Final observations on 2 W. Market – Part 4: the Great Divide (74)

(74th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

The 2nd round of supporting statements on 2 W. (69)

To Gadfly, one of the most noticeable rifts between Council members centered on visions of the Southside.

Let’s remember that Gadfly #1 Stephen Antalics – a perennial Southside warrior – introduced the powerful cancer analogy in his testimony against the 2 W. Market petition. He pointed to the cancer that attacked Southside neighborhoods several decades ago by a small zoning change to favor developers – a change in the definition of family to include five unrelated persons. He raised the specter of the same thing happening in the Northside Historical District through an analogous seemingly small, seemingly innocuous zoning change.

CW Negron linked her negative vote on the 2 W. Market text amendment petition directly ONegron-Dipinito the image Antalics raised, recounting the sad feeling she felt driving with her daughters through the neighborhood from Hayes St. toward Five Points.

In the second statement supporting his yes vote at the December 18 meeting, CM Callahan vigorously denounced the consistently negative image of the Southside promulgated by Negron and Antalics and perhaps others — as well as, Gadfly feels, the implication that the City has not done enough for the Southside.

The rift is stunning. The Great Divide is stunning. Where CW Negron sees the Southside through the prism of neighborhoods sadly changed into student housing, CM Callahan sees the new life of charter schools, shops, restaurants, and so forth breathed into the Southside by huge amounts of development dollars.

CW Negron looks to the past, what was once there, what’s been lost. CM Callahan looks to the present and the future.

Put CW Negron at the corner of 5th and Polk and CM Callahan at 3rd and Polk — .2/mile and a 5-minute walk apart – and they might as well be on the North and South Poles.

The vision chasm between Negron and Callahan on the issue of the soul of the Southside is stunning.

And complex.

Because it’s tied in to money and seeming favors given to people with big money.

So discussion of the Southside here in this post bleeds into Gadfly’s next post on 2 W. Market and then into discussion of the recent 306 S. New case.

But for now let’s try just to parse out CM Callahan’s agitation about negative views of theBCallahan Southside. He sees such criticism almost as a personal affront. You can see here how developers and development money are wrapped up in his bruised feelings. Use the link at the top or bottom of this page to listen to the full second comment on December 18, for you should hear his urgency in his own voice. But here is a selection focusing on his Southside feelings.

“I want to say something that’s been bothering me for a little bit. So last meeting we had people criticizing stuff going on in the Southside, and as Mr. Waldron said, every time there’s a controversial topic there’s a variety of people who come out and start listing all these variety of uncertainties. . . . We spent $65m in investment in the last year on the Southside, and we have a regular speaker [Antalics] here who every single meeting rips the Southside about how terrible it is. We got a Councilwoman last week who was doing [Negron] . . . I went over there, the mayor of the Southside, Joe D’Ambrosio, been in business 55 years, lived there this whole entire time . . . tell me [speaking to Joe] when this euphoric state of the Southside was? Was it better 10 years ago? No. Was it better 20 years ago? No. [etc.] . . . . I don’t know when this utopia Southside occurred. . . . I’ve never seen in my lifetime . . . 45 years . .  . I’ve never seen the Southside better. It’s thriving, it’s vibrant. And there’s been a lot of effort on many administrations and many different people on Council to try to better that area — 3rd and New St, people against it. 510 Flats, people against it [etc.]. . . . I would hate to see where we would be as a City with some of the same people criticizing 1 E. Broad. . . . Sands bring in $9.5m. . . . Sands brings in more money per year than the Bethlehem Steel in its heyday. There were naysayers against it. . . . This stuff doesn’t just happen because it’s a sure thing. It’s because people are doing their due diligence and trying to do their best for the city. Who’s paying the damn bills? . . . . 300 people, professionals, with disposable incomes down to that corner, people complained and bitched and moaned about it. Some people call them CAVE people, Citizens against Virtually Everything. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, it’s always, there always a group that comes out of the woodwork.”

A couple things jump out at Gadfly.

Like “Who’s paying the damn bills?” That line stopped Gadfly short. He does not think of money first. He is glad that somebody (somebodies) does. Gadfly recognizes that he does not know nearly enough about how the City raises (and spends, for that matter) money. And could use several good tutorials on that score. CM Callahan sees himself as a man with eyes firmly fixed on the bottom line.

Like the CAVE people. Ugh. The undisguised scorn, the cynicism, the lack of understanding in that characterization is very disturbing.

Does the Great Divide matter? Is there hope of bridging the divide? Should anybody care about bridging the divide? Does the divide have operational consequences? Can CW Negron and CM Callahan work together?

Gadfly thinks their views on and values of the Southside sure tell us a lot about who Council-folk Negron and Callahan are.

What do you see, think?

The actual words from the December 18 meeting on which these observations are based can be found in The 2nd round of supporting statements on 2 W. (69). Gadfly always suggests that you go to the unmediated source and make your own observations. Gadfly’s reflections on the first round of supporting statements can be found in Critiquing the votes (65)

4 thoughts on “Final observations on 2 W. Market – Part 4: the Great Divide (74)

  1. “CAVE people?” How about people who actually care enough to show up and make suggestions for better proposals and don’t roll over and say yes to everything that gets shoved down their throats. How dismissive can an elected official be?

    Steve Antalics was actually born on the Southside and lives there today. He has research privileges at Lehigh University. He fought to keep his church open when the Allentown Diocese closed several churches. Where was Mr. Callahan during that process? Councilwoman Negron owns a home on the Southside, raised a family there, serves/served on boards of agencies based on the Southside and has worked there.

    What are Councilman Callahan’s connections to the fabric of the Southside community? His visits to his barber?

    I’d say that residents like Steve and Olga have a lot more invested in that section of the Bethlehem community than Councilman Callahan. Haircuts, meals, drinks and campaign contributions don’t invest you in a portion of the city, but living there and becoming part of the every day ebb and flow does.

    Their thoughts and opinions have much more value to the community than someone who “spends time” on the Southside.

  2. I would also like to add, that under Council Rules, personal attacks are not permitted. Councilman Callahan should have been gaveled by the Council President for these personal attacks on both a resident and City Council colleague. The fact that he wasn’t speaks volumes about the overall quality of the current Council.

    In the meetings I’ve attended I’ve noticed a definite undertone in comments made by 2 or 3 male members of City Council toward both female members and anyone who happens to disagree with the status quo majority on Council.

    I have attended City Council meetings since the 1960s and in my opinion based on my observations there is little professionalism shown by some on Council. That is a very sad commentary on both their integrity and ability to respect all viewpoints.

  3. When Council members refer to CAVE people, they don’t seem to have noticed that these people do not oppose every issue—only when the city or council proposes to do something that (1) violates its own ordinances, including the historic guidelines; (2) ignores the immense citizen investment in a reasonably sound comprehensive plan; (3) has no clue about the SouthSide—that neighborhood quality & community vibrancy is measured in people’s daily lives, not in ugly new buildings or more gentrification; (4) gives tax dollars to developers to boost their profits even if they ignore social & environmental responsibility in their projects; or (5) ignores the people’s arguments because they would require putting a damper on certain types of development.

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