Diversity at City Hall: “Who’s sitting in the decision table?”

logo 68th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

“In the first two decades, the Moravians built a racially integrated city.”
(Seth Moglen)

When you hear “a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Minister walk into a bar,” prepare for a joke.

When you hear a Latino man, an African American woman, and a White woman are discussing diversity, prepare for an indictment.

Such happened in the middle of the panel discussion following the “Hidden Seed” performance during Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound.

“Who’s sitting in the decision table?” asked LM, “if you don’t have the diversity in the decision table, it’s no diversity at all.” “Take, for example, the City Hall here in Bethlehem, ok,” followed AAW, “tell us about the diversity in City Hall [pause], there’s hardly any diversity in City Hall. . . . It’s all white most of the time. . . . So when you’re talking about how can we change our city, well, I think our City Hall needs to be reflective of the people, the composition should include the people of the community. . . . It is very, very, very Anglo.” “And very male,” adds WW, “many times I’m in the room, I’m the only female in the room in City Hall. . . . I get very tired having to explain that I think differently . . . I entertain ideas differently, and it’s almost that I got to justify. . . . It is absolutely an unconscious bias. . . . In the business community, in government, it’s a challenge.”

Short exchange, long in ramification.

Elections are on Gadfly’s mind today as you can see from the previous two posts.

Some random thoughts to chew on as we think about the role future elections play in furthering the goal of a more diverse city:

  • Should diversity start at the top?
  • What would a photo of the Mayor’s staff meeting show?
  • Are we getting close to a woman mayor?
  • We have three female councilpersons — a record number?
  • Can we imagine more, even a totally female Council?
  • We have Latino representation on Council — sufficient?
  • Has there ever been an African American on Council?
  • Has there ever been an African American running for Council?
  • Does a range, a balance of race and gender and heritage in our elected officials matter?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Gadfly election exercise

logo 2nd in a series of new posts on candidates for election logo

Election Day Tuesday November 5!

You know how Gadfly feels about participation — BE THERE!

But, frankly, Gadfly, whose focus is narrowly on Bethlehem, is not the whirling dervish he was for the primary in May.

No mayoral election. No “real” Council election. No competition for these seats. No local  choices there to be made.

Yep, yep, other important races — my phone is blowing up, my mail box stuffed with flyers, my front door a bulletin board for canvassing candidates.

But Gadfly just doesn’t feel all that engaged.

What to do?

Gadfly reminds you that Council is a likely pool for mayoral candidates in the next election, and, in any event, current Council members are likely to want to keep going on in their positions.

So we should always be paying attention, always gathering information.

Let’s remember that the soon-to-be-automatically-elected Council members did a very remarkable thing for the primary (that “very” is redundant, dammit, you should know better, Gadfly).

Successful candidates Colon, Reynolds, Van Wirt, and Crampsie Smith wrote 8 mini-essays — one each week — in response to Gadfly prompts in the run-up to the election.

Well, unsuccessful candidates Carpenter and Saltzer — Gadfly hopes you remember them and their energetic efforts — did that same very remarkable thing too. Tip o’ the hat to them, for sure.

Gadfly is still humbled by that amazing totally voluntary cooperation.

The goal was to get beyond stump speeches and sound bites and to help voters be much better informed about candidate positions when it came time to vote.

And feedback indicated to Gadfly that followers appreciated the effort that the candidates put in.

So let’s remember those probably sweated-over mini-essays.

But let’s go a step further.

Let’s literally refresh ourselves on their words, see how we feel about them now, and let’s hold those successful City Council candidates to those words.

Say it. Mean it.

No coasting down Victory Lane.

So here’s what Gadfly is suggesting for an election exercise.

He will compile and re-publish the 8 mini-essays for each soon-to-be-elected running unopposed City Council candidate one at a time over the next 4 days, beginning today.

You have the recent 5-month context as a point of reference for these three incumbents re-elected: Colon, Reynolds, Van Wirt.

Followers know that the Gadfly blog has much information on these three incumbents from their activity on Council, and Gadfly has been urging you to pay attention.

You are not obliged to vote for all three on Tuesday.

If you like what an individual’s been doing, vote twice for him or her (just k-i-d-d-i-n-g!).

If you have some reservation on one or more, withhold your vote accordingly.

You are not obliged to vote for all three.

I’m sure the candidates will be looking at total numbers as well as numbers from specific wards and comparing them to projections in this “off” year.

You might be able to use your vote to send a message.

Either I like what you’re doing. Or — ha! — you’d better shape up.

Get the idea.

Make your vote or lack thereof count.

Make this “dead” local Council election interesting for you.

Re-assess.

Mentally make the candidates still earn your vote.

Scrutinize again what they presented on Gadfly during primary time.

Alphabetical order.

Michael Colon coming up!

Vote!
Election Day
Tuesday November 5

How ’bout that new City web site?

logo The latest in a series of posts on City government logo

https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/

City web

Been two weeks since Gadfly posted that the new City web site went “live.”

Gadfly can imagine that there were “bugs” no matter how much the tech wizards pre-tested and that it will take a little time for things to run completely smoothly.

Been there, done that.

So he has refrained asking for immediate follower commentary.

But it is getting about that time.

Gadfly wishes he had a volunteer crew to divvy up the site and go deep on individual sections, compiling helpful commentary for us as users of the site and also helpful commentary for the behind-the-scenes guys — what’s good, what needs work.

So he does herewith and now invite you to go deep on a section or sections, take notes, and report to Gadfly.

What is there to like and that we all should know about? And what are the places where there’s work to be done?

Gadfly will compile worthy material, organize it, and forward to City Hall.

Constructive comments, please.

But Gadfly will say immediately that he is disappointed about one big thing.

Almost the first problem that Gadfly noticed at the beginning of his novitiate year was the difficulty for the public in finding out about meetings.

His very first public comments at Council meetings had to do with the desirability of a master “calendar” of all meetings (City Council, the ABC’s, etc.).

Gadfly imagined an online calendar, month by month, that would contain meetings for each day (time, location) with a link to an agenda if one were available.

He believes he remembers being told that one was in the works.

Apparently not.

Now perhaps that’s a “huger” technical project than the ol’ professor who was known as “Edward Scholarhands” for his technical and mechanical ineptitude imagines.

And it would need a good detail person to stay on top of it to make it effective, maybe an additional personnel slot. Can you see the ad for a “Calendar-Keeper”!

Two strikes.

But Gadfly wonders if there isn’t something commercially available. Follower Holland had (has?) a prototype using Google calendar.

Such a master calendar need not be restricted to “business” — it could be a master list, a one-stop resource for all different kinds of City-sponsored events.

It would be “the” place to go to see what’s going on in the City on a day or a future period of time.

Gadfly just feels that a core, unified tool like that would be a tremendous practical as well as symbolic resource for people who want to participate in city government.

And, by the way, was there ever any kind of report on the Communication Survey that was done by the City some months back now?

Gadfly was looking for that.

https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/

Call for volunteers: new round of Bethlehem Moments

logoLatest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Momentslogo

The stories we tell shape the lives we lead
(Gadfly)

A whole bunch of Gadfly followers have kicked ass on their Bethlehem Moments, and now Gadfly is ready to take names for the first season of Moments in 2020.

If you need a refresher on the Moments done or the purpose and procedures for these snapshots of our history, look at the last post in this series and the other posts as well. See Bethlehem Moments on the sidebar.

Johanna has broken the 2020 ice. Lots of dates still available.

Reach Gadfly though “Contact” on the top page of the blog or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

There is no crying in baseball, no bashfulness in Gadball. Let’s hear from you.

Jan 7: Johanna Brams

Jan 21:

Feb 4

Feb 18

Mar 3:

Mar 17:

Apr 7:

Apr 21:

May 5:

May 19:

Jun 2:

Jun 16:

Without a shared history, we are not a true community
(Gadfly)

The Co-Opers support their $$$$ request

logoThe latest in a series of posts on City governmentlogo

Bethlehem Food Co-Op

At the Community Development Committee first-step grant giving Monday night only supporters of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op spoke.

Elliott Nolter advised us that the Co-Op now has over 660 members and is close to negotiation for a site.

Kathy Fox talked of the benefits the Co-Op will have on the wider environment, for example, sustainable farming practices and sustainability in general; a chance to aid in the restoration of our soil, air, and water; reducing food waste; providing educational opportunities; and the like.

Nathan Carpenter spoke of the Co-Op as people-focused community development and pointed to economic (the money spent here stays here) and social (addressing the basic question of how do you feed a community from every socioeconomic class) benefits, pointing out his positive experience with such Co-Ops in various other places he has lived.

All good stuff from the Co-Opers — Gadfly, as you know, loves these community voices — but as we will see next, a serious question arose about government financial support for such an organization.

how does your grocery store checkout_FINAL_11x14

“Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there”

logo67th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Fireflies in the summer.

What a beautiful image.

Poetic, really.

What a horrible thought.

Apocalyptic, really.

Spoken by an African American Political Science professor almost at the end of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s play “Hidden Seed.”

In a very real sense the 10-day festival can be thought of as an orgy of good feeling. You couldn’t be on Payrow Plaza that last perfectly weathered night without experiencing the orgasmic release of (channeling Walt Whitman) long pent-up aching rivers of love for and empathy with our Bethlehem brothers and sisters. All our brothers and sisters. “Of every hue and caste am I,” Whitman chanted in his democratic ecstasy.

When our antic ringmaster proclaimed “We love you, Bethlehem!” we were one.

When we lit our candles on the parapet and peered into the City’s navel, we signed on to a kind of suicide mission.

By god, we are going to make this town a better place  — or else!

But 17 days past that almost cult-like charisma, a firm, sober voice from the “Hidden Seed” back row naggingly nips at Gadfly’s optimism like a speck in the eye or a pebble in a shoe.

  • “I don’t know where we are.”
  • “I thought we were further along on this path.”
  • “I’m a political science professor.”
  • “The last election and everything that’s happened since then has totally messed with how far along I thought we were.”
  • “The path I thought we were moving along in the right direction as far as inclusion as far as accepting others.
  • “And now I find that maybe a third to maybe forty percent of the people in this country have a very different idea than I do.”
  • “What I got from this play was that there are these bursts , it seems, of activity, and maybe things don’t work out, and then maybe somewhere else there’s another burst, and maybe that’s the way it is.
  • “And maybe you can’t really think of it as linear progression from bad to better.”
  • “Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there.”
  • “Maybe that’s the way it is.”

An African American who’s “lost.”

Progress — random, illusory.

Maybe the long arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice.

Maybe on that parapet we were just one more firefly burst briefly adorning the darkness.

Say it ain’t so.

Gadfly has to believe in progress, has to believe in the steady ascent of human kind from the brutal forms fighting over a water-hole in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Has to believe that democracy is ever in the making.

The title of Lehigh professor Stephanie Powell Watts’ novel Nobody’s Going to Save Us was invoked many times during the festival.

Maybe what we will most need to save ourselves from is . . . our own doubt.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Gadfly loves to see the money flow

logoThe latest in a series of posts on City governmentlogo

Gadfly was quite interested in the Housing and Urban Development grant allocations to local organizations made through the City on Monday.

This is probably a process unfamiliar to most followers, and Gadfly is seeing it for the first time.

Organizations submit proposals to the City.

See the previous post in this series for the list of recipients (nobody who applied was cut) and the proposed allocations totaling approximately $1.5m.

The list is full of worthy familiar names, and it is not hard to imagine how important the money is and what would be not done without it: Hispanic Center, Hogar Crea, New Bethany Ministries, Bethlehem Co-Op, Bethlehem Public library, YMCA, and so forth.

Councilman Reynolds spoke of the importance of the program and thanked the social service providers and the City:

Community and Economic Development director Alicia Miller Karner described the process and presented the proposed recipients:

Gadfly follower Dana Grubb, long-time City of Bethlehem professional working in this area before he retired, provided food for thought: a possible moratorium on non-profits as was done in the past, 2) targeting housing rehab dollars, for example to areas like Northside 2027, 3) streets, 4) playgrounds, and 5) cautions about the Bethlehem Co-Op’s lack of argument for supporting low and moderate income folk and the number of elected voting members who are members of the Co-Op.

To tell d’troot, where so much money is involved, Gadfly expected to see competition for the funding. Not so. The recipients as proposed by the City were approved by the Community Development Committee at Monday’s meeting and the ball now passed to the full City Council for further approval.

But there was one issue and that was with the Co-Op.

Gadfly will pick up that interesting issue next time in this thread.

Not “Yes, but” but “Yes, and”

logo66th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

There’s a dramatic moment right in the middle of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed” performance at which moderator Jennie Gilrain turns passionately to the actress who plays Margaret, the Moravian woman, and exclaims:

The message for us in Jennie’s mock-violent impulse is strong.

Can anyone doubt that our national culture is fractured along racial lines?

Is there anyone who doesn’t want our hometown to welcome diversity, to be  characterized by more equality and community — the focal topics of the panel discussion?

We had that kind of town . . . in the beginning . . . for a brief time.

“In the first two decades,” says play author-historian Seth Moglen, “the Moravians built a racially integrated city that abolished poverty, shared wealth equally, emancipated women to be leaders, and provided free education, health care, child care, and elder care to all.”

“A racially integrated city.”

That’s our forgotten utopia.

That’s our present dream.

Listen to Margaret:

xxxxxxxxxx

The Bethlehem utopia attracted the young Margaret. It was a place where she loved her Native sisters. However, when Margaret is confronted by her Native and African sisters with the failure of that utopia, she bobs and weaves, she stammers, she excuses, she evades, she backpedals, she blames, she rationalizes, she avoids, she repels.

xxxxxxxxxxx

We had a City on a Hill, but . . . but . . . but.

In short, see Margaret, the white woman, full of “yes, buts.”

Over and over again.

And Jennie wants to wring her neck

because she sees herself in Margaret.

Exactly.

Doesn’t that plant an arrow to the future equitable community that we in Bethlehem want?

The road to that ideal city is paved with our recognition and consequent action.

“Yes, and now what?” should be our motto.

Enough of bobbing and weaving.

The Festival was about identifying and pursuing the “what(s).”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed”: “it took me hours to download”

logo65th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Our Moravian history was a lot more complicated than the tourist guides let on.

Do you know about the Moravian massacre of Native Americans at Gnadenhutten?

Do you know that there were slaves in Bethlehem?

That’s the terrible knowledge that a ticket to Touchstone’s Festival UnBound play bought for us.

Three 18th century female Bethlehem ghosts — a formerly enslaved West African woman, a Native American woman, and one of the original Moravian immigrants from Europe — agree to tell everything, the whole story not just the happy parts, without lying.

This raising of History’s skirt, which Gadfly witnessed in Sisters House and characterized as a spiritual experience like going to Mass in the Catacombs, was the toughest of the Festival’s three dramatic events for him to bear.

Olga Negron found just the right words. “It took me hours to download,” she said, “It was heavy. My partner and I were driving home like quiet. We even went for a walk.”

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” the poet says.

Walk it off, my racially comfortable Bethlehemites, if you can.

Given the disturbing nature of the core dramatic tension in the play, it was not surprising that the post-performance panel discussion was, for Gadfly, the most challenging.

Moderator Jennie Gilrain prepped panelists (Olga Negron, Javier Torres, Alicia Miller Karner, Winston Alozi, Berto, Stephanie Powell Watts, and the three actors) to pick and choose among three questions:

What kind(?) of equality and community do we want in the City of Bethlehem today?

What’s holding us back? What’s preventing us from cultivating more equality and community?

What can we learn from the experience of the City’s 18th century Founders explored in the play?

Following past practice, Gadfly offers you here the entire discussion, suggesting that you listen your way through first. And then we’ll come back and focus on and think about specific sections.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

$1.5m in grant money to City organizations: first step tonight

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

Gadfly began operation in September last year and was not attuned to the October awarding of CDBG and HOME grant money to City organizations then.

No lagging this year.

There is approx $1.5m to be awarded this year. No small amount.

The first step in the grant process will be tonight 6PM Town Hall at City Council’s  Community Development Committee meeting (members Van Wirt, Reynolds, Colon). Committee decisions will then go to full Council.

Groups apply. The City proposes allocation of the grant money. Council decides.

Find this in the transmittal memo from the City to Council:

Attached please find the FY 2019 CDBG and HOME requests received by the City.
These recommendations will be presented to council at the October 28th Community
Development Committee Meeting. In addition to the quality of the application,
conformance with our Consolidated Plan is evaluated, past compliance history of the
grantee and the number of city residents impacted by the program are all factors
considered. . . . We have used an anticipated CDBG amount of approximately $1,200,000 and a HOME award of $350,000. As always, our public service awards are capped at 15%, or approximately $180,000.

[Gadfly is not sure about the HOME program but finds this info about CDBG on the web: “The Community Development Block Grant, one of the longest-running programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funds local community development activities with the stated goal of providing affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development.”]

This is an exciting and nail-biting time for applicants and involves Council responsibility at the highest level. The money could mean life or death in some instances.

Here is the allocation of resources proposed by the City that Council will discuss tonight.

Take a look. Any comments on the recipients and the priorities before the discussion tonight?

Gadfly plans to attend and will report on doin’s tomorrow.

CDBG Home 2020 projections 1CDBG Home 2020 projections 2

What is a “Bethlehem Moment”?

logoLatest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Momentslogo

History is our Mother
(Gadfly)

Bethlehem has history to celebrate
(Allentown visitor)

Without a shared history, we are not a true community
(Gadfly)

In the last months of 2019 Gadfly followers have done 13 Bethlehem Moments.

Please consider doing a Bethlehem Moment sometime during the first half of 2020.

Information for Possible Bethlehem Momentors

1) The “Bethlehem Moment” is a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s, no more than 20 typed lines, that can be read in approximately 2 minutes, that will be presented at the beginning of City Council meetings. The Moments will be archived in Council minutes and published on the Gadfly blog, as well as perhaps other places.

2) The purpose of the Bethlehem Moment in a town that has been the scene of so much important history and has three nationally certified historical districts is to encourage everyone to learn more about that history. (For examples, see: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/category/bethlehem-moments/.)

3) Willingness and interest are the most important things. You don’t have to feel you know anything at the beginning. A list of resources will be available. There will be people with whom to consult.

4) Help will be provided finding a topic, researching it, and writing the Moment if needed.

5) The topic is open, but you should clear it with the coordinator.

6) Good topics often start with a question: who? what? when? why?

7) Pick a topic that you know about, or, better yet, one that you want to learn about or feel that it is important that others know about.

8) There is no especial need to pick big topics, obvious topics, well-know topics; aspects of our history that are little-known or hidden, that we might not have even heard of, might be better.

9) Likewise, you should feel no especial need to choose a celebratory, feel-good topic – our dark moments are part of our history too and equally important and illuminating.

10) It’s best if you deliver your Moment at City Council yourself, but others can read it for you if necessary or if you prefer.

11) City Council meets at Town Hall the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

12) You might not feel that you have anything to say at the beginning, but you will probably struggle to confine yourself to 20 lines/2 minutes after you have done some research.

13) The Bethlehem Moment is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community. You should feel it an honor to do one. We hope you will see it as fun.

14) Afterwards, we hope you will be an Ambassador for the project & encourage others to participate.

15) please contact:

Ed Gallagher, the Gadfly
Coordinator pro-tem
ejg1@lehigh.edu

Peter telling it like it is: succinctly!

logo86th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market Stlogo

Gadfly:

Public comment is only democracy in action if the government officials are listening and acting accordingly.

Peter Crownfield

Take a look on the About page at how Gadfly envisions our elected officials in his Norman Rockwell fantasy of a small town. Pretty “fantastic,” eh! But it’s around election time, a time to be thinking about the kind of elected officials we want even though there are no real choices to be made now.

The 2 W. Market “trial”: part 2

logo85th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.logo

Gadfly is fond of saying that the sound of voices at the public comment spaces of City Council meeting is democracy in action.

The quintessence of the respect for the concerned common citizen that he has high-lighted on his “About” page of the Norman Rockwell image of a small town as the lens through which he looks at his ideal Bethlehem.

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech

Claiming your 5 minutes at public comment, though, is different than testifying at a “trial.”

Facing President Waldron’s usually merciful soft gavel is different than facing smile-less lawyers schooled in “gotchas.”

But sometimes you have to go to trial.

Trials are “Democracy in Action.2.”

The Zoning Hearing Board meeting last night on the 2 W. Market case was trial-like.

Witnesses take an oath, lawyers cross-examine.

But “Neighborhoods are worth fighting for,” as Gadfly titled a recent post.

So you do what y’gotta do.

Last night Mary Toulouse, Frank Mayberry, and Gadfly testified.

Mary Toulouse:

Afterwards, Mary noted to Gadfly the following: “I made 2 points but forgot the most important one. It is true, 1) the petitioner should have respected the zoning ordinance, he knew it was only residential when he bought it. (2) He moved his business from Broad Street. Broad Street needs good businesses, neighborhoods need good residents. But for me, the zoning ordinance for residents is not just a law, it is a COVENANT where residents invest their time, talents, and life savings as well as making it their home in that area. It is the City’s responsibility to respect and protect that.

Frank Mayberry:

Fine models of resident participation here by Mary and Frank.

Mercifully, Gadfly — who is very shy, shuns limelight, doesn’t think well on his feet — can not yet figure out how to do a video-selfie, so you are spared seeing him. But here is the audio.

Gadfly’s message to followers is that if he can do it, you can too.

Last night’s meeting was 4 hrs. again. It did not reach climax. The case has been continued till November 12 at 6PM. at which time the Board hopes to conclude testimony and hear closing arguments. Stay tuned for 1-2 more posts on last night’s proceedings.

“The BPA has given Council the assignment to do what it should be doing”

logo136th in a series of posts on parkinglogo

Gadfly:

It sounds to me like the BPA has given Council the assignment to do what it should be doing all along, which is to look at innovative parking programs so that the parking burdens are lessened for residents — in particular, small businesses and visitors to Bethlehem. Asking the City to “put money into the program” is double-dipping by the BPA in my estimation. It’s their responsibility to fund the parking system, not ask the taxpayers to fund it on top of increased meter rates, increased fines, and increased garage rental rates. Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m reading and hearing from that authority.

Dana Grubb

Parking Authority to Council: identify what you want

logo135th in a series of posts on parkinglogo

Nicole Radzievich, “Parking meter rates went up this year in Bethlehem. Look what’s going up next year.” Morning Call, October 23, 2019.

So as detailed in the last several posts in this parking thread, moderate voices prevailed at the last Council meeting on the subject of raising the long-locked parking fines.

Council decided to approve raising the fines per the Parking Authority request, but at the same time what Gadfly would take to be a majority of Council favored as well exploring some new ideas for the parking system — such as those proposed by Councilwoman Van Wirt — with the BPA.

PVW’s idea was to do a pilot program on selected areas of the Northside and Southside where parking would be free for a limited amount of time (2 hrs? 3 hrs?) but where the fines would be significantly increased ($30? $40?).

These recent interactions with City Council were discussed by the BPA at yesterday’s BPA Board meeting.

Here is the short audio of that discussion:

Rough summary below, but you know Gadfly always says go to the primary source, don’t depend on him!

The Board chair tells the BPA Board that he told Council he would be willing to discuss Council ideas, and he proposes sending a memo next week to Council asking for their specific ideas, asking whether they would put money into the pilot program, asking for documentation of studies of other cities. If Council would put their ideas together, he says, the Board would be more than happy to listen to them. To which the BPA Exec dir says that when we get their return memo, he will put the item on the Board meeting agenda as New Business. One participant in the meeting then suggested a modification, that the Board wait on sending the memo to Council till they hear if there is any discussion of specific ideas by Council members along with the two votes. The following group conversation goes like this. After the votes, we’ll have more of an idea what they want. It isn’t clear they [Council] are all swimming together right now. We need to know what the majority of Council wants. We don’t want to go down a road and then they say that’s not what we were talking about. We want the majority of the Council to tell us what they’re looking for. There’s a dangerous or slippery slope if we have to chase one idea, then another, then another  — it gets expensive. We will be asking Council to give us a letter back from Council identifying what they want.

So, as Gadfly understands it, the BPA will not contact Council now. The BPA will listen for whatever further ideas are put forth in discussion of the votes on the fine increases during the next two Council meetings, then ask for one specific proposal backed by Council for the BPA to consider.

See if that’s what you got out of the audio.

Now Gadfly will take BPA willingness to consider Council ideas as a good thing.

He wonders, though, if this process is what PVW envisioned. Gadfly thinks she envisioned herself going to BPA with whomever Council members wanted to join her (JWR used the term “on board”) to discuss her idea(s) with the BPA.

What Gadfly heard — he could be way off, of course — was that the BPA will be looking for presentation of a formal Council position/plan. So that means PVW would need to negotiate a Council consensus before going to BPA.

Now that might be a good thing. The request for a pilot would have more force coming from full Council. And if Council were going to kick in some money as the BPA would be looking for, then some formal agreement on appropriation would be necessary anyway (does Council have discretionary funds? or would this come from the City budget?).

But Gadfly — ever the idealist — wishes that Council members and the BPA Board could work together from the beginning on the very formation of a pilot, that the specific plan would grow out of cooperative ideas from both sides, that BPA would feel part ownership of the plan itself rather than just the managers of a laboratory setting up an expensive experiment to test someone else’s idea.

For instance, take the proposal by the Mayor but coming from the public and Council members to consider variable rate parking. It had no discussion at BPA. Gadfly is not sure some BPA Board members even know what variable rate parking is, much less that the BPA was asked to study it. Somebody authorized a consultant study for (it sounds like from an off-hand comment at yesterday’s meeting) $25,000. Gadfly sees nothing of that in BPA minutes. It’s pretty obvious to Gadfly that BPA saw the process of studying variable rate parking as wasted time and money — just something that they went through the motions about because forced to.

Gadfly fears that would be the way that a free-parking pilot would be handled.

The basic problem that PVW and other innovators have, Gadfly thinks, is that the BPA doesn’t see there is a problem needing to be addressed.

Joint recognition of a problem seems to Gadfly to be the problem.

Do we have a tenant/landlord mediation service?

logoLatest in a series of posts about Neighborhoods & the Southsidelogo

Greg Cook served as a magazine editor with Better Homes and Gardens in Des Moines IA for 20 years before moving to the Lehigh Valley in 2006 as a freelance writer. He participates in the Appalachian Mountain Club, is a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, launched the now annual Monocacy Park Day, brought into being the Monocacy Creek Watershed Coalition, and tours with Vote Common Good.

ref: “Beware the landlord from Hong Kong”

Gadfly:

Yes, it seems this was the resident’s first time trying to access city government, at least publicly. What could we imagine he learned? My guess is that he came away thinking that although he spoke, he wasn’t heard. Is this what we want those with the courage to come before City Council to learn? Or would it be better to respond in a way that shows a working relationship where problems can be worked out together?

Granted, his concern was over a private transaction, not a public complaint. Still, affordable housing is certainly a public concern affecting our city. It would be wonderful if we had a tenant/landlord mediation service in place. If there is such a thing, I am not aware of it. Lacking that, I’m wondering if City Council could have referred this resident to someone in city government who could offer guidance, at least to go over Article 1739 regarding regulated rental unit occupancy or other applicable ordinances.

The lesson there? We’re all in this together!

Greg

Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre joint program

logo64th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

This Moravian professor, whose name Gadfly doesn’t know, alerted us during discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” of a partnership between Moravian and Touchstone Theatre.

MFA in Performance Creation

“The partnership between Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre creates a bridge between the College and the professional theatre, and between the College and our local community.”

Brand-new program that Gadfly knew nothing about: the first cohort of students began last August.

Touchstone, we know, specializes in “socially engaged performance creation and community-based work,” and this program with Moravian will enhance its people resources while spreading its mission.

Gadfly has always said that Touchstone Theatre is one of Bethlehem’s treasures. Now it will help train treasure-makers for other communities.

“I’m a college professor and a professional theatre artist. As a member of both the Touchstone Theatre company and the Moravian College faculty, I’ve been able to build a bridge between the two institutions that gives our students terrific opportunities. When college students take what they learn in the classroom and see it applied out in the world, it sinks in. We want to give them a head start, so that when they graduate they are to hit the ground running.”

–Christopher Shorr, Director of Theatre  

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Beware the landlord from Hong Kong

logoLatest in a series of posts about the Southsidelogo

How much do you think the rent is for the Southside house on the left?

Fifth st.

The landlord from Hong Kong is raising the rent from $2000/mo. to $2900/mo. come first of the year.

This pleasant but concerned young man came to Council last week  to “start a dialog and see what the City can do to protect residents.”

But all he got was a “thank you.”

It was no doubt his first visit to Council.

And you can tell from his hesitation and uncertainty at the end that he expected dialog.

But all he got was a “thank you.”

Not President Waldron’s fault, I guess, but not good.

There may be nothing to be done for this very worthy sounding guy except to wish him well if he must move to another part of town or, more likely, another town.

But we must try to do better.

The landlords from New Jersey that we heard about a few posts back must be overmatched.

Gadfly dusting off his past testimony for the newest hearing on 2 W. Market St.

logo84th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.logo

2 W. Market is one of Gadfly’s marathon threads.

Look at that — this is post #84!

For a refresher on the very latest chapter in what is a 5-6 year controversy, start at post #80 in the thread for 2 W. Market on the sidebar.

In briefest of brief summary: “The owners of 2 W. Market in the residential Northside historical district want to use a house that they have fixed up at considerable expense as an office. A group of homeowner neighbors object. There is a long history of ping-ponging adjudications ultimately going against the “2 Westers.” But in the most recent our City Council approved their petition, and our Zoning Hearing Board approved as well. A group of neighbors has appealed.”

There is another hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board Thursday, 6PM, Town Hall. It should be televised live as well on the Bethlehem DCED youtube channel.

This is a very interesting case. It has brought out significant testimony on each side. There have been many, many of the good voices Gadfly loves. Gadfly has covered the testimony in deep detail — with video and audio, charts of pro and con, you name it, that all can be found in the archives of this thread.

Gadfly has urged the significance of this case for all our neighborhoods — it’s a case to which attention should be paid.

Because of that widespread relevance and significance, Gadfly has urged and urges now for residents from all over the City to turn out and give witness to the need for a fair decision.

Gadfly, after long and careful weighing of arguments as detailed in his post archive, took a position — a position in favor of the neighbors in opposition to the owners of 2 W. Market.

He testified three times.

You might be interested and can find that excerpted testimony from his three appearances here:

Ed Gallagher Testimony on 2 W. Market St.

He will testify again Thursday night.

Your thoughts for or against his position always welcome!

“City Council should have some ways to influence the conversation” with the Parking Authority

logo134th in a series of posts on parkinglogo

So here we are again.

Councilwoman Van Wirt, as we have detailed in earlier posts in this thread, has a new idea about how the City does parking that she feels will be beneficial to the residents and the merchants.

Whether you like her idea or not is not the point here.

Whether you think the idea a good one or not is not the point here.

The point here is that City Council and the Bethlehem Parking Authority don’t seem to have a way to talk to each other.

Authorities are “independent.”

Council does not have control, especially budget control.

He or she who controls the purse strings, they say, calls the shots.

But here the Mayor controls the meters, Council the fines, and the BPA the garages.

Awkwardly divided power and responsibility in what should be unified and seamless.

One Council member seems to accept this awkward structure: Callahan.

Three others either accept it or at least have not offered an opinion one way or the other: Waldron, Crampsie Smith, Colon.

(Gadfly has a memory that he can’t document right now of President Waldron perceptively explaining that the “push back” from some members of Council over the fine structure stems partly from lack of occasions for Council to “weigh in” on parking policies. Gadfly hopes he is remembering correctly, for that is the point he is making here. Apologies if he is mistaken about President Waldron.)

Three members, such as at the last Council meeting, have seen a problem in the structure: Van Wirt, Reynolds, Negron.

Gadfly has amateurishly cobbled several clips together to highlight this last group.

  • Councilman Callahan outlines the structure: the Mayor controls meters, Council fines, and the Bethlehem Parking Authority the garages.
  • Councilwoman Van Wirt speaks of having a “dialogue” now between Council and the BPA consonant with Council’s “role” in doing what’s best for the City, rather than “hoping” the BPA would take up her issue at some future time.
  • Councilman Reynolds notes the awkward way “the system is designed” and agrees with PVW that “City Council should have some ways to influence the conversation.”
  • Councilwoman Negron wishes “that we could reconsider the structure that we have” that’s “causing a stretch that shouldn’t be.”

Councilwoman Van Wirt is left to wait for an invitation from the BPA to bring her ideas to a Board meeting. She has not been invited to tomorrow’s meeting, and, as far as Gadfly knows, she has heard nothing from BPA.

Gadfly wonders three things:

1) why Councilman Callahan, who is Council “liaison” to the BPA, doesn’t see it as his role to engage the kind of meeting in which PVW and other interested Council members could trade ideas.

2) why Council doesn’t invite the BPA to City Council meetings twice a year for an open dialogue and discussion as Gadfly outlined in a “modest proposal.”

3) most radical of all, why doesn’t Council “reconsider the structure,” as Councilwoman Negron suggested, for according to Gadfly’s researches, Council delegation of meter power to the Mayor under the “Calvo Plan” in 1988-1989 was not on some sacred principle of checks and balances and in that act of delegation not including the fines seems an oversight.

The Strange Separation

The Timeline of the Strange Separation

In other words to correct the problem here, Council should rescind its delegation of meter responsibility. Gadfly, speaking from a basis of absolutely no legal knowledge (Ha!), assumes what Council has done, it can undo.

The goal of this most radical proposal would be to return ultimate power over an area so crucial to the quality of urban life life as parking to the highest body in the City and, perhaps most importantly, an elected body directly answerable to the residents.

Right now the BPA is not directly responsible to residents.

Right now the BPA is not even directly responsible to Council.

Gadfly is certain there are downsides to the radical proposal even if legally possible, but it’s a conversation that he would like to see.

Gadfly sees good people struggling with a broken system that they know is broken and would like to see them try to fix it — for the good of us all.

“The Pollinators” film

logoThe latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Re-posted from LVMM Friends Facebook page:

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30, at the Promenade Theater in Center Valley , “The Pollinators “ will be shown, IF enough tickets are sold in advance. Buy tickets at On Demand Films, search film title and state. This is an informative and beautiful documentary, including the role of migratory beekeepers from our state. As the Beeman says, “Save the bees, pollination, food for us!”

H. D.: Gadfly recycles

logo39th in a series of posts on H.D.logo

Gadfly found this message crumpled on the floor of Touchstone Theatre after a performance of “The Secret,” the original play on H. D.’s life performed during the Festival UnBound.

A message apparently unheeded.

H. D.: in the last two posts, you’ve seen what you can admire and what she can inspire.

https://www.bapl.org/hd/

017

https://www.bapl.org/hd/

H. D.: what it feels like when what was so much is suddenly empty

logo38th in a series of posts on H.D.logo

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

You have read the poem, now listen to this–

my god . . .

——

Nevermore Will the Wind

Musical setting of H.D.’s poem

Fri Oct 25, 8 pm 

Sat Oct 26, 8 pm 

Zoellner Arts Center

420 E Packer Ave, Bethlehem

From composer Steven Sametz of Lehigh

University with 200 singers and orchestra. 

Also Faure Requiem