CW Van Wirt on “the 2” (59)

(59th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

CW Van Wirt Dec 4, 2018 “No”

PVW shoots multiple reasons in rapid-fire for support of her opposition to the text amendment. She agrees with CM Colon that this is, in her words, an “end run” around the traditional legal process. There is no way really to know what will happen, but precedent is important. The Hill-to-Hill bridge digital sign decision is a good example. It was done for understandable reasons, and now we have a suit over a consequence we don’t want. “Precedent can be profound.” We don’t know how this amendment will affect the city; it has not been studied. We should be using the Comprehensive Plan to guide decisions. This corner will become more commercial not less. “Pressure to changing residential to commercial in the historic district is relentless.” This is a perfect example of that pressure, pressure that is felt particularly on the border, like here. “Borders of the zoning areas are the fragile places. That has to be the red line.” Continued commercial creep will change the character of the downtown. Cachet of historical district understandably draws businesses. Risks in giving in far outweigh benefits. Regrettably, the “Yes” votes on the Planning Commission were not explained. The Rij’s are nice people, good citizens. But “We’re not in the business of judging on the merit to a change in our city zoning code based on someone’s aesthetics, their wealth, their access to connected lawyers. We are in the business of judging the laws we passed are in the best interest of all the city and all of the citizens of the city. Someone’s personal characteristics and aesthetics and impact on that corner and all of that is honestly secondary to what are we doing for the whole of the city and how does this move past the litmus test ‘is this in the best interest of the city and its citizens’.” PVW fully understands why the petition is good for the Rij’s, but it doesn’t pass the litmus test of being good for the city. And that is the role of City Council as the representative body.

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Once more, let’s go into our test mode. Let’s enumerate PVW’s packed points supporting her “no” vote and push on them with our Skeptic hats on:

1) an “end run” around the legal system: Commonwealth court denied the petitioners, albeit the case was presented in a different way. How would one argue against the fact that the basic case was denied at the highest level? One way is the “Local knows better” attitude that we also considered in the MC discussion. It’s clearer at this very moment now more than ever (suspense! more on this later) that if this petition is approved, it will be litigated again, no doubt again to the Commonwealth court. It seems a stretch to think that the “local is better” argument would hold at state court. The second way is to recognize that this petition is a citizen-initiated change of law. In that case, the burden would seem to be very, very, very heavy to show that the proposed change is not self-serving but is a recognizable good for the city at large. Importantly, not that the house is a good for the city, but that the text amendment itself is a good for the city in its widest application (or, conversely, perhaps is of absolutely no consequence to the rest of the city). Atty Preston has provided evidence of minimal impact. Is that enough?

2) “precedent is important in the city”: That’s a truism. And the Hill-to-Hill example is current. Can one argue that precedent is not important? No, not likely. Can one argue that H-to-H didn’t set an unforeseen precedent? No, not likely. Can one argue that this text amendment will not set a precedent? Well, maybe. It looks like this is the point where the petitioners would have to focus. Enter Atty Preston’s evidence again.

3) “not advocated for by the Comprehensive Plan”: PVW says the Comprehensive Plan is the guide for zoning decisions. Logical. Petitioners would have to continue to ignore the Comprehensive Plan, keep it out of sight, as they have done so far or argue that it is non-binding in toto or need not be thought of as absolute in particulars.

4) “the entire corner will become more commercial not less”: the example of the cata-corner bed & breakfast is tricky and hard to get by, for the co-owners, perhaps the most vigorous supporters of the petition, have (so far unsuccessfully) sought permission to have an office there. It’s hard to think they do not have a selfish interest, especially since they volunteered joyfully that their property value went up significantly because of 2 W. Market renovations.

5) “borders of the residential zoning areas are the fragile places”: if something bad is happening or something bad is coming your way, it is natural to think that you take a stand at, that you defend yourself at the border. One might argue the notion of a soft border or an open border (Ha! are you thinking what I’m thinking?), in other words, a border that is not really a border. Somehow that doesn’t sound like a successful route. Or maybe one could create the concept of transition zones. Or – and I heard this in someone’s testimony – advance the notion that borders are “sensitive” spaces.

6) “continued commercial creep will come in and completely change the character of our downtown”: money-making is aggressive by nature. If borders were soft or open or transitional, one would have to argue that there is some other very powerful dynamic in play that will ultimately control or constrain that appetite. One would have to identify a powerful counter-force. What would that be?

7) “no justification whatsoever”: The Commissioners who voted yes at the Planning meeting did not justify their votes. Feels inexcusable after several hours of testimony. Feels like an insult to the resident participants on both sides. One would have to argue that their silence doesn’t mean anything since their only job was to pro forma pass the petition on to Council. The Planning Commissioner who most thoroughly explained his vote based it on the Comprehensive Plan (see #3 above)

8) “is this in the best interest of the city and its citizens?”: PVW subordinates the person of Mr. Rij (see BC’s position, post 49) in the judgment process: “We’re not in the business of judging on the merit to a change in our city zoning code based on someone’s aesthetics, their wealth, their access to connected lawyers. We are in the business of judging the laws we passed are in the best interest of all the city and all of the citizens of the city. Someone’s personal characteristics and aesthetics and impact on that corner and all of that is honestly secondary to what are we doing for the whole of the city.” See BC (post 49) for the answer to PWV.

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Gadfly likes that we have “the tapes” to play over and over again.

Though he might be the only one doing that!

Gadfly likes that we can hear the voices not just read the texts or, worse yet, the excerpts in newspaper stories.

We are in a great position to participate in this important case, virtual participation to be sure, but participation it is.

And the invitation is open, of course, to attend next Tuesday’s Council meeting. Nothing like it.

Onward to JWR–

standing for principles . . . struggling with excuses (58)

(58th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

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.

Although I was unable to attend, I have been following the Gadfly’s analysis and postings, as well as being privy to other communications. Besides Councilman Reynolds’ demeaning move to the suburbs pitch and Councilman Callahan’s lack of understanding of what this neighborhood block is actually comprised of, I was equally aghast at Councilman Martell’s reflection about Council not being concerned about domino effects and what ifs, I would suggest that on every vote any City Council takes they should always be concerned about the potential impact, both short and longer term. It would be irresponsible to do anything other than that. After reading the various statements of positions, it seems that the three no votes were standing for principles and that the four yes votes were struggling with excuses for making their political votes.

Dana

New Myths perpetrated during the 2 West First Vote meeting on 12/4 (57)

(57th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

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

Follow up to The 7 Myths of 2 West Market, post #40, December 3, 2018.

Gadfly:

Interesting developments from the First Vote meeting including Mayor Donchez finally admitting that he in fact has been behind this project for several years as outlined in Myth #7.  He comes out at the 11th hour to officially throw his support for the project but only after Darlene Heller poisons the entire vote by declaring that no other property in the city will be impacted by this approval.

So while Myth #7 was now admitted to and verified by the Mayor, we now have Myth #8!!

Myth #8) No other property in the city is impacted by this text:  

+Darlene Heller writes a clandestine email to council outlining a complete fabrication of the facts to assure the Council that their vote won’t impact any other property in the city because there are no other properties that have Single Family “detached” dwellings and non-conforming commercial other than 2 West Market.

+Heller therefore even went so far as to discredit Atty Preston’s exhibit submitted at the hearing of 7 other properties in the city that would be impacted.

+Heller used words like “separate” and “detached” in her comments at the prior hearing and also in her memo that don’t exist in the amendment nor in our zoning ordinance for that matter.  She has completely fabricated something to distract the council away from the pervasiveness of this resident-originated zoning change across the city.

+This then provided the cover for the Mayor to now come public on his long time behind the scenes push to get this property approved for a major donor to an affiliate of the city Police Department. It then gave the same cover for 3 other council members subsequent dialogue and vote.

+Councilman Reynolds took that ammunition to focus the discussion to only spot zoning in one neighborhood and in his question to solicitor Spirk. It also gave councilman Martell the same cover for his preordained vote with his comment about No Domino Theory.  Councilman Callahan focused his whole discussion to his recollection of the first block of West Market Street that in his mind is not a residential area.

This leads us to Myth #9.

Myth #9) The first block of West Market Street is not residential:

+The RT district begins at Heckewelder Place with the first block abutting the CB district going to east to New Street. In that block there are 26 buildings in addition to 2 West:

22 residences—18 single family/4 multifamily

2 office buildings (non-conforming grandfathered)

2 school buildings (permitted uses in RT)

+Clearly Councilman Callahan is mistaken about the character of the block where he formally resided, and his “No one can tell him differently” with respect to that neighborhood is characteristic of someone preordained on their vote for this major city donor.

Myth #10) City zoning should be based upon what individual council members think should be in their neighborhood:

+Councilman Reynolds’ deliberation comments included his personal preference for having commercial in his neighborhood as this is the city. Therefore, implying that those residents living in the Historic District should move to the townships if they want to live in residential-only neighborhoods.

+Serious disconnect by an elected official with the city zoning ordinance that clearly defines separate residential and commercial neighborhoods and section 1323 that directs nonconforming properties toward conforming with specific provisions against expansion of nonconforming uses.

+Serious disconnect with the electorate that purchased property in areas of the city based upon such zoning ordinances and the city responsibility to uphold such ordinances.  Total disregard for the residents of the historic district that care about their neighborhood and who spoke out 4:1 against this ordinance at the Hearing.

Myth 11) The neighborhood is equally divided on this issue:

+While at the hearing the speakers were reasonably equally divided on this issue, the vast majority of the speakers on behalf of the petitioner were either paid employees, contractors, clients, or family members that don’t live in the Historic District. The actual count of residents speaking that night was 8-2 against the amendment.

+The petitioner speaks about a 3-year-old petition for a completely different amendment where neighbors were threatened if they didn’t sign with low-income housing apartments if Quadrant didn’t get approval.  This petition is irrelevant to the decision in front of Council today and should be completely discredited.

On a final note, the petitioner and their employees continued to spread misinformation related to Myth #4 regarding the property sale process as languishing on the market for 2 years (Ms. Lannon).  The facts are that this property was put under contract by Morningstar in less than 4 months and closed in less than 1 year.  Hardly a test of the market for use as a single-family home during a very weak market in 2013/14.

7 come 11 Myths—How many more will we hear?

Bruce

CM Martell on “the 2” (56)

(56th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

CM Martell Dec 4, 2018 “Yes”

The main issue for SM is protecting the neighborhoods – preserving the history of the downtowns and keeping the charm of the neighborhoods that everybody loves. The benefit in this particular case is that you know what you are getting. The house at 2 W. Market is done. It can be looked at. Remarkably, both sides on this issue – those for and those against the petition – agree on the positive impact that the “investment” there “is already having.” Even those arguing against the petition did not find “current detriments to the neighborhood.” There was concern about possible “externalities,” but that’s arguing in a counter-factual, domino theory, “what if” mode, and, “frankly, if you argue that way, you can argue against anything.” We’re looking at a specific issue right in front of us, seeing what it was and what it is now, and “we know that it is a positive, we know the neighborhood on net feels it’s a positive.” SM hears the opposition concerns about the house but feels that the “rather tight” text amendment has enough measures in it to mitigate their concerns about what would be allowed. And if there are any issues elsewhere in the city, the safeguard is that those issues would have to go before the Zoning Hearing Board.

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SM bases his position on the present state of the house. It is a position with strong appeal. From the beginning Atty Preston has said, just go up the street, there it is, you can see what we’re talking about here, you’re not buying a pig in a poke (ha! my words not his!). Were you worried about what the house would look like? Well, now we know. It’s almost as if we can see the house from where we are sitting in Town Hall. And it’s beautiful. Everybody who goes by says so. People from out of town can’t understand the fuss. Who would not want that house in their neighborhood?

Mr. Fitzpatrick, Zoning Hearing Board chair, said it well at the Dec 4 meeting. When the ZHB approves a petition, there is a “leap of faith” that conditions – and the ZHB most often attaches conditions – attached to their approval will be respected. Again, go up the street, look for yourself – no question but that the ZHB conditions were respected. They did what we asked them to do. We got what we wanted to get. This does not always happen.

Powerful argument. Testimony of your own eyes. No complex legal issue. No fancy shyster lawyer double-talk. Anybody can understand it.

SM is on good, clear, familiar ground for anybody who has listened to testimony, and, likewise cognizant of lingering legitimate opposing concerns, he sees reasonable safeguards in the future legal processes.

But, as we do here in each of these analyses, let’s push a bit on this position to see what we will see.

1) It might be said, for instance, that SM does not see the real issue here. For the opposers, the real issue is not the “look” of the house but law. For the opposers, the real issue is not the house but neighborhood community. For the opposers, the real issue is not the house but their say in the control (hmmm, not a good word, but best I can do for now) of their neighborhood. This is precisely why the opposers can be so positive about the look of the house, on which SM bases a major part of his position. The opposers can be so positive about the look of the house because it is NOT the issue. Opposition is not about the look of the house. That is not the issue for them. It might be said, then, that SM does not take a deep dive. It might be said that he does not understand the core of the controversy. It might be said he goes for the easy answer.

2) Did the petitioner take a risk performing construction when they did? Testimony on this is not as clear in some details as one would like. But, as proof that they acted honorably, petitioner testimony is clear that they waited for the favorable (to them) ruling at the County court level to begin construction “very late 2016” for occupancy “June of 2017”:

We were overjoyed, excited, and relieved. We awaited the legal approval from the Court of Northampton County on the Zoning Board’s decision. Once that legal approval was rendered, we then began restoration work on the house in very late 2016. We moved in on June of 2017, over three years after we had become the stewards of the parcel containing 2 W. Market. (Kori Nov. 20)

Now, could the petitioner reasonably expect that a case argued vigorously for three years by that time would be dropped by the opposition in mid-2016? Is it reasonable for the petitioner to expect that there would not be an appeal to a higher court and thus it was ok to begin construction? In any event, it should have been obvious that the appeal window was open and that there was always a possibility that the opposers would follow that route. And might win. In any event, again, the petitioners have presented Council with a fait d’accompli, presenting Council with an excruciatingly difficult situation, and, if one were cynical, this might be thought of as crafty strategy on the part of the petitioners.

(Note: the same situation presented itself to Council later in the Dec 4 meeting. The roof-top restaurant at the new 3rd and New building completed an expensive piece of construction in violation of “law.” What did Council do? What could Council do? Go along. Gadfly will take this up later.)

3) SM focuses strictly on the house. Not on what he calls the “externalities.” He dismisses the much-discussed negative effects of a positive ruling here as counter-factual, domino theory, “what if” thinking that will enable you to argue against anything. Do we understand what he is saying here, and is it true? It might be said that more explanation is needed here. It is not clear what “fact” is not true. It is not clear what “fact” is “counter-factual.” The point of reference to the domino theory seems to be the kind of analogical thinking that we saw in CW Negron’s position. But domino theory is quite different than analogical thinking. In analogical thinking there are two parallel tracks. One has actually happened, and the second is posited to be true because of its parallel to the first. Domino theory (Cold War stuff) is one track and is hypothesis not fact. If one thing happens, then a second will, and so forth down the line. It is easier to discount Domino theory, as it certainly was by politicians in its day. But Domino theory and analogical thinking are quite different, and the truth is, as we said in the CW Negron post, that “Analogical reasoning is one of the most common methods by which human beings attempt to understand the world and make decisions.” Domino theory is easier to dismiss than good analogical argument.

4) It might be said it is totally wrong to say that the opposers do not see any “detriments” in the current situation. And wrong to say that the neighborhood feels that there is a “net positive.” Such bold language might apply if the look of the house were the only issue or if it were the root issue. But it isn’t. The core issue is not the look of the house. Again, it might be said that SM does not dive deeply into the controversy.

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Whew! Gadfly says he wants intelligent, thoughtful followers capable of objectively handling several layers of complex issues. Followers interested in and appreciating discourse several levels above Facebook and those kinds of social media.

But even he wonders if he isn’t over-taxing you!

Are you out there! (Any of you remember when Johnny Carson would tap the microphone?)

Anyway, onward to CW Van Wirt–

When in doubt side with the law (55)

(55th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Mr. Rij exhausted judicial avenues and now seeks to alter the zoning code to accommodate his demands to be permitted to ooerate his business where it is not permitted. Mr. Rij has found that he could not win playing by the rules so now seeks to change the rules in his favor. Darlene Heller pointed out in her memo to the city planning that this amendment clearly benefits Mr. Rij but with unknown consequences for the city. Is this the way a city should operate? When in doubt side with the law. I commend MC for his wise decision.

Barbara Diamond

Must use law to arrive at decisions (54)

(54th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Beall Fowler is a retired professor and long-time resident of Bethlehem.

Gadfly: About 15 years ago Ralph Schwarz was honored at the Historic Bethlehem holiday dinner. He began his remarks by saying, “The reason we are all here is that we all love Bethlehem.” That phrase has stuck with me since, and I have used it myself on a number of occasions. The long and passionate debate at Council rekindled that phrase in my mind: we were all there because we all love Bethlehem! Why else spend 3 hours in that packed chamber and engage as we all did? Yes, we all love Bethlehem — we just have disagreements about what is best for this wonderful city. As you say, democracy in action!

This piece was published 4 years ago in the Bethlehem Historic District Newsletter soon after the Zoning Hearing Board first denied the variance petition for 2 W. Market St., a denial that was upheld by both County Court and Commonwealth Court.

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Because zoning issues seem to arise in our neighborhood every year or so, a brief outline of Bethlehem’s zoning code as it pertains to us may be useful. For those wishing to learn more, the entire code and accompanying map are available on the City of Bethlehem website by clicking : departments; planning, zoning & permits; zoning office homepage.

Within the Central Historic District, both sides of Main Street and a portion south of Walnut Street from Main to New Streets are zoned commercial (CB), while the Colonial Industrial Quarter, the Moravian Church and Academy area, and most of the area south of Church Street are zoned institutional (I). The focus of this article is on the remaining residential portion, which is zoned RT.

The issues to consider here are the allowed uses in the RT zone, and who decides? Section 1304.01 of the zoning code tells us that there are three possibilities: P, permitted by right (zoning decision by the Zoning Officer), SE, special exception (zoning decision by the Zoning Hearing Board), and N, not permitted. There also may be current non-permitted uses that pre-dated zoning and are “grandfathered;” these are called non-conforming and are allowed to continue.

Our RT zone has a number of permitted uses, most involving various types of residences; we can see this as we walk through the neighborhood. Other permitted uses include places of worship, schools, and minor home occupations, along with some others.  These permitted uses may still face requirements, such as external appearance (HARB) and safety issues as required by law.

Special Exceptions (SE) are potentially allowed uses which require particular scrutiny in their effect on the neighborhood and may require special provisions such as off-street parking. This is why the application for a special exception must come before the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). ZHB meetings are advertised and open to the public, and citizens may testify at these meetings. ZHB decisions may be appealed to Northampton County Court. Several of the SE uses in RT zones include bed and breakfast home, funeral home, day care center, and major home occupation. There is also a special provision for reuse of buildings of corner storefront character (1304.04). Only one of these is known to exist in the District, at the northeast corner of New and Church Streets.

What is a home occupation? This is spelled out in 1302.53 and 1322.03(z). Briefly, it is an accessory occupation conducted in a residence that does not impinge on the neighborhood while preserving the residential character of the dwelling. A minor home occupation (also known as a no-impact home-based business) involves only family members residing in the dwelling, while a major home occupation allows at most one employee who is not a family member, in addition to residents who are family members. The code furnishes further details and additional requirements, but essentially a home occupation is one carried out exclusively or largely by family members who are resident in the home and whose activity is largely invisible outside the home. In other words, the building is still fundamentally a family residence.

What if the owner of a residence desires to convert it to a use that is not included in permitted or special exception categories? It is then necessary to apply to the ZHB for a use variance.  (The term “variance” is general and describes any characteristic that is not allowed in the zoning code. Within this category, the most common ones are area or signage variances; if a property owner, for example, wishes to construct an auxiliary building that is closer to a property line than allowed in the code, then he or she applies for an area variance. )

Because a use variance involves the use of a property that is forbidden in the code, stringent conditions are applied to any such application. These are stated in 1325.06 of the zoning code: five conditions are listed, all of which must be met for the ZHB to grant a use variance. One of these is most telling:               “ — there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with provisions of the Zoning Ordinance — “

In a recent denial of a use variance by the ZHB (which was upheld in Northampton County Court) it was stated “A variance should not be granted to allow an owner to obtain a greater profit, and economic hardship short of rendering the property valueless does not justify its grant.” Perhaps it may be argued, then, that no residence in the Central Historic District, and perhaps few in the City, would qualify for a use variance under the law. And the law, after all, is what the ZHB and the Courts must use to arrive at their decisions.

Beall

analogy can be valid (53)

(53rd in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

I think analogy can be a very good way to make a valid point [ref ON’s argument, post 47], partly because it is often clearer than factual arguments that get lost in the details. I think ‘factual’ arguments too often argue a ‘straw man’, a premise that is inserted just because it’s easy to attack. (Although a false analogy serves much the same purpose.)

To be valid, it’s essential to make sure the analogy is a good one, that the conditions (and, in this case, the proposed change) are truly parallel.

With either type of argument, getting to a valid conclusion requires attention to details & logical analysis. Unfortunately, what we often see is looking for things that support your starting position instead of real analysis; this is true not only for City Council, we also see it in most business & corporate environments, not to mention other institutions of all sizes.

Peter

cause for concern about his decision-making (52)

(52nd is a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

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.

Gadfly:

Regarding BC’s first point, the existing uses such as schools, funeral homes etc are permitted in the RT zone. Mr. Rij’s office is not. It is a fallacious argument that because there are permitted entities operating there, the zoning code should be amended to now permit his business. The particular property is non-conforming because it predates the zoning code, but the code specifically states that a non-conforming use can’t be expanded. The only option is to conform with the residential zoning for that location. If BC believes that it is hard to define Market St as residential, then he only needs to look at the color-coded exhibit presented by Tim Stevens to see that it is predominantly residential. Disregarding laws, rules, regulations, established professional practices and policies in favor of one’s subjective feelings is a disservice to the community and is cause for concern about his decision-making on this and other issues. The fact that Mr. Rij did a nice job or is a nice guy has nothing to do with this matter.

BC & WR’s concern for our neighborhood’s relationships is misplaced. We will be fine. What they should be concerned about is the creeping commercial development of Market Street that they are abetting. Council and the Mayor should be supporting improvements to our existing commercial district to attract businesses, and they should be opposing incursion into residential neighborhoods.

Barbara

One word . . . devastating results (51)

(51st in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

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.

Gadfly:

A Lost Neighborhood recounts how a powerful entity, Lehigh University, muscled its way into the surrounding neighborhood, used questionable maneuvers, and ended up damaging a vibrant community. The home owners fought hard but in the end were no match. Sounds familiar. Stephen Antalics’s remarks regarding both 2 W Market and the airbnb issue are powerful reminders that zoning/land use decisions, even something as seemingly insignificant as changing one word, can have devastating results. Those of us who oppose commercial intrusion in our residential neighborhood prevailed in court, but land use/zoning issues are notoriously susceptible to politics. The Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg was unlikely to be influenced by the fact that Mr. Rij is a well-connected donor to the city. That is not the case here.

Barbara

A can of worms (50)

(50th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past and current director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

Originally published as post 29 in this sequence. Published again
because it addresses a major point of CM Callahan in post 49.

Gadfly, with all due respect, I disagree with part of what you are saying about the complexity of this issue. Specifically, you keep stating that “There are good people and good supporters on both sides.” Why would this be a criterion for evaluating whether or not we should change our zoning ordinance? This is a matter of law and planning. The minute it becomes about the quality of the people involved (i.e. how good they are), then we are opening a whole can of worms. What counts in determining if someone is a good person? Is someone good because they have complied with existing laws and been good community members? How do we know if that person is better than another good community member, say someone who is a fine upstanding citizen, but does make large donations to the city? If the person who makes donations to the city is “better,” then does one have to be rich enough to make donations to fall into this category of being deemed worthy of characterization as a good person? When government starts making decisions about planning based on the likability of people who want it to be done in a way that serves their own narrow interests, we have a real problem.

I watched the whole hearing last night too, and while I was indeed convinced by the petitioners that the guy who will benefit from this zoning ordinance change is beloved by many people who have benefitted from his business, I just don’t understand why the fact that people think he’s a great guy, or a good upstanding citizen who complies with all the laws everyone else complies with, or who is going to lose money if he doesn’t get the zoning change he wants, is remotely relevant. And do you really think he’s that good of a person if he’s so willing to put a drug rehab facility in the middle of the historic district if he can’t get what he wants? C’mon!

What I find unacceptable about efforts to circumvent past decisions is that it disregards all the effort made by people who spent their time and energy to create a vision for the city. Why bother participating in these efforts to create historic districts, and comprehensive plans, or zoning codes, if they are just going to be circumvented at a later date? Why would a citizen want to participate if it all will be ignored later when many of the original creators are no longer around? But this is what we do in this city: we get a bunch of earnest citizens to work with planners and consultants and government officials to create rules that will promise to protect the city from the things we fear, and then we ignore these plans/guidelines/codes when someone with a lot of money comes in and wants a special deal. It does not matter if the guy who wants the deal is an angel or the devil. What does matter is that preferential treatment of that person blatantly disregards the community of people who were being good citizens before we arrived and who put a great deal of their life energy into trying to protect the community they were invested in. Does that mean anything? Do we just break the rules they created after a single public hearing, in order to make a change that solely benefits one person or business, because all the proclaimed supporters testify to that one person’s likability. I would like to live in a city that makes everyone abide by the same rules. Equal treatment under the law.

If people want to change the rules, they should provide reasons why the changed rules are good for everyone. No such reasons were offered last night. All we heard was why the rule change for the super great beneficiaries wouldn’t have a big impact on everyone else except for — most obviously — all those neighbors who spoke last night. They also invested in the same neighborhood based on what they understood to be in the current zoning code. I could not believe some advocates of this zoning change had the nerve to tell residents that if they did not like the changes that would commercialize what was intended to be a residential district, then they should just move to a real residential district. The opposing residents are probably also good people, but at least they behaved like that was not relevant. The zoning code isn’t there to benefit people who are popular, or rich, or who have a successful business. It’s there to protect all citizens from deviating from a plan for city development that was well-reasoned, proofed, and publicly adopted.

Dr Pooley’s testimony was important in explaining why the requested change is not a small change. It’s a significant change to the zoning ordinance, and, as such, it requires more than a single public hearing among a small number of people who have a stake in the immediate decision that is motivating the change. Of course, it would be par-for-the-course for city council to approve this and avoid the likely backlash for not showing favoritism to the one person and his friends who are requesting this change. I’m really sorry that the petitioners could not find another way to get around the rules, but I’m more sorry for the public officials who are being asked to make a decision that the mayor should have flatly rejected as reasonable from the beginning. How much time, energy, and money are we going to waste satisfying the interests of one person while all the things that this council should be working on are pushed to the side? If this is really in the interest of the city, it is my hope we will spend a lot more time publicly discussing the implications. In all the sympathetic and emotive appeals put forward by the friends of the zoning change last night, there was only one bit of testimony by the man from Easton who spoke near the end, who made me think we should spend further time on this issue. He had some suggestions for dealing with investments in historical structures that I’d be interested in hearing again. The other testimony on behalf of the zoning change seemed almost entirely beside the point.

Breena

CM Callahan on “the 2” (49)

(49th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

CM Callahan Dec 4, 2018 “Yes”

BC’s approval of the text amendment has three legs. The first is the deeply rooted and still existent commercial presence in the neighborhood. In fact, it’s impossible to define a residential neighborhood on that block. Not only is 2 W. Market a mixed-use property, but the neighborhood is mixed use as well. The street – “Market” St. – has always historically had businesses operating there. The commercial use of that specific lot predates incorporation of the city, predates the zoning plan, and should govern in this decision. BC’s second basis for approving the text amendment is the character of Mr. Rij — whom he mentions by name and wishes success — and of business people like him, that is, investors in the city. Mr. Rij has done “as much as he could to be a neighbor.” He’s a “good citizen.” He’s bent over backwards to do the right thing, even to the point of remodeling a piece over the front door to restore the original design. BC worries that we are pushing away investors like Mr. Rij. In fact, he knows business people who have gone elsewhere. Mr. Rij could have gone too and had nicer office space, say in Allentown, at less cost. But he chose to stay. We can’t keep pushing away businesses. The third factor in BC’s affirmative decision is the sense of community he experienced in the neighborhood. BC lived on Market St. for four years apparently in the 90s, met his wife there, had a child there, leaving when the child was two. His favorite times and memories are of neighborly gatherings during snows/blizzards, of going down to 7-11, down to Ripper’s, of bonding with Jimmy Broughal. BC “knows the neighborhood well. . . . It’s a great neighborhood and hasn’t changed.” Is the text amendment good for the city? It “absolutely is.”

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Let’s think about and ask questions of each of the parts of BC’s position in turn

1) Rejecting the residential

The striking thing about BC’s first point is his total disregard for the zoning ordinance! Right off the top, it’s out the window. Replaced by his own vision of the 2 W. Market neighborhood. Wild!

Trust me – look at BC’s identification of the “main question”:

I think what it comes down to is, the main question is this, where does the residential neighborhood begin and where does it end? And the bottom line is it doesn’t. It doesn’t. There’s nobody that can tell me where the residential community in that neighborhood on that block begins and ends.

The zoning code says 2 W. Market is in an area zoned residential. BC says, in effect, there is no residential area there. And nobody can tell me any different!

BC makes a powerful assertion of his superiority, his primacy to the zoning code in this first leg of his thinking. Zoning authority resides “in his eyes” not in the researched, studied, debated, discussed, voted upon, published, and litigated city ordinances.

So, for BC, if there is no residential area there, then there is no issue with 2 W. Market being a business.

Problem solved.

BC does not only disregard the specific city zoning ordinance, but he has a – shall we say – somewhat unconventional comprehension of the nature and function of a zoning ordinance in general. He sees the 2 W. Market neighborhood as it was and as it is – mixed use – while one of the functions of a zoning ordinance is to foster the gradual movement of a neighborhood to where we want it to be.

Normally, one thinks of zoning areas not simply as static definitions of what they are now but aspirations for what we want them to be. In probably more cases than not, zoning maps come after existing neighborhoods are formed, even after they are well and long formed, and are not necessarily simply a mirror of the current “is.” Zoning maps are a projection of can be, want to be, will be. BC apparently does not see them that way.

Wow! What are we to make of this iconoclastic train of argument?

Is such an extra-legal, independent attitude exciting, freeing, liberating, refreshing – enabling us to do, without compunction, what we consider a good thing when we feel/know we have good reason to do so?

Or is it that that way madness lies?

Is it ok for a Councilperson to be a zoning-denier? What happens if zoning classifications are subordinate to the personal views of one or another or a combination of Council persons who change on a regular basis? What is the consequence of subjective disregard for lawful, established zoning areas? Should you base legal decisions on your heart or your head?

2) Mr. Rij is a good guy

Over the course of the three meetings we’ve had on 2 W. Market, a line of worshipful witnesses longer than autograph seekers at a Carson Wentz book signing filled Town Hall with praise for Quadrant Wealth. In his vote-supporting statement, BC put himself unabashedly at the head of that line. BC canonizes Mr. Rij, patriarch of Quadrant Wealth and symbolic representative of a class of investors Bethlehem needs but, BC fears, is losing. Yes, BC canonizes Mr. Rij. We must please him, hold on to him, and others like him. Not that he doesn’t deserve our gratitude and admiration, of course. He is truly a good guy.

But should the “good guy” rule trump all other considerations? How far does the “what’s good for business is good for the city” principle go? Should the era of good feeling Mr. Rij generates be determinative in a legal proceeding? Is it ok to single him out for special treatment? Are not the people on the “other side” good guys too? They have as well done the right thing, renovated their houses, spent big money, adhered to historical design, paid their taxes, and so forth. How do you choose the good guys? Might it be an insult to the “other side” to so visibly focus a wish for success (business success) on Mr. Rij instead of, say, Mr. Haines or Mr. Diamond? Might it look like blatant favoritism – that you are in cahoots with the business class? (The reference to buddying with the co-owner of Atty Preston’s firm is likewise somewhat awkward.) What should govern in a decision like this – the individual personalities or the rules/laws? Isn’t law blind? Should law be the paramount consideration? Aren’t residential neighborhoods good for the city?  Are “we are really pushing away people who want to invest in the city”? Are there no fine locations in Bethlehem business districts for investors like Mr. Rij? Would there be no suitable option for him but a move to Allentown or Easton?

This can of worms that voting on likability opens is such a tricky issue that I am going to republish Breena Holland’s provocative past post (#29) precisely on this subject.

3) It’s a great neighborhood

BC does a curious thing in this third leg, though one totally consistent with the attitude we see in his take on the zoning ordinance. He sets himself up as an authority on the quality of present life in a neighborhood in which he hasn’t lived for almost a generation. BC “knows the neighborhood well,” he says, “It’s a great neighborhood and hasn’t changed.” One wonders how people on both sides of this issue feel about BC as spokesman for, as definer of their neighborhood.

For this controversy started back around 2013. Side v. side has been literally pitted against each other over microphones and maybe over front porches and back fences for as long a time as it took my oldest granddaughter to graduate high school, finish college, get a job, and max out her credit cards. There will be four marathon meetings just in this month. There were two or three court cases – who can keep track? There have been veiled threats of continuation of one kind or another on both sides regarding the outcome of this decision. It feels like a war in the Middle-East or something like that. One testifier cogently said, “nobody’s going to quit until they feel a victory.” Which might not be until the other side is dead. Sigh.

So BC remembers kumbaya moments in the past on Market St., and not once but twice he hopes for such moments to happen again after the decision in the current instance. But these feel-good sentiments are tricky without providing some mechanism for their achievement. Has BC offered an olive branch to those opposing the petition? Has he recognized them in his commentary? Is there a basis for peace if the petitioners win? Without a bridge of some kind such kumbaya sentiments, well intentioned as they are, run the risk of sounding empty or shallow.

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This is our third deep dive into the votes and position statements of Council members, something you probably have not seen done before, but certainly a good way to know your Council members in a way completely differently than before.

Gadfly has the story of this Dec 4 meeting in today’s Bethlehem Press in front of him right now, comparing the coverage with what we are doing. Big difference.

So, you know the drill!

On to CM Martell–

EAC and CAP (4)

(4th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)

Note: see “our” Kathy Fox (“We can work for an improved environment.” Morning Call, December 9, 2018), a member of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), reporting on the recent CAP progress meeting as well as also calling attention, as we noted Martha Christine did in our last post, to The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 7173) , which will “drive down America’s carbon pollution and bring climate change under control, while unleashing American technology innovation and ingenuity.”

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

If we are going to have a Bethlehem Climate Action Plan, we are going to need some (a lot of) organized activity.

Gadfly is just happily reviewing a slice of the past history of the planning for a CAP plan to give a sense of motion and progress – and a sense of faith that good might triumph over evil.

In the last post, Gadfly brought us up to the formation of a CAP working group, which, as CM Reynolds outlined in his mission statement included in that same post, would include “representatives of the Administration, City Council, the Environmental Advisory Council, and members of the community.”

So, linked here you will find “City of Bethlehem – Climate Action Plan,” an April information document from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), chaired by Lynn Rothman, a wonderful group that Gadfly has been “auditing” (which means he doesn’t have to take the exam) for several months.

The EAC looks like it will be the key partner for CM Reynolds, and, for the record, the EAC “consists of Bethlehem citizens appointed by City Council to provide recommendations to City Council and the Administration on environmental issues relating to the City.”

The EAC web page will fill you in on members and their activities and includes a copy of the Green Bethlehem Initiative Survey done as part of CAP planning.

A key part of the EAC’s information document is a timeline showing proposed activities for 2018-2019.

There’s nothing like a timeline to keep you organized, to keep you honest.

The EAC meets the first Thursday of every month, 7PM, at Illick’s Mill. Visitors welcome. I just dropped in one night and have never left.

Coming up to the present. Info on the Dec 4 meeting coming next–

It’s Wednesday, December 12, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The Penultimate Budget Meeting (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on the Budget)

Here’s the proposed 2019 budget

Nicole Radzievich, “What Bethlehem taxpayers can expect from next year’s budget?” Morning Call, December 10, 2018.

Council President Waldron quipped about the full house at Town Hall on the 2 W. Market meetings compared to the 1 spectator at a $78m budget hearing.

So it goes. (Who recognizes that Kurt Vonnegut is still on Gadfly’s mind?)

There were five scheduled meetings of the Administration and City Council to discuss the 2019 budget.  One was snowed out. The last meeting was last night, and the sequence is well reported on in the above article by Nicole. Penultimate tinkering was done last night. The final, official budget will be voted on next Council meeting December 18. Some changes could occur before the vote. Here are some bullet points Gadfly plucked from Nicole’s article

  • $78m budget
  • 3.8% increase
  • + $34 for the average homeowner
  • a non-emergency call center will replace 911 service taken over by the county
  • city work force is down but pension payments rising
  • more road work will be done than in previous years
  • makeover at Memorial Pool
  • improvements to the Rose Garden
  • possible contribution to a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge
  • uncertain amount but a one-time large tax income from Casino sale on the horizon
  • new fiscal plans for the Golf Course

Ho, hum, some people would say. But Gadfly found his very first experience with budget hearings very interesting. Here are a couple quick notes:

  • the interchanges were not only civil, but light and even humorous
  • no hassles like we hear about, for instance, in Allentown
  • it was good to hear and “recognize” department heads, people before mainly faceless
  • you can learn a lot when ideas are or have to be linked with money
  • neat seeing resident-based requests got into the budget

Gadfly’s antennae (he thinks he has more than one) were especially attuned to this last point. CM Reynolds introduced a request for Rose Garden money. CM Callahan pushed to increase it and to add funds for a pedestrian bridge feasibility study (funds for that seem to be imminently possible from the county and another granting agency as well). Rose Garden money was proposed out of the city budget, and additional money for the Rose Garden plus money for the bridge study were put on the list for consideration when that Casino tax income is definite. All of Council, as far as Gadfly could tell, were supportive of both the Rose Garden improvements and moving forward on study of the pedestrian bridge.

But what do the budget hearings look like? How does the process work?

Gadfly videographer Owen Gallagher took some video. We don’t have video editing software, so the following three clips are not focused on key moments or highlights but simply present the routine linear process (which had many twists and turns) monitored by President Waldron on the Rose Garden insertion into the budget. You can see CM Reynolds introduce the idea, then CM Callahan move to augment the idea. During the process you can see the mayor, especially Public Works head Mike Alkhal, and other Council members interact.

It would take NFL films to make this visually “exciting,” but exciting things are happening nonetheless.

Proponents of the Rose Garden should get a thrill. Looks like $$$$ flowing your way.

Pedestrian bridge is also on the radar.

Here’s your local government operating in perhaps the most important thing they do.

Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 1
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 2
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 3

As Gadfly wrote in post #1, there is a feeling among Council that the City is doing a good budget job (A+ credit rating), and that was reflected in final comments last night. Shown here is CM Reynolds’s offering of appreciation to the City, which were followed by equally gracious remarks by President Waldron that unfortunately we didn’t film.

CM Colon on “the 2” (48)

(48th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

CM Colon Dec 4, 2018  “No”

This is MC’s “hardest vote” so far on Council, for he sees “both sides” equally. He’s diligently done his homework: he’s reviewed files and newspapers; he’s walked the neighborhood, taking its “temperature,” seeking the backstory; he’s met with Mr. Rij, toured the property; he’s consulted with realtors. He’s taken notes, he’s reviewed them, he’s kept an open mind. And, sounding the note of a bit of frustration, where has all this collecting of data and information gotten him? Nowhere but to a point of virtual paralysis: “almost like 50-50,” he says!!! MC recognizes the remarkable people and their remarkable house. But the “hump” he can’t get over is the past judicial history of denial of the case. MC looks to the fixed, standard, traditional judicial systems to rule on such complex issues. You can see that in his initial conclusion that this was a case for the Zoning Board to decide. You can see that in the implication that the denial by the highest court in the state lifts his toe over the fence from 50-50 to feeling 51-49 for denial. “[2 W. Market] went through the more traditional motions for this relief, and that’s the hump that I can’t get over now,” MC says, “I’ll be voting against this today based on the history of denials for relief through the other mechanisms that this process usually goes through.” MC’s hard, close decision — clearly articulated here — turns on his belief that this case has run the normal judicial course and ended in denial. This text amendment is “a way around” all that preceded.

*************

What should we say about MC’s position? Is his thinking logical? Has he a solid basis for his position?

There is certainly an obvious strong case for saying yes. 2 W. Market went to the court of last resort. It followed the route our society has set up to settle such tough matters. That’s the way we do things. So be it.

But how test MC’s position? His position is the default position. What could be wrong with such a mainstream, conservative position? How would others argue to disregard the finding of the highest court in the state? One would think the counter arguments would have to be very, very, very strong to subvert the default.

1) A key counterpoint made several times throughout the course of the hearings might be phrased something like “Local knows better.” Trust the (final of multiple) local decision of the Zoning Board and Northampton County Court rather than the decision of distant judges in Harrisburg. Is local better? If it is, why do we have a court system based on the reverse? Are you more likely to find objectivity and fairness in people involved in a situation or detached from it? What would happen if local disregard of higher court rulings became accepted?

2) Atty Preston was asked at least twice why the state court denied the case. Once by MC himself because this was a key issue for him (listen to the short audio below). Atty Preston’s answer – answering carefully because of his position as an officer of the court — revolved around the belief that the Court did not make the distinction between house and property.  That’s “where the wheels came off,” that was “lost in translation.”

If the Court clearly made a mistake, then, yes, there is reason to counter MC’s position. So, attached here is the Court ruling. Take a look at especially the Court’s “analysis” beginning on p.12.

Commonwealth Court Order and Opinion dated 5-22-18

The Court dismissed several objections by the opposers to this petition. But here is the point that decided denial by the Court (p. 18-19):

Applicant is also seeking to convert the only fully conforming structure on the property – the single family dwelling — to a non-conforming one. Moreover . . . Applicants want to do this at significantly greater cost than maintaining the conforming single-family dwelling as residential. The ZHB acknowledged that the house can still be used as a residence, including a multi-family residence, as of right under the Ordinance; yet it concluded using it as commercial office space was more desirous. This is not the standard [Atty Preston reads only the next 5 lines in the ruling in the above audio clip in answer to MC’s question].

The Court sees the request for a use variance on the house as a step backward. Is there any error here? Is MC wrong to trust this ruling of the high court? Did Atty Preston persuade that he knows better than the high court? Is there a court “mistake” or just a different perspective?

3) If nothing else works, you can change the law. Pertinent here is the 12/4 interplay between Mr. Carpenter and Atty Preston that can be found on post 45. Listen. Mr. Carpenter says what the petitioners are asking is against the law. Mr. Preston says, ok, let’s change the law. But in doing so, he pretty much acknowledges that the reason for such a change is just for the benefit of 2 W. Market: “This is about 2 W. Market, the fact that there’s a unique situation there that has fallen through the cracks judicially.” Should MC suspend his basis in law and traditional legal process to help enact a law that favors one person?

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Provocative, isn’t it? Gadfly loves this stuff.

Once again, Gadfly asks, whether you agree with MC’s vote or not, what do you think of the quality of his thinking. And then how does it square with your thinking about the place of the traditional legal process here? And, then again, how does it fit in to your opinion on the case as a whole?

Comments always welcome to sharpen Gadfly’s focus.

On to CM Callahan–

CW Negron on “the 2” (47)

(47th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

CW Negron Dec 4, 2018  “No”

ON speaks from her lived experience as a Southsider over a long period of time, lamenting that it’s not the same anymore. She invites us to share her sadness as we imaginatively drive with her from Hayes to 5 points. She speaks from the other side, as it were, as a kind of victim in soul and spirit, looking back at a dramatic transformation of her neighborhood caused by the change of one word in the zoning ordinance. She has a melancholy “then” and “now” perspective, a fracture caused by a small but non-trivial language change for business reasons. She doesn’t speak long (the shortest of the seven Councilpersons). She speaks with feeling, emotion. She’s been “touched” by Stephen Antalics’ commentary. She’s nostalgic. She’s in a kind of pain. Her voice is withdrawn, restrained, hushed — comes from deep inside. She does not specifically mention the Antalics “cancer” analogy, but the inference is clear that she is projecting what has actually happened on the Southside to what could happen on the Northside and voting “no” out of that fear and concern. Implicitly, this amendment is bad for the city.

1) Antalics as ON’s “heart of the matter”:  Since ON clearly identifies the great impact SA had in her decision, we judge him to judge her.

Here’s SA’s audio clip from Dec. 4:

SA introduced his cancer analogy previously at the Sept 4 City Council meeting in the conversation about Airbnb in the same Northside Historical District. See Sept. 4 minutes, p. 13.

2) The “one-word” zoning change:  Since ON fixes on the “one-word” change in the Zoning Ordinance, we should see if it’s true. Gadfly has not been able to trace all the permutations of the definition of family (finding that first change would be a historian’s dream!) but found these three recent pertinent texts. Gadfly suspects SA’s point is true.

1739.01 B. 20.       Regulated Rental Unit – A DWELLING UNIT occupied by three or more, but not more than five, unrelated PERSONS under one (1) RENTAL AGREEMENT. (Ord. 2017-15. Passed 5/2/2017)

2) 2.19     All OCCUPANTS of REGULATED RENTAL UNITS shall use the PREMISES as a single family dwelling.  There shall be one lease and all OCCUPANTS shall sign said lease.

3) 1302.43 Family. One or more individuals who are “related” to each other by blood, marriage or adoption (including persons receiving formal foster care) or up to 5 unrelated individuals who maintain a common household with common cooking facilities and certain rooms in common, and who live within one dwelling unit. A family shall also expressly include numbers of unrelated persons that may be allowed by the Group Home provision of this Ordinance residing within an approved group home.

3) Transformation of the Southside:  Are ON and SA right about the transformations in the Southside? This might be an important consideration since one other Councilperson has an opposing view. As evidence on the ON/SA position, consider the “A Lost Neighborhood” section of this “Still Looking for you” web project.

4) Argument by analogy: ON argues by analogy. For instance, the Southside was once a good place, but a small zoning change for a commercial reason triggered its degradation. The Northside is a good place, a similar small zoning change for a commercial reason is proposed, and that is likely to cause similar degradation. That is argument by analogy.

First to consider: is analogy a legitimate form of argument? This is pertinent since one other Councilperson seems to hold a negative view, and it’s obvious that the idea of precedent itself is not held in high regard by many supporters of the petition.

Wikipedia isn’t the source you would use in your term paper, but this (quoth the prof) is an accurate statement: “Argument from analogy is a special type of inductive argument, whereby perceived similarities are used as a basis to infer some further similarity that has yet to be observed. Analogical reasoning is one of the most common methods by which human beings attempt to understand the world and make decisions.”

Second, is the ON/SA analogy true or false? Does that analogy work? How do you test an analogy?

You can test an analogy says Wikipedia on these three criteria:

  • The relevance of the known similarities to the similarity inferred in the conclusion [do we know enough about the neighborhoods – susceptibility to decay, power to withstand corrupting forces, etc? Maybe most importantly, is that a reasonable reason why the Southside went downhill?]
  • The degree of relevant similarity between the two objects [are Southside and Northside both neighborhoods? are the zoning changes the same?]
  • The amount and variety of instances that form the basis of the analogy [does it weaken the ON/SA case that they have only one negative example?]

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So, has Gadfly given you something to think about? Whether you agree with ON’s vote or not, what do you think of the quality of ON’s thinking. This is crucially important to Gadfly. In assessing my elected officials, I’m as much interested in the quality of their thinking as an outcome, which, in fact, is an outcome I might disagree with. Are my elected officials intelligent? Are they thoughtful?

Do you see where ON is “coming from”?  Can you respect her opinion whether you agree with her or not?

In thinking ON’s supporting statement through, Gadfly has formed an opinion. How about you? He’ll share at the end. Suspense.

In the meantime, comments welcome! Just please note Gadfly’s cautions in the last post.

CM Colon next–

The road to “Crunch Time (3)” (46)

(46th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

Let’s have some fun. That will also be serious business. Very serious business. Gadfly kind of business.

Let’s take the next step in the full advantage to participate in our local government through the ample time afforded to reflect on and comment on the views of our Council persons.

Look to your right over on the Gadfly sidebar. You’ll see a link to the Pa. Third Class City Code. (Gadfly tries to have links important to us there. If you have additional suggestions, please let Gadfly know.)

In the code you will find:

Section 1018.6.  Reading of proposed ordinances; final enactment.

(a)  Reading. — The title of every proposed ordinance shall be read at least twice, once when introduced and again before final enactment by council. Amendments or other changes to the proposed ordinance shall be read at length.

And in our Rules of Council also on the sidebar, you’ll find 3.C:

The title of every bill shall be read when introduced and on final passage, except as to amendments or other changes which shall be read at length. A complete copy of every bill introduced shall be available for public inspection at the Clerk’s Office during regular office hours. No bill shall be passed finally on the same day on which it was introduced. At least three days shall intervene between its introduction and its final passage. Upon final passage, Ordinances shall be numbered serially.

What a great thing! We actually have three not two opportunities to “read” 2 W. Market, and extended over several weeks: the Nov. 20 hearing, the Dec. 4 Council, and now the Dec. 18 Council.

Even if you haven’t attended any of the meetings, Gadfly has tried to make sure that you have been filled in and have ready, permanent reference to everything going on, all sides.

The best part is that now that the first reading has occurred we have a window into our Councilpeople’s minds.

That’s where Gadfly wants to go. Into their minds!

Let’s go one-by-one and analyze the positions they took to support their votes on first reading.

If you are in a mind-set to use the time-spacing to influence one or another’s change of vote, I do believe that several Council follow Gadfly, but I’m not sure all do.

And, in any event, changing a vote is hard for a person to do, right? Might take some major re-thinking. We all tend to get locked in once we have made a decision. We defend. We justify.

But our democratic process offers the opportunity now to influence a change of vote if you are of a mind to try.

At the very least, though, Gadfly thinks the exercise of mind-looking will be illuminating. He said last time that one of the things he personally wanted to achieve was the ability to vote for candidates at election time in a more informed way. This will be a step in the right direction.

So – make no mistake — Gadfly is not talking about whack the pinata. Let’s go one-by-one in the order of voting at first passage (which was so dramatic!) and describe the thinking processes we see. Judgment might come from that. But pre-judgment not allowed.

Ha! This might be the first time anything like this has happened in the history of Bethlehem (a future “Bethlehem Moment”?!), so we don’t want to mess up. You can imagine how hard it is to sit in front of a packed fairly contentious and rambunctious crowd like that last week confronting a complex issue, and explain a vote. Would freeze my bowels. We could say that’s what you get the big money for, IF there were big salaries!!!  A tough job. “Fight the good fight” I always say to Council. Making decisions, especially that influence a whole city, ain’t a stroll along the Monocacy.

So let’s be respectful.

See you fairly soon on the next page. Gadfly will begin with CW Negron.

A plan to get a plan (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on the Climate Action Plan)

Note: see “our” Martha Christine (“Bipartisan efforts in Congress may actually address climate change.” Morning Call, December 9, 2018) calling attention to a bipartisan bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and asking us to advise Susan Wild that we need her support.
———————

Gadfly misspoke in his first post on a Bethlehem CAP t’other day. We don’t actually have a Climate Action Plan yet. But we have a plan to get a plan. And soon.

Gadfly is not going to jump directly into CM Reynolds’ December 4 CAP meeting about getting that plan.

Because he wants us to think first about the idea of a “plan” in general. About the importance of planning. About the need for a planner or planners.

In Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut (anybody read him anymore? Sigh) says, ‘There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.

Sounds trite, but we must know that we can do something good (act) about, say, the evil greenhouse gas emissions if we plan, if we organize.

Since Gadfly went into business he meets people who say, forget it, Gadfly, what does it all matter, nothing happens. People who are down on the possibility of good things happening, of important things getting done.

I’m thinking of one follower in particular. You know who you are.

So Gadfly would like to create a sense of optimism by stepping back in time 2-3 years to the genesis of CM Reynolds’ CAP initiative. To see the vision at the beginning or near the beginning (probably deeper roots than this) and follow the developing steps of the plan to achieve the CAP.

Things have been happening. We need to sense the motion. To see the “there” that got us “here.” To feel momentum moving us forward. And therefore to feel good.

So here from maybe a couple years ago is an early Reynolds’ articulation of what a CAP is all about that helped get the ball rolling. Reynolds outlines a “process” (plan) that includes the formation of a working group.

William Reynolds
Bethlehem City Council President
from “Bethlehem 2017”

Climate Action Plan

In August of 2006, Mayor John Callahan signed the Three City Climate Protection Agreement with the Mayors of Allentown and Easton. The agreement established a goal of reducing the City’s operational carbon footprint 20% by 2012. Through the excellent work of the Callahan Administration and the employees of the City of Bethlehem, the City actually exceeded its goal and reduced its sum of greenhouse gas emissions by 28% during that time period.

On February 18, 2014 and August 28, 2014, memos were sent to Mayor Donchez asking the City Administration to establish new goals relating to reducing the City of Bethlehem’s carbon footprint.  Our Parks and Public Property Director, Ralph Carp, sent memos on March 18, 2014, September 5, 2014, and February 13, 2015 outlining the impressive efforts that Bethlehem has taken in the past 10 years to reduce its carbon footprint and increase our energy efficiency.   These efforts include the completion and implementation of $5,000,000 in energy conservation measures that will continue to produce financial and environmental dividends in the coming years.

At the February 17, 2015, Human Resources and Environment Committee Hearing, multiple members of Council indicated to Mr. Carp that they were looking for a formal presentation of goals (future goal of GHG reduction, etc.) or a cooperative agreement to be signed between the Administration and City Council setting benchmarks/goals for the future.  No formal goals or cooperative agreement have been introduced or enacted into. Resolution #1 outlines a process by which the City of Bethlehem will enact and follow a Climate Action Plan for the City of Bethlehem.

Many cities throughout the country have also set up programs, policies, goals, etc. for their whole cities, not just their governmental operations. Once we are able to collect our data, set goals, and formalize a City of Bethlehem internal agreement, it would be wise to turn outside of City of Bethlehem operations. We need to take a look at how we can share the practices and policies that we use across the whole City with our businesses, community institutions, and residents.

What is a Climate Action Plan? Climate Action Plan (CAP) is a set of strategies intended to guide efforts for climate change mitigation. Hundreds of small, mid, and large cities across the country have created CAPs as the threat of climate change has appeared to have increased in recent years. How does a city create a CAP? A city collects their data on greenhouse gas emissions and plans accordingly on ways to reduce those emissions. Establishing a new goal of GHG reduction, departmental energy reduction plans, and establishing data collection procedures to allow businesses and community members to monitor their carbon footprint are all common aspects of Climate Action Plans.

Why do we need to formally set up a Climate Action Plan? For many reasons, it is important that we set up a structure to continue to monitor and achieve energy efficiency goals for the City of Bethlehem. Formal goals allow the City of Bethlehem an opportunity to create a comprehensive strategy to guide decisions for the future. Creating formal goals also increases the likelihood that City Council (who passes the budget) will understand and react to the need to fund the necessary investments needed to reduce our carbon footprint.

How do we set up a Climate Action Plan? We follow the lead of other cities. Attached is Resolution #1 that creates a Climate Action Plan Work Group within the City of Bethlehem including representatives of the Administration, City Council, the Environmental Advisory Council, and members of the community. The CAP Work Group would look to create formal goals designed to reduce our carbon footprint, alter internal energy usage practices, encourage employee behavior change as it relates to energy, and set a community example as it relates to environmental protection.

It’s Monday, December 10, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

What’s new at Market-Two? (45)

(45th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

We’ve had so many long meetings on 2 W. Market St., and so many long posts on them, that I know it must be hard to keep things straight.

Instead of giving you the full Monty on the December 4 meeting, Gadfly is giving you only the key Council decision statements, see post #43 in this sequence, and here a few selected pieces. On December 4 there was a good deal of duplication of speakers and ideas from the previous meetings – no need to duplicate them for you.

But here are a few presentations that Gadfly thinks you should see, hear – know.

If nothing else, don’t miss Mr. Rij!

Messrs. Fitzpatrick and Diamond preceded Gadfly, and he could not help comment on these equally forceful but opposing viewpoints, virtually balancing each other off.

Bill Fitzpatrick

 

Current chair of Zoning Board. Not representing ZB now. Reviews process of ZB deliberation. Commercial interests can be good neighbors. Not a member of the previous ZB panel decision on 2 W., recused self, will do so again if it comes up again. ZB has better perspective on what’s good for city and better caring for city that do judges in Harrisburg. ZB sets conditions, hears promises, leap of faith that they will be followed – but not here, no surmise, just look at the property. Use your senses to figure out if it’s good or bad for the neighborhood. Consider unintended consequences of denying the petition. Dismayed by threats of legal action at past hearings. Vote on facts and conscience; do not be intimidated.

Steve Diamond

 

Imminent destruction of our zoning ordinance for the benefit of one. About future precedent for one individual to change zoning ordinances. Can’t abdicate, can’t wash your hands. Setting a precedent. No case made for health, safety, public welfare of the city. A “yes” sets a low bar for a scenario of something he and his wife could request and goes into in detail about it. How do you pick one application over another in this scenario, how do you choose? Decide by favoritism and political pressure? Low bar. Open to suits of discrimination. Furthermore, what stops Mr. Brew (Airbnb) from doing the same thing.  Council, boards, etc., change personnel all the time. You cannot control the future. You are destroying zoning. Opening floodgates to destroying zoning.

Mr. Carpenter impressed me as giving the one truly new perspective after all these meetings – the perspective of the prospective investor who needs certainty and stability. But also his clarity about the role of elected city officials in upholding law was especially striking and new.

Will Carpenter

Not opposed to use or user. Character and property fantastic. Not opposed to mixed use. “What I object to is that it’s against the law.” They are not operating within the laws that we elect you to enforce. Your job is to protect us by enforcing laws equally.  Enforce law so we have some level of certainty. Present petition “very clumsy” way to retain this gift horse. “Sometimes a good thing can’t happen because the laws aren’t appropriate.” We look to you as elected official to enforce that. Certainty matters to investors. No investment where there are shaky laws and unpredictability. Why would an investor buy under this new circumstance? Tool that makes this happen is “clumsy” and “negligent” on city’s part.

Mr. Phillips’ very brief but very powerful testimony to Mr. Rij’s beneficent character.

Darryl Phillips

Calls Mr. Rij “coach.” Homeless. Helped him with money. He’s changed my life. I think better about myself. He’s a very good quality person. Seen, witnessed, beautiful things. Lot would be hurt if he goes from here.

The video went dead at the beginning of Kori’s presentation but captures her recap of the important points (see post #15 for her original, detailed presentation).

Kori Lannon

 

Importance of small businesses to a community. Main points: 1) substantial opportunity to sell to a family but it didn’t 2) already a mixed use property surrounded by commercial interests and no work was done till approval given 3) keep fate of Green buildings in front of your minds. Need to encourage stewardship in such awkward properties.

Mr. Preston is interesting for the way he plays off the comment by Mr. Carpenter that also struck me so much. But also because he pretty much says what this is all about is for benefit of 2 W.

James Preston

Reference Carpenter’s statement about good things not happening because the law won’t allow it – asking you to change law to allow it. Goes over facts given before. Not much difference between each side. No dominoes ready to fall. Requirements of the ordinance are intersection, commercial use, single-family dwelling. Can’t do the things that people have suggested as bad outcomes. Council can make good things happen at 2 W. Reference to “the house” misleading. More than that. Always. Property never dedicated to a single-family dwelling. “This is about 2 W. Market, the fact that there’s a unique situation there that has fallen through the cracks judicially.” Make the law allow the good thing to happen. No cancer here.

Quadrant patriarch’s appearance is a “can’t miss.”

Herman Rij

Bad characterizations of me over the meetings. I am wealthy but because of family and friends. This whole thing quite an ordeal. Came to US as immigrant, as migrant worker. Doesn’t come from money. Wife the same. Acquired 2 W by mortgaging because no financing available. Lots of straw men – parking, traffic, etc. – turn out to not be problems. Buildings don’t make neighborhoods, people do. Have eyes on the street. Caretaker lives on the property. Incident of Liz the homeless person, who recognized them as people to come to for help. Sexual predators in neighborhood; watch that risk if apartments get put in 2 W. Pays lots in taxes, supports local restaurants, other community efforts. Extensive support of neighbors demonstrated through petitions. Dissenters insulting council, planners, indicating they can be caved under. Changes legal, received approval, and end result is good. Illegal business charge: but he’s letting dress store woman operate rent free in Green building. She’s sole support. That’s neighborliness. Consistent with mixed uses there since conception. Renovation not for us but benefit of district, city, etc.

Gadfly knows he is too slow and plodding for some of you, but he likes to get all the relevant information out.

Just about ready for analysis in preparation for “Crunch Time (3),” the final vote on December 18.

Honk if you want peace!

And a good number of people did!

015As advertised, your ol’ Gadfly hoofed in the Christmas Peacewalk from Nazareth to Bethlehem yesterday.

Beautiful day all ‘round.

125 or so pilgrims. Doing something REALLY in the Christmas spirit.

From Pa., New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut.

Some for as many as the 20th year (the walk is 59 years young!).

Witnessing for peace.

Sort of cleans the silt out of your pores.014

Good crisp walking weather.

Chatting with friends new and old.

Offering your 78yr-old-body for a good cause.

Relishing the three breaks along the way – Oooh, that hot chocolate at First Baptist!

Feeling the glow afterwards.

Appreciating how very, very fortunate we are to have people like this.

Reassuring faith – Faith.

Can you support Gadfly supporting our Bethlehem friends at LEPOCO?

$1/mile = $10

Could you simply put “Gadfly” on the check memo line or in the note space on the online donation form?

Gadfly followers are the best!

The LEPOCO Peace Center: Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern
313 W 4th St., Bethlehem, Pa. 18015
http://www.lepoco.org/
http://www.lepoco.org/take-action/donate/

10 Global Warming quotes to make you hot (2)

(2ndt in a series about the Climate Action Plan)

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities.”

“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.

“The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid. Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread and growing impacts. The warming trend observed over the past century can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate.”

“[This report] concludes that the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising. These impacts are projected to intensify—but how much they intensify will depend on actions taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the risks from climate change now and in the coming decades.”

“Observations from around the world show the widespread effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on Earth’s climate. High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing. These and many other changes are clear signs of a warming world.”

“Since the late 19th century, however, humans have released an increasing amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and, to a lesser extent, deforestation and land-use change. As a result, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to human-caused warming, has increased by about 40% over the industrial era. This change has intensified the natural greenhouse effect, driving an increase in global surface temperatures and other widespread changes in Earth’s climate that are unprecedented in the history of modern civilization.”

“Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities will continue to affect Earth’s climate for decades and even centuries. Humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate far greater than it is removed by natural processes, creating a long-lived reservoir of the gas in the atmosphere and oceans that is driving the climate to a warmer and warmer state.”

“High temperature extremes, heavy precipitation events, high tide flooding events along the U.S. coastline, ocean acidification and warming, and forest fires in the western United States and Alaska are all projected to continue to increase, while land and sea ice cover, snowpack, and surface soil moisture are expected to continue to decline in the coming decades. These and other changes are expected to increasingly impact water resources, air quality, human health, agriculture, natural ecosystems, energy and transportation infrastructure, and many other natural and human systems that support communities across the country.”

“Higher temperatures, increasing air quality risks, more frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, increases in coastal flooding, disruption of ecosystem services, and other changes increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges and revealing new risks to health and prosperity.”

“Mental health consequences can result from exposure to climate- or extreme weather-related events, some of which are projected to intensify as warming continues. Coastal city flooding as a result of sea level rise and hurricanes, for example, can result in forced evacuation, with adverse effects on family and community stability as well as mental and physical health. In urban areas, disruptions in food supply or safety related to extreme weather or climate-related events are expected to disproportionately impact those who already experience food insecurity.”

It’s Saturday, December 8, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The Significance of 2 W. Market for All of Us (44)

(44th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

So, in routine Gadfly fashion, we don’t jump into judgment.

We take it slow. Reflect. Simmer.

Gadfly posted the audio of the Council decision-making earlier today.

Relax. Listen. Consider.

Then we’ll come back and analyze.

Let’s remember some of the reasons why this “case” is so important, even for those of you followers not directly involved.

  • It’s about close to home. It’s about what’s outside your front door, what’s off your back porch. It’s about who is next door. It’s about neighborhoods, so it’s about all of us. It’s about who controls a neighborhood. CM Reynolds nailed it when he said the disputants hold a “different definition of what it means to live in a neighborhood.”
  • It’s about “law.” Gadfly put “law” in quotes because he is not quite sure that term covers exactly what he means. We have city ordinances — laws (see the links on the sidebar). But we also have city plans — like the Comprehensive Plan (see the link on the sidebar). Are city plans like law? What existential status do they have? Do the plans have power? Or are they guides on the shelf, as it were — persuasive only, not potent in the real world? Can city officials ignore “plans”? Can city officials ignore the intent of laws? Can city officials free-lance?
  • It’s about seeing our elected officials performing the essence of their office: deciding, making judgments, legislating. Gadfly had said to himself at the beginning of this now year-long observation of city government that one of the things he wanted to achieve was the ability to vote in a more informed way next time. The mayors had faces for Gadfly — Callahan, Donchez. But Council members were faceless. I never really knew whom I was voting for. Gadfly got some giggles at a Council meeting public comment a few months back recounting what I knew of the members in order to vote for them. CM Colon engaged me in a pleasant chat at the polls one year. CM Waldron was door-to-dooring on my street — gumshoe politics 101 — and charmed me onto the porch for a chat (I usually retreat, lock the door, pull the shades, talk through the mail slot!). CM Reynolds jogs half-naked through my back alley since he lives down the street. My kids went to school with the Callahans; my grandkids wrestled with Callahans (and not so successfully!). A Martell gave two of my kids work; a Martell was a Lehigh colleague. CW Negron — well, her name is legend. CW Van Wirt — strong recommendation from a trusted colleague. There you go! Is that enough knowledge to make an informed vote? If voting is meaningful, it must be informed. If we want the best city leaders, we must “know” them better. Going to meetings is a way. Getting inside their minds at decision-time is the best. And the audio files in the previous post enable you to do that. Take advantage. See how they think when confronting a tough, complex issue.
  • It’s about democracy. I quipped that the last couple big meetings were “democracy in action” — a phrase that struck some meeting-goers enough to repeat it back to me. I tell you, those full houses packed with passionate interplay filled me with pride. Yes, sensibilities were getting frayed, but sensibilities were not even close to being outraged. But, having said that, the true test of, the final exam of democracy in action is the final act, the closing curtain — the decision. Ha! Not to put too much pressure on Council members, but we want to watch closely how this issue resolves. We want them to know we are watching.

So start doing some homework on the Council statements available in the last post. And we’ll start digging  a little deeper tomorrow or Sunday.

For diversion, I’m going to read around in the Climate material I posted yesterday. And rest — Peace Walk for the Gadfly tomorrow.

4 – 3 on First Reading for 2 W. (43)

(43rd in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

On first reading, City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the 2 W. Market petition. Couldn’t be closer. Here’s audio of Council members voting plus explaining, along with my summaries. Take advantage of the audio. Listen in. What do you think? Soak ‘em in.

We’ll return later to do some analysis.

Second and final reading (voting) on December 18.

————————–

Mayor Donchez “Yes” (2 mins.)

Mixed use neighborhood, low impact in a transitional neighborhood, overall a benefit for the rest of the city.

CW Negron “No” (2 mins.)

Sad driving through the Southside neighborhood from Hayes St. on. Student housing, student housing. One word made that change [referring to a definition of 5 unrelated people as “family” in zoning some years ago that made the way for the gradual increase of student housing.] Neighborhood not the same any more. [Context is Stephen Antalics’ analogy of initiating a cancer on the Northside by a small change like what happened on the Southside. End up with ruined neighborhood.]

CM Colon “No” (6 mins.)

Change of zoning ordinance, etc. predated arrival on Council in 2016 but reviewed newspapers and files. Walked with CM Evans walked around the neighborhood, talked to people, some for adamantly, some against adamantly – trying to get backstory. Came to conclusion that it was an issue for the Zoning Board, only to find out the involved past history in that regard. Toured property with Mr. Rij. Unique property. Remarkable job. “Where my holdups have come in . . . to be honest with everybody . . . for me this is my hardest vote for I see both sides kind of almost like 50-50, down the middle. I hear what everybody is saying . . . open mind.” Met with realtors. “The hump that I couldn’t get over was that this is a rather unique circumstance with my discomfort in granting relief through a text amendment where it had already gone through the previous processes of zoning board [etc., etc.] It went through what the more traditional motions for this relief, and that’s the hump that I can’t get over now. With this text amendment being a way around all that  . . . overcoming those undesirable outcomes, now looking at this to kind of pass it on through. I guess 51-49 is where I’d say I’d be at, and I’ll be voting against this today based on the history of denials for relief through the other mechanisms that this process usually goes through.”

CM Callahan “Yes” (11 mins.)


2 factors when making decisions: is it good for city as whole? is it good for the surrounding neighborhood. Good for city?  “Absolutely is.” Good for the neighborhood is the question. Was leaning favorably towards approval of the amendment at the beginning. Knows the neighborhood well, lived there. “I think what it comes down to is, the main question is this, where does the residential neighborhood begin and where does it end? And the bottom line is it doesn’t. It doesn’t. There’s nobody that can tell me where the residential community in that neighborhood on that block begins and ends. Not only is the property mixed use, so’s the neighborhood.” [Gives examples of immediate neighbors to make his point.] “I think it’s spot zoning against the property.” Always businesses on that street. Probably never a time when there wasn’t. “In my eyes,” the neighborhood component begins from New St. [lost him here on directions, I think he is misspeaking]. “From New St. down to Main there’s no question it’s a mixed use.” Always a commercial purpose on that lot, even way before there was a city, way before the zoning plan. This should have been handled years ago; now an opportunity to right a wrong. “I do believe it is spot zoning against the property.” Always a commercial deed, always a commercial component there. Hopes everybody can get along after the vote however it goes and move on.  Look what Mr. Rij has done. Good neighbor. Bent over backwards. “Done as much as he could to be a neighbor.” Restored original historic look. “Is he a good citizen?” “We are really pushing away people who want to invest in the city.” People have gone elsewhere, Mr. Rij could have too. No question that this is a proper use, especially with all the surrounding businesses and neighbors in the immediate vicinity. “It’s a great neighborhood and hasn’t changed.” Favorite time there when it snows. Blizzard. Neighborliness. Hopes everybody can move on and all success to Mr. Rij.

CM Martell “Yes” (3 mins.)

Difficult issue. Main issue: “what’s the best thing to protect the neighborhoods? What’s the best thing to protect this historic preservation of the downtowns and to again kind of protect the neighborhoods and keep that charm that everybody loves in the city of Bethlehem? And so how do you do that on this particular project?” Benefit here is that you know what you are getting [the house is done and can be looked at]. People opposed spoke of the positive impact as well. Nobody argued current detriments. Opposers arguing counterfactually, domino theory, what if. “Frankly, if you argue that way, you can argue against anything.” We know it’s a positive, we know the neighborhood on net feels it’s a positive.” Amendment has enough measures in it to mitigate concerns. And anything that happens elsewhere in the city has to go before the Zoning Board.

CW Van Wirt “No” (7 mins.)

Agrees with CM Colon that this is in her words an “end run” around the process. No way really to know what will happen but precedent is important. Hill-to-Hill bridge digital sign suit is a good example. “Precedent can be profound.” Don’t know how this amendment will affect the city, has not been studied. Should be using the Comprehensive Plan to guide decisions. This corner will become more commercial not less. “Pressure to changing residential to commercial in the historic district is relentless.” This is a perfect example of that pressure. Particularly on the border. “Borders of the zoning areas are the fragile places. That has to be the red line.” Continued commercial creep will change the character of the downtown. Cachet of historical district understandably draws businesses. Risks far outweigh benefits. Yes votes on Planning Commission were not explained. Rijs are nice people, good citizens. “We’re not in the business of judging on the merit to a change in our city zoning code based on someone’s aesthetics, their wealth, their access to connected lawyers. We are in the business of judging the laws we passed are in the best interest of all the city and all of the citizens of the city. Someone’s personal characteristics and aesthetics and impact on that corner and all of that is honestly secondary to what are we doing for the whole of the city and how does this move past the litmus test ‘is this in the best interest of the city and its citizens.” Fully understand why good for Rij’s but doesn’t pass the litmus test of being good for the city. And that is the role of City Council as the representative body.

CM Reynolds “Yes” (14 mins.)

Take emotion out on both sides. And also frustration from past Zoning Board history etc. Past history is not an argument for what the right public policy is. Rational explanation for my vote. Is unique to this neighborhood or effects across the city? Lots of talk about opening doors, setting precedent, etc. But “What’s the worst possible solution?” If passed, goes to Zoning and asks for exceptions for one of the following [the list from the ordinance, law, architecture, insurance, etc.]. Trusts Zoning, Planning, etc. in this process. Asks Solicitor Spirk about spot zoning. Spirk gives examples and opines that this is not spot zoning but could doesn’t mean should. Sees this as amending the previous corner ordinance and not a problem. Consider what abuts the property now and what hopefully abuts later with increased activity on Walnut St. Supporters and opposers have similar histories but some in favor and some against. Doesn’t see ruin. Anecdote of mother who says if people are putting money into the neighborhood, go for it. And sugar not good for you. “Why is it that there is a difference of opinion?” A “different definition of what it means to live in a neighborhood.” That’s what’s separating people. “I don’t want all residences in my neighborhood.” “I’m not afraid of there being different things in my neighborhood.” “I wouldn’t even mind more commercial uses in my neighborhood.” Understands fear. But “What I see on this list are not things I wouldn’t want in my neighborhood.” “If you don’t want any commercial in your neighborhood, there are townships everywhere that are built on that general idea.” Overarching feeling is sadness. Animosity is bigger threat than what happens at that property. Cancer, unpleasant neighborhoods, etc. – don’t understand this kind of thought, wants to move on. This isn’t even a problem. Go anywhere else, hear problems and issues like in Northside. Really basic needs. Time invested in this issue is wasted. Outsider would not understand what the problem is. Won’t end till somebody feels they got a victory. Sadness that it’s come to this and so much time invested. Truly believe this is not that big an issue.

Solicitor Spirk (3 mins.)

CM Reynolds asks Solicitor Spirk about spot zoning. Spirk gives examples and opines that this is not spot zoning but can doing something doesn’t mean should do. Sees this as amending the previous corner ordinance and not a problem.

CM Waldron “Yes” (3 mins.)

This is going to be a 4-3 vote, which is a rare thing on this Council. More often than not it’s 7-0 because there are clear answers and clear solutions to problems. This is one where it’s a little bit trickier for sure. Last night we had our 4th budget meeting in which we were discussing a $78m budget for our city including a tax increase of 3%. We ended the meeting with one person from the public who was here to be part of that meeting. This goes to show you where a $78m budget lines up with how people passionately feel about their neighborhood. I think that shows the level of engagement in a both positive and negative way, depending on how you want to look at it. I think it ultimately comes down to the point of what Dr. Van Wirt said, is this a net positive for the neighborhood and the city. And I come down clearly on the side that yes, it is. So I will be supporting the amendment this evening.

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) (1)

(1st in a series about the Climate Action Plan)

Powered by City Councilman Reynolds, Bethlehem has a Climate Action Plan. CM Reynolds hosted a committee meeting on this plan December 4.

Gadfly has no firm, professional grip on the science or the societal or even the political ramifications of climate change, global warming, greenhouses gases, and the like. As his revered Daddy used to say, “all I know is what I read in the funny papers.”

Probably like most, but, thankfully, not all our followers, Gadfly knows only surface stuff. Tenuously grasped. Soundbite stuff.

But Gadfly knows enough surface stuff to be worried, very worried — worried about what’s happening to Mother Earth and worried about what is and what is not being done politically.

We all know our government “news-dumped” a shocking blockbuster major climate report on the day after Thanksgiving, a day designed to minimize its impact.

We all know that President Trump is a denier.

Not good.

Needless to say, Gadfly is pleased and proud that we have a plan, that someone has foresight, that we are taking action to encourage positive practices that – not to put too fine a point on it – might help save the planet.

The opposite of NIMBY is RIMBY – “Right in my backyard.”

The idea is to do what we can here, do what we can control, and thereby contribute to the whole. (Given yesterday’s thoughtful events, I’m thinking of Prez H.W. Bush’s “Thousand points of light.”)

Gadfly loves the idea and is opening a thread here to follow and share with you the City’s progress (and the City seems to be well onboard – CM Reynolds tipped his hat a couple times to active City engagement).

But before plunging right in to CM Reynolds’ plan, Gadfly feels the need to stop just a moment to establish the framework, the context in which this plan sits.

The prof in him will never die. He always feels like he should create a syllabus! Please forbear. He never promised you a rose garden.

And thus he has compiled a bit of a reading list (what blogger does this kind of thing? Ever the scholar – sigh) that he is going to spend an hour or two going through related to the publication of that aforesaid government report on November 23.

You may want to follow him. To get some facts, feelings, future projections.

1) Gadfly was looking for a brief primer of terms – some basics. This might work.
“What is climate change?” BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24021772

2) Then some basic news stories covering the release of the report. Sample one or two of these. They’re basically the same. Gadfly couldn’t find a short Fox piece.
CBS (5 mins.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWgfQzGk5Bg
ABC (5 mins.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNnzT7SElP8
CBS (3 mins.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvHvXshA4ro
CNN (2:45 mins.) https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/23/health/climate-change-report-bn/index.html

USA Today  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/23/climate-change-intensifying-economy-impacted-federal-report-finds/2093291002/
NBC https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/federal-report-says-climate-change-will-wallop-u-s-economy-n939521

3) Gadfly was looking for more depth on the political context of the report, what the administration thinks about it, why it was released on a dead day, and so forth. This looks good.
The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/national-climate-assessment-black-friday/576589/

Trump (45 secs.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szHhWhZZzTs

4) A next level would be a bit more depth on the report from believers – from the co-authors of the report or specialists in the field.
NBC (5 mins.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8CirGmI1PE
CBS (5 mins.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWgfQzGk5Bg
CBS (10 mins.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt-2UxrjngM

5) And for sure an in-depth report from a denier of climate change. What do their voices sound like? On what are they basing their rejection or qualification of this type government report. Gadfly says, always look at both (all) sides.
Mark Levin Show (15 mins.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA5sGtj7QKQ

6) Lastly, the reports themselves. Now Gadfly is usually scared away from the technical reports. You too? And we usually depend on some intermediary for information. But, Gadfly says, always best to go to the primary source yourself. And, frankly, there are links on the top pages of these two reports to very, very, very easily digestible information. So don’t be timid here.
https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/
https://www.globalchange.gov/

Gadfly bows to and invites knowledgeable suggestions of other resources to help us wrap some meaning and significance around CM Reynolds’ efforts to establish a CAP here.

As well as your own personal or professional views on climate change.

Gadfly needs a bit better handle on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Why it’s urgent.

So let’s spend some time here before moving into the guts of the local plan.

Y’ with me?

Bethlehem Moment 3: An Aroused City Beats City Hall

Bethlehem Moment 3
City Council
Dec. 4, 2018

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: November 4, 1958

They say “Ya can’t beat City Hall.” On November 4, 1958, an “aroused city” of Bethlehem did just that. Forty years after the city’s birth, the Bethlehem Junior Chamber of Commerce mounted a campaign to establish a Charter Commission to study and possibly change our form of local government. Our entrenched Democratic City Council at that time, realizing their power was at stake, vigorously fought this challenge to their existence, smelling the hidden hand of an “ivory towered” newspaper editor; raising the spectre of dictatorship; arguing widespread satisfaction with the status quo; meddling by the Jaycees, who may not even be taxpayers; and voting by Commission members who “might not know the difference between forms of government and a groundhog hole.” That editor, the legendary John Strohmeyer, lashed out at this “flagrant abuse of political power” aimed at perpetuating a “spoils system”; the Jaycees worked the public door-to-door; and in a turnout higher in some sections than the 1956 presidential election, the entire non-partisan Jaycee slate was elected to the Commission. On November 4, 1958, “political novices” tapped the power of democracy, reminded “the machine” where the power ultimately lies, took control of their own destiny, and started a process that gave us our current mayor-council form of government.

For the full story, see the attachment to “Fighting City Hall – and Winning, November 4, 1958” under Bethlehem Moments on The Bethlehem Gadfly, December 2, 2018 (thebethlehemgadfly.com/).