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

The City continues to install outmoded and dangerous curb ramps

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

Gadfly,

Last year the city contracted with someone to do new curb ramps on several 4th street intersections. Since then they’ve done lots of them on the north side.

Many of them (both on the north side and here on SouthSide) are the style that was common 30 years ago, where the ramps aim out into the intersection at a 45° angle. The preferred designs maintain a straight line of travel for people walking down the sidewalk or in a wheelchair. Steve Schmitt had called the problem to the city’s attention over 10 years ago and even gone out to specific intersections to show the right way. Last year, I contacted both the city and Senator Boscola’s office; Senator Boscola’s office even supplied PennDOT publications that pointed out the danger.

They are only supposed to depart from these designs when a physical obstacle makes it impossible. The 45° design is the least-preferred design, because it is more dangerous — not only does it make it more likely for a person in a wheelchair to roll into traffic, but it also allows people to flatten their turn and and run over the end of the ramp.

That’s the short version of why the Federal Highway Administration and PennDOT both point out the increased danger.

Why does the City continue to install these outmoded and dangerous curb ramps. Does the city that likes to think it’s “walkable” care so little about safety for pedestrians and people with disabilities? Apparently, they are incapable of learning from their mistakes.

Peter

Sunrise on the Southside (7): Supportive Community

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

Sunrise on the Southside

Chapter 5: Supportive Community

Gadfly is enjoying this leisurely walk through the Southside and through the eyes of Lehigh’s promotional video about its contributions there, something which, in truth, is not always without controversy.

  • Recognizing too that quality schools are essential for thriving neighborhoods, Lehigh has actively engaged with BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy ’09 Ph.D. to improve the quality and outcomes of the schools near campus.
  • Lehigh’s Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders, and now the Community Service Office, partners with BASD and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley in creating university-assisted community schools at Broughal, Donegan and Fountain Hill schools. In addition to academic support, the designation allows each school to extend their reach into the community, with students as well as their families receiving health services and social support. The Community Voices Clinic, a mental health clinic in the family centers at Broughal and Donegan schools, was formed in 2012 in partnership with BASD, St. Luke’s Health Network and Lehigh’s counseling psychology program.

Gadfly luvs this point especially:

  • Carolina Hernandez, assistant dean and director of the Community Service Office at Lehigh, says Lehigh students are often profoundly influenced by their work in the community. She says tutors, for instance, “quite frequently” change their career trajectories and go on to become educators. . . . For us, it’s about exposing students and helping students learn who they are and learn about the role that they have in the greater community.”

And words we luv to hear:

  • “South Side is our community,” Hernandez says, “and we have a duty and a responsibility to the community that we are a part of.”

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

Require future mega-warehouse developments to dedicate rooftop space for solar generation

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

Bill Gontram is a Philly transplant happy to find a nice quality of life on the Southside.

Gadfly:

EAC’s solar panel entreaty got me thinking. Given that the Lehigh Valley and especially Bethlehem with close proximity to I-78 is such a desirable (profitable) location for mega-warehouse development, it should be a requirement for future developments to dedicate rooftop space for solar generation. The added cost should be minimal (or zero with a PPA ) and well within the developer’s feasibility requirements. It should also be possible to purchase rooftop easements on existing buildings to allow installation by solar companies as well as municipalities.

Bill

Hmmm, Gadfly seems to recall an article or study on this subject that passed through the blog, but he can’t find it now. Can anybody give us a reference?

And isn’t the sentiment Bill provided in his by-line sooooo good!

H. D. play (and panel) challenges us to follow our music!

(30th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Listen up! Festival UnBound starts this week. In which is the original play on H.D.’s life,  The Secret, by the fabulous Mock Turtle Marionette Theater.

H. D. marionette

Here’s what Jennie Gilrain says about the play’s relevance:

“I am in the midst of designing the panel that will take place after the second performance on Oct. 6th. The focus will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?’  The women on our panel will talk about their work and dreams and tell a story about a moment in which they were encouraged/ inspired or discouraged/ oppressed/ prevented from following their music. We hope to explore ways in which we as a community can encourage women to follow their dreams.”

DATES & TIMES:

Saturday, October 5 – 5:00-6:30p | Talkback 6:30-7:00p

Sunday, October 6 – 1:00-2:30p  | Panel 2:30-3:30p

Monday, October 7 – 7:30-9:00p

Tuesday, October 8 – 7:30-9:00p

VENUE: Touchstone Theatre | 321 E. Fourth Street, Bethlehem, PA

PRICE: $25 adult & $15 student/senior; limited amount of Pay What You Will tickets for purchase; please call 610-867-1689 to order.

http://festivalunbound.com/the-secret/

Gadfly has always tried to march to a different drummer — how about you?

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

The Portuguese in Bethlehem

(The latest post in a series on local color and Bethlehem Moments
and first in a series on the Portuguese)

A couple weeks ago Gadfly made an off-hand remark about lack of knowledge about the Portuguese in Bethlehem.

His curiosity was triggered by Olga Negron’s Bethlehem Moment on the arrival of the Puerto Ricans in 1948.

Sure, we associate Puerto Ricans with Bethlehem, with the Southside.

But Portuguese?

I had seen references in old Globe-Times files to political meetings at the Portuguese Club, which must have meant the Portuguese were once prominent politically.

Follower Dana Grubb pointed out that the Portuguese American Club is still operating at 337 Brodhead Ave. Is it just a social club?

Portuguese Club

Then Negron wrote:

Holy Infancy Church (yes, Southside!) has the biggest diverse congregation! That’s why we do a Multicultural Fest every year! (see flyer below). We have mass every weekend in Spanish, English and in Portuguese (see bulletin attached), and our weekly bulletin it’s tri-lingual as well. The English-speaking community is a mix of the ambassadors of our parish (Irish, German, Pennsylvania Dutch, etc.); our Spanish speakers are from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, South and Central America; and our Potuguese are from Portugal and Brazil! Beside the Multicultural Fest, my favorite part is having tri-lingual mass, it’s an amazing experience to be in mass surrounded by people speaking 3 different languages! We also have many events through the year that involve all of our communities, it’s beautiful!

Portuguese

Far out! Who knew?

And then follower Kim Carrell-Smith gave me some leads that I haven’t followed up yet but that I record here so that they don’t disappear and in case anybody wants to use them or can add:

You might want to talk with Tony Traca, the Asst Principal at Liberty about the history of Portuguese folks in Bethlehem. I know that Armindo Souza [is] the godfather of the P. community, [but I] am not sure Armindo is still alive. So Tony might be a good source; he’s been a big actor (and one of the youngsters) in the local Portuguese community . . .

One more possible source would be the Holy Infancy jubilee books (or any anniversary books). Local churches, esp the ethnic ones, often include brief histories of their ethnic communities. Since HI has been so multi-ethnic throughout its history, they might have provided those stories in the celebration books, perhaps? And I can’t remember, but this one might help, too:  Journey of Faith: A Brief History of Bethlehem’s Religious Communities (1992) at BAPL,  call no.  974.822 

Gadfly loves learning more and more about the history of our town. Don’t you?

He sees a Bethlehem Moment here. Anyone interested?

Gadfly is thinking of a Moment analogous to Negron’s Puerto Rican one.

When did the Portuguese come to town and why? Same story or different?

The mayor needs to hear more than the developers’ voices

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

Gadfly:

Great series [Peter means the Kim Carrell-Smith 4-part series on thoughtful planning; see part 1 here], although asking the City administration & council and agencies like BPA to pay attention to common sense and evidence of greater economic vitality seems to be a lost cause when all they hear is the developers’ voices.

I remember Mayor Donchez once assuring people that he met weekly with key developers. A weekly meeting with you & Karen Beck Pooley & Breena Holland would have been a better use of his time and of greater benefit to the city.

Peter

Yiii, does the Mayor meet weekly with key developers?

Sounds of the student strike

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

Gadfly’s a shy guy. Not much for public speaking. Seeger

And really not a strike, rally, demonstration kind of guy.

Except for the singing, that is. He would sing along.

Like with Peter, Paul, and Mary (Peter was at Sellersville yesterday!).

And with Pete Seeger. Whose spirit will visit us next Saturday.

But, as Gadfly realizes, strikes / rallies / demonstrations have an important role to play in empowering and consolidating change agents, galvanizing public opinion, and fostering political change.

And such activity by students is especially noteworthy.

Gadfly couldn’t get to the student Global Climate Strike at Payrow Plaza week ago Friday.

So he’s glad that follower Dan did and provides us with some audio that captures the bubbling passion the issue of climate change generates.

The chants:

The demands:

The danger (storms):

The apocalypse (pre-teen):

The political action group (Sunrise):

The environmental group (Sierra):

The elected official (Tara Zrinski):

The things you can do (10 ways):

The religious perspective (Muslim):

Gadfly knows that climate change issues are dear to the heart of many followers.

If you were there on Payrow Plaza or at some such other gathering, what would you say to gain the attention of the crowd when the mic was passed to you?

Interesting thought experiment.

Gadfly invites your comments.

It’s Sunday, September 29, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

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

Unaware of the impact the loss of Bethlehem Steel had on the steelworkers and the City

(10th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

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

Gadfly:

I am so happy I decided to I attend the screening of the film Steelbound at the National Museum of Industrial History, and it was good to see you, Gadfly. I did not live in Bethlehem in 1999, and although two of my sons were attending a local Bethlehem high school, I was unaware of the impact the loss of Bethlehem Steel had on the steelworkers and the City. The film did an excellent job of messaging the pain, anger, sadness, and loss experienced by so many people and their families. There were many meaningful and even timely messages, including the importance of immigrants to American society and importance of camaraderie — the “I’ve got your back” attitude in a workplace. I heard the message of the value of experiencing your pain, then taking what you’ve learned and start looking toward the future to make a better life for yourself, your family, and your community. The talk-back session was fascinating with several of the people involved in production adding their personal experiences about the development of the project and on the set, which included stories from the filmmaker and a couple of the actors (former steelworkers). I look forward to experiencing firsthand the sequel, Prometheus/ Redux at the Festival UnBound. Get your tickets early!

Kathy

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

“Steelbound,” the context

(9th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

Gadfly captured these videos at the Steelbound showing Wednesday, September 25.

Bill George — a driving force in Touchstone Theatre — played Prometheus in Steelbound as he will in Prometheus/Redux.

Hank Barnette was Chairman of the Board at Bethlehem Steel from 1992-2000, the period the Steel was closing and in which Steelbound was developed and performed.

Bill George:

Bill reminded us that the dying of the Steel — “in many ways the poppa of this community for a hundred and some years” — was a traumatic event for all of us and that people needed some way to mark the transition.

He stressed “how unusual it was for the Steel [especially Hank Barnett and Steve Donchez] to have the courage to bring this little theater company into their kitchen at this extremely emotional time when there was a lot of anger and a lot of shame, a sense of failure, a lot of sadness, a lot of fear about the future . . . to bring us into that situation showed so much courage on the part of a business.”

Hank Barnette:

Hank stressed how difficult the decision to close the Steel was, knowing the impact on the community would be severe. He stressed that serving the community/public was a Bethlehem Steel goal and that they didn’t “walk away” as they could have legally. He pointed to the large and lucrative development that has already occurred on the Steel site, with more to come. He pointed to a valuable partnership including Steve Donchez, and Mayor Ken Smith and City Council president Jim DelGrosso.

——–

Jennie Gilrain, Steelbound’s Movement Director, sent Gadfly this informative reminiscence from the Detroit airport:

It was an incredible experience . . . so rich and full of integrity and true storytelling based on community engagement. My husband, Mark McKenna, was Artistic Director of Touchstone at the time and played a key role in making it happen along with Bridget George who was Producing Director. Mark played “Herman the historian,” the guy who climbs the ladle at the end of the play to interview Prometheus. We actually got the inspiration for the production from our teacher, Jacques Lecoq. While visiting Bethlehem from Paris for “The Festival of Creation” at Touchstone, Lecoq took a tour of the functioning Centec branch of the steel mill (a French based company), witnessed a pouring of molten metal, and exclaimed, “Il faut… un choeur qui chante!” The vastness of the space made him imagine a Greek chorus chanting in the mill. It was Gus Ripa at Lehigh who suggested the Aeschylus tragedy, “Prometheus Bound.” Alison Carey of Cornerstone adapted the Greek tragedy to our local situation. Deb Sacarakis at Lehigh was key in commissioning Jay O’Callahan at Zoellner, who created and performed an amazing story about a steelworker family based on hundreds of interviews that he did in Bethlehem. Jay’s story is available on C.D., titled “Pouring the Sun.” The festival was about 5 years in the making!

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

“Steelbound’s” riveting conclusion

(8th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

“You gotta come on out . . . it’s time to go.”
(go to min. 1:20:50)

“So come on . . . let’s go!”

In Steelbound’s riveting conclusion (go to min. 1:20:50), Prometheus is talked — but, more persuasively —  sung, danced, and chanted down from his — we learn — self-shackled post on top that hulking dormant remnant of the once thriving Bethlehem Steel.

Throughout the play he has resisted entreaties:

“Isn’t there someone you could apologize to?”

“It won’t do any good to tear at the wounds.”

“Isn’t there something that can set you free?”

“They [dead steelworkers] never asked you to bury yourself with their bones.”

It is the brotherhood of plant workers that first cracks the sullen spell that Prometheus has cast upon himself.

For the history of Bethlehem Steel is not just the planes, guns, bridges, moon rockets, and skyscrapers it produced.

The history of Bethlehem Steel is a “history of fellowship, of care,” a history of “the people who stood next to you,” who “would watch your back” . . . who “would risk their lives to save yours” — a history of relationship, of community.

It’s the common sense of these people that beckons Prometheus:

“Which story are you going to be telling yourself today . . . the one about the steel mill that accomplished things that no one could ever have imagined possible or the one about the steel mill that closed down and ended a way of life?”

“Some people are afraid that you undercut the achievement if you acknowledge the tragedy. I don’t think so.”

“Just because you have the right to be angry doesn’t mean you have to be angry every day.”

It’s their mill metaphysics that beckons Prometheus:

“This place was the body, but we were the soul. . . . Don’t you tell me that the soul can’t go on after the body is cold and lifeless. Don’t you even think of telling me that.”

It’s their sincerely seductive “Come on, brother” that beckons Prometheus.

But it’s the chorus — rather the assemblage of the three choruses — men, women, children — that provides the finishing touch.

A single mournful, almost dirge-like voice is quickly joined by others gradually swelling upward in ever-pulsing tempo, ending in a rapid-fire burst.

The static, seated, separated companies rise, move rhythmically, change positions, join together in hand-linked-to-hand concentric circles around Prometheus, chanting, among other things, “You gotta come on out . . . it’s time to go.”

Emotional energy impossible to explain in words here finally frees Prometheus from the captivity of his past.

It was beautiful,
It was beautiful,
I was happy when I worked here,
I didn’t think I’d ever leave,
but here I go

And with a “So, come on . . . let’s go,” Steelbound ends with Prometheus, and, in fact, the entire company, frozen in this exiting posture, frozen in the first step of forward motion, as the stage goes dark.

Steelbound 3

That was the cultural moment twenty years ago.

Bethlehem City facing an uncertain life after Bethlehem Steel.

Now the question is:

Who are we now that the Steel is gone?

Steelbound is the point of reference for the entire Festival UnBound and especially the dramatic “sequel,” if you will, Prometheus/Redux.

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

“Steelbound’s” remarkable requiem

(7th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

“One time there was so many jobs.”
(go to mins. 49:00-56:25)

“And so we’ve come to the end of your world.”

In a remarkable scene (go to mins. 49:00-56:25) in a play filled with remarkable scenes, Steelbound calls the roll of the jobs that have ceased and the buildings that housed them in those “five miles of buildings.”

Like Walt Whitman in those “Song of Myself” catalogues of American diversity, Steelbound names and ennobles each and every aspect of working life in the mill.

This is a cluster of obituaries culminating in a mass burial.

But there is no whining and mewling.

The voices of the steelworkers as they contribute a tool of their trade to a fire-less funeral pyre are still strong, still proud.

They have laid down their tools, but they have not laid down their lives.

The epitaph is simple, without melancholy, and is about birth not death:

“The first iron was made here on this spot in 1863.”

And the sounds of the mill that frame this ritual requiem are literally a deafening reminder of the almost superhuman power that was BETHLEHEM STEEL.

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

Touchstone scored a touchdown with “Steelbound”!

(6th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

Gadfly has said that Touchstone Theatre is one of the things that makes Bethlehem special, very special.

Some of you went to the Wednesday film showing of Touchstone’s “Steelbound,” the 1999 play about the closing of Bethlehem Steel that provides the point of reference for “Prometheus/Redux,” the central event of this year’s 10-day “Festival Unbound.”

Let’s see, Holly; Geoff; Ron; Sharon; Kathy; CB, yeah, you were there, CB; Gene; neighbor Mrs. Bader; etc., etc. — a nice crowd.

But many of you weren’t there.

Well, now, you missed something!

But all is not lost >>>>>

In an incredible opening scene — which must have been simply fantastic to watch in the actual old deserted Steel building that acted as the stage — a steelmaker — Prometheus — a man locked in the past now that the Steel has closed — is chained to a huge — I mean HUGE — machine — a ladle.

A victim of “History, Progress, the invisible forces of fate, the inevitability of change.”

Prometheus isn’t going quietly into what he sees as the dark night of the future as he was “supposed to.” He’s welded to the ladle because he’s a “whining son of a bitch” and people have “run out of patience with his mewling.” His fate as representative steelman is not pretty for “every once in a while progress needs a little brutality and indifference to close the deal.”

Prometheus is full of anger — outrage, really — and self-pity. He did his job, giving the nation “its planes, its guns, its paperclips” — its bridges, moon rockets, skyscrapers. “Steelmen made our time,” he says, and when people asked “What do you do?” those steelmen replied, “I’m building America.”

Well, that grand role only got Prometheus and his fellows a place in the unemployment line when the Steel closed, “the shame of greed and bad planning.”

In the final analysis, he’s “a sucker who gave his life for a promise unkept, his “reward . . . to be pushed out to make room for the 21st century” — “agony with no end in sight.”

And he doesn’t want to capitulate to the forces of Progress and move on: “Time will come for us again” . . . “Progress is going to need me.”

Surrounding voices of reason argue, beg, cajole him to leave. But “the only way to get out” Prometheus can see “is to promise to shut up and quietly give up my place in the world.” “It’s too late for a new beginning for me,” he laments.

This is the end of Prometheus’s world and, symbolically, the end of Bethlehem’s life as it was known for generations, a life nobody imagined would end.

The potential death of a city, a community?

Steelbound was not about the future as we had thought it might be,” said actor and Touchstone artistic director Mark McKenna, “It was about closure on the past.”

Are you seeing how important this play is/was to our understanding of the life of our City at the closing of the Steel?

We’ll come back and talk more about that closure on the past and details of the play next time.

But for now Gadfly encourages you to watch “Steelbound.”

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

The Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) follows up with the Parking Authority and gets good news

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

Lynn Rothman chairs the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC).

9/25/19 Bethlehem Parking Authority

Good afternoon. My name is Lynn Rothman, speaking on behalf of the Bethlehem EAC.

I’m here today so that we can both put faces to the names in the EAC’s July letter to you. As you may know, the City of Bethlehem is embarking on a Climate Action Plan with the goal of reducing our ghg emissions for the health, well-being and sustainability of ourselves and future generations.

To help our City achieve this goal, we entreat the BPA to put solar panels on the proposed
Polk Street Garage, as well as existing and future garages. As shown in the photographs of other garages that were included in our letter, solar panels do not appear to inhibit the
available parking area.

The Authority could purchase solar panels, and through energy savings, recoup the initial investment over a period of years, thereafter reducing or eliminating the cost of electricity.

The EAC also wants to be sure you are aware of financing options for solar systems that
require no upfront costs.

A Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, requires no upfront costs and entails having a solar provider own and maintain your solar system. The PPA provider may qualify for tax credits and accelerated depreciation. Under this scenario the Authority would agree to purchase electricity from the provider for 20 yrs. During that time the provider is responsible for all maintenance. After 20 yrs. the Parking Authority would have the option to continue or to purchase the solar system. Depending upon the size of the system, the price the PA would pay should be close to the going rate for electricity.

Even better, you could apply any excess power generated at the Polk Street garage to other garages within 2 miles. This is called virtual net metering.

Detailed information is available from solar providers that work with financial institutions.

Another possible option would be Commercially Assessed Clean Energy or C-PACE. No
upfront cost is required, rather a loan for the solar system would be tied to the property.
It’s unclear whether the Parking Authority would qualify for C-PACE, but you can find out by speaking with a representative from the Sustainable Energy Fund. SEF will be
overseeing the C-PACE program and is currently working with Northampton County on a
cooperative agreement.

As stated in our letter, we also recommend that new structures use a sustainable design
and LED lighting. We advise that trees be planted as densely as possible on the property to sequester carbon, help clean the air, provide cooling and aesthetically enhance the entire development.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Lynn hadn’t heard anything after the July letter to the BPA. She found that the letter had somehow gone astray, but the BPA exec director told her, “The BPA is working towards sustainability. 100% of the BPA facilities should have LED lighting by next yr. At least 90%  of facilities are currently equipped with LED lighting. BPA has a consultant looking at solar comprehensively for all garages as opposed to a singular garage. EV charging stations are also prominent.”

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

The H.D. event this Saturday on hold!

(29th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

From organizer Jennie:

Regretfully, H.D.’s Bethlehem: A Walking Tour, which was scheduled to take place this coming Saturday, Sept. 28th, must be rescheduled. Our tour guide and H.D. scholar, Seth Moglen, needs to recover from an ankle injury before he can lead the walk! Stay tuned. We will let you know when we have a new date!

Our next event is part of Festival UnBound at Touchstone Theatre, http://festivalunbound.com/the-secret/

The Secret 
The premiere of a new play by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater on the Lehigh Valley’s most influential artist, the celebrated feminist writer and LGBTQ icon Hilda Doolittle, featuring narrative, song, and puppetry.

DATES & TIMES:

Saturday, October 5 – 5:00-6:30p | Talkback 6:30-7:00p

Sunday, October 6 – 1:00-2:30p (Audio Description) | Panel 2:30-3:30p

Monday, October 7 – 7:30-9:00p

Tuesday, October 8 – 7:30-9:00p

VENUE: Touchstone Theatre | 321 E. Fourth Street, Bethlehem, PA

PRICE: $25 adult & $15 student/senior; limited amount of Pay What You Will tickets for purchase; please call 610-867-1689 to order.

Gadfly thanks followers who made contributions to the H. D. portrait fund, but we still have a long way to go.

The Library GoFundMe page shows contributions of $5, $10, $20, as well as some higher.

Please pitch in!

See the library’s GoFundMe page to make online contributions.

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

Need independent thinkers on the authorities, boards, and commissions (the ABC’s)

(120th in a series of posts on parking)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

First, thank you for going and presenting these thoughts. To coin a familiar phrase, “You’re a better man than I, Mr. Gallagher” (Gunga Din).

Second, the fact that nobody on that board would move and second that your thoughts as a resident be included in the meeting minutes speaks volumes about the rubber stamping that appears to be the norm with this and other authorities, boards and commissions in Bethlehem.

What we need to happen is for Mayors with City Council’s approval to begin appointing independent thinkers to the ABCs, so that thoughtful and considerate decision-making takes place within the periphery of city government. Only then will the community be placed first instead of special and personal interests.

Dana

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

The real threatening “toxic dust cloud” approaching is not political

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

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

Gadfly:

An invisible “toxic dust cloud” is indeed approaching, but it’s not the political noise from DC. The underlying corruption is nearly a constant. Sometimes it’s more visible / blatant, sometimes almost invisible or concealed by “civil” manners.

The real threat right is the threat from less-visible, more-fatal systemic changes. I’ll just give two examples:

1. Our industrialized food system relies on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, undermining our health and destroying the web of life on which we all depend.

2. Global warming & climate change threaten the future and the Sixth Great Extinction is underway, with entire species dying off at an estimated 1,000 times the normal background rate.

Two things, however, are very visible: an exponential increase in extreme weather events and widespread failure to take action to mitigate GHG emissions and to adapt to the changes that are on the way. Greta Thunberg’s comparison was apt — people are watching the latest entertainments & news distractions while the house is on fire.

Peter

It’s Friday, September 27, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

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

Past climate change due to natural feedbacks

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

Benjamin Felzer is an associate professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Ben has expertise in climate and terrestrial ecosystem modeling, and his research focuses on biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and other substances between the land and atmosphere.

Gadfly:

The reason why the terminology changed from “global warming” to “climate change” has nothing to do with the science. Rather, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, based on focus groups, determined that “climate change” was less threatening politically than “global warming.” What we are experiencing now is, in fact, global warming. That does not mean there is warming at every location on the earth or that every year is warmer than the preceding year (as there is interannual variability due to things like ENSO), but that on average, global temperatures over climatic timescales of 15-30 years or so continue to increase.

What past climate change tells us is that almost every major climate change in earth’s history is either caused by or amplified by changing levels of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide or methane). When greenhouse gas levels go up, the world warms; when they go down, the world cools. Glacial/interglacial cycles were amplified by changing CO2 levels, the warm Eocene (55 million years ago) saw an outburst of methane, the warm Cretaceous (100 million years ago) had high CO2 levels, snowball earth was caused by fluctuating CO2, and even the early earth, when the sun was less bright than today, was warmed by high CO2 and methane levels. Obviously, in these cases, the elevated greenhouse gases were not caused by humans but by natural feedbacks. But we know what effect adding greenhouse gases has on the climate!  And today it is humans who are adding these greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

CO2 levels have fluctuated between 200 and 280 ppm between glacial/interglacial cycles over the last million years. In the year 1860, they were at 280 ppm. Today, they are at 400 ppm, and still rising. There is no question as to why they have risen – it is due to human activity that began with the Industrial Revolution – burning of fossil fuels (as well as cement production). There is also no question that based on current socioeconomic trends, CO2 levels will continue to increase, with reasonable projections above 700 ppm by the year 2100. So, we have not yet even doubled CO2 concentrations since 1860, but will surely do so in coming decades. Global temperatures have already risen 1oC, but with even greater increases in atmospheric CO2, they will rise even further (projected another 2-4oC by 2100).

It is so important to understand attribution – why climate changes at different times.  The Little Ice age was a relatively minor cooling event that probably was due to an extended 80-year period without sunspots, known as the Maunder Minimum, as well as relatively larger number of volcanic eruptions. Changes in sunspots normally have very little effect on the climate as there is an 11-year sunspot cycle, so only when sunspots shut off for a century or so would they have a discernible effect on the climate. That is not the case now.  Differences in radiation between maximum and minimum sunspots in the cycle are simply too small to account for the warming we have witnessed. In fact, while the lower part of the atmosphere, the troposphere, has warmed, the stratosphere has cooled. That is a unique greenhouse warming signature that would not have occurred if the warming were due to the sun, as greenhouse gases are essentially keeping the heat near the surface.

So, yes, climate has changed in the past.  But we have a pretty good understanding of why past climate change occurred, and the larger ones all involved changing greenhouse gases due to natural feedbacks. Climate is changing now, and humans are the primary culprit. We know what we need to do in order to slow it down – reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere. How, or if, we choose to do so is up to us.

Ben

It’s Friday, September 27, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

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

Required reading

Gadfly’s been off his game, off his beat the last day or two or three.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

Finding it almost impossible to focus on his little town of Bethlehem, his Norman Rockwell small town.

National doings of a momentous sort.

Like a toxic dust cloud approaching.

Perhaps — retired as he is — it’s harder for Gadfly to resist being locked in to the evolving news cycle than many of you.

Putting other life aside.

Gadfly has tried to avoid divisive national politics, focusing instead in these pages on local concerns where good conversation among people who, in a sense, know each other might help build community.

Focusing where we have more control, more ability to do tangible good of benefit to us all.

But we can’t ignore the toxic dust cloud approaching.

Gadfly sees his followers as thoughtful people who pay attention and make up their own minds.

And in Gadville we always go to the primary sources:

Trump-Ukraine Call Transcript

Whistleblower Complaint

Inspector General letter 1

Inspector General letter 2

Trump slams whistleblower at private event

Gadfly hopes you will take the time . . .