The Arts in Bethlehem: another offer you can’t refuse!

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The weekend! Thank god! And a wonderful day it is!

Where are you spending your recreation and entertainment time and dollars this weekend?  touchstone 2

On the local arts and/or the local arts establishments?

Gadfly has told you in a previous post that he is making a commitment not only to patronize the local arts more but to promote them here when he can. Arts of all kinds.

So have you been to Touchstone Theatre?

Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre dedicated to the creation of original work.  At its center is a resident ensemble of theatre artists rooted in the local community of Bethlehem. . . . The Ensemble . . . transforms audiences through community-based theatrical productions and community-building projects.

On Sunday March 8, 2PM Gadfly’s going to Edith Piaf: Hymn to Love at Touchstone.

Piaf (1915-1963) was a famous French “chanteuse,” night-club singer, cabaret singer. She’s a cult figure, a legend, an influence.

Gadfly now has another two tickets to the Piaf show that he can’t use.

So he makes his offer again:

Gadfly would like to give the two tickets free to someone who has never attended Touchstone Theatre in return for a short post on Gadfly about the show or the experience of going to Touchstone.

Discover Touchstone.

Don’t let the post scare you — he’ll accept a selfie taken at the theatre!

What say? Contact Gadfly via the Contact link here on Gadfly or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

Let’s support the local arts and arts institutions!

Touchstone Theatre
321 E. 4th St.

Gadfly on gadflying

Whew, late Friday afternoon already? Where did that week go?

Not much original content from the Gadfly this week.

But not because the Gadfly followed Mrs. Gadfly’s suggestion to give up posting for Lent. (I think there was an “or else” tacked on there, but that might have been our 12 year-old clothes dryer signaling to be put out of its misery.)

Usual home stuff taking time. But also it’s Confirmation season. And school basketball playoff time (Grandkin’s St. Basil’s-Phoenixville team victorious). (A random family post-game video shows Gadfly swishing one from the foul line then bricking two 3-pointers. It will not go into the family archive.) Then there’s the time needed to worry about what effect coronavirus might have on physically weak seniors Gadfly knows and their retirement funds. Then time devoted to two wonderful extracurricular Bethlehem projects that Gadfly’s become involved in as a result of meeting two wonderful Bethlehem people while gadflying.

Sigh.

And it’s not like nothing was happening this week. Several noteworthy occurrences. Most especially, Gadfly got slapped upside the head. Something he always said he expected to happen and was willing to suffer for his ignorance. It happened. Ouch. I bet you can’t wait for the Parking Authority audio of Thursday’s meeting to be available. Gadfly will let you know.

Sigh.

But also on my mind and taking some time is preparation for a talk.

Gadfly will be speaking about gadflying at the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society meeting this Monday March 2, 7PM, at Seidersville Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem Gadfly has been flying for 18 months now, a goodly time, and he was just thinking that it was about time (before his contract is up — more on that later) that he stop and reflect on how and why he started and how things are going.

And right then came the invitation to speak. Thank you Karen and Ilhan.

Perfect timing.

Reflection is good.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Community workshop at First Pres

“Good conversations build community,” sayeth the Gadfly, who is pleased to pass on this info provided by follower Carol Burns.

First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem plans community workshop

ConsConvFirst Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center St., has announced a community presentation, “Constructive Conversations: Engaging Our Faith in Public Life” on Saturday, Feb. 29. Rev. J.C. Austin will lead an exploration of some basic commitments and tools that people of faith can use to be active citizens and good neighbors, especially in divisive times.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m.-noon in the church’s Kirk Center. It is free and open to the public; attendees are asked to register at fpc-bethlehem.org or call 610-867-5865.

Follower Ron Yoshida speaks at First Pres, Monday, March 9, time tbd.

Buckets of questions about the Packer Ave. closing

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Kim Carrell-Smith is a 31-year resident of Bethlehem’s historic Southside, where she taught public history at Lehigh University for almost two decades. She is also an aspiring gadfly, buzzing in on issues of historic preservation, public education, city government, and other social justice issues. She tips her wings to the master gadflies who have served our community for so long!

[Gadfly would note that Kim’s substantial work was referred to approvingly several times in the February 18 City Council meeting. And rightly so! This is what it’s all about, good followers!]

Gadfly:

Re: Proposal to do a temporary closure of Packer Ave with an impact study

Many of us who attended the public meeting about the Packer Ave closure [Broughal Middle School January 23], and a number of my neighbors whom I’ve talked to about it since, have concerns about how any study of a temporary closure might be approached so that the most useful and accurate data would inform decision-making in the city, and so that pedestrians (and drivers) would be safe during the duration of the study. 

So this is what I asked city council and the mayor and his administration to consider before authorizing the temporary closure.

The questions are in two buckets: #1 is whether the city wants/needs to consider this closure (permanent or study period closure) at all, and if so, whether the time is appropriate now.  The #2 bucket is “if the city decides to do the temporary closure/study” questions. 

Bucket #1 –should the temporary closure/study be done and why?

1) What does the city hope to achieve with the proposed closure of Packer — not just with the short-term study time, but what is the city’s key objective for the proposed long-term closure of that section of Packer? Who will benefit? What will be gained? Who may lose? Do the gains outweigh the losses as we contemplate this closure?

2) [This was answered, mostly, or at least the accident data was. Without comparison to other locations it’s hard to know if this is a key dangerous intersection or one of many, or what . . . ]  One item we are still missing is data about how unsafe or safe that Packer Ave. crossing really is; no one has produced that data yet, despite Lehigh’s assertion that it appears to be an unsafe crossing. LU spokepersons have repeatedly and publicly said safety is part of what drives this closure idea. Can we learn more from existing safety data before diving into a study?

3) The other key reason cited by LU for the closure of Packer is that this would encourage students to feel the campus extends all the way to New, and could help them get closer to the commercial area and venture into it (on 4th and 3rd).  We already know that students tend to feel ill at ease going into the Southside, and that when they venture down they often go there by crossing (a) Morton, down New, and (b) across 4th St.  Isn’t it more likely that their Southside psychological boundaries/barriers are those streets rather than at Packer (hence the New Street revitalization plan to lure them past Morton and 4th, and down New)? How would the Packer closure affect Morton, in particular, with increased traffic and pedestrian movement? Will the closure adversely affect student movement north toward the commercial area, or will it encourage that foot traffic, as Lehigh asserts?

  • How and who will assess all of that — the study’s traffic consultants, a city business study, or another Lehigh study? If that student movement to the business district is a key objective in closing Packer, how will we know if the goal of increased pedestrian movement into the commercial area has been achieved, and when would we expect to know that?

4) Morton Street and the upper campus road are currently very congested due to university construction projects. Is this the best time to undertake a temporary or permanent closure, while those roads are narrowed, and there are flaggers, trucks, and equipment entering and exiting the construction sites all day long?

  • If the study goes forward, will the consultants measure pedestrian (and car) safety, not just at intersections but along that whole block of Morton where the street has been narrowed for construction, and the effect of the sidewalk closure on the south side of the street?
  • Will pedestrians really be safe during the study, while construction is ongoing?
  • Will the consultants measure the car traffic before and during the study to know the effects on the upper campus-E/W route across the Southside (including effects on the nearby neighborhoods)? [key issue of concern to my neighbors and me, over here!]

BUCKET #2 –if the temporary closure and study go forward

 But if one does think a temporary closure and study is a good idea, what is/will be written into that consulting contract? Is there language in the contract spelling out what the consultants must study: what exactly is to be studied, and how?  How will the results be made public, and will those results be shared before the decision is made to close Packer for good, or not? Will the public have an opportunity to provide their feedback on the temporary closure to Lehigh and the city? More specifically, then:

1) Will the consultants be studying the effects on pedestrians (and if so, is this something they know how to do, or do they need help from consultants who are more familiar with that kind of work)? We should be careful to use consultants who are experienced in pedestrian studies, and wary of using ones who may only specialize in vehicle traffic; I have no idea what these consultants are known for, but their performance in the public meeting at Broughal indicated to me that they had not thought about pedestrian studies much, if at all. It appeared that they only had focused their plans on the vehicle traffic.

Among the things we should know are

    • how do they plan to track Broughal student walking patterns and safety, and changes in those patterns and safety (if any)
    • and how do they account for safety issues as they study pedestrian movement in the extended area including Brodhead, Summit, over to Montclair and Carlton, down to 4th Street and perhaps 3rd as well; and eastward on Webster, 4th, 5th, and E.Packer.
    • What will Council learn about safety issues in the whole study area, by the end of the study?

2) [This was kind of answered, although it will be a shorter data collection period than folks first assumed when it was first announced.] How would the consultants plan to account for the traffic and pedestrian data in the earliest days of the study and closure, which will be done when Lehigh students and most faculty are on spring break: will that data be averaged in with the rest, thus skewing the results?  Studying traffic and pedestrians over spring break would definitely not provide representative data, although I see why Lehigh wants to start putting out blockades when students aren’t around and perhaps traffic is lighter. But that time should not be averaged into the data that is collected when the usual school year traffic (cars and pedestrians) is in full swing.

3) As my neighbors and I have shared with the mayor and the Lehigh Public Affairs VP, many of us suspect that W.8th to University Dr, and across campus, will become an even more appealing way to traverse the Southside (E-W and W-E) if/when Packer would be closed. Yet there will be even more construction up there on University Drive next year. The consultants should measure the before and after closure effects on that route, and also consider what could change when the next phase of dorm demolition and construction begins this summer through next year. Do we know if this is being considered in the study? I hope that the city will request a clear answer, and consider the following as well:

  •  Is the upper campus route going to be part of the city study, or would that be left to Lehigh to do separately from the consultant study? Would they include the surrounding neighborhood streets and what happens to traffic there? Will they share the data and seek community feedback?
  • Will the city be able to study the W.8th street entrance to campus and whether traffic is increased on that rather congested street that runs from Wyandotte into campus? What will be the impact on the streets to the east side of campus?
  • Would the data from a Lehigh campus road study be something accessible to the public, and would it be incorporated into city decision making?

4) Also, how will we know the effect of the closing when it snows? I mentioned at the public meeting that most of us over here are definitely aware that one doesn’t drive on Morton Street when it’s snowy; the city has never been able to maintain that street effectively; it is usually covered in slush, ice and/or snow for a number of days before things melt away- not ideal for Broughal kids and parents! That may be because of the way the buildings on the street shade the road surface, but I’m not sure.  Local folks just all try to avoid driving there when the weather gets bad. It’s a safety issue without any additional added traffic, whether for cars, buses or pedestrians; more traffic in snowy weather is a scary thought.

5) Finally, IF the trial closure and study are authorized by Council, you all, as well as residents and those who work in the area also should know how the final decision about long term closure would be made:

  • who besides the consultants will give or collect feedback
  • when
  • where
  • and how

…before the final decision is made?  What key issues will the mayor deem relevant to his recommendation?

I guess I don’t see all these questions as insurmountable, but as many of us see it, answering these questions in Bucket #2 (all of them) should mean that the planning for the traffic/pedestrian study would be quite careful, the study itself quite extensive, and both should include voices from the community.

  • Planning and contracting with consultants should also mean investigating their expertise in pedestrian studies.
  • And there should be a plan in place, before the study begins, to present the results of the study and hear from the public before any final decision is made.

Gadfly would note that Kim’s substantial work was referred to approvingly several times in the February 18 City Council meeting. And rightly so! This is what it’s all about, good followers!

Yet more construction updating: “why we are so bullish” on more residential on E. 3rd St.

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More and more apartments. 74 this time. Peron Development at 600-block E. 3rd St. Complementing the “sister” apartments in their 510 Flats bldg.

But are they the “affordable” kind we need?

The planned office use for this property is being changed because of the success filling the apartments at 510 Flats.

Particularly striking Gadfly’s ear were, for parking, the use of the Polk Street Garage, a parking lot on Evans St., and 61 new metered parking spaces on 3rd St.

That’s 61 new metered parking spaces on 3rd St.

Planning Commission February 13:

506-510,600-630 E. 3RD Street—Revised Land Development Plan (Bldg.B) and Waiver Requests, Ward4, Zoned IRR, Plan dated July 15, 2014 and last revised January 22, 2020. The applicant proposes the removal of a parking lot on Lot B (610Flats) and the construction of a 5 story building containing first floor retail/restaurants and 74 apartments on the upper floors. The prior approved use of the upper floors was offices. The waiver/modifications requested pertain to minimum lot area requirements and off street parking requirements.

Here’s Peron describing why their success with 510 Flats changed plans for 610:

Here’s more detail on the variances required:

And specific discussion of the parking arrangements:

Another Construction Update: the new Wind Creek Hotel, bonus for the City

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Sara K. Satullo, “Wind Creek Bethlehem goes swanky with new hotel thanks to lucrative tax incentive.” lehighvalleylive.com., February 7, 2020.  — PHOTOS

Note: Wind Creek is giving a portion of $$$$ back to the City in untypical fashion. It’s getting harder for Gadfly to be cranky about their water park idea. Sigh.

The hotel is expected to generate up to $1.5 million in annual CRIZ increment once it opens and 20% of that — $300,000 — will come back to Bethlehem’s CRIZ authority, Donchez said. This will allow the city to start tackling important projects on its wish list, like new Christmas decorations, improvements to lighting on the Southside and buying land for South Bethlehem Greenway connections.

Here are the videos Gadfly promised a few days ago.

Brian Carr, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Wind Creek, describes the historic need for more hotel rooms and all the other advantages that the new construction of the second hotel will afford.

Here Carr shows off some of the design of the second hotel and how it links with the existing one.

Construction Update: Wilbur Mansion

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Mrs. Gadfly and I were just talking about this as we drove by the Masonic Temple on Rt. 378 over the weekend.

“What do you know about this project Mr. know-it-all Gadfly,” she said rather challengingly?

A prophet without honor . . . etc., etc.

John Noble appeared before the CRIZ Board February 6 to report that negotiations with the Sayre Mansion did not work. He submitted a new project, restaurant partner not disclosed, and his start date was extended a year to about this time next year, with still a two-year completion date from the time he starts.

You’re welcome, honey.

Council folk speak up about the temporary closure of Packer Ave. (4)

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President Waldron (votes for the temporary closure)

Above, courtesy of YouTube’s choice, is Lehigh administrator Brent Stringfellow
not President Waldron

  • This is an opportunity where we can see how it will shake out.
  • My concern is how are those data used after we do receive them.
  • How is it disseminated to the community and the stakeholders . . . what mechanisms for feedback will there be to communicate concerns.
  • If this were the full-time street vacation I would not be supporting it, however I am in support of the temporary closure.
  • I really have to agree with Mr. Reynolds, Dr. Van Wirt about some of that conversation how the community is drawn up to Packer Ave. and feels a little bit more welcome on the campus.
  • I’ve spent some time just walking around Lehigh’s campus and it’s tremendous, a wonderful asset to our City, and I think to expose that to other people is only a good thing for Lehigh and the community.
  • I would like to see more in the conversation about how you bring the community up to that space.
  • And if Packer Ave. is eventually vacated . . . I would hope for a kind of all-in approach from Lehigh, some thoughts especially from Dr. Van Wirt about how we can make that space feel more inviting — is there a playground there, is there a community space . . . community programing?
  • That should be a major consideration in a potential vacation of the street.
  • Ultimately, this has to be a partnership between Lehigh, the City, and the community as well.

In conversation with Lehigh and City administrators, President Waldron asked about why the dates were picked, consideration of other traffic calming measures, who owns Packer Ave. if it is vacated, whether Lehigh could build on that space, what about utilities under that road, the financial value of the land, and loss of parking revenue.

All good president-type questions.

Council folk speak up about the temporary closure of Packer Ave. (3)

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Councilman Reynolds (votes for the temporary closure)

  • You look at somebody with a private interest coming forward, of course . . . there are reasons that they want to do it.
  • The key in the decision the governmental agency has to make is whether or not there’s overlap between the private interest and the public good or the public interest.
  • We’ve heard from some citizens, we need to hear from more citizens.
  • We are very fortunate here, in that a lot of time we have to deal with hypothetical benefits or hypothetical negatives . . . that is not always the best way to make decisions.
  • The best way to make decisions is when you have rational, qualitative data.
  • That’s what this is really about, giving the City and the public an opportunity to see whether or not there is a public interest in doing this.
  • The real boundaries . . . are not physical.
  • I really do give the Lehigh community a lot of credit for . . . directing more and more of their interest and energy toward how do we bring the Southside together in a way . . . how do we bring people up.
  • How do we bring people together.
  • What we’re not as good at is bringing people together that have different identities . . . to interact in that way that creates community.
  • If this is done well, it is another step in that direction.
  • Those two goals especially have an overlap between the City of Bethlehem’s public good and Lehigh University’s self-interest.
  • But that all has to be proved before anybody’s able to take that next step.
  • If this was just good for one group of people, it wouldn’t make sense to do.
  • It’s really about how is this going to be done and whether or not the important questions are going to be done, some of which we don’t even really understand yet.
  • Often times the groups that are most affected, they’re not here because they don’t exist yet.
  • We often talk about how we don’t have more information to be able to make decisions, and this is an opportunity to gain information.
  • The decision we make tonight is much smaller than the decision we are going to make, at the earliest, several months from now.
  • It is people and institutions coming out to saying we see this or we don’t see this as a good thing.
  • I think that there is an opportunity with this to really kind of go about doing this the right way.
  • For me it will come down to do I think this is a step in the right direction for bringing the Lehigh community together with the Southside community that has often been at odds.
  • We’re breaking down those kind of emotional and economic barriers one at a time, and that’s going to be the big question for me at the end of the day.
  • Is there a public good here that is worth us closing down or vacating the street, and does that interest work for both the institution that is before us as well as our community and the public good?

Wind Creek poised to use CRIZ to pay off construction loans for the second hotel and to pay for some City projects

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Nicole Radzievich, “Wind Creek positioned for lucrative tax incentive to build second hotel.” Morning Call, February 20, 2020.

Wind Creek advanced its case Thursday to tap a lucrative tax incentive for a $100 million hotel near its casino in south Bethlehem. The authority overseeing the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone deemed the 12-story hotel as a “qualified” project for the incentive, which casino executives say would make the hotel grander with 270 rooms, a swanky lobby, spa, bar and 35,000 square feet of meeting space including three ballrooms, positioning Wind Creek to attract larger meeting groups.

The CRIZ would allow developers to tap certain state and local taxes derived from new development to pay off construction loans. Money would also be set aside to help pay for city projects such as lighting on the South Side, acquisition of land for connections at the Greenway rails-to-trails park, and Christmas decorations.

Wind Creek, the city’s largest employer, expects the project to add 80 operations jobs and 400 construction jobs. Wind Creek employs 2,350 people. Wind Creek’s proposed hotel would be built near the 282-room one and wrap around the Wind Creek Event Center. All told, there would be 362,000 square feet of new development and 50,236 square feet of renovations, according to plans expected to go before the planning commission next week.

Last year, Wind creek executives said they had been considering the concept of a a $250 million plan to turn the crumbling No. 2 Machine Shop into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also would include a roughly 400-room hotel. Carr said at Thursday’s meeting he was not prepared to talk about that project and wanted to focus on the hotel.

A second hotel is a safe bet for Wind Creek because the existing 282-room hotel carries a 93% occupancy rate, resulting in visitors being turned away four nights a week, and demand for meeting space has exceeds the facility’s capacity.

Gadfly’s catching up on Wind Creek news and will provide some video next time.

Council folk speak up about the temporary closure of Packer Ave. (2)

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Councilwoman Van Wirt (votes against the temporary closure)

  • My first concern is why is this being done.
  • I’m not convinced by the safety argument.
  • The first thing that comes to mind is not vacation of a city street.
  • The real reason . . . Lehigh wants to consolidate their campus, and that’s not inherently a bad thing.
  • But it has to be addressed in the correct way so that the citizens who are giving up city-owned land have faith in the process that all the data was transparent.
  • I would ask that the Mayor and Lehigh make the contracts with the consultant transparent.
  • This study must have a plan in place to disseminate the results.
  • I thought more people could have been brought in by a more robust campaign to get the word out about what was going to be talked about.
  • What was good about that meeting was that a lot of the stuff brought up was incorporated into the plan.
  • There was a lot of people calling out that this was not being done for safety.
  • I think that you can engender trust in the community of South Bethlehem if we’re pretty frank and candid about why we’re doing this.
  • We’re doing this to make Lehigh stronger . . . that’s why we are doing this.
  • The primary reason is for the university.
  • That is citizen-owned land . . . steep price.
  • The traffic concerns are real.
  • What are we doing with the dollars we’re given for that land? I would like to have some discussions now.
  • What does it physically look like?
  • Are those crossing guards going to be permanent for the Broughal students?
  • How do we draw the citizens up into this space that was formerly theirs?
  • How do we make it more like the citizens of Bethlehem feel they are more pulled in to?
  • How do we create better bike and pedestrian experiences?
  • How do we pull South Bethlehem back up in to the campus so that we can really integrate it?
  • What I really would encourage Lehigh to do is postpone this.
  • There’s too much that needs to be done before the March date.
  • Have this study happen in the fall.
  • I do have a vision of what this permanent closure could look like for Bethlehem, and it’s a great vision.
  • I think that it could be a great thing for South Bethlehem if it’s done correctly, and that means it has to be a slower process with the community involved.
  • I would advocate for a citizens’ steering committee.
  • Maybe the money we get for the land itself gets put into a community fund dictated by the committee for what it’s used for.
  • Maybe Lehigh can help start a South Bethlehem Business association . . . Maybe that could help with some of the problems we are having drawing students down the 3rd and 4th streets.
  • I have a vision that this can work., I just ask Lehigh to slow down.
  • . . . a community process that better addresses the problems brought up here.
  •  . . . fully pulls the community in to this so that they believe the process instead of feeling that it’s being jammed down their throats.

Councilman Callahan’s wage equality proposal discussed in committee tomorrow

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“The premise of this ordinance is that salary offers should be based upon the specific job responsibilities of a position, and not based upon an applicant’s prior wage history, so as to avoid the perpetuation of gender wage inequalities.”

Councilman Callahan’s Wage Equality ordinance proposal will be considered at the Human Relations committee meeting 6PM, Tuesday, February 25, Town Hall.

Councilman Callahan talked about this proposal at a meeting of the Bethlehem Democrats a while back. Gadfly probably won’t be able to attend Tuesday night and report on the discussion, so he urges you to hear the Councilman talk about his idea.

Callahan Wage Equality proposal

For the full proposed ordinance, go here:

Wage Equality Memo (1)

The Council folk speak up about the temporary closure of Packer Ave. (1)

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Ok, you are not new to the question about a test of the closing of Packer Ave. between Vine and Webster.

And you probably don’t need to be reminded that the issue here is control over your neighborhood (though this issue does have ramifications for all of us who drive in Bethlehem).

Lehigh is asking “us” to conduct a test whose end result is, if positive, in effect, to end the main function of a busy, healthy street on the Southside. Is their reason compelling?

Even if you don’t live in this area, you need to be alert to the kinds of things that could happen in your neighborhood.

Gadfly loves to compare his thinking to our elected officials. Join him. The Council members gave us clear and substantial rationales.

Remember, too, that one of the main reasons for the Gadfly project is to help you know your Councilpeople better so that you can be the most informed voter you can be.

This is a good opportunity.

Whom do you agree with, disagree with? Who makes you think? Who gave you something new to think about? Whom are you glad to see with a seat at the Head Table?

Councilman Colon (votes for the temporary closure)

  • I’m curious to see what comes out of the temporary closure.
  • We’ve already vacated a couple streets that we didn’t have this opportunity to test.
  • I remember how big deal it was when that street (Broad Street) was closed and then reopened.
  • We have an opportunity to have a temporary closing and then come back to the table and see what happens.
  • Now is a good time . . . to do the study. (students there, unlikely weather event, construction conditions on Lehigh campus)
  • Where I stand on permanent closure, who knows.
  • I’m encouraged by the Mayor’s comments about having another public hearing.


Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (votes against the temporary closure)

  • I do have concerns about the temporary closure. One is the proximity to Broughal Middle School.
  • I worry about their [Broughal students] maturity level.
  • There’s also St. Peter’s Church . . .
  • Also is the concern that the Southside is so congested already.
  • For many walkability is not an option [people with physical disabilities, an aging population] impeding people attending Lehigh events.
  • I wonder [from the community perspective] if this isn’t an extreme jump.
  • Sophisticated crosswalk like done at Moravian . . . overpasses, walkways.
  • I wonder if we’re not taking an extreme leap.
  • I just have a lot of questions. Perhaps in the future I would be more inclined to agree.

Van Wirt and Reynolds next–

Gadfly says Lehigh might want to lock Carolina Hernandez in her office

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Before we look at the interestingly different ways Council voted on the proposal to do a pilot study for closing Packer Ave. between Vine and Webster, let’s wrap up by looking once again at Gadfly’s stance.

Gadfly is a first premise, first cause, begin-at-the-beginning kind of guy.

He is very often most interested in the “why” kinds of questions.

Lehigh is proposing to close a section of Packer Ave.

Gadfly is neutral on the proposition. He stands to be convinced. As he assumes the Council members should be.

To Gadfly’s observations, the conversation about the pilot study moved too swiftly to the details of how a pilot study will be implemented. And that blurs the why question. It assumes the why question has been answered satisfactorily.

For instance, in the initial 4-minute Lehigh presentation at Council last Tuesday (there were four Lehigh speakers), one minute was spent on the reasons for wanting to close Packer, three for how the study will be conducted. Gadfly would reverse the percentages. He would not go to how the study will be done till he was reasonably convinced there was a compelling reason to do it in the first place.

So Gadfly rivets on the question of why Lehigh says it will be a good thing to close Packer.

Recognizing the similarity in the deliberative process so far to the process in which he participated hundreds if not thousands of times over five decades as a writing teacher, Gadfly notes that the Lehigh proposal has gone through three drafts: at the January 23 Broughal meeting, at the February 4 Council meeting, and last Tuesday at the February 18 Council meeting.

As one would expect, the drafts are somewhat different. As one would hope, the latest draft is somewhat stronger.

But, in Gadfly’s mind, the Lehigh proposal is “not there yet.” And as a Council member, he wouldn’t be ready to accept it, or even to accept the seemingly harmless first step of a free traffic study.

There are three points to Lehigh’s case that have shifted somewhat but remained basically the same over the three drafts. In the language of draft #3:  1) pedestrian safety 2) pulling the core of the campus farther in to the Southside 3) an improved pedestrian amenity for the campus and the community at large.

Listen to fussy, crotchety old prof Gadfly at the February 18 Council meeting calling for a yet stronger 4th draft before the Lehigh proposal is in shape to present to Council for their deliberation.  (If you want to see fussy, crotchety old prof Gadfly from his best viewing angle — the back — go to the City video min. 49:45.)

1) pedestrian safety: this third draft produced statistics on accidents and injuries at “the crossing” on Packer. But a) the crossing has been there for years. If conditions were so bad, why hasn’t the City done something/said something? Where is testimony from the City traffic and safety people? That would have more legitimacy than “partisan” testimony from the Lehigh officer. b) Still nothing addressing less nuclear traffic calming measures. As Gadfly said a few posts back, he feels that possessing that space is the prime reason for the proposal. The other options would not enable closing, would not enable possession of that space. The traffic rationale is a necessary means to possession. Lehigh has, in fact, said several times that safety is not their prime reason for proposing the closing but one of three “overlapping reasons.” So what bothers Gadfly is that the pilot traffic study is not addressing the main reason for the closing — which is the underdeveloped reason #3.

2) changing the face of Lehigh, pulling the core of the campus closer into the Southside: Sorry, Gadfly is not overpowered by the logic here. Closing Packer is not the same as moving Lehigh offices to the Flatiron building or to 3rd and New. Closing Packer is not the same as funding the Southside Ambassadors. We are talking here about moving the symbolic center of the University from the University Center flagpole/lawn to Packer Ave — about a one minute walk apart. Spitting distance. Gadfly agrees with the Mayor’s goal of more University and student involvement in the Southside but doesn’t see this move relating in virtually any way to that goal. On its own. But Gadfly must remember that Lehigh is talking not about three separate reasons but about “overlapping reasons,” which puts interesting emphasis on their third reason. Read on.

3) an improved pedestrian amenity for the campus and the community at large, providing a safe and welcoming east-west access for the community: go back and listen to the video of Lehigh’s Carolina Hernandez, the last of the four Lehigh presenters at last Tuesday’s Council meeting. She talked of programs in which Lehigh brings students to campus. Wow! thought Gadfly when he got up to talk — even smacking the podium table over this point (so dramatic, he is). This flips Lehigh reason #2. Not taking campus farther into the Southside. But bringing community members uphill, on to campus. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is the part of the conversation from Lehigh’s Tuesday night draft #3 that caught Gadfly’s attention — as well as Councilwoman Van Wirt’s, as we will see in the next post or so. Yes, yes. yes. Let’s think of how this vacated space might be used to blur lines, to bring more Southsiders over physical, symbolic, or emotional (an interesting term used by Lehigh in a past meeting) borders. So Gadfly ended up saying that the most important addition for the 4th draft of Lehigh’s proposal would be specific examples of boundary-blurring programing that Lehigh could institute in that space. If I were a Councilperson, such examples would make my mouth water and satisfy my need to consider approving such a proposal for the public good of the City. If I were Lehigh, I would lock Carolina Hernandez in her office till she developed two or three specific programs that would turn a vacated Packer Ave. into a truly shared space. Put as much detailed thinking about the use of the public space as has been given to the details of the traffic study. (We pretty much know where every traffic cone is going to go in the traffic study, but we get zero information about reason #3.)

So Gadfly urged Council not to approve the proposal for a traffic study. Yet. Wait for a 4th draft, he said. And then make your decision. (At such moments in conferences asking for a 4th draft, Gadfly had to keep sharp objects away from his students.)

But Council approved it.

Gadfly is not devastated.

The Council rationales were good. The Council rationales were clear. We’ll dissect them next. That will be instructive on several levels.

The idea of a test pilot is always good. The urban planning guru Jeff Speck whom Gadfly spent the last summer reading (you might remember he battered you with post after post of Speck’s ideas) strongly recommends such when possible.

But Gadfly says we shouldn’t think that the results of a test on traffic will touch the main issues here.

And debate about these three rationales will continue if the test pilot passes the test, so the thinking we do here and now is not wasted.

And maybe then Carolina will have been sprung from her office, 4th draft of the proposal in hand.

“Will you incorporate residents into some of the final decision-making process?”

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Gadfly has had occasion to say several times over the course of his tenure that “done deal” is one of the most terrifying phrases in the English language.

Gadflies have a penchant for exaggeration.

But “done deal” is the death knell to citizen participation.

You are invited to participate, you participate, then you find out the decision has already been made or that the decision is made without you.

Screw it, you say, and turn into one of those who lose faith in the democratic nature of city government.

There is still some concern about genuine and widespread community knowledge of and involvement in the “conversation” so far. Of course that will change big-time March 9 when the barriers go up!

Breena Holland and Kim Carrell-Smith are familiar and, Gadfly jokingly says, “professional” commentators at Council meetings. Otherwise, though Carrell-Smith presented the results of some polling she did of neighbors, there was only one near-by resident voice at the meeting — Gail Domalakes.

While attracted to the uses that Lehigh might make of that space, Domalakes “uses Packer Ave. a lot” both car-wise and walk-wise and finds the street “very pleasant” and does not “feel unsafe.” Au contraire, where she feels “on very high alert, adrenalin-rush” is at Brodhead and Morton and Vine and Morton, and to push more traffic down there might not be a “responsible thing to do.”

Holland and Carrell-Smith (and Domalakes too) support the pilot study. But both women make the clear point that data collected in the pilot study be shared with the community before a decision is made to go ahead with a permanent closing of that section of Packer.

The Mayor himself was clear at the January 23 Broughal meeting that he wanted the widest range of information he could get. So we’re hoping/expecting that there will be an open meeting for the public to share data and ideas about it and other salient and significant issues with Mayor and Council before any final decision is made.

Let’s try very hard to avoid the mutterings of “done deal.”

Sending cars to Morton, the main way students might go home, is a little bit nuts

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Resident Al Wurth raises three main objections to closing Packer Ave. at last Tuesday’s Council meeting: closing because of pedestrian concerns is overkill, it sends a bad signal to residents of the Southside, it endangers Broughal students.

Only one of Wurth’s concerns — the last, about the Broughal students — will be addressed by the pilot traffic study.

Though a pedestrian study now is more clearly articulated as part of the pilot, Gadfly’s worry from the beginning has been that the proposed — and now approved — study will not be studying all that needs to be studied. And it may not even be studying the main thing or things that need to be studied. For instance, though suggestions were made at the January 23 Broughal meeting about how to receive or collect resident commentary, nothing concrete has been heard about that yet.

Gadfly is a bit haunted by a comment Lehigh made at the January 23 Broughal meeting, that their preliminary study indicated that driving around the vacated area (for instance, Vine to Morton to Webster back to Packer) would only take 13 seconds more than the direct route between Vine and Webster on Packer. As if time on the road is the prime criterion for a decision. So that if the east-west/west-east delay for skirting the vacated area is reasonably modest, then the proposal would be acceptable.

Must be on the alert for that kind of thinking.

  • You only really need to be concerned about the pedestrian interaction . . . during a few hours of the daytime.
  • To close the road permanently would seem to be unnecessary.
  • The smartest thing to do here is some sort of traffic calming.
  • I’m a little bit anxious about the signal that it sends to say to the residents of the Southside that the road is closed and now it’s Lehigh only.
  • When you take all the cars that are now crossing at Packer and send them deliberately past Broughal . . . I’m guessing the junior high school students are even less careful than Lehigh students.
  • Pedestrian-car interaction and enhancing that by sending cars down Vine to Morton and Morton being the main way students might go home is also a little bit nuts and probably is unnecessary.
  • To invite more cars to go by Broughal . . .?
  • It seems to me that there’s a simpler solution.
  • We’re going to have a road there, and we’re gonna have the run-off, and we’re actually turning the cars and the pollution down the hill to the community and away from the campus.
  • I’m thinking of the kids at the school, and we really ought to pay more attention to the impact on them.
  • I’m not sure the road needs to be closed and certainly if it’s closed 24hrs. all the time.

Lehigh moves Council to approve the pilot traffic study

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Charles Malinchak, “Bethlehem closing Packer Avenue to study impact.” Morning Call, February 19, 2020.

As previously reported here, Lehigh made a presentation to City Council Tuesday supporting their request to do a pilot traffic study on the closing of Packer Ave. between Vine and Webster. Council approved the traffic study 3-2. It will begin March 9 and last 45 days.

As Gadfly also said previously, he thought it was a good meeting: improved Lehigh presentation, good resident comments, good (and diverse) Council comments.

Let’s take 2-3 posts and appreciate what went on.

First, the Lehigh presentation. This is the 3rd time Lehigh has presented its 3-part rationale: pedestrian safety, the changing core of the Lehigh campus, and a pedestrian walkway for the campus and wider community. Lehigh has already done a traffic study that shows “minimal impact” from the street closure, and the proposed pilot study will enable “proof of concept.” This particular point, as we will see later, seemed especially appealing to some Council members. Details of planning with the school district and the Bethlehem Parking Authority and other logistical matters were also covered.

The Lehigh consultant performing the study outlined such things as 1) observations morning, noon, and afternoon at Broughal for the safety of the students (a major concern raised at the public meeting on January 23), and 2) studies of 20 different traffic points, the goal being to document the changing traffic patterns.

Here the Lehigh Chief of Police addressed in more detail than ever before point #1 in the Lehigh proposal: pedestrian safety. He gave “numbers” for the first time about “pedestrian-vehicle conflicts” along that stretch of road, numbers that are “some of the highest I’ve seen in my law enforcement career.” (Where did your video of the Chief go, Gadfly?)

Here in support of the third point in Lehigh’s proposal, the Lehigh rep outlines the considerable community service work that Lehigh does on the Southside that is “blurring the lines” between the campus and the community and provides a basis to explore the possibility of closing the street (Lehigh has little flat surface on the campus itself) to offer other options for this worthy work.

Followers will remember that Gadfly has been grouchy at the quality of Lehigh’s presentation in its previous two stages. But this was definitely a better presentation. You will see Gadfly’s interesting generally supportive response to this third iteration of the proposal later.

Resident response to the Lehigh presentation was excellent. Going there next.

Resident voices. Gadfly loves them.

Still twenty questions on the marijuana arrest matter

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Awww, some people think the Mayor’s statement at Council ends the marijuana arrest matter to which we have devoted a half-dozen or so posts. (See “Police” under Topics on the sidebar.)

But gadflies have a “Show me” gene.

Gadflies take a pledge to “question authority” — especially when Authority goes clam-like.

Gadfly has said several times that he wishes the Mayor would give press briefings and press conferences (I know, I know, the President doesn’t either), in which The Press could ask probing questions — legitimate questions, but probing — that get at what is often unanswered when just statements are delivered. Mayoral “reports” at Council sometimes need follow-up.

(By the way, did you see the brave article by Mike Morelli — “The Morning Call boasts talented newsroom, despite buyouts,” Morning Call, February 14, 2020 — but I think we have to face the fact that dedicated, in-depth, long-term reporting on Bethlehem City Hall is going if not gone. All you may have left are gadflies.)

The future mayor, who may well be (should be) a reader of this blog, might think about this. Hint, hint.

So, let a gadfly be a gadfly (sounds like “it’s just Trump being Trump,” doesn’t it?).

First, Gadfly is aware “politics” swirls around this dispute between our Police Chief and the District Judge. But he prefers to tune that out and stay with the basic “facts” of the core case — the traffic stop.

Our focus should be:

Was an Hispanic man — presumably a Southside resident — treated in a racially insensitive way when stopped by a Bethlehem policeman for a minor traffic violation?

Gadfly still has questions.

  • “The matter is the subject of an ongoing non-criminal investigation,” the Mayor wrote February 11. Who is under investigation? Can it be anybody but the police officer?
  • The matter “has been thoroughly reviewed internally,” the Mayor wrote February 11, yet “The matter is the subject of an ongoing non-criminal investigation.” Does this mean that the thorough internal review didn’t end the matter but showed there was need for further investigation?
  • Who did/led the internal review if allegations have been made about the Chief’s conduct and the Deputy Chief is on record backing the Chief’s position? God forbid that the Chief had a leading role in the review or the investigation.
  • And was that “ongoing non-criminal investigation” internal as well? Who’s doing/leading that?
  • What written guidelines, policies, procedures does the Police department have when the matter under consideration is “one of its own”? Were those “rules” followed?
  • Was there an interview with the subject of the traffic stop as part of the investigation? Did his character match the picture of him given by the Judge?
  • Race is such a sensitive issue — is there a role, a safeguarding role, an independent role for outside “eyes” on the issue to guarantee objectivity?
  • Per February 11, “The City Administration will have no further comment because the information and evidence are subject to confidentiality under Pennsylvania law.” Specifically, what law is that? Why is the matter confidential? Is that because it is a personnel matter? Which means that the officer is the subject of the “ongoing non-criminal investigation.” Gadfly can understand that personnel matters are private. But Gadfly is not sure whether the fact that there is a personnel matter is in itself confidential.
  • “The Administration,” per February 11, “does not consider the matter appropriate to be reviewed by the Public Safety Committee.” This one really puzzles the Gadfly. Whose committee is it, as the Gadfly so bravely challenged at the February 18 Council meeting, Council’s or the Mayor’s? Gadfly can see the Council agreeing with the Mayor for good reason that they will not take up the issue. But the language here suggests that the Administration drives the Council agenda. And, so, in fact, Council is not taking up the issue at the March 3 Public Safety meeting. Why? Puzzling.
  • Did something change between February 11 and the Mayor’s public statement at Council February 18? For now we have the Mayor’s statement that “The allegations have been subject to a thorough internal investigation,” and “The evidence showed that the allegations are false.”
  • We gather from this that the “ongoing [internal] non-criminal investigation” that followed the thorough review is over. Once again we need to ask who did/led that investigation and whether external scrutiny is appropriate.
  • And, so, is the matter settled as far as the City is concerned? Case closed? Not clear per February 18. If so, if case closed, why not talk about it? Why not tell details? If not closed, what left is going on?
  • “The evidence showed that the allegations are false.” The only evidence referred to February 18 is audio/video evidence at the scene of the traffic stop (presumably). How does that bear on the allegation that the officer refused to accept constructive criticism in a conversation at the Judge’s office? Does it mean that the evidence shows there was nothing wrong with the officer’s behavior?
  • Let’s think about the audio/visual evidence. Per February 18, it seems determinative in the City’s view. If so, it’s fair to ask, as the Judge did, why the Chief didn’t mention such “exculpatory” evidence in his allegation letter to County judicial headquarters.
  • Which brings up the question of why the Chief didn’t contact the Judge after hearing from his officers, present this determinative evidence, and nip this brouhaha in the bud. The Judge wasn’t “there.” The Judge was reporting the subject’s version of events. The tapes would have put him “there.” On the spot. Is it too much a stretch to believe that if the Judge were invited to view the evidence, the Judge might have apologized? Feels like it might have saved a lot of time, energy, and anguish on the part of many people (Gadfly included — he’s an old man, he has only so many posts left in his quiver). Further, why at this point not offer to show the Judge the audio/visual evidence and expect that he will apologize?
  • And speaking of the Chief not contacting the Judge right away but sending a letter to the County judicial Home Office, in doing that didn’t the Chief act without knowledge of both sides that was easily accessible to him? Didn’t the Chief declare concern (guilt?) without the complete facts? What would cause the Chief to suspend a first principle of police work? Again, if he knew the audio/visual evidence at that point and it was so compelling, why not make it determinative in his letter?
  • Let’s think about the audio/visual evidence again. “We” don’t get to see it. We must trust that it proves allegations false. Gadfly hopes it does. But the core of this issue for Gadfly is racial insensitivity not legality. The core of this issue for Gadfly — based on the story of the subject of the traffic stop channeled through the Judge, granted not like direct testimony — is about the officer’s approach, attitude, bearing, demeanor, language, physical action, and so forth. For Gadfly, those kinds of things are the core of the “charge,” if you will, here, which is racial insensitivity. Gadfly can imagine and hope that the audio/visual shows that the officer acted “by the book.” And yet it could still show that the officer was racially insensitive in applying the book. Because of what is at stake here in terms of racial harmony in a City with 30% Hispanics or simply because of a desire for fair play, Gadfly would need to see the evidence before he closed the case.
  • But let’s not forget legality. What was the legal reason for searching the car? What do the tapes show of when, relative to the appearance of the warrant, the search was done? The time line of events, as Gadfly outlined in an earlier post, needs to be defined.
  • And Gadfly would be very curious about how the officer handled the discrepancy between the warrant and the subject vis-a-vis the tattoo. Did the subject know he was being taken in with the possibility of being a person he couldn’t be?
  • And that leads Gadfly to ask whether the tapes show the subject of the traffic stop in a way that matches the Judge’s description of him — which is the only description we have, and a description that convinced the Judge to believe him and make a conscious decision to have a conversation with the officer? Did the Judge get it right? That would be important to know.

Twenty bullets. Twenty questions.

Gadfly’s pencil has run out of lead. He could go on and on. Being a pest. Not accepting the Mayor’s statement.

Of course, the Mayor may be right: the Judge was out of bounds in what he did.

But he thinks he’s asking the kinds of questions a good investigative journalist would.

More important — he thinks he’s asking the kinds of questions any of his followers would.

The kinds of questions you are asking.

Gadfly tries to be your center of consciousness.

This issue is far from closed in Gadfly’s mind.

As usual he has tried to lay it out for you in small bites.

What are you thinking?

Let’s remember what’s at issue, what’s at stake here: the possibility is that we have a racially insensitive police officer backed by his Chief or a district judge abusing his power, overstepping his bounds.

Let’s get it right.

Serious stuff.

no doubt to be continued . . .

Council gives go-ahead for pilot study on closing Packer Ave.

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Gadfly a bit pressed by other obligations this morning and just trying to get you the headlines from last night’s City Council meeting.Thus, the Mayor’s statement in the previous post and the Packer Ave. business in this post.

Council enabled the pilot traffic study on the temporary closing of Packer between Vine and Webster by a 3-2 vote (Councilpeople Negron and Callahan not present). The temporary closing will begin March 9 and last 45 days.

Gadfly thought it was a very good meeting. Lehigh made a more detailed proposal/explanation, there were a half-dozen resident comments, the Mayor made a statement, and each Council member gave a detailed comment supporting his or her vote. Lots of information, ideas, opinions flowed in a collegial way. The way it should.

Gadfly much pleased (ha! even though his “side” lost).

Gadfly will come back and break the discussion down for you when time permits, but he recommends going to the primary source (as always) first: go to the City video min. 9:40 to start.

 

The Mayor’s statement on the marijuana arrest

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“Mayor Donchez: Judge Dumbass Allegations are false,” Lehigh Valley Ramblings, February 19, 2020.

Last night at the City Council meeting, the Mayor addressed the dispute between Judge Englesson and Chief DiLusio over the possibility of racially insensitive behavior by an officer during a traffic stop and marijuana arrest that we have looked at in half a dozen or so posts over the past week. The key new point of information the Mayor revealed last night was that there is audio-visual evidence — the Judge had noted the lack of mention of that fact in the Chief’s November 20 letter to Northampton County Court.

I consider it necessary and in the City’s best interest that this statement be made to address recent blog postings of letters of a highly personal and confidential nature. In the letters magistrate District Judge Englesson made allegations of unprofessional and illegal conduct against a City police officer and Chief DiLusio involving a traffic stop and a marijuana possession charge. The allegations have been subject to a thorough internal investigation. This included review of dash camera and body camera, audio-visual evidence of the actual event. The evidence showed that the allegations are false. The Solicitor, the City Solicitor, advises that Pennsylvania laws impose specific constraints which limit further public disclosure by the City at this time. Those constraints also apply to investigatory materials, evidence, and any further review.  Therefore, for the foreseeable future, further comment on this matter will be very limited or declined.

 

The Arts in Bethlehem: an offer you can’t refuse

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Gadfly bets that when many of you think of the Arts in the Valley, you think of ArtsQuest, Pennsylvania Shakespeare, the State Theater, and so forth.

Big-name productions. Lots of advertising. Lots of splash. Lots of foreign talent.

Gadfly bets that some of you may know of Touchstone Theatre, but few of you have attended a performance there.

A shame.

Touchstone is one of many distinctive Arts treasures in Bethlehem.

Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre dedicated to the creation of original work.  At its center is a resident ensemble of theatre artists rooted in the local community of Bethlehem. . . . The Ensemble . . . transforms audiences through community-based theatrical productions and community-building projects.

Original work . . . resident ensemble . . . rooted in the local community . . . community-building projects.

Remember the 10-day Festival UnBound? (Deargod, look at this video, and I dare you not to glow with pride at this Bethlehem extravaganza!)

Frankly, Gadfly has not been good at recognizing and patronizing these home-grown treasures.

But that is changing.

Gadfly has become familiar with and inspired by a project that you will hear more about later, a project about the Arts of the Local Culture, about the Resident Arts Community.

Native talent.

A month ago, Gadfly went to an original play at the Ice House that he wrote you about, and Sunday to a wonderful performance (playing this week too) at the Pennsylvania Playhouse.

And on Sunday March 8, 2PM he’s going to Edith Piaf: Hymn to Love at Touchstone.

Gadfly has two tickets for that performance he can’t use.

Here’s his offer: he would like to give the two tickets to someone who has never attended Touchstone Theatre in return for a short post on Gadfly about the show or the experience of going to Touchstone.

What say? Contact Gadfly via the Contact link on Gadfly or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

City Council meeting tomorrow night!

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Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, February 18, Town Hall, at 7PM.

These meetings are video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Find the Council agenda and documents here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/53

Among things going on will be a communications about residential rental unit inspections and a vote authorizing the temporary closure of Packer Avenue that Gadfly’s been bludgeoning you about.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Participate. Be informed.

Reposted from February 11: Gadfly thinks Lehigh strikes out on the Packer proposal

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“Gadfly is not demanding that Council completely reject the street closing. He’s asking they demand Lehigh make a compelling case. A case that compels them.”
Gadfly, February 11, 2020

City Council tomorrow night will vote to enable the closing of Packer Avenue between Webster and Vine for a traffic study that will be a key determinant in the decision about a permanent closing. Gadfly has taken some heat for opposing the street closing. He hastens to say that he has an open mind on that decision. What he opposes is going ahead in even a preliminary fashion without a compelling case. Council needs to require convincing argument before it acts. Gadfly could fashion such a convincing argument. He challenges Lehigh to do so. And he challenges Council to withhold approval for the pilot study till they do so. And thus he reposts his thoughts from February 11.

————–

As you can see from the video in Gadfly’s previous post, at the February 4 Council meeting Lehigh presented three rationales for the Packer street vacation as it did January 23 at Broughal, but the rationales were not the same. Rationale #2 was different February 4. But rationales #1 and #3 were no stronger.

Lehigh presented “three major issues overlapping one another”:

1) safety of pedestrians:

Lehigh simply presented some facts about the number of Lehigh pedestrians who cross Packer Ave. The number is “substantial.” But the number of pedestrians crossing a street, even though huge, doesn’t logically prove there is a safety problem. What would prove there is a safety problem? Facts. Number of accidents. Number of injuries. Number of deaths. No data has been given. Where are the facts? Has the City recognized the central crossing of Packer as a danger? If so, why have they not recommended some remedy? Even if the data backs up a significant safety issue, have any number of other traffic calming tools been applied? Why go immediately to the most drastic option? The answer probably is that the three rationales are “overlapping,” and the most drastic option enables goal 3: a Packer Promenade of some sort. Without the successful completion of rationale #1, there can be no Promenade. Gadfly sees the promenade as Lehigh’s main goal.

2) the changing face of the Lehigh campus as it shifts downward toward Southside:

The downward shift is partly due to projects on campus but partly due to “our investment in the city.” Investment. That is, we have put money in. Note that this rationale #2 is not the same as the rationale #2 that was presented at Broughal. At Broughal, the stated rationale was “Better connecting Lehigh with South Bethlehem to have more [foot] traffic supporting the businesses” — the change is a recognition that no logical connection could be made between Packer open or closed and foot traffic at Southside businesses. Now no mention of impact on business is made. What is mentioned is money Lehigh has spent. That’s a big difference. Lehigh had to shift the argument. (Maybe they were reading Gadfly!)  And in the shift we find a bald quid pro quo (wheee!). Now Lehigh reminds the City of their “investment” in the Southside and their “partnership” in developing it. In effect, they are saying remember what we’ve done for you and with you. Now it’s time for you to do us a favor. In addition, there is the completely new element of opening up a “point of connection” with the Southside but not in the north-south direction of the prior rationale #2 but in an “east-west” direction. This is the first time we hear of an east-west connection with the Southside as a Lehigh or City goal. But what is there to connect east-west? North-south was connection with businesses and other understandable aspects of city life. What’s the point, function, goal of an increased east-west connection even if it could be shown that closing the street would effect one?

3) improving the pedestrian experience not only for the Lehigh community but the public at large:

Value for the Lehigh community is obvious. But for the public at large — which should be the Mayor and City Council’s prime concern — it is not. How much east-west “public” foot traffic is there? Gadfly is tempted to say virtually none. But are there any facts? Is there any data? There is no expansion on this third point. No rhetorical support. No elaboration. No description. No argumentation. No example. No persuasion.

Which for Gadfly adds up to no reason for City Council to approve even so preliminary and costless a step as a traffic study.

In Gadfly’s view, Lehigh has demonstrably not made a case with enough mental rigor for even a baby step to be taken toward closing Packer Ave.

It’s hard for Gadfly to see that closing Packer Ave. was on any City agenda in the same way as, say, refurbishing South New St. But let the case be made. Strongly. Before any action is taken.

(Gadfly wants to note among all his negativity that Lehigh indicated response to concerns about Broughal safety and expanding the area of the traffic study raised at the January 23 meeting, as well as commitment to shutting down the study/closure early if things aren’t working out. These are good things.)

to be continued . . .

Gadfly rests: waiting official response to questions surrounding the marijuana arrest

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This post was written yesterday — Sunday, February 16 — and placed in the queue to be automatically published today at 10:00am.  Thus, it was written before Gadfly received the Lehigh Valley Ramblings post on this subject less than an hour ago and remains unchanged.

“The City Administration is well aware of the matter. It has been thoroughly reviewed internally. The matter is the subject of an ongoing non-criminal investigation. We caution you not to speculate as to the nature of the ongoing investigation. We caution you that it would be inappropriate to assume the truth of the allegations. We caution  you that it would be inappropriate to assume there is good cause for the allegations. The City Administration will have no further comment because the information and evidence are subject to confidentiality under Pennsylvania law. The Administration does not consider the matter appropriate to be reviewed  by the Public Safety Committee.”
Email to Gadfly from Mayor Donchez, February 11.

Gadflies are always outsiders. They can only try to make sense of what they can see. They are always cognizant of and respectful of their limited perspective. They are always open to other views, always ready to be slapped upside the head for wrong-headed thinking.

The Mayor says this serious matter has been “thoroughly reviewed internally” and is the subject of “an ongoing non-criminal investigation.”

Good.

We would guess that review asked the same questions, covered the same territory that Gadfly has here in the past several posts.

Gadfly wonders, however, if, given the nature of the issues and the people involved, whether an “internal” investigation is the only or best avenue for an objective look at what happened.