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Welcome to the Bethlehem Gadfly!

Definition of gadfly
1: any of various flies that annoy livestock

2: a person who stimulates other people especially by persistent criticism
3: someone who challenges people in positions of power

The main goal of the Gadfly blog is to provide a space for healthy public dialogue about issues of concern to Bethlehem, Pa., residents. All sides, all perspectives welcome.

For good examples of in-depth coverage of continuing serious issues, see the threads onGadfly 54 candidates for election, Martin Tower, Parking, and on 2 W. Market St.

As context for and balance to the serious issues, we also have some fun stuff relating to Bethlehem as well.

Please use your contact list to pass the word about “The Bethlehem Gadfly” to others and, most importantly, click the button on the sidebar to follow us.

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The Gadfly — Ed Gallagher — would like to hear from you!

An invitation to reflect on civic life and the pandemic

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Gadfly:

Southsider is excited to share this open call to incorporate more community voices into their “Reflections on Civic Life and the Pandemic” Series. There is a lot happening in the world right now, and all of it is shaped by the pandemic. How should we as a community make sense of it all?

See a model from the series here, “Robin Lee on the Impact of COVID-19 on South Bethlehem.

Southsider 1

The Southsider Editorial Team

Gadfly invites you to browse the fine Southsider site, especially see the Women of Bethlehem Steel series.

What more could the Chief have done?

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It looked like that March 3 Public Safety Committee meeting was going to end with the police department and City Council butting heads.

The Chief said he issued directives on the 2018 marijuana ordinance, spoke at roll calls, spoke at platoon meetings, and etc., and felt that there was nothing more he could do to change officer minds, to make the numbers tell a different story.

But there was obvious sentiment from Councilfolk Reynolds, Van Wirt, and Waldron in particular that the Chief was the crux of the problem and that there was more that he could do as leader of the department.

What would that “more” be?

What if something like this happens in the future as we get into discussing the use-of-force directives and the Community Engagement Initiative?

There may come a time when we need to change officer minds.

What would we do?

We’d better be prepared.

Councilman Reynolds obliquely mentioned “tools” that the Chief might have.

To what was he referring?

Gadfly started to think of an analogous situation in his professional life.

The Freshman English (First-Year English) course at Lehigh U was a required course. It had about 40 sections. It had multiple teachers. Those teachers varied in their grading policies. Students were arbitrarily slotted into a section by the Registrar based on holes in their schedule. Students had no choice of section, thus no choice of grading standards.

How to be fair in such an arbitrary system, how to be fair to all students?

At one point in department history, we had “grading sessions.” All of us teachers would read the same student essay, give it a grade, then discuss how we arrived at that grade, trying to arrive at a consensus on the grade, on our standards.

Gadfly can vividly remember such a session in which the prof leading it spoke of a student essay that had been given an “A” as “the kind of writing that would make a yak wince”!

He was not very diplomatic.

Who can forget such articulation of the need to come together to arrive at some common standards to insure fairness for our students.

Was this called “norming”?

These sessions could be brutal. I remember being incensed as a full-of-piss-and-vinegar young Assistant Professor. Nobody was going to tell me what to do in my classroom, no sir. I mellowed.

But there was a need for fairness. And a need for our group to understand the need for balance between our independence and the good of the wider community.

And the way we did it was to come together and talk.

Can one imagine a group of police officers being presented with a scenario involving a small amount of marijuana — such as a traffic stop — and talking about what statute would be applied and why?

Perhaps these could be actual police reports with identifying data redacted.

The goal would not be to force behavior but to have peers work together to shape common standards.

City Council and the Police Chief discuss the city marijuana decriminalization ordinance (4)

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Marijuana Possession ordinance
Marijuana statistics
Marijuana Enforcement Policy March 11, 2020

The March 3 Public Safety Committee was courteous but tense.

Council was obviously frustrated that its progressive legislative move on the subject of small amounts of marijuana was somehow frustrated by Police practice.

Council members kept hitting the wall of the Chief’s belief that enforcement was in the hands of officer discretion and that he had no means or power to create change.

Fortunately, the meeting had a surprise happy ending. The Chief suggested that officers charge those caught with a small amount of marijuana under both the state law and the local ordinance — and the judge would sort things out at the hearing.

The Chief “buried the lead,” as President Waldron cracked. You could have saved us an hour if you had suggested this at the beginning, Councilman Reynolds said.

You could feel the meeting lighten up immediately. Here was an “out.”

The decision on enforcement was now “punted” to the magistrate.

And Council could review later in the fall to see how that was working out.

Crisis averted (for now).

Linked above are the original 2018 decriminalization ordinance, the statistics provided by the Chief (what do you see there?), and the actual police department directive on this what-we-might-call “compromise” new policy.

Not quite end of story.

Gadfly would like to go on one more step.

to be continued . . .

City Council and the Police Chief discuss the city marijuana decriminalization ordinance (3)

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Let’s move now to the conversation between President Waldron and Chief Diluzio at the March 3 Public Safety Committee meeting.

And let’s remember that we should be interested in the outcome regarding the marijuana ordinance in particular but also, more importantly now, in attuning ourselves to how interaction with police on a tricky issue works in anticipation of the upcoming Public Safety meeting responding to the George Floyd murder.

In this conversation, the Chief reiterates his belief that he can’t force his officers to use the city ordinance in the memorable “That’s like a totalitarian state. You don’t want your police like that.”

President Waldron asks two very important questions: what is the nature of the relationship between a Chief and a beat officer, and, thinking practically like a good Council president should, what can Council do to improve the situation?

President Waldron and Chief Diluzio

We have to have a lot of trust in the officers, said ARW, but we are looking at this in another way.  Officers use a lot of discretion in just about every interaction with the public. But, though we don’t know what the thought process is when faced with a decision about which ordinance to apply, this is certainly not what we on Council had hoped for. We would have hoped that every opportunity in Northampton County would have been met with the citation not the state law. And the question is why not? And the answer that we are hearing is fairness to people in the other county. The City wanted to make a progressive change, recognizing that there’s a sea-change in the country at large about marijuana and that Pennsylvania is a step behind. To which the Chief agreed that he believes in decriminalization and that he wishes the officers would use the local ordinance more, but he can’t change their minds and force them to. How to change the story that the numbers tell, the Chief asked? You just can’t order them to use the city ordinance. “That’s like a totalitarian state. You don’t want your police like that.” ARW asked about the relationship between a Chief and a beat officer — a Chief who says you should or must apply the local ordinance. What’s that conversation like, ARW asked? Wouldn’t the officers be following you and your leadership? “It isn’t that easy,” the Chief replied — I can’t tell them you will do this every time — every time is different, every case is different, every arrest is different. You have to let them use their discretion, their intelligence. The ordinance is not being used, but the officers do have a reason for not using it. Yes, ARW pointed out, the local ordinance is being used some times (19 out of 289) — if it were not used at all, the conversation would be totally different. Bottom line question for the Chief: is there anything Council can do to back up your wishes and to get the desired outcome we want? Trust the officers, the Chief replied. I stand behind them 100%, I do not look over their shoulders.

Gadfly would say that the answers to President Waldron’s two question are not satisfactory. The first question is really asking can’t you order the officer to do something. We are left with the feeling that an officer is pretty much left on his or her own. Hmmm. And the Chief again kind of throws up his hands in answer to the second question. Though, Gadfly must say teasingly, the Chief was playing possum, as they say, and does come up with a concrete suggestion for improving the situation, as we shall see.

to be continued . . .

City Council and the Police Chief discuss the City marijuana decriminalization ordinance (2)

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Gadfly kinda lost yesterday to his day job. He wanted to follow up on his Monday post and do a series of posts close together on the interesting Public Safety committee meeting March 3 concerning the police enforcement of our new summary offense marijuana ordinance.

That was an interesting meeting in itself because of the good comments by our Councilors. This was one of those meetings in which you can get a good sense of what each Councilor is made of, what makes them tick. There was good conversation.

But the meeting also now has heightened interest because of the scrutiny of police departments in the post-GeorgeFloyd era. In a sense, Council was calling the police department on the carpet for under-using the City ordinance, and we get an opportunity to see the police respond. In that respect, the March 3 meeting might foreshadow the upcoming (no date set yet) Public Safety meeting generated by the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo about use-of-force directives and a Community Engagement Initiative.

Remember from the last post that the decriminalized marijuana ordinance was only used by Bethlehem police in about 10% of the cases, thus subverting Council’s intent for the ordinance and creating unfairness compared to enforcement of the same violation on the Lehigh campus.

The Chief argued that he can’t control the officers out on the street, that the ordinance gave them discretion about which statute to use — harsh state or softer city — and that, though half the department believes in decriminalizing marijuana, almost all said it should be done by the state, and the current situation left them open to charges of bias.

We saw Councilman Reynolds pushing back on that, intimating without elaboration, that the Chief had tools at his disposal to foster more use of the City ordinance. Councilwoman Van Wirt goes much further down the road on this point, pretty clearly blaming the Chief in pretty direct and strong language for lack of leadership: They are not following what we enacted here because the tone is set by the leader.”

Lets listen in again.

Councilwoman Van Wirt and Chief Diluzio

Councilwoman Van Wirt began with a question, “Chief, do you believe officers’ own belief systems should enforce how they apply the law?” The Chief replied with a qualified yes and reiterated that in this instance we have given them discretion. PVW said we have given officers the excuse to follow two different laws. On the Westside (Lehigh County) they follow state law per Lehigh County D.A.s orders. But in Northampton County, “you [the officers] are very strongly encouraged by your Chief of Police, who sets the tone and leadership example for his policemen, to follow the will of City Council, who’s enacting the will of the people. . . . We have given them the ability and indeed the encouragement to use the decriminalization ordinance to apply the law over here. They are not going to get in trouble when they follow geographic boundaries.”  But, said PVW, assigning causation if not blame, “they are not following what we enacted here because the tone is set by the leader.” The Chief pushed back that he had talked with both D.A.s about our practice. In her second question, PVW then asked why we are applying the state ordinance to quantities less than 30 grams . There, she said, is the pivot point where we get unequal application of the law. PVW resisted the Pandora’s box argument the Chief has used to explain the difficulty the two different statutes have created. PVW said it’s clear what the law is on the west side of the Monocacy, and at the same time it is pretty clear what Council’s intent was on the east side. The Chief argued again that he could not order his guys to do something every time — they are not robots  — and that in some cases the officers will make a compassionate decision and throw the marijuana away. “I can not order everybody to do one thing.” PVW ended with “These numbers are telling a very troubling story about the use of the state ordinance especially when compared with what Judge Matos Gonzalez highlighted over at Lehigh University. . . . I hope you can understand why this Council is deeply concerned. . . . We’re not waiting for Harrisburg. We believe in local power. . . . I hope you can consider the will of Council. . . . This is unequal justice.”

Getting the picture? Our ordinance gives the officer discretion. The officers by-and-large are using that discretion to not apply the local ordinance and for an understandable if unwelcome reason. What to do if you are the frustrated City Council?

to be continued . . .

Police need to get to know the people in their community

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Gadfly’s been inviting stories about police/community relations as we approach a Public Safety Committee meeting on our use-of-force directives and a Community Engagement Initiative . . .

from Dana Grubb, “Racism: One man’s thoughts.” Bethlehem Press, June 30, 2020.

When he was only 4 years old, Frankie West’s parents decided to move their family north and ended up settling in Bethlehem. They had suffered one of the ultimate discriminatory experiences when, because of the color of their skin, they were refused admittance to the beach at Myrtle Beach, S.C. That was when they decided to move. West carries that scar deep inside and has only returned to Myrtle Beach once since, to watch his niece play basketball in a game at Coastal Carolina University.

West would attend Liberty HS, where he starred in basketball and football for the Hurricanes. He has worked with youth since, at both the Bethlehem and Easton Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as coached young people in basketball. He believes he may have been the first African-American assistant basketball coach at Liberty, serving under head coach Richie Wescoe from 1985 to 1987.

He has participated in Bethlehem’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Civil Rights March since he was a teenager, and today is the lead organizer for the event. That march ends in Martin Luther King Park on Bethlehem’s Southside, where he recently sat down to discuss the murder of George Floyd, racism, his experiences, recent protests for racial equality, and offered some thoughts on how to improve relationships between white people and African-Americans.

“My sadness is that two officers just stood there and did nothing,” West started out about Floyd’s murder. “That’s bull; you don’t see a cop doing that to a white man’s neck,” he said. “I watched it, shook my head, and said that’s not fair.”

“Some of them get a badge and they think now we’re in charge,” said West, adding that he’s not really had issues with the Bethlehem police. “We have had good police in Bethlehem and if they showed up at your door, you know you were in trouble with your parents, too.”

But, he did have an exchange with police on an occasion when he was walking back home from his job at the Easton Boys and Girls Club. He noticed one police car following him and before he knew it there were three. An officer stopped him wanting to know who he was and where he was going.

West said he questioned why the officers didn’t know him, since he was working with youth in their community. Things got a little testy with the officer, whom he felt was not being respectful.

The police need to work with the youth even more, West said, and they need to get to know the people in their community. They need to work harder at conveying the message, “If you need us we’ll be there” to the people in their community.

“Cops need to protect themselves, but they don’t need to kill people,” he finished his thought.

Regarding peaceful protests, West said, “We should keep protesting until we get the change.

“African-Americans are angry,” he said. “Where’s the change? It’s going to get worse if we don’t do something.” He respects the protesters, he said, but due to Covid-19, he has not joined them.

He said he laments the fact that nobody has come to Martin Luther King Park to protest.

“Why not here instead of at City Hall? The man who really fought for you is right there,” he said, motioning to the MLK Monument at the park. West said King wanted to do it the right way by obtaining equal rights for everyone.

As far as the violence and looting associated with some of the protesting, he wants to remain peaceful about bringing attention to the issues.

“Why are you screwing up your town?” he asked.

While some things have changed since Dr. King, West cautioned, “A hell of a lot of things need to change.”

He questions why more minority vendors aren’t seen at area festivals and events. More minority coaches are needed in scholastic sports, he said, and mentions his two mentors, Art Statum and Willie Howard.

“They said it like it is,” he said.

West remembers the ‘Brotherhood Club’ at Liberty and recalls that it was a great way for young African-Americans to learn more about people like Dr. King. He’d like to see something like that return.

He’d also like to see more interaction between the police and residents, noting that family dynamics have changed greatly since his time growing up in Marvine-Pembroke. He said he thinks police officers need better training for how to respond to different situations.

Finally, West said everyone needs to do a hard self-check.

“When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror ask yourself, ‘Am I prejudiced or am I real?’

“We want to be treated fair and honest,” he said. “Give us a chance.”

Gadfly says remember to support the Bethlehem Press!

City Council and the Police Chief discuss the city marijuana decriminalization ordinance (1)

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Gadfly is anxiously awaiting news of the Public Safety Committee meeting on the police department use of force directives and on a proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

But thinking of the upcoming meeting reminded him of a previous Public Safety meeting on March 3 about police department application of the relatively new city ordinance decriminalizing possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Bethlehem is one of 7 cities in the state to have a local summary offense ordinance that can be used in certain circumstances instead of the stiff state misdemeanor charge that can have severe and long-lasting consequences for someone caught with a small amount of marijuana.

Southside district judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez triggered the meeting by her concern about the difference between the way Lehigh students and Southsiders were being charged for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Gadfly shelved discussion of that meeting when the pandemic caused things to go to hell, but he returns to it now as we are thinking in great depth about the relationship between the police department and the community.

It turns out that, though City Council voted 7-0 in favor of the decriminalizing ordinance, the police department was only using it in about 10% of cases. Council wanted to know why.

It was a very interesting meeting, and Gadfly will spend 2-3 more posts on it.

Chief DiLuzio opened the meeting providing statistics that City Council asked for. Gadfly hopes to provide you with a full copy of those statistics, but the one that catches your attention right away is that in the period since the city ordinance was enacted there were 289 arrests for minor marijuana possession and in only 19 of those arrests was the city ordinance the charging statute — a pitiful 10%!

That was certainly not what City Council envisioned as the consequence of their ordinance.

Here’s the Chief.

Chief DiLuzio

The new City marijuana ordinance went into effect July 2018, and the Chief had statistics through January 2020 — about 1 1/2 year’s worth. There are between 150-200 minor marijuana possession charges a year on a force of 154 officers. The numbers show we are not actively pursuing marijuana arrests. Average of 1.1 arrests per officer per year. Charges usually are made related to something else, such as a traffic offense, or if they smell it and thus have an obligation to act. Lehigh University had only 5 such arrests during this time. During this period there were 289 total minor marijuana arrests: 270 charged to state law, 19 to the City ordinance. 127 arrests were made on the Southside, of which 9 were charged to the City ordinance. 47% of arrests were made on the Southside. The largest age group is 25-34. 71 arrested were black, 121 Hispanic.

Councilman Reynolds asked Councilwoman Negron to state the rationale for her ordinance and then probed for the reason why the city ordinance was not being used as it was imagined. First of all, the choice of whether to use state or city law was left to the discretion of the arresting officer. The Chief surveyed his department, found that about 50% of the officers were ok with the decriminalization ordinance but that almost all felt that such an act must come from the state and be universal in the state. Otherwise, they — the officers — were in a tricky middle ground where they could easily be accused of bias. The Chief seemed to feel that he was handcuffed (bad pun on Gadfly’s part) and couldn’t legislate officer behavior. Councilman Reynolds firmly but respectfully pushed back against that, feeling that the department could do more to foster use of the city ordinance.

It’s a good conversation. Listen in.

Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Negron and Chief Diluzio

Councilwoman Negron went over the rationale for the City ordinance. Councilman Reynolds asked the Chief to comment. “Is that a rationale that you agree with?” The Chief’s in the “middle of the bridge.” His “professional opinion” is that he’s ok with the officer using either option. His “personal opinion” based on extensive experience is that marijuana should be decriminalized but at the state level. The push has to come from Harrisburg. Right now the situation is creating problems for local police. He doesn’t want to see the police caught in a political issue. The Chief did a survey (117 of 154 officers responded) in the department, and there was a pretty even split — about 50% for decriminalization and 50% against (specifically, 44% yes to decriminalization — 56% no). The Chief describes the 6 question survey. For instance, 97% said the state should do the decriminalizing. They want the law to be universal across the state. The feeling is that it is not fair that people caught elsewhere get a stiffer penalty. The door is open, for instance, to somebody claiming I got a misdemeanor citation because I’m black, when a block away someone else — white –got a summary offense. Officers are afraid to use the city ordinance because they can be subject to a claim of bias. Nowadays anybody can make such a claim, and all of a sudden the officer’s name is splashed all over the papers. There are 7 cities in the state with a city ordinance. JWR indicated that in Phila, for instance, the number of uses of the state law went down because the Philly police took a strong view for the city ordinance. JWR asked directly whether the Chief sees a problem in the fact that the officers are choosing the state law 90% of the time. The Chief said that honestly he would like to see the city ordinance used more but that he is not out on the street when those decisions are made by his officers. Has the department considered changing the directives to make them stronger? The Chief said the factors for use of the City ordinance are already in the directives and that he has talked with the officers at roll call and platoon meetings. “It’s up to the officers to use this.” We are at the “stumbling block” of state v. city law. JWR intimated that there are “tools” the Chief as leader of the department could use, but he didn’t go further. JWR said when comparing with Lehigh, it’s hard not to see the “troublesome implication” there between what happens when you caught at Lehigh and a few blocks away in the city. The Chief said Lehigh is a different department serving a different community. The answer/solution to the disparity is a decision at the state level. JWR said he respects the Chief, but he thinks we could do more. JWR expressed his disappointment. The Chief said he can’t change the inner feelings of people or tell them how to do their job when they are on the street. The police can’t be robots. JWR: “I think we can do more. I think we can come up with stronger directives,” but he respects the job the Chief has to do.

to be continued . . .

“Shadow” Resetco, arguably the greatest athlete to wear the Red and Blue of Liberty High

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Gadfly loves this kind of stuff. Don’t forget to support the BETHLEHEM Press. Tip o’ the hat to Jason.

from Jason Rehm, “Shadow Resetco: Remembering one of Liberty High School’s greatest athletes.” Bethlehem Press, June 25, 2020.

As the ball sailed through the uprights, a wave of excitement shot through the crowd gathered at Lehigh’s Taylor Stadium.

Liberty High School had just defeated Eastern powerhouse Steelton 3-0 off a stunning field goal drop kicked from the 42 yard line. The drop kick, often used as a surprise tactic in early football, is rarely used today, but this was 1922 and one of George J. Resetco’s most thrilling moments on the gridiron.

Resetco, better known as “Shadow,” was arguably the greatest athlete to wear the Red and Blue of Liberty High. He began playing varsity sports as a freshman and was the only person in the school’s history to letter in five – football, basketball, baseball, track, and swimming.

“I’d throw the javelin on Friday and the baseball on Saturday,” he once said.

The athletic feats of Shadow Resetco read like legends. For instance, as a freshman he pitched varsity baseball and won six consecutive games, besides playing the outfield when he wasn’t on the mound. In his four years he lost only four games.

Shadow’s graduating class of 1925 produced many memorable athletes. On the football team were Phil Phillippi who went on to become Athletic Director at Liberty, John “Snooky” Hudak who became track coach, Al Seifert and future state senator, Joe Yosko. Along with Shadow, this dynamic group ran roughshod over Allen in the Fall of ’24 to the score of 64-0.

Shadow helped the basketball team secure a league title his senior year and the team defeated several opponents in state championship playoff contests before finally being eliminated. The captain that year was Joe “Pickles” Preletz who returned to coach basketball at Liberty.

The baseball season was almost capped with an eastern state championship, but Harrisburg Tech pulled out a 3-2 win as Resetco looked on from the outfield. Joe Yosko was the catcher on that team, “and a wonderful catcher he was,” said Shadow. “He had plenty of pepper.”

After graduating, Shadow attended Allentown Prep before heading to Holy Cross where he had received an athletic scholarship. He played only three quarters of the football season before developing severe pain in his ankles, wrists, and joints that doctors diagnosed as arthritis.

Once destined for stardom, a sportswriter surmised that his “star was setting before it had achieved full brilliancy.” His friends believed he had burned himself out with too many sports in his youth.

He stuck it out at Holy Cross the rest of his freshman year and even tried out for baseball, but developed a sore pitching arm during an indoor workout. He returned home to Bethlehem and put in a semester at Lehigh but had to drop out when his pain prevented him from attending classes.

Shadow reunited with former teammate Joe Yosko that next summer and had a comeback of sorts. The two became a dynamic pitching-catching combination for the Bethlehem Catholic Sokols baseball team and won 11 straight games and earned a berth in the league playoffs.

When the playoffs arrived, five players had already departed for Atlantic City vacations and replacements were selected among youth from Bethlehem playgrounds. “I pitched my head off, but we lost 2-1,” Shadow recalled.

Resetco began working for the Bethlehem Area School District in 1928 and in 1940, Phil Phillippi recommended Shadow as equipment manager. For 31 years Resetco carried out this job at his alma matter, equipping new generations of athletes with the gear they needed to succeed.

Did the scores of high school students who filed into his office each year realize that he had been one of Liberty’s most outstanding athletes? Maybe some did, but many may have overlooked this soft-spoken, aging employee.

In his later years, swimming was the one sport he could still participate in and he often taught it at the Bethlehem Boys Club’s Camp Mohican.

George J. “Shadow” Resetco passed at the age of 68 in 1973. He was a charter member of Liberty High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Nearly a half-century after his death, Resetco’s memory lives on each fall when the winner of the Liberty-Freedom game is presented with the Shadow Resetco trophy.

Maybe more apartments on the way

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Morning Call photos by April Gamiz and Christina Tatu

from Christina Tatu, “Two historic Bethlehem churches may become apartment buildings.” Morning Call, June 28, 2020.

The 170-year-old former Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church at 537 High St. is proposed to be converted to 15 apartments with off-street parking by developer Ryan Dunn of DTMG 1665 VCP, LLC.

In the South Side, the former Zion First Hungarian Lutheran Church with parcels at 938 E. Fourth St. and 949 E. Fifth St. would be partially demolished to make way for 24 affordable apartments, said developer Plamen Ayvazov, president of Monocacy General Contracting.

The Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board will review both proposals July 8.

Ayvazov plans to keep the front of the church and its steeple intact, but would demolish the rear of the church to construct a five-story addition for the apartments. The building would also have a community room and fitness area, he said. There would be 42 parking spaces. Ayvazov believes the church has been empty for more than three years.

Ayvazov bought the building for $285,000 in November, according to Northampton County property records. He believes it was constructed around 1925. He was able to salvage some of the church’s interior, selling or donating various artifacts, including wooden pews purchased by a Connecticut congregation.

The project would feature two-bedroom apartments ranging from $800-$1,100 per month.

Dunn didn’t return a phone call requesting information about his project.

According to documents filed with the city, Dunn wants to redevelop the five-story building into 15 apartments, with 21 parking spaces.

Neither church is in the city’s historic district. Darlene Heller, Bethlehem’s director of planning and zoning, isn’t sure how long the churches have been empty.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, Part 3

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Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

from Steele’s Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, Part 3

I think part of the reason why it’s so hard to change the systemic racism in our country is that it requires those of us with privilege to accept, examine, and adjust things that are so intrinsic to our daily lives, we don’t even know they’re there.

Time to Act

I do think that reading [Robin DiAngelo’s] White Fragility [Steele is in a discussion group] is an important first step – at least it has been for me in helping to identify my biases and defense mechanisms when I’m feeling challenged, guilty, and/or uncomfortable. But while it’s a good first step, it can’t be a last step. Growth is uncomfortable, if not painful. If you are committed to being anti-racist, you need to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and be embarrassed, but ultimately learn how to be a better ally (if ally is even the word we should use).

In my first post, I shared a reading list that will help other people like me learn more than what we were taught in school and what we see on the news. In the second post, I shared a list of organizations that are doing good work to combat systemic racism and promote equity locally, regionally, and nationally; if you don’t know what else to do, you can financially support their work. In this last post (for now), I am including a list of resources that can help you get involved in shaping local policy by voting and reaching out to your local elected officials.

———–

Did some of you think Gadfly was serious and somewhat unhinged in his response post to his friend Steele’s part 2? Naaa, tongue-in-cheek, trying to make a point about white-person defense mechanisms as his subsequent post makes clear.

Working through the resource section at the end of Steele’s post, Gadfly focused on the Obama Foundation Anguish and Action site, and there found the 2015 Obama era 21st Century Policing report and especially, as we approach a Public Safety meeting on the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative, the chapter on “Building Trust and Legitimacy,” which is, of course, the foundation of the whole local police/community relationship.

Look what Minneapolis is proposing: a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention

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We have a Public Safety Committee meeting coming up to discuss Police department policies and the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative. ‘Tis being planned. No date announced yet. Or format. Councilman Colon chairs the committee, with Councilwomen Negron and Crampsie/Smith as members.

Gadfly’s excited.

He loves the idea of a community gathering. It’s a chance for us to talk, to exercise our citizenship, to influence local government policy, to have some input on the quality of our lives. “Good conversation builds community.”

He also likes planning. “Planning,” like “community,” is one of Gadfly’s aphrodisiac words. Planning is foreplay, a key step in the continuum of creativity, and creativity — bringing something to life that did not exist — is the quintessential human activity.

But at the moment Gadfly doesn’t know what to plan for.

Mainly because he doesn’t have a good grasp of the problem, if there is one, locally here between the police and our community, or with some segment of our community.

He has asked for stories. And he got one. And he hopes for more, many more. Please help him with that. For he feels that it is only on the basis of those stories that we will know what to plan for.

There might be problems more or less severe that need to be tended to. Or the murder of George Floyd just might be a ripe moment to reflect on and review what we are doing well under the headlight of the new ideas that problems elsewhere are shining on how police departments and local criminal justice systems do their work.

So while Gadfly treads water a bit waiting for that meeting to call us to order and to focus our attention, he pays attention to the more radical ideas percolating out there. He has called attention to Governor Cuomo’s plan for community engagement.

And here below is what is envisioned in Minneapolis — a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention — which, of course, may be no model for us because of the long history there of rupture between police and the community.

Note that the Minneapolis City Council has been hanging together with 12-0 votes and that in the envisioned new system the City Council manages the system. Which would mean the equivalent of 4-5 more sets of twins for our president Waldron.

Food for thought here.

from “City Council OKs charter amendment to remove Minneapolis Police Department.” Minneapolis Fox 9 News, June 27, 2020.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposed amendment would remove requirements for the city to maintain a police department from the city’s charter. The 12-0 vote is step toward putting the issue in front of Minneapolis voters on the November ballot.

Under the current charter language, the city council is required to fund a police force of a size proportionate to the city’s population. Changes being considered in the amendment would remove that requirement along with an entire section on the police department.

The proposal replaces that language with a new department: the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. It would be managed by the City Council, marking a key power shift for a council frustrated with limited authority.

“Using the bully pulpit, using the budget, using the chief’s appointment to try move things around a little bit, but I don’t think we’ve had the kind of policy-making participation that we should have,” said Council member Cam Gordon.

The changes also remove minimum officer requirements within the new community safety department, instead saying the council is responsible for “adequately funding” the replacement department.

Along with the department of community safety, the amendment would add a Division of Law Enforcement Services, which would be composed of “licensed peace officers” under the purview of the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

While the current charter language gives the mayor complete control over the police department, including hiring the chief, the new proposal would put the mayor in charge of nominating a director for the new department that would be appointed by the city council.

That person would be someone who has “non-law enforcement experience in community safety and violence prevention” which could include “public health and restorative justice approaches”

The appointed director would in turn choose the leader of the Law Enforcement Services Division.

Mayor Frey has previously shared that he does not support disbanding the police department – a stance which led to him being booed at a rally. After the vote Frey stood by his previous remarks saying he supports “deep structural reform” and “complete transformation” of the policing system. He criticized the amendment for lacking clarity moving forward.

“This amendment to our legal city charter does not provide clarity. There are more questions I have regarding this amendment than answers,” said Frey. “If this amendment passes will we still have police? If you vote for this, are you voting to abolish the police department? Or is this merely a cosmetic change where you add a bureaucratic layer, you change the name to peace officers and give them different uniforms?”

he Board of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis put out statement in response to the vote and criticized the amendment for lacking clarity.

“Public safety is a primary role of city government and the politicians in charge of the Minneapolis City Council are not putting the safety of residents and visitors to the city at the core of their actions. This charter amendment fails to clarify questions about what replaces the police department, how it will work, and what actual steps will be done to address and prevent crime.”

Bethlehem to review School Resource Officer program

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Everything dealing with the police is on the table in the post-George Floyd era. We’re looking at a meeting on a Community Engagement Initiative in the near future. It promises wide-ranging discussion.

Even School Resource Officers (SRO) are on the table, under the microscope.

Gadfly noted the review of the SRO program in Dr. Roy’s fine Op-Ed last week.

There were no police or SROs in Gadfly’s educational background.

In elementary school, Sister Helen Regina patrolled the halls, Bantam Weight champion of the North American Order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart. Given her diminutive height, she was perfectly positioned to use her pointer to poke boys in tender areas.

In high school, Father Alfred Monte patrolled the halls. He was rumored to have undergone torture in a Pacific theater POW camp, apparently a uniquely valuable experience for a Head Disciplinarian.

Gadfly watched himself.

But he has no experience with which to judge the impact of SROs on students of color in inner-city schools.

While reading the article below in today’s print Morning Call, his mind wandered to the presence of an officer at our City Council meetings and other places/occasions where there is a police presence.

Gadfly’s not sure how to think about this issue. Dr. Roy is listening to arguments against the program and will put in writing, for the first time, a statement of its purpose. Good. Gadfly would like to hear arguments on both sides in more detail. He knows there are teachers among his followers. He knows that there are parents of school-age children among his followers.

Feels like a subject on which good people can differ. But Dr. Roy (and the BASD board) will need to justify their position.

Probably a delicate writing assignment.

Thoughtful discussion invited.

from Jacqueline Palochko, “‘I’m listening to the argument that police don’t belong in schools’: Allentown and Bethlehem reconsider resource officers.” Morning Call, June 27, 2020.

For children growing up after the 1999 Columbine school shooting that left 13 people dead, seeing an armed officer patrolling the hallways is a common part of the school day.

Bethlehem Area students start encountering officers in school in sixth grade. All together, the district has seven school resource officers — two at Liberty High, and one at Freedom High and each of the four middle schools.

All seven wear a police uniform and carry a gun. And Superintendent Joseph Roy believes the officers, six of whom are employed by the city police department and one by Bethlehem Township, are the best of the best. After school, they coach basketball teams, organize clothing drives for students and run clubs.

“They do what you would want a [school resource officer] to do as far as being embedded in the school community and getting to know kids,” Roy said.

But as the nation examines police violence following the death of another unarmed black man by a white police officer, many districts are reconsidering the decision to put armed officers in schools.

“I’m listening to the argument that police don’t belong in schools,” Roy said. “For students coming from communities that don’t have the best relationship or the police aren’t viewed in a positive place, having a police officer in the school might not make them feel safer.”

The district will review the purpose of its school resource officer program, Roy said, and put that purpose in writing, which is something the district has never done.

It’s a shift in the conversation after 20 years of placing armed officers in schools to keep students safe from shootings. Now advocates and many students believe policing does not belong in schools and contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, especially for Black and Hispanic children.

Allentown and Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley’s two largest districts, have the highest percentage of students of color. In Allentown, more than 85% of its 17,000 students are Black or Hispanic, while more than half of Bethlehem’s 13,600 students are.

After Columbine, other Lehigh Valley districts added officers, some picking up the tab and some applying for grants to cover the costs. Bethlehem’s school resource officers were paid through a federal grant, but when the grant ended, the city and district split the tab. The district pays $400,000 for the six city officers.

Roy believes the solution of armed officers in schools is likely somewhere in the middle.

“You have to find that balance between the feeling of safety you want from an external intruder and then the internal school climate you want where kids feel comfortable and safe in school,” he said.

The state Education Department collects school safety data, including how many officers are posted at schools. For the 2018-19 school year, there were eight school police officers, 14 school resource officers and 65 security guards in Lehigh County schools. Northampton County schools had 31 school police officers, 11 school resource officers and 32 school security officers.

School police officers are typically those employed directly by a district, while school resource officers are usually from municipal departments. Unlike police officers, most security officers are unarmed.

Some districts, such as Easton Area and Northampton Area, operate their own police departments.

But after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis, was killed on May 25 when an officer pressed a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes, the conversation about police brutality spread to schools.

Several large districts, such as Seattle and Minneapolis, recently promised to end contracts with local police. On June 18, the American Federation of Teachers, one of the country’s largest teacher unions, passed a resolution calling for the separation of school safety and policing.

Some also argue that instead of officers, schools should employ more counselors to help students.

“When you have mental health issues and other social issues that would require counselors or therapists, is a school resource officer being a first responder for those instances?” he said. “Because if they are, then that’s maybe a problem.”

In Allentown, Dieruff High student Nasheera Brown, who organized Tuesday’s rally, said, “A lot of students feel they shouldn’t have to have police on their backs.”

Brown believes students should be disciplined for misbehaving in school, but minor incidents should not involve the police. She thinks that the district should also employ more staff members with a better understanding of Allentown students, most of whom live in poverty.

“We have some great leaders but some of our leaders don’t understand what we go through, and we need more understanding people to enforce positivity,” she said.

According to numbers the Allentown and Bethlehem districts provided to the state, 74 Allentown students and 95 Bethlehem Area students were arrested at school in 2018-19.

Bethlehem school Director Winston Alozie agrees with Roy’s call to review the school resource officer program.

“I want to make sure that teachers and administrators understand the roles of SROs because I feel like sometimes that area can get very gray very fast and maybe lead to situations that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “You don’t call an SRO if a kid isn’t listening to the teacher. That’s not an SRO call.”

Alozie said when he ran the Boys and Girls Club in South Side Bethlehem a few years ago, he heard students talking about an officer using a stun gun on a Freedom High student.

“I remember them talking about that and the indelible impact that was left on their memories,” he said. “As a school community, you need to ask how something like that can happen.”

Since the protests against police brutality started, including marches and rallies every week in the Lehigh Valley since late May, Roy has met with current and former students who told him they don’t think officers belong in schools.

Roy believes school resource officers should be used only for matters that school officials would call the police for, such as weapons in schools or assaults. They shouldn’t be pulled into theft and other cases that school officials can handle.

The argument students at Tuesday’s rally made was that when resource officers get too involved with enforcement, schools start to resemble prisons. And that’s the last message Roy and Parker want to relay.

“The possibility is always there when there is a police officer nearby that they get pulled into things that we wouldn’t otherwise be calling the police for,” Roy said. “If it’s a child that’s a Black or Latino child getting into the system, that’s not what we need.”

The City could do better making citizen participation on the ABCs visible and inviting

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Carol Burns is a freelance marketer who works with several local organizations, both paid and volunteer. In addition to supporting WDIY, the Bethlehem Public Library, and local theatres, her “third place” is the Bethlehem Food Co-Op — she contributes her time to helping bring a full-service, community-owned grocery store to Bethlehem’s downtown.

Gadfly:

Out of curiosity I went to the city’s website to see if I could find info about getting involved in an advisory council or other board [one of the ABCs!] as a citizen. I poked around for awhile and not finding any obvious paths finally put “boards” in the search bar.  This page came up: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/City-Government/Authorities-Boards-and-Commissions.

The page leads with: “For information regarding vacancies on Authorities, Boards, and Commissions on which you may be interested in serving, please e-mail or call the listed number.” And then lists 21 such groups.

Each one had a phone number, several had a website listing, and one had an email. A few listed their meeting times. Not one had a description of what they do — and without a website, you are left on your own to figure that out. Of course some are self-explanatory, like Bethlehem Area Public Library, but others are not clear — at least not to me.

It doesn’t seem particularly compelling nor welcoming, and I’m going to take a wild guess that specific openings are not publicized beyond a general “come on out and apply” message once or twice a year. A clear opportunity to do better!

Carol

Carol’s post is quite apropos of the recent series of posts on the ABCs. We might need to think about that page on the City web site more as a recruiting opportunity than just providing factual information. And is it even right that interested people should be directed to the ABC head? And how about some sort of “advertising” of positions that are open? Thoughtful post, Carol. 

to be continued . . .

Councilwoman Negron: “our city needs your civic engagement”

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So the last 3-4 posts in this series have been about the volunteer-staffed ABCs — the Authorities, Boards, and Commissions — that in the June 16 City Council meeting Councilwoman Van Wirt called, in a phrase so wonderful Gadfly keeps repeating it, “cloistered venues of power.”

And the Gadfly followers are smart people.

So you knew where he was going to end up.

Yes, with a recruitment pitch.

Gadfly is “the pied piper of civic engagement,” as a blessed follower tagged him.

On which ABC would you like to serve? On which ABC have you offered to serve?

Council, as we saw in the last post, is hot to improve the selection process.

Now we need good people to go along with that.

Here below is an oldie but goodie from Councilwoman Negron, who, if you listened to the audio from the June 16 meeting in the last Gadfly post, was “on fire” about the importance of the ABCs and Council’s role in them.

Gadfly wrote you about her Morning Call article last year when it came out. It bears another read. And some action on your part.

Olga Negron, “Your View by Bethlehem councilwoman: Want to help democracy? Serve on a government board.” Morning Call, August 31, 2019.

Voting in national elections is important, but it’s only one of many ways that citizens can fulfill their duty to contribute to the governance of their communities and country.

I’m Councilwoman Olga Negron, vice president of Bethlehem City Council and the first woman of color elected to Bethlehem City Council. Getting elected to City Council was not a matter of chance or luck. I’ve been civically engaged all my life. Before running for local office, I served in many volunteer positions within the city, such as on the Planning Commission, the Public Library Board and many other nonprofit boards.

As a member of these governing bodies, and now as an elected official, I’m here to tell you that our city needs your civic engagement.

A few highly visible decision-making positions in local government are elected positions and each of us has to be a resident of our municipality in order to hold that post (mayor, city council, etc.).

However, that’s not the only way to be part of the decisions about what happens in our city. There are many, other extremely important nonelected positions in local government that need to be filled by volunteers, such as positions on the Public NegronLibrary Board, Fine Arts Commission, Housing Authority, Human Relations Commission, Board of Historical and Architectural Review, City Planning Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Historic Conservation Commissions, Parking Authority, Recreation Commission, Redevelopment Authority, Zoning Hearing Board. (A full list for the Bethlehem can be found at: www.bethlehem-pa.gov/about/authorities/index.html).

Although some positions have residency requirements, in many cases people who sit on these commissions and boards don’t live in our city.

We also have individuals who have been members of the same board or commission for 15 to 20 years, and some individuals are members of two or three boards at the same time. Why, you might wonder?

Some of these positions require an expertise (electrical, health, financial, etc.). And these are also nonpaid positions, which makes it more difficult to find individuals willing to serve.

Many times when there are vacancies, they need to be filled rather quickly and the person charged with selecting nominees is “stuck” with the same few individuals.

However, it’s important to know that not all positions require a specific expertise; most just require a dedicated person with common sense and love for our city who is willing to be the voice of their community.

As a member of city council, I understand that one of my roles is to provide a check and balance on the mayor of the city and at the same time to be the voice of the people.

But the people in our city have diverse voices, and what we need is more of that diversity working in our government. That’s why I’m reaching out to challenge every single one of you to get civically engaged, to share your talents and put them to work for the betterment of our city. Don’t wait until you are negatively impacted by a government decision to get involved in local decisions.

A functioning democracy requires citizens who care what their government is doing and who put the time in to make it work for them. At the municipal level, you can have an impact on the political.

When citizens get involved in local government, they make it possible for government to do more than elected officials could accomplish alone.

Just this year, the city’s Environmental Advisory Council proposed several ordinances that would otherwise never become a possibility.

When members of local boards and commissions tell us what they think is good for the city, their views can have a significant impact on the decisions that elected officials make.

By getting involved in local government, you can make a big difference in the governance of our collective life and community long before the 2020 presidential election arrives.

The link to the City page above in the Councilwoman’s article says to contact the person on the ABC in which you are interested, but you should also contact the Mayor’s office.

to be continued . . .

How the Fine Arts Commission does it

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Deni Thurman-Eyer heads the Fine Arts Commission.

Gadfly:

The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission changed the process for appointments to the BFAC about 12 years ago.  For many years, the Mayor would submit names to Council for approval without any input from the BFAC. This produced a Commission which had members who were not all engaged and, worse, acted in their own self-interest.

We recognized that we could improve that process. We revised and strengthened our Nominating procedures. We evaluated the needs of the Commission in terms of diversity, skills, and commitment to the arts, actively seeking nominees in that context. The Nominating Committee interviewed potential nominees before sending our recommendations to the Mayor to submit to Council.

This process has vested power in the BFAC to develop a strong, engaged, and productive 25-member Commission. This could be a model for improving the recruiting and retention of effective ABC boards.

Deni

Making some points about the ABCs

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly,

I’ll make 4 points on the ABCs:

First, solicitors (or their firms) for ABCs should only be permitted to serve one ABC.

Second, there should be term limits. We need more turnover so that fresh ideas and experiences can be introduced. If you’ve served for 12 years (for point of discussion) on the planning commission, I would have no issue with you moving to the housing authority board and putting in additional time there. Some people want to contribute to their community through service, so this would allow them to continue to do so.

Third, all resumes submitted expressing interest in serving should be shared between City Council and the Mayor, and vice versa. This way they both know who is interested.

And, fourth, both the Mayor and Council should strive to have the ABCs as representative of community demographics as possible. Turnover mentioned in #2 would help that. There appears to be far too much “old boy network” at play, and while that may satisfy political and special interests, it doesn’t necessarily satisfy the community’s best interests.

Dana

The ABCs are cloistered venues of power . . . Council must check and balance . . . We need to include more types of experience

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Authorities, Boards, and Commissions

Ok, so now you have your annual refresher on the ABCs and some current problems with them.

So Gadfly recommends that you listen to the whole 30 minutes of the discussion of the ABCs at the June 16 City Council meeting.

Yes, yes he does — all 30 minutes — he likes that you hear, that you experience your elected officials rather than just reading about them.

The audio below is an example of City Council at its best, on the same page, concerned about fostering proper and widespread citizen participation in city governance.

Councilwoman Van Wirt tees up the issue of how ABC members are selected, Councilwoman Negron sets the issue on fire, President Waldron coolly engages the Mayor diplomatically and the Mayor reciprocates in kind, and the other Councilmembers ratify the need for Council attention and the process agreed on to move ahead.

Agreed on is that the Mayor will provide an inventory of openings now on ABCs and openings/reappointments coming up till the end of the year so that all concerned can have a head-start on cultivating a diverse pool of candidates.

There was not much focus on specific candidates up for approval on that June 16 night. The focus was on the process of selection, the diversity of the ABCs, and such matters. But Gadfly would say that a quiet example of the “problem” under consideration was the reappointment that night of a member of the Planning Commission who’s been in place 12 years. Gadfly  has been to many of the Planning meetings, and if he were asked, he would have had to say that from what he could see in the public deliberations (as opposed to whatever goes on in executive session) that the 12-year member was not a “presence” in deliberations.

Please kick back and listen.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (min. 0: 20)

  • [The process] seemed like a mere rubber stamp by Council to approve anyone the Mayor put forward.
  • This has been the argument for Council continuing to approve reappointments . . . for people who have been on for years and years and decades.
  • One of the first things I had asked for is resumes of people who were coming forward from the Mayor . . . so we could actually vet somebody.
  • We still don’t have attendance given for reappointments, but overall here’s this ongoing kind of notion in Bethlehem that this is the Mayor’s prerogative, but I’m pushing back against that because I feel that the reason that City Council was given the vote instead of just the Mayor appointing whomever he wanted so that we as representatives of the citizens of Bethlehem could insure that Authorities, Boards, and Commissions have people on them who actually represent the citizens, who look like the citizens, who come from different areas of the city, who come from different income levels, different perspectives, that’s the point of City Council to me.
  • [Last time] one of the suggestions that was made by President Waldron was that we invoke term limits . . . Any term limits discussion there’s pros and cons to the approach, and the problem I had with that is our Authorities, Boards, and Commissions are all vastly different.
  • Some have way more power and influence on day-to-day lives, some use our tax dollars, some leverage the borrowing capacity of the city, and these are ones that need particular scrutiny because that’s where power is held.
  • Power in this city is held in the Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Not having a voice in that in Council, we allow the Administration to have one blanket approach to how things are done, and it doesn’t represent this city.
  • I would hate to institute term limits for a commission that we have trouble even filling all the spots on it. It doesn’t seem to me that that would be a helpful thing.
  • Maybe we should just apply it to our powerful commissions . . . the Bethlehem Parking Authority, the Zoning Hearing Board.
  • I just wanted to have an open dialog with Council about these feelings.
  • . . . haphazard approach to staffing . . .
  • Often what we hear from the Administration is that they cannot find the people to staff them . . .
  • We have no way of knowing who has submitted resumes unless they have also submitted them to Council.
  • We don’t know how the Mayor goes about finding people to go on these Authorities, Boards, and Commissions.
  • I understand that it is his prerogative to put people forward, but it is also our prerogative and indeed our duty . . . to make sure that our ABCs look like Bethlehem.
  • This is a huge responsibility of Council . . . The way things have been done in the past is not always the right way to do things right now.
  • Circumstances change, cities change, and we are a reflection of the city, so I hope that we can consider a different way of approaching how we put people on these Authorities and Boards and Commissions.

Councilwoman Negron (min. 5:38)

  • [Last year] I wrote an article in the Morning Call . . . where I was actually asking the people . . . to be actively engaged. to be civically engaged, to be part of the movement, being an elected official is one way, but [the ABCs] is another.
  • [got responses from the Latino community mainly]
  • Many of them said the Mayor is not going to appoint me . . . we look very different.
  • I challenged them, I really did. Last Thursday I sent to all of you members of Council . . . sharing an email from a member of our community that back in February sent an email to the Mayor expressing interest in the Planning Commission, and here we go again.
  • There’s interest. I’ve been talking to individuals, and they want to be part of Commissions and Boards
  • So with 76,000 people in the City, you can’t tell me you can’t find people to serve.
  • Members of the Latino community say why would I bother if I’m not going to be appointed.
  • It’s our responsibility as members of Council to be the check and balances, we are not being the checks and balances.
  • I am sick and tired of hearing this, professionally, and at all levels, because I have to hire another white person because there is no person of color that send me a resume of is qualifies for the job — really?!
  • [My daughters] don’t want to come back to Bethlehem . . . Why would you want to come back to a place that’s not going to hire you, that looks down on you, that’s going to treat you differently.
  • This is the right time to think of our role as members of Council — checks and balances, that’s what we are supposed to be doing.

President Waldron and the Mayor (min. 9:30)

President Waldron engaged the Mayor in a conversation about the process of nominating ABCers. The Mayor is not for term limits. He does check the record of attendance and input for reappointees. If City Council votes down, he will submit another name. Has sometimes not reappointed people. It’s a process, and he does evaluate. There are not many ABCs that have vacancies. Willing to sit down with Council members to review the appointments for the rest of the year.

  • ARW: Do our Boards, Authorities, and Commissions represent the people of Bethlehem? What is the gender split? What is the geographic split from different parts of the City? What is the racial split?
  • ARW: At some point you can either take a passive role and say these are the people who have applied. or maybe there’s some efforts with which the Administration can work with Council on to reach out to different groups that might be interested in serving but have not been tapped to say are you interested in serving/
  • ARW: I think just that question to start the dialog might be helpful to have a little more diversity on those boards.
  • RJD: I certainly would support that.
  • ARW: This conversation should happen beforehand.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (min. 16:00)

PVW brought up the problem “from the citizen’s perspective” of those ABCs who still meet during the day. An interested applicant to an ABC had to say no because he was a working person and could not make the time of the meeting.

  • PVW: We have essentially cut out an entire part of the electorate that is willing to serve but can not meet at 4 o’clock because they have normal working jobs.
  • Our ABCs are cloistered venues of power that are only accessible to a certain political class, and I certainly feel we need to consider how we change this dynamic so that all of our citizens can participate [by being on the boards or coming to the meetings and speaking their minds].

Councilwoman Negron (min. 18)

ON reiterates that she has people interested. Will have people interested send resumes to entire Council. She’s hearing from non-Latinos too. Her community is not just the brown and black.

Councilman Colon (min. 20:20)

Now a good time to start getting an inventory of Councilmanic appointments.

The Mayor agrees to do a full inventory of vacancies and reappointments coming up and to share that with Council.

Councilman Reynolds (min. 21:45)

  • We need to understand that because of traditional structures in our city, you have had certain groups of people and certain areas of the city that have been underrepresented.
  • The sooner that we get that in the forefront of all of our minds . . . It’s a conversation that we need to have about how we get as many people as possible involved in these conversations because people do bring different experiences.
  • In general we need to do a better job in getting as many people involved in these conversations, especially when some of these conversations may affect communities traditionally underrepresented on these boards in the decision-making.
  • We need to include more types of experience throughout the city and more histories throughout the city on these boards and commissions.
  • It’s on all of us to try to help find those people.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (min. 24:05)

Frustration about process: more info, more notice. Hope the process can be streamlined so it works in a better fashion.

Councilman Callahan (min. 25:30)

Not in favor of term limits. Influential, “power” boards need people with suitable background. Classes available for people who want to be on boards like planning. Can’t just jump in to some boards. Need background. Would favor increasing membership on Human Relations Commission.

June 17 Climate Action Plan meeting slides and transcription now available

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Gadfly knows that some of you tried to participate in the webinar but ran into
technical problems, Now you can catch up!

BethlehemCAP.org

CAP 5

  • First Public Virtual Meeting: June 17, 2020 – Completed
  • The first public meeting on the CAP was held as a webinar at two separate times on June 17 to maximize accessibility. If you missed the sessions, please see the materials below:
  • During the meeting, consultants WSP and Nurture Nature Center reviewed the projected impacts of climate change on Bethlehem, introduced the climate action planning process, and provided information about actions the City has already taken to address climate change. Participants were then asked to share their thoughts on the goals and priorities they hope to see reflected in the plan.
  • Additional public meetings are planned for September and November. Details will be published here when these dates are announced.

It’s Friday, June 26, do you know where your Climate Action Plan is? Yep!

The green comes back to Bethlehem

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Let’s be smart!

Kayla Dwyer and Jacqueline Palochko, “Green phase guide: What to expect at Lehigh Valley gyms, restaurants and salons as restrictions lift Friday.” Morning Call, June 25, 2020.

Steve Novak, “Pa. coronavirus reopening: As Lehigh Valley enters green phase, data shows extent of COVID-19′s economic impact | Unemployment, job openings, traffic, real estate.” lehighvalleylive.com, June 26, 2020.

Jennifer Sheehan, “As green phase approaches in Lehigh Valley, what should you do if you encounter someone without a mask in a business?” Morning Call, June 23, 2020.

Green

Crownfield trifecta on the police and community trust issue

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

ref: “Is the trust between police and community broken in Bethlehem?”

I still think the real question is still I posted as a comment on your ‘Now is the time for listening’ post: Why do we want to have a meeting instead of getting out and working with people one on one?” Or is real community engagement too much work?

ref: First-person testimony necessary

It would be illuminating to learn about people’s experiences — but what’s really needed is someone willing to listen. And willing to rethink things based on those people’s feelings and thoughts. (Not to learn facts so we or BPD can decide what’s right.)

ref: Rockwell revised 2020

Just to confirm that this is not just a joke — About 20 years ago, when I was involved in a community assessment in the ‘West End’ of Plainfield NJ, I heard one community leader ask a young Black man what he expected to be when he was 25. His answer was ‘dead’.

Peter

Trust between police and the community is not as strong as it could be or needs to be

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

ref: “Is the trust between police and community broken in Bethlehem?”

Gadfly,

An African-American friend recently made the point that the police don’t know the people in the communities they’re serving. How can any relationship, let alone trust, be developed? He and I talked about this at length because years ago every cop seemed to know mostly everyone else, and vice versa.

Why isn’t this happening today?

Perhaps because Bethlehem cops all used to be Bethlehem residents. There were residency requirements for city employees up until 1989. A retired Bethlehem cop I spoke with also mentioned another reason for this happening. He feels our population is also more transient, so you don’t have time to develop any connections between law enforcement and residents.

In answer to your question, I think it depends on where you live in the city and what your experiences have been. That being said, I don’t think it’s as strong as it could be or needs to be. What is called community policing today isn’t as integrated into neighborhoods as the team policing of the past, nor as the prominence of sub-stations in various city neighborhoods used to be.

These community relationships need to be strengthened and that starts with honesty and openness, positive experiences between law enforcement and residents, and developing trust.

Anon.
The writer is known to Gadfly but prefers to remain anonymous.