Mayor Donchez: “We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred”

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“My comments on Minneapolis”
Sunday, May 31, 2020

Almost 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, declared, “That all men are created equal.” Our nation has had a long and difficult history dealing with those simple and profound words. Since 1776 it has taken numerous conflicts and much bloodshed for us to live up to those words. And yet, have we? Once again, we are grieving as a nation and standing together to condemn the shocking violence in Minneapolis and the innocent loss of life, and those simple words of Thomas Jefferson, somehow got lost in translation or understanding.

I grew up in South Bethlehem. The words “all men are created equal” were words to live by in my neighborhood and in my world. We were a melting pot, a cauldron of hope where there was no room for racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We had our differences – culturally, linguistically, racially and religiously, and yet we were a community. When we had to, we locked arms across the many lines and boundaries of our differences and dedicated ourselves to unity. Because of that, we were able to achieve some early measure of social and economic justice and equality for many in our community.

Those lessons of social and economic justice and equality traveled with me and were a daily part of my 35 years as a teacher at Allen High School in Allentown. I made sure my students were tolerant of all who attended Allen High School – Black and White, Latino and Asian, Gay and Straight, Male, Female and Transgender, Rich and Poor, and all who made up the city, the Lehigh Valley and the country.

As the son of a police officer and as a Mayor, watching the images from Minneapolis have been tough. I have great respect and admiration for our police officers, so it was very emotional watching that Minneapolis police officer suffocate handcuffed George Floyd with a knee to his neck. I know that almost all police officers adhere to the law and would never hurt someone like that, and yet this behavior continues and it hurts – it hurts the police and it hurts every one of us.

The kind of behavior we have seen in Minneapolis has no place in America or anywhere in the world. We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life of a fellow human being. This is not just a race issue, this is a human issue, and we are all connected by our shared human experience.

Max Lucado wrote, “If Jesus could teach us only one thing, it would be that a person has value simply because they are a person.”

This is not the time to pretend that there’s not a problem in America.

This is not the time to turn our backs on racism.

This is not the time to accept innocent lives being taken from us.

This is not the time to think this doesn’t affect you.

This is not the time to sit back and say nothing.

This is not the time to think that you can’t be part of the solution and the change needed for this to stop.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

This is a time for outrage, but it is not a time for violence. The hatred that comes with racism, bigotry, and intolerance will not be condoned or supported here in Bethlehem or anywhere else for that matter. We are one. Our anger and abhorrence must be converted to something more positive – to hope, to faith and to love.

To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Mayor Bob Donchez

“I have been silent for too long”

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

Gadfly — Jason Schiffer (former chief of Bethlehem city PD and now chief of Lehigh U PD) had an excellent commentary on what we’re seeing across the country:

I am so saddened and sickened by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. This type of treatment of another human being can never be justified and can never be accepted. (1/x)

We cannot just go on with our lives now that the criminal responsible for his death has been arrested. That is not enough. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” (2/x)

I have been silent for too long. Either we take action against racist behavior, or we condone it. There can be no middle ground. (3/x)

The former officers who were on scene also had their knees on George’s neck. Every one of them bears the full responsibility of his death. (4/x)

They all had the power and the ability to do the right thing and they chose to condone his murder. It doesn’t matter that their police training taught all of them that restraining a person in that manner is both dangerous and against policy. (5/x)

It should not take a policy to teach the police to treat another human being with dignity and respect. If you are a police officer and have to be trained and taught to respect human life above all things, please turn in your badge. You are the problem. (6/x)

You are the reason for the civil unrest in this country. The people have had enough of being bullied, of being treated with disrespect,and of being murdered by the state. I am so sick of hearing “what about black on black crime?”. There is no comparison. (7/x)

When a police officer uses force against a citizen, that is the force of the state and the people must demand that the state not violate their rights. It is the very least that someone should demand from their government. (8/x)

I have taken some solace in the number of police officials who have been outspoken over the murder of George Floyd. We have been silent far too long. Our “silence has been betrayal.”

No more. (9/9)


Bethlehem Saturday demonstration peaceful but angry

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protest 2

photo by Dana Grubb

from Kurt Bresswein, “Hundreds pack together for Bethlehem protest against police brutality.”, May 30, 2020.

Chants of “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” carried through Bethlehem streets Saturday as hundreds of people packed together in solidarity to protest police brutality against people of color.

The group gathered at 3 p.m. at the Bethlehem Rose Garden on the Lehigh County side of the city, then marched east on Broad Street to Payrow Plaza between City Hall and the public library.

Rallies at both ends bookended the march, which shut down intersections as it passed. At City Hall, protesters blocked New and Church streets so no traffic — a LANTA bus included for a time — could pass.

Eventually, city police who have their headquarters in the City Hall basement responded to block off intersections around the rally and help motorists stuck in the jam.

“I know this is really risky during a pandemic, but I’m willing to take that risk to put this important message and these important people out there because of what’s going on, because this has been going on for so long and it just has to stop,” organizer Matty Fall told “I feel I have an obligation to step up and say something.”

Saturday’s protest came together in one day, after Fall woke up Friday and knew she had to take action, she said. Her friend Michael Henriquez created a flier that organizers posted around Bethlehem and shared on social media. Helping to spread the word were grassroots groups with local members, like POWER Lehigh Valley, Make the Road PA, Lehigh Valley Stands Up, Lehigh Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Lehigh Valley Anarchists.

Participants were urged to socially distance themselves and wear masks. Many, but not all, complied as they crammed elbow to elbow for the rallies and march. Some brought children, some brought dogs. Many carried protest signs decrying police brutality and urging remembrance of Floyd and a host others before him who have been killed.

“We’re not trying to do anything violent,” Fall said. “We’re not trying to invoke any kind of violence. We don’t condone it at all.”

“We’re really just trying to get the message across that this can’t keep happening,” she continued. “We don’t want this to happen here or anywhere for that matter.”

Fall is a 2017 graduate of Liberty High School who earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Northampton Community College and is now studying criminal justice management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City with plans to attend law school.

from Tom Shortell, “Bethlehem, Allentown protests against Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd draw hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.” Morning Call, May 30, 2020.

The spark that ignited outrage over the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis on Memorial Day reached the Lehigh Valley on Saturday, with demonstrators in Bethlehem’s Rose Garden and downtown Allentown demanding an end to police brutality.

Speakers called on the community to demand justice and changes in the way police interact with people of color. They also told the audience to use the ballot box to effect change.

“We don’t just want you to vote,” said one. “We want you to get angry and vote out all the people who don’t care about us.”

Rafia Sayed of Easton marveled at the turnout as she and friends marched across the Broad Street Bridge in Bethlehem in a crowd that stretched for three blocks. The protest was her first, but she felt compelled to attend after watching another high-profile video of a black man dying in police custody.

“It’s like all Bethlehem showed up,” she said.

The Bethlehem rally was organized by POWER Lehigh Valley, Make the Road PA, Lehigh Valley Stands Up, Lehigh Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Lehigh Valley Anarchists.

Around 4 p.m., the crowd entered Payrow Plaza by City Hall, to the sounds of cheers and honking horns. All along the way, police were out of sight, giving the protesters a wide berth. But at City Hall, police were present and silent, even as some hurled insults at them. Organizers lined up as a barricade between police and protesters, keeping the protest peaceful even as it was angry.

Here it comes again!

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Allentown, November 20, 1918: “The city is on the verge of a recurrence of the influenza epidemic.”

Why? “The carelessness of a few.”

Flu 103

Flu 104

Flu 105

Allentown shut down for two weeks.

It has been open now for two weeks.

And the Flu is back in an “extremely serious” way.

Lack of social distancing. Lax quarantining.

The disease has not been respected seriously enough.

And now Allentown must consider shutting down again.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Gadfly learns about the Monocacy Farm Project

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Monocacy Farms

So, following an interest  kicked off by Mary Toulouse, Gadfly has been exploring community gardening.

Sometimes, though, you just wait and information comes to you.

The May 28 Fig Weekly called his attention to the Monocacy Farm Project, 395 Bridle Path Road.

In 2012, The School Sisters St. Francis sold a portion of their property in Hanover Township along the Monocacy Creek. True to their Franciscan tradition, the Sisters sought a sustainable use for their remaining farmland and committed to feeding the hungry, caring for the earth, and growing healthy community. Nourished by the support of local businesses, individuals, foundations, interfaith coalitions, and volunteers, the seed planted just 7 years ago has continued to grow. Today, the Monocacy Farm Project includes: community garden plots, production fields, a young apple orchard, a propagation greenhouse with rainwater collection, and solar power systems.

The Project’s Grow Healthy Community Initiative donates weekly supplies of organically-grown produce to area food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters throughout the growing season. Educational workshops for children and adults are presented throughout the year on gardening, ecology, health and sustainability. In 2019, the farm initiated a “Pick-Your-Own” program for those wishing to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. All donations received through the Community Gardens and Pick-Your-Own support the Grow Healthy Community Initiative.

Monocacy Farm Project


The Monocacy Farm Project seeks to use land and resources at Monocacy Manor in the Franciscan tradition to model stewardship and care of the earth, foster community involvement, provide educational opportunities, and serve the needs of the poor.

Project Goals

The primary goals of the Monocacy Farm Project are to:

  1. Provide area residents and low-income families access to affordable organic produce.
  2. Supply local shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens with donor-sponsored organic produce during the spring and summer growing seasons.
  3. Augment food security and facilitate self-sufficiency among low-income families through the promotion of home gardening programs.
  4. Provide educational programs to youth and adults on holistic health, nutrition and wellness in partnership with medical professionals, nutritionists, clinical herbalists and naturopaths.
  5. Provide annual workshops on sustainability, organic gardening, natural agriculture and permaculture.
  6. Provide interns and volunteers hands-on experience in organic gardening, production farming, and permaculture design.

Community Garden Program

Monocacy Farms makes community garden plots available to area residents wishing to plant and maintain their own vegetable gardens.  Farm staff compost and tractor-till the plots each spring. Mulch and well-water hydrants are provided free of charge by Monocacy Farms. Free instruction in organic and natural agriculture gardening methods is available to all those participating in the Community Garden Program. A donation of $100 per season is requested for a standard 10 ft x 25 ft. garden plot, and $175 for a 20ft x 25ft. plot. Proceeds are used to cover operating expenses and support the farm’s weekly donation of vegetables to area soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters.

Addendum: the beat goes on. Gadfly has also learned about the 4-H Lynfield Community Garden Club conceived by Penn State Extension, Northampton County 4-H, and Lehigh Valley Master Gardeners  through the Southside Vision program. The club is currently focused on teaching youth about horticulture and basic backyard gardening.

November 15, 1918: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” Not

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The war is over. Like the dread influenza epidemic seemingly
it has run its course, and is no more.”
Morning Call, November 15, 1918

There is nothing like an Armistice after a four-year war to presage a return to normalcy.

To the way it was.

Time to open up again.

And after a two-month siege with the Flu as well.

Two great converging battles simultaneously won.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”

For a short period of time after the Armistice — the period from November 11 to December 1, 1918 — the Morning Call records the signs of Allentown and surrounding areas opening up again: schools open, temporary satellite hospitals close, postponed meetings are rescheduled, medicines now tout their efficacy for the lingering post-Flu weakness rather than as preventatives or therapeutics.

One touching example. Local art, community creativity sprouts again: “Jay Wellington resumed practice on his local talent play ‘Three Cheers’ on Friday evening at the Y.M.C. A. after an interruption of about six weeks made necessary by the influenza epidemic.” When the thespians are out, we’ve turned a corner!

Allentown dusts off the “All Clear” siren.

Flu 102

But not so fast!

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Macungie: “Notwithstanding the raising of the ban against opening public places throughout most of our state, there are still numerous cases of influenza in this community.

Northampton: “It is reported that influenza is again gaining a foothold in the borough. The epidemic was practically stamped out when the quarantine was lifted.”

East Texas: “Influenza is prevalent at East Texas. . . . There is scarcely a home that does not have members down with the disease.”

Emaus: “From all indications the influenza cases are again on the increase in this borough, as many as 200 children have been absent from school in one day.”

Hellertown: “It was hoped that the influenza would give our town the cold shoulder, but nothing so fortunate is happening. Since the reopening of the schools the disease has broken out with a vengeance among the school children.”

In the same boat, Allentown, always restless under restriction, quickly needed to go back to the drawing board.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

Backyard gardening may be even more important

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


10+ years ago, I was discussing with Ellen Larmer (who was then head of CADC-B), the idea of promoting backyard gardening here in Southside. We determined that it would take someone with good organizer abilities, solid experience with organic growing, and fluency in both Spanish and English. We had a likely person in mind and Ellen figured she could cobble together the funds to pay for 30 or so weeks, 15 hr/wk, at a fair pay of $15/hr.

While she loved the proposal for backyard gardens, our ideal candidate had already accepted summer employment on an upstate farm, and she did not feel it would be right to back out on a position she had already accepted. Sadly, we did not have another candidate in mind and decided to abandon the project and reconsider it in the future.

I think both community gardens are very important, especially in situations where they can serve a specific community. I prefer a communal growing approach when that’s feasible but a hybrid approach where individuals have their own plot but also help grow crops for the community.

In the long run, I suspect backyard gardening will be even more important for families that have the tiny amount of space needed to grow key elements of their own food.


Addendum: Back in 2011, the director of the Growing Hope program spoke at Lafayette College, and one of the amazing factoids she mentioned was that the WWII-era Victory Gardens were so successful that these backyard gardeners in the US grew almost half their food needs.

Tales of the pandemic (2)

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Every house needs one!

In Walden, Thoreau describes a ritual purification and renewal ceremony of the Mucclasse Indians called a “busk” in which annually “they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things,” burn them, and start fresh.

In other words, instead of cramming them in closets, jamming them in cellars, insulating attics with them, carving out special rooms for them, assigning them to ungrateful and unsuspecting relatives.

Thoreau wonders whether the “customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated by us.”

Gadfly thinks something like that may be happening in his neighborhood.

Huge dumpsters appearing to the east and the west of him. And he envious.

Look at the size of those things! You could put the car in the one on the right! Wouldn’t you like a peek into that house!

Ten weeks in to this damn stay-at-home shut-down merry-go-round, and our stuff is getting on our nerves.

(Do you know the classic George Carlin “stuff” routine?)

You don’t realize how much stuff you have till you have to sit and look at it all day.

If we don’t get out of this domestic virus yoke soon, Gadfly predicts a run on these dumpsters.

No mixing, no sharing allowed. You must socially distance your stuff from your neighbor’s.

Better reserve early.

Gadfly learns about the Southside Garden Alliance

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Southside Garden Alliance Overview

Gadfly absolutely loves this job.

Mary Toulouse spends exactly 2:43 (less time than it takes for this morning’s tea and toast) at City Council May 19 pitching the idea of community gardens, and within a short time a whole new dimension of our town opened up to him.

Kim Carrell-Smith pointed Gadfly to Connor Burbridge, and in the meantime Breena Holland provided meaningful background and he also found Ken Raniere’s delightful article on this vegetable aspect of Southside history. Then Connor appeared with this valuable information below about the quite ambitious Southside Garden Alliance.

We look forward to Connor posting soon, but Gadfly invites you to read this detailed overview of the project with timeline beginning Winter 2019 and extending into 2021.

Southside Garden Alliance Overview

A timeline upon which no doubt the coronavirus has unfortunately left a mark.

Gardens 2

Southside Garden Alliance Overview

Mission: The Southside Backyard Gardens Alliance seeks to build community connections, increase community health, and advocate for environmental sustainability through the creation of community spaces and backyard gardens throughout South Bethlehem and through educational workshops, children’s camps, and community potlucks.

Vision: There are a number of urban agriculture projects on Bethlehem’s Southside, including the Southside Initiative’s MLK Garden and Esperanza Garden, as well as nascent gardens at the Lynnfield Community Center, Southside Permaculture Park, Victory House, and Hispanic Center. The Southside Backyard Gardens Alliance will act to help collaborate efforts between these projects as well as provide resources to help expand them. The Southside Backyard Gardens Alliance will provide resources and technical assistance to would-be community backyard gardeners and will aid in the construction of garden beds with involved community members. Rainwater barrels and container gardens can also be constructed and installed in community members’ yards. A tool library will be available for community members to begin their own projects or expand on existing ones. Master Gardeners will provide discussions on how to build and maintain healthy soil and healthy plants. Southside Arts District can help infuse local art into the events to increase engagement and promote local artists. Health and Nutrition experts from the community can provide information on healthy eating habits, and local chefs can teach creative ways to prepare various vegetables. Southside Backyard Gardens Alliance will host regular potlucks to build connections among community and conduct a dialogue on how we all can come together to better meet the community’s needs.

Wonderful project, wonderful people!

Spanish flu more deadly than World War I — much more

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly has been reading through the Morning Call in the post Armistice period — November 11 – December 1, 1918 — looking for signs of a second wave like we are starting to talk seriously about now. Some interesting info on that will be coming soon.

But this article caught Gadfly’s attention.

Around 58,000 died in the interminable Vietnam War, and we are now approaching 100,000 deaths in the several months of the coronavirus war.

Same with the Spanish Flu. More people dying at home than in the war.

Our deaths at the present moment are larger than the total number of American casualties in World War I and 4 x greater than the number of deaths.

Something to think about.

Flu 100

Flu 101

Add community oriented farms to the conversation

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I had a second comment.  (cf. “Maintaining a community is harder than maintaining a garden“)

I think the distinction between community gardens and farms is important. Both are important. To me, a community garden is more about improving quality of life by giving people in cities a conveniently located place to dig in the dirt, grow a few plants, learn, play, and interact with neighbors. A community-oriented farm can provide some of those benefits but is scaled up (more land, equipment, paid staff) to provide a much more significant amount of food to the community. The Seed Farm in Emmaus is a good example. And then there are organizations like Rolling Harvest that focus on the distribution of food, which is the biggest need right now. Farmers are producing plenty of food to feed everyone in this country, but we need governmental and nonprofit leadership to get the food to the people.

Gray Simpson

A brief history of Southside gardens

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Tip o’ the hat to Mary Toulouse who kicked off this thread on community gardens by making a pitch for the City developing both short-term and longer term plans for the establishment of same.

Historically speaking, as this BAPL resource shows, there is more here than meets the current eye regarding gardens in South Bethlehem.

Bethlehem Area Public Library (Janine Santoro, Elizabeth Saraceno), “Digging into the Roots of South Side Gardening: Pre-World War I Immigrant Gardens and Today.”

The history of gardens in Bethlehem includes:

personal gardens (pre-WWI)

Depression gardens (1930s)

Victory gardens (1940s)

Thrift gardens (WWII)

The demise of backyard gardening (1950s-1960s)

pocket gardens (today)

“Today, the Southside Garden Alliance and Penn State Master Gardeners have shared their skills at the South Side Branch of Bethlehem Area Public Library free-of-charge to provide gardening workshops of all kinds to South Side patrons, and anyone else who wants to learn more about gardening right at home to create their own ‘backyard paradisos!'”

Ken Raniere’s “Backyard Paradiso” article in the “Southern Exposure” newsletter published by the South Bethlehem Historical Society and linked from the BAPL piece is delightful.

Tales of the pandemic (1)

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Had to let a “stranger” in to Gadfly house today.

First time anybody from the outside has been inside in the 10 weeks or so of Pennsylvania’s shutdown.

Not kids, not grandkids, not even Ralph, the driver for the Wash Club.


Till today.

Steve from Acorn.

The stairlift died Friday. Happy Holiday weekend.


On Memorial Day Gadfly asked Kevin the Acorn dispatcher if he was working from home on the holiday. “No,” he said, “I’m in the office. Just thankful I have a job.”

Gadfly thankful too. Very thankful. Tip o’ the hat to the Acorn guys.

poster 1

Life during the pandemic.

Howz it going at your house?

“Maintaining a community is harder than maintaining a garden”


I’ve been gardening at Martin Luther King park on Carlton Avenue since I moved to Bethlehem in 2018. The garden was well organized at one time — a former president of Lehigh University was highly involved. A Lehigh professor was coordinating things when I arrived but had to leave shortly after, leaving just a small student group and a couple of community members to manage the site. Maintaining a community is harder than maintaining a garden.

Gray Simpson

Back to work at the Mill — is it safe?

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Been a rough six months for Gadfly son #4 — Mack Truck worker.

First there was the strike, to which Gadfly called your attention and which triggered an anecdote about Gadfly’s union roots (see “The Mack strike hits ‘home'”).

And then the damn virus, which thrives in congregated factory settings as we have seen in the meat-packing industries. Gallagher Morning Call

Well, Gadfly-clone (we were featured look-alikes in a Father’s Day Morning Call spread a few years ago) goes back to work today.

Will he be safe?

Frankly, one of Gadfly’s prominent memories of his work at Kaiser-Jeep in South Bend in the 60s is a lot of spitting.

He thinks the culture has progressed since then.

(Another prominent memory is a lot of laughter — He worked with a collection of the most naturally funny men ever! The humor that comes from factory work — nothing like it!)

But will he be safe?

One hopes so.

Gadfly thought you might want to look at Mack’s Message to Employees:Mack Message to Employees

and the Mack prescriptions for safety:

Mack 1

Please be safe #4!

Community gardens need infrastructure from the City and a good manager

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Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

ref: Mary Toulouse’s pitch for a planning process to develop community gardens.


I have tried to keep various community gardens afloat on the south side for a number of years. Interest and use of the gardens waxes and wanes over time, but they often face basic infrastructural challenges that inhibit success.

For instance, many years ago when Alice Gast was president of Lehigh University, she built a community garden in the MLK Park on Carleton Ave. However, no one ever set up a water spigot for this garden, so we have had an ongoing challenge of sustaining water there.

A community garden should not be set up without a source of water. We put water totes in the garden, but then they must be filled by the city, which is difficult to coordinate. If a nearby home owner fills them, then their monthly bill for sewage treatment increases, because the provider thinks all that water going into the tote is going down the house’s drain.

Another problem is ongoing maintenance. The city has not  been willing to manage the weeds or otherwise take care of a community garden on public property, even when they will let people garden there–I’m sure you can imagine how large that task might become if gardeners started expecting city workers to take care of their garden beds.

Consequently, the gardens need people who are committed to not just growing their own food but taking care of the collective space. This has been a challenge at times. But I think a reliable source of water at a garden would draw more support from community members, so the development of infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with increasing expectations for gardeners to take care of their collective space.

When the Maze garden was destroyed, a group of students at Lehigh University were successful in working with Mayor Donchez to develop a section of the Greenway between Taylor and Webster streets, which the students used for gardening and cooking programing they organized for the kids in the Bethlehem Boys and Girls Club. They planted fruit trees and installed raised beds and used the garden until Boys and Girls Club was moved. At that point, the garden was too far away to use in the same way.

This section of the Greenway is now maintained by a group of volunteers at Lehigh University and also by a local group that takes care of the beautiful Native Plants Garden that is also on that section of the Greenway. Because of the centrality of the location and the public nature of it, we have never been able to make this a garden where community members can grow their own food. That probably would require fencing and an area that does not have so much traffic, so the Greenway is not the best location.

There are other areas for gardens. For some time there were beds up at Ullman Park, but this garden suffered from a lack of infrastructure and consequently a lack of commitment.

For this reason, as mentioned above, I have come to believe that creating the right infrastructure is the most important part of a garden’s success. There must be water, fencing, beds, and someone who can ensure certain tasks are handled, such as compost delivery, waste removal, path maintenance, weed control, etc.

It’s possible that a motivated community group can do these latter tasks on their own, if the water and fencing is there, but I don’t think it’s wise to expect this when gardeners have to lug their own water to their beds and fight off pests that eat their food.

Other crucial resources needed are tools and information and education. But it might make more sense for people to use these things to garden in their own backyards (if they have a backyard) rather than on city property, where the water remains a limiting factor.

In general, gardens are great if the city commits to providing some infrastructure and you have a tyrannical manager who also happens to be a good community leader, which is not easy to find.

CSAs (Community-supported Agriculture) may be a better way to feed people than gardens, but that’s another conversation.
Let’s keep this conversation going. I think that in certain places gardens can really thrive and become meaningful to the community.


Easton video promoting curbside food pickup

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Tip o’ the hat to a follower for calling this article to Gadfly’s attention as an example of the way the problem pointed to in Councilman Reynolds’ recent resolution can be handled without City involvement.


from Connor Lagore, “Easton restaurants launch #CurbsideFirst to thwart delivery companies taking too much off top.”, May 16, 2020.

Easton restaurants have worked with the Greater Easton Development Partnership to put together a video calling for #CurbsideFirst, as many of these restaurants have fulfilled orders through third-party delivery apps like UberEats or GrubHub. These companies can take up to 30% of the total bill, forcing restaurants to operate on slimmer margins than the margins the coronavirus pandemic has already brought them.

see complete video

Of course, with the pandemic sweeping the country, food delivery has become much more popular, as local restaurants need support and it’s the easiest way of supporting them. But placing orders on a restaurant’s website or over the phone cuts out the middle man and allows for restaurants to take 100% of the check.

Some restaurants, like Centre Square neighbors Stoke Coal Fire Pizza & Bar and Pearly Baker’s Alehouse, have started doing their own deliveries to mitigate the need for a third-party service at all.

Plus, the GEDP is giving you an incentive. The organization is giving away a $50 Downtown Easton gift card every week until the end of June. To be eligible, pick up a meal from one of Easton’s restaurants, share it on Facebook with the hashtag #CurbsideFirst and tag the GEDP.

Closing lane on Main St. a “fantastic idea”

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Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.



What a fantastic idea to close off a lane on Main Street to make it possible for restaurants to use the street space to social distance. A cafe in Germany made customers wear caps with pool noodles to ensure social distancing.


I’m sure many people will want to stay home and stay safe, but this pandemic is going to last awhile, and I agree with those who think we have to start to find ways to safely keep our small businesses alive. In my opinion, we have to have a plan for testing and contact-tracing before most people will feel comfortable. Are people willing to provide data on their movements if they get sick, so that others can be warned? What kind of testing capacity do we have locally? I don’t know how we get very far without knowing the answers to these (and other) questions.

Best, Breena

Gadfly wonders if we couldn’t put our noodles together and come up with spacing apparel that relates uniquely to Bethlehem and our historic character (faux I-beams?), apparel that would not only be fun but so distinctive, so representative of our town that we would gain national attention. Gadfly’s mailbox is open for suggestions.

Here we go! “What should Climate Action look like in Bethlehem?” Calendar alert! June 17

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




“The farmers are concerned about having enough affordable food for the community”

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 28:50

Apropos of her discussion about providing healthy local food at the Rose Garden Farmers’ Market, at the end of her public comment presentation at City Council last Tuesday Mary Toulouse made a pitch for a planning process to develop community gardens:

  • Food pantries are looking for food.
  • Farmers are experiencing the destructive effects of climate change.
  • “The farmers are concerned about having enough affordable food for the community.”
  • Some council members spoke about having community gardens at the last meeting.
  • Community gardens in city parks can help with the food situation.
  • There’s a community park in Battery Park, New York City.
  • There’s a community park in the Paris Tuileries garden in front of the Louvre.
  • A successful community garden needs planning, long-term planning, the kind that might be done by an Action Group or the Environmental Advisory Council.
  • But short-term perhaps the City could designate some sites.

Gadfly knew it was a crazy idea, but he wished the community garden at 3rd and New before the Zest building had not only been allowed to remain but was enhanced. Think of the message — the different message — that a community garden at the gateway to the Southside would say about the values in our town.

Gadfly remembers sitting in on a Southside 2020 meeting last year at which the large number of small community gardens on the southside was discussed. Can anybody fill in information on this? Are residents already highly engaged in this kind of activity?

What do you think of community gardens in city parks?

Gadfly invites you to sit in the Mayor’s chair

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 21:10

“Sometimes I get the feeling that the City doesn’t consider farmer’s markets
an essential partner in the supply chain for food.”
Mary Toulouse

“It’s really a shame to hear members of the group feeling so frustrated
with the lack of support from the Administration.”
Councilwoman Olga Negron

Here’s one for you to chew on.

The Bethlehem Rose Garden Farmers’ Market is a respected, popular, all-volunteer local institution run by MANA, the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association. Mary Toulouse is MANA president and manager of the farmers’ market.

At City Council Tuesday, approval of a permit for the farmers’ market was on the agenda. Toulouse made a strong report on the market’s activities even though approval of the permit itself was never in doubt.

Her strong report concluded, however, with a lament “that the City doesn’t consider farmer’s markets an essential partner in the supply chain for food,” the wish that the City would lend a “helping hand once in a while” (little things like showcasing the farmers’ markets on the web site), and hope for a waiver of fees totaling over a $1000 for the season for necessary police barricades for necessary crowd control.

All in Toulouse’s typical polite, respectful, yet forceful style.

Now Gadfly has often asked you to play Council member. He enjoys that himself. It’s a fun part of being a Gadfly. And it helps us understand what it takes to be the kind of person we vote for.

This time he asks you to play Mayor.

You are the steward of our tax money. City services cost money. There is an established, legislative fee structure for certain City services. MANA is a worthy organization. But there are dozens, maybe hundreds of worthy non-profit organizations in the city. How do you justify waiving fees for one and not others? And, since inevitably the City can not do everything for every worthy non-profit organization, the fee might be seen as a kind of necessary control valve on requests rather than just a nasty revenue generator. (You would probably want to remind yourself how much revenue such fees generate. A lot? A little? Does anyone know where to find that line on the budget?)

Listen to Toulouse’s “case”: MANA has established rules for social distancing; they have lined up 12 vendors of essential products; their meat supply comes from local sources not from industrial plants where atrocious conditions abound; they will keep a local egg farmer from having to kill his chickens; they are supporting small, local, independent farmers, many of whom locally and nationally have stopped production or are on the brink of doing so; they are picking up the slack in the food supply chain, the signs of whose disruption are plainly evident.

The case for the waiver is emotionally strong. It feels like it might be easy for you to say yes. But you remember that — to cite just one example with which Gadfly is familiar — you had a request last year to waive fees associated with a block party in a model neighborhood. And you remember that such requests are worthy too. O, if you could only keep your waiver quiet. But word gets around.

Then, adding to your headache, Councilwoman Negron supports the waiver, reminding you that an established group like ArtsQuest tried a farmers’ market several years ago and couldn’t pull off what this volunteer group has done so well. “It’s an asset to our city, to the entire city,” says the Councilwoman, “we should be taking care of it. . . . I don’t understand. It’s like we are working backwards.” And the Councilwoman widens the scope of her point beyond MANA: “I really hope the Administration takes a closer look at what this group and others are doing and facilitates what they are doing and looks at it in a different way.” She seems to be calling for a whole new look at this fee structure and to whom it applies.

(Gadfly has a secret. Is anybody listening? Probably doesn’t matter. It was so long ago that everybody concerned is probably dead except Gadfly. But when he was a Little League president a century ago, these kinds of “minor” requests for services were done sub rosa for a case of beer. Ahh, the good old days of the Wild West.)

So, if Mayor, what would you do about a waiver?

(Ms. Toulouse raised another but associated point in her presentation, and we’ll look at that next.)

Councilman Callahan fosters ideas for opening restaurants for outside service

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 54:05

If Gadfly understood Mr. Evans correctly, the City had ideas of closing streets and using parklets to improve outside accessibility to services by restaurants and other of our small businesses, but these plans have been put on hold for now by state directives.

Councilman Callahan strongly supported this idea, indicating that he had sent a letter to the governor (see below) as well as talking personally with the mayor.

  • Some of our most successful businesses on Main St. and Southside are really struggling.
  • Some might not make it.
  • The Home Depots, etc., are open, and we are allowing curbside for restaurants.BCallahan
  • How about closing the roads one-way — one-way traffic — giving more table space and socially distancing space?
  • Can possibly be done in a safe manner: paper goods, non-reusable utensils, etc.
  •  Only family members that live under the same roof at a table, for instance.
  • Others would have to be 6 feet away.
  • Owners realize the virus might come back in the fall.
  • Just trying to get their sales up a little bit to survive.
  • Encourages the City to talk with the business owners and come up with a plan for the right time.
  • Home Depots, etc., are handling the bathroom cleaning issue — could be done here in our downtowns as well.


Callahan 1

Callahan 2

Re-discovering the Westgate Mall

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Some may see the Westgate Mall as a dying shell of itself, but for me it contains memories of family, friends, innocence, and discovery.  The poem asks you to look deeper than the surface and think about the real meaning and measure of the location and its people. It is a poem not just of discovery but of re-discovery of something familiar but changing.

Matt Wolf

The Westgate Mall

Been hanging out at the Westgate Mall
with the ghosts of my childhood
for the last two hours
Passed up 15 Facebook status post moments.
That thought is postable.
That image is postable.
Didn’t want to inundate the world with
any more of my life.

The Westgate Mall really isn’t part of this world anyway
just some bizarre weigh station in between here
and the next embodied go-around
An island of groceries, skateboards, elderly track stars
and benches.  Lots of benches.
Or perhaps this Mall is as real as any place in this universe
alive and kicking with its bus stop and
brazen beating hearts yearning to hold onto to the marrow
of Bethlehem, Pa.
I think I’ll stay a little longer and find out.

Matt Wolf has written and performed poetry for the last 22 years in the Lehigh Valley and Matt - 2020 headshotSan Francisco Bay Area. He has organized over 40 local poetry readings and multi-media events over the last 8 years in the Lehigh Valley area. He has taught many poetry workshops in Lehigh Valley schools. He is also a Mindfulness Instructor and is a member of the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission. Poems previously appeared in Lehigh Valley Vanguard and Lovers and Fighters: Poetry for Social Change. His book A Journey is published by BAPL Books, 2018. See the article “Giving Back” on Matt (with great picture) in the March 20, 2019, issue of Fig.

Mayor’s report on COVID-19 matters at City Council last night

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 39:30

Business Administrator Evans gave the Mayor’s report last night at the City Council meeting, providing information on these 10 items, all but one relating to the COVID-19 mess.

Gadfly will return soon with discussion generated by some of the items in the Mayor’s list.

1) Summer recreational programming: closing pools, parks programming closed, some sites closed till further notice after evaluation (skate park, dog park, basketball courts, pavilion rentals, Ice House, Illicks Mill), neighborhood parks themselves open with encouragement to stay off the playground equipment, tennis courts at Clearview, Monocacy, and West Side are open, and trails are open.

2) Developing business plan for northside and southside with outside dining, reaching out to small business merchants so to develop a plan to support them when the time is right, according to state outdoor eating areas and picnic areas are not allowed at this time.

3) Supporting Council and Bethlehem Chamber resolution not to use 3rd parties for pick-up service at restaurants.

4) Taking steps to safely re-open City Hall, new security system will be active

5) Public meetings to begin again virtually in June, special consideration for the needs of Zoning Board.

6) Yard Waste Center operating successfully, mulch coming, recycling center plans for opening still developing.

7) Golf course opened successfully, some changes noted, work done is beautiful.

8) Library is developing plans for providing approved services when the state gives go-ahead.

9) Bethlehem Parking Authority is suffering financially, and the company providing their app has suddenly ceased operation, positive plans already in motion for a new app.

10) Some complaints received on businesses open contrary to state regulations, some warnings issued, will follow directions from the district attorneys of both counties about how to proceed.