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)

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.


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.”

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.”