Getting beyond the yard signs (33)

(33rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21

random order

For whom are you going to vote for Bethlehem City Council?

A name you remember?

The person with a pretty yard sign?

You have to get beyond the yard sign.

“Voters [in municipal elections] must make more of an effort
to learn about the candidates and where they stand.”
Paul Muschick

Gadfly is making modest efforts to help you in that learning process.

See the series of Q&A’s (the 6th appears this Saturday) and videos
in our Candidates for election thread.

Gadfly wants you to get beyond the yard signs!

Bethlehem Zoning Board welcomes artist to the Armory

“Emil Lukas has the alchemical gift of transforming common materials
into objects that display a keen sense of the sublime.”
Squarecylinder.com

“We welcome you. Living in Bethlehem is a real wise choice. It’s a great city.” So saying, Zoning Board Chairman William Fitzpatrick concluded last Wednesday’s meeting approving Stockertown artist Emil Lukas’s proposal to turn the 2nd Ave. Armory drill hall into a live/work space.

Charles Malinchak, “In Bethlehem, artistry overtakes armory.” Morning Call, April 24, 2019. Slightly different and fuller version in the Friday print edition.

  • It will be home and studio
  • “While the drill hall is about 10,000 square feet, Lukas told the board the studio would be about 2,000 square feet and the living area, for him and his wife, would be an estimated 1,000 square feet.”
  • “The remaining 7,000 square feet would be minimally heated and cooled to maintain the integrity of the interior building materials, but for the most part
    Armory
    Morning Call photo

    would go unused except if large materials for the artwork needs to be spread out, Lukas said.”

  • “Lukas said he is a visual artist working with painting and sculpture, ceramics and wood blocks, but none of the materials he would use in the studio are solvent-based, eliminating concerns about strong odors.”
  • “He said there would be no regular visitors coming to the studio or sales since his work is handled through galleries in New York City, San Francisco and Italy.”
  • “Lukas said he has no plans to vacate the space and that moving to a residential neighborhood is something he and his wife have wanted.”
  • “[The developer] said the interior renovation for the studio along with other development on the property should begin in late fall or early winter. The other developments include 64 apartments and six more units built in other armory structures.”
  • “[The developer said] The other developments include 64 apartments and six more units built in other armory structures” (print edition)

Lukas testified at the meeting, and Gadfly followers can learn more about him and his work in the following video and audio clip (6 mins.):

  • “visual artist mainly making paintings and sculpture”
  • “limit to the plan is to the inside of the building, I have no responsibility for the outside”
  • “return it to Spillman and Farmer’s originally 1930’s design”
  • “work with paper, canvas, wood, water-based paints, thread”
  • “I don’t use any paints that use fumes”
  • “I don’t use anything with odor or solvents”
  • “I have galleries that represent my work”
  • “It’s a private workshop”
  • “I have been in the Lehigh Valley for twenty-five years”
  • “I’m the only artist that works there”
  • “We have three children, but they are adults” (and not living there)
Lukas
Amber Galdamez photo

For more about Lukas and his art:

his web site

images of his art at Durham Press and Artnet

“Optic Wall,” showcased at SteelStacks

 

 

 


Gadfly takes this opportunity to open a thread on the Armory. The Armory was “hot” at the time when Gadfly first began to haunt City meetings — long before he was Gadfly. There were significant issues between residents and the developer. At this April 24 meeting two residents raised issues, to which Gadfly will return. But first enjoy some familiarity with Lukas and his work, both of which seem well worth welcome to our town.

Martin Tower and the Styles of Public Participation (18)

(18th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Lot going on. And Gadfly has let several topics fall behind. Martin Tower one of them.

He has a kind of wrap-up post on this current phase of the MT doings in mind, but first he wants to use the public response to the proposed MT plan for a different purpose.

The Gadfly project slogan is “Good conversation builds community.”

About a month ago in a private email a Gadfly follower called him “the Pied Piper of civic engagement.”

Now that was striking. A powerful branding. But kind of embarrassing and disconcerting too.

He tried to laugh it off. Then forget it. Wouldn’t work.

Might as well own it.

No question Gadfly before he was Gadfly fell in love with the sound of your voices in the public comment spaces at City Council meetings.

And wanted to capture them.

And — here goes — draw even more people to speak/write out.

Pied Pipering.

Somewhere the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly learned that the Aztec word for teacher was “one who makes you put on a face.”

He would say that the goal of his classes was to make you put on a face. To speak/write your own individual thoughts in your own individual way and thereby to feel empowered and thereby to feel individual — and thereby to have a “face” recognized and respected by others.

Gadfly wants everybody to post here. Gadfly wants everybody to speak at Council. (President Waldron just fainted.)

But some people say they can’t be like you, Gadfly, without realizing that the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly is painfully shy and would wall himself in his office the hour before class mustering courage. Listen to the modest proposal audio he posted a short while ago, and you can hear his voice crack part way through as the mustered courage wanes.

Everyone can do it. In his or her own way.

And I want to make that point by contrasting the polar opposite styles of Diane Szabo Backus and Brian Hillard during public comment at the April 16 City Council meeting, available on video here:

Brian (begin min. 13:10) is soft-spoken, calm, sober, focused, rational, cerebral, speaking a polished piece of writing.*** Beautiful.

Diane (begin min. 5:30) is “a little nervous,” reading from what look like handwritten scratched notes on a tear-off pad any of us might doodle on at the kitchen table, emotional, so emotional that her body has to move, her arms wave, her fists pump, her fingers point, her knees buckle and dance, she turns to the left, she turns to the right, she ups the Council president’s response to a question she shouldn’t have asked, she confronts the Mayor. Beautiful.

Great complementary styles.

Head and heart.

We need them both and all the shades in-between.

When will you put on your face?

*** Be sure to read Brian’s essay. It’s very good: Hillard – Martin Tower Development Proposal

More on the 4-yr. candidates from the NAACP forum (32)

(32nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21

5 candidates

vote for 3

Earlier Gadfly posted videos of the presentations these candidates made at the NAACP candidates forum on April 22.

After those presentations, the ageless, indomitable, irrepressible NAACP president Esther Lee “hit” each candidate with a question.

It’s a situation that can make you wish your petitions were ruled unacceptable.

(In one of his classic films, the zany Groucho Marx ducked such a tight situation by saying, absurdly, “Excuse me, I have to step out in the hall and get an x-ray”!)

The candidates may be muttering and grousing about the questions/prompts Gadfly is posing to them (#6 coming next week), but at least there’s time to respond.

Gadfly says with a smile.

But not here.

Here you are on the spot.

Michael Colon (incumbent)

 

J. William Reynolds (incumbent)

 

Carol Ritter

 

David Saltzer

 

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)

 

 

A Modest Proposal: regarding Council oversight of hot-button City committees

(6th in a series of modest proposals)

So Gadfly went to the Bethlehem Parking Authority meeting last Wednesday April 24. Perhaps more on the substance of that meeting later.

The meeting was at 4PM. Gadfly recently reported that at a Planning Commission meeting both Diane Szabo Backus and Paige Van Wirt made what we might call “vigorous proposals” [ha! not modest!] for later meeting times to accommodate the large number of citizens who work at that hour and are unable to attend such meetings. And Gadfly was later able to report that the Mayor heard those vigorous proposals and has pledged to require later times across the board in City committees for 2020.

A solid blow for citizen participation. Another shout-out to Backus-Van Wirt-Donchez.

There are many City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Take a look. Made up almost entirely of resident volunteers. Gadfly doesn’t know exactly, but he guesses the volunteers probably number in the vicinity of 125. A small army.

That’s a lot of people the Mayor has to round up. I mean, I’m not sure that people are thronging the Mayor during “Open Door” days and clamoring for such positions. He no doubt has to recruit. Though I hope we never see the day when he has to set up a card table in a mall and hawk for warm bodies.

Gadfly goes to a lot of these meetings. And can say without hesitation that there are a lot of wonderful people doing wonderful work. Good for the Mayor, good for the great people volunteering.

The Mayor nominates resident members, Council approves. Most of the time the approvals are pro forma. But there was one significant denial recently, probably for conflict of interest, a person serving on two closely related bodies.

Approvals should not be pro forma, especially for certain committees, and the Parking Authority is one such group. The Parking Authority was a center of controversy in the latter half of 2018 as 70+ posts in the Gadfly parking thread will attest (see the link on the sidebar).

Gadfly could not tell and had suspicions about the range and quality of Board member involvement. The New St. Garage, the Polk Garage, the Desman Parking Study, the conflict with Council, etc., etc. — strangely to Gadfly, it’s almost impossible to tell from the Board minutes that these things were going on much less that there were “hot” public “issues” about them. The Authority then had a powerful, involved solicitor and a long-standing Chair — Gadfly wondered if there was any debate or discussion at all, wondered what the role, if any, of the appointed members was.

For we must depend on the Board members to be our “voice” in Authority decisions. Gadfly would like to make sure that they are.

Reviewing minutes, Gadfly saw no evidence of conflict, dissent, alternative opinion; Gadfly is not sure that he saw a motion that truly originated with a Board member or new business that originated with a Board member. And if it were not for routine responses to “asks” by the chair for a motion and a second, you might not even know who is on the Board. Attendance at a few meetings suggested that the Authority authority resided in the Executive Director, the solicitor, and the Board chair.

Which is not to say that hot issues weren’t ever aired and that all Board members were not heavily involved. But the minutes — basically the only official public record of what transpired — don’t reveal much in that respect.

When those Board members come up for re-appointment, on what basis will Council make its oversight decision? Evidence of the quantity and quality of their participation and contributions in deliberations about non-trivial and non-routine matters — as attested to in the minutes — should be a prime body of evidence.

At the April 24 meeting, Gadfly suggested to the Parking Authority Board that the minutes be improved to at least capture the flavor of all viewpoints in discussion, that votes that are not unanimous clearly indicate who the yays and nays are, and he suggested to the members that they be sure not only that they contribute but that their contributions are detailed in the minutes. If they want to be re-appointed, that is.

You can hear Gadfly talk about this as an aspect of his “passion for public participation in city matters” (soooo pompous is your Gadfly!) here:

My modest proposal is that Council let the Mayor know that proposals for re-appointment of members of “hot” committees, commissions, and boards should include — in addition to resumes*** — specific and substantive evidence of the quality and quantity of member contributions as attested in the minutes.

At the last City Council meeting Backus made the interesting point that since such Board members are appointed by elected officials, they too are in a sense elected. And the public needs accountability, especially on the “hot” committees, and will call for it from Council when re-appointment time comes around.

*** Instructive here is the good dialogue about oversight initiated by Councilwoman Van Wirt and joined by Council President Waldron and Business Manager Evans sitting in for the Mayor at the January 15 Council meeting and recorded in the minutes on pp 11-12. But for re-appointments, Gadfly is suggesting more than resumes and contact info. There should be evidence of performance.

More on the 2-yr. candidates from the NAACP forum (31)

(31st in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21

2 candidates
(status of Ashley Daubert is uncertain)

vote for 1

Earlier Gadfly posted videos of the presentations these candidates made at the NAACP candidates forum on April 22.

After those presentations, the ageless, indomitable, irrepressible NAACP president Esther Lee “hit” each candidate with a question.

It’s a situation that can make you wish your citizen candidacy petitions were ruled unacceptable.

(In one of his classic films, the zany Groucho Marx ducked such a tight situation by saying, absurdly, “Excuse me, I have to step out in the hall and get an x-ray”!)

The candidates may be muttering and grousing about the questions/prompts Gadfly is posing to them (#6 coming next week), but at least there’s time to respond.

Gadfly says with a smile.

But not here.

Here you are on the spot.

 

Grace Crampsie Smith

 

Will Carpenter

Day 49: Ron finishes, alone — “what Kukai had in mind for my last day”

(6th in a series of posts on Ron Yoshida’s pilgrimage)

https://88-photos.com/

Yoshida 5

This final day, I traveled alone though I thought of Ichigo, Ichie – one lifetime, one moment. Perhaps that is what Kukai had in mind for my last day.

On April 21, Ron Yoshida completed his incredible pilgrimage.

I thought about reaching the finish. Indeed, a moment to enjoy as I passed through the sanmon and rang the temple bell – over two hundred years old.

88 Temples.

You might want to know what pilgrims do when they are at a temple and what I do as a secular person who respects other people’s beliefs but is not religious but spiritual. . . . I put my hands together, bow my head and think the following. I am grateful that I am healthy in mind and body to have walked to this temple (83 so far). I am grateful to my grandparents who had the courage to leave Japan for whatever reason and who endured in a new land. I am grateful to my parents who nurtured me even though at times I rebelled. I am grateful to have Sharon as my wife and partner who has shared my life and supported me on this trip. I am grateful for my friends who I know have helped me and will help me again when needed. I am grateful for all of my girl cats and Sherman who purr and give unequivocal love. I am grateful to all of the people who have given me acts of kindness. For those fellow pilgrims and for those performing osettai whom I will never meet again, Ichigo, Ichie (in one lifetime, one meeting), thank you.

Yoshida 11

1200km.                        745.6454 miles.                   Over mountains thousands of feet high.

I am sad to leave the road with the excitement of what possibilities lie ahead. Each day brought surprises and experiences that can’t be bought. Walking put the moments into slow-motion. I saw details that would have been missed while on a bike, in a car, bus, train, or plane. I am sad because although I have hiked before, I have never gone this distance and time appreciating nature and our environment. Will I ever hear frogs as I did when I walked around the pond having missed Temple 36 on Day 19? Will I walk along a coastline and feel the wind for as long as I did in Kochi prefecture? Will I hear the sweet spring sounds of the birds as I was walking through the forests of Shikoku?

We look forward to Ron’s reflections on his return.

“Please wear the clothes of the Buddha’s great compassion.”

Kukai (Kobo Daishi)

Buddha: “I am the awakened one.”

  https://88-photos.com/

Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 5 (31)

(31st in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21

5 candidates

vote for 3

5th in the series of candidate statements

statements in reverse-alphabetical order this time

https://thebrownandwhite.com/2019/03/24/packer-avenue-transformation-lehigh/

On March 24, The Brown and White, the Lehigh University student newspaper, reported that Lehigh was exploring a pedestrian walkway on Packer Avenue, presumably between Brodhead and Webster Streets. Such a street “vacation” – should it ever be formally and officially proposed – would ultimately come before City Council for final disposition. Without prejudging how you would vote on such a now hypothetical proposal, describe what factors you would need to consider before reaching a decision.

Gadfly has been adding a bit of context to each of the prompts for the candidates. Here is what he gave to the candidates with this prompt:I’m assuming you wouldn’t make a snap decision. I’m assuming that you wouldn’t immediately see such a proposal as “black and white.” I’m assuming that you would weigh factors. I’m assuming that you will see that there are legal, technical, economic, cultural, historical, and political considerations involved in such a decision. I’m not sure we would call Lehigh a ‘developer,’ but some of the same tensions and controversies we have seen with developers may come into play here. Lehigh and the Southside have a ‘history.’ So, what different kinds of information would you want to have? Who would you want to hear from? Who are the stakeholders in such a decision? Preliminarily, what benefits do you see? Preliminarily, what concerns do you have? Preliminarily, what issues will you need to be sensitive to? What do you immediately ‘get’? What would you need to do more thinking about? Do not make a decision in your response to this prompt. The idea behind the prompt is to get an idea of how you would approach making a decision that may not be as clear-cut to many people as it seems on the surface and that may have conflicting ramifications. The idea behind the prompt is to get an idea how prepared you are to recognize and reconcile multiple perspectives.”

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)Van Wirt 2

When I think of how the closing of Packer Avenue between Brodhead and Webster is conceived and presented to the community, a framework which does not include just the few blocks around the area but rather all of South Bethlehem, and even Bethlehem proper, is useful.

From a City Council perspective, we are charged first and foremost with keeping our citizens safe. This means getting a traffic study done by an independent firm, chosen by the city and funded by Lehigh, to understand the impact of closure on our emergency vehicles access to the community. Is it safe?

Once this factor is understood, the traffic study should address impact on local residents’ commute. Will this closure shunt traffic to quiet neighborhood streets? If so, different avenues of access and egress need to be determined and then upgraded by Lehigh to assure there is not an impact on local neighborhoods.

We would require an understanding of how this project would impact local businesses, schools, and cultural organizations. These stakeholders must be brought into the planning from the very start, preferably with the leadership of local neighborhood organizations, and organized by the city, rather than Lehigh University. Citizen participation in well-organized “Town halls” in the neighborhood, can help break down many issues, forge new relationships between “town and gown” and give opportunities for innovative solutions from the local citizens themselves.

Paige Packer image
Lehigh University, center bottom; E. 4th St., l. to r. along top

Once we understand the impact of the project on safety, traffic, local businesses and
neighbors, we then turn to strategy. Council would be giving city-owned land to Lehigh
University. If we are to vacate such a large swath of city land, in the name of increasing
walkability for Lehigh University, we should use this opportunity to require Lehigh U, in
exchange for this city land, to conceptualize and implement dedicated bike lanes and walking path upgrades that connect the University better to 3rd street and 4th street, grocery stores, cultural arts organizations, and other bike/walk trails such as the Greenway and the D and L (https://delawareandlehigh.org/map/). Let’s not just increase the walkability of the Lehigh campus but all of South Bethlehem. This web of interconnectivity, of walking and biking and not dependent on cars, could change the experience living and working in South Bethlehem.

Any vacation of such a large swath of city- (read: citizen-) owned land should be used to create a new relationship between the university and Bethlehem citizens. This land belongs to the citizens of Bethlehem, and figuring out how to knit together this grand university and this dynamic, diverse city should be the framework for any action by City Council.

David Saltzer David Saltzer

There are a multitude of factors to consider when discussing the “hypothetical” building of the pedestrian walkway as part of the Path to Prominence that Lehigh is exploring. When thinking about this and all the talk about walkability in the city, it is a good discussion to have. However, there are many questions with closing the street and building this walkway. How does this affect emergency responders’ access to buildings, residences, and other areas in that location? How will it be paid for: will Lehigh pay for it, will it be built with city funds, are there grants available or will be it a combination of all 3? Who would maintain it, keep it clean, supply the electric for lighting for safety? Who will patrol it — the Lehigh Police, the City Police, or again a combination of both? Assuming there was a study done, what is the amount of foot traffic that would be generated? What is the access to city streets from the walkway and access for emergency responders for any emergencies that would occur on it?

Without any answers to these questions, studies, a plan to look at, or until something actually is brought forth, I feel that this is still in a discussion phase and will need to continue to be watched and looked at until something formal is presented.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

Let me start by saying that this is a great question. Most important decisions should be made using a rational, deliberate process. In no particular order, here is a look at some of the questions that I consider as I am formulating a decision.

1) What are the short and term long benefits/potential negative consequences for the
proposal?
2) Who are the important stakeholders, and how do they feel about the proposal?
3) What (if any) are the legal questions surrounding the proposal?
4) What is going to happen if the proposal does not go through?
5) Who are the internal city staff/professionals that I should be speak to, and how do they feel about the proposal?
6) And, yes, how does the proposal “feel”? (Our “feeling” shouldn’t be the only factor but
often reflects our comprehensive experience making similar decisions in the past.)

As important as those questions are, it is vital on significant questions of policy to be able to explain your decision-making process publicly. I, personally, like to respond to certain arguments made by the side that I disagree with as a way to show that I have considered the major opposing points in a policy discussion.

It is usually impossible to make everyone happy when policy decisions are made. The goal, however, is to come to conclusions that balance as many of the communal interests as possible while also building faith in the process you undertook to come to your policy position.

Michael  Colon (incumbent) Colon 2

Like most issues that find themselves on the City Council agenda, there are a number of pros and cons that come to mind off the top. Of course, this is still in its early stages granting many unknowns.

Some immediate questions that come to mind for Lehigh: First thing I’d need to know are what are the boundaries of this project? Packer is many city blocks long. Why should this strip be vacated? Why not extend the proposed walkway? Why not shorten? I’d like to hear from faculty and students about safety. I’m familiar with the area but won’t pretend to walk it as much as the students/faculty. Is it perceived as an unsafe environment for pedestrians? Have there been accidents there? Does the current state of the street actually present a boundary to unifying the campus and accessing the community as stated? Are there other alternatives to reaching this goal? If there are alternatives, how feasible are they? Have new bus routes been proposed? How does this tie-in to the new student housing at Packer & Brodhead?

From the City Administration: how do we see this impacting traffic? Will it create a bottleneck of vehicles on Morton and 4th? Will any changes have to be made to the surrounding infrastructure to accommodate the vacation?

For the Bethlehem Parking Authority: what are their overall thoughts on the vacation? How does this elimination of parking spots impact parking? What does the elimination of these meters do to their revenues?

From the community: How do the BASD and Broughal parents feel about the vacation behind the school? Local business owners in the neighborhood? Neighborhood residents?

Question for myself: Given what’s known, is this a good project for the community? Often times these are not easy decisions to make. During my first term on Council, I’ve been on both the majority and minority sides of votes. Each situation is unique, and I will continue to bring an open mind to all issues whether it be this project or the next one.

Carol Ritter

Carol has posted responses to prompts #1 and #2, and Gadfly will post additional responses (and notify) when received.

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Prompt 5 (30)

(30th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21

3 candidates

vote for 1

5th in the series of candidate statements

statements in reverse-alphabetical order this time

https://thebrownandwhite.com/2019/03/24/packer-avenue-transformation-lehigh/

On March 24, The Brown and White, the Lehigh University student newspaper, reported that Lehigh was exploring a pedestrian walkway on Packer Avenue, presumably between Brodhead and Webster Streets. Such a street “vacation” – should it ever be formally and officially proposed – would ultimately come before City Council for final disposition. Without prejudging how you would vote on such a now hypothetical proposal, describe what factors you would need to consider before reaching a decision.

Gadfly has been adding a bit of context to each of the prompts for the candidates. Here is what he gave to the candidates with this prompt:I’m assuming you wouldn’t make a snap decision. I’m assuming that you wouldn’t immediately see such a proposal as ‘black and white.’ I’m assuming that you would weigh factors. I’m assuming that you will see that there are legal, technical, economic, cultural, historical, and political considerations involved in such a decision. I’m not sure we would call Lehigh a ‘developer,’ but some of the same tensions and controversies we have seen with developers may come into play here. Lehigh and the Southside have a ‘history.’ So, what different kinds of information would you want to have? Who would you want to hear from? Who are the stakeholders in such a decision? Preliminarily, what benefits do you see? Preliminarily, what concerns do you have? Preliminarily, what issues will you need to be sensitive to? What do you immediately ‘get’? What would you need to do more thinking about? Do not make a decision in your response to this prompt. The idea behind the prompt is to get an idea of how you would approach making a decision that may not be as clear-cut to many people as it seems on the surface and that may have conflicting ramifications. The idea behind the prompt is to get an idea how prepared you are to recognize and reconcile multiple perspectives.”

Grace Crampsie Smith  grace crampsie smith

As an alumni of Lehigh University, I wish to see the university achieve
success in its “Path towards Prominence.” Concurrently, as a resident of Bethlehem and candidate for City Council, I want to assure the best interests of ALL within the community are realized.

There are many unanswered questions re: this proposal. For example, how
do we reconcile the advantages with the disadvantages? While Lehigh students and
faculty may realize conveniences from a pedestrian walkway, what will be the
impact upon commuters, visitors, and city residents? As a lifelong advocate for
individuals with disabilities, how will it affect this population, and will it meet
compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Will accessibility for
some limit accessibility for others? Specifically, how will those with physical
disabilities access locations on Packer Avenue if vehicles are prohibited? We must
consider that the general population frequently visits several locations on Packer
Ave. How many weddings have been held at Packer Chapel, and how would my
physically disabled brother have been able to access this chapel for his son’s wedding if
he could not be driven directly to the Chapel? My daughter, a Lehigh University
High School Scholar, was fortunate to take a course at Lehigh that was located on
Packer Avenue and had little difficulty as a student commuter at the age of 17.
Several buildings on Packer Avenue are venues for community events, and how
would this impact attendees of these events? Thus, it is important to weigh the pros
and cons for all affected — the Lehigh Community, Bethlehem residents, and city
visitors.

Let’s also consider how other prominent universities navigate similar
dilemmas? I can think of several elite universities that lack a pedestrian walkway
and have survived and even flourished, such as Princeton, Penn State, and Notre
Dame. Also, several prominent universities literally exist within city streets such as the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Drexel. Let’s examine how
they address pedestrian traffic within heavily traveled city streets.

We must also be cognizant of the effects that Lehigh’s sprawl has had upon
the community in the past and assure that this initiative is thoroughly considered so
that community relations is enhanced and not damaged. Let’s also consider previous
pedestrian walkways within our city such as Broad St. — what have we learned from
that initiative?

Prior to making a decision upon this proposal, I would want to assure all
avenues are explored and propose a traffic study be conducted, as well as explore
how this will impact accessibility for ALL — students, commuters, visitors, and
residents of Bethlehem.

Will Carpenter Will Carpenter

Providing pedestrian-centric areas in our community is a good thing, especially in a campus environment. Of course, cars and trucks will still need access to most of these areas — and I can enjoy driving as much as I can enjoy walking and riding — but I think we are better served by designing for walkers in our high density areas and not continue to be car-focused in our planning and development.

Making any change to existing traffic patterns must be made carefully and with the input of residents and businesses most affected. Traffic studies are important, but the real experiences and concerns of our citizens will have a greater impact on my decision.

Lastly, I would ask Ed Gallagher to submit a 300-word essay on the topic each Saturday morning so I could make sure I was seeing all sides of the issue.

The candidacy status of Ashley Daubert is uncertain at this time.

 

Gadfly goes modern!

Good Gadfly followers:

Gadfly “goes modern” as the ubiquitous Kathy Fox has already announced to the world!

Gadfly is now on Facebook: search @thebethlehemgadfly

If you are a Facebooker, I hope that you will follow Gadfly and perform all the good Facebook actions like liking/sharing/commenting/inviting your friends, and so forth.

Particularly sharing and inviting your Facebook friends.

Gadfly is taking this step especially because of the upcoming election.

He would like to reach even more people.

We need the best possible City Council members we can get.

We have that “Candidates for election” thread on Gadfly designed to help voters get several steps beyond yard sign and soundbite level of knowledge.

Responses to a 5th prompt should appear tomorrow.

We just don’t get much in the way of newspaper coverage anymore. Sigh. It’s hard to get much in the way of depth on the candidates.

And thus voting — the essence of democracy — can be a hollow exercise.

Ugh.

So Gadfly is trying — with good cooperation from the candidates — to elevate the level of information, if only modestly.

So please help the project by alerting your Facebook friends to follow, calling especial attention to the “Candidates for election” thread: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/category/candidates-for-election/

Tip o’ the hat and wave o’ the wings to Carol “the provocateur” Burns for nudging and mentoring.

H. D.: let’s get real serious (17)

(17th in a series of posts on H.D.)

We continue to learn about H. D. — Hilda Doolittle — 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.

The next event in the “Finding H. D.” series is a lecture entitled  “H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History.”

Let’s get real serious.

The “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure” is a bisexual woman.

Now Gadfly’s pretty sure that his straight followers are not the kind of people who blanch at the word “bisexual,” who would not want to be seen entering an LGBT Community Center, or who would turn to stone sitting next to a bisexual person on an airplane flight.

But if you are straight and of a certain age, as they say, as Gadfly certainly is (older than television), you might not be able to avoid a vaguely odd feeling.

And maybe at any age, you cannot avoid the inclination when you approach bisexual artists to view them through a bisexual lens, to expect to find bisexualness. Whatever that is.

But look at H. D.’s “Evening” again, the beautiful haunting poem Gadfly posted for your afternoon break yesterday.

Anything “bisexual” there?

I don’t know that much about H. D. I’m learning.

But I have read and taught Emily Dickinson for many years.

It is said that when you die, someone comes to meet you. I hope for me it is Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson, the bisexual woman poet who made history.

She’s amazing.

There was recently a death in Gadfly’s near-family. Gadfly was there. Gadfly has now been at bedside for four deaths. He’s a real veteran of mortality events. A person to duck when you are sick.

Nobody captures the death-bed “narrow time” feeling (Dear God, how will we squeeze through this?) better than E. D.:

The last Night that She lived
It was a Common Night
Except the Dying—this to Us
Made Nature different

We noticed smallest things—
Things overlooked before
By this great light upon our Minds
Italicized—as ’twere.

As We went out and in
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive
Tomorrow were, a Blame

That Others could exist
While She must finish quite
A Jealousy for Her arose
So nearly infinite—

We waited while She passed—
It was a narrow time—
Too jostled were Our Souls to speak
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot—
Then lightly as a Reed
Bent to the Water, struggled scarce—
Consented, and was dead—

And We—We placed the Hair—
And drew the Head erect—
And then an awful leisure was
Belief to regulate—

And the day after the death

The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

Anything “bisexual” there?

Just profoundly tragic all too common heart-stabbing “human” experience simply, starkly, solemnly told.

See you Monday night?

——-

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

The next event in this year-long series is a lecture by Liz Bradbury,
H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History,”
Monday, April 29, 6-8pm, Bradbury-Sullivan, LGBT Community Center,
522 West Maple Street, Allentown
(the location may be hard to find, so figuring a bit of extra travel time is good)

Here are the candidates for the 2-yr seats on City Council at the NAACP candidates forum April 22 (29)

(29th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

On May 21 (is the date on your calendar?), we’ll be voting for the one 2-yr. position on Bethlehem City Council.

Here are two of the three candidates for the 2-yr. position (Ashley Daubert is the third) in the order in which they presented at the NAACP forum on April 22.

The presentations are short — you gotta watch!

Will Carpenter

“Democracy has failed to solve some of our problems. . . . I want to be part of what I feel is a swell of good people getting into races and saying we can do better. We should answer to our people only. I am a strong believer in the ethics provision that is trying make its way though our community. . . no way to suffer what Allentown . . . going through. We need to have real transparent government. . . . Director of Real Estate . . . skill set is unique. . . . use our past to forge a great pathway to the future.”

Grace Crampsie Smith

“[My family] instilled in me the vital importance of giving back to the community. . . . currently a high school guidance counselor. . . . previously I was an admissions counselor [in an] outpatient clinic. . . . administered services for people with developmental disabilities. . . . I see a huge increase in opiods and drug addiction. . . . in mental health services . . . homeless. . . . I’m for economic development . . . let’s look at quality, affordable housing . . . work with immigrants . . . advocate and representative for those in need.”

Remember

look for candidate answers to prompt #5 here on Gadfly this Saturday

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Biking in Bethlehem: be safe, have fun (24)

(24th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Anne Felker lives in Bethlehem, works with the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) as a board member and cycling instructor, and has been active for many years on the City of Bethlehem’s Citizens’ Traffic Advisory Committee.  She encourages anyone interested in joining her weekly women’s ride on the towpath to check out the ride schedule at LVCAT.ORG for more details.

You can always find the link to the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) on the Gadfly sidebar.

Gadfly:

I’m one of those people you see riding a bicycle on the streets of Bethlehem.  I’ve been doing it for years, and in addition to walking, my bike is my primary form of getting around town.  I’m interested to read the thoughts of Kate McVey on the mysteries of sharrows in Bethlehem.  Those shared lane markings, or sharrows, show where cyclists should safely ride and have the side benefit of letting the car drivers know that bikes belong on the streets.

I must admit, though, I get nervous when I hear people talking about installing bike lanes in Bethlehem. Bike lanes are not a magic bullet; unless we are willing to give up lots of on-street parking to install protected bike lanes — steps which I do not see us having the political will to do now, though I’m willing to continue working in that direction —  cyclists have to be comfortable sharing the roads with cars.  Slapping down some paint on a road side and calling it a bike lane gives the least experienced cyclists a dangerously false sense of security, increases the likelihood of car/bike conflicts, and encourages vehicle drivers to shout at cyclists all the more to get off “their” roads.

With a view to encouraging cycling in Bethlehem as conditions exist currently, I offer the following observations:

  1. CYCLING LOOKS SCARIER THAN IT IS

Our roads are plenty wide enough for both bicyclists and drivers.  For example, our main east-west thoroughfare, Broad Street, used to have a trolley line running down the middle and now, even with on street parking on both sides, there’s plenty of room for a bicyclist riding visibly and faster moving traffic passing.  If you don’t like the bigger streets, take the less traveled — Market Street does have more stop signs and signals, but as a result the car traffic moves much more slowly.

Often, when I get to where I’m going, and someone sees me locking my bike or carrying my bike helmet, I will get exclaimed at as if I just walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  “I could never ride with all those cars and trucks on the road!”  I could point out that a cyclist travels through town an average of 8-12 MPH, so if I had a conflict with another vehicle, I am safer than if I was tripping through the streets in a vehicle at 30-40 MPH, even with all that metal and glass surrounding me.

I’ve come to understand such exclamations are much more about that person’s anxiety than about cycling being in any way significant or special.  Not to be macabre, but I suspect we might have a more realistic perception of the relative dangers of any kind of travel If we marked every spot where a motorist died or was severely injured in an accident, as we mark where an unfortunate cyclist meets his or her end.

To me, at the end of the day, traveling by bike is mostly mundane. Enjoyably so, but cycling a mile or so to the library or the coffee shop is just not that big a deal.

  1. SAFE RIDING IS VISIBLE RIDING

It may seem counter-intuitive, but as a cyclist you are far safer riding out in the lane of traffic than you are hugging the shoulder or riding next to the parked cars.

There are several reasons for this.  Primarily, if drivers don’t HAVE to see you, they won’t.  They won’t slow down, and that’s unsafe for you.  They won’t notice that you are going straight while they are turning right, and they will cut you off, and that’s unsafe for you.  Riding next to parked cars puts you at great risk of riding smack into opening car doors, because parked  drivers don’t look for cyclists before they swing open their doors.  Also, riding on the side of the road puts you in loose gravel, potholes, broken glass, and other car detritus.

Look at where those sharrows are, on the roads that have them.  Our Bethlehem Streets Dept installed them properly; the sharrows show where you as a cyclist should position yourself.  Try it.  Take that near middle-of-the-lane spot, ride in a straight line and you will find you are out of the road debris, out of the door zone and clearly visible to all drivers.   On roads without sharrows, the principle you need to follow is this:  Ride as far to the right as you can safely travel in the lane going in your direction.  This means, you stay out of the door zone and visible to other drivers, and usually will put you in the middle of your travel lane.

The basic rules of riding a bike are to act like a vehicle — ride with the flow traffic, stop at all stop signs and lights, signal your turns, etc.. So, for example, where there’s a right turn only lane and you are going straight, look behind you, signal your move and get into the lane of traffic that’s going straight.

  1. THE MORE OF US WHO RIDE, THE SAFER WE ALL ARE

There’s some intriguing research, cited by Peter Walker in his 2017 book How Cycling Can Save the World, that shows that the cyclist mode share outweighs even helmet use as a safety factor for cyclists.  Translation from transportation-nerd jargon:  The more of us who ride our bikes, the safer we all are.

I don’t know all the reasons for this, but I’ve noticed over the years that my experience as a cyclist has made me act differently when I get behind the wheel of my car —  I drive slower as well as more cautiously, than I did when I was only a car driver.

  1. HELP IS AVAILABLE

When I first took to my bike I was baffled at how to go about it, but in that pre-internet time there weren’t a lot of resources for someone who wanted to learn to travel by bike. Now, though, we have plenty of resources, both online and in person.

An array of on-line resources includes: cyclingsavvy.org; bicyclecoalition.org (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia); transalt.org (NYC’s advocacy group Transportation Alternatives); adventurecycling.org (resources for long-distance bike travel) and our very own lvcat.org, the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation.

For those in Bethlehem, consider a visit to CAT, if only to check out the many resources available there. (FULL DISCLOSURE:  I’ve been involved with CAT since its inception over 25 years ago, for many years as its attorney and in more recent years as a board member.)

For about the price of a tank or two of gas, you can become a CAT member.  Located at  1935 W. Broad Street, CAT has a fully-equipped bike repair/maintenance shop, open to you and staffed by volunteers who can walk you through most any bike problem.  Don’t know how to work your gears? need to replace or repair a tire or pump up a flat one?  Need to get rid of a squealing brake or a noisy chain?  Go to CAT.  CAT also offers basic and advanced mechanics classes.

Most useful to anyone considering swapping out car rides for the occasional bike trip, CAT offers classes on how to ride the roads safely.  They can also help with logistics like route choices best suited to your comfort levels and how to equip your bike for city travel.

  1. BIKING IS ENJOYABLE

Doh! Do I really have to say this?  Of course cycling safety is serious, but riding a bike is fun.  It’s human-scaled transportation at a speed that connects us to our beautiful city.  You don’t need special shoes or lycra or glow-in-the-dark clothes.  Get on your bike, pedal, smile.  It’s that simple.

Anne

You can always find the link to the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) on the Gadfly sidebar.

The NAACP candidates forum April 22: here are the candidates for the 4-yr seats on City Council (28)

(28th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

On May 21 (is the date on your calendar?), we’ll be voting for three 4-yr. positions on Bethlehem City Council.

Here are the five candidates for the 4-yr. positions in the order in which they presented at the NAACP forum on April 22.

The presentations are short — you gotta watch!

J. William Reynolds (incumbent)

 

“The future of Bethlehem is going to be determined by our ability to expand opportunities for our citizens. . . . During my time on City Council for the past couple years I have focused on issues that I feel are about expanding opportunities. . . . climate action. . . . Northside 2027.”

Michael Colon (incumbent)

“I’m the product of a strong community. I grew up in Bethlehem. I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by my grandparents over in Marvine, went to Marvine Elementary, Northeast Middle School, Liberty High School graduate, got sent off to Penn State, where I graduated, and came back home. . . . I got to learn how City government operates. . . . I understand all the mechanisms of City government.”

Carol Ritter

“I’ve led a number of organizations on a local, state, and national level. . . . I decided to run because when I think about Bethlehem, I think about progress, and I think about how wonderful it is to live here, and I’m appreciative of that time. . . . What’s important to me is a good quality of life. . . . One of my projects over the years is to help raise money for the Mounted Police.”

David Saltzer

“Retired City of Bethlehem fire-fighter. . . . Union president. . . . 911 dispatcher . . . and supervisor. . . . unique opportunity as a former employee, taxpayer, and Union president . . . negotiated with City Administration and City Council. . . . I understand a lot of the concepts and things that are going on in the City. . . . can’t afford to lose jobs in public safety. . . . have to fix the streets before we can ride bicycles on them. . . . opportunity . . . to draw in a living wage job. . . . platform . . . public safety and creating new jobs for the City . . . making sure residents are safe.”

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)

“I think that my experience in nursing homes and taking care of these frail and marginalized patients and their families who are going through a lot when their loved ones transition into nursing homes really informs my viewpoint on how I see our community and some of the problems that we have in it.”

Remember

look for candidate answers to prompt #5 here on Gadfly this Saturday

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Time-out for an H. D. (16)

(16th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a lecture by Liz Bradbury,
H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History,”
Monday, April 29, 6-8pm, Bradbury-Sullivan, LGBT Community Center,
522 West Maple Street, Allentown
(the location may be hard to find, so figuring a bit of extra travel time is good)

Nature retracts as evening creeps

Evening

The light passes
From ridge to ridge,
From flower to flower—
The hepaticas, wide-spread
Under the light
Grow faint—
The petals reach inward,
The blue tips bend
Toward the bluer heart
And the flowers are lost.

The cornel-buds are still white,
But shadows dart
From the cornel-roots—
Black creeps from root to root,
Each leaf
Cuts another leaf on the grass,
Shadow seeks shadow,
Then both leaf
and leaf-shadow are lost.

 

Marilyn Hazleton called this poem to our attention during the last event in the series, “H. D. and the Natural World.” Thanks, Marilyn!

 

Remember:

The next event in this year-long series is a lecture by Liz Bradbury,
H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History,”
Monday, April 29, 6-8pm, Bradbury-Sullivan, LGBT Community Center,
522 West Maple Street, Allentown

Gadfly in Paradise

(27th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM,
at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

candidates 1
l. to r.: Saltzer, Ritter, Smith, Colon, Carpenter, Van Wirt, Reynolds

Gadfly hopes you love the next three or four posts in this candidate series as much as he does.

We absolutely need the best elected officials we can get.

Gadfly admits that he has voted on insufficient and shaky grounds in the past.

Either he didn’t pay enough attention to researching candidates or the information was simply not available in an easily accessible way.

One of Gadfly’s personal missions over the last year is to attempt to become a better educated voter, and through the Gadfly blog he is trying to extend that mission to his followers as well.

Perhaps there is a political “machine” in town that anoints the Favored Ones.

He hopes not.

In Gadfly’s small-town fantasy, “we” care, “we” are in control, “we” make the choices.

That’s why – with the excellent cooperation of the candidates – he initiated the series of questions and answers going on.

The 5th in the series will come this weekend. And we should have time for 3-4 more before the May 21 election.

The candidates are creating a portfolio for us that will remain available for us to review.

We have a “library” to consult, modest as it is.

But putting an eye and an ear on the candidates is important as well.

Thus, the value of the NAACP candidates forum last Monday, April 22. 7 of the 8 Council candidates attended (Ashley Daubert couldn’t attend).

And Gadfly is providing in the next few posts video record (not such great quality, though – sigh) of the proceedings.

Gadfly was very proud of our candidate crew. He rushed to shake each hand when it was over.

The candidates were thoughtful, collegial, personable, articulate – and good-looking!

Please use this opportunity to put an eye and an ear on the candidates to complement the library of their more detailed views provided here in the blog.

And mark May 6 for the next such opportunity to see, hear, and meet them that I know of at a similar candidate forum.

The pedestrian bridge and improving our sidewalks are not mutually exclusive goals (23)

(23rd in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Paige Van Wirt is a Bethlehem City Councilwoman, physician, and small business owner.

Gadfly,

I am responding to Kate McVey’s piece as I am mentioned in it a few times. I am very happy to be having a dialogue about this, and happy citizens have a forum in Bethlehem to air their ideas. While this forum is valuable, I think the most powerful advocacy out there is coming and speaking before city council. It is remarkable how an informed, passionate citizen can sway opinion and open minds.

In terms of the bike lanes in Bethlehem, I agree they are inadequate. The concept is “sharrows,” which are shared lanes between bikes and cars. They are meant to help indicate where cyclists should be safe. They are less preferable than dedicated bike lanes, which I agree should be implemented in Bethlehem. This would cost time and tax dollars, but that does not mean it can’t be done. Citizens coming and speaking before council about their concerns and desires for safe cycling lanes is a very effective way of advocating for the dedication of tax dollars, or asking the city to obtain grants with the help of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission; the LVPC has a number of ongoing projects and exploratory studies to address this very issue — how do we foster safe cycling in the valley. I encourage you to come and speak and let City Council and the Mayor’s administration know how you feel. We would benefit from dedicated bike lanes on certain streets in Bethlehem. Even better would be an off-road set of paths and trails that could be shared by pedestrians and cyclists alike. Ironically, to your point, a pedestrian bridge would be a valuable part of any off-road system. A local group
involved in cycling advocacy is Lehigh Valley Coalition for Appropriate Transportation: http://www.lvcat.org/lvcat/. [You can always find this link on the Gadfly sidebar.] Walk Roll Lehigh Valley, through the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, is creating a master plan for walking and cycling in the Valley: https://www.lvpc.org/walkrolllv.html. These organizations are open to the public and welcome your advocacy and input. For every project, there is a cost/benefit analysis that must be data-driven and easily understood by the citizens.

I could not agree with you more about the condition of our sidewalks. In many places they are deplorable. The legal structure in Bethlehem means that homeowners are responsible for our sidewalks, and that puts a serious financial burden on homeowners as neighborhoods age and root systems wreak havoc on our sidewalks. One idea for improving our sidewalks is to increase code enforcement in houses that are sold — the sidewalks must be repaired, if needed, before the sale goes through; we should target absentee landlords in this particular transaction. This is a law on the books in Bethlehem which we are not consistently enforcing. Another idea I have proposed to the administration that we take a small portion of the $2.5 million we are using for street paving from the casino transfer fee and dedicate it to our sidewalks; the casino transfer fee is a one-time cash payment Bethlehem will see in the sale of the casino. As it is, this portion of the CTF is entirely dedicated to street-paving. Our streets must be maintained, but so must our sidewalks, as not all transportation in Bethlehem happens in cars walking is a valuable form of transportation. There are ways to offer grants to homeowners with this money instead of loans, to get our sidewalks into good shape.

Where I do disagree with you is the idea that when it comes to transformative projects like the pedestrian bridge project, and the sad state of many of our sidewalks, that the situation is zero-sum gain. It is not. The purpose of the pedestrian bridge study is to answer many of the questions you pose, and to explore the many different federal and state alternative transportation funds available for projects like the pedestrian bridge project. Most pedestrian bridges in the US are built with federal and state alternative transportation funds (along with tourism-related taxes such as the hotel tax), and there is no reason Bethlehem should not claim its share of those funds. The project, if feasible, would help create an off-road walking circuit in Bethlehem, linking our north and south downtowns, and transform our relationship to the river. I encourage you to bring your questions to future meetings of the pedestrian bridge project, as all citizen input, critical and laudatory, is welcome.

We should fix our sidewalks, look at the structure and costs of developing dedicated bike
lanes, and we should explore projects that may change the way we link our two downtowns and create a healthy, livable, and joyous city. These are not mutually exclusive goals and in fact should occur side by side.*** The funding for these goals is out there — we must must now show the will to implement them.

Paige

*** For a similar view, see “smandrew’s” comment on the previous post in this series.

Some replies to Kate (22)

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

The condition of public infrastructure in Bethlehem is not so good. Our streets, sidewalks, parks, Payrow Plaza, etc. need much work. The questions become, how much will it cost and where does that money come from? And, all of these grants from the federal, state, and county governments, they are also public ‘tax dollars’ so it’s not exactly free money. I was reminded of that often when I was the City of Bethlehem’s grants administrator. A comprehensive approach to allocating limited funds to a myriad of needs is always a challenge for public officials.

Dana

Well said, Kate! You are absolutely right. Most of the sidewalks in the City are bad because of the trees that the City planted years ago. These are also the owner’s responsibility and the City can plant another tree in a location where you have one removed (which you have to use their “approved” contractors). The sidewalk in front of my home is raised, but to fix the sidewalk I will need to remove the tree in front of my home, which will cost me $7,000+(not including the cost to replace the sidewalk). Not to mention the damage it will do to my water line and foundation of my home! When I sat in on the Northside 2027 meeting a couple of weeks ago, they talked about adding more trees! WHAT? Who the heck did they survey? The trees are a nuisance (although quite beautiful), but for a middle class homeowner it is way too costly to care for these trees and the damage they do to your sidewalks/homes. Instead of a bridge, why aren’t you helping your homeowners??

Julie

I have also noted—and mentioned to city officials & council members—the many major problems with sidewalks. These are, of course, the property owners’ responsibility, but the city has to set sidewalk safety standards and enforce them. (They might want to start with sidewalks on city property!)

The bike symbol on the streets is often called a ‘sharrow’ and signifies both that the lane in question is to be shared by bicycles and motor vehicles and that the bicyclist should occupy the lane and stay away from the danger zone near parked cars.

Peter

Walking and biking: “let’s get our priorities straight” (21)

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

Kate McVey is a concerned citizen, 30-year resident of Bethlehem, professional organizer, dog owner, mother of two children, been around, kosher cook . . . explorer.

Ok, Gadfly, so let’s talk about walkability and bikeability for the City of Bethlehem.

I’ve attached photos of the current bike paths I took recently early on a Sunday morning. Well, actually I’m guessing this is a bike path because I don’t really know what a bike painted in the middle of a busy street really means. Is that a bike path? What are cars to Kate bike 1do? That can’t be bike paths because they are painted in the middle of busy thoroughfares. Elizabeth Avenue has several such painted bikes;  Fahy Bridge has a painted bike;  Main Street has painted bikes. (Several years ago a biker was tragically killed on the Fahy Bridge.) Does this mean that cars are to yield to bikers? Does this mean that bike traffic (against all bike-riding regulations) should travel in both directions in that one lane?  If the city is going to paint bicycles in the middle of busy streets, please inform the public as to what those painted bikes mean. I am pretty astute, and if I don’t know what I am to do when I drive on a street with a painted bike, I’m guessing a lot of people don’t. Is it simply: BEWARE BIKERS MAY BE ON THE ROAD?

Ok. So let’s tackle the walkability issue. There’s been a lot of discussion about this as several citizens and at least one council member really want a pedestrian bridge across the Lehigh River. Hmmm, there are three existing pedestrian crossings at this time. Do we need the expense of a bridge for bikes and walkers when there are already three?  Where is this bridge to be located? What is it connecting? Do we need it? Is the Lehigh River a river that requires contemplative crossing? Will there be benches placed along it for sitting and watching the sunset etc.? Is there something exciting going on in the River? In Denver I have watched kayakers (outside of REI) do their thing in rapids below — that was fun. But do we have this in Bethlehem? The Lehigh River is a fun recreational place, but simply to walk across it doesn’t offer that much gratification. Usually pedestrian bridges connect one immediate social area to another; that, if my understanding of placement of this Bethlehem bridge is correct, will not be what this proposed bridge will do. And, I am very open to correction.

I have two dogs, and I walk a lot. Here are pictures of sidewalks within one block of my house. They certainly are not safe. I have fallen while walking because a sidewalk slab was raised four inches up from the next slab. These irregularities are all over Bethlehem. Many older adults I have spoken with won’t walk in Bethlehem because of the bad sidewalks and the risk of falling. They feel much safer going to the gym to walk. When Kate walks 4events that are clearly walkable from my home come up, no one near me wants to walk to them because they don’t want to fall on the poorly lit and treacherous sidewalks.

I saw that Councilperson Paige Van Wirt announced that money had been secured for a feasibility study of a bridge. I really hope that these funds came from private money (not taxpayer)  for this study. To replace sidewalks is very expensive. $40,000 allocated for a feasibility study would be better spent correcting poor sidewalks that are now the responsibility of the homeowners. I understand there are loans available to residents for sidewalk replacement, but a loan needs to be repaid. Residents simply do not have the thousands it takes to replace sidewalks. It isn’t as if it would be several hundred dollars; my research is that is would be several thousand.

So, where are we?  Would a pedestrian bridge be a nice perk for some of our citizens?  Indeed. Is it necessary when so many other things are needed? I think not. Will it make Bethlehem more “walkable”? Not when the sidewalks are of such poor quality that you must constantly be looking down so as not to trip.Kate ADA 1

I understand that the Sierra Club favors the bridge. Have they given thought to some of these other issues? Is it not in the interest of Sierra Club to want the entire City to be more walkable? I don’t believe I have seen or heard anything from them concerning the deplorable condition of our current sidewalks. If a resident has to drive to access the pedestrian bridge, then the carbon footprint problem is increased, not diminished

Finally, there is this sidewalk on Elizabeth Avenue. As ADA regulations require a four-foot-wide sidewalk, this space is not compliant. While the City is busy putting in and correcting the curb cuts around the City (my favorite are the elaborate curb-cuts put in at Macada Road and Center Street where there are absolutely no sidewalks for miles, so good luck to the person in a wheelchair; once they cross the intersection where the heck are they going to go?), perhaps the person responsible for ADA compliance for Bethlehem should be investigating the sidewalks also. Just saying . . . let’s get our priorities straight, and if walking and biking in Bethlehem is a goal, let’s start with real bike paths and good sidewalks.

Kate

Earth Day 2019

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

The New York Times printed this final paragraph of Nathaniel Rich’s new book Losing Earth:

“Everything is changing about the natural world and everything must change about the way we conduct our lives. It is easy to complain that the problem is too vast, and each of us is too small. But there is one thing that each of us can do ourselves, in our homes, at our own pace — something easier than taking out the recycling or turning down the thermostat, and something more valuable. We can call the threats to our future what they are. We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims and ourselves complicit. We can realize that all this talk about the fate of Earth has nothing to do with the planet’s tolerance for higher temperatures and everything to do with our species’ tolerance for self-delusion. And we can understand that when we speak about things like fuel-efficiency standards or gasoline taxes or methane flaring, we are speaking about nothing less than all we love and all we are.”

The Gadfly invites other pictures or texts to help us think about what today means.

It’s Monday, April 22, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

People who speak at public meetings should be honored

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

The Gadfly project is all about public participation.

And recently he witnessed some effective championing of public participation at the highest levels of city government.

Leading off the criticism of the Martin Tower design at the Planning Commission meeting April 11, Diane Szabo Backus called attention to the poor time of the meeting – 4pm – for working people. Toward the end of public comment, one such late-arriving working person Paige Van Wirt – Councilwoman in her night job – forcefully ratified Diane’s frustration at this obstacle to public participation, calling for meetings to start later. You can find recordings of both Diane’s and CW Van Wirt’s commonsense remarks here.

PVW didn’t let go of the issue of such poorly timed city meetings at City Council on April 16, again forcefully suggesting that meetings be scheduled for the evenings and, going even further, forcefully suggesting that meetings – especially Zoning, Planning, Redevelopment, and Parking – be video’d. To his credit, Mayor Donchez replied that he will be directing that scheduling of meetings in 2020 be at the 6 and 7pm hours and that video-ing will be discussed. Now that the CC meetings are video’d, we can see this forceful statement by PVW and the interchange with the mayor in the recording of the April 16 meeting at min. 1:42:57.

Well done Diane, PVW, and His Honor.

But there’s more.

PVW forcefully as well took on the “excoriating demeanor” of the Planning Commission chair toward the public commenters on April 11. See the above video of the April 16 meeting at min. 1:44:55.

“The people who come down to comment at a public meeting should be honored for the care they give the City. They’re not being paid. They don’t have ulterior motives. They were there because they cared deeply. I cannot support this chairman when he comes up for re-nomination because I feel that the citizens were not treated with the respect that they were due.”

Planning Commissioners are nominated by the Mayor and approved by City Council. In her opening remarks at the April 16 CC meeting (I’ll come back to them again in a following post), Diane intriguingly asserted that Commission appointment by elected officials is, in effect, election.

Another reminder in this election season that when we elect City Council members, we are, in effect, electing such people as the Planning Commission chair. Thus, if we the public want improved channels of participation, we must elect Council members who will actively champion it.

PVW concluded her substantial comments at the bottom end of a meeting almost two hours long by that time with “Thank you for your patience, I’m sorry.”

Gadflyers are far from sorry for such powerful support.

Brief election notes

Remember that May 21 is primary election day and that in our basically one-party town, the primary election is the key one for City Council seats.

Remember that today is the last day to register for the May 21 primary election. See registration information here.  You must be registered and registered as a Democrat to vote for the City Council seats.

The Bethlehem NAACP “Candidate’s Night 2019is 7PM tonight at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St., though it is not clear from announcements I’ve seen whether any of our City Council candidates plan to be there.

Carol Ritter, candidate for the 4-year seat on City Council, has updated her response to prompt #1 in our Gadfly series as she catches up on her responses. Please take a look. Return frequently to this continuing “Candidates for election” series as we move toward election day to refresh yourself on the candidates and to prepare for casting an informed vote.

You may have noted like I did this weekend that the yard signs have really bloomed.

But we don’t want to vote for a pretty sign or a familiar name.

Gadfly’s slogan for the “Candidates for election” series is “Get beyond the yard sign.”