Think Christmas

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem weighs holiday makeover to fit ‘Christmas City’ nickname.” Morning Call, March 26, 2019.

There was a decently charged discussion during the budget hearings in December over whether Payrow Plaza should have a real or an artificial Christmas tree.

It’s the kind of subject that heats up quickly. Gadfly followers may recognize it across their own dining room tables.

(Who hasn’t put away the Christmas decorations yet? ‘Fess up.)

Need for a change:

“The current decorations and lighting the city uses during the season is dated and the overall decoration program needs updating,” Mayor Robert Donchez said. “As technology changes, so do the options we have in employing new and exciting decorations and experiences for our residents and visitors.”

Opportunity for input:

The design team hired by the City solicits public feedback from 5-7 p.m. this Tuesday,  April 2, at the Crayola Gallery at Banana Factory.

A good sign:

“The consultant has already begun researching the city’s history, sifting through records — including historic Bethlehem postcards uncovered in a Boston library — and wants to understand what the community wants Bethlehem to look like during the holidays.”

A mayoral mine field:

“Some changes have triggered backlash. In 1976, after visiting Disney World, then Mayor Gordon Mowrer decided to string the Mayor’s Tree in the Plaza Mall with multicolored lights. In his autobiography, Mowrer recalled people asked the newspaper whether the mayor was Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.”

Bethlehem Christmas Moments (tip o’ the hat to Nicole) :

  • “Christmas City” begins 1937
  • with “sparkle and glitz”
  • with “the star” and the “big tree”
  • 1960s, the white lights
  • South side goes multi-colored
  • large Advent candles
  • some artificial trees replacing real ones on light posts
  • last year, lighted stars on Fahy Bridge and Broad St.
  • Tuesday, expect Gadfly #1 Mr. Antalics to light up (just kidding, just kidding)

5-7 Tuesday, you have time to pitch your ideas and get across the bridge to attend Council (you’re already out!) or home to watch it on tv at 7.

Do you remember that Council meetings are now live-streamed as well as available for watching later?

 

Update on the Polk Street Garage (78)

(78th in a series of posts on parking)

Recap: Gadfly followers will remember a rather tense situation in the last half of last year revolving around a parking study and especially plans for a contested Polk Street garage, a situation that ended with the Parking Authority raising parking meter rates but City Council balking on adjusting parking fines until there was some clarity on Polk Street.  Here’s the pertinent section from the Mayor’s presentation at the Nov 7 Council meeting that temporarily quieted the controversy: “Bethlehem Parking Authority is exploring all areas of financing future capital projects, including borrowing with or without City guarantee. Once they have completed their analysis and I have reviewed the options, I will ask the Bethlehem Parking Authority to seek the fine increase and to brief City Council on the recommended method of financing at that time. It is important that the Authority research all the possible options including eliminating risk to the taxpayers of the City of Bethlehem. I expect this to occur early 2019.”

Gadfly’s notes indicate that the Mayor expected the financial report in the first quarter of 2019 (over today), at which time what people on both sides felt would be the awkward disjunction between the rates and the fines could be addressed. But we are not going to have that financial report for at least another three months. Gadfly supposes financial matters can’t be rushed, and it doesn’t look like the end of the world is nigh as predicted because it may be more economical to pay a fine than feed a meter.

BPA Board Chairman Joseph Hoffmeier explained at the Board meeting last Wednesday that garage size right now is estimated at 470, that financing is being explored, that a construction manager is being sought, that other development (retail, residential?) here would be included, and that it would be another 90 days for the report before Council. Board member Lynn Cunningham argued for consideration of increasing the projected size of Polk, supported by member Diana Morganelli.

Here’s the audio of the section of the Board meeting devoted to Polk Street:

And some clips:

  • Hoffmeier: “We’re still trying to figure out how big to make this thing, and, of course, that’s going to have an impact on the cost. We thought we had a number of 470, but it may grow or it may stay at 470. We’re trying to get a lot of the stakeholders involved and actually come to the table and make a commitment. Also looking at any ancillary development that may take place down the road that may require parking.”
  • Hoffmeier: “We’re at a very good rate right now, so we could take our time and price this out. We’ve had some very good offers from some private banks. We can do a City guarantee in a full-blown bond, but all those will be looked at depending on our actual cost.”
  • Hoffmeier: “We also have an RFP out for a construction manager.”
  • Hoffmeier: “So it’s still up in the air right now, but I imagine that within 90 days we should have some better idea, and at that point we will move in front of Council.”
  • Hoffmeier: “And also in front of that there’s about 10,000 square feet on the front on Third Street which includes an RFP for a retail or residential or some sort of development.”
  • Cunningham: “With the current projects that are on the books right now, that’s pretty much going to fill that garage, and there’s so much more open space there that is going to be eventually developed, to fill the garage at 470 spaces where it’s going to be filled immediately, I think is not thinking ahead.”
  • Cunningham: “Especially because the lot behind Northampton Community College at ArtsQuest, that lot is not actually owned by ArtsQuest but people use it as a free lot . . . by Sands, and when Wind Creek comes in that’s one of the projects that I think they have highlighted as something they are going to develop.”
  • Cunningham: “It is my opinion that it would be foolish to build a garage that’s going to be filled right away , and we should think in a larger scale. . . . And I think we have to look at what happened with this garage. This garage when it was built was not filled. . . so we need to just look at that and think hard about it before we decide.”
  • Solicitor Broughal: “The Ruins lot is the wild card . . . from a monetary standpoint . . . so much of this is up in the air and guess work .”
  • Hoffmeier: “So we just need more time. It’s all being looked at. . . . It’s just a matter of how big we are going to make it.”

Ron’s henro, day 26: “Kukai is walking with us”

(4th in a series of posts on Ron Yoshida’s pilgrimage)

https://88-photos.com/

Yoshida 5

“Burnout from chronic stress is everywhere these days,” Washington Post, March 30, 11:00AM.

Ron’s posts are full of wonderful pictures. Of beautiful food. Of warm people.

And

Yoshida 8

“One can feel the spiritual here.”

“Is Kukai with us? I don’t believe in the afterlife or an outer body who ‘watches’ over us. But walking with time to reflect, I often think that Kukai is walking with us. He beckons us to see beauty. He beckons us to appreciate life as a positive experience rather than one to be endured.”

Seeing a solemn castle over the sea
Thronged with horses and people,
Fools immediately think it is reality.
The wise know it is temporary and empty.
Heavenly halls, temples, earthly palaces
That once looked real return to nothing.

                Kukai (Kobo Daishi)

                                                    Buddha: “I am the awakened one.”

  https://88-photos.com/

Thoughts on connecting with “Connecting Bethlehem” (8)

(8th in a series of posts on the communication survey)

Did you
Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey?

Gadfly is all atwitter about the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey and the steps that will take place based on it.

“Good communication builds community” — to paraphrase something he heard somewhere.

I tell you, the thought of Councilman Reynolds on Twitter after Tuesday’s meeting answering questions and fielding comments was enough to keep him awake Tuesday night. Fantastic!

The survey seems very important. It sounds like it will direct future resources. So Gadfly’s also been thinking about the means of distributing the survey and the number of responses received.

Seems important that there be a lot of responses from all levels in the town.

But Gadfly is not clear on the means of dissemination. Online at the City web site and in print form at City Hall and the libraries, he remembers. But vague on other means.

How do we reach people to tell them about the survey? Feels like a dog-chasing-its-tail situation. We need better communication but we don’t have great communication to reach people to ask how we can better the communication. Or something like that. Feels like a case in point for the need for significant improvement in communication.

So how will people know about the survey?

In my Catholic school years, messages were always been sent home to parents through the kids. That way everybody got something. But I guess that route is not available to us.

What about a separate one-sheet mailing to the newsletter mailing list — would that be effective at reasonable cost?

But that’s assuming recipients have access to a computer to respond. What about those who don’t?

It’s so important that we get a good “return.”

Would Gadfly followers have suggestions for disseminating news of the survey and/or the survey itself?

Maybe Gadfly could then put together a list of suggestions for Councilman Reynolds and Mayor Donchez.

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

 

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Question 1 (17)

(17th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

There are 3 candidates for the 1 opening for a 2-year position on City Council: Will Carpenter, Ashley Daubert, Grace Crampsie Smith.

Gadfly’s purpose is not to endorse candidates but to provide information.

Gadfly will pose a few questions (prompts) for the candidates to answer in succession in the period before the election on May 21.

Gadfly followers are welcome to suggest future questions.

A tip o’ the hat and a wave of the wings to the candidates for their commitment and courage in running for office and for participating in this Gadfly attempt to help us all be more informed voters.

The first question Gadfly posed was: “What uniquely qualifies you to serve on Bethlehem City Council?”

Gadfly told the candidates that he was looking for c. 250-300 words and that more would probably be ok but that much less might feel skimpy.

Here – in alphabetical order this time (we’ll vary that in subsequent posts) – are their answers to the first question/prompt.

“What uniquely qualifies you to serve on Bethlehem City Council?”

Will Carpenter  Will Carpenter

What I share with my fellow Council candidates is a love for our city and a belief that this is an important time for setting the course for our continued growth. We are facing important challenges and opportunities as exciting new projects that will help create jobs and define our future are proposed. My experience working for an international corporation as a Director of Real Estate gives me a unique perspective and insight needed by the Council at this time. I have sat at the table and made decisions during the entire development process. I have negotiated with municipalities, developers, and contractors and have seen how projects get shaped and how cities can work effectively to uphold standards and attract development.

I have attended dozens of council, zoning, and planning meetings in cities large and small. I decided to run for City Council because I believe this experience is valuable at this important time. We can strategically pursue development to create jobs and growth while conserving public funds and defining our vision. Bethlehem is in a great position; people want to live and work here. We need City Hall to be the voice of our community, leading with a vision that is shaped by our values. We must learn from both our successes and our shortcomings to find the balance between economic vitality and responsible growth.

Ashley Daubert  Ashley Daubert

I am the only candidate for the two-year term that is a lifelong Bethlehem resident. I was born in Bethlehem, I grew up in Bethlehem, I am a proud product of our BASD schools, I work in Bethlehem, and I am now raising my own family in Bethlehem. To truly represent a place and its people, I think you need to be invested in it. That place needs to be a part of who you are. Bethlehem means so much to me, as it has grown with me. To see (and be part of) all of the things Bethlehem not only always was, but has become, has truly been an honor. Bethlehem residents take great pride in our city – and I am blessed to be able to call Bethlehem my hometown. Professionally, I hold degrees in both Crime, Law, and Justice, and Nursing. I am a registered nurse by trade, with an ANCC board certification in psychiatric-mental health nursing. I have dedicated my life to helping other people. Having such a diverse background has given me an understanding of and a compassion for human suffering that is the driving force behind all I do and will do for our city. I believe people need to come before politics – and we need to see beyond party lines and truly take the time to discuss issues in terms of how they will affect the quality of life of (all of) our citizens. My priority is community wellness – this means mental health, physical health, financial health, environmental health, safety, and inclusion. Bethlehem is the greatest city in the Lehigh Valley – and as a Councilwoman, I will both further and initiate efforts to (continue to) make Bethlehem a great place to live, work, and play.

Grace Crampsie Smith  grace crampsie smith

Service to others has been woven into the tapestry of my life. My dominant family gene is “Publicum Officium,” as my parents and 6 siblings have also continually given of themselves to public service.

I believe the hallmark of the role of councilperson is to be a representative and advocate for all the citizens of Bethlehem. I have been advocating for the rights of those in need for almost 40 years as an Addictions Counselor, administrator of government-funded services for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness and their families, Instructor at college level on the ADA and IDEA, and currently as a high school counselor in a Title I school. Additionally, I have been a lifelong democrat, and continually fight for democratic ideals via my membership in Northampton County Democratic Committee (Precinct Committee Person), Bethlehem Area Democratic Committee, Lehigh Valley ROAR, Lehigh Valley 4 All, Lehigh Valley Democratic Progressive Coalition, Human Rights Campaign, American Legion Auxiliary, and ACLU.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology/Social Welfare, which has enlightened me to the impact socio-economic policy at the local level has upon citizens, the environment, and the community as an entity. I have a Master’s Degree in School Counseling, and as a counselor, I have become quite skilled at mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution, and crisis management, necessary skills for a city council person.

As a Coordinator of Early Intervention and Community Services for Lehigh County, I managed multi-million-dollar taxpayer-funded budgets and had to make heart-wrenching decisions in disbursement of limited government funds to our most vulnerable populations — those with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and homelessness. I successfully oversaw the transformation of our service delivery system resulting in the elimination of waiting lists and provision of vital services to all in need. As Part C of the IDEA federal legislation mandated Early Intervention Services for infants and toddlers as an entitlement, I took the lead in assuring adherence to legislative tenets of the entitlement program within Lehigh County. I was elected Chair of Lehigh-Northampton County Inter-Agency Coordinating Council and was responsible for coordination of service delivery and legislative compliance amongst county offices, contracted service providers, local hospitals, school districts, and intermediate units.

I have been innovative and collaborative throughout my career in undertaking new initiatives. I was recruited to be on the committee to establish the first Family Center within the Allentown School District. In my first year as a school counselor, I initiated an after-school tutoring program in collaboration with Lafayette College. I also developed the Skills for Success Program within our school. This program was in collaboration with Lafayette College and the local NAACP and provided daily mentoring and tutoring to at risk 9th graders. This program significantly reduced the dropout rate for this cohort.

To better understand the operations and challenges of the Bethlehem Police Department, I completed the Citizens Police Academy. As an Addictions Counselor, I provided counseling within the prison setting and provided testimony for court-ordered evaluations. As a a College Instructor on the ADA and IDEA, my knowledge of these vital federal legislations will certainly be relevant in city council, for the ADA mandates must be considered in all new development as well as renovations within the city. As a current school counselor, I am faced on a daily basis with issues of mental health, suicide risk, opioid addiction, homelessness, sexual and physical abuse, gang violence, and immigration. To address the growing opioid crisis, I facilitated a community forum on opioid addiction. As I deal with the increasing number of children and families who are homeless, I see the need for development and access to affordable housing within every community, including Bethlehem. In the event of a death or tragedy within our school district, I am called upon to lead the crisis management team in grief counseling due to my expertise in this area. I mediate conflict on a daily basis between teens as well as adults, and my proficiency in mediation will certainly be an asset to city council.

I have always been a tireless advocate for all, and I hope to expand my advocacy and skill sets to serve the citizens of this great city.

Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Question 1 (16)

(16th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

There are 5 candidates for the 3 openings for a 4-year position on City Council: Michael Colon, J. William Reynolds, Carol Ritter, David Saltzer, Paige Van Wirt.

Gadfly’s purpose is not to endorse candidates but to provide information.

Gadfly will pose a few questions (prompts) for the candidates to answer in succession in the period before the election on May 21.

Gadfly followers are welcome to suggest future questions.

A tip o’ the hat and a wave of the wings to the candidates for their commitment and courage in running for office and for participating in this Gadfly attempt to help us all be more informed voters.

The first question Gadfly posed was: “What uniquely qualifies you to serve (or to continue to serve) on Bethlehem City Council?”

Gadfly told the candidates that he was looking for c. 250-300 words and that more would probably be ok but that much less might feel skimpy.

Here – in alphabetical order this time (we’ll vary that in subsequent posts) – are their answers to the first question/prompt.

“What uniquely qualifies you to serve (or to continue to serve) on Bethlehem City Council?”

Michael Colon (incumbent)  Colon 2

When I think of why I’m uniquely qualified to be on city council, I view the question from two angles. The first viewing council members as representatives of the community. Currently I am one of only two West Bethlehem residents (Councilman Waldron the other) and Latinos (Councilwoman Negron the other) serving on council. While demographic info shouldn’t be the only qualifier, I do feel I’m part of two populations that have historically been underrepresented in town hall.

Second, I view the position as a job having influence on all aspects of city government, and what do I know about city government?  Prior to serving, I spent over two years attending all council meetings, graduated from the citizens’ academy, and have toured just about all city facilities. What is most unique is my background with 911. As a former county 911 dispatcher and current county employee right next door to the center, I feel my knowledge of the center and its operations will be a valuable resource as we move forward with the consolidation of city and county 911 services.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent)  JWReynolds

During my time on City Council, policy initiatives have often been proposed or suggested by members of Council. These policy recommendations and their goals have been met with positive, unanimous consensus among Council members as to the value of the proposal. Many of these worthwhile ideas, however, ultimately have fallen short of their initial goal for various reasons. I believe that during my time on City Council that I have proven my ability to propose and implement policy initiatives that reflect the priorities of the people of Bethlehem.

Two years ago, I proposed Bethlehem 2017, a collection of policy initiatives designed to make Bethlehem a more progressive city. Bethlehem 2017 was built on not just an ideological vision but also a strategy of mobilizing many organizations and citizens in our city who wished to positively contribute to their community. Creating permanent groups of engaged citizens to work on these initiatives is vital in creating real change on the issues that matter to the people of our city. These partnerships are more valuable than passing a piece of legislation that can be well meaning but ultimately limited in scope and effectiveness.

I am proud of how much of Bethlehem 2017 has been accomplished and implemented over the past two years. Working with the Administration and City Council, we have made great progress on municipal climate action, NorthSide 2027, open data, transparency and accountability in economic development incentive reporting (Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting), and improving governmental communication (Connecting Bethlehem Communications survey launching this week!). I am especially proud that each of these initiatives required collaboration with governmental and community partners including (but not limited to) the Mayor’s Administration, the Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, small businesses, and citizens throughout our city.

These relationships form the backbone of successful service on a legislative body.  If re-elected, I will continue to focus on building the community partnerships necessary to create and successfully implement policies that reflect the priorities of our citizens.

Carol Ritter  Ritter

My leadership roles and experiences on the local, state, and national level have taught me how to work on a team, how to lead a team and, most importantly, how to deliberate in a fair way to move toward a solution on any issue.

I am the former Board Chairman of the St. Luke’s Hospital Visiting Nurses (VNA) and Hospice. I served as facilitator for many board retreats and started board education at each session so that members could learn about the VNA’s programs and services. I spearheaded several unique donation-type events such as the 15 Days of Giving at Apollo Grill (where St. Luke’s Hospice was a recipient of donations). As the leader I met with each board member one-to-one every year I was chairperson of the board. I was chairman of the Board during home health and hospice expansion into Monroe county. I served as an ambassador for one of my favorite programs, the VNA’s Nurse Family Partnership, which is a program that serves low-income and first-time moms in our community.

I believe in 5 basic leadership principles:

  1. Inspiring Others – I believe you that you can’t motivate someone until you understand them. Having said that, the ability to walk in your constituent’s shoes is critical to inspiring them to get involved, be part both the team and participate on some level in this great city. Community involvement can be a catalyst for strengthening the bond between elected officials and citizens. Educating the public leads to trust and trust leads to involvement and growing the team of advocates and ambassadors.
  2. Embracing Change – change has been the backbone of the city for decades. When I think of change, I believe it needs to be done with careful consideration of all of the facts and then ask yourself how will this impact the entire community?
  3. Partnerships – If you want to make a difference, build the community, enhance the city and create strong neighborhoods, it’s best to have partners with expertise and commitment.
  4. Ambassadorship – I see the current council as deeply dedicated to the city and as strong community ambassadors. The next step, I believe, is to create more ambassadors, more team members, city-wide. How do we identify people of influence in the community who love and believe in Bethlehem? Those influencers can be the catalyst for getting more people involved in city government and service to the community.
  5. Active Listening – possibly the most important principle of the 5.  I practice active listening and have no predetermined agenda. Gathering all the facts, collaborating with experts, working with the council, will enable me to make educated, informed decisions. I have spent the last 15 years working with local small businesses, thousands of citizens and community organizations. I am deeply invested and committed to this city and would like to be part of helping Bethlehem continue to grow and prosper. As a city councilwoman I would pledge to embrace change, respect and honor the history of this city while considering what is good for the city and, more importantly, what is good for the citizens

David Saltzer  David Saltzer

No response from David as of press time.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)  Van Wirt 2

I think a healthy city council is one that sees itself clearly as a representative body, one that is charged with ensuring that the power of the executive/Mayor in a strong mayor form of government is balanced by the power of the Council. This means taking an advocacy approach to issues as they come before council, ensuring that the will and the voice of the citizens of Bethlehem are heard. I am willing to ask the tough questions and be that advocate for the citizens.

I also think a healthy city council is one that makes decisions based on facts. As a scientist and physician, I am an absolute believer in the power of data to help council make decisions that will stand the test of time and provide for a resilient city. I am a small business-owner and deeply understand how municipal government’s actions can adversely impact or consistently strengthen our business sector. I am a previous urban planner, and this allows me to understand the power of zoning and the need for economic development that hews to a city’s character, its history — the loss of Bethlehem Steel, and its future — including the renaissance I feel is heading toward Bethlehem as other people and businesses discover this singular city.

 

Leisure to watch the Spring come in

The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort

Gadfly got high on all this talk of walkability and bikeability.

Peeled his fingers from the keyboard.

Fished some Aardvark beauties out from way under the bed.

And went for a walk this afternoon.

Paying attention to the sidewalks, Anon., paying attention.

But they didn’t break my Spring spell.

Great to be retired.

People would ask me what I would do when retired. Echoing Thoreau, I would often say, “I’d finally have leisure to watch the Spring come in.”

Nature’s miracle.

What’s blooming around your way?

Vicki Snow drop

Victoria R. Leister

“The snowdrop is the first flower of the year that shows its nice flowers. Often the blossoming of the snowdrop is a sign that the winter is transforming to springtime. Therefore the snowdrop symbolizes hope, the hope that this winter will finish too, that new warmth will enter our lives.”

Film shows local and state governments working for climate change

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

I want to thank the Lehigh University Environmental Studies department for hosting a screening of “Paris to Pittsburgh” [watch trailer] and, specifically, Breena Holland for organizing the event.  In attendance were a good mix of students, professors, and residents of Bethlehem.  The basis of the film was to show that despite the federal government’s refusal to do anything about the dire issue of climate change, many local and state governments are working for change.  The film focused on the fact that climate change is NOT a partisan issue.  It profiled Miami, Florida, Iowa farmers and towns, California, Puerto Rico, and Pittsburgh, highlighting the fact that it does not matter where you live and/or what your politics are, you will be adversely affected by climate change, and it is our responsibility to do something to reverse or at least hold the course of temperature rise as much as possible.

“A searing look at the effects of climate change by regular people who are dealing with its effects in their local towns. ” (

The narrator talked about the need to scale-up from the bottom to reduce fossil fuel use by 80% by 2030 and 100% by the end of the century and showcased solutions that were currently being implemented.  There were numerous examples of renewable energy as a local economy boaster/job creator, and the film talked about the true price of greenhouse gas emissions.  It is will cost less to do more to remediate climate change than it will cost to repair all the damage caused by it.  A Marshall Plan for climate was suggested.  Ask your politicians how they plan to tackle climate change.  On that note, Bethlehem City Council Candidate, Grace Crampsie Smith, was in attendance, and asked good questions about the solutions cities should use to do their part.

“We the people need to take action. Our lives are at stake here.” (from the film)

The panel for discussion included Professors Rudy Shankar, Dork Sahagian, and David Casagrande; Lehigh University graduate student and member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council’s Waste Reduction Task Force, Jackie Cook; and Martha Christine, co-chair of Citizens Climate Lobby LV Chapter and member of Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife.  Professor Sahagian also stressed the need for a united effort – where you and I take responsibility for reducing our energy consumption.  Start local, speak up, and take action.

Kathy

It’s Thursday, March 28, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

“Let’s see some funding going to other ways of getting around” (22)

(22nd in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

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.

Gadfly, question of clarification: When the Anon person states that the taxpayer should not pick up the tab on a pedestrian bridge project, does this mean the Anon person is opposed to paying for the bridge with government-funded state and federal grants? It’s my understanding that this is where much of the funding comes from on these project. Personally, I’d rather see that pool of taxpayer money (i.e. federal and state grants) go to support projects that make cities more walkable and bikable rather than projects that endlessly advance vehicular mobility. Don’t we already put enough of our taxpayer dollars to vehicular mobility? Let’s see some funding going to other ways of getting around. To me it is not a question of if our taxpayer dollars should go to a pedestrian bridge, but a question of whether we’d like to see our taxpayer dollars already going to transportation infrastructure dedicated solely to projects that improve transportation for cars vs. bikes and your own two feet.

Breena

Sierra Club looks to fair weighing of concerns about and benefits from a pedestrian bridge (21)

(21st in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Dear Gadfly:

As recent letters to the Gadfly affirm, a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh River comes with its own challenges and questions.   And, it is worth noting that from the beginning of our community discussions, the assertion has been made that the railroad tracks are an insurmountable obstacle and that Norfolk Southern represents an impenetrable bureaucratic fortress.   Likewise, it has often been  suggested that our current means of walking and biking from the North Side to the South Side is already adequate for every purpose and for every person.

Now, thanks to the forward thinking of the mayor and city council, these concerns can be addressed formally by the State Department of Conservation.  And, more important, these engineering challenges can now be fairly weighed against the myriad of social, cultural and economic benefits that a quality pedestrian-biking bridge represents to the City of Bethlehem.   We all look forward to answering these questions.

Lehigh Valley Sierra Club

Launching “Connecting Bethlehem” with a communication survey (7)

(7th in a series of posts on the communication survey)

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

The “Connecting Bethlehem” communications survey – developed in collaboration with Mayor Donchez, his Administration, and a working group of citizens and community partners — is a significant step in Councilman Reynolds’ January 2017 proposal designed to increase the City of Bethlehem’s online presence and level of engagement with its citizens.

The survey  Communication 1

  • is available in English and Spanish
  • is open for about a month
  • takes about 10 minutes to complete
  • is available in paper form (City Hall, the libraries)
  • will be the basis for further planning and implementation of resources

Here is a recording of the Tuesday press conference in which the survey was introduced by Councilman Reynolds and Mayor Donchez.

Councilman Reynolds

“Citizens are looking at technology as an opportunity to interact in a different way.”

“We’re at an interesting time both in our community and across the country where we have some people who get all of their news and all of their information from the internet . . . and then we have some people who don’t get any of their information [there].”

“So it’s not necessarily an either/or where we need to move completely away from our traditional modes of communication, and that’s what led us to today.”  Communication 2

“[We] needed to take a look at all City communications . . . how do people get their information, where do they get their information from, what do they want from the City.”

“The survey is designed to measure people’s current use and satisfaction with our communication methods as well as determine the areas in which they would like to see the City invest in.”

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do . . . is expand the definition of what it means to be part of our community.”

“Our hope is that citizens, businesses, our institutions of higher learning, our Chamber of Commerce, [our library] . . . as many different ways as are possible that will allow people to be engaged.”

“People are expecting a quicker level of response, but it’s also about a greater level of efficiency.”

“What we are doing today is part of our larger scale push to embrace technology, to take a look at what it can mean to the City of Bethlehem, but at the same time not answer those questions ourselves.”

“This is about giving the opportunity to people in our community to help guide us in a direction . . . to redefine what technology can mean for our community.”

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Mayor Donchez

The Mayor cited these significant additional elements in the communications area:  Communications 3

  • a new City web site July 1
  • a new 24/7 customer service phone line 610-865-7000 July 1
  • a new Bethlehem app July 1
  • a revamped newsletter going out in the next month
  • a new open data/open gov where we can see how our money is spent

“The goal is to make city information more accessible, easier for the public to get, and really connect citizens to the government.”

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

and spread the word to others!

Existing bridges not good for either biking or walking (20)

(20th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

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.

Gadfly:

Ped bridge would not be a panacea, but existing bridges are not good for either biking or walking.

On the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, biking in the traffic lanes is very dangerous at most times, so cyclists ride on the sidewalk, which makes it very bad for pedestrians.

On the Fahy bridge, there is only one sidewalk which duplicates the cyclist-pedestrian conflicts just as it does on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge.

Add to that the problem that both bridge sidewalks often have standing water that make these walks unpleasant unless you’re wearing waterproof shoes (not comfortable in summer) — and in winter, snow & ice removal is inconsistent, so icy conditions are common.

Peter

The BASD Proud Parents program on charter schools (18)

(18th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

“Our children have a backpack full of cash, and the schools should vie for the privilege of having that backpack turned over to them.”

Last week the BASD Proud Parents (sorry, I used the wrong name in the past few posts) showed the documentary Backpack Full of Cash at Nitschmann, a film focused on the Philadelphia school system, “ground zero” of the school choice movement. The film is highly critical of charter schools, and, though Bethlehem is quite different than Philadelphia, the film was timely for us and valuable.

But, first, Gadfly wants to say something about BASD Proud Parents. The Gadfly project is allll about citizen engagement, and BASD Proud Parents is allll about that as well! Take at look at their great web site (now linked on the Gadfly sidebar as well), and be sure to listen to their thoughtful representatives on the audio linked below.

So, again, this film is highly critical of charter schools and other forms of school choice that are draining students and dollars from the public school system.

A reminder of some facts presented earlier in this series of posts: approximately 2100 BASD students attend charter schools (12 different ones but 50% at one particular charter school), about 13% of the total student population, at a cost of 29 million in charter tuition this year, which is roughly 10% of the budget.

The film trailer will provide you with some good soundbites that illustrate the core issue, such as “reformers say all that money [$600 billion] can be managed more efficiently if the system is run like a business” v. “It’s about privatizing, not improving public education.” Take two minutes and listen to the trailer for a good introduction to the issues.

After the film, Julie Gallagher (no relation) and Emily Schenkel gave a brief presentation that Gadfly recorded and linked for you here, with their slides.

Listen to Julie explain the slides:

BASD 1

Basd 2

Emily presented a series of “asks”:

  • sign a petition thanking Sen. Boscola for co-sponsoring legislation limiting cyber-charter schools
  • sign a petition for limiting the activity of the Charter School Appeal Board (until funding is equitable, stop the CAB activity (you can sign that petition here)
  • contact your legislator (contact info on the BASD Proud Parents web site)
  • sign up on the BASD Proud Parents web site to continue to receive relevant information
  • send BASD Proud Parents success stories of public school education

Interesting: Julie was careful to say “no aspersions” on the three charter schools located in Bethlehem.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer to Gadfly that for us here in Bethlehem the problem is not so much poor quality charter schools but the funding system and the solution for that is with the legislature.

Parting words: “We have to educate ourselves, so that we can empower our children.”

Well done.

Gadfly has an appointment with Dr. Roy tomorrow and is especially interested in what we know about why those 13% of our students are going to charter schools, and especially why so many are choosing Lehigh Valley Academy. Do we have surveys? Data? Interviews?

Pedestrian bridge: changing minds needed (19)

(19th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly knows the author of this post, who prefers to remain anonymous.

AS for the positing of the pedestrian bridge:

The pedestrian bridge very well MIGHT change Bethlehem, but walkability would be greatly enhanced if the city would help with keeping the sidewalks walkable (repaired) and bike lanes added to the streets. A bike lane that is to be shared with cars isn’t really a “bike lane,” the cars will always win.

To change the walking and biking and the transportation culture, you need to do a lot of changing of the minds of the residents. These are automotive people, even to go to the gym, they drive.

I live two blocks from Liberty High School, three teachers live on this block, not a one of them ever walked the three blocks to work. It just isn’t in the minds of this population.

Just saying . . .

By the way, if you ever get to New Paltz, NY they have a pedestrian bridge spanning the Hudson. On a trip in September, I stopped and walked across it one evening. Absolutely magnificent, lots of families out with their children, a real treat. Just want to point out that I am not against pedestrian bridges in general. I just think that since we have three at this time, unless someone other than the tax payers pick up the tab, it isn’t a necessary line item. If I remember correctly that bridge had a closing time so there were no late night walks allowed.

Anon.

Extending Monocacy Way northwest (18)

(18th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly –

Marquette 1 map

The old Lehigh and New England Railroad tracks branching off of Monocacy Way could be the next expansion of the Bethlehem trail system. It could connect Pennsylvania Avenue (think Queen’s Nutritional Products) to Burnside Plantation and on to the Colonial Historical District and the D&L towpath trail.

Marquette 2 Stop

Many readers will recognize this portion of the trail at Monocacy Way, Union Boulevard, and the Route 378 north onramp.

Marquette 3 dog

About a quarter-mile north, we see the branch of the old Lehigh and New England’s Allentown line head off to the west. For reference, the dog is facing east. Burnside is visible through the trees.

Marquette 4 track

As the track condition shows, the line is not active. It no longer serves the old Durkee’s plant and never served the Lowe’s.It passes under the Eighth Avenue overpass and roughly follows the (seasonal) west branch of Monocacy Creek.

Action steps Lehigh County and the City of Bethlehem would need to take would be to have Norfolk Southern formally abandon the line and transfer possession to the same entity owning Monocacy Way. The parks department and streets bureau would need to determine access points along the new trail. Selecting property for the access points, noting that they’d need to be ADA accessible, would be the most expensive part of converting the rail line to public access.

While public focus is now on the pedestrian bridge, this stretch of land offers residents of northwest Bethlehem new and grade-free access to the heart of the city. Norfolk Southern has a foundation offering grants which might pay for some or all of the rail-to-trail conversion.

I’ve seen early plans from the 1970s when the American Parkway was being planned showing it following this line to a major interchange with Route 378 at Eighth Avenue. That will never happen. This could.

John

The pedestrian bridge represents a new way of thinking about the city’s future (17)

(17th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Sara K. Satullo, “How a pedestrian bridge over the Lehigh might change Bethlehem.” lehighvalleylive.com, March 25, 2019.

“The Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative started conversations about the bridge in 2016 with a public forum. That exploration has continued over the last three years and included speakers to help guide the vision and architects and trail engineers to offer practical advice.”

“If all the funding comes together as expected the city will have about $140,000 to explore how Bethlehem north of the Lehigh River and the South Side could be linked by a pedestrian bridge.”

“All three offer pedestrian access on one side of the bridge, but there’s no dedicated bridge in the city just for cyclists or those on foot.”

“With ‘a safe way of crossing the river,’ Roysdon said, ‘there’s the possibility of creating a cityscape that is separate from cars, separate from traffic and safe. A lot of people love the idea of quiet’.”

“The public forums initially focused just on the idea of a pedestrian bridge, but its grown to represent a way of thinking about the city’s future, Roysdon said. Envisioning a walkable Bethlehem that is tied back into the Lehigh River — a place where you can walk from Illick’s Mill on the Monocacy Way trail all the way to the Saucon Rail Trail, a way to pass through the city’s historic sites while being tied to nature, he said.”

“Studies show pedestrian bridges can be a huge boon for economic development, tourism and promote walkability and recreation opportunities, said Darlene Heller, city planning director. Bethlehem’s in the unique position of having two downtowns and a robust recreational trail system, she said.”

“Roysdon sees the bridge as a way to create a new community gathering space where neighbors run into one another on their way to work or out to dinner and stop to talk and connect. He credits Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt with championing the idea. ‘If we are going to overcome the car, overcome the smart phone and media dependence and all of these things technology has given us, we are going to have to reinvent the public sphere, reinvent the way we get together,’ he said.”

Here’s the proposed legislation banning single-use plastic bags

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

from Lynn Rothman

Following is the recommendation from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) advising the City of Bethlehem to enact legislation banning single-use plastic bags. The City may modify the proposal and will ensure it is in legal form, should they decide to move forward with the recommendation. The City has been receptive to the proposal, and, upon request, we have provided additional ordinances from other cities to serve as examples.

EAC.Plastic.Bag.Ordinance.Proposal

The work was done by the EAC’s Waste Reduction Task Force, chaired by Beth Behrend, with committee members Jackie Cook and Amanda Allekott, both graduate students at Lehigh University.

The EAC is chaired by Lynn Rothman, with members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, Kathy Fox, Brian Hillard, and Mike Topping.

Reminder: Free showing of and panel discussion about the documentary Paris to Pittsburgh Wednesday, March 27, 7pm (reception at 6:30), STEPS building (catacorner from the Chapel on Packer Ave.), Lehigh University.

It’s Tuesday, March 26, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

H.D.: her life’s work begins at Nisky Hill (12)

(12th in a series of posts on H.D.)

We continue to learn about this Bethlehem-born writer (1886-1961), the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure,” as the plaque at the entrance announces to our library patrons.

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

We’ve done two posts on Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” on March 6, and now we’re ready to look at a third slice as Mary moves into H.D.’s autobiographical narrative The Gift, which “opens with a discussion of H.D.’s childhood in Bethlehem.”

So, “autobiography,” and you’re thinking and expecting (yawn) to see some form of “I was born . . . .” No, The Gift begins in Nisky Hill Cemetery with a childhood incident involving H.D.’s mother, grandmother (Mamalie) and four dead females: Edith (her sister), Martha (her father’s first wife), Alice (daughter of her father with Martha), and Fanny (sister of Martha). Read on and/or listen to an audience member reading this passage on the link above.

H.D. 6

What lines jump out at you? How about H.D.’s questions “But why is it funny? [that Fanny died],” and “Why was it always a girl who had died?”

Hmm, H.D. begins an autobiography with dead girls and women. At graves we can literally easily visit.

And with questions that haunt.

So — and here’s a good example of her own “Wow!” questions — Mary asks, “Why does [H.D.] open an autobiographical text with dead women? What is the significance of this artistic choice?”

The answer is powerful:

  • “The loss of a girl is of no great consequence to the world for she only might matter to the family. In other words, the kind of labor that a girl, the kind of gifts that she might give to the world, is of no consequence as women’s labor is devalued and their ‘gifts’—intellectual, artistic, scientific, etc.—are assumed to be nonexistent.”
  • “Hilda is forced to encounter in the Nisky graveyard the names of women that will not be in the histories of Bethlehem, that few grieve, and that others avoid so as not to confront how institutionalized sexism devalues women.”
  • “The lives of white men will be celebrated as they work at the Steel, as they work at the University, as they contribute to the world with the labor, but the lives of women will be recorded on gravestones.”
  • “In a whimsical way, Hilda is pointing out here through a girl child’s view of the world that the primary place where women are marked in public spaces is in their deaths, on their gravestones.”
  • “She seems to say we celebrate men’s lives and just mark women’s deaths.”
  • “Her gift . . . is to feel sorrow for the lost women and girls, to grieve their deaths, and to grieve for the ways that they are not valued fully in their communities both during the lives and in their resting places.”

Mary reminds us that “H.D. was born into a world where women were understood as naturally inferior.” For the first thirty years of her life women could not vote and rarely held leadership positions. She was also “born into a [Moravian] religious community that despite its history of valuing women in leadership roles and viewing equality among all people succumbed to dominant forms of sexism after the death of Zinzendorf in 1760.”

“Part of the gift that [H.D.] gets from her mother is her ability to grieve for girls.”

“She can mourn for those that others are laughing at.”  H.D. young 1

“She’s connected to the dead; she has a responsibility to the dead.”

“She’s crying inside for a culture that says women are not valuable.”

So, what does beginning with memory of an incident involving a dead girl that was a laughing matter mean to H.D. as she begins to think about the significance of her life?

“Her life’s work is this quest . . . to create narratives that might help us think differently about the sacredness . . . of gender non-conforming people.”

“When the young Hilda seemingly only finds the names of women preserved on gravestones, she is gesturing to the absence of familial, cultural, and national recognition of women’s value.”

There ought to be a Wow! in you somewhere for the young H.D.’s germinating moment in Nisky Hill.

Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Announcing a City Communication survey on Tuesday

On Gadfly’s calendar for Tuesday, March 26, at 3:30 in Town Hall is a press conference announcing a City Communication survey. Gadfly is not exactly sure whatz-up here, but he believes it is rooted in the following section of CM Reynolds’ “Bethlehem 2017” report — more like a vision statement (full document is linked on the Gadfly sidebar).

At least, Gadfly hopes thats what this event is about. Followers know that public participation and communication fuel the Gadfly project.

Well worth reading.

from
J. William Reynolds
Bethlehem City Council President
“Bethlehem 2017”
January 2017

#3 Engaging Bethlehem

As technology has been progressing exponentially in the past several years, so have citizens’ expectations of the application of that technology.  In 2007, being “friends” with or “following” an elected official or governmental body passed for a successful social media interaction.  Over time, people have come to expect a quicker and more personal interaction with their governmental officials and organizations.  Many times, citizens look to the internet or social media to solve a governmental problem (such as a quality of life issue) which is a different utilization of technology than was used ten or fifteen years ago.  While some departments in the City of Bethlehem do an effective job of responding to the citizens of Bethlehem, by and large, we remain behind other cities and municipalities in interacting successfully with our citizens of Bethlehem.  Some of that issue is likely inevitable in a world where technology is changing so quickly.  Technology is moving quickly and the City has not made it a priority to come up with a comprehensive plan on how to engage our citizens through social media. We must, however, switch from a reactive authoritative system to a proactive interactive system of social media services if we are going to optimize the current extensive opportunities available for technological citizen engagement.

Why can’t the issue of Social Media be looked at with Open Data?

There are many similarities between social media and open data.  Both involve computers, technology, and interaction between government and their citizens. They are not, however, the same thing. Open Data is data produced or commissioned by government or government controlled entities that can be used to create something new and innovative. The data is used to accomplish a separate larger goal of the community and the government.  Social media centers on websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social interaction.  The user goal of social media can often be met through the individual interaction.  The difference between the two is stark and understanding the difference is important in comprehending the future goals of the individual mediums as they relate to the City of Bethlehem.

What should be done? 

The City of Bethlehem should look at what we currently do now in the field of social media and how we can increase interactions with the members of our community.   Potential goals to be included:

  1. Find out what people want. The world of technology is moving quickly and we increasingly have citizens who receive the majority if not all of their information from their computers and their phones.  Finding out what people want from the City of Bethlehem is an important place to start the conversation.
  2. Study other cities. Many other cities use social media in various ways related to the services that they provide. Looking at what other cities do and the value it brings to the efficiency of their services should be an immediate goal of the city.
  3. Interact with and talk to the members of our community who are actively involved with social media. The Bethlehem community is filled with many professionals who specialize in social media.  They should be utilized for information as well as best practices in determining what the City of Bethlehem is not currently doing well.
  4. Encourage more questions of our community. Many political leaders and governments throughout the country make open-ended questions a key aspect of their social media presence.  Asking questions of our community increases interactions, reach, and effectiveness of our social media efforts.
  5. Post and be willing to respond quicker – ex. disaster related information. We have not always responded to natural disasters such as snow events as efficiently as we could have or in the same effective way that other cities have.  For example, other cities have been constant in interacting and responding to community questions/concerns.  Other ideas include creating hashtags such as #SnowBethlehem as a way for community members’ questions/concerns/frustrations to be read and directed to city departments or employees with the capability to address that concern.
  6. Encourage more posting of pictures relating to services (leaf collection, code violations, etc.) The most basic job of a city government is to provide basic city services. For decades, the way people relayed a service concern was by a phone call or a trip to City Hall.  Social media allows people to report concerns and complaints instantly. This, however, needs to be done through a concerted effort to encourage people to do this.  For example, “Please send pictures of garbage violations to #BethlehemTrash” or “Please send pictures of garbage violations in a Direct Message to @BethlehemTrashConcerns”
  7. Create #hashtag days among departments to maximize reach of branding and news #VisitBethlehem #LiveBethlehem #SafeBethlehem, #WalkBethlehem, etc. Cities have been using hashtags to brand themselves for years.  Getting everyone who handles a City of Bethlehem social media account to tweet on the same topic increases not only the branding of Bethlehem but also the reach of important community events.

How should we go about improving our social media operation?  It is my belief we should follow the same procedure as outlined previously for Open Data and our Climate Action Plan.  Resolution #3 outlines goals to be accomplished in 2017 in the area of social media in the City of Bethlehem.  A Social Media team should be created using members of the Administration, current social media contacts in our individual departments, members of City Council, and, most importantly, people in our community who utilize social media on a daily basis for business.  Giving the Social Media Team ample time to study what we do, what other cities do, and create goals for the City of Bethlehem.

There is also an open house at the Banana Factory for the Southside Streetscape Design at 3:30-5:30, but, thankfully, also at 6:30-8:30, so no need to miss out on Tuesday’s doin’s.

Questioning the pedestrian bridge (16)

(16th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly knows the author of this post, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Ok what am I missing in this pedestrian bridge discussion?

Are there not already three bridges (all with pedestrian walkways) crossing the Lehigh?

And where is this to be located?

And, the best nighttime walk? Walking across a boring, lazy, dark river just doesn’t seem exciting to me.

I walk this town a lot, I’ve walked from my home (near Elizabeth Avenue) to the Steel Stacks, to Lehigh, and various places on the Southside, but I don’t know that there are that many walkers in this town.

What I notice when I walk is that many of the people don’t recycle (ignorance or lack of desire?), that the sidewalks are terrible, that many trees are in very bad shape along the walks and roads, etc.

Feasibility study? Meaning: possible to do easily or conveniently.  Sounds like with ADA issues, easily is out. That leaves convenient. So throw enough money at it and anything would be convenient, I guess.

As for the Lehigh River, I have kayaked on it and biked along it. I like it as something to recreate on and near but it isn’t an exciting river to look at.

I just think that the money could be better spent and benefiting many more than a pedestrian bridge.

And again the bottom line for me is that three bridges that you can walk across seem enough in my mind. Biking, not so much, but neither are any of the roads in whole city.

So what am I missing?

Anon.

EAC proposal: an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Free showing of and panel discussion about the documentary Paris to Pittsburgh Wednesday, March 27, 7pm (reception at 6:30), STEPS building (catercorner from the Chapel on Packer Ave.), Lehigh University.

Beth Behrend is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and head of the Waste Reduction Committee of the EAC.

Gadfly: Here is what I said at the City Council town hall meeting on Tuesday.

First, I want to start off by thanking the mayor for attending the Mayor’s conference on sustainability and showing a commitment to our planet.

The EAC recently submitted a proposal to city council to pass an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags and apply a fee on all paper bags given to customers at the point of sale.  I would like to see city council move forward with this measure and ask for your support for a ban on plastic bags.

The majority of the world already lives in a place where these bags are banned or levied.  We are the ones that are behind.  Narberth became the first borough in Pennsylvania to ban plastic bags back in October 2018, and I think it is important that we put more effort into caring for our environment.

Most plastic bags are made from nonrenewable energy sources, thus contributing to air pollution and climate change, and while some can be recycled, they are not easy to recycle and they never fully break down.  In terms of costs, it is expensive to remove them when they get caught in storm drains or recycling facilities that are not designed to handle that type of recycling.  It’s the tax payers that end up paying those costs.  Research shows the passing of an ordinance like the one we proposed will drastically reduce both plastic and paper bag usage.

While our committee was putting together information on the proposal, we surveyed business owners in Bethlehem, and the response was overwhelmingly in support of eliminating plastic bags.  Eighty percent of business owners who responded were either in favor of eliminating plastic bags or are neutral on the subject.  Bethlehem is ready for this change, and I ask that you follow the lead of Narberth, Pennsylvania, and ban these unnecessary items. Thank you.

Beth

You can see Beth make this presentation to City Council at their March 19 meeting via the link above or on YouTube <City of Bethlehem Council> starting at min. 5:50.

Stay tuned — in the next post in this series, we’ll post the EAC proposal to which Beth refers  (note how craftily Gadfly avoided ending this sentence with a proposition).

It’s Sunday, March 24, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Feasible or not feasible — preliminary thoughts (15)

(15th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly:

The biggest challenges to a pedestrian bridge are a) crossing the Norfolk Southern tracks on the South Side and b) the additional linear footage the bridge and its approaches will require to be ADA-compliant. I think the maximum grade allowed is one foot of elevation per 10 feet of length. (Engineers and architects, please correct this figure.) So, we need at least 26 feet of clearance over the N-S tracks, assuming they grant permission: where’s the drop back down to the south side going to be?

This isn’t a matter of measuring the distance from the Ice House to the Greenway and building a span that length. We have to go up at least 26 feet on each side of the river with a compliant grade.

This makes planning this bridge seem unimaginably costly. Suspending a bridge under the Fahy sounds like a feasible approach, if we base feasibility on the amount of money we have available.

John

Gadfly wonders a couple things:

1) The City is seeking money for a feasibility study. Who does feasibility studies? Can we assume imagination and creativity as well as the kind of knowledge to solve such engineering problems as John points to? (Gadfly leaves that preposition at the end — “to which John points” — no, yuk.)

2) The PB planning and discussing has some history among the local folk. Were any ideas floated that would be interesting to hear about?

3) I guess the logical spot for the PB is near Fahy Bridge. But were any alternate spots considered? I think I read somewhere that in the “old days” a bridge (or was it the ferry?) went from the Sand Island boat access spot to the Union Station area. So what if the bridge were farther west — would that help with the railroad problem at all?

 

A pedestrian bridge: re-inventing the public sphere (14)

(14th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Spring has sprung.

The sun is out pretty good as Gadfly writes this Saturday morning.

The 5k’s are gearing up.

The whoosh of bike tire pumps fills garages.

And the pedestrian bridge is budding.

The PB is among a list of things that might be funded through the Casino Transfer Tax when the Sands sale is finalized.

Says so right in the 2019 City budget p. 278

And Tuesday night City Council approved grant applications for funds for a feasibility study.

Increased walkability and bikeability are City goals.

A PB would firm up a corridor from Illick’s Mill across the river to the Greenway and on to the Saucon Trail, which now goes down toward Center Valley, where there are plans for even more connections southward.

A PB also would be an important nexus for the Delaware and Lehigh Trail along the Lehigh River from Jim Thorpe to Easton — and thenceforward to Philly.  We could be tempting those bikers to stop off in Bethlehem.

Connecting corridors are a big thing these days in the walking and biking world.

They are happening all around us, to everybody’s social and economic benefit.

Gadfly didn’t think he could be roused any higher about the possibility of a PB in Bethlehem.

But Doug Roysdon brought an emotional ratchet to Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Eschewing (good SAT word) familiar arguments for a PB like parking, safety, bridge success in other towns, Doug took a series of such new tacks as

  • the PB would turn Bethlehem into a “completely different destination”
  • it would provide “the nicest night-time walk in all the Lehigh Valley”
  • it would provide the rather unique opportunity of a historic tour by bike
  • if you lived in one side of the river and worked on the other, you could live a life walking to work, enjoying the benefits of better health and saving car expense money
  • it would help “create a young town”

Doug saw a PB as “reinventing the public sphere.”

Watch Doug on YouTube, or listen to him here.

He took “the road not taken” in effectively giving us more to think about regarding the value of a pedestrian bridge.