made sure everyone was safely and conveniently parked.

Col. Douglas S. Watson (US Army Ret.)
The guest speaker was Col. Douglas S Watson (US Army Ret.). He grew up in Hanover Township with Supervisor John Nagle, who introduced him. He graduated from Freedom High School in 1973, and spent 27 years in the Army, dealing with dealing anti-terrorism operations and emergency preparedness. At the time of his retirement, he was a Division Chief at the Pentagon, and oversaw a multi-billion dollar annual program in support of all US Army Law Enforcement functions. As he himself put it, "I was a Chief of Police."

For the past 12 years, he has held executive positions with Disney California Adventure in Anaheim and as General Manager of Park Operations and Director of Security at Disneyland.

American Legion Honor Guard, Post 379
He called the United States military "the finest fighting force the world has ever known." Butt he warned that, as other nations grow strong, our security is "at risk." While he said he was honored to be invited, he stressed that no soldier deserves recognition for simply doing his duty. "Duty is its own reward," he said.

He also mentioned his mother, who was present and stressed that "the strength of the Armed Forces is their families."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, American Legion of Bethlehem. Post 379's honor guard presented a 21-gun salute in honor of the fallen.

As the smoke cleared, WWII Veteran LeRohn "Dan" Deysher stood a distance from the crowd, and played Taps. Deysher served three years during WWII in the United States Navy aboard the USS Pennsylvania as Mus1C from the Aleutians to Okinawa, followed by three years shore duty to complete his enlistment. Retiring from Bethlehem Steel in 1984, he has played Taps for over 3,400 military funerals, Memorial Day services and other remembrances.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Emrick Slams Voter Inside Polling Place

State Representative Joe Emrick is not exactly known for his transparency. He returns calls, I suppose, but only to those with money. His campaign finance reports would make make that clear, but they're hard to see. His year end report for 2015 only recently became available because he never bothers to file his reports electronically. He didn't even bother to file a paper version of his pre-primary report in his county of residence until I complained. He thumbed his nose at state law until he was contacted by elections officials.

Though he supposedly writes the laws, he does a pretty lousy job of following them. I want to tell you a story about his antics on election day because it tells you that he is a short-tempered bully who is perfectly willing to use the power of his office to intimidate voters.

I missed this story on election day and am only telling it now.

Becky Bartlett is an Upper Nazareth Township resident who cares about her community. She is the person who recently went through Farmview with her husband and a few others, filling 25 garbage bags.

She's also friendly with Dave Mattei, who decided to wage a write-in campaign against Emrick as a Democrat. So on election day, she stood outside the polling precinct at Upper Nazareth East (it's the municipal building) trying to get Dave a few votes from her friends and neighbors.

This is called core political speech.

Because she also happens to live and vote in that precinct, she eventually decided to go in and vote. She was careful to bring no campaign literature with her, being mindful that electioneering is prohibited inside the polling place. Her husband decided to vote around the same time, and walked in to vote after she did, and was separated from his wife by a few people.

While Bartlett waited her turn to vote, Joe Emrick pranced inside the polling place, even though he is a candidate and had no watcher certificate. He walked up to the election judge, and in a stage whisper, began to run down Bartlett, warning the election judge to "keep an eye" on her for illegal politicking. He was, of course, loud enough that other people in the room could hear, including Becky's neighbors. The people present included several of her neighbors.

Her husband could also hear, and must have shocked Emrick when he unloaded on him for improperly entering the polling place and attempting to intimidate voters

The tough guy left when he realized that Becky had a male protector.

The elections office eventually determined that Emrick had no poll watcher's certificate. Even if he did, his attempt to suppress the vote is completely illegal. He was later admonished by the Solicitor's Office, although at least one of them is a campaign contributor.

Who is allowed and what is not inside the polling place? Members of the election board, people with watchers' certificates, constables, police (if called by the judge of elections), people waiting to vote, people who are assisting voters who might have an impediment, elections department employees on official business and voting machine technicians. Candidates are not allowed inside the polling place until the polls close.

Newspaper reporters may not enter a polling place, and the use of cameras and phones is prohibited, except for elections workers calling the elections office.

Anyone engaged in partisan political activity must stand at least ten (10) feet from the entrance of the polling place.

Detention Pond Ambuses Bethlehem Tp Residents, Human and Canine

This Bethlehem Tp park beingconverted to detention pond
I try to keep people informed about what is going on in Bethlehem Township. But I've let at least one reader down. In fact, this is a story about lack of communication from township officials and myself, and outright misinformation by one Commissioner. Let me tell you the tale.

The Spillway Project   

In 2013 and again in 2014, I wrote about a Monocacy Creek friendly spillway being designed by Greg Duncan, who is associated with engineering firm T and M Associates. It was a green solution to a stormwater drainage problem from the Bethlehem Square Shopping Center and into Monocacy Creek. Stormwater collects and ultimately passes under Route 191 and into what's left of a concrete lined swale, which has fallen into serious disrepair. From there, the waters, sometimes mixed with road salt and gravel, cascade into a Class A wild trout stream.

Armed with a $300,000 Watershed and Protection Grant, Duncan proposed replacing the broken-up concrete liner with articulated concrete blocks connected by steel cable. This will promote proper drainage, provide erosion control and even allow for natural vegetative growth. Articulated concrete blocks will also handle heavy velocities.

I wrote both of these stories before Bethlehem Township began to post back-up documents on their webpage, providing much greater detail about projects. Melissa Shafer would begin doing that a few months later. Still, I did correspond with Duncan, who was more than helpful in describing the project to me. At the time, I had no idea that the project also included the construction of a new detention basin on Township-owned land. Had I known, I doubt it would have mattered to me. I was focused on this innovative new spillway. Besides, who could possibly complain about a detention basin in a Township plagued by stormwater issues?

Residents Feel Ambushed by Detention Basin 

Dennis Brennan, who reads this blog is one such person. When excavators came last week and began peeling away the topsoil, he felt ambushed. He had received no prior notice. A 2.26-acre township park, dedicated to the township for open space and recreation, was being desecrated. An area where he could hit golf balls or just watch nature, which includes a family of foxes, was going away. And no one had told him. Not the Township. Not me. Not anyone.

The Deed conveying this tract contained language indicating that, for zoning purposes, it should still be considered land of the developer. Thus, more notice may have been required than what was provided.

The Township claimed it did notify adjacent landowners, but even that is disputed by Jane Cassidy, who lives next to what will soon be a detention pond. "We have always been notified of other events like Giant applying for gas pumps, the hotel changing their signage, etc.," she said in an email to Township officials. "Why is the company responsible to do that and not the township?"

Another detention pond is located nearby, a point that Brennan has made. "Having two basins within yards of each other is not the solution," he states. "Do we really need to destroy that last piece of open space?" he asks. "Do families bring their kids to the area to play? Are there any wildlife concerns? I'm not a tree hugger by any means but have common sense to see what has been taken."

One fox is sticking her head above green liner.
A second red fox is to her right. 
Dennis  has a point. In a visit to the site, I was greeted by a family of foxes who were frolicking close to the wood line. This will definitely have an impact on them.

Miscommunication by Commissioners

Tom Nolan did visit with the Cassidys after hearing their concerns. He was sporting a T and M Engineering hat. Probably the worst way to tell them he cares.

Commissioner Mike Hudak has responded to Brennan's concerns as well, but with what appears to be outright misinformation. "I never supported this project and still feel it is unneeded and a waste of resources," he told Brennan. "The blame belongs solely on Tom Nolan who's [sic] ego is bigger then the damage that's being done. Next public Commissioners meeting is the 1st Monday in June."

By then the excavation will be done. Hudak is using this occasion to carry on his private war with Tom Nolan, and is actually doing so with disinformation.

In an earlier email to Brennan, Hudak states, "I disagree completely with the whole spillway and detention pond. Your commissioner Tom Nolan was the one who instigated this and kept pushing for it. Why I don't know. I would strongly suggest you have everyone contact Tom Nolan and express their displeasure with him and his whole project. [His] emails and phone numbers are available from the Township manager. He managed to get two other votes from commissioners that more or less just deferred to him and have no skin in the game. New commissioner Malissa Davis and Pat Breslin. Myself and Kim Jenkins voted against it. Unfortunately the vote was 3-2 and Tom's project went forward."

The reality is that Duncan's proposal was initially approved by a 4-0 vote, including Hudak, on July 1, 2013 Commissioner Tom Nolan, the supposed instigator, was absent at that meeting. Duncan's contract  was approved unanimously, on March 17, 2014, during Melissa Shafer's first meeting as Township Manager. Hudak was a supporter. There were no votes on this project this year.

From poor communication to miscommunication, Township residents have been let down by everyone, myself included.

West Easton Has Paid $18k in Legal Fees This Year

Holy Ghost, West Easton landmark
Blogger Matt Dees, who has been serving on West Easton's Borough Council since January, has had some interesting stories. Kelly Gross, daughter of Mayor Gerry, was ousted by voters last year in a shocker. She had been President of Council and was certainly its de facto Borough Manager. Though her heart was certainly in the right place, she had been publicly ridiculed and defamed for several years in some vicious screeds. Something inside her snapped, and she began reacting inappropriately with everyone.

When the new Council came aboard in January, they were not only beset by missing records, but missing computers as well. They were also plagued by false rumors that the Borough would discard its one and only public works employee, Dane Thatcher, in favor of one of their pals. They also had to contend with a final parting shot from Kelly Gross, in the form of publicly funded newsletter.

Under circumstances like these, where none of them really knew what was going on, you could expect high legal bills. Since the date of his appointment in January, Easton Attorney Steve Goudsouzian has been paid $18,443.87. Of that sum, $1,203.37 is for legal work involved in defending West Easton from the legal slings and arrows of Tricia Mezzacappa.

Her honeymoon with the new Borough Council was brief one, and a hearing is scheduled in June for her latest nonsense. She will lose, but so will the Borough because it will cost at least another $1,000 in attorney fees. .

There are several other loose ends from the Kelly Gross days. Goudsouzian told Council that  the goodbye letter from Kelly Gross "was of a personal nature." Yet taxpayers paid about $520 for it. She also managed last year to slip herself a check for $450 as "Acting" Emergency Management Coordinator, even though she has none of the training and was never appointed to that position by anyone.

On February 8, Goudsouzian was instructed to get the money back.

It is known that outside auditors had concerns about Kelly Gross' use of petty cash. That audit should be public soon. There is no suggestion of anything beyond sloppy bookkeeping and a lack of internal controls.

Finally, there's a strange insurance policy that Matt Dees tells me was approved by a prior Council in 2002. West Easton Borough Council members are only paid $900 per year. By law, they could be paid as much as $1,875. Mayor Gerry Gross is paid only $1,200, but could be paid as much as $2,500. Some Council members likely felt they were entitled to this benefit in view of their low salary..

In response to a Right-to-Know, West Easton has only been able to reconstruct records since 2012. Since that time, it has gone through four different insurance companies. It covered only some Council members, mostly because borough officials forgot to add and remove Council members as they changed.

In February, Council decided to stop paying on that policy, and it is currently in limbo.

Dees has done a commendable job of helping to create a West Easton Borough webpage, complete with minutes of meetings and a calendar of events.

One of these will be the replacement of Council member Louis Niko, who has resigned.  Council is expected to vote on a new Council member tonight.

Removing Kelly Gross has done nothing to end the shouting matches during meetings. Dan DePaul regularly interrupts and yells at other Council members, particularly Robert Lewis. Two Council members, Henry and Tom Nodoline, are suing each other. And historically, Wast Easton has always been a fractious board. The only real difference between now and then is that now, it gets almost no coverage in the local newspapers.

That's why I hope Matt Dees continues to video and blog about the government.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Opinions Online, 5/21/16

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 sometimes highlight comments from throughout the week and re-publish them here. Please keep your comments brief, if possible.

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2 new area Walmarts opening, more Corporate and personal welfare, plus now legally lot's of their profits go untaxed in foreign accounts.

Blogger's Note: This is thekind of comment I don't like. It says nothing about where these local WalMarts are, makes generalizations, and there is no local context. I don't want AM talk radio. I want comments about what is going on in your community that you like or do not like. I will publish anything, but really want a Lehigh Valley flavor.

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I got to see Mayor Sticky Fingers today. I am not suggesting that he should go into the witness protection program, but he should keep a lower profile.

Instead, he had the audacity to talk about his recent vacation and when someone said they just returned from New Orleans, numnutz said "Oh yeah, I've been there three times."

Yeah, on whose dime?

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Staff at the local Express-Times must be decimated. They haven't updated their online news account of the deeds transfers in over two months. I am so glad that I don't purchase that rag anymore.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

CCHS Shocks Parkland at Stellar Summer League

"Who Dat?" Lambert sinks three-pointer against Parkland.
Central won with balanced attack. 
Though high school baseball season is still going strong, Cedar Beach Basketball League began this week with games on Tuesday and Thursday night. If you like high school basketball, that's the place to be. The price is right (free) and you get to see the Lehigh Valley's top athletes play in a more relaxed setting than a regulation game. These kids all know each other, so if their game is over or has not started, you can find them cheering on their friends from other teams. Coaches are more willing to take chances and experiment, and it makes for very exciting games.

You never know who you'll see. I've seen Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell several times at these events. He loves hoops, and as an Allen guy, has every right to be proud. Whatever problems William Allen High School might be having at the moment, basketball isn't one of them. This year, they are poised to take it all the way.

Of course, a few other teams like CCHS, Parkland, Liberty, Freedom, Easton, Whitehall, Becahi and Emmaus might have something to say about whether this is Allen's year. We'll find that out during regular season. For now, it's mostly fun.

Jay Vaughan pulls trigger in three-point territory. 
I skipped last night's Council meeting so I could watch CCHS take on Parkland. When I heard that Morning Call columnist Bill White was in Easton, I felt relieved. There always needs to be at least one prick at a meeting, and Bill White is reportedly Lucifer in disguise. I'm only a minor demon. .

These were the first games played outside at Cedar Beach Park. Rain on Tuesday forced athletes to play indoors at Allen.  

What I loved about Tuesday is that Caden Giordano, a Freshman at Becahi and already 6'6", was given the nod to start in a tough game against Trevor Storm and the Easton Rovers. Caden, who wan't even sure he'd be allowed to play at all, ended up scoring the first point of the Summer League for Becahi. Beca went on to beat Easton, but only by a buzzer beater, in a very tight game in which the lead went back and forth.

Caden is Judge Emil Giordano's son, and he coached both Caden and my grandson Dat to the championship when they were in grade school.

Lambert sinks foul shot. 
Like Caden, Dat Lambert got to start in Central Catholic's game against Reading High School, which is among the top ranked teams in the state and includes Lonnie Walker, a 6'5" shooting guard being pursued by Arizona, Villanova, UConn and Kentucky..

Just as Caden scored the first point for Becahi, Dat managed to score the first three points for Central . Central played Reading tough in the first half, and the game was tied. But when the second half began, Reading ran away with the game.

After being speared by the Red Knights on Tuesday, CCHS played outside at Cedar Beach last night against Parkland, which has been the league champion for the last two years.

Not last night. Last year, CCHS relied heavily on the shooting of Zay Jennings. But now it is a more balanced attack that includes Shack Dezonie, Chris Ocasio, Jay Vaughan, Sammy Vaughan, Dat Lambert, Kevin Kern and AJ Dana. Ironically, one of the biggest cheerleaders for this new approach was Senior Zay Jennings, who told me he was itching to get into the game.

Whitehall PG Mikey Esquilin and friends enjoying the games. 
Parkland's Seniors are gone, but the team that faced CCHS is the team that will be playing this fall. It still includes exciting players like Jake Bartholomew, who is both strong under the boards and can burn you with a three-pointer.

Last night the Trojans bowed to the Vikings, 44-29. But don't write their obituary. They are too talented to give up.  

As Keith Groller's Corner blog reports, thirty high school teams participate in Cedar Beach's Summer League, including 19 big schools and ten small schools.

The season climaxes with the Sportsfest Tournament and then the Stellar Tournament, which are usually on the hottest days of the summer.

NorCo Council Discusses Angels Dancing on the Head of a Pin

On May 11, Executive John Brown informed Northampton County Council that he had appointed Tim Herrlinger as Acting Director of the Department of Community and Economic Development. As he explained during Council's May 19 meeting, he was telling them what he had done in an effort to be transparent, but was not seeking their permission.

President John Cusick nevertheless prepared a resolution for Council approval. Solicitor Phil Lauer advised that, unless confirmed within 60 days, this Acting Director position could actually be considered a permanent appointment.

Watching the video from my estate, I began to detect a "How many angels can danceonthe head of a pin" tone about this argument.

The reality is that NorCo's DCED is in disarray,and considering its important community development functions, this is a bad thing for those who are hungry or seeking a roof over their head.. So far as i know, the Department has produced no economic development.

Rather than addressing these very real issues, Cusick is crafting resolutions and everyone is talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Brown explained that, in his view, an acting director is a bridge that provides continuity in a department until a permanent director is found. He indicated that Herrlinger is a "potential" cabinet official, but has not "fully made that decision. He stated that what is doing is specifically provided for in the employee policy manual, which was approved by Council last year. That manual gives him the authority to appoint an Acting Director for no longer than six months, without the approval of Council. He said that requiring him to seek confirmation for even an interim position "really cripples the administration's ability" .to get things done

Ken Kraft agreed with Brown, and criticized Council for "just doing things to do things."

Everything said by Phil Lauer is valid, but if Council approved the employee policy manual, it necessarily follows that they gave the Executive the authority to make interim appointments.

Like Kraft, I agree with Brown's argument, but it hinges on Council approving the employee policy manual.

Last year, in what I then called a clinic on good government, former Executive Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried said that Council needed to approve the career service regulations upon which the employee policy manual is based and have not done so.

So far as I can tell, that still has not happened. I have looked through the minutes and doi not see it, but if it is there, Brown is right.

But the academic discussion over how long an Executive can appoint someone to a cabinet position is somewhat silly in view of the problems at DCED.

Hayden Phillips thankfully suggested tabling the matter because Council obviously needs to do more homework. Amazingly, John Cusick, Mat Benol and Seth Vaughn wanted to plunge ahead in darkness. They like discussing these fine points that, in the big picture, are meaningless.

Herrlinger's appointment, whether it needs to be approved or not, will wait until the next meeting.

Brown has also promised to have the Department of Community and Economic Development staff available at the June 3 meeting, to explain exactly what they've been doing. That would seem to be a little more important than the minutiae in which Council is absorbed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Upper Nazareth: Land of Bobcats, Empty Vodka Bottles and Broken Gates

The East Lawn Social Club
had no position on the parking ordinance
At a meeting attended by about 20 residents last night, Upper Nazareth Supervisors unanimously decided to table an ordinance that would have banned parking outside of Tax Collector Tracy Adamski's home and office at 26 Newport Avenue. An ordinance was proposed that would have blocked parking on Adamski's side of the street out of a concern that fire trucks would be slowed down on this narrow street when responding to emergencies. But when Fire Chief Don Seiple said there's no problem, that effectively put the matter to bed.

I was there after hearing about the ordinance. I thought it odd that a local government would make it more difficult for someone to pay his taxes, and wanted to witness the absurdity. But believe it or not, reason prevailed. The Board pleasantly surprised me with the way they listened to residents in a meeting in which comments from members of the public were welcome throughout the night.

Adamski's home is across the street from the east lawn Social Club, and they sometimes have functions that add traffic in the area. The township's zoning officer apparently had a shit fit after one of these events.

It was a great meeting for a first timer like myself and a woman I met who had never been to a meeting of any kind before. We both heard discussions of bobcats, empty vodka bottles and a broken school gate being used as a short cut by just about everyone.

Donna Hirst, bobcat spotter
Getting back to the road ordinance.  Fire Chief Seiple said that 90% of his calls go to Rte 191 and do not even go by Adamski's house. "Than why are we talking about this?" asked Chairman Mike Rinker.

Prior to the vote, Tracy Adamski told Supervisors that the ordinance would be unfair to elderly residents who would be required to park on St Elmo Street to pay their bill. "Some of these people can barely make it up my ramp," she said.

Claire Smith, who has lived on St. Elmo Street since 1947 and in the Township since 1927, said to block parking at her house instead of at Tracy's home and office. "I agree with Tracy," she said. "She needs the space. Next time cars come around my house it will be for a funeral."

The room cracked up at her remarks. This woman is at least 89 years old, but she was sharp as a tack, and she and her husband drove to and from the meeting.

The meeting started out on a light note when Joanne Messenlehner, the Grand Dame of Northampton County's Democrats, reported that a cleaning crew spearheaded by Becky Bartlett had managed to pick up 25 bags of garbage throughout Farmview, including a very large number of empty vodka bottles. People began snickering and Messenlehner went on to say that, many years ago, kids at the high school would lace their water bottles with vodka.

Gary Asteak, who understands Pennsylvania Dutch,
represents several Nazareth area municipalities. 
Supervisor Donna Hirst reported that there's a bobcat in her neighborhood.She described the feline as "quite friendly," and it often hangs out at the intersection of 5th and Farmview. She's worried that the bobcat might eat her dog. Acting Chief Bill Cope told her that he called state game officials and they refuse to do anything because the only reason it has become friendly is because someone is feeding it. Once the food disappears, so will the cat.

Maybe that's where the vodka has been going.

Things became more serious when Hirst began discussing a constantly broken gate at Fourth Street, leading to the Nazareth Intermediate School. She noted the road is in a residential neighborhood, but is being used as a means of quick access. The result is much more traffic. She called it "an accident waiting to happen,"and said that "afternoon traffic in that area is horrific." Becky Bartlett added the gate had been up for four months straight at one point.

In response to a suggestion by Solicitor Gary Asteak, Hirst and other township officials will seek a meeting with school district administrators to protect the community.

Engineer Sean Dooley reported that construction of a traffic light where Friedenstahl and Schoeneck Avenues meet Route 191 (East Lawn Road) is slated to start on June 13, but might be held up a bit by the Verizon strike. The Township goal is to have a light in operation before the start of the next school year.

Good luck!

Supervisors also went along with Acting Police Chief Cope's request to hire two part-time police officers and a full-time officer.

The full-time officer, as yet unknown, will be selected from among the ranks of part-time officers.

One of part-time officers being hired is Corey Fluck, an 18-year veteran who could open up an office as a gynecologist. Last year, he helped an Alburtis mother deliver twins. The other part-timer, whose name I unfortunately missed, is currently a part-time police officer in Bangor.

Scott Sylvainus spoke against hiring a full-time officer, noting it is not in the budget and that the $88,000 cost is a budget buster. But Cope argued that he wants to move towards a full-time department. "Part-time officers are band aids," he said. "They fill in holes in the budget. They have no loyalty."

Cope's argument won the day.

"It's public safety," reasoned Rinker. "Our obligation as a Board is to provide public safety and infrastructure," added Hirst.

NorCo's Budget Guru Warns Hotel Taxes Could Drop This Year

Ken Kraft with January's hotel tax grant applications
During a presentation about hotel taxes at NorCo Council's Finance Committee on May 18, Budget Administrator Doran Hamann warned against awarding tourism grants before knowing a little more about how much revenue is coming in from the hotels this year.

DiscoverLV, which gets 68.75% of the hotel tax, called Hamann after receiving its check for the month of March.

"Where's all our money?" asked President Mike Stershic.

"What do you mean? We sent you all we received."

Hamman told Stershic he'd look into the possibility that DiscoverLV was being shortchanged.
"Right now, through the first quarter of 2016, the revenue collected is only up 1.6% higher than it was in 215. Now you say, 'What's the problem? We're up 1.6%.' If you go back a year in time, for the first quarter of 2015, it was up 14%. When you go back another year, it was up 8%. ...

"By the time we get to the end of the year, that increase usually comes down. Well, you'd say it should go up in the summertime. For some reason, the revenues are more robust in the beginning of the year than at the end of the year. ...

"My concern is last year we were at 14% in the first quarter, but at the end of the year, we were only up 8 1/2%. It dropped from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. The previous year when it was eight per cent [in the first quarter], it was four per cent [at the end of the year].

"I'm just telling you what history has shown us. We're only up 1.6%. If we drop four per cent or five per cent, we're going to physically collect less hotel room rental tax revenue in 2016 than we did in 2015. Mike Stershic said, 'You're right Doran. It's basically stagnant out there.'" ...
Hamman cautioned against spending "all the money that we think we're gonna' get because, if we don't get it, we have to make some hard decisions about reducing the payouts to the individuals." He warned that, if hotel tax revenues drop 11% this year, the County will have a problem.

Hamman predicted that a $1 million grant to Steelstacks and PBS-39 should be completely paid in September or October.

Department of Community and Economic Development Director Diane Donaher, prior to her abrupt resignation, had told Council that there would be hotel tax money vailable for a second round of tourism grants this year. Hamann advised waiting to see whether revenues pick up.

Council President John Cusick stated that Council should avoid pledging any additional money to outside groups until next year.

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines agreed with Hamman's assessment about hotel stays in the first quarter of this year. At the Hotel Bethlehem, they were up about one or two percent, but in the previous two years, the increases were much higher. Haines is unable to explain why the increases were so high during 2014 and 2015. But he disputed Hamman's view that rentals will drop below the first quarter as the year goes on. According to Haines, the fourth quarter is actually the busiest time at hotels in the Mid-Atlantic region, while first quarters are usually stagnant.