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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.

And follow the Gadfly on Facebook @TheBethlehemGadfly

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

Changing the meeting time for Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting on the Armory: another try

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from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning, Monday, 8:43AM:

Ed

The prior meeting was scheduled at 6 to help us get a quorum for those meetings.  The advertised time for the meetings in 2019 is 4:00 PM.  We readvertised the 6:00 meetings so that we could get a quorum of members.  The December meeting is also scheduled to be held at 4:00 PM at this point.

In 2020 we are scheduled to hold the meetings at 5:00 PM.

Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss.

Darlene

—–
to Darlene Heller, Monday,  10:30am:

Hi again Darlene:

The Mayor’s memo to Adam dated Aug 29 titled “Board Meetings” and copied to everybody in the system indicates that the Bethlehem Authority, the Bethlehem Parking Authority, and BRIA all indicated that they would push back meeting times if the issue was “hot” or if the Mayor requested.

Precedent.

I think the issue is hot.

How about asking the Mayor?

The  logic of changing a meeting to achieve a Commission quorum extends to enabling a “quorum” of affected parties.

Whatta y’say?

Ed

City officials: could/should the Thursday Planning Commission meeting on the Armory be moved to 6PM?

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sent Sunday, November 10, 4:54PM:

To: Bob, Darlene, Alicia, Rob, Matt, Lou, Adam, Bryan, Michael, Grace, Olga, Willie, Paige:

The Armory is again on the agenda for the Planning Commission this Thursday at 4PM.

This is a “hot” topic. Neighbors want to attend. 4PM is inconvenient for many.

Agendas show the Aug and Sept PC meetings were at 6. Why now at 4?

The PC did agree to start meeting at 5 come the new year, which is a step in the right direction for resident participation.

Could/should the Thursday PC meeting be moved to 6?

I think the answer is yes.

Your consideration much appreciated.

Ed

Planning Commission meeting on the Armory development inconvenient for many neighbors

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Armory logo

The controversy over development of the Armory on 2nd Avenue occurred before Gadfly was Gadfly, but he attended and spoke once or twice at meetings on the issue. In fact, what he thought was a “raw deal” for the articulate and substantial number of neighbors was part of the root motivation for starting the Gadfly project.

Planning Commission meeting, 4PM, Thursday, November 14, Town Hall

3. LAND DEVELOPMENT AND SUBDIVISIONS
a. (19-OO5LD&S) — Bethlehem Armory Land Development & Subdivision Plan and Landscape Waiver Request — 345 2nd Avenue – Ward 10, Zoned RT, Plan dated July 30, 2019 and last revised October 15, 2019. The applicant proposes the consolidation of lots and vacated streets for the redevelopment of the former Armory building. The project is construction of a 4 story multifamily building with 64 units attached to the former Armory Complex. The 2 garage additions of the existing Armory will be converted into 6 apartment units for a total of 70 units. The Armory drill hail space will contain a live/work unit for an artist. The 2.57 acre site will also contain 101 parking spaces.

As he writes, Gadfly does not see supporting documents for this agenda item posted on the City web site.

Unfortunately, the 4PM meeting time is inconvenient for many Armory neighbors. At the urging of people like Councilwomen Van Wirt and Negron, a few months ago the Mayor requested afternoon-meeting Authorities, Boards, and Commissions to consider moving to later times for citizen convenience, and the PC did agree to move to 5PM starting in the new year.

But that will not help now.

Gadfly has written to the Mayor, the responsible City administrators, the Planning Commission chair and members, and City Council urging a Thursday time change.

Followers — even if you are not Westsiders — are urged to do the same. Find contact info on the Gadfly sidebar.

For a reminder of the details of this controversial development (another one!), see the following good email from Mary Toulouse, Mount Airy Neighborhood Association president.

Dear all,

The Armory land use plan is the subject of the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday 11/14, at 4pm in the Rotunda. You will recall that as part of the Armory debacle (when 14 variances were granted the developer) the City will vacate half of 2nd Avenue between Spring and Prospect and hand it over for free to the developers for  parking.

Second Avenue is an important gateway to the West Side neighborhood, and the changes will have a direct impact on most neighbors. This entrance is already a tricky spot; if changes are to be made, it is important that we speak up and make sure that they benefit the neighborhood, both in terms of safe traffic patterns, but also in terms of beautification landscaping.

As I recall, some concerns about the preliminary proposal of the developers as vetted at the Zoning meetings included:

  • Diagonal parking at the base of the street will have cars dangerously backing into cars turning right onto 2nd Avenue from Spring. These diagonal spaces were needed to meet the requirements for the number of projected apartments in the design plan for the new building. Couldn’t this be changed so that the street is safe for everyone?
  • Is the space adequate for buses and cars to make the left turn from 2nd onto Prospect Ave?
  • Will the landscaping enhance the area or will it be minimal and turn the street into a Stefko Blvd with strip mall style parking?
  • What safety measures will be in place for cyclists or pedestrians going past the swath of cars in the parking lot?
  • What impact will the proposed landscaping have on the Armory itself, which is a national historic monument?
  • Where will the neighbors park?

Hopefully, some of these questions have been responsibly addressed by the City. But, unfortunately, the planning meeting is at 4PM  on Thursday—a time when most working neighbors cannot attend. Please attend if you can.

Kind regards,

Mary Toulouse

Neighborhoods are worth fighting for!

Single-payer: reduce cost but reduce quality

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Gadfly:

Peter’s comments indicate that single-payer would “dramatically reduce overall healthcare costs.” Yup, and it would dramatically reduce healthcare quality when healthcare providers work for minimum wage. And, yes, we should definitely get rid of the private healthcare insurance industry. According to some, the millions of people put out of work when the healthcare industry is nationalized could find work selling life insurance, or maybe they could open car washes. At least they would stay in private industry. And it will not be Medicare-for-all, it will be Medicaid-for-all. The wealthy will still get great medical care. They can afford it. Everyone else, including Peter, will be waiting in long lines. Maybe they can run up to Canada for shorter long lines.

Al Bernotas

Note Al’s comment on Peter’s previous post too.

Followers differ over how to handle healthcare. Gadfly suggests a pause in this thread till after the two more posts he has with video from Wednesday’s Council.

The Medicare for All resolution: “not necessarily a priority for the city”

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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:

I’m not sure what actually prompted someone to put this [Medicare for All] on the agenda. It doesn’t seem like “city business,” but the resolution does make the point that ever-increasing healthcare costs do impact the city budget. Other than that, it seems to be factual, but not necessarily a priority for the city. And I agree with Bruce that it might make more sense for Council to focus more on the many areas of city operations and legislation that seem to need more attention.

It should be obvious to all that Bruce knows how to run a successful business (having been a key person in bringing the Hotel Bethlehem back from collapse to its current position as a thriving business).

We should, however, consider some facts about “Medicare for All” and what it could accomplish:

1. The US has the highest healthcare costs of any of the “developed nations”;
2. US healthcare outcomes are among the worst of any of these countries; (year after year, global statistics put the US around #40 in the ranking of healthcare systems—just above Slovenia);
3. Financial analyses show that nationalized, single-payer coverage would dramatically reduce overall healthcare costs. It would, obviously, cause an increase in taxes, but that would be more than offset by the elimination of premiums for private health insurance.

Peter

Medicare for All debate a waste of time

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Bruce Haines is a Lehigh graduate who returned to Bethlehem after a 35-year career at USSteel. He put together a 12-member Partnership to rescue the Hotel Bethlehem from bankruptcy in 1998 and lives in the historic district.

Gadfly:

Certainly a waste of time by our politicians to debate this [Medicare for All] in Bethlehem City Council.

What do Councilmen Reynolds & Colon know about what is best for employers in Bethlehem as alleged?

Is Councilman Reynolds prepared to pay substantially more for his insurance than he pays now in order to get rationed healthcare as doctors & hospitals close based upon 100% Medicare rates?

We have a vibrant health care insurance market where businesses like ours [Hotel Bethlehem] have been able to manage our healthcare cost & give great options for benefits to our employees.

The competitive marketplace works here in Bethlehem for employers & employees.

Council needs to spend more time holding the city to enforcement of their ordinances instead of debating stuff out of their knowledge base or control.

Bruce

Budget opacity and arcanity

logo 5th in a series of posts on the 2020 Budget logo

Did you see this recent comment by Peter Crownfield on a recent post ?

“Municipal budget books seem to be designed to make things opaque or difficult to understand. . . . Do you suppose keeping things arcane [good SAT word, Peter] is one reason why it is done the way it is?”

Exactly.

Gadfly’s been meaning to hatch one of his beautiful (!) “Modest Proposals” on this very subject.

Gadfly was a writing teacher for a hundred years.

One of the first principles of good writing is to identify your audience.

“Who is your audience?” Gadfly would intone pregnantly and poignantly.

The audience determines your approach, your tone of voice, your writing strategies — everything.

The 2020 budget is an accounting document for accountants — it seems.

2020 Proposed Budget

It is not written for the public. It is not public-friendly.

It does not encourage public knowledge, participation, conversation.

It does not invite public engagement.

Most of what the general public sees as it meets and then thumbs through the budget is off-putting.

Most should be in an appendix in a document aimed at the general public.

Gadfly is writing in haste here (grandkids’ soccer!!!), but what he’s been thinking about is a document (online) that begins with a visual of the City organizational chart.

CITYORGN Oct 22 2019

An easily understandable map of City structure.

And then each block would have linked to it a budget “narrative.”

Some of the info narrative for each block is already in the current budget book.

For instance, go to p. 72 in 2020 Proposed Budget:  Planning and Zoning.

There you will find the “Bureau Description,” “Goals and Objectives,” and “Prior Year Achievements.”

Good.

Gadfly would add such categories as “This Year’s Goals” and “Projects Deferred” (what we’d do if we had more money), and “Impact on This Year’s Budget.”

Something like that.

Foreground this concise “narrative.”

Same for each block in the organizational chart.

Then — most importantly — the whole document introduced by an “Executive Summary” or an “Overview”: general state of revenue — up, down? general state of expenses — up, down? what factors? what priorities? what drivers? what pressures? what left on the cutting room floor? What’s the goal of the budget? What were the tough choices? What the heartaches? What problem areas resolved? Where the cracks? Where the hot spots?

A snapshot. A frame. A context. An introduction.

One substantial paragraph. One page.

Could say more (and more coherently) but gotta run.

Remind me to dress warmly.