City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday October 1

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, October 1, Town Hall, at 7PM.

This meeting is video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov > Quick Links > City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents.

The YouTube channel is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

The City web site is inactive because the new version is being aborn’d.

So find the agenda here: City Council Agenda 10 01 2019

Of interest to Gadfly followers will be discussion and vote of the Parking Authority matters we are in the midst of discussing here and the 11 and 15 W. Garrison re-zoning, which we have thread on, and which Gadfly will post again on tonight and/or tomorrow.

As always, as long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending, one way or the other.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Wanted: people with math skills to think about the BPA proposal to increase parking fines

(123rd in a series of posts on parking)

So Council is going to consider two topics from the Bethlehem Parking Authority tomorrow:

1) increasing the parking fine structure

2) adopting variable rate pricing

Let’s take them one at a time, the fine issue first.

Here’s the proposal cum rationale prepared by the Desman BPA consultant for increasing the fines:

Fine Recommendation Memo 8.20.19

To keep it simple, let’s use this one specific example. Meter parking is now $1.50/hr. The fine for a violation is now $10. If you work an 8hr. day in downtown Northside and want to “squat” in a valuable space, instead of feeding the meter $12, you can not feed the meter and pay a fine of only $10. The new proposal would raise the fine to $15. And if you want just to park for a short time to do some quick shopping but let the meter run out, then you would pay $15 instead of the current $10, a 50% increase.

Here are the main points of the Desman/BPA proposal for the increases.

Background:

  • “Parking citations and fines are a method to make parking as equitable as possible for those that following the parking regulations and those that do not.”
  • “The purpose of this memo is to review and evaluate the City of Bethlehem’s parking violation fines in comparison to peer cities.”
  • “Parking industry standards suggest that the fine for non‐payment of a parking meter or other parking meter violations be priced at least 10‐15 times the hourly parking rate.”

Rationale:

  • “The current fine schedule is not penal enough to encourage motorists to simply pay for parking instead of breaking the law [because] the number of parking violation tickets issued over the past five years has increased by more than 300%
    by the end of 2018.”  [Breaking the rules is now not being deterred.]
  • “In Bethlehem, the fine for parking at an expired meter and the fine for parking in
    excess of the posted time limit in non‐metered spaces (such as in residential permit parking areas) is less than half of the average of the cities examined.”  [Raising our fines would not be excessive.]
  • “These increases will bring the fine amounts for parking meter violations in Bethlehem closer to those of the peer cities examined.”  [We would no longer be an outlier on the lower end.]
  • “The Authority is responsible to provide reliable services to the general public on a continuous basis and shall be financed by costs recovered primarily through user charges. As such, the Authority has the fiduciary responsibility to ensure its properties are properly maintained to generate necessary user fees to cover operational costs and debt service.”  [The BPA has a responsibility to raise its operating expenses.]

Financial impact:

  • “This could result in $75,000‐$100,000 annually, roughly a 2‐3% increase, in additional parking meter revenue.”

Things to consider:

  • The goal in all this should be to help the resident as much as possible (cost-wise as well as quality-of-service-wise) while, of course, maintaining the fiscal stability of the BPA.
  • Does BPA need the $75,000‐$100,000 annual revenue increase? In the draft “pro forma” presented to Council on July 2, the BPA says it doesn’t need the increase in fines to finance the Polk Street Garage. It has enough revenue just with the meter increase.
  • Does BPA need the $75,000‐$100,000 annual revenue increase? The BPA just gained $200,000 by choosing what some (many?) people thought was a less desirable bid for the retail/residential aspect of Polk Street.
  • In fact, no, BPA does not make its case in its own proposal on the need for money: the purpose of the Desman study is focused on comparison with peer cities, with whom we are out of step.
  • So, if BPA doesn’t need the money, why should we care that our rates are low — since low rates are a good thing for our residents?
  • In fact, no, the point BPA prioritizes is the lack of penal power in the fine structure, which may be fostering an injustice against those who follow the law and which may be adversely affecting the circulation of available parking spaces.
  • So, as has been suggested here in these pages by Dana Grubb, is there a way to re-vision the mix of meter rates and fines to put the onus on the violators through even heavier fines, while easing the recent meter increase on the law-abiding residents?
  • Or is that a bridge too far?

What would it take to reduce meter rates?

Gadfly — whose claim to specialized knowledge ends at the fact that he knows 9 uses of the comma — is way out over his ski’s here.

But here goes . . . humbly.

Desman says that raising the fines “could result in $75,000‐$100,000 annually, roughly a 2‐3% increase, in additional parking meter revenue.”

The “pro forma” BPA presented at the July 2 Council meeting — IF GADFLY IS READING IT CORRECTLY — has a different figure: $292,378.

See line 30, page 3:

$2,268,925: 2019 projected meter revenue @ $1.50/hr.
$1,976,547: 2018 (presumably) actual meter revenue @ $1.00/hr.
—————
$292,378: increase as a result of raise in meter rate from $1.00 to $1.50

So, if in the pro forma financial scenario the meter rate is roll-backed to $1.00/hr., how much would the fines have to be increased to bring in $292,378 and break even?

Of course, if we take Desman’s figure of a $75,000‐$100,000 annual increase, the amount of the fine increase would be even less.

So, in the Desman financial scenario, if the meter rate is roll-backed to $1.00/hr., how much would the fines have to be increased to bring in $75,000-100,000 and break even?

Is Gadfly making sense? Is he thinking logically? Math people, speak up! EEL, are you out there?

Is anybody still awake?

Herewith find Gadfly trying, trying to open up some options to the BPA proposal that might help residents . . . trying valiantly.

Gadfly just cannot see raising the rate just to get in step with our peers, which seems a kind of never-ending cycle, nor can he see why if the main reason for the increase is violators, others are swept in.

But he admits budgets and statistics and math mystify him, and he waits for a well-deserved slap upside the head.

And this took more time than the lunch hour, dammit, and he just missed yoga.

Namaste

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Ron (Yoshida) reports Tuesday 6:15 at BAPL

(7th in a series of posts on Ron Yoshida’s pilgrimage)

https://88-photos.com/

Yoshida 5

We followed follower Ron on his 88 temple henro.

And now he is home to tell all.

88 Temples, 800 miles: A Journey through Japan

“Experience the beauty of the people, scenery, and customs of walking the 88-temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan. Join Ron Yoshida, professor emeritus, Lehigh University as he shares stories and photos of his journey.  Read his blog beforehand at: https://88-photos.com or view some of the photographs of the display at the library.”

Bethlehem Area Public Library, Tuesday, October 1, 2019, 6:15pm

Gadfly is crushed that significant business at the Public Safety Committee meeting and the City Council meeting will prohibit his attendance. Followers should know that both meetings will be televised live and archived for later viewing. (YouTube City of Bethlehem Council channel.) But Gadfly feels the need to be personally present.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Council to consider both increasing parking violation fines and variable rate parking

(122nd in a series of posts on parking)

So 5:30pm tomorrow the City Council Public Safety Committee (Colon, Negron, Van Wirt) will entertain not only the Bethlehem Parking Authority’s proposal for an increased fine structure but also consideration — suggested by the Mayor as a result of public and Council interest — of variable rate meter pricing.

And it looks like there will be discussion and voting on them in the Council meeting that immediately follows the Committee meeting.

As always in Gadville, we go to the primary sources with (as best we can) an open mind.

So here are the two pertinent documents from the BPA:

Fine Recommendation Memo 8.20.19

BPA Variable Rate Memorandum 8-28-19

As best Gadfly can tell from his own so far only quick perusal of the fine document, the increases are the same as proposed in 2018.

Gadfly will only note at this point that he has heard no outcry in the 3/4’s of a year that the fines have been out of line with the meters about public disgruntlement at and/or loss of revenue by the BPA.

Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any, just that same has not reached his ears.

Now variable rate pricing might be unfamiliar to many followers.

Here’s a definition by the BPA consultant:

Variable rate pricing —also known as demand-responsive pricing, or performance pricing—means setting curbside parking meter rates based on demand in a block or zone at a particular time of day. The goal is to make sure there are always a few open spaces per block and encourage people to park only as long as they need. Theoretically, this arrangement should enable more customers to shop or eat in a business district.

I understand it to mean that the BPA has the technological ability to vary the meter rates at different locations and different times of the day. Pretty cool.

Here is the consultant’s conclusion:

Based on our review of the Desman report and on our own research conducted as part of this project, Kimley-Horn does not believe that performance-based, dynamic, or progressive on-street parking rates should be implemented at this time. This opinion is based on the fact that curbside utilization is relatively low, there are no large concentrations of intense demand, current monthly and hourly rates are low and offer no variability between on-street and off-street transient rates, and the level of effort and cost required to collect the necessary performance data is prohibitive given the size of the BPA and its budget. The City and BPA could pilot test variable rates based on location and/or time of day for specific streets or blocks but significant surpluses on adjacent streets/blocks and within nearby off-street lots and garage would suggest that the increased rates would simply drive parkers to these other areas of lesser utilization.

So, let’s chew on these two good topics over lunch!

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Time to saddle up for “Festival UnBound”

(11th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

Send the little kids to the grandparents, board the dog, put an away message on your email, put on your thinkin’ caps and dancin’ shoes —

’tis time to get your tickets for the fee’d events and mark your calendars for the free ones

“What kind of community do you really want?’

“How do we form a new identity?”

Jennifer Sheehan, “Festival UnBound: Bringing Bethlehem together through the arts.” September 30, 2019.

“Where are we and where do we want to go?” said J.P. Jordan, Touchstone’s artistic director. “That’s one of the most important ideas. And the art is the manifestation of that thinking.”

“We would ask the same question over and over,” said Bill George, the festival’s director and Touchstone’s co-founder. “What kind of community do you really want?’

“It’s easy to say, ‘I’m going to be inclusive,’ but they are actually doing it,” said Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron said. “They really reached out to every corner. Just making this all happen and making it inclusive for real is a big accomplishment.”

“It’s easy to say, ‘I’m going to be inclusive,’ but they are actually doing it,” said Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron said. “They really reached out to every corner. Just making this all happen and making it inclusive for real is a big accomplishment.”

“We all live in Bethlehem, and we all understand what Bethlehem Steel means,” Reynolds said at a recent council meeting. “And I think all of us, when we look across the country and we see the kind of decline of community identities, whether or not it’s religion or a huge industry like Bethlehem Steel, there is just a wide, wide possibility there. How do we form a new identity? And this is obviously done through art, through theater and conversation. But it’s also about the issues that we see all the time: Why do people disagree, how does that have to do with identity and how do you find ways to disagree with somebody?”

“People focus so much on the end result of these things,” Jordan said. “And that’s important but, and there are so many cliche quotes on this, the journey is the thing. The impact of building the art itself puts people in direct connect with the idea of community.”

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Kate’s new sport: “15 or 50”

(The Gadfly invites your “local color” reflections of this sort***)

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

Apropos, see these two articles in recent news:

Katie Park, “You know to kill the spotted lanternfly. But what if you could make it a game? You can.” Tribune News Service, Septwmber 30, 2019.

Michael Rubinkam, “Great Spotted Lanternfly War being waged to stop invasion of destructive, despised insect.” lehighvalleylive.com, September 26, 2019.

Gadfly:

My new sport is called “15 or 50.” Each day — frequency depends on my schedule — I go to my maple tree, in front of the house, and I am there either for 15 minutes or for the time it takes to kill 50 lantern flies, whichever comes first.

I must say, either they aren’t very smart, or I have become excellent at this game. I use a broom, a bag over my hand, and, depending on location, I smash them with my foot, hand, or broom.

I know this won’t make a dent on the infestation, but it is a very good activity for releasing stress and quite satisfying.

I surprise myself as I didn’t know I had this killer instinct in me!

Kate

*** From the Gadfly About page: “Local Color: original creative work with recognizably local Bethlehem subjects or connections — art, poems, mini-essays, vignettes, photographs, songs — that help us see or think about our town and townspeople in interesting ways.” Kate’s vignette is a good example.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

The “fine” situation comes to a head

(121st in a series of posts on parking)

It may not be the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

But it’s important.

And it should be interesting.

Tomorrow Tuesday October 1, 5:30pm, Town Hall, the Council Public Safety Committee (Colon, Negron, Van Wirt) will consider the Bethlehem Parking Authority’s proposal to increase their fine/violation $$$ structure.

Followers will remember the conflict between Council and the BPA during the last half of 2018.

We live under the strange, arbitrary, and probably changeable situation in which the Mayor governs meter rates, Council the fines.

The Mayor approved BPA’s request to increase meter rates as of January 1, 2019, but Council did not approve their proposal to raise the fines on that date, a contentious process well covered here on Gadfly. Take a look at the archives. (What will future city historians do without the Gadfly archives?)

So, since January 1 the meter rates and the violation rates are severely out of balance.

Tomorrow is the time to straighten things out.

Looks like the issue will come up to full Council immediately after the committee meeting tomorrow because it is an agenda item.

We should think about this.

Prepare by taking a few minutes to review previous Gadfly posts on this specific fine issue.

These posts are in reverse chronological order.

Another idea relating to the Parking Authority proposal to increase the fine structure

Why not reward Bethlehem residents with a meter-rate rollback?

The proposed increase in parking fines

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13