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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!

4th of July 2020

Gadflies are never satisfied. Gadflies, seeking perfection,
always see the glass only half-full.

For a black American, for a black inhabitant of this country, the Statue of Liberty
is simply a very bitter joke, meaning nothing to us.
James Baldwin

“I shall see this day . . . from the [people-of-color] point of view.”
Frederick Douglass

In 1852 the people of Rochester, NY, did an audacious thing.

They asked a slave — Frederick Douglass — to give the annual 4th of July oration.

Douglass had escaped slavery. And until quite recently, when a friend purchased his freedom, he was still the property of another, subject to arrest and return to his Master.

Douglass was “Other.”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass did an audacious thing. He spoke as a slave and asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass had the audacity to tell his mostly white audience [“us”] what the slaves would think and say hearing the pious and patriotic 4th of July orations.

Followers will know that Gadfly feels the pain of others. Especially the pain of the underdog. Especially unjust pain.

When he wrote last 4th of July, the national mind was full of images of the treatment of and the conditions of migrants along the Southwest border.Floyd 6

This 4th of July it’s urban racial violence.

Gadfly will ask you to do an audacious thing.

Imagine if we asked an inner-city Black from, say,  Minneapolis to give the 4th of July oration here today.

And imagine he or she answered in Frederick Douglass’s words.

I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too—great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory. . . .

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you. . . .

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. . . .

Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of [thousands?] whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. . . .

I shall see this day . . . from the [people of color] point of view. . . . I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the [people of color] on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate [this treatment] — the great sin and shame of America! . . .

I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the [need for racial justice] creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that [people of color are human beings]? . . .

What, then, remains to be argued? . . . The time for such argument is passed. At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and
could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. . . .

What to [people of color] is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Like getting hit with a bucket of boiling oil.

A message addressed with equal fervor to members of all political parties.

This, in Gadfly’s opinion, is the kind of soul-rattling voice we need to hear on this 4th of July as we think at the next City Council meeting and later about our local response to what a morning newspaper article called “the nation’s searing reckoning with racial inequality.”

We need to hear this soul-rattling voice when we meet the voices of resistance and status quo and fatigue, as we surely will.

Let’s see how another police department does it

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Because of what’s on the plate in front of us, Gadfly is trying to think about and get you to think about policing and our police department from as many angles as possible.

Last post Gadfly asked you to think about how the Bethlehem police represent themselves in a recruiting video.

Now let’s take a look at Allentown.  Compare the two recruiting videos.  What do you see?

Perhaps the most important thing to think about is how appropriate each video is in this period of intense national conversation following the murder of George Floyd.

What do these videos tell us about how each department sees its relation to the public and the kind of officer it wants to recruit?

This Allentown video below is pertinent too as we think about the nature of policing. It made me think of the “Building Trust” section of the Obama-era 21st Century Policing report that Alison Steele turned me on to in one of her Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist posts, that “Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.”

Police. Guardian rather than warrior. Food for thought.

Gadfly knows he’s loading this post with too much, but since we’re talking about Allentown here’s their use of force policy to compare with ours.

How does our police department see itself?

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“The police department is structured using a Community police philosophy and committed to community and police partnerships.”
City of Bethlehem 2020 Budget

One place to answer that question would be the face it wears at hiring time.

Here’s a 2018 police department recruitment video from their facebook page.

Let Gadfly give you several prompts as he might have done with his students in order to start a discussion.

  • View the video
  • When done, which 2-3 images do you recall most prominently?
  • List some images you liked.
  • List some you didn’t
  • What did you see that you didn’t expect to?
  • What didn’t you see, that you expected to?
  • What’s the “message” of the video, a message that may be different than that provided in the narration?
  • To what specific characteristics in potential recruits does the video appeal?
  • If you were asked to suggest changes in this video, if any, now after the George Floyd killing, what would you say?
  • Do you think a new video is needed now after the George Floyd killing? If so, why? What kind?
  • Does the video square with the description of the department given above?

Gadfly again trying to start a conversation in preparation for the bigger one coming before us as we review the use of force directives and consider a Community Engagement Initiative.

A case study in use of force by police

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David Ovalle and Charles Rabin, “Miami-Dade cop relieved of duty for hitting woman taunting him for ‘acting like you white’.” Miami Herald, July 2, 2020.

How could Gadfly see this video last night and not try to see it through the paradigm in the Bethlehem use of force directive that we posted about yesterday?

BPD-Directive-3-1-1-Use-of-Force

Read the whole Miami Herald story above for details before and after the incident captured in the video recording here. The woman certainly seems to be acting as a knuckiehead, a delightful term coined by one of our grandsons about his own behavior.

The officer sees the woman as resisting his order, as an aggressor who touched him, “headbutted” him.

The officer sees the woman as an “active aggressor.”

The officer “said he ordered the woman to get her belongings so she could be escorted out. ‘That was when Ms. Anderson aggressively approached this officer violating this officer’s personal space, bumped [him] with her body and struck [him] with her head on his chin,’ he wrote in his report.”

In terms of the paradigm, the officer viewed the woman as resisting through “active aggression” and thus the “hard empty hand technique” of what looks like a “palm heel strike” was legitimately used to maintain control.

The officer struck the woman with an “open hand,” what a police union official called a “diversionary strike” against a “belligerent” subject who was right in the officer’s face.

Was the officer acting properly?

He got fired.

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Now it may be neither here nor there, but it’s worth noting that the woman is black, the officer is “a Black officer of Puerto Rican heritage,” and that she was accusing him of acting white. Jeez, what a racial gnarl.

Was this a proper use of force?

What would “defunding” our police look like, and how would it work?

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City of Bethlehem Final Budget 2020
Police Department pp. 133-48

City Council discussion of Police 2020 budget request November 2019
Part 1
Part 2

Gadfly’s previous post in this series was about national conversation concerning defunding police departments, so he has gathered here some basic budget information that we might want to think about.

Defunding means trimming police department responsibilities and reallocating funds into social programs.

The Police Department has 154 members, with a budget (c. $16m.) approximately 20% of the total City Budget.

Discussion at the Council budget hearing last year (links above) touched on subjects of manpower, overtime, body cameras, and so forth, and was cordial.

If there is interest now in cutting the police budget and reallocating the money, what would be cut? The size of the force? Overtime?

Further $$$$ figures necessary for this conversation would be 1) what we are spending now for desired social programs in comparison to what we are spending on police and 2) the cost of social programs that we would like to institute that we don’t have at all now.

Would, for instance, we take money from the police and transfer it to Community and Economic Development to enhance some programs already in operation and/or to initiate new programs?

Or would we cut elsewhere in the budget? Or see enhanced social programming as a justifiable reason to raise taxes?

Just trying to get a conversation started here.

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Selections from pp. 133-48 of 2020 budget (follow link above if too hard to read):

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Police 4

Police 5

Police 6

Resolution regarding establishment of a Community Engagement Initiative to be voted on Tuesday night

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Chew on this!

Community Engagement Initiative Resolution

Here’s a resolution to be voted on at Tuesday’s City Council meeting asking Council to approve “urging” the Mayor in collaboration with the Police Department to establish a Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly is surprised at the timing. He was expecting a Public Safety Committee meeting first before there was any action.

Gadfly is surprised at the nature of the request. But more on that later.

Gadfly always suggests that you go to the primary source and form your own opinions.

Gadfly hopes that you will pay strict attention, for the City’s response to the George Floyd killing has the potential to have infinitely more impact on the fundamental nature of city life than a casino or a Martin Tower — or a pandemic.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT:
RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Bethlehem urges the Mayor and his
Administration to collaborate with the City of Bethlehem Police Department to create a public space and forum for the long-term discussion of issues surrounding systemic racism, discrimination, race-based inequities, social justice, mental health, addiction, poverty eradication, inclusionary housing, education, and fair policing practices (“Community Engagement Initiative”). The Community Engagement Initiative might include and/or interface with any individuals or entities that the Mayor and his Administration think appropriate such as citizens, human service organizations, the medical community, school leaders, social justice organizations, police officers, and Police Department leaders.

Some of the group’s primary functions might include:
• Assist City government in setting funding and resource allocation priorities within the City of Bethlehem Police Department;
• Assist in organizing Police Department non-enforcement neighborhood events in order to build more trust between citizens, our individual police officers, and our Police Department as a whole;
• Discuss the intersection of race, homelessness, mental health, addiction, poverty, housing, law enforcement, and other issues;
• Discuss law enforcement and policing issues, including data on arrests and enforcement activities across our City’s geographic zones and diverse racial and ethnic communities; and
• Generate policy proposals and create metrics to measure any policy changes.

Peter Crownfield points out that we might have a local resource for such community engagement, the International Institute for Restorative Practices, which coordinated police-community summits in Detroit.

Good conduct is good business

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Gadfly,

I see positives from this response [see “The Mob at Molly’s”] to what became an out of control situation.

First, Chaz Patrick took responsibility for what appears to be an unanticipated circumstance.

Second, he’s working on solutions.There’s a learning curve on all of this. Patrons need to act responsibly. If police were present, I think it would have been a good idea for them to step in and disperse this crowd, but I say that without having been present. It may have not gone well if they had.

I don’t know Chaz well, although I’ve eaten at his establishment. I just don’t “hang out” at bars/restaurants per se. My impression is that he’s a good business owner in Bethlehem who is very conscientious about contributing to the community, and we all have to trust that processes he puts into place will rectify this situation.

I will definitely make a point of stopping by Molly’s for lunch very soon!

Dana Grubb

What’s this defunding of the police all about?

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Let Gadfly say it again.

There’s a Public Safety Committee meeting on the horizon. Date unspecified.

And in addition to discussion of the Police Department’s use of force policy, there will be discussion of a Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly bets that in the background going on right now by Councilfolk Colon, Reynolds, Crampsie Smith, and others is significant preparation for that part of the meeting.

The first CEI step seems to be “engaging” a committee and setting a structure for them to meet and set their own agenda.

So we don’t know yet what the engaged citizenry will ultimately take on. Their agenda will probably be related to consensus about pressing local problems.

But you’ve been following the news like me, and it’s obvious that reform in the way police do business and relate to the community is much in the air.

There is great appetite for change evident.

For instance, you probably didn’t need Gadfly to call the Cuomo plan to your attention in past posts.

And just within the past day we learned that New York City transferred a billion dollars out of the police department budget, though there is some question if that signals real reform and change or is just paper shuffling since some of those line items were transferred to other parts of city government.

So, just like what Gadfly said about studying our use of force directive, we, as informed citizens who want to be part of the good conversation that builds community, need to be aware of the plans proposed in other cities and understand such ideas as “defunding” the police department.

Gadfly has just spent the last hour or more reading around about this radical defunding idea — basically shifting and trimming police department responsibilities and reallocating funds into social programs — and gives to you here two short, helpful, and easy to read FAQ-type articles:

Ryan W. Miller, “What does ‘defund the police’ mean and why some say ‘reform’ is not enough? USA Today, June 8, 2020.

Scottie Andrew, “There’s a growing call to defund the police. Here’s what it means.” CNN, June 17, 2020.

Suggestions for additional reading invited, as well as your comments.

We need to be ready to discuss change.

Let’s look at our use of force directive

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BPD-Directive-3-1-1-Use-of-Force

There’s a Public Safety Committee meeting on the horizon. Date unspecified.

In preparation for which, the Police Department was asked to submit its use of force directives.

If “we” informed citizens want to make the most out of this meeting, we need to look at those directives and start to form our comments and questions. Which we might want to pass on to City Council.

Gadfly always recommends going to the primary source. Here linked above is the use of force directive.

Gadfly has just spent the last hour or so going through the directive, has copied out below some sections that stood out to him, and has begun to form some questions.

He invites you to do the same.

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BPD-Directive-3-1-1-Use-of-Force

The purpose of any use of force by a police officer shall be to establish control and/or maintain a level of advantage to defend himself or another person from bodily harm.

Department law enforcement officers shall only use reasonable force.

The level of force used by an officer will be determined by the subject’s actions.

Each use of force situation is unique,

An officer may use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.

By law and officer need not retreat in efforts to lawfully control a subject.

An officer may use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect

  • whom the officer has probable cause to believe has committed an offense in which the suspect caused or attempted to cause death or serious bodily injury; and
  • who will pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury should the escape succeed; and
  • when the use of deadly risk presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.

An officer shall not resort to the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that an alternative to the use of deadly force will avert an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, and achieve the law enforcement purpose at no increased risk to the officer or another person.

Officers shall not use deadly force to subdue persons whose actions are only destructive to property.

Department members shall not use chokeholds or strangulation techniques as a means of control except as a last resort in a life and death struggle.

Officers and employees shall be responsible for reporting witnessed violations of the Department’s Use of Force policies.

When practical, officers shall intervene through verbal or physical means to prevent physical harm to the subject as a result of the misapplication of force.

Officers shall receive annual training in the Department’s Use of Force directives.

Officers shall receive annual training in weaponless control techniques.

The mob at Molly’s

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The Morning Call article in the last post mentions an incident (a Facebook commenter called it a “shit show”) at Molly’s last Friday. If anyone can direct Gadfly to the photo of the scene that “blew up on social media,” ‘twould be much appreciated. Here’s a response from the owner.

From Molly’s Sports Bar Facebook:

Hello. My name is Chaz Patrick and I am the owner of Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub. I’m writing this post after long thought and time to settle. I want to start off first by say we apologize for the events on Friday night.

As a restaurant owner during these very very trying times this has tried on myself, my staff, my loyal customers and surrounding neighbors. With everyone going green on Friday and having had outside seating for the last few weeks it has been a positive sign after a terrible situation. Our focus on Friday was inside seating with proper distance and cleanliness standards, which we follow on a daily basis during the pandemic or not.

Yes, outside was very crowded. We have a small patio area which my landlord allowed us to use so that we could have income. We also have the part of New Street that was shut down for us and neighboring restaurants for people to hangout out in and socialize with friends and family. Friday was a beautiful night. People wanted to get out and see friends and have a drink.

I had my wonderful staff, bartenders, kitchen, servers and security at the ready. Our focus was inside which we executed with no problems. The outside was a different story. We asked people to wear masks and please do the best you can to distance. That clearly was not working and people continued to come to the corner.

The Bethlehem Police were on site all night.

We have been in constant contact with the Police and City officials about the outside and we have been addressing the situation on an ongoing basis. We are working on getting a parklet like others around the City but the city gave us New Street for our purposes.

I just on Thursday spoke with a City Councilman about the parklet asap due to the concerns for us with the immediate outside area of our business. Clearly a conversation that should have happened earlier but it did happen.

Our answer to Friday night and not let it happen again was our closing the business early last night so we did not have a repeat, which we know would have happened. We are going to continue to address this and fix it.

But so all of you know, we do everything in our power to keep my most awesome staff, great friendly and loyal customers and our surrounding neighbors safe during these times. We have hand washing stations outside. Hand sanitizer inside and out and all over. We have masks for free to distribute if you do not have one.

So in reply to all of the people out there saying we did not follow the rules, I will gracefully disagree with every single one of you. People are getting sick. People are dying. I personally have lost friends and customers thru this but life must go on. We are doing the best we can and will continue to do so. What happened Friday night we will do our best to not let it happen again and we are working on the fix now.

These are difficult and trying times for everyone. We ask for your forgiveness and understanding but people need to be responsible for their own actions also. If your out in a public setting do your best to distance and wear a mask. Molly’s has built a great following over the years because I care about my staff and take very good care of them.

I care about my very loyal customers and they know that and tell their friends about us and bring them in. We have built a great relationships with Lehigh University as well as DeSales and Moravian students. There are a lot of them in town and they wanted to come and hang out at Molly’s.

They were outside because our inside was at the limit of 50%. If you could redo the night we would have shut it down sooner then we did and again we do apologize for that. I wish you all the best and here’s to ending this pandemic as soon as possible.

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday. ✌️

Gadfly invites you to browse the 170 or some comments (as of this morning) on Chaz’s post.

Let’s be safe! Wear a mask — the Gadfly you save might be your own

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Ford Turner and Jon Harris, “New Pennsylvania mask order requires everyone to wear one whenever leaving home in certain circumstances.” Morning Call, July 1, 2020.

from Ford Turner. Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Kay;a Dwyer, “Green doesn’t always mean go: Some Lehigh Valley officials see coronavirus trouble brewing in crowded public spaces.” Morning Call, July1 , 2020.

Just a few months ago, a photo of a crowd milling outside Molly’s Irish Sports Bar and Grille would have been too mundane to attract comment.

But that was before the coronavirus. The photo of tightly packed, mostly unmasked customers outside the Bethlehem bar on Friday night set off alarms in a community warily coming back to life on the first day of the green phase of Gov. Wolf’s pandemic reopening plan. The photo blew up on social media and prompted an apology from the bar, which closed early on Saturday night to avoid a repeat.

What made the episode troubling was the fact that similar gatherings in Allegheny County are believed to have driven a spike in infection rates so significant that officials banned drinking in bars and restaurants.

To this point, no one is predicting the Lehigh Valley is in store for the same kind of spike, though a rise in Lehigh County’s case rate in June prompted the state Health Department to include the county in a “deep dive” into data from areas where spikes might be brewing. More recently, there has been a slight uptick in new, confirmed cases in Northampton County.

At Molly’s, owner Charles Patrick said things were under control Friday when he left around 10 p.m., with a manageable flow of masked customers coming in and out and indoor capacity limited to 50%.

Then, around midnight, local college students started coming out, Patrick said. “That’s when it got crazy,” he said, noting that many customers refused staff requests that they don masks.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to quell the onslaught,” said Patrick, who is making a number of changes to scheduling and seating to better manage crowds. “I’m only one establishment. These are the things we are doing to fix our problem.”

Some Northampton County numbers have been ticking up, the dashboard shows, with 90 cases in the most recent seven day period compared with 68 in the previous period. Cases per 100,000 residents rose from 22.3 to 29.5. Statewide, cases per 100,000 residents rose from 23.2 to 28.7 over the last seven days. Of those who have tested positive statewide to date, nearly 37 % are ages 25-49.

Wardle said the Northampton uptick was mostly due to new cases in long-term care facilities. A reason new-case numbers at those facilities are surging, Wardle said, is that Gov. Tom Wolf has required that all residents of all facilities be tested for the virus by July 24 under Wolf’s “universal” testing regimen. More testing, Wardle said, uncovers more cases.

Hence, he said, the concern over Northampton isn’t great, but the state will continue to assist its long-term care facilities — which have been epicenters of outbreaks nationally — and monitor the situation.

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said he is fiercely proud of residents for obeying lockdown rules and driving down infection numbers, which could have been far higher given the county’s proximity to the hotspots of New York, New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area.

He said he doesn’t want to see that success undone by growing laxity over the vital prevention protocols of hand washing, social distancing and mask-wearing.

“We have to balance the public health with avoiding another shutdown, because the economy can’t bear it,” he said. “Wear a mask. I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing. Wear a mask.”

You’ll find a statement by the Molly’s owner in our next post in this series.

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.

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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 . . .