“Something about this just does not feel right” (52)

(52nd in a series of posts on parking)

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

Dear Gadfly,

I have found this entire situation with the BPA and the proposed Polk/East 3rd Street garage very bothersome throughout this process. Why? Because I don’t believe some public officials have operated entirely above board with the public. Now, I understand that the purchase of the subject site has been negotiated with the Sands in the amount of $2.1 million.

Was there a better deal out there for property in this vicinity? Perhaps, but now we may never know.

In October 2017 an owner of nearby property informed me that they were willing to consider selling a parcel to the BPA for development of this garage. At the time there was mention of the BPA taking the lot on East 3rd Street via eminent domain, a process and cost that could have become exorbitantly expensive considering that the owner of the Sands, who had majority control of this parcel, has some of the deepest pockets in the world.

This property owner informed me that they had already discussed this with one public official, but, knowing who that official was, I expressed concern that the message would ever be delivered to those who should know. So, with the property owner’s permission I contacted a second public official on October 26, 2017. I was informed by this second public official that this was the first time that this information had been provided, thereby confirming my earlier concern.

I provided the landowner’s contact information to the second public official so that conversations could be had about this option.

The owner of this second location has told me that they have never heard back from the City or BPA. Would there have been any acquisition savings? I don’t know, but the fact that an alternative was available and never followed up on raises serious questions in my opinion about the behind-the-scenes deal-making, lack of an overall strategy to address public parking in this area, and a complete and utter lack of flexibility in approaching these issues.

I firmly believe at this point that Council should think very seriously about whether they should be supporting fine increases at this time, until a full vetting of all information is made in a public forum, and until the relationship between meter rate increases and parking fines can be better defined for Council and the public in terms of the BPA’s longer-term planning for building garages. This authority doesn’t seem to be able to think outside the box and thus reverts to the same old practices and strategies that have put them exactly where they are today.

Something about this just does not feel right, and without going into actual accusations, sometimes I wonder whether there may be some conflicts of interest in the way the BPA’s business is being conducted relative to this proposed garage at Polk and East 3rd Street.


Two-fer on Wednesday (that’s tomorrow!)

Good Gadfly followers:

Gadfly has been extolling the fun of attending the Bethlehem Parking Authority monthly Board meeting tomorrow Wednesday at 4PM in the BPA headquarters on the corner of Main ‘n North.

Gadfly has even given you pictures in case you think you’d have trouble recognizing the place.

But who amongst us hasn’t been there paying a ticket? Fess up. C’mon, raise hands.

Or — should Gadfly say — trying to get out of a ticket.

The place is a kind of wailing wall, isn’t it?

People whining and wretching — not pretty.

But I forgot to mention that you could enjoy a double-header tomorrow. Zoning meets at 6 in Town Hall.

You can catch 2 good meetings.

We have a thread going on neighborhoods here on Gadfly and that issue is before Zoning. Mr. Atiyeh’s desire to build a Drug hospital (or is it a treatment facility?) at the corner of Center and Dewberry is, like the Flying Dutchman, come ’round again. Gadfly thinks the neighbors are a bit anxious.

Promises to be very interesting.

Well, Gadfly was trying to get individual emails of the BPA Board members so he could ask someone individually whether they were costuming now that we are getting close to Halloween. In fact, I guess you could call this the Halloween meeting of the BPA. But those emails don’t seem to be available.





The questions call for facts, clarity, and focus. (51)

(51st in a series of posts on parking)

Waldron Questions to BPA

Been a week since the BPA called time-out because City Council President Waldron requested answers to a list of questions before considering the BPA proposal for an increase in fines. (post #48)

Been a week since Gadfly provided you with Councilman Callahan’s vigorous objections to that action as unnecessary in terms of content and unfair in terms of timing. (post #49)

One week. Time for things to cool a bit. Gadfly had the damn runs the day of the proposed vote Oct 16. Not funny. Better now.

Gadfly passed the 14-question list on to you in post #48 but hadn’t looked at it. Till today.

Step back for a moment. Post #40. Where Gadfly starts to sum up his feelings on the whole process he followed religiously from mid-September on.

Here’s how that summing up went:

  • the Bethlehem Parking Authority is a slippery devil
  • Gadfly has been thinking about where he stands. Earlier he used the term “confused.” Today he’s thinking “twisted.”
  • Gadfly could live with a $1.50/hr. meter rate, though realizing that could be a hardship on some or even many. And Gadfly has no trouble with the fine increases. Gadfly might even go along with new Walnut St. and Polk St. garages.
  • So why does Gadfly feel twisted?
  • Because of the disingenuous way the BPA presented its case, and the condescending view of its audience (“us,” Gadfly followers) contained in that presentation.
  • Gadfly finds himself in the curious position of willing to accept the message while being repelled by the actions of the messenger.
  • Gadfly finds himself in the “revoltin’” position of hoping Council can do something, if not to deny the BPA proposal, but to force it to recognize how it has acted.

And now let’s stop again for a moment and remember that we’re talking about “real money” (Gadfly loves that scene in the “Wall Street” movie where solid and prudent father Martin Sheen is peeling off dollars for his wastrel son Charlie Sheen, saying, a few dollars here, few dollars there, and soon it adds up to real money): 20 million for a new Walnut St. Garage, soon $880,000/yr. debt service for the New St. Garage, millions for a Polk St. Garage. Real money.

So Gadfly looks at the 14 questions today and finds exactly what he felt was needed.

Waldron Questions to BPA

The questions call for facts, clarity, and focus.

While Gadfly was having the runs on Oct 16, he was wondering what he might say in public comment given a chance before the vote.

He was going to say that the Ghost haunting this whole process is the Polk St. Garage.

Has the decision to build a Polk St. Garage been made or not?

From the documents presented, Gadfly could never seem to get an answer straight in his mind.

Gadfly has only really been “paying attention” since he received his buzz in mid-September, but he was aware even in his cocoon stage that the question of “garages” was an open wound.

It shouldn’t have taken a public relations consultant for the BPA to figure that out.

And that concern should have been addressed.

Instead, it was muted, hidden – even, dare I say, falsified.

Gadfly is always trying to boil down mountains of info into manageable pieces that will crystallize understanding, his own understanding.

Here’s what he came up with as representative of his overall problem with the Desman report and BPA attitude.

Parking fines

In the Desman consultant memo of Sept. 13 presented as justification for the fine increases attached to BPA’s Sept 24 letter to President Waldron requesting Council to act on the proposal (phew! not a well constructed sentence so far), we learn the exact amount of the handicapped violation fine in New Brunswick and the exact duration prior to late payment penalty in Wilmington but NOT that the decision to build a multi-million-dollar garage here on Polk St. had definitely been made.

Gadfly got a lot of minute detail on what he really didn’t need to know all that much about and nothing on what is crucial to know.

Gadfly reads everything closely. English profs read closely. And was confused, twisted.

If we need a Polk St. garage, say so, make the case – Gadfly is ready to go along.

But the Gadfly felt he was being treated as if he couldn’t pay attention.

Gadfly could be far wrong – he’s always willing to be whacked upside the head or have his finger put in the pencil-sharpener (good Catholic guilt) – but the impression he got was that the BPA isn’t used to being questioned.

To Gadfly’s mind there was not one document in this process that “spoke” cleanly and straight-forwardly to “the public.”

Maybe the BPA does in a case like this exactly need a PR person to shape palatable and persuasive proposals responsible to multiple and legitimate concerns in an obviously contested atmosphere.

I don’t know where this will end. Political strategy is far above Gadfly’s pay grade. But I think what President Waldron and Council did was eminently fair. And Gadfly refers you to his 7 “exhibits” for supporting evidence to show you how he reached that conclusion.

(By the way, as promised, Gadfly has done some research into the conjoined twins – fees and fines separately funded – and has an answer. Will be writing about it soon.)

The ball Gadfly is keeping his eye on (7)

(7th is a series of posts on Lehigh University)

“But let’s keep our eye on the ball. That [a walkable campus] is not what the Gadfly is raising questions about.” (Gadfly, post #6 in this series)

I admire that you are worried about low wage workers, but I think you are missing one important point. Many of these workers may already walk or take the bus to campus. If so, there would be no hardship at all imposed by these changes. In fact, it sounds like people who already take the bus or who choose to utilize the shuttle will actually benefit by having more money in their pocket. (streets.ahead, post #5 in this series)

The ball Gadfly is keeping his eye on is how low wage, non-unionized workers – some, maybe many of whom will be Bethlehem residents and tax payers — will be impacted by Lehigh’s self-conscious parking decisions on the “Path to Prominence.”

After all, one of the ways you measure a just society is the way it treats its most vulnerable people. (Does that sound silly, sentimental, old-fashioned? Gadfly is always sensitive to the charge of being a blubbery bleeding-heart. Tries not to be.)

And Gadfly literally penciled into his spiral notebook (not taking notes on his phone yet, like many of you modern technophiles do) a recent, inspiring observation by one of our local elected officials that there was “increased advocacy for people of low income” at City Hall.

Let me tell you, that wakened a smile in the little child who still lives within Gadfly, the child who grew up in an across-the-tracks neighborhood called “Tin Town.” (Our scrub football team was the “Tin Town Tigers” – colors, faded red and white — you gotta love it!)

Gadfly is simply asking questions. Questions do not imply hostility. Questions imply ignorance.

The Admin at the info session Gadfly attended was not prepared to answer the question of who would use the Northside Commuter lot and how the cafeteria-grounds-cleaning, etc. folk would be impacted, if at all.

Gadfly would simply like some conversation on this subject.

Gadfly doesn’t want this to be a tempest in a teapot.

And, to comment on streets.ahead’s two points:

1) yes, might be no hardship on low class workers; Gadfly would just like to hear Lehigh (and them) say so, and

2) Gadfly is not worried about such workers having a choice of where to park but being forced where to park.

It sounds as if “location-based” spaces on campus will fill up and that the Northside Commuter lot is necessary for the overflow.

Don’t know for sure. Just need more info.

And it is just not clear to Gadfly where the low wage workers fit into “the plan.”

Just need more info.

Calling for Local Colorists!

Local color, a style of artistic expression derived from the presentation of the features and peculiarities of a particular locality and its inhabitants.

Gadfly taught American literature, and one of the movements in 19th century American literary history is called the “local color movement.” There were, for instance, a group of New England writers, a group of mid-western writers, and so forth. These writers drew on local character types, writing the kind of story that, in effect, was instantly recognizable as coming from and helping define a certain area. The kind of writing that, in effect, could not have been written anywhere else.

Gadfly would like to have local color creative contributions as a regular feature of the Gadfly.

A “fun” feature that reminds us that real life happens outside the Town Hall chambers where life is all business and sometimes heated business and even sometimes monkey business.

We are an interesting City filled with interesting stories. There’s real life out there. Bring it to us in whatever form you can.

Like the old tv show used to say,

“there are a thousand stories in the naked city, and this is just one.”

So on our “About” page I describe the local color feature this way:

Local Color: original creative work with recognizably local Bethlehem subjects or connections — art, poems, mini-essays, vignettes, photographs, songs — that help us see or think about our town and townspeople in interesting ways.

Thus far we have two photos from Vicki — one at her home, the other at work — and two Gadfly vignettes — one on Schoenersville Rd, one on Lorain Ave. — as examples.

Let’s hear from you. Tell Gadfly your ideas. Color us up!

Homecoming this Wednesday!

Good Gadfly followers:

Gadfly is so excited at the chance to meet many of you down near Broad and Main Wednesday at 4.

No, silly, not at the Brew Works but at the Bethlehem Parking Authority digs at Main and North.

Better than the Brew Works, a chance to hang out with some of the most well known names in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley:




Kounoupis (Billy K!)



A regular Who’s Who! Don’t miss!

I know, I know, you will think me a bit obsessive about directions to the get-together, but I thought I would add the satellite shot for the convenience of you long-distance commuters:


The building’s hard to miss. In fact, it’ll be a bit like going home. You helped pay for it. Don’t lie.

“a self-reinforcing phenomenon benefiting legions!”(6)

(6th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

“Like Gadfly, I too was on the faculty at Lehigh. My wife and I have been a single car household for forty-nine years. One consequence was that I walked home (West Market Street) every day… best twenty-five minutes of the ‘work’ day. So, if Lehigh somehow promotes more pedestrian commutes, it could become a self-reinforcing phenomenon benefiting legions!”  Steve K

“Overall I think it is very exciting for the City that Lehigh is looking to emphasize the walkability of campus and reduce reliance on cars.” streets.ahead

Ooooo, my, Gadfly rushes to high-five the above comments by Steve and streets.ahead!

Steve, I thought we were the only one-car family left in North America!

It was exactly a 2.0 mile walk from my home on the northside to Maginnes Hall where I first worked (I later moved uphill to Drown Hall, and sometimes took the bus there). When I was young it took 30 minutes. I used to joke that I could literally “see” old age advancing, death approaching, for when I retired, it took me 32.5 minutes.

I “know” the walk. I know that in springtime as you walk along the trees blossoming next to God’s Acre and you look across at the Mountain greening, the feeling is orgasmic. I know that if you take the left path around City Hall, the wide steps augment a downward momentum into almost an exhilarating jog whose energy doesn’t dissipate till you have crossed well onto the bridge. I know there are exactly 613 steps on the Fahy bridge for my 6’1″, 205 pound stride. I know that in the winter about 2/3’s of the way across the bridge a wind coming from the west hugging the shoreline will make you wish you took that job in the south. I know that when you hit 3rd and New, one of the worst intersections for walkers in the City, you say your prayers. I know that co-workers tried to give me rides, but I waved them on. I know that when I stopped walking, the people who set their watches by me asked my son the UPS driver if I had died. Believe me, I “know” the walk.

I know that years of walking are good for your health. I was the second-fastest 75+er in the Runner’s World 5k this past weekend. (Council meeting watchers will note how speedily I get to the podium!)

So, I rush to high-five the above comments by Steve and streets.ahead!

And I call your attention to the wonderful things in the Lehigh Connections: A New Mobility Ecosystem plan. I applaud both Lehigh’s academic plan and walkability aspirations. No question.

But let’s keep our eye on the ball. That is not what the Gadfly is raising questions about.

More later.

Northside 2027 Gets Movin’ (2) (3)

(2nd in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

(3rd in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

“Just about everyone who has ever run for elected office in a city has talked about the value of neighborhoods.  This is especially true in Bethlehem where neighborhoods provide the backbone of our city. Neighborhoods and the community institutions within those neighborhoods have helped to develop and maintain the quality of life that people in Bethlehem appreciate and cherish.”

So spaketh Councilman Willie Reynolds in his “Bethlehem 2017” (see the Gadfly sidebar for the full report), and back on Oct 11 he and Mayor Donchez put some spit behind those words kicking off Northside 2027 at a meeting at Liberty High School.

Mayor Donchez and Councilman Reynolds

The program will soon have a website, but at Liberty the organizers talked of such main goals for Northside as creating a sense of place and identity, fostering economic vitality through the commercial corridors, supporting the housing market, and generally serving the neighborhood in a variety of ways.

When we talk of “Northside,” what exactly are we walking about? Take a look at the yellow section here: roughly Broad St on the south, Laurel on the north, Mauch Chunk on the west, Maple on the east.


These two sections below cribbed from the City’s call for consultant proposals will give you an idea of what’s up.


The goal of the study is to enhance the Northside 2027 neighborhood by stemming declines in housing stock, promoting homeownership, improving the visual attractiveness of the area, ensuring vehicular/pedestrian mobility and safety, strengthened community facilities and improving general quality of life in the neighborhoods.

The areas of study will at least include streetscape, traffic, recreation, community facilities, housing and population changes and commercial vitality. Recognizing the limitation of City budgets, the plan should provide a combination of capital and program improvements to balance the number of low, moderate and higher cost recommendations.


– identification of trends in housing changes, programs for housing improvements and priorities for such improvements

– enhancement of the area to retain and strengthen commercial and mixed use development along East Broad and Linden Streets

– identification areas where public improvements consisting of lights, landscaping, paving, signage, and street furniture may be used to enhance the area, along with a prioritization of the projects

– a review the existing transportation system for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists and provide recommendation for improved safety and mobility

– a review the existing zoning or other ordinance provisions that apply in these neighborhoods and provide recommendations for ordinance amendments that can improve quality of life in the neighborhoods

– how existing programs within the neighborhood can contribute to maximize resources in the neighborhood enhancement process

And the City has already put some muscle behind the spit. More on that in an upcoming post.

The Gadfly selfishly wishes the line could fly three blocks north!  How about a new neighborhood: “North Northside” or “Northside North” or “North of Northside.” Help me out here, folks!


Wednesday is a special day

Good Gadfly followers:

Gadfly knows that some of you are thinking about taking him up on sharing the fun of watching City government in operation (instead of just through the newspapers!) by coming with him to the Bethlehem Parking Authority meeting this Wednesday at 4 at BPA headquarters, North and Main Sts. (Gadfly knows you eagle-eyed followers will say the City website says a 4:30 start, but Gadfly went last month at 4:30 and the meeting was already far in session, so he’d say best to come at 4 not to miss anything).

Gadfly knows that but also that some of you are probably nervous and shy about just, in effect, showing up at somebody else’s “house” unannounced. I know, Gadfly felt that way too the first time. It’s natural.

But let Gadfly put you at ease. BPA invited us!  Yep! Listen to the invite at mins. 4:00 – 4:20 here on the video from the Sept 20 open meeting for the Mayor to receive public comments on the proposed parking meter increase:

Sept 20 public meeting on parking meter rate increase.

I heard “Come on Down!”

But where is BPA headquarters, you ask again? North and Main. Gadfly gave you a picture last time, but some of you might recognize it better from a view from Main St. heading to the northside downtown.  Here y’ go!

BPA garage 2

Hope to see you there. Gadfly gets lonely.

Gadfly misses one or two important points (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

From streets.ahead

Overall I think it is very exciting for the City that Lehigh is looking to emphasize the walkability of campus and reduce reliance on cars. You describe a colleague circling around to try and find a parking spot. Is this because there were no spots available on campus, or because they were trying to get lucky and find a spot right in front of their building? If a faculty member has a reserved parking spot that is a 5 minute walk from their building, would that eliminate the desire to circle campus in a car?

I admire that you are worried about low wage workers, but I think you are missing one important point. Many of these workers may already walk or take the bus to campus. If so, there would be no hardship at all imposed by these changes. In fact, it sounds like people who already take the bus or who choose to utilize the shuttle will actually benefit by having more money in their pocket.

(Gadfly has moved streets.ahead’s “comment” up to a top-level post. Gadfly is not happy with the way that WordPress seems to bury comments. And, since this is a contrasting view, Gadfly especially wants to make sure it isn’t missed.)

Whatcha doin’ next Wednesday afternoon?

Good Gadfly followers:

I mentioned in my “Mirthday” post a few days ago how much fun I’m having.

And I was thinking this morning that I should invite you to share it.

Since the first of the year, I’ve been going to a wide range of meetings and seeing how the Boards and Commissions – staffed with regular, normal people just like you ‘n me – make careful and thoughtful decisions for the good of the City.

This is my Norman Rockwell fantasyness in action!

(I’ve mentioned Rockwell several times, and it occurs to me that especially young ‘uns out there don’t have the foggiest idea whom I’m talking about. Will have to spend a post filling you in sometime.)

And I’m often the only spectator there. Even though the cheap seats are free.

BPA garage

So I was thinking that I would invite you to come to meetings with me.

Turns out the Bethlehem Parking Authority Board – made up of people with some of the most familiar names in town – will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Wednesday the 24th at 4.

The digs are beautiful – corner of North and Main. You know where it is. You’ve passed it a hundred times.

Join me, wouldya?

(By the way, was good to see so many of my new friends this morning at Runner’s World. I know I looked like a flounder flipping and gasping for air on a dock, but I am proud to say I was the 2nd fastest 75+ yr-old south of the river today. Your encouragements much appreciated.)

“the latest steps in the planned parking death spiral” (50)

(50th in a series of posts on parking)

Al Wurth is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science

Oct 16, 2018

Dear City Clerk and City of Bethlehem Councilors:

I will be unable to attend tonight’s city council meeting.  Please add my comments to the appropriate courtesy of the floor, and/or include them in the minutes of the meeting if possible.


The current ordinances’ proposed increasing parking penalties are the latest steps in the planned parking death spiral undertaken by the city government under the current mayor, as part of the city’s last half-century pattern of destroying its historic foundations to accommodate cars.  This incredibly costly and destructive plan over the years has its most obnoxious manifestations in the white elephant parking deck construction in key areas of the city, most recently in the million-dollar a year madness of the New Street Garage. The plan to add another white elephant parking garage on Polk street–an area with more parking in a 4-block radius than probably any other area of the city can only be called doubling down on an already bad bet.

I recently attended both the Parking Authority hearing and the Public Safety Committee meeting on the Authority proposals.

I support the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee to reject the proposed ordinances authorizing increases in parking penalties, which are another example of the accelerating death spiral of low-demand high-priced parking.  I hope you will join the committee majority in returning this proposal to the parking authority with a mandate to develop a better plan for the city’s parking future.

Increased parking fines are another attempt to raise the cost for parkers, as they are intended to increase revenue for the parking authority, but, as the consultant and the authority director acknowledged, higher fines might not mean more fine revenue, but perhaps raise more revenue by deterring scofflaw behavior and theoretically realizing more payment of fees.

However, any monopolist, like the Parking Authority, can only extract so much premium from its customers, even state-enforced monopolies (that rely on fees and not taxes), as they must compete with other parking and, as the local merchants make clear, with other businesses that have lower parking costs. In fact, even if the city could charge money for every parking space in town, it would be exploiting the lack of short term choices for parkers, but it could not control the longer term choices of property owners and business customers about where to locate and shop (potentially out of the too-costly city–as the local merchants fear).

Any point-source of parking is a design/location (geographic) subsidy to property owners and businesses and residents near the parking garage or lot site. That subsidy decreases with distance from that point source.  Such point-source parking, especially when authorized, funded, and managed by the city on behalf of its citizens and taxpayers, is inescapably political.  (As I have noted in past comments to council, everyone in town would like to have a reserved parking space in front of their property managed and paid for, or at least subsidized, by the city.) Publicly sponsored parking facilities are giveaways of taxpayer money and borrowing authority to favored (close-by) property owners and a long-term burden that shows up in higher taxes and higher interest rates on city-issued debt.

Street parking, on the other hand, already managed as part of right-of-way maintenance, offers lower-cost, more distributed, city-sponsored benefits, as each adjacent property has a city-maintained space and other spaces up and down the block, each serving slightly different locations, as drivers seek to park at the closest free space.

The parking death spiral is typically caused by building too-costly parking facilities in areas where demand isn’t great enough to make parkers pay the high cost. Discussed by citizens in proposals for borrowing and capital projects, like the New Street Garage, which was projected to lose a million dollars a year, because of its high costs and low revenue projections, the death spiral is now reaching the next stage with the increases in meter rates and the current proposed increases in fines. These increased fees probably won’t significantly increase revenues due to elasticity of demand, and the likely revenue increase from street parking fees and fines will, by effectively raising parking costs, reduce parking usage, offsetting the price increases. Further price increases will likely increase flight from the city money pits to suburbs, merchants with free parking, and away from now-more-costly street meter parking.  The eventual result could be default on parking authority bonds, dumping them in the city’s lap, or tax increases to make up for the losses of the overbuilt and underused costly parking system.

A much more prudent alternative to feeding the death spiral is to treat parkers like customers and make their visit pleasant and inexpensive and take advantage of location values of all existing properties, and to use fees and fines to regulate parking, and encourage turnover in high-demand areas, and to cut prices (but probably raise revenues) in areas of low demand where blocks of meters sit empty due to insufficient demand at the already excessive (now-increasing) price.

Above all, emphasize efficient use of already existing parking, which can be managed intelligently, not to say artfully, to maximize parking convenience and revenue while avoiding long-term capital commitments in an uncertain urban transportation world.  Make money with existing street spaces by charging the right prices based on demand.

With good parking MANAGEMENT, the city can minimize parking investment costs, enforcement costs, and maximize convenience for drivers and non-drivers and the use of existing parking assets like street parking. Free meters for first half-hour, low costs for short term parking with turnover, cheaper rates at less convenient but useful spaces for longer term workday parking, and many others, and many other possible variations can optimize the uses of existing cheap spaces and meet demand with a fraction of the risk.

While the city government’s dream that it can raise revenues from someone other than voters, e.g., from out-of-town customers and visitors, has obvious political appeal, it is harder to please the voters if the city businesses and neighborhoods are languishing because they suffer from high-cost, low-convenience parking.

Please reject the Parking Authority’s plan to unleash a plague of tickets, fees and fines on everyone but the beneficiaries of the authority’s unwise parking investments, and insist that they rethink their proposals to move Bethlehem toward a 21st century transportation system.


Al Wurth

Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (6)

(6th in a series of posts about Bethlehem Moments)

Ok, Ok, Gadfly has to explain himself. He promised the “inaugural Bethlehem Moment” would be last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Some of you were watching, waiting.

Have mercy.

You saw Gadfly sweating out those 7 “Exhibits” supporting his rather negative view of the Bethlehem Parking Authority.  I mean, it’s obvious (right?) that Gadfly just doesn’t toss off (right?) those tightly argued (right?) and finely crafted (right?) mini-essays .

And he had the runs all Tuesday anticipating the parking issue at the Council meeting.

So Gadfly didn’t have time to pull together a “Moment.”

But we’ll do it next time: Wednesday, Nov. 7. A Wednesday because of elections on the regularly scheduled Tuesday.

And granddaughter Riley, apprentice Gadfly, will do the reading (wave hello to the good Gadfly followers, Riley!) so Gadfly can use his public comment time for something to scorch in his usual fashion.

But I said last time that there was “One more thing to chew on.”

In bits and pieces over the last several posts on this theme, I have actually been writing a proposal to Council for incorporation of a “Bethlehem Moment” into the opening meeting ritual. There is one piece left: the content and purpose.

What should the moments be about and why?

Let’s just talk about that.

Look at Peter’s tough comment on my #2 post. And look at Barbara’s #4 post. Not everybody agrees that even opening with a prayer and the pledge is a good thing.

And I do believe that I have used the active verb “celebrate” to describe the “Moments” — that we would celebrate Bethlehem history.

I may need to put an asterisk wherever I may have used that verb.

If I know anything about history from my professional life, I know it is controversial, in fact, should be controversial. Once again, note that my last major project was called History on Trial.” If I have done anything of value in my professional life, I have encouraged, demanded critiquing history.

Open up any one of those projects, and take a look. For instance, go to the “episodes” page of the Jefferson-Hemings Controversy.  A profoundly meaningful issue in our history brilliantly represented recently in this painting by Titus Kaphar entitled “Behind the Myth of Benevolence.” Browse down the chapter headings. Note the wonderful images done by one of my students — click in and get them in larger size.

We must celebrate the good, the great things in our history.

But I do not believe in mindless, thoughtless allegiance and patriotism. I do not believe in history as a collection of pious genuflections.

We must also “celebrate” the darker moments in our history.

They are formative too.

If history doesn’t make you think, it is not doing its job.

So I see the “Moments” as varied in content (as varied as the nature of the possible Momentors” I outlined last time) but unified in purpose: to help us know where we came from, where we are, and where we might be heading.

That’s the way I see this project.

So let me try out a few so you can see what you think. And what suggestions you have.

One thing: Ha! I’m finding 30-seconds is tough!

Mr. Callahan’s Colloquy (49)

(49th in a series of posts on parking)

Nicole Radzievich, “Council postpones vote on whether to hike Bethlehem parking fines.” Morning Call, October 16, 2018.

“Councilman Bryan Callahan . . . said Tuesday the infrastructure the parking revenue would pay for is crucial. Another South Side garage would benefit several nonprofits, including the Northampton Community College. He said the prospect of a garage there has been on the city’s radar for years.”

So have you been doing your homework? Are you keeping up? It’s easy to forget that multi-million-dollar decisions with our money are on the table here. Don’t fade out on Gadfly.


Did you read the memo from City Council to the Bethlehem Parking Authority with a series of questions to answer before Council would consider BPA’s proposal to raise the parking fines? The questions should be answered by and the proposal considered at the Council meeting Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Let Gadfly expand a bit on Nicole’s reference to Councilman Callahan’s quarrel with Council President Waldron’s action. Callahan’s comments were vigorous.

Councilman Callahan, Council liaison to the BPA, objected to asking the BPA to do this:

  • it seemed a delaying tactic
  • this has been on the horizon since 2013
  • should have been no surprise
  • BPA was not trying to sneak something through
  • dumping 14 questions on BPA the night before the vote was ridiculous
  • Northampton Community College is now in a predicament
  • some questions – walkability – have nothing to do with BPA
  • parking garages are part of a walkable city
  • lot of politics involved

The big new things that Gadfly learned from Councilman Callahan’s vigorous comments were:

  • the Polk St Garage is definite
  • the identity of main users of the proposed Polk St. Garage: Northampton Community College (300 spaces), St. Luke’s (50), Charter Arts (50), Factory (30)
  • the leases are full-rate not discount as in the New St Garage
  • “All of them are non-profits . . . paying full boat, they are not getting a discount rate . . . and willing to sign long-term leases”

Council President Waldron explained the rationale for the letter, and Councilman Reynolds, while agreeing with Councilman Callahan on such points as the inappropriateness of several questions, did so as well.

Councilman Reynolds (a bit compressed and edited, almost exact):

The situation is complicated. This isn’t just about the fines. We need a fuller conversation about how the different parts come together. This is not just about the fines but the efficiency of our parking system and about how all of our parking facilities are going to work together. Ultimately, we do have to raise the fines . . . but that is only one piece of a much bigger equation . . . and having more information about where the BPA is going with some of its financing is important. Some of those questions are not for the BPA but getting answers to those questions is necessary. Some of those questions are vital to our decision. Getting more information early on about any bond guarantee down the road fits into this conversation.

With me? Still thinking?

The Value of Neighborhood Associations (2)

(2nd in a series of posts on neighborhoods – see also Northside)

Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.

Thank you Gadfly. You mention the Airbnb issue, and that is all about the threat they pose to neighborhoods. Commercial operations (whole house rentals with absentee owners) are popping up in Bethlehem’s neighborhoods, not just the historic district. We are fighting to protect Bethlehem’s neighborhoods. Thanks for creating a thread about the Airbnb issue.

As a resident of the historic district, I can say that it is not so much the age of the houses that makes us a cohesive neighborhood; it is the existence of our neighborhood association (BHDA) that makes it possible to know and interact with our neighbors. (BTW – BHDA is not just an organization of home owners; anyone can belong. We even have members who don’t live in the district.) As you have noted with Mt. Airy and their terrific work with the Rose Garden proposal and Armory issue, the benefit of an association is its ability to be a vehicle for community engagement and action. Perhaps identifying neighborhoods could lead to the development of more neighborhood associations. That would contribute a lot to maintaining the small-town feeling of our large city.

You’ve Got Me thinking about “Neighborhoods” (1)

Gadfly seems to be thinking a lot about neighborhoods.

  • people concerned about Airbnb in the north Historical District
  • people concerned about 2 W. Market in the north Historical District
  • concerns about my own neighborhood listening to the concerns of others
  • my consciously subscribing (paying) to the Bethlehem Press, a community paper
  • Northside 2027 starting
  • discussion of improvements for the Rose Garden
  • Streetscaping yesterday
  • concern about “Lehigh sprawl” just expressed on these pages
  • to name a few of the recent mental dots

Bethlehem is actually a pretty big town, isn’t it?

But Gadfly chooses to think about it as a small town. Gadfly chooses to look at the town through Norman Rockwell paintings, which he has said several times in these pages from the very “About” page onward. Gadfly chooses to look at Bethlehem through Frank Capra movies – I think of Greg With-No-Last-Name who showed up at a Council meeting and extolled the “Capra-esque” quality of the town.

Gadfly wants Bethlehem to have the feel of a small town.  Gadfly wants Bethlehem to have a neighborhood feel.

Bethlehem is actually a pretty big town. But it is made up of neighborhoods. Gadfly is getting to realize that more and more.

Southside. Streetscaping yesterday was wonderful. I guess I missed presentations. But when I stopped in the place was bright, colorful, full of buzz and chatter. People giving ideas about the Southside Gateway area. Helping to create their space. Exciting. Empowering. Kudos to the organizers. (Gadfly, whose bladder is out of warranty, offered the need for public restrooms for walkers and tourists. I was politely told the dark place where I could post my stickie with that idea!)

Northside 2027. Councilman Reynolds talking about the importance of William Penn and “TJ,” drifting me back to the Highland Ave. playground in Lansdowne, Pa., where Gadfly (he was then known as “Gig” or “Giggy” – you can’t make this stuff up!) learned about life (like how to open a contraband quart beer bottle without an opener). Reynolds and Gadfly #2 Bill Scheirer reminding us how certain major streets are configured to get traffic “through” neighborhoods and thus detract from, even destroy neighborhoods.

West Bethlehem – wow! Gadfly caught a whiff of the neighborhood bonding when the Armory issue was hot earlier in the year, and then in the last couple Council meetings the Rose Garden discussion has really opened his eyes. O, my, take a look at the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association https://mana18018.wordpress.com/mission/. Councilman Callahan has remarked several times that the City has not done enough for the west side, but the residents certainly haven’t been sitting on their hands.

It pains Gadfly that people may be quietly worrying about “Lehigh sprawl.”

Gadfly remembers Seth Moglen at Council eloquently describing developers swallowing up the properties in his section of the Southside.

Gadfly #1 Antalic’s lamentations over Montclair Ave. and thereabouts return as regularly as the full moon.

Gadfly is not being very coherent here. He’s just recognizing that for him an important theme is percolating that may result in some coherent thoughts later.

Think of this post as Notes on Neighborhoods for Future Writing.

But maybe I can bring this ramble to a point by asking for a census of neighborhoods.

If we had a map (maybe there is one, maybe somebody could do one) that clearly shows our neighborhoods. You can look at a Philadelphia map, for instance, and see Old City, Society Hill, Fish Town, Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, and so forth.

What is our town like looked at that way?

Do people still talk of “The Village”?  If you are going past the Sands toward Hellertown, what is that area called if you turn right on Lynn? I’ve never been there. And when the street was closed for a while, I wondered if supplies had to be helicopter’d in.

Help me think about neighborhoods in Bethlehem.

There’s some homework.

“of great concern to the neighborhood folk near campus” (4)

(4th in a series of posts about Lehigh University)

Gadfly, thank you for this, and for your energy and advocacy. If I might just add: there is one piece missing, and it is of great concern to the neighborhood folk near [Lehigh’s] campus, and that is our expectation that Lehigh will begin knocking down homes to create more parking on the fringes of campus, but in our neighborhoods. It’s not an unconfirmed rumor, but it’s a long-term plan; just not sure how long-term that may be. Note how many homes Lehigh has bought up in the area near Alumni Hall, for example . . . . This is a HUGE concern of some of us, who see the Lehigh sprawl threatening usable family homes that are definitely in demand on the Southside (if they are not taken over by the big companies who only rent to students, whether that’s legal or not!). Will you bring this up in your next flight to council? This is a concern that neighbors are expressing; and some are beginning to say maybe it’s time to just move. Could we all work together to STABILIZE neighborhoods, assure affordable housing for many, and be good neighbors to one another?


Gadfly will not normally publish anonymous comments, but the writer here is known to him and the wish for anonymity is understandable and valid.

Time Out, Bethlehem Parking Authority! (48)

(48th in a series of posts on parking)

So City Council was supposed to consider the fines part of the proposed rate increase by the Bethlehem Parking Authority at its regular meeting last night Tuesday Oct. 16.

You have seen Gadfly work this issue to an inch of its life over the past 47 posts.

You have seen Gadfly after balancing information on both sides labor through 7 “exhibits” laying out his position not only on the fines but the whole process — remember Gadfly sees the meter rates and the fines as conjoined twins. Hard not to talk about them together.

The climax was coming.

It was like approaching the last episode of “Mash.” (Sorry, young ‘uns.)

I had the runs all day.                              time out

It wasn’t pretty.

And then BPA called a time out.

One might say it was a forced time out.

O, my.

The day before, Council President Waldron sent BPA a memo containing “follow up questions [14] that they would like answered before First Reading of parking fine ordinances.”

And BPA understandably asked for an extension of time to comply with the request.

In keeping with the way we do things here at Gadfly,  here is the Council memo with questions without any comment.


Read it yourself. Form your opinion. And we’ll talk later.

Gadfly Quixote Tilting Again (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Hi Darlene:

So I offered my two cents about Lehigh U and the Lehigh parking lot again at Council last night. Last week at Planning, I couldn’t see Tracy because of the posters, but – ha! — you looked like your chair was on fire – and I thought you were going to jump out and come after me. But this is the kind of thing that jangles Gadfly nerves. I hope you understand.

I’m guessing that Lehigh will next be before Planning again on the College of Health at Adams and Morton. I would like to see Lehigh lay out in more detail the aspects of their Parking study relating to off-campus parking (have you guys seen their study?). And I’m copying Adrienne Washington and the Planning Board with this letter in case I miss the next time Lehigh appears. If I’m not there, maybe somebody will have this letter or remember my concerns. I did not catch the name of the Lehigh vice-president present last week, but I assume Adrienne can share with him.

1) I’m wondering about Lehigh’s use of that Northside lot now and possible more need for off-campus parking in the future. At a previous City board meeting (I forget which one, I hang around a lot of them!), Adrienne said the parking study showed the campus could absorb the lost parking spaces. I got up and questioned whether by campus she was including the upper and over campuses. She said yes. I’m sure she said the “campus” could absorb all lost parking spaces due to construction. I worked on that lower campus for almost 50 years and always thought of parking as tight. I went to work earlier and earlier in the morning (like before 7AM) when I drove (I was mainly a walker) in order to get a parking space close to my building. From my window I could see colleagues circling several times hoping for an open space. We would joke about it – “there he goes again!” So I always thought parking tight and questioned Adrienne. I couldn’t see how the lower campus would function if parking was taken away there, and thus I asked if she was saying that there would always be spaces available somewhere across all our campuses. I’m sure she said the campus could absorb all lost parking spaces due to construction. No mention of off campus parking. Therefore, I was surprised to hear about the 150 spaces in the “Northside Commuter Lot.” So what happened? I think we should clearly understand openly what’s going on here. And, further, I think we should clearly understand openly if there will be additional off-campus parking needs. It looks to me like the “Path to Prominence” is being phased in over several years. Is the 150 spaces the current need that will need to be augmented as the Lehigh plan hits full stride? The estimate of lost spaces is over 800 total, larger by 100 spaces that our largest garage, 1/3 larger than the new New St. garage. That’s a lot of spaces that Lehigh self-consciously designed to lose. I’m not sure the City should be bailing Lehigh out. And if the City has a better use for that lot. A Gadfly poster reports that the lot was constructed using CDBG funding during the City’s 250th Anniversary to provide parking for users of the Sand Island amenities such as the Towpath and Ice House.

2) This one is squarely in Gadfly’s mission. Gadfly looks out for the common folk. Let’s back up for a minute. Lehigh parking will now be highly regulated — location-based parking and all of that. Faculty and staff will have some choice. Parking on lower campus will now cost $500/yr., and there is free parking on the other side of Stabler arena (the moon) and in the Northside Commuter lot (3/4’s of a mile from the lowest part of lower campus). Parkers in the NCL will be bused to Farrington Square (the lowest point of lower campus) where they will connect with another bus if their workplace is farther up-campus (the type bus is also of interest to me, but that is for another day). Lehigh must have made some conclusions about whether the spaces on campus would fill, thus forcing some people into the free lot. Lehigh must have made some calculations about the possibility that the free lot would fill before satisfying the demand. What happens then? Lehigh also must have made some conclusions of who would choose the free lots. That’s all info that should be laid out. Here’s why. On the surface, common sense tells you that low wage workers (graduate student teaching and research assistants, adjunct faculty often working at other places too, cafeteria-grounds-cleaning people), not able to afford $500, would, of necessity, choose the free lot and put up with added inconvenience that in some cases, according to my estimates, might add 80-90 minutes to their work day. Actually, the admin at the information session I attended didn’t know if the cafeteria-grounds-cleaning people were even considered Lehigh staff under this plan since they actually work for Sodexho and places like that. So that is a key question. Where do these low-wage, non-union, probably overwhelmingly minority people fit into the plan? These people will be Bethlehem residents and tax payers to a large extent and vulnerable – they can not question, can not rock the boat. Somebody has to make sure they are treated fairly. Some probably work at night when the parking will not be so regulated and thus might not be a problem.

But there may be no problems here at all. Gadflies just are by nature jittery. I just think Lehigh should simply lay it out to show that they have considered some important issues, especially people issues, especially Bethlehem people issues. And that we know if there is any impact on our residents and taxpayers. The end of the conversation between the Lehigh lawyer and your Gadfly at Planning last week was classic, he saying Lehigh had complied with all the rules and regulations, your humble Gadfly, sounding like Jimmy Stewart in an old Capra movie, ventured something corny like “Waallll (can you hear the Stewart imitation?), there’s law and there’s concern for people.”

Simple explanations could probably answer all these questions. But I think they should be asked. I am always careful to frame my annoying gadflyness with how great the Lehigh plan is. No question there.

I have a thread on this on the Gadfly blog, and I am hoping that you will keep me in the loop, so that I can keep the ever-growing number of followers posted. In fact, direct contributions by City folk and or Lehigh folk would be very welcome. Adrienne told me she looks in on Gadfly once in a while. Others might need to be reminded: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/

Fight the good fight, as I always say—


Exhibit 7: The Coup de Grace (47)

(47th in a series of posts on parking)

coup de grace: a death blow

Mark “Feedback from Final [Draft] Report Presentation” (77-78) of the June 15 Desman Final Report as Exhibit 7 and last.

Gadfly is absolutely befuddled by his interaction with BPA over this document.

In a nutshell:

  • Gadfly seeks BPA records of the April 12 public meeting on the first draft of the Desman report (interested in how public comment might have affected the final report)
  • he is told by BPA that no records exist, even in response to a Right to Know request
  • he spars a bit heatedly with BPA at the Sept 20 meeting on the meter rate increase over the lack of such records (the interchange is on video), which is not only not refuted by BPA but implicitly affirmed
  • he apologizes the next day for getting heated, and apologizes twice more later, once in front of the BPA Board
  • he discovers that the “feedback” record he was looking for is now at the end of the final Desman report (which was not available till sometime after Sept 20), the only addition to the draft report
  • he is surprised
  • he cannot understand why BPA formally and then personally denied the existence of the “feedback” document
  • he seeks explanation three times from BPA, suggesting even the misunderstanding might have been caused by something he did
  • he receives no answer from BPA
  • he remains befuddled

Gadfly tells you, to quote one of his favorite movies, “It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!” (Wasn’t Joe Pesci great in JFK!) Did BPA lie to me? O, come on, no, why lie about a non-consequential document? Did BPA in bad faith violate the RTK statute? No, just doesn’t make sense. What motive is there? Did Gadfly screw up in filing the RTK – perfectly possible, but why wouldn’t BPA just tell me that? Doesn’t the semi-confrontation with BPA, recorded on video, with BPA Sept 20 show BPA knew nothing about the feedback document? BPA wouldn’t have misdirected in public, would they? Did the document come to light after Sept 20? But then why wouldn’t BPA just say so?

The document that Gadfly was told by BPA didn’t exist does.

And no explanation.

“It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!”

So Exhibit 7 is the coup de grace as far as I am concerned about dealing with the BPA.

Gadfly ends where he began.


I don’t think I would do business with BPA until some things are straightened out.

Exhibit 6: Feedback on the Feedback (46)

(46th in a series of posts on parking)

Gadfly’s big on public participation.

Gadfly’s big on public involvement.

One way to kill public participation is to ignore it when people do participate.

BPA/Desman certainly checked the public participation boxes.

Gadfly believes that there were 1-2-3 public meetings at the beginning of the Desman Study, that is, a year ago.

Then there was a public meeting April 12 on the draft Desman report.

And then there was the Sept. 20 public meeting on the final Desman report.

So BPA/Desman did check the boxes, but, at least in one major instance, they could/should have gone further, in Gadfly’s humble opinion, to properly respect the public input.

On pages 77-78 of the Desman final report there are 21 bullets of “Feedback from Final [should be draft] Report Presentation.” April 12.

Mark it Exhibit 6.

With this explanation: “Throughout the course of the meeting, a number of the questions posed by the public were answered by DESMAN and/or the Authority. All of the questions and feedback have been memorialized here so that the Parking Authority and City can refer back to this document as the recommendations are implemented and as future plans to change parking in Bethlehem are developed.”

Gadfly appreciates this memorializing of the questions and comments very much. But he believes answers could/should be given here as well. Along with references to sections in the report that reflect public questions or comments or which were changed/revised as a result of public input.

Even if some questions were answered there and some comments addressed there before the gathered public on April 12, those important answers and addressings are not “memorialized” at this later time when the report is distributed to a different and much wider audience.

And though a “number” of these questions were answered there, what about the rest?

The assumption seems to be that BPA/Desman responses are only important internally at some time in the future and privately.

You can ask questions, but in some cases you will not hear our replies.

Trust us. We heard you and will consider your comments at the appropriate time.

Gadfly finds odd (though not impossible, I guess) that there is not one change between the draft report and the final report. A cynic might say, then, that the public participation had no impact and that no further thinking was done.

It is just a tad hard to believe that in the approximately four months between the draft and final reports that not even one thing was changed – as the result of public comment or simply from further discussion and thinking internally on the material. But, ok, not impossible, Gadfly has to admit.

Gadfly would have respected the public comment a bit more by adding a paragraph to each bullet with either the response given at the meeting, with a response developed after the meeting, or an indication to where in the report the comment would be picked up when “recommendations are implemented.”

As is, the public has to trust that BPA will act on the public comments, a trust that Gadfly must admit would be a bit shaky for him after putting this list of “Exhibits” together.

Gadfly would love to see such important questions/comments as these made in April and that  are still “hot” right now addressed in the final report:

  • There is concern about the Authority’s debt load
  • The idea of new garages on both the Northside and Southside is a good one, but there is concern that garages will be built and the expected development will not occur to occupy and pay for those facilities.

In other words, some of the same major basic questions were asked in April. Why didn’t BPA/Desman address them for the final report so that they didn’t leave the exact impression that they weren’t listening at all.

And a feeling in the public that we are back at Square One. Never left Square One.


And if BPA/Desman is concerned about memorializing for future consideration, why not the comments at the Sept 20 open meeting on the final report? Your peace-loving, yoga-going, meditation-minding Gadfly got sweaty wing pits noting that BPA/Desman was not memorializing public comments there. You can see your Gadfly having an anxiety attack on video (esp. mins approx. 4:20-5:30). The impression given Gadfly by BPA/Desman was that the Sept 20 meeting was for the Mayor’s benefit, not theirs – he was taking notes – and that, in effect, their job was done. No more thinking on their part. Thus, no need to record what was said by a dozen residents over the 90 minutes.

Well, that was the impression I got.