Giving thanks: to those who sing us into the future

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Let’s end this day with an Ann Hills song, a kind of anthem for our cultural moment.

Gadfly imagines hearing it on the wind as he walks his neighborhood, drives his town this Thanksgiving.

Hills

So a dinosaur falls sooner or later,

Shakes the ground, leaves a crater,

A town to fall in, be torn apart

Leavin’ nothin’ but bones and a broken heart.

When the dinosaur lived,

All steel and glory,

It forged the backbone,

Of a nation’s story,

Built city skylines sea to sea,

Nothin’ lasts forever,

That’s our destiny.

Now bones of steel they still are there,

Fossilized in the Lehigh air,

But time is short, it hurries on,

We look ahead as a new day dawns.

When the dinosaur fell, we felt the thunder,

It tried to push this whole town under.

But dreamers work and workers dream,

What may seem lost was soon redeemed.

Both sides of the river, new life is growing,

Restaurants and breweries,

Cleaner water flowing,

Scholars come to teach,

Doctors come to heal,

Families come to farm,

And plant organic fields.

Now the bones of steel they still are there,

Fossilized in the Lehigh air,

But time is short, it hurries on,

We look ahead as a new day dawns.

This valley sings of the men, the women,

Everything once made and all that we’ve been given,

by those long here or by immigrant hands,

we regenerate and restore these lands.

And where the steelstacks stood, there’s music ringin’,

Through the old mill walls, you’ll hear children singin’,

While the old men talk and recall the ways

That the dinosaur lived in the dinosaur days.

But the bones of steel they still are there,

Fossilized in the Lehigh air,

But time is short, it hurries on,

Yeah, we look ahead as a new day dawns.

probably Gadfly’s last post on Festival UnBound — been a great run

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Giving thanks: for those who license us to dream

75th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre

We have gathered today in the spirit of community to rise up and embrace the  possibilities of our future.

And what amazing possibilities they are.

They shine like a piece of polished Bethlehem steel.

They shine like our lights at Christmas time.

They shine like the Star of Bethlehem itself.

You see, for generations, Bethlehem defined itself through its pride of industry through Bethlehem Steel,

But for the last twenty years we have found so many new ways to define ourselves.

We can be anything we want to be.

We are free to dream.

We are unBound!

In this “Festival UnBound,” we will come together for a week of celebration and exploration.

Celebration of this wonderful community,

And exploration of just what kind of a future we want for ourselves.

Throughout the week we will share our dreams of the future,

and then like. like a message in a balloon,

we will send our dreams out into the world,

because those dreams, our dreams, make a difference!

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Giving thanks: for good Bethlehem people

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There was soooo much in Festival UnBound! Here we are two months later, and Gadfly has still not exhausted the file of good things he wanted to share with you. What better time than the day on which we “officially” pause to give thanks to our blessings to bring you some more clips of the wonderful people who participated in the Festival.

Here is the fourth installment showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel 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?” 

Yalitza Corcino-Davis is one of the first women in her family to graduate from college, an uphill battle, for she remembers the family response to her distress at receiving a low first-year college grade to be that it doesn’t matter for she would get married and not use her education. Which broke her heart, especially knowing that her aunt, mother, and grandmother all had “dreams” that they had to give up. Her dean, however, would not sign her drop-out letter, and now, based on her own experience, she works to empower students to succeed in the college environment.

Phyllis Alexander describes coming from a culture so hated that white people sold their houses simply because she and a small group of black students walked by on their way to the predominantly white school. That hate framed her life. She became a civil rights activist at age 14, making a decision to change her environment. The need to resist has been central to her life, and she can point to “allies” that made a difference. A big moment was realizing that she had to resist what she had internalized. So her message: resist that which you have within you that makes you fear the Other.

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Councilman Callahan to Mayor Donchez: “Stop hiding . . . Do your job”

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Tip o’ the hat to a follower who pointed out that Councilman Callahan added a comment addressed to the Mayor to this online news story.

“Bethlehem mayor responds to councilman’s call for probe into city department,” 69 News, November 26, 2019.

Mayor Donchez,

I discussed this issue with you verbally and made you aware of the situation and what I had heard several months ago. There was NO response back. Nothing.
Note: At this point it was confidential and strictly between us.

I then asked you to go into Executive Session in the Summer, so that the matter could be dealt with in private with the full Council and both Solicitors present. You Denied it!
Note: It was still confidential and I was trying to address it so that it remained Confidential in Executive Session. You Denied it, not I !

I then sent you a letter on October 17th explaining what I had told you verbally in the Summer. I explained in the letter all of the facts that I know other than the names of the individuals. It is not my job to “out” them. It is your department and your employees. I suggested that your BA Mr. Evans and your Solicitor Mr. Leeson just simply interview the employees in the Dept. to find out the truth.

Your reply back to me in your letter clearly indicated that you were not looking into the issue. You stated to me, ” Your memo of October 21 does not provide sufficient cause to conduct the investigation requested” .

You asked me to produce documents, names, particulars, …….and indicia of corroboration.

Mayor, you know that I, or anyone else on Council has the authority to investigate or interview your department employees or Dept. Head!
Note: At this point it was still Confidential other than President Waldron, Solicitor Spirk on Councils side and Solicitor Leeson, Business Administrator Evans and yourself on the Administration side.

Only after your comments to Council on Nov. 19th that I had somehow “attacked” Ms. Karner, from my council seat, by simply asking a pointed but fair question, it was only then that this issue became public.

Your comments tried to insinuate that my questioning of Ms. Karner was totally meritless, unfounded, unwarranted and out of the blue…..while you knew better!

On November 20, You then sent me a memo asking for me to now come in for a interview with Mr. Leeson and Mr. Evans only because I explained to Mr. Evans that after your comments to Council on Nov. 19th , that I shared all the information that I had with the press. It was then and only then that you wanted to now discuss the issues that I had raised and that I had tried to keep confidential for many months.

I offered you 3 different opportunities to look into the seriousness of the issues that I made you aware of. We would not be in the situation that we are currently in had you simply looked into the allegations months ago when you were first notified. You denied any action all 3 times.

Stop hiding behind your lawyers and advisors and …….Do your job ……..and simply ask the employees in the questioned dept. if there is any truth to the issues that were brought to not only my attention but were also reported by Lehigh Valley Ramblings Blogger Bernie Ohare back in June.

The residents of Bethlehem deserve to know the truth and you are the only one who can guarantee their protection form retribution for telling the truth.

Councilman Bryan Callahan

The Mayor said that he would have a further statement after reviewing Councilman Callahan’s press conference, at which he had a stenographer making an exact transcription. Somebody tell the Mayor that we have a full video of the press conference here on Gadfly.

Some talking points about the issues raised by Councilman Callahan

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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,

Some quick observations:

1. Bethlehem does need a comprehensive ethics ordinance. (Mr. Callahan opposed that)

2. I’ve heard the same accusations about the DCED director.

3. I’ve heard a number of complaints throughout the community about getting permits.

4. The DCED director should never have lobbied the parking authority board about the RFP choice, at least not privately.

5. The councilman is sure going about this the wrong way.

6. The councilman has been extremely disruptive and confrontational at meetings and blaming the ousting of the zoning officer for his actions/words is very disingenuous. [This City official was fired during the summer, and BC felt the action was wrong and tried to have open discussion about it.]

7. The ousted zoning officer WAS very highly respected throughout the city.

8. There are at least two appearances of conflicts in that RFP process and eventual award. (Mr. Callahan’s brother was involved in that process)

9. I do not believe that the Mayor tried to intimidate the councilman. I’ve known the Mayor since high school, and it is not his personality.

Dana

The text of Councilman Callahan’s press conference statement: let the good conversation begin

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Guess where Gadfly spent his lunch hour.

Ok, NOW Gadfly thinks you have all of the info on which to start forming ideas and opinions about Councilman Callahan’s suggestions of possible unethical behavior by the Director of Community Development and his approach to handling this matter.

Here for quicker reference is the text of Councilman Callahan’s press conference statement that we have on video a couple of posts back.

Callahan press conference statement

Please don’t neglect the video, however — a lot of relevant “information” can be picked up from tone and delivery.

And remember that there was a long “Q ‘n A” on video in that post as well, so be sure not to neglect that important portion of the press conference either.

So, indeed, let the good conversation begin.

Important issues here.

And the reputations of Councilman Callahan, Mayor Donchez, and Director of Community Development Karner are out on a limb.

Supplements to Councilman Callahan’s press conference statement

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Gadfly hopes you are watching the videos of Councilman Callahan’s press conference yesterday provided in the previous post.

Gadfly does not have a digital copy of Councilman Callahan’s statement but is trying to obtain one.

Here are three additional documents that for now complete the information you need to have a full picture of this controversy.

Gadfly has laid the groundwork. Let the good conversation begin.

1) Email from Councilman Callahan to Mayor Donchez October 17, 2019

Mayor,

As I discussed with you a few weeks ago, I have heard of a number of concerns over the last year or so about the pace at which building permits are reviewed and approved in the Department of Community and Economic Development. Specifically, employees, both current and prior, indicated there is deliberate inaction encouraged in the Department by Director Karner to “slow,  delay and stall all permits with the end goal being the hiring of more permanent staff with benefits. I’ve been told that the issue was also reported by Bernie Ohare in the local blog “Lehigh Valley Ramblings”a few months ago. If true, this is most disappointing . I trust the individuals copied on this memo to keep this issue between us until the matter is looked into and resolved. I am asking that Mr. Lesson and Mr. Evans interview the current members of the department along with former employee Suzanne Borzak to determine if truly Ms. Karner did instruct her department to slow, delay and stall the permitting process for the stated reasons. I trust Mr. Leeson and Mr. Evans ability and judgement to do a fair investigation for the residents of the City of Bethlehem on this issue.

However, I think some issues may result in hiring people without the needed certifications.

Please confirm in writing any certifications we require to be a code inspector here in Bethlehem. Also , provide in writing the certifications of all the current building inspectors, including the chief building inspector in the department. Can you provide the written advertisement for all inspector positions used by the City , including for the Chief building inspector?

Does the chief building inspector meet the requirements required by City Ordinance 1701.02?  If the needed certifications are not in place , please provide a written explanation why such certifications were deemed unnecessary.

Can you please provide the names of all City Code inspectors that can sign off on a building plan?

Can you please provide the names and certifications of all code inspectors hired from 2014 until present?

Also, can you provide whether there are any openings in Code Inspections. If so, when is the anticipated hiring date? Does the positions have a specialty, ie., plumbing, electrical?

I’d appreciate the time this will take and simply ask for a response back within 30 days.

Thanks for your cooperation and in keeping Bethlehem moving forward.

Bryan Callahan

———–

2) “Bethlehem Zoning Appeals Have Spiked,” Lehigh Valley Ramblings, June 14, 2019.

Councilman Callahan included reference to this blog post in the media packet at the press conference.

Last year, Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board entertained 34 appeals. This year, through June 12, the number is already 21. Why? Some of you may think there’s more development, but there’s another reason for this sudden increase. Last year, the City of Bethlehem had a zoning officer who actually worked with people and tried to come up with ways to make an appeal unnecessary. Not only did this make people more happy with the City, but property owners would be spared the $500 cost for an appeal.

Etc.

Councilman Callahan also included the 26 comments on this blog post, so be sure to look at them.

————

3) Email from Councilman Callahan to Mayor Donchez November 21, 2019

(City Business Administrator Eric Evans called Councilman Callahan November 20 to set up a meeting with City officials, but Councilman Callahan declined that meeting.)

Mayor,

It was very obvious and clear to me after reading your first sentence that you had no intention of interviewing the participants,   “Your memo of October 21 does not provide sufficient cause to conduct the investigation requested”, you had no interest in even looking into the subject!!

You then stated that, based on their advice (not your own sense of right and wrong) that if I provided documents, names, particulars……and indicia of corroboration that you might reconsider.

The ironic thing is that just as I finished reading your letter, you then started reading a prepared statement to all of Council, and while my name was not mentioned, the comments were clearly directed at me. In your comments you questioned my tone of voice and that my questioning of the Dept. Head Ms. Karner, “was unprovoked, out of order, without cause and completely out of line”. You then stated that you would no longer require your department heads to attend council meetings if questioned or in your words “attacked”.

Mayor, I nor anyone else on Council has the right to conduct interviews of your cabinet members/Department Heads or the employees under your charge and direction.

I also can’t provide or guarantee, to the two current employees, protection if they speak the truth about what they were directed to do by Ms. Karner or from retribution from Ms. Karner, as like what happened to Ms. Borzak.

I simply told Mr. Evans in yesterday’s phone call that it’s your job to get to the bottom of what happened. Last night after I told Mr. Evans that I had shared the memos with the press, it was only then that you asked for me to come in to discuss what I knew. As I told Mr. Evans, after your comments and remarks directed at me at Council on Tuesday night……that ship has sailed. It’s your responsibility to interview those employees…..not mine.

That is what the 76,000 residents and taxpayers would expect?

For the stated reasons above, other than Ms. Karner, I have a great working relationship with every one of your Department Heads. In fact I often socialize outside of City business with several of them.

For the first six years that I have been on Council, we as a whole have worked together professionally and collegially. My current issues with some members of Council began early last Summer when Ms. Karner fired a great long term city employee (1 of the 3 employees who Ms. Karner directed to “delay, slow down and stall all permits”). She was regarded as one of the City of Bethlehem’s best employees who worked extremely hard, competently and professionally under  other Mayors and Dept Heads with absolutely no issues.

At that time I asked you to bring Council into executive session so we could, in private, discuss the matter. You denied my request. I then asked Council as a whole to move to executive session. Taking the lead from a Council member who is currying favor for a Mayoral endorsement from you in a year and a half , they did not agree to go into executive session.

From that point on I have become more vocal at Council and, I will admit, I have had a “tone”  that something isn’t right here.

I know and I do realize that I have a strong personality but you have to understand that since the loss of my wife 13 years ago to cancer I have become more passionate and intense……and yes I even speak with more energy, emotion and tone.

Time and life is short and I intend to spend, I hope, the next 20 years helping to fix and solve the problems and issues in our great city.

As Ted Kennedy said of his brother Robert during his eulogy many years ago, “he saw a wrong and tried to right it”.  Well , on a very much smaller scale in our little city…..that’s what I am going to do. That is exactly why I also spoke up so strongly about how wrong it is to charge children the same price as charging an adult at the golf driving range.

In every single recreational fee that the City charges (Tennis, Swimming Pools, Ice Rink, and 18 hole and seasonal rates) the driving range is the only recreational facility that does not have a youth rate vs. an adult rate.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging children to get outside and off of all the video games? Isn’t that what the recreational department is for?

I hope you will take this letter and do what is right for not only the employees in the Community Economic Department who want to work hard but also for the parents who wondered where the permit was for the pool that they wanted to put in for their kids at the beginning of last Summer, but couldn’t because they didn’t have the necessary permit, the Senior Citizen who waited for a permit for his deck or patio, the neighbor who waited for a permit for their addition and the contractor waiting for a permit so that he could start working on a job that he needs to pay his bills.

This is real life…..not a game!

We all love Bethlehem…….We are all on the same team!

Sincerely,

Councilman Bryan Callahan

———–

Yes, Gadfly has laid the groundwork. Let the good conversation begin.

Councilman Callahan’s November 25 press conference

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Callahan

photo April Gamiz/The Morning Call

Use the detailed news stories at the end of this post by our beat reporters for good full context, but you know that Gadfly always urges you to go to the primary sources and form your own opinions and ideas, so he has provided here full video of the approximately hour-long press conference.

City Councilman Bryan Callahan, press conference, Town Hall,
Nov, 25, 2019, 4PM

Councilman Callahan’s prepared statement:

part 1 (9 mins.)
part 2 (3 mins.)
part 3 (3 mins.)

Q ‘n A with the media:

part 4 (10 mins.)
part 5 (10 mins.)
part 6 (11 mins.)
part 7 (10 mins.)
part 8 (2 mins.)

Sara Satullo, “Bethlehem councilman says mayor tried to intimidate him after call for ethics probe.” lehighvalleylive.com, November 25, 2019.

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez delivers defense of aide targeted by councilman.” Morning Call, November 25, 2019.

The Mayor’s memo before Councilman Callahan’s press conference

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The action that precipitated Councilman Callahan’s announcement of a press conference on November 25 was this November 18 letter from the Mayor, indicating that the investigation of Ms. Karner that BC had requested a month prior had not been done..

Donchez Callahan letter

Councilman Callahan’s press conference was scheduled at 4PM yesterday afternoon.

Earlier yesterday afternoon of November 25 — that is, before Councilman Callahan’s press conference — Mayor Donchez sent the following 3-page memo to City Council president Waldron.

The memo was sent early enough and distributed enough so that the media and presumably Councilman Callahan were aware of it at the press conference.

Mayor’s memo prior to Callahan press conference

There seem to be three issues here. Let’s separate them out.

  • possible unethical behavior by AMK regarding the Bethlehem Parking Authority decision on the Polk Street Garage (raised by BC at the November 6 City Council meeting)
  • possible unethical behavior by AMK stalling permit approvals in order to justify staff additions in her department
  • breaches of decorum by BC at City Council meetings

The Mayor addressed just the first bullet in this memo, indicating that Councilman Callahan was confusing a “bid” and an “RFP” (Request for Proposal).

Since the BPA decision related to an “RFP” and not a “bid,” there was, according to the Mayor, no improper behavior by AMK.

Chewing on all of this so far?

Now let’s move to the Councilman Callahan press conference.

It’s probably neither here nor there, but remember that Gadfly had some indigestion over the Polk Street Garage decision by BPA.

Come up to speed on Councilman Callahan’s suggestion of possible unethical behavior at City Hall

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If you haven’t been paying attention, ’tis time to listen up.

A tempest has been brewing around Councilman Callahan for a period of time.

It blew up yesterday when he held a press conference at Town Hall.

There Councilman Callahan suggested that the Director of Community and Economic Development Alicia Miller Karner may have engaged in unethical behavior that Mayor Donchez has been unwilling to investigate.

Gadfly — always the professor — wants to make sure that you are up to speed on this important matter.

Let’s review how we got here.

Here in chronological order over the last three weeks or so are a series of Gadfly posts that will provide recent history of Councilman Callahan’s agitation and provide necessary background for his announcement in public yesterday.

Ok, are you with him so far? Gadfly will spend the next several posts on this topic. There will be more than enough for you to chew on today.

Clear your calendar.

Buckle up.

Food for thought: a daily ode to joy

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Gadfly lives near the Moravian College main campus.

There’s a clock on the campus that tolls the hours.

Gadfly loves that.

And he’s not really sure why.

Outside in the summer, it’s like a friend who periodically comes to the fence to chat, causing you to pause in the gardening or to look up from your reading.

It softens, charms, even though it definitively marks the passage of time.

Hmmm, looks like maybe he does know why.

Gadfly was thinking of his friendly neighborhood timekeeper when he heard Ron Yoshida mention that in 20 or 30 rural villages he traveled through on his henro, music played at 7AM, noon, and 5PM — and 5PM in many of those villages was Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Wow!

Think of that.

Who knows the cumulative effect on the quality of life that pausing daily for a 3-minute ode to joy might have.

And what would we play if we had such a ritual in Bethlehem?

Ron reflects on his Temple journey

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https://88-photos.com/

Yoshida 5

Ron Yoshida talked about his 88 Temple, 800 mile, 48-day journey in Japan at First Presbyterian last Monday.

He concluded answering three questions.

  • Did the journey restore one’s faith in mankind?

 

  • Do I feel that I honored my grandparents?

 

  • What does it mean to be a Japanese American?

 

The answer to that last question will delight you. Listen in.

https://88-photos.com/

“Please wear the clothes of the Buddha’s great compassion.”
Kukai (Kobo Daishi)

Buddha: “I am the awakened one.”

The Bethlehem Food Co-Op: the question of Council members’ conflict of interest

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The first question Gadfly had was whether a for-profit like the Bethlehem Food Co-Op could qualify for a federal CBDG grant. All good, as he indicated last time.

The other threshold question about approving the Bethlehem Food Co-Op for the $100,000 federal grant was that of the possible City Council conflict of interest in voting since 6 of 7 members of Council are members — “owners” — of the Co-Op.

Solicitor Spirk parsed the legality of the Council members’ position and found no problem.

Council members’ proportionate ownership is extremely small, the dividends will be extremely small, and membership would not be an issue anyway, since Council could not act if the 6 members recused themselves. Sayeth the Solicitor.

To top things off, Council members spoke of not taking dividends but turning them back to the BFC.

Case closed on the question of conflict of interest.

Gadfly is satisfied that the Bethlehem Food Co-Op grant meets the funding criteria

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Gadfly would like to bring some closure to the discussion about whether or not the Bethlehem Food Co-op meets the criteria for funding by a Federal government CBDG grant.

Remember that the City approved $100,000 this year but that several residents raised reasonable questions, not about the mission of the Co-op (everybody is enthusiastic about that!) but whether it fit the guidelines for Federal funding.  (See “Co-op” on the Gadfly sidebar to refresh yourself on the discussion so far.)

At the November 6 City Council meeting (see Council video, min. 25), Gadfly (a BFC member) expressed support for the BFC but expressed desire that we had enough specific information about it to know that funding was “cleanly” done and that no “shadow” would fall on the BFC as it progressed forward.

In short, after obtaining additional information, Gadfly is satisfied that the BFC grant meets the funding criteria.

At the November 6 City Council meeting, a number of people spoke in support of the BFC funding (see video, part 1, min. 57:25 and video part 2, the opening 3:25 mins.).

Gadfly thought the presentation most effective at addressing in brief time the specific question of whether the BFC met the guidelines for CBDG funding in a positive manner was done by a woman whom he thinks was Colleen Marsh, past Head of the BFC (video part 2, the opening 3:25 mins.). Gadfly thinks you will find Colleen’s remarks a profitable 3 minutes.

Gadfly obtained the document package provided to prospective grant applicants plus both the 2018 and 2019 BFC applications for the CBDG grant via a Right-to-Know request to the City. Tip o’ the hat to the City staff.

As you can imagine, the paperwork for a government grant is long and dense.

But here are a few important highlights.

From the application package:

CBDG 1

For fiscal year 2020, the BFC applied for $189,840 for physical improvements. The entire application (73 pages) is linked here: Bethlehem Food Co-Op 2019 application.

Here is a key “nutshell” statement of the project:

CBDG 3

For most of us, the first 10 pages or so of BFC’s application will be the most pertinent. Gadfly always encourages followers to go to the primary source and make personal observation and judgments. But here are just a few selections from this opening portion of the application that struck him as fitting the grant guidelines:

CBDG 4

CBDG 5

CBDG 6CBDG 7
There are Gadfly followers more skilled and experienced in such matters than he. Further comments, of course, always welcome.

Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council News: funding for the Climate Action Plan and a position available

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council logo

Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

November 21st Budget Meeting

At the November 21st budget meeting, it was announced that the City budgeted $80,000 for a consultant to complete a Climate Action Plan in 2020 (General Fund p. 166).   The EAC commends the City for moving ahead with this important initiative and its commitment to climate action.  We appreciate the time and effort spent by the Dept. of Public Works to bring us to this point in the process.  The EAC is proud of our City and will continue to assist in the climate action planning process in every way possible.

We also support Councilman Reynolds’ remarks during the budget meeting stating that the City could focus more on sustainability. He emphasized that this is especially important given the uncertainty of the recycling market and because the priority of actions to most effectively manage waste and protect the environment is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As Councilman Reynolds stated, “We talk about the idea of building a sustainable city, and we do not have a director of sustainability.”  He continued to say that while many departments are doing a fantastic job of individually contributing to this effort, as we move forward with the Climate Action Plan, there may be an opportunity to have a point person on sustainability, possibly as part of the Dept. of Recycling.

(For Councilman Reynolds’ comments, go to the City video of the November 21 budget meeting, min. 45:30.)

EAC Members

Bethlehem EAC member Kathy Fox has resigned from the council in order to devote more time to her new position as board member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Kathy will be sorely missed on the EAC, where she has been a strong and vocal advocate for sustainability, green infrastructure, and climate action.  Kathy chairs our Solar Energy Committee, and we are fortunate that she will continue her connection with the EAC, albeit in a different capacity.

Residents of Bethlehem City who would like to apply for a position on the EAC may email a letter of interest, along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President, at awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov.  Please copy “Members of City Council” on the letter of interest. When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov , enabling the City Clerk to distribute your application to Members of Council. Alternatively, a hard copy may be mailed to 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

Lynn

It’s Saturday, November 23, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The community will only improve when trust is built between city hall and the residents

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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.

ref: “I feel community policing is very important”

Gadfly,

I met Lisa for breakfast recently. It was nice to reconnect with her because she was very active in the community when I was a city official and I would attend block watches regularly. I and the then Chief Housing Inspector Mike Palos were regulars at block watch meetings back then usually along with a Community Police Officer who worked out of a substation, and who rode a bike throughout their patrol areas. City hall connected with residents back then through our presence in the neighborhoods, and our accessibility in our offices beyond. Residents could call us at anytime, and we’d get their issues addressed. I could list upwards to 20 officers who were true community policeman, who had developed relationships by being out on the street riding and could count on support during investigations. We were all accessible, and the public could rely on us to get on whatever the matter was.

I understand that nobody from Community and Economic Development attends [block watches] regularly if at all these days and that employees have received direction to not attend. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a cop on a bike, stopped and chatting with several residents. Back in the day those officers took ownership of their bicycle patrol areas, and the residents adopted them and made them their own. Over time many of those connections were lost as officers advanced in rank and moved around in the Police Department.

Mike Palos and I were “Bethlehem guys,” having grown up in Bethlehem. A number of the officers were as well. The Community Police Officers riding their bikes compare very favorably to the imprint today’s Mounted Police Patrol makes throughout the town.

Getting back to Lisa, she was one of those Bethlehem neighbors who worked closely with every one of us, because she cared. She’s not alone, but if city hall remains aloof to neighborhoods around town, people like Lisa can grow frustrated. An occasional incursion into a neighborhood to install smoke detectors and maybe sweep the streets and do some exterior inspections is only a piece of the equation. You need city hall to be there, to create points of contact that are responsive and productive.

It was great to watch Lisa turn out. There are more residents who will do that. Some did on Main Street, but at the end of the day the community will only improve when trust is built between city hall and the residents. That takes time, empathy, and action. As deputy director of community development, I was constantly reinforcing with employees, our inspectors, secretaries, and administrative staff that we needed to treat each situation like it was happening next door to us, our parents, our best friends. With that in mind, city staff could relate and provide a higher level of service to Bethlehem. It’s an attitude, something many of my generation of city employees lament has been lost.

Dana >

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith: “This area needs to really be given attention”

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Gadfly wraps up today’s long “neighborhood” thread from last Tuesday’s City Council meeting here.

He loves the real down-to-earth people from our town, and they are no more compelling than when they are in need.

He spun this thread out hoping you would linger on each of the resident testimonies.

You don’t want to depend on summaries and soundbites.

You want to hear the live voices. And recognize the common humanity.

So, where do you go when you are in need? When you are in trouble. When you need help.

You go to City Council, of course, which, as I always say, though administratively powerless, is to our residents the “face” of City government.

So these people came to City Council looking for someone to help.

Gadfly doesn’t mean to slight the other Council members, but he senses that in her short time on Council Grace Crampsie Smith, who has a family background in law enforcement, is focusing on such neighborhood issues as block watches, policing, housing.

So he brings this thread to an end (for now) with Councilwoman Crampsie Smith’s concluding remarks on the issues these residents brought to Council’s attention.

  • While we want every single neighborhood in the City to be safe, we are seeing certainly an increase in drug problems and poverty and homelessness and affordable housing, but I think this area needs to really be given attention because of the number of drug and criminal activities that have occurred in the last five years.
  • I really would ask that the City Administration and the Police Department and especially the Zoning do everything they can to try to rectify the problems we’ve been seeing.

It may not be clear from Gadfly’s clips that the main focus of attention in the resident comments has been on the 900 block of Main St., with some reference to Garrison St.

“I feel community policing is very important”

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A resident proposes a plan in response to the problems detailed over the last several posts, and — behold — we see another gadfly born!

  • I know many of the older police, and we managed to clean up quite a few blocks.
  • I feel community policing is very important, because it is the only way that citizens get to see that police are human too.
  • We became good friends.
  • And we managed to get good block watches going.
  • I hear now that nobody wants to get involved any more in community policing.
  • Some may not admit it, but they are afraid — and I understand that totally.
  • Because I’m afraid . . . some guy pulled a gun in front of my house at me.
  • I was pretty much a prisoner of my own home.
  • Community policing has done a lot for me and other people.
  • So I would really like to see something done with this.
  • Get officers in to this, I’ll even volunteer to work with them.
  • This is a very important part of the police department.
  • If they’re afraid to go out there and talk to people, that’s not good.
  • I’m going to be a thorn in everybody’s side, but I’m doing it for the good of my home, which is Bethlehem.

Gadfly knows this is a big change of pace, but how about this as an example of good community policing?

“We have so many issues on our block”

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No Gadfly comment needed here either . . .

  • We do have a block watch now [900 block Main st.].
  • We just call the cops all the time.
  • We have so many issues on our block.
  • I keep complaining to the Health Department and finally they were inspected.
  • So we keep complaining . . . and nothing’s being done.
  • I’m curious what you plan on doing to rectify this, to make it a safer environment.
  • We have a daycare, a grade school . . . It’s not safe to walk up and down the street.
  • What can you do to make it safer?
  • I would think there would be more due diligence.

Councilman plans to address concerns about potential unethical practices in a City department

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Mayor/Council Speech 11-19-19

Councilman Callahan now publicly identifies the City Department of Community and Economic Development as the source of the concerns that he brought to the Mayor’s attention and which he does not feel have been resolved to his satisfaction.

PRESS ADVISORY

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 22, 2019

Contact: Bryan Callahan 610-730-8658

 BETHLEHEM COUNCILMAN BRYAN CALLAHAN TO ADDRESS MAYOR DONCHEZ STATEMENT TO COUNCIL & CONCERNS RAISED REGARDING THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

 WHEN:   Monday, November 25, 2019

TIME:     4:00 PM

WHERE: Bethlehem City Hall Council Chambers

10 E Church St, Bethlehem, PA

Monday, November 25, 2019 at 4:00 PM in Bethlehem City Council Chambers, Councilman Callahan will address the public statement Mayor Donchez made at council directed toward Councilman Callahan, and will discuss the concerns the Councilman raised to the Mayor regarding the potential practices of the Department of Community and Economic Development, which impact citizens and business owners in Bethlehem, and are directly connected to the public statement by the Mayor.

It has always been Councilman Callahan’s position that Council and the City of Bethlehem has an obligation to the citizens they serve to be open and transparent.

“There’s a meth lab on the corner”

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Needs no commentary . . .

  • There was a shooting on our block . . . over drugs.
  • There are homes on our block that are known to be selling drugs.
  • I’ve called the police time and time again. Nothing is being done.
  • There’s a meth lab on the corner.
  • We need to do something . . . to take control of our homes and our neighborhoods.
  • It’s not safe for our children to go out and walk.
  • This is crazy, and nobody’s doing anything about it.
  • I worry about our next generation.
  • Do you want everybody to move out of Bethlehem because it’s not safe any more?
  • Nothing was ever in the newspaper about the shooting.
  • I understand that the police force needs more officers.
  • We need to do something.
  • We do our due diligence. We need protection, and it’s not there any more.
  • I’m afraid.
  • No one’s doing anything about it.
  • I get they’re understaffed.
  • My taxes should be going to safety.

to be continued . . .

“We do have a drug problem here in Bethlehem”

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Public comment at the City Council meeting last Tuesday night had more than the usual “edge” to it as a series of residents made moving and powerful statements about problems in their neighborhoods revolving around drugs and called for more policing, especially community policing.

A few posts ago Gadfly called attention to the return to active duty of resident Gadfly Eddie Rodriguez. Here you can see him forcefully and bluntly consolidating the message that several other residents delivered and which Gadfly will present in subsequent posts.

But for now listen to Rodriquez presenting the problem and calling for action.

Gadfly’s idyllic Norman Rockwell image of Bethlehem took a hit.

  • I would like something to be done.
  • We do have a drug problem here in Bethlehem.
  • It’s important to take the input from these community members.
  • These community members are scared.
  • I know for a fact that what these people [neighbors] are commenting on, that is happening.
  • These people [drug people] are not going to give up just because you had a drug raid.
  • You have more drugs down on Garrison Street than what anybody suspects here.
  • I came from that world . . . so I know, personally myself, as to what’s happening in these communities.
  • If you’re not doing anything, it’s not going to happen.
  • You have to get involved, really involved, and bust these people.
  • It’s the drugs.
  • They don’t give a darn about what they do and how they do it and they don’t care about your churches and they don’t care about your community.
  • They are out to destroy.
  • Do something about it before this situation gets out of hand.
  • I’m pleading with you for the sake of the decent-living community members that came out here.
  • Do something now before it’s too late.
  • You gotta get the police more involved.

to be continued . . .

Good news on the progress of a pedestrian bridge study

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Gadfly reported a few days ago that the Rose Garden was awarded a $210,000 grant.

But was not aware that in the same grant bundle the City was awarded $40,000 for the study of a pedestrian bridge.

See Senator Boscola’s bulletin: http://www.senatorboscola.com/enews/2019_11_19_BB.htm

And, in addition, the Mayor announced at Council Tuesday night that the County has approved a $60,000 grant application for the bridge as well.

Homeless shelter issue resolved: “taking care of the homeless . . . is one of the paramount duties we have”

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Remember that we noted last week in the cold snap that the Bethlehem Emergency Shelter for the homeless at Christ Church United Church of Christ, 72. E. Market St., wanted to open early — before the December 1 date approved by its zoning — but a neighbor complained.

Raising some justified concern among Gadfly followers.

The Mayor announced at City Council last Tuesday that agreement was reached — certain members of Council were involved in the background — for an early opening.

Louis James, a close neighbor of the BES spoke in support of the early opening, praised BES for responding to neighbor concerns, and hoped that the City would help BES find a permanent home.

Councilpersons Colon, Reynolds, and Van Wirt spoke in support of the importance and high quality of the BES work, and Gadfly wished he was quick enough on the trigger to have recorded all their comments (but see the city video of the meeting, beginning at min. 1:41:48), in which, for instance, Councilman Colon mentioned working at the shelter.

But here is audio of Councilwoman Van Wirt in which she states that “taking care of the homeless . . . is one of the paramount duties we have” and her hope that Council can help make sure these people are cared for 24/7 and 12 months a year.