BPA: The Fatal Error (58)

(58th in a series of posts on parking)

fatal error timeline: Fatal error

At the Airbnb hearing a couple weeks ago, the Judge found the City guilty of a “fatal error” on one count. Striking term. I looked it up.

A fatal error in legal proceeding is one of such substantial nature that it justifies a reversal in judgment or a new trial. A fatal error in law means “you lose.” For now anyway.

I’ll bet all of us have experienced a “fatal error” in front of our computers (like the dreaded blue screen!): “an error that causes a program to abort and may therefore return the user to the operating system. When this happens, data that the program was processing is lost.” A fatal error in computing means “you lose.”

In my estimation the Bethlehem Parking Authority committed a fatal error in what I will call the “feedback issue” that I described briefly in Exhibit 7: The Coup de Grace (47) and more extensively in the Fatal error timeline.

What, to me – and perhaps only in my estimation and not yours – what to me the BPA lost is my trust, my respect. (Do I hear people saying “Big Whoop”?)

Seriously.

I am mystified by the series of events. Somehow a molehill became a mountain to me. I don’t get it.

I asked BPA for a document. Was told informally it didn’t exist. Was told formally (RTK) it didn’t exist. Was as much as told personally in a public meeting that it didn’t exist (the interchange is on the above video). Find out that it does exist. And have received no explanation. Even when willing to accept blame.

What to make of this? At one end BPA behavior seems deliberately deceiving and unprofessional while at the other it just seems silly and foolish.

I can’t figure it out.

But what I can figure out is that the “feedback issue” is the coup de grace, the fatal error.

I have no trust in, no respect for the BPA.

And I have not arrived at that conclusion lightly, as several dozen posts behind this one show.

In my book, BPA, you lose.

Daryl Nerl 1966-2018

Daryl was a contract reporter for the Morning Call, and many of us knew him from City Council meetings. Gadfly followers might think of this as a remembrance page and send short notes through the “Contact” page or as comments.

Some quotes from the wonderful Morning Call obituary:

Daryl“His workspace was legendary. One editor described Daryl’s desk at the Call’s Bethlehem Bureau this way: ‘To his left was his pyramid of empty diet soda cans that was at least 3-feet tall. To his right was his desk covered with a mountain of documents and reporter’s notebooks and embedded in that mess were about a half-dozen ties – already knotted and ready to wear. If Daryl had to go to City Hall, he would slip a tie over his head, cinch up and head out – a nod to convention for a rebel at heart.'”

“He was a true original; there wasn’t a wishy-washy bone in his body.”

Daryl welcomed me as a rookie attendee at Council from his left-field bleacher seat at Town Hall, often leaning over and filling me in — inside politics, just like inside baseball. — Gadfly

Baseball season officially ended Sunday night with Boston’s World Series victory. Sadly, I learned the next morning that my good friend, former Morning Call colleague and IronPigs season ticket-sharer Daryl Nerl, had died over the weekend. Daryl was a person of many areas of expertise, one of which certainly was baseball. He was a diehard Mets fan, for which I’ve long since forgiven him, and one of the joys of summer evenings at Coca-Cola Park was our discussions, lists and occasional arguments about professional sports.On this, as with everything else, he had strong opinions. We’ve been sitting together at those games since the inaugural IronPigs season, always keeping score and sharing some wonderful memories. I’m having a hard time imagining next summer in Section 110 without him. He was a great friend, a great writer and a great, great baseball fan. Deepest condolences to his mom and dad. — Bill White

“Please, Mr. Postman” (57)

(57th in a series of posts on parking)

So many days you passed me by
See the tears standin’ in my eyes
You didn’t stop to make me feel better
By leavin’ me a card or a letter
Mister Postman
(Mister Postman look and see)
Oh yeah
(If there’s a letter in your bag for me)

The Marvelettes, 1961

Attentive Gadfly readers will recognize that “No one gets to interrogate The Board”
was directed at Gadfly during Courtesy of the Floor at the September meeting of the Bethlehem Parking Authority Board by the Solicitor, whom I have whimsically dubbed the Board body guard.

Apparently that means you can’t get an email response from the BPA either:

  • I have not gotten a response from the Solicitor about the potentially serious matter of a possible Right to Know violation.
  • I have not gotten a response to three emails to the Executive Director about that same potentially serious matter of a possible Right to Know violation as well as other things.
  • I have not gotten a response to three emails to the 5-member Board about being able to communicate with them individually rather than the group boardofdirectors address.
  • I have not gotten a response asking for the email of Tim Tracy the Desman rep so that I can ask him a pertinent question about his study.
  • I have not gotten response to two emails to the Board Chairman about getting together on phone or in person to clarify one misty point in the calculations of the revenue raised by increases in the fines.
  • I will not receive a response for perhaps 30 days, instead of 5, to 10 Right to Know requests because of staff limitations (first reason) and need for legal review (second, additional reason given after a request for clarification). These are 10 separate requests not one request with 10 parts. At least two requests seem simple to fill individually within the 5-day period.

Not negative responses to questions or requests. No responses.

All Gadfly emails, he believes, have been pleasant, cordial.

Why has Gadfly had no success?

  • maybe everybody is busy, and they are setting necessary priorities
  • maybe they teach you in law school to ignore a possible petition
  • maybe there’s a legitimate reason not to talk with someone who may have caught you at something
  • maybe there’s a legitimate reason not to give out personal Board member emails
  • maybe there’s a legitimate reason not to give a consultant’s email info
  • maybe the Board members aren’t getting the emails through that group address
  • maybe I’m a Nobody
  • space reserved for your possibility

At least some of Gadfly’s emails could have been answered as cordially as they were written.

Silence.

But let’s end here with the bigger question.

Who in hell cares if the Bethlehem Parking Authority has a bad attitude toward the public if it is doing a good job of maintaining parking in the City?

If BPA is doing its job, what does it matter if they are nice guys or not?

They don’t have to be liked.

Nobody likes the Patriots.

Maybe we shouldn’t care about attitude. Maybe it matters naught. Zero.

Gadfly will leave you to think about that.

But one thing I gotta say. It does not pay to mess with the BPA. When I went to pay for my car in the North Street garage after the Oct 24 meeting, the ticket machine ate my credit card. Yes it did. Yessir. It was the 5 o’clockish quitting time. There was a line 12 deep behind me at the machine. I thought there was going to be a riot.

I swear, I couldn’t make this up.

Please, please, Mr. Postman
(Why’s it takin’ such a long time)
Why don’t you check it and see one more time for me
You gotta wait a minute, wait a minute
Wait a minute, wait a minute Mr. Postman
Ooh Mr. Postman
(Mr. Postman look and see)

 

2 W. Market: Missing Pieces (10)

(10th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Gadfly loves to present the full picture on issues. All sides.

Thank you to Stephen Repasch of the LVPC for illumination in the previous post of that body’s role in this multi-step bureaucratic process.

The issue of the zoning petition on 2 W. Market that we’ve been following now comes to the Bethlehem Planning Commission 4PM, Nov. 8, Town Hall.

And Gadfly realizes he doesn’t have the full picture.

  • There was that marathon hearing at the Bethlehem Zoning Board in 2016. What took so long before the decision in favor of Mr. Rij was made? It must have been a tough one to have taken so long. Must have been a close call. Gadfly understands the “resident” side, but what was the Zoning Board side? No minutes or transcript is readily available. The newspaper article makes it sound like the “pro” side was practicality (the building will be saved) and support from a nearby local business. I’m not sure I can see that decision taking all that time for those reasons. So, what was the Zoning Board side?
  • So the residents sued. Gadfly supposes that, in effect, the suit against the City was against that Zoning Board decision. Is there a way to get any detailed Court documents that might help us understand how the case played out in Court? The residents won — Gadfly realizes that this is past “history” now, but is there any kind of narrative decision by the Court that would help us see how the opposing positions were weighed? Anything that lawyer Tim would share if one of the resident group asked?
  • Now there seems a claim that after the residents won, the City was not pro-active in enforcement. If true, then once again we are missing the City side. If true, can anyone shed light on that?

Now, again, I guess this is all past history. This is a new petition and seems to be on different grounds.

But it was clear to see from resident commentary at the Oct 2 City Council meeting that the residents see this new petition bundled with that past history.

So if anyone can provide authoritative help filling in the missing pieces, there would be abundant Gadfly gratitude.

This thing about lack of a record of Zoning meetings without paying big cash for a transcript is awkward. Well, more than awkward. Could someone take minutes? Could there be an audio to which to refer (see how I avoided ending with a preposition)?

Explaining the Roles of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (9)

(9th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Stephen Repasch is Chairman of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

Dear The Bethlehem Gadfly:

I’d like to take a moment to explain the two roles of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. In one, the LVPC is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization, which includes the job of planning and allocating most of the transportation money spent on our roads, bridges, transit, and trails, including $534 million to be invested over the next four years.

In the second, the LVPC serves as the official planning commission of Lehigh and Northampton counties. In that role, the organization drafts dozens of regional plans, including the comprehensive plan, which provide a roadmap for regional land use.  We set the tone of how the Lehigh Valley should grow as a region.

Among the many land development tasks under our purview, municipal zoning amendments are reviewed by the LVPC, to determine whether the amendment is consistent with the The Comprehensive Plan – The Lehigh Valley …2030.

If the amendment is deemed to have a regional impact, or as we say “addresses matters of regional concern,” our professional planners determine whether the amendment is consistent with the comprehensive plan — as well as the impact if it is not — while making recommendations of what should be done to make it more consistent, as appropriate. We routinely makes those recommendations and find that most municipalities are receptive to our input.

However, if the proposed amendment addresses a matter of local concern, it is left for the governing body in the municipality to address, as they have the legal authority to do so under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code. The Comprehensive Plan – The Lehigh Valley …2030 looks at the best interests of the Lehigh Valley regionally. It simply does not involve the level of detail that would be needed to do block by block reviews of local plans. It is the municipality’s role to administer its own zoning code.

Last week, when a zoning amendment was proposed in Bethlehem, much like three other amendment requests on the agenda that night, it was a matter that addresses local concern, acknowledging that the decision rests with the municipality.

That has always been our job, and we will continue to do it impartially and professionally, in the best interest of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the Lehigh Valley.

Sincerely,

Stephen Repasch
Chairman of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?” (56)

(56th in a series of posts on parking)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?

Emily Dickinson, American poet

Gadfly is still processing his visit to the Bethlehem Parking Authority Board meeting October 24.

And still can’t believe that the hurdle that City Council asked the BPA to jump over before considering the proposal for fine increases wasn’t discussed at the meeting, though “it’s being taken care of.”

To Gadfly that’s like the president failing to mention and discuss the attempted assassination attempts on 14 major public figures at a Cabinet meeting two days after they occurred. Bit of an exaggeration. But I think you catch my drift. Seems unbelievable.

Why, a future historian of the BPA would have no idea from the minutes there was even a ripple of concern about BPA handling of the increase proposals. And Gadfly bets there is an interesting history to be written – sure of it, in fact, the Morning Call files he’s been browsing reveal significant drama.

Anyway.

What Gadfly really wants to talk about now (again) is the Authority’s attitude toward the public, using as example yours truly, His Gadness.

During Courtesy of the Floor at the previous September meeting of the BPA Board, the Solicitor body guard told Gadfly peremptorily, “No one gets to interrogate The Board.” And then after the end of the October meeting same said Solicitor body guard told same said Gadfly the Board didn’t need to answer questions then either.

No answers during, no answers after. Nice.

When?

But here’s Gadfly’s current case-in-point about BPA attitude toward the public.

In the minutes of the September meeting, we find: “Mr. Ed Gallagher arrived late for Courtesy of the Floor and wanted to discuss the parking fees.” The meeting started at 4; Gadfly arrived at 4:29.

Gadfly knows the reference to being late is not a big thing. But he still has a box of blue-ribboned medals for perfect attendance and promptness stamped with the likeness of the Virgin Mary from St. Philomena’s school.

And he admits that he was a bit miffed at going answerless at that Sept. meeting.

And the “late” reference felt like rubbing it in.

Especially since the lateness could reasonably be ascribed to the fault of BPA.

So Gadfly emailed the Board using the group email provided by the Exec Dir thusly: “I wonder if someone tomorrow would request an addition to the Sept. minutes about my lateness: ‘Mr. Gallagher was late for the meeting because the time given on the City website is 4:30. Mr. Gallagher has requested that Kevin Livingston and Louise Kelchner look in to fixing that so others wishing to attend the meeting do not run into the same error.’” [They have fixed it.]

Gadfly expected that a Board member would make such a motion before approval of the minutes that takes place at the top of the meeting before Courtesy of the Floor.

Didn’t happen.

Well, not the end of the world but surprising. What happened next was even more surprising.

After the meeting was over, Gadfly asked if members had received my email. The question was met with the equivalent of toe scrutinizing, and the BC [those of you paying attention last time will recognize this as Board Chairman] shrugged and physically dismissed my evident pique as inconsequential.

I was, as they say, blown off.

Gadfly could have been told “No.”

Gadfly could have been told “we didn’t think it important enough.”

Instead, Gadfly was treated as if he were a Nobody.

Now this is not Gadfly’s first rodeo, as Dr. Phil always says. And he wears his Big Boy pants religiously.

It’s not about me.

But about a BPA pattern of dismissiveness to the public – perhaps unconscious – that he has documented in past posts.

More about this attitude in following posts.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!